Thursday, January 24, 2013


Mama starts with a man kidnapping his two young daughters and frantically driving into the snow, crashing his car and taking shelter in an abandoned cabin.
The man's brother, Luke, never gives up searching and five years later the little girls are found, still living in the cabin (minus Dad) and pretty much completely feral.
Luke wins custody of the girls over their aunt Cunty McSourface (starring in her own pointless subplot) and he moves with the girls and his girlfriend, Fake Shawnee Smith, (who we'll get to in a minute) into a house owned by the psychiatric hospital.
The girls, the younger one especially, are preoccupied with their mother figure, a spooky entity named Mama, who helped them survive in the woods. Mama doesn't like her girls being taken away and she is pissed. She incapacitates Luke (probably the only likeable character other than the girls's psychiatrist; I'd say the girls were likeable but they were kind of one dimensional) and while he's in the hospital the girls are stuck living with Fake Shawnee Smith, who is just a delight.
In this case, "delight" means I hate her.
She's a walking talking stereotype; she has dyed black hair, wears too much eye makeup, has tattoos, plays bass in a band and is totally not into this whole raising kids deal. I spent the whole movie wishing Mama would just kill her already so the story could get back to Luke.
But it turns out he's not the protagonist like the first twenty minutes of the movie would have you believe. This is Fake Shawnee Smith's story. Shit.
It's no secret that I'm oversensitive to horror involving babies and young children. I cried all the way through Inside, The Dream Child is one of my least favorite of the Elm Street series and I won't even try to watch It's Alive or The Omen or Obligatory Third Example. (Pet Sematery? Yeah, let's go with Pet Sematery.) I know I'll have an irrationally hard time with them so I just don't bother.
So I knew going in that Mama might be a difficult watch for me (but I couldn't pass it up; the previews were too enticing) and I was prepared for a lot of what was to come.
But it turns out Mama has a backstory reminiscent of La Llorona and I was not prepared for that at all. There's a nightmare sequence in the movie that reduced me to tears and the ending left me feeling empty and sad.
That being said, the ghost was well CGId (very creepy) and most of the movie was visually striking. It was mostly well acted (the kids did a great job) and the overuse of jump scares didn't bother me nearly as much as the idiot teenagers who seemed to think the whole audience gave a shit what they think.
And, also, P.S., moths. So many moths. Probably fine if you don't have a problem with them but I happen to be terrified of moths.

End of line.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Ordinarily I don't include episodes of TV shows on this blog because that's just silly. But the Alfred Hitchcock set I just got has two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents on it and I have a few things to say about this episode.
First of all, I love listening to Hitchcock talk. He has a great, entertaining cadence and a dry, dark sense of humor that makes me wish I had every episode of this series just so I could hear his introductions and epilogues.
Secondly, The Sorcerer's Apprentice was pretty run of the mill storywise; mostly predictable and honestly not even all that interesting. But the way it ended really got to me. In a movie that I would watch nowadays they'd show the whole scene in full, gory glory and I would have enjoyed every moment of it. (I won't give anything away other than that a giant circular saw is involved.) But clearly they couldn't get away with that sort of thing on television in 1962 so they had to be clever and only use close ups of faces.
And it made me feel sick to my stomach.
Either I'm getting soft in my old age or it was a really well done scene.

End of line.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Road To El Dorado

Tulio (voiced by Kevin Kline) and Miguel (voiced by Kenneth Branagh even though you'd expect him to be the one who's Kevin Kline since he kind of looks like Phoebus. He's like a cross between Phoebus and Toki Wartooth) are best friends and con artists who accidentally stow away on Cortez's ship. (Cortez is played by either the guy who voiced Shan Yu or the guy who narrates movie previews.) He's going to have them flogged and then flogged but instead they escape and land on an island that Miguel thinks hides the lost city of El Dorado.
Well, it turns out it does and Tulio and Miguel are mistaken for gods because clearly pale dudes are superior to tan ones. (?) The Speaker For The Gods (played by leftover animation of Klaus from The Chipmunk Adventure) is super excited to see them because he thinks they're there to usher in the Age Of The Jaguar and kill a bunch of people because if there's one thing gods love it's human sacrifices. Fatty The King isn't into the human sacrifices but he's happy to see the gods, too, 'cause gods.
There's also a token hot chick named Chell who knows Tulio and Miguel aren't gods and agrees to help them with their con if they agree to take her with them when they leave El Dorado because she's anxious to work for Aperture Labaratories (anybody?).
A lot of The Road To El Dorado looks like the animators were having fun with their fancy new computer animation toys; a whole lot of things are obviously CG, but in a really adorable 1990s way so I can't hate it (although back when the movie was new, I would have).
Honestly I didn't think I was that into the movie while I was watching until it got to the random basketball scene and I was suddenly annoyed that they basically stopped the plot for a quidditch match. That's when I realized I was completely engrossed in the story. I still don't know if I really liked The Road To El Dorado but it is a really good movie. Better than I would have expected. It actually did the job I was hoping Home On The Range would do by being way better than the previews made it look. It even had a pretty good Disney Acid Sequence (or, I guess, Dreamworks Acid Sequence) during the song It's Tough To Be A God.
Which was the only good song, by the way. The Lion King dream team of Elton John and Tim Rice got back together for this movie. (In this case, the phrase "dream team" is sarcastic.) I hate 1990s Elton John. All his songs sound they same and he's way too into being serious or meaningful or ballady or whatever. Shut up, dude. I want to know about how you're still standing in order to do the crocodile rock with Levon. If you want to be serious, have Roy Rogers say goodbye to the yellow brick road. Other than that, keep your mouth shut because nobody cares.
(I just name dropped every Elton John song I like.)

End of line.


A dippy blonde ditches her cop boyfriend at a restaurant so she can sneak off with another dude she saw there. At his apartment there's a scene of them flirting for about twelve hours before he tries to kiss her, which disgusts her apparently 'cause suddenly she's not into him anymore. So he tries to rape her 'cause that always wins a lady over but she kills him with a cheese knife. Knowing no good can come of this, she spends the rest of the movie with crazy eyes.
Luckily her cop boyfriend is on the case and willing to cover for her. Unfortunately, a weird vagrant with a criminal record saw the dippy blonde with the dead guy and has decided to title of the movie them (for what he never really seems to say).
The problem with Blackmail is that there isn't a single likeable character in the bunch and it's really hard to care about or even pay attention to what's going on when you don't like anybody involved. I sat through the whole thing, but only barely.
Hitchcock's cameo is near the beginning on a subway train. A little kid pulls his hat over his eyes.

End of line.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

She Gods Of Shark Reef

Two American Navymen are not happy to be shipwrecked on an island inhabited only by women.
I feel like there's a gay joke somewhere in there.

The Lady Vanishes

One night in a very crowded hotel a Rich Heiress meets a Little Old Lady and a Friendly Dapper Cad, who turn out to be the two most important people on the train trip she takes the next day. Before boarding the train, a windowbox fell on Rich Heiress's head and Little Old Lady helped her onto the train and bought her some tea.
Rich Heiress then took a nap and when she woke up, Little Old Lady was gone and everyone on the train went to great lengths to tell Rich Heriess that Little Old Lady was never there at all. Luckily, Friendly Dapper Cad is on the train and believes Rich Heiress's story and helps her solve the mystery (which is good because she faints so often she'd never be able to figure it out on her own).
The Lady Vanishes was great; it sucked me right in (well, actually I didn't really feel sucked in until after the title of the movie happened. Before that there was a lot of time spent with two gentlemen who are trying very hard to get to a cricket match. The first ten or so minutes of the movie go to great lengths to convince you the whole movie's going to be about them) and for the most part I really enjoyed it.
The leads were very likeable though sometimes the people who were being no help were a little too obviously sinister. But overall it was a great, engrossing movie.
But something about it isn't quite sitting right with me. I guess it took a turn at one point. Not necessarily a bad turn, just not the one I was hoping it would take.
And good for the movie to keep me engrossed and guessing; I hate it when I figure out what's going on before the movie tells me. It takes all the fun out of watching movies to be sitting there predicting things. I've never understood people who are proud of their ability to know what's going to happen.
All in all, it's a solid Hitchcock movie. His cameo is at the train station near the end.

End of line.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dream Casting: Clue (part two: the revenge!)

A couple years ago I posted a list of who I would cast in a remake of Clue. That list was poorly thought out and twisted in an attempt to cram as many actors from Leverage as I could. I'm not pleased with it. (In fact, I deleted it. It's gone now.)
So I'm trying again. Here's hoping this one goes a little better.

Colonel Mustard - Chris Hardwick
Miss Scarlett - Naomie Harris
Mister Boddy - Mike Patton
Mister Green - Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Mrs. Peacock - Helena Bonham Carter
Mrs. White - Christina Ricci
Professor Plum - Robert Downey Jr.
the chief - Eugene Mirman
the cook - Sally Zybert (why shouldn't I put myself in my fantasy version of this movie? It's not like I gave myself a lead role or anything)
the cop - Mike Phirman
the motorist - Eugene Hutz
the singing telegram - Alisa Burket
Wadsworth - Gary Oldman
Yvette - Sheri Moon-Zombie

Be seeing you.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Take It Or Leave It

Take It Or Leave It is, as the sub-title will tell you, The Madness Movie and it essentially just shows the band members working (failing) at a variety of days jobs and going through lineup changes until about midway through the movie when the focus switches to showing their first few shows together and ends (I'd say "spoiler" but, seriously, that's just silly) with them backstage "Now" (about thirty years ago "Now," but still) waiting to go on to a sold out crowd because they've become quite famous and popular.
The whole movie sort of has a documentary feel but I'm pretty sure that last scene is the only one in the movie that isn't staged.
Overall I liked Take It Or Leave it but it took me a long time to decide I wasn't bored; the whole thing is sort of quiet and meandering and in a weird way it reminded me a lot of Filth And Wisdom, what with it being about struggling musicians and all.
But where Filth And Wisdom was clearly a movie-movie (complete with a plot you don't really care about and a spine-melting movie-ending kiss that is glorious until you remember that no matter how long you live Eugene Hutz will never kiss you like that ever), Take It Or Leave It is less cohesive and more of a ... I don't know. A fake documentary, I guess, but not of the This Is Spinal Tap variety and not of the Forgotten Silver variety, either.
It's more like Madness figured "Well, we're famous now; maybe we ought to show people how we got here. And let's rip the lid off a lorry while we're at it." So that's what they did.
At least that's how it seems to me. If you really want to know for certain, I guess you had better ask them.

End of line.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Home On The Range

I remember when this movie came out it was advertised as Disney's last classically-animated movie; everything after this was supposed to be obvious CG animation, which I remember thinking was terrible for two big reasons:
1) completely abandoning real animation for entirely CG animation is stupid and short sighted
2) Home On The Range looked like a lousy movie
And it turns out I was right on both counts.
Luckily, Disney realize they were being stupid and have since released at least one classically animated movie, The Princess And The Frog, which is much better than this nonsense.
Remember the mid 1990s when pretty much all animated features were ill-conceived and not very good? I guess that was a trend Disney decided it wanted in on and so they came up with this crap.
Three cows, Belchy The Show Cow, Tone Deaf McDitz and Uptight British Cow In The Old West For Some Reason, discover the little farm they live on is going to be auctioned off because the woman who runs it is poor and the bank wants all the money. Or something like that. So they set off to try to save the farm, hoping to capture and collect the reward for Alameda Slim, the cattle rustler who robbed Belchy of her first home.
Also thrown in the mix are A Peg Leg Rabbit, A Bounty Hunter Stereotype, A Fanboy Horse and Steve Buscemi.
There's little character development and the plot is minimal but the plot exposition still manages to be clunky and hard to follow. The closest thing to a good song the movie has is Alameda Slim's big yodeling number where he hypnotizes all the cattle but "good" in this sentence basically means "just as forgettable as all the other songs but, unlike the other songs, I didn't dislike it while it was on."
Country music. Yech.
I mainly watched Home On The Range because I was curious about it and because someone told me there was a cool Pink Elephants On Parade-esque sequence, which turned out to be the yodeling number, and was not as cool as he led me to believe.
Overall my curiosity was wrong and my gut reaction was right: Home On The Range sucked.

End of line.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Serpent And The Rainbow

Before zombies were undead flesheaters that the internt ruined, they were the product of Hatian voodoo rituals, and that's what The Serpent And The Rainbow is about.
This is a tough one to review because I simultaneously did and did not understand it. I knew who the good guys were, I knew who the bad guy was. I sort of understood why the good guys were doing the things they were doing. I definitely understood the nightmare sequences and hallucinogenic freakouts.
I just couldn't really follow the plot at all. I had no idea what was going on, pretty much from the beginning. I recognized all the characters and I even followed some of the reasons behind their actions. But mostly it was lost on me.
Partially because they threw in quite a bit of political this and revolutionary that, which we all know I'm no good at comprehending. But just in general, most of the dialogue was lost on me. I'm half convinced I would have gotten just as much out of The Serpent And The Rainbow if I'd watched it with the sound off.
This is the only movie besides Spaceballs where Bill Pullman is attractive, except they spend so much time making him terrified or in pain that he's not even all that attractive in this. He just has Lone Star hair and that same sort of swaggery attitude. I like Bill Pullman, I'm bummed that he's been relegated to lousy romantic comedies and perpetually being the blandest of presidents. I want him to just be Lone Star all the time.
I've always had a big crush on Lone Star but have never understood why chicks go crazy for Han Solo. (I also didn't see Star Wars until years after I'd seen Spaceballs about eighty billion times. But even if I weren't a Spaceballs fan, I don't think I'd get the Han Solo thing.)
Also, why do people get Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton confused? It makes me mad that other people are that dumb. I think it makes far more sense to get Bill Paxton confused with Greg Kinnear.
I guess I'm not talking about The Serpent And The Rainbow anymore.
Overall opinion: It was entertaining even though a lot of it went over my head. The nightmares and hallucinations were the best parts.

End of line.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Les Miserables

Les Miserables is an exercise in fifty thousand characters. Victor Hugo must have had the patience of an extremely patient thing, because I could never write anything with as many character as Les Miserables has; I'd get frustrated and annoyed and wouldn't be able to keep track of them all.
It also has an interminably unending story that is very serious and all about war and France and seriousness and there's nothing about it that appealed to me.
Except I really, really liked it.
It's all war and history and seriousness and (SPOILER, in case you care) pretty much everybody dies. A lot. They all die a lot. The only people who survive are the ones you give fewer than any fucks about.
Admittedly, I like a lot of movies where everybody dies a lot, but in gruesome and hilarious and creative ways, not seriously serious ways that are serious.
Okay, so, it goes something like this:
Russell Crowe really hates Hugh Jackman. A lot. Like, a whole, whole lot. The movie never really explains why Russell Crowe hates Hugh Jackman so much, other than "Hugh Jackman is a prisoner and Russell Crowe is a cop," but my friend explained to me that it's because Russell Crowe was the son of a prostitute and born in jail and had to work his whole life to become "respectable" which in his mind means "absolutely law abiding no matter what." Hugh Jackman stole a loaf of bread so his sister's kid wouldn't starve to death, but in Russell Crowe's mind he may as well have raped the pope because all crime is evil, the end.
There's thirty seconds of really, really clunky plot exposition and Hugh Jackman has an epiphany after a bishop he stole from (played by the original Jean Valjean, apparently) gives him some candlesticks to go along with the entire silver service he ganked. So Hugh Jackman takes on a new identity and becomes a successful man, which infuriates Russell Crowe because he violated parole and is therefore the devil. (Again, my friend had to explain a lot of this to me.)
I think that covers the first five minutes or so of the movie. Only twelve more hours and eight thousand more characters to go.
Seriously, I usually try to be very concise in my description of movies's plots so I can go on and say what I thought of them, but the plot of Les Miserables is so dense and full of characters that I may never get to my opinion of the movie because I'll be explaining the plot until the day I die of French Revolution.
I guess I should point out that, until tonight, I was completely unfamiliar with Les Miserables. I knew the tunes of some of the songs in the play and the extent of my knowledge of the plot was "There's a guy named Jean Valjean and a bunch of other people who also have French names." Honestly, that was the plot. I knew I wanted to punch the song Castle On A Cloud in the goddamn face for convincing a generation of terrible little girls that they're great singers even though not one of them seems to realize your voice isn't supposed to come out of your nose.
I'm getting off topic.
Hugh Jackman meets a dying Anne Hathaway and vows to take care of her daughter, who's currently living with Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter at their inn where they sing the most fun song in the show and steal everything from everyone. Russell Crowe continues to hunt Hugh Jackman down and then seem surprised and confused when their paths do cross (more on that later) and then nine years later there's an uprising in France, led by Ugly Face, Generic Face and Gavroche, who's name I probably spelled wrong, but he's a confident, grubby little urchin kid who is the coolest thing in the history of man. I want to have five sons exactly like him.
That's as much of the plot as I'm going to go into right now.
I'll start with Russell Crowe. Every time he sang, I kind of twinged. His voice was not what I'd call "great." And I think he knew he wasn't great and got so worried about it that he forgot to act, too. He spent the whole movie seeming just kind of confused and worried and surprised and then more confused. I really want to write parody lyrics for his character's last song describing how it seemed like he felt through the whole movie. ("I simply do not understand. I don't know what is going on.") So there's that. He's just so useless and adorable and really fails at playing a character who is apparently supposed to be terrifying and menacing.
Hugh Jackman is fine, if a little nasally at times, but not enough that I want to punch him.
Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are great in their roles, even if Helena Bonham Carter looks like she just wandered in from the set of one of her husband's movies 'cause she hears some singing and wanted to know what was going on and the director just said "You're hired," and that's how she ended up there. Master Of The House is by far the most fun song in the show and I would love to play her part.
Amanda Seyfried is in the movie as grown-up Anne Hathaway's daughter and she's dreadful. In addition to having the weirdest face in the world, I'm pretty sure her voice pierced my eardrums. Very high, very thin. (Lauren described her voice like creme brulee; if you tap it with a spoon, it would shatter.)
Surprisingly, I have something nice to say about Anne Hathaway. You see, I don't like her as an actress because I never see the character, I always just see Anne Hathaway trying really hard to pretend to be the character. But holy shit, she can sing! I was not expecting that. I think the take they used of I Dreamed A Dream in the trailers is different than the one they used in the actual movie. I wasn't impressed when I saw (heard) the preview but in the movie the song was an impressive, stand out moment. There's a bit near the end of the song where she's so deavastated she starts hyperventilating, which was also the only believable bit of acting I've ever seen Anne Hathaway do.
Basically, every time I'd heard I Dreamed A Dream before this movie, I'd only heard it in the context of girls singing it as solos at choir performances, and they were always cutesy sopranos showing off their sopranoiness. They were all so impressed with their own technique that they never bothered to convey any emotion in the song. I knew from the lyrics that it was supposed to be sad but I never really realized it was sad; none of those girls made me care. Hathaway, on the other hand, sings it in such a way that every bit of it sounds like a woman saying "Everything that has ever happened is wrong and I can't think of anything worse than staying alive for even one moment longer." It's a brutal song and I can't believe it took this long to realize it.
So, while I still can't say I like her, I think she nailed it in terms of that song (and also her death song).
Ugly Face has a weird moment of breaking the fourth wall that made me really, really uncomfortable.
And then there's Eponine. Dear lord.
Okay, Eponine is the daughter of the innkeepers and she grows up to be completely in love with Ugly Face, who you can tell only sees her as a friend and will only ever see her as a friend no matter what she does and no matter that he's known her for longer than twenty seconds and her eyes aren't on the sides of her head like Cosette, who he falls in love with when he sees her walking down the street and we're supposed to be happy for them.
Basically Eponine is deavastatingly in love with someone who has friendzoned her forever. And that's what all of her songs are about. And every time she opened her mouth I started crying like a little sissy girl and it actually took all the energy in my body to be quiet about it.
My friend Joanna (who loves Les Miserables but refuses to see the movie because she hates how they cast it) once mockingly said something to me about all the girls in high school who want to play Eponine because they think they relate with her and, because I was completely unfamiliar with the show and didn't want to have it explained to me, I just agreed with her.
If I had been familiar with the show, I would have been offended. If you take away the part where she's gorgeous, I am Eponine. It sounds so stupid and teenage girlish, but I've been in that situation. I was in love with someone for years and if he noticed he never told me, and then he went and married someone else and that was years ago at this point and I'm still welling up with tears right now thinking about it because he's wonderful and he never saw me as anything but a friend and apparently that never stops hurting.
In fact, every guy I've ever had a crush on has only ever seen me as a friend, and it always sucks, but it hurts a lot more when it's more than a crush.
So, yeah, I could have done without that whole subplot because now I'm really sad and don't want to go to sleep but I have to get up in the morning.
And I probably shouldn't have included something whiny and personal like that in my movie review. I'm certainly embarrassed now that I've written it.
But I don't feel right taking it out because reviews are supposed to express one's reaction to a movie, and this movie happened to dig up a bunch of old, painful feelings that I really would have liked to keep buried. That was my reaction, I may as well be honest about it.
Also, I had no idea until tonight that I Dreamed A Dream wasn't from near the end of the show. I'd heard the song before and it always sounded like an end of the show song to me. The way Anne Hathaway sings it, it sounds like an end of life song. Like, this is a woman who's going to go slash her wrists, which doesn't happen but from now on I know that any other version is going to sound wrong to me.
And, I'll say it again, Gavroche is the best thing in the whole movie. I fucking love that little kid. I want to give him cookies and watch him pickpocket the whole neighborhood. Words cannot describe how fucking cool this kid is. (SPOILER: Even his death is badass. You can see it in his eyes, he's essentially saying to the soldier "Fuck you, I'm going to make you shoot a little boy.")
So, yeah. That was wordy and embarrassing and poor Russell Crowe just seemed so confused the whole time. I feel bad for him.
On the other hand, seeing the movie and then hearing my friend explain to me the plot points I missed due to his lousy performance and how the character is "supposed" to be, I think I actually kind of like Russell Crowe's failed attempt at characterization better. Javert is kind of more interesting when he's bumbling, useless and genuinely confused. It's like an alternate universe version of Les Miserables.
Even though I'm not familiar with the show, I guarantee it's in dire need of alternate character interpretations. People get too stuck in their ways. Like Little Shop Of Horrors; I would love to see a version where the woman playing Audrey isn't just doing an Ellen Greene impression. I've never seen that. And, yes, Ellen Greene was wonderful, but there are so many other ways that part could be played, and no one will ever use any of them because they just think "This is the way the show is." And I hate that. Switch it up, people! It's more fun to make the character your own.
Fuck it, I'm just going to change my mind and promote Russell Crowe from almost-worst cast member (right above Amanda Seyfried) to almost-best cast member (right below the kid who played Gavroche). He did something new and different with his character, and for that I salute him.
Final thoughts: Les Miserables is surprisingly bloodless for a show where most people get shot in the face. And this review is really funny.

End of line.