12.31.2010

BLACK SWAN.

Let me start off by saying I'm not a huge Aronofsky fan. I still need to re-experience Requiem for a Dream, as the last attempt was in the middle of the night when I was much younger and I fell asleep halfway through. I thought The Fountain was one of the most boring (though pretty) films I've ever seen. I did really enjoy The Wrestler, though. All that being said, I went into this movie both knowing it was supposedly one of if not the best movie of the year mixed with my previous feelings for the director's films... and I wasn't sure what to expect.

Black Swan tells the story of Nina (Natalie Portman), a ballerina obsessed with perfection. She's very child-like, coddled by her obsessive and controlling mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), a woman whose own dreams for the ballet were dashed when she was younger. Nina is soon casted in Thomas' (Vincent Cassel) own version of Swan Lake where the lead must play both the White Swan and the Black Swan. Thomas isn't sure Nina can pull of the Black Swan despite being magnificent at the White Swan role. Meanwhile, a new ballerina named Lily (Mila Kunis) comes to town and starts to shake things up a bit. Slowly, Nina loses control of reality as she tries to grasp the soul of the Black Swan, fighting between her own paranoid imagination and her sanity--is she really turning into a Black Swan or is the role just getting to her?

The best two words to describe this film are basically the same two words I've been hearing all over--visceral and sexy. There was a woman nearby who had brought her two small children with her--and at one point, she even left the theater (assuming to go to the bathroom), and she left the two little kids behind alone! First, you should never do that... ever. But second, if you ever were to do that, this is certainly not the film you do that in (this isn't even a film to bring them to in the first place). Half the time I was cringing from some disturbing moments, and the other half of the time I was watching Natalie Portman having sexy times. And that's about as close as I'm gonna get to talking about the famous lesbian scene.

So that lesbian scene was pretty hot.

Er, sorry.

Anyway, the scene where Natalie Portman is mastu...

Sorry, off track again. I need something to take my mind off all the sexy times.

OK, so how about the time when she rips the skin from her fingernail down to her knuckle. Oh yeah, baby. Sorry, I threw up in my mouth a little. Back on track.

Like I was saying, this movie is visceral. There are a lot of disturbing images in this movie, and I don't just mean all the fingernail stuff--and there are a lot of fingernail-related moments. The imagery of the film is unsettling, from the back rash to the mirrors. I want to take a moment to discuss the mirrors. This film is full of mirrors. Almost every scene has multiple mirrors. This movie must have been a nightmare in post-production. Still, the way they were utilized, either fragmenting reflections or having reflections moving slightly off from when the real person is moving, was magnificent. I want to see the movie again simply to watch the mirrors the entire time.

The acting is solid, as well. Natalie Portman is gorgeous as usual and, dare I say it, very sexy at times. But that's the point of the role, right? Seduction. Mila Kunis has been surprising me quite a bit lately, shedding her Jackie persona from That 70s Show. And this movie really helps her jettison to the next level. Vincent Cassel is fantastic and creepy, too. One actress I wasn't expecting (which is kinda how she's been a lot lately) is Winona Ryder as Beth, a former big name in ballet who is retiring. Her performance is gut-wrenching... in the sense that she reaches through the screen, grabs your intestines, and wrenches them from your body. It's a pretty intense role.

And that's another great way to describe this movie: intense. Don't come into it thinking you're in for a wonderful romp into the world of ballet. It's a heavy look into the psychosis of a young woman who has to make such a huge personality shift for a role that it literally destroys her from the inside out. It's a study of the mind and its slow decline from sanity, showing you every painstaking second of this woman whose life is swirling down the drain for the hope of perfection. And the music is good, too. (Understatement.)

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

12.30.2010

TRUE GRIT.

Warning: Mild spoilers.

-------------------------------

As I come to the end of Western Month, I'd like to end with the film all of this was leading up to (though not as a part of 60/60, mind you). True Grit tells the story of Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a 14-year-old girl whose father was killed in cold blood by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). With quick wit and a sharp mind, she eventually hires Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to hunt Chaney down and bring him to justice. Along for the ride, however, is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) who wants to bring Chaney in for the death of a politician back in Texas. The film also includes Barry Pepper as "Lucky" Ned, the outlaw that Chaney is riding with.

The most notable thing about this film is how it showcases the humor of the Coen Brothers. There is a lot of dialogue in this movie, and at least half of it (if not more) is quite funny. The interactions between the characters, particularly between Mattie and, well... anyone else... was always delightful to watch. The first 2/3s of the movie didn't really have any action at all, but it just flew by thanks to the sharp writing and great acting.

And the acting really is fantastic. The three leads of Steinfeld, Bridges, and Damon are superb. I don't typically pay attention to awards until the final nominations are revealed for the Oscars, but I have heard that Steinfeld is only up for supporting actress, which is ludicrous. The girl was in practically every frame of the film, more than any other character. She is not only the lead actress, but the lead character. To grant her supporting actress is like a slap in the face. And she deserves that lead nomination. She was absolutely fantastic. However, despite the fantastic acting here, the acting (and partially directing) is where the film falters.

Like with the Coens' other western--No Country For Old Men--this film sinks in its third act. Once Tom Chaney and gang are introduced, everything just starts getting... strange. Now, I haven't seen the original, so I can't compare. But here, Brolin acts Chaney like he'd rather be playing Lennie in Of Mice And Men. It doesn't go (to quote Tropic Thunder) "full retard," but there's something amiss with Chaney that completely threw me off. And then you have another member of his outlaw gang that walks around making animal noises... and that's it. That's his sole purpose in the movie: animal noises. Chickens, cows, you name it. It wasn't funny... it was stupid, and I'm not exactly sure what the Coens were thinking. Then, to top it off, the film's antagonist switches to Barry Pepper's Lucky Ned, despite having only heard of the guy maybe twice in the entire film prior and never in more than an offhand comment or question (the most we hear about him is during the "cabin" sequence, and we're only hearing about him because he's riding with Chaney, their main target). But the big showdown in the film isn't even with Chaney, but between Cogburn and Lucky Ned. Granted, Pepper does a great job with the character, but it just feels strange spending the entire movie going after Chaney and then having a finale hardly focusing on the guy (which might have been for the better anyway).

Still, the third act wasn't a complete waste. Unlike No Country, there were some redeeming factors in its finale. And the overall film was definitely worth seeing. Between the writing and humor, the good cinematography, and the (mostly) great acting and directing, True Grit is a fine western. Was it my favorite western I'd seen this month? No, but it wasn't the worst, either. I say it's pretty far up there in the most enjoyable, though.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

12.29.2010

60/60 Review #8: Seven Samurai.

God, what the heck can I even say about this movie? Let's set it up first. While it's one of the longest on this list, it was in my Top 3 Most Anticipated. This was my third Kurosawa film, and the other two were damn good. So adding that and everything I'd heard, my Julianne Moore's (read: expectations. Listen to LAMBcast, people) were pretty freakin' high. In other words, if this movie were anything less than a masterpiece, I was going to be disappointed.

For those who don't know, the movie is about a village of peasants who hire seven samurai to rid them of a gang of bandits that have pillaged them to the point of having nothing left. The head of this samurai squad is a Ronin named Kanbe (Takashi Shimura). Along to help are a mix of other samurai including one who might not even be one, a silly man named Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune). Together, they plan on how best to take down the bandits and then, finally, attempt to accomplish their plans. From here on, you'll have to forgive me name-wise, both with characters and actors. Besides the two I just named (and a few of the villagers), it was tough for me to keep names straight, and I'm too lazy to look up on Wikipedia which was which.

This movie truly is one of the greatest films ever made. It has everything: a great cast of characters who are layered and who evolve, great acting, fantastic camera use, fitting music, exciting action, tense drama, fun comedy, secret romance, and a sprinkle of sadness when characters start to die. And I said it before with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but there needs to be a reason for a movie to be this long (this one clocks in about 3.5 hours). GBU had no reason to be as long as it was. Seven Samurai, on the other hand, utilized every minute with purpose, whether to develop story or character.

The stealer of the show is, without question and without much surprise, Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune. At first he comes off as some insane man following them around. But as the movie continues, you start to realize what makes him tick, what drives him to do what he does, and you really grow attached to the guy, wondering what he's going to do next. The next is probably a tie between Kanbe and the quiet but super-skilled samurai, both showing wisdom and strength in their age.

I also mentioned both comedy and romance in the film. The comedy surprised me, honestly. I know Kurosawa has done comedy (and one of the three I've seen of his is one of them), but for some reason I wasn't expecting the jovial nature of a lot of the characters in this movie. It was really refreshing. And then there's the romance. There are two main "love" issues in the film. The first deals with one of the villagers named Rikichi who gets upset anytime someone brings up how he should have a woman or something like that, and it slowly builds to a reveal of what exactly happened. But the main story in this area is between Kanbe's protege and a peasant girl named Shino. They meet on accident at first, as Shino's father--Manzo--makes her pretend to be a boy so that the samurai won't rape her (as samurai are apparently known to do). They end up meeting in secret and building this relationship, all of which intertwines itself with the main story. I would say that the relationship could have been touched on a wee bit more, but the movie is already long enough.

In fact, I broke down GBU into three parts when I reviewed that one. This one, on the other hand, can be broken down into four, and they are so easily split into four sections that I wouldn't be surprised if Kurosawa planned it as such. The first hour focuses on finding the seven samurai and putting the team together, so to speak. This is a very entertaining portion of the movie. It was a lot of fun watching them try to sift through their choices and get everyone together.

The second hour is all the planning and preparation. This is where the movie slows down and starts building all the subplots and character development. This is also going to be the part of the film where a lot of people iffy about the long time span of the film might struggle the most. I certainly wouldn't say it's boring. There are a lot of good moments in this part, mostly thanks to Toshiro Mifune. But it's certainly the part of the movie with the least action.

The third hour is when all the fighting with the bandits begins. It isn't non-stop action, either. It's a very nice balance of action and then pulling back to not only have the characters strategize, but to give us further development with these characters and their respective subplots. Neither type of segment lasts too long, going back and forth pretty equally. However, where I personally started to feel the drag of the length of the movie was near the end of this hour. There is kind of a stretch between things happening near the end of this hour, but thankfully the fourth section of the movie sweeps in and saves the day.

The last 30 minutes are, as labeled even within the film, the final showdown. This is where everything comes to a head. All the subplots come together--major characters start dying, others start to show their true character (both good and bad), secret relationships come to light, and the final fight with the bandits occurs. I found it kind of a downer ending, despite the outcome of the battle (hey... it's been out for 56 years... I think I can safely allude to the ending without much repercussion). But at the same time, I found it interesting how it did exactly what people complained about with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--either not showing major deaths on screen or not making a huge deal of it when it happens. It has a "this is war--death happens and we need to move on... we can mourn later" attitude.

So overall, I don't really have a summation. This film is damn near perfect, and I can see why it's considered one of the greatest films ever made. I can now add myself to the ranks who agree with this. Sure it's long, but I found it worth sitting through. However, would I sit down on a rainy day and watch Seven Samurai just because I feel like it? Probably not, but that has more to do with the length than anything. It might not crack my Top 10 Favorite Films Of All Time, but it certainly cracks what I feel to be the Top 10 Best Films Of All Time and, if I were to split the categories, Top 10 Favorite Classics (and/or Essentials). That being said, if you've not seen this film, definitely check it out. It's long, but it's worth it.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

(P.S. That'll wrap up "Western" Month... whew, what a month! We'll be starting into "Foreign" Month next week with my transitional film, the modern Asian classic: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.)

12.28.2010

60/60 Extra: The Good, The Bad, And The Weird.

I know this isn't a well-known or classic film of the genre, but it's a good transition between the previous film and the next one. This film is to the action western as, essentially, Hot Fuzz was the buddy cop/action films. Taking place in World War II-ish Manchuria, this film is a strange hybrid that almost feels steampunk, but isn't. After a man hires another to take a treasure map onto a train, he then goes and hires Park Chang-yi (Byung-hun Lee)--the Bad--to steal it back so that he'll have paid the first man but will have retained the map. Unfortunately, a bumbling train robber named Yoon Tae-goo (Kang-ho Song)--the Weird--steals the map first, not knowing what it is. In the middle of all this is a bounty hunter named Park Do-won (Woo-sung Jung)--the Good--who is out to capture and/or kill Park Chang-yi, thinking him the dastardly Finger Chopper. Their three stories continually intersect throughout the film, and eventually Yoon Tae-goo and Park Do-won travel together, following the map to its supposed treasure.

This film is f**king fantastic (and if you don't believe me, take a gander at its 7.4 on imdb and 83% on Rotten Tomatoes). The thing that threw me at first, however, was the time period. You're never given anything directly stated, so after seeing steam engines, cowboy hats, and horses, I was thrown off when motorcycles appeared. Not to mention the strange clothing, giant war hammers, more modern guns (in comparison to old west revolvers), and more. But about halfway through, I looked it up and saw it took place in the 1940s, so everything started making more sense (except maybe the clothing, but maybe that's what it was like in 1940s Manchuria).

Once you get past that little bit of confusion, everything else is superb. This movie is an action film, no doubt about it. It's almost non-stop. And outside of Kung Fu films and bent reality actioners like The Matrix, Equilibrium, Wanted, etc., it's some of the coolest action I've seen. The movie starts off with an awesome train heist and shootout and doesn't let down from there. A couple noteworthy moments include shooting a guy at a distance in the face through his sniper scope, shooting while swinging over rooftops on a rope-pulley system, facing a Japanese army between horseback and jeep/convoy, and--of course--the final showdown at the end. And more... so much more.

The movie isn't overly serious--knowing exactly what it is--but it didn't become what I most feared, either. It didn't become absurd or overly goofy like a Stephen Chow film (which are good in their own right, but it's not what I wanted here... and thankfully, I didn't get that). The film does ground itself in reality. Yes, it is pretty weird at times and the action can be over-the-top, but it never gets cartoonish or comic book-y. It has a good balance of seriousness and comedy.

The acting is superb, too. Byung-hun Lee is menacing and unrelenting as "the bad," and you wonder how anyone could ever beat him (and he looks awesome). But then you have Woo-sung Jung as "the good," who is a badass himself, able to shoot accurately from afar--making him even deadlier close up. It took me a while to get used to his looks (he's not your typical strapping hero), but his acting quickly makes up for it. Then you have the comedic Kang-ho Song as "the weird," who is more bumbling than weird. He plays the character perfectly with a sense of silliness but an air of skill, as if perhaps actually knowing exactly what he's doing after all. He leaves you questioning through most of the film if he's actually an idiot or if there's more to him than meets the eye (no, he's not a Transformer).

Just like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, the characters switch around among their labels throughout the film. And, of course, there are other similarities besides the characters. The basic plot of the film being the three hunting for a hidden treasure in the middle of a war-torn land is straight from the aforementioned film. But it also pays homage to other westerns, such as A Fistful of Dollar, For A Few Dollars More, Once Upon a Time in the West, Duck You Sucker, and even, despite not being a western, a bit of Raiders of the Lost Ark (thank you IMDb for the list of film connections). As I said at the beginning, this film is to the action western what Hot Fuzz is to modern buddy cop/action films. It pays homage to these other films of the genre inside a sometimes serious, most times funny, over-the-top action film.

If you're a fan of Sergio Leone's work, especially the namesake film, I'd definitely recommend checking this one out. It's absolutely fantastic. Even if you're not a fan of westerns but love a good action film, totally seek this out. However, I want to say that, apparently, there are at least two versions of this film. The one on Netflix Instant Streaming is an inferior cut--from what I've read--leaving out a couple key moments near the end of the film. And speaking of, don't turn off the film once the credits start rolling. About a minute or so in, you're shown another scene (which is also where one of the essential moments is missing from, apparently, in the Netflix version). Anyway, I'll stop rambling now. If I wanted to give any negatives, it would be that at just over 2 hours, the film does feel a slight drag at the end of its second act/beginning of its third act, but that quickly goes away. So yeah, definitely check this out. The action alone is worth it.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

12.27.2010

2 In 1: Restrepo And Exit Through The Gift Shop.

There's really only one thing connecting these two movies: they're critically acclaimed documentaries from this year. I'm sure I can think of something silly if I dig deep (perhaps that both are docs that will mess with your head), but I'm too lazy for that. So without further ado, I'll just get into them in the order I watched them.


Restrepo.

I had to force myself to watch this, as I knew it was going to be a tough watch. I don't watch documentaries or war films on a regular basis, so it would be hard on that front, but of course, I knew the subject material was going to be really rough and upsetting. And it was. This documentary follows a year in the life of the Second Platoon in Afghanistan's most dangerous valley. After the death of "Doc" Restrepo, the unit builds a new outpost (O.P.) in a strategic area and call it O.P. Restrepo after their fallen friend. The rest of the documentary details the unit's triumphs and failures at O.P. Restrepo and on the battlefield.

As I said, this was a tough film to watch as people were dying every 10-15 minutes. And this kind of brings in my biggest issue with the documentary. There are constantly new people showing up in the documentary that it starts becoming difficult differentiating between who is who. There is a main cast of people it focuses on--primarily in the 'interviews' that take place after-the-fact. But while in the valley, there were new people showing up all the time, throughout the entire documentary, and it never explains where these people are coming from. Were they there the whole time and you're just now showing them? Are they new recruits? What's going on?

Also, if the film really wanted to use pathos on its audience, it could have done a lot more. I mean, there's a lot of pathos there, but when it mentions people who have died, my only reaction was "... who was that?" The way they're talked about, it's as if we'd been following them the whole time, but we haven't. If the filmmakers wanted the pain of war to hit hard, then they needed to show these people, let us get to know them so then when they died, we have a stronger reaction of "Holy crap, war totally sucks." We still get that from the film, but it's not as strong of a message as it could have been.

Or was that really the message? There were a few instances where I couldn't tell if this was a pro- or anti-war film. A good handful of the soldiers, despite hating it there, were a bit gun- and kill-happy. There's a particular scene I remember where the soldiers are celebrating because they shot up a guy and his limbs, apparently, started flying everywhere. And they were ecstatic about this. They were elated that they not only killed but supposedly mutilated another human being. Then there was a time when the main soldier guy (I can't remember his name, sorry) was upset that he had accidentally killed innocents in a bombing, but his reaction, despite being upset, was basically "well, it was their fault for living among terrorists. Moving on." Maybe that was his way of rationalizing the event so to not be driven mad, but it just feels so... wrong.

Because of these kinds of things, I wasn't sure whether the film was trying to show me the detriments of war and how it affects its soldiers or how, if it weren't for these soldiers and O.P. Restrepo, that section of Afghanistan would be an even worse hellhole than it is (thus showing the benefits of war). So I guess thematically and emotionally, the film could have been done stronger. Or maybe the point was to show the morally gray area that war resides in, how it can do both good and bad, how it affects all sides.

Regardless, it was still a powerful film. The highlight is the Mission Rock Avalanche segment near the end. That whole part of the film was very tense where they just explain (instead of show) how things started going wrong, how one guy in particular got shot up and nearly died, and how close everyone really came to dying (though a couple did). But then it goes and shows parts, and there's a very real moment (I know that's kinda weird to say for a documentary) where this soldier just loses it emotionally and breaks down when he sees one of his fallen comrades. On the whole, if you're into intense documentaries and/or you like to subject of war, then this is definitely a film to check out.


A Keanu 'Whoa'



Exit Through The Gift Shop.

This movie made my head hurt. It's a documentary directed by a street artist (Banksy) about a Frenchman (Thierry Guetta) who starts making a documentary about street artists--including Banksy--but then becomes a street artist himself, only to have Banksy take over his documentary and change the subject of said documentary around. And in the end, it's not even a certainty that any of this documentary is even true. It's basically as if Charlie Kaufman made a documentary.

Thierry Guetta is a total nutball dipshit, to put it nicely. He's introduced to us as a family man who carries around a video camera filming every second of his life, then stores the tapes away in containers never to view them. He's very slow and naive, unable to form coherent thoughts or sentences (even taking into account English isn't his first language) and unable to comprehend even the most common sense notions. And even if it weren't for the fact that every single person in the documentary tells you how insane and stupid Thierry appears to be, you'd still be able to tell that they didn't exactly like him. Hell, even his cousin won't talk to him anymore (according to the closing information, anyway).

Now that we have our main character, we're taken on a ride into the semi-illegal (they never say straight-up if it's illegal or not what they do--graffiti is illegal, but they don't exactly do "graffiti") world of street art. There are different kinds of street art, as well. There are those like Space Invader who put images of the Space Invader aliens up around cities. There are those like Shepard Fairey who put up giant sheets of Andre the Giant with "Obey" underneath (though he's moreso known now for his famous rendering of President Obama's portrait). And then there's Banksy, who is like the DaVinci of street artists, doing anything from wall paintings to restructuring a phone booth so that it looks completely bent over.

Then, about 2/3s into the documentary, everything turns around. We're introduced to Mr. Brainwash, who is Thierry's street artist persona. After Banksy sees how much of a failure Thierry is at filmmaking, he tells him to go try his hand at street art. So basically, after having years of observation hours, Thierry takes up his new moniker and rips off everybody he's watched in the past. He doesn't do anything new or exciting. In fact, he basically does one thing and copies it ad nauseum. And people eat it up.

This is where the message of the film comes in, though there could be many messages you could take from it. If you're looking at the whole documentary as true, then the film is a study on the idiocy of the mass population, the ridiculousness of modern art, and how a person can go from nothing to millionaire overnight if s/he knows how to play their cards just right. It isn't about talent, it's about a little luck and who you know. Or, if you look at the film as a total lie, it's just another work of art from Banksy, taking his street art from stationary pictures to moving ones; he takes something that is generally seen as normal--a documentary--and turns it on its side as an act of sociological study, much like his bent phone booth. He could be putting out something that he knows is completely ridiculous just to see how much people actually eat it up, much like the people as portrayed through those interested in Mr. Brainwash's art. Or it's just straight-up satire. Any way you look at it, it's incredibly meta, and in that regard, I like it.

Still, regardless of how you look at it, the movie is fascinating. It's either the most ridiculous or most genius documentary I've ever seen. It could be slightly pretentious depending on how you looked at it, but isn't all art? Art in and of itself is an overt act of self-expression that is put on display for all to question and ponder (as if it's important). That's pretty much pretentiousness right there. But I digress. If you're interested in the world of street artists and seeing who is quite possibly the daftest subject of a documentary ever (whether or not he actually exists as portrayed is another question), then this film is for you. It's certainly not boring.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

12.26.2010

Random Ramblings of a Demented DoorVlog S2.4.

Here's episode S2.4.

This particular episode references Episode 5 of Season 1. This is what you need to know...

Previously, in Episode S1.5 of The Vlog: The floor of Nick's apartment got covered in lava, and Nick somehow gained the ability to levitate over it.

Last time on The Vlog: DPR has been continually fixing strange things that have been going on at the apartment every week, from being driven silent to being stuck in a time loop. Also, someone appears to be trying to help out, giving him advice on how to fix these anomalies (particularly the loss of voice issue, as DPR received a letter--originally addressed to Nick--explaining what to do). Also, in present day, Nick's couch was gone.

Nothing particularly interesting behind the scenes except that I thought I had recorded a clip, but the camera had other ideas at the time... so I had to re-record it later once I realized it was missing (this happens to me more often than you'd think). I also had to attempt to upload the damn thing 3 times, which was annoying. I have no idea why it isn't as wide as it usually is within the frame of the player. Finally, I don't like how the levitation bit turned out this time around, as it didn't appear as seamless as the first time around... but oh well.

And, oh yeah, you get your first "glimpse" at one of many new guest characters this season.

Anywho, enjoy!

12.23.2010

The Demented Podcast #5 - The Demented Encyclopedia.

For an early Christmas present to y'all, here is the next Demented Podcast a wee earlier than usual!

For this episode, I am reunited with Travis McCollum of The Movie Encyclopedia. It's the longest episode so far, but not by much. We take on a short "The Challenge" that is a bit seasonal, I believe... but funny.

Then we get into our main discussion: Hollywood trends. From 3D to comics/graphic novel adaptations to (unnecessary) sequels, we cover it all in a discussion that is actually not a Top 5 list. (Warning: There are some spoilers for Season 1 of The Walking Dead if you haven't seen it yet.)

But then we get into what has to be a Demented Tower for the books. Travis aims to break a new record, but is he gunning for Rachel's Top Score or is he taking Jason's Bottom Score Challenge? As a side note, this particular episode was very intensive to edit. Believe it or not, while recording, the Demented Tower alone went on for AN HOUR AND A HALF. And this was all talking and rambling and thinking out responses, folks. This wasn't just pure silence that I could easily trim down on as per usual. But you know what? I took that 1.5 hour time and somehow brought it down to 30 minutes.

Finally, keep an ear out for a fun little Easter Egg at the end of the closing music! It was too good to pass up.

Current Leaderboard (The Demented Tower):
1) Rachel - 179 Points
2) James - 135 Points
3) Jess - 95 Points
4) Jason - 33 Points

You can listen to this episode on the player below or by subscribing through iTunes.



That being said, enjoy! Thanks goes out to Kevin MacLeod's Incompetech website for great, royalty-free music. And thanks to Google for helping me find a website that will give me free video game audio samples.

12.22.2010

Unrelated To Movies: New Novel.

That's right, I finished yet another novel. It's just the first draft, and it happens to be the shortest of my novels thus far (clocking in at just under 61,000 words). I'm hoping to flesh it out in later drafts, of course. But as for now, here's some info:


------------------

Detective Paul Wilson is curious when blood-soaked Aidyn Cassidy shows up at the police station and requests to see him--especially since he has no idea who she is. While she tells her story, Paul is faced with unnatural occurrences and strange visions, forcing him to question not only his own sanity, but the validity of Aidyn's story. And her story isn't that easy to swallow.


Aidyn, at 16, does not get along with her parents. Fed up with Aidyn's attitude, they set up a weekend getaway for the family, including Aidyn's two siblings, in the form of a camping trip, grasping at the hopes of familial bonding. However, the family is soon forced down into an old, nearby bomb shelter for safety after an unseen enemy attacks. Now stuck in the dark shelter, the Cassidy family gradually becomes more paranoid as tempers rise and deep, dark secrets bubble to the surface. So not only must they face an unknowable enemy above, but they must also survive each other in the one place that should keep them safe.

--------------------


If you'd like further information on the book, such as how it came out or maybe more information on all the major characters, you can click here and read all about it. Anywho, just felt like sharing!

60/60 Review #7: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

There are two kinds of westerns in this world: the fast-paced actioners and the slow-burns that last for 3 damn hours. When you look at the western, this one is basically the quintessential film. For the unacquainted, the film introduces us to "the ugly," a bandit named Tuco (Eli Wallach) with very few morals; "the bad," a professional assassin named Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) who never fails to complete a mission once paid; and "the good," a con artist known only as Blondie (Clint Eastwood) who captures a bounty and then frees the outlaw, only to capture and repeat the process. Blondie and Tuco are working together until things begin to derail between them. Angel Eyes is doing a job hunting down a man who has changed his name to Bill Carson. And all three venture through a Civil War-torn south to find buried treasure in a cemetery.

Like any good movie, this one can be split into three parts (but unlike most films, each part is an hour long instead of roughly 30 minutes). The first hour introduces us to the main three characters and how they interact with each other. This hour, despite its slowness, is good. The little segments introducing each character is fun, and the first 10 minutes don't even have dialogue. Still, it left me wondering if we were ever going to get to the point.

The second hour sets up the hidden treasure plot and has our characters together in an army camp. So we finally get to the point and the movie starts picking up a bit. However, whereas the first hour actually felt like a western, this hour starts giving it an overall war film feeling (which continues into the bulk of the next hour, too).

The final hour at first builds steam with a fun shoot-out and one of my favorite lines in the movie ("When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk." Just his delivery of the line is fantastic). But then the movie slams on its breaks for a mostly unnecessary bridge sequence that has Blondie and Tuco at another army camp. It wasn't a bad sequence--just unnecessary. The best part (besides the big explosion) is a very quiet moment when Blondie gives a dying soldier a puff of his cigar. It's such a fantastic moment. After the nearly 30-minute detour, we have our grand finale at the cemetery. The whole cemetery sequence is very well done, of course. Really good stuff.

The acting was solid. Clint Eastwood, who I had yet to see act well, does a really good job here. And Eli Wallach does well, too. But the true star of the film, for me anyway, was Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eyes. I wanna see this guy in other stuff. He was menacing yet somehow elegant--the best kind of villain. And his distinct look really set him apart, too.

One thing I particularly liked was how, despite being labeled in a very black and white manner, the characters weren't black and white. Blondie wasn't all that "good." Angel Eyes might have been "bad," but he did follow a code of ethics. Tuco was really the only one who didn't walk a gray area. He was selfish and did what benefited him the most--in fact, at times, he was more "bad" than even Angel Eyes.

Anyway, I'll just get into my final notes now. The film's score is wonderful (and famous--despite not having seen the film before, I knew the main theme that plays throughout). The film was basically 2/3s dubbed over in English and 1/3 actually spoken in English. I thought that would get annoying, but you really don't notice it after a while. The film's biggest flaw is really its length. I could have easily done with about an hour or so less and wouldn't have been bothered any. Things did start feeling repetitive in the last half of the movie with all the Civil War stuff, so that could have been trimmed down a lot. I don't mind long movies, but as many people have said in the past--there needs to be a reason that it's that long. Here, there's no reason it needed to be 3 hours long. The pacing was mostly fine up until that last hour.

So that's it. I refrained from being cliche and doing this in a "good, bad, ugly" format (mostly because, honestly, there wasn't anything ugly/terrible about it). Would I go out and watch this again? Probably not--at least not for a good while. But am I glad I saw it? Definitely. Anyway, keep an eye out before next Wednesday for another 60/60 Extra that will help transition from this film into the Japanese western that is coming next (it's not exactly a classic, but it's too good of a transition to pass up). As for this film, however...


A Keanu 'Whoa'

12.20.2010

Jason Soto's The Night Before Christmas.

Jason Soto has made his Christmas Special for Jason Makes A Video, and he asked me to be a part of it. It's just a short bit, but it was fun trying to come up with something to make it funny/awkward. As for the rest... enjoy as Jason and Cokie do their own rendition of The Night Before Christmas!

12.19.2010

Random Ramblings of a Demented DoorVlog S2.3.

Here's episode S2.3.

This particular episode references Episode 4 of Season 1. This is what you need to know...

Previously, in Episode S1.4 of The Vlog: Nick got stuck in a time loop, unable to escape. We were introduced to the fact that Nick has the sword of Godric Gryffindor.

Last time on The Vlog: Nick was upset about Winston's disappearance. Something seemed to cast a kind of spell on the apartment, causing both Nick and DPR to fall into silence. However, DPR was able to counter the spell by having Nick embarrass himself.

From now on, the video lengths will be bumped up to a maximum of 5 minutes, 40 seconds due to the 40-second opening credits that I don't count for the overall run-time. So there is still roughly 5 minutes of new footage and 40 seconds of opening credits.

This particular episode was interesting. I ended up hurting my foot (not bad, though) during the skit; I made myself momentarily sick to my stomach during a particular stunt I try to pull; and I just could not get the closer of one of my segments right. And despite the new time limit, there is a slightly longer length to this episode only because I've added some bloopers at the end of the video. Anywho, enjoy the video!

12.18.2010

Top 5 Favorite B-Movie One-Liners.

A while back, I did a bunch of "in the honor of" Top 5/10 lists, honoring fellow bloggers. Well, I'd been trying to think of a good one for my good buddy Jason Soto. And I think I finally have. As all of you might know, Jason likes his b-movies. And if you watch those types of films, you know they can be chock full of memorable one-liners. So I'm going to be giving my Top 5 Favorite B-Movie One-Liners. And yes, The Room is automatically disqualified since almost every line would be on here. Sorry.

Top 5 Favorite B-Movie One-Liners

5. "Science is never wrong."
Movie: Absolute Zero
Character/Actor: David (Jeff Fahey)
Info: I put this at number 5 only because it's more of an inside joke than anything. I get together with friends almost every weekend for "disaster movie night." There are a ton of running jokes we use throughout our MST3K-ing of all the movies, usually stemming from earlier films. One of them is "science is never wrong" as stated by Jeff Fahey in this wonderfully awful film. It's pretty much the go-to line to explain anything that doesn't make any logical sense in a bad disaster flick.
Video: N/A


4. "Broke in to the wrong God damn rec room, didn't ya, you bastard!"
Movie: Tremors
Character/Actor: Burt Gummer (Michael Gross)
Info: Tremors is a childhood favorite, and Burt Gummer is one of the greatest b-movie characters ever created. There are plenty of lines I could have chosen for him, though they would have been from its less successful sequel, and I wanted to go ahead and put one from the original. How can you not love Burt? Ready for any obstacle...
Video:



3. "What do you say I... take you home and eat your pussy?"
Movie: Shark Attack 3
Character/Actor: Ben Carpenter (John Barrowman)
Info: This is the only film on the list I haven't seen, but the line is so infamous I couldn't leave it off. It sounds strange enough just out of context. But when you watch the following clip and realize how out-of-context it really is even in the film, it becomes even stranger. From what I've heard, it was just an ad-lib/outtake that the director liked so much he just kept it in.
Video: Click here.


2. "I've come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum."
Movie: They Live!
Character/Actor: George Nada (Roddy Piper)
Info: It's been years since I've seen this one, and I really need to see it again. But this is one of my favorite lines. It's so cheesy awesome that I wish I had thought of it myself. There's not much else to say.
Video:



1. "I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!"
Movie: Snakes on a Plane
Character/Actor: Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson)
Info: What else was it going to be? Really? This is one of the most famous lines of the last decade. They changed this movie's rating to an R simply to include this line, as the movie could not exist without it. And because they changed it to an R, they just went ahead and added a bunch more violence and nudity, adding to the movie's cheesy awesomeness.
Video:

12.17.2010

60/60 Extra: The Quick And The Dead.

Note: 60/60 Extras will be reviews of other well-known films that I check out for whatever particular genre or theme of the month that I'm focusing on at the time.

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A while back, I heard the ladies of Reel Insight Podcast talk about this film... rather unfavorably. But how can that be? Between the director, cast, and premise, it sounded awesome. Ellen (Sharon Stone) is a mysterious woman who rides into the town of Redemption looking to take vengeance on John Herod (Gene Hackman), the town's tyrannical gunslinger who makes sure things go his own way. He hosts a gunslinging tournament where opponents challenge each other every day, knocking the bracket down until there is only one left. Also pulled into the fray is Cort (Russell Crowe), a preacher who used to be a bad gunslinger himself; Cantrell (Keith David), an assassin; Ace Hanlon (Lance Henriksen), a self-proclaimed badass; Scars (Mark Boone Jr.), an escaped convict; Dog Kelly (Tobin Bell), a stupid outlaw; and the Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio), who has a special tie to Herod himself. The film also stars Gary Sinise as Ellen's father.

The story is basically like if you took Mortal Kombat, removed the mystical elements, and put it in the old west. And the characters are colorful. But the story and the characters--despite being interesting in theory--share the same flaw: they're cliche to the point of boring. From the western angle, the movie takes just about every cliche in the book and slaps it across your face. And this is coming from a guy who doesn't watch a lot of westerns. Hell, I knew Leo's character was gonna refer to himself as the Kid before it even came out of his mouth. The idea of a "game" or "tournament" is fun--Battle Royale is one of my favorite books--but all the fights here are almost exactly the same. There's nothing interesting to differentiate between them. And the characters are just cardboard cutouts. The best relationship is actually the one between DiCaprio and Hackman.

I don't entirely think the movie was casted wrong, though. For the most part, the actors did well. I think they could have explored the duality of Sharon Stone's Ellen a little more, giving us more on how conflicted she is on the inside in comparison to how stoic she tries to be on the outside. And I normally don't care for Russell Crowe, but he was good enough in this (maybe because he doesn't say all that much). Leo also does well. But it was most interesting seeing (very little of) Tobin Bell, especially at the beginning when he's threatening to kill Sharon Stone. I was waiting for the scene to change and show her in a Jigsaw trap... or that there was gonna be a big twist at the end.

Honestly, I think the movie's biggest fault lies in its director. Don't get me wrong, I love Sam Raimi. Between the Evil Dead films, the Spider-Man films, and Drag Me To Hell, he's done some great stuff. And you can definitely see his eye in this film. But it was totally the wrong eye needed. Between the constant zoom-ins of the camera and some wacky, over-the-top and out-of-place moments (the big hole in the head, the hole in the shadow, the one-shot-flips-man-over-and-back bit, etc.), there were just some strange directorial decisions. And the tone would shift because of this from semi-serious drama to wacky action flick. It just felt strange. And it probably could have been 15 minutes shorter than it was--not sure how, but it could have been.

Overall, despite the action, the movie seemed to drag, most likely due to monotony. The acting was good and the story was good, but I think it was all just executed wrong. I know I haven't said all that much, but this movie wasn't really all that deep to begin with. It certainly wasn't bad, but I think in different hands, it could have been better (which it saddens me to say). I was actually going to rate it a little higher, but the more I reflect on it as I write this, the lower the score sinks. So I think I'm just gonna go ahead and leave it at that.


Stop Saying OK! OK.

12.16.2010

Short Review: Hot Tub Time Machine.

Note: I know, I feel so late to the game on this one... but *insert time travel joke here*.

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Premise: Three old friends and one's nephew accidentally travel back in time via hot tub to 1986 to relive an important night in their lives.

Starring: John Cusack, Clark Duke, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Crispin Glover, and Chevy Chase.

My Reaction: Horribly disappointed with this film after hearing such good things about it. I laughed maybe twice in the whole film (I particularly enjoyed both the "great white buffalo" joke and the Crispin Glover arm gag). Rob Corddry's Lou was incredibly annoying and nearly unbearable for the majority of the film, only becoming watchable near the last act. I know the character is supposed to be an ass, but there's a way to do that and still want to watch the film. I came close to turning off the movie before they even traveled back in time. The others were pretty good, though. The other parts of the film that didn't include Corddry (and there were very few moments where that happened) were alright. But otherwise, the movie was pretty predictable and largely unfunny with only a couple parts here and there. The movie isn't honestly as bad as I'm making it sound, but it's nothing I'd go out of my way to watch again.


Feed Me, Seymour!

12.15.2010

60/60 Review #6: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.

Due to Netflix, I had to skip around the month just slightly, but that's OK. I said from the beginning the middle films of each month might not be reviewed in the exact order I listed them (it was originally showing Good/Bad/Ugly next, but I've switched the list around to match the review order). So let's look at this newest one first by looking at what I've reviewed thus far. So far I've seen the bad (Plan 9); I've seen what could have been much better (Westworld); I've seen the "alright" (Close Encounters): I've seen the pretty good (Unforgiven); and I've seen the really good (Body Snatchers). I think it's about time I watch one that I just flat-out love.

Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) are two outlaw train robbers that go on the run once the man who owns the railway they keep hitting gets upset and hires the best lawman and tracker in existence. And when even that doesn't work, they travel--along with Etta Place (Katharine Ross)--to Bolivia to start anew. Though that doesn't exact meet their expectations, either.

This film is everything I love about the idea of a western: outlaws, bank heists, train robberies, horseback chases, gun fights, card games, spunky prostitutes, old time school teachers, Indian trackers, invincible lawmen, and a handful of wit. The story is pretty simple. It's pretty much a heist-gone-wrong film, and we all know I love my heist films. And once this particular heist goes wrong, the titular characters are pretty much on the run from then on.

The acting pretty much rests on the shoulders of Paul Newman and Robert Redford (and slightly Katharine Ross). Paul Newman is great as the "brain" and leader of the gang, smooth talking and without much of a care. Robert Redford is his "brawn," the better gunslinger who doesn't say much and, when he does, is awfully blunt. They're yin and yang, which means they're complete opposites yet can't exist without the other. Their chemistry is strong as they play off each other, such as when Paul Newman says something witty in response to Robert Redford's stoicism or bluntness.

I was also incredibly surprised by the cinematography. There are some great shots in this movie. Of course, if this film were made today, the landscapes would look even better, but that's not necessarily what I mean here. Just the placement of the camera or a certain shot is fantastic.

If there are any major negatives, it would be that some scenes tend to go on a little long, two in particular. First, the opening credits sequence wasn't quite my style, though I do give it props for creativeness. The biggest offense for me, though, was the picture montage around the hour mark that transitions between the two parts of the film (going from the States to Bolivia). Something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. I guess I kinda liked the idea of what they were doing, but it just went on a bit too long for my tastes. Still, the whole hour before that moment and the next 40-45 minutes after it was too great for that 5 minutes to bog down my opinion of the film too much. The other moment that maybe could have trimmed a few seconds was the bicycle sequence, but it was fun enough to where it didn't really bug me (especially in comparison to the picture montage).

The writing, of course, is solid. It was written by the same guy who wrote The Princess Bride, so you know there's some good dialogue involved (I know this one came first, but still). I think that's a good reason why the characters of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid work so well together--their given dialogue is so strong, and it's delivered well by the two leads.

I know I'm not saying much, especially in comparison to the other films I've reviewed for this list. The movie was a lot of fun, and I think it deserved the Oscars it won. I also have to say that--if you don't count Cars (and why would you?)--this film was my first Paul Newman film, so I'm really looking forward to Cool Hand Luke later on next year. So yeah, there were a couple things that I think I might have tweaked about this one, but the bulk of it far exceeds those complaints.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

12.14.2010

Podcast: Reel Insight #26: Ben Foster.

Among the thousand things I did this past weekend, one of them was guesting on the Reel Insight podcast for the second time. As promised last time, I "forced" them to focus on Ben Foster this time around.

Let's just say I got a comment like "We might not let you guest ever again." (Jokingly, of course... I think.)

For some reason, they (particularly Jess) were not thrilled with this week's films. I had to defend my love for the guy while I sat around hearing about how suffering was involved and the plagues came and killed their first born sons (OK, maybe not)... though there's apparently some shared love for Justin Timberlake. It was quite a sad affair.

And that's after we finally got recording. This episode was plagued with so many problems. It took us over half an hour just to get going due to technical difficulties. Then near the very end, my internet crapped out. Then Podomatic wouldn't recognize the format for Rachel to post it up. And it was just one thing after another. But it's finally up and available... so check it out. And support me on my quest to proclaim Ben Foster's awesomeness to the world!

12.13.2010

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER.

Despite having seen all the films in theater, I'm not a huge Narnia fan. They're all right, of course. But in the leagues of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, Narnia is like the red-headed step-child. for those who say Potter films are for children, check out a Narnia movie and compare. The books themselves were essentially written as the children and Christian equivalent of Lord of the Rings (as Lewis and Tolkien were friends). And you can tell.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader reintroduces us to the two younger Pevensie children, Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes). They're currently staying with their aunt and uncle and have to--unfortunately--put up with their snobby cousin, Eustace (Will Poulter). The three kids end up transported to Narnia and are pulled onto the Dawn Treader, a ship headed by now King Caspian (Ben Barnes). They're traveling Narnia trying to spread world peace and end up on a journey to find seven Lords to retrieve their mystical swords and place them on Aslan's (Liam Neeson) table to stop an evil mist from kidnapping people and destroying the world... or something like that. Also returning are the characters of the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) and Reepicheep (Simon Pegg taking over voicing duties from Eddie Izzard).

When you have a series of fantasy films (i.e. Harry Potter), usually the films get darker as they go. But I'd put Dawn Treader somewhere between the first two films. However, it still shares all the problems of the previous films.

The acting is mediocre as usual, though Ben Barnes (again) is OK. Even Liam Neeson's voice made him sound like he was just phoning it in. But there are two that did shine and made the film worth watching. Last film, I said that Reepicheep--the warrior mouse voiced by Eddie Izzard--was the best part of the movie. The character was taken over by Simon Pegg, and I think that made it even better. Pegg sounded as if he had a lot of fun doing it. But the real star of the film is Will Poulter as Eustace. His character was a lot of fun and was most of the comedy. But at the same time, his character changes the most over the course of the film and was the real emotional heart of the film. And, of course, you might remember Will Poulter from Son of Rambow (which is pretty much this blog's "lost review").

Wherein the previous films the CGI is half good, half bad, the CGI in this installment is almost entirely terrible. Everything looks fake. Even when the Dawn Treader is first introduced, the ship looks like it's horribly fake CGI (kind of redundant, but you know what I mean). Really? You can't make a ship on a sound stage or something? Why must everything in these Narnia films be so smooth and shiny? And the "big bad" is this green mist that looks like Shrek farted in a live-action SyFy Channel Original adaptation.

And speaking of, that's one of the big issues with this movie. There is no real sense of urgency or purpose. There is no sense of dread. There is no connection between our heroes and the "villain." I mean, this villain is less menacing than the wind in The Happening. Though I did get to make a fun joke near the end. There's a moment where they were like "Clear your minds! Don't think of anything bad. They'll use it against us!" This was immediately followed by an "uh oh." My first reaction was "Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man!"

The action is OK. It's certainly not as good as in the previous film. There is a good "fight" sequence between Eustace and Reepicheep that is a lot of fun, though. But it could have gone on a little longer. Though when you really think about it, there is very little fighting in this movie. There are plenty of set-ups for fights, but either they don't happen or they last a very little amount of time. The climax is probably the biggest action set piece, and it's decent (except for a near-comical fight against the green mist).

There are little subplots that are randomly tossed in that at times feel out of place. For instance, Lucy feels inferior to her "prettier" older sister. Edmund, of course, still feels inferior to everybody in existence and wants more power. There's even an extremely out-of-nowhere moment where he and Caspian start yelling at each other that made me go "OK, WTF is going on? Where did this come from?" I know these things were put in so that the green mist could see inside their hearts and tempt them with stuff, but it was all very forced and somewhat stilted.

But the big thing about these films is the Christian allegory. The first film is the Resurrection story. The second is about keeping faith. This one is about, basically, finding and believing in God. The themes aren't bashed over your head for the bulk of the film. And then the ending comes in, and it's such an eye-rolling segment. I mean, there's even a moment when Aslan says "I'm known by another name in your world" or something like that. That whole last 10 minutes or so is almost painful if you can't stand things like that shoved down your throat.

Luckily, it is only that short chunk of time. I know I've bashed the movie in this review, but it's no worse than the other films. If you enjoyed those, you'll enjoy this one. The true reason to see the film is for Eustace and Reepicheep, both separately and the relationship between the two characters. Honestly, if they were to make another Narnia film that just focused on Eustace (which they kind of hint at), I'd probably see it. I don't know if it would be the same considering he essentially "finds faith" by the end so he would be a slightly different character, but I'm sure it could be fun if done right. Overall, it was actually an entertaining watch, despite the bad CGI and (mostly) mediocre acting.


I Am McLovin!

12.12.2010

Random Ramblings of a Demented DoorVlog S2.2.

The second episode of the season is here! Again, I recommend you've seen the first season first if you haven't yet (as well as the episode before this, of course).

This particular episode references Episode 3 of Season 1 quite a bit, where Nick speaks of True Blood and So You Think You Can Dance? in a "silent film" skit. As for this season...

Last time on The Vlog: After a bit of time travel, Nick ends up with a duplicate of himself that then joins The Vlog as Dramatic Post Reader (DPR). A few new segments were introduced. Winston the Hamster had apparently been stolen/kidnapped, as well... could it be the work of one Jason Soto?!

Also... to coincide with this turning into a web-series, I've added opening credits! These were a lot of fun to put together, so I hope you like them.

This particular episode was really tricky to put together. I needed some tough angles, and because I don't have a tripod, I had to get a little creative. I also had to get naked. (But don't worry... you don't see it.) Anywho... here's the episode! Enjoy!

12.11.2010

The Demented Podcast #4 - Random Sights Of Demented Doorknobs (?).

For what turns out to be the shortest episode yet, I'm joined by a fellow Texan--James Blake Ewing of the blog Cinema Sights. We kick things off with (no offense to the others) what I think to be the funniest The Challenge yet.

From there we move into another Top 5 list. James has us discussing our Top 5 Movies We Love That Others Hate (or something like that). Unlike last week, however, only one of our films overlaps. Regardless, we still seem to fly through it and get right into...

...The Demented Tower! James literally has no idea what he's getting himself into... but does that hinder him, or does he go on to gain the best score yet? Let's just say he has the fastest run time, but that could be for good or bad reasons. Listen and find out which!

Current Leaderboard (The Demented Tower):

1) Rachel - 179 Points
2) Jess - 95 Points
3) Jason - 33 Points

You can listen to this episode on the player below or by subscribing through iTunes.



That being said, enjoy! Thanks goes out to Kevin MacLeod's Incompetech website for great, royalty-free music. And thanks to Google for helping me find a website that will give me free video game audio samples.

12.08.2010

60/60 Review #5: Unforgiven.

Warning: Mild spoilers ahoy.

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I've said it before, but I'm not a huge fan of westerns. Not that there's anything particularly wrong with them, but being a bit of a Texas rebel, I have an aversion to most things "country." I do, however, enjoy the idea of westerns (outlaws, shootouts, etc.). So I do enjoy some. The point I'm trying to make is that this month wasn't the most exciting one for me on this list. This film, though, has won Oscars and is supposedly the western that even non-western fans enjoy. Maybe that was slightly too much hype for me.

When a couple guys cut up a prostitute's face, the town sheriff, Little Bill (Gene Hackman) refuses to do much about it. This causes the other prostitutes to round up a thousand dollars and hire an assassin to knock off the attackers. This attracts the attention of a young man named Schofield (Jaimz Woolvett) to seek out retired outlaw Bill Munny (Clint Eastwood) in order to bring him along and take care of the men. Bill refuses at first, but decides he needs the money. Before heading off, he picks up his old partner, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), who goes along with him. Unfortunately, as is shown by another outlaw by the name of English Bob (Richard Harris), Little Bill's town is a no-gun zone, and anybody they even suspect as an outlaw or assassin will be beaten into submission.

I'm just gonna come straight out with my negative thoughts and get those out of the way. I'm not sure if it was the acting or the script or a mix of both, but the first 30 minutes of this movie (in my opinion) were so bad. I was watching like "Really? This is an Oscar-winning film?" And something that didn't really change throughout the film was its mostly flat characters. If I had to hear Eastwood mention how he used to be a bad person, how he doesn't drink anymore, and how his dead wife rehabilitated him, I was gonna scream. If I had to hear one more time how Morgan Freeman could shoot an eagle high up in the sky... or really any of the other dozen things that were constantly repeated throughout the film ad nauseum. It just got old pretty fast. It's like "OK, I get it already."

Of course, there are some obvious changes within the characters. For instance, you find out the over-the-top boasting young man who clearly hasn't killed a man in his life--gasp--has never killed a man in his life. You also find out that the sharpshooting partner can't shoot so sharp these days. And, of course, the bad-man-turned-good-who-doesn't-drink ends up drinking and become a good gunslinger again. It also bugged me with the running gag about how Eastwood couldn't get on his horse. I mean, the dude lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere and even admits having to go into town from time to time. How is it possible that he became so rusty in horse riding that it would take him 5 minutes just to climb on to the horse?

All that being said, I did end up really enjoying the movie overall. Once Richard Harris (almost unrecognizable to me without his Dumbledore beard) showed up as English Bob, the movie skyrocketed in quality. It's too bad his character wasn't explored more (or even served much of a purpose in the overall plot), because his was my favorite of the whole film. Gene Hackman's Little Bill was an interesting character, too. His was pretty much the only one whose qualities weren't shoved down your throat. In literary terms, he was given much more of an "indirect characterization" as opposed to everybody else's "direct characterization." I don't want to be told you used to be a cold-hearted bastard. Show me. And with Little Bill, we were given a conflicted character--one that wanted to keep peace in his little town, but at what cost? He has all the qualities of a hero, but he uses them in all the wrong ways, making him sometimes more of a villain than those who cut up the prostitute.

Of all the westerns I've watched--and there aren't many--this one falls somewhere in the middle. It wasn't horribly dull despite its gorgeous cinematography (Assassination of Jesse James...). It had some dull moments near the beginning, but they weren't long and drawn out. It also didn't have the most interesting cinematography, but it was good. On the flip side, its characters weren't totally introspective or all that complex within relatively constant action (3:10 to Yuma). They always spoke what they were thinking and they pretty much shoved it down our throats how we were supposed to perceive them.

So overall, the film was pretty good despite feeling repetitive. I actually fell asleep near the end for roughly 10 minutes--but unlike the other films on this list when that happened, I actually skipped back and finished watching it right then and there. That's how invested I was in it. Sure, it had its problems, and I'm probably going to get a lot of backlash from this review with comments like "Well, you just don't understand and/or appreciate the art of the western!" But whatever. I think "No Country For Old Men" would have been a good title for this movie--and more suiting than it was with the actual film--not to mention this had an infinitely better and more satisfying ending. Yup.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. I wish I had a score between this one and the "McLovin." I would have scored this film with that one. But let's just say this is a pretty weak "Whoa." If I gave it a scoring out of 5, I'd say about a 3.7 or 3.8. I know, that's weird... whatever.)

12.05.2010

Random Ramblings of a Demented DoorVlog S2.1.

Here it is, dear readers. Season 2 of the Vlog is officially kicking off. And to start us off with the brand new season is an episode a little longer than usual. As this is the Season 2 opener, I would strongly suggest you go back and check out the first season if you haven't already (though I can't imagine any of you that haven't). There are some characters and plot lines that you'll need to know for this to make any sense.

Here's a brief recap of everything you need to know, though (at least for this episode): Jason Soto, upset about the video Nick made episode 2 that mocked his dancing, plotted to destroy him and his Vlog. Together with his stuffed dog Cokie, he rounded up a stuffed penguin to attack and eventually place Nick in a Saw-esque game. Meanwhile, he also placed Dramatic Post Reader--who was also a part of the Jason embarrassment--in charge of making sure everything went off without a hitch. Part of this game was to force Nick to say good things about another blog. Unfortunately, Nick caught on to the plan, stabbed Dramatic Post Reader, and threw a shoe at the stuffed penguin, thwarting Jason's plan. However, it seems Jason might just have something else up his sleeve.

(If you haven't picked up on it, I'm treating The Vlog as if it were a TV Show now... or at least a web series. So yeah, think of it like that. A completely weird and random Show/Web Series.)

I don't mean to toot my own horn here, but I'm pretty happy with this episode. I think it turned out pretty clever (and in some cases, unintentionally clever). It's a very "meta" episode, so if you don't like meta things, this might turn you off a bit. Otherwise, it's all good fun. Also, I challenge y'all to see if you can name all the references (to movies and/or TV) made throughout the episode.

Anywho, let me know what y'all think and if it's a good start to the season. And if there's something you don't like, of course let me know so I don't ever do it again. Enjoy!

12.03.2010

It's My 3 Year Anniversary! + An Announcement.

Yup. Today marks the 3-year anniversary of my blogging life. Has it really been 3 years? How crazy is that! Just think of everything that's happened over the last 3 years...

-I started out as Boomstick Reviews after being inspired by Blog Cabins.

-I joined the LAMB and became a contributor.

-My blog became Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob.

-I became the Veep of the LAMB, working alongside Dylan.

-I wrote a few books.

-I graduated college and became a teacher.

-My work with the LAMB began to decrease due to a lack of time.

-My blog began to suffer a bit.

-I became the disgraced former Veep of the LAMB with Jason Soto taking the role.

-The LAMB created the LAMBcast, the official podcast of the LAMB, where I quickly joined on to become a regular guest/co-host.

-Podcasting became popular among LAMB bloggers.

-I created, along with Travis, The Demented Encyclopedia.

-After 17 episodes, The Demented Encyclopedia went kaput.

-I began guesting on a lot of other podcasts.

-Rachel Thuro unofficially overtook Jason's Veep status.

-I invented the Vlog, which had an amazing and well-recieved first season.

-I basically became an official co-host of the LAMBcast due to being on practically every episode.

-Dylan resigned as Shepard of the LAMB, and Rachel took over the position.

-I started up The Demented Podcast.

-I began the 60/60 List, a project which has been pretty well received and has even inspired others!

-I won NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, where I had to write 50,000 words within the month of November).

-I premiered Season 2 of the Vlog.

... wait, you're saying that last one hasn't happened yet? Well think again, dear readers. In honor of the 3-year anniversary of Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob, prepare to get your mind blown. That's right. The Vlog, Season 2, Episode 1 premiers this Sunday, December 5, 2010. Mark your calenders. Get a babysitter. Prepare to spend absolutely nothing and have one hell of a time.

But until then, thank ALL of you for your readership and comments and everything over the years. Thank you to all my new friends that I've met through the LAMB (I'm not gonna name names, because I'll inevitably forget somebody, and that wouldn't be good. But you know who you are!). And just thank all of y'all for sticking around, enjoying the blog, enjoying the podcasting, and enjoying the Vlog. It's been great, and I can't wait to do it a whole other year.

12.01.2010

60/60 Review #4: Westworld.

This was one of the first ones I'd been anticipating quite a bit. I'm not a huge western fan, but I do like Sci-Fi quite a bit, which makes this a great transition into this month for me. Or does it? Directed by Michael Crichton, Westworld introduces us to a company that has created a set of theme parks that are highly realistic. There's Roman World, which gives the guests the experience of ancient Rome and its debauchery; there's Medieval World, which gives the guests the experience of sword fights with black knights, royalty, and grand feasts; then there's Westworld, which gives the guests the experience of the Wild West in all its fictional glory. We're introduced to Peter (Richard Benjamin), a bit of a dork who is nervous but excited about visiting Westworld for the first time. He's going with his friend who has been there before, the cool, smooth cowboy named John Blane (James Brolin). But the technicians for the park start noticing things are getting a little strange, and the androids that allow for the park's realism start acting up (go figure!). In particular, there's a gunslinger (Yul Brynner) that seems to be out to get Peter.

There's a lot of things this movie does right. Unfortunately, there's a lot that annoyed the crap out of me, too. But let's start with the positive. The acting from the main three guys is pretty good (and holy crap did James Brolin remind me of Christian Bale here). Of course, Yul Brynner is a stand-out as The Gunslinger. The guy is basically a precursor to either The Terminator or the T-1000. The whole time I was thinking that if they remade this movie, Robert Patrick would probably make a perfect Gunslinger. Some of the visual effects with the androids was also pretty dang good. Also, I was so happy when they explained about the guns and how they couldn't shoot humans.

But then the movie has to go and piss all over it with so many inconsistencies and logic holes. Now, I'm almost never one to nitpick or even find major holes in logic. That's why I like so many movies that others think aren't all that great. I can shut off my brain and enjoy it. Now, I don't know if I was just expecting too much from the movie or if the film was just poorly written (maybe a mix of both), but--mostly in the last 30 minutes of the movie--I was incredibly annoyed. The movie is basically an hour of setup and 30 minutes of craziness. And the crazy terror and suspense comes with an extra dose of crazy plot and logic holes. I'm not even going to bother listing any. I know that's a cop out, but they were almost every other second for a huge chunk of the movie that I gave up bothering about it.

The next biggest issue with the movie is that it both should have been longer and shorter, depending on what it needed to do. The movie had a lot of missed potential. What they needed to do was add more character development. With the exception of maybe Peter, these characters were flatter than *enter cliche boob joke here*. Besides the ones listed in the summary, there was a nerdy dude in Westworld. There was a horny dude in Medieval World. There were a handful of technicians. And absolutely nobody was shown in Roman World, only going back to that place when the plot called for it... which was almost never. But none of these characters are developed. Peter is really the only one that has any sort of change--he goes from dork to fake badass to scared dork to real (semi-)badass. If the movie were longer, there could have been some much needed development. Or they could have completely taken out the Medieval World subplot, shortened the technician subplot, and actually given more depth to the Westworld plot. That would have worked, too.

All that being said, I did enjoy the movie. I know this sounded horribly negative, but I did like it for the most part. It's just one of those things where the negatives try to outshine the positives, despite there being quite a few positives. I believe this movie is in dire need of a remake. If done right, it could be great. But as for right now, it was a bit better than alright. I actually had a pretty high score for this movie up until the (way too drawn out) climax and/or last 30 minutes, when it just seemed to derail from the logic train. Though Yul Brynner was still pretty cool and creepy.


I Am McLovin!

(P.S. Next week, we're moving in to full-out westerns. Here's to hoping that fares better.)

11.27.2010

LKMYNTS: Get Over It.

What's this? A Ben Foster movie I hadn't seen? Needless to say, it hit that Netflix Queue quickly. And it was certainly interesting. I wouldn't say this is a movie you "need" to see, but it is little known, and it's good enough. This movie is essentially for Midsummer Night's Dream what Easy A was for The Scarlet Letter. Berke (Ben Foster) is on the high school basketball team, but otherwise he's pretty much a loner. That is, until his childhood soul-mate, Allison (Melissa Sagemiller), moves back into town. They hit it off for a year... and then Allison breaks up with him because, basically, she's bored. Berke goes into a depression, and his friends Felix (Colin Hanks) and Dennis (Sisqo) try to make him feel better. Unfortunately, in the process, they reveal that Allison has hit it off with pompous, British, boy band singer Striker (Shane West). He's also talked Allison into trying out with him for the school musical version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which is being put on by the self-centered and flamboyant Dr. Desmond Forrest Oates (Martin Short). Of course, Berke immediately wants to try out, as well, not completely realizing at first that it's a musical (and he can't sing)... or how difficult Shakespeare is. But who comes along to help him out is theater student and best friend Felix's little sister, Kelly (Kirsten Dunst). And, wouldn't you know it, Kelly starts to fall for Berke while he's trying to get back with Allison who is hooked up with Striker, though Berke also begins getting feelings for Kelly... all the while Dennis is trying to get with Kelly's best friend, Basin (Mila Kunis). Also in this film are Zoe Saldana as Allison's best friend, Swoozie Kurtz and Ed Begley Jr as Berke's parents, Dov Tiefenbach (who is one of those "that guys" to me), Colleen Fitzpatrick, a young Shawn Roberts, and even cameo appearances by Carmen Electra and Coolio.

Who the hell isn't in this movie? Let's start with the cast. When I said Sisqo, yes... I meant that Sisqo. He did this movie right before his one-hit-wonder "The Thong Song" made it big. This was also, apparently, Kirsten Dunst's first music outing, and her song appears in the soundtrack. And acting wise, she does well. And she's very pretty, so that helps. I mentioned earlier a similarity to Easy A (despite this one coming out years before), and there is more than one. Besides having a "well, this is a crazy cast" vibe, the certain "mentionables" are exactly the same. In Easy A, the ones most talked about in reviews were her parents and the teacher. It's the same here. Berke's parents are, similarly, very laid back and "hip" parents who don't do any form of punishment, even if necessary. In fact, they're often inappropriate with their responses (at one point, after picking Berke up from being arrested at a sex club, they offer to take him out for yogurt or let him go home so he can "polish the rocket"). But the true standout of this film is undeniably Martin Short as the drama teacher. He actually had me laughing out loud. You can tell almost all his lines were probably improv, with Martin coming on set and just going crazy. Hell, I'm not 100% positive he didn't just show up on set and start acting--not even supposed to be in the movie. There's even an entire blooper reel on the DVD that focuses on him, and you can see all the cast struggling not to laugh during takes (Mila Kunis fails the most). But then, of course, you have Ben Foster who--despite being the main character--is listed second under Kirsten Dunst (though she was a bigger name). He does just fine with his character. I wouldn't say it's my favorite performance, but I think that's more on the director not knowing what he was going for than anything.

Which leads me to my first complaint. The movie feels scatterbrained. It can't seem to focus on what it wants to be. You know how Easy A was stretched a hundred different ways but still found a way to make it work? Imagine if it struggled more with it, and you'll get an idea what I'm talking about. This is a pseudo-musical, though only one song is in true musical-fantasy form (and it's at the beginning, almost as if in parody to musicals). There are cartoonish moments with thought bubbles with Martin Short. There's gross out humor (though very rare). There's slapstick... and more. It couldn't find a clear grasp on what kind of comedy it wanted to be, trying to put in laughs for every kind of audience... except maybe fans of dark humor. This is a very light film. Take, for instance, that the writer's previous effort was She's All That, and the director's next film was Ella Enchanted. Though, believe it or not, this was actually edited down from an R-Rated version, which I might have liked more. Maybe that was the problem. You can tell this movie was edited down.

I might as well continue with the Easy A comparisons. Like that one where they're reading The Scarlet Letter and her story has similarities, this movie has them performing Midsummer Night's Dream while the story has similarities. Now, despite being an English teacher, I've not read all of Shakespeare's works, including this one. I would actually like to, eventually. However, I know the general story and characters, though maybe not all their personalities. This brings me to my point: Allison is a bitch. She treated Berke like crap in their break up, and all he wants to do is get back with her at all costs. Granted, the movie is called Get Over It.

I've made plenty of Easy A comparisons throughout this review, but the fact is... Easy A is much better. That's not to say this movie is bad. It is really entertaining. But the script needed to be tightened up a bit, as it tried to have too much going on, never giving enough time to all of them to bloom (they should have cut the basketball subplot completely, as it never gets enough screen time, and it never comes to fruition. There's no purpose to it). Though whether it's attributed to the script or to Martin Short, his character is fantastic, and he would be the primary reason to see this movie. But fault lies partially with the director, too, not being able to stay with a certain feel or tone--granted, this might have been fixed in the full, R-Rated version, so I have no idea. If you're a fan of Ben Foster, moderately quirky comedies, "modern Shakespeare" films, Martin Short, or (yes) Easy A, I'd recommend checking it out. It's no masterpiece, and it's pretty predictable, but it's a fun way to spend an hour and a half.


I Am McLovin!