6.30.2011

R2D2... The One With A Blog Update.

Hey guys and gals. I just wanted to let y'all know there's been a few changes/additions to the blog. Obviously most of you have noticed, in the last couple months or however long it's been, the "Last 5 Films I Saw" thing on the top left corner. It started as 3, but I eventually bumped it to 5. Just for clarification, these aren't necessarily the EXACT last 5 I saw, but the last 5 NEW movies I saw. So if I just watch a movie I've already seen before, I won't put it up on that scrolling list. Granted, I'm watching new stuff almost all the time, so the bulk of it will be pretty spot on with what I'm watching.

Next, you might notice a new page added to the menu under the header called "The Study." This page has a handful of scrolling box lists on it divulging every movie I've ever seen. The first box is every movie in alphabetical order. The lists after that, clearly, are separated by decade. Within those, I have them in chronological order through the decade. And if there is more than one movie for that year (not necessarily the case for the earlier years, but definitely for the later ones), I put the movies of each year in alphabetical order. I want to thank, again, Rachel for letting me use her own list as a starting point. It really helped save time (only took me about 4-5 days to do all the lists).

Finally, a couple other new changes in the menu part. Since I haven't done a book review in forever, I took the book review section from the menu bar and placed all the links in a drop-down menu under "The Closet" section. Also, I brought back "The Vlog" section. Keep an eye on that section, because I will update it every now and then, and you might get an idea of what's to come in future episodes. Or if you just want an easy way to go back and look at older episodes, that works, too.

Anyway, I think that's about it! Thank you to everyone who nominated and/or voted for me for this year's Lammy's. Lost out to the same people again this year, but it's still great being nominated. Thanks for your continued support and any comments you have on anything is always welcome and appreciated!

6.29.2011

60/60 Review #34: Repulsion.

This really was the perfect film to wrap up this month. First, let's just look at the director. Roman Polanski has led a pretty WTF life. His wife was murdered by Charles Manson's followers while she was pregnant. Later, Polanski was convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl, causing him to flee the country to avoid prison. He hasn't been back since (despite his victim attempting to get the charges dropped more recently), but he continues to make films even today.

Then look at the film itself. Made in 1965, Repulsion tells to tale of Carole (Catherine Deneuve), a young woman who is apparently sexually repressed. Her sister leaves her alone in their apartment while she goes on vacation with her boyfriend, and Carole begins to go insane, zoning out the majority of the time, and then having fantasies about being raped at night. There's not much more I'd like to go into in order to avoid spoiling anything.

But man, talk about conflicted thoughts on a film. I've seen both of these comparisons, so I know it's not just me (and that made me happy), but this movie was like a mix of Black Swan and Eraserhead. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this film had any kind of inspiration for either of those movies--though I have heard that Aronofsky loves this film and talks about it as an inspiration frequently, so it makes sense.

So in the one sense, I liked the film because I loved Black Swan. It's very much a psychological thriller with Carole going insane (though I figure she was already insane, primarily based on the picture from when she was a little girl). She zones out, she hallucinates, she becomes violent, she fantasizes about things based on sexual repression... and has difficulty discerning the fantasy from the reality. Hell, there's even a "fingernail" scene in this movie. And, similarly, there were some scary moments and some disturbing, tough-to-watch moments. Also, this film has a really effective "mirror" jump scare, the kind that's overused today; I just wasn't expecting it in this older film.

But, on the other hand, this movie was also very Lynchian (despite pre-dating Lynch). There was a lot of "weird" in this movie. Some of it was just her losing her mind, like cracks in the walls and/or the apartment falling apart. But then there was stuff like the dead rabbit (and I had to look up what it was, because I could never tell--though I could have missed a line that explained it). That thing was disgusting, and it just led to more and more gross-ness. Then there was the walls turning to clay at various points and the hands coming out of nowhere. Then there were random people on the street (one group in particular kept coming back, a music trio that just made their way down the road for no apparent reason). And, of course, just her staring at nothing for ages. This is a very quiet movie, and Carole barely speaks. A lot of the time, she's just blanking out and staring at stuff for no real reason, or she'll start twitching and rubbing/flicking at her nose. It wasn't as WTF as Eraserhead, but there certainly were elements both thematically and visually that reminded me of it.

The only other major thing I wanted to mention in this review was the sound. Like I said, it's a very quiet movie, and I honestly can't remember much of a soundtrack. What I do remember were the silent moments where you would just hear some background noise amplified. These specifically happened during moments of rape or violence, where everything is muted except for something like a ticking clock. And, for the most part, it's pretty effective.

I know there are more layers of this film that I'm missing. I'm just not sure it's a film I'd care to revisit much. The first 45 minutes (or so) are painfully dull. After that is when her sister leaves, so it starts getting a wee bit more interesting. And there are truly some very good and effective scenes. I was creeped out/disturbed at times, and I even jumped once (darn those mirror scares!), despite it not really being a "scary" movie in that sense. It has an interesting visual eye to it, and I can definitely see how somebody could really like this movie. But I think if I wanted to revisit something very similar and--to me--a bit more entertaining, I'll just rewatch Black Swan.


I Am McLovin!

(P.S. Finally! I'm done with WTF Month! While not filled with the greatest movies ever, this month will definitely be one of the ones I'll remember the most (though not necessarily because I want to). Next I'm moving into the month I've been waiting for! It's the only month in this whole project dedicated to a single director. I haven't seen a single one of his films (just a classic scene here or there), which I'm going to be rectifying, obviously. Can't wait! That's right, we're moving into Hitchcock Month.)

6.27.2011

Musical Monday: The Lion King - Hakuna Matata (#27).

[Every Monday, I'm going to be counting down my 52 favorite musical numbers from musical movies and TV shows. I might not like the full movie/show, but the number makes the list for various reasons: 1) I have to like the song, 2) the visual of how the number is performed is most likely unique or fun, 3) both song and visual mixes well to create an exciting or powerful number. So let's get to the next on the list.]

Finally back to some Disney! This was a huge song when the movie first came out--everyone quoting it and whatnot. I remember there was a whole school show thing that involved it, even. Similar to its older sibling--Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious--it's just a word/set of words to make you feel better about yourself and your situation. And, like it's sibling, will totally get stuck in your head. As used in the movie, it gives us a passage of time as well as a bonding montage between Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa. It might not be the most exciting visuals, but it's a fun song and has some memorable moments. Check out "Hakuna Matata" below.

6.26.2011

The Vlog - S3.2: Casting Call (Part 2).

And here's Episode 2, which is really just Part 2 of the Season Premier.

In this episode, you'll get to meet a few more of the major players this season. I know it's a long episode, but as you should know by now, the premier and finale episodes always tend to be longer. Plus, it's really funny!

As a little behind-the-scenes fun, I didn't give any of these 4 gentlemen a script or much direction at all for this episode. I gave them the 3 questions and basically said "You're auditioning for The Vlog. You can be any type of character you want (with 1 exception, since he was a returning character shifting roles, so he needed to keep his same personality and history). Improv your responses to these 3 questions." In other words, I really can't take any writing credit for this episode, since practically all of it was from the minds of my wonderful actors. Let's give it up to them!

Also, this episode gives me some of my first extra footage, which you'll get to see at the end of the season in a bloopers/deleted/extended/alternate scenes video that I'll post up.

But for now, let's focus on this vid. If you can't remember all the way back to last week, Nick is basically starting from scratch (almost) on The Vlog. A dog puppet named Wrinkles shows up and offers to be his roommate and gives a suggestion to help with The Vlog called Story Time. But it needs actors, so Nick put out a casting call on the internet. At the end of the episode, Jason Soto stumbles upon the casting call and decides to audition himself, but most likely in disguise. And that leads us to this week's episode... enjoy!

6.23.2011

60/60 Extra: I Spit On Your Grave (1978).

I'm starting to catch one of the biggest downfalls of the 60/60 formula that I'm picking up on a lot. It usually happens around the end of the month, and it's where I find myself saying or thinking "Had I seen this movie at a different time..." or "Had I not just seen 5 other movies just like it..." and things like that. And now it makes me feel even worse, because it makes me feel jaded or desensitized. But after all the messed up stuff I've seen in the last few weeks, it really is like "Oh... a movie with rape. Again." Followed soon by "Oh... absurd violence. Again." And there's still one after this!

I Spit On Your Grave tells the story of a young woman named Jennifer (Camille Keaton) who rents a summer house to write her first novel. But then four guys including Johnny (Eron Tabor), Stanley (Anthony Nichols), Andy (Gunter Kleemann), and the mentally handicapped Matthew (Richard Pace), get together and rape and assault her. They leave her for dead, but she recuperates and plots revenge. Then, one by one, she hunts them down and takes care of them.

To be fair, I literally almost saw this same movie about 2 weeks ago in Irreversible. A 20-minute (or so) rape scene that causes intense violence in retribution to follow. Granted, with Irreversible, the violence happens before the rape since the movie happens in reverse chronological order. But you still get the idea. But on the whole, this movie just kinda... bored me. It takes way too long to get going. The first 25 minutes is all set up to characters that won't have any kind of development and you don't really care for (except maybe Matthew, which made me wonder what Woody Allen was doing in a 70s horror/exploitation flick... probably a funnier joke if you've seen the movie). Then they drag the rape out way too long. And the thing is--it's not even 20 minutes of rape. It's like, 1 minute of rape and over-the-top acting, then 5 minutes of nothing mixed with some running away. Rinse and repeat... 3 times. After that is another long 20-25-minute segment where literally almost nothing happens. She's recuperating and the guys get paranoid about what they've done.

It's not really until the last 20 or 25 minutes that the revenge happens. And even then, with the exception of maybe the bathtub scene, it's all rather dull and unexciting if you're looking at it from a horror movie aspect. I was more disturbed and thrilled by Freaks, which was made 46 years before this. But, again, it could just be due to placement on this list. There've been many a person scarred by this movie, apparently. But, to me, it really wasn't all that shocking.

On a technical aspect, everything is pretty unrealistic. I've seen more realistic sex from Tommy Wiseau (and we know how he likes his bellybuttons... and that could also be considered rape because, honestly... would you have consensual sex with Tommy Wiseau? But now I'm getting off topic...). One of the rapes in particular was just so ridiculous it completely threw me out of the movie. It was more like he was having a seizure--or maybe he had too much herbal essence shampoo--who knows? Not to mention all the guys would lay down and get off completely flaccid. As for the revenge violence, once we finally get to that point, the bathtub scene (again) is probably the only intense moment... even though with the angle of her arm mixed with what we last saw and what we see right after, it seems she's holding the blade straight instead of sideways, which makes absolutely no sense.

Is it a good movie? Not really. Even viewing it as an exploitation flick, I was bored. Is it worth watching for any sort of historical value to cinema? Nope. I mean, the film isn't God awful. I didn't hate it or anything. I was just bored by it. Maybe it was too hyped up as one of the most messed up movies ever. Maybe it was just viewed at the wrong time. Either way, it was just... there.


Feed Me, Seymour!

6.22.2011

60/60 Review #33: Cannibal Holocaust.

Cannibal Holocaust is one of the most infamous movies ever made--so infamous even my pre-movie-geekery stage of my life knew about it. Why the infamy? Well, when it was released in 1980 and screened in Italy, the director was arrested and charged with making a snuff film because of its graphic and realistic violence. In fact, it wasn't until the charges were brought to court and they brought out the actors on TV to say "we're still alive" that things were dropped. They also had to explain how the "skewered woman" was just a practical effect and not actually real. Also adding to the infamy was the fact that, while most movies have the "no animals were harmed in the making of this movie" bit... this one couldn't. That's right--7 animals were killed during the making of this movie, 6 of them on screen (I'll get to that a bit later). Of course, there were much more graphic films even before the time of this movie, so why did most people find it so realistic? Because that was the intent--this was the first "found footage" film, a style of which has become so popular today. If you remember the craze behind The Blair Witch Project, just imagine it in 1980 but with hardcore violence, rape (seriously, what's with rape this month?), and animal cruelty.

The story is basically that 4 documentary filmmakers go out into the Amazon to find a cannibal tribe, and then they never come back. Later, an anthropologist is hired to go find them or find out what happened to them. He discovers these native tribes, as well as what happened to the lost crew, bringing back their footage to the States. The last half of the film shows us, through the found footage, what happened on their journey.

The first half of the film is, honestly, a bit boring and confusing. It sets up a frame story where the main guy is already back from the Amazon and talking to executives, but then goes into some footage of the documentary crew, but then back to the frame story, but then to his search for the crew, then back to the frame story, then bounces back and forth between the frame story and the found footage. It's a bit disorienting with all the focus shifts. And then the majority of it just has nothing happening. Some of it is interesting, once they find the native tribes, but that's about it.

The second half of the film--the "found footage" stuff--is where the disturbing stuff really kicks in. The foursome of the crew are a bunch of a-holes... to each other and just in general. A lot of it, especially later on, seems a bit forced, though, even for them. And the most disturbing part for me (and also the part that makes the least sense) is when their friends are being raped and slaughtered, there's always at least one who is staying behind with a camera to film it. I mean, I suppose it does make sense for them considering some of the things they filmed with each other before this point, but still--that's messed up. To be honest, though, the violence (for the most part) isn't all that realistic. Maybe it's because I've seen things like it and worse in more modern films, even in found footage films. There are a couple parts that are pretty WTF, but that's about it.

By far, however, the most upsetting and unsettling thing in the whole movie is the infamous "turtle" scene. Like I said before, all the animals killed on camera were actually real, which is the controversy shrouding the movie even today (the movie is banned, apparently, in over 50 countries). There's a muskrat, a spider, a snake, a monkey, a pig, and--yes--a giant turtle. The crew basically pulls this giant turtle from the water so they can kill it for food... and you see everything. I'll spare you the details, but it's very graphic. I knew I was going to have trouble with this scene going in, and that was before I realized how graphic it was. This scene made me nauseous. It's rough.

Outside of all that stuff, though, it's not even a great movie on a technical level. The visual style is very dated. The audio is off and appears dubbed through most of the movie (and sometimes I think it is, but others it just feels like the audio is a second off). The acting is atrocious, and not just in line delivery. The facial reactions are bizarre sometimes, primarily from the woman who played Faye (the main female documentarian).

All that aside, it's not an awful movie. The main message is a good one. The film is out to explore and juxtapose the modern world versus this savage lifestyle and discover who the real savages are, and that message is explored and shown very well. I don't know that I'd ever watch the movie again, though. It's one of those that's "OK, I've seen it once... that's good enough." Outside of the turtle scene, nothing really shocked me, as I'd seen it all before in other films (sometimes worse, and some of those even this month). But I can understand that, for its time, this would be an incredibly shocking film, and I can understand why it was so controversial. If you're just plain (or morbidly) curious or if you're interested in the history of film and seeing "milestone" movies (I use this term loosely), this is one you'll want to check out (at least for its genre). Otherwise, there's no real reason to see it.


Feed Me, Seymour!

(P.S. I almost went for an "average" score, but the quality of film and acting and whatnot are too poor and overtake the themes and historical relevance of the film. That, and it's not really a film one "enjoys.")

6.21.2011

Movie Pitch: Mortimer Crimley.

Almost a month ago now I participated in Anomalous Material's Hollywood Fantasy Draft and Movie Pitch. For those that don't know, we bid on actors and a director and have to come up with a movie using them. Well, this is my movie pitch. Last time I participated, I based my pitch on one of my novels. This time, it's something just completely random and new (though it might eventually become a novel). So... enjoy! (Gonna try to keep this short--shorter than my last pitch, anyway.)

LOGLINE

Mortimer "Timer" Crimley used to be a full-time hobbyist, working in an antique clock and watch shop. But when a time-traveler named Dax showed up, a broken timepiece became the least of his worries.

CAST

JAY BARUCHEL is Mortimer Crimley--Timer to those who know him, as he has a fascination with timepieces and works in an antique watch and clock shop. He's the hero of the story. Jay Baruchel is perfect for the role, as he can pull of the charming dork well, but he's also good at the underdog role, capable of holding his own as a lead.


JOEL DAVID MOORE is Daxitus Howard (Dax). He stumbles into Timer's shop asking for spare parts for his watch. It doesn't take long for Timer to realize there's more to Dax than he's letting on, and soon Dax reveals that he's actually from the future, and his watch is his time travel device. Joel is perfect for the role of a time-traveling scientist who is simultaneously friendly and know-it-all.

ADAM SCOTT is Theodore "Hawk" Hawkins, a space pilot and police officer from Dax's time. He's after Dax, who is accused of stealing the timepiece in the first place. Adam has the snark and humor needed for the role without being too goofy and able to maintain a coolness factor.

KRISTEN WIIG is Emma, a woman from the medieval period that Timer and Dax pick up while on the run. Eventually they're forced to bring her with them to the future on the bulk of the adventure. Kristin is an actress who is starting to hit it big recently, and she can bring the sweetness, charm, and naivety to the character that's needed.

JOHN MALKOVICH is Balthasar Whitman, the villain of the story. He's a space pirate out to steal the time travel device in order to gain ultimate power. Unfortunately for him, Dax was able to escape with it first--but not before Balthasar frames him. Why wouldn't you have John Malkovich as a villainous, futuristic space pirate?

KEN JEONG is Boorish, Balthasar's right-hand man. He's sent to do the dirty work. Again, why wouldn't you want to have Ken Jeong in this kind of role?


FRANCES MCDORMAND is Helena Whitman, Balthasar's wife, who is rather blase about the whole piracy thing. Frances McDormand is just someone who is good in anything she does.


MATT DAMON is Leslie St. James, the best space pilot who's ever existed, and one of the most famous people of the age. This would just be a fun cameo appearance by Damon near the end.


DIRECTOR

RUBEN FLEISCHER would be a great director, as he knows how to mix in humor and heart with great characters as shown in his previous film Zombieland and, seemingly, his upcoming film, 30 Minutes or Less.

STORY ACT 1 SUMMARY

We see some of the everyday routines of Timer as he goes in to work at the shop. After a long, slow day, a young man walks in. He introduces himself as Dax and says he needs his watch fixed. Timer gets a good look at the piece, but notices how strange it is. He converses with Dax on what exactly he's looking at, and Dax lets him in on his secret--it's a time travel device. Of course, Timer doesn't believe him at first. That's when Hawk shows up and begins threatening them. He also drops the name Leslie St. James, as if he knows this person. Timer has no idea what's going on, but there's a fight, the watch gets messed up, and the three men get tossed into a medieval period--Hawk unconscious.

ACT 2 SUMMARY

Timer and Dax get out of there, leaving Hawk behind. They find a pub and discuss what, exactly, is happening. Dax explains that he's on the run after being framed for stealing the device and that Hawk is essentially the cop who is after him. But in reality, he was protecting the device from somebody else who was trying to steal it--he's not sure who, but he's almost positive it would have to be a space pirate. They also realize they're going to be stuck in this time period unless they can figure out how to fix the device.

Looking at it together, Dax and Timer notice the missing piece. It won't be hard to replace, as it's more of a mechanical issue than a technological issue. Unfortunately, they're stuck in a time period with very few resources. So they hunt down a blacksmith who might be able to help. They eventually find a place, but are shocked at what they discover. The place is run primarily by the daughter of the household, a young woman named Emma. She's a practicing smithy under the guidance of her father, but has since mainly taken over the business after he was injured.

After some talking, Emma helps them forge the miniscule piece and Timer gets it into the device. As Timer is working, there are some possible romantic moments between Dax and Emma. During all this time, Hawk has been searching for the two and finally finds them. He mentions Leslie St. James again, but Dax is assured there's no way he could know him. Hawk attacks again, but this time Dax is able to set the device correctly. However, Emma is accidentally brought with them.

They end up on in a space colony in the future, and they're able to lose Hawk again for now. Timer, Dax, and Emma travel the colony and find a place to rest. In the night, somebody breaks into their room and tries to steal the device. It's a small Asian man named Boorish. He beats up the two guys and almost escapes with the watch, but Emma bashes him over the head and knocks him out. When Boorish wakes up, he's tied up, and they question him. Stubborn at first, Boorish eventually gives in and says he works for Balthasar Whitman.

We see a scene with Balthasar and his wife on their ship here, talking about his master plan and what he's going to do once he becomes a master of time and space.

Back with the main three, they decide to take turns guarding Boorish through the night. Unfortunately, he's able to trick Timer during his turn and escape, stealing the time travel device in the process. Hawk manages to find them at this time, but it's no use for Dax. Hawk arrests him finally, despite their cries that it was a setup. He takes the other two in, as well, for resisting arrest in the first place. And even though they don't have the device anymore, Hawk doesn't care, as long as he got his target.

There's another scene of Balthasar, this time with Boorish showing up with the device. He's thrilled (he's wife is like "Yeah, great," being bored with all the evil plots she's had to put up with over the years).

As the main three are sitting in the jail cell talking, Hawk shows back up. He tells them that, apparently, the return of the device was more important than Dax's capture, so he needs to know where it's at. They tell him, but Hawk doesn't believe them. It's not long before the space colonies are under attack by weaponry that doesn't even exist yet even for their time. Dax is eventually forced to believe them and he sets them free, but stops to make a call (to the others' bewilderment). As the colonies are being overtaken by the space pirates, another ship arrives just in time to rescue the main guys from being enslaved. They make it onto the ship and escape. And when they get to the main bay, they're greeted by a smiling man who introduces himself as Leslie St. James.

ACT 3 SUMMARY

He tells them that he received a call from his friend Hawk here and owed him a favor. Leslie--being one of the greatest space pilots, fighters, and adventurers of their era--helps them formulate a plan to stop Balthasar and his new army of unstoppable pirate warriors. His army is filled with some of the greatest warriors throughout all of time. Though they're able to re-enter the colonies incognito and infiltrate Balthasar's ship. Of course, there's a big battle, the bad guys are defeated, and everyone lives happily ever after. Dax decides to go live with Emma in the past. Timer takes the device with him, promising to destroy it as soon as he gets back to his own time. Unfortunately, the second he returns, he notices things have changed, and Dax's presence in the past has messed up the space-time continuum. The movie ends with Timer realizing what he needs to do, and he disappears, going into the past to find his new friend again.

6.20.2011

Musical Monday: Glee - Bohemian Rhapsody (#28).

[Every Monday, I'm going to be counting down my 52 favorite musical numbers from musical movies and TV shows. I might not like the full movie/show, but the number makes the list for various reasons: 1) I have to like the song, 2) the visual of how the number is performed is most likely unique or fun, 3) both song and visual mixes well to create an exciting or powerful number. So let's get to the next on the list.]

About halfway through the first season of Glee, I started highly anticipating this song. It's one of my favorite songs, and it's perfect for the theatrics of the show. Though I did always wonder how they were going to tie it in with the story. Well, they did it perfectly, juxtaposing Vocal Adrenaline's number with the birth of Quinn's baby (even adding some symbolism to the choreography of the performance). Because of this, it remains one of my favorite numbers (at least aesthetically) on the show. This is Glee's rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" (and I apologize for the low quality of the video--it was hard to find a video that wasn't just audio):

6.19.2011

The Vlog - S3.1: Casting Call (Part 1).

Note: This episode has copyrighted music, so I couldn't put it on YouTube. That's why the video player is different here. Anyway...

It's finally here, ladies and gentlemen! It's the Season 3 Premier of The Vlog!

This will be a bit of a different season, I think. The first season was very random up until the last few episodes when the story arch was introduced. The second season relied on the first season for its story, adding more characters, more plot devices, and more structure. But while this season does continue the story and keep (and even introduce new) characters, it also has to get rid of some things you've grown to know and love(?) over the last 2 seasons and even take in somewhat of a new structure.

If you'll remember, one of the biggest parts of the first two seasons--Dramatic Post Reader--is no more. He was a mere time traveled version of Nick. Well, technically, the original Nick is the one who is dead and the one currently living is DPR. But they're both Nick, so... argh, time travel makes my head hurt. Anyway! The point is that the segment/character is no more.

Also last season, Jason was... pretty strongly dissuaded from doing anything major against Nick after he gained the wrath of witch Rachel and mindrapist Kai for having Rachel's nemesis--Jess--turn Kai into a hamster and then using him as a hostage to get what he wanted. Though after realizing Jason wasn't the mastermind, but also that his mindrape powers were no use against this true mastermind, Kai turned to super-hacker Dylan to find the contact information for someone who could do something about it. And the mastermind, of course, being Cokie... Kai found another stuffed dog that is somehow from Cokie's past to pit against him.

Taking all of this in, it's been a pretty uneventful handful of months for Nick... which leads us to now. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride! Oh yeah, and this is a 2-part Opener, but you still won't get Part 2 until next Sunday--but it's totally worth the wait, trust me!

Finally, yes, the first 25 seconds or so of this episode are supposed to be silent (no need to adjust your audio). Also, enjoy the new Opening Credits! And here you go:


The Vlog - S3.1 - Casting Call (Part 1). by ceramiccoconut

6.18.2011

The Demented Podcast #17 - Fletch Vs. Dalton.

We're back with another returning guest. But between last time and this time, he has a whole new website. It was once Dylan of Blog Cabins, but is now Dylan of Man, I Love Films. And today he's on to talk with me about two movies: Fletch and Inside Man. We do a little Versus action and then... right on into The Tower.

As usual, it's No Guts No Glory for Dylan as he tries for the top spot... but he might be going in a little too over-confident. How will that affect his game? Listen and find out!

Current Tower Leaderboard
1) Jason - 126 Points
2) Jess - 123 Points
3) Rachel - 114 Points
4) Nick - 104 Points
5) Simon - 92 Points
6) Sebastian - 84 Points
Nolahn - Incomplete

Current Battle Royale Champion
Rachel Thuro - 171 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.

6.17.2011

SUPER 8.

Super 8 gives us the story of a group of kids (the only one of which you'll know is Elle Fanning) who are making a monster movie in 1979. One's dad (Kyle Chandler) is the deputy of their small town, and his wife died a few months back, so the kid hangs with one of his friends' houses more instead. Then there's a big train crash as the kids are filming their movie at the station, and something escapes. Weird stuff starts happening around town. That's about it.

I know I say this a lot, and have been criticized for it such, but I honestly have almost nothing to say about this movie. I liked it fair enough coming out of it, but the more I've thought about it (with almost 4-5 days now to do so), the more "blah" I feel. I still feel it's a well made and overall pretty good flick. It's just not sticking with me for some reason. So because of this, I am going to list 8 things about the movie and give my thoughts on these 8 things in exactly 8 words. OK? Here goes:

1) Steven Spielberg: It's very clear this movie was Spielberg inspired.
2) Elle Fanning: I usually love her; she fell flat here.
3) Other Acting: It was pretty good. The characters were believable.
4) Unexplained Things: Dogs running away? Magnetic attraction? Kidnapped people? Etc.
5) Truck Driver: How the *bleep* did he survive getting hit?
6) Visuals: The cinematography and CGI were pretty dang good.
7) Pacing: Could have been tighter; sometimes a bit slow.
8) Final Thoughts: It was good but didn't leave me amazed.


I Am McLovin!

6.16.2011

60/60 Extra: Irreversible.

I went into this movie relatively cold. All I knew about it was that it had an infamous rape scene (what is it with rape this month?). I wish I had known a little more going in... so I'll share what I know with you now. The movie plays in reverse (a la Memento) and details a night in Paris as Marcus (Vincent Cassel) goes on a manhunt for the guy who raped and brutally beat his girlfriend, Alex (Monica Bellucci).

Info #1: Apparently the whole script was only 3 pages long, and the majority of the dialogue was improvised. Every scene was filmed multiple times, each lasting anywhere between a few minutes and 20 minutes. In some scenes, this is really obvious. In others, it's pretty fascinating the dialogues they came up with.

Info #2: Each scene is basically a Long Take, which is very impressive. So not only do these actors have to make up their own dialogue, but they have to do it in these massive takes without screwing up. In fact, there's one scene where somebody asks Marcus what his name is and Vincent Cassel replies "Vincent." By this point, the Long Take had been going on at least 10+ minutes, so in order to avoid redoing everything, he plays it off like a joke and gives his character's name. But on the whole, the Long Take stuff is pretty cool.

Info #3: The first 30 minutes or so annoyed the crap out of me--but apparently it was meant to. The cameraman was like a guy with cerebral palsy during an earthquake (no offense to anyone with cerebral palsy). The camera literally never stopped spinning like in a sphere. Up down left right diagonal back forth... it was insane. And on top of that, almost everything is in shadow or red light, making it even harder to discern what's going on. However, the director did this in order to purposefully make his audience uncomfortable, upset, sick, etc. And it's also there to show Marcus' mental state. There's also a super low-pitched frequency (like what one would hear during an earthquake) that affects people by making them feel sick, too. So the director relished in the fact that about 200 people walked out of this film at Cannes in the first 30 minutes. However, I didn't think it was artsy or anything. I didn't think it worked all that well as a clever device. I just found it incredibly annoying.

Info #4: The infamous rape scene... maybe had I watched this film first this month, I'd react differently. But after all these other rape-involved films (some of which do it much more hardcore than this one), it probably didn't strike me as much as it meant to. What did make it harder to watch was the fact that it was basically the camera set on the ground and the rape happens in a single shot for 10+ minutes. In fact, the only thing the director told the two actors, besides how it needed to begin and end, was that they couldn't go over 20 minutes. Yeah. Otherwise, the only thing that boggled me was the fact some woman on the street told Monica Bellucci's character she'd be safer traveling in an underground tunnel by herself in the middle of the night rather than calling for a cab (and then she believed her). Yeah, not buying that.

Overall, the film wasn't as painful as both Netflix (2 stars) or the first 30 minutes would have me believe. Once the camera calms down a little bit and you can actually discern what the hell is going on, the movie gets more bearable. Granted, that's exactly when the rape happens, so it throws you off again. I probably enjoyed it more from a technical standpoint than by what the film was in and of itself. The long take business was pretty awesome and very well done (though apparently there were little cuts here and there to mix together multiple takes). It is a tough movie to get through, and I'll probably never watch it again. It's a roller coaster ride of emotions, though I'm not sure I liked being forcefully manipulated by the director like that. If you're gonna see it, do so for the aesthetic... but I really wouldn't bother due to the subject matter.


Stop Saying OK! OK.

6.15.2011

60/60 Review #32: A Clockwork Orange.

So, Dylan suggested I read the book before I watched the movie in this particular case. I had looked at the book quite a while back and noticed the language used and the difficulty therein. I was slightly hesitant, but figured why not? Because the movie was coming up quickly on the list, I didn't have time to go out and get the book and then read it, so instead, I downloaded the audiobook right to my Kindle and listened to it. At first, the language was quite difficult to get past and I literally had no idea what was going on for the first 2-3 chapters. But after a while, I got used to it and--as long as I was paying close attention (and there were times I was not, sadly)--I could follow it well.

Now, I knew going into the movie that Kubrick based it on the American release, which did not include the controversial 21st chapter, which gave us not only a mostly happy ending, but one that wraps up the themes and entire point of the novel. Instead, he went with the darker, more open ending that ends with chapter 20, leaving out any character growth or the overarching theme. Granted, there was the theme of "choice is what makes one human," but it's not really explored in the film as it is in the book. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For those unawares, A Clockwork Orange tells the story of Alex (Malcolm McDowell), a young boy who runs a gang in a dystopian future of ultraviolence from teens that rule the night. But after he's caught and sent to jail, he's volunteered to join an experimental treatment that will ultimately cure him--though it's a controversial matter, as it seems to take away his choice to be good or bad and, thus, takes away his humanity.

Let's get the book comparisons out of the way first. First and most obvious is the fact that we have guys around 30 playing 14-year-olds. Though that's not really bothersome, as the acting (particularly by Malcolm McDowell) is done quite well. The movie also uses the nadsat language much less frequently than the book (where it's almost entirely in it). The biggest difference I noticed, especially early on, is that the tone is a bit different. Mostly thanks to Alex's constant narration, the book is saturated with dark humor. The film has it, too, but it's done differently--it's a more visual style than a verbal style. And that's a rather obvious change considering the medium. I just found it a much different type of dark humor than the book had. And the movie is not nearly as disturbing as the book, where some truly messed up stuff happens and/or is described.

Otherwise, I've already mentioned the cutting of the final chapter. And there were the little changes or cuts here and there that will happen with any adaptation (the smallest though strangest of which, in this case, was the alteration of his prison number from 6655321 to 655321, when they just pronounce it 6-double 5-3-2-1, giving it the same amount of syllables as if just saying the original number). They also cut out practically every reference to the title itself--A Clockwork Orange. In the novel, it's a book being written by one of the characters that Alex stumbles across early on. After that point, he ponders the title at different junctures throughout the novel, which ties it in with one of the primary themes. But that's all missing from the film.

There's also the minor complaints that I totally didn't picture certain things as they were portrayed in the film that always happens in book-to-film adaptations. But this leads into something that's not quite an adaptation/personal issue. The story is supposed to be this dystopian future, but it still looks totally 70s.

The visual style on the whole, though, was pretty fascinating. The camera angles made everything feel uncomfortable and dreamlike. There were either very close, tight shots from lower angles or very wide shots with large, empty rooms and spaces. It was a strange feeling throughout the film. But I'm sure it was all deliberate, adding to the absurdity and craziness of the story and characters.

The musical selections were pretty obvious, going with Beethoven and classical music. It's a huge part of the book, so using it throughout the film was almost a no-brainer. It set the tone of a lot of scenes, adding a lot of emotion as only classical music can do.

This is my 4th Kubrick film, 3rd for this project, and so far it's the one I've liked the most in its entirety (though I still have one to go for the List). The first half of Full Metal Jacket is excellent, though its second half about falls apart and doesn't live up to the first half. I appreciated but didn't care for Dr. Strangelove. And we all know my feelings on 2001: A Space Odyssey. He's definitely an interesting visual director--I just can't say I'm a huge fan of his films as a whole. But pulling it back to this one, perhaps it's because I did read the book beforehand, or maybe not... just like the book, it took me the first few "chapters" of stuff to get used to it (in this case the visual style, whereas the book it was the language)... but after that, I got into it pretty well. As they say, the book is better, but it's still a well made movie. Real horrorshow.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. This is probably the most mainstream of the films this month, and it's known for being quite messed up. However, this was probably the tamest film so far, next to Freaks.)

6.13.2011

Musical Monday: South Park: Bigger, Longer, And Uncut - Kyle's Mom's A Bitch (#29).

[Every Monday, I'm going to be counting down my 52 favorite musical numbers from musical movies and TV shows. I might not like the full movie/show, but the number makes the list for various reasons: 1) I have to like the song, 2) the visual of how the number is performed is most likely unique or fun, 3) both song and visual mixes well to create an exciting or powerful number. So let's get to the next on the list.]

I actually don't watch the TV show, but I've seen the movie a number of times. The music is totally catchy, but I wanted to pick just one song for this list. It was hard to choose, but I went with this one because it's the most memorable and will get stuck in your head. Not to mention I just love the part where he stars going off in different languages. Not to mention I always used to think the song made a totally random Dragonball Z reference, though it was more of a random historical figure reference. Anywho, here you go:

6.12.2011

Post #800: The Vlog Season 3 Promo!

That's right, folks! This is my 800th post! How awesome is that? And to celebrate, I'm going to show y'all the promo for Season 3 of The Vlog! Not much to say, so let's just get right to it (and yeah, I know I'm using this same song... again. What can I say? It's one of my favorite songs, and it works well for dramatics). Here you go:

6.10.2011

KUNG FU PANDA 2.

When I went into the first Kung Fu Panda, I had such low expectations, but ended up leaving the theater loving it. This time, I went in with much higher expectations... but was that a mistake? We're reunited with the Dragon Warrior, Po (Jack Black), and the Furious Five: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross), and Mantis (Seth Rogen). They've become pretty close, even Po with their master, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). But when Shen (Gary Oldman) decides to take over China using weapons of metal and fire (essentially a hybrid of cannons and fireworks), something so powerful that kung fu can't even stop it, it's up to our heroes to stop him. Unfortunately, a dangerous connection with Shen and something from Po's past comes back to haunt him, and he realizes an upsetting truth about his father, Mr. Ping (James Hong). Also giving their voice talents are Michelle Yeoh as a Soothsayer, Danny McBride as the Wolf Boss, and Dennis Haysbert and Jean-Claude Van Damme as two kung fu masters, Ox and Croc (respectively).

One thing I have to give the movie credit for is that it's very much a continuation of the story and not just a rehash of the original. They build on the characters, give them new challenges, and go through a new story. In the first, they were definitely antagonistic tendencies between Po and the Furious Five, particularly Tigress. But this time through, they're all pretty much friends, and there's even something hinted at and developing between Po and Tigress that I hope is explored further in a third chapter. Also, there's a lot of heart in this movie, Po and his internal struggle to discover who he is and who his family truly is. And there were some points near the end, I'll admit, that almost made me cry.

One of the great things about the first movie, though, too, were the action set pieces. Despite being an animated film, the action scenes were stunning and beautifully choreographed. This time through, there's a very slight drop in quality, but there are still some very fun moments. And, again, there's the "special technique" Po must learn that will inevitably help him defeat the enemy. This time it's a bit more obvious throughout, but it's still a good payoff (with a welcome and pretty hardcore "ska-doosh").

Strangely, I think where the movie suffers most is also one of its strongest areas. On the one side, you have a great story with Po struggling about his family and his history. It's a great, heartfelt side-story that brings characters together and really makes you feel for them. Unfortunately, there's the other story of the film--the one involving Shen--that's not as strong. It feels very shallow, and it could have been much deeper and more explored. They try to parallel it with Po's, but it barely misses the mark. I think with maybe one more draft of the script, they could have worked out the kinks, and things might not have felt so uneven or, at times, flat.

The animation, though, is absolutely gorgeous. There are so many fantastic settings and scenes that are amazing to look at. And there's a secondary style used for flashbacks and dream sequences (we saw this briefly in the first film) that is used frequently throughout the film that is completely fantastic. I also saw this one in 3D, and between this and How To Train Your Dragon, Dreamworks seems to know how to use the format. The movie would look stunning either way, and you probably won't miss anything if you don't see it in 3D, but it just adds a little something extra if you're willing to pay for it.

Overall, it doesn't quite reach the heights of the first film. Regardless, it is still a pretty dang entertaining movie, and another solid entry as of late for Dreamworks. If they decided to turn this into a trilogy, I'd still pay to see a third to see where they can take the characters and their relationships with each other. The animation is fantastic, the characters are good, the fighting is fun, and the humor is there. With a few more tweaks, it could have been outstanding, but for what it is, it's just really good.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

6.09.2011

60/60 Extra: Salò, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom.

It's very rare a movie can make me feel like this. I can only think of one other time in recent memory, actually. Made in 1975 (and subsequently banned in many countries), Salò is an updated adaptation based on the book by the Marquis de Sade and tells the tale of four fascists who kidnap a bunch of boys and girls (who may or may not be 18) and take them to an off-the-map mansion outside the city of Salò. While there, they must follow specific rules or pay the consequences. Long story short, the boys and girls are there to be raped and tortured for 120 days until their ultimate demise. Think of it like Hostel meets 2 Girls/1 Cup as directed by a 70s gay porn director who is trying his hardest to be arrested for every kind of sexual/taboo crime imaginable. And then put it in Italian.

The movie is nearly 2 hours of deplorable activity. I mean, it starts with rape and works its way down the gutter from there. And the worst part is that the film isn't even focused on the point of view of the victims, but of those doing the deed--and they're happy and turned on by everything. This truly has it all: rape (gay, straight, regular, and anal), public humiliation, urination, scat (eating and somewhat bathing), stories of pedophilia (among most of the other things already mentioned), mental and physical torture (including burning, scalping, whipping, and the cutting-off of things), and eventual murder. And that's not even everything. You might be wondering, if you read my recent review on Visitor Q, why some of this stuff bothered me this time and not that time. It's a mix of the situations these characters are in and the tone the movie sets up. In Visitor Q, it was like a very bizarre, pornographic, absurdly taboo cartoon. In here, the situation is set up as realistic, as if this actually happened--mix that with the fact that all of the stuff done in this movie is done in the tone that it excites these people and is seen as a good thing. There are exceptions to that, though--you do see the victims upset and wanting out of this man-made Hell. And at the end, some of the adults have even had enough and know how evil things are.

This review will be short. There's absolutely no redeemable quality to this movie. There's no plot. Characters don't really change or evolve. It's just 2 hours of ultimate depravity. I cannot recommend this movie under any circumstances. By the end, I was actually sick to my stomach (and I still am, as I write this review). And that's a total rarity when it comes to watching movies for me.


She's Gone From Suck To Blow!

(P.S. Not to be childish, but the pun of that rating and this movie are totally coincidental.)

(P.P.S. Not to continue being childish, but I honestly did not purposefully plan this review to go up on 6/9.)

6.08.2011

60/60 Review #31: Visitor Q.

Jason believes I have become jaded. Within the last year or so, after having seen movies like Deadgirl, Antichrist, and Eraserhead, it's no wonder I can view a movie like Visitor Q and not want to curl up an cry like Jason said I was going to. Prior to this one, I've seen a total of, I believe, 2 and a half Takashi Miike films: Audition, The Happiness of the Katakuris, and half of Ichi the Killer. He's known for being one of the ballsiest and most disturbing directors out there. I can see why. While Audition is seemingly his most famous, Visitor Q always gets tossed around in discussion, as well. It's a look at reality, voyeurism, and taboo. And I do mean taboo. The film explores, among other things, incest, S&M, lactation, scat, necrophilia, as well as domestic abuse and bullying.

I can't really give you much of a story. I'll try: After Father (Ken'ichi Endo) has sex with his estranged prostitute daughter (Fujiko), he begins his travel home, only to get beaten over the head (twice) with a rock by a random man, Visitor Q (Kazushi Watanabe). Meanwhile, we're also shown his son (Jun Muto), an abusive boy who likes to brutally assault his mother (Shungiku Uchida). Visitor Q decides to stay with the family for a while and just hang out and watch their goings on. During this time, Father--a shamed reporter--decides to make a big story out of his son's life, as his son is getting bullied at school, and it's carrying over to their home.

This is not the movie I was expecting. I was waiting for blood and guts and evisceration and something twice as hardcore as Audition and Ichi the Killer, as Jason promised me those didn't even hold a candle to this one in disturbingness. Don't get me wrong; this movie is definitely disturbing and bizarre and not on a recommended watch list. Just take a gander at that list at the end of the first paragraph again.

But the reason I was able to handle all that here was in its tone. I mean, how could I be so disturbed by necrophilia and abuse in Deadgirl, but this one makes me want to laugh? It's all in how the movie sets it up. It's hard to take a movie seriously when the family is working together, pouring vinegar into a bathtub over genitalia because they got lodged together during rigor mortis--and it's followed up by a cartoonish "pop" to let us know the guy is free. Also, it's hard to take seriously a woman bringing herself to orgasm standing in a trash bag dress as she massages her breasts, milking herself... while Visitor Q sits nearby quietly with a see-through umbrella. Is that stuff totally freakin' bizarre and disturbing? Yeah. But the way it's presented is so non-serious that I have trouble feeling really anything besides "Um, OK... this is freakin' weird." And that's just two things of many others I could list.

But did I want to curl up and cry after it was over? Did I desperately need a hug? Not even close. It's a movie I certainly won't forget, that's for sure. But, again, I can't go around recommending it lightly, either. It might present itself, at times, as a very dark comedy (like Miike's own Happiness of the Katakuris)--and, in fact, imdb actually lists it as a comedy, then drama, then horror--but it's still a movie that will bother a lot of people merely due to its many subject matters.

I'm conflicted in my rating, though. I don't want to give it a positive rating; the first 45 minutes are pretty boring and uneventful, and the subject matters of the bulk of the film would make it too weird. I don't want to give it too negative, either; despite everything, the film is put together well, and Miike always knows what he's going for in a movie... I think. But does it deserve a full WTF? I'm not so sure. It definitely makes sense as a movie, and you can follow the story and the characters, even if what they're doing is completely bizarre or unrealistic. Also, I haven't even mentioned the fact that the first 10 minutes, plus a handful of other moments, is basically porn. Literally. I didn't like or hate the movie, and I'm almost disgusted that I found a lot of it funny (not knee-slapping funny, but "this is so WTF you can't help amusement")--but I think that was part of Miike's point. So I guess I'm stuck with this rating regardless.


WTF

(P.S. I really want to avoid giving this rating this whole month, but I couldn't help it here. I'd feel either dirty or wrong giving it any kind of formal rating. Sorry.)

6.07.2011

DVD Review: I Saw The Devil.

I'm a big fan of South Korean cinema. They have some really great, though oftentimes twisted, movies that come out of there. When I first heard about this movie, it was about how disturbing and violent it was. Then I saw who was in it, and my interest shot up even more. As of this review, it's been a couple days since I popped it into my DVD player, and I'm still thinking about it.

It tells the story of Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee), a special agent who works for the government and with the police. When his fiancee is killed by the psychotic serial killer Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi), Soo-hyeon enters a cat-and-mouse game with the killer. He follows him around, torturing and beating him every time he gets close to harming another person--never letting Kyung-chul know when the next attack is coming. But is the monster hunter becoming a monster himself?

If you're a fan of South Korean cinema, you should recognize at least one (if not both) of the leads. Min-sik Choi, of course, is our favorite lead badass from Oldboy. Byung-hun Lee, on the other hand, played "The Bad" in The Good The Bad The Weird, an Asian play on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I was really smitten with that film when I watched it back in December, and I cited that Byung-hun Lee was a big reason for it. So just at the start, we have these two powerhouse actors playing against each other--ironically, switching sides between their respective films. And it truly is epic.

There is a bit of a slow start, though. After the brutal opening, there's a (very) small chunk of the movie that felt oddly edited and put together. It was a bit dull, too. Fortunately that doesn't last long, and the cat-and-mouse stuff begins shortly thereafter. The film is slightly less than 2.5 hours, so you're in for a long, hard ride.

The violence is insane. It's not the craziest I've ever seen (looking at you, Takashi Miike), but it's constant and intense. Some of it gets to the point of "how are they surviving this?" primarily with all the head bludgeoning. But you learn to roll with it after a while. And I will admit--there's not a lot that makes me cringe in violent movies these days, but this movie made me... and more than once. And there are a couple points where I felt things were too convenient (how does this serial killer keep coming across other psychopaths?), but one of them is explained, so I dropped that.

There's also some fantastic camera work in this movie. There are a lot of interesting shots, and there's one in particular that stood out. There's an attack in a car between 3 people. The camera just circles them--it would have been cooler as one long take, but there are a couple breaks in between to show the outside of the car weaving in the road. Regardless, it was an amazingly shot scene. And there are a handful of others like it.

This is not a movie that will leave you feeling good, though. By the end, you're worn down and depressed. Sure, it's a (disturbing) thriller, and it ends pretty much as expected, but there's so much emotion and rage and sadness and pain emanating from the film through its main character that by the end, you're conflicted about who you've been rooting for this whole time and upset despite the outcome. And, unfortunately, it does go on a wee bit too long, making it even harder to get through.

Regardless, if you're a fan of South Korean cinema and aren't affected much by strong violence, I do recommend it. It's a very strong film--it's shot well, directed well, written well, and the two powerhouse actors at the helm are fantastic. If this had been directed by Chan-wook Park, it would have fit in pretty perfectly with his Revenge Trilogy. Instead, it was held very well by Jee-woon Kim (A Tale of Two Sisters; The Good The Bad The Weird). I'm definitely gonna keep my eye out for this guy considering how I've taken to his last two efforts, and I do recommend (again) this film, though with a warning that it's not for the squeamish.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

(P.S. This was a tough rating, believe it or not. It's not a perfect film, and it's length and somewhat repetitiveness can grate at times. But the acting, car attack scene, and ending alone deserve my love. But for now, let's say it's more of a 4.5 out of 5 than a full 5.)

(P.P.S. I would love to see this guy make a Death Note movie. He'd be perfect.)

6.06.2011

Musical Monday: The Nightmare Before Christmas - What's This? (#30).

[Every Monday, I'm going to be counting down my 52 favorite musical numbers from musical movies and TV shows. I might not like the full movie/show, but the number makes the list for various reasons: 1) I have to like the song, 2) the visual of how the number is performed is most likely unique or fun, 3) both song and visual mixes well to create an exciting or powerful number. So let's get to the next on the list.]

It's a song that explores the childlike wonderment of the new and exciting. Jack ends up in Christmastown and is completely enthralled by everything he experiences. It also gives us a fantastic look into the character of Jack, who had before this been depressed with the same old thing. The song is fun, catchy, and Jack's travel through Christmastown is fantastic. Not really anything else to say, so here's the segment:



And like the last Nightmare Before Christmas song, here's a cover version synced with the video. It's Fall Out Boy's version:

6.05.2011

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.

The experience of X-Men: First Class has been a rollercoaster ride... even before the movie came out! When I first heard James McAvoy was going to be a young Professor X, I wasn't sure what to think. Then there was the first trailer, which was pretty cool. Then there was another trailer... and another trailer... and another trailer... and (hideous) poster upon (atrocious) poster. Then the reviews came pouring in, and they were declaring how outstanding the movie was. The TV ads were changing themselves to quote reviews saying things like how it battles The Dark Knight for best comic book movie ever made. Rotten Tomatoes has it currently at 87%. In fact, I'd only heard one relatively negative review (and Dylan assured me they were almost all he'd heard--in fact, he'd seen nothing but lukewarm-at-best reviews, and none of these "excellent" ones). And then, after all that, I finally saw the film.

Erik (Michael Fassbender) is a Holocaust survivor, but he's still a tortured soul, in no small part thanks to a man named Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is a "professor" of genetics, with a focus in mutations. He travels together with his friend and kinda-adoptive sister, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence). But when Shaw begins his attempt to start the third World War, Xavier and Erik meet and work together with a CIA again named Moira (Rose Byrne) and form their own team of mutants to fight him. Other mutants (good and bad) you'll see are Riptide (Alex Gonzalez), Azazel (Jason Flemyng), Angel (Zoe Kravitz), Emma Frost (January Jones), Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Darwin (Edi Gathegi), and Alex Summers AKA Havok (Lucas Till). There's one more really fun one, but I don't want to spoil it, so I'll stop there.

I've never read the comics. I watched the cartoon sometimes growing up, played a video game or two, and saw the other movies, but that's about it. I can't argue if they stayed accurate or not... except two issues. Even I know that Alex Summers is Scott Summers/Cyclops' younger brother, so there's no way he could be in the first class. And I'm relatively sure (spoiler?) that's not how Prof X gets paralyzed. Besides those, I couldn't tell you anything glaring about it the adaptation.

I like it when stories are presented like this--going back and showing how things came together. We already know the stories and characters, so seeing everything's origins was fun (since it was done right... not like Origins: Wolverine). I'll be honest: I'm not a total hater on X-Men 3. But even I can't deny looking at that and looking at this and seeing the huge difference in quality, from acting to writing to... everything, really. I'll be honest some more: I was never of the kind that thought X2 was one of the greatest comic book movies before The Dark Knight. In fact, outside of the outstanding opening sequence, I thought it was a bit too long and kinda dull. I think this film strikes a nice balance between everything and gives us an X-Men movie that is equal parts strong story, good characters, good acting, and great action.

In the acting department, I was continually drawn in by rising star Jennifer Lawrence. I thought she was amazing in Winter's Bone, and she brings a needed depth to Mystique here. From the short clips and pictures we saw of her beforehand, the makeup bugged me. But it doesn't really bug me in the actual film, for some reason. James McAvoy excels as Charles, giving us a different side of him than we saw in the other films, but still keeping that wisdom endeared on us by Patrick Stewart. And Michael Fassbender was equal parts menacing and troubled as Erik/Magneto. Of course, I can't talk about the acting without bringing in Kevin Bacon as our villain. I don't know why he was absent from practically all advertisement. He's a huge part of the movie. But yeah, he was pretty creepy and did well with what he was given.

Though I think they could have done a little more with his climax battle. He had some really cool moments, but it could have been extended a little bit, I think. Overall, I think the writing was pretty good... though there really didn't need to be two Charles-Xavier-will-eventually-be-bald jokes.

Personally, I really enjoyed the film. It had some great moments, really fun action, some good humor, great character interactions, and a couple nice appearances by other (unmentioned) characters we've met in previous films. I think it captured the heart of X-Men really well, and I can safely say it's one of my favorites of the franchise. Is it perfect? No. The first 15 or so minutes bugged me for various reasons, and there were a few things here and there throughout the rest of the film I could have liked differently. But overall, it was a very good and very enjoyable superhero movie.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

6.04.2011

The Demented Podcast #16 - Random Ramblings From The Supermassive Black Hole.

I decided to reschedule my DemPod release dates after the previous episode. So it's still continuing to be every two weeks from this point on, if you were wondering. Regardless, I recorded this episode with Sebastian a week ago, where we talk about our feelings on summer films from now through the end of August--the good, the bad, and the sleepers.

But before that, we take on The Challenge and some feedback (please leave more!). And after the discussion, he climbs The Tower. Let's just say... he's not happy with The Tower. Listen and find out why!

Current Tower Leaderboard
1) Jason - 126 Points
2) Jess - 123 Points
3) Rachel - 114 Points
4) Nick - 104 Points
5) Simon - 92 Points
Nolahn - Incomplete

Current Battle Royale Champion
Rachel Thuro - 171 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.

6.02.2011

60/60 Extra: Eraserhead.

Warning: Major spoilers below... if that's possible.

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Guys... gals... I don't even know. There's so many things I could say, but really... what's the point? There is none... just like this movie. How about a summary of the film? Let's see. Henry (Jack Nance) lives in a run-down apartment in some industrial town and often has dreams and/or hallucinations about alien worm thingies, a woman with cancerous bulby cheeks who sings and "dances," and some kind of rock planet. Later, after trying to cut up a cooked baby chicken that starts oozing while humping the air and his girlfriend's mom has some kind of seizure orgasm, he finds out his girlfriend had a mutant baby. That baby is like the Human Torso from Freaks had sex with Jar Jar Binks and spliced their DNA with a velociraptor (and/or a shell-less turtle). It gets sicks at one point. Henry has sex with a neighbor lady in a hot tub full of milk. Tons of dreams and/or hallucinations mixed in with this. Or it's just quite possible random shit just keeps appearing. I don't know. Henry's head falls off and is replaced by the head of his mutant baby, only for his decapititated head to fall through a puddle of what I assume is blood and land on the street in a completely different location. It loses its hair and is picked up by a boy. He takes it to a store and a guy drills into it, takes something out, and plugs it into a machine that produces erasers on the backs of pencils. Oh, it was all a dream! Well, at least everything from the head falling off bit onward. His mutant baby starts laughing at him. A creepy man fondles his neighbor lady. She sees him with a mutant baby head. He de-cocoons his baby to reveal grotesque innards. Then he kills it with the scissors. But then it starts oozing copious amounts of oatmeal or something and elongates its neck. The lights flicker a lot. The baby head gets enormous. The lights finally go out, the rock planet explodes like an egg, and inside is a man with boils sharpening a blade. Cancer-cheeks chick hugs Henry as they stand in endless white. The End.

Here are some interesting notes: This was David Lynch's first movie. The script was only about 20 pages long. Lynch refuses to give his own interpretation of the movie because he wants viewers to do it themselves (which I think means even he doesn't know). And it's one of Stanley Kubrick's favorite movies of all time.

Speaking of, I owe that man an apology. Five minutes into this, and I was begging for 2001: A Space Odyssey back. Don't get me wrong, there was something almost hypnotic about this movie. It was one of those train wrecks that you want to look away but just can't. By the halfway point, I was just watching out of morbid curiosity. I honestly had no idea what to expect next and, frankly, had long since given up caring (that was gone in the first few minutes). And unlike 2001, I honestly wasn't bored... just completely in a state of constant 'head-tilt-mouth-agape'.

This is pretty close to an unreviewable movie... mainly because I'm not sure I can accept it as a movie. I don't even know if I can call this movie too pretentious. It's just... weird. And I mean Salad Fingers weird (look it up), but without the bizarre humor. Maybe even moreso. The point is... I have no point. The only way I think I'll see this again is if I make someone else watch it and just watch their reaction as it goes on. My summary does it no justice. I promise.


WTF

6.01.2011

60/60 Review #30: Freaks.

If this is the first movie of the month, made in 1932, and I'm already feeling uneasy, I have a lot ahead of me. Freaks tells the story of a group of circus performers, including the sideshow people, and their interactions as a group. Within the overall look, we're given the story of Hans (Harry Earles), a midget in love with a normal-sized trapeze artist, Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova). But Hans is already engaged to another midget, Frieda (Daisy Earles). Frieda picks up on the fact that Cleopatra doesn't really have feelings for Hans, but that she's just teasing him. However, she lets slip Hans has come into some money, and Cleopatra formulates a plan with Hercules (Henry Victor) on how to get it. But also onto their trail is a clown named Phroso (Wallace Ford) and a woman named Venus (Leila Hyams).

The craziest thing about this movie was that all of the so-called "freaks" were real. They weren't people in costumes. They actually went out and found circus performers and used them in the movie. That completely made everything that much more fascinating yet disturbing. And there's a nice little prologue that you have the option of reading before the movie starts (on the DVD), which I'd recommend doing. It's a fun and interesting history lesson that made my anticipation for the movie increase even more.

Thankfully the movie is only an hour (and 2 minutes) long, though. There was only so much of it I could take. For instance, the acting is terrible--most likely due to the fact the majority of the cast aren't film actors. And it doesn't help that almost all of the cast has a thick accent (usually either French or German). I actually had to put on subtitles to understand some of them, particularly Hans and Frieda. It's also a long hour. The story is a slow build, and the movie spends the majority of its first act just getting you acquainted with all of the characters and performers... and there are a lot. I'd say the best (and/or my favorite) of the movie in all regards would be Phroso the clown. The actor was good, the character was interesting (and would have been even better had the film given him time to be fleshed out), and he was just overall likeable.

I know the movie was made in the early 30's, but I was still let down by the ending. I watched a behind-the-scenes bit where they discuss what the original ending was supposed to be, which sounds awesome. Alas, they went for something more subdued. Just when the freaks move on for the attack, it fades away and you don't see anything happen. Granted, everything up to that point was totally creepy and unnerving.

There's no way this movie could be done today the way it was done in the 30's. Everything is too politically correct, and they'd definitely go for people in costumes mixed with a bit of CGI. And that's a shame, really. This method was completely successful in what it was attempting. It's not a perfect movie, as I've said, and there's a lot I would have liked to have seen done differently. But for what it was, it was effective.


I Am McLovin!

(P.S. This officially puts me halfway through the List!)