Archive for the Movies Category

The Dipshit Factor

Posted in Movies on March 11, 2010 by kickingupthedarkness

You know what I really hate? I hate the term ‘CHICK-FLICK’.  I hate having to listen to women, and men too, tell me that I did not like a horrendous pile of steaming drivel like DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS? or DEAR JOHN or THE NOTEBOOK simply because I do not have a vagina.  If a movie is good, then everyone should think so.  Hiding behind the defense of, ‘well it’s a CHICK-FLICK’, means that it is a movie made for only half (well, slightly more than half, according to the last census I think) of the entire population of the world.  I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a bogus concept.  Movies are made for EVERYONE to enjoy.  And if it’s a good movie, I’ll enjoy it, be it dubbed as a ‘CHICK-FLICK’ or not.  After all, I didn’t think A WALK TO REMEMBER was so bad.  I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than TRANSFORMERS 2, I can tell you that much.

Oh, I know, I know, there are certain genres of movies that people cling to and others that people flee from.  For example, I am first and foremost a fan of horror movies.  Before anything else, I dig a horror flick and I’ll watch em all: the cheapie slashers, the sexploitation seventies flicks, the French new wave of gore and violence, all the eighties crap, every sequel there is, fucking hell, I even watch the re-makes and the PG-13 horse shit.  I don’t usually enjoy them, but I do seek them out. 

Now, I know many, many people, male and female, who do not like horror movies.  They have their reasons and I accept them (for the most part).  They don’t like the feeling of being scared, they think the films are stupid and cannot abide the character’s brain-dead decisions, they don’t like gore, etc.  All these reasons are acceptable.  And most of these people will admit that certain horror movies must be good, they just don’t want to sit through them.  That’s fine.  Nothing wrong with that.  Although, I will say it is one thing to ‘dislike’ gore, but it is something else entirely to be an adult past the age of twenty-five and to say, ‘I can’t watch gory movies because they are so disgusting, I can’t even look at the screen!’.  Jesus Christ.  Do you people not watch the news? Gore and violence is it’s bread and butter! And you do realize that it’s all just make-up and CGI right? It’s not real! You really cannot separate yourself from reality and what is unfolding in front of you on the screen?  Grow up pussies!! But that’s neither here nor there.

What I was trying to get at before I went on an angry tangent was that people who dislike horror movies are more often than not able to accept that that is their problem.  Why is it their problem? Because there are certain things about the genre that they personally find distasteful.  They do not feel the need to rail at me for liking a movie like THE DESCENT.  And I do not feel the need to rail at them for disliking it.  Okay, sometimes I do, but I shouldn’t! At least I know that much.

With the ‘CHICK-FLICKS’, I find the case to be completely different.  I’ll call a movie like THE NOTEBOOK bad (and boy is it!) and then be told that I just don’t get it.  Excuse me?! What was in the film that I didn’t get?! I got the bad writing, the one-note performances, the sappier than shit dialogue,  and the blatant disregard for every medical case study on Alzheimer’s.  Yeah, I got all that.  What were you saying?

But then they say, ‘It’s a CHICK-FLICK, it’s not for you’.  I would agree with them if I didn’t happen to like if not downright love many so-called CHICK-FLICKS.  And to prove it, here is an extensive list that I will no doubt greatly regret putting on the internet ten seconds after finishing this post, but fuck it, I’m trying to make a point: SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, MYSTIC PIZZA, SHE’S ALL THAT,  LOVE ACTUALLY, BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY, NEVER BEEN KISSED, YOU’VE GOT MAIL, MEAN GIRLS, DOWN TO YOU, 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, DIRTY DANCING, ROMY AND MICHELLE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, MERMAIDS, THELMA AND LOUISE, PRELUDE TO A KISS, IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU, BEFORE SUNRISE AND SUNSET, DOWN WITH LOVE, HEARTBREAKERS, i could go on, but you get the idea.

All of the movies above are films that I adore and films that I would never belittle by referring to them as ‘CHICK-FLICKS’.  They are simply GOOD MOVIES.  At least, that’s how I view them.  I mea n, if I were a filmmaker, I would never want to make a movie that would be labeled a ‘CHICK-FLICK’.  I would want to make a ROMANTIC COMEDY or a SEARING DRAMA that men and women alike could enjoy.  And I wouldn’t want to be known as making ‘GUY-MOVIES’ either.

And now, I think I have found my essential point.  There are a lot of dopey films that I enjoy (REINDEER GAMES, GI JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA) that get labeled as ‘GUY-MOVIES’. I prefer to call them PAMS (Preposterous Action Movies).  People tell me I only like those stupid movies because I have a dick.  I am saying right here and now that has absolutely nothing to do with it.  I do not like GI JOE because I am a guy.  No. Not at all.  Not even a little bit.  I like GI JOE because I am a DIPSHIT.

GI JOE is not a good movie by any means, but I enjoyed it immensely.  I have seen it twice and look forward to many more repeat viewings.  It’s a pile of steaming fucking garbage.  I know this.  I simply do not care.  It appeals to some inner part of me deep away and hidden that prevents me from disliking it.  And it’s not my inner child.  Fuck that.  It is my inner DIPSHIT.  I like it simply because I like it. And it’s not like GLITTER where I love it so much because of how unbelievably awful it is and just can’t look away.  Nope.  I actually, truly and sincerely like GI JOE.  I also like DEATH RACE, THE ROCK, and even STREET FIGHTER.   I have no defense, but I do not feel the need to hide behind the, ‘Well, it’s a GUY-MOVIE, you just don’t get it’ defense either.

So, ladies and gentleman, please try to change your ways and get that hateful term out of our language.  If you see a movie like THE NOTEBOOK, and happen to enjoy it…well, then MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR FUCKING SOUL!!!!  Sorry, I’ll try that again.  Folks, you need to get in touch with your inner-DIPSHIT.  He or she is lonely and needs to be acknowledged.  Show some love.  If you see DEAR JOHN and happen to like it, realize it is not because you are a woman or a gay man, but because you are a DIPSHIT. 

Wear the title with pride.

Advertisements

Ten Best Horror Films of the Decade

Posted in Movies on December 21, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

In the last ten years, American horror movies have been on a downward spiral into suckiness.  From the endless amount of remakes to the unbelievably insipid PG-13 films, it’s like we’ve lost sight of why we watch horror movies in the first place.  The idea of dumbing down a horror film for a younger audience goes against their very nature: to scare and disturb the shit out of us!! A movie shouldn’t be made less disturbing for a mass market audience.  Horror movies are supposed to be disturbing!! So, on this list, you’ll find the few great American horror movies of the last ten years and the foreign gems that really hit the mark.  No remakes and absolutely no PG-13 crap. 

10. HOSTEL PART II

Eli Roth’s follow-up to his 2006 box-office hit is superior to its predecessor for two reasons: Richard Burgi and Roger Bart.  As two American businessmen who travel to Slovakia so they can each torture and murder a young woman, both actors create vivid, terrifying, and believable characters.  Burgi is a hoot as the arrogant one who is always snorting coke and cannot wait to kill somebody.  It’s a hilarious, not-to-subtle satire of the American businessman.  And then there’s Bart: shy, unsure of himself and not nearly as kind a man as you would hope him to be.   Their role reversal at the end of the film is as brilliant as it is inevitable.  And once again, Roth makes the torture scenes genuinely frightening and intense, not exercises in depravity (Hello, SAW franchise).

9. SESSION 9

Writer-director Brad Anderson has had quite a decade with last years’ terrific thriller TRANSSIBERIAN, Christian Bale’s skinny performance in THE MACHINIST, and the delightful sci-fi romance HAPPY ACCIDENTS.  But SESSION 9 remains his creepiest.  The film is also noteworthy because it features an actual decent performance by David Caruso! Caruso and the great irish actor, Peter Mullan, play two asbestos workers who take the dangerous job of cleaning up an abandoned mental institution in under two weeks.  Anderson actually filmed in a real abandoned asylum which adds greatly to the film’s atmosphere.  The asylum swallows you just as it swallows every character, bringing every single one of their phobia’s to the surface.  And the film’s final line of dialogue haunts me to this very day.

8. THEM

In recent years, with films like HIGH TENSION and THE ORDEAL, France has proven itself to be the new go-to place for insane, terrifying horror movies and THEM is one of the best.  It’s basically the good version of THE STRANGERS, which is so similar in structure it’s a wonder that writer-director David Moreau did not sue Hollywood.  If you’ve seen THE STRANGERS, you know the gist: a young couple is tormented by unseen foes in their lonely cabin in the woods.  The big difference is that these unseen foes seem to be actual human beings, not supernatural creations of the screenplay who have the power to be anywhere at any time.  They are never seen fully until the last shot of the film which makes them all the more frightening as the young couple runs and hides in every spot of their home.  Moreau makes great use of background noise and shadows, causing the film to keep you firmly on the edge of your seat for its entire running time. The film also gives a frightening and believable reason for the villain’s actions, unlike those ridiculous masked people from THE STRANGERS.

7. THE DESCENT

Neil Marshall is another director who had quite a decade with the action-packed DOOMSDAY and the low-budget, but kick-ass DOG SOLDIERS.  However, it’s THE DESCENT that truly got under my skin.  The tale of five female friends who go spelunking in an abandoned cave system is scary and claustrophobic as hell before the mutant monsters even arrive on screen.  There’s a sequence where one of the main characters is trapped in a tunnel that is so genuinely frightening it’s borderline unwatchable.  And then those creepy monsters show up.  Marshall wisely keeps them in shadows for a good portion of the film so that when we do see them in full light, they’re creepy as all hell.  The American release tacked on a bullshit happy ending, so make sure you see the British version where the ending stays true to the darkness of the rest of the film.

6. FRAILTY

Bill Paxton made a terrific directorial debut with this chilling masterpiece.  Matthe McConaughey (In his best performance) recounts his horrible childhood to FBI agent Powers Boothe who is searching for a serial killer named ‘God’s Hands’.  McConaughey tells Boothe of how his kindly father (Paxton) claims to have received a vision from an angel who sent him on mission to rid the world of demons that are disguised as people.  The film is told mostly in flashbacks with Paxton’s two sons trying to make sense of their father’s ‘mission’.  Matt O’Leary is terrific as the young McConaughey who strongly doubts his father’s sanity.  The movie keeps it a secret for a long time before revealing whether or not Paxton is actually crazy of if he is indeed on a ‘mission from god’.  Either way, FRAILTY is a taut, gripping film that asks a lot of questions about what people believe in and why they choose to do so.

5. SLITHER

The silliest, most entertaining horror movie in the last ten years.  Writer-director James Gunn creates a great throwback to cheesy 80’s horror films such as THE BLOB and SHIVERS.  Nathan Fillion has a grand old-time as the small town sheriff who has to deal with an alien invasion of parasitic slugs.  Having even more fun is Michael Rooker as the poor sap who becomes the first human the slugs take over.  His search for meat in the supermarket is one of the film’s many hilarious scenes.  And lets not forget Gregg Henry as the incompetent Mayor.  Every line of dialogue that comes out of his mouth is a gem.  My personal favorite: After watching Elizabeth Banks chop someone’s head off with a shovel, ‘Bitch is hardcore’. Classic.

4. SAUNA

Another terrific foreign horror flick that puts most American movies to shame.  The story of two Finnish brothers who are tasked with mapping the new border between Russia and Finnland after a brutal 25 year war in the 1400’s is haunting, moody, and trippy as fuck.  Near the beginning of the film, the two brothers commit a terrible crime that comes back to haunt them when they come upon a hidden village in the middle of the woods.  The village contains a sauna that the residents say can, ‘wash away your sins without the presence of God’.  Naturally, the two brothers enter and a whole bunch of crazy shit starts to happen.  The movie is not very concerned with explaining itself but that only makes it all the more mysterious. The film is filled with terrifying images that sneak their way into your head.  Does the sauna have any actual power or is it just the brothers’ guilt tormenting them? I think you can take the movie either way and like that it allows you to draw your own conclusions. Also, how many horror films can you think of that take place in the 1400’s?

3. THE MIST

I really don’t get why more people did not respond to this movie.  Frank Darabont proves himself once again to be the master at adapting Stephen King stories and THE MIST proves to be one of the most suspenseful horror movies I’ve ever seen.  The story is fairly traditional: people trapped inside a building with lots of monsters outside. In this case, it’s a supermarket and a mysterious fog filled with creatures that traps our characters.  But King and Darabont make this one unique by creating intelligent characters and using the setting as a back drop to explore the extreme measures people will resort to when they are terrified.  Marcia Gay Harden is terrific as the de-facto leader of a religious cult that forms in the supermarket and Thomas Jane makes for a good hero.  The ending of the film annoyed me when I first saw it, but it has since grown on me because it fits with the tone of the rest of the movie.  The film was released in color in theaters despite Darabont wishing to release it in Black and White.  Luckily, the DVD contains the Black and White version and if you haven’t seen the film, don’t even bother watching it in color.

2. MARTYRS

Hands down, the most fucked-up, deranged, creepy, and riveting horror film of the last ten years.  France really proved itself to be the new King of Horror with this insane, twisted ride of a movie.  I cannot say too much about the plot without giving away the movie’s labyrinth of secrets and revelations.  The film begins with a young girl being tortured by unknown foes in a HOSTEL-like chamber.  She escapes and winds up in an orphanage where she meets another troubled young girl.  The movie then jumps fifteen years and cuts to a nice, normal family having a quiet breakfast.  There’s a knock on the door and when the father opens it, he comes face to face with the young girl from the beginning, now holding a shotgun.  She enters the home and slaughters the entire family.  After she’s finished, she calls her friend from the orphanage and tells her, ‘I found them’.  All of this madness occurs in the film’s first ten minutes and that is just the tip of the iceberg.  It’s a wild ride through hell that has the power to shock and disturb the fuck out of you every fifteen minutes.  It is not an all an easy film to sit through, but you won’t be sorry that you did.

1. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN

The. Best. Vampire. Movie. Ever. No Joke.  TWILIGHT and TRUE BLOOD fans should be ashamed of themselves after watching this movie.  It tells the story of a picked-on 12 year old boy who befriends a young girl named Eli after she moves next door to him.  There’s some strange things about Eli though: she does not eat, never comes out during the day, and is definitely connected to a series of murders that are plaguing the small Norwegian town.  The bond formed between these two characters is more touching and truthful than twenty Hollywood romances combined.  The movie never shies away from Eli’s nature.  She is not a ‘nice’ vampire who survives on animal blood or steals from the local hospital.  No.  She is a vicious monster who has to kill if she wishes to survive.  The two young actors are terrific, particularly Lina Leandersson as Eli.  She actually makes us believe that this girl is over 200 years old.  The film’s ending is as heartwarming as it is disturbing.  But the film’s best scene comes when the movie answers the age-old question of what would happen if a vampire were to come into your home uninvited.  A Hollywood remake is in the works, but there is no doubt that they are going to fuck it up, so see this version before they spoil the film’s greatness.

And that’s that! I don’t really have any high hopes for many American horror movies in the future (The re-makes keep on coming) so I’m going to keep my eye on Norway and France.  They clearly know what they’re doing.

The Ten Best Films of the Decade

Posted in Movies on December 20, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

Before I send out my ten best films of the year, I figured it might be fun to hit the top ten films of the decade.  I’ve been reading so many of these damn lists that I couldn’t resist the urge to do my own.  Even though these lists are pretty silly, always relative, and you always forget something crucial after you’ve written and posted them.  You know the feeling I mean: ‘Oh Fuckbunnies! I should have put ‘The Wrestler’ ahead of ‘Mystic River’, now I gotta do the whole list over again!’ Well, I’m not going to bother with that nonsense.  I’m not going to pool through lists of every movie that has come out in the last ten years in an effort to make sure I forget nothing.  If I’ve forgotten a film, well it couldn’t have been that great now could it?  So here they are, right off the top of my head, the ten films of the decade that remain at the forefront of my mind:

10. TIE: WATCHMEN/THE DARK KNIGHT

So sue me, I just couldn’t decide which one was better.  In a decade that made comic books the kings of the box office and the summer movie season, these were easily the two best.  And they are both great for different reasons: THE DARK KNIGHT took the summer popcorn movie and elevated it to a level of high art.  The action sequences were some of the most riveting we’ve seen in the last ten years and even if you have issues with the story, you cannot deny that this is one of the most entertaining action flicks in many a moon.  But it’s the characters and Christopher Nolan’s subtle criticisms of society that make this a true masterpiece.  We all know how good Heath Ledger was, but lets not forget Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Christian Bale for taking characters that could have been one-note and turning them into tragic figures.  And for those of you who feel the need to complain about Bales’ Batman voice, think about this: If Batman truly existed, why wouldn’t his voice sound utterly preposterous? Bruce Wayne would not care about his voice sounding cool, he would just be content to have it disguised.  This is one of the film’s many unique touches that makes it the most realistic comic book film we have ever seen.  WATCHMEN, on the other hand, creates its own unique universe that is at once unbelievable and frighteningly plausible.  It managed to adapt a massive, renowned to the point of hysteria, graphic novel as faithfully as could have been done in two-and-a-half-hours while not alienating people who have never read the graphic novel.  The performances (especially Billy Crudup and Jackie Earle Haley) were right on target.  And the film itself, while visually breathtaking and filled with terrific action, works best as a sly satire of superheroes, idol worship, and government secrets.  After these two, superhero films have got a hell of a lot to live up to for the future.  Lets hope IRON MAN 2 is equal to the task.

9. FINDING NEMO

I’ll admit, it was tough to choose just which Pixar movie was going to find up on this list (Hell, I could have just listed each one from each successive year and called it a day), but I’m going with FINDING NEMO because it wowed me the most.  WALL-E was a visual masterpiece of the future, but there’s something about the way the water moves around the characters and environment in every scene of NEMO that just entrances me every time I watch it.  I have never felt more like I was getting a sneak peak into a gorgeous new world than when I was watching this film.  Every scene is breath-taking.  But the sequence that takes the cake for me is when we get to watch as news travels all over the ocean (From the crabs at the bottom to the birds in the sky) of Marlon and his quest to find his son.  I also think it is the funniest of the Pixar movies (with UP as a close second).  Albert Brooks and Ellen Degeneres perfectly nailed their mis-matched characters.  Brooks, with all of his usual neuroses and aggravations firmly in place and Degeneres, with all of her inherent whackiness on full display.  No actors have better morphed into animated characters than these two. 

8. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND

My problem with most of Charlie Kaufman’s films is that they are either impenetrable or lose themselves in the third act by putting their utter contempt for the audience on full display.  ADAPTATION flies off the rails when it realizes it doesn’t have an ending and thinks itself clever by throwing every cliché in the book at us.  It’s a fine line between being clever and being lazy and that one misses the mark.  Ditto to BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK (though that one is interesting and bizarre enough that I do feel the need to watch it again).  ETERNAL SUNSHINE is his most complete movie.  Jim Carrey delivered his best and most restrained performance as the lovesick fool who thinks that erasing his memory is the best way to forget his lost-love, Kate Winslet (In one of her best performances).  As we track his descent to regain his consciousness, we are drawn into our own minds where our memories have the power to destroy us and to save us.  This is the price of love and Kaufman does not beat us over the head with his message, but quietly shows us that our memories, no matter how painful they are, are what truly allow us to define ourselves as human beings.  The movie is also a visual delight (the most accurate depiction of the mind to ever hit the screen) and filled with great supporting performances by Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood, and Mark Ruffalo.  But special credit goes to Kirsten Dunst, an actress I normally find unwatchable, who delivers her finest and most moving performance as the Nurse who discovers a crucial truth about her own memory.

7. SOLARIS

Audiences and critics really missed the mark on Steven Soderbergh’s haunting, moody, sci-fi masterpiece.  It owes more to a film like 2001 than to STAR WARS and I think that’s what people’s real problem with it was.  Also, it moves at a slow, steady pace that most found boring, but I found hypnotizing.  Clooney had a great decade and this is his most affecting performance.  He shows us the inner turmoil of a scientist trapped on a spaceship near a planet that does not attack with little green men, but with a fully formed being in the shape and with all the memories of his dead wife (The always reliable Natasha McElhone).  Sci-fi movies so rarely take the true leap into their own title (Science and Fiction) and are mostly content to rely on aliens and humans blowing each other up.  SOLARIS  looks at space with true wonder and at once comforts us and terrifies us with the possibilities of what could be out there.

6. CACHE (HIDDEN)

Harsh social commentary disguised as Hitchcockian thriller.   There is no more interesting director to watch right now than Michael Hanecke.  The formal behavioral psychologist as morphed into the most demanding, infuriating, and riveting director of his generation.  There is no film-maker out there right now who has his ability to pin me to my seat and demand my attention from the very first frame.  Audiences have trouble with his technique because he so often tries to enrage you (FUNNY GAMES) but never just for the hell of it and the anger he seeks is always the appropriate reaction.  CACHE is his most mind-boggling.  Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche are terrific as a wealthy French couple who start to receive mysterious videotapes that impossibly document their every move.  Eventually Auteuil realizes that these tapes are tied to his  past history with a young boy from Algeria and tries to find out who is torturing him and his wife.  An easy concept for a thriller, but the tapes are not what the movie is really about.  Hanecke merely uses the tapes as a way to force his characters to confront their past sins that they have buried with false justifications.  By using the shaky relationship between France and Algeria as a focal point, Hanecke reflects on race-relations of all cultures and how past prejudices still ( and always will) exist in a world where people do anything and everything to hide their own guilt.  Hanecke’s got a new movie, THE WHITE RIBBON, coming out at the end of month and I hear it’s his best yet.   But if you haven’t seen this, shoot it to the top of your Netflix queue immediately. And make sure you watch that last frame with a magnifying glass.

5. KILL BILL

I consider both the KILL BILL”S to be part of one movie so I’m including them as part of their own epic, individual masterpiece.  I did not have more fun at the movies in the last ten years than when I was watching the KILL BILL’s.  Tarantino is a director who has no problem throwing every personal fetish and idiosyncrasy on the screen in full display and I love him all the more for it.  His dialogue crackles and sparks with obscure references from SUPERMAN to long forgotten Kung-fu movies and you treasure every word.  This is also absurd action at its finest and most enjoyable.  We root for the Bride as she completes her ‘roaring-rampage-of revenge’ and that line of dialogue describes both films perfectly.  Never before has revenge been treated as such a sacred, necessary and even artistic ritual.  Everyone loves the great sword fights, but for me, the best battle is the cat-and-mouse games of words that Bill and the Bride play at the end of the movie.  Dialogue has never been more engaging and exciting.

4. MICHAEL CLAYTON

When I first saw MICHAEL CLAYTON, I liked it quite a bit.  I thought it was a smart, entertaining thriller with great performances all around.  However, each time I go back to it, I discover something new and like it more and more.  This is Clooney’s other masterpiece of the decade (though I haven’t seen UP IN THE AIR yet).  This film is so masterful in its storytelling that you are practically unaware that it is a corporate thriller until you’re about halfway through it.  But what really sticks in my mind is first time writer-director Tony Gilroy’s (he wrote the BOURNE movies) terrific dialogue.  There’s the great scene where Clooney explains the job of  a law firm’s ‘fixer’ to a client who has just committed a hit-and-run, Tom Wilkinson’s rambling, brilliant monologue on why the law firm has broken his spirit, Tilda Swinton ordering a hit-man to murder someone without even mentioning the word, Wilkinson reading the corporation’s many crimes while they listen in on his phone, and the final, amazing confrontation between Clooney and Swinton that is so taut and tense you’ll forget to breathe.

3. THERE WILL BE BLOOD

Daniel Day-Lewis is quite possibly the finest, craziest and most daring actor of his generation and no movie proved that more than Paul Thomas Anderson’s deranged masterpiece.  Everything about the film and Lewis’ character, oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, put you on edge.  You are not comfortable for one second of screen time.  There’s also Paul Dano’s terrifying performance as the small-town preacher who forges a life-long battle for power with Mr. Plainview.  Anderson uses both characters to see which would happen if capitalism and religion were both wild animals tossed together in a duffel bag.  It’s not a pretty picture and Anderson is not afraid to portray both men as charlatans of false worship.  His themes resonate even more strongly today, as a recession cripples us and religion continues to prevent people from moving forward. 

2. SIDEWAYS

Hands down, the funniest and most touching movie of the decade.  I would like to spend an entire weekend with Thomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti on a wine tour, but kind of already feel like I have.  Both actors create such real, flawed, wonderful characters that we feel like we know them inside and out.  Virgiania Madsen is also wonderful as the woman who might be able to save Giamatti from a lifetime of depression.  There are so many scenes of such quiet truth, such as when Giamatti visits his mother only to steal from her and she knows it and accepts it.  Also, Church’s heartbreaking monologue about how he cannot lose his fiancée despite his endless amount of lies to her.  And no one can forget the wonderful scene where Madsen compares Giamatti to a bottle of the finest wine.  What’s even more remarkable is that none of this feels forced.   The movie touches on themes of loneliness, despair, and lies but succeeds the most by simply creating real characters who we would be honored to spend some quality time with. 

1. THE PRESTIGE

I think I’ve seen THE PRESTIGE about twenty times since it first hit theaters and the film never fails to fully engage my attention.  Christopher Nolan has proved himself to be my director of the decade as he is the only one who has two films on this list.  The story of rival magicians Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman is told in his traditional out-of-order manner, but this is the first time where that structure did not merely feel like a gimmick.  He uses the device of having both characters reading the other’s diary to tell his epic story so the audience learns about each one at the same pace as the other character does.  It’s a brilliant structure, but what makes the movie the true best film of the decade is that it itself is one giant magic trick.  You’ll hold your breath until the very last frame and still be shocked out of your skin.  The film is also a great reflection on the tortured nature of artists.  In order to be a truly great artist, one must make unbelievable sacrifices, something that both characters learn in very different ways throughout the course of the film.  Artists are at the forefront of our world every day and we criticize them and bring them down whenever we can without ever thinking that our words might have the power to make them do terrible things in order to please us. 

So, that’s it! Those of you who know me might have been surprised that I included no horror films on this list.  Well, have no fear both of you! Coming up next will be my top ten horror films of the decade because I love too many of them to have to exclude them from any list and they really deserve a category that is all their own.

Watch the Watchmen

Posted in Movies on March 7, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

watchmen-smily

Psychotic fans like me have been waiting almost 22 years for this story of deranged super-heroes struggling in a doomed universe to hit theaters.  We’ve followed the project as its gone through several different directors (Terry Gilliam and Paul Greengrass among them) until it finally landed in the hands of Zack ‘300’ Znyder.  We’ve followed the casting rumors that Mickey Rourke was all set to play Rorschach and were surprised when former child-star Jackie Earle Haley got the part.  We listened with growing dread as Warner Bros. and Fox fought over the rights and threatened the movie’s release date.  We wondered how Zack Snyder was going to change the ending and hoped he wasn’t going to blow his wad.  We bought t-shirts, actions figure and even more copies of the original novel.  Some of the really crazy ones of us went out and bought a five hour visual audio-book of the film.  We can’t wait for the supplemental DVD to hit stores in two weeks (featuring the complete TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER and UNDER THE HOOD).  And finally, last night, we stayed up late and got to sit down to watch the ‘most celebrated graphic novel of all time’ unfold before our eyes on the big screen.

So how is it?

In short,  WATCHMEN is a masterpiece.  A stunning visual experience that manages to stay almost ridiculously faithful to the comic book while easily opening up the world to novices.  The performances (except for one) are all right on target.  Zack Snyder has crafted a film that is filled with unadulterated love for its source material.  So many sequences are exact replicas of panels from the novel, and unlike SIN CITY which simply transmuted the comic to the screen, WATCHMEN not only reproduces images, but it adds sound and a terrific cinematic feel that makes us feel like we are watching the first true completely visual novel.  The movie is a comic book made flesh.  And yes, it is as good as THE DARK KNIGHT, and actually even darker.  And I believe the altered ending to be a stroke of genius. This is a bold, important film that challenges its audience just like the graphic novel did back in the eighties. And I cannot wait to see it again.

smr

For those of you who don’t know, WATCHMEN takes place in an alternate version of America where Richard Nixon is in his fifth term as president.  The time is 1985 and The United States and Russia are on the brink of nuclear war.  Scientists have set a doomsday clock at five minutes to midnight.  Amidst all this chaos are the Watchmen, a disbanded team of super-heroes and misfits now living in the shadows after President Nixon outlawed all super-hero activity.  The most powerful of them being Dr. Manhattan, a former physicist who was transformed into a literal superman after an experiment gone wrong.  Dr. Manhattan is the only character with actual super powers; he can grow to over two hundred feet, replicate himself and bend matter to his will. He is so powerful that he acts as the world’s best nuclear deterrent. What’s even more interesting about him is that he seems to be made up of the very building blocks of the universe and, as a result, can see the past, present, and future simultaneously.   Then there’s  Rorschach, a demented version of Batman who refused to take off his mask and now wanders the streets fighting the good fight all by himself.  His polar opposite and only friend is Nite Owl aka Dan Dreiberg, who has grown pudgy and bored after being forced into retirement.  Dreiberg is actually the second version of Nite Owl taking over from a man named Hollis Mason who gave up the cloak and went on to write a best-selling book about his adventures.  The heroine is a young woman named Silk Spectre who is also Manhattan’s girlfriend and who took over the job after her mother retired.  Ozymandias is the smartest man in the world and has since become an extremely successful businessman.  Rounding out the cast is the Comedian whose death at the beginning of the film sparks an investigation by Rorschach as to who could be killing off costumed heroes.

You got all that? If you don’t, not to worry.  Snyder provides the complete history of these characters in a virtuoso credit sequence set to Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times, They Are A-Changin’.  It’s a terrific way to introduce us to the WATCHMEN universe and the song fits the tone of the film perfectly.  It’s also amazing how much information Snyder is able to cram into five minutes of screen time without being too convoluted.  I fell in love with the movie as soon as the sequence was over.

I said that the performances are right on target and they are.  Rorschach has always been the fan favorite.  With his constantly shifting mask and angry voice over, he is at once a terrifying and surprisingly relatable figure.  Jackie Earle Haley does a terrific job of bringing the character to life.  He uses a diseased voice that sounds as if he’s been living in the gutter for his entire life.  He nails every line from the comic so well that some of them deserve  applause.  Much of Rorshach’s dialogue could have been played cheesy and over the top, but Haley sells them so well that they provide a window into the mind of this tortured soul.  And when the mask finally comes off, watch out.

RORSHACHjackie_earle_haley_as_rorschach_watchmen_movie_image

Equally impressive is Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan.  It must have been a difficult role for Crudup to play, granted for anyone to play.  Manhattan has been so powerful for such a long time that he is much more God than man and has fallen completely out of touch with humanity.  In the comic, he was often frightening and overbearing, but Crudup brings a gentleness and a profound feeling of sorrow to the character.  Particularly difficult for a character who is all but devoid of emotion.  He doesn’t remember how to be human, but Crudup shows us that a part of him still desperately wants to be. 

THE MANY FACES OF DR. MANHATTANdr-manhattan

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is fucking dynamite as The Comedian.  Easily the most sadistic of all the characters (he guns down a pregnant woman in Vietnam), and Morgan relishes every evil grin and laugh.  But there’s a lot more to the Comedian that just killing people and making jokes and Morgan takes the time to show us his depths.  Also very impressive is Matthew Goode as Ozymandias.  This is one of the most difficult roles of the film as Ozymandias has to provide the film with a lot of exposition that was easy to read in the comic but difficult for an actor to express.  Goode does an excellent job of illustrating these points without it seeming like he is merely moving the plot along.

THE COMEDIANwatchmen07

The actor who seems to taking the most flack from critics is Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl.  I am at a loss as to understand why.  Nite Owl was the heart of the comic and he is the heart of the film too.  People say that he didn’t gain enough weight for the part, but come on, that’s a silly fanboy quibble.  Wilson is so good at playing the nerdy, impotent Dreiberg that we almost don’t want him to put the costume back on.  Also critical to the film is his relationship with Rorshach.  I was reminded of Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in RAIN MAN.  Every one remembers Hoffman, but it was Cruise who truly made the relationship work.  It’s the same with Wilson and Haley.  It’s also one of those performances like Aaron Eckhart in THE DARK KNIGHT that is so honest and heartfelt that it will go completely unnoticed by mainstream audiences.  Wilson carries a good portion of the film on his shoulders and I can no longer picture anyone else in the role.

NITE OWLWatchmen

The other actor who is taking a lot of flack from critics deserves it.  Malin Akerman is shockingly weak as Silk Spectre.  At her best, she is serviceable and at her worst, she is laughable.  She is the most inexperienced actor on screen and it shows.  It’s a good thing she has Wilson to play off of for most of the film because he frequently makes us forget how bad she is.  In the comic, Silk Spectre was a ballsy, smart broad who, along with Nite Owl,  provided the heart of the story.  Not the case here.  However, it doesn’t take much away from the film.  Everyone and everything else around her is so solid that we only notice her atrocious line readings as an afterthought.

NOT VERY GOOD SILK SPECTREwatchmen_xl_04-film-a

In preparing for the film, I wondered how Snyder was going to handle adapting the comics’ more complex sequences.  The most complicated being the scene with Dr. Manhattan on Mars where he relives his past, present and future in a single moment.  Snyder captures Manhattan’s sense of time perfectly and the Mars sequence is the most visually breathtaking part of the film.

MANHATTAN ON MARSwatchmen1medium

In adapting all the fights to the screen, Snyder made the inspired choice of slowing them all down so they feel like moving images from the comic.  This allows us to savor both the action and the images in the same moment.  The opening fight between the Comedian and his unknown assailant is a dazzler.  But even better is the extended sequence where Nite Owl and Silk Spectre break Rorschach out of prison.  Everything Rorschach does is exactly as it was in the comic and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Snyder gives Nite Owl and Silk Spectre a lot more to do in this sequence and it’s great to actually see them doing what we had previously only imagined.

THE ORIGINAL WATCHMENwatchmen-minutemen-img

His soundtrack adds a lot to the film as well.  Using artists and songs such as ‘All Along the Watchtower’ that were referenced in the comic is one of the many ways he shows us his pure love for the story he is telling.  I also really loved his choice to use Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ during Nite Owl and Silk Spectre’s big sex scene.

Fans have known for quite a long time that he changed the ending.  Many have refused to see the film just because of that.  Grow up.  The ending of the book is way too out there and bizarre to bring to the screen.  It would have felt forced and tacked on.  What he does to compensate is brilliant.  I won’t say exactly what he changes (If you’re that desperate to know, just head on over to Ain’t It Cool News and have Harry Knowles tell you), but I will say that it arises naturally from the story and I think that many readers of the novel may have guessed that the story was going to head in that direction anyway.  He doesn’t change the outcome of the story at all, just the specifics of how it arrives there. And the final shot of the film is the exact same as the final panel of the comic. 

watchmen1

Being a huge fan myself, I could make lots of minor complaints and criticisms about the film: stuff that was left out, lines that went to different characters, etc.  But those are just issues of personal taste and should not be considered when reviewing the film.  Let the fanboys debate about whether or not Dr. Manhattan’s penis was too big.  That’s what they’re there for.  And by the way, why is it that every time a penis is shown in a movie, the audience reacts as if its the most horrifying thing in the world? What the fuck guys? We all have them and we all stare at them and play with them on a daily basis, so what is so goddamn terrifying about seeing one on the big screen? Something tells me some people are a tad uncomfortable with their sexuality.  It’s a penis folks, not a monster.

So, be warned, you’re going to hear a lot of people complaining about this film.  The fanboys are going to whine like little babies about all the stuff that was left out and how the slightly altered ending ruined the entire experience for them.  Pay no attention to them.  Whining is how they live.  You’re also going to hear a lot of mainstream critics calling the film over-long and confusing.  Fuck them.  They’re just grumpy old men whose attention spans have become far too short.  WATCHMEN is a film that demands for you to pay close attention.  And you should.  It’s as relevant today as it was in 1985.  Snyder was wise enough to know that there was no need to update the material; the story is universal and speaks for itself.  He was also wise enough to know that this story is less concerned with plot and much more concerned with its characters reactions to it.  The Watchmen are demi-gods and they’re different points of view can be seen as different religions to live by.  Trapped in a world without hope, they are scrambling for meaning just as we are.  And when they realize that there are few answers and the ones that do exist are not the ones they were looking for, they become as human as we are. 

So far, WATCHMEN is the best film of 2009 and will undoubtedly be one of the best films of the year. Watch the WATHCMEN as soon as possible and as many times as you can.  You won’t have another film experience like it for a long time.

Box Office Gold

Posted in Movies on February 26, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

jason_voorhees

Sometimes, not often but sometimes, the box office exposes an ugly truth.  Such is the case with the wretched remake of FRIDAY THE 13TH. On its opening weekend, it made over 40 million dollars, breaking records for that weekend and being the highest opening gross ever for a horror remake.  On Monday, the producers began to talk about a part 2 and even a part 3. I wanted to shoot myself.

And guess what? The following weekend, it broke another box office record.  Unbelievable right? Guess how much it made, go ahead take a stab at it.  What are you thinking? Another 40? 35? Nope, you’d be wrong.

It made 7 million dollars in it’s second weekend.  That’s almost an eighty percent drop in sales! Over just one week!  And it didn’t even make the top five for that weekend.  It finished in sixth and it got its ass kicked by a black man wearing a dress!!  I’m sure there will still be a sequel, but the hope for a franchise is probably gone.

HA FUCKING HA!!!

In Defense Of Saws

Posted in Movies on February 26, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

saw_v1

May God forgive me, I am becoming fond of the SAW franchise.  Not because it has improved with each film, oh no, Lord no.  But because as the sequels get dumber and dumber, cheaper and cheaper, confused and more confused, they have (If only by accident) become absurdly entertaining.

Let me be clear: I hate the original SAW.  A lot.  It’s a manipulative piece of trash that thinks it’s frightening and edgy to make people saw their own legs off.  It’s gory for the sake of being gory.  And it’s not cheesy fun gore like RE-ANIMATOR or most recently MY BLOODY VALENTINE; it’s gore that is meant to disturb the viewer and that’s not scary, it’s just depraved.  SAW is primarily responsible for the ridiculous term ‘torture-porn’.   Besides its sequels, it’s spawned a whole series of rip-offs like CAPTIVITY and BROKEN.  ‘Torture-porn’ has become such an annoying debate among  horror fans and even some self-righteous politicians that it is a topic for another blog post.  But the whole debate began with SAW.  Everybody tries to blame HOSTEL, but SAW came first mother-fuckers.  

Also, it’s such a stupid, inane, unbelievable fucking premise. A bitter cancer patient who calls himself Jigsaw (how witty)  exacts his revenge by setting up elaborate death traps for people who he deems ungrateful or unworthy to be alive.  The traps are so complex and intricate that my first thought on seeing the film was that this old man must be getting some kind of government grant to pay for them and an assembly line of workers to set them up for him.  I know, I know, you shouldn’t think about logical things like that while watching a horror film, but when a horror film is as poorly acted, written, and directed as SAW, one’s mind begins to wander.

I wasn’t at all surprised when they made a sequel.  A little disheartened, but not surprised.  And it was marginally better than the original.  It wasn’t nearly as self important, the gore was less realistic and much cheesier and there was a hell of a lot more going on.  In the original, the endless babble between Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannel (also the film’s writer and he should neither continue to act nor write) drove me fucking mad. I mean, how many different ways can two men argue about sawing off their limbs? Their entire conversation was just variations of one of them saying, ‘We need to chop off our feet!’ and the other saying ‘No’.  For a fucking hour and a half.   In the sequel, at least there were multiple characters and the ones you couldn’t stand listening to died pretty quickly.

I DON’T WANNA CHOP MY FOOT OFF!! WAHHHH!

saw1

I actually consider SAW III to be the best film in the series.  It’s still not good, but it’s the closest the series will ever come to having an actual, legitimately decent film.  Jigsaw’s game was more interesting this time around because I liked the idea of the hero having to choose whether to save his enemies or to just let them die.  I was amazed that the filmmakers were able to actually use their dumb as shit premise to pose a fairly interesting moral question.  That being said, it was still convoluted and far too self-important. And Jigsaw suddenly became a noble savior of mankind. Fuck that.  I hate when movies try to turn serial killers into heroes.  That’s just lazy writing and it only happens because of the psychotic fans who talk about how Jigsaw is ‘badass’. 

Then came SAW IV, which even hardcore fans didn’t seem particularly interested in. By this point, the series firmly established itself as the new horror franchise to beat.  Piss and moan all you want, but the SAW series is the successor to FRIDAY THE 13TH, HALLOWEEN, and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. If only for that, I began to appreciate SAW a little bit more.  Just because I miss stupid franchises like that and it’s nice to have one again.  Granted I would have preferred if it happened to a better series like HOSTEL, but SAW will just have to do.

SAW IV and V are terrible films.  Particularly IV.  They are so concerned with connecting themselves to the other films in the series that each one contains multiple flashbacks that tells you something that you thought happened earlier but really didn’t.  Or a least not in the way you think it did.  Example: In SAW II, it’s established that Jigsaw does have an assistant, a girl played by Shawnee Smith.  In IV, it’s revealed that he had yet another assistant, a detective played by Costas Mandylor.  I would have loved to have been in the room when the writers had to figure out how to rewrite the history of the series to explain how Jigsaw had two assistants helping him, neither of whom were aware of the others existence.  The rewriting of the plot is so ridiculous that the most jaded soap opera writers have to be scratching their heads as to how the filmmakers came up with this nonsense.

I’M THE NEW JIGSAW MOTHER FUCKERS!!!mandylor2

However, In IV all the things that I really hated about the series (excessive gore, a need to provide a ‘message’, characters who talk way too much) were gone.  The film was solely concerned with setting up absolutely preposterous death traps and finding ludicrous ways to re-write series history.  That’s it.  Any attempt at character development or a halfway coherent plot was gone.  And you know what? It made the film a lot of fun to watch.

Why? Because the death traps are, despite being so unbelievable, fun to look at.  And this late in the game, it’s a blast to see what they come up with.  You gotta give the writers credit for that at least.  Five films in and their still not running out of ideas.  The pit and the pendulum bit in V was particularly awesome.  They must have the complete book of Rube Goldberg devices on stand-by.  Also, the series has become completely harmless.  The gore isn’t even close to realistic anymore and hardly anyone brings the films up when discussing ‘torture-porn’ these days.  The critics ignore the new ones completely and the films are barely being advertised.  However, that doesn’t stop them from making a shitload of money every October.

It’s stunning to me that the series has caught on so well and looks like it will continue to do so for years to come.  Watching the films now is a lot like going to McDonalds: It’s not very good for you, but you know exactly what you’re going to get and you’ll feel very full after finishing.  You might regret it later, but it sure tastes good at the time.

Also, the series loves to bring in actors from TV shows and kill them in horrible ways and that’s kind of a hoot.  Where else can you see Luke from GILMORE GIRLS get crushed between two walls? Rita from DEXTER have to slice her hand open on a table saw? Chloe’s boyfriend from 24 get blown up by a nail bomb? The bitchy sister from SEVENTH HEAVEN suffocate to death on poison gas? And where else can the kindly deputy from PICKET FENCES be a deranged cop turned serial killer? I hope they bring Dr. House into the series and I hope he gets tortured by having a cane shoved up his ass.

OH NO, LUKE!! YOU IN TROUBLE NOW! LORELAI NEVER DID THIS TO YOU!sawv460

So folks, I understand completely that these movies are not good and that they will never win any Oscars (But it’d be fun if they did, wouldn’t it?).  But still, they have become a fucking hell of a lot of fun to sit through.  I await SAW VI anxiously.  I hope they reveal that Jigsaw is back from the dead (Which has technically already happened; he died at the end of II but III conveniently forgot that plot point) and is now running for President.  I hope they reveal that he had about eighty more assistants helping him, none of whom knew each other.  I hope that he wins the election and makes the entire country go through a massive death trap that he had built in outer space.  SAW VII: THE FINAL FRONTIER  can be him conquering other planets.  Hey, believe me, loonier things have happened in this series.

Fuck The Fat Man

Posted in Movies on January 27, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

Ladies and Gentleman, PAUL BLART:MALL COP has been the number one movie in America two weeks in a row. This is horrible and despicable. Before this, GRAN TORINO was the number one movie. I was hoping that would start a new trend of worthy films being in the number one spot. I am so naive.

You were really that anxious to see this?!mall_cop_segway

What the fuck is wrong with you America? Haven’t you been paying attention to politics? Don’t you all know that ‘CHANGE’ has come to America? Apparently not. Because you’re still going to see the same dip-shit, mind-numbing, vomit inducing garbage that you always go to see.

To be fair, I haven’t seen PAUL BLART: MALL COP. Nor will I ever see PAUL BLART: MALL COP. The title alone makes me want to stab myself in the eye. So, How can I be so angry about it? How can I be so sure it is bad? Simple: Just look at the title. Does that sound like a good movie at all?

To go one step further, I actually have seen PAUL BLART: MALL COP about seventy thousand times. And to prove it, I will tell you the plot of the entire movie. Ready? Here we go:

Paul Blart is a fat, lazy oaf who desperately wants to be a real cop, but he is far too obese and is constantly failing the physical challenges. We have a cute montage of Paul tripping, falling off his rope, getting stuck in the tire field, and winding up covered in mud to illustrate this point. We then meet Paul’s daughter. She’s very young and precocious and has dialogue that is far too intelligent for any child. Paul’s wife is not in the picture. They’re probably divorced because he is too fat, or for some other arbitrary reason. Paul wants his daughter to respect him, so he proudly goes to career day at her school (my school never had one of those by the way) to explain what it is like to be a Mall Cop. Her classmates make fun of him, which causes the daughter to cry and Paul to be very upset. And he probably falls flat on his face at some point. Cut to Paul at the mall, where he is ridiculed by everyone around him, falls on his fat face about fifty more times, and then suddenly the mall is taken hostage by terrorists. Almost everyone gets out, except Paul of course. Maybe because he is too fat to run or maybe because he wants to prove his worth. Or maybe both. The real cops show up outside, while Paul struggles to save the day. In this process he falls on his fat face about sixty more times. The cops outside find a ludicrous way to get in touch with Paul and for some mind-numbing reason try to help him save the day. Paul foils witless villain after witless villain and uses some arbitrary skill that was mentioned in the movie’s first five minutes to help him do this. His daughter may or may not be taken hostage as well. If she is, Paul saves her and the entire mall. Yay! Cut to Paul being made into a real police officer, despite still being an obese oaf, and his daughter sitting front row applauding him with that oh-so-cute smile on her face. Paul falls flat on his face while walking off the stage. Credits.

See? I have seen this movie.  So have you.  So why did you make it the number one movie two mother fucking weeks in a row?  Is it because you think Keven James is funny? That must be it.

This man is shitfatty3

Ok, Let me clear this up for you.  Kevin James is not funny.  He is a fat, untalented, ugly, cocksucking oaf who never deserves to even be mentioned with the likes of John Candy or John Belushi.  Hell, you know what? This motherfucker shouldn’t even be mentioned with Horatio Sanz.

His sitcom THE KING OF QUEENS was all ‘sit’ and no ‘com’.  It was about stupid, spiteful people being stupid and spiteful towards each other.  No wonder he and Ray Romano are friends.  And no he was not funny in HITCH.  Apparently, all a fat guy has to do is dance like a fucking retarded monkey and suddenly he is a comedy genius. 

Hey Will Smith! Look at me dance!hitch_3

John Candy and John Belushi were funny because they created characters that would have been funny even if they weren’t fat guys.  Their characters were original, sharp and funny comic creations.  The weight was just an added bonus.  These guys were all about their characters.   Kevin James is all about being fat.  That’s it.  That’s all he’s got.  He’s a fat guy who falls on his face.  End of story.

Ladies and Gentleman, Fuck the fat man.  Fuck him right in his big hairy fat ass.  If this movie is the number one movie next weekend, I’m hunting Kevin James down, hauling him to a plastic surgeon and sucking all of that fat that he calls talent out of every single cell of his body.

Thank you.