Where The Wild Things Are Trailer

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

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Wow.  This looks absolutely incredible.  I was impressed last week by the CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS trailer that was filled with images right out of the children’s book.  But it doesn’t hold a candle to this.  It looks like Spike Jonze has literally brought Maurice Sendak’s classic to life. I read it about a thousands times when I was a kid, didn’t you? It’s almost scary how this film looks like it was ripped right from the pages.  Everything from all the beasts, to Max’s costume, to the scenery is right on target.  The music is perfect too.  This just became the most anticipated film of the year for me.  How about you? Find out here.

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Drag Me To Hell Trailer

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

 AHHH!! EVIL GYPSY LADY!!!drag20me20to20hell

The trailer for Sam Raimi’s new horror film, DRAG ME TO HELL (love that title), hit the internet today and I am just a bit apprehensive.  For one thing, its PG-13 and I cannot think of a single good PG-13 horror movie in recent memory.  Sorry, THE RING and THE GRUDGE both sucked.  Its produced by Raimi’s own Ghosthouse Pictures which has given us a slew of shit ever since its conception, such as BOOGEYMAN, the already mentioned GRUDGE, and THE MESSENGERS.  All were PG-13 and all sucked big fat hairy balls.  I don’t get the point of making horror films ‘accesible’ to young audiences.  They’re called ‘horror films’ for a reason folks.  I suppose a PG-13 horror flick could be good, but the evidence shows otherwise.

Also, Raimi’s last film was SPIDER-MAN 3, a complete and utter waste of time.  It felt like a good portion of that film was heavily influenced by the studio and that kinda seems to be the case here as well.  This feels less like a passion project for Raimi and more of a way for him to cash in on his status as a ‘horror icon’, which he really isn’t.  I love the ‘EVIL DEAD TRILOGY’ as much as the next guy but they’re demented screwball comedies, not truly frightening films.  I also love them more because of the God known as Bruce Campbell than the director known as Sam Raimi. 

Maybe I’m being too harsh.  Raimi’s track record is pretty strong, all things considered.  SPIDER-MAN 1 and 2 were pretty great, the EVIL DEAD films are awesome, and A SIMPLE PLAN is a flat-out masterpiece.  Alison Lohman is a good actress, it’s nice to see David Paymer again and I always like Justin Long.  And for a PG-13 flick, this looks intense enough.  

The film itself is about a bank teller who denies a gypsy woman a loan and gets a cursed placed on her.  Said curse involves her being tormented by a demon who after three days (arbitray number) of torture will literally, you guessed it, drag her to hell.  I don’t know.  The idea is solid, but I think the gypsy curse is overused as a horror device.  THINNER anyone?   Check out the trailer here and hit the theaters on May 29 to see if ‘the return of true horror’ really has come to pass.

Watch the Watchmen

Posted in Movies on March 7, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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

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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

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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!

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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.

Something to think about…

Posted in Uncategorized on February 21, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

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…How much do you think one of these babies goes for on the black market, considering the value of gold these days?

…Could it help with your mortgage?  Rent?  Car payment?  …Could it buy some diapers?

Now ask yourself:  did you stop to think about this before this post?  OR were you too busy fretting about how the Dark Knight got snubbed and how Slumdog Millionaire better not sweep the oscars?

…Your rent’s late, deadbeat.

Post-Apocalyptic Amazing

Posted in Comics, Videogames on February 14, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

First let me preface this review of two absolutely amazing things by saying that I hate “the man.”  I will not be watching the Oscars this weekend.  I think Greenday’s new album will be absolute garbage and their transformation into the next U2 is nearly complete.  I have never watched a single episode of House.  I fucking hate nearly 99% of the things that other people like.

That being said, here are two things that cost me a total of 5 dollars and have brought me no end of enjoyment.

The first is Weapon Brown, brought to my attention at Comicon by the noticably-absent-from-this-blog Mr. Jordan Hue.  Here is Weapon Brown:

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Yep.  Tha’td be Charlie Brown, with a robotic arm, shooting the fuck out of Lucy’s Therapy Stand.  This comic, by genius and all-around nice guy Jason Yungbluth, collects the chapters of his Nuclear Holocaust vision of the Peanuts characters into one niftly little comic.  Everybody’s present, from Pigpen’s desperate offers of a blowjob for crack, to Linus’ worship of the great pumpkin, to Snoopy gnawing on the lifeless body of Woodstock.  And all for five dollars.  God bless you indie comics.

And now for something similar, and even less than 5 dollars.  This pretty baby cost me nothing but a quick download on my computer, and its already impressed me even more than Jason Yungbluth’s masterpiece.

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“CHEF BOYARDEE’S BARKLEY, SHUT UP AND JAM, GAIDEN”

Yep.  You play Charles Barkley.  The last known baller.  Originator of the “Chaos Dunk,” which killed thousands, leading to the goverments ban of the sport of Basketball which gave birth to the great B-Ball purge.  Barkley’s living his life out in shame, just trying to quietly raise his son, Hoopz.  His friends are all either dead, or have given up their baller lifestyles (Larry Bird is a minister, Michael Jordan works for the government, tracking down suspicions of balling activity). 

On a pure storytelling level, this is amazing.  It even ties in Charles Barkley’s adventurs in Space Jam, and Barkley’s serious bemoaning over the “destruction of slams and jams,” is enough to make even this reviewer, who has gotten most of his information about the sport of baksetball from the film Space Jam, passionate about balling.

As a game, however…this fucking thing is still fantastic.  It’s a straight RPG, with numerous references to other RPG’s, particularly those made by Square-Enix.  It adds in several action scenes with timed-button pressing, ala God of War, and the battles are always engaging, and it’s fun to level up and see what new Slams and Jams you can add to your destructive repertoire.  Currently I have the great grandson of Lebron James and a Cyborg version of Vince Carter in my party.  I love it.

Indie things make me happy.  I will be having a much better time playing “CHEF BOYARDEE’S BARKLEY, SHUT UP AND JAM, GAIDEN,” and re-reading “WEAPON BROWN,” then I would ever have watching the Oscars.

 

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