Thursday, May 29, 2008

Second star to the right and straight on until morning

In what can only be called a win by Netflix users everywhere, I finally sat down to watch El Orphanato, aka The Orphanage. I think I got it in the mail about a month ago. Yeah. And it's just been sitting there. Waiting. Taunting me. "Come and waaaaatcchh me...." In my defense though, I haven't been home much the past month. It's no excuse, I know. I have a portable DVD player, and I have watched and reviewed movies while in airplanes and airports, haven't I?

What the hell took me so long????

It's engaging, it's creepy as all hell. It's tragic and heartbreaking. And the ending still manages to leave you feeling good. Kind of like Pan's Labyrinth while being NOTHING like Pan's Labyrinth.

Laura was an orphan, an orphan who got adopted. Years later, as an adult, she adopts a little boy and with him and her husband, they go back and buy Laura's former orphanage with the intention of opening up their own orphanage, I guess. That part isn't really clear, and really isn't vital to the story. What's important to know is that they're back.

However, during the grand opening/open house party, Laura has an argument with Simon and he then goes missing. She's sure that the house is haunted and that he's still around, but no one else really believes her.

And that is, really, a necessity for any good ghost/haunting/haunted house type movie. There has to be the possibility that it's true and also the possibility that it's not. And a really good movie will leave you guessing about it, even in the end. And this is a good one.

Like I said, it's a creepy movie. It's unsettling without being gory and full of quick edits. There's tension and atmosphere and it just build throughout the movie. It helps, too, that it's a beautifully shot movie. Everything feels so deliberate, every angle, every choice. Nothing ever feels out of place. It's well acted, it's well shot, it's well written, and it's well directed. I'm curious to see what director J.A. Bayona does next.

I am just in awe of this movie. I have to buy this movie. I have to see it again. I have to tell every horror fan I know to watch this movie. Who ever would have thought that you could set Peter Pan in a haunted house and get something so compelling? 9 sacks full of ashes found in the furnace out of 10.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nice office. It's bullet-proof.

There are actors that are just watchable. It doesn't matter what movie is, there's just something that compels you to watch. John Cusack is one of those actors for me. I'll watch anything the guy does.

Add to that my love of Grosse Pointe Blank, and it's only natural that I would be anxious to see War, Inc.

War, Inc feels like a spiritual sequel to GPB. Cusack, once again, plays the role he was born to play, an assassin who's ready to settle down, aka Brand Hauser. Along for the ride are a Cheney-esque Dan Ackroyd, Joan Cusack (as his assistant), Marissa Tomei as the plucky reporter and Hilary fucking Duff as the slutty yet virginal pop star.

The US is at war in the middle east. Most of the war has been contracted out to Tamerlane, a manufacturer of arms and military equipment. Hauser has been contracted to kill the leader of a neighboring country. His cover is that of an event coordinator for the big Tamerlane Victory Trade Show. He has to pull off the mission and the show.

It's here that he meets and begins to fall for the reporter, Natalie. She wants to get out of the city and see what is really happening in the war. Oh, and the show itself will culminate with the marriage of Eastern European pop sensation Yonica Babbyyeah to the son of a local warlord.

Also, it's entirely a work of fiction.

Well, it's a satire. Which is a type of fiction. Or, it's kind of like an exaggeration of the facts in a humorous context to make a political point. Fine, ok, you know what satire it. Well, A Modest Proposal this isn't. Which isn't to say that it doesn't make a valid point, it's more to say that in 100 years, War, Inc won't be something that they teach about in high school.

For being a rather unconventional story, it's awfully damned predictable. That's not always a bad thing, and I don't think that the movie really suffers for it. It's just that...well, it stands out. The story develops exactly the way you think it will. On the plus side, Cusack and Tomei do display some chemistry, and Hilary Duff is surprisingly good. The movie is funny, and ultimately, isn't the the measure of success for a comedy? 7 malfunctioning Tomahawk missiles out of 10.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Monster Movie Poster Monday

Ok, I'll admit, it's not a poster. But, it's a holiday today and that means that...well, I take most days off around here, but I'm going to post something cool. I picked this up at the comic con I mentioned last week. It's a sketch from 20 Million Miles to Earth.

See, that's friggin sweet.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What I learned from Diary of the Dead

1. Hydrochloric acid kills zombies. It will melt through their skulls and destroy their brains in a gruesome yet, fascinating way.

2. A defibrillator, however, will only stun a zombie. Their eyeballs will explode though. And like they said in Karate Kid Part 3, 'A man can't see, he can't fight', just replace 'man' with 'zombie' and there you go.

3. If in the grip of a zombie, you can use a scythe to stab yourself in the head and it will go all the way through you and into the zombie behind you. I can't imagine how one might practice this move though.

4. If you get stopped by the National Guard while fleeing from a zombie horde, they won't help you. They'll take all of your food and water, but somehow be nice enough to leave you your weapons. Even though the weapons are probably more useful.

5. In the event of a zombie outbreak, the government will raise the alert level to orange, meaning you will not be allowed to flee with more than 3oz of liquid in a single 1qt bag.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Let it be said though that I liked Land of the Dead, I don't care what the rest of the interweb says.

Have you ever noticed that zombie movies all take place in a universe WITHOUT zombie movies? It's as though zombies are a completely foreign concept to anyone who stumbles across one. It never clicks in anyone's mind that 'Hey! I've seen shit like this before on the TV!'

Wait, that's not entirely true. If it's a zombie movie with a bit of comedy, then you can acknowledge that zombies are in movies.

Of course this has nothing to do with anything else. Just one of those things that sticks in my head after watching Diary of the Dead, aka George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead. That's important, it's a Romero zombie movie.

This time, rather than taking on racial stereotypes or consumerism or militarism or corporate greed, we're attacking...YouTube. And blogs. And this 24 hour information overload society. Ok. Fine. I agree that this whole 'everyone's opinion matters and should be shoved online' thing might be a bad idea. I'll also readily admit that I'm a part of the problem. I have a Myspace, a LiveJournal, this blog, a Facebook, I use Twitter, I post pictures from my camera phone to another blog. I make my vacation photos available online via Picasa. And you know what else? I'll be the first to admit that nothing I do online matters to anyone else. More people come here from the Google looking for the pictures I've posted than for anything I have to say. I'd get a lot more attention if I were posting pictures of Scarlett Johansson naked.

Where was I going with that?

Ok, right, Diary of the Dead is about a handful of kids and an old drunk professor trying to survive in a world over run by zombies. Chronologically speaking, in the Romero zomb-iverse (I just made that up, you like it? Feel free to use it yourself), this takes place at about the same time as Night of the Living Dead. It's right at the beginning of the outbreak. Luckily though, these kids are all student film makers, so they have the most important thing to have in a zombie attack, a camera! As soon as the zombies see that, they get all self-conscious and start primping and worrying about the extra ten pounds that the camera puts on, so they have to rip out there guts to shed the weight, but then their guts are all over the ground and they start tripping over them and falling down. Then they start chasing each other, and then they're chasing the people and then the people are chasing the zombies and suddenly it turns into a Benny Hill skit.

I made that last part up. It may as well have though. At least that would have been unexpected. Instead, you have a fairly by-the-numbers zombie movie. And if anyone else had made it, this would be an entirely different article. But this is a Romero zombie movie. It's held to a different standard. Romero isn't just a director of zombie movies, he's a brand name. Romero is Pepsi to Sam's Choice Cola, he's Kraft Macaroni and Cheese to Kroger Brand Mac N' Cheese. It's a different standard. And when held to that standard, Diary withers.

The characters are shallow and underdeveloped. No one has a back story. Tony is the angry young man because he's from Brooklyn. Eliot is the technology nerd, you can tell because of his glasses. Everyone is just a poorly developed stereotype. At one point, our Scooby Gang gets stopped. By 3 angry black men. With guns. It wouldn't have been so annoying, and mildly racist, if the scene had been necessary. But, in looking back, if the whole time the were with them had been cut out, the movie would hardly have been effected. The only minorities in the movie are thrilled that they're in power now that everyone else who had the power before left! They didn't earn it. They weren't the ones who kept cool and gathered supplies and came to be respected for their foresight and ability to handle pressure. No, they stumbled into it.

This is the kind of social commentary that Romero gives us in 2008? And, what is he even trying to say about YouTube and the 'information age'? The heroes are the cameramen. This isn't exactly a vilification. The director takes time out to upload some footage to MySpace, and while he gets yelled at briefly for taking the time to do it, he's not shunned or cast out for it either.

And am I the only one that's already sick of this whole 'video taping it ourselves', 'this is the recovered footage' style of film making that's cropped up? The Blair Witch Project was original and Cloverfield was well done...but now, after 3 movies, I'm done. How much variety can you get out of the concept? How many different reasons can you have for some group of kids to have a camera ready to go when all hell breaks loose?

From any other director, this would have been a fun movie. There'd be no afterthought to it. You'd watch it, think, that wasn't bad and move on with life. But, like I said, it's held to a different standard because of the director. So, Diary of the Dead gets 6 eyeballs exploding after having a defibrulator discharged against the zombie's heads out of 10.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Forgotten Hero of Indiana Jones

Cerebral Mastication is having an Indiana Jones Blog-a-thon this week. Hmm...I like Indiana Jones, I'm even almost excited about the new movie. Almost. But, what could I write about? I mean, it's kind of pointless (not to mention boring) to review any of the movies. Someone else already covered The Temple of Doom, so, no need to re-tread that path. Then I started thinking...

It's something that I've wondered about before, something that has crept into my mind occasionally while trying to figure out what this life is all about. I can't shake it, it's the kind of question that will plague me until my dying day...

What the hell happened to Short Round?

Wikipedia claims that he was born in 1924, making him 12 or 13 when he was kicking around India with Indy in 1935. He would be 17 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Would he have fought in the war? Perhaps, being confused for Japanese, he wound up in an internment camp here in the states. He would have been a high school senior, did he graduate? Did he have a date for the prom?

Short Round would have been 21 when the war ended. Did he go to college? Did he marry his high school sweetheart? Maybe he worked in a chop suey restaurant in Chinatown to support his wife and kids, eventually opening a restaurant of his own. In his free time, he'd take his family to the beach for a weekend. Some might call it living the good life, others The American Dream. All of this could have been Short Round's...

Somehow, I doubt it was though.

More likely, after Indy kicked his young foreign ass to the curb, he went off in search of his own adventures. Taking inspiration from his old friend and Hardy Boys books, he would have gone off solving mysteries of his own, eventually setting up shop in the late 50s as a private detective*.

Nothing says High Quality like something that I photoshopped...

That's the kind of life I envision Short Round having. A life of excitement, a life of adventure. Trouble around every corner, a wisecrack every other line and outsmarting everyone in the end. Kind of like an Asian Philip Marlowe. You know what...I'd watch that movie.

Eventually, he'd take on an apprentice or a partner. Going on adventures that same way that Indy took him. And then he'd grow up to hang out with truckers, eventually finding a wife...and then...well...that's a whole different story...

*The kind of detective that they write movies and books about. Not the boring kind.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monster Movie Poster Monday

I went to the Motor City Comic Con on Saturday. It's the Detroit attempt to...I don't know, it's really pretty lame and it gets worse every year. It's a shame, too. It used to be fun. Oh well. While I was there though, I did find some small replicas of posters for a few Ray Harryhausen movies. They were 8 1/2" X 11" photopaper prints that look pretty cool in a frame on my wall.

Among them was this poster for the 1955 film, It Came From Beneath the Sea. This, of course, is the one about the giant octopus attacking San Francisco. It seems like a good poster for this week since I just got back from SF last Friday.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

His headlights were broken for ages, and she fixed them just by touching a button.

Can someone explain how exactly I'm supposed to review a movie like Wristcutters: A Love Story? How do you describe something like this in a way that would make someone either a) want to see it, or at least b) not think you were insane?

Zia is dead. He killed himself. Zia is the titular wristcutter. And, his afterlife is spent amongst the other suicides in a world with bad music, washed out colors, and the inability to smile. It's here that he meets Russian rocker Eugene. A guy who lives with his family in the afterlife because they all ended up offing themselves.

One day, Zia learns that the girl he killed himself over had also killed herself, so he enlists Eugene and they go looking for her. Along the way the pick up Mikal, a girl who ODed and ended up there by mistake. She's hitchhiking on a quest to find the People In Charge so that the mistake can be corrected and she can go back.

I should add that this is a comedy...about suicide. Well, no, that's a little overly dramatic. It's a comedy about what happens to people AFTER they commit suicide. With a happy ending. It's a movie thats funny without being full of jokes. Everything is the same as being alive, just a little worse.

See, this movie epitomizes the dilemma I talked about a while back. I can't just say 'Oh man, that movies is great, you should go see it' because, well, I can't. I'd have to stop at 'Oh, yeah, I liked that movie' and know that a lot of people probably wouldn't. That said, I give it 8 insignificant miracles out of 10.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monster Movie Poster Monday

Not much to say about this one. Godzilla, 1955, featuring Perry Mason (before he was Perry Mason). I'm trying to get ready to leave for San Francisco tomorrow morning. That should be fun, though completely irrelevant to this post. You know what else I'm doing? Trying to book a trip to LA the first week in June. Yeah, see, how's that for personal insight. Ok, I'm done sharing now.

Friday, May 09, 2008

I want to see this one

Oh, sure, Lucas says that he won't make any Star Wars movies beyond the end of Jedi, but, it would seem Target knows something different...

Episode 12? Really? Is that the one where everyone's grandkids try to save the galaxy like some Star Wars themed episode of Muppet Babies?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I have a good feeling about this one

Because I can't hate on everything, here's a trailer.

This, of course, is The Strangers. Perhaps it's not a remake of Ils, but looks quite similar and maybe even as good. Without having seen it yet, I can only hope.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I have a bad feeling about this

Look at it. Don't avert your eyes. Gaze upon the glory that is the trailer...for the Star Wars animated movie/series/thing.

Um...yeah. Look around, I'm a bit of a Star Wars fan. I try to hide it, but I fail fairly miserably. And here I am, looking at the poster and thinking about the plot and, I just can't get excited. I'm fucking BORED with the Clone Wars. I don't care what happened between Episode II and Episode III. I really don't. I didn't care when they did Clone Wars and I'm not interested now in The Clone Wars. Two stories differentiated by a definite article. Come on Lucas, couldn't you be a little more creative in coming up with a title? That's the best you can do?

Of course, a lack of enthusiasm won't make me stop talking about it, it will just make me crankier when I do. I guess it just feels like I should be excited. But I'm not, it just feels like we're beating a dead horse here. I know I am.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Monster Movie Poster Mondays

If you've ever hard the burning desire to visit Urbana, IL...reconsider. It's a nice enough town, but, it's It's better than Muncie, IN...that's not saying much though. Oh well.

It's Cinco de Mayo today, so lets all grab a margarita (or a señorita NAMED Margarita), or the drink of your choice and remember the victory of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín over those pesky French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Here's to you, Iggy!

This weeks poster isn't REALLY a poster. It's the work of Kevin Dart at Fleet Street Scandal. I've been a fan of those guys for a while now and have bought a couple pieces by Kevin and Chris Turnham (it was called chicken abduction, it's no longer available on their site though).

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Can he see or is he blind?

I made a really big mistake this morning. Huge mistake. I listened to...the radio. Ugh. I know, I know, it's my own fault. I know better than to listen to these clowns. I didn't like them when they were on afternoons and I don't like them on mornings. In fact, the only time I liked them was when they got replaced on afternoons and didn't have the morning gig. That's right, the show was at it's best when it didn't exist.

It's your typical morning radio show. "Jokes" about strippers and prostitutes to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Jokes might be the wrong word, that would imply that they're funny.

Today, for the couple minutes I could stomach, they were talking about their upcoming 'Creamed Corn Wrestling' event and Iron Man. A listener called in and asked them if Black Sabbath's Iron Man were based on the comic book character. They said that as far as they new it was. This is because they're idiots who have no actual interest in thinking about what they say.

From Wikipedia:

The song is about a person who travels through time to, or for the benefit of, mankind's future. On his way back, he is transformed to steel with "boots of lead" when he passes through a "magnetic field." Because of his new form, people reject him – despite his efforts for the benefit of mankind – and as revenge, he tries to kill them.

It turns out the terrible event he tried to warn people of was him.
Well, that doesn't sound like Tony Stark. At all. But, in the interest of completion, lets see what Wikipedia says about the character:

"Iron Man" is a song by the rock band Black Sabbath. It was later retconned into the source of Iron Man's name, as it was a young Tony Stark's favorite song.[issue # needed]The Sabbath song is played over the closing credits of the 2008 movie.
Ah, so there we have it. 30 seconds of research to find out that the song is not, in fact, about the comic book character. 30 seconds is an eternity in radio though. So, lets look at the lyrics themselves. I would think that this is a song that a radio host with a male demographic would be at least somewhat familiar with.

Has he lost his mind
Can he see or is he blind?
Can he walk at all,
Or if he moves will he fall

Is he live or dead?
Has he thoughts within his head?
We'll just pass him there
Why should we even care?

He was turned to steel
In the great magnetic field
When he traveled time
For the future of mankind

Nobody wants him
He just stares at the world
Planning his vengeance
That he will soon unfold

Now the time is here
For Iron Man to spread fear
Vengeance from the grave
Kills the people he once saved

Nobody wants him
They just turn their heads
Nobody helps him
Now he has his revenge

Heavy boots of lead
Fills his victims full of dread
Running as fast as they can
Iron Man lives again!
Ok, I can see how they could have been confused. The song is describing a being that is slow moving and at least a bit monstrous. Just like Tony Stark.

The problem isn't that they didn't know. It's that they didn't know, but passed it off as if they did. That just spreads ignorance, and there's enough of that out there already. Sure, this is a pretty trivial matter. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, how much does the origin of a song really matter? A hundred years from now, will anyone really care? It's just that, as members of the media, they need to be held to a higher standard. When they speak, thousands of people are listening. They have an obligation to think things through and present good information to the public. And the fact of the matter is that it's annoying as hell when they just don't care.