Friday, November 28, 2008

I've actually never seen First Blood

Imagine that you are 8 years old and are being raised in a very religious family. You aren't allowed to have friends outside of church members, and you aren't allowed to watch movies or television. You go to school but keep quietly to yourself. When a movie is on you go out and sit in the hall. Then, one day, just by chance, an unusual set of circumstances causes you to see First Blood. Suddenly, Rambo is your world. You imagine him as your dad, and you have to save him. And it just so happens that your classmate is trying to make a movie himself. The two ideas converge and suddenly you're having fun with other students and getting in trouble with the church. And everyone wants to be in your movie.

Son of Rambow is about the trials and tribulations of making that movie. At least, that's what the story centers around. In reality, it's about family and it's about friendship and it's about the enthusiasm of being young.

And it's a lot of fun. Really. I can't say enough good things. The acting, the script, it's all quite good. While I thought that Garth Jennings' previous movie was a little weak, this is much stronger and much more consistent throughout.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I certainly can...

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy the day and tell your family I said hi! Then go settle down on the couch and hope that the Lions don't embarrass themselves too much on the TV. Maybe there's hockey. We have a good hockey team...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Do you have the crazy?

I'd wanted to see The Signal for some time. I didn't know too much about it aside from it looked, conceptually, a lot like Pulse. And, we all know how much I loved Pulse...

The Signal is a story about our electronics turning on us. Not in a Maximum Overdrive kind of way though. There's no clown trucks and no Emilio Estevez here. Instead, what we have is a signal that is transmitted through the tv, radio and phone systems. It's a signal that makes people crazy. And once they have the crazy, they start killing each other.

The movie is broken up into three segments (referred to as Transmissions). Each segment is it's own story. It's almost like three short films about the same event with the same characters. They even have different directors.

The first and third segments were very good and served to tell the story very well, but for my money, the middle segment was the best. It's also the lightest of them. The other two are much more serious, the first sets up the characters and what's going on, the third has to bring everything to a close, but in the middle there is some levity and humor. Everyone is starting to deal with the isanity of what's going on in the world. And it's very funny. The Signal isn't a comedy though. No more so than it is anything else. I guess by that I mean that it's not something that you'll find in the comedy section of your local video store.

The Signal is what Pulse should have been...really fucking good. In fact, it's only noticeable flaw, if it can be called that, is that it never makes any real effort to explain the origin of the signal itself. There's no what or why or how. All we see it that it's there and the results of it. The signal itself isn't the story though. And that it doesn't get explained is actually easily forgivable.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I like zombie movies, even though the recent glut of them has watered down the genre. And, I'll watch just about any zombie movie, even if the box doesn't say something like "Better than Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later" ( Let's be honest a quote like that really going to sway me? No. It's going to make me go into the movie with very low expectations. How likely is some low budget zombie movie going to hold up against one of my favorites?

Pretty fucking poorly.

The Zombie Diaries follows 3 groups of survivors in the immediate aftermath of a zombie outbreak. The story is presented in a 'found footage' style ala The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield. Except, in this case it's neither novel or well executed. While one of the groups of survivors is a television documentary crew, there is no reason given for either of the other two having and continuing to use the cameras.
The movie itself is boring and not exactly what most people would think of as 'scary'. In fact, the most interesting part of the story has nothing to do with the zombies! The characters are poorly developed and, as far as I could tell, most of them may not have even had names.While I may not have liked it, a quick glance around the web shows that I might be in the minority. Once again showing that I'm better than the majority.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monster Movie Poster Monday

Not much to say today. Just a poster for you. And, it's pretty sweet.

Actually, wait, there is something. 7 Dollar Popcorn is now on Facebook! Now you can tell all your friends that you're a fan of 7dp just by clicking a button...and signing up...and having friends! I have no idea what else I can or will do with it. I'm sure I'll tie it in somehow though. I wonder if 7dp should get a MySpace next...

Friday, November 21, 2008


On the advice of my cousin, I read James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia. It is a fictionalized account of the infamous Black Dahlia murder in 1947.

In a nutshell, on January 15th, 1947, the body of Elizabeth Short was found naked and cut in half in an LA park. The body was severely mutilated and the blood had been drained from the body. It was a gruesome murder that captivated the country at the time and to this day, remains unsolved.

Ellroy's novel, and subsequently the movie adaptation, follows the lives of
Bucky Bleichert (who's perspective the story is told through), his partner Lee Blanchard, Kay Lake, and Madeleine Sprague (Linscott in the movie). The story isn't so much about solving the crime as it is about how the crime affects their lives.

The book is great. It's a captivating story full of ups and downs and twists and turns. I highly recommend it to anyone. The movie...well, it might be okay if you've never read the book. I get that things change when a book gets adapted to a movie. The ending changes slightly, parts get dropped for time and pacing. I'm okay with that. There are two problems here though. One is that the omissions make The Black Dahlia into a rather bland, pedestrian movie with a myriad of pacing problems. Skipping over huge plot points and character development to get the movie to come in at 2 hours just causes problems in the end product. We're talking a story that takes place over the course of years presented in a way that it could have happened over the course of a week. Of course this is going to lead to problems. When you have no sense of the time that's passing, it just feels weird.

The second problem is that all of the actors are wrong for the parts. I read The Black Dahlia knowing that there was a movie made from it but without knowing who was in it or what parts they played. There may as well have not been a movie at that point. You know how it is when you read a book though. If it's a book that was made into a movie and you've seen the movie, you picture those people in their parts. Their voices speak in your mind. And, when you don't have that, well, you're mind makes it up for you. While all of the main actors are certainly capable and generally good, they were just the wrong people for the roles. If Hartnett and Eckhart changed roles, maybe I would have liked it a bit more. If Johansson were a little older, she would have been fine. And, well, Swank just seemed wrong for the role altogether.

Like I said, the movie started off at a disadvantage because of my love of the book. I was genuinely excited to see the movie though. I wanted to like it. Too much of what I enjoyed about the book was just missing from the movie. Again, maybe if I hadn't read the book, I would have liked it a bit more. Then again...maybe not.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

That's just fucked up.

I've often asked, what was the most recent truly scary American horror movie. I don't know that I've ever asked here, or aloud for that matter, but I think about it a lot. Well, I found an answer...The Strangers.

Set in a rural suburban home, The Strangers is the story of a young couple terrorized by three kids in masks over the course of the night. No reason is given for their invasion aside from 'you were home'.

There is very little gore, very little plot. The movie is what it is. Two people being terrorized. As a horror movie, it taps into the unexplainable. The fear is centered around how arbitrary the events are. The couple has done nothing wrong. By all accounts they've led perfect, wholesome lives. Yet, here they are being brutaly terrorized by three people that they've never met.

And, it's scary.

Director Bryan Bertino manages to keep things pretty taut and tense throughout the movie. There are the usual jump scares, timed perfectly to the music, as well as littler things like someone just silently appearing in the background watching the woman get a glass of water. The movie clocks in a little under an hour and a half, and manages to build and maintain it's suspense throughout. There isn't much levity. There isn't much of a break once it gets going. It's a little unsettling and kinda fucked up to be honest. It is scary though, and it is good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No, not the country supergroup

I picked up Highwaymen on a whim. I'd never heard anything good or bad about it, hell, I'd never heard of it, period. I was bored and decided to stop in at the video store down the street to see if I could cure said boredom. Walking around aimlessly, I spot the box. It says it has Jesus and the hot chick from Doomsday in it. Ok. That sounds interesting. And it was directed by the guy who did The Hitcher, not sure if they mean the original or the remake, and I didn't look any further into it. I took it home with me. What's the worst that could happen? A movie I've never heard of by a director who made a movie I liked staring an actor I like. Sounds good to me.

Is it as good as the soup I had for dinner, or as so-so as the sandwich and should I look for further analogies in my meals? How would it compare to the applesauce I made, or even the water I was drinking. Am I making you hungry yet? Hungry for action? Starving for suspense? Good.

Highwaymen is a demolition derby for the most part. Five years ago some nutjob killed Jesus' wife with a 72 El Dorado. And not in the Dr Horrible Capt-Hammer-threw-a-car-at-my-head kind of way. He ran her over on the side of the road. This is apparently the sort of thing that this guy does. Jesus, aka Rennie, is trying to find this guy. Molly, the chick from Doomsday, just sort of happens to get caught up in this whole mess...well, along with a state traffic investigator that is.

There is an instant urge to look to The Hitcher for comparison. Not because the two are very similar, because really they aren't. Sure, there are some superficial similarities. Open roads, cars, killers without a reason. I think it would be fair to say that Highwaymen does draw some inspiration from The Hitcher. The two movies also share a director, which is a much better reason for the comparison. And, I think it's easy to say that The Hitcher is the better movie. Not just the plot, but the way it unfolds, the way it builds suspense.

Which isn't to say that Highwaymen isn't suspenseful. It is. The story is unique and intriguing. The characters are fairly shallow, but the connection between them all is well played out. The acting is good, especially that of Caviezel and Mitra. The story itself is just a little weak. It takes too many leaps of faith to get to that ending. Too many coincidences. The movie collapses under the weight of those questions. It was just like the sandwich.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Banshees are cool. There should be more banshee movies...

When watching nearly any modern horror movie you can figure out pretty quickly, if not who is going to survive, at least who will survive the longest. For example, in the movie there will be a completely useless guy, some jock who is a complete jerk, looking out only for himself. He will horde supplies or try to sleep with someone else's girlfriend. In the end, he will die, but not right away. He will be one of the last ones to die. So, for almost the entire movie you will watch the movie hoping, waiting, praying for this dipshit to die.

It's a cliche. In horror movies, it's no less a guaruntee than dying if you have sex. Frankly, if you like everyone, you sympathize when they die. However, if you don't like one or some of the characters, you sympathize with the killer, at least for a while. And, when you sympathize with the killer, you don't mind watching people die for a hour and a half.

By having this detestable person around, you can also allow the audience to believe that he might have a hand in the killing, throwing doubt and confusion into the story.

It can also be the sign of a weak writer creating a very shallow character.

However, if that character dies first, well, it doesn't exactly mean that the writer is any better.

Take Shrooms for example, a group of five American students go to Ireland to take shrooms. You have the harmless stoner and his girlfriend, the jock and his girlfriend, the blond 'good girl' and the Irishman she happens to like.While hunting for the magic mushrooms, the good girl trips and finds a slightly more magical mushroom. One that is often lethal, but that the druids used to see the future and give them strength and other mystical things. It doesn't kill her, but she starts to have visions, apparently foreseeing the future and many of her friend's deaths.

I'd wanted to see Shrooms for some time. I think it was the poster that did it for me. And, it's a watchable movie. I mean, it's better than the likes of Yeti. The actors are pretty good. Lindsey Haun (currently of Haun Solo (nice voice, boring music, 7th Fall was a little better) which I think might be the best band name that I've seen lately, but then again, I'm a fucking nerd), is good as 'good girl' Tara. She spends half of her scenes having seizures in the mud while having visions, and it's her performance that ultimately carries the movie. It's Tara's story.

The biggest problem I have with the movie, really, is the ending. It's horrifyingly predictable. And while they do their best not to telegraph it, it's as inevitable as Christmas. You just know it's coming. I can think of a couple of endings that would have been more intersting and less predictable. A banshee, for example. Maybe I should make a banshee movie. That would be pretty cool. I could call it Unsilent Night, that way it would be offensive to viewers based on content and English majors based on the title.

Back to Shrooms though, I cannot in good conscience recommend this movie. It's not that it was just wasn't good.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Follow the ring

You'll be happy to know that I managed to tear myself away from the Xbox 360 long enough to watch a movie. It was pretty easy after I finished Fable 2 for the third time...and own everything in it...there really isn't that much left to do besides, you know, start over again. And, let's be honest, I need something to do this weekend.

I was in a hotel a couple weeks ago watching House or Law & Order or Monk or SOMETHING on USA, and they kept showing commercials for Inside Man. Now, this isn't the type of movie I would go out of my way to see. I mean, I liked Denzel Washington enough in Glory and Much Ado About Nothing, though Virtuosity is almost certainly my favorite of his movies. He doesn't do a lot of fighting monsters from outer space though, so I don't see his movies. Same with Spike Lee, I saw Do The Right Thing as part of a film class in college, and I liked it enough, but he doesn't make a lot of movies about monsters attacking cities, so I don't watch his movies. In fact, if it weren't for one person, I would never have put Inside Man on my Netflix queue...Clive Owen. I think he is one of the most intersting actors out there right now, and I just can't see enough movies with him in them. If you tell me that Clive Owen is in a movie, the odds of me seeing that movie increase by at least 46%. As an added bonus, it also had Serenity's Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Inside Man is a heist movie. It's a movie about a bank robbery, and it gets right down to it. Our bank robbers are in the bank and have it locked down in the first chapter of the DVD. Time to bring in the police. Since the normal hostage negotiator is on vay-kay, it's up to Denzel to go and talk the robbers down. Meanwhile, the bank owner has something, it's unknown what, in a safe deposit box that he wants to see stay there, so he hires a woman (played by Jodie Foster) to make sure it stays hidden.

This is one of those clever heist movies though, so you never really know what it is that they're after or how they plan to get away with it. Only that, in the character's words:

My name is Dalton Russell. Pay strict attention to what I say because I choose my words carefully and I never repeat myself. I've told you my name: that's the Who. The Where could most readily be described as a prison cell. But there's a vast difference between being stuck in a tiny cell and being in prison. The What is easy: recently I planned and set in motion events to execute the perfect bank robbery. That's also the When. As for the Why: beyond the obvious financial motivation, it's exceedingly simple... because I can. Which leaves us only with the How; and therein, as the Bard would tell us, lies the rub.

And, at the end, like when Verbal starts walking without the limp, it all sorts of hits you. He really did tell you everything in that opening paragraph. Like I said, this is a clever movie. Is it as clever as the previously mentioned Usual Suspects? No. Of course not.  Is it an interesting movie though? Well, hell yes. Despite being fairly straight forward, you're constatly wondering, how is this going to work? What ARE they trying to do? And they're interesting enough questions to really keep you riveted.The only thing I would have liked to have known more about is the planning. How it came together. Where did the idea for the hiest come from? In that regard, the ending is a little unfullfilling, but without giving anything away, it works. Now, I can get back to the things that really playing Fable some more...

Fable 2 is destroying my will to live

Okay, not really. It is, however, consuming way too much of my free time. Consider this, it came out on October 21st. I bought it on October 21st. With the exception of days that I've been out of town, I've played it everyday. In fact, as of last night, I've played through the main game 3 times.

What's sad is that I don't think it's as good as the first game. And I don't think it's as good as some of the others that I've played on the 360. Yet, there is still something compelling about it. I like the impact that my in-game decisions have on my character. I like that everyone in a couple of the towns is afraid of me after 2 massacres. I love that they all hate me after I bought all their houses and raised their rent. I love that I can hire whores and sleep with them in beds that belong to strangers. As you can tell, I'm playing the game as a horrible person. I'm going to save the world...mostly from myself it would seem.

The game has three choices you can make at the end, and I've made two of them. I wanted to choose the very selfless, save everyone who died ending, but it wouldn't bring my dog back. And, dammit, I can't hunt for treasure without my dog. So, all I am this time is a slumlord and slayer of innocents. I own every building in the kingdom!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

That was surprisingly amazing

As a friend of mine said, this is going to be either the worst 90 minutes of your life, or the best. Zombie Strippers is the kind of movie that could go either way. It's easy to look at it and think it's going to be absolutely awful. I mean, this is a movie that could have easily been WORSE than the "remake" of Day of the Dead. Instead, you get a movie that is more like Flight of the Living Dead...much better than it has any real right to be.

The whole thing starts with really bad actors learning that some equally bad acting scientist have created zombies in an attempt to create a super soldier. We all know how that goes. Soldier gets bit, doesn't want to get killed though, so he runs off. As a result, he finds himself in an illegal strip club (the movie is set in Bush-Cheney fueled future). It's here that he attacks one of the strippers.

Now, most would see this as a bad thing. The proprietors, however, do the math and see that the zombie is generating more money. Granted, she eats some of the patrons, but who's going to worry about that. Well, the other strippers decide to infect themselves for a piece of the profits.

Of course, in movies like this, no good thing can last. Eventually it turns to an all out war inside the club as zombie strippers battle zombie strippers for...attention I guess.

It's very silly and cheesy. I couldn't imagine watching it without a beer or two to start the night off with. I'll tell you what though, in the right...frame of's an incredibly entertaining movie. Robert Englund is...well...less annoying than I usually find him. Jenna Jameson is...well, Jenna Jameson. The soundtrack is surprisingly good too. The story and the acting are...not so good, but is that really why you're watching? There's tits, there's blood and guts, there's billiard balls flying out of hoo-has...what more could you ask for from a low budget zombie movie?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Quick Reviews of Bad Movies: One more time

If you're anything like me, you will, at some point, be tempted to watch SciFi's Yeti. Go ahead and pass on that.

It was like watching Alive, but not nearly as funny.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monster Movie Poster Monday

You woke up today, wondering aloud, just what DID WMAP find?

There is only one force in the universe that could be so powerful...

Friday, November 07, 2008

I don't really consider this a political issue, I consider it to be a moral issue.

Ok. I've had this DVD to two years and never watched it. Not once. Hell of a movie man. It got me thinking, and I already think about the environment and my impact on it a lot.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Five hundred and thirty-seven. That was the number of votes that decided the 2000 election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. 537.

Many people refuse to vote because they believe that one vote won't make a difference. In 1977 the mayoral race in Ann Arbor, MI was decided by a single vote. A single vote. Ann Arbor is home of the University of Michigan. It's not a small town.

This is the third presidential election I've been able to vote in. I've voted in every primary/special/mayoral/congressional/gubernatorial/presidential race that I've been eligible to vote in. I've voted in 3 elections just this year.

Don't believe that your vote won't change anything? Don't tell me it doesn't matter. There are very few things that are more important than this. There are very few times when you get to have a say in how this country operates and have someone actually listen.

You have a choice to make.Will you sit there all day willing to play the cards that everyone else deals you, or will you go out and make yourself heard? Will you go out and vote because you're sick of jobs being shipped overseas? Will you go out and vote because you're sick of choosing cars that don't even meet China's fuel efficiency standards? Will you go out and vote because you're sick of our health care and educational systems ranking behind third world countries? Will you go out and vote because you feel that we all should have the same rights regardless of who we fall in love with? Will you vote for science? Will you vote for math? Will you go out and vote because you want to see America stop depending on nonrenewable energy sources? Will you vote your conscience? Will you vote your heart?

Look, I don't care what it takes for you to go. Stop on your way home from buying Cheetos at 7-11. Go before work. Go at lunch. Get a ride from a neighbor. Offer to drive a neighbor. Just go vote. Find a reason. Just go vote. Wait in line if you have to. Make yourself heard.