Saturday, April 30, 2011

my thoughts on.... 'Who's The Caboose?'

The Netflix OnDemand streaming feature has proven itself to be the next evolution in movie watching. As if Netflix wasn't the greatest invention ever, this just improved upon it that much more. Thanks to OnDemand, I've found a lot of films that I'd have never seen before otherwise. 'Who's The Caboose?' is one of those movies. It's a little indie movie that, I guess, just made its way to DVD recently and Netflix made it an instant streaming movie right away. I found it because of my enjoyment of 'The Sarah Silverman Program'. (Again, thank you Netflix for finding other things for me to check out based on my likes and dislikes.) Now, this isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread or anything, but it's a good way to spend an hour and a half of your evening. It's funny where it needs to be, it's serious where it needs to be and it's clever in all the right places. The cast is a who's who of 90's comedy.... complete with Andy Dick, yes, Andy Dick. Most of the comedians are in the beginning of their careers or at least the earlier stages. Even back then, Sarah Silverman stood out as a comediane on the rise. She shines in every scene and is her usual, odd little self.

The premise of this is based on a documentary crew out to film homeless people in New York suffering from a rare and fatal disease that seems to only effect the homeless. After finding the topic to depressing they duck into a comedy club and find an up and coming comedian instead. Who they find is Sarah Silverman, about to head out to California to try her luck at landing a sitcom pilot. They follow her out along with her boyfriend and what happens next is their lives trying to make it in Hollywood. It's a pretty harsh look at the industry and the different way it treats people. Will she get her wish? Or will she end up back in New York as a struggling comedian? You'll have to watch to find out.... or read more reviews that are willing to give up the ending.

This movie really pulls no punches when it comes to the Hollywood system. I found it to be pretty smartly written and although it's not going to win any awards, it's still a damn good little flick. It's not restricted by it's budget, the film makers use it wisely with its mockumentary style. It was a little distracting in the beginning, but by the end it seemed really natural. It even had a satisfying ending, which a lot of movies can't seem to accomplish these days. It felt like it had a solid first, second and third act. This might not be a movie that I ever see again, but I would be more than happy to recommend it to friends as a worthwhile risk to take. (just make sure you have some interest in Sarah Silverman, if not.... you're going to dislike this one.)

'Who's The Caboose?' is a 'The Little Engine That Could' of indie/pilot season/Sarah Silverman movies. It'll sneak up on you, like a train, and make you feel a little warm and fuzzy inside by the end. I'm not sure that sentence just made sense, but that doesn't matter.... this is a 3 out of 5 star mocumentary with a small possablity of gaining some cult status. I could see that happening for those die hard fans of 90's comedians. David Cross, Kathy Griffin, Andy Dick, Sarah Silverman, H. Jon Benjamin, etc.... They're all here. (Sarah's little sister is even in this one, just like on her sitcom.) If I could change one thing about this movie? I think it's fine the way it is. Simple, silly and smart.

If you like this, check out: 'The Sarah Silverman Program' (TV), 'Freakshow' (animated TV) and anything from the early 90's.

my thoughts on.... 'The Baby's Room aka La habitación del niño'

Here's another installment in my recent Spanish horror film-athon. This particular one was another part of the 'Six Films To Keep You Awake' series. I actually had started this one previously, but turned it off because I wasn't in a good place at the time to watch it. The first, like, 45 minutes are pretty intense.... the rest of it, not so much. I don't know what happened with this that they made the decision to go down the tired and boring route, but they did. This movie had a lot of potential and it's not that the rest of it wasn't original, it just didn't feel like anything new at all. This movie felt like a bad re-run of 'The Twilight Zone', but in Spanish. If it was in black and white, I honestly would have thought it was something from another time. I kept hoping that it would get better and a movie that's just shortly over an hour long, it didn't give it much time to be screwed up. Somehow, the director managed it. Now I just feel like I'm harping on it and to be fair, it had its good points. But before I get to that:

Our story opens on some children playing by an old building. It appears that they're playing hide and seek and one of the kids ends up inside the building. Something terrible happens and when he comes out, he's not the same. Fast forward to the present day and a young family is moving into the aforementioned house. They have a little baby and are still in the early stages of parenthood. The sister of baby's father drops off some gently used baby items, which includes a monitor. During the night, the father hears some breathing besides the baby and after going into the room he becomes paranoid that someone else has been in their home. His solution is to head down to the local baby store and pick up a video monitor. What happens over the next several nights freaked me the 'F' out. A man with glowing eyes keeps appearing on the monitor. The police can't figure out what's going on and so the couple install a security system. Nothing seems to keep the man out of the house and the father slowly begins to descend into maddness. His wife leaves with the baby and the father learns the terrible secret behind the man in the house and what's been happening. The rest is, well.... the rest.

So what's good about this movie? The ambiance, the ghostly appearance of the man in the baby's room and the early part of the story itself. It's very well done and accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. It creates a sense of fear and dread and it honestly scared me. The idea of your baby being watched at night by a creepy man with glowing eyes is frightening. And add to the fact that no one can figure out how he's getting in the home and how no one is seeing him come or go is even scarier yet. That is the good aspects. What happens in the second and third act of the movie involves time and space, alternate realities and some bullcrap that just doesn't belong in a ghost story. I can't recommend that you watch this movie, there is so many other ghost stories out there that are more effective and better made. Ah well....

This movie, in my book, built up a really strong case in the beginning for a good movie, that I ended up giving it 3 out of 5 stars. Maybe if you just turn it off after the first part of the second act? That way you get all of the good stuff and none of the bad. That's kind of the way it is with a lot of movies being made out there today. It's like the folks in the film industry come up with an idea and then build a movie around it, but leave the script writing to some third grader in order to save costs. So what starts off really strong with that initial idea that got the movie greenlighted in the first place, ends up being ruined by whoever gets their hands on it after the fact. At some point, the audience will rise up and retake control of the industry. It's already started with the rise of cheap, good quality cameras and the internet. So either the movie making machine in Hollywood will listen to the demands of the public or the public will continue to grow it's own Hollywood system and everything will go the way that music is already headed. Either way, the audience will eventually be the winners and I'll have a lot tougher time deciding which movies are the good ones, as they'll all be high quality. That's all I have to say about that.

If you like this, check out: '[REC]', 'To Let aka Para entrar a vivir' and '[REC]2'

(This is the trailer for the '6 Films To Keep You Awake' series, of which.... 'The Baby's Room aka La habitación del niño' is a part of.)

a possible project.... possibly.

I've been thinking about this idea for a long time. I've mentioned it previously in other posts and in some ways, it's always existed.... but in reality, it's just something that I add and remove from but never really have set in stone. What I'm referring to is my imaginary list of the 'Top 50 Films Of All Time'. This list lies somewhere between my 'Top 100 Films Of All Time', 'Top 10 Films Of All Time' and my 'Worst Movies Of All Time'. It's something that is alive and well. It lives and breathes inside my brain, but has never manifested itself for anyone else to see other than myself. I am kind of wondering if it even exists at all or if it should just remain a file hidden in the back of my brain. What do you think? Do you have a similar list? Who's made it onto your collection of films? What are the qualifications of this honor? I wonder these things every time I bring this concept up.

First of all, these would all be films and not movies. Second, they don't have to be something that has re-watchablitiy built into them.... they just have to have made an impression, changed you in some way or proved to be living art on the screen. I'm debating if re-watchability should be included as part of the cirteria, because there are movies that I can watch over and over again.... but I'm not 100% sure that they're films. Does that make them any less worthy of being on this list? I think that this is something that needs to be decided before I start this journey. Or perhaps they're just one in the same thing? I don't know. Maybe this is all just a futile attempt at stroking my own ego or to increase my feeling of film geekiness. Does anyone really care other than me? That's where you all come into play.

What are your thoughts? Would you have any interest in me putting this together? If so, I would love to take the time to do it. It's something I've been meaning to do for a long time. It's just something that has overwhelmed me a bit. I'm a really indecisive guy and I can't imagine all the hemming and hawing that will ensue if I start down this path. I'm sure it's gonna be epic. In the end, I think it's going to produce something that even I'll find surprising. I just don't know if it's anything of any real merit or if I should just stick to posting my thoughts about stuff I see and leave the past in the past. Ya dig?

If you'd like to weigh in on this or would like to submit your own lists to be added to this project (if it happens), post a comment here with your thoughts and if I move forward.... I'll ask you to submit your own lists for everyone else to view. You'll be able to send them to a personal email address to be compiled for the future post. I hope that I'll have the chance to take on this project, I think it'll be fun. It might also shed a bit of light on why I rate things the way I do. Give you some unrequested history lessons on Joel's cinematic backstory. Anyway.... enough of this babbling and carrying on, let's get back to the movie reviews, right? Thanks in advance for sticking it out with me all this time and here's to hoping for a long time together in the future.

(this movie is NOT in my 'Top 50 Films Of All Time' list....)

UPDATE: I went ahead and decided to move forward on this. First issue is trying to decide how to post the 50 films. I think that I would post them in 5 or 10 film sections. That way I could include a DVD cover or still from the film and perhaps the trailer? Second and bigger problem, I started to compile the list.... so far, I have 168 films. That will take a bit of work to shrink it down to only 50. Also, I was wondering if I should include animated films and horror films? Should I break down each list by genre? Or is this supposed to be one all encompasing list of any and all genre's? Thanks for the feedback so far.... it is a work in progress and I'm thinking it'll be interesting once I'm done.

I WON AN AWARD....! i'm not sure i deserve it....

I just found out earlier in the week that I was given an award for my blog. I knew people were reading it on occasion and I get feedback here and there about the posts I put up, but I wouldn't think of it deserving any high praise. Leave it to my co-blogger DocStout, to take the time and effort to award me with The Liebster Award!

He was given the same honor and was asked to pass it along to a few other fellow bloggers that he felt deserved it. Thank you to DocStout for bestowing this on me, it validates all the time and energy put into this little film site. If you'd like to read about his award and the blurb about this site, you can check it out here:
I've also recommended that you read his blog, it's a great site and he's a good guy with a lot of stuff to say. If you're a geek and love to let your geek flag fly, he's a great guy to lead the charge and I'm proud to say that I'm a memeber of that community too. Thanks again and look for more posts coming soon!

my thoughts on.... 'Machete' (2010)

It's been awhile since I posted a review, but things have been hectic with school and I've been sick.... possibly more on that in another post. That being said, I continue my 'Grindhouse' film festival with the Robert Rodriguez opus 'Machete'. I think this is the first starring vehicle for Danny Trejo and after watching 'Machete', I can see why he doesn't generally carry a film all by himself. It's not that he's bad in it or un-charasmatic, it's just that he's more of a character actor than a leading man. (sorry Danny.... don't hurt me.) [Side note: If you want to see one of my favorite roles for Danny Trejo, check out his portrayal of the young Michael Myers caretaker in Rob Zombie's 'Halloween'. He is spot on perfect in that role.] He does, however, sell the character of a former federale that has been forced into a situation he doesn't want to be in. He may not be the tallest guy in the world, but what he lacks in size.... he makes up for in attitude. He is such a menacing presance when he wants to be. He is a guy you wouldn't want to meet in a dark ally, especially if he's packing some sort of a weapon. What was a bit of a shame was that the rest of the cast just wasn't as strong as Danny was. Especially Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal and Lindsay Lohan, they were just so dull and uninspired. I don't understand their appeal and no matter how much I tried, they just kept drawing focus away from the movie and not in a good way. On the flip side of that, Don Johnson, Jeff Fahey and Cheech Marin stole the show. I only wish that Cheech couldn've done more double shotgun wielding action throughout the flick, he was pretty badass.

The plot of this shakes out pretty much like the 'faux' trailer from the original 'Grindhouse' film. Robert Rodriguez actually used the original footage to tie it all togther and then, of course, added a whole lot of new stuff. I'd say that he got about 90% of the original actors from the trailer to make the final film. Anyway, Danny plays a man nicknamed 'Machete'. He's a former federale from Mexico who's life was destroyed by a very overweight and akward Steven Seagal. Fast-forward a few years and we find that America is at war with the illegals pouring over the border from Mexico. We establish several characters that will tie in directly with Machete's primary plot. We have Jessica Alba's Mexican girl gone illegal alien hunter. Michelle Rodriguez's taco stand vendor/illegal alien warrior. Don Johnson's over the top border patrol agent gone bad. And of course, Danny's relative and priest Cheech Marin. Danny is hired by Jeff Fahey to kill Robert DeNiro's politician character, but is double crossed. He becomes a man hunted, but he vows to get back at those who wronged him. The rest of the film is an all out, over the top action flick for those who love their films big and silly.

The thing that I love and hate about Robert Rodriguez movies are the fact that he pumps them out so quickly and with such reckless abandon. He does it in such a way that he doesn't have time to second guess if his ideas are original and fun or over the top and stupid. That is left up to the viewer to decide in the end. I know that he's capable of amazing things, we've all seen the 'El Mariaci' trilogy or 'Sin City' right? He has skills. He just gets so wrapped up in trying to make every single idea that he has into a movie that he loses sight of quality vs. quantity. I think he needs to learn that sometimes less is more. Take his movie 'Sharkboy and Lava Girl in 3D', this was a movie that was literally written because of a dream that his kid had. He made an entire movie based on the imagination of a child, no filter. I think this is charming and sweet and could have been something pretty keen, but instead.... he just spit it out at top speed and ended up with a big turd of a movie. A really big turd.

All in all, I think 'Machete' suffered a bit of Rodriguez-itis. It was put out as an after thought to a one off faux trailer that people loved and he felt obligated to make the full feature. With a bit more time, I think he could have tweaked this to be legendary. I still feel it deserves 4 out of 5 stars for it's ridiculous campiness and bloody action. I think he also deserves a lot of credit for calling in a bunch of favors to get a pretty big cast of stars. I also want to thank him for giving a character actor the chance to shine in a leading role and he couldn't have picked a nicer guy to give that chance. Who doesn't love Danny Trejo? So if you're bored and want to check out on real life for an hour and a half, this is THE film to watch. If you're looking for a film with minimal death's caused by lowrider's and fat Steven Seagal portrayal's of Mexican bad guys, than you should probably stay away from 'Machete'. Now let's see if Robert sticks with his promise at the end of this to make 'Machete Kills' and 'Machete Kills Again'. If I know him like I think I know him, he's already dreaming up the storylines and will have them both out before the end of 2013.

If you like this, check out: 'Planet Terror', 'Death Proof' and 'Hobo With A Shotgun'

Sunday, April 10, 2011

my thoughts on.... 'To Let aka Para entrar a vivir'

For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you'll know that I've been on again, off again with Spanish horror films. Primarily those of Jaume Balagueró. 'To Let aka Para entrar a vivir' is a shorter than average length film from Jaume and is a part of the '6 Films To Keep You Awaker' series. Just because it isn't a full feature length film, doesn't make it any less worthwhile than any of his other films. I came into this with an open mind and was very pleasantly surprised when it was over. Granted, it's not going to be on anyone's top 10 list of all time great horror films, but it has a whole hell of a lot going for it. The story itself is not 100% original, the direction is good, but not fantastic.... what really sells this film is the cinematography of Pablo Rosso. He films his scenes like he was painting on a canvas. It was a beautiful thing to watch each individual frame. I can honestly say that I've never had any film capture the feeling I get watching a rainstorm, but he did it. The sequences that are filmed outside are amazingly well done. You feel like you could get wet if you got too close to the screen. I could've just watched the scenes involving the rain and been perfectly happy, but when you throw in all of the insanity of the storyline behind the rain.... you've got a film worth watching. It's fairly simple, it ends without question of what happened and you become attached to the characters. All good earmarks.

Our story begins with a young couple who are expecting their first child, but want to find a new place to live before the baby is born. They receive an ad in the paper for an apartment that sounds too good to be true. Despite some hesitations, they drive out in the middle of a rainstorm to check it out. As they get closer and closer to the apartment complex, the cityscape begins to become more and more rough. They are obviously headed into the wrong side of town. Even with all of the factors pointing them away from the apartment, they ignore the signs and enter the building. The landlady seems kind enough and the apartment is not too shabby, but they eventually make up their mind to walk away.... the landlady has other ideas. She beats the man in the head and the woman begins to try and make her escape. It's revealed to us at this time that she's got two other apartments filled with other people that were not allowed to leave. From this point on, it's a fight for their lives to try and escape this potential prison. Can they survive?

After several earlier failed attempts at earlier films, Jaume Balagueró seemed to finally hit his stride. After making this, he went on to make '[REC]' and [REC]2', both of which are amazing horror films. Perhaps 'To Let' was a small enough production that it gave him the freedom he needed to find his voice. For example, he comtinues his use of the 'shaky cam' technique that other people have used since.... like Rob Zombie. What the 'shaky cam' technique involves is the camera to be shaken during scenes of extremely intense situations. For example, if our heroes are trying to break into a room to save someone, you'll find that the camera begins to shake furiously. It sounds jarring, and it is, but it is a spot on way to get a physical reaction out of somthing that may not have otherwise caused any reaction at all. Jaume Balagueró uses it quite well here and really well in both '[REC]' films. Rob Zombie used it primarily in his re-imaging of 'Halloween' during the final stand off between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers.

As I stated at the beginning of this review, this film is not groundbreaking. The story comes off feeling like something we've all seen before at one point or another in our lives. That's my only complaint. I think that's why I ended up only giving it a 3 out of 5 star rating. However, I don't know what else they could have done to make it anymore original. I've heard some people complain that this film was too short.... I tend to disagree. If it would have been too much longer, it would have lost its simplistic charms. Not too mantion that I'm not entirely sure that they could have carried out an entire feature with just this premise. If you're still interested in seeing it after all of that, pop it in your Netfilx OnDemand queue and get back to me when you're done. I'll wait.

Other great Spanish horror: '[REC], '[REC]2' and this.

(This is the trailer for the '6 Films To Keep You Awake' series, of which.... 'To Let aka Para entrar a vivir' is a part of.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

my thoughts on.... 'Tangled'

It's not very often that I review kids movies on this blog, but I'm always trying to keep things from just being about horror. Nobody wants to be stagnant and I do watch other things besides horror, it just happens to be my favorite genre. However, yesterday besides seeing 'Hobo With A Shotgun' I aslo saw the Disney movie 'Tangled. I think all of us grew up watching Disney. Whether it was a Mickey Mouse cartoon or a full length feature film, he's left a mark on all of our collective minds. They're part of the fabric of our lives. There was a long stretch of time where Disney was cranking out less than stellar material, but then Pixar came along and stepped up the game. Soon they became a part of Disney and not only did the quality of Disney increase because of Pixar, but they also stepped up their own output of films. Since that time, there have been several examples of the higher quality product that they've decided to put out. 'Tangled', I'm proud to say, has carried on the tradition of old school Disney.... but with the new twist of being computer animated. It's the first time that they've produced a film that takes me back to my childhood without being hand drawn by animators. It was such a refreshing change of pace. It just proved that it can be done. This film had the life lessons, the GIANT musical numbers, the saddness, the joy and of course.... the princess. This is a film that the entire family can enjoy without guilt or regret. Sure it's sappy and sweet, but it's also funny and very smart. Sure it has the typical characters and themes, but it still feels as fresh as 'Beauty and the Beast' did when it first came out. This is a Disney classic already.

These days, it's an expectation that you have several big name stars in your cartoons in order to draw in a larger crowd and to give the film some respect. 'Tangled' has its stars, but they aren't big enough to over power the film itself. Mandy Moore plays Rapunzel and does a wonderful job of capturing her innocence and experience. Zachary Levi plays Flynn, the come-lately hero who has a good heart deep down somewhere. Ron Perlman, Brad Garrett and others round out the cast. There isn't one missed step with the people playing these roles. I never doubted who they were for one second, nor was I distracted by who they were behind the animation. This film also seemed to not be afraid of the GIANT musical numbers complete with melodrama and cheesy goodness. They're un-apologetic about it, as well they should be. This wouldn't have been film that it was without them. This film has not one, but two animal companions that offer comic relief throughout the film. I don't know when it became an expectation to have the comic animal sidekicks, but you can't have a kids movie these days without them. I didn't hate them in this film. Plain and simple. Another cliche that is in this film is the unhappy, happy ending. Some pretty horrific things happen here, but it all works out in the end and in a way it really reminded me of 'The Little Mermaid'. If I had one complaint about this film, it would be the fact that Rapunzel's hair isn't consistant.... but with that much hair, it's kind of hard to keep track of it for the whole film. Overall, that's a pretty minor complaint.

I think we're all pretty familiar with the story of Rapunzel, but for those who aren't.... here's the 'Tangled' version.

The king and queen of a little kingdom are expecting a child. The only problem is that the queen is very ill and the king sends out his best people to find a flower that has the power to cure her. The flower, however, is being guarded by a wicked woman who keeps it to herself to keep herself young and beautiful. The king's men end up finding it by accident and take it back to the king. He gives it to his bride and she is instantly healed. The baby, Rapunzel, is born healthy and happy and with beautiful blond hair that posseses the same power as the flower did. The evil woman tries to take a lock of Rapunzel's hair, but finds out that once it's been cut it no longer has its power anymore. She also discovers that once it's been cut, it will never grow back on Rapunzel's head. So she takes the baby and hides her away in a tower that is a secret to the world. Every year after that, the king and queen send up lighted lanterns with the hope that Rapunzel will find her way back home to them. Flash forward 17 years later, Rapunzel is about to turn 18 and all she wants is to go to the kingdom to see the lanterns. The evil woman will not let her leave. Meanwhile, Flynn steals the crown from the king and queen and ends up being chased into the tower where Rapunzel is. They strike up an uneasy bargin where if he takes her to see the laterns, she'll give the crown back to him. So begins out little adventure.....

If you like your animated films with a touch of the old school charm, then this is the one film you should see this year.... for sure. Pixar films are wonderful and have a charm all their own, but this is pure Disney through and through. I cannot say enough good things about 'Tangled' and I am proud to say that it's already apart of our DVD library. It also has jumped up my list of my all time favorite Disney films, only outshined by 'Aladdin'. I can only hope that this marks a change back to the older ways of making films for Disney. I'm not expecting them to make everything on this scale, but I hope that they at least put one out like this every once in a while. I don't think that's asking too much, is it? This was a no-brainer at 4 out of 5 stars. I am really tempted to push it to the full 5 out of 5 stars, but I think it may take a little more time to possibly earn that rating. This film is highly recommended to you or you and your family. It has something for everyone and will make you feel like a kid again, even if you're middle aged like me. Let's just hope that the fine folks over at Disney animation studios don't go and ruin this picture perfect film by whoring it out for sequels. I know that it's probably going to happen regardless of what I think, but it would be nice for just once to not soil something so pure in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. I don't think I'm alone on this one.... I really don't. I don't think I could handle 'Tangled 3: Rapunzel's European Vaction'.

If you like this, check out the other Disney classics: 'Aladdin', 'The Little Mermaid' and 'Beauty and the Beast'

my thoughts on.... 'Hobo With A Shotgun'

4 years and 3 days ago, a film was released that proved to be one of the best movie going experiences that I've ever had. The film was 'Grindhouse'. It was a fun ride that lasted several hours and the entire audience was involved, not something that is seen too often these days. One of the fun little side effects of that film was the 'faux' trailers that were at the beginning and middle of the films. Robert Rodriguez's trailer for 'Machete' has already been made into a full length movie and released to some pretty good reviews. One of the other trailers was a fan-made one that only played in certain cities.... it was called 'Hobo With A Shotgun'.

It was a sweet little piece of heaven written and directed by a gentleman named, Jason Eisener. Due to the reception of this 2 minute opus, Mr. Eisener was given the greenlight to make a full length version. I had the pleasure of seeing it last night and I have to say, I loved it! I can't think of the last time I saw a Rutger Hauer movie that I enjoyed. I also wasn't sure that this concept could carry a full one and a half hours and still be worthwhile.... I was wrong.

Today it seems like studios are cranking out remakes and reboots and very little original material. And when it is original, it's not always 'original' if you know what I mean? That's what made 'Hobo With A Shotgun' so damn fun! Not only was it original, but it was truly an original concept and one that was so incredibly simple that it was genius. It just proves the point that there are new ideas still out there in Hollywood and you don't have to create the next 'Star Wars' saga to make a good piece of cinema. What I mean is that this is a film, literally, about a hobo with a shotgun. No more, no less. You don't have to find a deeper meaning, although I think there is one here.... you can just sit back, eat some popcorn, root for the vigilante and check your brain at the door. You get as much or as little out of this film as you want. It's not begging for your approval, it just is what it is. It's chock full of blood, guts, gore, violence, comedy, one-liners, 70's style cheese, pretty ladies, nasty villans, gritty cinematography, big guns and a hero for the new age. I may be heaping way too much praise on something so basic, but I had so much fun watching this from the get-go that I can't help but want to pass the joy along to anyone else who'll listen. This film is an example of why I love film and why I love to write about film.

The plot? Read on....

An unamed hobo wanders into town on a railroad car. What he finds is a town in ruins. The law is currupt, criminals are everywhere, money is scarce, people are willing to do anything for a dollar and there is little to no hope of a future. The few people that still have a good heart are forced to do terrible things or are so afraid of the bad guys that they have to hide. Despite all of this depression and gloom, our hero only wants to get enough money to buy a lawnmower and make a decent living cutting peoples grass. After he wittnesses one too many violent crimes, he decides that he's had enough and he has to step in. So while being held up at a pawn shop, he takes down a shotgun off the wall (that he eventually pays for) and proceeds to blow away the three criminals that are robbing the place. From this point forward, he's out to clean up the town one shell at a time. Along the bloody path towards redemption, he meets a good hearted prostitute and she befriends him. Meanwhile, the head villan turns the entire town against him by having them all go out to kill the hobo.... not just the one hobo, but all the hobo's, just in case. Things go from bad to worse as two hired killers get involved and things turn into a bloody battle for justice. What happens in the end? You'll have to find out for yourself! Watch, 'Hobo With A Shotgun'.... Rated R.

If you decided to delve into this film, think 'Mad Max' meets 'Death Wish'. Rutger Hauer turns up the intensity factor in this film.... all the way to 11. As a matter of fact, this entire film is at an 11, the whole time. It starts out with a 5 minute intro that lulls you into a comfortable place, but then all hell breaks loose and it doesn't let up for another hour and a half. I felt exhausted by the time it ended, but in a 'cigarette after sex' kind of way. Something that you may be thinking by the simple plot is that this can't have a good script, you would be wrong. I don't know how Jason was able to pull something so smart out of something so basic, but he does. I also figured that the acting would be sub-par since this is a kind of throwback to a simple time, I was wrong there too. Everyone in this film turns in a quality performance. It's as good as anything that you'll see in a "serious" film. This might just mark the return of Rutger Hauer and the rise of Molly Dunsworth. I can only hope that the critical reviews of this film are as glowing as mine, however I kind of doubt that everyone will see this the way I did. Hell, maybe you won't even agree with me about this. I just hope that if you do watch this little gem, please have an open mind and a clear head.... that's all I ask. Also, make sure you have a strong stomach, this has some VERY graphic content. Lots of blood and things being broken or ripped off of bodies. That's about all I have to say, I guess. Let me just sum this review up by saying that I give this a rare 5 out of 5 star rating. It deserves nothing less than that and I cannot wait to see what Jason Eisener has coming out next. That and I want to see where this takes Rutger Hauer. Even if neither of them do anything else for the rest of their lives after 'Hobo With A Shotgun', this film will stand as a testament to all that is right with filmaking and all that is wrong with the world.

Since there are no other films that I want to relate to this, I'll leave you with the classic speech from this film:
Hobo: [to a group of newborn babies] "I used to be like you. A long time ago. All brand new and perfect. No mistakes, no regrets. People look at you and think of how wonderful your future will be. They want you to be something special, like a doctor, or a lawyer. I hate to tell you this, but if you grow up here, you're more likely to wind up selling your bodies on the streets, or shooting dope from dirty needles in a bus stop. And if you're successful, you'll make money selling junk to crackheads. And don't think twice about killing someone's wife, because you won't even know it's wrong in the first place. Maybe... you'll end up like me. A hobo with a shotgun."

Side note: This film has officially been added to my list as one of my top 50 films of all time. Nuff' said.

my thoughts on.... 'In My Skin aka Dans Ma Peau'

This film is in French, despite the trailer included below. FYI.

'In My Skin aka Dans Ma Peau' is a disturbing trip through one woman's mental collapse and obsession with herself. This film is written, directed and starred in by Marina de Van. I had never heard of her before this, but I know want to pursue her other films. She has a unique quality to her that is both untouchable and very approachable. I can't quite put my finger on it, but she commnands your attention when she's on the screen. Not too mention that she is a very good director, actress and writer. My only complaint about this film was that the ending was a bit ambiguous and lacked closure. If she could have tightened it up a bit, I would be saying that this would be a part of my library some day.... as it stands now, only time will tell. As mentioned above, this is a French film. (You are all aware of my feelings on the French cinema, if you've read my blog before.) The reason this film even showed up on my radar was because of the outstanding reviews I've been reading for a while now. It was listed on several lists including the most disturbing films of recent and the best "horror" films of recent. I think it qualifies on both lists, but not in a traditional sense. What Marina has created here is something beyond horror and beyond a thriller or drama. It's mostly what I would call, a psychological horror. What's disturbing and horrifying about this is not so much what's happening due to outside factors, but what's inside. Her mind is the villan and she is a willing victim. I think that's why it was such a refreshing chance of pace from the usual fare that's out there right now. Thank god for people like Marina who are willing to take risks on screen.

The story here involves a woman who seems to have her life together. She has a good job and is looking at a promotion, she has a good boyfriend and they're relationship is growing and she knows who she is. While at a party with a friend, she wanders off outside and stumbles onto some rubble in the yard. She is injured, but doesn't know to what extent until she realizes she's bleeding all over the house. She quickly heads off to a restroom and finds out she's suffered a rather serious gash to her calf muscles. She hides it and goes to the ER after the party. The doctor finds it odd that she wouldn't have noticed it sooner and that it only hurt several hours after the fact. He fixes her up and she's on her way. Over the next several days something strange starts to happen.... she begins to fixate on the wound. This fascination grows and grows until soon she's cutting herself in other places and re-opening the original wound. Things get worse and soon she's suckling her own blood and eventually eating her own flesh. Each time she does these things to herself, she is almost in a stupor. It's like she's sleeping and doesn't realize what she's done until afterwards. Everything in her life begins to crumble. Until a horrific climax and the semi-unsatisfying ending.

I feel like I've already said about as much as I can about this film. I recommend you check out the trailer below, but it's in English. They avoided any speaking parts from the film and just overdubbed the background voice in English. The film is available to rent from Netflix, but I'm not sure how available it is elsewhere. If you like to take risks with your film going experiences, then I would recommend this film without hesitation. If you like your films safe, easy to comprehend and without those 'icky' moments.... this is NOT the film for you. This is what Andrew Zimmern would call, "The deep end of the pool." I look forward to whatever Marina de Van has to share with us in the future. I think she has the potential to push the barriers of our fears and to delve in the mind in a unique way.

A 4 out of 5 star attempt from our friend across the pond. A frightening journey to take, but one that's worth the effort. I can only wonder if there is anyone out there in the world who's ever ended up in the position she ended up in within the film. What a dark place to live. Afraid of being alone with yourself, unsure of what you're capable of and unsure how far things will go before you either injure yourself beyond repair or injure someone else. My only suggestion to you before watching this is to make sure you're not eating anything that falls into the 'rare' category. Stick with things that are well-done.

If you like this, watch other psychological based horror: 'Spiral', 'The Silence of the Lambs' and 'High Tension aka Haute Tension'

Friday, April 8, 2011

DocStout's brief thoughts on.... 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' (2010)

Hello, everyone. Doc here, doing a fill-in guest post for Joel here on “A Momentary Lapse.” I'm taking a break from writing about nerdy, geeky things at my own blog, “What's Next – The Unemployed Geek” to write about a nerdy, geeky movie here.

I wanted to see this movie nearly as soon as I heard about it, even though I was initially unfamiliar with the graphic novel it is based on. Entertainment based on comics and graphic novels has kind of a checkered past. A filmmaker has to balance a lot of elements, as comic fans basically want to see their beloved properties replicated exactly on the screen, the average person watching a movie wants to see something not too far out of their comfort zone, and a filmmaker wants to successfully translate something from one medium to another while putting their own creativity into the project. This delicate juggling act has been attempted many times before, with varying degrees of success.

Successful Adaptation.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World falls cleanly on the side of “pleasing fans of the comic”, which, to declare my own personal bias, is where I like these things to land. The story follows the life of the geeky guy who never really got over his last ex, plays in a band and complicates his life by dating a “fake asian high school girlfriend” until he meets the woman of his dreams (literally.) After awkwardly wooing her (as any character played by Michael Cera tends to do,) he discovers a bit about her past. Namely, she has 7 evil exes, who he'll have to fight to the death in order to be with her.

...not so much.
A lot of people will initially see a few of the stylistic elements in this movie and make up their minds about it really quickly. There are frequently elements on-screen of things normally only seen in comics or video games that are a part of the reality in this world, and people either buy into those things and grin, or think 'that was stupid' and move on. Personally, when I see comic book “action effects” hanging in the air, or 8-bit Nintendo-style RPG graphics appear to illustrate a concept, I think it is awesome. The characters are into the things that make their presence known in this world, and it gives the setting a distinct “feel” to it.

The fight scenes are awesome, and the casting for most of the roles, even the fairly minor characters feels spot-on, with the only minor doubts coming from the casting and performance of the lead. Michael Cera plays Scott Pilgrim like... well, virtually any other Michael Cera role, and we only know that he is a womanizer with awesome talents because the script and dialogue tells us so. His performance isn't distracting enough to diminish the movie, and there are some scenes with him that are pure gold. (I particularly liked a moment when Scott is asked if he can see a future with Ramona, and he asks confusedly and with apt comic timing... “Like... with jetpacks?”)

This is an example of how faithful to the comic certain parts are.

The pacing of the movie itself has some bumps and bruises along the way, but I don't think it really ever slows down enough where I felt bored, even for a moment, or is so fast that I can't believe in the progression of character development (think Dune). This is a film I can (and have) watch(ed) multiple times, and can appreciate some of the clever bits better the second time through.

This is definitely not for everyone, but if you are a fan of anime, comics, 8-bit videogames and are not immediately turned away by “quirky Michael Cera love story,” it is likely the movie for you. My rating puts it at 4 out of 5 stars, only deducting a star for the feeling that the lead could maybe have been better cast.

One last note, thanks to Joel for lending me his soapbox to stand on and yell for a few, and in case you missed it, here is a link here to his guest spot on my own blog, What's Next – The Unemployed Geek.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

my very brief thoughts on.... 'Darkness' (2002)

I don't know that I have that much to say about this movie. I had high hopes as it was written and directed by Jaume Balagueró who also made '[REC]' and '[REC]2'. This movie was NO WHERE close to either or those movies. It wasn't even close to the short movie he made called, 'To Let aka Para entrar a vivir'. Perhaps once he went back to make movies in Spanish and stopped working for the American movie houses, he had the freedom to make things the way he wanted. Granted, 'Darkness' isn't without some glimmers of hope. The shaky cam that he uses in 'To Let aka Para entrar a vivir' are present in this early movie. It's not used as effectively, but it still creates an uneasy feeling and dread. I guess this was just an artist sharpening his skills. I only wish I could have avoided spending 1 and a half hours of my life to come to that conclusion. Well, you live and you learn.

The plot is somewhat along the lines of a house is built, 7 kids have to be killed by people they love during an eclipse to release the darkness. One of the kids escapes, a family moves into the home, weird stuff starts happening and then things get crazy and it ends. Don't bother watching this. Watch his later movies instead. I think he's got some really great stuff yet to come. Perhaps he'll bring the Spanish horror cinema to the level of the French. Either way, I'm going to keep watching the progression and have fun for the whole ride.

I gave this 1 out of 5 stars. The 1 star is for the shaky cam, that's it. I guess now I have to finish watching more of his movies to see if maybe some of the other ones will be better than this. *sigh*

If you like this, you might want to take your meds.... you may have missed your morning doses.