Sunday, June 12, 2011

my thoughts on.... 'Enter the Void' aka 'Soudain le Vide'

This film is classified by it's creator as: "psychedelic melodrama".

French director Gaspar Noé, is a film maker that you either love or hate. I can't imagine that anyone feels luke warm about him. They may be confused by his films, but you an usually say if you loved or hated it. I have seen all of his feature length films now and I can say that I have the utmost respect for him. I don't hate his films. 'Enter the Void', in particular, is (using a phrase I don't usually use) "ground-breaking". It takes what was started with 'I Stand Alone' aka 'Seul contre tous' and 'Irreversible' and pushes it to a near breaking point. This is an exhausting 2 and a half hour journey that you had better be ready to take, because it's not for the faint at heart. Once this film is underway, you quickly realize that you're in for an experience like you've never had before. I wasn't sure I was truly ready for it, once the credits started to role. It was like being punched in the face over and over by a glove filled with opium. I felt, at times, like I might start having a seizure. Then.... the actual film started and as the camera weaved and moved within the first person perpective, I knew there was no going back. This was going to be a film that left a mark. It does take a bit of a strong stomach to watch this, not for the graphic content but for the constant movement of the camera. Like in 'Irreversible', the camera spins and rolls and twists and turns and pulls in and out of rooms and flies in the air and just never ever stops. The very few times that it becomes static, it's not a time to catch your breath.... as he does something with the sound, color and lighting that messes you up. Does this sound like something interesting to you? Or does it sound like something that you would hate or something pretentious and strictly for the snooty French filmgoers? I would like to think that this is something that everyone who loves film or art should see. If I taught a film appreciation class or a modern art class, I would make this part of the ciriculum. It is something that is so unique and new that it needs to be seen. I can't even begin to understand how in the hell Gaspar Noé put this film together. The editing alone would be a mind altering experience, but add all the effects, colors and constant shifting of perspective that I'm surprised he's not locked away in an asylum by now. I think I would be. This film is beyond amazing in its technical skill. He is in the masterclass of film makers and should be studied by others to learn how to create something of value. What about the story or the actors or everything else going on? Well, let's get to that in a moment.... here's the plot breakdown.

This is a great breakdown of the plot taken from WARNING SPOILERS! (including the ending): "The film opens with Oscar living in Tokyo, supporting himself by dealing drugs, against the advice of his sister Linda and friend Alex. Alex attempts to turn Oscar toward spirituality with The Tibetan Book of the Dead, as opposed to drug abuse, which Alex claims will "fry (his) brain". The first act follows Oscar's nightly routine through strict point-of-view shots, including momentary blackouts to represent blinking, and extended sequences of drug-induced hallucination.

Oscar and Alex leave the apartment to deliver drugs to Oscar's friend Victor. On the way, Alex explains parts of The Tibetan Book of the Dead aloud to Oscar: how the spirit of a dead person sometimes will stay among the living until it begins to experience nightmares, after which it will attempt to reincarnate. They arrive at the bar The Void. Oscar enters alone and sits down with a distressed Victor, who mutters "I'm sorry", before they are swarmed by police officers. Oscar seals himself in a bathroom stall, and attempts to flush his gear. When the toilet does not work, he yells through the door that he has a gun and will shoot. In response, the police officers open fire and hit Oscar, who falls to the floor.

Oscar's spirit rises and views his body from above, and then begins to witness his own previous life in a roughly forward-chronological order. His loving parents were killed in a violent car crash; Oscar and Linda, though devoted to each other, are separated into different foster homes; Oscar moves to Tokyo and earns money through drug dealing until he can afford to bring Linda to live with him; Linda finds work as a stripper for the nightclub owner Mario, to Oscar's distress; Oscar increases the scope of his dealing operations as well as using potent psychedelics, in particular DMT, more frequently; Victor discovers that Oscar has slept with Victor's mother, and finally, we again see Oscar meet Victor at The Void to sell him drugs, only to be shot in the bathroom.

Next, Oscar floats disembodied over Tokyo and witnesses the aftermath of his death. Linda becomes withdrawn and despondent, especially after receiving an abortion to prevent bearing Mario's child; Oscar's dealer, Bruno, destroys his stash; Alex lives in hiding on the streets, and Linda wishes she would have been with Alex instead of Mario, like Oscar had wanted her to. On one occasion Linda wishes that Oscar would come back to life; Oscar then enters Linda's head, after which he experiences how he wakes up at the morgue. He is unable to speak and Linda and Mario are disgusted by him when they arrive and pick him up. Oscar is eventually convinced by Alex that he is dreaming, and returns to watch his friends from a floating perspective.

Victor screams at his mother because she had sex with his friend and is thrown out of his parents' home. He shows up at Linda's apartment and apologises for having her brother killed, but says Linda is partially to blame since she hung around with creeps. This angers Linda, who repeatedly screams that Victor should kill himself.

Oscar hovers high above Tokyo and enters an airplane, where he sees his mother who breast-feeds a baby to whom she whispers Oscar's name. The view then drops to Linda and Alex who take a taxi to a Tokyo love hotel and have sex. Oscar moves between hotel rooms and observes several other couples also having sex in various positions. Each couple emanates a pulsating electric-like glow from their genitals. Oscar enters Alex's head and experiences having sex with his own sister. He then travels inside Linda's vagina to witness Alex's thrusting, then observes his ejaculation and follows the semen into the fertilisation of his sister's ovum.

The final scene is shot from the perspective of a baby being born to Oscar's mother. According to Gaspar Noé, it is left to the viewer to decide if this is a flashback to Oscar's birth, either genuinely or as a false memory, or if his life starts over again, trapping him in an infinite loop for all eternity.

If you read the details above, then you can see how simple the plot is, but how complex it is. It's what I love. Once I finished this film, I was exhausted. However, it was a good kind of exhaustion. I spent quite a bit of time after this film ending thinking about it and trying to decide where I stood on it. I knew I was amazed by it and was glad I spent the time watching it, however.... I just wasn't sure exactly my final thoughts would be. I even spent the majority of the morning thinking about it and mulling over the entire experience. In the end, I've settled into my final thoughts that this a masterpiece of French cinema and that Gaspar Noé has proven, once and for all, that he is a film maker to be taken seriously and I cannot wait to see what he has to offer up next.

Some things about this film that I found interesting in one way or another. One was the use of the teddy bear that his sister Linda has throughout the film. It seems like a symbol of her youth and how she never really seem to grow up properly after her parents are killed. The relationship with her and her brother is also unique. It's never clearly explained whether or not there is more to their relationship than just a brother/ sister one. It almost ends up in incest and during the film while he's out of his body, he seems to enter the body (on more than one occasion) of a man that is having sexual relations with his sister. It ends up being an important plot point at the end of the film. Also, the first person perspective of our main character, Oscar, provides a unique feel to the film. It's like living the life of someone else. You see what he sees, you feel what he feels, you experience what he experiences and Gaspar Noé goes so far as to have the camera blink when Oscar would blink. I have never had a full length feature take this gimmick that far. The biggest thing that stands out in this film is the use of color, sounds and lights. The colors are loud and never dull. It's a neon jungle. The sounds are critical. The sounds start right off the bat and never let up for the whole film. It is used to imply emotion and constantly is assaulting your ears. The lights also play a big role. You just have to see it to understand. Finally, if you decide to undertake this film, watch for the fact that it's never daylight. (or VERY seldomly) It's only at the end that the sun comes out and the whole mood shifts before the sudden abbrupt ending.

Now comes the moment of truth. What is my final thoughts? I've actually gone back and forth about this as the story is there, but minimal.... however, this film isn't just about the narritive, it's about the experience. I have never seen a film like this before and I kind of doubt I'll see another one quite like it again. This film could only have been made with modern technology. It relies heavy on it. This film has opened my eyes to the true potential of what film can do. Gaspar Noé is a man with a vision and this is the film he's been working on since he was a kid. Because of that we get the best of the best. He has outdone himself here and has given birth to something that cannot be denied a work of sheer brilliance. Is this for you? I don't know that I can honestly recommend this to someone. This film is on the DEEP end of the pool.... it's so deep in fact that it's not even in the pool anymore. I am certain that students of film will appreciate this for what it is. However, the casual film goer may not see it for what it is. Some may find this to be another pretentious French film, others may find something they never expected. Critics and film watchers alike are torn apart about this film. I can imagine readers of this blog will be too. I just ask that if you undertake this film, come prepared. Watch it with an open mind. Watch it from beginning to end. And prepare yourself for something entirely new.... 5 out of 5 stars, this is why I love film.

If you enjoy this, you might want to check out the other films of Gaspar. He's an artist working when it comes to film.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

my thoughts on.... 'The Crow: Wicked Prayer'

I have a love/hate relationship with James O'Barr, the creator of 'The Crow'. He startd out with an amazing concept that was so simple that it beautiful in its simplicity. He eventually bastardized it for the movie version. I loved that original comic series and to this day, it still stands as one of my favorite comics ever written and a love story that I adore. Regardless of that, I still enjoyed the movie and only had one major regret.... I regret that they added the big rooftop fight scene at the end. Ugh. The original comic always came back to the fact that Eric was back because of his love of Shelly and his bloodlust to avenge her death. Here is the original plot from the comics, as taken from "The story revolves around an unfortunate young man named Eric. He and his fiancée, Shelly, are assaulted by a gang of street thugs after their car breaks down. Eric is shot in the head and is paralyzed, and can only watch as Shelly is savagely beaten and raped. They are then left for dead on the side of the road. He is resurrected by a crow (or believes himself to be) and seeks vengeance on the murderers, methodically stalking and killing them. When not on the hunt, Eric stays in the house he shared with Shelly, spending most of his time there lost in memories of her. Her absence is torture for him; he is in emotional pain, even engaging in self-mutilation by cutting himself. The Crow acts as both guide and goad for Eric, giving him information that helps him in his quest but also chastising him for dwelling on Shelly's death, seeing his pining as useless self-indulgence that distracts him from his purpose." As you can see, the movie is fairly similar, but the subsequent sequels in the comics and movies took that and kept watering it down and making the original less and less potent. 'The Crow: Wicked Prayer' pushed that to the limit and basically killed the series and some of my love for Edward Furlong. One thing that varies greatly from the original to the movies is that his vulnerability came from his vengeance being carried out, not neccesarily from the crow itself. We'll get more into detail about the good and bad of this movie in a bit.

The plot, if you can call it that of 'The Crow: Wicked Prayer' goes something like this: (taken from "Jimmy Cuervo is a down-on-his-luck ex-con living in a polluted mining town on a reservation that would run him out of town if not for the remainder of his probation. With his time nearly finished, he plans to start a new life with his girlfriend Lily , and leave the town for good. But Luc Crash and Lola Byrne head up a local gang of local Satanists who murder Jimmy and Lily in a brutally ritualistic slaying that they hope will conjure the rebirth of the Antichrist. When the legend of the Crow returns Jimmy from the dead, Jimmy heads out on a one-man path of vengeance that will lead him to El Nino, the leader of the gang that Luc and Lola are in." This sounds kind of silly, but that's exactly what this movie is.... silly. I am questioning how anyone took this seriously or kept a straight face during a lot of it. I guess the power of a paycheck go a long way, yes? You can almost see the actors counting down the number of minutes until they get paid and can go home.

Where to begin with my thoughts on this "movie"? (It is OnDemand if you want to decide for yourself what you think.) First, I have to say that one thing that varies greatly from the original to the movies is that his vulnerability came from his vengeance being carried out, not neccesarily from the crow itself. The only thing that can hurt him, is himself. However, from the first movie on.... the crow is continually found out to be his power source and it's then compromised by the villan so that our hero isn't totally indestructable for the final battle. Secondly, why Edward Furlong? This is almost the same question I asked when I saw Eric Mabius in the 3rd 'Crow' movie. I really hated him in this role. Like, when he comes back from the dead and puts his make-up on.... he uses a Sharpie to draw on the makeup. He's also too short to be threatening and looks like a reject from either a 'Crow' convention costume contest or an ex member of The Cure. Thirdly, this movie is nothing but a love fest for B-grade actors. There wasn't one big name among the list of actors, all of them have ended up on the direct to DVD circuit anymore. Fourthly (this numbering is getting stupid.... so I'm going to stop now), 'The Crow: Wicked Prayer' steals a lot from the original and the rest of the movie series, in a big way.... some parts are almost identical and some shots i think we're re-used from the previous movies as a way to save money. I'm almost sure of this. The villans in this are goofy and over the top, even more so than the one's in the original comic and movie. However, at least there.... they didn't seem cartoon-ish. For example, Tara Reid's character looks conflicted at every turn and hardly seems like the girl that would steal another girls eyes, she just looks like a reject from some other bad movie. She doesn't seem to know exactly what in the hell her character is thinking and I'm thinking that's 50% her fault and 50% the screenwriters fault. There was this whole gimmick about the villans being the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. It flat out doesn't work. One of the villans gets killed by a bug zapper.... yes, a bug zapper. Dennis Hopper plays a character named El Nino who talks like a gangsta, but a really sad, old gangsta. And the names of the two main characters: the main bad guys name, played by David Boreanaz, is Luc Crash (ala Lucifer)the main good guys name, played by Edward Furlong, is Jimmy Cuervo (spanish for Crow). Isn't that so DAMN creative?!?! Wow. That should give you an idea of what was created here. There are huge inconsistancies in this movie and things that are just flat out stupid. Like, when Jimmy and his girlfriend are killed, they're wrapped in blanket, thrown in a freezer, dumped in a quarry and the then it's lit on fire.... when he comes back from the grave, both he and his dead girlfriend have no damage. Part of the main plot goes like this, David Boreanaz's character has to get married to Tara Reid by Dennis Hopper in order to become the antichrist. Wait, it gets worse. Then we find out that they have to have sex in a holy place to complete the deal What? And finally, some western music plays and the final epic battle takes place as both hero and villan fly through the air. Wow. All of this coming from Lance Mungia, the same man who gave us the amazing film 'Six-String Samurai'. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

I've been really tempted to give this 0 stars. The only reason I didnt, was that I used to have some respect for the actors in this movie. Because of that, I gave it 1 out of 5 stars and I can honestly say that I do not recommend this movie to ANYONE. It is not good as a movie seperate from 'The Crow' franchise. It's a horrible addition to 'The Crow' franchise. It's just a crappy movie all the way around. There really isn't anything good I can say about this. At least with the 2nd and third movies there were a couple of things to compliment. With this, it was just a giant train wreck. One that I knew I would hate, but I didn't realize that I would hate it as much as I did. I'm so glad that I didn't take the time to rent it. This is yet another example of me wondering how movies like this get made. Who puts up the funding when you see how terrible this is going to be? We could use that money to make good movies. Ones that'll make a difference or at least ones that are entertaining. Hell, I'd settle for a Vin Diesel movie if it meant that we didn't have to sit through another 'Crow' movie. That's the part that kills me the most. I have such deep love and affection for the original comic series that it physically hurts me to see these sequels stray so far from what makes that original series so great. It's like re-making 'Romeo and Juliet' with Jack Black and Mya Rudolph, making it serious and having the lovers live at the end.... but end up as time traveller putting wrongs to rights with their talking dog sidekick. Does that sound good to you? If so, watch this movie. If not? Track down the original series in graphic novel form, buy it, read it and love it for the brillance that it is. God bless Brandon Lee, you did the best you could with what you had and I'm sorry that everyone has since pissed on your grave. The End? Or is it? If the people beind 'The Crow' sequels have anything to say about it.... it isn't the end.

This is 'The Crow' that I know and love.... the original one from the comic book series. (The first series, not the eventual sequels.) SIDE NOTE: Here's a great resource for info on the original story and a breakdown of everything -

Just to prove that Lance Mungia used to have a voice, a vision and talent.... here's the trailer for 'Six-String Samurai'. What a great frickin' film.

an experiment from years ago.... about 2005.

I have always loved the mixture of words and art. Not always just in comic books, but in art that hangs in museums. I tend to carry that love into my own art. I usually include words in a lot of my paintings. I don't know why it's always intrigued me, but I think it always will. I also love poetry and writing stories. I wondered what it would be like to mix the two into a sort of 'un-comic'. In reality, it really was just a comic book of sorts. It tells a story, it has pictures and it's laid out basically the same. The pictures here are found on the net', the words are my own fiction and the idea was just to create a visual to go with the emotion attempted in the writing. Just add music and I'd practically have a film or animated short. Anyway, it only was a one off thing and I never tried to do it again. It was a lot of work and maybe I'll do it again in the future.... we'll see. I just thought I'd share it with you all just to break up the regular flow of movie reviews. Perhaps if you dig a little variety, I'll try and throw other odds and ends in at a later date. Let me know! That is all.

NOTE: The words and feelings are real, however the story being told is fiction. Only pieces of it were taken from real life and expanded for effect.

my thoughts on.... 'Tony' aka 'Tony: London Serial Killer'

To quote Norville 'Shaggy' Rogers, "Like, wow man." That's kind of how I felt when this ended. It was something unique and a bit of a breath of fresh air to see. Peter Ferdinando, who plays 'Tony' is spot on. He creates an extremely akward and stunted man, one that it's almost painful to watch. At the same time, I could almost relate to him no matter how strange he was. There was one scene in particular where he was chatting with his downstairs neighbor and I found myself laughing along and smiling for him since he was too akward to do it on his own. It was a strange reaction to have to a film, but it happened. That to me is a good sign of someone who completely sucks you into the role they're playing. So much that they influence you physically outside of the film. To that, I give this film a lot of credit. This film also has some amazing cinematography. Watch for the scene where Tony is about to go up in the elevator (the screencap in the poster I used above), it's quite stunning and could make an amazing framed picture to hang on the wall. As a matter of fact, the entire film is shot in such a way that it has a nice, gritty, sometimes 70's-ish feel to it.... right down to the credits sequence at the beginning and end of the film. This film is also based on a short film by the director aslo called 'Tony'. All of these things are strangely similar to the pedigre of 'Hobo With A Shotgun'. These two films are not the same as each other, but they are both made outside of the US and have a simliar backstory.

Plot synopsis from "Solitary Tony (Peter Ferdinando) lives on the line of society and of sanity: Mostly he's home alone, cultivating a taste for 1980s action flicks, and when social interaction arises, murder is his solution to an awkward moment. Director Gerard Johnson's gruesome character study observes the inscrutable figure as he goes about the business of being maladjusted, misreading the world around him while remaining a mystery even perhaps to himself." There is also a running story about a missing child that we're never quite sure if Tony killed or not. You don't find out for sure until the very end, but it just adds yet another level of tension and strangeness to the film. Tony is a man with issues.

That summary above sums this film up. Tony is a man that hasn't moved on in years. He's lived in his same apartment for "ages" (10 years or more) and nothing hasn't changed in the apartment since then. He still watches VHS tapes only and searches them out. His bread and butter are 80's action films. He talks about them a lot and watches them all the time, he even says at one point that he doesn't even have broadcast television. He also reveals that he only has cassette tapes. He's a sexually conflicted man who seems to not know what he wants. At times he gives the impression that he's heterosexual, he even goes so far as to go to visit a call girl. He also hangs out at a gay bar a lot and yet he turns down the advances of another man. He also seems interested in kinky sex acts and trannys as well.... it is just a big confusing mess. Tony doesn't seem to have a cell phone or any phone. He has a bizarre hair cut and horrible teeth. He is just all around a creepy and strange man. That cannot be expressed enough.

This is billed as a serial killer and the poster even mentions the classic 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer'. I can't quite say that this is on par with that film, but I can see the comparison. There isn't really much to speak of in terms of gore or blood. There is one scene of him cutting up internal organs for disposal and the occasional severed leg or foot, but that's about it. There are also not a huge amount of killings, but the ones that are shown on screen are used at the appropriate times to remind you that you're not just watching a weirdo's life, you're watching a serial killer in action. A serial killer that is slightly resembling Kip from 'Napoleon Dynamite'. Regardless of all of the ugliness that is occasionally shown here, there are some really quiet and beautiful moments in this film. One in particular involves Tony waking up asleep in his living room chair. The TV is on with nothing but static on the screen and that's all that's heard. The sun is just coming up and everything is so peaceful. What you saw the night before, was not so nice. Now, before I wrap this whole thing up.... I have to say that the ending was a bit vague and obscure or abrupt. When I was in film school, it was a rookie mistake for first time film makers to end a film in a way that they ended this film. There are rare times when it's okay to do it this way, but I feel like this could have been a much stronger film if they had worked harder on wrapping it up in a more satisfying way. Maybe they just felt like this was the way to end it and more power to them if that's the case. I am not the writer and director, I am just the viewer. Other than that, this was a great film that I'd never heard of if it wasn't for Netflix. You'll have to rent it if you want to see it, but make sure you are prepared for the ending of the film, it may or may not rub you the right way. I gave this a 4 out of 5 star rating for everything but the last 5 minutes.... that was about a 3 or so. I see great potential in the cast and crew of this film, I really hope they continue to make films as I'd love to see what else they have in store. In the meantime, pop a VHS in the videocassette player, hit the tracking button and enjoy.

Friday, June 10, 2011

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

How can you have a film with Edward Norton, Robert De Niro, Milla Jovovich and Frances Conroy and it not be fantastic? Not too mention, Edward Norton has had an excellent track record, over the years, of not making any films that were garbage. If I was to watch one of his films, I was pretty much expecting to see something great. 'Stone' is in no way a bad movie.... it just seemed to not quite live up to his usual standards. It was a well done movie, that just suffered from a slow moving and uninteresting script and a story that you ultimately just don't care too much about. It's kind of like watching a Nascar race waiting for a wreck, but it never happens and you leave feeling like you saw something neat, but it never paid off in any way. I watched the whole thing waiting for a hook or a big twist or turn or something. Maybe if I'd known in advance that it was just a slow boiler of a movie, I might have understood it and enjoyed it more, you know? I suppose you can't have a perfect record forever. Edward Norton played a similar character to what he did in 'American History X' or 'Primal Fear'. It felt kind of like old territory.

Here is the plot according to "Parole officer Jack Mabry (Robert De Niro) has only a few weeks left before retirement and wishes to finish out the cases he's been assigned. One such case is that of Gerald "Stone" Creeson (Edward Norton), a convicted arsonist who is up for parole. Jack is initially reluctant to indulge Stone in the coarse banter he wishes to pursue and feels little sympathy for the prisoner's pleads for an early release. Seeing little hope in convincing Jack himself, Stone arranges for his wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich) to seduce the officer, but motives and intentions steadily blur amidst the passions and buried secrets of the corrupted players in this deadly game of deception." This makes it sound more interesting than it was. Maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention?

I'm hoping that one of you out there saw this and enjoyed it. I have a feeling that I'm going to re-visit it again in the next decade, as I truly feel like I missed something with this movie. I just can't belive that all of this talent could make something so luke warm. You have this strange relationship between De Niro and Norton's character and when they add Milla's character into the mix, it just gets odd. She is such a stand out performance compared to everyone else that she kind of overshadows the bland plot. De Niro feels like he's sleepwalking and Norton feels like he has been out of work for a decade, which he hasn't. Finally, Frances Conroy, was Frances Conroy.... smoking cigarettes. The potential of this cast and movie were huge. If you see this movie and find a different experience than what I found, please drop me a line and fill me in on what you saw and got out of this movie. Please.

When the smoke cleared and all was said and done, I still gave this a 3 out of 5 star rating. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good. It just made me long for other films from these actors. I am still looking forward to what everyone involved has coming up next, as there is a lot of potential in this movie. In the meantime, I'm going to continue wondering to myself what went wrong with 'Stone' (2010)? Avaialable OnDemand or to rent.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

my very brief thoughts on.... '8213: Gacy House'

When 'The Blair Witch Project' came out, the whole "found fottage" phenomenom was brand new. Now days, it's everywhere. It's an inexpensive way to make your first movie and a lot of people are taking advantage of that. Some have been pretty effective, then there's '8213: Gacy House'. I'm not saying it's ineffective, but it is not as good as some of the others movies like this that i've seen. I do feel like it's kind of in bad taste to use the tragedy of John Wayne Gacy's crimes as a backdrop for this movie. I can't think of any movies that have used the ghost of a real serial killer as the main villan. I remember the whole John Wayne Gacy story. I was alive when it all went down and even celebrated on the night of his death with friends. Because of all that, I have to say I felt this was a little bit in bad taste. Granted, there is a pretty big niche market for movies that are being made about serial killers. There are a few examples of big budget ones, like 'Zodiac' by David Fincher. Then there are countless others that are made on a low budget and for the lowest common reasons. Like 'Dahmer', 'Gacy', 'Bundy', etc. I've seen some of these and for the most part they're exactly what you'd expect. Direct to DVD stuff that is just made to cash in on a famous name. Some of them feature big named b-grade actors and same make the careers of future actors. Case in point: 'Dahmer' starred a young Jeremy Renner. I felt like he was the only worthwhile aspect of that movie. He brought that character to life and now look at him. He's quickly becoming the toast of Hollywood. Anyway, I'm off track. '8213: Gacy House' is less about the real events of his life, but more about the fictional events of his afterlife.

This is the basic breakdown of the plot from both and "A group of paranormal investigators enter the abandoned home of pedophile and serial killer John Gacy, hoping to find evidence of paranormal activity. Upon entering the house they set-up cameras throughout the abandoned house while going room to room with hand-held cameras, performing séances and asking for John Gacy to come forward. As the evening progresses it seems the investigators are not prepared for the horror still within the house. Although Gacy's house of horrors has long since been demolished, with another house erected in its place, the tortured spirits of his 33 victims seem to be alive and well." I can say that this is pretty much the exact storyline. 6 people walk into a supposed haunted house of a former serial killer to find out the truth about the hauntings and no one walks out alive. This is the fottage of that night found later. BOO!

Don't get me wrong, I love a lot of these kinds of movies. 'The Blair Witch Project' even made it into my 'Top 50 Films Of All Time' list. There is something eerie about them. I've always been fascinated by ghosts and realized a long time ago that we might not ever have real proof of paranormal activty caught on camera. Therefore, these types of movies are the closest thing to that for me. I felt kind of dirty watching this because of what it was cashing in on, but at the same time I was looking forward to seeing it as it looked like a decent example of the found fottage genre. It reminded me quite a bit of 'Death of a Ghost Hunter' in the feel of the movie. I'm pretty sure it was in the same budget as well. It's OnDemand right now and may or may not be worth your time, but I don't recommend you renting it.

What I liked about this movie was the cast, they were pretty good. I liked the location, it was pretty effective for a ghost story. I liked the cinematography, it was fairly well done for this kind of movie. What I didn't like, was the fact that the house looked damn good for being abandonded for so long. I also didn't like the fact that this isn't the original house (as it was no longer around) but a rebuilt house. The cast still treated it like it was the original house that the crimes occured in. It overall just just felt kind of off. I'm not 100% sure why that is, perhaps it was the ghost in his 'wife beater' shirt and tighty whitey's attacking one of the victims. Who knows? For taking a new spin on an old genre, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars. I may be being generous or perhaps it's something else. Either way, you're watching this movie at your own risk. I am not planning on seeing it again at any point. Perhaps the next movie from these people will be better, perhaps it will be about spending the night in the apartment across from where Jefery Dahmer lived in Michigan! OOOO, scary. I'll stick with my 'Paranormal' Activity' and the like.

my very brief thoughts on.... 'Death Valley: The Revenge of Bloody Bill'

I love watching bad movies. I especially love watching them with friends. Sometimes that's not an option, so I get stuck watching them alone.... like with this movie. And kids, this is NOT a good movie. I had no allusions that this was going to be a masterpiece of modern horror, I knew exactly what I was getting into. What I didn't realize was exactly how crummy this would be. The thing is, this could have had the potential to be kind of epic. When I first started watching it, I didn't realize that it had zombies in it. I thought it was just a lame ghost story about a confederate soldier from the past who has come back as a ghost to kill folks. The zombies were such a welcome surprise! The first, like, 20 minutes or so were pretty keen.... I was tied into the story and ready to enjoy, then things started going south. It just got worse and worse until I just didn't care about it anymore. I am not even sure I could spoil the ending for you, even if I wanted to, as I don't remember what in the heck happened! (And I'm not watching it again to find out.) If you really want to know what happened at the end, you're welcome to watch it on your own.... it's OnDemand from Netflix right now. Go ahead, I'll wait. Moving on....

Here is the plot according to "While traveling to a competition, a college debate team is abducted by a drug dealer who takes them to an abandoned town, which they quickly discover is the grave site of Bloody Bill Andersen, a Confederate soldier from the Civil War. Soon, the students are cornered by the town's locals -- all of whom are zombies led by the undead Bloody Bill himself. Can the students stop their infighting long enough to band together and escape the town alive?" That sums it up and yes, I didn't read this before I watched it. I just saw the cover art for the DVD and the star ratings and jumped right in without thinking. Ah well....

One of the neat things about this movie that I learned as soon as I started watching it was that the writers of it are Matt and John Yuan. You may remember them as two of the mall cops, Matt and John Yuen, in 'Observe and Report' with Seth Rogen. Because of this, I felt inclined to cut the movie a bit of slack in the end. So, strong opening plus cool writers equals 1 out of 5 stars. I am betting dollars to doughnuts that if I watched this with the right people and the right snacks, I would probably own it tomorrow. Other than that, it really doesn't have that much more going for it. I'm guessing that we haven't seen the end of the movies being written by these guys. If this was just an early attempt by them, I'm actually kind of excited to see what comes next!

Isn't it strange that a movie that you disliked so much can get backhanded compliments about it as much as straitforward criticism? That is what makes watching movies so much fun. This is one reason why I recommend that you always consider watching something no matter how good or bad it looks, you just never know. Granted, you may have to submit yourselves to some horrific crap at times.... but then again, you may find a little diamond in the rough. Someone out there spent a lot of time and money to put together any movie that you see. They didn't just appear out of nowhere. Because of that logic, I always assume that there must be some grain of goodness in just about any movie. If people were prejudice about movies than whose to say if 'Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn' would have ever become the cult icon that it is today? So the next time you're browsing Netflix or the aisles at your local DVD or Blu-ray retailer, consider the underdog.... you may just find a new favorite movie to watch or a new DVD to shove under that one annoying wobbly leg of your desk. Am I right or am I right?

NOTE TO READER: This movie has gone under several different titles, at the time of this trailer it was not yet finalized.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

my thoughts on.... 'Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie'

After reading my 'Top 50' list, you all know that I love 'Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy'. It ranks right up there as one of my all time favorite comedies. I can watch it anytime, anywhere and love it from beginning to end. Now, 'Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie' has been on my to do list for quite a while but it didn't come with my version of the film. Netflix didn't seem to have it available to rent, so I waited until I was able to get a hold of it finally. Now I can say that I've seen this film. Basically, what it is.... they took extended scenes, deleted scenes and an entire scrapped subplot to put together this sort of sequel. All of it is of the same quality as the film you're all used to. It's just a whole hell of a lot of new footage. For die hard fans, it'll be obvious where the cuts are and the lack of continuity from the original. That doesn't make this crap, it just makes it not quite a whole film. It is fun to finally get to see more of the characters I love doing new stuff, for that it was worth the wait. I'm actually surprised at how well it turned out, based on the fact that this was pretty much made up of scraps. It also gives me hopes that maybe they'll make a sequel someday.... but only if everyone is back on board again. (It is being discussed and considered.)

The plot is this (taken from "While Ron Burgundy's rivalry with Veronica Corningstone continues, a group of unprofessional thieves better known as 'The Alarm Clock' try to make the truth known, whatever that may be." That's basically it. The whole Veronica thing seems kind of out of sync with the original film, but it's forgivable. Some of the stuff with The Alarm Clock is pretty damn funny and once again, Steve Carrell steals all the scenes he's in and who doesn't love his character of Brick Tamland?

I highly recommend this film to anyone who is a die hard fan of the original. Anyone else, you may want to think twice before you go into this one. Not that it's bad, it's just that it's more of a companion piece than a sequel. That should be made clear. Almost like a REALLY extended deleted scene. I'm hoping that someday in the near future that I can get this on DVD to go along with my copy of the original film.

Where the original is a wonderful example of 5 star comedy film making, this is more of a 4 star outing. It might only be 3 for those who aren't UBER fans like myself. There is a lot of really good stuff here and it just further solidified the 'Top 50' status of the original based on how solid the outtakes were. If you've never seen the first one, then you really are messing up hard. I really recommend that you go and check it out as soon as you can. I bet if you're a fan of the genre, Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd or Adam McKay films then you'll enjoy it. And after to finish that one, track down this pseudo-sequel and get your entire fill of the joy that is 'Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy'. Stay Classy San Diego?

NOTE: Since there is no official trailer to this film, I've included one of the funnier scenes with the guys. I will never look at burritos or crepes in the same way again. Ugh.

my very brief thoughts on.... 'Sleeping With The Enemy' (1991)

I loved the 90's. It was some of the best times for me growing up. Sadly, it wasn't the best time for movies. There were quite a few of those pesky sexy, revenge thrillers being made and this was one of them. It starred an up and coming starlet named Julia Roberts and a cast of other people. It was based on a book and just plain wasn't very good. I started watching it while at work on my lunch break and felt compelled to finish it. Luckily it was OnDemand from Netflix. I took it upon myself to finish it once I got home and I kind of wish I would have watched 'Everybody Loves Raymond' instead.... and I don't even know if I like that show as I've never actually watched it. This movie had a couple of redeeming qualities, but overall it was kind of a big bust. It felt like I was staring at a glass house, there was all of these things inside but I saw them all early on and there weren't any surprises. This movie was so predictible that I kind of wonder if the book was even worth reading. It must have had something going for it since Hollywood felt it needed to be brought to the big screen. Maybe it was just a reason to keep Julia Roberts in the limelight? Who knows....

The really easy to figure out plot goes like this, according to "Laura and Martin have been married for four years. They seem to be the perfect, happiest and most successful couple. The reality of their house- hold, however, is very different. Martin is an abusive and brutally obsessed husband. Laura is living her life in constant fear and waits for a chance to escape. She finally stages her own death, and flees to a new town and new identity. But when Martin finds out that his wife is not dead he will stop at nothing to find and kill her." Can you guess how it ends? I bet you can if you think really hard.

I'm not going to go as far as to say that I wish I had the time back that I used watching this. It wasn't as terrible as all of that. It's just that it felt like a carbon copy of every other movie of this kind that was made in the 90's. Also, can we get an ending that the audience doesn't see coming from 1000 miles away? The good stuff in this movie are Julia Roberts, the pacing of the movie and the cinematography. The bad stuff is the acting, the script and everything else. Does anyone see a 'Sleeping With The Enemy 2: Weekend At Martin Burney's' being made sometime later this year? I'm guessing that Lindsay Lohan might be available to take over the Julia Roberts role.

Because of the good things, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars. It's kind of interesting to see the rise of a superstar. It did hold my interest until the end and I'm guessing that there are a lot of folks out there that love this movie. It may have been predictable, but it was still better than the Jennifer Lopez versions of these kinds of movies that came out later. Ugh. SPOILER: you don't actually see any sleeping during the movie by Julia Roberts.... with or without the enemy.

my very brief thoughts on.... 'Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence'

What in the heck was I thinking in watching this? Any movie which stars Robert Davi in the lead can't be good. Any movie that has Robert Z'Dar as your lead villan can't be good. Well, this movie isn't any good. It might have had some redeeming qualities if I had watched it with friends, but I didn't. I think what surprises me the most is that both William Lustig, the director, and Larry Cohen, the writer, both worked on all three movies and thought it was a good idea to MAKE all three movies! They've also been considering re-booting the series.... seriously? The first one was bad enough, you'd think that would be enough to cause a lack of funding for the other two movies. Nope. (You can see an early role as a drug addicted thief played by Jackie Earle Haley.... you can also see him killed with a highly illogical gun choice for a cop.) Anyway....

Here's the plot according to "A female cop is gunned down and wrongly accused of using excessive force in a hostage rescue attempt. Maniac cop returns from the dead once more to seek revenge, destroying everthing and anyone that stands in his way." Or something like that.

I can't even begin to say how hard it was to finish this movie. It was painful to sit through the flaming car chase at the end. You'd think a flaming car chase with a zombie cop and Robert Davi as a grizzled cop would be cool? Not even close. There just isn't anything worthwhile about this movie. Granted, there might be a few laughs to be found if you're drunk enough.... I wasn't. I assume this will be the end of this series. I can only hope that no one gives them money to re-boot it. I just can't see how in the hell this series could be re-done in any way that would make it a good movie. I just can't.

1 out of 5 stars. I'm assuming the 1 star is for Jackie Earle Haley's performance and the hand grabbing the badge through the coffin bit, but that's it. I do not recommend that you watch this. It is available OnDemand from Netflix right now. That doesn't make it okay to watch it, it just makes it more easily available. I never would have thought that a zombie movie would bum me out this much, ah well.

my thoughts on.... 'Scooby-Doo: The Mystery Begins'

I bet you're wondering why I'm writing a review about a kids movie that premired on Cartoon Network and never even hit theaters? Well, I've got to keep things fresh and eclectic here, right? That and I've always loved Scooby-Doo.... ever since I was a kid. It's so nice that it's still around so that I can enjoy it with my kids too. I mean, they're still making these silly live action movies, but the cartoon is back in yet another incarnation. The main characters are still basically the same, with a few minor changes. It takes place in the modern world and the art is more modern, but Scooby and pals all still look like they did back in 1969 when the series premired. My kids love Scooby-Doo and watch it constantly and I'm more than happy to see what's out there on Netflix to watch and what I can tape off of Comcast. It's almost like 'I Love Lucy', it's always on somewhere.... almost. Anyway, I have to admit that I really did NOT like the original live action attempt at Scooby. I saw it with my nephew in the theater and I left feeling really kind of icky. I don't know what it was about it that I didn't like, but it just hit me in all the wrong places. I guess because maybe it was trying to present itself as hip, new version of the cartoon. Like it was the hipster version of a retro 'toon. Anyway, what I DID like about this new movie is the exact opposite reason. It knew its audience, it knew what made Scooby so great, it was willing to just be kind of silly and lame.... I mean, let's face it, the cartoon is pretty cheesy. The other thing I liked about this was the fact that it allowed the characters to be more modern in the modern world, but kept the old school feel of the cartoon. Is this a masterpiece of modern film making? Heck no. I never expected it to be much of anything.

The story is about the meeting of Norville 'Shaggy' Rogers and Scooby-Doo. Shaggy is a bit of a loner and an outcast and Scooby is having trouble getting adopted from a dog rescue. Some ghosts chase Scooby into Shaggy's basement bedroom after Scooby is accidentally dropped off the back of the pet rescue truck. They become instant friends. Soon they hook up with Velma Dinkley, Fred Jones and Daphine Blake while in detention. They realize that they all love mysteries and are soon out to solve the one at their high school. You've got ghosts, masks, mystery and a van. All the makings of a typical Scooby-Doo adventure.

This movie is obviously made to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It makes no attempt to be more than it is and that's why it was successful. My kids laughed at all the parts that they were supposed to laugh at, like with Scooby's eyes bulge out when he's scared. That joke never gets old. They throw just enough old school references into the movie to satisfy the adults, like myself, who've been fans for decades. (Stick around at the end for the montage, it'll tie up all the loose ends from the movie.) The film makers tried to answer all the age old questions about how the crew got together and it also tied in common threads that all kids deal with: alienation, peer pressure, friendship, stereotypes, etc. It may not handle the big issues, but it covers the basics and it just adds another level to the movie. Just one other thing I enjoyed about this.

The CGI is not great, the acting is silly and it's obvious that the actors are way older than 15 years old. You really have to suspend your disbelief if you're going to watch this movie. You also have to channel your inner child. I would recommend watching it with a non-jaded kid below the age of 10. I already know that they made another movie with this same cast and I have a feeling they might make a few more, if the cast agrees to it. I've already added the other movie to my Netflix queue and I'm betting the kids will love it just as much as this one. I don't know that I ever need to see this again, but after watching such deep films, disgusting horror, over the top action and depressing romantic dramas.... it's nice to check my brain at the door and pretend I'm 7 years old again and watching my favorite show on my 14" TV while in my pajamas. I think it's the kind of thing that keeps us all sane. I highly recommend you try it sometime, just don't read too much into it or you'll end up feeling really disappointed. it's a 3 out of 5 star movie, most of that is due to it's complete lack of concern over being anything amazing. It is what it is and that's all. Long live Scooby-Doo and Shaggy! Now can I have my Scooby snack?

Side note: Velma, in the recent cartoons and movies, is not portrayed as asexual or possibly lesbian.... she digs on the boys. They reference her crush on Fred in this movie and in another more recent cartoon, they talk about how her and Shaggy dated at one point but broke up over his 'dog issues'. That is all.

my thoughts on.... 'Black Swan' (2010)

As soon as I posted on Facebook that I'd finished watching this film, I was already being asked what I thought. I am sorry that it's taken me this long to get my thoughts out. I think I just needed to formulate them a bit more as after I first finished watching 'Black Swan' I was a bit perplexed as to what I really felt about it. I don't know what I was expecting and I had been anxiously awaiting watching it, but had to put it off for almost a month due to my 'Top 50' countdown. (I didn't want to watch a bunch of new movies and then not be able to review them right away.) I am a fan of Darren Aronofsky and have enjoyed all of his films but the AWFUL 'The Fountain'. He's a talented director and is able to create some extremely disturbing scenes like David Lynch, but can also make a touching film about wrestling.... that's a pretty broad range of talent. I also am a long term fan of Vincent Cassel and Natalie Portman. I've said since I saw her in 'The Professional' that she would win an Oscar some day and this film was my final vindication. I don't know much about ballet and that was one of the things that kept me from seeing this film sooner and the fact that I'm not a big Mila Kunis fan. After seeing this, I can say that I can appreciate both things much more now. This film is unique in a lot of ways. It's nice and refreshing to have a film like this that can tell an original story with fresh faces and make it interesting. I think the fact that this film was so well received is due largely in the fact that it's an original film and not a re-hash of something else.

The film tells the story of a dancer who has worked a long time to get ahead in her ballet company. When the director announces that his next production will be 'Swan Lake', she takes this as her chance to step up and take the lead. In the meantime, the previous star of the ballet tries to kill herself, but ends up only severely injuring herself and securing the fact that she may never dance again. As the competition heats up for the lead, our heroine begins to lose her grip on reality. It's a slow decline, but it's there. She wins the role, but it doesn't bring her happiness. After a lot of time and trouble, she is ready for opening night. By this point, she has all but lost all sense of reality and is spiraling out of control. In full make-up and ready to perform, the curtain rises and the end begins.

So, at this point you may still be wondering if I enjoyed this or not? The answer is, I am still not 100% sure. It didn't reach out and grab me like 'The Wrestler' did. It didn't freak me out like 'Requiem For A Dream' did. It didn't fascinate me like 'Pi' did. It is a bit of a confusion. I want to like it and there is a lot about it that I do like.... maybe even love. Everything about this film is so well put together and everyone does so well in this film, it's hard to not say that it was amazing. There is just something off about it. I think Winona Ryder threw me off a bit. She just seemed out of place in the storyline and kind of forced. Some of the hallucinations are a bit 'off' and not done as well as they could have been. Despite all of that, it's still a film that I will want to add to my collection, as I can already say that I want to see it again. This is something that I believe upon further review, will grow on me more and more.

I think that this is something I would recommend to people to watch. Just be prepared to kind of suspend your disbelief. Not that amazing things happen, but that it's so kind of mind-bending that you have to take a step back from reality to enjoy it fully. A great film that I think will grow on me over time. Something that I can't seem to get out of my head, but I did my best to get some of my thoughts down for you. I hope this satisfies what you were looking for. 4 out of 5 stars and 1 creepy moving picture on the wall.

my very brief thoughts on.... 'Slaughtered Vomit Dolls'

I only wanted to see this movie because it kept popping up over and over on the most disturbing films of all time lists. I never had the desire to put much effort into tracking it down, but Netflix did it for me! I wish they hadn't. This movie is nothing to write home about, nothing to brag about seeing and probably the biggest waste of about an hour and ten minutes ever filmed. Even more sad is that it's the part of a trilogy. It's marketed as "vomit gore", which to it's credit.... it has a lot of both. I'm sure that's just an excuse for the creator of this piece of crap to get out their fetish for naked chicks throwing up. This movie is ugly, pointless, dull and over the top for no reason. To sum it up, it's crap and not the fun kind.

The plot (LOL) according to "Mercilessly abused by her parents and routinely molested by a deranged priest, young Angela Aberdeen (Ameara Lavey) pledges her soul to Satan in exchange for his protection and help in exacting revenge on her tormentors. But soon Angela's pact leads her down a sinister path overflowing with blood, guts, gore and vomit." If this is the plot, I wish the movie would have conveyed that. The only reason I picked up on the VERY subtle clues to the plot in the movie is because of this summary on Netflix. The actual movie itself is basically this: Old footage of a little girl singing, talking and dancing in slow motion or reversed. A woman fully clothed or fully naked talking randomly in slow motion or regular speed occasionally vomiting. A gory murder inbetween each segment. A couple of fully clothed dudes throwing up, one of them into a cup that he drinks it out of again and then throws up more. That's about it and all of it is on top of a fuzzy, distored background noise and poorly shot footage.

I don't know what else to say about this worthless piece of trash. I can see what the "director" was going for. To shock and disturb using parts of Eli Roth, David Lynch and Larry Flynt. Too bad they didn't take more time to put this together. It might have been something. I mean, there are parts of it that are very disturbing and would have worked well within a 3 part story arc structure. Maybe even as a short film? But what we have instead is nothing more than a lengthy waste of time and energy. The worst part is that the people involved have stripped enamel off their teeth and that won't come back. Sorry kids. I would bet money that someone out there loves this movie and others who love to fap to it. That's basically what this movie is.... a fetish movie for perverts. It's not an attempt at something higher. It's not smart. It's not a metaphor. It's barely even a movie. It is my first zero star rated movie. I wouldn't wipe my ass with this if I was stuck in the woods, surrounded by poison ivy and I had to take a crap. I would rather have an itchy butt then to submit myself to this movie again.

Needless to say, I won't be watching the other two parts of the trilogy.

There was no way to embed the trailer, so here is the link to it. WARNING.... this is NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR ANYWHERE ELSE! enjoy.