Monday, September 28, 2009

Crank 2, aka the AYFKM movie

Let it be said that I own every Jason Statham movie out on DVD. Even Transporter 2. Why? Because he is yummalicious, that's why.

I liked Crank. I liked the choppy editing style, energy, the language; no subtlety there. And hey, how can you hate a movie with a sex-in-public scene?

And then I saw the trailer for Crank 2. Seriously? I had to watch it, if only to see how they manage to keep Chev Chelios alive after falling out of a helicopter and falling for like, a mile. So, I rented it today for a giggle, knowing it would be gloriously bad

Well, it was kinda like watching the second Snake Plissken movie. It followed a pretty clear formula based on the first one. Oh look, he's gonna die unless he does something extreme every so often.

And yes, before you say it, I know, I KNOW it's one of those movies, the kind where all reality is suspended. Even so, I found myself saying, "are you fucking kidding me" a lot.

Being able to watch his own heart transplant. AYFKM?

Getting jump started from a car battery. AYFKM?

Tasering himself over and over. AYFKM?

Having sex on the racetrack and able to hit at least 6 positions 1) without getting yanked off the track and 2) before the horses jumped over them. AYFKM?

The Godzilla-esque battle between Chelios and the Asian dude in the transformer yard. Not just AYFKM, but WTF were they smoking?!?

The talking head in a jar a la Futurama. AYFKM?

And that's not even mentioning the guy with Full Body Tourettes who rides a motorcycle, the Asian chick played with brilliant insanity by Ling Bai, the guy who has to cut off his own nipples because he failed his boss, the 180-year-old Triad boss who goes out cruising for hookers with renewed vigor thanks to a newly installed heart formerly belonging to Chelios, etc., etc.

The whole thing has left me feeling dizzy.

Am I going to buy it and put it with the rest of the Jason Statham movies? Fuck, yes!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Coen Brothers

I may be meeting the Coen Brothers tomorrow night at the after party for the US premiere of A Serious Man. I'm not exactly sure what to say to them. I think something like "um, I'm a huge fan since Blood Simple" is a bit dorky. Although, I guess quoting some line from The Big Lebowski would be even dorkier. Maybe a question about the air speed velocity of an unladen bolt from the No Country stun gun? Why yes, I am definitely a nerd.

Any suggestions on small talk with the Coens?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mystic River

Clint Eastwood's latest film as a director, Mystic River, is an incredibly serious film. So serious, in fact, that for much of its running time (about 2 hrs. 20 min.), it is burdened under its own weight.

Mystic River is so jam-packed with psychological density, so intent on picking apart the sludgy motives of its characters, that the film ends up acting very much like a black hole---that is, not one sliver of light can escape its overwhelming force. Put simply, the film throws such heavy doses of reality and Machiavellian ethics our way, that it becomes difficult to sift through them, much less assimilate them into a pleasurable viewing experience.

Yes, Mystic River isn't much fun; the film wearing a consistent scowl that is incredibly difficult to swallow----nonetheless, Mystic River is a film that succeeds very well, at least on some levels----even if we end up leaving the theater thoroughly shaken and bitter.

I have rarely seen a film where the entire cast is as excellent as they are in Mystic River. Credit Eastwood as director for leading his group of actors down territory that would leave lesser mortals quavering in fear. Sean Penn, who plays the film's dark, tortured avenger, Jimmy Markham, handles his role with a degree of subtlety and nuance that is all too rare these days. Jimmy, who
is distraught over the senseless murder of his eldest daughter, is a character who consistently skirts the edges of moral and ethical rectitude, yet the grief over the death of his daughter seems painfully real. In a scene in which Jimmy's father-in-law visits him shortly after his daughter's death, the father-in-law needles him about his continued responsibility to his family, especially his wife and stepdaughters. Jimmy replies: "I just lost my daughter, and you're talking to me about fucking family responsibility!" We feel every ounce of Jimmy's pain in this scene, and this is why Penn's performance is so believable. Granted, there is much too much of this sort of thing in Mystic River, so much that we get bogged down in it; yet, Jimmy's pain, brought across to us by the masterly Penn, cannot be dismissed.

If Sean Penn is excellent, then Tim Robbins matches him step for step. Robbins, who plays Dave Boyle, a friend of Jimmy's from childhood, plays a man who is the equivalent of the walking dead. In a freak twist of fate (depicted in the film's first scene) Dave becomes the victim of sexual abuse as a child. Dave grows to maturity as a man who can never throw off the tragic events of his childhood, referring to himself repeatedly as "the boy who barely escaped by becoming a wolf." The boy/wolf trope becomes the main trope whenever we encounter Jimmy in the film, coupled with Dave's repeated references to vampires and the undead. As an actor, Robins chooses to deliver Dave's lines in an eerie monotone, emphasizing Dave's willful disconnectedness from the rest of the world----a disconnectedness that has to be there in order for Dave to raise his son, Michael, as well as to have any sort of relationship with his wife, Celeste. In what is probably the film's most effective scene, the camera focuses in on Dave as he watches a vampire movie on television. As his wife enters the room, Dave delivers a creepy, labyrinthine monologue about vampires and child prostitutes, all of this spoken with a haunted gleam in his eye, as if his wife were not even present in the room. This scene really clinches Dave's character for us as viewers, so much so, that we should feel sick to our stomachs about
happens to him by film's end. Dave Boyle is one of the most interesting, most tragic, characters I have encountered on screen in a while; and even though Sean Penn delivers what is probably the performance of his career, Tim Robbins steals the show from him, nonetheless.

As was mentioned earlier, everyone else in this cast, down to the smallest role, is nothing short of stellar. Marcia Gay Harden is appropriately distraught and wide-eyed in her depiction of Celeste, Dave's wife, who cannot understand her own husbands psychic territory. Kevin Bacon, who plays Sean (now a police detective), the last of the three friends from childhood that Mystic River involves itself with, balances his feelings of loyalty and friendship with his drive to solve the murder of Jimmy's daughter.....I have no qualms in declaring Mystic River an actorly cornucopia, that will be appreciated by anyone (myself included) who has ever acted for any length of time. The performances in Mystic River probably won't be equaled (in terms of density and complexity) by any other film this year, and I can live with that.

Still, the actorly feast in Mystic River aside, the film is simply a bit much. Too dense as a film, too slow and murky, and way, way too serious. Granted, if Eastwood had let up on the film's overly serious tone, we would probably have lost much in the slew of great performances that we are treated to. Yet, if Eastwood would have only let a few rays of light into this film, it would have been a much easier film to swallow, and probably an even better film than it ultimately turned out to be.

Originally published in FilmChaw 2003. Image courtesy of

Monday, September 21, 2009


I think it was at the point that the little boy was being driven in reckless fashion by his mother along a cliffside road overlooking the sea, and the sea was roiling with hundred-foot waves that were really gigantic koi but were also waves, and the waves were moving straight up and down like elevators half-sentient elevators, and running/riding on top of the waves was the little goldfish who (having tasted a drop of blood from the little boy's thumb when she was much smaller and living in the bucket that the little boy had kept her in after saving her from the glass jar she had swum into and gotten stuck in) had now grown human-sized and had sprouted chicken legs and was laughing, laughing, laughing, and oh, yeah, also those giant fish-waves she was running on were the evolved version of the tiny little goldfish who were once tiny versions of herself . . .

Yes, it was around this point in time that I sat back, smiled, and thought, "Hayao Miyazaki, you insane, magnificent, insane, insane bastard, I love you."

Ponyo is minor Miyazaki compared to Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle -- its ecological message is somewhat muddled and it never really feels like there is much at stake (when one character starts blathering about the impending end of the world, neither the other characters nor the audience pays much attention -- but it still bears the stamp of the master. Crazy double-reverse pretzel logic presented in such a matter-of-fact manner that you accept it with childlike wonder, a sense that anything is possible, coupled with a humanistic sense of grace for even the most off-putting of characters, an absolute refusal to present any character as an antagonist. I have to say, there's nobody else making movies like this. I'm not sure how they could, or if they'd even want to try. Just trance out until the first paragraph of this post makes sense.

Image from

Thursday, September 17, 2009

TIFF Review - Apan (The Ape)

When you only pick 10 films or so out of over 300, you have to be choosy. It helps to have some semblance of a system. Me? I like to try and squeeze in at least one "I have no idea what this is about, but it sounds cool" film. They also tend to be from Scandinavian countries for some reason.

This year it was Apan (The Ape), from Sweden's Jesper Ganslandt.

And as has been pointed out time and again, it's not a film you should give plot details about, since the whole film hinges on you NOT knowing what happens or what exactly is happening. In fact, the lead actor himself was led from location to location without being told what was happening next.

The main character wakes up on a bathroom floor, heads to work, and starts losing his cool at people. From there his day progresses. That's about all I'll say plot-wise.

But this isn't a surrealist piece, there are no wonky visions or Lynchian characters or scenes to confuse you. The story itself seems fairly straightforward. It could be called postmodern though.

The camera stays close to the protagonist, Krister, for the duration of the film, following him as he attempts to keep it together. Olle Sarri plays the man on the edge of nervous breakdown well, and the scant dialogue punctuated with amplified cacophonies of surrounding noises does an admirable job of bringing the audience into his world. In fact, the loud cues are what I really noticed, be it during a tennis game, near a passing train, or just the sound of a door slamming shut.

North American audiences tend to like having their stories wrapped up for them, and their plots explained at the end of the film. We want to pat ourselves on the back for being oh-so-smart and figuring everything out. We want validation from the filmmaker that we understood their film. This movie doesn't give this. It ends abruptly, like having a puzzle nearly complete and then realizing you're missing the final pieces of the scene - you know what the picture is supposed to be, but you're left with the slightest doubts about the details.

This was met with groans by the audience I was with. They'd been engrossed for 80 minutes by a story they didn't fully understand, but when it wasn't wrapped up for them with a neat little bow, they rebelled. Critics next to me said "are you kidding?" deeming it the worst movie they've seen at the fest. People behind complained to each other about how they had been enjoying the movie up to the end, but now were pissed off that the climax never happened.

I just shook my head at their reactions. For they failed to see that they were putting their own inability to think for themselves on display. Here was an engrossing piece that had held them rapt for its duration, and now they turned on it because its conclusion was left open to their interpretation.

Ganslandt has made a movie where the details of the cause are unimportant, and the effect is the focus. We start at scene 2, not scene 1, and end at the penultimate act instead of the finale. The point is the character, and the psychological effects of his actions, not the initiating actions themselves. We instinctively know what happened, and how it well end, it doesn't need to be spoon fed to us.

I walked out a touch confused myself, and wasn't entirely sure I enjoyed it. But now that I've finished this review an reanalyzed what I've seen, I realize that it worked exactly as it should have. I was on the brink of passing out when I walked into the theatre, purely from exhaustion, and it kept me awake and rapt for its duration. The film then forced me to think about it as my day continued, and spend time analyzing what its goals were. If that's not successful execution of art, then I don't know what is.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

TIFF Review - Vengeance

"What is vengeance when you've forgotten everything?"

The Hong Kong bullet ballet is its own genre of cinema. John Woo may be the best known name in it, but Johnnie To has built up no small amount of respect among its fans. It's part noir, part gangster film, and generally a whole bunch of bad-ass.

And this time, he's brought a French rock star into the mix. Johnny Hallyday plays Costello, a man who comes to Macau from Paris when his daughter's family is blown away in their home by a trio of men. He arrives at the hospital to find her lucky to be alive. She asks him to avenge her, and he promises he will.

He enlists the services of three hit men to investigate the killings and help him achieve his revenge. As the story progresses, we learn that there is more to Costello than the chef and restaurant owner he claims to be.

Among those secrets is that he is rapidly losing his memory. He forgets people within hours of meeting them, scrawls "vengeance" on pictures of his deceased family so that he will remember why he is in China, and writes the names of the hit men he's hired on the polaroids he's taken so that he won't forget who they are.

He must have his vengeance before he forgets about everything completely, and time is short.

The story progresses in a fairly linear manner. Secrets that aren't really so secret are revealed, twists that you've already figured out occur, and justice is served, after a fashion. But what sets the film apart from just another generic noir revenge movie is the beauty of it and the honour that underlies it all.

The hired hitmen are the personification of honour among thieves. As Costello's memory fades, they remind him of his purpose, and continue the job when they could have easily abandoned it without consequence, leaving Costello a lost soul. They guide him to his vengeance, and forgive his failings. They have taken a job, it is an honourable one, and they will see it through, regardless of the consequences.

Johnnie To brings creativity and beauty to a genre that has played out any number of ways. A nighttime gun battle in a park is lit by the moon dodging in and out of the clouds, symbolizing Costello's failing memories. A final war between factions is an homage to Kurosawa and what starts as a seemingly goofy device becomes an intriguing battlefield.

And the casting is excellent. Hallyday looks every bit the aging bad-ass. In an outfit straight from Reservoir Dogs (and knowing Tarantino's influences, no doubt this is simply coming full circle), he stalks the movie. But his menace is overshadowed by the lost look that crosses his face and his eyes that constantly show the battle to hold on to his memories. His hired guns are equally up to the task. Anthony Wong Chau-Sang as Kwai, the grizzled leader of the trio is dangerous, determined, and calculating. Ka Tung Lam is the younger, flashier pro Chu, who pushes aside his doubts with loyalty. Suet Lam as Lok is the clown of the group, but shines when the chips are down, showing that he belongs there as much as the other two.

And the pacing is deliberate. This isn't an action movie where it's scene after scene of guns blazing. Every step of the task has a purpose, and the quiet moments between allies are just as important as the firefights by moonlight. Any unfulfilled desires of endless battles are forgotten in a finale that would make Charles Bronson proud. Never will the question "Is this your coat?" mean quite the same thing. What most impressed me about the ending though was how intelligence trumped memory loss. The final scene, for all its seeming simplicity, has layers that make it worth discussion.

This is a film that embodies its title. Vengeance is determined, deliberate, and unstoppable - even when you don't remember why you're seeking it.

TIFF Review - Waking Sleeping Beauty

Disney is known the world over as the king of animation. They brought the first feature-length animated movie in Snow White, and followed that with a string of classics. But by the early 80's, the entire Disney film division had fallen on hard times, and a classic Disney cartoon hadn't been seen in a while. Even Walt had been focusing on live action fare before he died.

The "nine old men" of the animation department were still ruling things, but the building was filling with young artists eager to leave their mark on the storied company. This put them at odds with the old guys, who just wanted them to sit down and get to work. Sadly, the young turks felt they could be doing better.

Waking Sleeping Beauty is the story of how Disney's animation department was saved.

The film is purely clips from 1994 and earlier. Home movies, behind-the-scenes production footage, test reels, interviews, and the occasional finished cut of something, all narrated by many of the players of the time.

It starts with a tour of the old animation building - linoleum floors, pencil shavings, and all. One of the first names we recognize is that of John Lasseter some kid who's behind the camera. We meet other young guns, most memorable? A creepy kid with a narrow face and eyes that scare you off named Tim Burton. The parade of animating and movie superstars continues, none of them knowing the heights they'd one day reach.

Disney was on hard times. Don Bluth had been put in charge of the animated movies, but wasn't trusted by Disney. He eventually left the company and took half the animators with him. This scared the board and the old guard into giving anybody else the reigns.

Rumours circulated that Disney was ready to abandon it's film division entirely, because they didn't need it anymore, what with the theme parks and merchandising, and other businesses. As Roy Disney put it at the time though - if they got rid of the film department, then all they'd be running is a museum.

Corporate raiders circled like vultures, ready to buy the company and sell off the pieces. The board bought them out to keep it together. Then they brought in a couple guys to save the company - Michael Eisner and Frank Wells, the first external Hollywood businessmen the company had seen.

And they brought in Jeffrey Katzenberg to run things in animation. The first movie out? The Black Cauldron - a disaster at the box office that was beaten out by some cuddly bears with cheery symbols on their chests. It was the low point of the company.

Meanwhile, a little movie called Splash was revitalizing the live action division, and animation was kept around just out of tradition and a sense of responsibility. They hit some pretty hard times and went through no small number of changes before they finally found the drive and outlets for the creativity to turn it around.

We already know the results - Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Aladdin, and more - an unparalleled string of hits that turned Disney from a company on the brink to a multi-billion dollar behemoth.

I went in to the movie already knowing much of this. The Disney story is well known to anyone with an interest in animation. But I didn't know the details. I wasn't aware how deep the animosity between Roy Disney, Michael Eisner, and Jeffrey Katzenberg was. I was too young to have even heard of Frank Wells, after all Eisner introduced the Disney Sunday Night movie to me as a kid. But even if you knew the details, the film fills them in even more. Like a good inker, it adds depth and shading and contrast that you'd otherwise miss.

The personal stories, the regret in hindsight from the major players, the grueling hours, the thrill of success, and the visions of how it could have gone so wrong are insightful and a must for any fan of the magic this company has turned out. Waking Sleeping Beauty (a line taken from Katzenberg rallying the troops when he first came on) pulls back the curtain on the Magic Kingdom and shows the sweat and tears that went into its renaissance.

And one thing that struck me - there are a lot of dead people in this movie. Be it those who were intimately involved in the Disney process, or the actors on the periphery. Jerry Orbach, Michael Jackson, Paul Newman, and most shocking to the audience - Patrick Swayze handing out the Best Comedy or Musical Golden Globe for The Lion King. Somehow, seeing these faces again - younger, healthier, more vibrant - really pointed out how that era too has passed. I honestly can't remember the last non-Pixar Disney animated feature I've seen. The Princess and the Frog doesn't look like it will usher in a new renaissance of 2D animation, but who knows? This alone brings a tinge of sadness to the movie.

The producer summed it up in the Q&A afterwards - at Disney you're trained to make a movie 82 minutes long, get a laugh, get a tear, and get out there. This movie is 82 minutes long, has more than a few laughs, and even a few tears sneak in. It'll be making the round at festivals, colleges, and wherever else they can get the reel in. If you get a chance and you're a fan of the company a mouse built, you should definitely check it out.

TIFF Review - Bitch Slap

The opening credits of Bitch Slap scream "THIS IS A RUSS MEYER SEXPLOITATION TRIBUTE!" It even holds up this premise for a while before it suffers from absent-mindedness and keeps forgetting the point.

Rick Jacobson and Eric Gruendemann met on the set of Xena: Warrior Princess. Jacobson was directing, and Gruendemann was producing. They continued working on the series and stayed friends. Eventually, they decided they wanted to make a film that was all theirs.

According to Jacobson, he figured he wanted to do something balls-to-the-wall fun and outrageous in the style of Meyer, and started checking off ways to make it as cheap as possible. Desert setting meant no permits required. Friends in most of the roles meant a bunch of fun. It all started coming together, and he showed Gruendemann who decided it needed to be MORE outrageous.

And so Bitch Slap was born. The opening credits are scenes straight from the golden era of exploitation flicks. A brief pre-credit scene already shows us where we'll end up - in flames and destruction. From there, it's cheesy fun. For a while. The three protagonists - all hot, curvaceous women, slowly emerge from their genre-appropriate car, with more camera time spent on their chests than their faces.

Guns are out almost immediately, and Gage (Michael Hurst - AKA Iolaus from Hercules), a sleazy crime-boss, is tortured for information on where his treasure is buried. It goes downhill from there for the girls. A cop shows up, more bad guys appear, secrets are revealed to the audience, and everyone is afraid the notorious "Pinky" will show up and kill them all.

For a while, the movie holds on to its roots, but eventually, the tricks being used get tired. The Snyder-esque slow-motion shots, the attempts at Tarantino-esque dialogue, and the seemingly ENDLESS green screen flashbacks start inducing groans instead of laughs. The obsession with showing outrageous scenes (although the gunfight on the Vegas strip is pretty awesome for a Vegas-lover), driving home the "twists", the poor placement of dialogue (rants, curses, and conversations are often overwhelmed by sound effects or music), take away from the movie. At times the filmmakers try too hard.

Luckily, these shortcomings are wiped away by more over-the-top camp. The fight scenes, choreographed by stunt woman extraordinare Zoe Bell, are awesomely over-the-top, with high kicks, flips, punches to places you just aren't supposed to punch, and bloody heaps of she-meat lying in the desert sand gasping for air, coughing up blood, and begging for more.

And the cameos - well, considering the pedigree of those in charge, it should come as no surprise that nearly every major actor from the Xena/Hercules pantheon makes an appearance. Sadly, I don't recall Bruce Campbell being in there, but then he was always friends with Raimi/Tapert tandem in those series. Sad, because he'd be the capper (albeit a cliché one) to a movie that puts itself so solidly in the "B" category.

It's not a perfect movie, but it is still a whole bunch of fun. It takes the ideas of the classic sexploitation reels and for the most part modernizes them admirably. The "sex" is a bit more graphic (but still more titillation than pornography - there's just about zero nudity in the film), the stunts are wilder, the camp as over-the-top as you'd want it, and there are some pretty creative insults thrown back and forth.

The Q&A afterwards was easily the best I've been to this year, and undoubtedly one of the top ones I've seen in my 7 (or is it 8?) years of doing TIFF. The creators obviously don't take themselves too seriously, and the four main actresses couldn't have been more easy-going and happy to be there. Jokes about the filming, flirting with each other and the audience, tossing out saucy and sassy lines off the cuff, and relating the numerous bumps and bruises they sustained (and I dare you to find another Q&A with as many vaginal injuries being described). Throw in a gushing Zoe Bell (who got the biggest round of applause from the audience) who obviously loves where her career is going, and it was worth the fight with my brain and body the next morning when I had to get up on 3 1/2 hours of sleep.

I have a feeling that this will make my collection. For a movie that's marketed as a fun exploitation film, it's jam-packed with movie references and jokes that demand a second viewing. It's not layered by any means, but it can be such an assault on the senses that you miss a bunch the first time through. Hell, I need to rewatch the closing credits just for the fake porn names and jokes. Between people standing up to leave and the distracting webcam videos playing in the background, a guy can get sidetracked. Yes, webcam videos - obviously a commentary on what exploitation has become today, and a bookend that drives home their attempt to modernize the genre. You know what? They're not wrong on that point.

Monday, September 14, 2009

jjok Says RIP Patrick Swayze. Roadhouse Synopsis in 5 Minutes or Less

Cross posted at my homepage, JacksRok.

Patrick Swayze passed away today at the age of 57. RIP Mr Swayze......

Here's a tribute post I wrote in March of 2008 that I never published. Right after his diagnosis went public......

Have fun.......


Big fan of "Guy Movies". TNT does their "Movies for guys who like movies" stuff and they are usually dead on with their selections.

And Patrick Swayze was diagnosed with's hoping he recovers.

So, this post is dedicated to him and will cover one of the greatest guy movies ever.


And today, and only today, I, jjok will give a synopsis of this movie for your reading enlightenment.

So here we go, Roadhouse in 5 minutes or less of reading.

Bartender, named Dalton, flowing locks of hair, badass. Called by small podunk town bar-owner. Owner needs to clean up his joint.
Dalton takes the job.

Dalton specs out the place. Notes the problem workers and keeps a low profile because he is a badass.
Holds meeting with workers
"I thought he'd be bigger"
you don't have to be bigger when you have flowing locks of hair
"Be nice until it's time to not be nice."
"What if some guy calls my momma a whore?"
"Is she?"

Dalton doesn't want patrons to fuck with his mercedes, so he buys a jelopy at the local used car joint. Light covers still work too.
He buys 4 spare tires.

He lives in a barn.....upstairs......
He sleeps naked in the non air conditioned barn
With farm animals.

He goes to work on first night.
Catches a worker doggying a 17 year old......instead of watching the dude finish her off, fires him instead
"You're gonna be my saturday night special"
"Oh Stevie"
"But I'm on my break!!!"
"Stay on it"

Dalton has his arms crossed, leaning on a post, sipping coffee.
Sees a bottle being thrown at him.
He slightly moves his head and lets it shatter on the post. Arms never uncross.

........Classic barbouncer move cometh
Dalton takes guy by the back of the head and slams it into table.
The table breaks perfectly in a line thus breaking the table in two
Dalton pulls the guys head back up.
Dalton then quickly jerks his head, causing his flocks of hair to fly.
"Escort this gentleman to the door"
"Did you see that shit?"
"Tha names.....Dalton" says the blind Jeff Healey playing the guitar behind the steal cage to protect him.
Future bad guy's whore girlfriend now likes Dalton.

After bar closes, someone knifes all 4 of Dalton's tires? No problem! That's why he bought 4 spares!
And he just laughs about it while rolling up the sleeves to change the tires.
Gets home to his barn, looks out accross the lake from his window to see naked swim parties every night.
This party-thrower will be the badguy.

Next night, he gets a stab wound while working.
He goes to the hospital.
Doctor is hottie, and notices his stitches on his arm.
"Nice work."
Dalton also carries around his medical chart.
"For your line of work....I thought you'd be bigger"
"I get that alot"
Invite her to come to bar for some coffee.

Focus shift now......
Next night, meets bad guy in person, who has hired some of the fired workers.
They start a brawl.
Dalton wins, like he's supposed to.

Bad Guy makes henchmen "invite" Dalton to breakfast. Bad Guy's whore girlfriend doing aerobics in the next room...she has a black eye
Dalton now meets his nemesis......another badass.

Bad Guy starts to do bad guy things like destroying car dealerships. Nemesis helps out.
"Hope you have insurance"

Dalton calls his buddy, asking him to help out.
Old guy with bad knees is Dalton's buddy...he's got to call Dalton "Miho" which is short for amigo.
Relationship with doctor girl filler which is now unimportant.

Bad Guy doesn't like Dalton. Neither does the Nemesis.
Dalton fighting with girlfriend. Hears explosion at barn-owners normal house.

Key move here.......
Dalton jumps out of the window of his upstairs barn apartment........because there is a likelihood he will land in a haystack, roll off it, and continue running without skipping a beat
Oh, and without a shirt.
And no shoes.
Saves old guys life.
Sees Nemesis on motorcycle that caused the explosion.
Dalton runs after him, and knocks him off the motorcycle.
Fight ensues.
Nemesis says to Dalton....."I used to fuck guys like you in prison"
Dalton, amidst the frucus, finds a way to climb a small rock, jump off it, and land a successful kick on Nemesis.
Nemesis pulls out gun, knowing he can't win.
Dalton able to kick it away.
Dalton holds out his hand with pointing finger, middle finger, and thumb extended ready to rip out Nemesis's throat...
Looks like he is about to throw a curveball......
And he does rip out the throat.
Then after does a spin kick to Nemesis's midsection and let's Nemesis fall face first into a pond.
Girlfriend sees it, confirms Nemesis is dead, and is now ultra pissed at Dalton.

Dalton calls buddy to tell them they are leaving this town.
Buddy says cool.
Buddy killed by Bad Guy by a big Bowie Knife.
Dalton pissed.

Dalton executes a perfect plan which can truly only be done in a movie.....or if you are a badass.......

Using the Bowie knife that killed his friend, it navigates his mercedes towards the Bad Guys house. The car hits a perfectly timed jump, causing the car to do a corkscrew in the air.......there is a guy waiting with a shotgun ready to shoot the gastank......causing the whole thing to blow up.
But Dalton isn't in the car.
The shotgun guy is the owner of the knife and retrieves it. Duh Duh Dunnnnnn.

Dalton beats up all the henchman.
Stuffed polar bears are scary.
Bad Guy has Dalton on ropes.
Three old country men with 6'-0" long shotguns shoot Bad Guy.
Bad Guy does the Nestea Plunge into glass coffee table after said gentlemen with insanely long shotguns ventilated his midsection
Cops show up.
What happened.
"I didn't see anything."
Henchman says "Polar Bear fell on me"

Dalton swims with hottie Doctor naked in the scummy pond out back.



Again rest in peace Patrick Swayze, and thanks for those movies of yours that I enjoyed......

TIFF Review - The Road

"An uplifiting journey for the soul!"
"A non-stop laugh-a-minute riot!"
"A rollercoaster ride of action and thrills!"

None of those things will be on the poster for The Road. Barring the Weinsteins having a really keen sense of irony. Even then, this wouldn't be the movie for it.

Running nearly two hours long, The Road is the most beautiful way I've ever had my soul crushed on film. Based on Cormac McCarthy's much-loved novel, this is not the way you bring your spirits up - unless you're of the "hey, it could be worse" school of mood-improvement.

Civilization has ended. There's no explanation as to how or why, but it's done. Wandering this post-apocalyptic world is a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). They walk "the road". It's a desolate landscape - no vegetation, no wildlife, and barely any other people. Some have banded together, forming roving, violent, cannibalistic gangs. Others have holed up in compounds, doing heinous things to survive. Most have died or moved on. Everyone is just trying to survive.

Through flashbacks we learn that the man used to be married to Charlize Theron, who questioned their need to survive after everything went to hell. But the man survives because he knows it's what is right for his newborn son. Now, years later, they continue to push on, and to "carry the fire" in their chests. They strive to be the "good guys", but the man's moral stability wavers as circumstances dictate. If not for the boy and his inherent child's clarity, we get the feeling he'd have long since become as savage as some of those they encounter.

There are moments of savagery, moments of pain, and moments of tension and fear. The pair's existence often rests on the fine line between salvation and chaos, and at times circumstance is all that saves them. There are scant few moments of hope. The man has lost the ability to trust anyone but themselves, and carries two bullets in his gun for the obvious reason. The boy has known no other existence, but yearns for company, for people, and for sanity in a world gone mad.

There is no climax. There is no happy ending. There is no redemption. This is a movie that forces you to ask the question, "what would I do?" and provides no easy answers. Scene after scene is heart-wrenching loneliness and fear. Even the ending, which offers an iota of hope, is nearly irrelevant in that world, and seems almost cruel when hindsight is applied. This is the most brutally realistic vision of a world on the brink of extinction I've seen. There are no aliens, no creatures, no plagues or other blockbuster-level disasters. There's just... nothing. Even the old trope of the real monsters being humans is reduced in size by the fact that the gangs, the cannibals, the "bad guys" are just as unimportant in the broad strokes as the "good guys" when you're fighting over the scraps of mankind.

From a technical viewpoint, this is a masterful film. Beautiful in its starkness (think Oregon and Pennsylvanian wilderness winters as the backdrop), it never deviates from the world of its two protagonists. Never does the camera pull back to show how others are coping, only those they encounter. There is no radio squawking in the background talking about the situation in Russia. The universe belongs only to a man and a boy. The existentialist debate on this alone could take awhile. The movie is tight, and the reasoning of the actions we see sound - with perhaps one exception that bothered me, but I suppose desperation can lead to poor choices. Seeing as it's one of the more disturbing scenes in the movie, I'll say no more.

If you've seen director John Hillcoat's most recent previous work, The Proposition, then you know his capacity for bringing sparsely populated environments to the screen and showing the depravity of those who live in them. He surpasses that here. Bringing Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' (not that one, the other one) score into play only adds to the desolation. The Road lets its hopelessness suffuse your soul.

And it's a great film for it.

We watch films to be affected by them. Be it to laugh, cry, reel in terror, or just giggle with childlike mirth, there's no worse movie than one you leave with a shrug. This one sticks. This one forces you to talk to others who have seen it. This one makes you glad that once you leave that theatre, there will be annoying teens and flashing lights outside (okay, maybe not the teens). By reducing the end of the world to the view of two people, McCarthy and Hillcoat have forced us to see it in the widest view imaginable.

TIFF Review - Daybreakers

Friday night was a bloodsucking double bill. Following Suck, I powerwalked to see Daybreakers.

Let's face it - vampire movies are THE horror classic. Zombies go through their cycles, but vamps never really leave the scene. We know the rules - sunlight, garlic, stakes to heart, and sometimes crosses and holy water don't mesh well with them. They're often rather aristocratic, and are often quite civil until they get hungry. Usually, there's a head vampire somewhere up the ladder.

Michael and Peter Spierig have taken those classic tropes and added their own twists.

It's 2019, ten years after a single bat started an outbreak of vampirism. Most of the human population are now nosferatu. We join this world on the brink of a food crisis - the humans have all but run out, and there's not enough blood to go around.

The world hasn't really changed all that much, outside of golden eyes, pale skin, and fangs. People still go to work, corporations still control everything, markets trade, nations are separated by their wealth, the military machine still rolls on, and Chrysler is a viable car company. Okay, so that last one is a bit odd.

Little changes are pointed out though. Your coffee comes with 20% blood. Your brother brings you a bottle of the finest 100% pure human for your birthday. Nobody really goes out during the day, although the cars have been modified to make it possible, and there's an extensive underground pedestrian system (which reminded me of Toronto's PATH).

So, what happens when these vamps don't get blood? They mutate, becoming "subsiders". Starting off with elongated Vulcan-like ears, their brains eventually break down and they transform into human-sized bat-things who crave only blood.

And as I said, the blood is running out. Call it a lack of foresight, but the human population is just about gone. The animals turned vampiric too, so there's not even much pig blood to go around. Enter Edward (Ethan Hawke), chief hematologist for the number one blood-provider in the world. He diligently works for his boss Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), but not for the same reasons. Edward never wanted to be turned, and he hates what's been done to the human population. He's seeking a blood substitute so that humanity can be saved. Bromley, however, couldn't be hapier to be a vamp, and has a more commercial purpose in mind.

As the crisis worsens, Edward comes across a band of humans, led by Elvis (Willem Dafoe), who know something nobody else does, and that Edward is keenly interested in. He sets out to change the world.

The Spierigs had one big goal in mind - make a fun vampire movie. I got the impression from the post-movie Q&A that any social commentary was secondary to this aim. It's there - blood is oil or water, humans today aren't any less evil than vampires would be, corporations and capitalism are heartless machines - but it's never so heavy-handed as to detract from the movie.

Seeing it with a crowd ready for blood was the right way to go - explosions of entrails and plasma were greeted with cheers, lines purposely designed to become Army of Darkness-like classics were laughed at (basically, any time Dafoe opens his mouth, it's worth a laugh, and he does it with gusto), and the ideas brought forth were applauded. The classic vampire clichés aren't wandered from, and the new aspects brought in seem to be natural answers to "what would a world of vampires really be like?"

There are a few head-scratching moments - like vampires suddenly exploding as if they've been stuffed with C-4 when they get staked. It's almost like they ran out of money for fake blood, so brought in fireworks instead. But these are redeemed by some truly great scenes, especially those that deal with the question of how you save those you love when vampires are roaming the streets.

And there's an aesthetic to the whole movie that fits perfectly. Early scenes are reminiscent of Dark City or Blade Runner - a modernized noir that only makes sense when your world runs at night. This is contrasted with the overly-bright daytime scenes. We feel how harsh the sun has become to a world where most can't survive it. Then, when the humans come into play, the night becomes a foreboding and dangerous void, with daylight becoming their saviour.

So, where does Daybreakers fit in the pantheon of vamp cinema? It's probably the best pure vampire movie I've seen in recent years. It's not the teen-drama-weepy crap that is Twilight, and we can be thankful for that. In fact, there's no romantic subplot of any kind. It's not trying to be as cool as Blade or Underworld, yet isn't short on style. It's actually a reasonably intelligent take on the genre, but isn't afraid to have itself a bloodbath or two.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

TIFF Review - Suck

Canadian vampire band road movie.

That would be Suck in a nutshell.

The Winners are your standard kinda-hard-working bar band. 10 years of playing small clubs to drunk crowds who don't really care has taken its toll. Their weasel of a manager Jeff (Dave Foley) quits by trying to convince band leader Joey (writer/director Rob Stefaniuk) to fire him. He's realized they're a dead end band on the verge of ending it, and is ready to move to the next big thing (Japanese Hip Hop according to him). The band is so hard up that while on a tour (Montreal-Toronto-Buffalo-New York) they're sleeping in their car, a hearse, instead of a hotel in Montreal.

Which is the last straw for Jennifer (the always hot Jessica Paré), who instead opts to go to a party with some friends - a creepy guy (The Burning Brides' Dimitri Coats) that she just met in the bar. Of course, knowing what the film is about, it's not hard to guess how this goes.

Jennifer misses the hearse ride to Toronto, but shows up just before showtime looking a bit pale, with a new dye job, and some pretty noticeable eyes. Her claims of being exactly the same as before are less than believable.

Strange thing about vampires is that they tend to have some powers and they draw attention to themselves. Jennifer's change starts turning around the forturnes of the band. The other thing about vampires is they get hungry. It doesn't take long before the band finds out what's really going on with their bassist and hit a crossroads on what to do.

Of course, the fact Eddie Van Helsing (played with clumsy gusto by Malcom McDowell) is after them as he seeks out the head vampire only complicates matters.

This is a movie with it's Candadian tongue planted firmly in its Canadian cheek. Jokes about Americans, Buffalo, a whiny French Canadian roadie, and various Toronto locales make sure you know who made it. Cameos from Canadian rock icons Alex Lifeson and Carole Pope help too.

Not that they're the only ones. Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins, and Moby also make appearances. Alice and Iggy are in roles that one might expect, while Rollins and Moby definitely step outside their norms. How far out? Moby, a vegan, squeezes raw meat over his head to bathe in the blood. He's not a vampire. Rollins channels his best Fred Willard for his role.

And not that it can only be enjoyed by Canadians. It's decidely medium-budget, but done well. It's jokes are largely universal, and play more with musical icons and past band movies than national in-jokes.

Oh, and the music ain't bad either. It's pretty generic bar-rock, but it serves its purpose admirably.

Don't expect to come out changed, but if you've got 90 minutes to kill with a funny, enjoyable, and original take on some familiar themes, Suck is a pretty good way to spend it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

TIFF Review - Antichrist

This isn't a film for people who only want fuzzy bunnies and rainbows. This isn't a film for people who can't take some graphic violence. This isn't a film for people who like to be comfortable when sitting in a theatre. This IS a film for people who can take some pretty serious blows to the brain and body, and then want to think about it afterwards.

Someone fainted in the theatre tonight. Someone else vomited on the row in front of him. This was a film festival crowd. These were people who should know what seeing a von Trier film can entail. Hell, the programmer who introduced the movie (and the fest programme as well) warned that if you thought you were ready for the graphic scenes - you weren't. I've sat through showers of blood, dismemberment, and The Brown Bunny at the fest in the past and have never seen these reactions.

But focusing solely on the disturbing images of the final 15-20 minutes would be doing a disservice to an excellent film. Even more so because these scenes are key in showing how far down the rabbit hole the characters have gone, and reveal the true level of damage to their psyches.

The prologue is one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema I've seen. If I had a young child, I imagine it would also be one of the most devastating. Filmed in black and white, it shows the capabilities of a director more known for his unorthodox choices than his classical directing abilities.

Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg play a nameless couple (simply credited as "he" and "she") who have suffered the loss of their son. She seemingly takes it harder, suffering from an grief cycle that is labeled as atypical. He, being a therapist, doesn't believe this and opts to treat her himself, despite the dictates of common sense and professionalism.

He forces her to fight through her grief and anxiety. He eventually begins to uncover her fears. He brings her to the woods she spent the last summer in, and secrets become uncovered.

Von Trier leaves it to the viewer to determine if the woods are evil, or if the macabre happenings of the latter part of the movie are purely the product of grief-stricken minds. Unsettling camera work and disturbing images lead the viewer to one conclusion, while the climactic scenes shatter these beliefs, only to have them returned in the end. Never have acorns caused such tension on the screen.

Revelations come fast and furious, with the movie taking a sharp turn that takes the audience by surprise, even though they are expecting something to happen. Yet even these revelations remain open to interpretation. As I walked home, I found myself rethinking what we'd been shown. Which version of events were credulous? When other evidence presented in the film was recalled, it changed my opinion yet again. This isn't a film that you just walk away from.

As for the title - it's not what you think. This isn't The Omen in the woods. Antichrist seems more a reference to Nietzsche's book - the hatred of nature, the flaws of pity, and the struggle against suffering are major themes in the movie.

Dafoe and Gainsbourg are the only actors in the majority of the movie, and pull off powerful performances. Dafoe slowly turns from a caring husband and therapist to someone who has realized how far gone his wife truly is, and that perhaps he has been more distant and aloof than he realized. When the gravity of his situation dawns on him, he underplays it brilliantly, to the point where you don't realize when it happened until you look back on the film. Gainsbourg begins by earning your pity, but slowly begins to send chills down your spine as her character unravels.

There's a third character in the film as well - von Trier. He imbues every scene with a sense of dread, anxiety, and anticipation. A simple forest breeze seems to carry foreboding with it. A rustling leaf causes that pall of silence across the theatre as people are unsure what to expect. The fact that only a few of moments of tension result in anything plays out fantastically when things go off the deep end.

Our host said that this movie haunted him for two months after he first saw it. For me, that would be a poor choice of words. This isn't a film that leaves you easily, but I hardly find it haunting. Though it is one of the most thought-provoking pieces of cinema I've seen in a long time. But I repeat, it's not for the faint of heart.

I want to watch it over, and probably again after that... the question is - can I stomach it?

That image above? Most disturbing poster I've seen in a while. Yesterday, I thought nothing of it. Today? I can barely look at it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gearing Up For TIFF

In a couple days, The Toronto International Film Fest kicks off. As usual, I've got ten films lined up. This year though, I have Filmchaw as my outlet for boring you with my reviews!

This time around, I got all ten of my first picks. You may be confused by most of them...

Antichrist - Lars von Trier goes back to horror. From all accounts, this is one of the most graphic and disturbing horror films in a while. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg lose their child, and as Dafoe forces his wife to face her fears, things get... dark.

Suck - Bad bar band gets a little bloodthirsty and their fortunes turn around. Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, and Alex Lifeson show up for some fun too.

Daybreakers - Most of the world is now vampires. But they're pretty practical about it - running corporations, making money, and basically doing what we do now. Unless they run out of fresh blood, then they go nuts. It's naturally up to Willem Dafoe to fight them. Or maybe Ethan Hawke to develop a blood substitute, being the conflicted vamp he is. Whatever, it's a great second half of a double-bill with Suck.

The Road - Cormac McCarthy's novel gets turned into a desolate movie that will undoubtedly depress the hell out of everyone. Viggo Mortensen wanders the desolate landscape of a world on the verge of ending with his son. Not a comedy.

Bitch Slap - Gotta say, this is the one I was most looking forward to. Here, just watch the trailer. I think it's about female empowerment and not taking shit from the man.

Waking Sleeping Beauty - Disney kinda sucked in the 80's. The animation department was split between old school and new, and it turned out movies that flopped. This is the story of how they turned it around and saved the animated feature in the 90's.

Vengeance - Hong Kong bullet ballet. Plot? Oh - woman lies in hospital, her family killed. Dad shows up from France with a failing memory and hires hitmen to avenge his daughter's family. Then it turns out he might be a bit of a badass himself... except he can't recall...

The Ape - I try to pick one film that I have no idea what to expect going in. This is the one this year. The lead actor was given a scene, it was shot, then he was given the next. He had no idea what was going to happen next. Apparently, neither do we... and it's Swedish.

Kamui - Based on the Kamui Garden manga, a ninja deserts his clan and seeks freedom. Much ninja fighting ensues. There's also a story about him being nursed back to health by a fisherman and his wife who fears the danger he will bring them. Whatever, they had me at "ninja".

Mother - Bong Joon-ho brough the world The Host - a monster tadpole movie from Korea. This one? A bit different. A man with a slight mental disability has been raised and fiercely protected by his mother his whole life. When he's accused of a brutal murder, his mother is the only person who is willing to prove his innocence and gain his freedom. How far will a mother go? Does it matter in a small town where rumour is stronger than fact?

What? You're still reading after the Bitch Slap trailer?

28 Weeks Later (2007): Another Movie About People Being Stupid

If you have been putting off seeing "28 Weeks Later" for the last few years, thinking one of these weekends you will finally get to it, then I have good news for you--you can go ahead and cross it off your list. You've seen it already. You might not think you have. You might say, "Wait, no, I know that I haven't seen it". You would be wrong, though. You've seen it. It's just another movie about people being stupid.

Sure, the details are a bit different. Perhaps you haven't seen any other movies with zombie-like characters, in which people do things that just get them killed. Which of course they deserve because they were being stupid. And perhaps you haven't seen "Babel", which is certainly a movie about people being stupid, but in places like Morocco, instead of England. But one thing I know for sure--if you have seen any quantity of movies in your life that would qualify you as even an occasional fan, the odds are very high that you have seen AT LEAST one movie in which the plot is "people being stupid".

I was sad to find out that was the plot of "28 Weeks Later". I really liked "28 Days Later", the first installment. What a unique and visionary movie that was. How intense. I had a two-hour heart attack during that movie. So many loud, screaming moments in between so many still and haunting moments. Two hours of people thrown head first into an incredible circumstance, trying to make sense of what is happening, and more importantly, stay alive--as we the viewers share in the progression of their experience. Just a triumph in filmmaking.

But this sequel was a HUGE disappointment. FAR too much disbelief had to be suspended. And the whole movie, my disbelief dangled from the ceiling yelling, "Hey! Hey! Hey! Over here!" every time ANYTHING happened in this movie. Even more disappointing was that the plot ended up being "people being stupid", instead of just "oh no, it's happening again! Only now it is because of some reason no one could possibly have predicted!"

Nope. Totally and completely predictable.

It's 28 weeks later, in England, after the rage disease has run its course. Now, the government is moving people back in, EVEN THOUGH RIGHT ACROSS THE THAMES, OVER A BRIDGE YOU AREN'T SUPPOSED TO CROSS, THERE IS AN AREA THAT HASN'T BEEN CLEANED OF DEAD PEOPLE AND POTENTIAL DISEASE YET. Seriously? You couldn't at least keep us in the dark as to how it was going to come back? What was great about the first movie is that what went horribly wrong wasn't brainbashingly obvious in the first ten minutes of the movie.

So, of course that bridge gets crossed, and of course the military brings someone with the disease back into their stronghold, which happens to be a giant apartment complex in which all of the resettlers are living conveniently in one place. And yes, shortly after, things go wrong. What does the military do to secure the situation and prevent an outbreak? Yep, lock all of the resettlers in a parking structure so they can all be easily infected should anything go wrong and an infected person finds his (or her, but in this case, it's his) way to them.

At this point of the movie, what happens next is so ridiculously predictable that I don't really need to say anything about it.

But, one thing worth mentioning happens to be one of the two things I actually liked about this movie. The zombie that turns them all into a roving pack of blood spitting, flesh ripping cataclysm, is our star, Robert Carlyle. Making him the "bad guy" was the only thing about this that wasn't insultingly predictable, or even just insulting.

It's annoying how easy it is to tell who lives and who dies in this film. No, actually, it's insulting.

Oh, and in the opening sequence, we see Carlyle let his wife get killed, and the film makes such a big deal of it through much of the next half hour that it is insultingly obvious the wife is still alive and this is going to come back to bite him in the ass.

(Don't worry, this doesn't spoil anything. It's way too obvious in the film for this to spoil it for you. Unless you don't read, in which case you may or may not have the ability to figure it out from the fore-beating you in the face the filmmakers might have thought was foreshadowing. In that case, you aren't reading this review, so I'm covered on both ends.)

We learn along the way that Carlyle's son has a genetic immunity to the virus that could save humanity. But then, the only person who knows that doesn't bother to tell EVERYONE she meets through much of the rest of the movie, and promptly dies after 45 minutes of knowing this and not making sure that at least one person likely to live knows it. (Man, I forgot I wasn't watching Heroes at times.)

As this whole thing started going down--thousands of resettlers turned zombies running in all directions eating everyone in their path--I couldn't get over the fact that the best contingency plan the military came up with beforehand, should anything go wrong, was to lock everyone in the basement, and when that fails, just unload a whole bunch of artillery on them, and when that doesn't work, firebomb the city area that has been resettled.

This cut way too close to reality for me. Our government, and so many governments in history, have planned this poorly and reacted this underly and ineptly, that I almost couldn't watch this movie to the end--I could just as easily have turned on cable news and gotten a reality that wasn't all that different in many ways.

Herein lies what bugged me about this movie. Don't we get enough bad news of how stupid people call way too many of the shots in the world? Don't we live every single day having to avoid people who don't look before they turn left, or who don't seem to get that when you start preemptive wars in other countries, you aren't winning hearts and minds. We get pummeled every single day with news and direct experience of people testing the envelope of their own lack of reasoning skills. Why do we need two hours more of this in a movie?

I'm not saying movies have to take us away from the awful things of the world, per se. Scary can be good. Happy can be good. Reality can be good. But there's something particular about movies where the plot doesn't move forward without people being insanely stupid, and worse, not learning from their mistakes.

I guess my real question is: Why does this appeal to people? Why do people spend millions of dollars to spread entertainment built on a foundation of human stupidity, only to be paid for in higher returns by people who seem to be demanding human stupidity?

Why do we demand human stupidity?

Rating: John Cougar Mellencamp. It would have been John Tesh, but having the star be a zombie for most of the movie keeps it from being a John Tesh. However, I spent so much of this movie angry at people for being dumb that it probably should get a John Tesh. But then I remember that the opening sequence is actually unbelievably awesome in how it was shot and told (borrowing very much from the first movie) that it keeps its nose just above John Tesh. As we all do.

Photo: Courtesy of Grandpafootsoldier.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Boy and His Dog (1975)

'A Boy and His Dog' (1975)* *
This 1975 adaptation of a Harlan Ellison novella is one of those Soylent Green-type sci-fi pics that appears to have a couple of purposes: (1) to advance some sort of social commentary, and (2) to freak out audiences with a lot of self-consciously bizarre set pieces and “cult” stuff. The latter gets in the way of the former more often than not, I’d say, with the weirdness generally overwhelming the coherence of the film’s more ambitious messages. Still, kind of a curious item that fans of this sort of thing might nevertheless enjoy.

Stars a young Don Johnson who would later become an ’80s TV icon in Miami Vice. Johnson had made his debut a few years earlier in another culty production, the Firesign Theatre-joint Zachariah, a weirdo musical-slash-western-slash-mishmash from 1971. Johnson had popped up in a couple of other films, too, but this marked his first starring role, taking the part of the somewhat dim-witted eighteen-year-old Vic. Johnson was in his mid-20s at the time, but was nevertheless boyish enough to pull off the young, horny hero of this one.

As the film’s opening montage of mushroom clouds suggests, Vic finds himself in a post-apocalyptic world. It is 2024, some time after World War IV (which we’re told lasted just five days). There’s a longer, more detailed “alternate history”-type backstory in Ellison’s novella, but that mostly gets glossed over here in favor of jumping into the action.

Vic’s sole companion is a dog named Blood with whom he somehow has the ability to communicate. We’re never really told why they can communicate (something about Blood being part of “an experiment”?), but that doesn’t bother us too much. Perhaps a bit on the corny side, but the dialogue between the two is fairly engaging, and there’s a kind of sardonic edge to the delivery of Tim McIntire, who provides the voice of Blood. (And the country-flavored theme song, too.)

We’re in low budget territory here, so our “post-apocalyptic” landscape is predictably barren -- mostly California desert, I think. Food is a constant worry, and for the lust-driven Vic, finding a woman -- apparently especially scarce in post-WWIV 2024 -- further adds to his agitation. The friendship of Blood and Vic appears largely secured on an agreement whereby Vic finds food for Blood, and Blood finds women for Vic.

'A Boy and His Dog' (1975)The first two-thirds of the 90-minute film present this relationship and the desolate, post-war scene somewhat effectively, with Vic finally getting together with a woman, improbably named Quilla June Holmes. Then the film takes a majorly-WTF left turn after Vic gets hoodwinked by Quilla into investigating the world “Down Under” -- a strange society that exists underneath the desert where everyone wears clownish make-up and there appears to be some sort of totalitarian regime in control.

One of my faves, Jason Robards, enters the picture here as Lou Craddock, a “committee leader” who enjoys some sort of special authority over what happens down under, including deciding who gets sent “to the farm” (i.e., executed). Vic becomes a prisoner of this crazy coven of clowns, and the remainder of the film focuses on his attempts at escape and, one hopes, enjoy a reunion with his dog, Blood.

There are some pretty facile anti-war and anti-governmental messages interwoven here -- nothing that really makes you think, though. In fact, an overwhelming impression -- particularly during the last third of the film -- is how the director (and co-scripter) L.Q. Jones seems desperate to create a quirky, “midnight movie” kind of vibe with quotable lines and characters/scenes that probably play a lot better with some sort of pharmaceutical enhancement.

Another ideological thread that tangles things up here is a fairly unambiguous gender bias. Charges of misogyny -- sometimes leveled at the novella and film -- are probably a bit hyperbolic, but the message that “women are trouble” is nevertheless pretty clearly conveyed here.

There are a few grins along the way. Dumb Vic becomes somehow sympathetic. And like I say, Blood occasionally provides a funny line now and again. There are those who have strong feelings in favor of this film, but for me A Boy and His Dog doesn’t really satisfy all that much -- either as a “straight” film with something valuable to say about our problems functioning as a society, or as a “cult” product with a high enough oddball quotient to reward repeated viewings.

Sort of like Zachariah actually -- another film I really wanted to like (being a big Firesign Theatre fan and all), but somehow could not. So just two stars from me, although definitely a more interesting flick than yr average two-star affair.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

jjok Enjoyed Those Early 80's Camp Movies

I'm 35 years old. I have a wife, 4 kids, a minivan, and a mortgage.

I'm about average.

And I still find those 80's flickers to be really funny.....

I remember how taboo it was for a 10 year old to watch those boobie flicks involving high school or summer camps. It had boobs, and funny stuff. Ones that immediately come to mind are Zapped with Scott Baio and Meatballs(which if you can believe it is being remade for 2010).

So here we are in 2009, why not make fun of it?

Enter a movie that makes fun of them and takes it to a whole other level......yet lacks a key component that is sure to upset.

Wet Hot American Summer.

The cast includes Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Bradly Cooper, Amy Poehler, the bitchy bitch fuckface Janeane Garofalofuckyou, and a monster performance by Christopher Meloni.

The premise? It's the last day of camp at Camp Firewood in 1981. And there's a lot of stuff for the counselors to do before they end their summer.

Let's give you a primer of some select scenes that make it interesting before realizing the fatal flaw.

First you have Paul Rudd, one of my faves, dealing with a beligerent camper......

Or how about a scarce chance to hit the local town for the counselors? All in the name of good clean fun......

Or how about the "arguably" best speech given by a crazy lunch person, followed up with him slowly humping a refrigerator? Christopher Meloni is the shit.

In all, the humor is way the fuck out there. I admit to laughing out loud several times at some really screwed up scenes.

Including again "arguably" the best chase scene in the history of chase scenes. The slow-mo over the hay bail is top notch.

So you can see, the humor is all over the place.

But the movie has one fatal flaw that attracted so many 10 and 12 year old to the early to mid 80's teenie flicks.


And not a one shown in this movie which is a travesty.

Somehow they show a scene with Bradley Cooper getting cornholed by another camper.....and they tried to make it as "beautiful" as they could, including both dudes still wearing their pulled up gym socks with red rings at the top. Very passionate and ultimately disturbing.

And yet no boobs in this entire flicker.

Overall, the humor is different. Some will love this movie as it is a cult classic. Others will immediately cast it off into the "dumbest movie ever" crowd. I can totally get that.

For me, I give it a D-.

Hey, no boobs. I mean seriously, WTF?

Till next time, May all your movies have boobs.

jjok signing off

Tokyo Life

One of my best friends is living the life we all dream about. I won't get into details, so you're just going to have to believe me. Let's just say film (directing, editing, filming), music (composing, spinning), travel (everywhere you want to be), you name it.

The bastage is so fucking talented:

Tokyo Life from Doron Dor on Vimeo.

Oh, and just so I don't burn another post on stuff nobody cares about: ZOMBIES! I see many posts about zombies and zombie movies. So the other day at Costco I saw a book y'all might want to check out - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

I'm not kidding.

Three Six Alice

I'm waiting anxiously for the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland. They disabled emnedding, fucking Disney.

Alice has been another favorite around the house. So I laughed my ass off when I saw this one:

I got nothing.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mad Movies - It Might Get Loud

Long before RockBand and Guitar Hero hit the street, a friend asked me, "if you were in a rock band, what instrument would you play?" Without hesitation I responsed "lead guitar." He was a bit surprised that I didn't say lead singer. Pshaw, who wouldn't want to be a guitarist like Robert Fripp, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend or one of the many Steves (Hackett, Howe, Morse, Vai, Wilson, to name a few)?

As a huge fan of the guitar, I figured It Might Get Loud was made for folks like me. From the shivers seeing the Les Paul Gibson during the opening credits to the final jam of The Band's The Weight, I was right for the most part. The archival footage was great, the production values - the sound, the visuals, the editing - all great, and the live music was wonderful. Some of the highlights for me were seeing the joy on Jimmy Page's face as he listened and air guitared to Link Wray's Rumble and The Edge's tale of how Sunday Bloody Sunday came about. And who knew that Jack White was so funny?

The movie delved into each guitarists start and musical style but I wished it went deeper into their creative process as well as their affect on the rock world. The director, David Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), devises a "rock 'n roll summit" to bring the three guitarists together on a sound stage. The result is some good live music but once again, I wanted more. They were all too polite - I guess I wanted more conflict. Earlier in the film The Edge talks about the formation of U2 and how bands were rebelling against the over indulgence of 70's rock and prog, yet he never expresses this to Jimmy Page during the "summit." And during some of the jams, I wanted the director to show more of the guitarists playing their instruments.

That said, I've already recommended the movie to my musician/music fan friends and you might like it too. I give this film 3 strips out of 5 (I'd actually give it 3 1/2 but I don't have a graphic for that).


Proof that a great concept isn't enough. The idea of a shadow elite of the super-lucky is a good one, but this idea is completely stranded in a boring and trite mess (otherwise known as the "Dean Koontz Effect"). Murky and uninteresting, our shadow elite are no more than morbid dilettantes who employ their exceptional (genetic? psychic?) providence for no greater purpose than in testing their own powers against other lucky individuals, in a series of convoluted contests, in order to . . . ah, I really don't even care anymore. It seems to me that if that's all you're going to do with your supernatural luck, you'd be better off as a regular slobbo. The great Max von Sydow is thoroughly wasted in these proceedings; he pops up from time to time as some kind of twisted Yoda of good fortune. His character is best described as Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter plus Brando in The Godfather, multiplied by a complete idiot. What's even worse than the misuse of a fine actor, though, is the script's disgusting and cynical evoking of the Holocaust in an (unsuccessful) attempt inject some eleventh-hour gravitas into the proceedings. I watched this one for you. Don't watch this movie, or my sacrifice will have been for nothing.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Found in Duey's Vaults #4: Near Dark(1987)


This is that smart horror movie I was talking about before. Near Dark is a western vampire movie that would of been more successful if it was released this year. Back in 1987 there was no such thing as vampires portrayed as regular human beings who regretted killing people for the taste of blood. this movie they don't regret it either. Except they see their victims as people who don't deserve to live. They suck from the lowlife scum of the earth and give to....well...they just take actually. These vampires have no crazy teeth!! Where is all the crazy over the top hair perms and sharp teeth? Where is all the loud drums and fast arpeggio leads? It's 1987 for Pete's sake!! Instead you get eerie music from Tangerie Dream and cowboy songs. Very 2009 with 1987 filming tactics. There is a vampire boom going on right now...they need to release a good HD version of this movie. I don't want to say this movie is timeless but it definitely doesn't feel dated.

This move is written and directed by Kathryn Bigelow. This was her debut for a movie. If there were any flaws in this movie I would have to put the blame on DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group which went bankrupt after this film more than her lack of ability. The movie bombed in the box office because of lack of promotion.

This movie has a great cast. Adrian Pasdar as Vampire Nathan Petrelli/Caleb. He is the "hero"/unwilling victim of the vampire clan. He didn't want to be one and the movie deals with him trying to get away from the group with Mae(Jenny Wright) who also doesn't seem to want to be a vampire anymore either. She was the one that bit Caleb after they met one night.

They have to deal with Lance Henriksen(as leader Jesse Hooker), Bill Paxton(as Severen, the crazy psycho) and Jenette Goldstein(as Diamondback) who all starred in Aliens which was a great movie too. Micheal Biehn who also was in Aliens turned down a role for this film...that would of been awesome if he was in this too.

By the way, Aliens was produced by Gale Anne Hurd which also produced Terminator which also included Paxton, Goldstein, Henriksen, and Biehn. James Cameron directed Aliens and Terminator and the Abyss(produced by Gale Anne Hurd and starred Micheal Biehn)......what I guess I''m saying is the 80's were very very......incestuous.

The following clip that you can view(by clicking on the link because the video won't allow embedding)is in the top 100 of scariest scenes by Bravo. Here you get to see crazy psycho Severen in action:

And AGAIN here:

I would say watch this movie once...and if you like it, you will probably tell others about it because you think its a lost gem for the horror/vampire/western genre. If you are a fan of
Buffy/Angel or True Blood...def check it.

The Vault Version: First 5 mins is missing. Mom must not have known what was on until the credits kicked in...probably found the first tape that was blank and just hit record.

Screen Shot Quiz 001

Back in the old days of FilmChaw, I used to run a screen-capture quiz. When I quit, the inmates took over the assylum, so it's still running over here, but I still have gajillions of images that I may as well drop on you nice people. I think I'll make this a regular Thursday thing. Guess in the comments.

Since I'm making no attempt to make this easy, the first person to correctly guess the movie this comes from wins a million dollars.*

*You should be aware that I have a rather loose definition of "million" and of "dollars."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

HoP's Movie Question: Zombies Eat Brains?

Thank god for Film Chaw, where this question actually makes a bit of sense:

In the classic Romero zombie movies, zombies always had one goal...brains. So I was thinking about this and some of the other versions of zombies in pop culture and I think I found a fatal flaw in Mr. Romero's zombies. The brain is enclosed in a skull. A hard skull. So how are these deteriorating zombies who can't even work up a decent running gait get through the skull