Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Court Martial, My Ass.





Apologies for geeking out on everyone, but I just thought I'd share some thoughts on a Star Trek: TOS episode. Season 1, episode 20 entitled Court Martial, to be exact. I watch so much Star Trek , and GPS does plan on attending a convention one of these days. I also happen to have an original-style Captain's shirt. What are you looking at?

Honestly, my gripes are valid for this episode. Look, I get that you have to take pretty much everything put forth in that series with a huge grain of salt. I really do. Yet and still, this shit is ridiculous. The episode is about the Enterprise encountering a particularly nasty ion storm in which a crew member was ejected out into space by Kirk. Of course, ejecting crew members into space isn't at the top of Kirk's to-do list. Why, then, as the episode title suggests, is he under court martial? Well, the controversy surrounds his decision to jettison this dude during an ion storm. You know, come to think of it, I don't even really know why he had to be let go. The storm was fucking the ship up, and I think the guy was still out in his shuttle craft. The danger eventually became too great for Kirk to risk bringing him in or something, so the guy in the shuttle craft had to be sacrificed for the good of the Enterprise.

Ok, so far (ambiguous plot withstanding) I'm with the episode. Sounds pretty cut-and-dry to me. Ah, but this is Star Trek: TOS we're talking about. Something bizarre and ridiculous has to happen. So, at this point, Kirk has to give his report to star base 11 about just what the fuck happened during the ion storm. In his report, he says he released the dude's pod AFTER he signaled red alert, and only at the last possible moment. But somehow the ship's log has Kirk releasing the pod BEFORE red alert. Big difference. But why would Kirk do that? Of course, the dude he left to space-death has hated Kirk ever since he found a fuck-up of his so many years ago. Kirk reported the fuck-up and, subsequently, the dude's career never took off like he thought it would. So...does Kirk secretly hate the guy for having such a stupid grudge on him? What do you think? OF COURSE NOT. But hey, most of the fun of these kinds of episodes comes from the "how" not the "why".

Random hot picture of Uhura. I miss the skirts.

Unfortunately, the "how" is fucking retarded. First off, Kirk is court martialed, which means he'll stand trial. Alright. But here's a kicker: the prosecution is a former flame of his. Shocking, I know. I think it's required that every Earth colony have one in the population. But my first thought was, "Wait a minute. Doesn't that present a gigantic conflict of interest?" I mean, if you're the sole prosecutor but the defendant is a lover of yours, well...I dunno. I'm not a lawyer, but I would find it pretty damn hard to give my all to convicting someone I have/had lovey-dovey feelings for. Guilty: conflict of interest, at least according to me. So that's the first problem, but far from the most frustrating.

The most frustrating comes when the trial is in session. Somehow, the prosecution procures video from the incident that clearly shows Kirk releasing the dude's pod before red alert is initiated. This poses two conundrums in my mind: 1) Since the video is obviously wrong, how can that be altered? We're going on 1960s logic here, where there was no such thing as Photoshop, let alone complex video editing software. If there was video, there was video. This goes unexplained as the truth unfolds, and it's just dumb. How can recorded video that's supposedly unalterable be totally inaccurate? 2) It's pretty clear when Kirk and his lawyer see the video being played back that they've never seen it before. Can you guess my next objection? Yes, this evidence should have been inadmissible. There's a reason you can't just submit evidence on the fly without both counsels being given time to review and prepare their case. That's cause for immediate objection, in this case, on the side of the defense, and the judge would also immediately agree and throw the evidence right out. Case closed, but not in Star Trek: TOS. Instead, both Kirk and his lawyer stare dumbstruck at the video, and then continue to say that they can't refute what the computer has logged. Umm, yes you can. "We were never given this evidence, your honor. I object to the prosecution using inadmissible evidence and ask that the court strike it from the record." Oh, well, I guess Kirk's highly sought-after lawyer hadn't come across this kind of thing before. Or he's a fucking moron. One or the other.

Here, Spock is pictured while puzzling out the mysteries of the universe. Bones is thinking "Dammit, Spock, I'm a doctor not a space-chess player."

My other, more minor objection comes at the (sort of) expense of Spock. He has to resort to giving a demonstration to the court detailing how he can beat the computer at chess five times, when the best result should be a stale-mate. So, you're telling me that in the 24th century, one would have to physically show a game of chess between the Enterprise's on-board computer and a Vulcan to demonstrate that computers can be fallible? Fuck off. That still doesn't explain how the video was altered to look like Kirk hit the button before the red alert was triggered. If the video was altered, wouldn't they be able to figure that little tid-bit out? Yes, like I said, we're dealing with a show made in the '60s which was way before any schmuck could make his own Bigfoot discovery video. Still, even armed with that knowledge, this shit is a tough sell.

I've devoted more time than I initially planned to on this shit, so I'll just end with a challenge. For all you hardcore Trekkies out there, riddle me this:

How was the video forged?

Why was Kirk's lawyer so fucking incompetent?

How did Finney, who hid himself from the Enterprise's sensors, STILL evade the sensors when he re-boarded the ship? They would know right away when he came back aboard.

FUCK YOU IF YOU THINK YOU'RE SMARTER THAN LOGIC. You're rationalizing, and Spock himself would punch you in the face.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Get ready to KICK-ASS!!!


I'm usually not so uber-geeky that I get excited over movie posters, but these have me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. If you are not familiar with the Kick-Ass property, then let's review. It's a comic book by Mark Millar (of Wanted fame) about a guy with no powers or skills that wants to be a superhero. He dons a disguise, a couple of sticks, and patrols the streets with the intention of smiting evil. Things don't initially go well for this rookie crime fighter and he is almost killed during his first outing. It's a normal world inhabited by costumed heros, villains, and an 11 year old girl that has uncanny skills with a samurai sword. The film will be brought to us in 2010 by Matthew Vaughn (04's Layer Cake) so be excited..........be very excited!!!




Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Trailer

Man, I knew this day was fast approaching, but I hadn't properly steeled myself for it. Honestly, I don't know how I feel about this trailer yet, having only watched it once. It didn't fill my heart with wonder and amazement, but it didn't turn it to stone, either. I did notice a few instances of re-enacting the game mechanics, which could be cool. I'll watch it a few more times and let it grow on/spread like a plague over me.

[adding...] Ok, I watched it again. They're trying too hard with the witty banter, the CG looks impressive, and parts of it look too much like a movie based on a game. Still, Mike Newell is directing, so score one point for the film. We'll see.


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time in HD

Trailer Park | MySpace Video

Monday, November 2, 2009

Scream, Scream For Your Lives! - The Tingler (1959)




William Castle was a cool dude. He directed a handful of neat little horror films - a couple of which went on to be remade (one good, one not so good) - and while he will never be confused with the man he most wanted to emulate, namely Alfred Hitchcock, he will go down in history for trying his own brand of scare tactics. For example, if you were to have seen The Tingler in theaters, you could have been one of the lucky audience members to receive an electric jolt from your chair in the hopes of scaring you even further. Did the tactic actually work? I wasn't there to find out, but it probably did work on some people. Others probably thought it was annoying. My point is that Castle was at least inventive enough to try different, out of the box things to make his movies more exciting. He also produced Rosemary's Baby. Bonus points for that. The Tingler had moments of brilliance, to be sure, but it also left something to be desired in the monster that gave the picture its title.

The Tingler centers around the "scientific" (we all know how loosely the term is thrown about in horror films) experiments of Dr. Warren Chapin, played by the great Vincent Price. There's already something going for your horror movie if Price is starring in it, and The Tingler is no exception. He doesn't play the mad scientist type like one would expect. For the most part, he's actually a pretty decent guy. There's an incident with his bitch of a wife early on, but she deserved it. That bitch. Anyways, Dr. Chapin thinks he can isolate a physical being attached to the spinal column of every human being in the throes of absolute fear. The only problem is performing an autopsy on someone who died at the height of fear, while at the same time never vocalizing it by screaming. Where would you find someone like that? Why, Dr. Chapin just happens to know a deaf mute! Great success! Now, all he has to do is scare the shit out of her until she dies. I said Dr. Chapin was a decent guy for the most part. He still obviously has maniacal tendencies, but my only point was that he doesn't play the part of the unwittingly asshole-ish scientist who neglects everyone around him. Other than his going too far for the sake of science, he's pretty normal, which is nice to see.


video
Here's one of the more dramatically horrific scenes in the movie. It's a cool effect, even though you can tell an obvious quality difference in the camera used for the scene.


So after succeeding in killing a deaf mute for the glory of science and reason, Dr. Chapin then goes about trying to study the Tingler that was inside her. Of course, it escapes, and madness and mayhem briefly ensue. In fact, a Tingler isn't actually seen until right around that part in the movie, which, as it turns out, was for the better. The puppet they used for the Tingler was pretty damn awful, and it was only made worse by watching the strings pull it around every time it moved. And by every time it moved, I mean every time it moved. Oh, well, I guess. You get the good effects with the bad when you watch older movies. The clip above is an example of good effects.




But for the better part of the film, it doesn't rely on the stupid stringed puppet to elicit fear. To me, at least, it was more about going too far when it's obvious what you're doing is putting people in danger. Yea, yea, we've all seen a shit-load of movies that deal with that very same subject, but I think Price's performance makes it a little better than most other films that tried the same thing. The Tingler takes a two-pronged approach when dealing with what should and shouldn't be considered ethical and moral. Dr. Chapin thinks he's only doing what's necessary, while condemning another character for going too far. It's interesting to see a man rationalize his own behavior and actions, only to then go and scold someone else for doing something roughly equivalent.

The one thing I'll say about Vincent Price, even though I loathe to say it, is that he isn't the best overly dramatic actor. When a scene requires that he go a bit over-the-top, it doesn't usually work out very well. The same goes for when he needs to do something physically demanding. I think Price is at his best when he's cool, calm and collected. He can be creepy as all hell, a total prick, or the nicest guy in the world. But just like the rest of us, he isn't perfect.


video
This movie was made in 1959, and I don't think LSD was something the audience could identify as easily as we could now. Still...not a very convincing acid trip.


All in all, I'm glad I own The Tingler. It handles itself well when it comes to believable characters, and the morality play it was striving to be overrides the Ed Wood-esque monstrosity it tried to pass off as the actual Tingler. Vincent Price is awesome, that neat color trick I showed you above was cool, if a little gimmicky, and the two characters the story really dealt with kept me invested. I wish Dr. Chapin's wife (that bitch) would have got more of what was coming to her, though. It happened to Price once, so why not?


We May Be Trapped - Kaidan (2007)




Not to be confused with its 1964 predecessor, Kaidan is a drama first and foremost. Its horror elements play sporadically throughout the film, and it's not about multiple ghost stories. Subsequently, it doesn't sit quietly next to the rest of director Hideo Nakata's body of work. If he tried to make it a morality play, I failed to see the practical application of its moral core (life is unfair; deal with it?). That being said, I was engrossed in the characters and setting, and the trademark Nakata eeriness reared its ugly (pretty) head less frequently as one would assume, but to similar great effect. In fact, I would argue that it does a much better job of creeping the fuck out of viewers since it takes the time to build around its central characters. I don't know about you, but I cared just enough about the main characters in Ringu and Dark Water to get the job done. But with Kaidan, I think the characters and their world took center stage. The horror elements came in due time, but only after sufficient time was spent setting up the why. The why is very important when trying to manipulate emotions. Kaidan succeeded mightily in manipulating mine.



A nameless narrator begins the film by telling of a sad and gruesome tale of murder. Soetsu Minagawa was an acupuncturist. He had two daughters which he rasied alone after his wife's passing. I guess times were hard for acupuncturists back then, because Minagawa decided to lend money with ridiculous interest rates as a side business. When I say ridiculous interest rates, I'm talking literally over 200%. I'd be pissed if I borrowed from that guy. But if I agreed to his terms, oh well, it sucks to be me. But Shinzaemon Fukai didn't see things as I would have. Fukai was a samurai who borrowed 30 yen from Minagawa at some point. Years later, Minagawa came calling to collect the debt. According to his utterly stupid interest rates, Fukai owed him 65 yen. Yes, the interest rate was that high. If Minagawa was a credit card company, he'd be above the pack. Regardless, the debt was there, plain and simple. What would any ordinary, honor-bound samurai do in that situation? Pay his debt? Hah, I say to you. Why, no, in that situation, Fukai did what any other self-respecting asshole would have done. He killed Minagawa and dumped his body in a lake. Right on: no more debt. Maybe Fukai's subsequent maddness and suicide had nothing to do with this ordeal, or maybe fate grabbed him by the balls and squeezed. Either way, the last laugh was with Minagawa (who did say he would come back and kill him).



So that whole schpeil is the backdrop for the rest of the film. Both families had children, and their fates will forever be intertwined. By intertwined, I mean horribly mangled together in a clusterfuck of sadness with spikes of joy. I'm talking face-disfiguring and murderous. Good times. Honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. The film really plays out like a fantastic version of a low-rent melodrama. Its like all the peliculas and soap operas were somehow serviced with a complete and utter makeover; the cast replaced with believable actors; the plot toned down in every respectable way; yet the defiant fuck-you spirit to logic remains intact. Realistic in its intentions it's not; realistic in emotional appeal, it might very well be.

The film centrally deals with the rightful immaturity of one character (the younger male), and the incredulous immaturity of another (the older female). Both characters are linked by their familial pastimes, but neither one knows it. I tend to side with one in particular, but that might just be my overriding logical nature taking hold. Still, the chick is a bitch, and I wouldn't have put up with it. Basically, the daughter of the slain loansman becomes romantically envolved with the son of the asshole samurai. As fate would have it, the daughter of the loansmen has major issues and is obsessed with the samurai's son. He loves her as well, but not to the same extent that she does. She ends up dying, and the samurai's son can't live up to his promise he made to her before she passed. Honestly, it was a shit promise from the get-go, and I wouldn't hold him to it if it were up to me. But I'm not a psycho hose beast, so what do I know?


video
A walk in the pouring rain out in the middle of nowhere is a great romantic getaway.

The film has its fair share of Days of our Lives moments - double-crossings from characters who aren't even in the film save for this particular plot point - but it doesn't get bogged down in the minutia of randomness that daytime television succumbs to. Its characters, while not necessarily likeable, make the story worthwhile. I really don't think the main dude deserved any of what was coming to him, but that didn't hinder my engagement with what was going on. I think that's a testament to Hideo Nakata, who manages to keep a lot of his subtle horror intact while creating a much better overall dramatic experience. The one thing I'll knock the film for is the narrator. He's only used twice in the film - once in the beginning, and once about 3/4ths of the way through. The beginning was very much suited for narration. The second time it happens, not so much. It almost takes away from what the film tried to accomplish with the narration. Almost. It didn't distract me too much from what was going on, but instead just enough to notice. Oh well; no one is perfect, unless your name is Ridley Scott.



If you're looking for a straight-up J-horror movie, then most definitely look elsewhere. But if you want to experience a lot of what the best of J-horror has to offer, while at the same time getting a great dramatic, character-driven film, then Kaidan is your ticket. Just don't fall in love with it only to move on to other projects. If you end up without a head, at the very least don't blame me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Silent Talkie - Soft for Digging (2001)





Most of you have probably never heard of J.T. Petty, but he has a couple of really interesting films under his belt. His second film, Mimic: Sentinel, has some pretty heavy Hitchcock influences, and I admired what he did with the material. Tonight, however, I watched Soft for Digging, his debut horror/drama outing, and what I found was something more akin to a movie from the first two decades of the 1900s as opposed to a work created within the past ten years.

Save for one speech near the end, there are only six words of dialogue spoken by anyone. The main character, Virgil, only ever says one word: "Murder!" Yes, this is a film about a nefarious deed done to someone probably undeserving of it. But the most admirable thing about Soft for Digging actually isn't its full-on horror aspects; it's also a film about one man's relative isolation and limited dealings with anything outside of his own affairs. There are title cards to introduce each "chapter" of the film, and all they do is describe or set up the group of scenes to follow. Each chapter usually has one major thing going on. For example, the first chapter is about introducing Virgil and showing his cat run away. The cat is important, but you get to watch the film to know why.


A simple man in a simple cabin.


Anyways, the silence in Soft for Digging is almost deafening, in the sense that it tells everything about Virgil and all that's going on around him without the need for spoken words. He's a simple man who lives out in a cabin in the woods of Maryland, and he seems to be pretty content with life until he sees something that understandably shook every fiber of his being. A girl is murdered out in the woods, and Virgil just happened to be there when it took place. From that moment on, he's tormented with dreams of the girl and her murderer, and those dreams eventually prompt him to leave the isolation of his cabin in search of answers. To be honest, up until a good while into the film, I wasn't sure that he even saw what he thought he did. I figured he's alone a lot of the time, his eyesight might not be as good as it once was, and his mind basically filled in the rest. Boy, was I wrong. A murder definitely took place, and it's thanks to Virgil's take-it-as-it-comes demeanor that anything at all got done about it.


This is not a family picnic.


Until the end, the horror elements only show themselves in the dreams/visions of Virgil, and they're always designated by a few seconds of blackness and creepy sound effects, followed by the sequences themselves. They're like short, choppy nightmares that only give enough information for you to see that something is wrong, and Virgil is the only one who knows about it. The way the mystery is unveiled is extremely simple, yet resoundingly effective. There's no big production about what's going on - it just is. The lack of dialogue is probably the main reason for the uneasiness injected into almost every scene once Virgil's on the trail.


video
Here, Virgil tells the cops that he found the girl's body, but when they all go to dig it up, of course there's nothing there. Notice how the film doesn't rely on any spoken dialogue at all.


I guess I'll begrudgingly say that Soft for Digging isn't for everyone. The whole film is a build-up to a modest ending if you've seen a lot of horror movies, but for me the ending is perfectly satisfying. That, coupled with just watching the simplicity of Virgil's existence and how that simplicity was intruded upon was worth the 74 minutes spent with the film. Give it a shot if you're in the mood for something completely different.





Monday, October 12, 2009

How About Some Horror Classics? Candyman (1992) and The Entity (1981)




In my opinion, both Candyman and The Entity are both classics, but for vastly different reasons. If you were to watch them back-to-back, you would come away with two totally unique experiences. In the spirit of the season, I'll briefly give you my two cents as to what makes each film so great, with accompanying video and pictorial evidence for your perusal. The odd thing is that my latest horror kick really has nothing to do with it being October. Honest, I'm not lying to you. Anyways, here are two examples of masterpieces that should be on the shelf of any self-respecting horror fan.

Candyman

Candyman is great for a couple of reasons. For one, it's a maccabre, grotesque piece of psychological horror that doesn't treat anyone - viewers or characters - like they are idiots. The early '90s was home to a few horror gems that sort of blended the old school with the new. Jacob's Ladder is another worthy example. And with Candyman, you have a tortured soul who ends up becoming the stuff of nightmares: A seemingly immortal spirit who claims his victims for the sole purpose of keeping others afraid of him. Yea, there's nothing complicated about his motivations. He's a sick fuck who gets off on hearing his name mentioned when someone is scared out of their mind. If he really existed, we'd all be screwed.

video
The first appearance of Candyman. It doesn't go so well for Helen. Candyman seems to be having fun, though. And Tony Todd is fucking awesome.

video
How do you prove to a smarmy psychiatrist that Candyman is real? Split him open from the groin and then fly backwards out of a window. Durh.

I said Candyman is grotesque, and I really meant it. I don't think I've seen another movie with as many guttings starting at the groin area. That's fucked up. The atmosphere is almost dream-like for the most part, and for brief periods the main character, Helen - played to perfection by a gorgeous Virginia Madsen - can't tell reality from what she can only imagine is delusion. But as she gets deeper into the shit, it's pretty obvious to her that she's not hallucinating. Candyman is real, and he wants her to be some sort of eternal hellish bride. I guess that wouldn't be so bad, if only there wasn't the whole burning to death after being stung by about a million bees. In any case, Candyman is permanently on my list of great horror films. Based on a Clive Barker book, the maccabre doesn't get any better than this (and Hellraiser).


Is a sobbing Virginia Madsen, forced to strip while covered in blood, still hot?
No?


How about now?


The Entity

The Entity is pretty much the polar opposite of Candyman. There's no blood, no murdered slave back from the dead to wreak havoc, and not nearly as "sad" an ending. The thing that sets The Entity apart from other poltergeist or haunted house-type films is the brutality of the thing doing the haunting. It doesn't just move shit around and slam doors. In addition to those things, it also likes to literally rape its victims, repeatedly and without mercy. That's not very nice in my book. Carla is a single mom with three children, going to school while working a full-time job. In other words, just like a lot of other women. The only difference between them and her is that some kind of supernatural asshole keeps raping and attacking her in her own home.

video
Yes, both films have a bath scene. But The Entity's has more nudity and rape. I'm all for the nudity. The rape, not so much. It's quite brutal, actually.

One thing that I absolutely love about this film is Ron Silver's character, Dr. Sneiderman. He's Carla's psychiatrist, and also the best portrayal of a skeptic I've ever seen in any film. From the way he goes about trying to help Carla to the actual conclusions he reaches, he is pitch-perfect in showing how someone with reasoning based in the real world works out problems. I love it.

video
Here is a fantastic scene (my favorite of the whole film) in which Dr. Sneiderman tries his best to show Carla that it's all in her head. In normal circumstances, I'd be behind the Doctor all the way. But he's obviously not in the loop in this story.

The only thing that The Entity has in common with Candyman is the similarly hot leads. Barbara Hershey, like Virginia Madsen in Candyman, simultaneously does an amazing job with her character while being easy on the eyes. One thing takes skill while the other comes naturally, but to have both at the same time makes it that much more special.

Initially, Carla goes back-and-forth in her belief that she's making it all up in her own head.

I'll also quickly mention another aspect that both films share (ok I lied about them only having one thing in common). The scores are uniformly excellent. They both convey the overall emotions of each film to a T, and without that quality, the content of both would suffer. I can't stress enough how important the music is to a film that is relying on emotional investment. Bravo to both films and the filmmakers who had enough self-respect to not shit all over themselves in that department.

Alright, so you've seen the clips and read about how awesome both of these films are. If you've already seen them, then you can just relish in what a good decision maker you are. If you haven't seen them, you now have an opportunity to give yourself a lot of blissful happiness. It's up to you, but I'd recommend blissful happiness over, well, anything else. So what's it gonna be?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Torture, and Then Some - Martyrs (2008)





French filmmakers, man. What the fuck. According to the director, Pascal Laugier, Martyrs is an experimental film. I can instantly understand what he’s talking about. It’s like there are two separate films – one for the first half, and one for the second. At this point in my thinking, I’m not even sure if that’s a bad thing. I’m going to go into plot specific points after this paragraph, so be warned. Normally I don’t go into spoilers, but the things I really want to talk about require a tad bit of spoilage. I won’t give a blow-for-blow account of things, but just be forewarned that I’ll be mentioning details that you won’t want to know without seeing the film in its entirety. Anyways, I’ll say this about Martyrs: it’s not afraid to express an opinion, and that same brazenness might actually do the film harm. As of yet, I’m undecided as to what side of the camp I fall in. Maybe by the time I’m done writing, I’ll have a better understanding of what my full opinion is. We shall see.




The story centers around two women – one has been horribly abused as a child, and the other befriended her during their stay in some sort of orphanage. The ordeal was obviously traumatic, as the abused girl has near-debilitating hallucinations that manifest itself in reality in the form of self-mutilation. The set-up briefly shows the two growing to know and trust each other. And by briefly, I mean about fifteen minutes. The length of character set-up isn’t a problem; it felt like just enough explanation for what was to come for me to be satisfied. But the story quickly ramps up, when, about fifteen years later, the abused girl somehow tracks down the people who hurt her so long ago. And by hurt, I mean locked her in chains in a dank, dark basement in order to physically beat her with no mercy while feeding her just enough to keep her alive. By some freak chance of momentary mental lapse on the part of her captor, she escapes and lives to tell the tale. Naturally, the girl has severe mental problems, and the single thing on her mind is to track down the people responsible and dole out a good bit of fuck you justice. Aided by her childhood friend, her punishment is exacted in a way that only a psychotic could envision.




An important part of the film is what happens after the deed is done. The girl still can’t get rid of her imagined demons; in fact, they seemingly grow in intensity. Despite that, her loyal friend is there to help her though her trying times. Trying times that include murdering four people in cold-blood, but trying times nonetheless. I don’t necessarily advocate the killing of anyone, but I can put myself in her shoes in order to see why she did what she did. For one, she’s so mentally fucked up that a shotgun is just as good a tool for justice as an arrest warrant. In her case, rationality is about as far down the list as what brand of toilet paper to purchase during her next grocery store run (I always buy Angel Soft). At this point in the film there seems to be two themes running through it: being so deluded as to warrant rampant murder, and the thickness of a friendship bond almost overriding personal morality. I say almost because the deluded girl’s trusted friend second guesses her during a crucial part in the story. In fact, her second guessing will have an impact on her immediate future. What future is that? The impact is for you to watch, my friend.




Regardless, the story moves on from there. And here is where the schism presents itself. Up until now, the film was about one person’s mental delusions and what they lead to. The root cause was external, but her mind is so weighted down that it can’t function properly anymore. A mental delusion is not the same as an actual outside force surgically guiding the outcome of a given situation. If you don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about at this point, that’s ok. But like I said, there are two different films vying for supremacy. In the end, I think neither one reigned supreme.

Once the deluded girl’s story is completed, her loyal friend’s saga is just starting. She is basically subjected to the same torture her friend endured, only now we as viewers have a better understanding as to the reasoning behind the fucked up human experiments. The long and short of it involves some kind of crazy fucking cult that is obsessed with finding meaning after death. Apparently, according to this cult, the meaning of death (and life after death) can be found through extreme suffering. They think that extreme suffering to the brink of death will result in some sort of insight into the afterlife. My first thought about this is that someone’s personal experience, regardless of the amount of suffering, will always be subjective. Truth has no bearing on these proceedings. Rather, each person’s individual suffering and revelation is unique to that person. To attempt to extrapolate an objective truth is patently absurd.




From that standpoint, the title Martyrs doesn’t sit right with me. In order to be a martyr, one would have to die for their own personal beliefs. The characters (or at least one character) in this film don’t live or die for any specific beliefs. Their situations are dictated by an outside force that doesn’t take into account their wants or needs. The whole point of being a martyr is that you die for your own beliefs in the face of contrary beliefs. The film offers up a definition of martyr meaning “witness”. If being a witness was the only attribute of a martyr, then the whole concept would be a lot less serious. However, another interpretation of the movie’s title could be that it comes from the point of view of the crazy cultists. They view their victims as martyrs dying for a cause, so in that sense I can agree with Laugier’s decision to name is his film after that.




I’ll quickly mention the gore and blood and all that, since, durh, it’s a French horror film, after all. It’s by far not the most graphic film I’ve ever seen. Inside, another French piece, is way worse on that front. Still, there are some truly shocking moments, and it’s definitely not light on blood. It’s a sick, twisted film, for sure, but it also doesn’t linger on about it as long as some other films. All in all, I think it has enough to satisfy the light to mid gorehounds among you. Oh yea, there is one holy shit moment towards the end, though. I’m not sure that anyone could actually survive it, but oh well.

[edit...] Maybe I'm full of shit about that, because the whole fucking thing is about getting tortured and beaten. Am I that desensitized? I do find this kind of shit gross and everything, but wow. I just said this film doesn't linger on about being sick and twisted, when that's exactly what it's about. Weird.


Anyways, life after death is something this film certainly concerns itself with. The only thing I come away with after the ending is that there is nothing after death. I happen to agree with that assessment, but being as objective as possible, that conclusion was artificially reached. The cult that tortures people only wants to find out what is out there once you die. When confronted with some kind of subjective perspective of what happens when the human brain suffers severe trauma, the leadership of the cult falls apart. Big fucking surprise. There were no scientific experiments that I saw, or anything that would constitute the scientific method. Just a bunch of crazies that had access to poor schmucks for their sick fucking fantastical experiments. Like I said, I’m not sure how I ultimately feel about Martyrs. But I would surmise that the simple fact I’m willing to entertain the ideas put forth in the film says something about its quality. In any case, I recommend you check it out and consequently contribute to the conversation. And hey, guess what? It’s light years better than fucking High Tension. Good lord, that ending blew ass.

[adding…] After having a day to think about it, I really do like every aspect of the film. I mentioned earlier that having two separate stories threw me for a loop, but I think the transition makes a lot of sense the way it was done, and it lets you see both main characters struggle through some horrendous shit. And when I was criticizing the cultists, I was doing so strictly in terms of how stupid and crazy cultists are, not because of bad writing or anything like that. So, basically, thumbs up all around for Martyrs. Woot!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The CREEPS invade your home.....October 27th!


The good news is the DVD and Blu ray is here, the bad news is that it took too damn long for this absolute gem of 80's horror to find its place in my movie library. Fred Dekker's 1986 cult classic "Night of the Creeps" is a delicious blend of zombie, B grade sci-fi, and slasher film love with an extra slice of velveeta thrown in for shits and giggles. This release is absolute paradise for fans of the flick with a bevy of extras including commentaries, cast reunion, and too many others to mention. How many times have you bought a DVD of an older movie and the special features boasted amazing things like interactive menu, or widescreen format? Geeks unite.......this one's for you! All I can say is that on October 27th...."THRILL ME!"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Elementary my dear......Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)


Quite possibly the most famous fictitious character in all of literature is Sherlock Holmes. The first published work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation dates all the way back to 1887, and most people young and old are at least aware of the pipe smoking super sleuth and his sidekick Dr. John A. Watson. There have been four novels and fifty six short stories by Doyle, but countless other variations from other writers throughout the years. His popularity has translated to radio, television, and over two hundred appearances on film with Guy Ritchie's take hitting screens this Christmas. I'll admit to having never read any of the classic stories, and my first exposure to the detective came with 1985's "Young Sherlock Holmes." Directed by Barry Levinson of "Rain Man" fame, it's a totally off canon piece that suggests that Holmes and Watson met as young boys at a London boarding school and became entangled in their first murder mystery.

Revealing too much of the plot would totally spoil the many joys this film has to offer. Let's just say that there is a murderer on the loose at the Brompton Academy whose weapon of choice is a poison dart that drives victims to suicide with its toxic hallucinatory effects. These murder sequences are the standout moments of the piece and boast some truly memorable (even by today's standards) visual effects such as a stained glass window coming to life and terrorizing a priest.



All the special effects shenanigans would be for naught without the solid performances of the leads. Nicholas Rowe plays Sherlock as the cocky uber intelligent person you'd think he would be at that age, and Alan Cox (son of Brian Cox) is solid as the loveable albeit clumsy Watson.

The talent involved bringing this story to life is astounding. Chris Columbus (Goonies/Gremlins/Harry Potter) wrote the story, and none other than John Lasseter of Pixar fame helped put the F/X together. Don't be suprised if while watching it, you feel that the material would be right at home in an Indiana Jones tale. This is due to the fact that Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment produced it. Over twenty years later, this film still holds up as fantastic celluloid magic. If you have any interest in the upcoming Holmes adventure, let "Young Sherlock Holmes" serve as the warm up act!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

He's like the wind.....Swayze 1952-2009




Throughout the 80's and early 90's, Patrick Swayze was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. In later years his popularity waned, but we will always remember him for being an extremely charismatic actor that left us some truly memorable entertainment on the big screen. Here are some of the films that I feel best represent his impact.



The Outsiders

If you were a teenager during this decade, then you no doubt saw him in 1983's "The Outsiders" playing Darrel the oldest of three brothers struggling to keep his family together after the death of their parents. He didn't have the biggest part in the story, but Outsiders was more of an ensemble piece anyways with guys like Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, and blink or you'll miss him Tom Cruise all contributing to what is still a fantastic film.



Red Dawn


In 1984 he played a former high school football star turned guerrilla in "Red Dawn." I remember Dawn for being one of the first PG-13 movies. It's a violent tale of kids rebelling against a Russian invasion of the U.S. that seems outdated now a days, but if you just consider it a "what if" story, it still holds up as a fine action film. I hear rumblings that it's going to be re-made, and that means that it will probably suck. Why tarnish the classic image of C. Thomas Howell standing on the hill with his AK-47 shouting out the name of their school mascot.........."WOLVERINES!"




Road House


One of my favorite guilty pleasures of his era was 1989's "Road house." A total redneck fest that reminded us of simpler times when men wore mullets and settled their differences with their fists instead of guns. Swayze plays Dalton, the all wise uber-bouncer who is hired to clean up a shit hole bar and maintain the peace so the local hillbillies can booze it up in peace. Throw in Sam Elliot as the older wiser mentor and you have youself a knucklebusting good ole time! Who can forget that final duel between Dalton and Evil-neck? Evil-neck has Dalton seemingly down for the count and delivers one of the greatest machismo bad guy taunts ever......."I used to fuck guys like you in prison"......classic! Swayze retaliates and delivers one of the great all time bad buy dispatches with the deadly throat rip........double classic! See the fight for yourself and suck in all that testosterone bitch!








Ghost


So basically the guys responsible for "Airplane" and "The Naked Gun" were going to make a romantic supernatural thriller starring Swayze and Demi Moore? I questioned whether Jerry Zucker was the right director for this, but all of my doubts were quickly dispatched when I saw the final product. 1990's "Ghost" was a great date movie almost guaranteed to get you laid afterwards. Swayze plays Sam Wheat, a man who is murdered and must track down his killer from beyond the grave. This movie had a little bit of everything going for it. Whoopi Goldberg provided a lot of laughs, Demi provided hotness, and Tony Goldwyn was a great bad guy. There's a reason this film made over half a billion dollars in world wide box office, it's that frigging good.


Point Break


Another action role and Swayze delivered again with 1991's "Point Break." As Bodi, the surfer turned bank robber, it was great to see him switch roles and play the villain of the piece instead of the hero. Bodi was an adrenaline junkie who enjoyed taking his friends and enemies to the edge of death and back. When he finds out that Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is an undercover F.B.I. agent on his tail, he gets an even bigger rush out of the cat and mouse game that ensues. Action fans can catch the waves and really hang 10 with this one!


I know.......I know........I failed to mention "Dirty Dancing," but clever people will see reference to that in the title of the post. With the passing of Patrick, we lost another great entertainer whose body of work remains to make us smile for years to come. "the love inside you.........take it with you!".........Sam Wheat

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Michael Keaton: THE Best Batman on film.....period.




I know that at this point in Batman's cinematic life we are all supposed to be creaming our pants becauase of what Nolan has done to re-invent the franchise. Nothing wrong with that at all, he made two damn fine movies and in the case of "The Dark Knight" I'd easily say that it is one of the greatest sequels ever made hands down. Now having said that, and given myself a little time and distance from the Nolan-verse, I decided to go back and revisit Tim Burton's take on Gotham City and the freaks who inhabit its dark alleys. I came to two conclusions. The first being that the 1989 "Batman" is still an amazing movie (also my favorite Batman movie)and can be looked back upon as the first dark super hero tale brought to the silver screen. The second is that Michael Keaton is, was, and always will be my favorite Batman.

Not very many people (myself included) thought that Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice would be a good choice to don the cowl and patrol the rooftops of Gotham. I remember hearing about the casting choice pre-internet days and thoughts of the campy tv series immediately popped into my head. But the moment you saw him kicking the shit out of a couple of low lifes......Keaton vanished.......there was only Batman and the immediate realization that this was the moment the Dark Knight was born on film.

The evidence is actually pretty overwhelming in Keaton's favor. I know Clooney and Kilmer had their time, but I don't even count those turd-biscuit films so it boils down to a contest between Bale and Keaton. It's kind of like the old who is a better James Bond debate. A lot of actors played that role, but it usually ends up being an argument about Connery or Moore. (Moore please thank you) So in the argument for Keaton we must simply let the facts make the case.

The first thing that I notice is that Bale's Batman though he is a trained ninja, is kind of a pussy. I'm not sure where Batbale's code of never killing the bad guy came from, but it sucks balls. When Keaton was cornered, he had no trouble shoving a timebomb down a guys pants.....dropping a hoodlum several stories down to his doom.....or incinerating some schmuck dumb enough to stand behind the batmobile's jet engine. Bale actually saves the Joker....fuck that. Keaton had no problem bat-roping the Joker's leg to a gargoyle and letting him fall to his death. Winner.......Keaton

The next thing that concerns me is the voice of Batman. It seems that a lot of people are really bothered by what Bale does with his personification. It's like he's trying too hard to talk like a badass. One can argue that Batman is a separate personality so the voice should be noticibly different than Bruce Wayne's. I have also heard that in post production they intentionally mucked with Bale's voice to make it even angrier sounding. The fact that people notice this at all is a strike against Batbale. When I go back and listen to Keaton....I only hear Batman. I know that he is doing something different with his voice......but it doesn't stand out. I have never heard anybody complain about what Keaton did with the bat-vocals. Winner.......Keaton again.

suttle......yet effective


overkill perhaps???? you be the judge.

Now let's talk about poon-tang for a bit. I know Batbale is seen a few times scoring hot models and dancers, but as far as hooking a righteous....intelligent....gorgeous piece of ass with possible relationship implications, we again cannot ignore the facts. Katie Holmes while cute with her puppy dog eyes.......does not stand a chance against 80's era goddess Kim Basinger. No argument attempted or allowed. In TDK it's a different actress, same character, same outcome. I think Maggie Gyllenhaal is a fine actress. Not super hot or anything, but attractive nonetheless. Bale doesn't even bed the wench in the film so that should make him the loser from the get go right? Wrong. The reason Batbale loses here is because nothing they could have done would have been hotter than Michelle Pfeiffer in the dominatrix catsuit licking Batman's face......meow!
Winner.......Keaton by a landslide!

Bow before the goddess!





Pfeiffer....just all kinds of delicious naughty!

As far as Bruce Wayne goes, they are being portrayed in two different points in their lives. Bale is a younger cockier man while Keaton is older and wiser so it's difficult to say one is actually better than the other here. I like what both actors do. Winner.........it's a draw.

Overall each actor brings a unique approach to the table, perhaps nostalgia kicks in a little and makes me biased towards Keaton, but Bale is a new comtemporary Batman and I very much look forward to another outing with him donning the tights. If they were to ever adapt Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" into a movie......I would drool at the prospect of an older Keaton bringing the tale of a retired Batman to the screen! Now lets talk Joker...the best one is definately........ah hell....that's a whole another post!!!!


Friday, July 31, 2009

The Most Apt Title in Film History - Next (2007)




I have two other reviews I've yet to write, but I couldn't let this movie get away with rape without me at least calling bullshit. Next is one of the worst fucking things I've ever seen. Holy shit was it bad. I assumed going in that it would be terrible, but I didn't think it would make me look at Ed Wood in a slightly brighter light. Well...long live Ed Wood. At least he knew his movies were crap.

The best thing about Next was that it ended. I'm not going to bore you with most of the unfortunate details, because there are too many to name in the length I feel would be appropriate to give something this low in caliber. In a nutshell, the plot, acting, direction and special effects were all abysmal. I guess I can start with the special effects; there was nothing special about them. What's the point of using cgi for a shitty-looking water tower and fake train, especially when nothing is happening to them? There weren't any of either item the filmmakers could find? And the action shots were BAD. I'm talking Poseidon Adventure with Steve Guttenberg bad. I think that's the second time I've referenced that movie, so I should stop. But yea, the cgi in Next blew fucking ass.



Malcolm McDowell has nothing to worry about.


I don't even know why I'm writing this review. There are so many things wrong with this movie that I would use up Blogger's allotted bandwidth trying to describe it all. Have you ever noticed that weird panning camera effect that some low-budget movies have? Usually you only see it here and there, but it's almost like Lee Tamahori (the unfortunate director) was doing it on purpose. The whole movie was shot like it was DTV, and the director's apparent lack of giving a shit spilled over onto the actors as well. I've never seen so many blank, vacant stares before from a single person. Nicholas Cage should be ashamed of himself. By that, I mean he should stop collecting a paycheck and MAKE A FUCKING GOOD MOVIE AGAIN. I'm tired of seeing him in these shit-fests that nobody cares about. Don't get me wrong, Con-Air and Face/Off are both cheesy as all hell, but their worst moments are far superior to the best this debacle has to offer.

Don't worry, I'm almost done. I just want to quickly mention the gaping plot holes and horrendous writing, and that Alone in the Dark had better dialogue. Also, if you want to know what slumming it is like, just ask Jullianne Moore. But it's ridiculous how far Nicholas Cage has fallen, and I now have serious doubts about Knowing. At least that has Alex Proyas going for it.

There, now I'm done. Don't watch this bullshit.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

WTF!!!!?????? Big Man Japan trailer


If you have ever had any type of appreciation for the Godzilla destroys Tokyo flicks.........give this a serious look.


Karate Kid pt II: sequel that kicks....summer 86!



Ah.....the summer of 84......I remember it very fondly for one particular reason. My mother took me to see "The Karate Kid" at the local twin cinemas. I was instantly smitten with the characters of Miyagi-san and Daniel-san.....come on......who wouldn't want to learn the secrets of Miyagi-do karate, smite the evil bully at the tournament, and go home with the beautiful girl? The crane kick in the end may be a little silly now a days...but if you tell me you didn't get chills the first time you saw it......I say you are a LIAR!!! Truth be told.....this film did not need a sequel, but Hollywood smelled the franchise opportunity and a couple of years later we had part II.

John Avildsen (of Rocky fame) returns to direct as does Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. Instead of rehashing the plot of the first installment, (a mistake they made for the shit-tacular part III)
they wisely built upon the surrogate father son relationship established with Daniel and Miyagi. LaRusso's story took center stage earlier......but here he is just offering support to his best friend and teacher as they travel to Okinawa (filmed in Oahu Hawaii) to deal with a death in the Miyagi family, lost love, and a 45 year old feud between former best friends that has only grown more venomous over time.

Culture is a key force of this film as Daniel-san must cope with being in an unfamiliar land away from the burbs of L.A. He does not understand the Okinawan concept of honor or the consequences of insulting it........but quickly gets a crash course after meeting Chozen. You see....the top Karate student in Okinawa (played by the ever smiling Yuji Okumoto) is a bully who might beat him up.....but might also kill him if provoked to that point. Like in "Rocky" you know there's going to be a fight in the end and KKII constantly teases you with that promise.
When it happens it's a duel to the death.......and you'd never guess that Daniel-san pulls a new Miyagi technique out of his ass when the crane fails him.

"Live or die man!!????"



An exotic location........exotic love interest (the beautiful Tamlyn Tomita) and fantastic villains (props to Danny Kamekona as gravelly voiced Sato) make KKII a very worthy follow up to a beloved film. It's not better.........but it is great none the less. Too bad they didn't leave well enough alone and sweep the leg of the guy who asked "now how about part III?"




Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tron Legacy Comic-Con '09 Trailer, and My Shat Pants.



Tron.

First off, here's the trailer for the original. I'm just going to take one from YouTube since this isn't where I want to spend the bulk of my time with this post. Scoff all you want, but I still love the effects and the whole look of the film. It's trippy and bizarre, and there's really nothing else like it.





If you were born in the 90's, I could possibly forgive you for never seeing the original. But if you're around 20 or so and you still haven't seen it, well....I guess I don't like you very much. Sorry.

This year's San Diego Comic-Con made my night a little more special; the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 sci-fi masterpiece(You say it's dated? I don't like you either) is shortly on its way, and we have the concept teaser trailer for your viewing pleasure. Behold:



video
Kick ass, I know.


I feel I have to apologize for the image quality. Disney is mother-and-cub-like protective of IP, and it's hard as hell to get HD video of this trailer without being a major website. But I think it does the job as it is, and also you should stop complaining.