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.


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:

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.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Thank You, Project Greenlight - Feast II: Sloppy Seconds (2008)

Holy shit, this was a fun one. I'm not even sure where to start. If you've seen the original Feast, you'll be happy to know that some of the characters return, as the film opens shortly after the first one ended. The incidentals in the set-up don't really need to be explained. It's about a group of people surrounded by monsters, just trying to survive. The characters are introduced, blood starts flying, and my giddy laughter begins shortly thereafter. Make no mistake, this movie is a bloody, shitty mess. It's no Cannibal Holocaust, but what really is? Instead, Feast II is way, way, way over-the-top with its gore. You won't ever find yourself believing what you're seeing, but some of the shit that happens is hilariously gross. Honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

A lot of times in horror movies, there's the token asshole. But in Feast II, pretty much everyone is an asshole, so it's more like a totem pole of douchery. At some point, each character vies for the top spot on the pole, and that's really what this movie is about. The monsters themselves look pretty stupid, really. They all look like a bunch of dudes in suits, so if you're hoping for some bad-ass practical monster effects, you'll be leaving disappointed. There's one prolonged scene of dissection and puking with a gigantic eyeball inside a stomach which was fucking awesome, but other than that, the creature effects weren't too great. But again, as in the original, Feast II is all about the characters and what kind of ridiculously fucked up situations they can be put in. And believe me, as far as fucked up situations go, there are some doosies to behold here. Imagine a midget wrestler and a catapault. I'll say no more.

Another thing I absolutely love about this series is its willingness to be totally self-aware. For instance, one of the greatest examples of intentional plot contrivances is as follows: the aforementioned midget wrestler and his brother(also a midget wrestler) opened up the only key-making business in the town. So, naturally, once the plot gets going, everyone decides they need to get into the jail. If you didn't already know, jails are always the safest place to be in a horror movie. If you're ever being hunted by super-horny monstrosities with genitalia the size of sausage links(the big ones), you'll thank me. Anyways, the group's thought process leads to the midget brothers producing a key to open the front door of the police station. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the meth-addict hobo who's been holed-up in the locked-down station by himself since just about the beginning of the film. Right on.

No, it's ok, really. This is why most infant actors are twins.

But enough about meth-addicted hobos. Here's what you really want to know: "Is there any face-fucking?" Sadly, no, but a monster does fuck a cat, so you at least have that much. There was one instance where I really hoped one of the girls was going to get the super sausage, but alas, it didn't work out. I think they saved it for the 3rd movie, which is already out on DVD. Speaking of Feast III, I have to be honest by saying I absolutely have to see it. Before I watched Feast II, I vowed that I wouldn't watch the 3rd one, because it came out only 4 months after this one. Ordinarily I'd stick to my word, but I just can't imagine how John Gulager could up the ridiculousness ante without making it suck a lot of ass. If he pulls it off, I will be in a great amount of debt to him. In any event, lightning struck twice with the Feast series, and while it's not one of those old-fashioned "scary" horror movies, it offers a veritable cornucopia of gore, laughs and gross-outs. What more do you want from a B-movie horror flick? Nothing, that's what.

Oh, yea. Hot, naked biker chicks. They're in here, too.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Over the River and Into Deep Shit - Grimm (2003)

All I knew about Grimm was that it was an "absurdist, darkly comic" re-imagining of Hansel and Gretel. But now, I can tell you that it's about two siblings, Jacob and Marie, who are abandoned by their parents in the woods. Their lovely patriarch leaves them with nothing except a note telling them to hike it all the way to Spain to live with their uncle. For the 5 minutes their parents are in the film, it's obvious they're a couple of asses. My one question, however, is why two 20-somethings are still living with their parents in the middle of nowhere, especially since they're hated by them. Maybe it's because they're Dutch. Probably not, but who knows.

No, you don't have any idea what happens next. Trust me.

This is one of those times when not knowing anything about a film really pays off. The story starts off simply, but takes turns you'd never expect. Bizarrely enough, this is also my only gripe with Grimm, and it's because a major plot point sort of just....happens. There's no explanation that I can find, and it's actually more strange than annoying since it's so glaring that I feel like I missed something. Maybe I did. For a reason my brain can't figure out, after Jacob and Marie find their way to Spain, Marie disappears when Jacob goes to get some food. He comes back to a note with an address written on it, so he heads off to find Marie. When he gets to the address, he finds Marie is "married" to some Spanish dude who lives in a very, very nice villa. And I only know that because he calls Marie his wife. What the fuck? Did I pass out with my drool-encrusted mouth agape for half an hour? I'm pretty sure I didn't, but one can never be sure of such a thing.

There's definitely some interesting morality going on here, though. Jacob and Marie don't have too big a problem killing, even if it is by accident. Off the top of my head, I put their body count at 4, if you don't include animals. Grimm isn't a violent or bloody film, by any means, and I'm glad it was done the way it was. It alternates between being mildly amusing, deadly serious, oddly sweet and laugh-out-loud funny. And maybe it's just me, but there were a few scenes where....well, I don't do that shit with my sister. Nothing gross takes place - but again, maybe it's because they're Dutch(I'm not picking on you guys, by the way) - but there might be some kind of cultural barrier I'm not aware of when it comes to siblings. To be vague, there are just some embraces and looks that go on for a little longer than they would have if I was Jacob. But hey, Jacob and Marie could be one of those uber-close brother-sister types that have nothing twisted going on inside their heads. I still wouldn't take a bath with my sister.

Anyways, I think we should move on. I haven't seen anything else by the writer and director, Alex van Warmerdam, but I'm going to give the rest of his catalogue a look-see at some point. The way he merged comedy and drama was impressive, and he made the most out of a simple premise. The two leads were great as well, and they really looked and behaved like close family(too close? Wait, we're past that). I should also mention how good the music was. It took me by surprise, but then again, I didn't even know the film took place in modern times. That might have clued me in. Another interesting aspect was that the leads had to speak both Dutch and Spanish, and they did so without sounding out of place or strained. It seemed natural to someone who speaks neither language, so I guess you'll have to take that observation for what it is. All I know for sure is that your average American has enough trouble speaking and writing English, so Spanish is usually out of the question. And Dutch? Good luck with that.

If only every stranger I met was this charitable...

I went into Grimm looking for a dark fairy tale. I'd say I got what I wanted, but not in the form I expected. I don't know much about the original save for the whole bread crumb thing, but van Warmerdam did an excellent job of twisting his own unique perspective and imagination around an already-beloved story. I'm not going to post the trailer since it shows some things I don't want you to see until you sit down and watch whole film. You'll have to find it for yourself if you simply don't have any self-control, but I'd recommend finding the DVD instead.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New JeeJa Yanin trailer - Raging Phoenix

For those of you who don't know the name JeeJa Yanin, she's the star of the film right below this post. Chocolate was her film debut, and Raging Phoenix is apparently her follow-up to that great bit of bad-assery. So brace yourselves for some more knee-to-face-then-face-into-wooden-crate-then-pass-out happening sometime this year.

Chocolate (2008) AKA Rain Chan

If Barry Levinson's "Rain Man" had a massive orgy of unprotected sex with the entire Jackie Chan film library..........9 months would get "Chocolate." It breaks down like this......Thai gangster Zin falls for Yakuza member Masashi, but Zin is already spoken for by gang overlord #8. #8 is pissed when he discovers the affair..... treats Zin like #2. then promptly shoots off his own toe because that's what Thai gangsters do when they're mad. Fearing for her life, Zin tells Masashi to go back to Japan and that they are never to see each other again lest they incur the wrath of #8 and his transexual minions. Fair enough, but I'm not really sure why Masashi couldn't just use his mob influence to get both of them out of the country. Maybe Yakuza and Thai are not supposed to mix it up due to some traditional bullshit. It doesn't matter.........the important thing is that Masashi leaves Thailand and unknowingly........a pregnant Zin.

Zin gives birth to Zen. Zen is an autistic savant, only instead of being good with complex mathematics, she can watch and replicate (with deadly efficiency) the movements of martial artists she sees in movies and training next door at a kick boxing school. This comes in handy after Zin is stricken with cancer and cannot afford her treatments. When Zen's adopted brother Moom comes across a list of people who owe Zin gangster backpay, they visit each one to get them to pay up.....or get beat up. It's not too bad a story as far as this kind of crap goes, but once Zen unleashes her fury on the bad guys, you will be treated to a display of fight choreography and stuntwork that rivals any American action film. That's really no surprise because these are the same filmmakers and stunt teams that vaulted Tony Jaa to stardom in "Ong Bak." If you have seen that flick, you know that this team does stuff on film that is TRULY death defying and the climactic duel with #8 does not disappoint.

Bodies are fighting and dropping from several stories, sliding under tables, and contorting into positions that would give a yoga master fits. I'd be curious to find out how many people were severely injured during the making of "Chocolate." They make all the chaos look easy and I'm sure it's anything but. Why no American big budget or independent studio has attempted to make an action movie like this baffles me. I guess we can't have Brad Pitt jumping off a building for insurance purposes, but isn't there anybody on our home soil with a little parkour, or stuntman ability to at least compete and put on a good show for us homers???? For now I guess we'll just have to admire the amazing efforts from afar.

Overall a dizzying, dazzling, beat em up that gets my highest recommend. The only low mark is the title. Perhaps it was lost in translation, but I could never figure out why the hell the movie is called "Chocolate." No matter......I'll gladly have another piece.

Hey, it was the '70s - Saturn 3 (1980)

Well, Saturn 3 might have been released in 1980, but it was definitely filmed in the '70s. The movie mostly takes place inside a space station on Saturn that, given the opportunity, Willy Wonka would have probably made an exact replica of. At times, it's pretty psychedelic, man. But there's also an interesting parallel between this movie and Moon; intrusion upon isolation takes place in both films. The difference between them is that in Saturn 3, the intrusion is wholly unwanted. I think I'll make this review my tribute to Farrah Fawcett, since her death was upstaged by Hurricane Michael. I hope you enjoy it, dear Farrah.

Besides Fawcett, Saturn 3 also boasts a cast featuring Kirk Douglas and Harvey Keitel, which, obviously, only helps the film. Everyone does a great job. But if I were to take away one thing from this film, it would be the realization that some good ideas were abound, but everything was stuck firmly in the decade it was made. The music was overbearing, some of the plot points were contrived, and a crucial scene towards the end made shit for sense. All that being said, I still enjoyed my time with the film, and I'd rank it as average among its peers. Something interesting to note, however, is some similarities to later films. Harvey Keitel has an implant, or port, if you will, in the back of his head that allows him to download information directly from his brain. He also walks around with blue pills, espousing their awesomeness. Hmm, what does that remind you of? And towards the end of the film, there's a definite Terminator-esque chase scene. Seeing that Saturn 3 pre-dates both of those films, I'll let you decide about that what you will.

The story goes something like this: a space station on Saturn has been behind on its quota of whatever the hell its doing, so the powers that be have sent aid in the form of Harvey Keitel in order to increase the station's output. Within the first 10 minutes, however, Keitel is made out to be some kind of bad guy. Why, I'm not sure. He's shown blatently killing a fellow astronaut, and then he seemingly takes his place aboard the vessel heading for Saturn. I never understood why that happened, or who exactly Keitel was supposed to be. Obviously, he wasn't the intended help for Douglas and Fawcett, but his real identity is never made clear. Whatever, I guess. So he arrives on the space station and begins to build a robot to help Douglas and Fawcett around the station. Almost immediately, the robot starts showing signs of independant, sentient behavior. He forcefully picks up Fawcett and shows resilience by not conforming to everything Keitel orders of him. I think you know where the story is heading at this point.

Yep. The robot and Harvey Keitel merge and form a super-sentient mix of human and artificial intelligence. How or why this happens is left up to interpretation. Either that, or they were too lazy to actually come up with an answer. Be that as it may, the robot starts attacking Douglas and Fawcett, and it's up to them to make an escape or die trying. Telling you all this about the robot might be considered a spoiler, but I really don't think Saturn 3 was built around narrative suspense. It's more of a pulpy brand of sci-fi with some nifty ideas about space exploration that never get developed at all. But hey, Farrah dons her birthday suit, so it's not all downhill.

The overall result is pretty much what I would expect from the director of Singin' in the Rain, Charade and Bedazzled. Sci-fi is not Stanley Donen's calling, and as such, it suffers from a cardinal sin for movies in this particular genre: dating itself. For the most part, the special effects are fine, but it's not a film about special effects. The whole story takes place in a static environment, and the setting is firmly rooted in the decade it was made. And while it's true that other films by, say, Robert Wise may also look a bit dated now, Saturn 3 doesn't really have any redeeming qualities that transcends its own making. But even after beguiling it that much, it still did its job. It never bored me. So take that statement as you will; Saturn 3 won't go down, in my mind, as a Sci-Fi classic, but it held my attention(laughter and all) throughout. There's certainly worse I could do with an hour-and-a-half of my time.

There is an outfit early on in this trailer that Farrah Fawcett absolutely NEVER wears during the actual movie. I think you'll know which one I'm talking about.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Going Down the Rabbit Hole - Moon (2009)

Isolation and fear, when used correctly, can create some of the most haunting scenarios ever put to film. John Carpenter's The Thing, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, Steven Soderbergh's Solaris(it's more centered around human drama than Tarkovski's version), and even Barry Levinson's Sphere all come to mind. When there's nowhere to run to, what are you going to do? Moon touches on this theme; Sam Bell(Sam Rockwell) is a 1-man crew scheduled to run an energy mining operation on the moon for 3 years. I'd call that sufficiently isolated, which is the commonality Moon shares with The Thing and The Shining. But where it differs is in the area of fear. The kind of fear on display here is partly that of the unknown, and partly that of yourself. How can you trust your own mind for a grossly extended period of time in a foreign and desolate landscape? I think these are the central themes at the beginning of the film, and they expand from there. To talk more in-depth about plot points would be criminal for this kind of story, so vagaries are all you're going to get.

This is also, hands-down, Sam Rockwell's best performance. He had some of the same stunned desperation in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, but that level is kept throughout all 97 minutes of Moon. Nothing really goes right for Sam the whole time we're watching him, and some of that fear I talked about earlier lies in the fact that nothing good can ultimately come of the situation he's in. Something might be able to be salvaged, but that's about it. Add to his isolation a wife and newborn daughter back on Earth and one could understand how difficult a mission like Sam's would be to handle. The scope and meaning of Sam's predicament drastically changes at a certain point in the film, but alas, as it usually goes with me, that's all I can say. I can't break my own spoiler law, for fear of self-punishment.

Nobody to play with.

So what else can I talk about, then? Location is everything, and much like the atmosphere in The Thing, it's a character in-and-of itself in Moon. It acts as a constant, lifeless enemy, bearing down on Sam until his contract is up, which is 2 weeks away when the film opens. Apparently, a lot of the outside shots were done with models, but I had no clue. The only thing I took away from his surroundings was a striking, bleak loneliness. You might say to yourself, "Just wait out the 2 weeks; if I had to, I could do it." Maybe, but when your mind goes, it could be 2 minutes and it wouldn't make any difference. Regardless, the situation changes when an outside force is made known to Sam after he accidentally crashes his rover into a piece of machinery. From that point on, the story goes off in a different direction, and all I can say is that the door is opened for a whole range of emotions and thoughts you probably weren't expecting.

Cool for a vacation. Not for 3 years.

The short version: I love the story. An original, dark, realistic tale of hard Sci-Fi doesn't come around very often these days, and the way it was handled places Duncan Jones on my list of directors to watch for. He nailed everything possible with Moon, and it's one of those films that gets better with every successive viewing. I've only seen it once, but I know that I'll learn and uncover things I didn't notice before every time I watch it. That's the mark of a great storyteller, and I hope he takes the genre forward by reigning it back in. By that, I mean making Sci-Fi like it used to be. Robert Wise, Stanley Kubrick, Byron Haskin, and hell, even George Lucas before he became an ass all created great works. Science Fiction was all about the people, and it used the genre as a backdrop. Jones understands this, and it's why Moon deserves every praise I give it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Not Fit For Sci-Fi - Immortal (2004)

I feel I have to clarify my title right away: I don't mean sci-fi the genre; I mean Sci-Fi the cable channel. There's a big difference between this movie and the kind of third-rate crap that channel pumps out. How many movies about Megalodons do we need? How 'bout that barn burner The Poseidon Adventure starring Rutger Hauer, Adam Baldwin and Steve Guttenberg? See, that's exactly what Immortal is not. It's obviously low-budget, but I think the filmmakers used what they had available to them as best they could, and the final product is pretty damn cool. To me, that's a defining characteristic of any good sci-fi film: coolness. Of course, I'm not saying that style trumps all. Not by a long shot. But for this genre, it goes a long way to bridge any gap that may arise between a film's merits and its shortcomings. That may sound a bit weird, and I'll elaborate further. But in a nutshell, Immortal is worth looking at for its unique visual design and cool characters, even if the story doesn't do everything it's supposed to.

In fact, I'll get the story out of the way first. It's not that great. The potential was there, but for whatever reason(I have my guesses: budget and time constraints), its lack of cohesion is painfully obvious. The film centers around the Egyptian god Horus and his human host, played by Thomas Kretschmann. For an unknown reason, Horus is sentenced to death by the rest of the gods, and he has a week to do whatever he wants, I guess. It's not clear why the gods would let a death row inmate roam around freely, but, as I said, the story isn't this film's strong point. So Horus inhabits a human body and bends the host to his will. Again, for some reason, Horus wants to find a certain girl. The only reason I can surmise after watching it was that Horus just wanted to fuck. Alright, but why her? It doesn't make a lot of sense, honestly. Another thing I should mention - and this really only matters in terms of coolness - but in the future, society is mixed with genetically engineered humans and aliens. Like I said, though, not a whole hell of a lot is explained, so forgive me if I'm a little sparse on the details. About ten seconds of it reminded me of Blade Runner. Anyways, some shit happens and then Horus goes back to face his sentencing. Sorry, I won't spoil any more of the movie.

Here, you see the Egyptian god, Horus, come through with his female captive/lover, and Horus' human host, Nikopol.

But who plays Horus, you ask? Well, cgi does. That's the thing about Immortal. It's a mix between live-action and full cgi. For example, in one scene you'll be watching two actual people acting in a real environment, and in the next scene, the environment and everyone in it is entirely cgi. Then the film will mix the two together. Sometimes you can't tell the difference(the fully cgi bartender looks awesome), but other times it's a little jarring when the effects don't quite convince the way they should. Sometimes it looks great, but then the animations and overall quality of a lot of the humanoid character models are noticeably low-budget. But overall, I think it gives off a really interesting and futuristic vibe, which is obviously crutial for a sci-fi movie set in the future.

Another aspect of Immortal that I loved were the characters. Almost every single one was interesting to look at, even if their motivations or goals weren't very clear. The best character would have to be a genetically engineered shark who basically works as a bounty hunter for the government. His name is.........wait for it............Hammerhead. I'll let you guess his species of shark. But he really is a bad-ass character, if under-used. For some reason, Hammerhead consists of fully practical effects, while Horus is cgi. Both are central to the story, which, again, makes the effects a mixed bag. The girl Horus lusts after is another main character, and she's played by an actual woman(Linda Hardy). She's not human, and as far as the doctor who examines her can determine, her organs place her at about 3 months old. But she's a grown woman, so the story tries to add depth to her character by using her mysterious past as a part of the narrative. The problem, again, centers around me not knowing what the fuck was going on.

Hammerhead. Fucking cool.

I will say that from scene-to-scene, I understood what was happening. The problem was with the overall cohesion of the narrative. The over-arching story made absolutely no sense. Apparently, in the near future there is an Egyptian pyramid free-floating in the sky, and no-one knows why. They try to investigate for a moment, but nothing really comes of it, and its presence remains a mystery. But that mystery also extends to the entire point of the film. The ending, just like the rest of it, is bizarre and not explained. No, I'm still not going to go into a lot of detail, because I do think Immortal is worth at least a rental. I hate this cliche, but it's really not for everyone. If you want to see across-the-board amazing effects, this won't do the job. If you want a satisfying narrative, this won't do the job. But if you want an original take on traditional myths and a cool cast of characters, Immortal is my prescription to your pain.

Oh, and if you're interested in a little bit of movie trivia, the director of Immortal, Enki Bilal, was a demon illustrator on the 1983 Michael Mann movie, The Keep. We've talked about this movie before, so I just thought I'd throw that out there for the more discerning readers. As for Immortal, I'd give it a try, if only to see an experiment that almost fired on all cylinders, but a couple of them blew out before they were supposed to. But that's okay to me. In this case, it was the thought that counted.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Ending That Wasn't There - Vinyan (2008)

I really hate when this happens. Vinyan runs 96 minutes, and 90 minutes of it are absolutely fantastic. Then the last 6 minutes tanks the whole thing. Not since High Tension have I been so pissed at a movie's ending. It's almost like the director knew he was going to piss everyone off, and reveled in it. And coming from Fabrice Du Welz, the helmer of Calvaire, Vinyan is a dissapointment. Calvaire is a bizarre, fucked up French horror film that really doesn't pull any punches. And 99% of the time, Vinyan doesn't, either. But that last 1% is a bitch.

The story is about a couple who lost their child in the tsunami of '04, I believe. It's been 6 months since it happened, and they're still coping with the loss. By chance, Jeanne(Emmanuelle Beart) sees a video about impoverished children, and she thinks she sees her son amongst them. So she and her husband, Paul(Rufus Sewell), set out to see if their son is alive. The tricky part is where they think he is - in Burma. So they pay a shady character to take them to Burma, and things happen from there on.

The first thing I want to talk about is the acting. Sewell is great, and I really wish he would do more films of substance, or at least of a higher profile. I just want to see him more often, because I think he's a really good actor. Regardless, he pulls off a nuanced, realistic performance that's matched by Beart every step of the way. These are real people in real situations, and melodrama or over-acting never rears its ugly head.

But this fact only makes me more angry, because I think a good ending was very possible, but the scriptwriter or whoever decided to confuse and annoy the audience by inserting an ending that made absolutely no sense whatsoever. I can't give any specifics, obviously, but rest assured your rage will boil over once this movie is over.

It's a damn shame, really, because like I said, the rest of Vinyan is top-notch. It's a very atmospheric film, and it keeps a consistent mood of dread and uncertainty throughout. It's firmly set in reality, and Sewell and Beart sell the shit out of it. Their emotions ring true in every sense, and there's nothing to do but take the journey with them. But again, the ending tanks it. For every scene of parental pain and anguish, the last few minutes add a lifetime of bullshit and contrived circumstance. Believe me, I don't want this to be reality, but it is. I so loved this film, but when everything is said and done, Fabrice really let me down.

I guess it's up to you whether or not 99% of a great film is better than nothing. For me, there's nothing worse than a sour-tasting ending, for the obvious reason. It's the last thing you see; if it sucks, it diminishes the whole experience. Such is the ending of Vinyan, and i'll forever weep for what could have been. Oh well, I guess. Nothing I've said up to this point can diminish how good most of the film was, so I guess you could call that a small victory. But in the end, I'll only ever think of how much better the film would have been if the last 6 minutes lived up to the previous 90. It's up to you whether or not that sounds like a worthy use of an hour-and-a-half. Personally, I'd say it was, since so much of it was captivating and worthwhile. But man...way to crap all over a great achievement.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The 10 Virtues of Rambo III

Rambo III isn't the greatest 80's action movie ever, but you know what? It's pretty damn good for a generic bit of ridiculousness. And compared to Rambo II, it's a goddamn masterpiece. But my goal here isn't to review the movie; that's not necessary at this point. So what I'm going to do instead is tell you about the virtues of Rambo III, complete with video guides to make sure the action hero in your next movie knows what he's supposed to do. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

The 10 Virtues of Rambo III

1) When pit-fighting, always be honorable.

Rambo has integrity...unlike all you other filthy Thai fighters out there.

2) First Blood is over. So is Rambo's war.

Don't expect to win Rambo's heart over within the first 15 minutes of the movie, Colonel.

3) Seeing/helping oppressed civilians.

Yep. Rambo gets some of these guys out of a bind. With a grenade launcher.

4) Fitting in with native cultures.

The Afghans just didn't know how good Rambo was at picking dead animals up while galloping on horseback.

5) Heroic music while carrying a child away from danger.

As it turns out, Chow Yun-Fat doesn't have the monopoly on this sort of thing.

6) Epic clothesline.

Honestly, I wasn't expecting it, which makes it even better.

7) Running away from exploding things.

Well, did you think there weren't exploding things to run away from in this movie?

8) Grenade arrows.

Regular old arrows are for pussies.

9) Rewarding death of a large enemy combatant.

It's like Indiana Jones, only more graphic and with larger muscles.

10) Helicopter vs. tank.

Machine on machine action. And yes, the screaming helps with momentum. Can you guess who lives?

So there you have it - the 10 virtues of Rambo III. I hope you learned something, because everything you need to know about action movies is right there in front of you. You can decide the quality; I'm just saying that Rambo III can be used as a template if you so choose. If not, then at least go watch the whole thing and ponder with me why the Russians wear those fur hats of theirs in an Afghan desert.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Is Magic a Part of All Human Anatomy?

For centuries, we as a species have wondered what the limits of our bodies are. The questions range from how far our physical attributes can take us, to whether or not our mental capacity is tapped out. Are we more than the sum of our parts? Fear not, GREEN PEOPLE SOUP patrons; Albert VonBaren is here to answer your every burning question. Why, you ask? Because he has found a way to examine, rigorously test and quantify the amount of magic that is available for use in all of us. The answer might both surprise and shock you. Or not. But either way, the results are in. As in, science has answered the age-old question: can we exact physical change on the world around us using our mind alone?

Find out the answer after the jump.

Dr. Albert VonBaren, a neuroscientist at Oxford, has repeatably demonstrated where and how magic is used in the human body. But first, before we get into the meat of his findings, lets recap Dr. VonBaren's academic study and career output.

Born in Austria, Albert VonBaren was interested in the sciences at an early age. By the time his 12th birthday rolled around, he had written a half-dozen dissertations on the esoteric and metaphysical meanings of life and death. By 18, he had become a published author, with his New York Times best-selling book, entitled "Chemistry and Free Will: Are They Compatible?" affecting the minds of approximately 2.5 million readers. To say that neuroscience is his specialty would be to disregard his years of study in various other disciplines, and would also necessitate a slight on his character. He is a genius of envious heights. I only present this information as a kind of guide to understanding that whatever scientific evidence he presents, it is most likely true in every sense that we as humans understand.

Albert VonBaren, age 23; two years after he emigrated from his native land, Austria. Computer science was a hobby of his since he can remember. The wood paneling and mid-level phone jacks prove his authenticity.

Before we're able to understand where magic comes from, we first need to understand a basic fact of life: every person is imbued with spiritual energy. The quicker we grasp that concept, the better. And if we were to listen to Dr. VonBaren, the spiritual energy necessary to affect physical change in the world around us is, in fact, "something that changes within the parameters of mental comprehension." That is to say that the more we are in tune with our capabilities, the more physical change we are able to manifest. Therefore, according to Dr. VonBaren, "It is not simply a matter of will; rather, it is a function of not only belief, but that of belief working in harmony with higher comprehension of magical ability." If it sounds over your head, that's because it probably is. Dr. VonBaren expounds on the previous statement by saying, "Not everyone is able to lift a table by looking at it. That much is obvious. The question I'm most interested in is, 'why?' And to that, I now have a definitive answer. The processes that take place inside the human body are vastly complex, and therefore, change according to certain criteria. What criteria, you ask? Well, first and foremost, mental focus."

Mental focus allows the physical to transcend its boundaries.

In order for GREEN PEOPLE SOUP to ascertain the truth of this claim, we enlisted the help of a random volunteer. The volunteer was given a table and chair, and his goal was to levitate both the table and chair using only his mind. Dr. VonBaren's role was to act as a guide; someone who could help our volunteer by instructing him in the ways of mental focus.

The initial outcome was far from encouraging. The volunteer tried to levitate the table and chair, but absolutely nothing happened. After about ten minutes of patiently waiting, Albert finally took him aside and offered his tempered wisdom.

When the volunteer re-emerged, he was able to lift the chair approximately ten inches in the air, unaided by any physical means. This was, to understate the occasion, incredible. Someone with no previous exposure to magical certitudes was able to physically alter the state of an object. When asked what he felt about how he performed, the volunteer simply stated "Albert helped me to see what my goal was." How profound is that?

Keep in mind the only thing the volunteer was able to lift was the chair. The desk was still firmly planted on the ground. Several attempts were made to at least make the table quiver; every attempt was thwarted by gravity and common sense. Ah, but gravity and common sense can be overcome. As witness to this, I submit Dr. VonBaren's second attempt at guidance. He pulled the volunteer aside again, and the results were self-explanatory. Within moments of coming out of the "spiritual huddle," our volunteer lifted both the table, chair, and a few pieces of my equipment into the air for 2 minutes, 39 seconds. To this reporter, obviously, the results were astounding.

Our volunteer's success was obvious. Physical matter doesn't hold a candle to mental focus and application.

Once again, Dr. VonBaren's wisdom and knowledge ruled the day. "It's not the simple act of trying; it is the complex act of believing and acting upon that certain belief." No truer words were ever spoken in this reporters midst, and I, for one, am forever indebted to Dr. Albert VonBaren for instilling within me the conviction and belief that I can change matter itself.

We took these results to Hogwarts, and when asked to comment, a school official said only that "certain people are able to use conjuration, charms and spells. I would like to see the hard data showing anyone can lift a table. I just don't think it's possible. I seriously doubt this volunteer would get into Hogwarts." Dr. VonBaren certainly disagrees, and even goes so far as to suggest litigation. "These results hint at the possibility of students not being allowed into Hogwarts based upon a false premise."

[editor's note] It is not the position of GREEN PEOPLE SOUP that anyone can physically affect the status of an object. Trying to do so can, and quite probably will, cause actual harm on the participants, and can also result in permanent disability. GREEN PEOPLE SOUP is not liable for any harm or injury acquired by any means inside of the aforementioned magical abilities. Attempt at your own risk.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hogwarts Academy Under Intense Watchdog Scrutiny

Green People Soup was recently fortunate enough to interview Elena Ruggelmeyer, one of the founders of the world's leading anti-Hogwarts movement, What About the Children? In this, part 1 of our candid fireside chat, Elena let us and our readers know exactly why they believe Hogwarts does more harm than good, and what they aim to do about it.

Elena Ruggelmeyer - a pillar of community watchdogs the world over.

Green People Soup: Elena, if I may call you that, it's a pleasure to finally get a chance to sit down and talk about these important issues with you. If you were to read the newspaper, you wouldn't think anybody cared(this article will be published on page 18 of the Culture section). But to people like you and me, who actually care about the issues facing our children and their futures, there's nothing more important than making sure their education matters. So on behalf of the staff of Green People Soup, I'd like to congratulate you on your efforts to raise awareness of this potential problem.

Elena Ruggelmeyer: My mother named me Elena, so it's certainly fine to call me that. And it's a good point you make about the coverage this issue is getting; namely, none. That's really why I started What About the Children? - as a way to advocate their rights as citizens and as people. Clearly, your organization understands what we're about, and I'd like to extend the same gratitude you showed me a minute ago by saying I think what you do is fantastic.

GPS: That's great, I appreciate it. Now let's get down to business. To me, the number one issue is job security. Let's say you've been a student at Hogwarts all your life, and the time is approaching for you to go out and make your mark on the world. What's the job market like for graduates of Hogwarts?

ER: Pretty dismal, really.

GPS: Why is that?

ER: Well, for a number of reasons. For starters, there are only so many bounty hunter positions available at any given time. If you were to look at the wanted ads, for example, in the areas surrounding Hogwarts, you wouldn't see very many looking for magical protectors or hunters. Those jobs are already taken. So what I see happening is a lot of young, intelligent and talented people being led to believe this "school" is teaching them how to apply their skills in the real world, when in reality, it's just the opposite.

GPS: So they're basically being left high-and-dry.

ER: Exactly. It's not enough to excel at your craft. To be successful, you also have to be given, at some point, the opportunity to practice it. I suppose an ex-student could always turn to pure evil. I wouldn't recommend it, but there you have it.

GPS: So you're saying that the lack of career prospects could possibly turn good, caring people into evil wizards hell-bent on destruction of everything we hold dear?

ER: In theory, yes. The obvious example would be You-Know-Who. Ahem. I'm afraid I don't have the actual data on hand to back that up. I'll e-mail you a copy of it as soon as I return to my office.

This face is the possible future of your offspring.

GPS: I'd like that, yes. Moving on, I'd like to talk about the education Hogwarts provides its students. Do you think it's adequate?

ER: In some areas, yes. In others, it is disasterously under-funded. The quality of teachers any school would hope to attract generally relies on how much they are able to pay them, and Hogwarts is no exception. Just look at their Dark Arts department. They've been through how many teachers in the past three or four years? I've lost track. I think it's absurd to imagine any child learning proper defenses against the dark arts when they have to resort to secret meetings behind invisible doors where their actual teacher can't find them. What kind of a message does that send? It's ridiculous, and I can't believe we're the only ones who see it.

Not every student at Hogwarts can attend the secret Dark Arts Defense class.

GPS: You're certainly not, and I couldn't agree more. If I had a child at Hogwarts, I would expect them, after a year or two, to be able to lift me in the air and suspend me indefinitely while they made their escape. Not so. I've had friends' children try it on me; usually, they really suck at using magic.

ER: I think, generally, that's true. If I remember the statistics, only about 2 in every 10 students can be expected to properly invoke the Confundus charm or Flipendo jinx. That's unacceptable. If they were ever to find themselves in a situation where their life depended on correctly using these spells, they'd be done for. And as a parent, it's at least 10 grand down the toilet. Also the death of their child.

That's it for part 1 of our interview with Elena Ruggelmeyer, but stay tuned for part 2 shortly, as we've only scraped the tip of the iceberg as far as the issues at hand go. Hogwarts definitely has a lot of explaining to do, and Elena is here to help usher in that much-needed accountability.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hogwarts Magical Fireworks Show Goes Horribly Wrong; Harry Potter Involved

by Green People Soup staff

Hogwarts, July 8, 9:42 a.m. - During the annual magical fireworks display, five students received third-degree burns, and one teacher's robe was mostly disintegrated when a rogue flame not only increased its size ten-fold in under a second, but then cloned itself many times over and surrounded the Quidditch stadium where the display is held. The flames then proceeded to attack people at random, prompting one very famous student to lend a helping hand.

More on the story after the jump.

An eyewitness saw Harry Potter construct a large water barrier, which he then used against the raging fires. "It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. It was like Moses versus the devil or something, I don't know. I saw flames everywhere, people were screaming, then the next thing I know, Harry is running around with his feet on fire, throwing these gigantic streams of water everywhere with his hands. Awesome," said Trig Lothbottom, a first-year Gryffindor student.

Trig Lothbottom, pictured, flees the burning wreckage of his stadium seating.

Thanks to Potter's heroism, the five students with deep burns will recover soon, and damage to the stadium was kept to a minimum. Even the teacher whose robe disintegrated was in good spirits after the flames died down. "Yea, it was a surprise, sure. I guess I'm lucky all that got hurt was my pride. My bum was waving in the wind for a good 20 minutes, you know. 12-year-olds saw it," said Arthur Whip, the visiting Herbology professor who was due to give a lecture shortly after the fireworks display. "I think I'll postpone that lecture, at least until I can get an Obliviate charm going."

The flame was first conjured on the stage next to the Fireworks Display area, and quickly spread from there.

Update, 3:30 p.m. - Hogwarts school officials have put out a press release concerning the fire and its possible cause.

From the press release: "We are all, of course, very grateful to Harry for acting in such a brave and selfless manner. However, our gratitude doesn't dismiss the possibility of this incident being related to the dark arts in some fashion. We are currently investigating this possibility, and if something does turn up, rest assured we will put our top wizards on the job. No one flames our stadium and gets away with it."

Near Dark double dip DVD can BITE ME!!!!!

Not cool movie

I guess I can understand why they would do this.....but come on......really!!!???? One of the very cooooooolest vampire movies ever to never utter the word vampire does not need to market itself for a DVD re-release to make itself look like Twilight. For one thing, Caleb never even looks like that in the movie with the pale skin and stupid eyes....he just looks human the whole time except for when he takes sunlight damage. Another thing.....Twilight is not worthy to scratch the nut hairs of Kathryn Bigelow's classic outlaw tale! I guess if it makes more people check it out I should be ok with it..............but it still pisses me off!!!!

Not cool movie

Now if you are a hardcore movie dork like me and you want to track down this masterpiece of 80's vampire flicks........go for the version released by Anchor Bay. Nuff said!

Cool cover cool DVD cool movie

Job outlook dismal for Hogwarts graduates

A recent study has shown that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy is severely lagging behind other technical shools and colleges when it comes to placing graduates into the global marketplace. This does not bode well for aspiring wizards and witches who may have to consider going to learning institutions that offer more realistic career choices. Speaking anonymously, a recent Hogwarts student said, "I had a great time...., but upon graduation I quickly discovered that the curriculum offered there simply did not prepare me for a world where I can't even list the Petronas charm as a job skill on my resume!" The former student went on to say, "I've talked it over with my parents.....and I'm going to America to enroll in Devry's just a shame that I have to start my education all over again from scratch!"

Anonymous student (top row, 2nd from right) at Hogwarts graduation

When asked about Hogwarts current downward trend, Harold T. Shapiro Chairman of Devry University responded, "It's true, year after year we get more and more former wizards coming through our doors here at Devry looking to better their marketability in today's competitive workforce because everything we do in and out of the classroom prepares our students to start or advance their chosen careers. Just look at the numbers and you'll see they don't lie." Shapiro sited that 92% of Devry graduates were employed within six months after graduation compared to 8% at Hogwarts.

Devry Chairman Shapiro

The convincing pie chart making its case

Supporters of Hogwarts have much to be concerned about these days when you add troubling stats on top of everything else that has been happening at the school of late. Staff and students can only hope that the negative spiral can stop or at least slow down before it is too late for this historic institution of the magically gifted.

Next Stop, Jesus! - Religulous (2008)

The first thing you should know about this documentary is that it was directed by Larry Charles. The same Larry Charles that directed Borat. So right off the bat, you know this isn't going to be a totally even-handed affair. The film is by no means vitriolic or demeaning, but it has its moments that are obviously skewed. I happen to agree with everything Bill Maher says in this documentary, but I also understand that it's not going to win anyone over who doesn't see things the way he does. But that's not really the reason I watched Religulous. I wasn't looking for Maher to present scientific evidence or fully construct logical arguments. Honestly, I was watching this film so I could see the crazy people and laugh at them. And in that regard, Religulous did exactly what I wanted.

The whole thing is basically Bill Maher traveling around, interviewing believers and non-believers alike, asking questions about their faith, and cracking some jokes at their expense. Before seeing the film, you might think Maher utterly trashes anyone who believes in God. But at its heart, it's not a venemous film. Maher, for the most part, respects the people he's interviewing enough to let them explain their position, and afterwards ask them serious questions. Sure, here and there he adds some off-color joke aimed at the religion his interviewee is part of, and it's funny. To me. If you're religious, probably not quite as much. But still, even if you're religious, you have to give him his overall civility. There were countless times where, if it were me, I would probably get a little rude or condescending towards some of these people. The ex-gay minister who doesn't believe anyone is really gay comes to mind. That just smacks of ignoring your own desires, but whatever.

Maher goes everywhere from Israel, to the Bible belt, to the Netherlands, and to the heart of Mormon Utah. Speaking of Utah, those fucking guys have quite a setup there. It's almost, if not just as ornate as the Vatican. In Italy. As in Europe, where their architecture is actually pleasing to stare at for more than five seconds. Yea, I was surprised to see that shit in Utah. Props on that. But besides that, you really have to be hardcore to believe the stuff they do. I'm just saying. Mormons also don't seem to be very inviting to outsiders, since just the mere sight of Maher sent the Mormon Enforcement Brigade into their midst to drive them away. An even more amusing fact was that Maher actually tried to get an interview with the Pope. He failed, but still. However, he did find an actual Vatican priest who holds some pretty unconventional views about his own faith. I'll put up a little clip of him below. He deserves it. Among the other colorful characters is a dude who believes he is the second coming of Christ, a weed-smoking spiritualist who doesn't really know what the fuck he believes in, and a Jewish guy who invents(or cheats, IMO) his way around restrictions on the Sabbath. If nothing else, you could say Religulous asks the same basic questions of every religion, and it doesn't come off as picking on anyone more than the rest.

All in all, your mind is already made up whether or not you believe one word that comes out of Bill Maher's mouth when it comes to religion. You either believe or you don't. So it's armed with that knowledge that I ask you to just watch it for fun. Regardless of your personal beliefs, at least watch it and form an opinion afterward, not the other way around. If nothing else, it can serve as a nice jumping-off point for a serious discussion with those you know of differing faiths. Or, if you agree, it's a great film to pop in and have some laughs while still engaging your brain a tad bit.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Christian Bale's Skeletal Structure, as Seen in The Machinist (2004)

I guess I can't avoid starting out by mentioning Christian Bale. More specifically, the things he's willing to do for a part. Apparently, the list includes what I can only imagine as starving yourself for a very long time. He looks absolutely emaciated. It's hard to look at him for any set amount of time, and I couldn't help but marvel at what it takes to do that to yourself in the name of your craft. And if he was going to starve himself, The Machinist was a good reason to do it.

There is something I've noticed with every Brad Anderson film, and the best way to describe it is there being a creeping tension and foreboding in all the atmospheric conditions he creates. It's almost identical in Session 9, and Transsiberian definitely has elements of it. Anderson is astutely aware of his characters' surroundings, and he populates them with people and things that can make you a little bit uneasy. And in The Machinist, everything is off somehow, but it's hard to pinpoint. Trevor Reznik(Bale) doesn't live in a super-creepy apartment building, there's nothing terribly upsetting about his job, and everybody else around him seems normal enough. Yet and still, something doesn't feel right. There's an inate quality that pushes the film more in the direction of horror, but without any of the genre conventions.

Bale plays a guy working at some kind of machine factory, and he's been there for, as far as I know, at least a little over a year. When the film starts, he's already a full-on bag of bones, so there's no real transformation happening. But the point isn't to see him transform; instead, it's about what he's become. What exactly that is, and why it's happened are two of the questions the film digs into.

And that's all I can safely divulge about the film without going into spoiler territory. I'll say this: if you're in any way interested in films about or pertaining to tragedies(Greek or otherwise) or the human condition, then give The Machinist a shot. As is also the case with Anderson's other films, it's not one you'll be popping in the DVD player once a month to get your fix. Rather, it's an experience that slowly makes its way around your brain and simmers a while, letting you soak up all the little details and nuances until you've taken away any and everything possible. That's not to say it's difficult to watch or hard to understand. It's quite the opposite, actually. It's a simple story, but the layers it has and the humanity it shows are both integral parts to the success of the actual storytelling. And to me, it succeeded greatly.

But how can a film successfully portray a character without making him well-rounded or at least showing more than one side of them? Apparently, very easily. If that's a genuine question of yours, then I can answer it by saying that not all great characters in film history are well-rounded, or even good people. The Machinist is a shining example of a talented filmmaker taking one aspect of the human psyche and putting it on full display for feature length. Not all of it is pretty, and not all of it is safe. The point, at least the way I saw it, was to take stock of yourself and understand how events have shaped the person you've become. Whether it comes from external forces or something inside yourself, if you can't recognize it you have no chance of overcoming it or living with it. Such is the dilemma facing Trevor Reznik, and it's one I think everyone should experience at least once.