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Friday, July 19, 2013

The Conjuring

I know, most of you are used to me writing about the worst films ever made, with the occasional political rant. So.....this is different. This is a conversation about my experience with a current, albeit conventional horror film, The Conjuring. I want to present a few spoiler alerts:
a) I liked the film, and will mention that ad nauseum (though my buddy Joe P. found it a HUGE letdown).
b) I liked Mama, from Del Toro, a lot more, for myriad reasons, only one of which I will mention.
The Conjuring is James Wan's new tale of a family plagued by an other-worldly force; it plays a lot like Sinister or Mama or the director's prior film, Insidious. There are a number of spoiler elements that I can reveal which effect the plot, but I won't. I'll leave that to my wife, who will more than likely bring them up. But I do want to touch on a few key points.
Siblings: DelToro gets something that Wan hasn't yet grasped: siblings, no matter their middling conflicts, stick together. A film with 5 sisters who never go out on a limb for each other highlights the lack of character development for the main/secondary characters in a story. Wan fails, in two hours, to grasp the connection these sisters might have with each other. Mama, however, navigates this relationship brilliantly. I do want to mention that this was "based on a true story". I still find the lack of a kindred bond a bit troubling.
Defying the norm: Wan uses old horror cliches against the viewer, to set up what he feels are legitimate scares. The problem? The audience is unfortunately ready for what comes next. Example: If someone in a horror film stares in a lake too long, you would expect them to be snatched by something in the water. Or grabbed from behind. Wan allows this to be the regular backdrop, relying on panning through a screen to reveal the true horror lurking in the dark. I get it, as there's less and less to frighten people with in a film. However, I could direct you to the recent films of Ti West, House of the Devil, or The Innkeepers, which are not only available on streaming sites for "free", but really capture true intensity and anxiety, while presenting old scenarios as revived/new film.
I can't tell you to avoid this film, as it's very good. I mean it. However, it left me wanting more.It definitely didn't match the excitement or hype; however, I've watched a LOT of horror films. This one sits in the top 20% for me. But Insidious, for all its flaws, was a well-structured, brilliantly-paced gem of a horror flick, and is FAR superior. I may have even liked Dead Silence a bit more...The Conjuring only made me long for the Insidious sequel (due in 2 months).

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Nicholas Cage Double Feature!

Before I even get STARTED, watch...this!!!


OK. I think now we're in the mood. I don't know what happened to Nic Cage Coppola (if you didn't know this by now, there's some nepotism for you). I loved Adaptation. Really, I did, and he was truly fantastic. And yet, somewhere after the film's release, Cage actually lost his fucking mind. There are now two Nicholas Cages. The first Cage is a brooding, intense, yet thought-provoking actor who helps us respect our inner loser. Somehow, this Cage has decided to quit the acting biz.
And then there's the other Cage, who, in the past years, has given us The Wicker Man ("Not the bees!!! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!), Stolen, Bad Lieutenant II(yep, that story needed a sequel) and...
Ghost Rider:Spirit of Vengeance and Season of the Witch!!! These films made me yearn for a Valley Girl sequel.
You have to hand it to the guy. No one has truly dedicated himself to a comic character that no one really gave a shit about like Cage does the poor Ghost Rider...at least not since the Affleck Daredevil snoozer.
Unlike Daredevil, where Affleck, and just about anyone with working eyes (pun intended- Daredevil's blind) could see what a piece of shit that film was, Cage re-booted Ghost Rider. The result is a ridiculous, buffoonish master-dump. The only thing Cage appears to enjoy more than Ghost Rider is his own scream. And he LOVES to scream, so much so that the director cuts into the flow of his "film" to present back story, complete with maniacal Cage screams. To his credit, these are the only redeeming portions of the movie. Nothing fills me with joy more than Nic Cage writhing in pain.
Here's the brief, yet concise, synopsis: Johnny Blaze sold his soul to the devil, now collects other souls for him. But he goes rogue! He is partly filled with the corrupted soul of a fallen angel, and must get it out( or convert it to a good fallen angel?), all the while saving the next Antichrist from merging with his devilish master. And get this: they're somehow in Romania. How does a guy who turns every vehicle he enters into a fiery hellish lump of mangled aggressive BULLSHIT survive a 10 hour flight to fucking Romania?!? "Attention, this is your captain. We are experiencing some turbulence due to our airplane suddenly morphing into a lava-spewing servant from Hell...please note the fasten seatbelt light is on, and remain out of the aisle...can the man with the flaming skull please extinguish himself?"
Somehow Idris Elba tripped into this movie, and I wept for him. My wife was very upset...
But not as upset as the day I made her watch Season of the Witch! This putrid abomination has everything, from Brooklyn accents in the middle ages, to extremely obvious plot points, to maddeningly poor acting. Did I mention his ridiculous hair piece, or easily slash-able chain mail?!? Or that the main twist of the plot isn't whether a woman is a witch or not, or the insinuations that she was raped by the only surviving priest, or why no one on the quest catches the plague (which they might as well rub on their balls, they're so up in plague). No, it's what kind of evil she is. Oh, the suspense!!!
No suspense here. There is nothing sorrier than watching a once-promising actor turn evil, which is the only other excuse I can offer him besides bankruptcy for making such garbage. He even made a David Caruso film watchable! Yes, THAT David Caruso! I can't wait to see what else is next for my boy Cage. OK, maybe I can.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

John Carter

I generally dislike Disney films. There, I said it. Hurl your insults now!
OK, you can stop now. Stop it!
Now that we got that out of the way, seriously, I do. I even hated them as a child, because I don't need cartoons to teach me life lessons. Why? Because I knew they were cartoons, not people, and they always had a happy ending(insert joke here).
But this is about John Carter, the largest Disney dump of all time. I remember when John Carter was released, reading reviews which offered bad ratings not for the content, but its timeliness. You see, John Carter was written nearly a hundred years ago, when we still wondered if you could BREATHE on Mars. Well, according to this film, you can...and you can jump really high...and some people wears LOTS of henna. Lots.
 John Carter was a Civil War vet who, in the search for a cave of gold(?), finds a portal to Mars(and kills a dude). When he gets to this temperate( from where you can see Earth and the moon like they were right next to Mars. Remember that night you looked up at the sky and saw MARS?!?), he learns he can jump really high, gets a little stronger, gets captured by multi-armed aliens, and defeats everyone. With the help of jumping. Seriously, anyone out there remember how menacing FROGS are?!?
Once you get past the first few minutes of thinking, "Why the fuck would someone greenlight this hunk of shit?!?", and try to forget they're on Mars, you are immediately stabbed in the brain by the "writer's" insistence that you absorb the same running joke (they all call John Carter "Virginia". Fucking hilarious.) for a half hour. This is the skilled writing employed in most Disney films. Tell the same gag 30 times, and it will finally make you laugh. Disney films are a war of attrition, disarming you with repetition straight out of a Huxley novel, assaulting you with abject cuteness until you vomit happy butterflies.
Did I mention Taylor Kitsch is John Carter?!? Did I?
Holy shit! It's not bad enough that you write a film with a premise impossible to believe, you go and cast the Friday Night Lights TV show guy?!? Are you insane!!!! Someone somewhere in Hollywood uses this formula to choose films to produce: Awful leaden actor no one knows + cheap script no one will believe + wasting a shit ton of money= successful film!
And I mean a shit ton! Here's the hardest part to stomach: John Carter cost 300 MILLION DOLLARS to make! You could buy 600 thousand people a fucking BIG MAC for that, and their collective feces would be better than John Carter. 
So you should watch this. There are few, if any, better examples of a film made 60 years too late. In 1940, maybe 1950, this could have been a Commander Cody serial. instead, you get to see what kind of garbage you can buy for $300 million.




Thursday, November 1, 2012

This is what I do during a hurricane...

I revive my blog!
Cheese and Terror RETURNS!!!
Enough of that. While I had a captive audience(wife + dog) during the worst disaster to hit NYC since the mid-90's Godzilla movie, I felt the need to watch the worst possible film releases of the last few years.
I was surprised by the fall of Kitsch this year. Taylor Kitsch was poised to be the next film star. He was cast in two big-budget blockbusters(John Carter), and another film by a lauded director. How could this possibly go wrong?!?
Well, for a few reasons:
a)WHO THE FUCK IS TAYLOR KITSCH?!? Unless you watched a TV show based on a film, which had no more than a cult following, you had no clue who this asshat was.
b) A production company doesn't always spend a lot of money on a WINNER. Kitsch took on two roles that no one else wanted. That should have been a pretty big hint. Brad Pitt? Nope. Tom Cruise? Nope. Fuck, Nathan Fillion didn't want these roles, and he took White Noise II!
c) Oliver Stone hasn't made a great film in a decade. And he's fucking crazy.
d) When your name sounds synonymous to a word used to describe "A form of art that is considered an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant {sic}style"-(Urban Dictionary), and your first name is generally used for ladies(see: Boy Named Sue), you've got a PR problem. Names mean a lot in Hollywood. Just ask Skeet Ulrich.
e) You picked a film BASED ON A FUCKING BOARD GAME! Even Uwe Boll doesn't do that! And he sucks!
So, Battleship is one of the worst films ever made. No question. There are few films that mix pop stars, poor scripts, Academy Award nominees in 5 minute paychecks cameos, and an unknown lead with a terrible name, that end up as good films. In fact, none of them have.
Most poignant scene, you ask? Oh, lord...probably the scene where they enlist Korean war retirees to man the USS Missouri. Yeah, I said it. Spoiler alert. Oh, wait, that's supposed to be in front...Take THAT for all the Dexter spoilers...you know who you are...
A 10 minute "suspenseful" battle scene was concocted, using buoy radar plotting (WTF!) to draw the connection between film and board game. I'm not making this shit up. Seriously, this all happened.
Watching characters die in this film brought me sheer joy, only marred by the persistent life essence of the obnoxious, monotone Taylor Kitsch. 
So watch it, but be warned: the warm glow of Liam Neeson shines through for all of 4 total minutes(not an understatement, I timed it), so what you're left with is a twisted pile of metal. Don't think for a minute that this means I will watch John Carter for you. I can only handle so much.
He looks like he's taking a fat dump. In a way, he did. It's called Battleship. It's all over your screen.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tentacles!

What do you get when you pair legendary Academy Award winning director John Huston(in an acting capacity) with legendary Academy Award winning actor, Henry Fonda, add Academy Award winning actress Shelley Winters, and throw in TV favorite Claude Akins to round out the all-star cast?!?A monstrous turd called Tentacles! This film was wretched out to theaters in 1978 in response to the "The water is FREAKING TERRIFYING!!!!" trend in film-making during the 1970's, the brainchild of Italian filmmakers. We're not talking Argento or Bava, or even Fulci here. It's basically some random Italian guys with a lot of disposable income.
It's summertime in Ocean Beach, and that only means PERIL!!! With nearly-identical plot lines to Jaws, like bad guys trying to keep the beach open as the octopus(yep, you read that right. A killer octopus) devours its victims with pristine accuracy and stealth, and good guys trying to find the beast before it's too late, this film reeks worse than the Fulton Fish Market in a heat wave. Talk about casting failure?!? Claude Akins, aka TV's Sheriff Lobo, plays...a sheriff. Henry Fonda, admittedly one of the most likable men in film history plays...an evil tycoon! When you see how this film's "writers" decide to set this dung heap apart from the rest of the killer sea dweller genre, you'll piss your pants. Seriously, it's truly heinous. Please watch this film, especially for the ludicrous attack sequences! This is a true gem squeezed from Satan's ass cheeks. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Attack the Block

I grew up during the heyday of John Carpenter, as Halloween, Escape From New York, and The Thing established Mr. Carpenter as one the true greats of the horror genre. Attack the Block, a film from Edgar Wright, director of the popular British cult favorite, Spaced, and the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost films to follow, takes its cues from early Carpenter films while also keeping the sense of humor which made Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz such popular films. The film follows five British slum youths as they mug an unsuspecting young woman. As the crime unfolds, a meteor crashes directly next to them, unleashing an alien beastie, which they subsequently SLAUGHTER.
From this point, Wright and cast submerge into the impoverished Britain, a section of society hurt by poor, prototypically American economic policies which had a similar effect here: the destabilization of the middle class and the further bashing of the lowest classes. Wright, like Carpenter and many successful horror/sci-fi directors, adds a strong undertone of social commentry, as we follow these children, fearless because of their environment, as they attempt to defend their "block" in the projects from an awkward alien invasion. The beasties are refreshingly low-budget, and the who, what, where and why of the film dissolves effectively as chaos erupts, pitting humans together against these ape-like creature, and against their territorial foes. I recommend Attack the Block for its wonderful blend of culture, creature and commentary. Also, I would add They Live, Carpenter's arguably failed attempt at blatant protest of advertising, as a companion piece, as they share some truly wondrous goofiness.
Also enjoy They Live's legendary scenes, regarding bubblegum and a 10 minute street brawl...lest I give too much away...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Inside Job

I rarely use my blog anymore to get on a soapbox to proclaim a film or documentary as must-see viewing while being classified as a great film; not any more than Roger Ebert would send viewers to see Showgirls to see great screenwriting at work. That being said, I want to take this brief blog to draw your attention to Academy Award winner, Inside Job. No, not the Spike Lee joint.
This documentary presents the facts behind the scandalous collapse of major corporations who used the trust of the American people and a system devoid of regulations to fleece the country, then cause the largest meltdown of the Great Depression.The doc also ties together the infiltration of government by these corporations, and the links to renowned academia. I don't want to say too much, mainly so you can experience the outrage for yourself.
I have attempted through social media to help spread the word regarding our standing in this limping economy, as well as help those confused by Occupy Wall Street to understand what they really want accomplished. This film helps explain indirectly what has created this movement, and defined their demands. I ask anyone to keep an open mind as they watch, as there can appear to be a one-sided view of the events. Do not be fooled: there is no conjecture here: Inside Job is a factual retelling of events, not a Michael Moore-esque propaganda machine. To ignore these facts and interviews is to ignore reality itself. This isn't OJ trying on shrunken gloves; here the gloves fit all hands involved.