Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pet Semetary (1989)

A man makes a series of increasingly poor decisions.

I know it's tired and cliche to go on and on about how characters in horror movies often act in an illogical and downright stupid fashion, but Louis Creed, the "hero" of the film Pet Semetary deserves special mention as the single dumbest character in the history of horror cinema.  You can blame Fred Gwynne if you want, but nobody forces Creed to bury his dead son in the same magical Indian burial ground that turned his daughter's dead pet into a demonic hellbeast.  In fact, the ghost of Victor Pascow does everything in his eerie, stupid power to stop Creed.  But, no, Dr. Creed--this man is a doctor, for Pete's sake!--uses evil Indian voodoo to bring the cat back to life, then his son, and then his wife.  I'm glad he's dead, I really am.


*Why does Gage return from the dead with superhuman powers?  Church doesn't have any super powers when he is reanimated, unless you count his glowing green eyes, which I don't.  Look at any cat in the right light and they've got weird, glowy eyes.  But Gage is jumping around and restraining full grown adults and somehow fashioning a noose and hanging his mother from the rafters with it.  What?

*Why does Victor Pascow's ghost have to look so gross?  I mean, if he's got to hang around on this plane of existence after his terrible, skull-shattering death, does his ghost still have to sport dripping head wounds?  His ghost can't just look like himself before he was flattened by an 18-wheeler?

*Why does Dr. Creed think that getting his wife's corpse buried while it's still fresh will result in a reanimated corpse that is evil-free?  Why does he just start rewriting the rules that were never spelled out for the audience in the first place?

*Why did a Hollywood studio let Stephen King pen the screenplay adaptation of his own novel?  The man is notoriously unable to edit his books down to a semi-readable length.  In Pet Semetary, King includes every side story, no matter how inconsequential and/or distracting.  Why is the suicide of the woman with the perpetual stomachache who does the Creed's laundry important to include?  It's not.  And, seriously, why Pascow?  And Rachel's memories of her dead sister, Zelda?  Completely unnecessary.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)


A little girl is relentlessly harassed by a pack of tiny, whispering, baby teeth-eating goblins.

Don't be afraid of the dark?!?  What if the dark is full of tiny, whispering, baby teeth-eating goblins?!?  That is a situation in which I feel it is perfectly legitimate to be totally and utterly afraid.  Sure, I don't have any baby teeth left, but tiny whispering things creep me out.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sleeping Beauty (2011)

A down-on-her-luck college student gets a job sleeping while rich old men fondle her.

If I could make a good living while I slept, that would be ideal.  See, people see me and often commend me for being a hard worker and an "asset to the company," but secretly, I hate to work.  Hate it.  I have so many other things I want to do with my time--write, spend time with my daughter, go on vacation with my wife, watch ever film ever made--but I spend the bulk of my time sitting at a desk, performing a job that I have little-to-no interest in.  I like the lifestyle it has afforded me and my family, but if you think I'm content with my lot, you'd be wrong.  I'll get out of the hamster wheel eventually, do something I love, but for now I will quietly suffer and enjoy the cheapness of my Zoloft.  Plus, I don't think many people get paid to spend the day in bed asleep.

Lucy, Emily Browning's character in 2011's Sleeping Beauty, has almost found the perfect job.  She is paid to sleep.  I could do that!  There is more to her job though.  While she sleeps, old men fondle, berate, and/or carry her around the room like a sack of attractive potatoes.  I'm not sure I'd be into that part.  Ask me again when I'm at my lowest point.

Sleeping Beauty is profoundly slow and laughably shallow.  Emily Browning is gorgeous as the struggling Lucy, but that isn't enough to make Sleeping Beauty even a little interesting. 

The Avengers (2012)

Six of Marvel Comics' second-stringers come together to save Earth from an alien invasion, destroying half of New York City in the progress.

There are two basic questions every human being on the planet has to answer before he/she dies:  "Beatles or Rolling Stones?" and "Marvel or DC?"  These are the only two questions that matter.  If someone tries to tell you that "JELL-O or pudding?" is one of these questions, don't believe him.  That man is a liar with a sinister, pro-pudding agenda.

As a youth, I was a diehard Marvel fan.  I'd sneak a Bat-Man comic now and then, but pretty much, for me, it was Marvel, specifically Spider-Man, or nothing.  I've never liked Superman (He's boring) or Wonder Woman (I don't understand the invisible plane and I don't want to, nerds, so don't explain it to me, all right!).  I liked the Marvel Universe because it was candy-colored and fun and the villains were so much cooler.  As I got older however, I decided to give DC more of a chance.  Today, though I do still love Marvel, I have found a deeper fondness for DC, as the stories seem more adult, more intriguing.

That being said, the Avengers--the team, not the movie yet--is tons better than the JLA, and here's why.  The Avengers are made up of mostly second- and third-tier super people.  That isn't a bad thing, it actually makes more sense.  The JLA brought together all of DC's heavy hitters, but it didn't make sense.  What, Superman and Bat-Man have enough spare time to take a leave of absence from their respective cities to join forces once in awhile?  Not bloody likely.  It is, however, believable that Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Captain America might not have anything going on every minute of the day.  

The Avengers ushers in the summer movie season in a big, bold way.  It is amazingly fun, smartly written and directed (Joss Whedon on both accounts, son!), and so wonderfully "comic booky."  I like my comic book movies as "comic booky" as possible.  I like it when a filmmaker says, "Yeah, this is based on a comic book, so of course there are aliens and Norse gods who walk among us and magic portal cubes and an unfrozen super solider from World War II and a big green behemoth who can jump hundreds of feet in the air and smash airplanes to pieces with his fists."  I love that!  I loved The Avengers!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Drive Angry (2011)

John Milton (not that John Milton, silly) busts out of Hell to rescue his granddaughter from the clutches of a bloodthirsty Satanic cult.

I like stories about demons and Hell and human beings fighting with demons from Hell.  I like Nicolas Cage.  And I really like a good car chase.  So, on paper Drive Angry (AKA, Drive Angry 3-D) would appear to be the perfect movie for me.  And it is, in a lot of ways, there's just one problem: it doesn't go far enough.  I don't know why, but I expected full on levels of crazy action and gory mayhem.  What I got was fairly subdued.  Also, and I've mentioned this before in other places on the internet, as the father of a 10-month-old, I find scenes in which infants are in harm's way or being threatened with guns and knives nearly unwatchable.  There isn't a lot of that in Drive Angry though, so I'm fine.  Thank you so much for your concern, guys.

There truly is nothing like watching a movie in classic 2-D that was filmed to be watched in 3-D.  Scenes that made theatergoers "oh" and "ah," the classic noises of amazement, make home viewers without fancy 3-D televisions laugh and laugh.  I love that.  It's right up there with a sit-coms or game shows being just a second or two out of synch.  And people falling down.  These are the three funniest things to me.  I'm a weirdo.

Nicolas Cage is good as the hero, but not nearly crazy enough.  I prefer a more Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans-Cage to this style of Cage.  Amber Heard as Milton's partner-in-reckless-driving is smoking hot.  Billy Burke as the cult leader keen on slicing Milton's granddaughter's throat is meh.  And William Fichtner as The Accountant, an emissary from Hell sent to bring Milton back, is amazing, but he's kind of amazing in everything, so, you know, good for him.

Series 7: The Contenders (2001)

Six individuals are picked by lottery to murder one another on national television to find out what happens when people stop being polite and starting shooting at one another.

Series 7: The Contenders is structured like a weekend marathon of your "favorite" reality show, minus the commercials.  In that sense, it is pitch perfect.  We've all been sucked into a reality marathon at least once--my wife and I used to get stuck in the America's Next Top Model quagmire against our wills, waste an entire weekend watching a season we'd already seen--and this is like that, only an hour and a half long.  Series 7 doesn't overstay its welcome.  It starts, you experience the savagery of reality television run amuck, and it ends.

What's disappointing, but not entirely so, is the mysterious surrounding the television show The Contenders.  I don't need everything explained to me in a movie, but Series 7 is so much fun, so expertly crafted, that I wanted to get a little deeper into the world it occurs within.  We get the quickest of glances into the game when one of Season 7's contenders announces to a mall full of gawking onlookers "The game is fake!" just before he is assassinated JFK-style by a mild-manner nurse looking to best her competition.  It is also alluded to that some of the contestants are hoping for success in the game to right some past wrong they've committed. Those are literally the only insights we get into the The Contenders TV show.  I would've like a little bit more.

Still, Series 7 is an enjoyable piece of filmmaking.  And a cameo from Will Arnett as a sleazy television executive late in the film is fun.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012)

In a distant, dystopian future, The US has been separated into 12 different districts, and each year one girl and one boy, between the ages of 12 and 18, is chosen to travel to the Capital--where people sport facial hair like this--and battle each other to the death in an event known as The Hunger Games.  (Read a book much?)

First of all, I've read the entire Hunger Games trilogy and I am a fan.  It's good, dark stuff and worth your time, be you a fiction-loving young adult--who I guess, technically, the books are aimed at, but whatever--or a 33-year-old bald man who enjoys stories about teenagers killing one another in a depressing future.  There's a lot going on in Suzanne Collins' books--Action!  Adventure!  Romance!  Mutant wasps!--and they should endure for a good long time.  The first one anyway.  I mean, they're all pretty good, but it's hard to follow up what Collins does with the first chapter of the story.

And that's what this film is focused on.  Well, focused is probably a bad word to use, since the director apparently felt the need to film 90% of The Hunger Games with handheld cameras.  Everything is so shaky and nauseating all the time.  Everyone involved in this project knew The Hunger Games was going to make more money than God, so why not give it the classy treatment it deserves.  The "indie sensibility" at play here is needlessly pretentious and damn near vomit-inducing.  

The actors are great--though Woody Harrelson subdues Haymitch so much, he seems to be sleep walking through the bulk of the film--and the story is intact, for all of you purists.  In fact, any changes that were made--minus the pack of killer dogs during the film's penultimate scene, which sucked in the book too--improve the story.  

So, did I enjoy The Hunger Games?  Pretty much.  Will I see the next two installments?  Uh, yeah.  What, I'm going to be that weirdo who isn't into The Hunger Games?  No thank you, sir.  I'm sticking with the herd on this one.

The Woman (2011)

A man finds a feral woman in the woods and brings her home so that he and his family can civilize her (i.e., torture her relentlessly)

Look, I could describe The Woman as an experiment in how much misogyny a moviegoer can endure, but that would be too easy.  Not totally unfair, but easy.  The thing that truly bugs me about this film is that I'm almost 100% certain that its director, Lucky McKee, who I assume is a cartoon character of some kind, is under the impression that he is saying something profound.  There's just one problem: I couldn't figure out what that profound statement was supposed to be.  And that's what lingers after The Woman ends.  Not the imprisonment and cruel torture of the film's titular character; not the random, off-putting flashes of domestic violence; not the eyeless, cannibal locked up in the barn, known affectionately in the credits as "Socket;" but the utter lack of insight into anything.

The premise couldn't be more intriguing: Chris Cleek, a goofy dad in the sitcom style whose dark side is revealed little by little as the film progresses, discovers a feral woman in the woods, captures her in a net, and locks her in the cellar.  What makes the film interesting initially however, is that Chris does not keep this wild, wolf-raised woman to himself, but rather invites (see also: forces) his family--long-suffering wife Belle; teenage sad sack Peggy; quietly seething Brian; and bundle of cute Darlin--to check her out and participate in her "civilization," which includes bathing her with a power washer, forcing her to eat oatmeal off of the floor, and sexually assaulting her whenever the mood seems right.  It's sick stuff, but compelling.  Then, when the film jumps the rails and proves itself to be little more than a scuzzy, aimless, misogynistic blood orgy, it just seems kind of lame and unnecessary.

That being said, Sean Bridgers gives a phenomenal performance as the twisted patriarch of the Cleek clan.  Like Dylan Baker's turn as a child molester in Happiness, it is one of those amazing performances that will leave you forever creeped out by Bridgers in any role he ever plays from this moment forward in his career.  He could play childhood icon Fred Rogers in a Hallmark Hall of Fame Fred Roger's biopic and it could be finest portrayal of Fred Rogers since Fred Rogers himself, but nobody will be able to truly enjoy it because of his regrettable star-making turn in The Woman.  That aside though, Bridgers deserves big roles in better films.  He's great in this horrible, horrible thing.  I also enjoyed Lauren Ashley Carter as Peggy Cleek, but mostly because she looks like Helena Bonham Carter.  Seriously.  It looks like Lucky McKee built, or more likely borrowed, a time machine, traveled back to late-80's, brought a 20-something Helena Bonham Carter back to 2011, and cast her in this awful film.  Of course, I know that isn't how it happened.  The fabric of time would have been torn asunder and life as we know it would of likely been thrust into endless chaos.  Lauren Ashley Carter just looks like a young Helena Bonham Carter is all.  

Wait a minute...  Last name Carter?  Three names?  But time travel isn't it???

Friday, March 30, 2012

Body of Evidence (1993)

A married defense attorney gets sexually involved with his latest client, a feisty femme fatale who probably humped her significantly older boyfriend to death.

It's weird how put off Willem Dafoe's character is by the "kinky" sex acts Madonna's character enjoys on a regular basis. Handcuffs, sex tapes, and reverse cowgirl totally freak him out for some reason. Seriously, every sexual act played out on screen between Dafoe and Madonna is so mind-numbingly pedestrian, Body of Evidence could easily be classified as an "anti-erotic thriller." The only thing weird and freaky is probably the whole hot-candle-wax-on-the-balls thing, and that's more gross than kinky. Who thinks that is gonna feel good? Not dudes, because, you know, we walk around with our balls all the time and we are intimately aware of the things/actions that can cause them great harm. And ladies, well, I think most ladies are pretty aware of the male nuts' fragility, right? You don't go kicking a man in his bathing suit area or dumping buckets of molten wax on his beans. That's common knowledge.

While we're calling Body of Evidence "anti-erotic," let's just go ahead and label it an "anti-thriller" as well. If you've seen a movie before--literally any movie of any genre from any time period--you will have Body of Evidence completely figured out by the end of the opening credits. And if you've seen Basic Instinct--released one year earlier--you've basically seen Body of Evidence. Just swap out the ice pick with a bottle of cocaine-tainted nasal spray.

There are exactly two moments in Body of Evidence that I would feel comfortable referring to as "erotic," but as this is a family blog, I'll let you find them for yourself. Or not. You should probably not watch Body of Evidence. Not just because it is derivative and features gobs of hot candle wax being dumped on Willem Dafoe's poor, defenseless bing-bongs, but also because it is boring. Desperately boring. Willem Dafoe--who I love--gives it his all and Madonna gets totally naked, like, a whole bunch of times, but unfortunately this movie is a complete snooze.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gamer (2009)

A death row inmate with a head full of nanotechnology who is being controlled by a spoiled 17-year-old boy in a real-life MMORPG something something something...

Imagine that Mario, the mustachioed star of Nintendo's popular Super Mario Bros series of games, was a real-life guy and that every time you, say, made him eat a mushroom or shoot balls of fire from his hands (or pick them from his nose--it always looked like Mario was flinging fiery snotballs from his nose to me) or toppling from a platform into a yawning abyss, it was happening to an actual Italian plumber in an undisclosed area somewhere. You'd feel pretty lousy forcing some hapless immigrant to bend to your every whim, I'll bet. I would. I don't want to force a grown man to don a raccoon suit and fly around for my amusement. That's just cruel.

That's sort of what's going on in Neveldine/Taylor's 2009 film Gamer. Sort of. It's a weird little movie--feels kind of like a Philip K Dick story on even more drugs than your average Philip K Dick story usually is--about video game culture and violence and technology and Michael C. Hall dancing around. That song-and-dance number was weird even by Gamer standards, man.

Listen, I don't care what Gamer is trying to say about "society," it's an entertaining watch, mostly for the fact that Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are geniuses when it comes to modern action filmmaking. They have this let's-do-whatever-the-hell-we-want approach that I really respond to. That, however, does not change the fact that Gamer appears to have been specially created to make its viewers physically ill from beginning to end.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

John Carter (2012)

A gruff, former Confederate solider is whisked away by science-fictiony magic to Barsoom (AKA, Mars) and is drawn into a war between two Martian species.

Here's the truth: Disney lost huge on their big budget adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars stories. I'm talking 200-million-dollars huge. That's pretty huge.

Here's another truth: I kind of loved this movie. I mean, it is a truly excellent flick. I don't know why you haven't gone to see it yet. Maybe you're homebound and have decided to wait for the DVD. That's fine. You homebounds get a pass. The rest of you need to to get up off of your couch, brush the Doritos dust from your witty graphic tee, and get your butt to the nearest theater.

John Carter has got everything that makes movies great: weird-looking aliens; a gruff, but likable hero (see also: Han Solo, Indiana Jones, real-life Harrison Ford); a super hot princess wearing super hot princess outfits; space war; feats of derring-do; sword fights; and magic spells. And jumping! Holy crap, the jumping!

See John Carter! As of this posting it is still in theaters! Go! Now! Support independent film!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Gate (1987)

Overly sensitive Glen, his sister Al, and his weird, oft-unsupervised best pal Terry, battle demons who live in the hole in his backyard.

The Gate takes place in a simpler time when people named their children "Glen" and records came with not only lyric sheets, but an ancient book of satanic spells as well. It was a magical time called "the late 80's." Kids could safely ride their bikes through the sunny suburban streets, passed freshly-mowed lawns and friendly, waving neighbors, and building and shooting off model rockets was the height of afternoon fun. Oh, and demons were waiting just below the surface of those freshly-mowed lawns to climb up into the human world and kill us all. Ah, the 80's. Sigh.

Two more things:

1. I find it refreshing that heavy metal music helps defeat the demon creatures in this movie, rather than the other way 'round.

2. Little Stephen Dorff looks and acts a lot like Kids in the Hall-era Bruce McCulloch, specifically his Gavin character (minus the glasses and Legend of Zelda baseball cap).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fire and Ice (1983)

Whiny ice prince, Nekron, wants to cover all of the land with ice, and it's up to the hunky Larn, the microkini-clad Princess Teegra, and the mysterious warrior with a panther head on his face, Darkwolf, to stop him.

I have some questions about Fire and Ice. First of all, why don't the firehawks, the chosen mode of transportation for the warriors of Firekeep, breathe fire? If they can't shoot fire balls out of their mouthes, why are they even called firehawks? I mean, if the firehawks could breathe fire dragon-style, flying them into Icepeak during the film's "exciting" finale would have made more sense. Icepeak is built completely out of ice, so, one would assume riding a flying creature called a firehawk into its icy depths and unleashing the fiery breathe you assume something called a firehawk would possess, would be the perfect plan. Melt Icepeak from the inside, drown Nekron and his ice witch mom, and fly the heck out of there and back to Firekeep in time for King of Queens. But, no. The firehawks don't do much more than act as flying targets for Nekron's army of sub-human archers.

Secondly, how come these dudes' nipples aren't rock-hard, like, all the time? Everyone is walking around in snow wearing little more than a loincloth, for Pete's sake. I do know the answer to this one: nobody in Fire and Ice, except Teegra, has nipples. All of the action in Fire and Ice takes place in a nippleless society. Creepy.

There isn't too much to like about Fire and Ice besides the aforementioned Princess Teegra. I'm not going to lie: that microkini really works for me. It definitely put her ahead of Jessica Rabbit on the Buxom Cartoon Women I Totally Want to Bang list I keep in my wallet at all times.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Case 39 (2010)

Emily Jenkins, a Child Protective Services agent, takes in a young girl, who might actually be some kind of demon succubus creature in disguise, after her parents try to murder her.

It's not that Case 39 is bad, it's just that it's completely unoriginal. And also really, really bad.

Aside from an early scene in which Bradley Cooper finds his head playing host to a swarm of angry CGI hornets, there's really nothing that scary about Case 39, a film I assume was made in what critics call the "horror style." An alarm clock goes off without warning in Renee Zellweger's hands. That made me jump a little. A dog viciously jumps at a window. Eh.

Case 39 is another one of those "spooky kid isn't what he/she seems" movies that come out every year. In one of them, the kid in question might be the progeny of Satan. In another, the kid is actually a 40-something year old dwarf with a penchant for murder. In Case 39, the kid is a snotty demon succubus with insomnia who eats her peas kinda weird. Ho hum.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Monster (Humanoids from the Deep) (1980)

A small fishing village in California is attacked by rape-happy fish monsters, and the annual Salmon Festival is, like, totally ruined.

Ladies, answer this question, and be honest: would you ever have sexual intercourse with a man who used a ventriloquist dummy to seduce you? I asked my wife this question and she answered in less than half a second. No was her answer, and I'm willing to bet it was your answer too, ladies reading this ridiculous review of this ridiculous movie for reasons perhaps even unknown to you. This is a ludicrous idea, yet it happens in Monster. Or Humanoids from the Deep. Or whatever this thing is called. Doesn't matter what you call it though. In the film, an attractive woman strips completely nude and offers herself willingly to a dork with a dummy. I'm glad a fish monster killed them both. There, I said it.

Monster is as schlocky as they come, my friends. The plot is fairly simple. Weird prehistoric fish feed on some mutant salmon, grow to incredible sizes, and sexually assault every woman in town. To be fair, they only want to propagate their unholy species. It's not their faults they are ugly, scaly, and extra drooly, they were mutated that way.

Monster is dumb and gory and boring subplots about Native American land reclamation and corporate greed are thankfully abandoned once the raping fishmen pop up. Monster doesn't need anything but blood, boobs, and rubber fish monster suits. Anything else would just slow down the bloodbath.

Oh, I came up with a tagline for Monster I thought I'd run by you. MONSTER: THE MOVIE WHERE EVERYTHING EXPLODES AT LEAST 3 TIMES!!! GUARANTEED!!! It's not perfect, but I think its got a helluva ring to it.