Monthly Archives: August 2009

District 9

I hate to do this, I really do. I know how much everyone loves this movie, but it’s been eating at me a week now, so I’m just going to play Devil’s Advocate and give the quick top five worst problems I had with District 9.

THIS IS SPOILER CENTRAL PEOPLE

Note that these points did not prevent me from liking the film, they just kept me from declaring it the greatest sci-fi film of the decade (that would be Children of Men by the way).

5. Christopher Johnson

When you’ve got a human and an alien teaming up and kicking ass, and the human’s got an interesting name like Wikus Van De Merwe, the alien’s name needs to be better than Christopher Johnson. Where the fuck did that name come from anyways? Who gave it to him? I have to doubt that it’s a popular name in South Africa, but then what do I know. Just saying, it came out of nowhere, had no explanation and rubbed me the wrong way. He’s a prawn, give him a cooler name is all.

4. Translations

Seems in the 20 years or so of this alien occupancy in South Africa, the aliens have learned English, a language impossible for them to speak with their physiological bearing, and we have learned Prawnese, or whatever.

Really? We went through all the trouble to speak their language, but we have gone through ZERO effort to understand anything else about them or what happened to them? Why doesn’t somebody ask them where the fuck they came from? Why don’t they tell us they want to go home? If the communication barrier were in place, a lot of the struggle seen would be understandable, but that doesn’t exist, so why does all this not knowing shit about them exist?

Also, the aliens seem to have little or no understanding of property ownership or the value of an individual life, but they do understand evictions? They do understand commerce and trade? Doesn’t quite make any sense.

Ok, the guns were pretty cool

Ok, the guns were pretty cool

3. Inconsistent story telling POVs

The whole starting out as a documentary, Blair Witch style, was cool. I love that kind of stuff. It adds realism, it adds that tension of not knowing what is coming next, of a very deliberate and single handed POV rather than the omnipresent movie camera lens. I liked it in Blair Witch, I liked it in Spinal Tap, I even liked it in Cloverfield. But this movie abandons that format for the run and gun action half of the movie. And that’s a shame.

Sometimes it even cuts back and forth from shot to shot. So some shots look all digital camera, with an MNU logo in the corner and timer rolling, and the next shots are straight movie camera  style. It’s jarring, it’s confusing, and it took me out of the movie quite often, usually in very key sequences, killing the atmosphere the film tried so hard to build.

2. The fluid

Where do I begin? The fluid is the ultimate Mcguffin in the history of film. It’s never explained at all, but I’ve gathered this much from what I saw. It’s a substance that is a) jet fuel b) DNA scrambler c) for some reason thrown out like garbage by the aliens even though its their most precious resource and d) not needed for the mother ship at all.

What the fuck? Why would this shit turn Wikus into an alien? The prawns obviously were not collecting it with that in mind, but they immediately recognize his turning into an alien symptoms and deduce it must have been their fluid, so they know that it does that too?

How the hell is that even  supposed to work? Why couldn’t the aliens hold onto this, their only hope for salvation, instead of just junk it once they left the mother ship?

Just, what? I don’t get it, and I don’t like it.

BTW, Wikus’ alien hand looked awful. A rubber flipper, laughable at best.

Oh wow, a Mech suit. Never heard of that before. Originality!

Oh wow, a Mech suit. Never heard of that before. Originality!

And number 1. The cliches

The most disappointing thing about this movie is its willing and often incoherent descent into the most basic cliches of moviedom. Let’s examine.

There are numerous “I’m not going to leave you behind partner” moments, where one character discovers the courage to help their doomed comrade. This usually happens after the predictable “character makes the wrong decision, like knocking out his ONLY chance of becoming human again” moments that are redeemed in the heroics.

There are also countless, “Now I’m going to kill you” moments where the bad guys are ordered to shoot or otherwise kill someone and then proceed to stand there with the gun pointed at their victim’s head just long enough for a dramatic rescue. So lame. Especially those tough-as-nails mercenaries, who supposedly looooove killing the aliens, but they just grin these awful shit eating grins and talk and talk and talk and talk. Just pull the fucking trigger already! The fuck?

The whole “You gotta believe me baby” and “we gotta go in and get that fluid” suicide mission stuff is pretty basic action film material too. All throughout this movie, I kept thinking of better films that already did this or that or whatever. I guess I just heard so much greatness about this flick that I expected it to change the face of Major Motion Pictures forever. And it doesn’t. It just uses every trick in the book, some going back decades, to tell an otherwise unimpressive story about unimpressive aliens with little or no  real “Holy Shit!” moments to speak of.

Oh well, I’m the asshole now I guess. Sorry.

-Charlie

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Classic Movie Review: Mr. Majestyk

Last night we sat down to Mr. Majestyk, an action film from 1974, courtesy of Netflix and a recommendation from Erik.  This movie stars the ever awesome Charles Bronson as, wait for it, a melon farmer.What? Doesn’t sound too action packed you say. But wait, he’s a retired Vietnam vet melon farmer! Alright! I’m with you, so shit goes down? Damn right it does.

While the title Mr. Majestyk, and yes that is the character’s name, doesn’t really inspire that ass kicking sort of punch like your Serpico or your Shaft, this Bronson is one bad mother, but I’ll shut my mouth right there.

The movie opens with Majestyk getting some gas and taking a leak, riveting intro. Actually the movie opens with a montage of stills from the film coming up. It shows Majestyk holding a shotgun, squinting down at some scum bag he’s about to waste, and jumping around a lot. It’s like insta- previews. Then we cut to the gas station. Booring.

But, wait, here come some migrant farm workers, just the kind Majestyk hires to pick his melons. They are refused service and a bathroom, even through they have clearly brought the little ones with their oh so little bladders, won’t somebody help them?

Majestyk steps in, throws a little weight around, and bam! shit gets done, a victory for the little guy. This Majestyk fellow ain’t so bad after all. So he rides out to his melon farm with these new friends, but when he gets there, troubles a brewing. Seems some white boy racketeer has already hired his own crew and set them up in Majestyk’s farm, like he’s running the place. Worse yet, when Majestyk tells him to scram, the boy pulls a fucking shotgun on him. What a prick. Only, this Majestyk, he don’t take no shit from no fancy pants cowboy gangsters. He grabs the gun, slams it into the guys groin in one of the most painful looking nut shots I have EVER seen, and pulls it back on him. Then those suckas get off his property but good. Don’t fuck with Majestyk.

But get this, the gangsters called the cops! Majestyk gets arrested for assault with a shottie, and gets holed up in da slammer (what is with me today?) There he meets this hit man named Frank Renda. From there we go into one of the more bizarre escape/ cat and mouse games I’ve seen when Renda’s men try to bust him out of the prison bus, like the beginning of the Fugitive. Cops get shot, gangsters get shot, Majestyk commandeers the bus, with Renda still in it and tries to ransom Renda back to the cops for his own freedom. Weird right? Kind of comes out of nowhere. Has nothing to do with the guys from before, and what about the melons?

See, all through out this movie, Majestyk needs to get those melons picked, or he’s finished. That’s all he cares about. A simple man, with one dream, to get those melons in. That’s why he kidnapped Renda, that’s why he tried to haul him back in. And when Renda grabs a gun in the car they’re riding back in, Majestyk jumps out of the car THROUGH THE BACK WINDOW!! Just jumps right through, shatters the fucker, then he rolls out and runs away, completely avoiding getting shot by a professional hit man the whole time. What a bad ass.

Then shit really goes down. You think it’s been getting crazy so far? You have no idea. Renda plans revenge for that afternoon of his Majestyk wasted. Even though he gained freedom and escaped a murder one charge. No, he goes back to this farm town to seek out Majestyk and kill him all for himself.

I guess Bronson just has a way of getting under your skin. It’s that squint, man. I tell you, when a guy just sits and stares you down totally cool while you’re losing your shit openly and uncontrollably, yeah, you want to take him out. I can see that.

So Renda gets his boys, goes after Majestyk and we have an excellent stand off and finale. Needless to say Majestyk gets those melons in, but then Renda shoots them all up! Yeah. He and his boys just plug every one of ’em, well most of ’em anyways. What an even bigger prick. The look on Majestyk’s face and the slow fist clench say it all, these guys are dead.

But you know, no one gets a beating that can compare to the  damage this ford has to go through. Damn, they just don’t make them like they used to.

And you know what? You probably already guessed the outcome, I mean we’re talking about Charles Bronson here for God’s sake. The man is like a killing machine. He’s older than dirt, has one of the worst hair/ facial hair combos in history, and generally looks asleep half the time, but he will fuck you up. Just don’t get between him and his melons.

Quick top five: Best Stand Offs in Cinema

5. Straw Dogs– This is a scary movie, you feel the tension and the terror throughout. Directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Dustin Hoffman, it takes place in the remote country, where local slack jawed yokels are threatening a man and his wife. This is one of those movies where every threat of violence and death is real, it’s tangible, it’s intense.

4. Way of the Gun– This movie had a huge impact on me, a macho movie that wasn’t awful or insulting, right when I was watching stuff like Reservoir Dogs (which will not be on this list ). The whole movie is also a series of the coolest stand offs and gun fights I can think of. And when you can get a respectable performance out of Ryan Philippe, you’ve won. Hats off WOTG.

3. Dawn of the Dead (the original, please)- Stand offs with zombies are George Romero’s blood and butter. The man is a master, and for my money, his Dawn of the Dead is his high water mark. Nothing about this movie is bad, nothing lacking. It is the coolest and smartest zombie flick Romero has ever made, and one of the more important (if that makes sense) horror films in cinema.

2. Dog Day Afternoon– My favorite performance from Al Pacino. Favorite. Don’t argue with me, it’s a personal thing. I don’t think he’s ever been more real, more vulnerable, more sympathetic, or more powerful then he was as a failed bank robber, holed up with his partner and hopelessly outnumbered. This is another one of those movies I could watch forever and ever. The scene where he’s shouting “Attica! Attica!” gives me chills. Amazing.

1. First Blood– Damn right First Blood. It’s like a stand off with the whole town, the whole country, maybe… the whole world. But, Stallone? Why the tears? It’s ok Sly. Shh, no tears, no tears.

-Charlie

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What the Halo?

Steven Spielberg has announced his interest in bringing the Halo video game to the big screen. Himself. As in direct it. HE would be in charge, not just producing, but actually making this one. Himself.

Spielberg’s last three science fiction action movies were the War of the Worlds remake, Minority Report, and A.I. And those movies have conveyed in unequivocal terms that Spielberg can’t direct Sci Fi any more. And that’s what Halo would and will be, absolutely.

The game is a sci fi shooter, you playing as this faceless Master Chief character, shooting aliens and saving the world. All good things, but things which in Spielberg’s hands could prove disastrous.

The screenwriter would be the same man responsible for the adaptations of Pirates of the Caribbean, a ride at Disneyland, and G. I. Joe, a toy line from Hasbro, into films. And those turned out just fine right? Well, they made the money.

The video about it is here.

Side Rant: I just found out Spielberg is ALSO directing a U.S. version of the Asian cult film Old Boy.  Old Boy? Can this even be real? With Will Smith? Whaaaaat?

Spielberg’s going to try to stand up to a movie that will go so far as to show a man eating a live octopus on camera? You’re going to fuck with that Steve? I don’t think so. Step away from these properties Spielberg, go back to making your creme de la creme Tom Hanks heart warmers and WWII memorials. It’s comfy over there. See? So comfy.

Back to Halo, the game is one of the most popular franchises in the world. It being made into a film was and is only a matter of time. Actually, a Halo movie already was in the works, but that fell through for some reason, and now those film makers- Peter Jackson and Neil Blomkamp- have made this.


I am going to see District 9 on Tuesday ish, I do have a life people, so don’t tell me anything about it yet. Not one word. I can’t wait to see it. I’m even avoiding all my favorite internet reviewers so there’ll be NO SPOILERS.

Basically, District 9 looks like it will be the best sci film to come out this or any other recent year. Can you imagine if Halo looked that real? That cool? It’d be a game changer in the way video games are made into movies.

Look at the wave of recent comic book movies. Do you remember when comics were getting the crappy treatment by the studios? Now you have this surge riding the backs of really great comic films like The Dark Knight (or even Batman Begins, which is actually responsible for the surge to begin with) and good films like Iron Man, Hellboy blah blah blah.

But Halo could have been the Batman Begins of video game movies. It could have ushered in a new era where these properties are taken seriously. Then we wouldn’t be stuck with some of the worst adaptations of all time.

And now, at last, we must ask why. Why do these movies get made? I offer, as my answer, this parting thought. I offer Uwe Boll. The man who stands for all that is soulless and wrong in the film industry. The man who can only get compliments from douche bags of equal proportions on Fox News. The man who lives life by one word: money.

That’ll do Uwe, that’ll do.

-Charlie


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What Happened To Benson?

I’m sorry. This post has nothing to do with movies, music, books or games. It has nothing to do with common sense or a personal regard for life either. This has to do with a fish.

A dead fish.

A really really big dead fish.

By now, if you listen to the prattling idiot box we call news, you know the name of Benson, the 64 pound carp that died in the U.K. last week. This fish was the pride of the anglers community in merry ol’ England, a main attraction that drew fishermen and women (I hope) from across Europe so they could catch it.

That’s right, Benson was the world’s most famous torture victim, a fine example of cruelty and horror that made those fucking wankers smile with delight every time they hooked her, she was a lady fish, and brought her out of the water, over 60 times in her life.

Now I don’t really want to rant about the mean people taking advantage of poor Benson, that’s not the point. It’s over. The thing is dead. But NOW people are outraged, claiming that Benson was Muuurdered or something. They want to investigate the poor fucker’s death like an episode of CSI. Geee… What could have possibly killed Benson?

Suspect Number One: Tony Bridgefoot. The man who groomed Benson for stardom by overfeeding the thing until it was 60 pounds. The normal, i.e. healthy, weight of the fish is approximately 6 to 10 pounds. So Benson was the equivalent of a 800-900 pound man. Think that sounds good for the fishy heart?

Suspect Two: Every single person that ever caught Benson. Imagine, if you will, you are an unhealthily over weight individual. Then someone beats the living shit out of you and proceeds to suffocate you for minutes at a time so they can take a fucking picture. Imagine that happens 60 times or more. How long are you going to last? How many times can you take that beating? How about if I put a hook in your mouth and drag you around your house for sport? Who killed Benson? You did, you fucking pigs. Water boarding? A major no no, unless it’s the world’s biggest fish that is.

Basically, what they did to Benson while it was alive was stupid and pointless. But people have managed to out do themselves again, with an even more stupid and pointless murder investigation. It never ceases to amaze me. And now, for your consideration, Please examine these mug shots and tell me if you recognize the man who killed Benson.

And now, the victim in happier times…

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Two Posts For The Price Of One

A few days back, I was writing a memorial piece on the late director John Hughes. In the middle of said piece, the computer pulled a Sarah Palin on me and quit.

So now to make up for that, here’s another post on a friend’s machine (thanks Heather and Erik).

John Hughes passed away at the age of 59 in New York City. The writer and director is best known as the definitive voice of the 1980’s teenager. He wrote a myriad of popular films, including the National Lampoon’s Vacation series, Home Alone, and, ummm, Flubber.

OK maybe not every movie was genius, but at least he had the sense to use a pen name for the really atrocious ones, like Beethoven’s 5th and Home Alone 4 and any other direct to DVD money scheme the studios would throw at him.

But it was that fabulous decade, the 80’s, where Hughes made his mark, not only as a writer but a director. I was surprised to see that he only directed 8 features. His presence and influence is felt so widely in the films of that time, it is easy to think he did them all. Yet, the ones he directed are some of the most beloved coming of age, growing up and discovering the world films of that or ANY time.

Plus, he directed Uncle Buck. And Uncle Buck is cool. Do not deny it. You love Uncle Buck. Love it.

Last thought on Hughes. Can anyone think think of a movie from the last ten or twenty years about teenagers, in the way Hughes thought about being a teenager, that didn’t involve pie violations? I’m trying to come up with similar films, coming of age for the teen set, that held as much humor and depth as Hughes’ films. Basically I can’t. It seems today, our growing up movies all involve stoned out twenty somethings who already live on their own, albeit unsuccessfully. The genre will just never be the same.

Movies like Superbad attempt that kind of story, but they get too bogged up with the whole losing virginity thing. When did that become the big deal it is today? Breakfast Club is a veritable Catcher in the Rye of misguided angst, disregard for authority and teenage rebellion. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the exclamation point on the you’ll-only-be-young-once-so-try-to-enjoy-it theme of the entire decade. I’d even say FBDO is the quintessential movie of the 80’s, encapsulating everything great about that time in one film. Especially that chk-chk-cha-ka music. Ohh yeaaa!

Rushmore is probably the best movie to deal with the awkwardness and confusion of being fifteen since John Hughes. Wes Anderson gave us complex and dynamic characters that transcend the stereotypical in every way. Good job Rushmore. Any other contenders? Help me out here.

And now for something completely different…

The Brothers Bloom

I finally saw this film last week. I had been looking forward to it simply because the writer/director is Rian Johnson. He is the man responsible for Brick, the second best movie of 2007. Amazingly, Brick was Johnson’s debut feature, a taught and sharp take on the hard boiled noir films of the past. Our hero, investigating the drug related murder of his ex girlfriend, comes across a variety of dangerous and cunning players in this dramatic and intense crime drama. Only it’s set in High School.

Well, shit, now that I think of it, Brick belongs right up there with the Hughes post. It’s got all the factors, it just plays them for chills rather than laughs. If you have not seen brick, DO IT. You won’t be disappointed.

But, I’m trying to talk about the Brothers Bloom. This was also an entertaining and smart film, only it couldn’t really be more different from Johnson’s previous work if he tried.The titular brothers, Steve (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody), are con men. Excuse me, con artists. They pull huge and incredibly detailed cons around the world, and their last job is their most intricate masterpiece yet.

The film is a romp, a con  film in every sense. Hell, it’s even narrated by Ricky Jay at the beginning, the magician and actor best known for his work in Mamet’s great con films. It also stars Rachel Weisz as the all too eager and dangerously ingenious mark, Penelope Stamp, Rinko Kikuchi (who you last saw in Babel) as the brother’s right hand and explosives expert Bang Bang-love her by the way- and Robbie Coltrane, who I’m just happy to see anywhere outside of Hogwarts anymore.

From the beginning the film is a fast paced and exciting chase across the globe. There are double crosses, there are mysteries, there is love. We watch people whose lives are more interesting than ours will ever be. And really isn’t that sort of the point of going to the movies sometimes? When Bloom tells Penelope that this isn’t an adventure story, she giddily replies, “It totally is!”And it’s fun to be a part of that story if only for an hour and a half.

I really enjoyed Brothers Bloom. It has Johnson’s incredible ear for dialogue and really great eye for scenery. The shots of Prague, of Mexico, of Bloom riding a Schwinn down a hill or stealing an apple, all of it looks fantastic. It has some of the best performances of the year, especially Ruffalo, who I usually don’t really like, and Brody, who I always love. All in all, a good flick. Nothing too game changing, but enjoyable through and through. And not G I Joe enjoyable, I mean that people with an IQ over 80 will also enjoy it. (Take that G I Joe!)

-Charlie

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Lazy Summer

Anyone who reads this blog, if in fact anyone does, may have noticed a lack of posts lately. Whats the deal? It’s not like I’m busy at work or something. In fact, I haven’t been doing anything lately. But what gives?

OK, here’s the deal. Portland, my current residence, has been going though a monstrous heat wave for over a week now. It’s cooled down a bit as of late, but last week was utter hell. We had several 100 plus degree days, mixed in with 70% humidity, and the fact that my house is a brick oven on an open hill. No shade, no AC, one fan that ain’t doing shit. It’s been awful. And basically, we’ve been living in our basement, sleeping in wet t shirts and fighting like mad over how best to stay cool.

I hate summer. Hate it. Despise it. Detest it. If summer were a tangible entity, I’d put a hit on it. I’d stalk it and snuff it out like a candle. Give me the snow, the cold, the rain, PLEASE give it to me. I can take it. I can bundle up, put a coat on, take a nap. The heat is like an intruder, I can’t shake it off. I can’t get any relief. I’ve been showering four times a day. I’ve been going to the river just to sit downstream from some drunken frat boys who are probably pissing their Calvin Klein board shorts in the same water that flows around me. But you know what? When you get out of that shower, that river, that movie theater, that air conditioned car-it’s STILL a hundred and five out. And I’m still miserable.

So forget it, it’s cool. I’ll deal. Been seeing some movies, been watching some shows. Here’s a quick rundown.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

OK-here’s some Spoilers for you. So Annie’s 12 year old brother is also visiting us, and we went to the Harry Potter movie. I’ve seen all of them so far, and this was by far the most boring of the lot. Two and a half hours of AC bliss, but no plot advancement, no action, no real reason why this chapter in the Potter story exists. What do we learn about the situation here? Voldemort has hidden pieces of his soul in objects. Harry and Dumbeldore need to find them. The one they do find is a fake. Dumbeldore gets killed by Snape. Snape is the Half Blood Prince. So? So what? The whole Half Blood Prince thing accomplishes ZERO save that it allows Harry to do really good in Potions. Snape is a bad guy. Duhhhh. Voldemort isn’t even in this movie. Dumbeldore allows himself to die, when he could’ve fought back. What was the point of it all? Besides two and a half hours of cheap AC that is. Didn’t like it. Don’t care. Kids these days.

Moon

This one was worth it. Moon is a sci film directed by Duncan Jones, David Bowie’s son, and starring Sam Rockwell, as a character named Sam. It lways bugs me when the actor has the same name as the character. Coincidence? Kinda weird. Kevin Spacey voices a robot helping Sam on the Moon as the only person manning a mining expedition. His contract is almost up, but somethings not quite right. This movie was marketed as a thriller, a mytery, a trippy WTF kinda plot. But it’s not. What it is is deeply engaging, a little disturbing and a great film. Rockwell is the man, he’s great. And he better be. He’s basically the only person in the fucking thing. Go see Moon. Just don’t expect what you’re expecting.

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

I netflixed this classic 90’s TV western recently. Watched it a bunch as kid, I can remember the family gathering around for it. And it didn’t dissappoint. Bruce Campbell is Brisco County Jr, a bounty hunter out to avenge his father’s murder and capture the John Bly gang. The show is awesome. Great characters, funny and action packed. It has that early 90’s look a la Twin Peaks. The plots are interesting, Campbell is perfect in the role. Hell, he’s always perfect. I can’t wait for disc two. If you’ve never seen it, or heard of it (it only ran briefly) check it out.

Alright, it’s already getting too hot in here. My head is killing me, and I gotta go.  Fuck this heat. Portland, I’m getting pissed at you. Don’t let me down.

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