All posts by kody

MIXED BAG reviews

When you have a house full of sick people, you watch movies. So here’s my report…

The Sound of Music. Like every boy that grew up in a house where a girl was present, there are certain things I’ve been exposed to against my will. Like knowing every ABBA song without ever listening to an ABBA record, or the words to Summer Lovin’. I’ve never actually seen the Sound of Music, but it seems every song has somehow been inexplicably downloaded into my hard drive. I hope this kind of thing goes both ways, and there are girls out there who’ve never touched a comic book who instinctively call bullshit on Tobey Macguire’s organic webshooters.

At any rate, the first thing I noticed about Sound of Music was the absolutely stunning photography in it. And not just the opening number in the Alps, but the imagery of Salzburg, its countryside and the interiors of the nunnery Julie Andrews resides in. The colors are phenomenal, rich and romantic; modern filmmakers can give us Middle Earth and Krypton, using state of the art digital and 3D modeling, but they just aren’t able to capture what Robert Wise and Ted McCord were doing back in the day.

There were parts of the film that I really liked (when a local boy comes sniffing around the eldest daughter and they share a duet in a gazebo, the way Julie Andrews wakes Christopher Plummer up to the fact he’s missing out on his kids, Plummer’s defiance to the Nazis). But then there were things I kept thinking about that bugged me. Plummer is set up as a pretty strict dad (hell, he uses individual whistle tones to summon each kid!) Once his cold front shatters, he revels in his kids and their singing voices, allowing them to be the Von Trapp family singers. I kept thinking of guys like Brian Wilson and Michael Jackson — and hearing stories of uncompromising fathers forcing their kids to perform with smile and cheer while criticism and control awaited them backstage. I have no clue if this is the case with the real Von Trapp family or not, but I kept thinking “what if little Gretyl doesn’t want to sing A Few of My Favorite Things that night?” Is there a high pitched whistle tone to make her comply?

That kind of thought-line is a boner-killer for the joyous tone the film is committed to, and I’m glad the tone is more infectious than the possible reality. In the end, the film offers a nice message: getting over loss, allowing yourself to be open to change, accepting love when you yourself are lost in your own bullshit. Who doesn’t like that?

Magic Mike 2. It’d be easy to make snide remarks about a movie like this. Its cup brims over with schmaltz and awkward scenes (I was ready to eject it after an unconvincing exchange at the beach between Channing Tatum and Amber Heard). But, despite my initial judgments, there’s a lot of good things going on in the picture.

The most important (for me at least) is that these guys (a group of traveling male strippers) are committed to one another’s well being. There’s no berating or catfighting amongst them, and they genuinely encourage each other’s growth. It’s like a modern day Round Table (of bro’ peelers!) who elevate the others in their circle to find what makes them happy.

There’s no villain — like some cheesy competing stripper group or uptight conservative trying to close their club down. If anything, the main obstacle is their own insecurity. My favorite moment in the movie is when they find themselves in a rich cougar’s den and said cougar explains that a life of fidelity to the wrong man has led her to teach her kids to live a more hedonistic lifestyle. One of the older strippers counters her; he’d give anything for a life considered “mundane”: a home filled with intimacy and stability. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Fantastic Four. I love David Cronenberg’s The Fly and I love John Carpenter’s The Thing. I enjoyed Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead and I’m a big fan of Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. So I’m not a prude when it comes to breeding a somewhat different animal from an original source material.

In the case of the Fantastic Four, they’ve made an interesting twist, taking a family of super-powered adventurers known in the comics for their celebrity, bickering, humor and pathos and turn them into a band of braniac whiz kids who (almost) turn into government assassins, that then 180 into super-heroes (I guess?). It’s an interesting twist, but whoever was really pulling the levers in the backroom couldn’t really keep the concept on the rails.

If this wasn’t a Fantastic Four movie, it would’ve been really interesting. It would be about some think tank kids going to another dimension and starting to change: physically and psychologically. If that concept would have gone down it’s own logical end, it would have had some Lovecraftian vibe, carrying heavy questions on the nature of Cronenberg body transmutation, probably ending with someone sobbing over a dead body.

But no, it also wanted to be a super hero movie. So it goes from a pretty interesting science fiction concept to a “let’s save the planet from a Power Rangers villain” concept — in the same time it took me to write that sentence. And yes, the villain looks amazingly silly. Again. How hard is to get Doctor Doom right? The guy is the most interesting Marvel villain of all time: he’s kingly, arrogant, narcissistic, honorable. The man makes Trump’s ego look like Woody Allan’s. It’s like going to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and you discover Snooki’s playing Christine Daae. Anyway, Fantastic Four: good twist on an old story, fucked up by a boring corporate desire to make the round peg fit into the rectangular hole.

Ted 2. What can I say? It had some funny bits. I watched the unrated version, which clocked in at two hours long. It didn’t need to be.

JASON BOURNE review

JASON BOURNE kind of reminded me of my dog Parker dry humping a pillow: it’s fraught with an unrelenting anxious energy that really builds up to nothing.

I really loved the first three films in the series, especially the first one where the premise and mystery of the character were fresh. Sadly, at this point, both those trains have long since left the station. I could tell you what the plot is about, but you know what? It didn’t really make any sense. I suppose it sounded good on paper, but only if you were alone with some paint thinner and a deadline to write the fifth movie about an amnesiac assassin who keeps having convenient plot-motivated memory flashes while (still) being hunted by the CIA since 2002.

One last thing. You know what’s great in movies? Pauses. Breaks in action. So we can reevaluate the plot and motivation. So we can have a contrast between different emotions the characters might be going through. The pace in this movie. did. not stop. Ever. The frenetic drone of a score. did. not. stop. Ever. The scowl on each characters’ faces (all of them). did. not. stop. Ever.

I can’t wait for JASON BOURNE 6 (aka BOURNE AGAIN), where Jason Bourne loses his memory once again and rediscovers Alicia Vikander can’t do an Irish accent.

COHERENCE

COHERENCE

Watched a micro-budget sci-fi/drama last night called COHERENCE. It started with an interesting premise but then the acting, dialogue, and execution of action sank it. There were 15 minutes in it’s 89 minutes where I was absolutely intrigued; the rest of the runtime spent cringing at how these characters let it unfold. What a shame.

THE VANISHING

THE VANISHING (1988)

It took me this long to sit down and watch The Vanishing (we’re talking about the 1988 version here, not the ‘90s remake), and Jesus, am I happy I finally did. I hate using cliched phrases, but it’s a triumph. The acting is sublime and the situation unbearably tragic and terrifying (which is a personal nightmare of mine). It exists in a world that swings from flat, bright warmth to the blackest dark — more “normal” than Lynch, but wonderfully saturated in omens and invisible dread, as we witness how two men (the hero and the villain) deal with their individual obsessions. I LOVE this movie.

NIGHTCRAWLER mini-thought

NIGHTCRAWLER mini-thought

Five minutes into NIGHTCRAWLER I was sold. Great, great character piece/satire. I instantly believed this was this era’s TAXI DRIVER. I realize how bold a statement that is, but I stand by it. There are flaws in it (real-life legal issues surrounding the characters’ actions, a horrible soundtrack), but Gyllenhaal is mesmerizing in it. He does what every film sociopath successfully does, from Michael Corleone to Jordan Belfort: half of you wants to run from the mother fucker, the other half is compelled by their bait.

NOVEMBER MIX N MATCH REVIEW

NOVEMBER MIX N MATCH reviews

Some of the flicks I’ve watched this past week:

I liked INTERSTELLAR and its themes of family bonding and human determination (even though the theatre’s sound was crazy, but we’ve discussed this problem before).

DELIVER US FROM EVIL did a good job mashing up police procedural with the supernatural genre (the exorcism in it is shot as if it’s a police interrogation..!), but there’s a moment that really disappointed me, where Eric Bana’s character should be at rock bottom and emotional rather than solemn and justified. I think they missed the mark big time with that and marred my final judgment of the film.

I’m a fan of the original TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (I even have an old VHS copy of it), so was curious what they’d do with the remake/reboot/sequel/whatever-label-they-slapped-on-it. It comes off as a pretty solid 1980s era-style slasher in tone with really slick modern day cinematography. I think it also comes off as too much inspired by SCREAM, but hell, SCREAM comes off a little too much like HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, so whatever.

I really liked THE PURGE ANARCHY. I mean, it’s wholeheartedly a crazy ass premise that would never, ever, ever work in a really real world situation (there’s no way a country could pick up the pieces after a yearly night of Purging, and I’m deep-down an optimist when it comes to human morality — surprise!! — so I don’t think it would fly.) BUT, I do think the film was scary and tense, so it did its job.

Finally, the kids wanted to watch THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN and THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE. BRAIN was garbage. SHRINKING MAN is quite good with an existential ending.

KING OF KONG / THE DOUBLE / WORLD OF HORROR minireview

KING OF KONG / THE DOUBLE / WORLD OF HORROR mini-review

Of these flicks (that I watched the last few days), I’m gonna recommend THE KING OF KONG the most. It’s manipulative documentary filmmaking, but it’s pretty entertaining stuff. There’s a guy named Billy Mitchell (set up as the villain in it), and he’s pretty spot-on for some guys I actually know who take their shit way too serious and somehow have collected a group of sheep who forever nod yes to him.

I didn’t like THE DOUBLE and turned it off a half hour in. For all I know, it may have become the greatest film ever made 31 minutes in, but I got bored watching Jesse Eisenberg in a three-sizes too big suit walking around like human milquetoast.

And.. if you’re a horror fan, you should watch DARIO ARGENTO’S WORLD OF HORROR. I had to order it from Amazon, and it’s a scant 111 minutes, but you get to see how they filmed Jennifer Connelly’s bug stuff in PHENOMENA while wondering what Argento would look like if he took Vitamin E regularly and not take hair combing advice from the Frankenstein Monster.

FADING GIGOLO review

FADING GIGOLO review

Dear Hollywood, I’ve accepted many things from you over my long relationship with you. It’s called suspension of disbelief.

I’ve accepted vampires, werewolves, little girls possessed by demons, invisible witches, and haunted hotels. I’ve opened my mind to spaceships, laser swords, shape-shifting aliens, talking dogs, talking monkeys, cloned dinosaurs and time traveling dopes that enthusiastically play air guitar.

I even wholeheartedly bought Andrew Dice Clay in BLUE JASMINE.

Where I draw the line is when anyone — ANYONE — can have a three-way with Sharon Stone and Sofía Vergara with as much interest as I have when I clean hair from the tub drain. I understand John Turturo is in love with another woman while he’s doing it, but Jesus Christ and all the Saints, it’s Sofía Vergara! from behind! with Sharon Stone! In lingerie! Lacy black lingerie!

Between this, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER Lincoln, and THE HAPPENING, you have officially failed me.

Sincerely, Kody

PS: please bring Buffy back.

THE VANISHING ON 7TH STREET review

THE VANISHING ON 7TH STREET review

Last night’s Halloween flick was a bit of a disappointment. THE VANISHING ON 7TH STREET had a lot going for it: I like Hayden Christensen and John Leguizamo just fine and am a big, big fan of Brad Anderson (SESSION 9 remains one of my favorite horror films of all time; I saw it five times in the theater alone). And it sure as hell wasn’t the premise, which is undeniably chilling. It was the execution that bothered me.

In my humble opinion, survival horror must always stand up against Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD: it has to say something meaningful about our nature or our civilization; outwitting and dodging the threat just isn’t enough. In the end, I didn’t really find the threat (as original as it was) or the characters say anything substantial about us, and that’s a shame.

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD review

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD review

It must have been Halloween of 1986 when my pal Orin and I watched RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD for the first time. It kind of sums up a perfect Halloween movie for 14-year-old boys: tongue-in-cheek, energetic, kitsch, gory and fun. Linnea Quigley’s weird punk-goth dance on the gravestone didn’t hurt matters much either (however, the fact she walks around killing people as a monstrous ghoul while still naked did create a lot of conflicting emotions).

It seems RETURN has no aspirations to be a message movie (that’s why we have Romero), but it actually has a lot. The punks aren’t deplorable thugs (they’re actually quite level-headed and loyal) and join forces with the older generation quite easily. I often argue that humanity’s nihilism in zombie films is overstated. People come together during horrible events like 9/11 and the Paris attacks and I believe something in us desires the social contract more than anarchy. So kudos to RETURN for having a bit of arguing but a whole lot more cooperation.

But when it comes down to it, RETURN is just plain funny. The zombies are verbose (one explains they eat brains because it quells the pain that death brings) as well as smart and clever (I absolutely love they get on a radio to order more cops and paramedics into their graveyard). The characters are likable and practical: the humor is the insanity of the situation rather than their cliched stupidity.

To tell you the truth, after watching too much WALKING DEAD, I really, really needed some RETURN in my zombie diet.