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    ... then this is downright twisted!

    Haven't seen anyone mention this yet. There's an absolutely ingeniously weird and funny tumblr blog called "My Boyfriend Is An Engineer". It features a variety of little cartoon images which generally seem to be messages of love unless you've seen the Prometheus movie and know the actual context.

    (Via "My Boyfriend Is An Engineer")

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    Naturally I absolutely had to post this first video. It's clips from "The Amazing Spider-Man" set to the the theme of the 90s animated series. So cool!

    (video link)

    Also recently came across this new fan-made trailer for "2001: A Space Odyssey". The trailer is done in a more modern style to make it look like 2001 is an exciting fast-paced sci-fi thriller.

    (video link)

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  • 08/02/12--07:57: Haywire Review

  • Haywire (2011)

    I'd heard some pretty mixed reviews on this one, but a lot of the negatives seemed to focus on Gina Carano's abilities as an actress. The solution? Don't think of her as an actress. Think of her of what she is: a martial arts star. That means that you don't compare her acting work with Angelina Jolie, Andrew Garfield, Bruce Willis , or even Jason Statham. Those are actors who've had to do special training (or use stunt doubles) for specific action scenes. They aren't martial artists. You need to compare her with action stars like Dolph Lundgren, Steven Seagal, Jet Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme who are actually martial artists. With that in mind, Haywire is a pretty awesome mainstream martial arts flick and Gina Carano's acting ability is more than a match for her peers in that genre.

    Very early on you see Gina Carano's character get some serious violence done to her in a fight. Like a good hero, she isn't the one to initiate a fight, particularly when the person fighting her is supposed to be on the same side. However, also in the vein of heroes in the movies, she goes from initially losing to coming off as the clear victor. The difference here is the sheer brutality of the fighting. Of all the heroines we've seen, they've never been involved in hand-to-hand violence that looked this visceral before. That's possibly because it was felt that it was implausible for a woman to 'man-handle' a man like this, except in this case it's effing Gina Carano doing it, so of course we believe it.

    In the early scenes there seems to be a lot of mumbling, or possibly the background music was too high. Perhaps it's my set-up but I don't normally have this issue. Anyway, I ended up watching this with the subtitles on. If anything Gina Carano was actually one of the easiest voices to understand. Also, some scenes in this earlier section of the movie seem to be done in a montage style that makes it a little awkward to understand what is happening. But thankfully after that mission is over, things get on track pretty quickly.

    Gina Carano is surrounded by a pretty amazing cast including: Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, Michael frikkin' Fassbender(!!!) and... um... Channing Tatum.

    The only issue with Carano's acting in this film is that she doesn't have an awful lot of expression in her performance. That's it. She delivers lines well and never feels awkward on screen. She just doesn't make us empathise with her in the same way a stronger actor or actress might. But this is the same typical 'straight to business' 'emotions are for later' kind of female action hero that we've come to expect, so the lack of clearly visible emotion doesn't actually feel out of place at all. If we are judging Carano as an action star, she does a fantastic job here. I can believe in her character and her fight scenes are spectacular.

    Occasionally there are some pretty cool lines here that show that the film was clearly written by someone with a brain. Carano's interaction with the police at one stage show that her character is well-versed in police procedures and can express herself intelligently. There's also a rather neat subversion of the female action star trope where, when told to scope out an event in evening wear she responds with "I am not eye candy". After all those episodes of Alias where Sydney Bristow is wearing a fancy dress in order to scope out an Egyptian market, you can't help but wonder why she never turns around and asks "why the hell am I wearing this???" There's also quite a subtle sort of interrogation scene at one stage which I thought worked particularly well.

    Overall the plot is a little overly simplistic. The final revelation doesn't exactly wow the audience and with the lack of emotion from the star the film as a whole seems to be lacking in emotion generally too. One aspect which somewhat counter-balances this is Bill Paxton's role as the heroine's father. The film establishes a really good relationship between Gina Carano's character and her father and this is put to great use.

    In the end, I have to say this is mainly just a good martial arts flick. It's too simplistic and cold to be seen as much more. However, with that in mind, this is still one you really won't regret picking up. The fighting scenes alone are enough to make this well worth watching, so the fact that the film is fairly intelligently written makes this really worth your time. Having a simplistic plot isn't always a bad thing (after all, how complex was "Drive"?) but endings are important and so it's probably the decision to have a big somewhat underwhelming revelatory moment towards the end that turned me off in that regard.

    A good fun action film which you really ought to see. Not one of the best films ever by any means, but a very satisfying watch all the same.


    So this new female-led martial arts movie got me to thinking.... If they were to do a female version of The Expendables (which apparently will have just one female member in the upcoming sequel), what might it look like? This is what I came up with:

    An All-Female "Expendables" Team:
    I would SO watch a movie with this cast....

    Carrie-Anne Moss
    Fighting style: Gunplay
    Notable action film roles: Trinity (The Matrix trilogy)

    Gina Carano
    Fighting style: Mixed Martial Arts, gunplay
    Notable action film roles: Mallory Kane (Haywire)

    Summer Glau
    Fighting style: "balletic" martial arts, gunplay, swordplay/axe-wielding
    Notable action film roles: River Tam (Serenity)

    Scarlett Johannson
    Fighting style: Mixed fighting styles, gun play. (Favreau credits her with doing her own stunts in "Iron Man 2".)
    Notable action film roles: Black Widow / Natalia Romanova (Iron Man 2, Avengers Assemble)

    Angelina Jolie
    Fighting style: Mixed fighting styles, gunplay
    Notable action film roles: Evelyn Salt, Lara Croft, Jane Smith (Salt, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Mr. and Mrs. Smith)

    Milla Jovovich
    Fighting style: Mixed fighting styles, gunplay, swordplay
    Notable action film roles: Violet Song, Alice, Leelou (Ultraviolet, Resident Evil, The Fifth Element)

    Chiaki Kuriyama
    Fighting style: Kniveplay, metal ball on a chain.
    Notable action film roles: Takako Chigusa, Gogo (Battle Royale, Kill Bill Volume 1)

    Rhona Mitra
    Fighting style: Mixed fighting styles, gunplay
    Noable action film roles: Major Eden Sinclair (Doomsday)

    Chloe Moretz
    Fighting style: Swordplay, knifeplay, gunplay
    Notable action film roles: Hit-Girl (Kick-Ass)

    Zoe Saldana
    Fighting style: Mixed fighting styles, gunplay
    Notable action film roles: Cataleya Restrepo (Colombiana)

    Sigourney Weaver
    Fighting style: Gunplay
    Notable action film roles: Ripley (the Alien quadrilogy)

    Jeeja Yanin
    Fighting style: Muay Thai kickboxing
    Notable action film roles: Zen (Chocolate)

    Michelle Yeoh
    Fighting style: Martial arts, Swordplay
    Notable action film roles: Yu Shu Lien, Colonel Wai Lin (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies)

    Ziyi Zhang
    Fighting style: Martial arts, Swordplay
    Notable action film roles: Jen Yu, Moon, Hu Li (Hero, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Rush Hour 2)

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  • 08/03/12--19:30: SQUEEEE!

  • Oh yeah, series 7 is coming....

    I wasn't able to resist watching the big long trailer for the new Doctor Who series, but perhaps you can. Anyway, just going to place this link here. If you have the willpower not to click on it so you can go into the new series entirely unspoilt then let me just tell you, it looks AWESOME.

    Oh yeah, and that IS a "special weapons Dalek" from the best Dalek storyline ever...

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    Technically this is the third installment of my Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie marathon. However, since I decided to make things interesting my making this a "Texas Chainsaw Massacre + Tobe Hooper filmography" marathon, this is the fourth installment of that wider review series.

    My review of the first "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" movie can be found here (scroll to the end). My reviews for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and 3 can be found here (along with a review for "The Loved Ones"). You can also find some of my reviews for other Tobe Hooper movies here (along with a review for "Creepshow").

    First review is of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie that was buried for fear of killing Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger's careers. Second review considers what appears to be (in some quarters at least) viewed as the best of the Platinum Dunes horror remakes. Read what I thought below!

    Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)

    My Geek Blasphemy didn't so much recommend this movie, so much as promote its snarkability. A buried, straight-to-video embarrasment for Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellwegger, the DVD case features both of their faces blown up large.

    Renee Zellwegger appears amongst a whole group of expendable schoolkids at their prom. With the DVD cover to go by, we know that Renee Zellwegger's withdrawn and shy character is going to become significant in the long run and is most likely going to be movie's "final girl".

    I was hoping this film would turn out to be fun and there were, initially, some good reasons to expect this. Matthew McConaughey's character is pretty jolly when he turns up and starts killing in people in fairly quick succession. He spouts neat lines like "I'm gonna kill ya. It ain't no f-ing biggie!" This was okay to begin with. Another character introduced early on is the completely nuts estate agent lady who, for me, was the most interesting character in the film. She's over the top, unpredicatable, self-confident, slightly loopy and compellingly watchable.

    Leatherface has sadly, at this stage in the franchise, become the dullest character in the whole film. It's a bad sign for a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie where the bits with people being chased by a big man with a chainsaw now rank as the most boring part of the film. It's been quite pleasant how well previous films have  managed to ensure that long bouts of Leatherface running around with a chainsaw and chasing loud screaming women WASN'T boring, but this film has finally ended the series' streak. More than ever before these scenes with Leatherface in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation" feel like filler, with very little sense of threat. This is particularly odd, since I cared when McConaughey was people off sadistically, but the mad man with the chainsaw? Nah, not really. Leatherface seemed almost like the mother of the family (staying at home doing the cooking) in the original movie, so I think dressing him up as a woman was supposed to freak us out. Instead it just looks stupid.

    Eventually McConaughey's madness seems to run out of steam and his craziness starts feel tired and repetitive. At this stage, the script reaches yet another dinner table scene, now executed less well than ever before, before a mysterious figure enters the fray to give misleading hope that something interesting might happen. This new direction in the story is certainly different, but in the end it's another pointless addition to an incomprehensible script. I've been following the Now Playing poscasts of this series and they suggest that this new element in the story might be intended to cash in on the popularity of the "X Files"series. If that was intention, I'd say it was a failure since I couldn't see the connection myself, but looking back I can see how that might explain this rather odd decision by the writers.

    One podcaster from Now Playing suggests that a particular line from the mysterious character the appears towards the end should be taken as a message from the director: "I'm so sorry. This was supposed to be spiritual, but it turned out terrible." That's about as fitting a review as you will get. I'll give the film credit for being watchable and having the occasional (somewhat) fun moment, but in general the film is an interminable, incomprehensible and pointless dirge which fails to even live up to the relative low standards of parts 2 and 3 in this series.


    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

    I've already mentioned the Now Playing podcast. When I started these reviews, all I'd seen of this movie series was a bit of the remake. I hadn't been impressed. The Now Playing podcast, however, seemed to suggest that this was as good, if not better, than the original. How did I react to this? First I was worried that I wouldn't like ANY of the films, so it was a huge relief when the original film made such a strong positive impression. So I went on to wonder whether perhaps I had misjudged the remake after all.

    The opening scenes involves some documentary footage and unfortunately it's a pretty dull opening. While the original featured body parts lying around in the house being lit up by the flash of a camera, giving us only a vague sense of the horrors to come, the remake shows us unclear black and white footage of a seemingly empty (albeit run-down) house. Why should we care?

    We are then introduced to a van full of 'teenagers' only this time they aren't going to check out a house belonging to their grandfather or to respond to stories of grave defilement. No, this time they're just driving through after a nice little holiday in Mexico where some of them, it turns out, have smuggled drugs back across the border.

    None of the characters in the van has any kind of realistic personality. While I felt drawn in by the wheelchair-bound character, Franklin, from the original film, I found it difficult to relate to any of the protagonists in the remake. Some of the lines feel like they might indicate personality traits, but the way the conversations progress feels entirely unnatural. These just don't ever seem like real people.

    In the original film they pick up a hitchhiker who turns out to be more than a little unhinged. Now I'm going to go with a mild spoiler here by telling you what happens to the hitchhiker in the remake. This is very early in the film and while I'm revealing an early shocking moment I don't think it matters too much. (Not least since, in case you haven't noticed, I don't really think this film is worse your time.) Anyway, in this film there's a hitchhiker, only this time around it's a girl. She's not so much excitable and unhinged as shook up and traumatised. She complains that the 'teenagers' are driving the wrong way and then reaches between her bloody thighs to retrieve a pistol and shoot herself in the head. Now our van full of protagonists have no choice but to go to the authorities to deal with the body.

    The first stop is a gas station where blatantly rancid pork (including a whole pig's head) with flies eagerly buzzing around it is for sale. The lady at the counter sounds entirely unphased by the news that the 'teenagers' have been driving around with a dead body in the back of their van. Suspiciously, the lady does not give them the option of phoning the police themselves, but instead phones on their behalf, informing them that the sheriff is waiting at a mill in the middle of nowhere.

    In all the previous films in this series the victims have faced what appears to be a bizarre and twisted parody of 'southern hospitality'. Also the victims have never been COMPLETE outsiders. In the first film they are visiting their grandfather's house, meaning they have family ties to the area. In the second film, the protagonists are a sheriff and a local radio host, both of whom are southern themselves. In the third film admittedly the main protagonists are outsiders who are merely driving through, but early on we are made aware of a prior survivor who lives more locally. In the fourth film all of the protagonists are attending a prom at their school in the same basic area where the killers live. Yet in this remake, all the protagonists are complete outsiders and while our protagonists are shown as good-hearted, every single southerner seems to be portrayed as, not only absurdly creepy, but also wholly inhospitable.

    While Tobe Hooper was drawing from his own experience of southern US culture, this film seems to have nothing but contempt for southerners. This theme is seen somewhat in the Friday the 13th remake (also made by Platinum Dunes) where we see some locals actually praising the murderous antics of Jason Vorhees.

    Some of the plot elements in this film make absolutely no sense whatsoever. When the protagonists reach the mill they find no Sheriff, but they do find an odd malformed child who plays very little role for the rest of the film.

    One protagonist finding herself in some locals' trailer at one stage looks at a photo and finds herself less concerned with the fact that these locals are probably in league with the same mad killers causing her so much grief and more worried about the fact that their baby is not their own. She gets so upset by this that she exclaims her accusations loudly (and much more confidently than I would have thought the photo she found allows for) "YOU STOLE HER!" I mean seriously, let's get some sensible priorities! The baby is not in danger, but she is. Why would she announce to these people that she knows they are not normal lovely people? Particularly considering that they are the only southerners to give the remotest suggestion that they might be somewhat interested in being hospitable to guests.

    Oh and when you are running out of options, where better to go than into the middle of a slaughterhouse, eh? "Oh look I've run into the middle of nowhere and there's nowhere else to go but inside this massive building used to store dead meat. What luck!" *facepalm*

    The dinner table scene does not occur in this film. Leatherface appears threatening, but oddly unimpressive. Leatherface didn't become popular because he was a big savage chainsaw murderer who wore human skin. There was more to him that that. The whole original Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie had a very important aspect that the makers of this remake do not appear to understand: A sense of fun.

    The remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre is definitely the worst film in the entire series because it is the first film in the series to have absolutely no sense of fun whatsoever. This film is an entirely joyless experience and appears to have been made by people with no understanding of the appeal of the first movie. It was actively painful to sit through this monotonous dirge and have no idea how anyone could enjoy this film. Platinum Dunes movies gradually become more colourful each time, so as the first of their output this remake is composed of a bland selection of greys and browns. I would actually suggest that fans of Texas Chainsaw Massacre steer well clear of this rotten husk of a remake.


    That's all the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series reviewed now. (I currently have no plans to check out Platinum Dunes follow-up movie "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning". If you want to convince me to do so, feel free to explain why in the comments.) However, more movies from director Tobe Hooper are still to come!

    And naturally I'll also be continuing my Hitchcock marathon. And according to the big horror franchise poll, the next two franchises for me to check out are Child's Play and The Omen.

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  • 08/05/12--15:17: Searching For God...
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  • 08/05/12--17:31: Oh no, not again....
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    (Via Heavenly Nostrils @ GoComics)

    Just discovered that the comic artist who did the excellent "I Drew This" comic has a new strip called 'Heavenly Nostrils' about a girl and her unicorn. It's BRILLIANT (though you probably ought to read it from the beginning).

    Dana Simpson (previously known as David Simpson) made the "I Drew This" strips during the Bush era. Here are a few links to some of my favourites:
    Link 1
    Link 2
    Link 3
    Link 4

    The "I Drew This" Archives are here

    Another comic I've discovered that's really good (though it's more plot-related than comedy) is "Strong Female Protagonist". It takes superhero themes in a new direction by starring a female superhero who has decided to give up crime-fighting upon discovering, from her arch-nemesis no less, that they are both being played for fools. One of the early parts of the story involves this former heroine marching at an Occupy Wall Street protest demonstrating very clearly how superpowers can sometimes be more harm than good, particularly when things get political.

    (Via Strong Female Protagonist)

    There's a rather neat article on the "Strong Female Protagonist" strip here.

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    (Via Tough Tink)

    On Topless Robot yesterday Rob pointed out a new Amy Pond toy who has the accessories of:
    • Mobile Phone
    • Picture Frame with Photo of Amy and Baby Melody
    • Apple with Smiley Face
    • Marker Pen with Lanyard
    • Raggedy Amy Doll
    • Raggedy TARDIS
    • Raggedy Doctor Doll
    • The Pond's Invitation with Envelope
    • Necklace with "A" Pendant
    • Wristwatch


    I think some more sensible accessories to cater for actual Doctor Who fans would be:
    Pirate sword + pirate hat
    Sonic probe/screwdriver (that she built herself) + robot slave (named Rory)
    Memory-protecting eyepatch (for facing the Silence) + machine gun

    Also her facial expression should either be intelligently inquisitive or ultra-serious/angry. (Perhaps she can have more than one attachable head so you can choose what expression you want?)

    Any more suggestions?

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  • 08/09/12--09:36: Horror Reviews!
  • I've been making a point of posting horror reviews to Halloween Candy first, since I was really impressed with rhoda_rants community and the way if focusses on the FUN side of horror films. So often horror fans seem most concerned with how SCARY a horror film is rather than how much enjoyment you can get from a film with that little bit more BITE in terms of tension. If you have a similar love of fun in your horror films, please add your reviews there too. It's been far too long since anyone other than me and Rhoda contributed there and candycorncomm really is intended as a community rather than exclusive showcase for a small number of people.

    Anyway, it turns out I forgot to repost this particular set of reviews and it's a pity because it includes what I view as a particularly underrated movie that is one of my favourites I've seen this year. Anyway, check out the reviews below if you didn't see them before at Halloween Candy:

    Kill List (2011)

    On Mark Kermode's list of best films of the year, but sadly after a really interesting build-up, the ending just becomes daft. It turns into a poor copy of The Wicker Man in the last scene. (That's all the explanation I can give without going into spoilers, but trust me, it's a let-down.) The ending of a film is important, particularly when the rest of the film has been building steadily towards it. It's sad because this showed a lot of promise and I would definitely be interested in seeing what the filmmaker does next. However, this film about two hitmen who are friends taking a job to kill three people starts off by doing a great job gradually drawing the audience in, with some of the scenes involving some pretty brutal and realistic violence, ends up ruining everything in the final scene.


    The Dead (2010)

    A zombie movie set in Africa. There are some great moments, but unfortunately much of the movie plods along. While the film looked like it was leading towards a pretty cool ending, it went for a more typical cliche at the last minute and that scene involves possibly some of the worst dialogue in the entire film.

    Still overall the film works pretty well. There are some very good moments, some engaging characters and, while often a little bit slower paced than I'd have liked, the plot has a definite direction. Right at the very start we see a mysterious figure picking off zombies in the desert. He searches one he's put down, takes the gun ammo and leaves the money. Right off the bat we have a clear idea of what sort of world we have entered.

    This could definitely have been better, but it had plenty of good elements and was quite enjoyable. It made a very good attempt to do something interesting with a low budget and the final result isn't that bad.


    Piranha 3D (2D version) (2010)

    Okay, so I didn't watch this in 3D, but judging from my response to other 3D movies that was probably for the best. All the marketing pointed to this film featuring lots of women in bikinis and attacks by large clusters of man-eating fish. It delivered both in spades. The attempt at a plot was fairly successful, but overall the film is mainly about the spectacle. This was very entertaining but very much in a "does what it says on the tin" kind of way.

    You won't regret watching this, but you won't be dying to get it into your DVD collection either. Not a bad choice for unchallenging viewing with some popcorn after a long week. (With a cameo from Christopher Lloyd. Oh yeah!)


    Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark (2010)

    The widely-panned Guillermo Del Toro-produced movie about horrible creepy "tooth fairy" monsters who want to be friends with a little girl - or do they? In the opening scene we have a particularly creepy set-up where the owner of the large house is offering his teeth (and anyone else's) in the hopes of getting his son back from the little monsters who live under the house. After that scene, we see Guy Pearce (awesome as always), his girlfriend Katie Holmes (who actually is pretty damn good in this - colour me surprised, as I was really not a believer) and his daughter going to a house which the couple are planning to fix up and sell for a profit. The filmmakers have clearly done their homework as in the early scenes with these characters we see the daughter (while exploring the grounds of their new house) walking through a ring of flowers; a staple of old folk stories about fairy folk.

    The general view against this movie seemed to be that when you see the monsters they aren't scary. Now the movie was absolutely creepy all the way up to that point and I must say that I found the monsters terrifying when they are revealed too. The threat the monsters pose reminded me very much of Gremlins (a personal favourite movie of mine), so I guess if you didn't think Gremlins was scary, you won't be too worried by this either. Like the Gremlins, these monsters are repelled by bright light. Unfortunately keeping the lights on all the time isn't as easy as it sounds.

    The film includes some gore and, in spite of a child protagonist, this is some pretty graphic violence at times. The child protagonist does a pretty good job, though since part of her character is being emotionally withdrawn there's a bit of a limit to how much of a performance she can give. I found everyone in the film very engaging, I found the threat of the monsters felt very real and I loved the story in general. It was just a really good film and I have to give full credit to the people at the Horror Etc. podcast for recommending this.


    Little Shop of Horrors (Musical) (1986)

    I absolutely loved the original and I'm not a big fan of Rick Moranis. (I really wish he wasn't in Ghostbusters to be quite frank.) This bigger budget version of the black and white Roger Corman classic isn't as funny, features cheesy songs that all sound the same, but has an absolutely fantastic animatronic man-eating flower. I'm afraid good animatronics isn't enough. This is another pointless remake and I did not appreciate it one bit. Sure it's not horrendous, but the original was fantastic. While the original had me laughing out loud, I felt a lot of the humour in this version fell flat.


    Important addendum to this review!
    The alternate ending makes a BIG DIFFERENCE to this film. If you watch this film or if you've seen it before, you really owe it to yourself to see how it should have ended. Sadly the good quality version that was there before has been taken down now. :(

    Anyway, you can see the original ending in the following three vids:

    I Saw The Devil (2010)

    I heard good things about this one all over the place and was really expecting to love it. I actually ended up turning it off (so no score for this one). The film spends no time on giving the female parts in the movie any character almost as if they aren't important. The protagonist who is hunting down the bad guy randomly keeps on letting him escape (on purpose) so that he can go off and hurt someone else. After the bad guy had been let go three times I couldn't see the point any more. It was really sad to see Min-sik Choi, who was so fantastic as Oh Dae-Su in "Oldboy", playing this one-dimensional rapist and murderer in this illogical thriller

    (Cross-posted to Halloween Candy)

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    The Colorado shooting was on the 20th July. 3 weeks and 3 days ago.
    The gunman attacking a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin was on the 6th August. 1 week ago.
    Now just today there's been an attack on A&M University in Texas and at least two people, including a police officer were killed (not to mention those injured).

    But naturally it's not too hard to find some moron saying how silly the libruls are to bring up gun control....

    "When will liberals learn that it’s possible to confront a horrific event and mourn the loss of life without politicizing? In responding to this shooting and so many others in this way, the Left disgraces itself and belittles the victims and their loved ones. There is a time for gun policy discussion; this isn’t it."
    Yeah, because the last thing a victim of gun crime would want was NOT TO BE SHOT.

    If not now, then when will the ridiculous amount of gun crime in the US be worth discussing?

    Let's not forget that it wasn't so long ago that Gabrielle Giffords, a democrat politician, had half her face blown off in an attempt on her life. Six people were killed in that attack including her aide.


    Moving to a lighter, albeit kind of disturbing note. Recently there was an amusing "letter to the editor" from an anonymous American regarding his visit to Canada went as follows:
    I recently visited Calgary from Michigan. As a police officer for 20 years, it feels strange not to carry my off-duty hand-gun. Many would say I have no need to carry one in Canada....

    Recently, while out for a walk in Nose Hill Park, in broad daylight on a paved trail, two young men approached my wife and me. The men stepped in front of us, then said in a very aggressive tone: "Been to the Stampede yet?"

    We ignored them. The two moved closer, repeating: "Hey, you been to the Stampede yet?"

    I quickly moved between these two and my wife, replying, "Gentle-men, I have no need to talk with you, goodbye." They looked bewildered, and we then walked past them.

    I speculate they did not have good intentions when they approached in such an aggressive, disrespectful and menacing manner. I thank the Lord Jesus Christ they did not pull a weapon of some sort, but rather concluded it was in their best interest to leave us alone.
    Yep, that says what you think it says. He felt that he needed a gun to defend himself from leafleters in a park. Turns out these 'dangerous strangers' were handing out free passes to the Calgary Stampede, a local entertainment park. You can read the whole story at Ms Daisy Cutter's blog.


    Meanwhile a firm believer in the constitution has been arrested for carrying a large arsenal of weapons into a cinema showing of The Dark Knight Rises "for self defence". After all, we know from gun advocates that the best way to deal with the threat of a shooting is to be armed yourself, right?:
    "They asked to search the bag, DiSanto said, and inside found a loaded 9 mm semiautomatic handgun, two loaded magazine clips and three knives. Police said Smith was carrying another knife on his person.

    "Smith told the off-duty officer he was carrying the gun and knives for protection, to protect himself and other moviegoers, said police, who took him into custody. A search of Smith’s home turned up more weapons, including rifles, shotguns and survivalist gear."
    I'll leave Filmdrunk's sarcastic response to speak for itself:
    What a miscarriage of justice. I’m sure those 80 people felt way safer knowing there was a pilled-up Army dropout survivalist armed to the teeth with knives strapped to his man tits there to protect them. I’m telling you, this country’s going down the sh*tter.


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    Before this becomes old news, a comic book writer has proposed a mash-up of the Justice League and Transformers. As per usual, my first reaction was to presume they were talking about movies, but right now I am so UN-buzzed for a Justice League movie that I think they'd need something like this to sell it to me.

    I mean seriously, Batman is going to be rebooted so who's going to fill Christian Bale's shoes exactly? The last attempt at a Superman movie was dire, so I'm still a little sceptical on this new one (though thankfully Zack Snyder didn't write it). I thought The Flash was pretty cool back when I saw the movie they made out of the tv series pilot (I had no idea it was a tv series), but that was a really long time ago. I have no idea who Martian Hunter is. That recent Green Lantern movie is going to be a big sore point when publicising the Justice League movie. I'd actually be pretty keen on seeing a Wonder Woman movie, but there's the problem. Why would I want to see a Wonder Woman movie where she's expected to team up with all these other people? Avengers Assemble (yes, I'm going to keep calling it that so long as that's still the UK title) worked because we got to know all the characters individually first. It would have seemed pretty weird and frustrating if it hadn't already established the universe. Right now the most well-established universes here are those of Superman and Batman and they feel entirely different! But introducing the Transformers? That gives me a way in to the mythology....

    Optimus Prime is shown wearing the green lantern ring because well, duh, of course he's worthy of it. Meanwhile Wonder Woman's invisible jet and Batman's batmobile are both now Transformers. And so the Justice League are fighting against Megatron and the Decepticons (always good to have decent villains). And *gasp* Megatron is shown holding Superman's cape!

    Anyway, it turns out it'll never happen. Marvel deal with Hasbro for their toys. DC deal with Mattel for theirs. Transformers are Hasbro and the Justice League are DC. Marvel is simply not going to let this happen, so DC have declined the idea. But wow, what could have been, eh?

    (Via Topless Robot)

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  • 09/05/12--06:58: Movie Review: Malcolm X

  • Malcolm X (1992)

    Oddly enough, I came across a clip of this when I was looking up stuff on Youtube related to the Hajj (Islamic Pilgrimage). There's a short part of the film where Denzel Washington narrates the contents of a letter from Malcolm X to his supporters back in America. He lists a number of the major stages of the Hajj pilgrimage and explains his deep sense of brotherhood with all the people who took part with him. The significant part of this experience is that he realises for the first time that white and black men can live in peace and harmony with one another.

    Unfortunately, that is the best part of the film. (You can find that particular scene here if you are interested.) Certainly, I'll say this film was interesting, considering the way the ideology of the cult-like "Brotherhood of Islam" which Malcolm joins feeds into the civil rights movement. I'll also accept that the acting is pretty good (though Spike Lee's decision to act in his own movie, albeit in a small role, felt like a mistake). However, it always feels like we're missing some important information.

    The film is extra long in an attempt to show the whole length of Malcolm X's story. It also doesn't try to hide more negative elements of his life or to portray him as a saint. Also, I don't think we are expected to agree with his whole ideology either. For example when he argues with a priest that Jesus is not white he is not arguing that Jesus was a middle eastern, Jewish, and to conservative American eyes "coloured", but rather he is literally arguing for a black Jesus. But on the other hand, much of what Malcolm X says still rings true today and flies in the face of rhetoric that racism is now over.

    I don't mean to ruin all the surprises, but it definitely surprised me to see that, in the end, it appears that fellow black people who felt he was betraying their organisation are the ones ultimately responsible for Malcolm X's demise rather than right wing whites as you'd expect. That said, there's always a suspicion that something else might be at play. The problem is that parts of the film often aren't just uncertain because of intentional ambiguity. Much of the film feels confusing because the film always seems to be rushing through Malcolm X's life story with a focus on individual revealing details at the expense of a comprehensive and well-balanced storyline.

    Angela Bassett is great as ever and quite frankly I wish we'd seen more of her. While the scenes with her point to the more conservative and partriarchal elements of Malcolm X's religious views with her clearly sharing those ideas herself, her performance alongside Denzel Washington is such a treat that it counter-balances it. I really do NOT understand why Angela Bassett isn't in more films. Her performance as Tina Turner in "What's Love Got To Do With It" was incredible.

    I understand that biopics are hard to do well and that this was clearly a biopic that needed to be made. However, just because it was necessary to make it doesn't mean I have to like it. There are some great moments in this, but overall it was unsatisfying. I don't think I could imagine anyone doing so well in the role as Denzel Washington did. This looked like it was pointing towards a much better film. But in the end it was just so long and the focus on revealing as much as possible of the life of Malcolm X was at the expense of an engaging narrative arc.


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    We interrupt our combined "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and Tobe Hooper marathon (latest entry here, with links to prior entries at the end) to bring you the final conclusion of the previous two marathons of "Friday The 13th" (installments one, two and three) and "A Nightmare On Elm Street" (installments one, two and three).

    Yes, the review is finally here. It's....

    FREDDY VS JASON! (ooh yeah!)

    Freddy Vs Jason (2003)

    Okay, I'm always worried with these series that I'm going to end up leaving the worst movie til last. It just leaves the whole series feeling sour. Just because many people enjoyed a movie doesn't mean I'm going to like it too (New Nightmare) and sometimes movies which seem near-universally panned will actually appeal to me (the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street). So even though Freddy Vs Jason has quite a bit of love from the fans, I wasn't sure how to feel. Certainly I wanted this to be great, but I'd been building it up in my head for so long that I wasn't sure it could possibly meet the hype.

    One thing I'll say straight away is that this makes much clearer why people felt so let down by the A Nightmare On Elm Street remake. Previously I'd thought it was simply because it was taking the theme in a different direction, making Freddy a paedophile as well as a child murderer. I'd thought it did the best it could if it wanted to bring the character back to being a genuine monster rather than a quirky cartoon figure. However, one reason why I thought they couldn't possibly keep Freddy as the cartoon figure he was before is because I presumed the dream sequences wouldn't have the right feel for the fans if they used CG. Freddy Vs Jason blows that idea out of the water. This film makes a fair bit of use of CG including one scene where Freddy appears to someone as a twisted version of the caterpillar from Alice In Wonderland. In spite of the advances in CG the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street didn't really take much advantage of the options for dream effects and while they might claim they didn't want to go overboard and they were trying to be more subtle and sinister, I think after Freddy Vs Jason the negative reaction from fans towards the remake makes a lot more sense.

    Anyway, time to end the suspense, this MET the hype EASILY. I absolutely LOVED this movie! There are several reasons why I would consider this the best entry out of both series. Like any good sequel, it draws on and expands on what has come before. Freddy Vs Jason is very careful in making sure it ticks every box in regards to what ought to be a Freddy or Jason movie. What's more, any troublesome little issues that might crop up are generally a direct result of reverence for the two franchises.

    So the review will go over what these troublesome little elements were and how well the movie brings in the vital elements of the Friday 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, but first of all let me explain the storyline here. We start the film by being introduced to Freddy and having him explain what the current scenario is. We have a kind of depiction of the origin with Freddy being attacked by the parents of his victims and we also get a fairly clear (though not as clear as in the remake) indication that he is most likely molesting the children as well as killing them. Freddy explains that he has been unable to continue his rampage of Springwood because everyone has forgotten about him. Without the fear he is not powerful enough to attack. So what's his plan? To go into hell (where Jason was left in part 9 of the franchise. Unsurprisingly this is set before Jason X) and to bring back Jason so that Jason can bring back the fear. The depiction of hell doesn't seem particularly hell-ish, but then again how could they avoid that looking cheesy? Instead we see Jason seemingly dreaming of killing teenagers at the lake. Freddy appears to him in the form of his mother to command him to live again and to attack the teenagers in Springwood. As the fear builds, Freddy's power grows.

    One of the most troublesome issues for me was the scene where one of the teenagers manages to enter the same dream as Jason. People begin entering the same dream in "Dream Warriors" (part 3), but there's a McGuffin used there that is missing here (and the same goes for parts 4 and 5). However, in "Freddy's Dead" (part 6) the joint dream element is used more often and with a similar lack of explanation.

    Possibly a mild spoiler, but in any "what if" Vs fight between Freddy and Jason the question is going to arise whether the battle takes place in the dream world or in the real world. But bringing Freddy into the real world is supposed to make him vulnerable and in Freddy Vs Jason, Freddy seems to be far too resilient to stab wounds when he's in the real world, but then again in one of the movies (yep part 6 again) Freddy is actually shown being able to walk on the ceiling after he's taken out of the dream. In this case, this is actually rather a helpful little loophole to make the battle between the two antagonists more even.

    The drug for allowing people to sleep without dreams is called "hypnosyl", which is a pretty daft name for a drug, but it's the name given in Dream Warriors when this McGuffin is first introduced. There's also a scenario of teenagers locked in an asylum that also seems a little bizarre, but once again, fits very well with the past history of Dream Warriors.

    Admittedly Freddy still comes out with cheesy one liners, but I think he has some much better ones this time around. Freddy often punctuates his sentences with the word "bitch" a lot, but this is something that is seen a lot throughout the movies since Freddy's line "welcome to prime time bitch" became so popular in Dream Warriors.

    One other element that causes a few raised eyebrows is the way this film suggests that Jason can feel fear. Now I don't take the part where this fear is revealed entirely literally since it is discovered in the dream world, but there IS precedent for Jason being taken aback (if not exactly 'afraid') in the movies. In "The Final Chapter" (part 4) Jason is stopped in his tracks by being reminded of his childhood. Freddy Vs Jason explores this element in a rather more interesting way and sets up a contrast between the two antagonists in terms of the elements of fire and water.

    So how about positive references? Well we have Jason killing a rapist (which is done in a far less dodgy way than in part 8 of that series). We have Freddy's boiler room. We have imaginative new ways of stopping Jason in spite of his invulnerability (which don't work - and sometimes make things worse). Freddy also gets really angry at one point and gains demon-like features (pointy ears and the like), which seems like definite reference to "New Nightmare". There's perhaps some other elements I could mention but I think listing too many would spoil the fun of picking them out while you watch the film.

    This film is directed by Ronny Yu who did the fantastic horror comedy "Bride Of Chucky" and he does a similarly expert job here of mixing the fun elements of the series with a genuine sense of fear. Robert Englund is awesome as ever in role of Freddy. Some people were annoyed that Kane Hodder (parts 7, 8 and 9) wasn't brought back to play the role of Jason, but Ronny Yu apparently didn't want such a large bulky figure playing the role this time. Ken Kirzinger still looks very imposing and does a really good job as Jason. Kelly Rowland is one of the singer from "Destiny's Child" but it turns out she can put on a pretty good performance. Monica Keena does a pretty good job too, but the figure that I recognised was Katharine Isabelle. While Katharine Isabelle does an okay job too, I was expecting a lot more from her because I know her from her fantastic performance in the excellent werewolf movie "Ginger Snaps". Of the male actors I though Chris Marquette was pretty cool as the somewhat nerdy outsider while Brendan Fletcher was pretty cool as the more maniacal of the two asylum inmates we follow in the film.

    This film is a love letter to both franchises. It explores elements from both with equal reverence and experiments with pushing elements of both franchises together. This essentially makes Jason into the ultimate 'dream warrior' and Freddy into the only figure who can really make Jason feel fear. The film manages to avoid feeling more like one franchise than the other by neatly blending the two styles and we get to see some rather awesome developments in both franchises. Freddy gets to make a really interesting use of his ability to possess his sleeping victims to control them in the real world (as seen in part 3 and part 6) and Jason (seemingly for the first time ever) gets to attack a whole crowd of teenagers at once. Also, it seems Freddy's racist... The pacing is good and the teenagers are some of the least annoying we've seen in either franchise. Admittedly the storyline is fairly slim (though that's par for the course for both series), but the conspiracy story in the background is actually rather clever (albeit in danger of being a little too convoluted in places).

    This was a great way to end these two franchises and I think I share the bafflement of many others as to why this never got a sequel. There were some interesting ideas involving Freddy and Jason being set against Michael Myers or Pinhead and both of those would have been cool to see (and goodness knows the Hellraiser series might have benefitted from it). But as a stand-alone piece, this is absolutely great fun and a wonderful ending to both series.


    (Cross-posted to candycorncomm)

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    World's Greatest Dad (2009)

    Hmmm, I'm getting a bit fed up of these American "dramadies" i.e. comedies that aren't funny. The big let-down recently was "Win Win" which seemed to be trying and failing to do Coen Brothers humour. Now, I know a lot of people LOVED "50/50", but personally I felt that Seth Rogen just felt out of place and actually reckon the funniest parts were Joseph Gordon-Levitt interacting with Anjelica Huston (playing his mother). In fact, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's comic ability is particularly clear in "Hesher" which had me in hysterics at times and seemed to be the only one of these sorts of films that really knew what it was doing. The character of Hesher was entirely out of place in the cliched indie movie he was inhabiting and the contrast produced the humour. ("Hey look, here's this precocious kid with a neglectful father and a terminally ill grandmother who can't do much about it and is clearly going to die, leaving them all questioning what they are doing with their lives and thinking back over her words of wisdom. And um- here's this larger-than-life arsehole stoner metaller who likes to burn stuff and is going to live with them. Wait, what?") In "Win Win" and "50/50" I found that the expectation of humour felt tacked on to me. In fact I didn't even realise "Win Win" was a comedy until after I finished watching it and looked at the forums on IMDB.

    Mainly an indie movie, but with some humour thrown in. I actually reckon the guy on the right is the funny one. The guy on the left just feels like he's doing the "isn't this funny" expressions. Seriously puts me off.

    So "World's Greatest Dad" is claimed to be a black comedy. The premise is that Robin Williams has an obnoxious son who hates everything, is pretty much useless at everything and is obsessed with weird porn. His son inexplicably has one friend. Robin Williams is a failed writer and when his son ends up accidentally killing himself through auto-erotic asphyxiation, Robin Williams decides pretend it was a suicide and fakes his son's suicide note. Suddenly people are really interested in his dead son's writing, so Robin Williams sees an opening to get recognition for his writing, even if everyone thinks his son wrote it.

    The thing is, in a good black comedy, the sickness feeds into the humour. Here that just doesn't happen. In some sections the film is more comic while in other sections the film is more depressing and these two aspects never get the chance to collide to produce actual black humour. The actual humour is pretty on-the-nose and lacking in subtlety. If you take some recent black comedies like "A Serious Man", "Submarine" or even something like "Fight Club", you can see how the humour relies on you fully embracing the darkness of the film. In "World's Greatest Dad" the humour seems to be a distraction from the darkness. The film is just too indie and bittersweet and it even seems pretty clear that the director has chosen some of his favourite indie tunes for the soundtrack. It's difficult to get into the appropriately cynical mood with Inara George's "Genius" popping along. Then again, the mood in "A Serious Man" didn't seem to be ruined by Jefferson Airplane.

    But there's other reasons not to like this movie too. Robin Williams seems to be paired up with Alexie Gilmore who is 25 years younger than him and it REAAALLY shows. Now yes, I know that some women find maturity attractive, but Robin Williams doesn't display maturity in this role anyway. The film genuinely seems to portray this as a perfectly natural pairing. The only thing that seems to be seen as an obstacle to Robin Williams' relationship is his confidence and not the fact that in another movie Alexie Gilmore might convince us that she hadn't yet finished university while Robin Williams could convincingly play her grandfather with no extra make-up required for either of them. It's like the filmmakers were whispering behind closed doors "for christ's sake, don't anyone remind Robin Williams that he's getting old!"

    And of course, in ridiculous indie movie tradition (mild spoilers here if anyone cares), there's a scene where the main character liberates himself by taking off all his clothes and running through the corridors in just his underpants. Does it make a lick of sense? No.

    If you're lucky, this was one of the images that failed to display when I posted this...

    The one person who I think deserves some real credit here is Daryl Sabara who was originally one of Robert Rodriguez "Spy Kids". In spite of the fact that he's playing a ridiculously over-the-top obnoxious character he's probably the only person who feels genuine. He's not really terribly funny, but then again neither is anyone else in this film. However, his portrayal of an unrelentingly awful person is perfect and he does get the opportunity to show a fair bit of nuance in his performance before his inevitable demise.

    If you want a depressing film with little in the way of humour and an anti-climactic ending, watch this. Otherwise steer clear.


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  • 09/14/12--13:54: New Horror Classics?

  • A selection of horror reviews, but are any of them horror classics? Well actually yeah, I think some of them are! This is a pretty neat little selection for the most part...

    The Thing (2011)
    I had high hopes for this in spite of the poor reviews and to be frank part of the reason why I've not reviewed any non-marathon horror films for quite a while now is because I really DIDN'T want to review this one. I must point out though, this isn't a clear cut issue. There are good elements here. But overall this isn't really a good film.

    As you're probably already aware this is a prequel to John Carpenter's "The Thing". The opening starts with a bunch of Norwegian characters in Antarctica. So far so predictable. But i've still got high hopes during this opening because of the re-use of Ennio Morricone excellent score from John Carpenter's original. Then all of a sudden the ground opens up and their vehicle plunges into a large crack in the ice. The vehicle becomes stuck part way down this newly opened chasm and after a bit one of them shines a torch down to see.... the opening title. And that's all the film shows of this extreme scenario. What seemed almost like it could have been a film in and of itself showing how these guys get back to the surface is just cut short. And the Ennio Morricone score never returns. Oh well....

    One thing everyone was really concerned about is how the effects would look, particularly in CG. Well I've got good news and I've got bad news. Okay, on the one hand some of the Thing transformations look great. On the other hand there's something very hard-to-take-in about the visuals.

    If you want to see the transformations (and trust me they are the main reason to see the movie) you can actuallys see every single one of them online (if you aren't going to see this movie but want to know what the Thing effects were like, check whether this link is still working.). When our protagonist is first shown the crashed spaceship. While our protagonist is gasping in awe at a breathtaking spacecraft it mostly feels like a blank empty space. It feels like the shadow effect has been overdone so that it's not simply hard to see, it's pretty much painted over in black. It makes me think of Douglas Adams' "somebody else's problem" field.
    And oddly all of the effects feel somewhat like this. There's something weightless and insubstantial about the alien monster that makes it hard to focus on. It's a common complaint that CG doesn't have the same physical feel of practical special effects, but there are definitely times when I haven't been able to tell the difference. Here I could definitely tell the difference and while there are some effects that work very well indeed even in spite of a slightly unreal feel, there are other points where the effects are not so much bad as hard to take in. It's like the frame rate for the effects is different than the frame rate of the film at times.

    It also doesn't help that the blood splatters look more fake than the transformation effects do, meaning that more violent moments pull you out of the movie instead of reeling you in.

    But that's enough time spent making frivolous complaints about the effects. The point is that the effects are good ENOUGH and what follows is that none of these misgivings would matter (though I still think the spaceship would be a sticking point) if the film as a whole had a good plot.

    Once again, I have to give the film some credit. The writers manage to find an entirely new way of judging who is a thing and who is still human which is pretty clever (though the final 'twist' if you want to call it that kind of forgets that The Thing seems to be a perfect copy down to memory - which makes this final 'clever' scene yet another disappointment). There is also a fairly tense point towards the middle where, as you'd expect, the people at the scientific camp turn on one another somewhat.

    People have questioned whether Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim VS The World) has the acting chops to take the central role. I'm inclined to blame the direction. I'm noticing more and more actors in this are people I've seen elsewhere. There's Joel Edgerton from "Animal Kingdom" and "Warrior" and Eric Christian Olsen who plays Vaughn (small-nipplied neo-hippie) from the tv series "Community". No doubt there are other actors in this who I'll see doing better work elsewhere too.

    It feels like the film is intending to build tension, but it removes the main feature which made John Carpenter's "The Thing" such a scary film. I already mentioned that there is a point in the film where people stop trusting each other, but to be frank it kind of comes out of the blue. There isn't the build-up and it isn't long before the build-up is broken. This is because this time around The Thing keeps on just revealing itself of its own accord. It's more of a rampaging killer monster than a hidden monster which plays the humans off against each other while replacing them in the background. This caused a bit of a mixed-up identity for the movie, since the way you play a straight-out monster movie is rather different from how you play a slow-burn encroaching terror movie. Prometheus knew how to do slow encroaching terror, but this prequel to The Thing is too impatient for that.

    Right at the end there's a scene which explains where the two Norweigians with the helicopter at the beginning of John Carpenter's movie come from and that last five minutes is done pretty well, but it's not worth sitting through this entire film for. Still in this last five minutes I felt like what I was watching mattered and that there was a genuine tension building... because they brought back the Ennio Morricone theme from John Carpenter's original.

    I think seeing the effects in this movie is probably worth it, but not THAT worth it. In the end this entirely fails to provide the proper tone and suspense that made John Carpenter's movie work so well and it's certainly missing all of the intelligence of the original black and white movie that John Carpenter was remaking. While I can credit the writers with a new clever alien-spotting idea that's about all I can really credit them with since this feels like a pretty baggy script overall. I know there are people out there who feel they ought to see this because they can't miss their "The Thing" fix, but trust me, overall it's kind of soul crushing as a fan of John Carpenter's movie to sit through this dreck.


    The Revenant (2009)
    It is absolutely shocking to me that this has gone straight-to-DVD. This was a 'too good to be true' trailer for me a long while back. The premise is that a guy returns from the war as some kind of zombie/vampire thing and he and his friend try to find some interesting uses for his new ability to survive after death.

    There was a fair bit more given away in the trailer (and even in the poster above), but I'm not going to spoil anything. "The Revenant" is a horror comedy which is pretty damn creepy and absolutely hilarious. I'm absolutely not a fan of cheesy American comedies like "Anchorman" or "Tropic Thunder" which seem to think going over-the-top will instantly be funny and "The Revenant" is certainly not one of those, but it does have its over-the-top moments. However "The Revenant" slowly builds up its scenario so that when it starts to get ridiculous and over-the-top it really feels like it has earnt it and the bizarreness almost seems natural even as I'm in hysterics at the absurdity of it all. This is black comedy at its best. For those who aren't always keen on black comedy, it doesn't do a slow-burn like in "A Serious Man" or "Submarine" and, in any case, there's some pretty cool undead stuff and drama to keep you interested even if the humour doesn't entirely work for you.

    I must warn you not to be put off by the opening scene. The film opens with three soldiers talking in a van and I couldn't help but feel "this is not what real soldiers are like AT ALL". However, once the film gets started that scene is quickly forgotten as the real action takes place back home in America.

    Funny, original, and (eventually) batshit insane. I absolutely loved this film. One of the best films I've seen this year.


    Take Shelter (2011)
    I'd heard good things about this one, but it was hard to expect much from it. A film about a man slowly going insane sounds quite introspective and dull. However, this really gets you into the head of the main character and his doom-laden visions are very vivid and tense. I've got to give credit for the cinematography and effects. Right from the start we see what looks like an impossibly huge stormcloud and the visuals are always striking.

    In "Take Shelter" Michael Shannon plays a man who becomes convinced that a massive catastrophe is going to arise. There's something supernatural about his nightmarish vision. Some have even said the nightmare he envisions is "Biblical" in nature with some even suggesting that this is like a modern-day telling of the Noah story (which means this has already thrown down a gauntlet for Darren Aronofsky's upcoming "Noah" expected to be released in 2014).

    A further intriguing aspect of the film is that Michael Shannon's character knows there is a history of mental illness in his family. His mother suffers from schizophrenia. He makes some effort to try to self-diagnose himself and takes the possibility that he is schizophrenic very seriously. However, he is also highly convinced by his visions and very very afraid of what the future holds. More than anything he fears the loss of his family.

    This had a very similar feel to "We Need To Talk About Kevin". If anything I think "We Need To Talk About Kevin" might marginally win out in terms of visual flair (though only just), but the storyline was much more streamlined. While "We Need To Talk About Kevin" may have intentionally have left me disorientated by its ever-shifting timeline, it limited the extent to which the film could build up tension (though to be fair it did a great job of that anyway). It's hard to feel tense when you are confused. In "Take Shelter" however, the tension just builds and builds and while there's a mysteriousness to it, the basic gist is hard to miss and there's a genuine progression in story rather than simply a progression in mood.

    Michael Shannon gives an incredible performance in the central role and I was very pleased to see that this was a highly enjoyable (albeit very atmospheric) horror film rather than a big pondersome misery-fest. This film makes a great use of tone and really grips you and if you want your horror films to pull you in and creep you out, look no further.


    The Innkeepers (2011)
    The latest film from Ti West. I was a bit unsure about this. As much as I loved "The House Of The Devil" Ti West's follow-up was "Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever", a widely panned sequel. Also, I HATE ghost films. I just generally find that ghost films disappoint me and I have ranted on this in the past. It might be getting confusing when I give a pretty good score to "Poltergeist" and seem to wave the problem away in the case of the "A Nightmare On Elm Street" films, however I've always made it clear in those cases that the ghost angle is a negative for me. Here is the first point where I really have to step back and say that my normal irritation with ghost story elements is somehow not a problem for me this time...

    That being said, I have given ghosts a free pass before. In the tv series "Being Human" one of the main characters is a ghost (I haven't seen the fourth series yet, but I'll probably check it out at some point. Not hearing promising things about it now that the cast has changed quite dramatically.) Annie is a fully developed character with an interesting personality and clearly defined powers. That's pretty much the opposite of what a ghost IS in most films. That difference from the majority of ghost stories is what makes it manageable. I'm inclined to say that something similar is going on here. The way this film unfolds doesn't follow such a typical format for a ghost story. The difference is that this is still very much a ghost story and so I'm not really able to wriggle my way out with "well this is an exception".

    So in case you hadn't worked out where this was going, I LOVED this movie. Like with "The House Of The Devil" it's a slow-burn, but it's expertly done in a way that somehow manages to get me to seriously jump WITHOUT the cheesy jump-scares. Far from making inevitable scares obvious by slowly building up screeching violins and wind whistling noises, this film has a number of scenes where the character wanders about in complete silence and it isn't necessarily going to pay that off with a scare. Instead it has to make us care enough to follow around the characters because they are genuinely fun to watch and keep our interest.

    The Innkeepers centres around two college drop-outs who are the only staff in the hotel because it is about to close down. Both are somewhat obsessed with the idea of uncovering evidence of a ghost in the hotel. Luke (played by Pat Healy) is a cynic when it comes to human beings, but is a good friend to his co-worker and seems to put himself forward as almost like an expert in ghost hunting. Claire (played by Sara Paxton) seems like a more naive character and comes off more like a teenager than a ex-college girl sometimes. This is intentional. Her whole body language has this floppiness to it and she's quick to avoid eye contact when she feels uncomfortable. There's one scene where she slumps down on the bed, kicks off her shoes and picks up the tv remote while her is pressing into her chest as she vegetates watching the television. Sounds like a pretty mundane scene, but her body language is perfect. She's like a kid at heart and while in some films that could be the most annoying thing ever, here it's very endearing. Naturally she's not just an apathetic layabout and her expression shifts to wide-eyed wonder and eager excitement whenever the topic of ghosts comes around.

    There are a small number of guests who show up at the hotel and all of them are also quite interesting characters. But in the end the main two are always Luke and Claire. All the way through the encounter with the ghost is an inevitability but it's made clear to us that it's not going to play out as we expect. The backstory Claire has on the ghost doesn't seem to properly line up with the ghostly experiences she has. The two characters use a recorder to pick up the sounds of ghostly activity and to capture their evidence and in scenes where they use this, the audience also finds themselves in a heightened state listening for anything unusual.

    The House Of The Devil never had fleshed out characters like this. The slow build seems much more story-driven rather than just time-filling this time around. The ending has, I think, left a lot of people puzzled, but when I thought about it afterwards I realised that this is a really clever film. If you ask me about it then I'll tell you my interpretation. It seemed pretty clear cut to me, but perhaps ghost story expectations make it rather hard to put together.

    Anyway, a ghost movie which focusses on the characters, earns all its scares properly and gives its own original take on the genre even as it emulates the old horror movies of the 70s and 80s? Sign me up!


    (cross-posted to Halloween Candy)

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  • 09/16/12--17:03: Jesus Christ: Fishmaster....
  • Seriously.... best frikkin' SMBC comic ever....
    (Via SMBC Comics)

    I'm afraid this is all one image so there's no way to put it partially under a cut. Hope you all think it's as worthy of the space on your f-list as I do. :)

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    What the hell does that even mean???

    (Via Roboshark)

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    Another one-off review. Like with "Take Shelter", this wasn't a big release in the cinema but there was a lot of positive critical attention given to it. I should probably point out that there's some triggering content in this movie which I will discuss to some extent, though I don't really go into great harrowing detail.

    Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

    First of all, the film title needs some explanation I feel. It's not a spoiler. These four names make up three identities within the film. The decision to make the title of the movie by lumping the names "Martha", "Marcy May" and "Marlene" together is to signify the loss of identity in the film.

    Essentially, it seemed to me that this was two films. One film tells the story of a girl who meets up with a relative after a long gap, unwilling to explain where she has been but clearly now completely confused by typical social norms. The other tells the story of a girl who joins a cult, quickly (and bizarrely) adapts to their lifestyle and then comes to realise that the cult is more dangerous and disturbing than she thought. "Martha Marcy May Malene" combines these two stories, skipping between the confused girl becoming reacquainted with her sister on the one hand and her memories of her time in the cult on the other. The transitions between the two stories are often quite cleverly done, but I felt that one of the two stories was a great deal more successful than the other.

    The film begins with Martha getting up and leaving the house where she has been staying. She is in a cafe when one of the other cult members catches up with her and asks her what she's doing. There a definite sense that he is only being civil for appearances and that she is actually in quite a threatening situation. The conversation ends and we're not entirely sure whether the threat was a bluff or not.

    Martha then calls up her older sister and she picks Martha up and takes her to her expensive holiday home where she is staying with her husband. As far as I am concerned, all the most interesting parts of the film take place here in this house. The first sign that all is not right with Martha is when she goes to swim naked. The sister says that she cannot do that because families come past the lake next to the house and children can see them. Martha responds by asking why that should matter. It's actually a good point. Why do we think it's so important that children should not see grown ups naked? Even in a lake and from a distance? But Martha isn't just being contrarian. She seriously doesn't understand why anyone would have a problem with children seeing her swim naked.

    Martha is going through a reverse culture shock. She is not used to ordinary social norms anymore and is unwilling to just accept them again without an argument. She has got into a whole new pattern of living and adopted a whole new set of values. The values she is now faced with, particularly by a very rich couple, are hard for her to accept. For her, the house is far too big to just be occupied by just two or three people. She also finds the idea that she ought to get a job to be overly capitalist, much to the annoyance of her sister's husband who is frustrated by the seemingly contrarian houseguest. Martha has a hard time accepting that she is really leaving behind the subsistence lifestyle she once had, but is also unwilling to discuss her former life with her sister.

    In the background to all this is the feeling that the cult members might actually be after her to punish her for daring to leave.

    What I've just described was quite interesting and if paced well could make a pretty good film. Unfortunately it seems that leaving the cult a complete enigma was not on the cards. We get to spend quite a lot of time seeing Martha's life with the cult, but at no point do we get an answer to the most pressing question: "Why did Martha ever join?"

    The best part of the cult scenes is John Hawkes. I first noticed John Hawkes in the opening scene of "From Dusk Til Dawn" where he plays the cashier at a convenience store. That was very much a comic performance (and hilarious too). Then I saw him the other year in the film "Winter's Bone", where he gave a much darker performance showing that he can play rather more imposing and threatening figures. In "Martha Marcy May Marlene" he is the leader of the cult and is able to seem at once both comforting and encouraging, yet also creepy and threatening.

    Martha appears at the cult seemingly already very keen on joining, but we in the audience still have very little idea what the cult does nor why it would be appealing to an outsider. After spending a bit of time with them it seems she has decided to take part in the initiation rite. And, there's no easy way to put this and anyone considering watching the film needs to know this in advance, the initiation rite turns out to be being forcibly raped by the cult leader. Afterwards, Martha is assured by another cult member that in spite of appearances, what just happened to her is good. She then talks to the cult member who introduced her to the cult, who says she wishes she could do the initiation again. Seemingly we in the audience are expected to believe that she is desperate enough to join in with the indoctrination to accept this.

    Essentially my problem with "Martha Marcy May Marlene" is that, whatever these scenes of cult-life are supposed to achieve, they don't succeed. they remove our mystery as to what life in the cult is like, but it's never quite clear what the cult intends to achieve. A simpler life seems to be the best bet, where indoctrinated girls can forget their past while the cult males can have their way with those girls and have it be seen as normal. However, what is still left unclear is why Martha joins the cult in the first place. Her family is clearly super-rich and the ONLY clues to what drove her into the cult are going to come from the scenes where Martha has already left the cult, not from these flashbacks. I can accept that perhaps a few flashbacks might have been helpful, but with the flashbacks taking up at least half the movie it just becomes frustrating.

    I think the intention may have been to use the flashbacks to build up dramatic tension, but in actual fact (asides from the occasional sickening rape) they do the complete opposite. By showing us what the cult is, we can see their limitations. Martha's fear of the cult having run away actually instills more fear in the audience than seeing its few members interacting with each other.

    There's nothing wrong with the performances and it's really sad to have to dismiss the scenes with John Hawkes, but in the end the flashbacks to the cult do not serve the story. I actually wonder whether the writer didn't originally intend to show very little of the actual cult and then lost confidence that the audience would understand if the cult was kept too much in the background. This becomes particularly problematic at the end when the mysterious open ending feels unwarranted after we've been told so much about the cult. Put it this way (to avoid spoilers of any kind), if you've got some kind of alien presence in the background of your movie, hinting at their presence at the end might seem kind of cool. However, if E.T.'s been running around for the whole runtime making kids psychically drunk and showing off his shiny magic finger, then an ending that seems to ask "what if there are aliens?" feels utterly redundant. The ambiguity of the ending in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" was unwarranted because we knew the cult far too well to feel surprised.


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  • 09/20/12--11:27: AAAAAAGH! DAMMIT!

  • It's been a really tough few months and I'd been really looking forward to checking out "Dredd" which is getting great reviews and is also a comic book character I'm kind of fond of. It was going to be a great treat to reward me for all my hard work.

    And now I'm having to call the whole thing off. Why? Because people have been stupid enough to make it practically impossible to find a 2D showing.

    I don't enjoy films in 3D. Rewarding myself for hard work by giving myself a headache would be absolutely ludicrous. That means that there's currently very little worth seeing at the cinema and I'm going to have to wait until the DVD release before I get to see Dredd. I was worried about this being a problem when Prometheus came out, but that was absolutely fine. Hmmmph!

    Update Mark Kermode uses the example of the elusive Dredd 2D to note how the 3D format is being forced on people who didn't want it. I was actually thinking "I hope they don't follow this up with figures saying how much better the 3D version did than the 2D one", because that would be plain dishonest.

    (Video embedded under cut)

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