Archive for October, 2012

Cloud Atlas (2012) – Lana Wachowski (Dir.), Tom Tykwer (Dir.) Andy Wachowski (Dir.), Tom Hanks x 6 (Regular Tom Hanks, Future Hick Tom Hanks, Irish Tom Hanks, Buck-Toothed Tom Hanks, British Tom Hanks, Old Man Tom Hanks), Halle Berry x 6 (Regular Halle Berry, Jewish Halle Berry, Future Halle Berry, Crazy Asian Doctor Halle Berry, Slave Halle Berry, Hot Indian Girl Halle Berry), Jim Sturgess x 4 (Regular Jim Sturgess, Asian Jim Sturgess, Angry Scottish Hooligan Jim Sturgess, Photograph Jim Sturgess), Boona Dae x 4 (Robot Boona Dae, Hispanic Cleaning Lady Doona Bae, White Doona Bae, Underage Doona Bae), Jim Broadbent x 5 (They’re all Old British Jim Broadbent – SPOILERS) Keith David x Awesome (Keith David is always Keith David), Hugo Weaving (Assassin Hugo Weaving, British Hugo Weaving, Slave Owner Hugo Weaving, Nurse Ratched Hugo Weaving, Asian Hugo Weaving, Lord of the Rings Nightmare Hugo Weaving), Hugh Grant x 4 (Douchebag Hugh Grant, Slave-Owner Douchebag Hugh Grant, Old Douchebag Hugh Grant and Cannibal Douchebag Hugh Grant)

This could either be a Wachowski movie, or an ad for Herpes medication.

Holy Shit.

I’m not entirely sure what just happened. Just look at that cast list. LOOK AT IT. Yes, allow your face to melt off like a Nazi peering into the Ark of the Covenant. This isn’t so much a movie as it is a visual novel, an attempt at a cinematic symphony, an event of such colossal insanity that it is not applicable to quantify or qualify any of its attributes by any earthly standard. It is brash. It is bold. It is huge. It is utterly absurd. And it’s one of the most interesting things you will watch all year. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, before even reading this review/response/I-don’t-even-know-what-I-do-anymore, go, go see Halle Berry as a white Jewish woman living in Edinburgh, see Hugo Weaving with an Asian-face so terrifying it might be used to ward off Korean plastic surgery for the next century, and witness this sprawling, undulating, titillating thing. It is a wonder to behold. Much like the first space shuttle launch or perhaps the first flight of the Hindenburg, the masses huddle about one another waiting to see something either great or a disaster of ball-tingling brilliance. We have the movie-equivalent of a ten thousand ton volatile payload, a Wachoski-ass full of liquid hydrogen that, on the one hand, could send us into the outer-stratosphere of imagination and, on the other, might offer a fuck-up of such astronomical proportions that even Heaven’s Gate might give it a standing ovation. What do we have…?

I loved this storyline too. The tale of a man attempting to overcome great adversity in the face of terrible grammar.

Wow. That’s all I can utter. I went to this thing, late on a Sunday night, exhausted out of my mind, and completely certain that I was going to pass out within the first ten minutes. I didn’t. Not once. They don’t waste a damn second. Cloud Atlas is based on a novel of the same name by David Mitchell (not the hilarious sour-faced Brit we all know and love from Peep Show, but an actual Writer with a capital ‘W’). It follows characters throughout six time periods who each have a loose connection to one another. There’s Jim Sturgess, the slowly dying chronicler trapped on a boat in the 1800s Pacific. Then we have the touching and painful tale of Ben Winshaw as a struggling gay composer and his parasitic relationship with a man who has far outlived his welcome in 1930s Edinburgh. Next, there’s Halle Berry as a tenacious reporter intent on averting a Three-Mile Island-esque catastrophe in the 70s with her helpful deadly black friend, Keith David (who, for the record, is always deadly). Number four is my favorite, Jim Broadbent’s aging publisher is locked up against his will by his terrifying vagina-faced Hugh Grantian brother in an old folks home requiring a Great Escape-level jailbreak. Fifth: the utterly Matrix-ified, action/adventure, kinda-racist yellow-face revolution following a clone named Sonmi-451 and her seemingly-incinvible boyfriend Chang (Jim Sturgess, who, as you would know from Across the Universe is about as Asian as Adolf Hitler). Finally, we have Tom Hanks as a goat herder in 2333 helping out techno-angel Halle Berry save her people, all the while dogged by Hugo Weaving as dressed as a hobbit-demon. Yes. That is only the set-up. Over the course of these three epic hours, the tales intersect, overlap, go under and over, pass by, intertwine, make-out, sixty-nine each and then can’t really look each other in the eye anymore at work because they both know about the weird shit the other is into… Yes. It’s a mess. But it’s a really fucking fun and engaging mess. Like a drag queen who came runner-up in RuPaul’s Drag Race. You’re with her. You feel for her. You know she’s beautiful. But she’s still stuffing her face with ice cream and sobbing over what could have been.

Jim Sturgess, talented you may be, Asian you are not.

Cloud Atlas brought up a lot of Feelings. Yes that’s with a capital ‘F’, mutherfuckers. Not only is its scope and ambition something I wish to aim for myself one day, but it’s stories are so perfectly constructed, along with its haunting score, to touch you were it tickles. We have these disparate stories that really have nothing to do with one another; each story lead is only offered a fraction of what is typically needed to build an emotional bond, and the tone runs the gamut of quiet British sensibility to bombastic sci-fi, balls-on-the-table batshitness. A funny thing occurs, though. The casting of a handful of actors to present this unhealthy mass of human emotion brings about two ends: firstly, you spend the movie going “Holy shit, who convinced Halle Berry to Guy-Pierce-in-Prometheus herself like that? She looks like if someone threw acid on Mr. Miagee” and secondly: though these people only take up a few minutes of your time, the repeated viewing of the same faces somehow builds a sense of camaraderie, a connection to the basic principle of these people. You end up falling for an utterly indescribable and ephemeral through-line, a spirit, if you will. It’s the oddest thing. A pavlovian emotional response. And while the make up and fake prosthetics are almost infuriating in their ridiculous nature, playing ‘spot the actor’ is, in a way, encouraged. With each instance of “Aha! There they are!”, from Tom Hanks’ despicable attempt at an ‘Irish’ accent (I think) to Hugh Grant as a mutherfucking cannibal, you are drawn into this cast of actors who truly seem as though they are working towards an unachievable end…but they’re going for it all the same. By the end, you’re with them, whether you like it or not. They have you in their claws and they ain’t letting go until all the dust has settled and you’re ready to grab a loved one/not-really-loved-one-but-there-anyway/Ben and Jerry’s ice cream tub and hold them tight.

This won’t be the best movie of the year but it will be the most ambitious. Nobody has ever attempted anything of this scope and scale since perhaps The Lord of the Rings and, even then, most of that was a safe bet. This, this reeks of risk and career suicide. Leave it to the two assholes who brought us Speed Racer to bring about the most sprawling and challenging work in a decade. Also, Run Lola Run’s Tom Tykwer. That mutherfucker is just as crazy. Does it do everything right? FUCK NO. Did you read that cast list? Holy God, there were a few scenes that were almost Zipedee Doo-Dah-levels of awkward. Yes, they should have had at least one Korean or Korean-American actor in the cast. Yes, some of the make-up is so distracting that sometimes you’re afraid you might be smothered by Hugo Weaving’s tits while you sleep. But you know what? You ain’t never seen anything like this before. You can have your Lincolns, your ‘important’ movies about ‘important’ people who said ‘important’ things. You know, movies where actors put on a single piece of prosthetics and are critically fellated for being so ‘brave’. Brave? Fucking brave? You wanna see brave? See Hugo Weaving doing ANYTHING in this movie. One day, he’s going to show this to his grandkids and say, “Yes, that’s granddad Hugo with fake boobs. And there I’m blonde and murdering dogs. And then I look like someone turned my scrotum into eyelids. And, oh, oh look! Now I’m a warted, top-hat sporting hick-demon from the future!” But, then again, he was in Pricilla Queen of the Desert. Crazy Aussie.

Choices. This movie makes them.

A collection of the most coolest/most hilarious moments: old-face Hugh Grant, a dude exploding after falling off a balcony, inexplicable kung-fu, buck-toothed/balding Tom Hanks talking about Jim Sturgess’ meat, slow motion china exploding, Hugo Weaving’s tits, Jim Sturgess with a prosthetic nose punching the shit out of a British gentleman, “I know! I know!”, a plunger in the mouth, that awkward moment when the audience realizes Ben Wishaw played Hugh Grant’s wife, Boona Dae as a murderous hispanic lady, Halle Berry as a white woman, Hugo Weaving as a Nazi composer, Susan Sarandon with Mike-Tyson-esque facial tattoos and so on and so forth. If you don’t just say, “Hey movie, I know you want to play and you get a little goofy…but here I am. Let’s do this,” you are missing out. It’s like watching a conclave of nerds playing Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, you can be a snobbish ‘cool kid’ and write them off as losers, OR you can watch, figure it out and realize that sometimes the nerdiest and oddest people think about the world in utterly engaging ways.

Fucking. Awesome. Sauce.

You won’t see anything like this for years, my friends. Mark my words, see it. See it again. Really digest what you are viewing. Then devise a drinking game involving every time the movie is unintentionally racist. You won’t regret it.

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Carrie (1976) – Brian De Palma (Dir.), Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, John Travolta

“I just love what Carrie’s doing with that dress. Pig’s Blood? Genius. Not even Lady Gaga has thought that one up!” ~ Ryan Seacrest, as always, not getting it.

Last, and certainly not least, we have the final winner of the Hallow-Mooney Spook-tacular Watch-a-thon 2012. This little ditty of a sexual-education-film-gone-wrong is the beginning of so many things. It was the first book to bear the moniker ‘Stephen King’ below its inscription, the first of, apparently, an infinite number of tomes. It was also Sissy “Dirty Pillows” Spacek’s first big movie. In addition, it’s the greatest origin story of an X-Man ever. I wish the new Brian Singer movies had more vaginal bleeding, bitch slaps and John Travolta before losing his hair and becoming a cult leader. This is a classic for so many reasons and, with my ladyblogger Erin at my side, the libations flowed, so did the callbacks, the witticisms and the unbridled “What the fuck???”s. Yes, this movie wins several awards in my eyes, such as “Most Educational Film for Young Boys About Periods”, “Most Travolta As the Bad Guy” (eking out the uproarious Face/Off, which, in turn, wins for ‘Most Bad Guy Impaled with a Harpoon’) and, the highly coveted, ‘Most Pig’s Blood-Themed Prom’. Holy Lord. Where to begin?

Carrie. Oh, poor, sad, delirious, confused, eye-liner-challenged Carrie. Carrie White is a girl with the mother from Hell. Ironically, other than giving into men who taste supremely of bourbon, Mrs. Margaret White (a superb and frizzy Piper “Yes, She Was in the Faculty As Well, I Had No Idea!” Laurie) happens to be a fanatic of almost Paul Ryan levels of misogyny (ELECTION BURN!). Poor little Carrie White. She doesn’t get her first period until senior year of high school and the fallout is one of perplexing proportions…in that all the other girls begin pelting her with tampons and maxipads. Then the unfortunately Farah Fawcett-ed gym teacher (badass, Betty Buckley) breaks it up. This was confusing to me. Isn’t the maxi-pad pelting an accepted moon-cycle ritual, accompanied closely by the never-ending fountain of chocolate, uncontrollable crying competitions and a sacrifice of a live goat to Artemis? (My understanding of the female reproductive system is relegated to my purely abstinence-only upbringing and my British Pagan rites. I apologize, that was redundant. Everything in England is Pagan). After winning the ‘Batshit Crazy Screaming and Offering her Secreted Uterine Lining to Other Girls’ contest, Miss Carrie receives the first bitch-slap of the film and a light explodes. Interestingly, De Palma, a man not known for either horror movies or general subtlety (Scarface, anyone?), borrows from several other classics in the horror genre, both past and future. Whenever Carrie turns into an unhinged Professor X (without the gravitas or the Star Trek ties) De Palma plays the classic Psycho sound cue. Also, I believe her period, in terms of both heft and flow, was a direct reference to the scene where the Noah’s Arc sized flood of human gore rushes out of the elevator in The Sining. I might be wrong on that one.

“JAM! I FUCKING HATE JAM!” ~ Carrie, uninformed.

Anyway, back to the task at hand. Carrie is the social pariah of the school, what with her uncomfortably pale eyelashes and a disposition more nervous than Mitt Romney at a Gay Pride Parade (ANOTHER ELECTION BURN!). Due to her indiscretion and awkwardly shaped boobs in the initial scene, the rest of the girls are punished to detention with Miss Collins. From that point on, Carrie, and the rest of the school are doomed. What entails is perhaps the most straight-forward Kingian tale ever told, a whole lot of glow-in-the-dark Jesus statues, screaming, crying, lack of mascara, frizz, pig’s blood, flipping muscle cars, split-screens, impalements, people getting repeatedly slapped and general high school hijinks. Anyone who knows anything about pop culture is perfectly aware of where the tale culminates. It’s all pretty by the numbers, with a few religiously repressed flourishes here and there (DIRTY PILLOWS, DIRTY PILLOWS, DIRTY PILLOWS. I guffawed). And, though the general plot and theme of the tale were nothing new or surprising, I discovered a number of things as the film sauntered by. Firstly: the Seventies were apparently a lawless era, a wasteland of moral depravity and emotional anarchy that it would have made even Mad Max blush. We have teachers smoking in the Principal’s office. Miss Collins repeatedly slaps one of her students. No fucking joke. The girl is giving her lip, and like a pimp, Collins just backhands the shit out of her. For a moment, I thought she’d through some leopard print fur around her shoulders, take out a bejeweled cane, walk down the line, ripping out benjamins from bra-straps and telling her students they, “be some trippin’-ass hoes”. It was that level of pimpdom. Uncomfortable for everyone.

Bitch, it’s called a diffuser. Get one.

Secondly: When a horror movie, even one as thematically basic as this one, is placed in the hands of an actual film director, some odd things occur. You care about characters. Let that sink in. I know. It’s fucked up. Usually, horror film pieces of cardboard caricatures can be filed into their absurd tropes and the timing of their death is inversely proportional to the size of their mammaries. However, when Brian “I Made Kevin Costner Palatable” De Palma, who has given the world such greats as The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way, and the dithyrambic insanity that was Dionysus, gets his meaty claws on a script that is actually about the horrors of high school and the active terror most girls find in their growing bodies, we end up with something worth watching. The most interesting aspect of the script, moving past the unhinged mother and slap-happy pimp queen gym teacher, one of the main ‘Mean Girls’ actually relinquishes her duties of being a Cee U Next Tuesday and reaches out to little Miss White. Up until the ending, you aren’t clear on whether the more brunette (and therefore better person, that’s just science) girl is actually setting Carrie up for further ridicule or if she really does want to give her a night to remember with her boyfriend on Carrie’s arm. I literally began freaking out when Nancy, who is unable to attend prom without a date, leaves dinner to sprint to the event. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it…but I actually cared if this girl was evil or not. That’s a big fucking deal for me. Thank you Mr. De Palma.

And then everyone dies. Some deaths are more hilarious than others. Mostly it’s just horrifying.

Hey, dude, Fabio called. He wants his pubes back.

The question that I was forced to ask once it was all said and done was simple: is this a feminist movie? It’s a bizarre catch-22 that we find. On the one hand, it’s about the unnatural act of repressing female sexuality to the point of literal ignition (we all know those all consuming flames at the end were sex fires. You can’t pull the wool over our eyes, Mr. De Palma!). That, in essence, is feminist. On the other hand, though, what is it that is so supernatural about the female form that it has the ability to break the laws of physics in almost witch-like terms? What is one of the more compelling aspects of King’s world is that he never explains why or where the telekinesis came from. Is it heaven sent? Borne of Satan? The prequel to an extremely lucrative film franchise (ignoring Wolverine)? Though it is a tale about a girl having girl problems with other girls, it is still written by a gentleman who, though empathetic, obviously sees said issues as otherish. Perhaps it is driven home by Mr. De Palma, who isn’t really known for doing anything other than have men point penises guns at other men. A remake is going to arrive in theaters fairly soon featuring the adorable and murderous Chloe “Hit Girl” Moretz and Julianne “The Dude is so Lucky” Moore. What intrigues me is that, at the helm is the totally awesome Kimberly Pierce, famous for Boys Don’t Cry and kicking ass one of my favorite documentaries of all time: This Film is Not Yet Rated. Will we be treated to a far less-70s, far more in-depth and sympathetic view of the character? Will budgetary constraints sterilize what could be a bitchin’ brutal gore fest into a tame Twilight-era snore-a-thon? Will it simply be a whorish mess, soaking up the dollar bills so Miss Collins can waltz by and slap out a wad? Who knows?

All I can say is this: if John Travolta ever suggests dumping pig’s blood on someone, don’t do it. Get in the car, clean up the cocaine, grab the adrenaline shot for the passed-out hooker and put the pedal to the metal. You can wake the girl up later. Travolta is mutherfucking crazy.

Drive! Just get away! No good can ever come of the TRAVOLTA.

Sinister (2012) – Scott Derrickson (Dir.) Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred “I Ran For President Once” Thompson, James Ransone

and

Seven Psychopaths (2012) – Martin McDonagh (Dir.), Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Harry Dean Stanton

This may, or may not, give away the ending of the movie. Thanks, poster. You dick.

Ah, the ‘multiplex’. To us film-loving types, it is a rite of passage. An act of daring. A maneuver of such dastardly elusiveness, only the most capable of cinematic scoundrels can pull it off! Well, that was back in the days of not-being-17 and wanting, nay, needing to see South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut in theaters (Damn you, Wild Wild West for your bloated ticket sales!). Nowadays, the only reason to sneak into a movie while paying for a different one would be because you’re too poor in your post-college life to afford two tickets to two movies you only kinda want to see. Never fear! I did the adult thing! I multiplexed the SHIT out of these movies!…In that I saw one, left, ate some Panera (like a fucking adult) and then paid for the other movie. I be a classy mutherfucker (P.S. my mom reads this – or, as it’s pronounced in England ‘mum’, or, on the rare occasion, ‘boodle-matron’. Just thought you should all know). So, yes, as a busy adult with busy adult things to do, I had to fit these two badboys of movie mayhem into a single afternoon. Armed with a Meg and a Huntsberger, we stormed the beaches of mediocre horror and meta-McDonagh-magic. Now, I could have written two articles…but guess what? I have shit to do. So you get one. But it’s a long one. (That’s what she said. Lucky girl.)

So, what have we here? Sinister, the not-so-awaited follow up to Insidious, and the prequel to Nefarious, which will be, in turn, a spin-off of the series: Iniquitous, Not Very Nice,  and Kind of a Dick, tells the tale of an asshole getting killed really, really slowly by always making the wrong choices (SPOILERS). His name is Ethan Hawke. Well, it’s something else in the movie…but who will ever actually remember? He writes books about murders and then goes to the places where the murders happen and…well, that stuff is boring. The interesting part is that he discovers a collection of ‘Home Movies’ made by a gentleman who could give Rob Zombie some hints on how to actually string a series of scenes together. This guy is, in fact, an ancient Babylonian deity with a penchant for Super 8 film named ‘Bughool’ or ‘Bug Drool’ or ‘Bunghole’ or ‘Not as Scary as The Ring; You’re Trying Too Hard’. This fellow eats children, like you do, and usually dines on the youngest in a family that he then murders in gloriously ritualistic fashion. If you have half a brain, you have to ask yourself, who is going to murder the incessant and egregiously penis-esque Ethan Hawke and what fun way will they do it? I won’t spoil anything…though I already have, but it is fairly amusing.

“Hmm…you’re only paying me how much? I won’t even phone it in for that price. You fuckers are getting a telegrammed performance.” ~ Ethan Hawke, his own agent.

So, after witnessing a good deal of horror movies in the last month and an unacceptable amount during my rather miniature lifespan, it’s become clear that the ‘horror’ well is running a little dry. Yes, every now and then, a delicious cup of water comes up with the bucket, glistening like gems in the light…right before that kid from The Ring turns your face into a Picasso. But, more often than not, the bucket just comes up with sludge. Sometimes you’ll find some lead in there as well, double trouble. Since most of the classic horror beasts were created in the 70s and 80s, people have been attempting to rehash the magic. And, in some cases, they literally rehash what they think is the magic, only to discover that it’s a bucket filled with turd-meat (I’m looking at you, Jason X). The only team that has perhaps come anywhere close would be that of Saw. Like it or not, the ‘Jigsaw Killer’ is now an accepted member of the collective imagination, no matter how hackneyed and painful the later installments may be. Those boys went on to make the gloriously bat-shit movie that was Insidious. Now, beginning screenwriters, you know those rules everyone tells you about structure and tone and dramatic arc? Well, eat those. Regurgitate them. Blend them. Drink them again. And then puke on a computer. That would about explain the narrative arc of that movie. However, it was surprisingly interesting, for the most part. And then, the final act, descends into a realm reserved only for the Marquis De Sade, Salvador Dali and Charlie Sheen. It was a mess of such colossal proportions that even Lindsay Lohan gave it a once over before saying, “Gurl, get it together“.

So, here we have their follow-up. Does it make more sense? Yes. Is it as interesting? No. I’ll give the boys props, Bughool, or whatever his name is, comes off as exceedingly, what’s the word I’m looking for?…It’s like evil, but more baleful. Menacing? No. It’s not ‘insidious’…oh, man, it’s going to bug me. I’ll let you know when I think of it. Anyway, as a villain, he keeps the creep factor in the land of ‘Uncles Commenting on Their 16-year-old Nieces’ Bikini Facebook Pictures’, even if his face looks like if Gene Simmons’ forgot his safeword on bondage night. if you’ve seen any of the commercials, you’ve already witnessed the ‘scary’ bits (the paused image looking at Ethan Hawke, the harem of missing children watching a Bughool movie in the attic, etc.) so the rest of it is just a dude wandering around a house with a baseball bat. What is truly rotten at the core of this otherwise outwardly delicious treat is Mr. Hawke. He does a fine job as an actor. However, his character is so utterly detestable that all you can do for the length of the movie is hope that his demise involves some sort of accident involving testicles in a blender (it doesn’t). When offered night after night of terrifying shit, he still lies to his hot British wife about the fact that they are living in the house where the last victims were hilawkwardly murdered only a few months before. It’s all in the service of him refusing to accept that he’s a shitty author whose fifteen minutes of fame are over. Perhaps the writers were attempting to create some sort of tragic figure with Ethan “I’m a Really Serious Actor, I Promise” Hawke…but he is simply another Horror-Movie-Alcoholic-Dad (TM). And we all know what happens to them. The thing plays out like a parable written by Aesop after a weekend doing heroin with Edgar Allan Poe. There are no shocking turns, no surprises. You can discern the ending within the first twenty minutes of the movie. Thus, when it all comes together in exactly the way you expect, all you can do is leave the theater with a shrug.

“Shh, mister, I can’t hear Slipknot over your loud talking!” ~ Deaf Children

Perhaps the only true moments of brilliance in this melange of mediocrity all involve the found footage (eh? Eh? It’s even in this one!). Bughool’s movies are delightfully sadistic and the true reason for this movie’s R-rating. I don’t want to give any of them away, but my favorite involves a tracking shot on a lawnmower. Each film is beautifully scored with the creepiest of tunes (in fact, the whole movie has an excellent soundtrack, keeping the events tense even if the script isn’t pulling it’s fucking weight. Lazy script. Get a job, you hippie!) and begins with a simple scene of idyllic suburban bliss before cutting to one of four unique bloodbaths. In a sense, these vignettes cut to the core of what film fundamentally is. Here, it’s a disturbing exploration of the art-form’s voyeuristic basis, going so far as to recreate the closest thing to a snuff film you can legally see. Seriously, they go to impressive lengths. It promotes the idea that this violence and these horrid acts are part of a collective evil running through our society, a need to see brutality in it’s purest form, a completely sinister…

THAT’S THE WORD I WAS LOOKING FOR! Holy shit. I’m glad I remembered it. What are the odds of that?

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh, yes, Seven Psychopaths.

This is the grossest act of false advertising since McDonalds began their “Kind of Edible!” Campaign.

So, onto a better (kind of) movie. To those of you who don’t know, I have a minor love affair with writer/director Martin McDonagh. His plays The Pillowman, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Lieutenant of Inishmoore and The Cripple of Inishmaan are some of my favorite works I’ve ever read. He instills a deep sense of dark Irish humor with British violence and cynicism while managing to tie the package with the neat ribbon of pathos. His first attempt at film, Six Shooter, ended up with an exploding cow and an oscar. His second was the inconceivably hysterical and sad In Bruges, a semi-parody of another one of my favorite plays, The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter. So, basically, I’d have his babies. I know I don’t have the equipment, but I will find a way. I vow, here and now.

But then, the balloon was pierced and, instead of popping and scaring the shit of nearby babies, it just kind of wheezes. I attended a production of his new play A Behanding in Spokane in Chicago. Yes, the performance sucked…but what was at the center was a shallow, bland tale that used violence to cover up is completely surface nature. Gone was the Irish longing, the romanticism drenched in modern urban brutality, the deep roots in the art of storytelling. It was just a dude hurting two idiots. So, after seeing that and the trailer to his newest venture, I found myself nervous. Would this be a further descent into the mouth of blandness? Has Mr. McDonagh completed his path to hack-dom? Will Christopher Walken Walken the shit out of this thing?

Sam “Amateur Hat Enthusiast” Rockwell

Well…it’s complicated. I enjoyed this movie greatly, with my healthily guffawing theater friends flanking me on both sides. From the opening where we witness the incomparable Michael Stuhlbarg and the DSLicious Michael Pitt get randomly murdered by a guy wearing a parka, you know you’re in for something a little…well…screwy. And screwy it is, folks! The entire first half of flick builds up the belief that this is some kind of Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez/Pineapple Express action comedy where all the ‘psychopaths’ get into place for a final, fatal, self-fellacious showdown. But the second half is extremely not that. To some, it might disappear up its own ass. To others, something a little more subtle is going on.

Marty, Colin Farrell (and the name of the author? Hmmm. I see what you did there), is a screenwriter who’s been stuck on the same title page of a script for months. Every night he drinks and every night he does little more than piss off his shrewish and inexplicably Australian girlfriend, Abby Cornish. At the same time, Sam Rockwell steals dogs and returns them to owners for a profit. Chris Walken is, well, the most fucking Chris Walken I have ever seen. In fact, the levels of Walken-ness are so relentless that you eventually stumble from the theater with a randomly broken speech pattern and the completely shocking ability to softshoe. Woody Harrelson is a vulnerable and homicidal mob boss with a penchant for losing his temper. Tom Waits is a dude with a rabbit. There’s also a Vietnamese priest talking to a hooker. And then Harry Dean Stanton shows up in a story as a tenacious and murderous quaker. There are so many disparate elements on display that its almost impossible to predict how they’ll all slot together.

“What are you in for?” “Being in Joe Dirt, you?” “White Men Can’t Jump.” ~ Actor jail.

And then Mr. McDonagh cheats his fucking ass off. Now, that sounds bad, I know. But it isn’t. Well, unless you don’t like meta. If you don’t care for references within references within references within Leo DiCaprio making that squinty face within references, don’t see this movie. However, if you can handle a little self-reflexive media (let’s be real, unabashedly and unremittingly self-reflexive media) then you should. It’s like Adaptation with more grievous bodily harm. It’s as though, as I did, Mr. McDonagh examined his career, his body of work, and noticed a few glaring issues. First: he relies on violence far too much. He uses his flippant tone to whittle his characters down to nothing more than meat fodder. Second: his female characters have gradually evaporated from his repertoire, reduced to nothing more than whores or saints about to be butchered or simply cut from the story. Third: the love is gone. His earlier works are soaked in a dark reverence for the odd inhabitants of Gallway Bay, where he spent his childhood summers. Gradually, culminating with A Behanding in Spokane, he has lost all affection for his subject matter and that which seemed endearing parody has become ruthless ridicule. Seven Psychopaths is his literary path towards dealing and overcoming each and every one of these problems, while simultaneously engaging in them entirely.

We have Mr. Farrell, as a stand-in for McDonagh, at the center of two opposing ideologies. On one side we have the chucklicious and unhinged mind of Sam Rockwell (who I don’t think was given lines, he simply made it up as he went and the result is delightful), proposing to end their tale with the cliched and overwrought gunfight, a shower of titties and a veritable gore-bath. On the other, we have Mr. Walken, who has a strong love for the human condition. We see McDonagh’s/Farrell’s struggle with the compassion for these psychopaths and the frustration with trying to end the tale with love. How they do it is perhaps my favorite aspect of this film and terrifyingly similar to Naughty Sinister. They tell tales. Fairytales, folktales, horror stories, fables and all the rest. From the frightfully excellent Tom Waits telling his narrative of a vicious love story that hadn’t yet ended to the arc of Mr. Walken, we get some incredible links from pure sadism to touching human emotion. The movie is no conclusion and, for the most part, is surprisingly messy. And that’s fine. It has its shoot-outs, its chortlifying moments of dark comedy etc. But, like Sinister, the miniature vignettes stand out as beautiful deconstructions of their form. Sinister solely serves to study cinema as it’s seen, while Seven Psychopaths scrutinizes the skill of spinning a story.

All rabbits grow up believing that if they’re naughty, they have to spend an eternity living with Tom Waits and all of his REALLY hipstery fans.

I left Seven Psychopaths thinking hard about who I am as an artist. It takes a lot of balls to spend millions of dollars to tell the journey of a man stuck in his career’s mid-life crisis. Luckily, this guy knows how to make ’em laugh. Truly, though, the stories of a man avenging his daughter’s death, a Vietnamese priest avenging his murdered family, and Mr. Waits avenging his wife’s past are all deeply touching in their own, twisted fashion. So, in a way, Mr. McDonagh has found it again. Let’s hope, in the coming years, that he manages to dig his way out of his own ass and create something new. For now, we’ll let him wallow in his filmic colon because, you know what? His excrement is a damn side more artistic than half of Hollywood on a good day. 

The Blair Witch Project (1999) – Daniel Myrick/Eduardo Sanchez (Dir.), Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams

Apparently 1994 was also a bad year for people other than OJ Simpson

We have reached it. Like Alice descending back into the madness that is Wonderland, we have come upon our own world through the looking glass. However, instead of demanding and size-altering cakes, Jesus allegories and caterpillars with severe opiate addictions, we have handheld cameras, horrible cinematography, worse acting, predictable plots and night vision, OH THE NIGHT VISION! Yes, my intrepid readers, after my years of waltzing around the desolate wasteland that is handheld-horror, witnessing the sagging and putrid corpses of The Last Exorcism, the maggot infested Paranormal Activity, the bloated remains of Paranormal Activity 2 and the unfortunately puss-spewing, self-defecated, smells-like-that-one-time-at-my-grandmother’s-place-that-we-don’t-like-to-talk-about-in-polite-company mess that was Quarantine, we have come to the epicenter of it all, the ground zero of crud, the patient zero of virulent cinematic laziness: The Blair Witch Project. Believe it or not, I had never taken the Kurtzian plunge into this ‘Found Footage’ Heart of Darkness. I remember when it was released back in the late 90’s, how it took the world by storm, how everyone naive enough to believe the epitaph at the beginning of Fargo thought that these three kids had been murdered in the woods, how this thing, which cost around $20K to make, ended up breaking the $240 million barrier. It was an event. An event to which I hadn’t been invited.

Now, like an aging and sagging Sylvester Stallone, I’ve been called into the field for one last mission (with the added bonus that I can actually form sentences instead of treating words as though my mouth is a verbal pulverizer). Yes, armed with an old fashioned in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other, my favorite lady-blogger at my side, we took the first, regrettable steps into the world of Burkittsville, Maryland. And oh, the horror…the horror… Well, actually, let’s be frank. It wasn’t that bad. Maybe I was drunk. Maybe I passed out. I’m not responsible for my actions. But in between snotty close-ups, constant screaming of the some permutation of ‘fucking man’, ‘man fucking’, ‘fuck man fuck’, ‘man, man fuck, fuck’ and the immortal, ‘fuckity man in the man with the fucking fucked fuck man fuck balls’, this thing has certainly earned its place on the shelf of classic horror. As a connoisseur of the ‘Found Footage’ horror genre (is ‘connoisseur’ the right word? Can one have a refined palate for the sewage run-off of an old-folks home intended for people with IBS?) I’ve seen pretty much everything they have to offer. From the in-part wonderfully crafted The Last Exorcism that ended with the filmmakers ejaculating acid into the eyes of their viewers in the final minutes, to the utterly useless and boring Paranormal Activity 2I’ve seen ‘Documentaries Gone Awry’, ‘Surveillance Cameras Seeing Weird Things’ and ‘Hot News Reporter Interrupts Her Oncoming Porno Featuring a Number of Well-Hung Firemen with a Zombie Outbreak’ but I’ve never observed the seed from which all things grew. Now, I have spent many, many an evening sitting through these things, shakier than a coin-operated bed, dumber than cat with its head stuck up its own ass, and jumpier than Marilyn Monroe at a ‘Butt-Squeezing’ convention and, honestly, I’ve never been scared. HEAR THAT, INTERNET? I’VE NEVER BEEN SCARED. Yes, Paranormal Activity, that poster-child of ‘new horror’ was duller than a paint drying competition. Oh no! It’s JUMPY! Fuck that. And Quarantine had about 3 legitimate nerve-wracking moments in its entire 90 minute runtime. Even The Last Exorcism (which is the cause of perhaps my longest and bluest-of-face rants) had a truly fascinating idea at its core, leaping back and forth over the line of creepy ambiguity…until the mutherfuckers pull a Rosemary’s Baby in the last 2 minutes of the film and murder EVERYONE. I was infuriated. What may have begun as an edgy and new take on a tired formula has become an industry norm, a crutch, the reality television of movie making. It requires no real cinematographer and a director with only the most basic visual sense. Even the plotting at this point has simply flittered out the window. And the question that fails each and every one of these fucking movies (let’s be clear, here is a list of ‘these fucking movies’: The Last Exorcism, Apollo 17, The Devil Inside, Cloverfield, Chronicle Quarantine, Rec, Rec 2, Paranormal Activity, Paranormal Activity 2, Paranormal Activity 3, Paranormal Activity 4, Paranormal If-The-Make-Another-One-I’m-Going-To-Burn-This-Place-To-The-Ground) is a simple one. Why is the camera there? Perhaps it makes sense and thematically fits during the first act, but by the time there’s screaming and running and dark spaces and people getting murdered…why doesn’t the camera man think to DROP THE CAMERA AND RUN? What is this? National Fucking Geographic? Are they looking for the Nobel Prize in Dumb Shit Nobody Cares About (I think Denise Richards won that once…OH WILD THINGS BURN!)? Movie after movie, the suspension of disbelief is drawn so taught, it might as well be Kirstie Alley’s thong. It’s a cheap art form. It’s an easy art form. And it’s a dumb art form.

“All aboard the Bongtown Express! Stopping at Weedsville, Stonerbridge, Tokestown and Holy-Fuck-Pink-Ffloyd-is-the-Best-berg”

So, like Dorothy approaching the man behind the curtain, I had some questions for this mother of movie mongoloids. The Blair Witch Project, if it didn’t begin the entire subgenre, it certainly made it more appealing than bacon to a, well, anyone. Because it’s bacon. If you don’t love it; you don’t have a soul. So, to the uninitiated, The Blair Witch Project was touted as raw footage found left behind by three students creating a documentary about the super spooky Blair Witch of Burkittsville, MD. What begins as an incredibly, annoying, amateurish series of murky shots sprinkled with the ass-juice of complete ineptitude, soon becomes, well, more of exactly that and continues for the length of these boring-ass 81 minutes. It felt like 3 hours. I believe that Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity needs a new caveat. Time dilates when you approach the speed of light or if you turn on this fucking movie. But, that said, I didn’t not-enjoy it. There are a number of reasons why this is remembered and why it was so ground-breaking at the time. Firstly, it plays with the concept of American Folklore. As a country, the US has borrowed from every culture on the planet, stealing whatever mythological past it can to fill its story-telling tradition with color. There are shockingly few legitimate American folk tales. Other than guys who sleep too long and oxen that ate too many blueberry Wonka bubblegum, there isn’t a whole lot of tales to tell the kiddly-winks. The initial pieces of the documentary where they aren’t in the woods does an excellent job of generating this collective oral history of this thing living in Burkittsville. You never really are offered a coherent version of the witch. Sometimes she’s hairy, sometimes she floats, sometimes she encourages people to murder other people…instead of crafting a fully-formed image of this never-seen malevolence, you’re only offered disparate coordinates of an unfinished mosaic. And so, as the events of the movie unfold, the unknowability of what is going to occur builds by the second. There are little stone piles here and there, shouts in the woods, KY jelly on backpacks and little straw dudes littering the trees. Then, when it’s all said and done, everyone dies. It’s cute.

Ah, the iconic shot of the movie. Your boogers shall be remembered, Headband Girl.

Here’s the question: is it scary? That requires an easy and emphatic: NO. Granted, it plays the game of less is more with the creepiness of the forest. They also do an incredible job of keeping the verite style in tact throughout the runtime. You never seen anything explicit, CGI-ed or false. These kids were literally lost in the woods and chased around by the directors, a sick Hunger Games-esque escapade ending with them trapped in a deserted house and running around using camera night-vision like idiots. The dialogue is painful. The characters are unlikeable, especially Head-Band Girl (I think her name was Heather, but her egregious practice of uncovering her forehead at all times required a different moniker). They’re all idiots. They’re all grating. And they all feel like real people. Though at first I wanted to push Head-Band Girl through a plate-glass window, it became abundantly clear throughout the film that this was the filmmaker’s intention. With the pretense of jumpy scares removed, the possibility of seeing creepy things practically nil, The Blair Witch Project endeavors to be about more than simply wetting some date-night panties (and not in the good way…unless you’re into that kind of thing) and about the nature of US folklore and filmmaking itself. Pretty much all of the uneasy stuff occurs at night without any visual aid…so all we’re offered is constant audio of people weeping and asking over and over, “What the fuck is that, man?” (If I hear someone call another person ‘man’ and his name isn’t ‘The Dude’ I will push their dangly bits into a sausage maker. ARGH). And nothing really happens. Ever. It’s like Waiting For Godot, with a lot more swearing, a lot less existentialism and 100% more terrible headbands. When asked why Head-Band girl constantly films everything that is occurring, one of her ill-fated comrades posits that perhaps she is constantly trying to keep the reality away using the camera as a barrier. While these terrifying and dangerous events unfold, she’s hiding and pretending it’s all a fantasy. We, as a country, secretly strive for more folklore, what with our men with hooks for hands and everything that was the basis for that turd-bucket of a Jared Leto vehicle that was Urban Legend, we want these scary tales to be true…but when they are, we’re not emotionally prepared to face the horror. We are no Theseus, charging against the minotaur…we’re one of those damn virgins who, let’s be honest, probably did the dirty Sanchez the first dude they could find before being tossed into the Labyrinth.

So, no, The Blair Witch Project, isn’t particularly good, or enjoyable, or watchable, or worthwhile…but it is a fascinating piece of filmmaking simply from a historical perspective. They did something new and, for their meager goals, they succeeded. Every imitator that has come since has failed to capitalize on the basic principles that made this what it is. Perhaps Paranormal Activity came close but, seriously, that movie was about as shocking as that time I thought I wasn’t wearing matching socks when, really, they were actually matching. It’s about a ‘2’ on the scare-o-meter. Give me The Shining or The Ring or The Thing any day. But Hollywood never learns. I mean, this is the place that made FOUR Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Paranormal Activity 4 hasn’t even finished its opening weekend and they’re already projecting movies and 6. It took Saw, a series where EVERY CHARACTER DIES IN EVERY INSTALLMENT, seven, that’s right, folks, seven mutherfucking films before it finally died. And guess what? They’ll probably reboot it in 2 years. They’re already rebooting the reboot of the sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So, carry on, you reckless fools, continue on your charge into the Tartarus of cinematic sludge. Bombard us with tale after tale of the purest mediocrity and banal boredom. Suck from that already drying teat as long as you can, until your gums bleed and your tongue is rougher than moldy sandpaper. Just as bullet-time eventually died out after The Matrix so will this infuriating Found Footage fad. Perhaps you can finally make some good horror movies. Assholes.

The team was nonplussed to discover that their missing friend had really only been looking for a private place to masturbate.

But until then, I’m sure you will hear my screams of fury from here to Timbuktu. Or…until my next article on Sinister.

Ugh. What am I doing with my life?

Midnight in Paris (2011) – Woody Allen (Dir.), Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Michael Sheen, Tom Hiddleston

Mr. Wilson was woefully unaware that a Van-Gogh instigated apocalypse was following his every step.

Art’s a funny thing. So many people around the earth connect with these disparate and distant works, created by minds that we shall never truly know, inhabiting bodies of humans that will forever be a mystery to us, no matter how deeply and thoroughly we research, read and examine. By reading a book, watching a film, observing an oil work, scouring a poem, engorging on piece after piece of literary brilliance, we attempt to drink up these geniuses of our emotional affection. We fall in love, word by word, thinking that we are delving into the soul of a great person, a person we shall never attain, never tarnish, never let down, never upset, affront or hurt. We think we know them in their purest forms to the point that curling into bed with their pages is almost akin to embracing a true love before tumbling into peaceful sleep. I’ve had heroes. I’ve had literary lovers. I’ve had filmmakers, playwrights and artists I would marry given half the chance. But that’s only on the merit of their work. We meet them… we read about their abuse, their sordid love affairs, their opinions on politics, on others’ works and we realize, for the most part, they’re all assholes.

The fantasy shatters. The books don’t taste so sweet. We gently drift away, not immediately supping on their newly released works promising that ‘I’ll get to it later’ and yet, day after day, the rift grows until the affair is ended. Finally, they flitter off, simply another slot in the mosaic of our lives, dissolving into those memory-tomes of relationships past, essential to who we are but no longer current or immediate.

It looks like the poster for a Hemingway/Stein version of Ocean’s Eleven called ‘Hemingway’s Two: And I’m Not Talking About His Balls”

Midnight in Paris was two things for me. On the one hand, it was a delightful, funny, ‘what famous person are we going to meet next?’ romp through a city I haven’t seen since I was a wee lad and, on the other, it was a black hole of artistic sadness. As someone who has only begun to cherish wonderful works of art after college, I feel as though I’ve missed so many opportunities to fall in love and obsess over the creations of greats. We have Owen Wilson, a hollywood writer who is attempting to find a little more. He falls in love with Paris as he falls out of love with his shrewish, incessant, negging and nagging fiancé (Rachel “This is What Regina George Would Be at 30” McAdams), hoping to rediscover the true artist within himself and finally finish his first attempt at a novel. While on a midnight stroll, he gets in a 1920s-era vehicle (like you do) and is immediately transported back in time. The rest of his evenings are spent listening to Cole Porter compose, F. Scott Fitzgerald get drunk (a woefully not-loki version of Tom Hiddleston), Hemingway spout inebriated/charming dickishness and Gertrude Stein reviewing Picassos (made exponentially better than she could have EVER been in real life by Kathy “Move Bitch, Get Out the Way!” Bates). He also happens to fall for Marion Cotillard because, well, guess what? She’s Marion Mutherfucking Cotillard. If you don’t fall in love with her (I don’t care about your gender/preference) you have no soul. I mean, COME ON. Even Maggie Thatcher would get a boner for that babe! (Side note: new porno idea – call it, ‘Trickle-Down Bonernomics’)

Is he time-traveling? Is he suffering from a brain tumor? Is his wife sleeping with the really pretentious and I-want-to-punch-him-in-the-face-repeatedly werewolf from the Underworld series? Can Carla Bruni act? Also, I hear there are naked pictures of her? Can anyone hook a brother up? All of that aside, this is a Woody Allen flick so, no matter how much he tries to escape the event horizon that is his early film career and the fact that he is Woody ‘Creepy Uncle’ Allen, subtlety can pretty much go hang. There is no doubt where the movie is headed. In terms of theme, he doesn’t allow you to pick it up for yourself, but rather has Owen Wilson spout anything underlying as super-liminally as possible. This is a movie about being stuck in the past, be it a past era, a past relationship or any other nostalgia-trap. It’s about always looking back to a finer time and never being pleased with the present. It works, it’s affecting, it’s sweet and sad and, well, it’s Woody Fucking Allen. Unless Scarlett Johansson is taking her top off, you know the plot and you know the end.

Even that duck is thinking, “Yep, I’d quack it.”

So let’s tie this thing together, shall we? While it’s almost infuriating to see Allen almost Disney-fy certain detestable aspects of certain literary figures, smushing them all together in this pie of cutesy famous people (side note: reality show idea – Celebri-Pie!), he’s making a decent point. This is how we see these past. All famous people know each other. They all get together in parties, where no plebs are invited, and discuss brilliant topics, the likes of which we normies will never witness. It only pushes the thesis further that this past is so fantastically perfect for Mr. Wilson and his stunted artistic growth. But the key word is ‘fantastic’. It’s all a fantasy. While midnight might be the sweetest point of night, the witching hour during which anything and everything might and will occur, we are never privy to the next morning and the inevitable hangover that drags this fairytale into the realm of the real. Yes, it’s hilarious to see Adrien Brody’s Salvador Dali constantly repeating the word ‘Rhinoceros’ or crazy, crazy Zelda Fitzgerald drunking herself all over the place (played to perfection by the ugly chick from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), but, like all Allen films, this isn’t about life. This is about the idea of life, a perfected vision and the cracks illuminated by the hyperbole. We see the plight of being engaged to a rich bitch with nothing better to do than shop for $18,000 chairs, buy out Christian Dior, and slobber over assholes in suits who believe themselves qualified to critique the works of the Louvre (*shudder*). While some of his movies are too, for lack of a better term, bougie-as-fuck, this one manages to cut into the golden intersection (also a favorite sex position involving, well…use your imagination) of high-minded ideas and normal people. Everyone is affected by nostalgia. It’s that virulent beast that sneaks up on you on cold nights when the whiskey is flowing and you see that one episode of that one show and suddenly you’re remembering your last five years, over and over again thinking, ‘Man, shit used to be better’ before waking up the next morning feeling like a French person violated your cerebral cortex with a baguette, six cloves of garlic and the entire cast of Moliere’s Tartuffe and thinking ‘What the fuck was I thinking?’ Nostalgia happens. When it happens over and over again…go see a doctor.

I can’t tell if Dali is making a point or taking a shit. Well, it’s the surrealists, so there’s a pretty good chance it’s the same thing.

It’s a beautiful movie; it’s funny; it’s cutesy; it’s all the things you could want from a Woody Allen movie (except having the decrepit form of Allen himself who, juxtaposed against the beautiful people he insists on hiring, always looks like the nebbish shadow of death ready to remove them all from the mortal coil, one by one). Perhaps an unintended consequence of casting Mr. Wilson, who, in the past, has always seemed exasperated with the concept of breathing (he could win awards for how high his voice gets), has the added pathos since his reported suicide attempt a few years before. Seeing a man frustrated with his lot in life and searching for higher meaning has a weight that otherwise would have been lacking. Once again, we have the personal life of the artist intersect with that of their work. The dream of a care-free Owen Wilson, giggling and messing about with his sophomoric and grating buddy Ben Stiller, is over. We’ve awakened to a human with darkness lying beneath the surface. Not sure what I’m trying to say, but seeing a lost soul wandering through an idealized city that he might never own is an image that will never die no matter in what time period we happen to be stuck.

All I’m saying is this, if I do magically get transported back in time to meet my favorite artist, I’d tell Buddy Holly to get on that airplane because, holy shit, paradoxes and time travel are terrifying things and I might blow up the universe. Better be safe than sorry.

The Faculty (1998) – Robert Rodriguez (Dir.), Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, Jordana Brewster, Famke Janssen, Clea Duvall, Robert Partick, Bebe Neuwirth, Jon Stewart, Usher, Salma Hayek, OMG everybody

Oh yes, Usher is in this. You know what no movie ever needs? Usher.

Apparently, Halloween is terrible for my personal growth, both the physical and the metaphysical. Every goddamn place has goddamn candy every goddamn where I goddamn go and I have to eat it. You know why? Because I have a soul, people. Also, the horror genre becomes required, repugnant viewing for the entirety of the October season. Thus more abject cinematic ass-sludge glosses across my gaze. All I can do is sigh and allow wave after wave of nonsensical plot twists, colon-based art direction, and massive blood-brazed breasts to wash over me. Yes, I was meant to watch The Blair Witch Project last night, according to the poll…but I decided to wait around to see it with my lady friend. Instead, I got trashed with a fellow lady-blogger (not that I’m a lady-blogger, that ‘fellow’ was only in reference to the ‘blogger’ part. I’m not insecure, I promise). Whilst in the throes of a madness brought about my mediocre Trader Joe’s wine, the Mark of the Maker and, of course, beer (the potatoes of alcohol, which are, in turn, the meat of vegetables – look it up), we scoured the ‘Horror’ tab of the Flix of Net. There, we discovered a gem, a time capsule if you will, an artifact from the nineties saved in pristine condition. Much like a mammoth dumb enough to stand in the same place long enough to be frozen and preserved like the asshole it is, we found this shiny little asshole glinting in the midst of genre-whorish nonsense. All we had to do was remember Josh Hartnett’s haircut and the decision to watch was unanimous.

Ah, the 90s. A simpler time. A gentler time. A time when all I had to worry about was good grades and not sticking my private parts in a blender (almost happened a surprising number of times). A time when girls had cooties and punches in the crotch were a commonplace condoned social activity. A time when Michael Bay could only boast The Rock and Bad Boys on his resume. A time of innocence. I wandered into The Faculty, not knowing my elbow from a specific area of my rectum and I was dazzled, enthralled, entranced, enraptured and enbiggened (I discovered the amazingness that is Famke Janssen…even when she has a decapitated squid-head). It was shiny, sweary, bloody, scary, pretty and goofy. Everything an 11-year-old could ever want. Does it hold up to the scrutiny of hindsight? Does it survive the test of time? Is it, in truth, a worthless collection of absurdities threaded together into a quilt of such horrifying incompetence that it literally causes momentary blood clots in the brain?

The answer might surprise you…but it probably won’t: This movie isn’t good.

Things no one is ever meant to see: the T-1000 mixed with alien squid monster. That is the stuff of bed-wetting nightmares.

BUT. And that’s a big ‘but’. Not like J-Lo big (you know, enough to have its own gravitational field) but maybe a Jessica Biel (shockingly large for a white girl with no talent). It ain’t that bad. This will take a lot of qualification. Let’s start at the beginning. This movie is about stars before they were famous doing things that they probably omit from their storied resumes. We have Josh Hartnett as the bad-boy genius drug-dealer wearing FAR too many t-shirts and sporting a haircut that, in silhouette, looks suspiciously like Daffy Duck’s behind (we later learned that ‘he cut it himself’ according to my lady-blogger’s far-too-Hartnett-informed friend. The 90s were a time of choices); there’s pre-Frodo Elijah “DOES THAT KID EVER AGE?” Wood as the nebbish newspaper photographer, Jordana “Why does her face look like it’s made of moldy clay?” Brewster as the hot one, Clea Duvall as the lesbian punk chick, some dude with pubic hair on his head as the jock, and the suspiciously new/naive/hot/apple-pie/oh-my-god-it’s-so-obvious-she’s-the-bad-guy girl. This rag-tag bunch of miscreants uncover a plot by the T-1000 (Robert “If He Were My Girlfriend’s Father I Would Jump Out a Window” Patrick) to infect the entirety of the school, Faculty first (eh? Eh? See what they did there?) with evil squid puppeteer monsters that turn the afflicted into invincible, serenely psychotic killing machines. It’s up to these idiots to find the queen (SPOILERS: it’s the new girl) and kill her with caffeine pills while classic rock songs of the 70s and 80s are cannibalized by Creed… Yes. Creed. Alice Cooper…by Creed. CREED! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? GODDAMN YOU! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL! (Not sure where that came from. I guess I have some unresolved issues with Creed. They are the Nickleback of Christian Rock…well all of Christian Rock is the Nickleback of Christian Rock. It has that je ne se pas…that sine qua non…that aurally-abortive quality we look for in all rage-inducing terribleness. *Shudder*).

“I’ve NEVER witnessed a milkshake explosion. I don’t think it’s even possible.” ~ Famous last words.

So…on the surface, this is a fairly by-the-numbers vehicle for a star who crashed and burned with the rest of the US fleet after Pearl Harbor (too soon?). However, beneath the sheen of awful late-century soundtrack choices there’s a little more humming under the hood. This was the first real studio picture after the nonsense that was From Dusk ‘Til Dawn (side note: everyone see that movie. It is terrible, batshit insane and one of the most beautiful acts of cinematic defecation you will ever witness) by Mr. Robert “Bitch, Please” Rodriguez. For all of his ridiculousness of sophomoric inclinations, the man knows how to construct a movie. For science-fiction/horror, this thing has more characters and relationships than a Shakespearean Key-Party (Benedick would totes do all the ladies). We’ve got satire tip-tapping it’s sneaky little digits across the piano of human distress and bleakness that is made of disenfranchised teachers, each of them stripped of their humanity one by one. We have the intersection of high school social strata, from the jock wishing to be reevaluated for his intelligence to the nerd falling for the hot girl. All things considered, Rodriguez achieves something almost fascinating. What seems to shallow on the surface, subtly subverts expectation, both of character and theme, and attempts to use its frame of an Invasion-of-the-Body-Snatchers-equse tale to unearth some uncomfortable truths pertaining to totalitarianism, gender relations and their place in our education system.

So, beyond the ear-bleedingly terrible covers of great songs, what is going on here? We’ve got ‘Every-School-Ever’ in ‘Some-Town’ Ohio. Now, based on the choice of our villain being a water-based, shape-shifting, tentacle-flinging, ear-rapey squid monster, it’s odd that its selected target is an almost land-locked state in the middle of fucking nowhere (and I know this because I went to school there. If Samuel Beckett’s plays could be a state, they’d be Ohio. Or Indiana. Seriously.) Though nerds would contend that this would be a lapse in logic on the part of the nefarious Squidworth, it seems that the selection is one that sets you off. This is meant to be any school anywhere. This thing could have appeared in the middle of Seattle (and murdered some Twilight suckers) or Nevada (squid-hookers anyone?) and the end result would have been the same. As someone who is deathly afraid of any kind of mental-nomming invasion (be it zombie, infection, pod-people, spores or herpes) that shit gives me the willies! The willies, I tell you!  In terms of the social commentary, we’ve got a few other minute threads caught in the Creed-tainted wind flittering about. Schools have no money. Teachers hate their jobs. Students hate school. Students and teachers have inappropriate relationships. PUBLIC SCHOOL IS MISERABLE. That is, until an overlord of the ‘ignorance is bliss’ ilk decides to give it a shot. And you know what? They look super happy! Suckin’ on their water bottles and vomiting parasites into ear-holes, they’re all just so content. It almost makes you question, is humanity really all that great? Wouldn’t it be simpler to just sacrifice ourselves to the placidity of a hive mind and relieve our lives of the burden of choice? Why can’t we all just become human batteries fueling a perpetual dream of awesome fight sequences with Hugo Weaving? I mean, come on, we are responsible for poverty, the collapse of public education, global warming, nuclear weapons, slavery and, of course, Creed. For the love of sweet baby Jesus, CREED.

And that was the moment Jon Stewart’s ‘Ping Pong’ demonstration took a dark and inappropriate turn…

Those odd musings aside, perhaps the must unsettling and perturbing element of this film involves a certain lifeless, talentless, goateed science teacher who gets his fingers removed with a paper cutter and his eye impaled with a caffeinated ball-point. Yes, that teacher is none other than Jon Fucking Stewart. It is so jarring, so unpleasant, so fucking strange to see him with facial hair that I felt the overwhelming liberal segment of my brain headdesk itself inside my own skull. It’s as though his evil twin had come through to this universe from one where Sarah Palin is president and Donald Trump’s antics go un-ridiculed to spread the malevolent nature of Jon Stewart’s acting career. Have you seen that guy try to say lines he hasn’t written? It’s like a stoned piece of wood deciding to play dead. It’s worse than Keanu Reeves. Consider that, plebs. The poor guy stumbles his way through scene after scene of not hosting his own show but rather saying words while pretending to be another human being who has a squid parasite living in his brain and making him invulnerable all Stepford Wife-ish. You know. ACTING. I love you Jon Stewart. I love how you make the political world made sense. You digest the swarming maelstroms of bovine crappery and distill it into a foul, yet funny, commentary on the disintegration of civil discourse and modern journalism. But please, please, PLEASE for the love of all that is good in the world: the birds, the bees, babies giggling and farting at the same time, dogs chasing their own tails and that one video about a gentleman not sure about the things going into his butt…never, never, NEVER act in anything ever again. God, it’s almost as bad as Creed.

CREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED! (Dramatic fist shake)

CREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!

Dredd (2012) – Pete Travis (Dir.), Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey

“Judgement is Coming” – Coincidentally also the title of my new courtroom-based porno

There come moments in a boy’s life. Moments when he, no matter how pretentious, high-brow, self-important or, like a throat, ‘deep’ he thinks he is, there comes a calling. We know not from whence it comes, perhaps carried on the breeze of omnipresent testosterone flowing downwind of Chuck Norris, perhaps the mental eddies of a pyroclastic id finally breaking free of societal constraints and spreading through the nexus of the human imagination and reducing members of the male gender to barbarous, penile primates. Perhaps it’s simply ‘that time of the month’. Well, on a Thursday night, with all of my inaptly titled ‘bros’ previously engaged, I had a hunger. It is the hunger of the child who used to sit on the stairs and watch my parents watching Terminator 2: Judgement Day. It is the ephemeral calling of a deeply-seeded genetic warrior-culture long since dampened and whittled down to domestic complacency. And so, lost and energized by Ares, I smuggled a bottle of Maker’s Mark into the theater and joined four other random-ass strangers/brave compatriots in a viewing of Dredd. Within ten minutes, I realized something incredible, earth-shattering, world-spearing, Britney-Spears-in-2006-ing.

Being a boy is really, really, really dumb.

I’m not sure if any of you remember, but Mr. Sly Stallone inflicted a movie upon the world that was Judge Dredd back in the mid-nineties. Now, of course, at the time it had seemed like a sure buck. We had a star, no matter the extent of his genetic facial malefaction, a hot girl, the knight from The Seventh Seal, a villain played by an actor with an absurdly foreign name (seriously, who calls their kid Armand? Fraiser fucking Crane?), a well-known comic book series and, of course the most bankable element of all, Rob “Oh God I Just Remembered He Existed” Schneider. It was a delicious, hot, whorish mess of future-y stuff and explosions and plot twists and growling and Sylvester Stallone attempting English again after miserably failing in the Rocky series. And it was PG-13. This anti-hero of the comic-verse that was famous for ripping out enough criminal entrails to construct an entire strings section of a philharmonic (nobody ever really went for my 100% human flesh orchestra. Don’t know why… Racism, probably). Stallone’s version was a naughty as a 3rd grader’s joke book and about as compelling as one too. Still, seeing Max Von Sydow continuing to act in horrible sic-fi movies is a dish of schadenfraude that I can never pass up. It’s depressing, yet oddly delicious. Like Ben & Jerry’s entire business model!

Let’s return to the present. We have Mr. Travis and his new rendition of the Dredd legend. I’m not entirely sure what occurred during the signing of the deal, but when he pitched his concept of a Dredd grittier and meatier than an Arkansas breakfast, the executives seemed to have said “PERFECT! Let’s do it! Except…you get no budget and it has to be in 3D”. Thus, Dredd 3D was born. I was lucky enough to wait until all of the 3D screens were occupied by Adam Sandler’s recent cinematic equivalent of a creampie so that I didn’t have to endure 90 minutes of bullets careening towards my Maker’s Marked face. This thing is lean, mean and…well, it’s cheap. Really, really cheap. Once again, we are treated to a distant future that looks oddly similar to Detroit where clothing is pretty much the same, skateboards are the same, cars are the same and…well…everything except a few monstrous structures is completely unchanged. Is this because Travis is commenting on how we, as a society, are slowing our progress to a Godot-esque crawl with our dependence on technology and our lack of true innovation…or that he didn’t have enough money to hire a real art director? I’ll leave it to you to decide.

This is one of dem ‘classy’ joints.

What’s the story? Okay, so there’s this Judge. His name is Dredd. He murders people. Like…a LOT of people for the law. He has to take a rookie out on her final evaluation, the hauntingly, obsessively elfish Olivia Thirlby (who, for some reason, has psychic powers. Whatever). Well, they take in the wrong black dude and suddenly Cersei from HBO’s award-winning adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones (bow down, you weaklings, under the might of the MARTIN) decides that she wants ‘all y’all mutherfuckers dead’. What ensues is shooting, murdering, more shooting, some explosions, slow motion and even more shooting. That’s it. It’s 90 minutes of killing. And that’s it. No wit. No charm. No pathos. No pace variation. Nothing but the truest form of expression: death. I haven’t witnessed a film with shallower intentions since Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj. There is no pretense of character, arc, theme or challenge. Cersei wants them dead. They don’t want to be dead. LET THE GAMES BEGIN.

Here I come to a crossroads. There is an Andrew, smart, witty, generally engaging and a dawg with the ladies, a veritable James Bond of such suavity, he could convince Queen Elizabeth to play a game of ‘Catch the Sausage’, who would view such primal and basal material as entirely lacking in point and time-worthiness. And then there’s the Andrew who plays video games, lives in his mother’s basement, giggles with glee as Ash replaces his hand with a chainsaw and watched the entirety of Sucker Punch without vomiting or grievous bodily harm (it took more willpower than you could ever imagine). Sometimes the id loves to play. Sometimes it’s delightful to see drug-chuffing perps gunned down with absurdly over-compensating artillery. I thought this was the Andrew in attendance of that film last night. I was sorely mistaken.

Thug: “What shampoo do you use?” Olivia: “It’s called L’Oreal-I’m-Going-To-Rip-Your-Nuts-Off. It’s for damaged hair.”

Karl Urban is fine. It sounded as though his dialect coach had made a morning blended vat of concrete, Cuban cigars, the worst whiskey in the world, burning rubber tires and Phyllis Diller to drop his vocal cords into a spectrum of such gravel-ness that even my driveway is telling him to ‘dial it back a notch’. He never gets to take off his helmet so when he gets into a fight with another masked Judge (Spoilers…I guess) the pair of so indiscernible you just have to wait until the end and assume the dead one skewered on his own windpipe probably isn’t the hero. Also, we have the lovely Lena Headey looking as though she went tet-a-tet with a weedwacker and lost. She made Drew Barrymore’s teenage years look like Orphan Annie’s. Either Ms. Headey, after spending her finer moments in Westeros all year, was simply too tired to offer a performance of any perceivable worth or her acting is simply too subtle for this bull-ball-testosterone-injected mess of a movie. Finally, we have the exquisitely attractive miss Thirlby who, somehow in a future where everyone apparently applies a thick layer of biological waste to their skin every morning (‘This is Obama’s America!’), is as pristine as decorative knob on polishing day (tee hee. Double entendre!). The effect is so unnerving in this grime-tastic universe Travis has constructed that it’s almost as though someone stole a prop head from the Lord of the Rings and affixed it to some Judge armor. She floats from scene to scene, a removed beacon of beauty and brilliance, never once integrating into the grander aesthetic. She is barely even objectified! We get a total of .3 seconds of some thug’s fantasy and a whole lot of unflattering kevlar. It’s as though someone cast the fucking Keebler elf in The Expendables. A really, really pretty Keebler elf that was in Juno. It’s that jarring.

I tried. Guys, I really did. I waited to see what entertainingly brutal ends Dredd would dole out like popsicles from an ice cream truck (note to self: sitcom spin-off idea). I witnessed the dude’s head ignite, the bodies exploding into a shower of crimson carnage after falling 200 stories and an adam’s apple crushed into a man’s spine. I watched and I ‘meh-ed’. Am I so desensitized that when the guy’s hand exploded all I could muster was a, ‘yep, saw that coming’. This film, objectively, was one of the most violent movies I’ve seen in…well, months. Yet there was no creativity, nothing I hadn’t seen before. Granted, the scenes of narcotic-induced slow motion was anatomically fascinating, seeing exit wounds blossom in flowers of gore and Mama’s vertical end had a kind of violent poetry to it…but that was it. Otherwise, it was simply scene after scene after scene of Dredd murdering people. Not cleverly. He just shoots them. He kills so many goddamn people it’s absurd. Legions upon legions. AND I WAS BORED. What the fuck happened to me? Is this the new colosseum? I mean, it made sense for him to murder all those druggies within the context of the film and, to his credit, he does it extremely efficiently. Am I not entertained? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Have the Saw films gone to my head? Now, does a character’s death have to be more elaborate than a fucking Rude Goldberg machine? Will I suddenly march over to Mufasa in The Lion King and say “Sorry dude, a stampede of wildebeests won’t cut it. What happens if they’re carnivorous and begin eating you and THEN they drag you five miles in a victory lap, all the while peeing on your corpse? I think that would be much more affecting. STOP CRYING SIMBA, I’M TALKING TO YOUR CORPSE OF A FATHER.”

“Have you see my brother? He’s about yay high, ugly and played by Peter Dinklage? Tell him his sister has something to shove up his ass.” ~ Cersei 2.0

It would seem as I have ‘aged’ and ‘matured’ and become ‘less of a shit-head’, my love of raucous and explosive bouts of boyish id has waned. Now, as I’m confronted with video games where disembowelment, dismemberment and debasement of functional organs are not only commonplace but greatly encouraged as well as innards-soaked epics of glorious gore, I open that cookie jar of my youth and reach in, ready to enjoy myself that sweet sugary nectar that is indulgence incarnate. But it doesn’t taste so great. I find myself asking, “But…but why? Where is the character? The point?” I mean, I still love the shit out of Die Hard, Indiana Jones and Inglorious Basterds. They’re dumb action right? WRONG. They have likable protagonists, grander themes, plots snakier than Madeusa’s beautician. Dredd has none of that. Its final attempt at holding a place in my memory is to eviscerate victims in increasingly hilarious fashions over its thankfully truncated runtime. Otherwise…what’s the point? Why are we watching in the first place? Is it even worth it anymore? Oh no…Have I been infected by ennui? Has my film-watching self become French?  What has become of my snarky British heritage? Has it been inevitably tinged with peppered sauce of sarcasm? The soft cheese of pretension? The Chateau Lafite of wearing turtlenecks? NO! It cannot be! I can feel my awesomeness melting away and replaced by the croissants of international judgement! Nooooooooooo! Please! Somebody save me!

Merde.