Posts Tagged ‘movies’

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – Francis Lawrence (Dir.), Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Jeffery Wright, Jenna Malone, Amanda Plummer, Elizabeth “Mutherfucking” Banks, Stanley “Boss-Ass Mutherfuckin’ President of the Universe” Tucci and Toby “Meh” Jones

Have you ever been so angry that a bird has popped out of your boob?

Have you ever been so angry that a bird has popped out of your boob?

DISCLAIMER: There will be frequent, flagrant and flamboyant usage of nonsensical name-contractions throughout this article including, but not limited to: J-Law, J-Hutch, Lemsworth, D-Suths, Woody H, Len Krav, J-Wright, Jenna Malone (she was in Sucker Punch, that poor, poor girl), E-Banks and Stancci. Deal with it.

ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: There may or may not be serious spoilers abound in this article. But guess what? These books have been out for multiple years now. Your illiteracy isn’t my problem…and I realize the irony of that statement seeing as you have to read it in order to get offended. Whatever. 

ONE MORE DISCLAIMER, I PROMISE: I have a horrifying obsession with these books. I don’t know what it is. I read each one of the fuckers in a single sitting and, not only am I not ashamed by this fact, I take pride in it. Yes, they are the literary equivalent of Hodor from GoT wrapped in a infanticide blanket; and Susan Collins approaches sentences like I approach Gummy Bears (I’m coming for you, you delicious mutherfuckers), in that she forces them into her gaping maw of a mouth while slobbering manically over each and every one of her digits soaking in that sweet Haribo goodness (seriously, that stuff is like food porn to me). So, know that going into this review of both The Hunger Games (2012) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) that I will not spend the length of it shitting on the darkest set of pseudo-children’s books since Philip Pullman decided to take on the Catholic Church. My love and devotion to these tales is like a Ron Jeremy ass-spelunking expedition: long and deep. Also, they’re the reason why whenever I hear the Suburbs by Arcade Fire come on the radio, I can’t help but think about children getting stabbed in the face. And that’s awesome.

OKAY, I LIED ABOUT THE LAST DISCLAIMER THING, BUT SEEING AS I, AND THE REST OF THE LIVING, BREATHING WORLD IS IN LOVE WITH J-LAW, I SHOULD PROBABLY GET IT OUT OF THE WAY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER: Boobs. Tee hee.

Here we are my friends, the biggest movie of the not-quite-summer-not-yet-Christmas no-man’s-land that is the pre-Thanksgiving insanity consuming America. That’s right, as parents rush from supermarket to supermarket ready to shank the bitch with the last jar of Ground Cinnamon (I did not do that, I promise…I have to say that for legal purposes) and as department stores decide to forget that Thanksgiving is a Federal Holiday and, like Nazi Germany, have decided to annex it as part of the ever-growing and murderous Black Friday, we need a distraction from our self-imposed, food-fueled torment. What better way than to sit down with the fam and delight in a dystopian future where children are slaughtered in order to tamp down revolution? For food! (I knew there was a connection somewhere). Yes, ladies and gents, we have the second movie from The Hunger Games coming to dinner tonight. And it’s packing heat, bitches.

Of course, after gorging myself on the books in a fury of loneliness that can only be crafted by internet dating, my roommates and I stormed the first Hunger Games castle at midnight on a Thursday in the fateful year of Anno Domini MMXII. And, shit, there were so many teenage girls in the audience I would have thought people were stocking up for a Duck-face shortage. The Hunger Games was perhaps the most cynical grab for the post-Twilight sparkly-dick insanity in the last few years (other than The City of Mortal Instruments or Something Like That, I Really Can’t Remember the Title Because it’s Stupid). Directed by Gary Ross of Pleasantville fame, the first movie was about as serviceable as a movie adaptation can be without failing miserably. For the last year I have been afraid to make my true feelings on the first movie apparent, seeing as I might be murdered by hoards of teenage girls newly trained in the Zen of Archery, but I really didn’t care for it. When I strapped myself into the first book, it was a tense, brutal experience. I remember hyperventilating when the games began and that half-book of lead up exploded into sheer terror as twelve-year-old children were unceremoniously impaled for the sake of good TV. Told entirely in the first person from Katniss’s, at best, terse point of view, you fly through the book feeling like a rat trapped in a labyrinth. Rarely does Collins, a seasoned TV writer, pull on the reins to allow you to catch your breath. You never know what’s coming next. And the pages fly so fast, you don’t have time to think about it or the fact that you haven’t seen a worthwhile adjective or multi-claused sentence in three chapters or so.

"What is that thing around your neck, Jen? Is it a turtleneck? A scarf?" "It's whatever I fucking want it to be, Thor-lite."

Have you ever been so mad that you’re turtleneck and scarf had a baby and you didn’t care that half your body was cold?

And then there was the movie… Already, in pre-production, people were making a stink about this no-name Jennifer Lawrence whose last movie, X-Men: First Class was campy mess that encased her in unbreathable and unbearable latex for the entirety of its run time. Yes, she had an Oscar nomination, but what teenage girl gives a fuck about that? But Mr. Ross did his best to create a lived-in world for his tale, from the bonkers costume and hair design of the residents of the Capitol to the grungy Billy-Elliot-Inspired coal miners of District 12. Here’s the problem, for a district filled with believably starved residents, when Liam “Brother of Thor” Hemsworth shows up with a face torn from a cover of GQ and abs practically sponsored by LA Fitness, it sort of destroys the ambiance. Whenever we have shots of District 12 during the games, we are offered a blight of a community, all of the residents looking more at home in a concentration camp than in the US of A…and there, in the center, is Hemsworth looking like a Almost Famous-esque golden god, radiating balanced nutrition and a never-ending membership to Tan-Yo-Ass LLC with impunity.

This was only one example of the grand systemic issue of Ross’s direction and conception of the first movie. It was painfully obvious to see that Lionsgate had attempted in every way, shape, and form to twist this story of rebellion and political defiance into nothing more than a lovey-dovey tri-tipped love-turd. Not only that, but Ross is obviously not a man with a fantasy background. For every inspired design choice, there were five bland ones to discount it. While, we have both Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks offering performances worthy of legend, Mr. Harrelson phones in the majority of his performance, no doubt from his whiskey drowning cellar. Seriously, I don’t know if the guy decided to go method with this movie, but he certainly doesn’t look like he wants to be there. And then, finally, the true piss in the bonnet, is the construction of the games itself. While the book excels in its claustrophobic tension, keeping the reader guessing as to what unnamed horror will be assaulting you on the next page, the movie telegraphs everything in an almost clinical fashion. We are given numerous cutaways to Wes “The Plastic Bag” Bentley, who’s facial hair does its best to emulate a black shark’s butt decoration at all times,  as the Head Gamesmaker. It’s nice to see a few scenes between Crane and President Snow, Sutherland’s mustache-twirling uber-villain, but other than that it does nothing but destroy any tension. On almost every front, from lack of gore to lazy design to a minuscule CGI budget, the whole movie feels like a bald eagle with its talons clipped. You know there’s something majestic and ready-to-steal-a-freaking-baby buried underneath it all, but it seems muffled and diluted.

And that Bald Eagle is, of course, Jennifer Lawrence. If it weren’t for her spot-on performance, with steely eyes ready to gouge themselves out rather than express any sort of weakness, and a voice more monotone than a tone-deaf kazoo, the movie would have unraveled into nothing more than a forgettable farce. She is the flashpoint, the eye of the storm, the focal point of all things. Poor Josh Hutcherson. The kid does his best to hold onto the lady’s fleeting, talented tail feathers, but the charisma just isn’t there. J-Law sells every moment like she’s going for that Oscar once more. And she earns it.

Have you ever been so mad that you set you and your fiance on fire?

Have you ever been so mad that you set you and your fiance on fire?

So…all of that being said about the disappointment that was the first movie…what about the second? Well, if I could sum up my reaction to it in the form of a religious set of genitalia:

HOLY BALLS.

The second movie, along with the two upcoming sequels, is directed by Francis Lawrence (no relation). You might remember him from such fucking gems of the Walmart budget bin as Constantine, I Am Legend and Water for Elephants. As far as literary adaptations go, this guy is 0 for 3. He also has the dubious honor of ruining one of my favorite book-endings of all time with that bullshit during the finale of I Am Legend. UGH. I was readying my steak knife, because I already wanted to eat this bastard alive if he ruined the superior sequel to The Hunger Games… and then I promptly put those knives away and lost myself in the giddy euphoric glee of a squealing fangirl. He doesn’t just do a good job, or even a serviceable job…he exonerates every ounce of the franchise. It seems that, along the way, Lionsgate was like, “Guys, we made WAY more money than we expected with that first movie. Who knew? And we’re going to make a shit load more with the next one. It’s a done deal! What should we do? Fart in people’s faces for two hours? Just give all the fans the finger? I’m just so excited!” To which, Ms. Lawrence and Mr. Lawrence (again, no relation), responded, “What if we made it…good?”

Lionsgate: “Woah. You just blew my mind.” So they did. And it’s good…like really, really excellent.

Catching Fire picks up where the first one ended, with Katniss (Ms. Lawrence) and Peeta (J-Hutch) pretending to be in love to try to stop the welling rebellion in the districts surrounding the Capitol. President Beardy Voldemort (Sutherland) pays her a visit and, in a scene that is the acting equivalent of Clash of the Titans, tells J-Law that she had better fall in love with this adorable puppy of a boy that she basically dragged through the first homicidal games or else he will murder her family. No jokes. No comic relief. Just sheer political brutality. After unsuccessfully touring the districts to quell the residents, the President Evil-Mc-Evilson announces that the next Games will include the victors from the previous games sending Ms. Everdeen and Mr. Whatever-Peeta’s-Last-Name-Is back into the ring. And oh, what a ring it is.

Have you ever been so mad that you had a sex dream about Finnick Odair?

Have you ever been so mad that you had a sex dream about Finnick Odair?

It seems as though, due to the fact that the games are now populated exclusively with adults who previously won, the moral ambiguity of seeing children murdered is gleefully removed and Mr. Lawrence can up the gore factor to ‘passable’. While the games are just a bounteous tropical house of horrors, the true tension of the film is in the build up to the explosive second half. The first movie was too busy trying to convince us that the audience was watching The Hunger Games that it forgot to actually let people act. It’s the nervous new kid throwing his first high school birthday party, running around with hors d’oeuvres constantly asking his friends if they’re having a good time and if they’re still his friends. Catching Fire on the other hand oozes the kind of confidence that can only be generated by a $100 million volt up the ass. It’s the kid at the party who’s like, “I’m going to go throw bottles at a wall. You can come if you want.” And OF COURSE you go because that sounds so much better than doing the Electric Slide for another hour. Every returning actor has relaxed into their roles (except Hemsworth, but let’s be real; he’s the human equivalent of a Firefighter Calendar…pretty to look at, but the only information you’ll ever get from him is how many days there are in a month). It seems that every dollar of profit made on the first outing has been returned to the artistic design, offering grander locales, CGI that ain’t nothing to sneeze at, and an incredible Hawaii set for the second games.

Lastly, of course, there are the new additions to the cast. Firstly, we have the psychotic Joanna (Jenna Malone) who manages to redeem herself in the face of Sucker Punch once and for all. Then there’s Jeffrey “Black Felix Leiter” Wright as Beady and Tarantino veteran Amanda Plummer furiously muttering he only line over and over. Perhaps the only actor willing to bask in the light of J-Law and survive the fame-tan is Mr. Sam Clafin as the beautiful and impish Finnick Odair. The man gives a career-making performance that will only get better with the next two films. Even Mr. Harrelson seems to have sobered up and decided to flex those pseudo-hick acting chops. Lastly, and certainly not leastly, Philip Seymour Hoffman waltzes (let’s be real, there’s a bit of a waddle) into the film looking as though he just woke up from a nap…proving that the guy that act well in his fucking sleep. Seriously, the scenes between Hoffman and Sutherland make the Bentley/Sutherland tet a tets of the first film look like community theater. How often do you get to see acting of this quality in the adaptation of a Tweenie-bopper book? It’s insane.

There is something mildly revolutionary about The Hunger Games. It’s a sad thing to see that, still, every major motion picture of the last few years include only male protagonists with some lady-candy on the side. I don’t care how much the production companies attempt to force The Hunger Games into the Twilight mold, what with their bullshit ‘Team Peeta’ and ‘Team Gale’ t-shirts and obsession with Katniss’s choice as to who wins the coveted position of ‘baby-daddy’, The Hunger Games will not be contained. She will shove an arrow in your face and kick her way out to freedom. The love story in this film and in the books is about as central to the tale as Han and Leia in Star Wars. Sure, it’s there. Sure, it affects the story. Is it the point? NO. It’s part of a damn story. There are no ‘teams’. There are characters and there are themes. If Katniss Everdeen and Twilight’s Bella Bitch-face were stuck in a room together, while Bella was too busy chewing on her lip and crying about boys, Katniss would have already disemboweled her and started cooking her lower intestine for food. That’s right, because Katniss eats food, unlike the Barbie dolls trotted out for public consumption. When I eventually have daughters, I will lock them in their rooms until they finish The Hunger Games, no doubt banging on the doors begging to be free from this depressing mass of political cynicism. And then I’ll hand them 1984, lock the door and say, “Time to be a big girl.” Yep. I’m going to be a kickass dad.

Have you ever been so mad that you forced D-Suths and P-Hoff to reenact your favorite scenes from the West Wing?

Have you ever been so mad that you forced D-Suths and P-Hoff to reenact your favorite scenes from the West Wing?

If these books had been written ten years ago, no doubt they would have been forced to target male audiences and the protagonists’ genders would have been swapped because “girls don’t like violence.” Collins, after escaping the toxic wasteland of television production, has done a great thing. She didn’t set out to craft a harlequin romance or even chick-lit. She wanted to bear the world a mythos, a legend. There is no question that she knew of the grander scale involved in this tale, what with the future-historicization of the world as well as the basis in Greek Mythology (Katniss is decently veiled analog to the Labyrinth’s Theseus). Her gambit has paid off, offering a series that is almost as widely read as Harry Potter (as I’m writing this review, there is a 20-something hipster with a hardback copy of Mockingjay” sitting next to me in my extremely hipster coffee shop). Collins knew what she wanted to say, she invested to her characters and, like George Lucas before her, she stuck to the Hero’s Journey closer than a fly sticks to treacle. And what serendipity it was to cast Jennifer Lawrence. The woman is the new generation’s feminist idol. She’s equal parts demigod beauty, cornbread gentility, candor-escewing badass, sweeter-than-an-apple-pie-that-she-probably-made-and-then-will-eat-all-by-herself angel and sex symbol without removing any of her clothes. She is the female Harrison Ford. But, you know, with talent. It is to Mr. Lawrence’s credit (DEAR GOD, CAN’T THAT MAN CHANGE HIS NAME, I’M TRYING TO WRITE A REVIEW HERE) he never overtly sexualizes Katniss outside of her absurd array of evening gowns. We have no underwear scenes, no butt-shots and the costume for the second half of the movie, while skin-tight, is purely functional. In another person’s hands, we would have seen kevlar bikinis and cleavage up the wazoo because, let’s be honest, J-Law is not lacking in the chest department. But this movie, and the director, respect her and Katniss too much for such base intentions. Thank the lord.

If Catching Fire is any indication, The Hunger Games is well on its way to establish a non-gendered nerd legend for this decade. While the third book, trying desperately to stick to the formula of the previous two, falls flatter than a steam-rolled pancake, the next two movies will afford the characters what they didn’t get on the page: time to breathe. Collins tried to squeeze a national revolution into the book-equivalent of a nutshell while refusing to let us see the hugeness of the event. I hope and believe that these next two filmic chapters will push the books where they weren’t confident enough to go. Shit, they have the money for it. And, unless Ms. Lawrence is caught with dead underage hookers in her bed, the lady’s effervescence is nigh-impenetrable.

ONWARD AND UPWARD, FRIENDS.

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by Andrew Mooney

Thor: The Dark World (2013) – Alan Taylor (Dir.), Chris Hemsworth, Chris Hemsworth’s Abs, Chris Hemsworth’s Chiseled Jaw, Chris Hemsworth’s Back, Chris Hemsworth’s Baby Blues into which the Souls of Mortal Hetero Women Have Cascaded into a Furious Epidemic of Blue Tubes, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgaard, Jaime Alexander, Rene Russo, Chris O’Dowd, Ray Stevenson, Anthony Hopkins, Anthony Hopkins’ Body Double So He Can Spend the Day in His Trailer Sucking on a Teat Filled with a fine Chilean Chianti

Natalie: "Is Anthony Hopkins looking at my ass?" Thor: "YOUR arse? Have you even SEEN me?"

Natalie: “Is Anthony Hopkins looking at my ass?”
Thor: “YOUR arse? Have you even SEEN me?”

Ah yes, the Kingdom of Marvel has trotted out one of its lesser champions once more. This time: the eminently lickable and not-in-any-way-turning-me-gay dreamboat that is Chris Hemsworth’s utterly uncharismatic titular Thor. Now, about two years ago, before I had this blog, I charged from the movie theater frothing at the mouth after witnessing Kenneth Branagh’s ham-and-cheese scenery-chewing feast that was the original Norse-hero flagship. It was clear that the poor nerds over at the Marvel juggernaut had zero ideas on how to approach the most absurd chapter in The Avenger’s almost Sisyphean build-up. For some reason, in between coming up with men turning into angry big green monsters and mouthy teenagers getting bitten Jeff-Daniels-in-Arachnophobia-style by inexplicably radioactive spiders, Stan Lee said to himself, “I don’t have any more ideas right now. I mean, I think I’ve run through every animal and DC rip-off I can do…why don’t I just fucking steal an entire mythology?” Luckily aliens with infinitely dense hammers and really gay rainbow bridges beat out his other possibilities such as: Osiris with magical embalming skillz! Or perhaps even Shiva: The Bitch With Too Many Hands (note to self: awesome comic book idea). But no, we were offered a bemusing retelling of Henry IV, just with Frost Giants, indestructible robots, and a bad guy who wears a helmet that looks like a mountain goat after a visit to Bling Night in Boy’s Town.

"I'm confused...so is Loki king of golden dildos? I think he is. I'm going to make him king of golden dildos." Tom Hiddleston on the origin of genius.

“I’m confused…so is Loki king of golden dildos? I think he is. I’m going to make him king of golden dildos.” Tom Hiddleston on the origin of genius.

No. I did not enjoy Thor. Marvel had no idea how to marry a flamboyant romp through various realms of the universe with Iron Man’s pseudo-realistic character study. How do you solve this? That’s right, hire the fucker responsible for the slow motion CGI spear at the end of Hamlet…you know, the uncut 4-hour shitshow where Jack Lemon does to the Bard what I do to the French language (let’s just say ex-President Sarkozy won’t be inviting me round for a croissant anytime soon); the guy who not only directed and produced it, but also starred in it. I half expected the goateed British bastard to show up as EVERY CHARACTER. Also, Kate Winslet’s boobs. But that’s because she is legally obligated to show them in every movie ever. So, what does the Branagh do with Thor? Well, his job. He made it more glittery and Hopkins-ish than a Ke$ha/Silence of the Lambs themed rave. It was confusing. Tonally, it wasn’t just all over the map, it WAS the fucking map. We have ironic, flat hipster humor from Kat “I Have Boobs” Dennings, flashes of greatness of a man who’s diet is composed of nothing more than set dressing, Tom Hiddleston, as well as the best “I’m Getting a Fucking Paycheck” performance from Natalie “I Really, Really Don’t Have Boobs. Have You Seen Black Swan? Yes, the Groping Scene Confused Me Too. Is it Groping if There’s Nothing to Grope?” Portman since Anthony Hopkins was in Thor 2: Into Darkness.

"FOR THE LAST TIME, CHRIS, THOR DOESN'T SURF. STOP TRYING TO MAKE HIM SURF!" ~ Director Taylor fighting a losing battle.

“FOR THE LAST TIME, CHRIS, THOR DOESN’T SURF. STOP TRYING TO MAKE HIM SURF!” ~ Director Taylor fighting a losing battle.

But, guys, time passes. The Avengers happened. It seems that Mr. Hemsworth, a man whose very presence in this movie could be considered lewd and provocative (no joke, the theater applauded during his first shirtless scene. Notice how I said ‘first’?), has had time to settle into the duality of his character. It helps when you have Joss “Bitch, Please” Whedon helming you at some point. Unfortunately, Alan Taylor, of Game of Thrones fame, isn’t up to quite the same standard as Mr. Whedon. On countless occasions he forgets that this is an action movie and not a story enamored with the intricacies of mythological politics. Also, he must have had the job of having to prod Sir Hopkins whenever he was meant to speak, seeing as the guy somnambulates his way through every freaking frame of film. To combat the utterly incredulous battshitery of the first film’s almost Gilbert and Sullivan-esque bombast, he has cured the scenery chewing by simply adding so much goddamned scenery that Mr. Hiddleston would die of asphyxiation before he can gobble the thing down. Throughout the film’s lagging and nearly nonsensical first half, we are offered an expansive and intriguing look into the sure-to-be-a-Disney-ride fantasy of Asgard. Seeing as these days Marvel only needs to waggle its penis in the general director of a movie theater and they make a gajillion dollars, they can afford to throw some cash at the screen. And throw they did. Every second of this film, when not constrained to London, is gorgeous, offering a more vibrant and believable universe than Branagh’s towering columns and Hopkins-bellowing.

So, what is this one about? Well, there’s a lot of shit in it. And I don’t mean that metaphorically. There simply is a lot of pointless refuse tossed into the script-crafting process that both muddles and stretches the run-time to excessive lengths. Much like its predecessor, Thor: Darkness Falls opens with a prologue almost literally torn from Peter Jackson’s excessive LOTR footage explaining more than you would ever need or care to know about the blandest blandies since Blondie bonded with Bono during a Battle of the Blahs. Otherwise known as ‘Dark Elves’. Why elves? Who knows! We have an evil Doctor Who (Eccleston) who seems to have gone full white-face Drow and, like a redneck teenager, grown his rattail to a length that makes everyone uncomfortable. He is Malekith…who we can tell is evil because 1) he’s white and 2) well…his name is Malekith. Also, did I mention he’s white? Anyway, this fella wants to destroy existence. Why? Why not? Sounds legit. He has this thing called the Aether, a catch-all uber-destruction device-cum-evil-infection cum-let’s-give-a-reason-for-Natalie-Portman-to-be-in-this-movie. Aaaaaaaaaaand that’s about it. Thor has to stop him. Now there is far more stuff concerning Rene Russo turning into a CGI bladed whirling dervish and the African guy from LOST turning into a lava rhino…but the entire movie is simply waiting, like a child slobbering over an empty plate, until Mr. Hiddleston shows up.

"So...do I have a character or am I just supposed to get punched in the face?" ~ Eccleston: a pro.

“So…do I have a character or am I just supposed to get punched in the face?” ~ Eccleston: a pro.

Seriously, thank god for Loki. Up until the second act, this movie has about as much humorous glee as a clown at a funeral. Once they finally manage to contrive the character actions and plot twists to the point that Loki can finally escape from prison and leap into a delightful will-he-won’t-he tet-a-tet/knife-in-the-abs with his Goldie Locks of a brother, the movie remembers that it is meant to entertain. And entertain it does. Both Hemsworth and Hiddleston play off of each other like a young Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart…if one of those two were basically Michaelangelo’s David come to life in a bizarrely classy retelling of the seminal Kim Cattrall classic Mannequin. Also, Natalie Portman is there, and this is true, ONLY BECAUSE IT WAS IN HER CONTRACT. I’m not saying that the Oscar winner phoned it in, but let’s just say her relationship with her character is as long-distance as that time my ex-girlfriend moved to China. I’m surprised she didn’t have her assistant carry around an iPad with her skyping into every scene. At least, if they had done that, Hemsworth and Hiddleston could have just started playing Words With Friends whenever the Port-meister got boring.

Luckily, however, the second Hiddleston joins the party, the movie takes off. Even Hemsworth is instantly revitalized, tossing about quips that legitimately made me giggle. It takes a long while to get there, but the director finally realizes that you can frowny face your way through a comic book movie, a la C-Noles, and come away with a pretentious cautionary tale with harshly mediocre fight scenes…or you can have Chris “If He Were an Ice Cream Flavor He’d Be The Opposite of Chubby Hubby” Hemsworth beat the shit out of Doctor Who. Luckily, once Mr. Hopkins was convinced to stop randomly yelling in a Merlot-filled rage at anyone with a beard, the movie leaps into action. I will say this, the final fight is possibly the most inventive the MCU has seen in a long while. It seems as though Marvel, after painting themselves repeatedly into a corner by making every movie in their brutally successful anthology about “THE WORLD IS GOING TO BE DESTROYED. MUST SAVE IT WITH BOOM-BOOMS”, instead of retreading the obvious ground, they’ve simply kicked in the fucking wall and decided they need more square footage. The final fight between Thor and Malekith is not only exciting but freaking hilarious, a flash of genius that, like Pope-Bubbles, the catholic body wash, almost totally washes its sins away.

"Oh...I'm sorry, I was waiting for you to want your movie to be GOOD. Well, you came to the right man."

“Oh…I’m sorry, I was waiting for you to want your movie to be GOOD. Well, you came to the right man.”

In the end, Thor: The Dark Side of the Moon: Transformers: Revenge of the Sith succeeds despite itself. Much like Iron Man 3 and The Avengers, it only truly feels fun when its characters get to banter. The explosions go boom and we get to see more of the same antics we know and love. Also, Tom Hiddleston should be required to be in every movie ever. Right next to Kate Winslet’s boobs. Shockingly, the Marvel gurus have managed to create an action-based universe where the action is the least interesting component. In a way, it’s genius. To see a Marvel movie from, say, Michael Bay or John McTiernan would be horrifying. This is no metallic ballet of mediocre misogyny. No, no! Mr. Kevin Feige, the supposed god of all that is this MCU juggernaut, has harvested a healthy crop of intelligent and unique directors who will hopefully supply us with another slew of quality character studies that just happen to go BANG BOOM. We’ve got Captain America: The Winter Solider: Why the Fuck Are There So Many Colons?: The Andrew Mooney Story coming up next directed by the boys responsible for NBCs insane and brilliant Community, as well as Edgar Wright’s sure-to-be-rikonkulous Antman. Most perplexing of all is the red-headed step-movie/money trap that is James “Slither/Super” Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which gets a teaser in the final credits of this film. With its nonsensical mis en scene and cheaply shot digital framing, to say the footage is out of place is to say the black man who accidentally walked into a KKK rally has a small case of egg-on-face. Let’s just say Benecio Del Toro shows up as his character from The Usual Suspects but if he went through a Liberace cloning device. Poor Jaime Alexander and Ray Stevenson, the two actors look utterly lost on the cobbled together set stolen from a lost episode of Doctor Who, their expressions captured by the most uncomfortable close-ups since my brother snuck into my room with a camera while I was dreaming about that time with the emu and the peanut butter sandwich.

Don’t ask. That story is only meant for my therapist.

Also, I’m really glad that the Marvel Comics Universe has finally incorporated Chris O’Dowd into its cast. I can dream that one day we’ll see him and Richard Ayoade offering S.H.I.E.L.D. IT help. That would be the tits.

Prisoners (2013) – Denis Villineuve (Dir.), Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo

Two Men. One Cup. OF DOOM.

Two Men. One Cup. OF DOOM.

THE BASICS: I’m pretty sure this movie was created in a sterile, European laboratory purely to give my mother nightmares. One time, while my sister and I were home alone all day, my mom called us from the office to tell us to be careful: she had seen a guy walking down our street and looking at houses in a manner that my mom had deemed “suspicious.” (spoiler alert: nothing happened). Another time, we were visiting the area in Philly where my mom grew up with her and a friend of hers (we drove around in a minivan gawking out the windows in a neighborhood that is now predominantly black, it was problematic) and every single memory they had of the place involved someone dying, or being abducted, or being raped. This in the place where she spent her childhood. My mom always imagines that the worst possible outcome has and/or will occur: a trait that she has passed down to me. Any time a friend of mine is five minutes late meeting me, I start at the assumption that they’ve been abducted, quartered and left in someone’s basement.

“Prisoners” follows a pair of families in suburban Pennsylvania: one white, one black, and both solidly middle class. On what is sure to go down as the worst Thanksgiving in family history, the young daughters of both families mysteriously vanish. The paterfamilias of the white family, Wolverine (okay, okay, Hugh Jackman), decides very quickly that the sketchy-looking RV that their daughters were playing on earlier that day is the key to their disappearance. The other paterfamilias, played by Iron Man’s Original Black Friend (okay, okay, Terence Howard) goes along with it, because his character is very thinly conceived. An APB is put out, which is how we meet Detective…um…The-Joker’s-Gay-Cowboy-Lover-And/Or-Batman’s-Girlfriend’s-Brother (Jake Gyllenhal). He’s a loner, he has tattoos and he’s super intense. DCI Donnie Darko soon finds the RV and, more importantly, its driver, Paul Dano. At first everyone is like “Woohoo” because Dano  looks and acts like he just received his Doctorate in Advanced Pedophilia and Child Murder. Unfortunately, there is a surprising lack of the little thing called “evidence” and so the police let him go, because apparently this town is run by DAMNED DIRTY HIPPIES. Wolverine is not pleased by this. So he does what any self-respecting Walking Talking Embodiment of The Bush Torture Memos American would do: He abducts Paul Dano, takes him to an abandoned apartment building and tortures the shit out of him, bringing along his black friend (and, to be fair, fellow concerned parent) for help/moral support/humorous cultural misunderstandings. Meanwhile, Detective Guy-Who-Was-Once-Considered-as-a-Replacement-for-Tobey-Maguire-in-Spiderman-2 sets about actually, y’know, “solving the case” with “detective work.” Seriously, what a bunch of hippies.

By the way, everything I just described is maybe the first 45 minutes of the movie. The running time is 2 and half hours. I’m gonna go ahead and say this helps its Oscar chances, because long movies seem more important than short ones. Same goes for books, which is why Infinite Jest is THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK EVER WRITTEN.

Snikt!

Snikt!

Best Actor: Hugh Jackman/Jake Gyllenhaal.

Putting both actors in this category is kind of a cheat for me. I don’t think that, come Oscar time, they are both going to be entered in the lead actor category. Hugh Jackman will be entered for the lead and Gyllenhaal will be entered for supporting. I’m mostly putting them into the same category so as to contrast their performances, and there’s nothing you can do about it. (BTW, for the one of you who reads these kinds of reviews but doesn’t already know this, The Wrinkled Fuckers can vote for an actor/actress in either best lead or best supporting. If the role is one where it’s unclear as to which category it fits into, then this could possibly lead to vote splitting and the actor/actress could not get nominated at all. This is why studios will decide to mount a specific campaign for an actor to be nominated in either lead or supporting to guide The Wrinkled Fuckers in their nominating process. Fun Fact: in 1944, the actor Barry Fitzgerald got nominated in both lead and supporting for his role in the film Going My Way. I’m sure it would have been a big to-do if America wasn’t busy fighting a war with Hitler.)

Now, I haven’t taken a stopwatch to their screen times (because I am not chronically depressed) but I’d bet dollars to cronuts that Jake Gylenhaal has more screen time than ol’ Hugh. Nonetheless, I think that Jackman is going to get campaigned for in the lead category because his performance is the one with ALL THE EMOTIONS.

“Hugh Jackman” is actually Australian for “A Whale’s Vagina.”

“Hugh Jackman” is actually Australian for “A Whale’s Vagina.”

For realsies, I think that this performance was sold to Hugh Jackman solely on the basis of: You’ll get nominated for an Oscar. They reminded him of how, back in 2003, every freaking awards show clip from Mystic River for eventual winner Sean Penn was just him screaming “IS THAT MY DAUGHTER IN THERE?!!! IIIIIIIIS THAAAAAAAAAT MY DAUGHTER IN THEEEEEEEERRRRRRREEEE?!!!!!!!!!!” Jackman is in full, “I’m wearing a beard and so I’m super serious right now” mode and he plays the role’s all-consuming rage to the hilt. It is not a subtle performance, but it’s not necessarily a bad one either. I’m sure if I was in that position (daughter abducted, obvious perpetrator set free) I wouldn’t be Mr. Subtlety either. Plus Jackman even gets to go down the fun “relapsing alcoholic spiral” trail as well. (Although, and I know this isn’t his fault, but the movie has him literally swigging from a bottle of whiskey, which isn’t something people really do outside of frat parties and comes off as annoying Hollywood shorthand.) But what it ultimately comes down to is this: Prisoners is actually two films. (I’ll get to this more when I talk about the script.) One of those films is an indictment of the American notion of justice and the means to which we’ll go to get it. The other film is a really fun serial killer noir flick. Jackman is the star of the “blah blah blah indictment” one, and that’s the movie that would get nominated for an Oscar.

They found a book report on "The Grapes of Wrath" in her room. Her analysis was facile. FACILE!!!

They found a book report on “The Grapes of Wrath” in her room. Her analysis was facile. FACILE!!!

Funny thing is though: Gyllenhaal gives the better performance. His character is a career detective working for some reason in the middle of suburbia instead of, oh I don’t know, in the mean streets of Philly which, as my earlier anecdote about my mother clearly outlined, is a dank pit of mayhem and despair. This guy is quiet, contained and methodical, but is just as driven as Jackman’s freaked out father is. When he asks his boss for permission to keep Paul Dano in hold-up one more night, out of fear/respect for Jackman’s wishes only to have Dano go free and then get assaulted by Jackman in the parking lot, his next scene where he rips said boss for going against him is a tiny peek into the whirring centrifuge that keeps him on the case. Gylenhaal’s scenes with Jackman too are like a game of acting Ju Jitsu on Gylenhaal’s part. Jackman comes in all fire and whiskey, only for Gylenhaal to quietly turn that bluster against him and come out on top. He’s a better, subtler actor stuck holding up the half of the movie that involves discovering dead bodies in a priest’s basement and boxes filled with snakes and bloody children’s clothes. Really, the only mark against him is his blinking. He’s given Detective Loki this nervous blink that, once you notice it, all you can think is “if this was a drinking game I’d be wasted by now.”

Best Original Screenplay: Aaron Guzikowski

Now when you read that last sentence, I bet you thought “Detective Loki? What kind of joke on one of Gyllenhaal’s past roles was he making this time? I don’t remember him being in Thor, and I’m sure he wasn’t the guy who played Loki. Wait, did they change actors between Thor and The Avengers? Did Jake Gylenhaal play Loki in The Avengers and I just didn’t notice? What the fuck is going on?!!!” Nope. That is actually the character’s name, swear to God. Here:

Gyllenhaal

Yup. At first I thought it was maybe meant to be ironic, as Gylenhaal’s detective represents the forces of law and order methodically working to keep anarchy at bay, whereas Jackman’s character is the embodiment of raging, chaotic id taking the law into its own hands. Then I laughed and thought “No, they’re just idiots.” I really have nothing more to say on this particular subject. I just couldn’t hear anybody say “Detective Loki” without giggling and waiting for Gyllenhaal to call someone a “mewling quim.”

As I mentioned previously, Prisoners really does feel like two movies: one a serious melodrama that examines torture through the lens of American notions of masculinity and self-reliance, and the other a grand guignol serial killer thriller where people scrawl mazes on the walls and, once again, there are boxes full of snakes. (Fuck snakes BTW. Just fuck ‘em.) It’s not a problem that this movie tries to incorporate all these elements. It’s a problem that you feel the shift every time it switches. The two halves never cohere into a whole.

Father: What are you kids watching? Son: X-Men Origins" Wolverine. Father: Oh. So. What do you think? Son: Man, Will.I.Am can NOT ACT.

Father: What are you kids watching?
Son: X-Men Origins” Wolverine.
Father: Oh. So. What do you think?
Son: Man, Will.I.Am can NOT ACT.

This is because the movie starts in a very grounded realistic setting, and then tries to slowly reveal the crazy underneath. This is the wrong order to do things in, like that person from OKCupid who waits until the twelfth date to tell you about their elaborate foot fetish. If you knew about the foot fetish going into date number one, then you know exactly what you’re getting into and then, when the person also turns out to have written their dissertation on “Ulysses”, you can be pleasantly surprised by their depth and erudition. Take for instance, the movie that that Prisoner’s Oscar hopes clearly have in mind: The Silence of the Lambs. If this movie had an OKCupid account, its profile pic would be of a goddamn foot. Within five minutes of the movie starting, Clarice is sitting across from Hannibal Lecter, and systems are go.  It doesn’t take the time to let its audience go “Hey, Wait, This isn’t Reality.” It just kicks you into a pit, lowers down a basket of lotion and says “It is NOW, Bitch!”

Ahem. So yeah, I don’t see this movie scoring any nominations for writing.

Best Director: Denis Villeneuve

You know what? For all this movie’s faults, I think Villeneuve did a pretty good job here. If he was a French director, I would say he might stand an outside chance.

But he’s not French. He’s French Canadian.

He doesn’t have a chance in hell.

Cinematography: Roger Deakins

Lemme ask, does that name sound familiar to you? Because it should. Let’s read off his resume, shall we? Better yet, let’s just read off his previous Oscar nominations.

  • Skyfall
  • True Grit
  • The Reader
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • No Country For Old Men
  • The Man Who Wasn’t There
  • O Brother Where Art Thou
  • Kundun
  • Fargo
  • The Shawshank Redemption

Two things. First, this guy is the cinematographer for the Coen Brothers. So he must be a Prince-Making-Charlie-Murphy-Pancakes-level baller. Second, all of these movies were fucking gorgeous. And Prisoners is no exception. Deakins takes the color gray and turns it into a rainbow. He uses shadows not like he adopted them, but like he was born in them.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins

Cinematographer Roger Deakins

And during a climactic drive through the pounding snow, he cooks up a blurred vision effect that takes your standard “faster, faster, must go faster” moment into a nerve-splintering hell ride.

I don’t honestly think anyone else from this movie will get nominated. But Deakins? I think this will be lucky number eleven.

Best Picture: Prisoners

This category got a lot more ridiculous when they changed it to ten nominees, and then less ridiculous but still very interesting when they changed it to up to ten. Forcing ten nominees really felt like giving trophies to everyone on the team. It was mostly seen as a reaction to The Dark Knight not getting nominated the year before which led everyone to be like, “Do wanna hear how I got these scars, Oscar voters?” Now of course the actual solution to that problem, that the current make-up of the Wrinkled Fuckers (mostly the fact that they are overly wrinkled and a majority of them are fuckers)  precludes such genre fare from being considered is not one that is easily remedied, short of handing out Oscar voter cards at Comic Con and then watching in horror as Jonah Hex walks away with the field. (Jay Kay, nerds. We know you hated that movie too.) So the Wrinkled Fuckers decided to do the next best thing, which was include enough spots that films like The Dark Knight or District 9 or Machete Kills could get nominated but not win because one is about a man who dresses up in rubber suit and fights an evil clown, one of them is about space bugs but really it’s about racism but really it’s about super cool guns and one of them is—actually, scratch that—Machete Kills is gonna win the whole damn thing.

What was I talking about? Where was this going? Oh yeah. Even with an expanded field of up to ten nominees, which would seem to favor genre fare like Prisoners getting a nomination, I still don’t think it’s gonna happen. Prisoners is your classic “The whole is less than the sum of its parts.” It’s an okay torture melodrama (like Zero Dark Thirty’s dumb hick cousin) and it’s a fun little serial killer film and it ’s got some good performances and it’s got gorgeous cinematography but none of it really adds up to a great movie. It has all the right parts to assemble to the Princess Play Castle that is an Oscar-Nominee for best picture but it doesn’t know how to put them altogether, probably because some of the parts aren’t even from a Princess Play Castle. They’re from an erector set, or Lego Death Star, or a meth lab. And while you might end up making some kinda alright meth in your Princess Play Castle Slash Meth Lab…is this really the kind of meth you’re gonna smoke and think, “This meth deserves an Oscar?”

I don’t fucking think so.

Fin!

Wait! Un-Fin!

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo

I forgot to mention that Melissa Leo is in this movie. She plays Paul Dano’s creepy aunt.

Let’s be clear here: Melissa Leo is not getting nominated for an Oscar. I just brought her up so I could show you these:

LeoThose are photos from Leo’s self-financed Oscar campaign for her performance in The Fighter. Which she won.

Mr Gylenhaal, the ball is in your court. Your blindingly white, marble-columned, icy blue swimming pool containing court. Godspeed. And maybe take this floor length white fur robe for luck.

by Andrew Mooney

Children of the Corn (1984) – Fritz Kiersch (Dir.), Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, a bunch of stupid children and one or two not stupid children

Is it a reference to communism? Nope? It's just stupid.

Is it a reference to communism? Nope? It’s just stupid.

Sometimes in life, all you want to do on a Sunday, the looming specter of a fierce head cold working its infectious way throughout your mucous-making passages, is to curl up in bed with a silly movie and allow the dulcet tones of women getting stabbed in the naughty bits while people ask dumb questions like “Is that you, Connie?” as a chainsaw revs up in the shadows lull you into a restorative and peaceful sleep. Sometimes you want to tell the world, “You know what? I give up. I can’t take it anymore.” With the pressures of work and watching Species with your girlfriend’s grandfather (article forthcoming), you beg the universe to stop the Earth on its eternal celestial cycle and offer even a sliver of respite in this cataclysmic life. So, I did. I did just that. And let me just say, for all the Internet to hear, as God and that weird golden cow statue as my witnesses:

CHILDREN OF THE CORN CAN GO FUCK ITSELF

All I wanted…all I begged for was a simplistic silly horror film with enough competency to simply say goodbye as I set off on the USS Forty Winks to the land of Go-The-Fuck-To-Sleep. I could have chosen The Avengers. I could have watched Thor. Or maybe some House M.D. But NOOOOO Andrew had to be an asshole and go into the fucking Halloween section of Netflix and think to himself, “Huh, I’ve never seen Children of the Corn, that sounds fun.” I’m a goddamn idiot. This movie filled me with such abhorrent and pestilent rage that I am now in a fucking bar, my cold be damned, drinking and fuming over a keyboard. Seriously, no, like, seriously, Children of the Corn might just be the stupidest fucking movie I have ever encountered. Like, there are middleschoolers who cannot point out the US on a world map who have a higher IQ than this turd. I think I have vomited more intelligence after 10 Irish Car Bombs than that travesty that just burned its hole in my iPad Netflix app. What cruel God, what demon in control of this pitiful universe was responsible for the existence of this fecal excuse for filmic flimsiness?

Alright, background. The movie starts on an incredibly promising foot. A bunch of kids murder a diner filled with old people. Sweet. Some dude gets his hand in a meat slicer and a kid’s milkshake gets covered in gore. Awesome sauce. Great start. I wish every movie could begin this way. You know, Love Actually, But Here Is Some Good Old Patricide (which opens with a sure-to-be-iconic shot of Hugh Grant being shoved into a sausage grinder). We then precede to the obligatory Stephen King “Prescient Child” character and are offered a hilarious, yet surprisingly effective history of the children taking over the town of Gatlin for the purpose of…um…corn. I guess. And this is where the film goes downhill: the main characters. Yes, I understand that the leads in any horror film are usually cursed with the wits of a mentally dilapidated duck, but COME ON. Linda “The Chick Who Killed The Terminator” Hamilton is a woman who wants to get married. Peter “He Came to Life Out of a Sears Catalogue – Kill it – Kill It With Fire” Horton is the man she wants to marry. He is a penis. Not a dick. Not an asshole. Not a pussy or any other derogatory term we have for opening through which fluids/solids/children pass, but a penis. He is tall, erect, constantly inappropriately dressed and seems to only be able to move forward. Like a penis. Well, Johnson Trouser-Snake is driving to Seattle, or somewhere, to be a doctor. Now, we are informed of this repeatedly because he keeps stating it. However, throughout the course of the movie, meeting dead kids, or getting stabbed, or watching his wife’s face get cut, he never does anything a self-respecting MD-having penile quack would do. In fact, when he sees his wife’s face, gouged by an incensed zealot ginger (IZG), he goes, “You got one too!” and they both laugh. That didn’t happen, but this movie is so fucking stupid IT MIGHT AS WELL HAVE.

Spot the difference! One of these is a stoned creature known for eating poop and licking its own genitals...and the other is a dog.

Spot the difference! One of these is a stoned creature known for eating poop and licking its own genitals…and the other is a dog.

So, Shit-For-Brains and the Mighty Doctor Dong travel through Nebraska in the longest “Driving to a location where the rest of the movie has to happen” since Terry Gilliam forgot to turn off the camera during Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and accidentally filmed Johnny Depp yawning for 6 hours. Now, our director, Fritz Kiersch, gradually guides his two lifeless meat puppets of humans towards their inevitable clashing with a town filled with religious crazies with the urgency of slug on methadone. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he weren’t actually a human being, but just a bunch of sloths sitting on each other’s shoulders in a trench coat. And all of them are addicted to horse tranquilizers. From the lingering shots of fuck-all to the incredibly awkward extended takes of Linda Hamilton looking at things without any actual agency.

So Tweedle Dumb and soon-to-be Mrs. Tweedle Dipshit hit a child. In broad daylight. On a straight road. A child, yes, a child covered in blood. What does Dr. Dong say? “I hope that was an animal!” Yes, you must have a PhD in Human Fucking Anatomy because when did humans not classify as animals? Not only that, but he then takes twenty fucking minutes to figure out that the red stuff on the suitcase, obviously carried by the dead toddler, is blood. He seems bemused by the simplest of visual stimuli, like a child wandering into his parent’s bedroom while they’re engaged in cross-gender c. This is my impression of Dr. Dickwitch for the length of this movie:

“Huh. I’m surrounded by murderous children armed with farming implements. Let’s have a chat about religion. DEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRPPPPPP.”

Linda after she finally read the script.

Linda after she finally read the script.

It’s pretty fucking perfect. You see, this story might have been chilling on the page. While his actual literary novellas are shockingly decent (the book versions of The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, pretty much everything in Four Seasons) Stephen King has written precisely two horror books: girl has destructive mental abilities and kills many people (Carrie, Firestarter) OR child can see into the future and religious zealots try to murder everyone (The Shining, Desperation, Children of the Corn etc. etc.)…oh, and another book about alien snakes coming out of people’s anuses (what the fuck were you thinking with Dreamcatcher?). In all these years of repackaging the same worn pair of scary socks, he knows how to wrap a fucking present. We have creepy this, atmosphere that, boobies here and swearing there, add a dash of biblical verse and VOILA…you have a King novel. He ain’t perfect, but he knows what he’s doing and what the people want. Here’s the problem with this sewage system of an excuse of a movie…maybe a horde of children with weaponry is scary on the page…but when shot by a sloth-filled-coat as director and Helen Keller as your cinematographer (totally in daylight, zero usage of shadows, dynamic lighting or shot framing of any kind), you realize the reality of this tale: if children attack you…you punch them in the face BECAUSE YOU ARE AN ADULT AND HAVE ADULT STRENGTH. Por example: the ending where Dr. Derp-a-lot fights the evil ginger kid…he kicks the kid in the fucking shin and the kid goes down like a sack of potatoes. OH. THAT WAS TENSE, GUYS. WHO’S GONNA WIN IN A FIGHT? A 16-YEAR-OLD CHILD WHO ALREADY HAS ENOUGH SOCIAL DISABILITIES WITH GINGER HAIR AND A FACE SHAPED LIKE A DRIED TOMATO OR A FULLY MUSCLED 30-SOMETHING MAN?

Ultimately, the movie deviates from the original tale. Apparently, in the short story, both of the adults are murdered because, well, it’s supposed to be the story of adult hubris and the assumption of child weakness. I guess. But…in this…well…here is a rundown of what occurs in the final scenes: Linda Hamilton is going to be sacrificed on a corn crucifix because, well, why the fuck not? Also, Ginger-Face-McGee usurps Isaac, the Corn God’s prophet and sticks the little kid (an amalgam of Haley Joel Osmet’s unfortunate inhuman acting style and premature Dave Thomas-esque jowl-age). The child is then attacked by, what I have assume is the cinematic embodiment of David Lee Roth’s libido, and turns into a zombie. Then they spray the fields with Gas-o-hol which, is that even a thing? I don’t even care anymore. And then everything blows up.

Is that the end? Fuck no! Because this piece of smegma isn’t done yet. If I could sum up the entirety of this exercise in utter incompetency, I would do so by showing you this, the final scene of the film:

DO YOU SEE? DO YOU SEE? I WITNESSED AN HOUR AND A HALF OF THAT? HE PUNCHES A LITTLE GIRL IN THE FUCKING FACE AND SAYS: “Oh, what are we going to do now?” YOU ARE GOING TO DIE IN HELLFIRE YOU IDIOTIC PIECE OF HORROR MISERY.

WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE THIS MOVIE? WHY? WHY DOES IT STILL EXIST? I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!

URGE TO KILL STEPHEN KING RISING…

Now…if you will excuse me, I have to sleep the sleep of the dead. Mucous. Blech.

by Andrew Mooney

Trapped in the Closet (2005) – R. Kelly (Dir.), R Kelly, R. Kelly, Cat Wilson, R Kelly, Michael K. Williams, R Kelly some more and a midget

Trapped in the Closet: Now Stealing Fonts from LA Confidential

Trapped in the Closet: Now Stealing Fonts from LA Confidential

It is known that the pathway towards genius is a path well-trod and filled with obstacles, both emotional and physical, existential and intellectual, sexual and totally sexual. It seems that R. “Yes He Actually Made this Movie” Kelly has sprinted down the genius path hitting every fucking ugly branch on the way there. Trapped in the Closet is Kelly’s epic hip-hopera charting the events of a day in the life of some guy who has sex with a lot of women. There will be spatulas! Midgets! Lesbians! Omar from The Wire! Inexplicable edits! Flagrant racism! AIDS! This lyric poetry runs the gamut of western literary theory, dragging you through the truth, horror and beauty of what it is like to live in R Kelly’s brain. And trust me, it’s terrifying in there. So, be warned. Beware. Be ready to fucking do this people. There will be pizza! There will be shots! There will be a room of white people feeling really awkward! There will be flagrant mistakes about African American thespians including but not limited to: Morgan Freeman, Omar Epps, and Sean Connery. Join me, Erin and special guest star, and dragon, Ryan Lehmenkuler as we tackle this beast five ‘chapters’ at a time. Also, join us for our special Halloween episode airing on October 31st. It will be SPOOK-TAC-ULICIOUS.

The Breakfast Club (1985) – John Hughes (Dir.), Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Michael C. Hall, Paul Gleason

Set phasors to "Disaffected Youth"

Set phasors to “Disaffected Youth”

Alright, let’s get the elephant out of the room. Yes, there is a two ton elephantine lump of cultural awkwardness constantly resting in the doorway of my blog-based discussions. And, like the clown chasing me in my nightmares, it’s massive, pink, and has a mild obsession with the Youth in America. That’s right, I had never seen The Breakfast Club…until this last weekend. In fact, growing up in the UK, the antics of a bunch of North Shore brats drinking and charming their way through 1980s high school had very little cultural resonance for me. I barely understood what high school even was, despite frantically gobbling down Buffy the Vampire Slayer and to a lesser (read: far greater) extent Sabrina the Teenage Witch throughout my formative years (that might explain a few things). The work of John Hughes is unmistakably American. These tales are about American kids drinking American beers having American problems in American schools with American accents (unless they’re that one Asian kid in that one movie). Thusly, the extent of my Hughes-ian exploration was limited to the Chris Columbus scream-directly-into-the-camera-a-thon and Joe-Pesci-when-were-you-dramatically-castrated-fest Home Alone along with the bizarre exercise in repetitive futility that was Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. It seems as though, like unicorns, Chimeras and the dinosaurs did with Noah’s Ark, I missed the boat on pretty much the most important thing ever. Children of the 80s practically subsisted on Hughes’ simultaneously bleak and unendingly optimistic image of teenagers. Unfortunately, as a Brit, all I had was Monty PythonTrainspotting and Doctor Who. So, when I realized that most people didn’t dress as women, walk sillily while dosing themselves with heroin and running away from toilet-plunger-wielding Daleks, I was sorely disappointed. But that’s what your 20s are for!

The Breakfast Club charts a single day in the life of five high schoolers incarcerated in Saturday detention for a whole slew of petty crimes, some obvious and others held secret until the ending. We have the nerd (Anthony Michael “Not Michael C.” Hall), the popular girl (an iconoclastic Molly Ringwald), an awkwardly puffy-haired and eyebrow-bleached wrestler-jock with a good heart (Emilio Estevez), a crazy chick (Ally Sheedy) and the most trying-too-hard badass since Rock Hudson married that lady that one time (Judd Nelson). Under the eye of a bored teacher (Die Hard’s Paul Gleason, RIP) these kids begin their day as five separate and parallel entities, content to operate and survive in their own tiny bubbles of social awkwardness and ineptitude. However, as Bender (Nelson) spends the day disrupting their individual peaces, he heats up the pot and those separate, rigid parallel lines soften and collapse into one another; a tangled mess of teenage spaghetti (Worst. Italian meal. Ever.) They skip out of the library to find weed, crawl through ducts, lock their teacher out of sight and out of mind, and, ultimately, in a beautiful climax of unspoken emotion, engage in perhaps the greatest teen dance sequence of all time set to Karla Devito’s “We Are Not Alone”.

Anthony Michael Hall's impression of a sex doll makes everyone uncomfortable.

Anthony Michael Hall’s impression of a sex doll makes everyone uncomfortable.

Now, I’ve never seen Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink, the Ringwald Trilogy, as I’ve decided to label it. However, I’ve always found Hughes’ movies smart but lacking anything other than surface emotion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m basing this solely off of the hilarious, seminal and only-thing-that’s-going-on-Matthew-Broderick’s-gravestone Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as well as the ridiculously stupid, hetero-normatively problematic, and Robert-Downey-Jr-licious Weird Science. Here, though, it seems as Hughes set out to craft a treatise on teenager-hood. While, at the beginning, he seems to ridicule the meager maladies affecting these preparatory-protected progeny, it becomes clear that, as he strips each child of their obligatory masks and social veils, they are all essentially the same scared, good-natured beings underneath. Though it only lasts about 9 hours, this movie is a serious journey for these children. At the end, as each is picked up by their respective parental units, a simple and effective mirroring of the opening scene, we are coarsely reminded of how far each of these young adults have come.

More than once during the proceedings I was reminded of (PRETENSION ALERT) Satre’s No Exit, the existential tale of three people trapped in a hotel room for all eternity. In both cases, the protagonists, or antagonists, depending on your point of view, are driven by their sense of claustrophobia. The only inciting action in the tale is one of entrapment. There are key differences. While Satre was attempting to divulge the rotten innards of the human condition, eventually stating quite simply that “Hell is other people” (but in French so it probably sounds even more pretentious…and there’s probably a cigarette involved…and a croissant…man I could really go for a croissant right now), Hughes states the opposite. These kids are here for a finite stretch of incarceration. They will leave and everything will be fine. They could sit in silence, as they do for a stretch of the opening, refusing to interact and remaining on the separate islands. But for teenagers, without the benefit of time and experience under their belts, eight hours might as well be an eternity. These issues don’t evaporate when they leave that library. While in No Exit the three insufferable asses (because, let’s be real, everyone in that play is terrible) drive each other insane because they have nothing better to do, here, the five puncture each other’s bubbles out of sheer necessity. All five need to be saved. It’s no mistake that the teacher spends the second half of the film utterly absent, drinking beers with the janitor and lamenting the changing young. This isn’t any Finding Forrester or Good Will Hunting. These children’s salvation is in one another. One by one they strip away their armor and show what they are within…just kids. They’re scared of everything. They barely understand the world and the few rules they’ve learned have done nothing but inflict horrors on their psyches. Every teenager feels like a felon until proven adult. I know I did. And I was a goody-fucking-two shoes for all 10 years (apart from one party where I probably could have died. You learn fast or you get fucked, I guess). Perhaps the best line in the movie comes from the janitor who, while listening to the embittered Gleason spew hatred after hatred on this generation, declaring them the worst he’s ever seen, finally interjects and says, “It’s not the kids that are changing. It’s you.”

"Hi, my name is Molly and I'm a child actor." "Hi Molly!" ~ They started counseling at a young age.

“Hi, my name is Molly and I’m a child actor.” “Hi Molly!” ~ They started counseling at a young age.

I never expected to be affected quite as strongly by this movie. I assumed shenanigans and antics and montages and boobies, you know, stuff from the 80s. What I discovered, on that harshly hungover Sunday morning, was something deeply touching. While I might have started with a sneer, especially balking at Bender’s heavy-handed attempts at basic authoritarian subversion, I didn’t want to let these five kids go after the end credits. As someone who has just escaped the event horizon of teenager-dom, I could still identify with the fears, the pressures and the insecurities of these five. We have the popular girl who despises her friends and is incapable of making a choice against the grain in fear of being ostracized; the jock who does everything his father tells him to, even to the point of descending to delinquency just because ‘that’s what boys are supposed to do’; the nerd who is so deathly afraid of a failing grade that he goes to almost unreal extremes; the troubled child of a broken home whose every day is a battle and, finally, the ignored weirdo who crafts her social isolation to be her defining trait because she’s afraid there’s nothing else below. Their adventures are impossible, almost surreal in their isolation. It’s as though these five have been transported to another plane, devoid of time and circumstance, where they can find this momentary connection across every social high-school divide. The climax, like an awkward threesome, is one of quiet contemplation and emotion. One of the most affecting moments in the entire film comes from Anthony Michael Hall’s Brian when he asks the damning question: “After today, will we all still be friends?” Ms. Ringwald tells him the harsh but inescapable truth: “No.” There has never been such a succinct assault on the terrors of high school’s emotional brutality.

In the end, they write a letter to their captor, a manifesto, if you will, declaring who they are, who they think they are, and who they want to be. It’s a carefully crafted set of words that I’ve heard quoted here there and everywhere. It’s good. It’s important. It’s Hughes’ thesis in a perfectly packaged nutshell. But that isn’t the point of the movie. Not for me. The most exhilarating moment that has plagued my brain in the most glorious of ways every moment of the day since watching this movie is the dance sequence. After these five have wept and connected and accepted that the future is scary and that perhaps they will never be together again, they do something so basic. They dance. All five of them, lacking any choreography or rhythm or talent or anything just begin flailing and kicking and cheering and head banging and air-guitaring and skipping and twirling and gyrating without giving any fucks whatsoever. If there was a sudden shortage of fucks spreading throughout the universe and these kids had vaults of the things…they wouldn’t give a single one. Of course the song’s refrain “We are not alone” couldn’t be more heavy-handed if it tried. But we see these five unhinged and free, each isolated in their own personal mangled dancing styles. Suddenly, though, we shift to their synchronized antics on top of the tables, dancing from side to side in tandem. It couldn’t be a more glorious catharsis.

Yep. That's all that needs to be said.

Yep. That’s all that needs to be said.

Perhaps the most incredible thing about The Breakfast Club is that at its conclusion, I wasn’t quite sure what I had just witnessed. It is epic. It is mythic. And yet, it’s probably the simplest thing you could ever fucking ask for. I sat there staring at the screen, mind blank and yet muddled with an infinite writhing mass of thoughts and considerations. It’s taken me three days to sort out that mess and order it into something at least partially coherent. I will say this, and I have never felt this in my entire life…entire life. The only thing I wanted to do when the credits rolled, watching Bender’s fist thrust into the air captured in a moment of victory and frozen modern mythology, was to press play again and witness this movie in its totality once more.

It was the most beautiful feeling in the world.

by Alex Huntsberger

Blue Jasmine (2013) – Woody Allen (Dir.), Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard

Marketing Exec: Is it Blue? Check. Does it have Jssmine? Check. Well, my work here is done.

Marketing Exec: Is it Blue? Check. Does it have Jasmine? Check. Well, my work here is done.

THE BASICS: This is a movie about the financial crisis. I mean it’s not a movie that’s about the financial crisis. The financial chicanery that sets the plot in motion is more Bernie Madoff than Bear Stearns. But it’s about the financial crisis in a more holistic, spiritual sense.

FIRST SOME PLOT

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine (originally Jeanette), a Wife of Wall Street who is forced to move in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) when her financier husband Hal (Alec “I WILL PLAY WORDS WITH FRIENDS WHEN AND WHERE I FUCKING WANT TO” Baldwin) is convicted of fraud and hangs himself in prison. Jasmine, a nervous wreck, attempts to put her life back together, getting a job as a receptionist and taking a computer course with an eye towards an interior designer’s license. Oh, and she also sets about trying to ruin her sister’s life, mostly by throwing a Rip-Torn-in-Dodgeball number of wrenches into Ginger’s relationship with her boorish but good-hearted boyfriend Chili (Bobby Carnavale). Oh, and also in the mix is Ginger’s ex-husband, Augie (the surprisingly not-dead Andrew Dice Clay) whose marriage to Ginger Jasmine previously ruined with some bad financial advice. Louis C.K. and Peter Sarsgaard are also on hand, the former as…well…basically himself and the other as way older than I remember him and that makes me feel weird.

If that plot wrings a bit familiar, it’s probably because you were really cool in high school and read/saw/were involved in a production of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, Tennessee Williams’ lyrical ode to the Dirty South.

Tennessee Williams (artist's rendering)

Tennessee Williams (artist’s rendering)

Much like Blanche lived in a world entirely of her own choosing, so does Jasmine try to block all the ugly truths that she has been privy too. Her refrain throughout the film is, “Let’s leave the past in the past.” Which is totally fine, except that one can only leave the past in the past when one has, oh, I don’t know, learned something from it. The film, in fact, frequently jumps back to the past, showing Jasmine’s glory years in the lap of East Coast luxury, and what it shows is that Jasmine remained as willfully ignorant back then as she does now. Whether it was Hal’s frequent philandering or his even more frequent financial shenanigans, Jasmine basically stuck her fingers in her ears and went, “lalalalalalalala,” if by “fingers in ears,” you mean, “cash money in her bank account,” and by, “lalalalalalalala,” you mean, “brunching on the weekend? Ugh, how gauche.” From beginning to end, Jasmine exists in a state of denial, much like a great deal of this country did so after a decade where investing in Wall Street was pretty much equivalent to buying stock in a textiles factory that manufactured The Emperor’s New Clothes. We have seen the enemy and it is…umm…us, Except that “us” is played by Cate Blanchett. (Looks in the mirror). Yeah, that’s about right.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett

Jasmine does NOT appreciate your Vampire Diaries Fan Fiction.

Jasmine does NOT appreciate your Vampire Diaries Fan Fiction.

So, a lot of “Oscar” performances have that air of holding out one’s hand and yelling, “Oscar, please!” And it’s not that Cate Blanchett’s performance doesn’t seem like it’s gunning for an Oscar. It’s more like she’s an 80’s action hero who takes out an entire cartel’s worth of vaguely ethnic bad guys with nothing more than a Glock, a hunting knife and a pack of chewing gum. She doesn’t so much as ask for an Oscar as she does walk into your office with a bag full of bad guy scalps over one shoulder, the President’s daughter (who she just rescued from said bad guys) over the other one, dumps both of them on your desk, lights up a cigar and then just casually glances at the Oscar clutched nervously in your hand and mutters, “you gonna hand that thing to me, or what?” The lady’s been nominated for 5 Oscars so far and won best Supporting Actress for playing Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator. She won an Oscar for playing a multi-Oscar winner; so, she’s basically not fucking around in the slightest. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her give a ‘bad’ performance.

Shhhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. We don’t talk about this one.

Shhhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. We don’t talk about this one.

Like, do you remember that one scene in Lord of the Rings where Frodo shows Cate Blanchett the ring (and, yes, I’m mixing actor and character names: welcome to the Octagon) and Cate Blanchett gets all goggly-eyed and glowing and CGI? Okay, that’s basically Cate Blanchett in this movie. That level of intensity, that level of bone-deep wackadoo, for two hours straight. If it were almost any other actress, it would probably be terrible. But it’s Cate Blanchett, so it’s not.

Jasmine spends the entire length of the movie in a delusion: that she is doing fine and everything is going to be fine and that she doesn’t need to deal with all the fucked up stuff in her past because tomorrow is a brighter day. However, it is very clear that everything is not fine. She’s a middle-aged woman, newly poor, who has no discernible skills and whose refusal to reckon with her role in causing a great many people a great deal of pain is going to catch up to her sooner rather than later. And it is this tension, between Jasmine’s fantasy and the world’s reality that makes up the fulcrum of Blanchett’s performance. It’s like watching someone at a fancy party who really, really needs to pee but keeps pretending like they don’t, that they can hold it in, until eventually their bladder gives way and they just piss all over themselves. Except, instead of urine it’s, like, emotions and stuff.

And it’s fucking awesome. She’s getting nominated for an Oscar.

Nailed

Good job, Cate.

Best Supporting Actress: Sally Hawkins

Maybe five of you might remember Hawkins from the film Happy Go Lucky wherein she played a woman named Poppy whose outlook on life was, wouldn’t cha know it, happy go lucky. That she managed to make this woman complex, sympathetic and actually quite admirable is a testament to her skill. As the uber-sane ying to Blanchett’s bats hit-crazy yang, she’s wonderful.

But honestly, the most important thing she has going for her is this: she’s playing a supporting female character in a prestige Woody Allen film. Because when it comes to getting Oscar noms (and wins) for the best actress in a supporting role category, Woody Allen is basically Orson Welles. Dianne Wiest won twice, for Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway; Mira sorvino won for Mighty Aphrodite; and Penelope Cruz won for Vicky, Christina Barcelona. For a male writer/director, especially one who is pretty much confirmed as kind of a crepp (as will happen if you marry your own stepdaughter and are NOT a character from a soap opera) the guy has a knack and, more importantly, a rep for writing good female roles that win Oscars.

I would say that Hawkins stands a very good chance at being nominated, if not outright winning.

Best Supporting Actor: Andrew Dice Clay

Oh man, do the Oscar voters ever love a comeback story. See: Jackie Earle Haley for Little Children, Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls, Thomas Hayden Church for Sideways and, of course, Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder. (That last one is also attributed to The Wrinkled Fuckers’ love of blackface.) For those of you who have never watched VH1 (which should really change its name to The History Channel: Pop Culture and then eventually start doing shows about whether or not aliens were responsible for Robert Smith) Andrew Dice Clay was one of the biggest stand ups in the world back in the 80s. Motherfucker sold out Madison Square Garden. And he did it with material such as the following.

(Please image this as read by Morgan Freeman)

Hickory Dickory Dock
This bitch was sucking my kawk
The clock struck two,
I dropped my Goo
And dumped the bitch down the block.

Yeah, Jerry Seinfeld he weren’t. Thankfully, the gods of fate saw fit to serve Mr. Dice Clay and his “He Man Woman Haters Club” brand of misogyny his cosmic comeuppance. The guy hasn’t been in the public eye really for the past 20 years. The world moved on, Murphy Brown and Ally McBeal and Liz Lemon all happened, and the world was better for it.

Alec Baldwin remembers him...he's just not sure from where.

Alec Baldwin remembers him…he’s just not sure from where.

It’s hard not to bring all of this to bear when watching Dice Clay’s performance as Augie, Ginger’s ex-husband and all-around big lug. Dice Clay comes off as a man’s man who has been chastened by the world. Augie and Ginger’s marriage was wrecked by their investing a lottery-winnings windfall in one of Hal’s illusory funds. He’s your classic coulda-been-a-contender who’s given up dreaming big and now just tries to get by. And you know what? Andrew Dice Clay is good. Augie’s exaggerated guido mannerisms all recall Dice Clay at his most horrifically ascendant, but here they are softened. He comes off not as a monster, but a relic. He’s the hardworking blue collar American guy who’s one big mistake was getting involved with those vampire squids of Wall Street. After disappearing during the film’s second half, Augie reappears for a single, critical scene, a puffy pompadoured Deus Ex Machina who appears out of nowhere to (unknowingly) rip up Jasmine’s happy little future like a pig rooting through the dirt for truffles. Honestly, it’s a moment of class warfare on the part of Allen, and executed perfectly by Dice Clay that is incredibly, viscerally satisfying.

Right now I think he’s…not a longshot, but not a lock either. Dice Clay doesn’t have the talent to pull off a comeback quite the same way that mickey Rourke did after The Wrestler, that’s apparent in the movie. But in these early Oscar days, his hat is firmly in the ring.

Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen

This is category that favors dialogue over plot structure. For instance, Gravity, which I will spill countless words over into the endless vacuum that is space the Internet has very (very) so-so dialogue but is actually very well structured. It probably won’t get nominated. Blue Jasmine on the other hand is not a tightly-plotted script but on a line to line level is, well, it’s Woody Allen movie. The man knows his way around words, and more specifically, the way that highly-neurotic people wrap words around themselves like a dolphin drowning in tuna nets. Whether or not you prize plot over dialogue, the Academy…hold up, I’m not going to refer to them as “The Academy” cuz that makes them seem like, oh, I don’t know, worthy of our respect, which is not so. They’re voting on “Best Movie” not “Best Cure For Cancer”. (Oddly enough, the winner in that category is actually “prayer,” but only if you’re a practicing Satanist.) I’m not going to call these people “The Academy.” I am instead going to refer to them solely as what they really are. I’m going to call them “The Wrinkled Fuckers.” Let’s start this sentence again…whether or not you prize dialogue over plotting. The Wrinkled Fuckers prefer a screenplay with lots of shiny words. Deal with it. And boy do they love Woody Allen, who polishes his words like a 12-year-old boy polishes his…bald statuette. Allen has already won Best Original Screenplay 3 previous times, for Midnight in ParisHannah and Her Sisters and Annie Hall. Dude’s got cred. He’s getting the nom (nom nom).

Best Director: Woody Allen

Allen’s strengths as a screenwriter (he makes movies where people talk at each other and that’s usually about it) are his weaknesses as a director, at least Oscar-wide. In this category, I don’t think that the Wrinkled Fuckers are smoking what Mr. Allen is growing.

Nah, son.

Best Picture: Blue Jasmine

It’s written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Cate Blanchett AND there can be up to 10 nominees? If the answer to this question were a 70’s prog rock band it would definitely be…

YES