Saturday, April 30, 2011


"I also do balloon animals and impressions."
"How long do you think?"
"As long as there's been something in the corner of your eye or creaking in your house or breathing or breathing under your bed or voices through a wall. They've been running your lives for a very long time now so keep this straight in your head--we are not fighting an alien invasion. We're leading a revolution." And today the battle begin."

1) Just as Canton is a mega-cool good guy, he's a mega-cool bad-guy....which makes the switch in the pre-credit sequence work so. Amazingly. Well. It's prolly why we needed an actor like Mark Shepherd to play him.

2) I don't think I've ever seen a bearded Doctor before...and I have to admit, I kinda like it. Sort of emphasizes his man-out-of-timedness and explorer sensibilities.

3) Okay...I'm seriously crushing on Amy getting her Scully on....

4) It wasn't the window dressing of that orphanage that creeped me was the performance of Kerry Shale, who really conveys the sense of lost time...lots of lost time.

5) All these little fiddly bits--the nano-recorders, the marks (which I have to think are a subtle call-back/homage to "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit") all contribute to building the suspense for the sequences involving The Silent.  Hell, every little fiddly bit has a purpose, whether plotwise or, as in the case of Rory's mini-arc in this episode, character-wise.

6) Moffat may very well be the one of only two producers--the other one was Philip Hinchcliffe--who understands that Who works best when it has one foot in the realm of horror and exploits that realization to its fullest. After four years of Davies' goulash of smuttiness, low comedy and Buffy worship, it's a relief.

Rory's gone all Republican...and he ain't taking your shit
7) I will say this again--and I believe it even more after his 'I'm always coming for her' speech...Arthur Darvill is this show's secret weapon.

8) Okay, now I understand why they cast Stuart Milligan as Richard Nixon...he actually managed to capture that weird anti-charisma charisma that president had, and puts it too good use in his scenes.

9) I like how we're seeing The Doctor's romantic feelings for River slowly growing...the actual flirting we're seeing comes off as genuine, and it works to remind us that Moffat has a much, much larger tapestry he's weaving here.

And it's not the only thing that drives home how massive the story is Moffat ultimately wants to tell.

"Wait a minute....Mulder?"
(Shut up....even here, she's cute!)
10) there's something very pulpy in the way The Doctor resolves the Silent mystery....Hell, it's the sort of solution I can easily see Doc Savage pulling off.

In short...this more than makes up for the somewhat shaky start of this story...and the plot threads that are being laid down are very tasty. Granted, not as tasty as prospect of Pirate Amy next week, but....

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ten Statements About....THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (2009)

"Woke up one morning/And got myself a gun..."
"Thank You For Being My Friend."

1) While I understand the impulse of taking the gimmick of the first hour of the previous film and create an entire film where our heroes never meet until the end, it doesn't quite work. The chemisty between Rapace and Nyqvist was strong enough for us to bull through ...Dragon Tattoo's slower bits, and that chemistry is gone here. Besides, it simply makes little sense for Lisbeth not to reach out to Mikael sooner. Yes, she finds it difficult to make lasting friendships, but we see she's capable of doing so both in the previous film and here....

2) Even though I swore they mentioned her previous guardian as dying, I liked the inclusion of Holger Palmgren in this film. Not only does his inclusion allows for the splitting of The Great Gobs of Exposition in this movie, it allows us to see a different side of Lisbeth--you definitely get the impression that she has a great deal of affection and love for this old man, and may even look upon him as a father figure. That being said...

3) There's way too many new POV characters. We spend so much time with Miriam and Paolo and Bublanski and Dag and so on that the two people who are supposed to be the heros of this film series are diminished. But at least Mikael gets to do some digging; for a very long stretch all Lisbeth gets to do is sit and either look intensely at a laptop or stare at a television screen.

Why am I not surprised that Lisbeth Salander
is a Yankees fan?
4) There were moments early on where I thought Bublanski was going to be an interesting character, someone who would be Lt. Jacoby to Mikael and Lisbeth's composite Peter Gunn. But then he fades into the background and doesn't give up any of the life we thought he'd contribute to this film.

5) The film noir feel of ....Dragon Tattoo seems to have been replaced by a sort of international thriller vibe...and it doesn't work as well.

6) Is it just me...or is the whole sex trafficking angle dropped whole towards the end of the second act?

7) I do like the fact that we get a little more sense of Millenium as a working magazine, and the small scenes of Mikael acting as a sort of mentor to Dag works to give him a better sense of a life prior to these movies.

"I must break you...."

8) I honestly have no idea how Lisbeth escapes the trap the villain puts her in...oh, I know how she drags herself out of where he puts her in, but I have no idea how she survives being shot multiple times. So much of that last ten minutes is very hazy for me. And speaking of the villains....

9) They seemed, quite frankly, to have wandered in off the set of a spy movie--which is partially why the film noir feel is gone. And by giving the henchman what amounts to a super-power--and no real personality beyond said super-power--leeches away some of the verisimilitude of the first film.

10) That damned sequence from ....Dragon Tattoo. Do I understand why we needed to revisit it, so that we can tie up one of the loose ends and simultaneously use it as an entry into the new adventure? Sure. Did we really need to relive it a number of times, including flashbacks to the previous films? I don't think so.

Overall...I'll be the first to admit that it would've been difficult to live up to the standards of the first film in this trilogy, but I was shocked at how dissatisfying this one was--especially given how much information designed to flesh out the mythology of this series is given out. Hopefully, the final film will rise above this falter.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ten Statements About....THE WILD RIDE (1960)

"That's right...I'm manly."
"You used to be Top Stud. You never went shallow."

1) It's incredibly hard to take Jack Nicholson--who, quite frankly, looks like some sort of turtle monster who's too old to be in this kind of film--as a juvenile delinquent madman when he's dressed in an oversized sweat shirt. It's even harder to take him, period, when he's stripped to the waist in all his hairless glory.

2) Good f'ing lord, is the 'hip' dialogue in this movie inpenetrable. What does all this talk about 'going shallow' mean?

3) You know, when you're trying to do your own low-rent version of a movie, you shouldn't reference that same movie...because then you'll realize how awful your version is. I'm sorry, but Marlon Brando would beat the stuffings out of this iteration of Nicholson...

"I'll show you..I'll grow up, earn an Oscar, and fuck a whole
lotta chicks younger than me...and Angelica Huston."
4) The big conflict between Nicholson's Johnny Barron and Robert Bean's Dave revolves around Georgianna Carter's Nancy. Johnny insists that Nancy is a 'chick' that'll never fit with the gang...but after watching Carter's too wide eyes and joker-like grin, I have to wonder if she'd fit anywhere.

5) There's no real focus in this Johnny a bad guy because he fatally injures a cop in a game of chicken? Because he cheats at the race track he's driving at? Because he won't pay for all the liquor he purchases for the rather limp 'beach party' we see about twenty minutes in? There's so much that this script wants to include that you feel there's no direct message it can offer....

6) The cops in this film are awfully lackadasical...they supposedly have a big file of evidence on Johnny, and yet don't arrest him until the end--even after the cop in the opening sequence dies off panel.

7) Given how these days gang members tend to kill each other over the slightest insult, these gang members that just throw charges of 'chicken' at each other and fistfight in the surf seem....quaint.

8) Man, that's the goofiest looking malt shop ever....

Ladies and Gentlemen, Stalker-in-training Georgianna Carter...
9) So this married woman Johnny was involved with gets introduced with nary a mention of her relation to the story until near the end; up until that moment, we just think she's some maiden aunt Johnny borrows ten dollars from at roughly the thirty-five minute mark.

10) There's this whole beatnik-manque soundtrack that just Won't. Shut. Up. Of the fifty eight minutes of this film's running time, about fifty or so is just bongo riff after bongo riff....and when Johnny demands all his gang members turn their transistor radio to a certain station, it's overpowering in its crapitude...

Overall...a really silly, sad teenagers-in-revolt film that is redeemed only by the novelty of seeing an Oscar-winning actor playing a prototypical Fonzie wannabe.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ten Statements About....A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964)

This man was something like the tenth choice to play this
character....and now the two are inextricably linked.
Get three coffins ready."

1) Sergio Leone loves faces...which is probably why he needed Clint Eastwood to make this and the other two pictures that make up 'The Man With No Name Trilogy' (try not to remember that every character Eastwood plays in these films has a name). The way Eastwood's thoughts can be seen in his eyes, mouth and expressions is priceless.

2) I find it interesting that we're never, ever given any indication of Eastwood's Joe's motivations. The only thing we can safely say Joe is doing for purely altruistic reasons is when he aids Marisol (Marriane Koch) in reuniting her with her husband and son and escaping. And even there there's some doubt that his stated reasons are true.

This is the closest thing we have to a romantic lead...and
she's outta her by the end of the second act.

3) Speaking of Marisol...Leone's West is not exactly female-friendly. The only women in this film are Marisol, who is a cypher utilized only as a plot device to deepen the war between the Rojos and The Baxters, and Mrs. Baxter, who is a scheming Lady MacBeth-ish villain with no real second dimension.

4) I know everyone talks about the Morricone score being a vital part of this film--but it's not just the score.  The entire audio track is pretty much a character. Even when there's no dialogue, the noises in the background serve to keep the film vivid and alive.

5) I can imagine easily how this film, and the two following it, made Eastwood something of a counterculture hero...after all, who does he choose to hang out with? A gravedigger, a fat saloon keeper and a crazy bellringer....this is not a man who likes to pal around with authority.

"You know, Stuart...I like you.  You're not like all the other
people in the trailer park."
6) As physically capable as Joe is, I like how he ultimately gets his triumph through intelligence and keeping an ear open. The way the final confrontation plays out is solely because Eastwood's character chooses his word wisely.

7) I love how the color palette in this film is very different from the palette of American westerns of the time. Leone desaturates everything and emphasizes monochrome compositions--everything is earth tones, to the point where, when some military men show up toward the end of act one, their dark blue uniforms are a shock....

8) I think--contrary to what Charles Bronson thought when he turned down the role of Joe--the script is really clever. When it's mentioned how the Rojos control the liquor trade in the first act, you know that'll come into play later. How it comes into play may seem a surprise.

9) I was struck at the dark humor that infuses the film, a dark humor that seems lost on most people.

10) If we're to believe the stories, the look of Eastwood in this film was a hodge-podge of found items from both America and Italy. It's a case of happy accidents coming together to create lightning in a bottle. least favorite of the Dollars Trilogy (the next one takes the gold in my eyes), but just because it's the least of three doesn't mean it isn't a powerful cinematic punch in the gut.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ten Statements About....BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE (1959)

"Raaaah...I'm a Monsta!  No, really..."
1) You know what would make this somewhat dull, extremely dopey heist flick even more exciting? Some crazy insect-thingie in an abandoned mine in South Dakota webbing up the cast members and....well, ummm, apparently licking them with its overlong tongue,

2) Remember when every heist film had to have some lame comedy relief character among its number, like maybe the guy in the improbably loud alpine hat who keeps adjusting its brim in this film?

Yeah, I hated those characters, too....

3) Richard Sinatra? Frank Stallone and Joe Estevez are already waiting for you.

4) Monte Hellman directed this. Yes, Two Lane Blacktop Monte Hellman.

I'm as surprised as you are.

5) The South Dakota setting does add a little novelty to the story, even if the story is so dull and badly paced that it's positively sophorific.

6) Frank Wolff has either the strangest dye-job ever or is wearing a strange wig. It's rather surprising that Wolff actively carved out a really formidable career in Spaghetti westerns ten years later given his scenery-chewing performance.

In 1959...this could be considered racy
7) It's obvious Shiela Noonan (billed as Shiela Carol) was chosen not for any talent, but for her looks (she resembles Carol Lynley, oddly enough); this is one of only three credits she has on imdb. The sad thing is she has what is arguably the most complex character, yet is thoroughly incapable of carrying off said complexity.

8) Given what happens and the extent to which the criminals go to, stealing a few gold bars seems like a particularly petty heist.

9) What is the purpose of hero Gil Jackson's sister outside of that one scene where Richard Sinatra macks on her at the beginning.

This is not how I pictured Monte Hellman making
his first appearance on this blog.

10) That, that monster is goofy looking.

Overall...a very below average mish-mosh of stuff which is notable mostly for who directed it.

This was one of the five films in a public domain collection of Roger Corman Drive-In Classic. I must say that I loved the title menu, which featured an actual Drive-In movie theater featurette playing on a mock-drive-in screen.

BETTER IN THE DARK Gets All Disassociative!

After a brief hiatus, the Guys Outta Brooklyn are back to review eight new films, discuss the passing of Liz Taylor and Sidney Lumet, grumble about Kevin Smith's latest career plans, and otherwise raise havoc!

It's Time To Click Ha-Ha, Not Click Weird!

Ten Statements About....THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009)

Make no mistake about it...this girl will fuck you up.
1) The brilliance of this film is how it is at its core a true hardboiled detective mystery with its central detective split into two. Even more brilliant is how what we assume would be the qualities for a male and female detective team are switched--it's the male who works on intuition and is the partner in jeopardy, while the female does the number crunching and clue digging, and is the muscle...

2) And in keeping with its status as a hardboiled mystery, the mystery Mikael and Lisbeth uncover is not the mystery they--well, Mikael--were hired to solve. That mystery is solved off-panel, in a way that is almost off-handed but manages to give us what most hardboiled mysteries lack--a genuinely happy ending.

3) You know, I've made some noise in previous Ten Statements about the unlikelihood of the romantic relationships in some films where there's a notable age difference. it actually works, thanks in part to the performance and chemistry between Michael Nyqvist's Mikael and Noomi Rapace's Lisbeth. And while I'm not sure if this is the strength of the script or the source material, it works precisely because it's so problematic to the two leads; when Lisbeth admits to her mother toward the end 'Yes, there is someone...but you never fall in love," you know she's lying a little bit, and you know she's actually happy with it because their feelings emerged organically.

4) I really have to wonder if the American remake will have the courage to keep the two leads separate for over an hour of their film's running time. If they choose not to, it'll be a shame--one of the reasons I was engaged during that hour was trying to figure out how their two stories would intersect. And speaking of that American remake...

5) It continued to strike me throughout how easy it will be to adapt this for American audiences. The only thing that doesn't translate well is the whole probationary subplot that takes up part of the first act. Hell, even the setting has an uncannily accurate analog here in the islands off of Seattle. Although I'll admit I kept seeing Liam Neeson and Faruzia Balik in the place of Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.
See this plotline?  It will never be mentioned again...

6) I know Rapace already has Sherlock Holmes: Book of Shadows in the can...but please, Lord, prevent her from going down the Casey Mulligan Road. This woman is too, too good an actress, with an intensity that seems to suck the light away from the air around her, to be reduced to just another cookie-cutter ingenue.
7) I know people are going to ask about my thought concerning the probationary subplot....I recognize that it's essential to establishing Lisbeth's moral code and gives us a clue as to the trauma in her background....but it's extremely uncomfortable to watch, and I can't imagine it making it to the American version.

8) I am so grateful that the American release of this film went with the title of the novel, as the Swedish title would have tipped off the viewer to a major plot point....

This man is going to regret doing this to Lisbeth in about
fifteen minutes time....
9) Oddly enough--given how so many critics talk about the violence being extreme, the only real violence we see is from the above mentioned probationary subplot. We see a lot of aftermath (one sequence, where Mikael and Lisbeth are brought to the scene of a long-ago crime, and as the camera moves with them we see the actual body as it was found back in the 50's is both beautiful and chilling), but the rest is done very subtlely...another thing I worry might be out the window come the American version.

10) If there is a flaw, it's in the sketchiness of Mikael's background. There's an implied relationship with a co-worker, some other stuff about his career...but nothing else. His history is so weak that when he mentions he's divorced at one point, I was actually shocked.

Overall...a very powerful film that serves as a legitimate noir mystery, centered around a credible team of investigators and a truly viscous performance by Rapace.

This DVD also contained a number of trailers, including one for the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire. The one that truly surprised me, and makes me curious to see it, is OSS-117: Lost In Rio, apparently a spy spoof set in 1960's Cuba featuring a clueless secret agent that looks like stupid fun.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


"Time isn't a straight line. It's all bumpy-wumpy. There's loads of boring stuff like Mondays and Tuesdays and" Thursday Afternoons. But now and then there are Saturdays, big temporal tipping points where anything's possible."

1) Matt Smith dancing with Laurel and Hardy? Win. Naked Matt Smith hiding under a woman's skirts...not so much...

2) There's something really, really wicked cool about the whole 'Getting The Band Back Together' feel of the pre-title teaser....and there's something even cooler about how the music sort of builds when everyone gets their invites...

3) YES! Arthur Darvill gets his just rewards by being top billed along with Matt and Karen...

The Doctor and Company welcome aboard that guy
from THE MATRIX, as played by Michael Ironside
4) ...and as proof that Arthur deserves above-the-title credit, look at how masterfully he handles the big shock at the ten minute mark...His Rory is obviously breaking up inside, but he is able to pull it all together in a snap and makes sure what The Doctor wanted done gets done. This is a fine actor, and may be the show's secret weapon this season.

5) Once again, we are asked to share Steven Moffat's love of twisting and contorting time lines...and once again, it's very clear that all this fooling around has a purpose, that he has a story to tell with a very clear end point somewhere down the line.

6) This version of The Matt Smith Doctor is a lot less bombastic...but it's clear that the anger that drove him throughout Season Five is still there, just transformed into something subtler--and scarier. And speaking of subtle...


7) Is it just me, or has Karen Gillen stepped up her game? The character is still recognizably Amy, but also recognizably more's obvious that Gillen is using the knowledge of her character's new status to give us a more nuanced, sober version of Amy.

8) The Silent...creepy little mouthed energy sucking things that you can only remember when you look at it straight on? In suits, no less? I'm sold.

Shut up...she's cute...
9) I like the younger Canton. It's like they decided that the perfect partner for this iteration of The Doctor was Michael Ironside--and much props for letting us in on something about Canton with the kind of subtlety Russell T. Davies wishes he could have pulled off. On the other hand, every time I looked at this episode's Nixon, I thought 'when did we elect John Cusack president?'

10) This may very well be my favorite River Song appearance to date...she's a lot more nuanced, and the true bond that seems to have grown between her an Amy (prolly growing out of a similar bonding between Alex Kingston and Karen Gillen) is natural and warm. And on top of that, we get the scene between her and Rory which suddenly throws a lot of her behavior into a sharp, cold light...and it's at turns both sad and terrifying.

11) Is that the same control module as we saw in "The Lodger" last season?

In short...this isn't as great a season opener as last year's in terms of spectacle--but it's a better in terms of character. The strengths of last season look to not have been abandoned, and The Silent may prove to be another in a long line of great Moffat monsters.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Parting Glance: Elisabeth Sladen (1948-2011)

I find it at turns amusing and sad of my top five shows of all time, I started watching three of them--either partially or wholely--because I crushed on the female lead.

I know that most American Dr. Who fans found their manhood when they beheld Louise Jameson in her animal skins, but I never gave up on plucky, sassy --and yes, smoking hot brunette Sarah Jane Smith, as played by Elisabeth Sladen. Now granted, Sladen and her character benefited from being a part of the Phillip Hinchcliffe era, without a doubt the gold standard of classic Who, but she infused Sarah Jane with energy and wit. Even when she was somehow inhibited from fully functioning, Sarah Jane was always smart enough to help foil the bad guy; one of my favorite moments of Sarah Jane-ness comes in the otherwise unmemorable Masque of Mandragora, where an under-the-influence Sarah tipped the Doctor to what was going on by musing how she could instantly understand Italian....

One of the things that bothers me as a Classic Who fan is how all the New-Who fans write off all the pre-Rose companions as just Girl School Screamers. Sarah Jane couldn't be further from that cliche'. One of the few things I am grateful to Russell T. Davies for is that he used Sladen, and Sarah Jane, as a solid link between the two distinct version of the series...Hell, he gave Sladen another lasting moment in the sun thanks to The Sarah Jane Adventures, allowing her to remind all the people who worship at Billie Piper's alter that she was the One True Companion. And I have to admit I was surprised at how well she coped with the cancer that eventually took her--to the point where I don't think anyone knew how sick she was in pop culture.

I could go on about her other credits--a long string of theatrical roles, a handful of television appearances, some movie credits--but the fact is to me she'll always be Sarah Jane, and her work both in that character and as an ambassador for the show I loved so much is what remains in my mind.

I'm going to miss her.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ten Statements About....THE GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1969)

"....And that boy grew up to be ZAPATA!"
Note: Since DYE!DYE! is specifically geared towards movies, I'm going to attempt to do 10 Statements for all the movies I've seen, including those I watch on DVD.

1) It occurred to me as I watched this that The Magnificent Seven films are pretty much super-hero films. Each member of the team has a specialty that is sometimes portrayed as a super-power, each one has a specific uniform, etc. Even the number of heroes becomes the generally agreed upon ideal number of members for super-teams. That being said...

2) This is one of those American Westerns that tried to reflect both the changing political and cultural mores and the popularity of Spaghetti Western...and all the stuff which seems to address racial inequality and post-traumatic stress disorder seems weird in the context of this as a gigantic comic-book-y adventure.

3) This 'changing with the time' attitude results in a strange, downbeat ending of the climatic gunfight....which is then made even stranger when George Kennedy is given the typical 'thank you,'re tops' coda.
4) I to believe that little Emil, played by Tony Adams, grows up to be legendary political icon Zapata? 'Cause I ain't buying it much....

"...and for my next trick, I'm gon' blow up like a balloon
and start showing up in any ol' movie that'll pay me."
5) Man, does Joe Don Baker, playing the stressed out, one armed Civil War vet, look weird without all that body fat.

6) George Kennedy seems an odd choice to replace Yul Brynner as Chris (he was apparently cast off his Academy Award win for Cool Hand Luke). But I think a lot of people forget how tough Kennedy could come off as before he started taking any old goofy assignment for cash. Plus his gentler, comedic talents works in the scenes where Chris uses guile and intelligence to get what he needs.

7) Boy, does James Whitmore look like he's having a ton of fun.

8) It's really funny how, even though the script struggles with relevance, it still embraces racial stereotyping when it comes to the noble Mexican rebels. Every time Reni Santoni's Max opens his mouth with another Mexican saying like 'A cat wearing mittens never catches the rat,' it set my teeth on edge.

"...and for my next trick, I'm also gon' blow up like a balloon
and start showing up in any ol' movie that'll pay me."
9) Boy, does the whole subplot involving Scott Thomas' consumptive gun-fighter and the hot peasant chica seem tacked on and arbitrary. It's almost like the script felt the character had to have some sort of story arc to justify his tragic end at the climax.

10) Given that this is a movie about seven men aiding Mexican rebels, the actual Mexicans are given only the sketchiest of dimensions. Outside of Max's Charlie-Channing it with all these aphorisms, no one is really gone into in depth--Hell, even the villain, Michael Ansara's Colonel Diego, isn't given much character.

In short...there's stuff here to enjoy if you like Westerns, especially in Kennedy's nuanced performance, but it certainly serves as a textbook example of how the original concept of the American western was doomed when Leone and his ilk started hitting our shores with their ambigious morality plays painted in shades of grey....

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ten Statements About....SCREAM 4 (2011)

This should've been the movie called You, Again?
1) That four years Wes Craven took off where he taught school and railed against people cutting him out of the Freddie Kruger remake really did him well--this film (supposedly done so that the Weinstein Brothers wouldn't authorize a remake) can be seen as him giving Platinum Dunes a hearty 'Fuck y'all' for almost two hours, in a very entertaining fashion.

2) The casting director really hit the jackpot in casting Emma Roberts as Sidney's cousin...she looks exactly like Sidney if she was updated for a Caucasian Wankey Network approved remake, and is similar enough in looks to Neve Campbell that you believe they're family.

3) There is a great deal of energy and brightness in Williamson's script that's been sorely lacking in most proto-slashers of the last few years. There's never the sense that the film is on rails, and Williamson cleverly continues to introduce red herring after red herring that occupy our time as the true killer's plan reaches fruition.

"Noooooo, Hayden!  Don't kiss Sam Kinison!"
4) And speaking of energy and know, when Hayden Panettiere is allowed to joke and smile and have fun, she's a joy to watch--and when she does stop smiling and having fun, it gives that moment a hell of a lot more impact than four years of her as The Mopey Indestrucible Cheerleader.

5) As with the first two Scream films, the cast is chock full of some surprising good turns by some people you didn't expect to see in a slasher film. And the biggest surprise is how David Arquette seems to have discovered that being an actor doesn't involve mugging and silly voices. Of course, it's a pity that he's the one member of the original trio that doesn't seem to have a character arc....

6) Somehow, I don't think Rory Culkin (who looks like the unholy issue of his brother Macauley and Sam Kinison) and Erik Knudson will get the brief career boost that Jamie Kennedy got all those years ago. Knudson's part, in particular, is so wispy and relies so much on a single trope (he aims to upload his entire high school experience on the internet) that when he hits a punchline gag in the third act, it seems to come out of nowhere--even though it was set up about an hour prior.

Half the cast look into the trunk and find
what's left of Jamie Kennedy's career.

7) Craven spends the entire film trying to make Marley Shelton not look hot. He fails. On the other hand, middle age really seems to agree with Neve Campbell.

8) The ultimate identity of this film's Ghostface, and the explanation for why the murders happen. results in one of the more monstrous villains in Craven's ouevure--all the more so because those motivations sound not only reasonable, but sadly very possible.

9) This film does tackle the 'found footage' genre head-on--although it does so in a way that doesn't embarrassingly ape it like, let's say, Halloween: Resurrection. Similarly, Williamson and Craven take a few moments to give their views on torture porn and other developments in the horror genre since Scream 3....hell, a major plot development turns on the realization halfway through that this Ghostface is enacting not a sequel, but a reboot....

Ahhh, you know you were waiting for the gratuitous
Kristen Bell photo....

10) And since everyone is curious--yes, Kristen Bell is part of the opening set piece...but how she's a part of it (and the beginning of the third act) is the real surprise.

In short...I was extremely surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. Yes, it's Craven taking the modern horror film industry to task for not being creative, but he presents his point with a great deal of cleverness, fun and wit.

This time I took another trip to the Lowes Kips Bay. It's becoming almost depressing how badly the Atlas has degraded when I go to this theater, which is staffed by sunny people, the place looks well kept and everything runs smoothly. I finally got to see my theatrical trailer for Doctor Who Season Six, and while the actual trailers were so-so to annoying, I got my interest piqued by the one for Dylan Dog; given how the last time someone adapted the work of this particular comic book artist we got Cemetery Man, I'm planning on going.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ten Statements About....YOU, AGAIN? (2010)

Yeah, I'd be crying if I was caught in Romcom Hell, too, Kristen...
1) Poor Kristin. Poor, poor Kristin. Although it's obvious she knows she needs out of this romcom spiral she's in judging from her campaigning to get a Veronica Mars movie going (and for the record, I did not pay for this--I used my free admittance slip from Machete).

2) This is one of those films that follows 'The Script' so closely that it doesn't bother to, you know, give any of these characters any character. Bell's Marti and Odette Yustman's Joanna seem to have jumped immediately from high school to the weekend this film takes in, and that's more than any of the other characters get.

3) This is also one of these films that is built on a co-incidence so back-breaking its not funny--okay, I could have accepted that Yustman and James Wolk's Will never met in high school...if he wasn't the star basketball player while she was the head cheerleader. There's no way they couldn't have met!

Betty White gloats over the face she has the best career
of all the people in this picture....
4) Two thing that just Aren't Funny Any More are Kids With Smart Mouths and Grannies With The Hots For Anything That Moves...and we get both! Thanks, Movie Gods!!!

5) I have never, ever seen a film so clearly demarcate its acts in a long the point where you can see the exact moment when everyone has to stop acting like petulant madwomen and start bonding. And the way the script hewes so tightly to that three act structure produces a film where everyone, but everyone acts like a monster that until it's time for the message section of the film.

Dear Hollywood...this is how you cast people to be family members
6) It's really, really weird that Yustman and Sigourney Weaver's Ramona look more like mother and daughter than Bell and Jamie Lee Curtis' Gail...and Yustman and Weaver are supposed to be aunt and niece. The sad fact is that Bell's movie family looks exactly like a mismatched bunch of actors thrown together for name value.

7) It's also weird--although prolly their skills as actresses rather than the strength of the script or the characters provided them--that the film's message about how it's the sum of all your experiences that make you who you are, even the bad ones is driven home much, much better by Weaver and Curtis than by Bell and Yustman.

8) Oddly enough...the few moments of grace come from the smaller roles, especially the slightly-larger-than-a-cameo appearance of Dwayne Johnson as a federal marshall who gives Bell some good advice, and especially Kristen Chenoweth playing the too-fabulous wedding planner. On the other hand, Kyle Bornheimer's Tim is truly irritating, and the cameos by Patrick Duffy and Cloris Leachman are lazy and rely solely on the audience recognizing them as the actors and not the characters.

9) ...and speaking of lazy...this is one of those pictures where, when you see Kristin accidentally spills her lunch on Sean Wing's Charlie, you know that he is The Designated Love Interest--even when he has less than twenty minutes of screen time, and doesn't have a single scene of more than five lines with her.

A reminder...THIS is the only reason I saw this film...this,
and the fact that my free movie pass was expiring that weekend...
10) Boy, does John Oats look even goofier without the mustache.

In short--one of those bad, bad movies that walks The RomCom Script like a prom date trying to prove he's not drunk to a highway patrolman...and thus doesn't realize they've created unlikable, unsympathetic characters behaving like lunatics. But at least Kristin Bell looked cute in her Nike Dri-Fit top and sweatpants in Act Two (Not so much the sweats in Act Three that keep slouching around her hips)

Incidentally, the trailers were similarly terrible--the worst of which was Gnomeo and Juliet, a version of the Shakespeare classic played out by garden gnomes that was so hideously ill-conceived my mouth hung open, and yet another showing of that abominable looking Life As We Know It trailer that just reinforces how unappealing the two 'appealing' leads are, and does the trailer script of handing us a two to five minute summary of the film from beginning to end. I should prolly also mention Burlesque, a backstage melodrama that's being sold as a vehicle for Christina Aguilara and features Bell as her frenemy...but the sight of Cher's overtly-plasticed body still scares me.

Ten Statements About....UNKNOWN (2010)

Liam Neeson and Aiden Quinn fight over whose robot
January Jones is....
1) There are wax statues more expressive than January Jones. Every time she is on screen, she sucks the life force out of the film. And on top of that....

2) ...the obvious discrepancy in ages between the fifty-something Neeson and female leads Jones (32) and Diane Kruger (34) gives the film a very strange vibe. Granted, I suspect the discrepancy between Neeson and Jones may have been intended by writers Oliver Butcher and Steve Cornwell as a clue to what is going on, but it's never addressed at all.

3) I know Kruger was born in Germany and is fluent in the language, but I have no idea what her rationale was behind that 'moose and squirrel' Bosnian accent she attempts.

Oh, if only this guy was the protagonist of the film...
4) To my surprise, the best performance hands down is from Bruno Ganz, playing the former secret agent turned detective Neeson turns to...and his single scene with Frank Langella is the highlight of the film.

5) It's obvious to me that this film was meant to capitalize on Neeson's success in the Luc Besson-produced Taken (Hell, look at that movie poster!), and the look and pacing of the film is very reminiscent of that earlier film. What this film lacks that Taken had was a definite sense that these characters had a life and personality outside what the film requires. Now granted, the twist indicates that some of these characters don't have a life outside the film--but we should never have felt that so soon in the movie's running time.

6) And about that twist--it is a good one, a little bit of information that just changes the playing field and makes some of the weird super-heroish behavior Neeson exhibits in the first two acts. But it also colors Neeson's character in such a way that you can't accept his stated intention in the third act, especially after the savage knife fight he has with Adian Quinn.

7) There's a second twist in this plot, one involving the ultimate MacGuffin--but it's one that is so sketchily presented out of nowhere that it doesn't feel right...especially since the revelation of the second twist ties into the reason for the first twist.

8) I was really taken with Rainer Bock's performance as security chief Herr Strauss. He manages to successfully be an impediment to Neeson without once appearing to be a caricature. It's small roles like this one, and that of Clint Dyer (playing a co-worker of Kruger) and Karl Markovics (playing the doctor who treats Neeson) and Eva Lobrau (as the nurse who directs Neeson to Gant), that creates a veracity of place in the film...and that is sadly squandered.

"How does it feel/to treat me like you do..."
9) I never, ever want to see Liam Neeson in a nightclub where the DJ is blasting New Order's 'Blue Monday' again. That's just so...wrong.

10) Quinn tries the best he can with what is ultimately an incredibly thankless role as Neeson's doppelganger--although the scene of the two of them recounting facts of their colleague's life to prove that they're both the genuine article is terrific.

In short--there are some good elements here...but the film ultimately doesn't succeed due to the lackluster script, some questionable casting and a slavish desire to imitate Taken to the point where....well, we want to see Taken again.

I saw this at the Regal Atlas and...well, things are falling apart there. I suppose I should be grateful that the always dreadful movie spam Firstlook was lacking any video for the first fifteen minutes...but the lackadasial way the staff corrected the problem worries me. The trailers were a seemingly random mix including reprises of the Green Lantern and Battle: LA (which is so distinctive, with its atonal score and lack of narrative, that makes me wonder if I should watch it after all), and a horrifically bad trailer for a romcom called Something Borrowed that manages to make every single person in the film appear repulsive...but then, it stars Kate Hudson, who seems to have made her career out of appearing in romcoms that make her appear repulsive.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ten Statements About....TRON LEGACY (2010)

Even in the computer world of The Grid, road rage is an issue
1) I know I am usually very down on CGI as a whole--but this is a film where the use of it was not only acceptable, but necessary. Although....

2) The biggest special effect is undoubtably making the de-aged face of Jeff Bridges look absolutely realistic when he plays CLU.

3) I really like how the script by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz incorporates the marketing for the original Tron seamlessly--and even I felt a thrill when I saw Garrett Hedlund's Sam walk into Flynn's Arcade to see, among other things, the old school Tron stand-up console game.

4) Hedlund may not be the greatest actor--but I like how his mannerisms and the tone of his voice echoed Bridges so that, while they may not look all that alike, you certainly feel they are connected by blood.
Thirteen's prediliction for vinyl reveals itself...

5) Why is it that I really don't care for Olivia Wilde in House, but when she shows up in some other outfit, like in that Funny or Die G.I. Joe video dressed as the Baroness and here, I find her thoroughly smoking hot?

6) Michael Sheen--he's the guy with the cane prancing around in the trailers--must really, really like David Bowie. Just saying.

7) The Daft Punk soundtrack works here, primarily because it feels so alien when we enter the world of The Grid.

"Is there life on Maaaaaars?"
8) I really liked how the bulk of the real world scenes were in 2D, to give way to the 3D world of The Grid once Sam is integrated. I just wish they'd committed fully to that idea and not thrown us a couple of sequences in the real world designed solely so we can be wowed by the 3D process.

9) It's interesting how, even though there's an updating to the look and feel of The Grid, the CGI doesn't stray too far from the originals--to the point where, when we see an original lightcycle in Jeff Bridges' dwelling, it doesn't look as much of a relic as it might have.

10) Didn't somebody point out how much Bridges looks like Obi-Wan Kenobi when he's rocking that robe with the light interior?

In short...I don't know how much people who didn't see the original all those years ago will make of this sequel--but for me, who loved the original, this is a very worthy follow-up, and very worth the wait. Hell, the wait might have been needed, given how it takes full advantage of modern CGI.

I was back at the Atlas--I was too busy to make the trip into the city for the lesser priced AMC show. I was a bit annoyed that they've now added a Firstlook 3D to tack on after the original Firstlook for films like this. Trailers included Green Lantern, which still looks pretty blah on the big screen, Green Hornet yet again, and Mars Needs Moms, which featured more of that super-creepy motion capture stuff Robert Zemeckis pioneered that makes me feel very, very cold.

Ten Statements About....BLACK SWAN (2010)

Yes..I'm using this picture to get you to read this review...
1) Gee....give it to Darren Aronofsky to take something beautiful, elegant and eloquent and turn it into something dark, twisted and disturbing.

2) My best friend Derrick Ferguson has been quite outspoken about how cold and robotic he finds Natalie Portman. But here, Portman's admittedly chilly looks and presence works for fact, I'd posit that the film needs someone with that lack of surface work for it to work at all.

3) Even though there are some digital effects utilized to reflect the changes that are being wrought by Portman's Nina, the best effect in the whole movie is her ragged breathing, which acts as a sort of Greek Chorus the deeper the character spirals into a darker place.

4) Aronofsky effectively demonstrates the punishment a ballerina puts herself through in the early part...which gives the later moments of body-horror-esque transformation an air of naturalness.

5) The thing that makes casting Mila Kunis as Lily so genius is that at certain angles she does look very, very similar to Portman, but a much warmer version of her...and it makes the moment where Aronofsky seems to want us to question whether Lily is real or an aspect of Portman's splintery personality truly effective. The same goes for the casting of Barbara Hershey as Nina's mom.

"...wouldn't you like to find out how someone as gross as I
got to bag Monica Belluci?"
6) Boy, does Victor Cassel look like a thorough freak, no matter how many times Kunis purrs about Portman being 'hot for teacher'...but then, he goes home every night to fuck Monica Bellucci, so he's got something going for him.

7) There's something truly disturbing about watching Winona Ryder, whose Beth can be seen as a reflection of her own crazy behavior in the past, screeching at Portman--and later stabbing herself in the cheek repeatedly with a letter opener.

8) I have to wonder if Aronofsky had seen Roman Polanski's Repulsion and The Tenant before writing this script, as there are some faint echoes in the story, and in Portman's performance.

9) The film seems to be shot on a grainier film stock. Hell; I swore some scenes were shot in 16mm. It gives the movie a sombre, groggy feel that emphasizes the weirdness when things go out of control.

I didn't know Gene Simmons was playing the, wait...
10) It does help greatly that both Portman and Kunis have a dance background, and that they're friends in real life. It makes their interaction, both antagonistic and otherwise, ring true, and the fact that they did many of their own dance scenes add to creating a world that feels right.

In short...this was a really freaky film, one that actually kept me speculating until the end about the nature of the people interacting with Portman. A recommended film for someone interested in psychological horror that doesn't descend into knifeplay.

I saw this at the AMC Kips Bay as a break from finalizing my Christmas shopping--including gift cards for my mom and a pair of navy New Balances for myself. The trailers were mainly of the higher-end stuff, and featured some more creative handling of things. I admit to being somewhat intrigued by Water for Elephants, if only because I can't imagine Robert Pattison and Christoph Waltz existing in the same universe, let alone in the same circus, and The Tree of Life because it's the latest Terrance Malick. Oh, and they led off with another Sucker Punch trailer, which continues to get my blood pumping with its bizarre otaku wet dream feel.

Ten Statements About....SUCKER PUNCH (2011)

This film is built almost entirely on the look in those eyes...
1) I have to agree with a number of other writers when they say that Zack Snyder is arguably the most successful director whose aesthetic and storytelling is fully and totally informed by comic books. Every choice he makes--even his use of slow motion to make certain key movements static, like they are in a comic book panel--is designed to give us the sense that we are turning the pages of a comic story. Even the title card, formed out of the condensation of the raindrops as Baby Doll is being taken to the asylum, gives us the feel of something between the covers of a Vertigo graphic novel...

2) However....while Snyder does use the slow motion more subtlety here (confining it almost exclusively to the 'game missions' of Baby Doll), there is one sequence where he gives up and indulges in his love of 'ramp up' technology (you know, that whole sloooooooow-down-then-speedup thingie) and ends up complicating things instead of clarifying it.

3) Without a doubt, the biggest flaw--and it's a massively gaping one--is Snyder's use of contemporary music in the film. It's really annoying given how Snyder usually is very astute at handling music, and how he's painstaking in making sure the two other worlds of the film are identified as period pieces. That being said, I'd gladly buy an album of Carla Gugino singing hits of the 80's in that mock-Polish accent...or one of Emily Browning doing the same.

Somewhere down the line...the Spice Girls got weirdly militant...
4) About those three worlds--the 'game mission' world where Baby Doll and her coterie of female companions led by 'Wiseman' (Scott Glenn looking like he's having the time of his life getting his Yoda on), the real world and the intermediary world--Snyder is not as skillful in keeping the worlds distinct. Yes, we understand that the final twist depends on us realizing one of these worlds is false; but making one world almost as stylized as the 'game mission' world, it makes the switch as to which is real and which is false not make sense.

5) Snyder needed Emily Browning for the lead. There's such a gorgeous tension between the wounded look in her beautiful eyes and the way she walks like a panther that you can believe people read into her what they want. Thus, predators see her as a victim whereas victims see her as a savior...and they're both right.

6) All of the women are pretty decent--yes, even Vanessa Hudgens (who is called Blondie, even though she's not). Not as successful are the male characters. Oscar Issacs is all surface playing Blue, and he's never seems to be more than a cardboard villain. The other men are little more than ciphers (except, oddly enough, Jon Hamm, who gives one of his dual roles a great deal more depth than it needed). Of course, maybe that's because...

"Yep...I'm evil..."
7) It's obvious from the first moment, where we pass through a proscenium arch to begin the story, that Snyder intends this to be a fairy tale. However, the story he tells is much more Ambrose Bierce than L. Frank Baum, and the storytelling suffers from the misguided direction.

8) I do like the fact that even though Baby Doll has a sort of super-power in the way her dancing draws all the attention in the room, we never actually see her performance--each time she dances opens up the gateway to the game mission world, and Snyder is so clear on that rule that when her dance is interrupted in one sequence, she is briefly snapped back to her reality. A similar rule is enacted whenever Blue--who has the power of life and death over these girls--does kill some characters; we never see the gun fired, or the results of his actions...

" evil I'm thinking of slapping that weird
animal off Carla Gugino's head." 
9) If I had to guess, I would think that the negative reaction most people are having to this film lies in the fact that the ultimate resolution is extremely dark and unapologetic. It snatches a clear cut uplifting ending out of the hands of an audience who was led to expect one in favor of one that is more metaphysical and abstract.

10) Most of the game mission world's settings make sense in the context of the world in which Baby Doll exists at the for the last one, which is way, way, way too much late 90's video game as opposed to late 50's movie--something that makes sense for Baby Doll to be inspired by given all the movie posters her place of dwelling is decorated with.

In it a failure? Hell, no. Is it a triumph? Hell, no. It's somewhere toward the bottom of Snyder's canon, but it's by no mean a disaster. If anything, it fails because it's too ambitious for his skills at the time.

I was back to the AMC Loews' Village 7. The trailers were a strange mismash, although I managed to see two things I definitely didn't expect--a trailer for Friends With Benefit, a rom-com that seems to be cloned from the earlier No Strings Attached except that it seems, you know, genuinely funny (I actually laughed with delight when Mila Kunis goes off on a rant against Katherinne 'I Have A Stupid Face' Hiegl), and one for Your Highness, which actually seems to be amusing and has Zoe Deschanel as a Renfair dream come true. Even more amazing was the Firstlook piece on Pirates of The Carribean: On Stranger Tides which was actually innovative and was hosted by Jack Sparrow....

Ten Statements About....SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)

"...and then I'm going to build a bigger armored suit and kick
your ass."
1) As nervous as I was about the way the trailers portrayed Robert Downey's Holmes, I am glad that Jude Law's portrayal of Watson reclaims the character from the intelligence drain Nigel Bruce put on him. John Watson in the Doyle stories was a military man who was very physical and intelligent in his own right, and Law captures that version to a t.

2) There is never anything wrong with Rachel MacAdams in a white blouse, suspenders, clunky high-heeled boots and tight tweed trousers. Nothing.

3) Downey's version of the character is not as 'Action Holmes' as I feared, but does have his own strange quirkiness. There is a definite echo of Tony Stark in Downey's Holmes, but he does manage to spin the detective in a unique direction.

What does it say about me that I find Rachel McAdams
sexier here than when she's in a dress?
4) I give the script points for making a decided effort to place this adventure at a very specific point in Holmes' career. The presence of certain characters anchors the story and gives it a bit more gravitas.

5) Mark Strong's villain, Lord Blackwood, is pretty much a generic bad guy...until you realize he's not the real bad guy...and the real bad guy contributes to grounding the story in the Doyle continuity.

6) Even though the film flirts strongly with supernatural and psychic phenomenon, I was relieved to find that the ultimate solution is grounded in plain ol' regular science. Granted, it's Steampunk-y science--but since I'm a steampunk freak, I'm good with that. However...

7) ...even though we get a scene where Holmes explains how all the supernatural elements were nothing more than 'conjurer's tricks,' and even though director Guy Ritchie takes pains to show us each of the 'clues' that Sherlock picked up, there's still a strong feeling that the film isn't interested in playing fair with its mystery.

"That's right....something for the laaadies."
8) The way Ritchie does this thing where he walks us through Holmes' thoughts as he is in combat, then rewinds to show us the same scene in real time is fascinating, and thankfully is only done a handful of times, being gone before it gets old.

9) I rather like Hans Zimmer's score, which seems to only use instruments that are contemporary to the time.

10) Even though it does move at a fair clip, there is a point about midway through where the film just draaaaaags. Maybe if Ritchie had shaved fifteen, twenty minutes off its running time it might have flowed better.

In short...there's a lot to like here, but I don't know if it's the kind of thing that will generate the sort of buzz Warner Brothers hoped it would.

Incidentally, there was an endless stream of trailers before the film, including ones for Iron Man 2(and yes, the moment where Tony and Rhodey are back to back and lower their faceplates as one still makes me squeal like a little girl), Date Night (a more-promising-than-I-expected action comedy featuring Tina Fey and Steve Carrell--although the funniest line in the trailer comes from a skanked-out Mila Kunis), the Kevin Smith directed Cop Out (Bruce Willis and Sean William-Scott? What's not to love?) and an absolutely ludicrious looking film called Season of The Witch, where Nicolas Cage tries to convince us he's a 12th Century Templar--but it's a sign of goodness being rewarded when you see that Ron Perlman gets second billing.

But the trailers paled next to walking into the Regal Atlas and being confronted with one of those massive oversized displays that's half-poster, half-standee for a film called When In Rome that featured a ten foot tall picture of the beloved Kristen Bell smiling and biting one nail. I actually considered asking the manager to put that display aside for me once they were done to it...but then common sense kicked in and I realized just how creepy I would come off if I did so.