Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ten Statements About....THE WORLD’S END (2013)

"Alright, everybody, here's a map to the funny bits."
"Tonight, we will be partaking of a liquid meal, as we wind our way up the golden mile commencing with an inaugural tankard in The First Post, then on to The Old Familiar, The Good Companion, The Trusty Servant, The Two-Headed Dog, The Mermaid, The Beehive, The King's Head, and The Hole In The Wall for a measure of the same. All before the last bittersweet pint in that most fateful, The World's End.  Leave a light on good ladies, although we may return with a twinkle in our eyes, we will be in truth blind drunk."

1) Why is it that everyone else seems to understand making effective John Carpenter movies these days better than, you know, John Carpenter?  For just as Shaun of the Dead is the best George Romero movie not made by George Romero, this is the best Carpenter science-fiction film Carpenter never made.

2) ...although what Edgar Wright does that, let’s say, Neil Marshall doesn’t do in Doomsday (which also expressed much Carpenter love) is take elements and themes that Carpenter used in many of his 80‘s films and fused them with elements and themes that Wright himself is obsessed with to create something unique.

3) One of the genius things about the way the film is structured is how it’s something Carpenter has never done in any of his classic science fiction films--namely, it turns out to be an origin for a archtypical Carpenter hero, down to the rather heroically silly name.

4) If we accept The World’s End as the end of a loose trilogy that includes Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, I like how our two leads have effectively switched places psychologically in this film, with Nick Frost being the level-headed one and Simon Pegg being the screw up...which makes their role in the third act all the more surprising.
I would go through twelve pubs to fight by the side of
Rosamund Pike...and I don't even drink.

5) I love how Wright casts actors in roles I don’t expect them to be in.  Paddy Constandine, in particular, is effectively cast against type.  That being said, I almost didn’t register Pierce Brosnan (who must be here because Wright loves James Bond, as all good red-blooded men are) in his role until well into the movie itself.

6) Oh, Rosamund Pike...even looking sorta dowdy, you are a vision on I figured your times in the Bond mines made you look kick-ass in the fight scenes.

7) What was the point of the giant sculpture thingie on the village green, other than to give us a wacko visual during the second act?
Oh, show me the way to the next Carpenter film/Oh,
don't ask why/Oh, don't ask why

8) Thank God this is another light-hearted, action-inclusive comedy that was allowed to be rated R.  I shudder to think how this movie, which relies so much on alcoholism, suicidal thoughts, mental illness and other darker themes, would play as a PG-13 film.

9) I appreciated the thought that was put into The Network, its motivations and its modus operandi.  It gave the menace more of a nuance (something else that Carpenter seems to not be interested in in many of his films).  Plus it allows some interpretation about whether Gary’s actions ultimately was for the benefit of humanity or not.

10) I do like how, even though Wright gives us the kind of dark, apocalyptic ending Carpenter was fond of, all of our characters got what they wanted...even if what they wanted wasn’t exactly in the pristine way they wanted it.

Overall...a great little picture that shows John Carpenter how he used to be able to do it, but with the kind of sensibility only Edgar Wright can pull off.

It was off to the Atlas for this, where I was the only patron save for three other folks, which was...kinda sad.  Amongst the trailers were The Fifth Estate (Bernard Cumberbatch in a bleached blonde wig is the most shocking thing in this flick, apparently); Insidious 2 (another one of these ‘we showed these people the movie and look how scared they got’ trailer, which I think undermines the fact that it’s a sequel to a really effective, really good James Wan flick) and Getaway (I just don’t get Selena Gomez.  I certainly don’t get Selena Gomez trying to act all gangsta and stuff).  Oddly enough, the most fun I had prior to the show came from watching that risible Firstlook puff piece on The Crazy Ones, where Robin Williams improvises a sexy fast food song in front of Kelly Clarkson.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ten Statements About....THE FRIGHTENERS (1996)

Don't look now, Michael J. Fox...a 90's CGI effect is coming to
“That was the Soul Collector and he's been taking people out since time began.  He's been going about some dark business here in Fairwater and we ain't nothing but worm bait.  When your number's up,that's it.”

1) The thing I like about Michael J. Fox’s Frank Bannister is that he doesn’t shy away from being a scumbag, and director Peter Jackson doesn’t flinch away from his scumbagginess.  It makes his story arc have more heft when he starts finding a way towards his own humanity again when confronted with this rash of mysterious deaths.  However....

2) much as I liked Trini Alvarado’s Lucy, and as much as I admit that she and Fox have some real chemistry, their romance never quite feels real.  Part of it is because there’s no impetuous for it to happen; it seems like these two become attracted to each other solely because Jackson wanted a love story in the script.  Plus there’s the fact that she seems to fall for Frank, like, two or three days after burying her husband, which gives it an added layer of awkward.

3) Even though it’s obvious John Astin’s Judge is meant to be a comedic figure like his fellow ghosts Jim Fyfe and Chi McBride (who let him into this film?)...boy does his performance serve as a reminder of how good an actor he is.  Sure, it’s vaguely embarrassing watching him hump a mummy, but the scenes between him and Frank range from the spooky to the downright poignant...and his 'second death’ is something of a shock.

4) Even though there are some CGI moments which are wince-worthy (many of the sequences involving The Soul Collector moving through walls are thoroughly awful), I’m impressed as how well most of the shots do work.  The ones involving the normal ghosts are inventive and cool, and I like the way The Soul Collector swoops and swirls around the night skies as it seeks out its latest victim.
Don't you just hate it when you get some Jake Busey caught
on your gravestone?

5) I’ll be honest--Jackson makes a concerted effort to hide Fairwater’s true identity as two New Zealand towns (and also makes a concerted effort to not nail down where Fairwater is supposed to be), but the combination of the cars and the landscape doesn’t jibe with an American town, let alone what seems to be a small town with a big ass museum in it

6) The time frame seems a bit...screwy here.  If we’re to assume that Frank’s wife is the first of the Soul Collector’s murders, and that over two dozen murders happened between then and the start of the film before people start noticing, it should take place over time...and yet the backstory claims that Dee Wallace Stone’s Patricia has only been released for six months.  I would think the sudden rash of mysterious cardiac arrests would be a lot more noticeable if they were happening more than weekly--plus Frank’s downfall, establishment as a psychic investigator with three ghosts in tow and the like seems rather rapid in this context.

7) I do think, even though Jackson telegraphs the big twist regarding The Soul Collector--which is not the revelation of who he is--it comes as a bit of a shock, and the impact of the revelation works even more by letting the viewer in on it, and then plays on our perceptions as opposed to Lucy’s.
"Yep...I'm your designated movie love interest."

8) Boy, does Elizabeth Hawthorne’s Magda stick out.  While everyone who is New Zealand-y tries to affect an American accent with varying degrees of success, Hawthorne doesn’t even try...and every time she opens her mouth it’s a little shock of disbelief entered into a film that works real hard to create a credible world.

9)  I am a little conflicted by Jeffrey Coombs’ Milton Danvers, although I suspect a lot of that comes from Coombs’ performance.  It is obvious that he’s here to be a major fly in Frank’s ointment, consciously looking to pin all the deaths on him.  But there are moments where Danvers elicits a creepy sort of sympathy, especially when we learn the extent to which his past undercover work cost him.

10)  Since this is 1996, the score is a) primarily instrumental and b) composed by Danny Elfman before he became a parody of himself.  But there is a moment that utilizes Sonic Youth cover of The Carpenter’s ‘Superstar’ that is shudderingly creepy.  I mean, literally giving you the chills.

Overall...a great little comedic thriller with some effective special effects, it surprises me that it has fallen through the crack between Jackson’s indy films and the Lord of The Rings stuff.  Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ten Statements About....AMERICAN PSYCHO 2: ALL-AMERICAN GIRL (2002)

Oh, Mila, Mila...couldn't you have found another DTV
sequel to star in?
“Okay, think about it.  I’m killing the few to save the many, sort of like Robin Hood."

1) One of the biggest problems with this movie that has many problems is how it simply cannot decide what it wants to be.  It seems like it wants to be as satirical and darkly humorous as the original, but it doesn’t have, nor want, the level of subtlety Mary Harron’s original possesses...and yet there are moments where you think director Morgan J. Freeman, or the script by Alex Sanger and Karen Craig (which totally missed the point of the original), believe they’re filming a genuine horror film.  It’s simply a mess....

2) ...and while we’re on the subject of Sanger and Craig’s script, the damn thing can’t even be consistent.  It goes through pains in the first act and change of the story to establish that this is all Mila Kunis’ Rachel’s point of view (even the scene that looks like it couldn’t be is later established as being seen through her eyes)...and yet they gleefully abandon this the moment they realize they have to firmly establish Geraint Wynn Davies’ ineffectual Dr. Daniels as a credible adversary as opposed to William Shatner’s Professor Starkman.  This is a script that doesn’t have the respect for its own world that it needs to have.

3) And speaking of William Shatner--my God, is he good as Starkman!  Shatner is the one actor who seems to be taking this mess seriously, and his performance is the most subtle I’ve seen him in years.  He’s definitely a high point in this film.

4) I really wish I could say the same for Mila Kunis, who is admittedly super-cute...but I think she takes the opposite tack of Shatner, overplaying it to the extreme.  There are a large number of moment when I swore Kunis was imitating Sarah Michelle Gellar at her Buffy-est worst, although I admit I could not tell if she was doing this for some sort of metatextual comic effect. And her monologues have none of the nuance and chill of Bale’s in the original, and are so broad they can’t even be interpreted as parody.
It's Mila Kunis driving a car containing a dead William
Shatner.  Your argument is no longer valid.  I guess.

5) There are two ‘twists’ in this braindead little film that are simply not set up in the least, one involving Starkman and one involving Rachel.  These things seem to show up solely because the writers need a little extra stuff to stretch out the running time.  It creates a definite sense of ‘making it up as you go along’ to the film.

6) ....but then, this is a film that’s so sloppy in its execution that it has Rachel murder people in broad daylight and in public places and nothing is made of it until the very end.  And I mean nothing.  It’s not until Dr. Daniels goes to the world’s most ineffectual sherif’s department that anyone thinks anything is wrong.

7) Oh, that fucking soundtrack.  Yes, the original featured a soundtrack that could be obtrusive at time, but that was primarily to reinforce the film’s sense of place and time.  This soundtrack of alt-rock songs keeps intruding on us, as if it’s afraid that we can’t figure out the nuances of the movie without it.  Hell, I like some of the bands on it, but not when they suddenly intrude on every single scene in every single moment.

8) You know how this film annoys me right from the start?  It shows that the writers had no understanding of what the original film was about by ignoring the revelation of the ending and reducing Patrick Bateman to just a normal serial killer.  By hinging the premise of the film on that assumption, it makes the whole film spurious.  Now there is a (very) brief moment where it looks like the writers are going to play on the original film’s conceit, but that moment is discarded immediately so we can return to the too obvious plot.
Look, you know this is the only reason you're considering
watching this movie, so here's another photo of her looking

9) You know, the biggest problem with Wynn Davies’ Dr. Daniels as the film’s hero--besides the fact that he’s totally ineffectual (and morally wreckless) as a psychiatrist?  He seems to be an after thought.  There’s a strong sense that Starkman should have been the hero of the film, a sense that’s bolstered by Shatner’s performance...but after he’s given his pass out of the movie in an actually pretty good scene, Daniels is shoved into the hero role by default.  And considering the character has not displayed anything to feel positive about, what we can laughingly refer to as the film’s momentum is stopped cold.

10) Okay, this is an unrated direct-to-video sequel, right?  Then why is it so bloodless.  Not that I’m saying gore would have saved this movie, but it seems weird that we don’t get blood and ick in a film as aggressive about its mayhem as it should be.

Overall...a worthless, annoying film that seems to scream and run about like a toddler on a sugar high.  Supposedly, Mila Kunis is embarrassed by this film, which only proves to me that she has a good head on her shoulder.  Avoid.  Avoid a lot.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Doctor In A Box!
“That's the trouble with regeneration: you never quite know what you're going to get.”

1) And here we formally begin the Peter Davison era with this final leg of the introduction of the Master--and it’s indicative of the Davison era in how it feels like two separate stories welded together, seems to be truly stretched out and features some moments where the TARDIS Crew seems...ineffectual.  And yet there are large swatches of the serial that works and works well.

2) This is, of course, Davison’s first full serial as the Doctor and let’s give him credit--he gives it his all, especially during the first half’s failing regeneration.  I appreciate how Davison works hard to give all the shout-outs to previous Doctors some weight even when it’s obvious they were shoehorned in as a game of Husker-Du.  He’s going to struggle throughout his three years to find out what his Doctor is like (something that’s not entirely his fault), but even here there are glimmers of what could make him unique.

3) Maybe it’s because Adric is more or less credibly out of the picture (although he’s in the picture in another sense), but this serial actually, you know, gives Nyssa a lot to do.  Even though Davison assigns to Tegan the role of ‘Administrator,’ Nyssa pretty much is in control of things.  She’s the one who keeps the team together, she’s the one who figures things out, and she’s the one that’s key in doing lots of the science-y stuff.  Granted, after this she falls asleep for a serial, and...well, not all that much after that.  As someone who (like Davison) felt Nyssa was the best of the three companions, it’s a little heartening.

4) Look, I get that the Nathan Turner conception of the Master is that he’s always in disguise manipulating things from behind the scenes...but Ye Gods, how come no one figures out which one of the Castrovalvas is him?  Putting powder in your hair and stooping over does not make an effective disguise.
"You're not fooling me, Anthony.  You look like an old

5) Of the two parts, I vastly prefer the first part, where our companion corps have to work out how to stop falling into (what will become) the sun.  There’s a definite sense of urgency and pace that seems to dissipate once they reach Castrovalva.  That being said, I do very much appreciate how Bidmead is able to make the first half significant to the second, setting up factors that will dominate once everyone gets to the titular area.

6) Watching it now, I’m sort of puzzled by all that’s made of how sinister Derek Waring’s Shardovan is in the third and part of the fourth chapter.  It’s almost as if they want him to be a red herring, but they try too hard, from dressing him in black unlike the other Castrovalvans, having him look on in an enigmatic way, at one point interposing himself between the escaping crew and pretty much glaring, etc.  If the intent was to throw us off the scent of the Master, it fails because it’s trying too hard....

7) But then, this might be why the serial seems so disjointed throughout; in trying to establish how different the first Doctor he has complete stewardship of is, Nathan Turner seems to overcompensate...which is weird, given how so much of Nathan Turner’s last Baker season was built on simply good stories and not on the deck-chair-changing exercises.  But then, last season was story edited by this story’s writer, Christopher H. Bidmead, while this season (and so many others after it) was edited by...grumblemutter...Eric Saward.

You will learn much of my dislike of Mr. Eric Saward and his dumb-ass Buster Brown haircut in the coming months.

8) I do like the design of Castrovalva, which--like the serial--was inspired by Bidmead’s interest in M.C. Escher.  I like the way he furthermore extrapolates on Escher’s design asesthetic to create a trap for The Doctor.  However, the effectiveness of 1982 special effects does blunt the impact of the trap being sprung at the end of the third chapter.
There are some who would say being trapped in an abstract
web was the best use of Matthew Waterhouse's time...

9) I have to be honest--I’m still a little hazy as to the nature of the Castrovalvans.  If we accept what the Master says about them as gospel (and I see no reason why we shouldn’t, given that The Doctor and Nyssa pretty much confirm the fact), then the Castrovalvans’ ultimate fate doesn’t quite make sense.  It makes for cool visuals, sense.

10)  Even this early in the Ainley Master’s career, the man is beginning to degrade into the cackling goofball that he becomes toward the end of the classic era.  There’s some moments in particular, like when he’s gloating about creating traps within traps, where he seems to get too pantomime-y and disrupts what Nathan Turner is trying to do with his quieter, more human Doctor.

Overall...even though it has its shaky moments, this is still a good serial, and a decent ending to the ‘Return of The Master’ trilogy.

But enjoy this good story while you can, because a lot of what follows....ugh.