Showing posts with label theatrical release. Show all posts
Showing posts with label theatrical release. Show all posts

Monday, June 16, 2014

Call and Response: The Pussy Posse Bad Movie Edition

Repost from 2010.

Recently, the local blog for the James River Film Society had a post on the top 5 worst films directed by Christopher Nolan, with Inception being at the top of the list, although it was an un-numbered list. The author called Nolan "the most celebrated bad director since Ed Wood."

Now, Nolan is no Ed Wood or Tommy Wiseau. He is a technically competent director. I would consider him more along the lines of a more subtle and less heavy-handed and narcissistic M. Night Shyamalan. Or a more lucid Michael Bay, but who has the ability to hire better actors (then proceed to waste them, like Cillian Murphy). But Inception is his worst film. While I think that The Prestige is a fun film, the rest of Nolan's films have never stuck with me for too long after I left the theater or turned off the TV. So I am not so sure that his stories are as compelling, smart, or deep as everyone makes them out to be. Inception at least has the honor of making me laugh, then a little angry afterward.

I guess all discussion for Inception must begin with a preface that yes, I understood the movie. I am not stupid and have been told that I can explain the plot (or more precisely what is going on) in Lucio Fulci's The Beyond better than most people, and The Beyond is a very strange film in terms of time and space. Inception had five layers of dreams with a big stupid action movie as its creamy center, with overwrought guilt as the peanuts. Too bad that the film tried to both embrace the illogical nature of dreams while at the same time giving it a structure, so that dreams have "architects", and when there is a team involved, there is a leader whose subconscious serves as mainframe of sorts. Otherwise, why would everyone dream an action movie? Why would only Ellen Page's character be concerned that their leader was unstable? Even as a newbie, she should have the right to say, "let's use a more stable team member so no one gets hurt." Contradiction, misplaced ambition, and discontinuity, thy name is Christopher Nolan.

Inception lost me almost at its opening scene. You cannot open a film with Leonardo DiCaprio being washed up onto a beach and not immediately think "a hundred years after the Titanic sunk, Jack finally washed up on the shores of...Japan?" Then Leo was nice enough to give his old friend Lukas Haas a brief role as an "architect" where he is kidnapped and never seen again. If "architects" are so disposable, why not fire Ellen Page as soon as she gets into the brain of Leo to find that he is one messed up dude? Do the inception-eers only have one client? What do they do when they are not battling Ken Watanabe? Does Leo just watch action movies? Because in the dream world, there is a whole lot of Bourne-like sequences going on, as well as the mountain scene that while some have called it a "Bond villain fortress", I call it something out of a xXx sequel. I think I would have liked the film a lot more if Vin Diesel inexplicably showed up on a snowmobile and high-fived everyone. This goes to show that perhaps they should have chosen a team member who likes comedies and British heritage films from the 1990s.

Then there is the overwrought and maudlin domestic drama that is Leo's subconscious. It is also where DiCaprio becomes a terrible actor. While I have not seen the original Solaris, I have seen the re-make by Steven Soderbergh, and I get the impression that if you're the wife of a well-meaning, but misguided guy in a somewhat dark sci-fi film, you will commit suicide. At least the Solaris re-make had some basis in reality, as the wife commits suicide because her husband disapproves of the abortion she had. Leo incepted his wife, she became mentally unstable as a result, and committed suicide. She haunts his subconscious because he feels guilty, as he should. The suicide is shown on film, and DiCaprio's reaction is some of the worst acting I have ever seen in a big budget film. If you cannot make me teary-eyed over the suicide of a family member or missing your children, you fail! Those are two of my top triggers.

I am not sure what could have saved Inception for me. It was not weird or ballsy enough for me to respect it in its failings. I know I was not expecting an action movie, although perhaps I should have, given that is what Nolan does now. It seems illogical to try to use the illogical nature of dreams while at the same time trying to make them logical or rein them in by using the concept of "architects". I think to make things worse, it reminded me in some ways of my favorite Phillip K. Dick novel, Ubik.

Can you find Leo strutting through this M.C. Escher piece? And Sad Keanu? The Leo Strut meme almost makes up for Inception. This one is a good hat tip to one of the two scenes I liked in Inception, where Ellen Page made the Paris dream city into a cube.




Also, my friend Erica made this Advice Phillip K. Dick meme awhile back:


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A couple of weeks ago, Movieline included Spider-Man 3 in their series Bad Movies We Love. Spider-Man 3 is also known as "the one where Spidey went emo". Which is true, as far as the haircut goes, and the fact that I am convinced that while Leonardo DiCaprio is starting to look like a grown-up now, Tobey Maguire will always look like a teenage boy. And it is also true that despite their image, emo boys can be insensitive jerks too, which is what Peter Parker becomes in Spider-Man 3. But I have always thought that if anything "emo Spidey" is just an homage to Ted Raimi, who is of course, the brother of Spider-Man 3's director, Sam Raimi, and who also appears in all three films as J. Jonah Jameson's assistant. Emo Spidey is an homage to Ted Raimi when he played Joxer on Xena: Warrior Princess. Joxer always thought that he was cooler and more heroic than he actually was. In other words, he was a dork, but a sweet guy. Joxer would totally think that these were some sweet dance moves, contrary to what the ladies on the street think:




Despite looking like a teenage boy, I'm not sure Tobey Maguire does dorky as well as Ted Raimi or even Jake Gyllenhaal.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Crazy Theory #6: You're Next and Its Ugly, Undeveloped Idea

Promotional street art for You're Next apparently from the Midnight Madness screenings at Toronto International Film Festival. Also: a perfectly good discarded waffle.

SPOILERS because this movie is a few months short of having been out for a year, not counting festivals.

I only went to see You're Next in theaters last summer because a couple of friends wanted my opinion on it. I am not much for home invasion horror, and yet I managed to see this and The Purge last summer for the same reasons. I am not sure that I found either film that interesting or remarkable. If you have seen Twitch of the Death Nerve or Intruder, you have seen You're Next. The only interesting thing about You're Next is the simultaneously explicit and implicit idea that at least one of the children supported the murders because if their parents and most of their siblings were dead, they would inherit enough money to pay back their student loans, as well as the student loans belonging to their girlfriend. Granted, one of the characters already has become a disgrace in his young academic career because he became involved with his girlfriend while she was his student. But the murder for inheritance-for student loan payoffs is an interesting, if ugly and fairly undeveloped idea for a movie with a sea of undeveloped characters. Why no films have been made about generational resentment, I have no idea.

I cannot really discern if most horror films from the past 4-5 years have really have been confronting modern economic issues that well, if at all. But I have increasing trouble paying attention to more recent horror films because very few interest me or appeal to me. Drag Me to Hell is perhaps the most explicit and in the moment, while the first Paranormal Activity film is more implicit about the lending and housing crisis, despite its being made right before the collapse. Sinister's story hinges on the housing crisis at the beginning and end to some extent, but it is not a driving force (although this may be arguable). The reoccurring flashback sequences in Oculus occurs at least 5 or 6 years before the housing and job crisis. American Mary used tuition payment issues as the catalyst, but it is never explicitly stated that it was for student loans, because Mary was still a student and you do not have to pay your loans back while in school. The currently limited release of Cheap Thrills also appears to be confronting the job and housing crisis. I will not lament the issue much, although horror has the reputation for being at the forefront of criticizing modern issues.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Crazy Theory #3: Star Trek Into Darkness and Doctor Who

The 2010s: The decade of Benedict Cumberbatch with his back turned to the camera while he overlooks a city.

I am going to preface this post with the fact that I do not and have not watched that much Star Trek. I did watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at some point last summer, so I know enough to know obviously The Wrath of Khan and Into Darkness are two very different films besides sharing a few plot points that J.J. Abrams tweaked for some silly reason or another. Into Darkness is a straight action film that is kind of about friendship and makeshift families, whereas The Wrath of Khan meditated on aging, friendship, and both biological and makeshift families. I will also note that I saw Star Trek Into Darkness in theaters last summer, months before the release of the 50th anniversary Doctor Who special. So whether or not this gels with that episode, I have not totally determined.

My idea is this: Star Trek Into Darkness is basically an overlong attempt to take the piss out of Doctor Who. This occurs from the first sequence where a father played by Noel Clarke (who also played Mickey Smith, one of the companions/sidekicks of the ninth and tenth Doctors) becomes a reluctant suicide bomber of London's Star Fleet site so his dying daughter will be saved by Harrison/Khan's blood that somehow has superhealing powers. Harrison/Khan is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor that some people want to play Doctor Who at some point although he is rather too busy and famous for that now. Harrison/Khan is living with some form of survivor's guilt, having been brought out of stasis instead of the 900 other people from his planet. It is because of this that he wants revenge, and manipulates Kirk, although leveraging his people somewhat backfires. The people and his planet are known for being war-like, something that perhaps is always on the edge of discussions of Doctor Who and his homeplanet of Gallifrey - until the 50th anniversary special, the Doctor had to end the war between the Timelords and the Daleks by destroying Gallifrey. This is the guilt that Doctors Nine through Eleven lived with, amongst many other guilty feelings. Whether or not the retcon in the 50th anniversary special will somehow backfire remains to be seen.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What I have been watching lately: Jean Rollin, Red State, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story...

Repost from November 2011.
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I should be working on papers right now, although I took an extension on them for Winter Break because of intermittent severe headaches and vision problems leftover from my concussion in October. I have no control over when they happen, and unfortunately they keep happening when I want or need to write or do research. My papers, as I predicted in October, are on Jean Rollin, classical French film theory, and I also have one on Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon that I have been sitting on, unfinished, since the day before my concussion. I have been on a French film and surrealist bender this quarter. I have been watching a lot of Jean Rollin's films this year and this past month. While my paper will only be focusing on The Rape of the Vampire and The Night of the Hunted (one of his three "zombie" films), I have still been watching anything of his that interests me or that I can get my hands on. The only one of his films that I cannot recommend at any level is Zombie Lake, which oddly enough, is his fairly straight zombie picture...I say "fairly straight" because it does have a story line where one of the Nazi zombies has reunited with his pre-teen daughter...although the Nazis were assassinated during of course, World War II by the villagers, and the film seems to take place in 1980, which makes no sense if the daughter is ten years old. Zombie Lake was also one of Rollin's lowest budgeted pictures, and that's saying something if you have ever seen any of his movies or read much on his films. It is one of the few Rollin pictures where you can tell that it seemed impossible to make the most of what little money there was.


Yeah, I don't know either. At least the Italians made their zombies look all arts & craftsy, what with the papier mache faces.

I think I discovered Rollin at a good point, considering for the past couple of years or so, I have been quite bored with horror at times. While Rollin has his obsessions that anyone will notice if they watch enough of his films, including how entrenched he is in surrealism well after its time as an art movement was over; I like how unconventional his films are. His endings are rarely happy and even if certain films end relatively well for the characters, there is still a sense of melancholia or even a looming sense of death. 

Speaking of unconventional horror films, I watched Red State last weekend. I am not a Kevin Smith megafan. I liked his movies when I was a teenager, but now I tend to see every other one if it sounds kind of interesting. Red State is not a perfect film - it is not subtle in its message, it's final message is kind of mixed, Melissa Leo's acting was over the top, and the opening scene at the high school bugs me to no end because that is not how a public school teacher acts in any era; but it is unconventional. It is almost like Full Metal Jacket how abruptly it switches gears, tone, and the characters we follow. Who we expect to live just based on horror conventions, likeability, or even logic is defied. The only other good thing I can say about the film is that John Goodman is awesome in it. I have missed seeing John Goodman in movies.

I have been watching a lot of bad TV this past week since last Monday night I had the worst headache I have had since hitting my head. My doctor says it is okay if I watch stupid things. So I was bedridden for a couple of days watching nothing but the second season of The Walking Dead so far and whatever episodes of American Horror Story I could find on Hulu. 

I was not a total fan of the first season of The Walking Dead. I maintain that the first episode was wonderful. But if I have to remain diplomatic at some level, I will say that the even numbered episodes were terrible, while the odd ones were better. Other than Rick being Sheriff Exposition for the first five minutes of the second season premiere, the first episode of this season was pretty good. Unfortunately, it has become tedious and like a spinning tire*. I look forward to this week's episode if it means opening up the zombie barn and maybe losing a few more characters. The series likes to project things, then take several episodes, if perhaps another season to get to the issue and/or resolve it. Lori's pregnancy for example. What is being projected this year from the main characters and secondary or even tertiary characters is Rick's leadership, the issue of neglect, and the idea of splitting up the group. Shane and Andrea, obviously. Daryl in last week's episode (and Daryl truly needs to ditch the group, even if it means taking boring old Carol), and in the second episode, T-Dog, even if he reneges on the idea later. What I find weird about T-Dog's "fever" thoughts is that he is right - he, Dale, and sometimes even Glenn are sidelined because of their age (Dale) and races (T-Dog and Glenn). Women on this show are sidelined altogether. The Walking Dead is not exactly Lost, where we learn about each character every week. Granted, Lost was not a perfect show either and harped on the Jack-Kate-Sawyer love triangle for several seasons, but at least each character got his or her individual episodes! And maybe The Walking Dead is going in that direction a bit this season, where we followed Shane and his adventure to get medical supplies to help Carl, and last week's episode with Daryl in the woods, but it was too little and did not establish much beyond what we already knew: Shane is likely deranged, and Daryl is a badass...and oh, he's not as racist as his brother Merle because he has saved T-Dog at least three times by now**. I think they fired last season's writers and replaced them with even worse writers. But yeah, the group will at least temporarily disband before the season is over. And maybe Lori will finally tell Rick about her pregnancy and/or her time with Shane, and maybe The Walking Dead will finally have a Maury Povich-based episode. And I guess Daryl better watch it since characters played by noted indie character actors do not live forever on this show, as this season has shown yet again.


We know that Shane is crazy because of the shaved head, vacant stare, mouth agape, and furrowed brow.
American Horror Story is at least fun-bad and thoroughly entertaining. It is truly the most batshit live-action television show I have ever seen. The pregnant wife eats a brain like it's no thing! There is a teenage boy stuck in 1994 who frequently speaks of Kurt Cobain (just Kurt Cobain, never Nirvana), Quentin Tarantino, Al Pacino, and Robert DeNiro; and the depressed neo-Blossom Russo-dressed teenage daughter of the family nevernever asks him his opinion on the more recent and terrible movies Pacino and DeNiro have been in! I have never been one for haunted house stories, but American Horror Story takes your average haunted house story and amps it up several times over and then combines it with at least one other horror story or trope every week, usually more than one! It is hard to say if there is a bigger meaning to this show, I doubt it even knows. The classmate who told me about this show said it was Ryan Murphy's gay revenge on America. We keep discovering the lives of the previous inhabitants who are now ghosts of the house. There is the drunk surgeon-turned-abortionist-turned-mad scientist and his wife, two nursing students, a gay couple, a woman who was raped, the pregnant mistress maybe, the male redheaded twins...but we also have the people from the home invasion episode, and rubber man who may or may not be a ghost. I mean, I guess redheads have been persecuted throughout society. Some people believe that everyone on this show is a ghost! We will eventually find out that the house was built on an Native American burial ground, because why not?

American Horror Story is also fun because most episodes feature at least one "hey, it's that guy!/lady!" moment. 


Rubber Man, Rubber Man. Does whatever a rubber can...except not.
* Yesterday, I read this post at the TCM Movie Morlocks blog that discusses how bloodthirsty zombie movie fans and movie characters are these days. I would not say that I am a bloodthirsty zombie fan or that the characters on The Walking Dead are bloodthirsty (although that is another inconsistency, especially with Rick). I would like The Walking Dead to be a watchable show that like in the first episode, does consider that the zombies were people once. Overall, I would like a good story and some characters I could care about and who are maybe more thoughtful or intelligent. The only thing The Walking Dead has been somewhat good at displaying is the tried-and-true story method of humans being just as dangerous to humans as zombies are, if not more so.

** 2011 seems to be the year of the (good) redneck in horror. I finally saw Tucker and Dale vs. Evil a couple of weeks ago because it surprisingly came to the indie theater in town (I guess because it takes place in West Virginia, and I live about 40 minutes away from the West Virginia state line now). I was worried that it would not meet my expectations because I have been anticipating this movie for almost two years, but I also had no idea what the film was about past the trailer. It was a good, fun movie that was surprisingly sweet and had some interesting twists to the story and characters. And yes, the film was quite gory at times. So there are surprises out there every once in awhile.