Sunday, November 28, 2010

TV Scum: The Walking Dead — Wildfire

S01E05
Just as a quick recap of last week’s review, I didn’t like Vatos primarily because it was less about the great characters and more centered around silly, nonconsequential twists and standard zombie stuff you can see anywhere. Ironically, that episode was also written by the comic’s writer Robert Kirkman so I had expected much better. In fairness, it was not Flesh Freaks or Who’s Your Caddy bad but still kind of disappointing.

This week though had everything I expect, want, and salivate for in a Walking Dead episode. Primarily, it centers around the aftermath of the zombie attack last week as there are not only dead zombies and dead humans to deal with but also tree-hugging Jim as an in-betweener who was bitten in the mele. Rick decides the best course of action is to head back to Atlanta (haven’t we done this before?) in hopes to find a cure for Jim at the CDC. Shane however wants to trek to a military base under the assumption it is more heavily fortified and not overrun with the walkers. A great debate ensues between the alpha males of the group over their next destination as it is clearly not safe on top of the mountain any longer. The group decides to forge on with Rick back into the City of the Dead only to discover things outside the CDC are bleaker than they could possible imagine.

Right off the bat I loved this episode, primarily because of Laurie Holden and her amazing performance as she sits over her soon-to-be zombified sister’s body mourning the loss. We hope and pray and worry that Andrea is reasonable enough to know what to do when Amy inevitably awakens. When the act is finally done by Andrea’s hands, it is heartbreaking to say the least for both character’s accounts. Not to mention we also had the debate over what to do with Jim as Daryl is ready to put a pick-ax in his skull before he turns and Glen is adament about burying the normal dead instead of burning them like the … dead dead. This show thus far has worked the best, not necessarily with total zombie carnage (although that is enjoyable too if done well) but in the quiet areas of reflection. Here we have Rick looking for validation of his plan with Lori and as Rick and Shane get into family matters in the woods. Watching the pain and sorrow and sheer terror of these characters is something that was largely missing last week. While Shane is dubious at best (has good intentions but maybe a bit unstable and hard-headed), Rick’s presence I can see will become a sticking point with the group at some point (yea for the second season pickup!) as he has good skills and insticts but has perhaps not experienced enough terror in the zombie uprising to fully appreciate the danger that he wants to take on. Only time will tell.

I understand the need for some exposition on the zombie outbreak and the resulting apocalypse and I don’t dislike the introduction of CDC scientist Noah Emmerich for that purpose. But so far, any new knowledge has been shared with the audience as the characters are learning it, seldomly focusing on anything but our core group. When the research videos started playing, PBF and I were momentarily confused as it was not only pretty random but in the vein of an entirely different show for those few minutes. As the group is now in the hunkered-down CDC building, that would have been better saved for next week’s season finale which again looks like all hell will break loose.

BONUS: Zombie Kill of the Week
It’s a tough choice this week with a tie. One is not technically a zombie kill as Mrs. Ed takes out likely years of pent-up rage on Ed’s no-longer-functioning skull with a pick-ax. The other is the aforementioned single gunshot by Andrea as she holds her zombie kin close, apologizing for her extended absence in her life.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Random Movie: Love and Other Drugs (2010)


Note to filmmakers: If you want me to almost instantly hate your movie, go ahead and begin with the Spin Doctors‘ ubiquitous song Two Princes from over a decade ago. Yes, Love and Other Drugs is a “period piece” set in the late 1990s in the background as the direct-to-consumer pharmaceuitical business starts booming with the development of wonderdrugs to treat everything from depression to male … specific problems.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Jamie Randall, a smooth-talking salesman who is likely to talk his way into your pants while buying a stereo (well, not my pants but still). In an effort to prove his worth to his medical-oriented family, Jamie takes a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep for Pfizer. In his travels shadowing Dr. Stan Knight (Hank Azaria), Jamie meets Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway), a young woman who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Maggie is your typical romantic comedy outcast with her art and proclivity for casual sex. However Jamie is further attracted to her after his initial rejection and their once apprehensive relationship blossoms into … do I really need to finish the rest of the recap?

Co-writer and director Edward Zwick has had some success in the past with award-winning Glory and Blood Diamond but there is nothing in L&OD (too lazy to type it all out, sorry) that you have not seen in another relationship movie, sans the Parkinson’s aspect. As such, it is not a bad movie but completely forgettable by the time you have finished watching. If someone made a MadLibs for romantic comedies, this movie with fit it with a T (the primary reason I don’t like these movies anyways). You have the jerky, self-involved guy who comes around to responsibility and love, the free-spirit who cannot commit to a relationship, the plucky character for comic relief, and a life-altering event that makes the previously jerky guy come chasing after his love and professes his desires in a cliched conversation just before the closing credits. Replace Maggie’s Parkinson’s with leprosy or a club foot and the outcome of the movie does not change.

Gyllenhaal and Hathway perform well with the stock characters that they are given and I must admit to liking the budding stages of their relationship as they have a playful banter between them. There are some laughs as well, mostly centering around the leads’ sexual behavior and Jamie’s new toy to sell: Viagra. Azaria is woefully underused however as his comedic chops are diluted to lusting after women and the “little blue pill” to compensate for his lack of drive professionally. Hands down the most annoying part of the movie (other than the sheer predictability of it all) was Josh Gad as Jamie’s brother who is apparently rich from developing medical software, yet sleeps on Jamie’s couch for some glossed-over reason. His character was the aforementioned plucky comic relief guy but as a cross between Jonah Hill and a really annoying asshole, Josh (the character, not the actor) added absolutely nothing to this movie already bereft of ideas. Although, I did want to punch him repeatedly in the gonads while he was on screen so I guess that was different than a typical movie.

Given the heaviness of the story around Maggie’s medical condition, one would expect that a movie centering around how a person lives in such shape would address the notion of how that affects the relationship in question. While the spouse of a Parkinson’s sufferer gives Jamie the idea that it is a life of misery and he is best to walk away, we never really see how her affliction impacts the relationship as she is still in the early stage of the disease. The characters follow all the standard trappings of such a movie and at the end, it is implied that he accepts her no matter what will come, thus robbing the story of any real weight that it might have had if we followed them down their long, strenuous journey ahead. In short, it’s a cop out of an ending but I would suppose that fits the movie just fine.

Monday, November 22, 2010

TV Scum: The Walking Dead — Vatos

S01E04
Thus far in the series, we have seen a good number of zombies (mostly in the first episode) but little zombie violence as necks and arteries are severed from the living buffet for the undead. I like this approach as the ending of this episode mostly came out of nowhere in what was otherwise another leisurely adventure in the apocalypse.

After discovering that Merle had obviously watched Saw too much (or he didn’t think about cutting off only his thumb), Rick and company discover that he is wily enough to cauterize his stump, yet stupid enough to go empty-handed (too soon?) into the urban jungle filled with the walkers. While trying to retrieve Rick’s bag o’ guns, some no-good gang-like fellows pummel Daryl and kidnap Glen before Rick and T-Bone can come to the rescue. As they initiate a trade with the rapscallions, our hero group discover that these hoodlums really have hearts of gold as they fortify and protect a nursing home and its elderly denizens. Meanwhile back at camp, a weird guy Jim is scaring people by digging holes and thus Shane decides he must be taken into custody and restrained. How dare he dig those holes…

I must say, I didn’t find this episode as good as the preceeding three. It seemed more written in the sense of a traditional zombie tale than the well-rounded and restrained episodes we’ve had so far. The most irritating aspect here was of the gang-like guardians of the elderly. We know in an end-of-the-world scenario, there are going to be assholes who take and hoard for themselves and this show has not had a problem with creating douche-bag characters with Merle, Ed, and Shane to an extent. But apparently it would have been too much to have a gaggle of young-ins holding people hostage and threatening bloodbaths for fun or their own amusement so they were given a sympathetic motive that Rick could relate to and give up his firearms for.

***SPOILERS BE HERE***
Meanwhile, the writing was on the wall when Andrea revealed she has a special gift for Amy’s birthday as I cannot think of a happy birthday/special occasion in a zombie story. I would expect in a more casually written series that the cute girl would meet a sad demise just before her whatever-th birthday but having cute little Emma Bell (who I knew was only in a handful of episodes anyway) step out of an RV into the arms of a hungry zombie almost seems out of place. Also, dumbass Ed yelling at his wife and kid to leave him alone as something stumbles around pawing at his tent was just stupid. Goodbye Ed.
***END SPOILERS***

The cinematography is still excellent, mostly surpassing similar stories left and right, and the acting is still wonderful with the standout again here with Laurie Holden but all of the depth and heart of the series was mostly absent here with an affair that is just a paint-by-numbers zombie attack.

BONUS: Zombie Kill of the Week
With more zombies comes more headshots (and still the ever impressive special effects) but the only standout I could recall was Mr. Baseball-bat-to-the-head-equals-gratuitious-splatter zombie.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Random Movie: The Lost Boys: The Thirst (2010)

Written by: PBF

Ah, sweet 81 minute running time. How you make the pain so much easier to take. Actually, The Lost Boys: The Thirst is not as bad as The Tribe. In fact, it would be borderline not bad at all if they would just get rid of the stupid action movie hokey lines. And the crap “Cry Little Sister” cover.

While Alan Frog was absent from the last film, he was referenced by Edgar who says that he knows what it’s like to lose a sibling to the undead or some such verbiage. The opening of The Thirst, shows us “5 years earlier” in Washington where a really old senator half vampire with vampire teeth dentures is about to feed on a congressman is interrupted by the Frog brothers. They save the congressman but Alan (again played by Jamison Newlander) gets turned in to a half vampire. We go back to the present and Edgar (Corey Feldman) gets an eviction notice and one week to vacate his trailer. Still talking like Nolan’s Batman, he goes to a comic book store to sell some of his collection. As if sensing the need for exposition from the viewer, a famous blogger named Johnny Trash comes in and irritates Edgar’s friend Zoe who explains that he is in town to cover a rave. When Edgar gets back to his trailer, he finds a woman named Gwen there who wants to hire him to find her brother Peter. Peter went to a rave hosted by DJ X in Ibiza (guess who is hosting the rave that’s coming to town?) and has not been seen since. These raves are held all over the world, and ravers are given “the thirst,” which they think is a new hip drug, but in fact is vampire blood. Essentially, DJ X is creating armies of vampires all over the world. Gwen informs Edgar that DJ X is possibly the Alpha vampire (and killing him will return all halves back to human). Edgar turns this down. He does, however go to visit Alan to discuss the situation. Thank God, just like us, Alan has no idea what happened to characters from the first film so Edgar can tell all of us. Here is the skinny on that: During the credits of The Tribe, Sam (Corey Haim) shows up as a vampire and confronts Edgar. The go at each other and the credits continue to roll, leaving us unsure as to what happened. Edgar tells Alan that he killed Sam, after he became a full vampire. Because of this, Sam’s brother Michael and Star no longer speak to him. Laddie, the child half vampire that Star looked after in the original, apparently now has a family and leads a normal life. Interestingly also, in another reference to the first movie, Alan sustains himself as a half vampire by drinking animal blood. He is a taxidermist, like Sam and Michael’s grandfather was (which is a main point of argument for those that believe that Grandpa was half vampire). Alan wants nothing to do with this task as he believes that no one knows who the Alpha vampire really is, and there will just be someone else who they believe is, and it is a never ending cycle. Edgar decides to take the job anyway, but Gwen has hired Lars, a reality show host, so they are now partners in this task. So the group: Edgar, Zoe, Lars (and his cameraman) and Gwen (who is the author of a popular series of vampire novels) load up on weapon and formulate a plan to rescue Peter (oh yeah, that’s what they were doing).

The Thirst is kind of interesting. For those of you that are unaware, there is a comic (4 issues) called The Lost Boys: Reign of Frogs that takes place between the first 2 films. Also, there was or is talks of making a Frog brothers television show. After watching this film, I can almost see how a show would be good. I would need the Frogs to be recast, as Feldman and Newlander have lost all acting ability, but I would not mind seeing Edgar and Alan regularly as a spin off of the original film. This franchise gets steered in to spin off more than sequels, but it just isn’t working. The Thirst is a big bag of references to the original film. When not being treated to exposition explaining unanswered (and possibly unasked) questions to fill in the gaps between 1987 and 2010, we get flashbacks to scenes of the original. The explanation of what happened to the characters was fine, but the flashbacks were annoying. This is clearly the further adventures of the Frogs, and the original is now but one (albeit the best) chapter in their adventure. Let’s focus on the present. In fact, while we are at it, let\’s lose The Lost Boys title as well.

I cannot tell you how much I HATE action movie one liners. The Tribe and The Thirst are riddled with them. You know, what? Stop making them largely comedic anyway. They are not as funny as the original and they don’t really need to be. Nothing wrong with a little bit of humor, but the comedy is over emphasized by lines that would be better suited in Commando.

These films were possibly a good idea, and perhaps 15 years ago they would have been much better. Feldman looks old, and the storyline would be better suited to younger actors, as well would a lengthy series, whether film or television. With the success of The Walking Dead, it is very possible that a well executed series about the Frog Brothers could be just as well received. The end of this film hints at another sequel, and perhaps it will be better. We are given a clue as to what the subject matter would be, and this would further detach it from The Lost Boys “family” as it were. This would surely make the quality better as I would have to assume the constant references would be done away with as we watch the Frogs take on new challenges.

So, it is not crap. In fact, it is a springboard for many interesting concepts. I find that the possibilities this film could lead to are more interesting than the actual film, and perhaps that’s what carried me through to the end. Rightfully so, it apparently ignored the second film, with the exception of two references (unfortunately, one of which actually requires a viewing of The Tribe to understand). However, just because it is not crap, does not mean it is good. Unfortunately it is more bad than good, but there are some moments that are genuinely entertaining. I say, stop making films, change the name and make a show. It will work better.

Random Movie: Land of the Dead (2005)


Written by: PBF

Land of the Dead is the last Romero “Of the Dead” film before the series gets sort of rebooted with Diary of the Dead. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), it is the last one that was fairly decent the whole time.

The dead now outnumber the living. In Pittsburg, most, if not all of the survivors have fled to the city. The city is enclosed by rivers and an electric fence, which is patrolled by military. Within the city is Fiddler’s Green which is where the rich dwell. It has luxury living, a mall, restaurants. Outside of Fiddler’s Green is where the poor people live. People are hungry, ill, and cannot afford medicine. Riley Denbo (Simon Baker), possibly the prettiest man of the zombie apocalypse, and Cholo DeMora (John Leguizamo) are the commander and second in command (respectively) of the Dead Reckoning. The Dead Reckoning is a gigantic mobile assault vehicle that is used to travel out in to the apocalypse to retrieve supplies (food, medical, etc) and distribute them to the poor back in the city. The vehicle has armor, multiple cameras, an arsenal of weapons and can fire fireworks or “sky flowers” in to the air. The zombies are fascinated by the fireworks and will stare at them rather than feeding. One zombie, who was a gas station attendant, seems to have broken the hypnosis that ensues and starts communicating with other zombies. Eventually they become unaffected by the fireworks and even learn to fire weapons. The “lead” zombie then zombie convinces the rest of the undead to follow him toward the city. Denbo and DeMora have decided that this night will be their last night commanding the Reckoning. Denbo will take his car to Canada, and DeMora will try to get his place in Fiddler’s Green. He brings cigars and champagne to Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), the man who runs the city (and whom DeMora has been working for) and explains that he has saved enough money to move in to Fiddler’s Green. Kaufman declines his request, and fires him. Pissed, DeMora then takes the Dead Reckoning with the crew (sans Denbo) out of the city. He tells Kaufman (who has not paid him for his services) that unless he gives him $5 million, he will blow up the city. Unwilling to negotiate, Kaufman hires Denbo to retrieve the Reckoning and DeMora, either alive or dead. Denbo, Charlie (burned by a fire, slightly retarded) and Slack (hooker, played by Asia Argetno) were all arrested following a shootout. Denbo agrees to the job under the condition that Charlie and Slack go with him. Kaufman agrees and further supplies him with three more people: Manolete, Motwotwn and Pillsbury. As they head out of the city to find DeMora, the ever evolving zombies move toward the city.

Perhaps it was my disdain for the last 2 I watched (Diary and Survival) that cause me to come in to this with no expectations and a little bit distracted. Whether it was that or sloppy story telling, it took a few minutes for me to get a grasp hold of what was going on. There are a lot of story elements to keep up with and they don’t entirely connect in to fluidity until the Reckoning is stolen. Even though this made for a choppy pace, the story is quite intriguing and engages you enough to still understand it until it picks up. Again, social commentary abounds, and I find it interesting (and quite believable) that even after a zombie outbreak, humans would still be separated by class.

The film is certainly better acted than the following 2 (which for some reason I viewed before this one) and the zombies are still somewhat frightening, much like the social structure they are attempting to destroy (eat the rich!). The film is simply well balanced in all aspects, something that is definitely lacking in Diary and Survival.

I am actually more angry at Diary and Survival now having watched this. It really would have been interesting to see how far evolved the zombies become, and what happens as a result. This is abandoned with the regression in timeline (despite the use of Alan Van Sprang who plays 2 different military characters throughout all 3 films), although in Survival, the inhabitants of Plum Island are attempting to make the zombies “learn.” I questioned the significance of doing that in my review of Survival, as they were merely being taught to eat animals rather than humans. However, in Land, they are learning on their own, and their attack of the living takes on a more personal meaning as they are attacking the humans that are attacking them, and not simply looking for flesh to eat (eventually). This could have led to a more organic co existence (rather than forced, as in Survival). For example, the zombies may have turned to only dispatching dickheads, instead of everyone. Or it could have led to a smarter zombie that eventually was responsible for the complete eradication of the human race. All of this is moot, as we are left with 2 of the worst zombie installments ever. Better luck next film.

Monday, November 15, 2010

TV Scum: The Walking Dead — Tell It to the Frogs

S01E03
When it comes down to it, the major point in most post-apocalyptic stories are the other survivors and The Walking Dead does not deviate much from that tradition. Sure, we still have the looming zombie threat but with only a handful of zombie appearances this week, it is all about the living and their interactions with one another.

Rick is reunited with Lori and Carl at their mountaintop retreat in a scene that almost brought a tear to my eye. However, even after their tender moment, Rick contemplates returning to free Merle who was last seen chained to a roof as the group cut and ran last episode. Granted Merle was an ass, a racist, and would likely do more harm than good but Rick, Glenn, T-Dog, and Merle’s brother Daryl set out heading back to Atlanta, not only to free Merle but also to reacquire Rick’s satchel of guns left behind with his now-likely zombie horse.

Meanwhile, things at base camp are not too rosy either as the zombies are heading further up the mountain and the tenuous relationships between the survivors are further stressed with frustration over who is pulling their own weight. I enjoyed this episode mostly due to the expansion of the other cast members who have been relegated mostly to the background while Rick was in Atlanta. This not only gives us more Emma Bell (watch Frozen!) but also other, less pronounced threats to the safety and sanity of the group especially as we can see where the group will become more fractured over time. Sarah Wayne Callies, another prominent character with little to do thus far, had a nice showing this week with her elation of having her family together again and her anger over Shane lying about Rick’s fate.

It is also a damn good thing that Frank Darabont has an impressive body of work as he brought some very good character actors along with him. We’ve already met Laurie Holden and Jeffrey DeMunn but new this week (at least in a substantive fashion) is Melissa Suzanne McBride as an abused woman whose husband is not going to let the end of the world deter his dickheadedness. Michael Rooker (with a less than stellar track record) had a great chance to shine in this episode as Merle goes from loony, to desperate, to just batshit crazy in the intro as he is being sized-up by the (for now) contained zombies.

Next week, it appears we have some Atlanta-based assholes to deal with but I trust everyone will make it through okay. At least as long as Merle can find a tourniquet. And I am also hoping that we will see more of Lennie James‘ character soon after his brief mention this week.

BONUS: Zombie Kill of the Week
Again, the z-words were largely MIA this week but the honor would probably have gone to the now headless zombie courtesy of DeMunn’s impressive machete handling.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Random Movie: Of Unknown Origin (1983)

Written by: PBF

I spent the majority of Of Unknown Origin on the thin line dividing like and dislike. Upon the arrival of the film's end, I fell over to the dislike side.

Bart (Peter Weller) is an executive who is assigned a project by his boss that will guarantee his rise up the corporate ladder. While his wife and son go out of town, Bart stays behind to focus on his project. At random, we start to see very close up shots of a clearly over sized rodent. For some reason, a large rat that also lives in Bart's brownstone for who knows how long, suddenly decides that it will torment Bart, thus making it difficult for him to complete his assigned task. Bart also goes a bit nutty, and starts to obsess over the rat and learns as much as he can about vermin in general (at one point he views an illustration of one with the caption "of unknown origin," which explains the rather ominous and somewhat misleading title of the film). He spouts off a monologue filled with facts about rats at a business dinner making the guests quite uncomfortable. He slowly descends into "madness" which his co workers assume is simply fatigue from being overworked. Oh, how right they are. Trying to kill a rat the size of a small dog is quite arduous. Well, at least for Bart.

Aside from Weller (and the ending,which I will get to), this movie is alarmingly mediocre. Weller is really quite funny, a trait that he keeps no matter how mad he becomes. In fact, the worse he gets, the more funny he seems. There is a fair amount of seriousness to his lunacy, which is also quite effective (especially this eye roll that he does during a hallucination) and gives his performance believability. It's not a superbly written film, and no one else gives any noteworthy performances.

The runtime is quite short at 88 minutes, but it seems much longer. This is attributed to the relentless back and forth from work to home, home to work. This was fine some of the time; it was funny to see Bart have to stay up all night chasing a rat and then try to perform at work, but a lot of the time, nothing really eventful happened at either location. The film would have done well to stop switching back and forth early in the film. The part of the story involving his job doesn't get resolved, so there would be no loss of story by doing it this way. Perhaps even there could have been a large chunk of film where the rat issue resolves and then we go back to the office one last time.

Which brings me to the end of the film. While the film was not great shakes, I was interested enough to watch until the end. Naturally, I am waiting for an excellent ending to validate this journey. FAIL. If the film was really good up to that point, I could just call it a bad ending, but this just made me hate the whole film and made me think I wasted my time. Essentially what happens is, he kills it, and destroys his house in the process. Then as his wife walks in and sees the house destroyed, he dismisses it with "I had a party," hinting that he has returned to his former self, as if never having gone through making a 'medieval' weapon out of a bat, nails and other sharp objects. True, one can "obsess" over something and it seem like it was consuming (Angry Birds, for example), and then return to a normal day, but the two are hardly the same. Bart clearly crosses a line, hallucinating multiple times. It would have made much more sense and a better ending, if Bart's wife and son came home to find a broken, permanently damaged man, who may have killed his adversary, but lost his sanity in doing so. But, no, the movie just ends after this line, as if to say, "Who cares about anything else? The rat is dead."

I will also say that the scenes with the rat were good. Quite a bit of tension and at least one good jump. However, this is yet another thing ruined by a piss poor ending.

This is a film that I really wish I liked. Peter Weller is awesome in this, and I feel like the poor quality of the film overall will not drive very many to witness his performance.

Random Movie: Megamind (2010)


Written by: PBF

I’ll tell you, as anti 3D as I am, it didn’t bother me in Megamind. According to the internet, the 3D was complete garbage and/or useless, but I found it to be pleasant and comfortable to look at.

Megamind (Will Ferrell) was sent to our planet at 8 days old (but highly intelligent) by his parents. In addition to this, another baby from another planet was sent to Earth and the two pods briefly collided, sending Megamind to a prison for the criminally gifted and the other child in to a home of a very wealthy couple and underneath their Christmas tree. The children are raised in their new homes, and end up going to the same school. As Megamind was raised by criminals, he is a bit of an outcast and ill behaved. The other child generally thwarts his behavior and wins the affections of students and the teacher alike. Constantly being placed in the corner, Megamind realizes that he isn’t good at anything, except for being bad, and makes the decision to become a villain. As adults the two are rivals, Megamind being the supervillain, while the other child, Metro Man (Brad Pitt) is the defender of Metro City. As per any hero/villain relationship, Metro Man has defeated Megamind in any altercation they have engaged in. One day Megamind and his sidekick Minion (David Cross) kidnap a reporter, Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey). They lure Metro Man in to a trap, but unlike Megminds previous schemes, this one works, and Metro Man is no more. Megamind assumes control of the city, but as there is no super hero to challenge him, he becomes bored. He decides to create a new hero using some of Metro Man’s DNA. He accidentally injects it in to Hal (Jonah Hill), Roxanne’s cameraman. He decides that this will work, and trains him to use his new powers. Megamind makes him an outfit and names him Tighten. Ultimately, Tighten decides to become evil and Megamind is forced to defend the city much like Metro Man once did.

This film is very entertaining, however quite reminiscent of other films. Similarly to Despicable Me, the main character is a villain that becomes good. Also in that film, Gru has little creatures called “minions.” The comparisons to Superman are many. Child sent to Earth, reporter involved with superhero. Also, when Megamind is training Hal, he takes the form of an old man who looks and sounds like Marlon Brando as Jor-El. There is also apparently some similarity to The Incredibles, but I have not seen that film.

Despite all of that, it is still a film that is quite enjoyable. The dialogue is quite clever and every one seems to be having a great time with each of their roles. The humor is well paced and will keep an adult entertained the entire time. Infact, the humor is what elevates it from other films of this ilk. The plot, while similar in nature to Despicable Me, was different enough to feel refreshing. Again, I thought the 3D was fine. Apparently I am alone in this, but it just worked for me. It was not gimmicky and it looked clean and smooth. Megamind has a car with stealth mode, but it is still somewhat visible (ala Predator), and at one point part of the vehicle was right in front of my face and I didn’t notice it for a few seconds.

The film is rated PG and I think the older the child is, the more they will like it, and adults will enjoy it from start to finish without feeling like they are watching a film aimed at kids. This is a Dreamworks picture, and it did not seem to have that mysterious hypnotic greatness that Pixar films have, but it is not bad by any means.

Random Movie: The Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008)

Written by: PBF

Take everything that was good about the first one, reverse it, and make a new movie. BAM! The Lost Boys: The Tribe. Great music turns in to terrible music. Clever, funny dialogue turns in to weak, lame jokes. You get the idea.

The Tribe is the first sequel to the original Lost Boys film that for some reason a group of people felt they needed to ruin the legacy of. This went straight to video, and it looks like a film that went straight to video. The only connection this film has with the original is that Corey Feldman reprises his role as Edgar Frog. Also, Haim shows up during the credits for about 2 minutes and is now a vampire. That is not a spoiler and the scene is not relevant to the rest of the movie.

Chris and Nicole Emerson have lost their parents and move to California. Chris was a professional surfer that was kicked off the circuit after having snapped. I assume he repaired himself, because he is remarkably low key for someone who has snapped. Chris is looking for a job as a shaper, and is referred to The Frog Brothers shapers. They go to their trailer and no one answers, so Chris leaves their contact information on the door. Chris eventually meets Shane, also a former surfer and a bit mysterious. He invites Chris to a party. Chris and Nicole attend and Shane is quite fond of Nicole. She unknowingly drinks Shane’s blood and turns in to a half vampire. She slowly displays vampiric characteristics, which prompts a visit from Edgar Frog, vampire hunter and surfboard shaper. Very much like the first film, Edgar must convince Chris that his sister is now (half) undead, and that the head vampire must be killed so that she can return to normal. Then this piece of shit movie wanders on for another hour or so, sure to infuriate the viewer

Cory Feldman is the worst part of the film. He does this, Christian Bale Batman voice the whole time, it’s ridiculous. And he has the worst lines. “Who ordered the steak (stake)?” should never be uttered in a vampire film. Everyone else ranged from marginal to not bad. Kiefer Sutherland’s half brother Angus Sutherland plays Shane, and he is pretty decent. But the cast was not nearly as tight as the first film. It was like a bunch of school kids waiting to spout off their lines autonomous of each other. “The Tribe,” which is just Shane’s vampire gang, is a bunch of idiots. One of them stabs the others because he thinks it’s funny. He doesn’t kill them, he will just stab until an intestine comes out. And they’re all jerks. To each other, to humans, just in general. In the first film, they were a family that was civil to each other. Shane refers to the Tribe as a family, but they act like dicks to each other. It’s like, who wants to be a part of that fucking family?

Another thing that was bothersome was once Nicole was half vampire, that was it. She just hung out with the Tribe the whole time and there really wasn’t any struggle there. She was no longer interested in being a human. In fact, she tried to recruit Chris toward the end of the film. I rather enjoyed the back and forth Michael went through in the first film.

The music was a bunch of garbage, featuring a horrible rendition of “Cry Little Sister.” The song that played during the credits was so weird and bad, it seemed as if I was imagining it due to the late hour.

Also, the film had numerous scenes that were not needed. The entire opening scene had nothing to do with anything. The police chase scene had NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING.

Look, my face hurt from scowling so much at this. Don’t watch it. You will hate it. It is an embarrassment, not only compared to the original, but as a film in general.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Random Movie: The Lost Boys (1987)

Written by: PBF

Ah, The Lost Boys. I haven’t seen saxophone playing that sexy since Rob Lowe in St. Elmo’s Fire. Both of those films are directed by Joel Schumacher. Hm.

Sam (Corey Haim), his brother Michael (Jason Patric) and mother Lucy (Diane Wiest) are relocating to Santa Carla, California after Lucy has divorce the boys’ father. They are moving in with Lucy’s eccentric father (Bernard Hughes). Seeing things like “murder capital of the world” spray painted on a sign, posters with missing people on them and all kinds of weirdos running around the boardwalk do not exactly make the boys feel good about the move. Grandpa is also a weirdo, who likes smoking weed, taxidermy and keeping Oreos in the refrigerator next to his root beer. While out on the boardwalk one night, Lucy goes in to a video store and meets Max (Edward Hermann), the owner, and takes a job there. Sam visits a comic book store where the Frog brothers, Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander) give him a vampire comic. The speak vaguely and call the comic a survival guide, and hint that something is not right in Santa Carla (I never understood this; the movie makes it clear right away that there are vampires about. I have often wondered why the Frog brothers just did not outright say from the beginning that the town is crawling with them). Michael (whose name is spoken easliy 100 times in this film) sees and beomes fascinated with Star (Jami Gertz), who he first encounters at the aforementioned steroid saxophone jam. While trying to woo Star, Michael falls in with David (Keifer Sutherland) and friends who live in a cave. They are reprobates for sure, but because Star hangs out with them, Michael does also. They put him through various “tests” as initiation, including having him unknowingly drink David’s blood. Michael then becomes a half vampire and slowly starts displaying the warning signs: see through reflection, sleeping all day, flying. Some of the behaviors he is displaying are the same as a troubled son, so Lucy assumes that he is rebelling due to the divorce. Sam, having read the vampire comics supplied to him, recognizes the transformation that his brother is going through and tried to alert his mother, but this usually ends in disaster and Lucy again thinks that, reacting to the divorce, her other child is now acting out. Sam must now save his brother, who is torn between good and evil, and resisting the urge to become a full vampire (by killing someone) is becoming increasingly difficult.

I will just come right out and say that The Lost Boys is every bit as good as it was over 20 years ago. Even as I typed “20 years ago,” it does not seem like the film is that old. It doesn’t look it, that’s for sure. The 80’s is one of the most visually obvious decades when captured on film and aside from maybe a vampire mullet or two, the film does not have that look to it at all. You may have to ignore the umpteen occasions in which “Cry Little Sister” is played to remove yourself from 1987, but if you did that, you wouldn’t be watching The Lost Boys, would you?

The film blends horror and comedy perfectly, and what helps is that neither of the two is over the top. Lines are genuinely funny, and the gore is rather limited, yet very effective. This lends believably to an otherwise unbelievable story. Also, everyone in it was pretty much perfectly cast, right down to the two Coreys. This was their first film together, and what a legacy they have left us.

The most enjoyable part of this film was that it focused on the fight for Michael. We seem him turn half vampire early, and the bulk of the film is him battling the urge to give in and become full vampire. He seeks help from Sam but at the same time, returns to David. This was much more satisfying than a simple battle between vampires and humans. This was a fight for property and territory that is complicated by love and family.

Also enjoyable is the whole “my kids are just acting out” explanation that Lucy assigns to her kids’ behavior. I mean, it makes logical sense, so why wouldn’t she? How funny is it, that of many things kids might battle with (drugs, etc), Michael ends up running with blood suckers? It’s almost a blatant commentary on how oblivious some parents can be.

There really isn’t anything negative to say about this film. Every second is thoroughly enjoyable. What’s more impressive, is that it will without a doubt be just as good in another 20 years. Whereas I could not make it through an entire installment of Twilight when it was new, I can make it through this film with the same level of enjoyment each and every time. I am unsure if Schumacher knew he was making a film that would be sort of timeless, but that it exactly what he did. There are countless vampire films, and it is almost a reflex to mention The Lost Boys when someone demands a list of best vampire films of me.

Random Movie: Due Date (2010)


It is hard to have a decent expectation of what is to come before watching Due Date. Sure, it seems to be very similar to the John Hughes classic Planes, Trains & Automobiles but that quickly fades aside from the mismatched traveling buddies angle. You might also think it would feature some wacky hijinks similar to director Todd Phillips' The Hangover but where that film was fun just for the hell of it, it feels like there is a point trying to come out of this movie.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Peter, a serious and sometimes pretentious architect who crosses paths with Zach Galifianakis' Ethan on a cross-country flight to Los Angeles. After Peter is grounded due in part to Ethan's obnoxious behavior without money or an ID, the two join forces to drive the distance so Peter can make it to the birth of his first child. From the start, both actors have a good, yet almost combative, chemistry as Galifianakis plays Ethan like a long-lost twin to his Hangover character and Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark stripped of any humor or playfulness.

Certain sequences and exchanges by the duo and also with help by the likes of Danny McBride turn out well enough to trick you into thinking that this is a straight-forward, nonsensical comedy. However, interspersed with the comedic elements are portions that feel like they are lifted from an entirely different movie. Ethan has just lost his father and is determined to break into Hollywood because his dad was supportive of the endeavor, no matter how ill-conceived it is. Meanwhile, Peter is not only concerned with getting home for the birth but also has brief reflections on his own deadbeat father and questions about his wife's loyalty.

Largely, these parts are not played for laughs, but more for a character-driven moment or two. I am not one to argue against heavier scenes in certain context but these parts are completely unexpected bookended by scenes of Galifianakis being clumsy or Downey Jr. being so enraged that he spits in a dog's face. Unlike Hughes' PT&A which was largely grounded in reality (even if it might be an improbable reality), Due Date is more of a ludicrous tale with questionable outcomes which make those soft, tender scenes all the more abrupt in their shift.

That said, certain parts of the movie are quite funny, especially from Peter as he is constantly squabbling with the man-child Ethan. Seeing as how we have all known people like Ethan, to lesser extents hopefully, Peter's reactions to Ethan are genuine even if that paints him as kind of a dick. Watching the movie, you can tell that both Downey Jr. and Galifianakis had fun with their respective roles. Galifianakis is the highlight here just as in Hangover as Ethan is the complete opposite of cool and/or suave, but he is simply oblivious to that fact.

Aside from the aforementioned problem with the script as it clumsily shoehorns in the Lifetime movie moments into the narrative, Phillips' direction here is not as good as what he has shown before. Instead of everything being mostly tight and compact, several sequences are drawn out dangerously long to the point that things becoming boring, and incidentally most of these scenes are in the cheesy-drama category. Perhaps there was more in depth here than in the final cut as there are more moments in the final quarter of the movie as Peter begins to level out and embrace Ethan, and his quirks to an extent. It is also worth noting that Phillips' obligatory cameo has been extended from the few seconds like all of his previous films to a few minutes here. It may be unrelated but given the unevenness of the pacing I thought it was interesting as maybe he was trying a few new things here.

Know that going into this movie, it will not be a laugh riot. In fact, for as many clever, if slightly cliched and predictable, sequences, there are two to three more that tonally feel wildly out of place. So while Downey Jr. and Galifianakis turned in great performances, the rest of Due Date was not as satisfying.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Random Movie: Top Secret (1984)


After starting the movie with little information going into it other than a recommendation by PBF, I thought that the opening scene had a very zany, almost Naked Gun-feel to it. Imagine my surprise when I learned in the credits that Top Secret was written and directed by none other than the once great, now not-so-much trio of Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker, or ZAZ for the motivationally challenged typists.

Having been a big fan of Airplane! and The Naked Gun! in my younger years it was a shock to learn of another movie in the vain of those aforementioned that I had only fleeting knowledge of its existence. That would be the equivalent to finding out George Romero had another zombie film in the 1970s, you know before he started sucking.

Skirting along on the daintiest of plots, Val Kilmer is very pretty here as Nick Rivers, an American pop singer who is summoned to perform in East Germany and goes on a haphazard journey before aligning with French revolutionaries who seek the country's downfall. As someone who is not a big fan of Elvis Presley and thus has never seen any movie he has been in, it took some reading up to discover that Top Secret is a parody of his films, I presume as the hunky heartthrob who launches into song at the drop of a hat, mixed with spy movies in general.

This mashup gives Abrahams and the brothers Zucker more than enough material to throw out jokes in dizzying frequency, much like their previous comical collaborations. The beauty is that the jokes here are not particularly germane to the plot nor do they even really make sense. But then again, certain shots like the random guy desperately running down a tree or Omar Sharif in a compacted car do not need relevancy or a great history behind them so long as they are funny. And Top Secret brings the funny.

While certain filmmakers of shitty "parody" movies (cough, Stan Helsing) are able to get the base formula for their movies down, if a parody is as funny as an average phone call to your cable company, someone has failed. Like their previous films, there is little that ZAZ will not do for a joke whether it is a physical, cultural-based, or just plain off-the-wall gag. My biggest complaint would be that this feels through and through like an 80s movie and while I understand the humor with most of the topical gags (like Montgomery Ward or Pinto), it dates the film moreso than the simple craziness from their other genre entries.

Certain parody movies get a pass on some fronts that normally go into analyzing a film. Is the plot believable? Nope, but it doesn't really matter much. Are there grade-A actors who can really sell the nuances of their characters? Again, no and watching such a movie looking for deep character moments and compelling drama is missing the point. Granted, Val Kilmer may not be known for his comedic strengths but he is able to carry things on very well in a manner that is surprisingly honest with just a hint of factiousness.

So while Top Secret may be more dated than some of its 80s brethren, it is still quite enjoyable in a random kind of way.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Random Movie: Super Troopers (2001)


Written by: PBF

I can quote the entire film, and yet every time I watch it, I laugh as if I have never heard any of the lines before.

It’s kind of like Police Academy. Only there’s no academy. Also, it’s funny. The plot is simple enough for any drunk or high viewer to grasp. In fact it may enhance the experience to be inebriated. Enhance. Enhance. Seriously though, Super Troopers is probably quite funny when viewed under the influence but it is not necessary. We have a chapter of Vermont State Police that prefer to engage in buffoonery and chicanery rather than take their jobs seriously. This behavior has finally caught up to them as they face being shut down due to budget cuts. The local police department would benefit from this by getting more money. In addition to that the two squads are rivals and the local cops would love it if the highway cops were jobless. Soon a dead woman is found and a truck filled with marijuana is pulled over and each group of cops try to break the case open and thus eliminate their competition.

This film is the most quotable in the Broken Lizard collection, and just one of the most quotable movies in general. Not just lines, but entire scenes of dialogue. The film employs a simple formula: marginal acting, shallow plot, basic direction and hilarious script. The film is just very funny from beginning to end. The odd thing is, I had to watch it more than once before I realized this. After having seen it nearly a hundred times, I am not sure why that is. But I’ll tell you, this film has the best replay value I have ever encountered.

There really is not one person in this that is not funny. Every one of the Lizard, Brian Cox, Daniel von Bargen. One might make the argument that this film is a bunch of comedy sketches pieced together, however the scenes pretty easily transition in to each other and only seem segmented from a scene quoting standpoint. In that respect, I feel that it is quite the opposite. A film that can easily be split up in to sketches, and even (as Puck and I have mentioned a few times) make a pretty funny television program.

Understand that this film (or any of them) is not out to make a dent in the art house universe, and it really just seems to be a vessel in which to facilitate clever bits of dialogue and ridiculous conversations. In that respect, it is a successful version of Mallrats (both films happen to be the second for both Lizard and Smith).

I suppose this really is not so much a review as it is a glowing recommendation for a great comedy. It might seem absurd to some, but this could be a different generation’s Caddyshack or Ghostbusters. It’s also a fine example of how simplicity can succeed against over complication.

Random Movie: Very Bad Things (1998)

Black comedies can be a hard combo to pull off, especially with the events that transpire in Very Bad Things. Comparatively to potty humor, black comedies (at least the good ones) tend to have an actual plot with real characters because that is really the only way that such a movie could work without an over reliance on bodily fluids. The danger comes from the delicate need to straddle the line between laughable and horrible that a black comedy must attempt. Writer and director Peter Berg is a talented guy and fortunately he is able to meld the two elements well, most of the time at least.

As Kyle and his friends escape sunny California for Las Vegas for a bachelor’s party (that sounds vaguely familiar), things start normal enough with some standard bickering in the car, especially from brothers Michael and Adam, Kyle getting shit for his soon-to-be wife’s controlling nature, as well as lots and lots of drugs and alcohol. When Michael (played by Jeremy Piven just like every other Jeremy Piven role I’ve seen) is part of a tragic accident with a stripper, a wet hotel floor, and an precariously placed towel hook, the five friends are at a loss of what to do. Real estate hot shot Boyd (Christian Slater) manages to talk them out of calling the police and “handling business” themselves before things are further complicated by another visitor.

Truthfully, having not seen the movie before, I expected the clean-up stage of the story would take a good chunk of the movie but largely that is dispatched in the first act. The rest that follows deals with the five friends and how they react to their participation in these titular ‘very bad things.’ The middle part of the movie is the most compelling and has real weight to the performances, especially of Piven and his on-screen brother Daniel Stern as both have mental breaks as they try to deal with the deaths they were apart of. Oddly though, this is where things come off the rails as it turns away from being a black comedy to a dramatic character story with very little humor. I am twisted enough that I enjoyed the satiric depravity of the deaths/murders in the beginning and ending of the film, especially as another party is brought into the festivities and I liked the character elements of Adam’s guilt pouring like sweat from his body as he tries to get back to normal life. I just wish these two halves were integrated better.

I cannot figure out why I can never recognize Jon Favreau in a movie but his character Kyle is good, especially as he is given more to do in the story and not being overshadowed by Slater, who is fucking insane. As the anti-voice of reason in the group, Slater’s Boyd gives motivational speeches that are bullshit yet somewhat believable especially given the context of the story and the rising body count. Boyd suffers in the middle of the film as well though as he becomes more reasonable (not totally though) instead of having that crazy look in his eye after someone has just died. Going back to the fine line between the horror and the humor, too much one way or another could easily cast the rest of the movie in a bad light but Berg walks that tightrope fairly consistently, even if the movie is segregated too much between the acts.

As long as a movie is honest about it, I have no problem with things being twisted and mean-spirited. The story itself is somewhat nonsensical but then again, I can think of a few other movies with plots about covering up a murder so at least Very Bad Things put a new, sick twist on things.

Random Movie: Club Dread (2004)


Written by: PBF

Coconut Pete is without a doubt, the best role Bill Paxton has ever played.

Club Dread is the 3rd film by Broken Lizard, following Super Troopers. There is a resort called Coconut Pete’s Pleasure Island, in Costa Rica. It is your basic hedonistic paradise; lots of naked people, booze, drugs, etc. Coconut Pete is a former rock star in the vein of Jimmy Buffet who will be quick to remind you that his hit Pina Coladaburg was written 7 years before Margaritaville. On this island is the fun police, live Pac Man games (in which you might see the fruit from the game having sex with each other) and the legend of Machete Pete. Machete Pete supposedly killed a bunch of staff and castrated himself and ran off in to the woods never to be seen again. Soon after this story is told (around a campfire ala Friday the 13th Part 2) dead bodies start being found with cryptic clues carved in to them. With no way off the island, the staff must figure out which one of them is the killer.

I purposely watched all other Lizards films before Super Troopers. I did this, because it had been a while since I had seen some of the others, and there were a couple I had not seen at all, and I wanted to know if Super Troopers would still be the best after viewing them all. While I still think it is, Club Dread is a very close second (and Beerfest is not that far off, either). The reason that it is second, is only because it is not as consistently funny as Troopers. However, when it is funny, it is hysterical. Bill Paxton is just superbly funny as Pete, who is drunk all of the time and cannot remember most things he did, including making entire albums. This is especially funny as the killer quotes his lyrics and uses his one of his songs as a sort of victim blueprint, but Pete cannot offer any assistance as to what the song actually means. The film also has some of the weirdest/funniest lines of any of their films: “This guy’s gonna be picking his teeth outta my dump!” and “You get a fun fucking warrant!” Sometimes, however, the jokes are not funny and provide an uneven feel.

What also works well in this film, is the horror genre spoof. It’s not as obvious as “What’s your favorite scary movie?” but it has all the elements of classic horror films. Young people having sex and getting wasted then getting killed. Cheap scares, the “killer legend” story that is told. But it also does a good job of being a half decent real horror picture as well. The movie gives everyone a motive early on and will keep you guessing who the killer is. It is a good slasher horror, that not only does a great job of parodying the genre, but makes it funny for the most part, while being both tongue in cheek and clever. Not saying it’s the first film to do this, but one of the better ones. In fact, it actually kind of stands apart from the other Lizard films as an almost serious attempt to make a film that is not just humorous, but one that demonstrates the troupes film/film making knowledge. It has slick timing and is just a very well directed film.

When I say that Dread is second to Troopers, I mean by a very small margin. Aesthetically it is superior, but its continued misses in humor (humor being one half of the film), just knock it down to that second spot. Troopers, which is a straight comedy, is mostly comedy hits and thus solidifies it as the more even, and more effective of the two.

Best shot of the film: decapitation from the head’s point of view. It watches the body it was separated from flop around for a minute.

Monday, November 8, 2010

TV Scum: The Walking Dead — Guts

S01E02

This episode illustrates why the concept of a weekly zombie series is an excellent idea (being AMC’s highest rated drama doesn’t hurt either). Any show can have a flashy and expensive pilot (and most do) but when it comes down to it, the premiere episode is merely the foundation of the series and usually not a particularly good expectation of what is to come. Historically, a series’ second episode delves more into the character-driven aspects of the show (one aspect the pilot was not lacking in to begin with) as you begin to get a sense of how the stories will unfold throughout the remaining episodes. If that is the case here, we have four seventeen(!) more episodes of awesomeness ahead of us.After he escapes the tank from the end of the last episode, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) teams up with another group of survivors who are now in jeopardy as Rick’s presence has drawn more zombies (or “geeks” as one character calls them) to the storefront they are holding up in. Like with any decent zombie movie, more characters equate to more internal conflict and in-fighting which is what I hear a good portion of the comic series is about. The most dangerous among the living is Dixon (Michael Rooker!) who is the requisite asshole, this time with racist tendencies as some fleeting social commentary surfaces about two groups of people who are not meant to live together. Of course, the geeks are still roaming and they force the survivors to engage in some pretty vile acts that you likely will not see on network TV anytime soon.

The direction in this episode by Michelle Maxwell MacLaren is within reach of the first episode with an open and ambitious feel that normally do not accompany serial television series. Certain scenes are more tense than anything you will find in a bargain-bin horror movie these days as the constant threat of the walkers places a sense of danger in even the most mundane settings. While I cannot attest to how faithful the series has been to its source material, so far there have not been any punches pulled in the narrative and even though it smacks of zombie properties from the beginning of time, it does not feel old or recycled. The amazing effort in the zombie effects have been a major contributor as the kills, the gore, and even just the standby zombie makeup are some of the best that I have seen, A-list feature or not, in some time.

Coming up it looks like we have a reunion of sorts as the ragtag team heads back to the larger group in the relative safety of the woods as Rick and several other members of the posse have family awaiting their return.

BONUS: Zombie Kill of the Week
Rick proves once and for all that having a sharp melee weapon works wonders in a pinch as he bifurcates the head of an offending zombie after his death stench washes away. It’s just something you have to see.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Random Movie: The Collector (2009)

Just like you feel when a local band that you supported gets signed, I was especially proud to watch The Collector. Six years ago, two guys were plucked out of relative obscurity to make a movie on Project Greenlight and have since gone on to writing the latter parts of one of the most successful horror franchises. While I personally did nothing for Marcus Dunston or Patrick Melton to better their Hollywood career, I love seeing them break out into more than just the Feast or Saw series, not that there is anything wrong with those per se.

You can certainly see the roots that the Saw series has planted in The Collector, proported to have been written as a prequel to Jigsaw's original shenanigans. Our hero, Arkin, has a bit of a dilemma. At his core, he seems to be a decent guy but he has decided to rob his boss'/customer's house to bail his ex-wife out of the grips of a loan shark. He arrives at the house believing the family is out of town but quickly learns that not only is the family still present but they are being held by a low-budget Jigsaw who has the entire house booby-trapped. There is a bit of exposition by a previous victim about the villain's intentions but mostly the film consists of Arkin trying to help the family without losing any major body parts.

I will never understand the workings of film studios and how many films are conceived, greenlit, produced, and then left to flounder at the box office without much support. Having a good stream of movie articles in my RSS feed helped raise my awareness of The Collector but judging by the meager $7 million take when it was released last summer, the film could have benefited from a larger presence outside of the horror community. If any of the Saw films can break $100 million easily worldwide, The Collector deserves a bit more attention.

To be fair, for something that was supposedly riding on the coattails of Saw, director Dunston seems to go out of his way to separate this from a Saw film or one of its many knock-offs. Instead of ADHD-inducing jump cuts, throbbing techno music, and spinning cameras, it is mostly pretty straight forward in the story and the camera work. This is not so say that the above do not happen in this movie, they just happen with so little frequency that it seems more of a way to emphasis certain scenes without making the whole movie look like a Michael Bay music video.

Of the cast, I cannot say I recognized any of them prior to looking up their IMDb profiles. Michael Reilly Burke was vaguely familiar but the rest of the family and even Josh Stewart as Arkin were mostly foreign as I watched the movie which is a benefit. Not only are they all pretty good but not seeing a familiar face works to sell the story and the gravity of it without being distracted by a legitimate movie star.

The traps set by the Collector certainly lack a great deal of engineering expertise but their simplicity works to ground the story and turn the extreme home invasion into a more conceivable plot as compared to others in this genre. A common (and somewhat valid) complaint on this portion though was the painstaking process and time that must have been invested to set everything up in the house, especially considering the Collector had most of whom he wanted from the start. Of course, this being a horror movie, we have some stragglers who come along just to be killed but most of the traps seemed to be overkill (pardon the expression). But, the Collector is a pretty sick dude who toys with the family so everything is likely just for his entertainment.

Unlike some "torture porn" films of late, I feel this was not as tasteless or mean-spirited as it comes to human suffering. Sure there is some gore and some torture but I can't really say it is as over-the-top or incredibly cringe inducing as others. Not to say that I don't enjoy a good bout of agony every now and again but this just goes to separate it further from the duo's prior film series and class it up a bit (if you can for a film like this). The ending was on one hand expected and on the other a surprise in its execution so kudos to the filmmakers for keeping us guessing. And just like any other horror movie tries to do, we have a big sequel opportunity, not that one will ever get made though.

So, I'm guessing you haven't seen The Collector. If that is the case, go rectify that as it is an above-average modern day horror film. It may not scare you that much but you'll still thank me. And Marcus Dunston and Patrick Melton as well.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mini Scum: The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009)

The Goods reminded me a lot of Hot Tub Time Machine in that it should have been much funnier than it was. It was not a bad movie though with decent performances from Jeremy Piven and Kathyrn Hahn notably but far too much fell flat when it should have been a goldmine as dirty old men and lusting for statutory rape only go so far to make an R-rated comedy stand out from the pack. There were simply too many good comedic actors here that everyone was one-dimensionally cliched with no compelling traits. Not even Alan Thicke or Will Ferrell cameos could close the sale.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Random Movie: The Killer Inside Me (2010)

Written by: PBF

The Killer Inside Me is based on a book of the same name by Jim Thompson. This is the second adaptation. A film also called The Killer Inside Me was released in 1976 starring Stacy Keach. This is the only incarnation of the tale I have imbibed. It is not a date film.

This film is about Lou Ford (Casey Affleck). In a nutshell (no pun intended), he is a deputy sheriff that is not too complex on the surface. He lives and works in Central City, a small town in Texas. He speaks softly, with a charming accent. Also, he is consumed by an ever growing psychosis that causes him to lash out violently, mostly at women. Having to spank his mother’s ass as a child may have something to do with this. There is a story involving a prostitute (Jessica Alba), Lou’s girlfriend (Kate Hudson) and some money, but to be honest with you, the film could have had Smurfs in it and it would not have mattered. You are not supposed to notice the story so much as the violence.

There are worse depictions of violence against women, but the scenes of it in this film are pretty unnerving. Especially coming from Lou, who seems harmless enough until he punches someone, and thusly the audience quite shockingly and repeatedly. The most brutal of violence is not overflowing in frequency. However the scenes burst through several long stretches of really boring half-narrated plot development. And they tend to kind of go on for a bit to make sure you are nice and uncomfortable. The film is set in the 1950s and the scenes are usually inappropriately (but tension relieving) followed by poppy-country 50s era music. The violence was so attention grabbing in stark contrast to the plot, that I suspect that was the point.