Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Random Movie: Feed (2005)

Written by: PBF

This movie is shocking! Yes, the fairly intriguing  premise and lackluster delivery is shocking to say the least.

Feed introduces us to Phillip Jackson, an Australian detective as he is on a case in Hamburg. We watch as he discovers a man feeding another man his own penis. We then watch as he and his partner Nigel, move on to another project. They comb the internet in a sloppily paced and sort of confusing 10 minutes or so looking for a cyber crime worth mouthing off to the Captain and putting their badges on the line for. They find a site that has a live web cam of a man feeding a 600 lb woman. Phillip (luckily for the audience) explains to Nigel how this fetish works, and what feeders and gainers are. As Phillip explores and tries to gain access to the site’s restricted areas, he figures out what is really going on. This man is force feeding woman and taking bets on how long they will live and how much weight they will gain. Hooray, a cyber crime to solve! In some pretty questionable tracing techniques (not morally questionable; plausible questionable), he discovers where the site is run, Ohio. Instead of being sent there to investigate, his sanity is questioned by his boss (after he is found crying in the bathroom) and he is put on a suspension. Does this stop him from going to America? Well that would make for a boring film, wouldn’t it? Don’t worry, he goes. Yes he still manages to make a boring film out of it.

If I had to pick the thing that bothered me the most about this film, it would be the seemingly over abundance of opportunities to disgust and sicken me, that failed to do anything of the sort. Well, the penis eating thing did, and that was at the beginning of the film so I assumed there would be much more horrible things to follow. Not that the concept isn’t horrible, it is. It’s also not a common plot for a film, which peaked my interest. In fact, so shock-less was it, that it wasn’t even until the film had ended that I realized I sort of witnessed cannibalism. I would rather have had that aspect played up a bit, and the pointless sex scenes between Phillip and his whore girlfriend toned down some. I realize that this was done to give us some idea of Phillip’s own sexual behavior, but it had absolutely no relevance to the rest of the film. Yes there is a morbidly obese woman eating and puking. Yes there is a man masturbating while smearing her with food. Yes, these ideas are quite disturbing, but the execution was not. To be honest with you, I am not sure where it failed. It certainly wasn’t the performance of  Alex O’Loughlin, as Michael, the feeder. He was quite good. I definitely believed his motives and psychosis as we learned about his childhood. Perhaps it was the abysmal dialogue and acting by everyone else. It was rather distracting. Maybe so distracting that it was more outrageous than funnel feeding a fat woman. Maybe because Phillip was the dumbest law enforcement agent I have ever met, aside from Proctor, of Police Academy “fame.” That too, was quite a distraction. Whatever it was, it’s a shame, as this film really could have been quite disturbingly good, but instead, pretty much failed. Another thing that bothered the shit out of me were the awful covers of songs like, “Tainted Love,” “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” and “Lips Like Sugar,” cleverly inserted in the appropriate spots.

Now  I am not suggesting that the only reason why this is a bad film is because it did not disgust me. That is one reason, but not the only. It isn’t really a positive however, that the film had the perfect recipe to do so, and yet did not. Once again, a film that may have been too ambitious for its budget. Perhaps if it had been given a director that didn’t have the least popular Highlander installment on his resume, he or she would have been given sufficient money to hire more than one decent actor (and obviously, it would have been more competently directed). Perhaps a re-imagining is in order.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Random Movie: Just One of the Guys (1985)

Written by: PBF

In my attempt to escape the horror pattern I have been entrenched in, I selected Just One of the Guys as my next review. As it turns out, the director, Lisa Gottlieb, also directed an episode of Freddy's Nightmares (the Nightmare on Elm Street television series). The film's star, Joyce Hyser, appeared in that same episode.

Terry Griffith (Hyser) is a high school student who has almost everything she wants. Her parents are rich, she has a car, she's beautiful, she goes out with a college dreamboat that is also rich. She dreams of becoming a journalist and the local paper is running a contest where students can submit articles for a chance to be published. The winning "reporter" will also get an awesome summer job at the paper. The article she submits does not get selected, and two male students' work does. This coupled with a comment from her journalism teacher convinces her that she was not selected because she is a hot girl that no one will take seriously as a journalist. She becomes so distraught, that with the (sort of) help from her sex obsessed yet still virgin brother, she resorts to cross dressing and taking her article to another high school. She intends to submit it as a male to see if it gets selected simply because she is a boy. It doesn't, but she stays at the school to find another story to write, and hilarious 80's teen sex comedy ensues.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Random Movie: Despicable Me (2010)

Written by: PBF

Despicable Me is brought to us by Universal and Illumination Entertainment. Illumination has some seriously questionable projects going on. Like Where’s Waldo? and The Addams family directed by Tim Burton. Can we stop giving Burton films that can be easily transformed into a Bauhaus fan’s newest favorite picture?

Gru (Steve Carell) is a villain. He hopes to be the worst, and thereby the best villain in the world. An unknown villain steals a pyramid in Egypt and the crime makes national news. Determined not to be outdone, Gru attempts to get a loan from the Bank of Evil. The loan is to fund the construction of a rocket. He plans to steal a shrink ray from a lab, take the rocket in to space, then shrink and steal the moon. The bank denies the loan, however, informs Gru that if he gets the ray, they will give him the money. They explain that he is old and that there are many younger, more capable villains that they would rather loan money to. One of these younger villains, Vector (Jason Segal) is also waiting in the bank for a loan, and annoys Gru to such an extent, that Gru freezes his head on the way out. Later, Gru steals the shrink ray, but Vector steals it from him as payback. Of course one can not simply waltz in to Vector’s home, so Gru has to figure out a ruse to get in. This is where 3 orphaned girls (one voiced by Miranda Cosgrove) come in to play.

First off, let me say that the movie is fine. It was delightfully cute and funny and all that. It wasn’t as good as the TV tells me it is, but it was not a bad movie. Everyone in it is great except maybe Cosgrove; she can’t act her way out of an iCarly lunchbox, but luckily she doesn’t talk so much. I should tell you that I did not see this in 3D, but the animation was fine. If I had one complaint, it’s that it didn’t feel as “slick” as Up or Wall-E. Similarly to Up, you have grumpy old guy that has to “deal” with annoying but cute adolescence but learns from the experience. I’m not claiming that this story originated with Up (nor am i pulling an anti Despicable Me argument ala the anti Inception movement), but it was just done a little better. Possibly because the story was a tad more engaging and characters seemed deeper in Up. Despicable Me was more jokes and situational humor and did not really delve in to the potential morals it could have taught us. Again, this is fine, as it was entertaining most of the time, and who doesn’t like little creatures with high pitched voices pushing each other and laughing all the time?

Not bad for a first effort by Illumination, but Pixar it is not. It was perfect for what it was for me: a Sunday afternoon with my daughter enjoying a movie.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Random Movie: Meat Market 2 (2001)

Written by: PBF

Nothing telegraphs an explosion better than the line, “Are those fuel tanks?”

Meat Market 2 takes place some time after the events of the first film. We see Argenta kill Shahrokh after he turns into a zombie. She, one of the vampires, and a random one eyed Asian wander around foraging for food and supplies. They find another survivor and at her suggestion follow her. She tells them that she heard a radio broadcast about a place to go for food and shower, etc. and was on the way there herself. Naturally, they ignore all sense of skepticism and follow her only to be tricked. The survivor is really a Lieutenant for a military concentration camp or cult or some such nonsense, and surprise; the three of them are the newest addition to the camp. The camp is run by the Reconstruction Commerce Association of North America. Their goal is to rebuild society. They execute undesirables, perform experiments on some prisoners if acceptable for that sort of thing, and the healthy, attractive, and ethnically appropriate ones are put through orientation and processing to become part of “society.” How coincidental; 3 leads, 3 parts of the camp. As you might imagine, each one goes some place different. The camp is run by a white guy named Bill (first names for everyone, it’s a people friendly cult) who wears a white button down shirt, a black tie and is a powerful public speaker. The Association, as it’s called, has its own symbol and tapestries that display this symbol all over the walls, to illustrate how much like another “cult” that had “camps” it is.

Much of the same from the first film happening here. Not a bad (albeit familiar) story, and considering the films budget, executed fairly well. The director seems to have access to a lot of buildings. More atrocious acting. More sex with clothes on. Again, the zombies actually look pretty decent. I assume most of the budget went to the zombies.

There was a lot more focus on the story in this installment. The zombie action kind of serves as the bread of the film, mainly confined to the beginning and end. I had no issue with this choice, but it would have worked a lot better if the actors could act. In fact, this probably would be completely watchable with a bigger budget (mainly because the vampire’s laser gun died before she had a chance to use it). I could have dealt without yet another zombie movie reference. An Officer Romero is called over a loudspeaker. Yeah, I get it. You watch zombie films. You don’t have to spell it out, the deja vu is enough. I also probably would have been fine without the inclusion of a doctor fucking the eye socket of a skull. Didn’t really push the plot along, and I just assume every one that works at the camp is insane, so the skull fucking is not needed for character development either. At first, there seemed to be a lot of punk and or emo zombies about, what with the green and purple hair that a lot of them had. However, the main doctor, the chef and some others were pierced, so I made the assumption that the actors just did not want to change their appearances for the film, including the ones playing zombies. There also was a zombie that was wearing a shirt that said “straight edged Vegan” while eating someone. Damn scenesters. The ending leaves this film as clearly a middle of a larger story, as it concludes the “chapter,” but leaves plenty of room for the continuing adventures of Argenta and the vampire. I did like how at the very end, there was a black and white scene between the doctor from the first movie and the doctor from this one, prior to the zombie apocalypse giving a bit of story.

I have to categorize this as crap, mainly because when you combine horrible acting with a video camera, it rarely ends well. Brian Clement, the writer/director, clearly has a vision and is talented, and perhaps with better resources, he could produce some fine work.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Random Movie: Piranha 3D (2010)

Written by: PBF
As I walked around the office today telling people that I had seen Piranha 3D…well, let’s be honest, bragging that I had seen it, every single person said the same thing to me: “Oh, that movie looks terrible.” Well, yes. Yes it is. It’s fucking Piranha.
As if the plot mattered, this incarnation of Piranha starts with Richard Dreyfuss playing Matt Boyd drinking an Amity beer. If you see this and don’t immediately understand that the following film will be nothing but a tongue in cheek, referenced ladened gore fest, then leave the theater immediately and go see Dinner for Schmucks. You obviously need your humor unfunny, and force fed to you. An underwater earthquake occurs and releases a swarm of a particular species of piranha that has not been seen in millions of years. Meanwhile, above the water at Lake Victoria, thousands flock for Spring Break, providing the obligatory hedonism required before a masked killer or hungry fish lay waste to the area. Loud music, wet t-shirt contests, booze, drugs, and a Girls Gone Wild type video being shot all provide the soon to be blood splattered red canvas that Alexandre Aja uses to paint the awesomest magic eye picture I have ever seen. That’s right. Awesomest.
Inception has an interesting defense against supposed plot holes. There is one interpretation of it in which the entirety of the movie takes place in a dream, thus making plot holes, not holes at all, but rather part of some bizarre dream. Piranha 3D has a similar defense against its flaws. They’re supposed to be there. Bad acting? It’s Piranha. Formulaic horror tactics? Piranha! It’s because of this that it would be a waste of time to point out any flaws in this film. It’s part of a package. The gratuitous nudity and gore, the bad dialogue, the Jaws references. And while the 3D didn’t necessarily enhance the viewing experience, it was a genius move to convert it. This is the perfect movie to do that with. It was like the blood red bow on the package. I will admit, however, there was one instance in which I jumped due to a flying object coming at me. I remained motionless amidst dozens of decapitations and entrails galore, but a 3D object made me jump. All the acting was just above distraction level so as not to take you out of the film, but also so that there was no pointless deep characterizations. It’s all surface. I mean, really, the best advice I can give you is, don’t take the film seriously at all. Go into it expecting over the top ridiculousness. The audience Puck and I were in were clapping at some of the most disgusting things (when they weren’t yelling “1.21 gigawatts!” every time Christopher Lloyd was on screen).
Other cast include Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Eli Roth, Jerry O’Connell and a porn star (in 3D!).
Aja is fast becoming one of my favorite directors, what with High Tension, his remake of The Hills Have Eyes, and now this. This film delivers pure mindless entertainment and will most certainly leave its mark on you. Highly Recommended.

Random Movie: Cop Out (2010)

Back in February after the release of Cop Out was bombarded with negative reviews from many different critics, director Kevin Smith took to Twitter to explain how reviewers were out of touch with the general movie going populace. His main point (and this is from memory because I am damn sure not going back through all of Smith’s tweets to refresh) was that reviewers did not appreciate the movie for what it was intended to be: a light buddy-cop comedy with throwbacks to its 80s brethen. Less than twenty-four hours after watching a movie that did successfully replicate a lost 80s movie (that would be Piranha, review here), I can safely say that may have been the intention here but a bad movie got in the way.

Taking the old buddy-cop formula, Cop Out does absolutely nothing else with it. Here we have two partners who are loose cannons, destroy things in downtown New York City, get reprimanded and suspended by their captain, and yet continue to investigate a theft and a drug-smuggling ring outside of their authority. As you can tell by that brief synopsis, there is very little original or defining here that you cannot see in the dozens of other buddy-cop movies. In fairness to Smith, Cop Out is not the warning sign of the apocalypse as some reviews might make it out to be. It has its moments but those are mostly contained in the final act, long after any patience you had has worn thin. The biggest flaw is that for a comedy, there is very little humor that does not revolve around Tracy Morgan acting like a ten-year-old or the Kevin Smith standard of dick and fart jokes.

Even though I rather enjoy Morgan in other projects, he is playing the same exact character as everything else I have seen him in. His shtick of a loud-mouthed, self-involved, aggravating manchild works in short bursts on 30 Rock and SNL sketches but only in moderation. Here we have the bulk of the movie where his character Paul is constantly bickering, whining, or just being inept to the point that I cannot fathom how anyone in production thought he could be sold as a cop, let alone one that is a tenured detective. And if there is anything that Bruce Willis can sell, it should be a gruff, city cop but he looks so damn bored here that I could not even buy that.

Aside from the A-plot about Willis’ character Jimmy’s stolen baseball card as it leads to a Mexican drug cartel, both detectives have problems at home as Paul is insanely jealous and convinced that his wife is cheating on him while Jimmy is desperately trying to pay for his daughter’s wedding with the sale of the aforementioned rare and valuable baseball card. Short of the dubious connection with the card and paying for the wedding, these side stories rarely factor into the larger narrative making things incredibly irritating as the already slow progress of investigating is slammed to a halt while Paul cries like a baby over his wife’s alleged infidelities.

Things would have been better served in the movie if the comedic aspect was downplayed while the action sequences were more pronounced. After all, think of other previous cop films like Die Hard or Lethal Weapon which worked as action films with a hint of facetiousness, not reversed. We know that Smith can do comedy damn well but he just was not on his game here so the only time I was not bored silly was during car chases, foot chases, or gunfights. In fact, all of those scenes had very little dialogue which means that we can place some blame on the pair of writers. But Smith should fire himself from the editing duties after this as even scenes or jokes that are threadbare to begin with are stretched to a painstaking length (which almost any scene with Seann William Scott fits here). The child in the backseat repeating others, Paul wearing a cell phone costume hours after it was necessary, a fake phone conversation to talk shit about two rival detectives, and more scenes all began badly but were drawn out to the point of potential self-inflicted harm.

I tried to go into this movie with an open mind as I have reveled in films designated as crap by others before. However, when I am praying for the movie to come to a quick resolution around the thirty-five minute mark, someone has clearly overestimated the entertainment value of bickering and toilet humor.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Random Movie: Meat Market (2000)

Written by: PBF

As bad as this movie was, I kept telling myself, “At least it’s better than Flesh Freaks.” That was until the lesbian, laser toting vampires showed up.

Before raping my eyes, Meat Market sounded like a decent Zombie picture. There are bizarre attacks on humans that are thought to be animal attacks. Two former employees of a security agency figure out that they are not animal attacks, but zombies, and as it turns out, the company they used to work for is responsible. Not half bad, right? Well, I am angry at all who were involved with this.

Now, in this movie’s defense, there were some positives. The zombie make up was actually pretty decent for a film this low budget. If you can watch it long enough, you can find some fairly nice shots and scene transitions. In what I thought was a very clever touch (and I must have misunderstood this), I thought that this was going to be a sort of “A Modest Proposal” scenario, which would have explained the title of the film. At one point a zombie attacks a homeless person, and there is an interview with someone who states that he thinks that the attackers (I don’t recall if at this point the public still thinks it is animals or knows it zombies; the execution of the story line was rather convoluted) are doing the city a service by killing the homeless. In a pamphlet written by Johnathan Swift called (paraphrasingly) “A Modest Proposal,” Swift suggested satirically that the children of Ireland’s poor families living in squalor should be sold into a meat market at the age of one. They would be fattened up and fed to rich land owners and this would help eliminate overpopulation, unemployment, etc. The prospect of Meat Market perhaps doing something similar excited me very much. That actually makes good (albeit evil) justification for the security company making these creatures. In addition to that: biting social satire! I was then ready to overlook the $2000 budget and sub-par acting to absorb this message! Then the lesbian vampires walked in.

By the way, that whole “A Modest Proposal” theory? Wrong. Never mentioned again. Well, it might have been, but the audio is such crap at some points I could not hear what people were saying. Like Flesh Freaks, Meat Market’s main competition in the worst film in the universe contest, this was shot with a video camera. I liked it in Market, though, because it worked a little better. The zombies were more like Romero zombies and thus more realistic (ha), so it sort of had that documentary look most of the time. Other times, however, it still had the, shitty low budget look. The acting most definitely was horrible. We have the whole man-woman thing going on, but the two leads suck so bad there is no chemistry. And naming the woman Argenta? Are you serious? In a shitty zombie movie, you are actually going to name a character Argenta? Nice job changing the last letter, no one will notice that at all. The male lead is named Shahrokh, which is a bird in Iranian mythology. I can’t find any really significance in naming your character that, with the possible exception that Rokh saved Sinbad in some gay story I never read (which therefore disqualifies me from calling it gay).

While the zombies looked good, the rest of the visual effects were a mixed bag. Most of the bite wounds looked good and as long at the blood was not splattering, that looked fine as well. But when brains were blown against the wall, that looked horrible. I outright laughed out loud when I saw a zombie eating a turkey leg, but then realized he was gnawing at a victim’s limb. The audio effects were kind of crap as well. When a zombie would bite someone, the foley artist clearly bit an apple.

There are 3 sex scenes in this movie. In the first one, the characters are clothed.

Now for the two most atrocious things that occurred in this picture. The first one was that this was filmed in the city where there were a lot of regular people who were not a part of the production. However, the zombies only attacked the actors, so the zombie apocalypse looked a little bit like an unsuccessful high school party; not a lot of participants. It actually was funny because there was looting, but no chaos, so the looting looked unnecessary. I mean, they could have just walked in and paid for it. One could use the “A Modest Proposal” theory to say that the public was fine with the zombies eating the homeless and they just didn’t care, but they didn’t just eat the homeless. The second major problem with this film is the 3 vampires. I don’t understand this one bit. For one, they have LASER GUNS. I don’t even have a clever remark, just why do they have lasers? They were also sex maniacs and apparently lesbian and/or bi sexual. One vampire has sex with a man, then one of the other vampires, so I assume the inclusion of these characters were an excuse for nudity. The man the vampire has sex with has a wound that he claims came from barbed wire, which is clearly a lie. So the vampire has sex with him and he turns in to a zombie. However, she doesn’t. So I guess since the vampires are already undead, they are immune to zombie attack. And if you do dare to watch this thing pay attention to the explanation of how people became zombies. Dumbest shit ever.

Also, there is a Mexican wrestler in this. His lines were dubbed for some reason.

Trash, yes. I think, however, compared to Flesh Freaks, this filmmaker made better use of his resources and limitations. There are two more of these films, and although this one is painful, I am curious to see if the series gets better.

Random Movie: Deadgirl (2008)

Written by: PBF


This is the second film where I have seen a zombie involved in a sex act. The first time I saw it was in Dead Alive. I will tell you this: it was far less comical this time.

Deadgirl starts during a fire drill at a  high school. J.T.  and Rickie are entertaining themselves with bad jokes and daydreams about girls. When it’s time to go back to class, J.T. and Rickie decide to ditch school and drink some beer. They go to “the asylum” which is an abandoned insane asylum. After being chased by a dog, they end up in a room with a door that is rusted shut. They force the door open and discover a nude woman wrapped in plastic, and strapped to a gurney. Naturally they assume she is dead, but they notice that she is breathing. Rickie freaks out a bit and wants to leave. J.T. however, has other plans. He wants to to have sex with her. He sends Rickie home and stays behind to have relations with a woman that has been locked in this room for who knows how long. Delightful.

Now, I should tell you that I am assuming that this woman is a zombie. I make this assumption based on several things. The day after they find her, J.T. brings Rickie back to the asylum. He tells Rickie that while he was having sex with her, she struggled, so he killed her. Yet she is still alive. To prove this, J.T.  shoots the girl in front of Ricki and she lives. In addition to this, when she bites someone, they seem to turn to the undead as well. One can argue that she is not a zombie, however, as zombies tend to have superhuman strength and while the girl could rip a metal door off the frame, she could not break free of her restraints. She also spared Rickie’s life when given an opportunity to bite him. Rickie never really approved of the continued rape of the girl, so one could suspect that she spared him as he did not violate her. That is kind of un-zombie like. Zombies generally are mindless. However there are no really established “rules” about the zombie world in the film. She is the only one and we are not told how she became the way she was, so for all we know, zombies might actually have a sense of reciprocity in this film’s universe.

There are a few things that I really like about this film. The biggest one is the fact that we have no idea how this girl became a zombie. Therefore, as I previously mentioned, we don’t know what the “rules” are. Obviously biting turns you, but apparently sex does not. I found that incredibly intriguing. Was she the last of a zombie apocalypse that happened? If so, why was she left alive, and what happened to the people that left her alive? Was she the first of a potential apocalypse, but contained before starting one? I very much liked the choice to leave that not addressed. I also liked Noah Segan, who played J.T. I like it when a psychopath is not played as over the top. He did not do this at all. He also had excellent comedic timing and delivery, as much of his later dialogue is evil funny.

The gripes are many. Until they find the girl, this film is VERY boring. I actually thought an hour passed but when I checked, it had only been twenty minutes. Absolutely no character development. This is especially annoying because Segan was so good. He is immediately a demented psychopath and sociopath.  There should have been a progression to that point. Also, there is no back story for anyone. The closest we get is seeing the drunk boyfriend of Rickie’s mother. This limits your emotional involvement. While the performances are enjoyable, you don’t really care who lives or dies. Also, demented as someone is, really? Sex is your first thought when finding a girl wrapped in plastic? I’m not even going to get in to why that doesn’t make sense. Here’s perhaps the most perplexing part of the film: the girl escapes and we see her running outside. However, the movie continues and life appears to be normal. Would there not be a FUCKING ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE GOING ON? Besides the fact that she escaped, she bit a guy in the dick, and he didn’t die. He went back to school, shit out an intestine and is referenced as being in the hospital or something, but surely he would have bitten some folks as well. There really should have been some more zombies by movie’s end.

This film deals with issues of peer pressure, alienation, love, popularity and control with one of the most bizarre story lines I have ever run across. I found myself liking some of it, but ultimately, its flaws outweigh it’s successes. I recommend a viewing of it, however. It is not a waste of time by any means, and you are sure to find some enjoyment out of it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Random Movie: The Prestige (2006)

Here we are at one hundred reviews on Movie Scum and I thought it fitting for the honor to go to a Christopher Nolan film. Don’t like Christopher Nolan? Go away now. Anyway, we may actually be over that number due to dual reviews and other posts that may have been mislabeled but it is the thought that counts. And what a film to be at such a milestone as just like every other Nolan film I have watched, The Prestige is expertly put together and a thought provoking tale that demand multiple viewings to get a sense of the care taken in creating the story.

As it stands currently on IMDB’s Top 250 at #72, The Prestige is a movie far better than I would have expected the story to allow. Based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Priest, the script is adapted by Christopher and his frequent collaborator, brother Jonathan Nolan and features many traits common to other Nolan films, most notably the lack of linear storytelling. I have found that normally filmmakers use an abnormal structure to hide deficiencies of the story but all of the films by Nolan that I have seen (which is all but Insomnia) use this technique as a way to enhance the story. The underlying narrative deals with two magicians, who previously had a cautious friendship, in their constant endeavors to outdo each other with their illusions in 20th century England.

After a trick goes bad, Angier (played by Hugh Jackman) blames the death of his wife on Borden (Christian Bale) who tied a knot she was unable to slip in an underwater escape on display. Her death acts as a catalyst for Angier, who is full of rage and willing to stop at nothing but to destroy the relatively happy life Borden lives with his wife and daughter. When Borden develops a groundbreaking trick not based on handkerchief-swapping or bird-vanishing, Angier is determined to find out the secret of Borden’s ability to throw a ball on one side of the stage, step into a box, and come out on the other side to catch it in time. As most magic appears to have at least a passing element of misdirection (at least based on those Magic Exposed! TV programs), Angier is unwilling to accept a simple explanation and sets out on a journey across the ocean to discover the truth.

Even with its high ranking on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, you do not have to look hard to find a semi-negative review of the film, even by Roger Ebert. Much like Angier, it seems that some critics disliked the film as they were searching for an extraordinary explanation to the film when the simplest answer fits the best. It seems almost foolish to watch into a Nolan movie with the expectation that the next thing to come is easily predictable. Although I must say that even I had figured out the ending just after the halfway point but dismissed it as too obvious. The beauty here is that the too obvious explanation is also the one you do not expect, especially after that too obvious explanation is further complicated and expanded upon. If this does not make sense, it shouldn’t until you have seen the movie.

The non-traditional narrative structure also works here as the best portions of the film are of the two leads trying to uncover each others’ secrets through their diaries. The bifurcation of the story leaves more to be unknown by the two men of each other and their secrets longer as compared to how it would have unfolded in a conventional tale. Much like Inception, certain shots and sequences are shown and then quickly passed along resulting in a sense of confusion and lingering until you gain the necessary context. And just like Memento was enhanced by its narrative, the random and seemingly unrelated shots and scenes in Prestige converge which only add to the misdirection undoubtedly intended by the filmmaker. Not to mention the same misdirection that sets us up to hate one of the characters from the first few frames is able to instantly turn the tables and make the evil doer the sympathetic of the two as another of the Nolan-trademarked themes (other than guilt and dead wives) of moral ambiguity is exhibited. I think others who do not like the movie were simply upset because it was not as complicated as they hoped it would be.

I really should not have to say much about the cast as (other than some stray accents here and there) everyone pulls off their roles superbly. Jackman and Bale each act as a foil to each other with Angier being the fancy-looking performer with minimal talent in illusions while Borden has the skills but lacks in the presentation department. Each actor portrays love and guilt with the underlying sense of childishness which drives the film and the competition between the two. Michael Caine is spectacular as always (Jaws The Revenge notwithstanding) as the sage manager with an answer to everything who is at times duped as much as the audience. Piper Perabo and Rebecca Hall play the magicians’ wives both with a sense of heartbreak (for differing reasons though). It even features David Bowie as Nikola Tesla, the enigmatic inventor who helps Angier get the upper-hand on Borden (well, sort of.)

The only main issue I really had with the film was that of the underlying story. As I said before, I did not have an expectation that The Prestige would be all that entertaining due to the period setting and the focus of illusions (two things that I have less than a fleeting interest in) but I knew if anyone could do it, Chris Nolan could. However, at the core, this movie is not quite as satisfying as Inception or The Dark Knight as the story itself is built around lies and fabrications with the main goal to beat another man at an endless game through deception. While it is not quite as noble as defending a populace against a madman or coming to terms with the loss of a loved one, the ending does feature a heart-warming reunion between a father and child so it is not all dark and gloomy (is this another future Nolan theme in the making?).

So even though things end up a bit more pessimistic than I would have preferred, The Prestige is another Nolan masterpiece with all of the same elements that make you love the rest of his movies.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Random Movie: Grace (2009)

If watching Inside can be expressly cautioned for pregnant women and generally squeamish people, Grace is the natural extension of that film putting to film the notion that I am sure all new mothers wonder: “What if my baby is really a bloodsucking demon/zombie child?”

Directed by Paul Solet, Grace is a feature length version of his short of the same name and concept starring Brian Austin Green and Liza Weil as soon-to-be new parents Jimmy and Madeline. Sadly Jimmy (well, Michael in the full-length) dies in a car accident which also leaves Madeline badly hurt and the baby dead as well. Some either miraculous or creepy event happens after Madeline carries the deceased child to term but it comes back to life as she attempts to breastfeed it. She then shuts herself in with no one but her midwife Patricia to turn to when Grace starts taking a liking to Mommy’s blood rather than the breastmilk.

Even though I had not seen the short film (but who wouldn’t with BAG in it??) or read too terribly much about the film, I was aware of the basis for the plot thus it is kind of a spoiler but not really. I mean, you probably can take a really good guess from the poster alone. Really even though Grace is the driving force in the movie, it hinges on the lengths that Madeline, a vegan mother who preferred to spend her days watching the dead animal carcass channel, will go to to ensure the “health” of her child. Seeing as how the bulk of the story seems to take place in the course of just a few months after the birth, this is not as much a killer kid movie as it is a look at denial and delusions and what some people will do for their children.

Madeline is played here by Jordan Ladd and was a strong choice for the character as she and her actions take up a bulk of the film. Some of the strongest performances come in the weeks after Grace’s birth where Madeline is not only depressed over the loss of her husband and worn out from attending to the needs of a newborn but also joyous for the miracle baby. In many instances, these emotions are present and overlapping as one might expect a woman in her situation would have. Even as Madeline discovers Grace’s hunger and begins to sacrifice her health for the baby, she begins to waste away like a malnourished child in a third-world country. Madeline’s mother-in-law played by Gabrielle Rose is overbearing and likely just as deranged (in a less homicidal way) as a post-menopausal woman who still expresses breast milk with a pump hidden in her son’s former room. She poses a menacing presence to Grace’s secret as she is constantly pestering Madeline and sending people to check on her and the baby.

For a movie that was expanded from a six minute short, it does not feel padded as the pacing is brisk and the movie clocks in at less than an hour and a half. One element that seemed either thrust into the original story or one that was not expanded past what was in the original short was of Patricia, the midwife played by Samantha Ferris. She is in a great deal of the first act of the film but is conspicuously absent not long after the birth, dodging Madeline’s phone calls yet acting all stalker-y sitting outside the house. A love affair the two women had is fleetingly mentioned and then not paid off until the end of the film. I certainly would have preferred to see Patricia involved in the task of handling Grace throughout the movie as opposed to just appearing moments before the ending scene. One thing that I did like was the uncertainty about Grace and if she was really alive or if everything was in Madeline’s mind. The ambiguity is ushered by flies constantly gathering around Grace, phantom stinky smells with no corresponding baby output, and no one interacting with her other than Madeline. Some may point to the doctor’s visit as evidence that Grace is really alive as he hears sounds that she makes but I would even chalk that up to the fact that Madeline was crazy as fuck and could have a tape recording playing to help her delusions. Maybe at the end even Patricia is in on it. Who knows?

Grace was a good movie as even without a large amount of deaths it had some gore but mostly an unnerving message. There may be a dig in there at veganism as a non-meat-eating mother will go to the ends of the earth to destroy humans to feed her child but even without the social subtext it is quite disturbing. This is almost a perfect compliment to Inside, this time complete with a cameo by producer Adam Green. Just make sure to get your jollies on after seeing it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Random Movie: Inside (2007)

Written by: PBF

Way back on Episode #2 (look how young we are!), Puck mentions a movie called Inside (À l’intérieur). At the time of the filming of that episode, I had not seen the movie. In this episode he claims that the movie is gory. Yes. Yes it is.

Sarah, who is pregnant, and her husband Matthieu are involved in a car accident. Matthieu does not survive. Four months later, on Christmas Eve, an extremely depressed Sarah is at her doctor’s office for an appointment. The doctor tells her to come back the next day and they may induce her. He sends her home, telling her to “enjoy your last night of peace and quiet.” This is quite the opposite of what happens. While alone in her house, there is a knock on Sarah’s door. A woman needs to use the phone. Sarah, not wanting to be bothered, and perhaps just not wanting to let anyone in due to riots going on, tells the woman that her husband is sleeping and does not wish to wake him. The woman then calls Sarah by her name and tells her that she knows that her husband is dead. The woman eventually get in to the house and begins her task of taking Sarah’s unborn child, mainly through use of scissors.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Random Movie: Critters 4 (1992)

Written by: PBF

I guess I can excuse the fact that this installment took place in space, since that’s were Critters began. That’s more believable than going from Crystal Lake to space.

Critters 4 opens with an inaccurately re-shot scene from the end of part 3 where Charlie has been advised to wait for a pod sent from the Intergalactic Council. There is a space law that says you cannot kill the last of any species, and a holographic Ug tells Charlie not to destroy the last 2 Krite eggs. As Charlie is loading the eggs in the pod, he gets trapped in it and is taken to space. 53 years later, in the year 2045, the pod is discovered floating around by the crew of a salvage ship, and they take it. They are unable to determine what is in it, but they find the logo of Terracrop. They speak to Ug, who is now Counselor Tetra of Terracorp. He explains that he will meet the crew at a space station not far from them. While waiting, a jerk crew member opens the pod with a space laser gun and out pops Charlie. Also, the Krite eggs have hatched. And the terror begins!

I don’t know what idiot told the filmmakers of this franchise that the character of Charlie is funny or interesting, but they were wrong. He is possibly the most boring recurring character ever. I will give Critters 4 some compliments. First, it is better than part 3. Not that it is a difficult feat to accomplish, but I do like it when a sequel is better than the previous installment. Second, the acting was much more tolerable. You have Angela Bassett and Brad Dourif, but even the actors I had never heard of were quite competent. Also, the Critters were more sinister and less “funny.” In fact, the overall tone of the movie was more serious than comical, which worked well. What did not work well? For one thing, only seeing the Critters twice in the first hour of the fourth part of a series named CRITTERS. The effects were pretty lame. Ethan freezes a Crite and then tells him to “chill out.”

Things I learned from Critters 4: In 2045, black and white Western movies are not only readily available, but popular with the young folks (I actually think this was used specifically as an excuse to use a slide guitar in the score and it be relevant). Gum is one of the best props ever. Brad Dourif chews gum like an Olympian. You know how really cool people chew gum and somewhat over exaggerate it when the speak to accentuate how cool they are? Brad is a Jedi master of this art. When you have a clear opportunity to escape, it is best to linger around and thus be susceptible to attack. TWICE.

It’s not crap. In fact, it is the second best of the series. Now, who’s ready to reboot?’

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Random Movie: Critters 3 (1991)

Written by: PBF


Have you seen Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest film, Inception? If not, what the hell are you waiting for, but if so, I invite you to check out his first film (if you have not already), Critters 3. Not because it is good, but so you can suffer the same pain I have.

The only thing Critters 3 has to do with the first two films, is that there are Critters, and a bit of back story given by Charlie, who was made Sheriff of Grover’s Bend in Critters 2. This film does not take place in Grover’s Bend, however. Clifford, his son Johnny and teen daughter Annie are travelling home when they get a flat tire and pull into a rest stop. Johnny is chasing his Frisbee when he runs in to an older kid named Josh (DiCaprio). While in the woods, Charlie jumps out and gives the aforementioned back story to remind us all that we are in a Critters sequel. He in fact, is hunting the remaining Critters. As formula dictates, the kids think he is a loon and dismiss his story as insane rambling. As they are leaving the rest stop, we get the impression that Josh’s step dad is an ass, and we see that there are Krite eggs under Clifford’s truck. As movie fate would have it, Clifford and his kids live in a run down apartment, and the landlord is Josh’s step father. So guess what? Krites invade the apartment complex and Annie and Josh become fast friends. Also, some other unfunny, not scary, boring crap with other people happens.

There are a lot of similarities between this and Feast III. Both movies have characters that have nothing to do with the plot and do not push story along. Critters 3 introduces us to Marsha. She has a few lines, helps a little bit, but ultimately gets hung upside down out the window for most of her screen time. Both films draw attention to creatures’ asses. In Feast III we watch a demon crap out the head of Honey Pie. In Critters 3, the Crites eat a bunch of chili and the obligatory flatulence commences. Both films are useless pieces of shit. I wonder if the Feast series used the Critters series as an example to follow. There really isn’t anything good about this installment. It is a complete mess, much like a Krite egg after it gets broken. The acting is horrible, the directing sucks. Leo is good, I guess, but everyone else is really bad. It wasn’t funny, and what little elements of horror this franchise began with are all gone. This film was released in 1991, and looking at Leo’s costume and haircut reminded me of a simpler time of surfing and grunge music. And speaking of music, the score was at such a low volume, I didn’t even hear it until near the end of the film. As if to infuriate me further, when the movie was “over,” I was forced in to watching the film halfway through the credits, so that I could watch the set up for the fourth installment. Interestingly enough, the end of Feast III actually mentions a possible fourth film in that series.

Why let the similarities end there? Avoid this at all costs, too.

Random Movie: Feast III: The Happy Finish (2009)

Written by: PBF

Fuck you, Feast III: The Happy Finish. Oh, and that is flagrant false advertising. There is nothing happy about the ending. There is nothing happy about the rest of it either, so I guess it’s consistent.

During the course of this series of films, I have been subjected to a cat rape, a baby being tossed in to the air and in to the claws of demons and a man getting raped by a demon through a pipe, only to be impregnated, then blow up as his demon child is born. And that’s not even the half of it. What started out as a fairly clever, modern tongue in cheek horror-comedy has ended as a demon shit stained pointless gore fest. In this third installment, I actually believe that each new character was introduced purely so that they would be killed 6 minutes later, in a needlessly gruesome, sure to only be entertaining to the filmmakers’ fashion. They even threw in some “infected,” which I bet everyone thought would be brilliant, when it actually served no purpose, with the possible exception as a cause of death for 2 characters (well, also to piss me off). The camera work was border line seizure inducing, as for some reason there was an infected rave with strobe lights. At the beginning of the film there was some green camera shots as if to imply that we were looking through the eyes of some one or some thing else, but we never were. Also, I got motion sickness a couple of times from the shaky camera.

Why do people insist on yelling at demons and the like? I mean, there is this gigantic, naked demon with teeth the size of flagpoles, and you yell, “Fuck you!” The hell is that going to accomplish? Also, if you have been running from these things for 3 films, and you still have to ask, “What was that?” when you hear a strange noise, your character just became less believable as a survivor. WHAT DO YOU THINK IT IS?

The end of this movie makes me want bite my arm off so I can forget about seeing it. I really can’t believe the movie ended like that. Dumbest, shit, ever.

Avoid this at all costs.