Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mini Scum: Friday (1994)

As a young Puck, watching Friday was a bi-weekly tradition to vicariously experience life in an urban environment filled with guns, drugs, and crazy-ass Chris Tucker. I am convinced that Tucker was created to play Smokey as he steals the show with his irresponsible, over-the-top mannerisms. Writer, producer, and star Ice Cube is no slouch either as the laid-back, unemployed foil to Smokey. Director F. Gary Gray takes the ordinary occurrences and extraordinary characters of the neighborhood and constructs them in way that come across in a perfect combination of wacky fun and cautionary tale with the issues of drugs and violence.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Random Movie: Survival of the Dead (2009)

Written by: PBF

In Movie Scum Episode #19, our good friend Kenny from United Front Gaming mentions George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead. The topic of that episode? Worst movies ever.  After viewing this, I would say that it is better than Diary of the Dead. Just barely.

There is a place called Plum Island, that is inhabited by two families: The O’Flynns and the Muldoons. The Muldoons are especially happy with this arrangement, as they do not care for strangers. Plum Island is in the midst of the zombie apocalypse, as the events of Survival take place after the events in Diary. The Muldoons, led by Seamus, do not kill zombies. Rather, they chain them up and let them live, in in the hopes that there will be a cure so that their loved ones may live again. The O’Flynns, led by Patrick, prefer to dispatch anything that is undead. Much like a pro choice debate, this causes a rift and ultimately leads to Patrick O’Flynn being sent off the island. Patrick’s daughter convinces Seamus to send him packing rather than killing him, as he would have preferred. Weeks later, a group of 4 military deserters, Kevin, Cisco, Tomboy and Sergeant Crockett (from Diary) have a shootout with some hicks in the woods (who have several zombie heads on sticks just moaning in the night) and gain a 5th member to their group, who is called kid throughout the film (but apparently is named Boy). He shows them a video via his iPhone and whatever mobile internet connection is still available. The video is of Patrick, but he calls himself Captain Fabulous, and advises anyone watching to come to Plum Island. The group head the to dock and find that Patrick (a some others) just want to rob them and they end up commandeering the ferry there. Patrick is the only one in his group to survive the zombies and ends up on the ferry as well. They all head over to Plum Island. Once they arrive they see former residents, now the undead, chained up, doing whatever they were doing while they were alive. The mailman is still putting mail in a mailbox, for example. However, they find countless bodies of people that came over to the island by ferry (sent by Patrick, partly to rob them and party to piss off Seamus) that were simply shot for being strangers. Eventually we learn that Seamus is trying to tech zombies to eat animals, rather than people, so that they don’t have to kill them and they can coexist with their former living family members. So there we have the coinflict of the film: should zombies be killed, or should humans try to teach them to respect the living and live peacefully among them?

Random Movie: The Foot Fist Way (2006)

Written by: PBF

Apparently, I just don't get Jody Hill films. Supposedly, they are extremely funny, and just go right over my head. This is my new favorite math equation: unfunny movie + me realizing it is unfunny = I'm stupid. Well, according to message boards, anyway. Which of course, is where most film geniuses spend their time.

Jody Hill, who wrote and directed Observe and Report, directed and co wrote The Foot Fist Way. Neither film have a lot going on as far as plot, and they have little else going on either. Foot Fist is about Fred Simmons (Danny McBride), a Tae Kwon Do instructor with a hot wife and a Ferrari. He isn't quite as cool as he thinks he is but he means well, and his students (young kids to senior citizens) like him. After finding out his wife gave her boss a hand job, he loses it a bit, and takes a road trip to meet his hero, martial artist and movie star Chuck "the Truck" Wallace. Wallace agrees to come to Simmons's students' testing for a mere $10,000. Simmons is soon betrayed by Wallace, and more stuff happens and then the movie ends.

Not necessarily a gripping plot synopsis, but honestly that's how the movie is. Sure Danny McBride is funny, but if he weren't in this film, it would be completely unwatchable. Acting was fine, directing was fine, but it was just really boring. Ultimately what you have is a movie that seemed to be written specifically for McBride and thus his role was given all the funny lines. Everyone else was completely forgettable. You could quote McBride lines all day long and not really have any clue what scene it was from or who he was talking to. I did laugh right out loud when Simmons is giving his wife a hateful speech and finishes it by urinating on his wedding ring. That scene alone is worth a watch.

Can't say that I recommend this. There are random bit of hilarity, but the humor is wildly inconsistent and makes for an uncomfortable viewing.

Trivia: The film was produced by Gary Sanchez Productions, operated by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.

Random Movie: Less Than Zero (1987)

Written by: PBF

Less Than Zero is a film adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name. I have never read the book, but from what I can gather, the film takes many liberties, and much of the book is changed or left out entirely. So much so that when the movie was released, Ellis even refused to see it. After many years, Ellis changed his opinion of it, even stating that it would be a good idea to make a sequel to the film, based on his sequel to the novel called Imperial Bedrooms.

The beginning of the film shows three friends, Clay (Andrew McCarthy), Julian (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Blair (Jami Gertz) as they are graduating high school. They live in California and come from wealthy families. Clay and Blair are a couple. Clay goes to college, while Julian stays home to become a record producer. 6 months later, Clay receives a phone call from Blair asking if he will be home for Christmas. He tells her yes, and then has a flashback in which we learn that Blair also stayed home to become a model and started sleeping with Julian. Clay comes home and attends a Christmas party thinking that Blair may want to get back together with him, which prompted her phone call. He learns that this is not true. Julian has developed a serious cocaine/freebase addiction and owes Rip (James Spader), his dealer, $50,000. Blair has a bit of a cocaine problem herself, though not as bad as Julian. Clay, disappointed that this visit is not what he thought it would be, as well as seeing that everyone is just having a good time, does not see how serious Julian's problem is at first. This soon changes as he witnesses just how bad things are.

Depending on what list version of "Brat Pack" actors you subscribe to, you may or may not find 2 of them here, McCarthy and Spader. However, at least in my experience, use of that term conjures up thoughts of self discovery in detention, self discovery in the real world after college and self discovery amongst clashes between different economic classes. Less Than Zero has a whole other tone happening here. This film is seriously depressing and dark. It is quite well acted, especially by Downey Jr., who may or may not have already engaged in similar behaviors to give him serendipitous experience for his role. Regardless, his performance was quite moving and his descent is mesmerizing. McCarthy as well, gives an excellent performance, going from eager to rekindle a relationship, to pissed that this was not Blair's intention to finally realizing the gravity of what is going on, and becoming desperate to save his friends. Gertz and Spader also give compelling performances.

Honestly, I can't really think of anything that I didn't like about the film. It was delightfully 80's wrapped around its disturbing subject matter. While I can't vouch for it's adherence to any "scene" that existed, it was a very "real" film. It was also very nice to see these actors in the same film that is the complete opposite of any film that they may have been together in, and to do it well. It's the best time you will have involving depraved and alarming behavior (except maybe for Trainspotting).

Random Movie: Blood Simple (1984)

With over a dozen films written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (not to mention the several dozen nominations and awards as well), it is fun to go back and watch their first venture into filmmaking and see the same traits that make their movies stand out now implanted in film over twenty five years ago. One of the most powerful movies I have watched over the past few years was the Coen’s No Country For Old Men and even with two decades separating them, I saw a lot in Blood Simple. that would come into play again and again in their films.

The title comes from the novel Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett to describe the behaviors and actions of a person after a particularly traumatic experience. The first half of the movie is a slow burn as we are introduced to Ray and Abby, two budding lovers much to the chagrin of Abby’s husband who happens to be Ray’s boss. After Marty, the husband, receives confirmation of their adultery from a private investigator, he decides to have Ray and Abby killed and tasks the PI with the job. If you do not know more about the plot already, just skip any other reviews of synopses most of which give away what would be a superb dramatic turn leading into the back half of the film.

Much like No Country, Blood Simple is paced in a slow and methodical way that serves to heighten the tension without relying on cheap gimmicks or rapid-fire editing, almost coming across similiar to an adaption of a stage play. Throughout the film, a vast majority of the scenes are played out with a stationary camera and a quiet audio track as characters are either contemplating their next move or examining what they have previously done (or at least thought that they have done). This is the equivalent of sitting on a front porch in the country watching cars or livestock or something like that. It is slow, delicate, but oddly entertaining as while you might initially think nothing is happening, you would be quite wrong. Frequent Coen brothers collaborator Carter Burwell provides the music which is very deliberate and haunting in its minimalist approach just like the movie itself.

M. Emmet Walsh steals the show as the unnamed investigator who starts off as an obnoxious, and possibly drunk loud-mouth yet over the course of the story transforms into a violent sociopath as he attempts to cover up his involvement in a murder. The shift in the character is done in a very convincing manner where he believes he has gotten away with everything until he realizes there is damning evidence to link him to the events. I thought at first that his character was merely supposed to be a joke to his goofy demeanor but that was just a front to mask the real horror behind his crazy-Texan act as he becomes unhinged to clear up the mess that was not supposed to be.

Francis McDormand is in it as well (I know that’s a shocker) but while her character really has little to do until the final few scenes she gives it her all with a sense of innocence and naivety that few actress could have realistically pulled off. We also have Dan Hedaya, also known as the hairiest man on Earth, as Marty who is excellent in the many stages of his performance from jilted lover, revenge-thirsty fiend, and the man who literally has everything to lose. The most surprisingly excellent member of the cast was John Getz as Ray, who you may know better as Gus from Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead. Getz’s performance as such is full of anguish and guilt as he technically is guilty of a heinous crime but is believing he has acted to protect Abby.

Because of the leisurely pace that the Coens’ use to show the events, the main crux of the movie falls on these very flawed characters. In such a tale, there is really no protagonist and no antagonist, just real people faced with the situation at hand. Even with the possible exception of Abby, all of our principal cast are of dubious morals at best, downright dangerous at worst. The story is constructed in such an intricate way that while the audience knows exactly what is going on, the characters do not. And while a few simple conversations between the key individuals would set everything straight to find out who’s right, who’s wrong, and what the hell is going on, all of the characters are acting in the moment, trying to hide behind their misdeeds or complacent in their inaccurate theory of the events. This is a movie which does not have traditional character development in the sense of their background and underlying driving factors. But much like the title explains, these are real, breathing characters trying to make sense of madness and plan their next step ahead under their false interpretations of events.

Much like any other Coen Brothers’ movie I have seen, this is an engaging tale with very tense, climatic scenes interspersed with character elements to give the film a very human touch.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Random Movie: Now You Know (2002)

Written by: PBF

So, Jeff Anderson played Randal in Clerks and Clerks II. Now You Know is a movie he wrote and directed. I wish the memory of this movie would Randal out of my brain for me, much like his character did out the door for Dante.

Now You Know is the story of Jeremy (Jeremy Sisto) and Kerri (Rashida Jones). The film opens after a (rather insulting to Anderson in my opinion) title card that reads "Kevin Smith Presents Now You Know" is presented to us. Jeremy is having a bachelor party and hints around that he has an announcement. Either to build suspense, or perhaps torment the viewer with the promise of something exciting only to let the viewer down, his friend talks him out of making this announcement so that everyone can continue to get drunk, bang the hooker and have a good time. Later, it is revealed that Kerri called off the wedding, but did not explain why. Rather than just asking why, a 102 minute film ensues in which we alternate back and forth between Jeremy and his friends and Kerri and her friends, all all kinds of boring conversation happens. Also, and not really having anything to do with the plot, are Gil and Biscuit. They break in to houses and rearrange paintings and furniture to scare resident into patronizing their friend's home security company. That is when they are not mowing lawns and drinking at 7:30am or waxing philosophic about relationships, marriage, etc.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trick or Treat! Top Nine Reasons to Look Forward to October

Well, fall is officially upon us. At least according to the calender as the weather here apparently has not gotten that memo. Currently, we are a mere seven days away from the tenth month of the year, one which is most commonly associated with fall foliage, chilly nights, and of course Halloween. But there is a great deal upcoming in the next few weeks other than Breast Cancer Awareness Month and my favorite Leif Erikson Day that will make this next month one to remember.

9. The Walking Dead
Okay, so this technically isn’t relevant on a site dedicated solely to movies but that’s okay. Because this upcoming AMC television series looks more and more badass with every trailer, clip, and image that is released. Based on an immensely popular graphic novel series which I religiously flip through while in Barnes and Noble, this will be a weekly series that takes place after some kind of zombie apocalypse renders the majority of people mindless flesh freaks (did you like that?). If you take Jericho or The Stand with a dash of some old-school (as in good) George Romero, that’s what we have here. The series premieres on Halloween night.

8. I Spit on Your Grave
Admittedly, I have not seen the original but I can’t say I’m in a big rush to do so. With the glut of so-called contemporary “torture-porn” movies these days, why bother going back to visit one that was banned in a billion countries if I remember the VHS box art from little Puck’s local video store? Well, just like every other horror movie, good or not, this one is being remade and is scheduled to be released unrated in select theaters on October 8th. From what I’ve seen thus far, it sounds like this very intense revenge flick is actually pretty good. Here’s to hoping there will be a theater to show it in my area.

7. My Soul to Take
Just like most other filmmakers, Wes Craven has had his high points (Scream) as well as his low (uh, Vampire in Brooklyn?) during his long-tenured career. Scheduled to release also on October 8th, My Soul to Take looks like very familiar territory for Craven with elements of both slasher movies and the supernatural. While it is annoyingly being released in 3D and very well could tank hard given some of Craven’s later ventures into film (Hills Have Eyes 2, ’nuff said) but it is always nice to see a genre vet attempt a triumphant return. Even if it blows, Craven hopefully still has Scream 4 to fall back on.

6. Saw 3D
Speaking of annoyingly shoehorned in 3D effects, the Saw franchise allegedly comes to a close on October 29. After six previous movies in as many years, it seems hard to believe that any studio would let such a money printing series go gracefully. While Jigsaw has been dead for the past three films if I remember correctly, the mantle has been carried on regardless and the last installment, Part VI, was actually pretty well-received. Either way, if you’re a fan of the series, take comfort in the fact that the legacy is (supposedly) going out with an extra third dimension and a visit by some guy from The Princess Bride. If you hate the series, there’s only one more.

5. Paranormal Activity 2
Here’s to hoping that the sequel to last year’s micro-budget Paranormal Activity will not end up as horrid as the similar Blair Witch series. Given that PA made about 14,000 times its budget in box office revenue, I hold out hope that the sequel does not betray the intensity of the first with the original director still overseeing the process. Some people did not like PA, and I can totally understand why, but for those who did, it looks like this will be another good month to invest in a quasi-professional home video camera … just in case.

4. Let Me In
I loved Let the Right One In, the original film this movie is a remake of. Like many others, I was upset that Hollywood producers thought it beneficial to remake another movie, dumbing it down for American audiences simply because the first had subtitles. But, as more information continues to trickle out about the Matt Reeves (of Cloverfield fame) directed vampire story featuring the young Chloe Moretz, the more I have to look forward to. From the previews at least, it appears less of a remake and more of a re-imagining (if I understand the terms correctly) as the basic plot of a 12-year-old girl being a horrific vampire is the only common factor. Plenty of vampiric mayhem still ensues I’m sure and it is nice to see a solid, brutal vampire movie that does not feature perfect muscle tone trying to act (guess what I’m digging at there).

3. AMC’s Fearfest
Didn’t this used to be called Monsterfest? Anyway, one of my favorite parts of October is the abundance of horror movies that invade otherwise tranquil cable TV stations and AMC for the past several years has been no different. Yeah, so there are commercials and its had some gore trimmed to appease the masses but then again it will almost certainly feature some of the better installments of the Halloween franchise and other horror-ish movies that I likely otherwise would not watch. Plus, see the opening point in this article and see why AMC will be heavily visited in the next few weeks.

2. Hatchet II
PBF and I love Hatchet. If you do not feel the same, I would contest you have poor judgment in film but of course, that is all subjective. Just squeaking into the October awesome-fest, Victor Crawley returns as Adam Green’s Hatchet II opens next Friday but some cinemas that are not too dainty to show unrated films are having midnight showings. Barring a natural disaster or crazy gun-toting family member, both PBF and I will be at a midnight showing an hour and a half away and I suggest you do the same.

1. ?
I know it’s pretty lame to have a list of nine things and leave one of those open but a pretty cool feature is coming to Movie Scum in the next few days. I just don’t want to spoil the surprise. At least, not until I can validate it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Random Movie: The Slammin’ Salmon (2009)

Written by: PBF

The Slammin’ Salmon is the most recent film that has been released by the comedy troupe Broken Lizard. This one was directed by Kevin Heffernan, as opposed to Jay Chandrasekhar, who directed the troupe’s previous films.

“Slammin” Cleon Salmon is a former boxer that owns a restaurant called the Slammin’ Salmon (this will be the last mention of the film’s title). He bets the head of the Japanese Yakuza $20,000 in a rousing game of Japanese Albino Hunting and loses. He needs the money by tomorrow so a challenge is placed to the staff of the restaurant to make $20,000. The prize is $10,000 to the top waiter (don’t worry; it’s part of the comedy, not a plot error) while the punishment for the lowest performing waiter is a broken rib sandwich. Cleon is played by Michael Clarke Duncan, so as you may imagine, that is a large and painful sandwich.

Broken Lizard has a small collection of films including Super Troopers and Beerfest. It seems like the more movies they make, the less funny they are. I have not yet seen their first, Puddle Cruiser, so I can only speak from Super Troopers on. Broken Lizard films are not really “deep.” They basically involve a fairly simple plot that can plausibly involve at least 5 people in the central story. So you aren’t going to find too much that is very cerebral or even that much character development past basic character traits (asshole, romantic, lunatic, etc.) that rotate between actors film after film. That being said, something has to take me for a ride during my 90 or so minutes. Obviously, that would be comedy. I mean, if I am not really interested in who wins the contest, that’s cool, just make me laugh the whole time. This is where the film failed. There were some funny lines and moments, but it was really uneven, and most of the film was just not funny. I thought for a moment that it might be because there was too much interaction with other characters not played by Broken Lizard, but even when it was just them together it just wasn’t as funny as the earlier films. And the restaurant setting was not as funny as it could have been. The setting really was almost irrelevant in the sense that this type of contest could have happened anywhere. So there wasn’t a lot of restaurant humor, ala Waiting, because the fact that they work in a restaurant was not really the focal point. It was merely a setting to facilitate a contest in which everyone could act nutty in case a small audience was watching them. Each one of the cast individually had at least one funny line (except for Erik Stolhanske; all his lines were patently unfunny for some reason). Michael Clarke Duncan was funny more than he was not, but when he wasn’t, he really wasn’t.

There were some things that were just too silly, like all guests ordering 6 of every entrĂ©e, a character named Dick Lobo that was the creator of a show called C.F.I. Hotlanta and the constant use of the character name “Guy.” Honestly, it was just a big mess.

There were all kinds of random people in the film from Olivia Munn (oh my) to Lance Henricksen (trivia: shares a birthday with Puck). My favorite probably being a 5 minute scene with Jim Gaffigan.

I seriously hope that this descent into lackluster entertainment does not continue to go the M. Night Shyamalan route, as Super Troopers 2 has been announced and that is my favorite Broken Lizard film thus far. I would not say that this film is totally unwatchable, but I now understand why I didn’t know it existed until I saw it on Comedy Central one day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Random Movie: Event Horizon (1997)

The late nineties was a good period for the not-quite-seventeen Puck as the underpaid teenage theater workers of the world cared more about discussing the merits or Chumbawamba or Alicia Silverstone and less about keeping young impressionable minds like mine away from gore and violence in R-rated movies. Thus, Digger and I were able to attend a showing at a long since defunct theater to see Event Horizon, our enthusiasm based only off of the plot synopsis and images I had seen online. To Digger’s recollection, we were almost literally blown away by the oppressively loud speakers in the theater but I was more taken into the relative beauty of the film. Now, don’t get me wrong, you cannot call Event Horizon groundbreaking or award-winning by any stretch but it has a special charm that still warms a place in the cold, dank chambers of my heart.

One of my favorite aspects in just about any movie is a small, self-contained cast of characters. With the main crew eight strong, there is enough time to establish at first superficial aspects of the normal lives of the deep space exploration team before they are sent to salvage a long-lost ship called … the Event Horizon. On its maiden voyage to venture into the depths of space, the Event Horizon disappeared without a trace only to resurface years later, seemingly with no life aboard. Captain Miller and his team aboard the Lewis & Clark are assembled along with the recovered ship’s architect, Dr. Weir, to search and salvage the vessel and determine where it has been for the past seven years.

Not long after the salvage crew is on board do they uncover some of the oddities of the ship. At its heart is a magnetic gateway capable of creating an artificial black hole, theoretically allowing travel to the farthest reaches of the galaxy in as little as a day. As the gateway opens, it envelopes a crewman into the portal and severely damages the Lewis & Clark, stranding those remaining on the mysterious ship with no rescue boat. This is where things get interesting as those on board begin seeing visions of family and friends, as if something is pouncing on their fears and vulnerabilities. It could be the toxic buildup of carbon dioxide, the claustrophobia, or something else but in many cases tragic events occur.

If you have not seen Event Horizon before, you probably would not have very high expectations. For that I would not blame you. With an IMDb reference sheet as long as my ambitious goals in life, director Paul W. S. Anderson (from Resident Evil fame) takes many facets of classic horror and sci-fi films and mashes them together in a remarkably coherent form. But unlike most notable movies set aboard a interstellar vessel, Anderson is more focused on horror as the crew races to fix their lifeboat, find out the final destination of the last crew, and stay alive at the same time. If you could qualify a few thousand ton space craft as a psychopath, we might as well have a slasher movie here.

For me, one of the most astonishing parts of this movie is the cast. While the story could very well have superficial, it does manage to tap into some real human elements and emotions. The two leads, Laurence “Larry” Fishburne and Sam “Dr. Grant” Neill almost tie for best showmanship as each are saddled with fairly deep back stories that ultimately serve in the finale. But Neill eeks it out slightly going from just a Burke-like corporate shrew at the beginning to a man who is possibly just going insane due to the extreme circumstances or has a darker motive to learn just where the previous crew vanished without a moment’s hesitation. Even the supporting characters are fleshed out greatly to get a sense of who they are now and who they were then to get you attached before they are put in harm’s way. The fact that Anderson was able to attract established as well as up and coming stars like Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones, and Jason Isaacs for a cheesy horror/sci-fi flick justifies it more than any other cheap Alien knock-off ever could.

Reportedly, the original cut of the film was over two hours long, featuring more carnage and gore, especially during the video log from the previous crew but was cut down to the final film we have now. As you may have guessed from some previous reviews, I am not opposed to gore and graphic violence for the sake of the story. Event Horizon has all that in spades. While it may not be grounded in the same sense of reality as the Saw films and its brethren, the violence here was disturbing, mostly in the sense that these are characters who have had enough time stand out and to sympathize with. Even in the finale as we have the requisite showdown between good and evil, the good guys triumph but at a steep physical and psychological price.

Considering I was going to make this a Mini Scum review, I may be reading way far too much into this movie than I had intended. That being said, Event Horizon was one of the few movies that actually made me jump in a theater (the deafening volume may have helped) and with its palpably tense atmosphere, is arguably the best film Paul W.S. Anderson has made. For what that’s worth.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Random Movie: Kick-Ass (2010)

Written by: Digger

Before I get to the review proper, I need to point out that we are now living in a day and age where any random person can be driving down the road, look up, and see the words KICK-ASS plastered on a movie theater marquee.Much like Pluto being booted from its planetary status, it seems the word “ass” no longer counts as profanity.

Unlike other comic book movies, the film Kick-Ass and the limited Marvel Comic series of the same name were developed simultaneously. Even so, there are some significant differences between the comic series and the film, which I will touch on as they arise. The story begins with New York high-school student David Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) asking himself, and the audience, why no one has ever tried to be a comic book-style superhero. In spite of the fact that he has no special powers or tragic past, and has to purchase a superhero costume on the internet, Dave genuinely wants to help those in need and make a difference in his community, no matter how small or large the task may be. Sadly, his first attempt to “fight crime” doesn’t go very well and he ends up being stabbed, then hit by a speeding car. After several surgeries and some recovery time, David gets the superhero itch once more, dawns his green tights, and saves a man from a group of thugs trying to through him a boot party. This time, with his awkward fighting and damaged nerves unable to register pain, Dave is marginally successful and his valorous act is recorded on video and uploaded to the internet where Kick-Ass, as Dave calls himself, becomes an instant celebrity. Later, Kick-Ass is saved from some drug dealers by ex-cop Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) and his eleven-year-old daughter Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz) who were inspired by Dave to take on the costumed personae of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl respectively. This is where the danger and Dave’s ineptitude in his chosen hobby are highlighted as both Big Daddy and Hit-Girl are not only well trained with weapons and in martial arts, but the duo is not squeamish about using lethal and bloody force when dealing with criminals. Witnessing the carnage raining down upon the drug dealers by Hit-Girl gives Dave what addicts would call a ’moment of clarity’ and he promptly returns home, hangs up his tights, and swears off crime fighting. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. New York crime kingpin Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) knows that a costumed vigilante has been offing his men and, with his new found internet fame, Kick-Ass is about to feel the full force of this crime lord’s wrath.

While the comic series and movie both share the same set-up, what turned me off to the comic version of the story were the details regarding the Big Daddy and Hit-Girl characters. In the film, it is revealed through a wonderfully artistic scene that Damon Macready was a cop that was framed for drug trafficking by D’Amico’s organization and spent several years in jail. During this time, Macready’s pregnant wife fell into a deep depression and committed suicide, although doctors were able to save her unborn child, Mindy. When Macready got out of jail, he took Mindy in and began her martial and combat training so the two of them could one day bring down D’Amico’s criminal empire. Thus is Macready’s motivation for turning his young daughter into the Punisher; an act many parents in the audience, and Roger Ebert, would find unforgivably cruel and irresponsible. What saves these two characters, for me, is the loving father-daughter relationship the pair maintain in spite of their screwed-up revenge lifestyle. The comic book is actually far more bleak in that Dave discovers that the ex-cop Macready back story is just a lie that Damon told to his daughter to get her to want to learn about weapons and combat. Yes, in the comic, there really was no drug frame-up or maternal suicide. Macready wasn’t even a cop. He spirits his child away from her mother and turns her into a vigilante killer because he was board. Fortunately, Damon’s back story is legit in the film version, as it is confirmed during a visit from his former partner on the force Sergeant Marcus Williams (Omari Hardwick) and the movie is much better for it.

If you don’t mind some scenes of ultra-violence and you are not an up-tight, overprotective mother that would rather strangle herself than listen to an eleven-year-old fictional character say a few swear words, then I would highly recommend that you see Kick-Ass. Overblown controversies aside, this is an interesting story with well rounded and believable characters that is well told and well filmed with several genuinely exciting action bits that are sewn together with comedy writing that’s actually really funny. What more could you ask? The only real negative point that I can level at the film is that it has a tendency to lose its themes and ideas. As an example, the story starts off posing the idea of real people in a realistic world setting putting on costumes and fighting crime. The notion is that it’s taking the fantastical idea of ‘the superhero’ and grounding it in reality. As the film progresses, the situations and violence that occur become exceedingly more exaggerated and comic book-like with physics-shattering acrobatics and obscene amounts of bodily fluids. It’s like Director Matthew Vaughn introduced the very interesting theme of “What would super crime fighters be like in real life?” then got bored with the idea half way through and decided to make an over-the-top action movie instead. It’s still a good action movie, but any sense of reality the film might have had flies right out the window when the machine-gun-armed jet pack shows up on screen.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mini Scum: Moon (2009)

Written by: Digger

Duncan JonesMoon is a science fiction story in the purest sense of the term. It concerns the plight of Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) working alone on the moon running a facility that mines Helium-3 for an energy company back on Earth. Inside of the first scene the audience is crushed by the sense of isolation shown to us as Sam has only GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) the station Artificial Intelligence with whom to communicate. Through the simple premise of a man alone on the moon, this film explores speculative technology that leads Sam and the viewer on an emotional and introspective journey of what it really means to be human.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Random Movie: Video X: The Dwayne and Darla-Jean Story (2003)

Written by: PBF

I love it when I find a movie I have never heard of, and it turns out to be good.

Video X: The Dwayne and Darla-Jean Story would have you believe that you are watching actual events from a video shot by a couple from Kentucky. You aren’t, but the film does a damn good job making you think you are. Dwayne and Darla-Jean are starting a new life and heading to Little River, and are video taping the escapade.  While at a campground, they are robbed and all of their money is stolen. They are nowhere near their destination, and Dwayne refuses to go back home, and be ridiculed for failing on day 1 of their journey. They resort to stealing from a convenience store, and the plan goes horribly awry, and their vacation becomes a completely different kind of road trip. I will summarize no further, so as not to ruin the pleasant progression that occurs.

I have yet to see a film shot in this hand held video style, ala Blair Witch Project, that successfully has me believe that the character(s) filming would not at some point stop filming as the events that are transpiring become bigger than them, and they should perhaps focus more on surviving than taping. This film is no exception. However it is the most realistic film of that style I have seen. There are no credits. At all. It just starts right in with the video until the tape runs out and then cuts to black. Not even a title card. The camera goes back and forth between Dwayne and Darla-Jean and even Billy, someone they pick up at a diner. The video is quite random in that it will just cut to another shot, sometimes in rapid succession. There are even a few shots of a birthday party that the couple were taping over.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mini Scum: Team America: World Police (2004)

Written by: PBF

I had never actually seen the entirety of Team America: World Police until today. From the creators of South Park is an absolutely hilarious, offensive, politically themed action movie parody, complete with their song “Montage” in which the lyrics describe what a montage is during a montage. Also included is “America, Fuck Yeah!” and quotable lines like “Derka derka derka.” Also, the film includes perhaps one of the most disturbing sex scenes, ever. Did I mention that there are only voice actors, because everyone is a puppet? Completely over the top, but not without a valid message.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Random Movie: The Dead Hate the Living! (2000)

Written by: PBF

Dave Parker, the writer/director of The Dead Hate the Living! said that he wanted to make the most un-Full Moon movie that he could. Full Moon Entertainment has brought us such delights as Puppet Master, Killjoy and was a distributor of Gingerbread Man 2: Passion of the Crust. What Parker meant was, he wanted to make a film without small creatures and make a film that felt as much like a real movie as he could make it. I assume he meant “real” literally, as he also said he purposely made the film referential of the low budget genre. Believe me, the film is full of references.

We have a group of young filmmakers shooting a zombie picture. Through some forced exposition we learn that this is the director, David Poe’s first movie. His best friend Paul is the effects guy, and his two sisters are actresses (although Nina Poe’s part was secretly given to Shelly Poe, because everyone hates Nina). The film location is an abandoned hospital, which, again through an awkward bit of dialogue, we learn they do not have permission to be there and it is illegal to film there. For reasons that normally would not necessitate a group of people to split up, they do. One group finds a room with a tv and and a video camera with a tape in it. The video shows a man talking directly to the camera before getting mauled by zombies.