Archive for March, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a damn-good Swedish thriller that opened here in America a couple weeks back, without any real promotion or word. Meaning, this is most likely the first time you’re hearing about the damn thing. Click the link below to learn more about it, courtesy of a review I’ve penned for Reel Loop:

LINK: LATE PASS Review — ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’


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The stench was pungent from the very first scene. I sat down, endured some pretty lousy trailers (I’ve seen the Death at a Funeral remake preview a dozen times now and it somehow gets worse with each round), and eagerly anticipated a spin in the Hot Tub Time Machine. The reviews have been predominantly upbeat, and the cast all but promised enjoyment. Craig Robinson and John Cusack, side by side? Foolproof, I thought. But five minutes in, I nearly slapped my forehead in disbelief. Robinson’s character, Nick Webber-Agnew (having taken his wife’s last name, because he’s the emasculated Ed Helms/’Stu’ member of the film’s all-dude quartet), works at a dog training-and-grooming spot, ‘Sup Dawg, after a failed singing career left his days as the frontman of Chocolate Lipstick as historical inventory. A customer (the usually spot-on Thomas Lennon) brings his sick pooch in for a look-over, recognizes Nick from his crooner days and then gags as Nick pulls the canine-owner’s car keys out of the dog’s ass—-fecal matter as a bonus topping. And in that instant, I realized a painful truth: Hot Tub Time Machine was going to be an excruciating 100 minutes. 

Little, if anything, convinced me otherwise by the time Rob Corddry’s just awful Lou pops up in the final scene as the lead singer in a fake Motley Lue video. The impetus, of course, is that he and his pals were sent back to 1986 after getting sloshed in the title jacuzzi, and the old butterfly effect came into play, allowing Lou to use his foresight to conceptualize Lougle (Google) and front Motley Lu (Motley Crew, obviously). It’s a somewhat clever ending to a altogether unfunny film. Ineffective use of its inner 1980s motif is made, other than a running joke with Back to the Future costar Crispin Glover, tons of shiny clothing and scattered peripheral imagery. Focus is put on gags where one heterosexual guy is forced to give his also hetero boy oral sex, or hand soap is splattered all over one’s face to look like ejaculated spooge. Cheap tricks, dragging down a premise that could have spawned endless humor. Guy-on-guy blowjobs are the easy way out, of course, and will always induce a giggle or two from audience members. Nobody (myself included) buys a Hot Tub Time Machine ticket and expects high art, but unexpected punchlines and intelligent one-liners? Shouldn’t be too much to ask.

I’ve spoken with a good amount of people who’ve seen Hot Tub Time Machine and loved it, so perhaps I’m screwing up here. I’m no flawless filmgoer, being the same cat who owns Neil LaBute’s The Wicker Man remake on DVD, by tongue-in-cheek choice, though that doesn’t matter in the bigger self-respecting picture. I’ll duel to the death on point, though—-Rob Corddry single-handedly ruins the film. One of the most over-the-top performances I’ve ever seen; manic beyond the point of entertainment. It’s tough enough that the majority of his lines are stale dick-and-ball jokes; he could have been delivering Ricky Gervais-written bits and I still wouldn’t have liked a mere second of his work. One reviewer called him “the next Zach Galifianakis,” an attempt to parallel Hot Tub Time Machine to last year’s infinitely superior The Hangover. Toss that comparison out the window, right away. Galifianakis’s presence in The Hangover succeeds thanks to an alternately subtle and bizarre demeanor; Corddry, however, bullies his way through every scene on a tailspin. There’s a stark difference between a humorous guy and one who seems on the verge of self-destruction, or, worse, gone-postal violence. Spitting out words like a cocaine fiend. Unfunny words, at that.

I know, I know… the film is called Hot Tub Time Machine, so I should just loosen up my britches. Put my analytical side on hold. Go watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo instead (which should be the move tonight), or Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard (tomorrow evening), if I’m craving a real fix. Believe me, that was the intention all along, until Rob Corddry ruined everything. If not for him, I could have even given ‘Sup Dawg another try.

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Over at Reel Loop, I’ve weighed in on the this weekend’s newly released erotic drama Chloe.

Give it a look…. it can’t hurt, right?

LINK: Reel Loop: Review – ‘Chloe,’ Sexual Force Proves Impotent, Says Matt

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I wish I could somehow recline in the mind of David Lynch for just a few hours, no perversion included. Simply a desire to figure out how the one-of-a-kind filmmaker’s brain ticks, where the insane ideas pour from, why he’s so adept at constructing cinematic puzzles that have no easy-does-it solution. There’s a distinct power at play in any film that forces its viewers to revisit the picture in its entirety in order for them to discern just what the fudge is exactly going down, and that’s a magnetism that doesn’t need to be rewarding to earn its rightful place. I’ve watched Lynch’s spell-binding Mulholland Drive at least ten times at this stage of my life, and I still can’t decide on a straight-and-narrow synopsis. Every fresh watch pokes holes through my then-existing analysis. But, the thing is, I love that ongoing thought process. Coin it as being a tad masochistic; fine by me.

Far too few celluloid experiences pack the discomfort and open-mouth gapes that accompany Lynch’s first work, 1977’s black-and-white Eraserhead, which I caught earlier on the Sundance channel. Guess is,  the fifth time I’ve seen the film. The aftermath is always the same—-brain sodomy. Essentially, this one’s about a nearly-mute weirdo, Harry Spencer (the by-God’s-own-hands unsettling Jack Nance), who sports a pre-Christopher “Kid” Reid pencil-top hairdo and is deathly afraid of becoming a father, and the neurosis he undergoes when his girlfriend gives birth to a disfigured baby. Only, you don’t get your standard daydreams filled with dinnertable scenes starring multiple rugrats; Lynch’s treats feature little alien-like creatures convulsing, or spewing blood, or living in heaters, not to mention, as a sweet bonus, bearded ladies singing showtunes.

Reports state that Lynch made the film using a slim $10,000 grant he received from the storied AFI Conservatory and IOUs he grabbed from friends and odd-job employers. Shows the then-31-year-old wannabe-director’s determination and honed vision. Something tells me, though, that Eraserhead wouldn’t be any less abstract if he’d been given a grant 20 times that amount; like all of his films, Lynch’s debut remains such a singular vision 23 years after its premiere, you can only enjoy it in guiltless bafflement. And that, folks, is precisely the skill that I’d love tap into somehow, some damn way; the ability to create give-me-your-undivided-attention fiction, stories and live-action deals brimming with all-my-own imagination. Of course, no one will ever manage to replicate a David Lynch film, but that’s not even my point; I’m itching to learn how he so brilliantly digs into his own unique sensibilities and translates them into works that equally polarize and astonish.

Eraserhead is by no means a masterpiece, or even one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s up there amongst the strangest and most invigorating, however; one of many offbeat films I re-check often, when I’m searching for inspiration.

Fatherhood is nowhere in sight, so I can’t sympathize with poor Harry Spencer; I am paranoid as hell in other areas, though, namely within a professional pit of quicksand I can’t seem to crawl out of. Could bearded songbirds and mini-ETs get their metaphors on over that? Should they even, for that matter? Not at all. I need to visualize my own what-the-fuck imagery, just as David Lynch did back in 1977.

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Distance absolutely makes the heart grow fonder. Having left the once-highly-active Theater of Mine a dust-filled cesspool of lost dreams forfar too long, I’m back in effect, hungrier than ever. The balance of dollar-free passion here and pays-the-bill, necessary passion there is a tight rope stroll, but it’s time I regain some traction. More than before. Work a good amount of literature coverage into the pot; show the world what I’m gassed about in the 2-0-1-0. It’s like that.

And what better to stick a needle in inspiration proverbial ass than a trashy zombie film from the early 1970s. Last night, I finally caught up with the late Bob Clark‘s schlock pseudo-classic Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972), an early no-budget gem from the man who’d go on to direct the great Black Christmas (1974), Porky’s (1982), Porky’s II: The Next Day (1983) and the interminable A Christmas Story (1983)—–yes, the one with Ralphie and those damn Bumpus hounds.

Written and directed by Clark, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is my favorite of his films (that distinction goes to Black Christmas), but it certainly falls above the Red Rider BB gun flick. The characters are awful, a large amount of the dialogue grates like fromage, and the gore effects are a mere step away from using cherry Kool-Aid in the place of authentic life liquid. The first two acts slither along like a finger digging through marshmallow, and the scares are telegraphed. Somehow, though, through all of this ineptitude, Clark emerges as a magical auteur, yanking heaps of entertainment from the lame-brained festivities. That I was never bored throughout the film’s lean 85-minute duration speaks volumes.

The late Bob Clark

Continued after the jump: (more…)

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Opening today is Antoine Fuqua’s Brooklyn’s Finest, a film I’ve been heavily anticipating since it made waves back in January 2009 at the Sundance Film Festival. Though the reviews from that fest were mixed, I latched on to the word that the picture is brutally dark, and had a downbeat and polarizing ending. I say ‘had” because I’m pretty sure they went back and changed the coda after that response. I could be wrong, though, since the conclusion I saw wasn’t even close to being marginal; it’s outright grim.

Over at Reel Loop, I’ve written my thoughts down into a review. Give it a look, eh?:

LINK: Reel Loop – Review: ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’

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