Posts Tagged ‘Hater’s Complaints’

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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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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The only fair way to judge a film based on an exceptional book is to rate the big screen treatment as its own entity; pretend that the novel doesn’t exist, and that there was actually a screenwriter and/or studio executive inventive enough to conceptualize such an intriguing premise.

The biggest strike (and, belive me, there’s a gaggle) against John Irvin‘s 1981 adaptation of Peter Straub‘s multifaceted horror novel Ghost Story is that, as a stand-alone piece of cinema, it’s an absolute misfire. Has not one thing working in its favor; laughable when it’s not dull. With visual effects as poor as they come, Ghost Story would’ve left me as unimpressed back in ’81 as it does today.

Having just finished Straub’s great novel, now knowing what the author’s original vision was, and just how far off Irvin’s film lands in the paperback’s context, this film is an ultimate disaster. Continued after the jump:


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Kristen Stewart, the one thing about this franchise that I actually like.

I have no intention to see The Twilight Saga: New Moon this weekend, or any future weekend; I still haven’t even seen the first film, nor do I want to. Call me close-minded or whatever slur you’re insult-ometer is turned toward—–it doesn’t matter. Nothing about the franchise (books or movies) interests me. What does excite me about these films, however, is the experience of clawing through reviews for the funniest, meanest jabs. Typically coming from the older, more esteemed critics. Such as, Roger Ebert, who really tossed the gloves to the side when writing his review. The way it’s written, it should really be a Zero Star rating, not One Star; with jewels like the ones pasted below, who gives a rat’s bum?


The amazing lead:

The characters in this movie should be arrested for loitering with intent to moan. Never have teenagers been in greater need of a jump-start. Granted some of them are more than 100 years old, but still: their charisma is by Madame Tussaud.

All the way down to the wonderful closer:

The movie includes beauteous fields filled with potted flowers apparently buried hours before by the grounds crew, and nobody not clued in on the plot. Since they know it all and we know all, sitting through this experience is like driving a pickup in low gear though a sullen sea of Brylcreem.

Whenever veterans the likes of Roger Ebert trash horror films that I myself enjoy, I’m quick to use the old “Critics like him shouldn’t even review these kinds of horror films; they look at them too seriously, rather than the genre-audience-satisfying entertainment that they really are.” The same defense could be used in this New Moon case, but you won’t hear it coming from my lips. Hypocritical, sure. It’s not like New Moon isn’t going to make a truckload of cash this weekend without my help.

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File this one under “Fuck Outta Here.”

walking_distance_movie_poster1Katie Featherston, the female half of Paranormal Activity‘s sudden stars-on-the-rise cast, starred in another little horror film called Walking Distance. While its buzz isn’t even a morsel of what Paranormal Activity‘s was before the mainstream knew about, Walking Distance has been popping up on the various horror sites recently, no doubt a result of Featherston’s presence. The film is about a quaint town that harbors some (probably) supernatural secret, and how that hidden evil wreaks H-E-double-sticks on its residents. Or something to that effect; the film’s plot isn’t important right now. It’s a mute point.

The matter at hand is this…. Today, news came out that the film’s title has been changed to Experimental Activity. Seriously. As the president of Showcase Entertainment (the company that’ll distribute the film), David Jackson, puts it, “Clearly having the fastest-rising star in the business is a feather in the cap, but we feel the film stands on its own as a cool psychological thriller.” Oh, really? So the title change isn’t simply a blatant jack-off of Featherston’s current close-to-$100-million smash? 

Just shameful. And, laughable. at least. Walking Distance (which I’ll keep calling the film until somebody uses physicality to make me do otherwise) is now like a batter standing on the side of home-plate, his arms tied behind his back as a Cliff Lee curveball comes his way. I won’t write it off just yet (that’d be unfair), but the stink of lameness will be tough to wipe away.

News spotted over at: Shock Til You Drop

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The Fourth Kind is a pretty odd bird. My opinion has been battling with itself over the film, and it’s pretty uncomfortable. On one hand, this “is it real?” (umm, ‘No’ is my guess) alien abduction flick comes with a few undeniably disturbing moments, scenes that would leave me loving the film as a whole in most, if not all, other cases. But The Fourth Kind just has so much that’s frustrating and off-putting in its presentation that I can’t give it the Yay. 

For more on my Nay, head over to Critics Notebook:

Critics Notebook: THE FOURTH KIND (2009)


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In less than 24 hours, my one-man consensus (made up of inner thoughts and schizophrenic debates) flip-flopped on this one, Law Abiding Citizen. Initially, I wasn’t all that mad at the film; I was entertained, though not stimulated in any way, nor was I expecting to be, though. The problem areas were rather visible, but I was willing to give it a pass…..until this afternoon, when hours of post-game pondering led me to realize that the bad in this Jamie Foxx vs. Gerard Butler endeavor suffocates the sporadic good.

For an expansion of this thought, head on over to my Critics Notebook review:

Critics Notebook: LAW ABIDING CITIZEN (2009)


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It’s never a good sign when you find yourself fast-forwarding through a movie out of a double-sided necessity to simply finish the thing and get to the good stuff much quicker. I rarely do this; if I’ve made effort enough to start watching a film, no matter how awful it is, I might as well hang tight. A similar reasoning behind not walking out of movies I’ve paid $12 to see theaters; to date, I’ve only prematurely exited stage right three times (Freddy Got Fingered, Corky Romano, and P2), and I wasn’t proud of myself in any of the cases. Why I actually dropped bucks on the first two, I’ll never know.

lets_scare_jessica_to_deathEarly last week, during my daily ritual of scouring through various horror websites in hopes of stumbling across some old forgotten gem that Netflix can so kindly bless me with, the title Let’s Scare Jessica to Death surfaced somewhere, though I’m remiss to recall which URL exactly. Doesn’t matter, really; I’m thinking it was somehow in relation to Ti West’s new The House of the Devil, which I have a screener DVD of, that I watched, and love(d) every second (but more on that film later this week). Back to Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, a wonderfully-intriguing name for a film, and when I noticed that it was made in 1971, I was even more compelled. Obscure ’70s horror hardly ever disappoints, case in point Race with the Devil. Without even reading as much as a two-sentence synopsis, I bumped Jessica to the top of my Netflix.

I’m currently wiping the final splothces of pie off of my cheeks. Continued after the jump: (more…)

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Jack Ketchum

If you’ve never read any of Jack Ketchum‘s novels, I strongly advise that you do so, even if you’re not the type to enjoy hardcore storytelling about murder and depravity. The thing about Ketchum’s books that I love so much is the consistency, how he never submits to the temptations of unnecessary dark comedy; he goes for the jugular without ever flinching. And always with a writing style that’s much more eloquent than you’d stereotypically expect from stories that’d make the weak-willed feel queasy and shaken. He covers the horrors of everyday life; no monsters (well, She Wakes is his sole creature text, so there’s one exception) or ghosts, but real people doing very bad things, all with a subtext that fills their actions with drawn-out motives, whether acceptable or deplorable in explanation.

For those who aren’t so keen on horror fiction, I’d recommend Ketchum’s Red as a good gateway drug into his work. The tale of an old man who watches his beloved dog killed before his eyes, and the retribution he single-handedly brings forth, is the softest of the author’s catalog that I’ve read, and it proves that the guy could be one hell of a dramatic scribe if he wasn’t such a sick bastard underneath the skin. Not that I’m complaining about that. If he weren’t so demented, I would’ve never experienced the amazing The Lost, Ketchum’s epic Hannibal Lecter-ish character study of punk teenager with homicidal tendencies; or the even crueler two-book arch of Off Season and Offspring, the sprawling two-parter about a clan of feral children living in a cave out in the woods, when they’re not driving hatchets into residents’ skulls and eating their flesh. 

Stephen King, another writer I carry the torch for, is a known fan of Ketchum’s, and the inkling to draw parallels between their respective novels is always there, but hardly fair. They’re two totally different styles of horror, both serving its own purpose nicely. One commonality between King and Ketchum, though, is the hit-or-miss quality of films based on their books. We all know the spotty quality of King-based films—–for every The Mist and The Shawshank Redemption (both made by Frank Darabont, who should be the only guy allowed near King’s property at this point), there’s The Lawnmower Man, or (*gasp!*) Thinner. As for Ketchum, there’s only been four books-to-films bearing his name, and three of them (The Lost, The Girl Next Door, Red) aren’t half bad. Red is the best of the lot, but the other two, while hindered by some poor acting and foolish omissions from their on-page source material, get enough to right to earn passes.  


The fourth, the newly-released straight-to-DVD Offspring, is on the total opposite end of the spectrum. It’s every Ketchum fans worst thoughts come true, the in-mind floating notions that Ketchum’s hardest fare is virtually unfilmable. (more…)

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Couples Retreat, an unfortunate waste of nearly two hours. A cheery film that looks like it was a blast to make, but everything is lost in the translation. Proof that Vince Vaughn has gone the downhill way of Will Ferrell, only Vaughn is without any recent Step Brothers-quality fare to partially salvage the wreckage; Four Christmases is only mediocre when put next to Fred Claus.

You get the hint—–I’m not a fan of this one. But I have legitimate reasons, all of which are expressed in my piece over at Critics Notebook, why don’t cha?:

Critics Notebook: COUPLES RETREAT (2009)

Why not, right?

Why not, right?

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Blah blah blah, I love Rod Serling’s masterful The Twilight Zone and own every episode on DVD and it’s the most inspirational and influential things for my all-too-slowly fiction-writing side, blah blah. I’ve said all that many times before, so fudge it. No need to regurgitate. It’s common knowledge for anyone who knows me even the least bit. Or damn well should be, if not.

Steel_(The_Twilight_Zone)Not as loudly shouted but still not unknown is my particular fondness for writer extraordinaire Richard Matheson, the superior horror-fantasy novelist who also scribed a majority’s stack of Twilight Zone episodes. In my bedroom’s library rests two paperback compilations of his best T-Zone scripts, which I read frequently. One of the scripts included in those books is “Steel,” the great Zone episode about the washed-up boxer turned washed-up manager who’s hoping to land one final star-scrapper in a futuristic world where flesh-covered robots are the only ones allowed to be in-ring pugilists. It’s more of a character drama than anything supernatural or morbid, but it does end with a somber send-off that’s pure Matheson, meaning not a stand-up-and-cheer closer. Works perfectly as a 20-some-odd minute television work; swiftly molds the characters, churns some tense fight scenes and doesn’t wear out its welcome.

USA/So, why the hell wouldn’t Hollywood try to stretch it out into a feature-length film? By the sound of the synopsis for Real Steel, the just-announced adaptation of Matheson’s “Steel,” those who share my love for the original will surely cringe and wish to fart in the producers’ general direction (Monty Python those bastards). “2,000 pound human-like robots” better not mean they’ll be Transformers-sized. Kill yourselves, if so. Unsurprisingly, the older grizzled manager has been prettied up and given to Hugh Jackman, and they’ve added a little kid into the mix, replacing the loyal middle-aged partner. The final nail in the casket? The director assigned is Shawn Levy, the guy behind the Night of the Museum movies, Just Married, and The Pink Panther. Nowhere near a hack, but still his presence is a bad sign because it signifies that Real Steel stands no chance of retaining any of that old Twilight Zone veneer. Makes sense, if they’re trying to turn this into a hit vehicle for Jackman to show he’s more than your dude Wolverine; doesn’t make this news any less angering, though.

At least Richard Matheson will cash some nice royalty checks off of this. In that case, I hope it’s a smash. Doesn’t mean I’ll be opening my wallet… Unless the project’s trajectory takes a drastic turn back to its source.

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My favorite horror film of all time is also the most abused—–Night of the Living Dead. As the story goes, writer/director George A. Romero and his team never secured the rights to the film’s name back in 1968, meaning that anybody with a few bucks and a lack of originality can attempt to remake or remix the classic. Save for Tom Savini’s Romero-supported 1990 remake, any film that’s claimed a connection by direct-name has been totally irrelevant and half-assed. I’m looking right at you, Night of the Living Dead 3D.

Night-of-the-Living-Dead-OriginsThe news that there’s soon to be a real-life-actors-mixed-with-CGI version, Night of the Living Dead: Origins, gives me slightly more optimism than its lazy predecessors. Why? Because the project—-which will be directed by Zebediah de Soto, a guy with some impressive animation work on his resume—is taking a different approach, providing backstories for the original’s characters. At least it’s not turning Ben into a white teenager with dreamy good looks. And, although I subscribe to the notion that zombies should always be actual people, not CGI (the utterly-fake-looking creatures in I Am Legend used as evidence), this description of de Soto’s technology doesn’t sound half-awful:

The duo created and designed a real-time effects system, known as ‘The Beast’, which allows filmmakers the ability to direct CG performances the same way they would direct real live actors. The aim of the process is to make tennis balls on a stick representing real people or monsters a thing of the past by allowing actors interact with CG elements as if they are tangible.

Danielle Harris

Danielle Harris

The biggest draw for Night of the Living Dead: Origins, however, is the first piece of casting: Danielle Harris has signed on to play “Barbara,” as in, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”. Harris, the 30-year-old beauty who looks like she never ages, is a veteran scream queen best known for an allegiance to the Halloween franchise (frankly, she’s one of the few great things about Rob Zombie’s recent collabs with Michael Myers). Before Dollhouse caught on, Eliza Dushku was in the same boat that Harris is in now, a yacht made up of actresses that are sexier than your favorite A-lister, and just as charismatic, yet can never seem to breakthrough. Night of the Living Dead: Origins is obviously not the star-making vehicle that Harris needs, but, hell, it’s starring-role work. We’ll take whatever we can get from her around here.

News spotted over at: Bloody Disgusting

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Over at Critics Notebook, I’ve taken the new Megan Fox/Diablo Cody/non-existent-scares Jennifer’s Body to task a bit. I wanted to like this one; I seriously did. Should’ve been campy fun, but instead it’s ho-hum.

Check out my deeper thoughts by clicking here: Critics Notebook: JENNIFER’S BODY (2009)


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Entering this week, A Perfect Getaway was still the worst movie I’ve seen this year; well, Razzie voters, I present to you a worthy candidate to usurp that one: Whiteout. A film that wastes solid source material and has one shallow saving grace—–Kate Beckinsale in a sports bra and panties for a glorious five seconds.

I wish I was lying.

Over at Critics Notebook, I’ve gone a little deeper into the film. Give it a look, eh?   Critics Notebook: WHITEOUT (2009)



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If this indeed was provided directly from Screen Gems, this is hands down one of the worst, most poorly-made posters ever. Photoshop isn’t that hard, isn’t it? Paul Walker’s neck looks black, for fuck’s sake (and I don’t care if that’s some kind of neckwear). Not to mention, T.I. looks just as heinously superimposed:


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dcanniIf you’re ever looking for insightful horror shit-kicking mixed with hilarity, look no further than “Dinner for Fiends,” the always-thoroughly-entertaining podcast from the folks over at Dread Central. A new edition is routinely anticipated with excitement around these parts, and it’s with great pleasure that I link to their latest, a vicious bomb-drop session on Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2.

“Dinner for Fiends” gathers a cluster of the site’s staff for some filters-off, profanity-filled and honest reactions to the latest horror films. Back in 2007, they “went in” on Rob Zombie’s first Halloween reboot, so the fact that this new sequel is just as inept promises a whole new degree of vitriol. I’ve just listened, and thankfully they don’t fumble the ball. The entire episode is worth your time, but, if time is sensitive, skip to the 35-minute mark—–that’s when the Halloween 2 dissection begins. It’s amazing stuff:

Dread Central’s “Dinner for Fiends” — HALLOWEEN 2 massacre


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suspiria-posterI was under the hopeful impression that this project had gone the way of the Hellraiser remake, in that it’d fallen off the face of Hollywood’s bad-idea-landscape. Not so much, apparently, as David Gordon Green‘s remake of Dario Argento‘s Suspiria seems to be very much alive, and aiming for a 2010 start-date. The bad news comes from Empire Online; a reporter from the mag caught up with Italian director/producer Luca Guadagnino recently and he spilled the info that Suspiria is on good track. The plot appears to be the same as the 1977 film: a dancer from the states enrolls in a high-class ballet academy that’s secretly run by a coven of witches. 


David Gordon Green

David Gordon Green

Well, “good” not being the operative word. Look, I’m a fan of David Gordon Green—-his George Washington and Snow Angels maintain their power upon each repeat viewing, and Pineapple Express is one of my favorite comedies of the last few years. I love his quirky sensibilities, clearly seen in that one Pineapple Express shot with the little girl standing by the fence and being focused upon for no obvious reason, or watching Seth Rogen and James Franco play leap-frog in the woods. He’s big on the little human touches, and that’s great. And I’m always an advocate of credible filmmakers entering the horror zone, but I’d much rather Green brings us something originally scary. If he tries too hard to top Argento’s long-drawn/brilliant murder sequences, he’ll most likely force the issue off the deep end; if he pulls back and keeps the violence a bit more naturalistic, fans of the original will have his head. It’s essentially a road to nowhere welcoming.

Remakes of classics, on the whole, piss me off just as much as every other staunchy horror lover, and condemning remakes has become both unoriginal and lazy. Argento’s Suspiria, though, is a redo that demands outspoken resistance. The original is the perfect marriage batshit insanity and visually-breathtaking direction; operatic kill scenes and unforgettable sound design. There’s absolutely no reason to try and improve on it, or even give it a fresh spin. Leave the masterpiece alone.


They aren’t, of course, so now we’ll have to play the waiting game to see how this all plays out (my guess = the first stain on Green’s resume). I’ll absolutely see Green’s Suspiria the first chance I get, whenever the hell it’s done (he’s currently shooting the Medieval Times comedy Your Highness, with Danny McBride, James Franco and Natalie Portman). I’ll just be walking into the theater with my Complain Button colored red and within a lint-piece’s reach of the finger.

Extra: At one point, the rumor was that Portman would take on the lead in this Suspiria, a casting tidbit that made total sense and (slightly) introduced some optimism. Let’s hope that Portman is officially game. The whole “ballerina enduring terror” angle is awfully close to Black Swan (the dark head-fucker that she’s currently making with Darren Aronofsky), though, so she may end up declining a second opportunity to don pink tights. 

A couple of choice Suspiria ’77 scenes, after the jump: (more…)

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Call me a bit short-sighted if you will, but I honestly didn’t see this coming. The fact is, this is only one review, so it’s very premature to officially start worrying. But after that epic dissertation on the film’s merits published by Esquire earlier this year, this outright slam from Variety‘s top critic Todd McCarthy has me reeling. First spotted over at Jeffrey Wells’s Hollywood Elsewhere, McCarthy’s fangs-out review comes from a screening held out in Los Angeles earlier in the week, a pre-Venice Film Festival effort to get the buzz rolling with speed. If more critics follow McCarthy’s lead, though, that’ll prove to be a hufe “Dohh!” tactic. “Talk about your all-time backfires,” says sir Happy Gilmore. 

Some discouraging nuggets from the Variety write-up…..

“[Director John] Hillcoat, who played with heavy violence in “The Proposition” and made some of it stick, shows no talent for or inclination toward setting up a scene here; any number of sequences in “The Road” could have been very suspenseful if built up properly, but Hillcoat, working from a script by Joe Penhall, just hopscotches from scene to scene in almost random fashion without any sense of pacing or dramatic modulation.”

“Dialogue that should have been directed with an almost Pinteresque sense of timing is delivered without meaningful shadings, principally by two actors who have no chemistry together. Unfortunately, [star Viggo] Mortensen lacks the gravitas to carry the picture; suddenly resembling Gabby Hayes with his whiskers and wayward hair, the actor has no bottom to him, and his interactions with [young co-star Kodi] Smit-McPhee, whom one can believe as [co-star Charlize] Theron’s son but not Mortensen’s, never come alive.”

“Scraps of narration by Mortensen seem like unnecessary afterthoughts, while the preponderance of scenes featuring the wife is explainable only because Theron’s presence needed to be justified by more screen time. Score by longtime Hillcoat collaborator Nick Cave and Warren Ellis borders on the treacly, softening the tone and further conventionalizing a film that should have gone the other direction toward something harsh and daring.”

If this review was written with a tad less venom and a counterbalance of optimism, I wouldn’t be as concerned as I now am; McCarthy sounds heated, though, so the red flag is waving. He’s pretty reliable as far as big-league critics go. My heart has cracked a smidge.

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Over at Critics Notebook, I’ve assessed Rob Zombie‘s sequel, Halloween II, an infuriating grab-bag of nicely-viscersal kills and overwhelmingly-shoddy storytelling. For more of thoughts, expanded upon, head over to…..  

Critics Notebook: HALLOWEEN II


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shutter island martin scorcese dennis lahane book cover

Frankly, I’m spending way too much energy thinking about this, but so goes it. That left-cross I felt Friday night when I first read that Shutter Island has been pushed back from October to February hasn’t healed yet; it’s still numb, and I’m dropping these thoughts onto my keyboard simply because my fat-lip is puffing past the point of comfortable speech. 

The fact that I can’t see Martin Scorcese‘s flick for another five months isn’t the most infuriating aspect of this news. What’s really irking me is the bottom-line reason for the delay, an inability on the half of Paramount Pictures to get down on their knees and slob down the Oscar voting committee. At least that’s what it feels like to me. When the defense on the studio’s part for this move is that they won’t be able to pay for a proper Academy Award campaign for the film as their books stand this year, how can I not think that? Other reports say that star Leonardo Dicaprio won’t be available to promote Shutter Island internationally, which seems a bit inconsequential.

The name of this disappointing game is Money Can’t Talk; rather than just release the film and bank on its actual quality to either convince or dissuade the Academy, the studio retreats, leaving the film in February’s unbefitting terrain for a Scorcese film.

There’s a good chance that I’m wrong here, and that my not being in the crust of Hollywood dollar-crunching has left me misinformed. I could also be coming at this from a purely one-sided “fan” perspective. If so, color me biased. I’m just struggling to decipher why a Martin Scorcese film starring Leonardo Dicaprio that’s been apparently testing super-strong and has ever-lengthening word-of-mouth buzz can’t stand on its own laurels. If it’s good enough that Paramount considers it worthy of an expensive Oscar push, then let the film lobby for itself. Make it a hands-off awards season event, instead of a February 19, 2010 passer-by.

As far as I’m concerned, the most intriguing thing about Scorcese’s Shutter Island isn’t whether it’ll become a Best Picture contender or not, nor if Dicaprio can finally earn that elusive Best Actor statue. Intense curiosity is favoring how Scorcese will handle the novel’s definition-of-polarizing twist, which has been a catalyst for widespread hatred for Dennis Lehane‘s book. While I completely understand the anger directed at Lehane’s decision to turn the tables with a conventionally-overused reveal, I’m able to look past the head-shrugging and appreciate the great ways that Lehane sets this twist up from the first page. It holds up well upon repeat readings. How Scorcese will be able to manipulate the audience well enough to not spoil the twist is what I’m really excited to see unfold. That trailer has already given away a good deal; Scorcese has hands full now.

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This may sound ludicrous, but it’s actual fact. This news hurts nearly as much as the news that hit me back in late March, when I found out that my place of employment at the time was shutting its doors due to economic woes, leaving me unemployed for what turned out to be three stressful, uncertain months. Yes, this ultimately minor turn of events here pains me almost as much.

ShutterIslandPosterParamount, in an attempt to deliver a gut-punch to yours truly using a battering ram instead of a mere fist, has just announced that they’ve moved Martin Scorcese‘s adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island (a favorite book of mine, read it three times now, the third concluding this afternoon) to February 19, 2010—-a whole four fucking months after its original, seemingly-set-in-stone date of October 2. Which had been marked on my mind’s calendar in permanent, dark-as-night Sharpie; Shutter Island has been my number one must-see film of 2009 since late 2008. Its opening was rapidly upon us. More specifically, though, me. Now, I’m feeling like Teddy Daniels around the page-340 mark.

In most cases, a pushback such as this would signify that the film is plagued with negative issues, the change of release a last ditch effort to prolong a thought-to-be inevitable failure. But, according to Hollywood know-it-all Nikki Finke, word from Paramount is that the Leonardo Dicaprio film, already atop many critics’ Academy Award Watch lists, has been testing in the low-90-percentile, and the consensus on the trailer has been hugely positive. I’m in that majority, with watching the trailer a daily routine in my life.

So why in shit’s name has this happened? The primary reason: Blame it on the economy, sadly. In the words of a source of Nikki Finke’s:

“Paramount told the filmmakers it doesn’t have the financing in 2009 to spend the $50M to $60M necessary to market a big awards pic like this.”


Like I said, this one is a Tyson-in-his-prime uppercut. Just minutes ago, after seeing Quentin Tarantino’s dynamite Inglourious Basterds for the second time, I was ranting all giddily to some friends about how excited I am for Shutter Island. Even got them equally amped. October 2 was locked in as a big night for the three of us. Gone with the wind, now.

Link to Nikki Finke’s full story: Deadline Hollywood Daily

The trailer, my current obsession, after the jump: (more…)

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After catching A Perfect Getaway earlier this week, my immediate reaction was somewhere between “Dear God, that sucked,” and “Ladies and gentleman, we have 2009’s equivalent to last year’s The Happening.” Brutal and eviscerating thoughts. That initial venom has subsided a bit in the viewing’s wake, mostly due to the euphoria experienced while seeing Inglourious Basterds 24 hours later; that one lived up to my expectations well enough to forgive A Perfect Getaway. Like the way you can look past a girlfriend’s incessant nagging after winning the lottery (not that I can relate, but I’m sure it’s blissful). 

A pardon can only go so far, though. A Perfect Getaway, regardless of what Quentin Tarantino is/was able to do, is still a bad film on many levels, most irritatingly because it could’ve been something sharper. I’ve given the film a closer look over at Critics Notebook; check it, would ya?

Link:  Critics Notebook — A PERFECT GETAWAY (2009)

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It’s like staring into an unfamiliar mirror, in some foreign bedroom’s accompanying bathroom. The liquor still singing your judgment, treating your brain like a wet sponge that’s heavier than a bag of quarters. What the fuck am I doing here? Where is here, exactly? Why did I have that eighth shot of Henny? From the bedroom, you hear some girl’s voice, beckoning, “What’s taking you so long? Let’s do this damn thing already! I want you.” For a second, you’re feeling good, the mood striking and sicking the horny-bug into your loins. But then, as you step back into the room where your soon-to-be-fuck-buddy awaits, the pupils catch a steady glimpse at her, and a sensation similar to drinking curdled milk gives you the sickly chills. The sad part is, self, that I know I’m going to shamefully enjoy this. She’s not exactly the Elephant Woman, but she’s fugly enough to turn the impending one-night-stand into a grueling labor of only-to-get-my-rocks-off. And you know what? It’s a damn good time. So enjoyable, in fact, that you quietly look forward to the next time.

Even if he won’t admit it, every guy in the world has either been in that situation to that precise outcome or at least can agree that he’d do the exact same thing if ever in that mix. How does this relate to my humble little film blog, you may be asking yourself? Simplistic-ness, reader. Because next Friday, the movie equivalent to that fugly-yet-pleasure-giving woman hits theaters—-G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra


There’s not much in the way of analysis in regards to G.I. Joe. We all know the deal. Directed by Stephen Sommers, the often-called-a-“hack” chap responsible for desecrating the Universal horror canon with 2004’s vile Van Helsing, the one where Frankenstein cried like a little bitch and Kate Beckinsale made a horrible Transylvanian accent sound sexy. Sommers is like an even-more shallow Michael Bay, if such a description is possible. So you know that his G.I. Joe is going to be a lobotomized shell of a film. And the cast, made up of a hodge-podge of B-listers (Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Sienna Miller) alongside the gimme-the-loot-intentioned duo of Dennis Quaid and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, isn’t exactly Robert Altman-esque. Oh, and the producer is also the guy behind the Transformers movies. 

Quite the recipe for head-numbing. But, like the hideous gal that the guy bags just for the cheap thrill, G.I. Joe is an overachiever without pretension. And the truth of the matter is, I’m ready to drop coin on the film come opening night. Without guilt. It’s not even that I was such an avid Joe toy collector as a bed-wetter that I’m going with an undying allegiance to the property. I had a bag full of Joe action figures, sure, but was no more attached to them then the next kid. The reason why I’m so amped for G.I. Joe is that I’m a sucker at heart. As much as I sing the praises of envelope-pushing foreign films and Stanley Kubrick masterpieces, my whipping-boy side can’t resist the spectacle that will surely be G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. It’s relaxing to turn my brain off once in a while and snack on some eye-Snickers. The magnetism emitted from the junk is powerful. Just as, ladies, your nice-guy friend that gives you hope for the male species with every kind word and thoughtful action would quickly tap the sloppily-unattractive chick in the club, if given the green light. Does that make him a bad person? Nope, not at all. Human, yes.


Does wanting badly to see G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra make me a candidate for impeachment out of the Film Lovers’ Society? Fuck outta here. Negativo. The intoxicant that I’ll be able to blame is the allure of expensive flashing lights and CGI action. My hangover will kick in once I get back home and see Synecdoche, New York poking out of my DVD collection, Philip Seymour Hoffman firing ice-grills in my direction. I’ll feel no shame, though. In fact, if G.I. Joe is every bit the fun ride I’m hoping it’ll be, I may partake in seeing it a second time. Who knows? 

Besides, I’ve had enough will power to not see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. That was the alcohol-sipping harlot that my other folks warned me about, persuading me to steer clear of her flirtation and open-legged stance. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, though, is the strobelite honey, and, yes, I’m Dres (Black Sheep, anyone?). And sometimes, will power suffers from the Samson-after-a-drastic-haircut syndrome. 

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megan-fox-jennifers-bodyIf you plan on seeing Bruno this weekend, as I’m sure most of us are, there’s a high probability that you’ll catch the first official trailer for Jennifer’s Body, Megan Fox‘s first leading-woman flick scripted by Juno award-winner Diablo Cody. I’ve posted some early stills from the film here, so it should come as no mystery that I’m anticipating this one. Let’s make it clear right here, right now, though—–I’m not looking forward to this in the Shutter Island sense. Nope. More in that age-old “hard not to watch trainwreck” way. As hot as Fox is, she’s a pretty horrendous actress, so there’s strike one, and then there’s the fact that every Jennifer’s Body script review that I’ve read first or second hand has been negative, some even downright scathing.

And, I may become a pariah amongst all men, but I’m also growing a bit tired of Miss Fox. Beautiful is still beautiful, but Megan Fox overkill is setting in, folks. Too many magazine covers and red carpet photos in too short a time span. Besides, I subscribe to the belief that her Jennifer’s Body co-star Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls, Mamma Mia!) is much finer—-and I’m not even into blondes like that.


To be fair, Shock Til You Drop posted the exclusive red band (R-rated) trailer this morning, since the one you’ll see in theaters before Bruno will be the lame, PG-13 green band; director Karyn Kusama, Cody, and producer Jason Reitman (director of Juno) prefer this red band version, so this is the one to pay attention to. Problem is, though, that it’s not very good. Entertaining, yes, and promises a film that I’ll totally drop coin on, but the thing feels like a mess. It’s definitely a horror-comedy, that’s banking on Fox’s sex appeal over anything else. The scenes shot in the dark, in that grungy pool and around those candles, all look nice and macabre. But, again, I can’t shake this feeling of impending suck. 

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Maybe the Special Edition DVD is different than the original film that was released back in 1979. All I know is, while watching Phantasm last night for the first time ever after years of slacking off, only one thought kept reappearing within the head’s chamber: People actually consider this a “great” horror film? 

phantasmSome genre vets would consider this sentiment to be blasphemy, but fuck it—–Phantasm is a terrible movie. Boring, cheesy, the opposite of scary. Overrated and forgettable. Placed alongside the sequels (which I have seen, ass-backwards enough), though, director Don Coscarelli’s franchise jumpoff is on the same plane as Alien, another ’79 horror favorite. That’s saying very little, however. I’m not going to overtalk my point here, simply because I don’t have much to say about the film, it disinterested me that much. Points are awarded its way for originality, offering some unique ideas and an off-kilter narrative approach. The script is wise enough to tap directly into a common fear of suburban youngsters, and that’s the mysteries and potential terrors that reside in the local cemetery. And Phantasm has a formidable, memorable villain in The Tall Man (played by naturally-freaky-looking Angus Scrimm); the problem is, The Tall Man is underused, washed over by strictly-for-the-gore orbs that zoom around and drain blood from foreheads, and black-hooded ghoulies that just jump around and irritate rather than doing anything that’s actually scary.

The urge to compare Phantasm to 1986’s Spookies is overpowering. If not the entirety of one-of-the-most-astonishingly-awful-films-ever-made Spookies, than certainly the shitshow’s first 15 minutes, a pointless first act featuring an annoying, poorly-acted kid who runs around an eerie graveyard and bumps into a tall warlock-dude wearing a cheap suit (a la Sir Tall Man). The acting in Phantasm is much better, fortunately, but that’s enough to lift the flick above Spookies standards. 

PHANTASM'S only semi-effective moment

PHANTASM'S only semi-effective moment

I’d hope that hating Phantasm isn’t considered a notch off my horror-fan-belt, but if so then that’s the way the cookie disintegrates. Bottom line: When you’re so bored with a movie that you start fast-forwarding it in hopes of seeing something that catches your eye enough to stop and watch, completely out of context, then you have a bad one on your hands. Case closed.

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