Friday, March 31, 2006

Good Guys Wear Black (1978) * Worst Hits *

Oh Chuck, why must you be so cool and yet such a joke at the same time?

Genre: Action Drama

Starring: Chuck Fucking Norris, Anne Archer (Clear and Present Danger; Patriot Games)

Directed By: Ted Post (Magnum Force)

Overview: When Special Ops members from Chuck's old team, The Black Tigers, start turning up dead, Chuck finds himself trying to get to the bottom of a political conspiracy.

That's one interpretation.

True Overview: Chuck Norris kicks a guy through a windshield.

Acting: It's not that the people acting in this film weren't trying to act, it was that they were physically incapable, distracted by the tragedy that was 1978 interior design. I went out of my way to say to myself, "Alright, no preconceived notions Squish, just look at Chuck's acting and pay real attention to his actual performance, and judge its merit accordingly." After doing so, I though, "alright, fine, not the best, now see if the rest of his cast can support him, just give it a real chance!" I... I blacked out from the strain.
Rating: 3

Cinematography: This is an action movie. It's full of action. There's the 'Nam scene with the guns and the exploding huts, yeah! There's the fight at the airport with the kick through the windshield, Woo... but that's it. Watching your friend get shot is not action. When you deliver a kick to the head of the guy who shot your friend, that's action. It is NOT a thin line. The only redeeming quality is the tragic late 70s decor, which this film was strangely meticulous about. The opulent hotel with thick, bright orange orangutan-pelt-looking shag carpet, or the rec-room bar lined with mugs carved like the faces of people. You just know 10 years later all those expensive knick-knacks were selling for 50 cents each at the most embarrassing garage sale you've ever seen.
Rating: 3

Script: Any dialogue that uses the word 'expedite' nine times in four minutes is enough to make you climb the walls in anguish. Adding a script that plays out like some shitty episode of Kojak, there's no doubt that this was pumped out of the arse of some commercial-making production team. The only other thing this writer ever wrote is a Chuck Norris movie, a SCI-FI CHUCK NORRIS MOVIE. Shame is a word that cannot come close to describing my sentiments for an entire decade that would have ever imagined something as malignant as this.
Rating: 3

Plot: What political machinations lie in wait for our underdog? We open with deep-running politics, a journalist investigating a man's last Vietnamese Operation with his Unit. While his old friends are getting shot to death, assassination style, we wonder if our hero will get to the bottom of the story in time. The snowball of danger and convoluted mysteries grows and grows until all at once you realize this is an imbecilic Chuck Norris movie and it only serves to stereotype gender roles to the degree that the womanizing Chuck manages to get the journalist to cook for him, twice.
Rating: 3

Mood: There are films that you watch simply because you like movies, just because you want to see a stupid action film with some stupid kicks in the head and some detective work with close calls on the life of our hero. When you spend your time groaning, looking away, bashing your head on the wall, and laughing uproariously at the wrong stuff (like the wallpaper and the 'computers'), it's really not a good sign, because deep down your crying inside. That makes for a really shitty time. A waste of life.
Rating: 2

Remember that movie, you know it's all about Chuck Norris kicking a guy through a windshield?

Overall Rating: 28% (Good Guys is Evil!)

Aftertaste: The shit you do for friends. This is one of the biggest, most painful turds I've ever crapped out of my brain. No amount of oat bran can purge the walls of the bowels of my mind of this complete waste of 96 minutes of my life. This has 3 things that are completely retarded: no action, retarded dialogue and Chuck Norris. Jesus Chuck, Jesus! What possessed you?! I think I'll have to move on the Charles Bronson, because this... this was just...

Jesus Wept.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Mummy (1932)

Not only was he Frankenstein but check out that FEZ!

Genre: Horror Drama

Starring: Boris Karloff (Frankenstein), Zita Johann

Directed By: Karl Freund

Overview: The Mummy Im-Ho-Tep is uncovered as part of an archaeological dig, but soon awakens, taking with him the scroll of Thoth, the incantation to raise the dead.

Acting:The only actor worth a damn in this movie is Boris. His director is a nobody and the other people are all quite overzealous with their foppy British highborn accents. I actually thought they were fake accents for a while, though I'm still not convinced since over half the crew isn't British... So fake, such unbelievable portrayals. This plays out like bad dinner theater. I'd rather see Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament... hahaha, no I wouldn't.
Rating: 3

Cinematography: The make-up for Boris is remarkable. This isn't one of those all crazy out there gorefests with dirty bandages. This mummy is quite human looking, except for a little pastiness in his skin, and the crazy eyes of a monster. The lighting for his close-up shot is really the best part of all of this. Sure the rooms are opulent and the statues are big and cool and... You know what actually, this was alright.
Rating: 7

Script: Signs of the 'Affliction of the Early Talkie' include pompous accents, talking for the sake of hearing the neat invention that is Sound Engineering and run on sentences that serve to do nothing more than convolute the plot. To date, anything made between 1930 and 1935 suffers greatly from such a contagious affliction, and though cured in most civilized areas, pockets of film tend to require treatment of quarantine and controlled burn.
Rating: 3

Plot: This isn't quite the story you would expect. I thought it would be all archaeologists getting massacred for uttering the words of The Curse out loud, a bandaged up freak hobbling around pointing at people till they either died of a heart attack or seeing the shadow of the hand reach for the shadow of the neck as it crushed out life. You kind of wish it were that, but this actually goes into some Mummy in love crap, which is neat, but not so cool as Egyptian Undead Vengeance for getting woken up.
Rating: 5

Mood: No, really, it's Boris Karloff, seriously. Without him this movie would be a turd floating in the Nile. It's a shame that Boris ended up being so exploited in the end of his career, but such is life. Maybe if he wasn't in films where the actors all pose dramatically like some sort of Victorian stage performance, maybe his films would be taken seriously. What is it with the England in the early talkies era? God Almighty.
Rating: 4

As monsters go, the Mummy is seriously underrated. We need more.

Overall Rating: 44% (I'm Not Going To Make A 'Mother' Pun Here)

Aftertaste: The Horror films of the early days really weren't that frightening. Take the Mummy for example, this is a guy that they try to reason with. They say things like "we know you can't be defeated but we'll get you nonetheless". Like they say this to his face. Why he just doesn't chop them into chunks I dunno, oh right, it's not about the gore. It's rather strange watching this particular film, since the mummy is actually a monster with goals and dreams and enemies. You wonder if he's going to get what he wants, and you kinda root for him.

Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928)

Is it me or does that guy on the right look like he's hungry for brain?

Genre: Silent Comedy Family Romance

Starring: Buster Keaton (Seven Chances; Our Hospitality)

Directed By: Charles Reisner

Overview: An old sailor finds out his son is coming in from the big city to join up with his crew. He awaits eagerly until he lays eyes on the little frou-frou.

Acting: The father's role is quite amusing. He's the kind of character that tries to do right by his kin by teaching him his ways, but hates the son for being so foppish, yet is quite overprotective of him at the same time. The chemistry these two have is really great, not to mention the girl and her disapproving father. Just the right measure of over-the-top.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: I must say that I was disappointed, after having seen so many of his other works. The stunts in this one are really not what this movie is about. There's some impressive enough stuff, like the classic shot of Buster standing there while the side of a house falls on him (below), but overall, though professional, there wasn't any of the dazzling greatness that I've grown to expect.
Rating: 7

Script: "Here, shave this barnacle offa his lip." - Father taking his son to the barber.

It's a silent film, damnit, there's only so much bullshit I can fill this space with review after review. Leave me alone, Jesus!
Rating: 7

Plot: The story is pretty rich. Man meets son, boy meets girl, everyone hates everyone, huge storm hits, giving ample opportunity for heroics and consequent happy endings. Still it was definitely a little slow and shy of his earlier works.
Rating: 6

Mood: Comedy is funny. It makes you laugh. Cops getting punched in the belly is funny. Pigs getting locked up in their own cell is funny. It makes you laugh.
Storms are funny, houses falling all around you makes you laugh.
Rating: 7

"I know I left that wall around here somewhere..."

Overall Rating: 70% (Needs a Bit More Coal in the Fire)

Aftertaste: After everything's said and done, mocking gender roles has been around since the dawn of time. The little sissy boy from the city with the beret learns to 'be a man' by becoming a sailor and fighting the police. You know all these silent comics seem to make fun of police. It is because they know that we all secretly wish violence upon them, or is it just that committing violence upon a pig is more dangerous, hence more funny? I guess it doesn't matter, it's always funny.

Chaplin's Essayney Comedies (1915)

Thank you VERY MUCH, Hitler, you ruined the mustache for everyone!

Silent Comedy Shorts

Starring: Charlie Chaplin (The Kid; Modern Times)

Directed By: Charlie Chaplin (Gold Rush; The Great Dictator)

Overview: This collection of Chaplin's early work includes Work, By The Sea and The Bank, all featuring the down on his luck tramp.

Acting: Sometimes you look at someone's early work and see the purity of a man's vision, and sometimes you see an unpolished gem, knowing that the potential for greatness is there. This sits right there between the two. His natural talent is good though Chaplin's much better in his later work.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: There is some really good stuff in this. It's been remastered and the stunts, though not as zany as you may be used to, really has some shocking moments, namely Chaplin chucking a cop in the water and other general fisticuffs. The general camerawork, however, not that exciting, but the make-up is one of a kind, definite expressionist and vaudeville influences.
Rating: 6

Script: The intertitling has a few groaners, but mostly it does what it's supposed to, give us just enough to get it, then let the pantomime do its work. Yeah... No more to say about that.
Rating: 7

Plot: The weirdest thing this collection has is Chaplin shaving the stach and dressing up like a woman, not really to escape unseen as you would suspect, so much as going and letting the men woo him while the stove goes on exploding. Yeah, this is the kind of plot that you'll be treasured with. Out there zany and predictably slapstick, the stories are farcical and don't have that deep a plot, perfect for the kids... except for the beatings.
Rating: 7

Mood: Overall there's just something missing from the good old feel of a Chaplin film in this. Budget, ideas, experience, probably all of the above has to do with why these movies just didn't get the laughs that we all expect from Charlie. His features are much better, stick to those unless you're a devout fan.
Rating: 6

You may be surprides to find that Chaplin not only had characters other than The Tramp, but he was also in talkies.

Overall Rating: 66% (Not that Asinine)

Aftertaste: I'm not sure what it is about this, but I only liked two of the pieces, the rest just weren't all that funny. I guess Chaplin's early work is just plain old 'early work' and though it's fine it doesn't stand the test of time so much. Maybe it's also the fact that I like Buster Keaton better. Who knows.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) * Hidden Gem *

You know that first burial wouldn't be good enough for me either

Genre: Adventure Crim Western Drama (USA, France)

Starring: Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan; 25th Hour), Tommy Lee Jones (Men In Black; The Fugitive)

Directed By: Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut

Overview: A rancher takes it into his own hands to honour the wishes of a dead man and bring him back to his Mexican village for burial, with the help of his killer.

Acting: Tommy Lee Jones (Batman's 'Two-Face' aside) and Barry Pepper are two actors that I've always appreciated. You may not be a fan of Tommy, but his role here is quite astounding. Slow and calculating, not a man of many words, his actions along this voyage are those of a man nobler than himself, and he takes a quiet pride in the fact that he's elevating himself by risking his freedom for a friend. All his supporting cast is spectacular.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: There are some panoramic scenes, shot to be art for art's sake, which is nice, but I much preferred the interaction between characters. Lazy diner conversations with a line of cigarette smoke drifting up, awkward chats by the fireside with a dead man's ant-covered face staring on, or lunch with a blind man in his rustic abode. Much effort was put into the look, and it's well appreciated.
Rating: 8

Script: This was written by Guillermo Arriaga. You most likely won't recognize him unless you're truly into cinema. With such films under his belt as Amores Perros and 21 Grams, he's a well known enough guy, while still being somewhat in the esoteric category. Why that's the case I can only presume, but I'm guessing it's because 'good' and 'mainstream' are different words. This piece of writing is intelligent and character-development driven, and best of all, he doesn't have his characters speaking just to fill dead air.
Rating: 8

Plot: The story that unfolds is one of justice, and as we learn just enough of the people in the lives of our two travelers to give them proper depth, we also learn of the guilt, fear and duty that our anti-heroes face along their way. With such scenes that add import to the quest our characters are on by their very hopelessness and sad truths, this film reinforces the need of integrity and honour so well that we know this trip will have a deep impact on the lives of these men.
Rating: 9

Mood: The distracting and almost negatively impacting rapid-fire style of editing of 21 Grams is still present in the beginning of this one too, but in no way is it anywhere as disruptive. This film drifts to an almost dark comedy style that is rather strange from time to time since the characters are quite serious, but rather than constantly dwelling on conscience, retribution, sin and redemption, the manner in which this story is told is refreshing. The moral lesson is just heavy enough without getting preachy. Terrific, and great music too.
Rating: 8

Really he wants to go, he's just playing hard to get, trust me.

Overall Rating: 84% (Dead Ringer For A Good Film)

Aftertaste: This is a film that will not become too popular. It's one of those movies that goes under the radar and seems to stay there, seen only by the fans of the actors or the writer. Guillermo Arriaga is a man whose career is safe until he sells out, though it seems that he's sticking well to his guns. With producers like Luc Besson involved in this, he's probably doing well for himself. This film is not typical Hollywood, and for that reason, it's to be appreciated. This restores my faith in mainstream film, just a little. They DO still make good movies, however they don't advertise them. I think it's because they know the real fans are already waiting for it. I guess they advertise garbage on TV because the people who watch that crap also like to know about movies that are crap.

Hahaha, "Baywatch Nights".

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Halloween (1978)

AAhhh!!! Run from Tiberius!!!!

Genre: Horror Thriller

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis (Freaky Friday; True Lies), Donald Pleasence (The House of Usher; THX 1138)

Directed By: John Carpenter (Escape From New York; Christine)

Overview: On Halloween night, a psychotic killer escapes from the mental institute and returns home.

Acting: Can you act well with a bad script? Is it possible to not sound retarded when saying "Oh I hope you didn't tell him I was attracted to him?" "Totally!" Not usually. Can a bunch of teenage girls act out talking about boys, overprotective mothers and going to the big dance and not end up looking like morons? Only if their saving grace is their final moments of struggle and death rattle. You might just save yourself if you pull it off. Guess what?
Rating: 4

Cinematography: Nothing beats shooting a film without a light meter. "Live outside the box dude. Don't get bogged down by The Man. Who says light is either a particle or a wave though exhibits signs of both? Eh? Not me! Let's just turn on the headlights and roll film!" Oh and shooting film inside a boring house is also cool, especially if the hallways have barely any room to move, let alone carry 30 pounds of film and sound equipment. Wait though: points for the cool mask.
Rating: 4

Script: I think an equally good title for this film would be Ghost Existence: Way of the Petty Suburbanite. John Carpenter may be a rich man, richer than me, but I could write a better script. Perhaps what people liked about this movie is that it was so like their pathetic lives in their gated communities that they connected with these people. Suburban life. Waiting out on your lawn with a pair of scissors for stray grass, while your son washes the car... again. Oh and Michael Meyers was a mental patient, thanks for the backstory...JESUS.
Rating: 3

Plot: And I thought Jason was a weak character. Michael Meyers' story is that he killed his sister one Halloween as a child and was committed, then 15 years later, he escapes. He goes home and kills his sister again, over and over, and over. With a bodycount of merely THREE, this film was really more about listening to suburban schoolgirls talk about boys, no kidding. Woop-dee-woo.
Rating: 3

Mood: This was made on a $300,000 budget. It made a lot of money, but they had to buy the cheapest mask they could find, which ended up being a mildly modified Captain Kirk face. Too much about this movie plunged this into farcical disbelief, like when Michael is wearing that white sheet, and most of the kills. I know this was an original, but it seemed to completely lack originality. I'm coming to grips with the realization that Horror has indeed evolved, but that it started further back than most. Really not that spooky, except for some of the best music out there.
Rating: 4

And the lesson is never dress up your children in outfits that will traumatize them to the point of psychosis... even if it's Halloween.

Overall Rating: 36% (Just Plain Hollow)

Aftertaste: Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for this film at that time. It happens I suppose. From what I understand, this whole series is going to be quite bad, though I'm still committed to it. I used to ask the question, "whatever happened to good ol' slasher flicks?" Turns out those are actually a rare thing. Man, bring me the writer of Altered States, and I could give you the world. Even the pumpkin carving was chinzy!

The Double-Edged Sword That Is The Love Of Horror Film (March 2006)

As I write my beloved Vituperatem, I mention from time to time that on my site, 'passable' is 70%, above 85% is 'recommendable' and 90% or better is 'must see', while anything under 60% just isn't safe.
That's my scale, it's like grades on a report card, it's simple.
However from time to time I'll explain how although a film isn't suited for the 'good' pile, I still loved it. Someone mentioned to me that this typically occurs when reviewing a horror movie. They opined that obviously it must be one of my favorite genres to be so forgiving. They then asked the following question:

What is it about Horror you like?

I will go so far as to buy, before I watch, Indy garbage F-Grade Horror Kitch like Ankle Biters and Hood of the Living Dead, or waste my time with tragic big budget Uwe Boll Productions like Alone in the Dark or rehashed-umpteen-time flicks like AVP: Alien Vs. Predator, knowing full well that I won't be able to recommend any of these to anyone.

Rather, it seems that I genuinely enjoy basking in the glow of having gone out of my way to see something pitiful. For the same reason you chew tinfoil or scratch your nails on a blackboard, sometimes you must suffer for the things you love, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, it's super-terrific and unappreciated, like the poorly rated, yet beloved Killer Klowns from Outer Space and Bad Taste. This is what sets the fan apart from the fanatic... Pain.

So I will take a moment to answer the above question. I'll tell you why I love horror and what makes horror so damn good. I can whittle it down to three things:

Survival Plots: I love a good Man Vs Whatever story, and with Horror you have options, all of which are pushed to the extreme: failure is death, and odds are there might be failure. Man Vs. Nature can manifest into spirits, natural forces, animals or monsters, and usually in a place where you're all alone. Creepy. Man Vs. Society can manifest into evil automaton robots, unseen G-Men or unbidden genetic monstrosities, or best of all: Zombies. My favorite of the bunch though (ooo, but zombies...) is Man Vs. Man. From pyschotic killers to the unrequited sweet sixteen stalker to toothless territorial rednecks, when people are thrust into nigh-impossible situations and trying to survive, it really gets my goat, but in a good way.

My Evil Goat

In all cases, be it a medieval setting or sci-fi, Horror prides itself in fear and special effects. Even the lowest budget can afford corn syrup and red dye #12. An original kill can change an entire film. Final Destination 3 for example, is an artless piece of predictable tripe (seen right), but the whole movie is about death. All that matters is the set up and the originality of the kill, and this movie, like most Horror is salvaged when it's soaked in high-budget blood. Zombies go a step further, not only dismembering and maiming their victims slowly, but eating them. This is scary stuff, think about it. But what do I LIKE about gore? You don't see people getting beheaded by panes of glass everyday, so it's rare, it's slowing down for an accident, it's learning about anatomy without having to go to war, it's violence without hurting anyone. It's messy!

Pure Kitch: Finally and most importantly, the forgiveness factor. The previous two categories clearly state a love of genuinely enjoyable things. For this last one, yes, I must admit the generational, childhood memorabilia of the 80s Horror flick is most of what holds the rest of a movie together. Some films will go out of their way to be corny or 'punny' or even funny, but there's something to be said about characters with bulletholes through 'em standing up defiantly and going after the Mummy, or whatever. Stupid dialogue and comic book heroics and invulnerabilities can solidify the terribleness of a film, though knowing they're going for that redeems it, definitely.

Well at this stage I guess I have to conclude with a few suggestions of tremendously good horror, which illustrates these points I've mentioned. Fine. Here they are:

High Tension - 92% - Not only is this a long-term survival plot, but it's also out in the middle of nowhere. Add to this the fact that this is well acted, and you have yourself a memorable film rife with edge-of-your-seat horror.

The Devil's Rejects - 84% - This is also a survival plot but it also centers on the family of outlaws that runs around committing these gory crimes, and what happens when the law tries to turn the tables on them. This is also a tribute to 70s Southwest Horror and its kitsch value is rather high.

Land of the Dead - 80% - Who better to tribute the zombie kitsch of the heyday than its greatest champion, George R. Romero! The gore incorporates classic latex but adds top quality CGI for maximum graphic dismemberment. The survival plot is rich with failure and vindication, and on top of everything else, zombies include butcher, gas station attendant and filthy killer clown.

Allow me to add that these movies are genuinely good in their own right and aren't simply recommended because they fit my mold. This stuff is great because it's just plain good... and violent... and scary... and gory...

That's it, time for Halloween...

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

I don't know, some ladies just like a diamond in the rough.

Genre: Silent Horror Drama

Starring: Lon Chaney and Norman Kerry (The Unknown; The Phantom of the Opera), Patsy Ruth Miller

Directed By: Wallace Worsley

Overview: The much-maligned Hunchback lives in the Notre Dame Cathedral. As revolution ripens in a festering city, men find themselves at odds for the love of a gypsy named Esmerelda, each going to great lengths to have and protect her.

Acting: This is one of those old silents that really pushes the overacted form. It goes too far beyond the scope of good melodrama, but does not reach into the comic farcical. It's one of those unfortunate productions that was directed by a hack that I've never heard of.
Rating: 4

Cinematography: The best effect of this film was the grainy look of it. Being fairly certain that this is simply a work of time and not of man, I can't give it kudos. The 50 pound hump that Lon Chaney wore was a little impressive, but his face was a little too off to seem realistic. Some shots were genuinely fascinating to watch, like the hunchback climbing down the front of the Cathedral, but overall the film lacked a certain element of deeper professionalism. Perhaps I've been tainted by the great Eisensteins, Griffiths and Murnaus, but this is certainly not cream of the crop.
Rating: 5

Script: This is the best part of the film. I suspect they kept a lot of the lines from Victor Hugo's novel intact because there is quite a bit of well thought-out and poetic writing in this piece. You might as well read the novel if it's this good, because the film is weak.
Rating: 8

Plot: The interesting thing about this is that it's really not a story of the hunchback. This is more about a revolution of the poor against the greedy, a story of the darkest of loves and the bastardization of the romantic ideal. The hunchback serves more as a metaphor for the rotting city than as a character who catalyses change. This particular version however was certainly a little slow in the telling, and though the end is climactic, takes too long to build up.
Rating: 5

Mood: The themes of warped values in a warped society complete with the deformed ideas of love and the deformed character of the hunchback certainly has its merit, and given that this has been remade several times reinforces the fact that it's a story worth telling, but something was just missing. A faster pace with better editing may have made this better. The music, however, was very good, more like sound effects than the common plinking of a lonely piano common in silent film, very refreshing.
Rating: 5

Lon Chaney, the man of a thousand ugly mugs

Overall Rating: 54% (*Shrug*)

Aftertaste: I'll admit this one was a bit of a chore. I've said before that it feels good from time to time to appreciate a film merely for its historical merit, and I don't mean Middle Ages Paris, I mean the silent era of film. For that reason I'd say it was a good chore, but still an effort to reap the rewards of. After seeing this, I realized that everything Lon Chaney makes, though dark, isn't gold. Either way, it's old film and it makes me more knowledgeable, right? Yeah, I guess I'll stick to that line.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Return To Oz (1985)

There was a time when this joke of an actor did a good job of spooking me. I regret that time.

Genre: Adventure Family Fantasy (USA, UK)

Starring: Fairuza Balk (The Craft), Nicol Williamson (The Exorcist III)

Directed By: Walter Murch

Overview: This is a parable of the time Walt Disney rolled over in his grave, as told by Dorothy Gale in her return to the Land of Oz.

Acting: Family films tend to be overzealously acted. Fantasy Adventure films tend also to melodramatically highlight the archetypes of good and evil. The doctor, played by Nicol Williamson, I guess plays the best role in this, or rather plays the least worst, and poor little Dorothy is excused because she's a very young little actress. No great effort was put in the direction, and it's blatantly obvious.
Rating: 5

Cinematography: As a child, I remembered this as being exciting to watch, frightening and magical. Let me tell you how stupid I was as a child: I licked a pole in the middle of winter on a dare. It got stuck. I.Q. is something that you're born with, though experience must catch up to your raw intellect. Well I was smart enough in the next few seconds to exhale hot air as I gently tugged my tongue back in my mouth, without any lasting scars, be it emotional or tastebud-inal. Today, also, I was smart enough to know how stupid it was to watch this movie, though I've recovered, only with mild emotional scaring. Good animation wrapped up in a pathetic display of half-assed effort.
Rating: 5

Script: Gill Denis and the director, Walter Murch, who also wrote the screenplay for THX 1138, wrote this script. The fact that half the movie is Dorothy saying "This isn't the Oz I remember" in as many different ways as possible is an obvious attempt by these men at creating a code that would be used to rescue them from the grips of their captors. When forced at gunpoint to write a sequel to a classic, they do well in concealing the code, making it seem only like 'bad writing'. The other half of the script is just an attempt to hide said code, though it was clear that the writers were piss-yourself terrified, because it's all stupid puns and statements of the obvious. After some deciphering they're in North Dakota somewhere, and they suspect they'll be buried in a corn field when they're done. May they rest in peace.
Rating: 3

Plot: I'm too old and jaded not to see the subtext of this film. Sadly, ever so sadly, that underlying 'raison d'être' is nothing more than the almighty dollar. "Let's make a movie that people will see because they know it, and even if it's bad, we'll have made our money from them anyways. Disney Enterprise will survive." As least that what I picture that board of hand-wringers saying as they curl their evil handlebar moustaches, cackling maniacally. Oh and the plot is identical to the original: girl goes to another land, makes friends, gets quest, reaps reward. It's pathetic.
Rating: 3

Mood: The childhood joy of remembrance I had about Return to Oz, as I watched Wizard of Oz made me rush out and see this next, right away. What's worse is that I subjected this to a friend, who had since disavowed my existence and will never believe a single thing I have to say about film ever again. For someone to twist this story all up, making Dorothy younger, having the Land of Oz be drastically different, not to mention the Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man having been completely molested to the point that they're genuinely creepy... I'm ashamed, and I'm sorry!
Rating: 3

Produced in part by Mickey's evil twin

Overall Rating: 38% (Return To Your Homes, Nothing To See Here)

Aftertaste: This is the kind of movie you regret reliving. This makes you glad you saw this as a child, when you had the imagination to embellish a ridiculous moron holding wheels into a creepy-legged monster who stalks the lonely streets. This is a bad pun with some nice claymation. This is not art, though you can see the art screaming to be released. This is the beginning of the Corporate Disney, and this is the end of an era of integrity. This makes you wonder how your childhood really looks like.

Wizard of Oz (1939) *Top Picks *

This may look like your typical redneck family reunion, but... hey there's Cletus

Genre: Fantasy Adventure Family Musical

Starring: Judy Garland (Babes in Arms; A Star Is Born), Frank Morgan, Margaret Hamilton

Directed By: Victor Flemming (Gone With The Wind; Captains Courageous)

Overview: A young girl trapped in a tornado wakes up in Oz, a fantastical land of wonder, where she finds that getting home is going to take some real effort, given that the Wicked Witch of The West is out to get her.

Acting: Judy Garland was just beginning to establish herself as a shining star when she made this timeless classic, but this is the one that has immortalized her, not because her singing and almost Vaudevillian style of acting is astounding (which it is) but because her supporting cast and direction held her up so well.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: First of all, any film that goes from black and white to vivid Technicolor helps to ensure its cinematographic genius. Add to this the fact that colour film was a genuine rarity and those impeccably perfect costumes (the lion's suit weighed 80 lbs.) and you still have to credit the sets and rich backgrounds. Truly a visual spectacle, not only of its time, but still today.
Rating: 10

Script: "Ill get you, my pretty... and your little dog, too!"

Not only are the songs original, (two Oscars in fact) but the dialogue, especially of the Wizard himself, has a real effort behind it. The quips are humorous, the dialogue is eloquent . The simplicity of innocence of Dorothy, the wickedness of The Witch, and the rich personalities of the other characters are truly a pleasure to experience.
Rating: 9

Plot: On top of everything else, there's even subtext. Baum wrote this primarily as a children's fantasy story, yes, but there was just a hint of "a gentle and friendly Midwestern critique of the Populist rationale". As adventure stories go, it's rich yet simple: meet some friends, get a quest, fulfill said quest to reap reward. All that classic 'character arc' stuff aside, this is just a great story.
Rating: 8

Mood: This film appeals to so many for several reasons. The fact that this is televised every year much the same way as It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol is will spark the nostalgia for most viewers. There is just enough singing to appeal to the kids, while still being mostly regular dialogue. As for the adventure and imagination of this production, it's just plain magical.
Rating: 9

How many women would kill for a shoe that prevents scuffs this well?

Overall Rating: 90% (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!)

Aftertaste: I will certainly agree that this film is a childhood right of passage. Anyone who hasn't seen this yet can be easily spotted: the hunched shoulders, the dark circles around the eyes, a pale complexion and the constant guttural growl indicative of a vacant soul. You know them, the lifeless leeches who suck on the joy of other by sharing misery, society's vampires. They are still salvageable, however, just give them a chance. After watching, if you see the eyes lighten and the fangs stop dripping, you may just have saved yourself the trouble of beheading your friend and stuffing garlic down their neck.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Joyeux Noel (2005) * Top Picks *

"Dear? Would you consider doing it Kaiser style?"

War Drama (France, Germany, UK, Romania)

Starring: Diane Kruger (National Treasure; Wicker Park), Benno Furmann (Anatomy; The Order)

Directed By: Christian Carion

Overview: On Christmas Eve, on the front lines during the first winter of the Great War, German, Scottish and French soldiers cease fire from hostilities. During this time they also sing, meet and exchange photos. Based on the true events of the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Acting: Looking at the film careers of the actors named above, you might be predisposed to thinking this is low-grade casting, but the people of this film simply finally found something worthy of their talent. This makes you wonder what could have happened to many actors had they simply been given half a chance of being in a truly important film. With a director beginning to make a name for himself and actors who still have something to prove, this is a well-polished, perfectly directed work.
Rating: 10

Cinematography: Rather than spending budget money on death, explosions and horror (not to knock Saving Private Ryan), we look at high-society juxtaposed with a no-man's land covered in the lost. We see, up close, the faces of the people behind the war, we are immersed in the era, the uniforms and the supplies in the trenches; realistic without being graphic.
Rating: 8

Script: "If we die tomorrow, it will be even more absurd than yesterday!"

The dialogue, often humorous and usually escapist is not an exchange of lofty ideals, or a dissertation on loyalty. The telling of this tale is forever human, common, down to earth, with duty and honour as a thing not ignored, but left by the wayside, just for a moment. The characters are rich and detailed not because we're told how they are, but because they're so well written and acted that we knew them all along.
Rating: 9

Plot: Rather than going on about the misery of war, we are given several moments of comedic respite. This makes the serious scenes ever more poignant and shows what life for these men could be, if only they returned to their still-reparable existences. A perfect story of humanity untainted and reaching out across seas of futility, cogs in the Great Wheel, clinging to a short span of joy and brotherhood. Rather than ending the film with the expected return to war, we focus instead on a prologue of the most human of our leaders, a conclusion so real that the sting of war will run deep long after.
Rating: 10

Mood: The biggest problem I had with this film could have been solved with taking out the overdubbing for the songs. It's easy to lip synch when you're doing Britney Spears, but this is opera. When a perfect work of art like this is ruined by a constant awareness that the singers aren't actually singing, it's rather painful. They should have recorded it live. That way, even if it wasn't perfect, it would be perfectly honest, making it even better.
Rating: 8

"Wait! Wait a minute isn't that the enemy pointing guns at us?!" "No actually those are their candles..."

Overall Rating: 90% (Best Time of the Year)

Aftertaste: The saddest thing about this movie is that it is yet another experience in film that will only serve to jade my growing hatred for mainstream Hollywood-produced garbage, as well as being one more stepping stone on my hardening emotions as I approach middle age. This film is so good that next time, it will be even harder to make me feel the way this film did. I recommend this to anyone who wants to feel, however with the risk that this may change far too many opinions you have on life and the movie industry.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Johnny Guitar (1954) * Favorite Review *

This woman is certainly not the catch of the day. Maybe the end of the week Blue Plate Special...

Genre: Western

Starring: Joan Crawford (Grand Hotel; The Unknown), Sterling Hayden (The Killing; Dr. Strangelove)

Directed By: Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without A Cause)

Overview: A woman builds a saloon outside of town, waiting for the railroad to come in and make her rich. She hires a guitarist for entertainment but when Johnny arrives, he finds that the townsfolk aren't so pleased at Vienna's big city plans.

Acting: This is the Joan Crawford you remember. The aging woman that you can picture, years later, sitting in her opulent den, crying to herself as she watches her own movies, reliving her past. She's washed out and the director knows not how to flatter. Johnny's 'rich Americana' voice that leaves no room for subtlelty is a pleasure compared to Mercedes McCambrige, who seems blessed with the gift of dramatic turning. She shares this blessing with us as she spits EVERY SINGLE line throughout the entire production. Acting this bad has to be on purpose. American machismo has a champion in this kitsch.
Rating: 3

Cinematography: It's been a good long time since I've had a chance to dump on a movie. It's nice. It's healing. To think that all but three takes were shot with the camera in mind is also healing, since laughter is the best medicine. Fire, explosion, shootout. I guess with those three things, a Western doesn't need much else, does it?
Rating: 4

Script: "Never met a woman who's more like a man. Acts like one, thinks like one and sometimes I feel like I ain't!"

This script is like eating a Bavarian chocolate-covered rotten onion. In the beginning, it's dramatic, exhilarating, doesn't pull any punches and gets you right into the story fast, with the occasional bitter aftertaste of masculine puffed chests. Then the men turn into infants as they fight over an old lady, exchanging teen-angst insults at one another in EVERY SCENE they're in. By the end you're left with a bad taste in your mouth that's worse than Durian Fruit. That, my friend, stays for hours.
Rating: 3

Plot: Subtext. It can be the defining difference between formulaic garbage and deep artistic commentary. When we look at these two old lovers still pining for one another, but don't mention it or show any chemistry until half way through, all while the men are trying to knock each other out with their cocks. Nicholas Ray is obviously such a genius that I missed the meaning of his vision. Either that or he was ritualistically abused during his formative years by a father who wore a Stetson.
Rating: 3

Mood: The mood is "how big can I make my penis without stepping on it myself?" Even the women sprout cocks for this one. Let me tell you, if you think masculinity in a woman is a good thing, this film might change your mind. And if a man needs to be macho to turn you on, then definitely see this. Maybe then you're realize why the Wild West was so wild for so long, rather than becoming civilized a decade earlier, like it could have been had self-important imbeciles like this not been ruining the show.
Rating: 3

"Hey Johnny? Hey! Hey. No Look at me Johnny I'M TALKING. I Wan't ATTENTION!"

Overall Rating: 32% (So Bad You'll Be Jitterbuggin')

Aftertaste: Joan Crawford had a miracle worker in an agent if she, at fifty years old, could still get romantic roles. I can't remember a movie so bad that I had to stop and watch it in three installments. The only saving grace this film has is that there is a touch of originality in the fact that two women have a shootout, and no that wasn't a spoiler. In the first ten minutes of the film the women banter about how they're going to kill each other... "Not If I kill You First." TERRIBLE.