Friday, June 30, 2006

Read Or Die (2001)

Surprisingly, being a hypermistress of paper is actually pretty awesome

Genre: Fantasy Sci-Fi Fantasy Thriller Anime

Starring: Rieko Miura, Michico Neya (Gunsmith Cats)

Directed By: Kouji Masunari, Amanda Winn Lee (Super Atragon)

Overview: A girl with the elemental power over paper is faced by an archvillain who seeks to collect the books that are the recipe for the end of the world as we know it.

Acting: As voice actors go, there is an English version of this but as any good purist, one must watch it in its original Japanese. Having said that, acting is hard to gauge but for Anime standards, it's just melodramatic enough without going overboard. You won't find anything so perfect and cute as the girl's voice in Grave Of The Fireflies but there's some sultry voices as well as some gravelly-toned baddies.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: Here's where the film suffers a little. Sure the action is good and yes the perspectives and angles are appropriately wild during those exciting high-in-the-sky scenes but it's animation and you can go far more vivid, far more technically superior. There isn't very much innovation here, but still good for the Anime style that we all know and love.
Rating: 7

Script: Fluffy enough for the kids while still being adult enough for mature audiences, we have a script that doesn't take itself too seriously and just so happens to accept the occasional fantastical premise for the sake of continuity. You know: "It turns out this terrorist group robbed the International Cloning Institute and uh... yeah, the guy with the Tesla Coil on his back was a clone of the guy who originally invented the thing and he's the bad guy"...that kind of thing.
Rating: 7

Plot: We have clones of famous men like Beethoven who are bent on world destruction and we have a cute little schoolgirl whose only claim to fame is the ability to manipulate paper and her Shadowcat-like partner who can drift through matter. This young schoolgirl plods along politely asking a series of arch-nemeses if they can please return her book. Of course they say no, she promptly dispatches them and goes on to try and save the world with a unique and original ending. Good times.
Rating: 8

Mood: Here's the thing: when you're constantly bombarded with Hollywood, Hollywood, Hollywood, seeing something different might even make you cringe a little, and when you start watching this film about a polite naive bookworm who just wants a book back because she hasn't read it yet, you instinctively doubt the worth of such a thing. Then the action and the magic and the intrigue start, and even the totally out there accepted premises are endearing as just part of a fantastical story about a sub-culture of superheros and elementalists. In the end it's actually a very unique way of looking at a story, and the themes are mature in their innocence. Quite an enjoyable surprise.
Rating: 8

Having a hottie partner ain't so bad either

Overall Rating: 76% (Well...Read Or Get Nauseous At Least)

Aftertaste: What a welcome little interlude from serious film study. After countless hours of tiring work, sometimes one needs a little break from the great artistic endeavour of Repertoire Building. This is one of those movies that reminds me why I like movies...cause they're fun!

Flesh And The Devil (1926)

Oh Garbo! What a sexy little trollop!

Genre: Silent Romance Drama

Starring: Greta Garbo (Grand Hotel; Mata Hari), John Gilbert (The Big Parade; Queen Christina)

Directed By: Clarence Brown (Anna Karenina; The Yearling)

Overview: A soldier and a woman fall desperately in love with one another, but her husband challenges the soldier to a duel to defend his honour... and all this in the first act of this tale of mad love gone wild.

Acting: If you've read my review for The Big Parade, you'll know how fond I am of John Gilbert. He has a knack for being the perfect pantomime while still not going into the melodramatic. In the Silent Era, that's quite a gift. We all know Greta Garbo, but it may surprise you to find out she actually did silent films and in this she's amazing, as are all the supporting cast.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: You'll find a nice surprise in having a restored, crisp print. For as much as one sometimes has to endure the more rugged flicks to be graced with a story worthy of being told, sometimes a clean movie can do a lot for your enjoyment of a film. Add to this some interesting settings, costumes and dueling pistols by silhouetted dusk-light and you'll find Flesh And The Devil to be very entertaining to watch, not to mention Garbo's quite the dish!
Rating: 8

Script: One of the better told silent films, this is actually quite the interesting tale. Full of raw emotion, shaken loyalties and stern displays of honour, these characters are as rich as any verbose wordsmith of the modern age. A genuinely enthralling story.
Rating: 8

Plot: This is a nice surprise. A rich story full of happenings from love and dueling to vendettas and dark secrets revealed, each act is full of exciting and unique details that twist and turn the story into a very dramatic tale indeed. Even the ending is unexpected and I would recommend this to any film fan, not only those who appreciate the Silents.
Rating: 9

Mood: How far will one go for love ? Defend one's honour to the death? Self-imposed exile for years on end? Break up life-long friendships? This is the story of how flesh can bring out the devil in a man, and more appropriate a title I have never heard. Through the dramatic moments of our characters, the lesson rings through loud and clear, though in the same situation, any one of us would do the same as our hero. We learn their lessons well: it is a lesson we all must endure ourselves.
Rating: 9

"How many buttons do I have to undo to get to the centre of the Tootsie-Pop?"

Overall Rating: 86% (Will Give You Goosebumps!)

Aftertaste: As I dig up these old films of yesteryear knowing that most of the time it will be an interesting anthropological study or a neat historical 'first' of cinematography or the beginnings of a great actor's career, I know that often 'appreciation' is more important than 'admiration'. From time to time, I'm reminded why I do this. Movies like these keep me interested, and help mark another milestone in why the Silent Era needs to be mourned or better yet reawakened. Honestly, this story... it's pretty damn cool.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Kiss Of The Spider Woman (1985)

Sadly does not involve accidents with Gamma rays at all...

Drama (USA, Brazil)

Starring: William Hurt (Altered States; A History of Violence), Raoul Julia (The Addams Family; Romero)

Directed By: Hector Babenco (Pixote; At Play in the Fields of the Lord)

Overview: A cause-focused political prisoner and a film-loving homosexual share stories with one another in their jail cell.

Acting: I never considered William Hurt as one of the world's best actors but now, after seeing this movie, I know it. Far too flaming for even a pederast on poppers, this actors' director should have known when to say stop. As for Raul Julia, this will be far more of a black mark on his career than a notch on his belt for as well as he did, regardless of his mediocre secondary cast. I guess it doesn't matter since he's dead. Rest in peace.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: There is nothing more interesting to watch than four walls of a Brazilian jail cell. Not only were the scenes usually too dark (and I don't mean mood, I mean use a damn light meter) but even the ones of that Nazi film described by our flaming homo were bland and uninspired. Overall, there's nothing interesting to watch here.
Rating: 6

Script: Heavy dialogue does not a movie make. No memorable quotes, no deep revelations, I really don't care about your stupid mother, seriously. As for revolutionaries, it helps to know what your revolution is about to get me interested in your cause. A lot of fluff with no substance. Stupid and boring!
Rating: 5

Plot: The overview might sound a little weak, but that's because it is. Nothing beats a movie where a flaming queen narrates a bad movie to his cellmate while dressing in drag, unless it's seeing the obvious plot twists and sneaky subterfuges 20 minutes beforehand. I don't remember who's Top Howevermany list this is on, but it's not mine. Stupid stories with heavy dialogue for some reason just don't interest me all that much.
Rating: 5

Mood: For Hurt, the theme was escapism; for Julia it was staying firmly planted in reality. For me, it was 'how long is there left in this boring movie?'. Of course in the end, both characters seep into each other's world a little, but not nearly enough for you to feel that they've grown or learned or anything this story was supposed to teach us. I was glad it ended when it did.
Rating: 5

No webslinging at all! Hell, she's not even a superhero!

Overall Rating: 54% (Snore Of The Banality Lady)

Aftertaste: Some movies start off with you knowing how bad it's going to be within the first two minutes. Constantly, I gave scene after scene another chance in hopes that Raul Julia's cause would be this great shining truth that would shed light on this world of theirs but he hardly even said anything. And in the end, all I heard was the rambling yammer of a overly stereotypical homosexual.

One of the most forgettable movies of the year.

Six Feet Under: Season 5 (2005)

How to sum up life in two words? Vroom! *DEAD*

Genre: Comedy Drama Series

Starring: Peter Krause (We Don't Live Here Anymore; The Truman Show), Michael C. Hall (Paycheck)

Created By: Alan Ball

Overview: The continuing saga of the life and times of a family in the undertaking business. In this season, Nate deals with an unhappy marriage, David and Keith delve deep into the prospect of having children, and Ruth faces her own troubles with men.

Acting: I don't know if it's because there was more melo in their drama but many of the actors went a touch overboard, namely Ruth and Brenda. Billy, his mother and Olivier did too, but that's to be expected. Either way, the direction, casting and professionalism were all solid as always, except for the occasional overzealous scene.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: Even after five seasons, I'm still impressed with the whole 'fade to white' thing. The finale was rich in its original content and use of artistic effect but as TV is wont to have, they can't push 'Art' too hard or they'll lose their less imaginative viewers, but it's still pretty to look at.
Rating: 8

Script: More than anything the timing has a nice flow to it but I don't remember any great monologues or deep life lessons shared as there was in last season. The frequent use of Nathaniel Senior as moral conscience is a long pined-for expectation and finally this season they make true effective use of 'speaking to the dead' as you remembered fondly in the first season.
Rating: 8

Plot: Nate considers spirituality and Rico continues to deal with marriage issues, but my favorite storyline was David and Keith's. It's their best season yet for character development. As for the finale, it's perfect, and I mean truly moving stuff. Deep really. If after five years all this rambling about a show you all know is one of HBO's prides and joys isn't going to convince you to give it a shot, then I won't either!
Rating: 9

Mood: This season is a lot less hopeful than the last one. We see far more strife, far more peaks and valleys, far more realism frankly. As raw emotions go, the characters were honest with us and for once, Nate isn't all lovey-dovey. I mean any show where you literally kill the bluebird of happiness and apologize to it while you chuck it in the garbage...that's pretty witty.
Rating: 9

Dealing with death everyday might make you turn into a Nate-like wet noodle...

Overall Rating: 84% (A Fond Final Service For Six Feet Under)

Aftertaste: That's it. No more. Only the truly hard-hearted will find the last fifteen minutes to be anything but emotionally overwhelming. To sum up an entire five years in just a few moments is usually very difficult but HBO does this show's 'final passing' splendidly, a true tribute to the days gone by. After all this time, I guess that a show about saying goodbyes would have to at least be able to pull that off perfectly wouldn't they?

HBO's Six Feet Under has raised the bar on the dramatic series and anyone who has never given this a chance need only watch the first episode of Season One to get an understanding of the entire series. From beginning to end, this show is more than compelling, it's important.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)

Dude, what up with the lederhosen?

Genre: Silent Avant-Garde Documentary (Germany)

Starring: Berlin, Deutschland's Capital.

Directed By: Walter Ruttmann

Overview: A day in the life of a majestic and imposing city from early morning until late at night.

Acting: The director's career was pretty much short films, and this seems to be his greatest achievement. There are indeed people in this film and from time to time there is a mote of 'acting', scenes like a distressed woman jumping off a bridge, into a river, while shocked onlookers watch. Though the focus is usually in the crowd setting, those occasional moments do add poignancy to the mood of this production.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: I expected a majorly Eisensteinian work. It's a silent film without dialogue, that studies the life of a city. I mean when there's no story, you have to focus on the look right? I must say I was disappointed in my expectations. The spectacular moments amounted to perhaps ten or fifteen minutes of this hour long show, and though that's enough when you toss in a tale to boot, I found we weren't left with enough, no matter how much rustic memorabilia this has.
Rating: 8

Script: The only intertitles stated the end of one act and the beginning of the next act. It would have been better flow had they simply been defined by the clock that was often used, instead of 'closing the curtain' so to speak, it would have made for a better edit. I also wished that I spoke German, since the advertisements, the shop windows the nightlife neon and the newspaper headlines were prevalent. It would have added perhaps to the experience. From time to time the words were animated and exciting, but overall, the words should have been less ever-present.
Rating: 5

Plot: The story of a day in the life of Berlin. My girl mentioned "uh this could be any city. What defines it as being Berlin?" She was right. If the words hadn't been there, it could have been any industrialized nation. It could even have been mistaken for an American city, if we hadn't seen soldiers and policemen in obvious German uniforms. More cultural phenomena, more city-specific landmarks, less everyday. If Paris or London had a film like this done, there'd no doubt where we were.
Rating: 6

Mood: Frankly disappointing. Had I never seen an Eisensteinian film, perhaps I'd be more moved. If I never learned the styles of Germans Lang and Murnau or Viennese Stroheim, maybe I'd be more likely to say "that was cool". Maybe if this German was better at making movies, I'd have given him a higher score. Maybe not. The 'grand musical symphony' was really not all that great either.
Rating: 6

Oh sorry, the only city this could possibly be is Berlin, my mistake...

Overall Rating: 66% (Symphony Of A Pretty Generic City)

Aftertaste: I've always had a deep respect for this other critic who had a blog there for a while. In fact I'd say that he inspired me to avoid or see certain films. Given that I was engrossed in the era of 1920 (and still am), when I heard about this Baraka-like montage piece, but in a present day that is now anything but, to hear this cynic of a critic speak of this film in this fashion, I knew I'd just love it, since our tastes are so similar. I guess this is the first film where we've disagreed just enough to prove that we're different people. I guess that's a good thing.

The Female Director: Why Is She So Elusive?! (June 2006)

Here's a question:

Name a female film director. Name just one... One teeny, tiny little film director who just so happens to be a woman, I dare you.

Hard isn't it?

The more astute film fans out there may have had the immediate knee-jerk reaction of shouting "Best Director Oscar nominee Sophia Coppola! She directed Virgin Suicides and Lost In Translation, come on!" That would put you in the 'good for you' category. Unfortunately, knowing just one female director is about as exciting to me as knowing who
Akira Korusawa is, however it DOES puts you in the 'wow, you read the credits sometimes' zone, and though it's not that impressive, it's a good start. Alright smart guy, can you think of ANOTHER woman who has directed a film? Yeah, that's harder.

In this little segment, I thought I'd introduce you to a few talented ladies who are directorial legends by their own right, and who also have made strides in this niche of the industry for womankind. But first, let's delve into the topic a little. Why on earth are female directors so rare?

Women accounted for 7% of directors in 2005.

The first and most obvious reason that females direct less than 5% of the top 100 films in a year is the fact that the industry is filled with men. Women who go into film as a career know that they will be in the minority. This does not inspire them to go into direction.

When you think about it, most people don't go into a career knowing there's a bold and thick glass ceiling preventing them from succeeding. In fact, it is clearly stated by professors and industry leaders that they might want to consider production or writing before thinking about direction, namely because such a role as 'Female Director' is so difficult to carve out. Women wanting to succeed in film need not do so by directing, they can still work and even get rich in other areas of the industry. I'm sure that any woman who happens to be a successful producer does not consider themselves a failure. Ask Kathleen Kennedy, executive producer of Shindler's List and The Sixth Sense if she's up nights because she didn't strike a blow for the women's movement. I'd think not.

But what about those that DO want to direct and DON'T come from a film guild family with one of the most famous American Directors as a daddy, like Sophia Coppola was lucky enough to have?

The business is still a male-dominated club that views women as incapable of directing anything other than "chick-flicks" or getting to grips with technical skills.

Imagine this scenario: You're a young and upcoming Director. You have an idea for a film. You go to parties, start networking with executives, talk about your idea, make friends and pitch ideas. Eventually someone says, 'fine, let's meet we'll have dinner and discuss your idea, then we'll spend countless hours in my office hammering out the details.' Now imagine that you're a woman, and remember that these executives and industry leaders are mostly middle-aged married men. When a young woman suggests private meetings, it can still be considered merely as flirting. A wife could (or does) get jealous of her possibly philandering husband. The impropriety of a woman being alone with a man is still strong today, and is often a major stumbling block to those people trying to begin this sort of career.

The sad truth seems to be that the phenomenon of "Female Director" will be a slow and steady climb, but fear not, there are plenty of women directing out there now, and here's a few names to add to your repertoire. Take a few minutes, memorize your favorites and show off to your lady friends how sensitive you have become!

In my usual fashion, Top 5 Female Directors (not including the obvious Sophia) in no particular order.

Julie Taymor is the brilliant director of Shakespeare's highest bodycount play Titus. Given Julie's background in theater, it's not surprising that she succeeded in making such a spectacular film. Sadly her film directorial career is under five films, but it does include another great film, Frida.

You may not remember the name Mary Harron, but there's no doubt you've heard of her films. Director of such a little-known arthouse film as American Psycho, you might also remember The Notorious Betty Page and I Shot Andy Warhol, which she also directed. When you add the occasional television show, like Oz and Six Feet Under, the fact that she's an HBO regular makes hers a name worthy of remembering.

What's a Top 5 Female Director list without it's controversy? Let's throw in maniacal Nationalist filmmaker (her films are maniacally Nationalist, not necessarily her) Leni Riefenstahl. I wouldn't be surprised if you've never heard her name, but she directed many a Deutschlandic film during Hitler's reign, including the proud and strong military documentary Triumph Of The Will, and 1938 Olympic Documentaries Olympia: Festival of the Nations and Olympia: Festival of Beauty.

Penny Marshall is one of the bigwigs I'd say, with such films under her belt as the hits Big, Awakenings and A League Of Their Own, which I've all seen and thought were great (actually Big was my favorite movie for years after I saw it). besides that she's done Riding In Cars With Boys, Renaissance Man and Jumpin' Jack Flash, not to mention having directed television's Laverne & Shirley. Clearly Penny is one of the few women who truly succeeded in this industry, and still is succeeding.

Kathryn Bigelow is quite the versatile Director indeed. With such films as Near Dark (Horror), Blue Steel (Thriller), Point Break (Action), and Strange Days (Sci-Fi), it seems more like she's out to try new things and have fun rather than being concerned with leading any causes. Isn't that just the best way to do it? Oh for those of you who don't recognize the previous titles this one might click: K-19: The Widowmaker. Yeah I thought that would do it for you.

So there you go. Hopefully I've enlightened you a little on the names and faces of the less prevalent but influential feminine directors out there. And just so you don't go thinking I could only come up with only five, here's a few other directors of note, just for good measure, who've made pretty cool films.

Spanish Director Isabel Coixet has made several films, most of which are European titles, but My Life Without Me, is a most memorable film, regardless of the sex of its director.

Nicole Kassell directed the heavy hitting and tastefully done The Woodsman.

Amy Heckerling directs more quirky comedies, including such classics as Fast Times At Ridgemont High and National Lampoon's European Vacation. Yeah directed by a woman. Weird eh? She's also done Look Who's Talking and its sequel, Johnny Dangerously and Clueless. She's certainly not one of MY favorites, but her films are no doubt popular.

As you'd expect there IS a popular niche of women directing Romantic Comedies, and Nora Ephron's one of the big names, with such titles under her belt as Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, but she also made Michael and Bewitched, so she's not ALL Rom-Com.

Finally, a piece of Oscar trivia. Aside from Coppola, Jane Campion was one of the three women ever nominated for a Best Director Oscar for the important The Piano, the other being Italian Lina Wertmuller for her film Seven Beauties, which earned her the 1977 Best Director Oscar Nomination.

So far no woman has ever won an Oscar for Best Director. Here's hoping that trend ends soon.

Huff: Season 2 (2006)

Er, yeah, everyone gets naked in this... yep! Now will you watch it?

Genre: Comedy Drama Series

Starring: Hank Azaria (Mystery Men; "The Simpsons"), Oliver Platt (Pieces of April; Kinsey)

Created By: Robert Lowry

Overview: In Season 2, Russel deals with impending fatherhood, Hank and Beth are on the rocks, and schizophrenic Teddy starts independent living.

Acting: As the season progressed, I found that the person who played Byrd, although exuding tons of teen angst, was still off his directorial reins with his particular class of melodrama. Even if children are like this, I don't like seeing it on TV. This is the only reason this show doesn't get full points. Oliver Platt on the other hand, shows us the deeper side of himself that we had hoped to see for a while now, and with lovely guest characters played by Sharon Stone and Anjelica Huston, we get a nice fat cherry on top.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: Again this show goes into realms of lens effects and cinematographic editing that gets noticed. I was a little disappointed there for a while because a few of episodes didn't go 'high-art' like I knew they could, but colour composition and set design always seems to be a huge part of this show, and that's certainly a bonus.
Rating: 8

Script: Every character in this show is written perfectly (except Byrd). Hank's mother Izzy has some of the best burns in the whole show, madness has never been more clearly explained than in the rants from Teddy's mind and marital troubles have never been so boldly described as when Hank and Beth fight. Words are what make this show great, and great they are.
Rating: 10

Plot: This year we focus on a Teddy who is far less 'drooling mad' and actually develops his own character, lives in his own place and becomes one of the best defined people of this season. Byrd on the other hand seems more like a time-filling plug, completely directionless and quite frankly, lame. Just as last season however, we find a Russel (Platt) who has ups and downs, victories and losses so engrossing that he is by far everyone's favorite.
Rating: 8

Mood: Let me put it in a way that you'll be left without any doubts. I had four episodes left to watch last night. We watched them all in a row. This show is immersive, the suspense is great, the stories are rich, the look is sleek, and with exciting moments like drug raids and crack houses, slowly seeping madness and psychological awakenings on Ecstasy, you'll most likely be as engrossed as the rest of us.
Rating: 8

Dude, seriously? Marriage troubles? Uh, work em out buddy, like come ON!

Overall Rating: 86% (Blow my House Down!)

Aftertaste: The friend I watched this with started this season saying "This is the best show of Television!" He ended the season saying, "Say what you will about the greatness of Six Feet Under, but this just goes that one step further, it's the best show of television!" As dramatic series go, I think I'll agree. You should really give it a chance, and if you haven't Season 1 just came out on DVD, just thought you'd like to know...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The African Queen (1951)

See how distraught she is? It's cause she had to have her tea at 4:15. Damn Mud Hut Nations!

Adventure Drama War Romance (USA, UK)

Starring: Humphrey Bogart (Casablanca; The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre), Katherine Hepburn (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner; The Philadelphia Story)

Directed By: John Huston (The Maltese Falcon; Annie)

Overview: Early during the Second World War, the captain of a small steam ship in Africa is convinced by a British Missionary to attack a German military steamer ship with homemade torpedoes.

Acting: It's Humphrey Bogart. He's a hard-core tough guy... in all the other movies he's in. In this one he plays a man in love with a "skinny old maid". Hepburn is passable in her role of stuck-up Christian. Was there chemistry? Not really. Were the roles played in any way impressive? Nope, sorry.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: There's some crocodiles. There's superimposed characters overlaid across stock footage of monkeys and hippos. There's gen-you-wine Afrikins! Yeeehaw! Oh and there's Germans. I still don't know what's more offensive than watching British missionaries convert a bunch of natives by singing about Jesus. Most of this is watching two people talk on a dirty old boat. Oh there's rapids twice, wheee!
Rating: 6

Script:There's really nothing special in how these people interact. Once or twice there's a deep moment of truth or a telling touch of character but the words and/or the delivery can border on the ridiculous. There's nothing stupid or lame about how these two fall for each other, but it's nothing special either. Been there, done that... minus blowing up an enemy ship for my baby.
Rating: 6

Plot: There's about 10 minutes of plot, and the rest is adventure. What I found to me to be the most awkward scene is right as they start falling for each other. It was rather abrupt how they went from the 'in-the-moment' surprise first kiss the "Come here and give me a kiss!" instant relationship. I guess they had to edit those moments from the novel, you know CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. At least the ending wasn't completely predictable... Ugh this story is thin.
Rating: 5

Mood: Africa with its heat, its wild animals, its majestic beauty, a character all its own. Was that element captured? Not really, and Humphrey Bogart isn't funny when he does those overdubbed hippo and monkey impressions. For Hepburn to find it so funny proves that she's either a reclusive purist Christian with no sense of humour, or she's touched like a 'tard.
Rating: 6

If you're going to exchange words with a WWII German, it helps to be of the master race

Overall Rating: 60% (The African Queen of Mediocrity)

Aftertaste:"You have to put yourself in 1951! What are you a critic?" a co-worker told me. I almost laughed. Instead I said, "I still don't see how such an old woman got a romantic role. It really doesn't do it for me." Either way, this is considered a classic. I saw it. I see what people might like about it, but if you ask me it's just "Because I remember him and I remember her being in good movies, I'll see this too. That means it's going to be good."

Easily forgotten.

Land of the Dead (2005) *Viewed Thrice*

Aw sweet nothings can have such a profound effect sometimes

Genre: Apocalyptic Action Zombie Horror Thriller (USA, Canada, France)

Dennis Hopper (Apocalypse Now; Blue Velvet), Simon Baker (The Ring Two; Red Planet) John Leguizamo (Romeo + Juliet; Moulin Rouge!)

Directed By: George A. Romero (Dawn Of The Dead; Day of The Dead)

Overview: A city still flourishes years after the zombies awaken, but the zombies are getting wiser to the ways of the humans...

Acting: The acting was far better than you would expect from a zombie film. Dennis Hopper's bastard character certainly takes the cake. That Samoan guy who plays Pillsbury even does a great comic relief character. Romero directed this rather well and the cast all knew what to do. Oh Big Daddy, you pull at my heartstrings!
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The gore is EVERYWHERE. Finally a zombie movie where we see people getting actually eaten, and often! Zombies ripping their fingernails off, explosions and blood squirting, unique zombie looks and interesting demises to be had all round. A top quality high-budget production. Amaaaazing.
Rating: 9

Script: You will see the script genuinely as a part of the film. It's not filler, it's character building. They have a few tricks up their sleeves, and it's nice that we're given a lot more than, "Aaah! Zombie!". Just enough of those cheesy one-liners to pay homage to the genre. You even feel a little for the zombies from time to time, even IF they only say "RrrrRRGrrr!"
Rating: 7

Plot: The plot suited me just fine thank you. A nice sequel to Day of the Dead: years later people know the threat that is 'the Zombie', humanity is over the initial survival phase and they have to live this way now. We follow the frontiersmen who go out of the city to make runs and hope that the big evil corporate Hopper gets his due. Original as Romero's ever been. And in true Romero fashion, the black-man-voice-of-reason character is there too! This time though, he's the leader of the zombie hoard!
Rating: 8

Mood: The mood tends to be gory more than scary, and that's good, but for fright you'll find more in 28 Days Later. As for the gore, well, holy jeezus. Picture a society built on self-defense against these things, and imagine how well they can cut zombies down. Then add a hyper-intelligent zombie who seems to be sick of being used, leading an army to the city wall. Add that they can now use tools (read: weapons) and duck from all the splattering blood and gore.
Rating: 8

"What are they gonna say about him? What are they gonna say? That he was a kind zombie? That he was a wise zombie? That he had plans? That he had wisdom? Bullshit man!"

Overall Rating: 80% (Serious Zombie Fun!)

Aftertaste: MOTHERFUCKING ZOMBIES!!!!!!!!! EEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!! See this!

First Reviewed August, 2005. See comments for re-viewed review.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Dawn Of The Dead (1978)

"I'll take Door Number Three! AAAArrrrggghhhh"

Genre: Apocalyptic Action Drama Zombie Horror (USA, Italy)

Starring: Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger

Directed By: George A. Romero (Night Of The Living Dead; Land Of The Dead)

Overview: The Zombie Epidemic has just begun and four people take a helicopter in hopes of finding safety. When they stop at a shopping mall to stock up, they realize that this may just be the good thing they've been looking for.

Acting: Oh God it's terrible, but an endearing terrible! From time to time the tertiary characters just speak and move in a way that makes you wonder why they're there at all, but the kind of stuff you could get away with in the 70s, so it adds to the kitsch. The zombies shamble stupendously and the main characters, though not Juilliard-trained, are still fun to watch while waiting to see if they'll get eaten.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: The best part of this movie: A body count of over 60. That means we see so many zombies get shot in the head that you lose count. That means we see so many people get eaten and bitten that we just watch the blood fly all over the place. There's little kids, a nurse, a baseball player, even a Hare Krishna with a tambourine going around trying to consume your flesh. A visual spectacle, and that scene where they rip open a man's guts while he shrieks? Hello, what are you waiting for?!
Rating: 9

Script: "Shoot it, man! Shoot it in the head!"

Lord, this is full of quotable quotes, but more than that, this sequel to Night Of The Living Dead intelligently adds intermittent explanations as to what's going on and why. Scientists bicker while narrating theories, characters loose it and go off from time to time, and the black guy main character is full of sweet 70s urban lingo, sucka! Honestly one of the better horror scripts out there for a gorefest.
Rating: 8

Plot: On top of everything else, there's a social commentary on consumerism. Thank you Romero, you subtext-rich genius! We have a helicopter pilot wuss, a couple of hard-core SWAT guys with a daredevil complex, one of which is the standard black guy who, as in all Romero films, acts as the voice of reason, and the classic 70s useless worthless twit of a woman who seems to add only the element of 'rescue my stupid endangered life', end up being far more useful than she starts of as. Nice entertaining mission-driven tale with a great gory ending.
Rating: 8

Mood: The modern remake changed the universal rules and made everyone else pretty. Today's version sucks. You might not be terrified and nervous the whole time, I mean the acting and characters suffer just a little too much to be completely about engrossing terror, but there's such a unique flair to this film, and so much gore! You'll find this quite original in feel, especially when you add the quirky, fantastic musical score. As tales of zombie survival go, when you also learn a little about the world around you in their diverse little niches, context adds the element of a well thought out universe, a changing culture based on apocalyptic events.
Rating: 9

"When there's no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth... or crawl... or shamble... or whatever"

Overall Rating: 82% (Rise Up!)

Aftertaste: This is the kind of film that takes me back. When you were a kid and you watched the same movie over and over, because 'the Videostore' was not something your mom would take you to too often, so you watched the same five or six movies over and over. This was one of those for me. Pure childhood memorabilia. I can safely say this is my favorite Romero movie. It's just so awesome, and owning the soundtrack is pretty cool too.

No not dorky. I said COOL, you heard me wrong.

Wonder Showzen: Season 2 (2005)

*singing* "Kids Show! Kids Show! Oh, Good Lord, it's a Kids Shooow!"

Genre: Animation and Comedy Series

Starring: A score of children who probably aren't even allowed to watch this show that they make.

Created By: Vernon Chatman, John Lee

Overview: Geared to look like a late 70s children's show complete with puppets and cartoons, this cynical, racist, blasphemous and scathing commentary on society and its ills is certainly NOT for kids.

Acting: The fact that comic David Cross of Arrested Development is in this helps makes this category awesome. I was just about to say 'how odd this show manages to get all these big name stars', but this is right up David Cross' alley. In fact, I bet he wrote the whole redneck sitcom episode he was in. The kids are all still great and so cute in their little evil roles!
Rating: 8

Cinematography: I can't say I loved having just one segment for 2 of this year's episodes after knowing to expect a variety of different ones. My favorite things, the little cartoons and the short 'letter to Santa / Grandma / Jesus' not to mention the 'video tours' being less plentiful than in last season was not my favorite, but I still can't help love it for what it is, a hilarious kids show filled with mayhem, gore and copious amounts of blood.
Rating: 7

Script: The 'Beat Kids' segment is consistently great television, the tours are my favorite in terms of canned wit and judgment. This season, perhaps more than last, there's more jokes that are so far overboard, it comes back full circle and ends up being so sick you just have to laugh to stop from crying. Uh, by that I mean I like it. I'm jaded, shut up.
Rating: 8

Plot: It's quite possible that this show has run out of stock footage for their 'video tour' segment. There was only a couple this season (but a day in the life of the policeman was one of the best things yet). It's also unfortunate that the last two episodes had no versatility. One was a complete episode of this redneck sitcom, nothing like the format we're accustomed to regardless of the genius of David Cross, and the other was all Clarence asking people on the street about why television sucks. It got old, I missed the less-lazilly made "Showzen" from last Season just a little too much.
Rating: 7

Mood: The way I see it, if it offends you, it's because you have a problem with what they're saying. Christians, rednecks and all other types of bigots will either miss the point completely, or they would specifically condemn the Showzen-loving viewer. This is the most offensive show I've ever seen... and loved. Without understanding that everything said is a comment on society and its ills, this show would have failed. Seems that people are getting pretty smart, since this is getting intensely popular. We need more television like this.
Rating: 9

See it's not because it's a dog that makes it creepy, it's that he rips babies out of their mothers...

Overall Rating: 78% (Er, The Second Mozten Showzen Ever)

Aftertaste: The biggest problem I have with this show in general is the fact that there are only 8 episodes per season. That's so short to the point of being strange, given that most series are at LEAST 12. I recommend this show to anyone who wants scathing commentary, constant subtext and the shattering of nice happy blankets of one's content stereotypes. Awareness and understanding have genuine champions in this show. I want a Beat Kids shirt for my birthday!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Strange Brew (1983)

"I need a young priest and an old priest!"

Genre: Comedy (Canada)

Starring: Rick Morranis (Honey I Shrunk The Kids; Ghostbusters II) Dave Thomas ("Arrested Development"; "SCTV")

Directed By: Rick Morranis, Dave Thomas (Intern Academy)

Overview: In this modern version of Hamlet (yeah, I'm serious), Bob and Doug McKenzie find work at the Elsinore beer brewery and get caught up as patsies in a sinister plot.

Acting: If you're Canadian this is one hell of an all-star cast, even Max von Sydow of Exorcist fame plays the bad guy in this. In a way this is a lot like a "Saturday Night Live" (SNL) movie, because the characters were originally from TV. The difference is that this is hilarious, and... all SNL movies suck. What's better still, all the people are just plain hilariously awesome. It's fantastic how well they succeed at being so stupid, but doing it so intelligently.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: Action, Adventure, ROMANCE! It's all there. No special effects to speak of, unless you consider cheesy laser beams and ghosts, flying dogs and 'stubbies' beer bottles from the 80s. Still there's nothing distracting and the classic mood of the old computers and the hockey uniforms, it's really neat to watch.
Rating: 7

Script: "My brother and I used to say that drownin' in beer was like heaven, eh? Now he's not here, and I've got two soakers... this isn't heaven, this sucks."

You will laugh out loud... Constantly. Granted, I may have a touch of the synaptic burn-in from having seen this about 10 times, but I was really expecting to regret it this time around due to the cheesiness. No sir. I fell down in tears. I couldn't breath. I had to call an ambulance. They resuscitated me, but only after watching a couple of scenes, cause the paramedics were all engrossed by this when they showed up.
Rating: 10

Plot: It's effin' Shakespeare. Not only that but it's Hamlet! Ok, I know it's only the basic skeleton of the original plot, and I suppose that Bob and Doug are completely different than the possible Rosencrantz & Guildenstern roles they're in... fine, fine, but the Deux Ex Machina ending is still fantastic, even if stuff is resolved a little cheap. It's fun, damnit!
Rating: 8

Mood: The Canadiana is just dripping from this movie. Stubbies, toques, beer, hockey, alcohol, Bob and Doug McKenzie, ale, vans, and booze tents! Also, comedies are supposed to make you laugh right? Well this makes you laugh, and it's perfect for the beer-drinking Gen-X comedian in all of us. Serious lowbrow fun of the highest caliber.
Rating: 9

"Steamroller! Steamroller!"

Overall Rating: 86% (Check it out, You Hoser)

Aftertaste: This is the kind of movie that, when you watch again, you're waiting to see something that will make you regret having loved it when you were in your early 20s. I waited and waited and all I could do was laugh and laugh. What a super-awesome good time! I run over my girlfriend with the 'Steamroller' on a regular basis! HA HA!

The Omen (2006)

Ooooo! Ooooo! Completely mediocre unfrightening Anti-Christ! Oooo!

Genre: Horror Thriller

Starring: Liev Schrieber ('Scream' Trilogy; RKO 281), Julia Stiles ('Bourne' Trilogy; Mona Lisa Smile)

Directed By: John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines; Flight Of The Phoenix)

Overview: In this remake of the 1976 horror classic, a diplomat discovers that his son may be the Anti-Christ, set to lead the world to Armageddon.

Acting: Let us begin with a good note. Liev does a great job, he shouldn't have a problem finding work from now on, good for him. Julia does passably well, David Thewlis as the photographer needed better direction and that stupid little Damian twerp has no intimidation factor whatsoever. Compare this to the original starring Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird; Cape Fear) and you will be sorely disappointed. I hate You John Moore, you two-bit hack! Bad director! Bad director!
Rating: 5

Cinematography: "My favorite camera effect is swooping around the character as they look around. Do that as often as possible, ok camera guy?" If you start off a film with this premise, you'll find a film that is heavy panoramic, big on 'thriller' and low on originality. Christ, I'm getting dizzy over here. I got over it by the third scene. Each individual scene was shot really well but all together the movie has no cohesion, no flair. On top of everything, whenever Moore tried to recreate a scene just as in the original, the tribute failed miserably.
Rating: 5

Script: I'd say a little over half the lines in this film are taken directly from the original script, which is nice for the memorabilia factor, I'll give you that. How on earth the delivery of said lines didn't do anything for me I suppose is the director's fault. The fears, the strife, the mad warning, all that is great, but this was like the third carbon copy down the line, it was just weak.
Rating: 5

Plot: Why didn't you keep the original Mrs. Baylock fight scene? It's the best, goriest, most suspensful scene in the whole movie! No, instead you replace it with this moronic laughable, predictable tripe. As much as the story of a man raising Cain is great, somehow this version fell completely short. The entire movie was boring, except MAYBE five minutes of it. Not too predictable, but not too fun, either.
Rating: 5

Mood: Zero cinematic timing. Every suspensful scene was sourly molested for lack of talent. This opens with a priest showing clips of the twin towers blowing up, people drowning in hurricanes and other signs of the apocalypse. What sick group of Archbishops need this kind of visual aid? I certainly don't need to bask in the mire of those horrible disasters again, but thanks for earning a buck off of them. You're lucky you get points for new kills, because your have no sense of subtlety. When you have a blueprint and a safety net in the original film, why not just recreate the moment if you can't do it on your own? Finally, how did the ending manage to suck so bad when it was identical to the original?!
Rating: 3

"Please, Please don't let me be carted over to the Premiere of this tragedy of a film!"

Overall Rating: 46% (I Should Have Seen The Signs!!!)

Aftertaste: I thought my love of Horror would forgive the occasional 'not-done-as-well' moments. Turns out that moment was the entire film. Was I wrong to complain about this? Didn't I call it?! When you've seen a film six or seven times and have even gone so far as to watch all the pitiful sequels just to know the whole story, it's proof that you love a film. Why on earth did I even think about wasting my money? Way am I so STUPID?! God!

Someone even had the gall to tell me not to compare the remake with the original. I laughed at them and called them wrong. They're still wrong. Damn this movie to Hell!