Archive for November, 2010

Tick Reviews – I’m Still Here (2010)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 29, 2010 by Tick

 

It’s hard to watch a film with the same sort of subjectivity once it’s been spoiled for you, therefore it makes it difficult to write a review for said film. Unfortunately, I’m Still Here was not just spoiled for me before I saw it, it was spoiled for most of the world’s population. This film was admitted to be a hoax less than a week after it was released. Of course, the general speculation circulated around the rumor mill/blogosphere that the film was a hoax before it was even done filming. While I understand the need to finally reveal the truth about the film, especially when most people suspected it anyway, it would’ve been nice to ride it out for a little while longer. It would have been nice to have seen the film with the state of mind that was originally intended. Obviously fake or not, some level of doubt would have been nice.

For those of you that have lived in a cave, I’m Still Here is a “documentary” film that follows actor Joaquin Phoenix as he decides to retire from acting and pursue his dream of becoming a rapper. He’s talked into letting his brother-in-law Casey Affleck follow him around with a camera for months as he attempts to make the transition, slowly unraveling and becoming more temperamental as he goes. As he goes, so does most of his entourage, including his struggling musician/assistant that betrays him by telling the media that everything is a hoax.

Now, I will say, that I believe Affleck when he says that the film was never intended to be an outright hoax. There are some scenes, especially once the film starts nearing its conclusion, where the facade is stretched pretty thin. Phoenix simply plays a bit far too over the top in some instances and there are some goings on that I just don’t feel like any celebrity,even the most self-destructive of artists, would allow to be filmed. Then there’s that fact that, even if you were falling for the joke, the end credits confirm that the film was written by Phoenix and Affleck. I’m not sure how some of the critics that saw this film early on missed that point, but they did. Way to pay attention, people.

No, the film is obviously a performance piece that’s meant to tweak our tabloid media and the way we publicly perceive our celebrities as if we know everything about them, even though they’re complete strangers. For this, I do appreciate the film. Phoenix spent almost two years of his life playing this role and he dragged the rest of the world along with him the entire time. He simply took the public perception of himself as moody, odd and probably drug addled artiste and over-exaggerated it to the Nth degree. You look at it now and it seems obviously ridiculous, but a culture that relishes running down its celebrities is always hungry for this sort of public meltdown. The tabloid media couldn’t get enough of it and neither could the public. Everyone was all too eager to believe the hype.

Phoenix, for what it’s worth, did one hell of a performance for two years with, of course, the finest moment coming during his infamous appearance on David Letterman. It’s a pretty astounding piece of method acting to not break character for a two-year period, especially when you’re potentially harming your career in the process. Although, I’m sure Phoenix and Affleck had some profoundly triumphant moments as they watched their ruse take hold of the world stage. There’s a moment in the film when they show how much of a joke Phoenix had become, showing clips ranging from the Oscar telecast to every talk show host on TV to dozens of YouTube clips where Joaquin is mocked, made the butt of jokes or impersonated. He simply was THE punchline on everyone’s lips for several months at a time. They managed to punk the world, even as their own camp would leak to the media that this is all a hoax. They knew, even with that seed of doubt planted in everyone’s mind, we’d all still want to believe that what we were watching is real, because failure is far more enjoyable and much funnier. It’s also what we already halfway thought Phoenix was in the first place. In the end this all becomes more of the film holding up a mirror and showing us all just how petty and gullible we can be.

The problem is, all that we saw leading up to watching the film sort of sabotages the performance that only went on for the film itself. While the acting we saw in public was perfect, perhaps brilliant, the “private” footage is far too unhinged to be believable during some stints. I’m sure it’s a conscious decision to help the reveal that this was all just a performance and not reality, but that doesn’t keep it from being bad acting, nor does it keep it from hurting the film. He ranges from cartoonish hippy to petulant, pouty child and borders on total cliché with each aspect. He dumbs himself down to a point that’s just becomes unbelievable. I’m not going to believe you turned into a stonier version of Jeff Spicoli overnight. There are other moments though, that are genius. In between his claims of wanting to escape Hollywood and be a real artist, he throws tantrums over things like being in a minivan instead of a limo or getting a shitty hotel room. Watching him as he hangs on every negative thing said about him, be it from comedian or internet blogger is pathetically funny. He obsesses over every boo and each insult, taking them to heart and letting them fuel him awful lyrics, even as he begins to lose confidence. The moment he has a breakdown over his stupid decision would have been gut wrenching if you still had any notion this could be factual. He deserves credit for taking the role full tilt and being willing to completely embarrass himself to people who weren’t in the know, but so much is so far over the top that it just doesn’t work and overpowers the parts that do.

There’s also the problem that there isn’t a lot to latch onto. Most of the best bits are the parts where he’s pulling others into this pretend world without them knowing what’s going on and there’s very little of that which you haven’t already seen. Everything that happened publicly, including every rap appearance he made, was well covered in the media and by dozens of cell phone cameras. Every meltdown he had with a reporter or on a talk show or at a premier was well documented. The bits involving those not in the know that you haven’t seen, are too few and far between. The best involve P.Diddy, who Joaquin is trying to convince to produce his album. Diddy clearly isn’t comfortable with anything going on or the fact that it’s being filmed. It’s funny to watch him squirm as he shifts between trying to be as polite as he can be and being brutally honest. he obviously just wants it to be over with as quickly as possible.

This is where so much opportunity is wasted. There are just not enough scenes involving people not in on the joke. Ben Stiller, if he honestly didn’t know what was going on, is so much like he on-screen persona that it doesn’t play realistically. Edward James Olmos is so fucking weird that he makes Joaquin seem normal in the scene. Beyond that, you have the Letterman interview that we’ve all seen a zillion times and some random studio/agent types that could be in on the act and don’t do anything interesting. That’s sad, because Phoenix and Affleck stage some scenes that could have been brilliant had they shown how these Hollywood types actually act instead of just alluding to it. There’s a part of the film where Phoenix is show ordering hookers to his room and doing huge amounts of coke. It’s obviously supposed to spotlight how out of control a celebrity is allowed to get and how no one will step in to tell you no. However, when the only other people in the scene are in on the joke, it loses a lot of its power. A scene where Phoenix mourns that he’s broke, about to lose his house and no one cares plays sort of the same. There’s a lot missed opportunities here.

Finally, the major problem with the film overall is that it’s mostly dull. The fact that you know the whole story already from the reports as it was being filmed take away any real surprise. Knowing that it’s not real takes away the fascination that the is it or isn’t it factor would have provided. Some badly overacted moments and as well as ones that weren’t thought out enough leave you with too many things that pull you out of the film. That leaves you with a lot of filler that just isn’t interesting to watch. There’s just only so many times you can watch Phoenix mumble similar dialogue about how he’s being true to himself now as he smokes a cigarette.

This ultimately falls into that category of movies I appreciate, but don’t like. I respect Phoenix for doing this. It took incredible balls to jeopardize your career in order to get a point across. Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that I don’t think anyone really learned and in this twenty-four hour tabloid  news cycle that’s engulfed our country, the whole thing is already totally forgotten. Phoenix and Affleck bamboozled the media for nearly two years, and all of us with them, yet no one feels any dumber for playing right into their hands. If this had been done just a little better, maybe played a bit meaner in Borat fashion, it could have been a classic. It could’ve been the gold standard for meta-joke philosophizing on modern media and celebrity. Instead it ends up being just an inside joke sort of home movie that Affleck and Phoenix can get a chuckle out of for years to come. That’s not going to be worth it if this does indeed hurt Joaquin’s career.

Advertisements

Dub Cee Reviews: Last Action Hero (1993)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 27, 2010 by Dub Cee

Director: John McTiernan

Writer(s): Zak Penn and Adam Leff (Story), Shane Black and David Arnott (Screenplay)

It has been fun but it is time to wrap up this mini tribute to Arnold Schwarzenegger with a movie I think is much like Commando in that it is fun but not good perse.

Plot line is simple. We have a kid named Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien) who is overly obessessed with his favorite action star Jack Slater (The Arnold). Danny frequents this rundown movie theatre ran by Nick, played by Robert Prosky…not to be confused with Art Carney who is also in this flick. Nick gives Danny this magical ticket which, it turns out, allows its holder to enter the movies. Thus now Danny is in the Jack Slater movie. He can survive here by just sticking to the action movie clichés.

Ok, now that the story wrap up is done, we can get to the point of the movie which is basically mocking the entire action genre that Arnold helped create.  I respect and appreciate the fact that Arnold was mocking himself this entire movie…but most of the jokes miss. There are some nice moments such as follows.

Slater is about to walk away and turns around saying:

Jack Slater: I’ll be back! Ha! You didn’t know I was gonna say that, did you?
Danny Madigan: That’s what you always say!
Jack Slater: I do?

Danny Madigan: People always wait for you to work it in. Its like your calling card!

Later Danny is playing “chicken” on a bicycle against a car:

Danny Madigan: This is gonna work. It’s a movie, I’m a good guy. This has got to work!
[Danny thinks again]
Danny Madigan: I’m a comedy sidekick. Oh, shit! I’m a comedy sidekick! IT’S NOT GONNA WORK!

And my favorite and the most infamous line of the movie…

Jack Slater: You’ve seen these movies where they say “Make my day” or “I’m your worst nightmare”? Well, listen to this one: Rubber baby buggie bumpers!

There is a joke about being away to wipe away tar with just a paper towel or how Slater’s daughter just happens to show up with a change of clothes, etc. Similar plot holes to what I talked about in my Commando review. Most of the fun is in the breaking of the fourth wall. For example, Danny references Die Hard, if you listen for it, seconds later a clip of the Die Hard theme can be heard. Actually…looking for those references and the many cameoes is probably more fun than actually watching this movie.

Overall, the movie is rather dull but again, I respect that they are mocking the very vehicle that made them stars so I will be kind with my final grade. C-

Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: Reform School Girls (1986)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 27, 2010 by chainsawcheerleader

Directed by: Tom DeSimone

Written by: Tom DeSimone, Jack Cummins

Cast: Wendy O. Williams, Linda Carol, Pat Ast, Sybil Danning

Genre: exploitation, WIP (women in prison)

 

Truck Driver: Let’s play carnival.

Jenny: What’s That?

Truck Driver: Sit on my face, and I’ll guess your weight.

 

During the late 1960’s censorship laws began to lose control over artists and more locations willing to show questionable films became more abundant. It is during this time that exploitation films were allowed to fully develop into what they are now famous for. Quickly subgenres of these films followed. One such subgenre is known as women in prison (WIP). WIP films pushed aside any moral lesson often learned from pervious prison films and focused purely on male fantasy. While filled with graphic scenes of sex and violence, the WIP film often contains taboos centered around lesbian sex, voyeurism, sadism, humiliation, nudity, and sexual assault. Reform School Girls is one such film.

WIP films have certain plot elements that are included in each movie. Often these films have the same types of characters who are placed in situations that reoccur in films of the same genre. These plot elements include: a generally good girl who fell in with the wrong crowd being sent to a corrupt prison or reform school that is run by an evil warden, humiliating group strip searches, being sprayed with a firehouse while being nude, lesbian sex scenes between the prisoners and/or guards, female prisoners performing hard labor while being humiliated, sadistic punishments handed down by guards, girl on girl fights that often take place in the shower while they are nude, an escape occurs, a violent revolt takes place, and then the bad guys of the film are often killed in a gruesome manner. Reform School Girls does indeed follow these plot elements but never fully commits to how harsh a WIP can be. The main character, Jenny and those she arrived with to the reform school are subjected to a majority of these elements. The most sadistic this film becomes is when one girl is held naked against the floor of a bathroom by three other girls who brand her rear end with a heated coat hanger. Not to diminish the horror of that situation but the rest of the film is very lite compared to that scene.

Reform School Girls’ plot begins with an innocent juvenile named Jenny (Linda Carol). After being present during a robbery and murder that is performed by her boyfriend, Jenny is sentenced to the Pridemore Juvenile Facility until the age of twenty-one. Jenny enters the reform school with a group of girls that she soon becomes friends with. Their friendship is formed mainly as a means of protection. Upon entering the reform school, Jenny and her friends are shown whose boss by being humiliated by Edna (Pat Ast), who is the headmaster of the ward. The head of the reform school is run by a naziesque warden named Sutter (Sybil Danning). It is these two women who will show Jenny and her friends the meaning of control but they are not the only obstacles that Jenny will face. Charlie Chambliss (Wendy 0. Williams) is the leader of a gang of girls who has an oddly close relationship with Edna. Charlie has declared herself leader of the school and tries to put Jenny in her place as she refuses to take any of her harsh punishments.

Reform School Girls was marketed as a satire of WIP films. After having watched the movie it is very difficult to tell whether this is true or not. One may assume that the marketing team for this film had no idea what to do with it and tried to pass it off as satire. The reason for this is that at times Reform School Girls is funny. With certain actors, their acting is so over the top regardless of how serious the scene may be. Pat Ast and Wendy O. Williams are cartoonish in their behavior.  For the majority of the movie, the women that have been sentenced to the reform school wear tiny tight uniforms or walk about in lingerie. The lingerie and big hair can only be compared to a Motley Crew video.  The look of these women or of them in certain scenes is so campy it could be seen as parody. While being laughable in some areas, Reform School Girls is not as violent as normal WIP films but it does follow the standard plot elements of every one of these films. The major reason why it is difficult to tell if this movie is a parody or not is because the actors play their roles very seriously. The actors act as if this was a drama and not a joke.

The only reason why I decided to watch Reform School Girls is because the punk-rock lead singer of The Plasmatics, Wendy O. Williams had a starring role. Williams was known for her outrageous stage performances and outfits (often wearing nothing more than black electrical tap covering her nipples). Williams may better be known for being the first female singer to be arrested for simulating masturbation on stage. While performing this act with a sledge hammer, she was arrested and then punched in the face by a male police officer. I have always enjoyed The Plasmatics and Wendy O. Williams’ ten pack of cigarettes a day sounding voice. So, watching Reform School Girls was only natural.

Williams plays Charlie Chambliss, a juvenile offender sentenced to the reform school for an unknown reason. The role fits Williams’ personality very well. The role is over the top and extreme. Williams’ personality is nothing less. At 37 years old, Williams may have been the oldest juvenile offender ever. Despite her age, Williams could have safely been called a butterface at any stage in her life. I am sure even if she had been a teenager during the shooting of this film her face would have clearly made her look older regardless. The roughness of her face is well known amongst her fans and I am sure Williams knew herself but could have cared less. In spite of that, Williams knew she had a killer body and loved to flaunt it on stage. This clearly has translated onto film.

I cannot say that I have watched a lot of WIP films but I have a general understanding of them. Knowing how extreme any sexual fetish can get, I believe that Reform School Girls is a great movie for anyone who is new to the genre. Reform School Girls covers all of the points of a classic WIP movie but it does so lightly. It does not go straight for the extreme  but eases the new viewer in slowly so that he or she will know what is waiting for them with their next WIP film.

Reform School Girls receives a 5 out of 10

Sabbath Reviews: Smokin’ Aces (2006)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2010 by Sabbath


Directed & Written by: Joe Carnahan

Smokin’ Aces is a film I’ve passed up time and time again. I can remember hearing it mentioned once in a while, but it didn’t really generate the kind of buzz to make me want to put it at the top of my To-Do list. In fact, the only reason I decided to put it at the top of my Netflix queue is because I had no idea what I wanted to watch and I decided to let fate decide for me. Aces arrived, I popped it in, and this review is the result.

The first thing to know about Smokin’ Aces is that it has a lot of names in it. Ryan Reynolds, Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta, Ben Affleck, Common, Alicia Keys, Andy Garcia … and the list goes on. Not all of those names are particularly top-rated stars and some I only mentioned due to their lack of acting experience (Keys). I groaned when I saw Reynolds name because unlike the majority of the population, I am not a Ryan Reynolds fan. Part of it is personal. I’m tired of every girl I meet having a huge boner for him, which is something that I don’t mind dealing with when it comes to Johnny Depp. Depp just rules. I can’t be jealous of the guy. Reynolds on the other hand often plays himself, which makes me worry about the upcoming Green Lantern movie. As a superhero film geek I’m also just tired of him being suggested to play every fucking comic book hero ever. There’s a ton of names in Hollywood to go around and yet he gets put at the top of everybody’s dream list to play everyone from The Flash (makes sense) to Thor (eat a dick). It’s annoying.

I’m not a complete dick though. I’ll give credit where credit is due. He actually did his job and acted as someone other than himself in this movie. Kudos. Reynolds plays FBI Agent Richard Messner who, along with his partner, has found out that Las Vegas act and psuedo-gangster Buddy “Aces” Israel has a hit on him and the contract’s been shopped around to several people. Reynolds’ job is to take Buddy into custody once a deal has been reached with the bureau, because Piven (who plays Buddy), is a weasel and a sell-out. I’m not up on my Jeremy Piven, but I hear he’s generally a dick in movies. No different here. He’s holed up in a hotel room with his men and a lot of security. He does a lot of coke, treats the hookers like shit, verbally abuses his people and does just about everything to make himself out to be an unlikable schmuck.

The real plot lies in the fact that all the chess pieces are on the table and they’re moving forward to put the King in checkmate. The King in this shitty analogy is the aforementioned Buddy Israel. Each of these people, or groups of people, have their own unique identity and background ranging from bail bondsman Jack Dupree (Ben Affleck) to crazy neo-nazi white boys (featuring Chris Pine) to a couple of black hitgirls with some serious firepower (Alicia Keys is in this group) and more. That’s where the real entertainment comes from, watching all of these groups converge on the same target each with their own methods. It’s like watching the heist in Ocean’s Eleven, or Mission Impossible … all these people acting independently and yet moving towards the same goal.

I’ll have to stop and give the movie credit for something. SPOILERS here: One of the names gets killed off fairly early in the movie as a psych out. I enjoy when movies do that. Too often you can tell who the survivors are just by the casting alone. I won’t say who, but given that you know it’s going to happen, I’ve spoiled enough for you.

The result of these people converging on Aces is a symphony of blood and lead. When the chips are down and all the players are in position, that’s when this movie starts to shine. The assassins kill each other off, people drop like flies, and Aces can no longer hide what a weasel he is from his own men — adding more potential killers to the fray late in the game. I have to say the pay off was impressive.

Not only was the action well worth it, but the story takes a few twists near the end too just to try and separate it from a popcorn flick. Some of the stuff I had halfway figured out already so it wasn’t a real shock, but I appreciated the attempt.

Smokin’ Aces isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a lot of fun. One of my complaints happened to be with the cinematography … the color scheme was just annoying. I’ve seen artsy photographs that have been tweaked in Photoshop to have the same effect. An effect that’s hard to describe unless it’s seen … but the colors are just really vibrant, like a waterpainting. It looks nice on stills but to watch a whole movie like it was kind of annoying, especially exterior scenes. The interior scenes are more forgiving and less abusive of the style.

If you’ve been holding off like me, I’d say give it a shot. Even Alicia Keys and Common didn’t do a bad job. Don’t expect a masterpiece, but do expect an entertaining conclusion.

— Sabbath

Super Carnitas reviews The Box (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2010 by supercarnitas

Writer – Richard Kelly

Director – Richard Kelly

 

The Box is based on a short story called “Button, Button” written by Richard Matheson. It was first published in Playboy magazine in 1970. I’ve never read it. The short story was the inspiration for an episode of the Twilight Zone…the episode was also titled “Button, Button.” I’ve never seen it. Now….if someone had asked me a few weeks ago if I had seen that episode of the Twilight Zone where the couple was presented with a box with a button on it, and they were told pressing the button would make them wealthy…but a random person would die because of it…I would have probably said..uh..yeah..sure. Even though I hadn’t. And it’s not because I’m a liar…but because I’ve seen a shit ton of Twilight Zones. In various states of inebriation. So the odds are…yeah..I’ve seen it. It sounds familiar enough in a Monkey’s Paw-ish kind of way….doesn’t it? But having learned it was an epsiode of the 80’s…color…version of The Twilight Zone…I can say with a great deal of confidence that I’ve never seen it. Now I mention this for two reasons. One – Although I’m aware of the concept, I have no preconceived notion of how it’s going to play out, and Two – maybe there’s a reason the first two incarnations of this story were done in the “short” versions of their respective mediums.

The Box starts out with typed words telling us about an accident involving a scientist. He’s a burn victim and the status of his recovery is mentioned. Some creation of his is also mentioned. It’s vague and ambiguous..but it gives us something to chew on.

The movie starts with a package being left on the doorstep of a young couple. Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur (James Marsden) Lewis. The film is set in 1976 so the couple have no qualms about opening this strange, unmarked box right there on their kitchen table. Their young son Walter even joins in, curious despite his pre-teen aloof-coolness.

Inside the package is a box. A wooden box with a button (under a glass dome) on top of it. There is a key hole on the front of the box…but no key to be found. Instead they find a note saying to expect a visit from a Mr. Steward at 5 p.m. that evening. The family kinda shrugs it off and goes about their day. And here’s where they start to lose me.

Marsden never really looks like he knows what he wants to do with the Arthur Lewis role. He really looks lost and disconnected throughout the entire film. And maybe it’s not his fault. He’s supposed to be a NASA engineer and an aspiring astronaut…but he’s not given dialogue to support his position. We know he had a role in designing a 360 degree, panoramic camera….and umm…we know he spends his work days designing a prosthetic foot for his hot, gimpy wife. We learn his dreams of being an astronaut are shot down because he failed the psych evaluation. And we learn that this kinda bums him out.

Cameron Diaz is simply unequipped as an actress to give life to Norma Lewis. We see her at work as a (philosophy?) teacher in and expensive…exclusive…private school. She’s lecturing her class on the works of Jean-Paul Sartre. Really? (Camus can do, but Sartre is smartre.) Sorry…I just don’t buy it coming from Cameron Diaz. (Scooby Doo can doo doo but Jimmy Carter is smarter). As she is attempting to explain Sartre’s proclamation that “hell is other people” she is derailed by a student who asks about her “limp”. With minimal effort the student gets her to expose her deformed foot to the entire class. “Hell is other people…seeing you as you really are.” Lame.

At 5 p.m. Arlington Steward arrives at the Lewis household and explains the details of the box to Norma. It’s simple really. If she pushes the button..someone she doesn’t know..dies…and she receives one million dollars. Tax free. She has twenty-four hours to make her decision…and she is only allowed to discuss it with her husband. Nobody else. Half of Mr. Stewards face is missing…which is unsettling in it’s own right. He leaves her the key and promises to return in 24 hours.

So we have the Nasa engineer and the deep-thinking philosopher discussing this moral dilemma that faces them. Get ready for some compelling dialogue regarding the consequences of their decision. “So someone we don’t know dies. What if it’s someone’s baby?” “What if it’s a mass murderer on death row?” Ugh. Shove me into the shallow water before I get too deep.

Marsden and Diaz have zero chemistry. I don’t buy the fact that they’re smart, professional people. I don’t buy the fact that they are in love. Not even a little bit. They seem like strangers sharing a house…oh and there’s a kid. Still not buying it. So already..the heart and soul of the movie is lost on me. And that’s assuming this movie had any heart or soul to begin with.

After the deep, existential, discussion on perceived morals and ethics…Norma presses the button. Done and done. A million bucks and someone dies. Mr. Steward drops off the money and collects the box…assuring the couple that the next test subject will be someone they “don’t know”. Oooh ominous and creepy.

From here the film can best be described as a sudo-philosophical, morally ambiguous, sci-fi, clusterfuck. It manages to be both heavy-handed in it’s exposition and confusing in what it chooses to leave unexplained. Oh..you want examples. Okay.

We’re led to believe that Mr. Steward is in fact a Martian. A Martian who has taken over his human form and is now testing mankind for some reason. The simple fact his name is Steward (one who does another’s bidding)…tells us all we need to know. He even explains at some point that humankind will always suffer as long as the individual chooses self gratification over the good of the species. Yawn. Oh I wish I was a better person. Fuck you Martian. Get off of your high horse and stop bitching. We get it. We suck. Shit must be way better on Mars. Dick.

And what’s the deal with the 360 degree camera? The picture in the basement…hey that’s Steward…and….so? What did I miss?

I can’t even explain to you what happens leading up to the end of the film. Most of it doesn’t even make any sense. Steward seems to be able to mentally control a lot of the townfolk. Start counting the nosebleeds. But the shots of the townfolk…almost zombified…turning and staring blankly at the camera. Ugh. It’s been done to death since Invasion of the Body Snatchers…and it does nothing for me anymore. There are these watery pillars and a motel pool that acts as a portal to…ahh i just don’t give a fuck. I don’t care.

That might be my biggest problem with this film. I just don’t care. The film or it’s characters are never interesting enough to suck me in. It never grabs me. An hour into it and I’m already clock watching. It has me hoping someone, somewhere, is pushing a button on a box that will put me out of my misery. God bless em.

The one interesting thing I took from this film….is that 3 people in the movie end up pushing the button. Each of them are female. I can see this being interpreted two ways. One – It’s misogynistic. Insinuating that women are easily lured by material things without considering the consequences of their actions. Our morality is defined by our ability to choose in real situations. In the hypothetical…we’re all saints. When confronted with “real” situations, our choices define us. Kelly could be saying that women lack the moral fortitude to make these choices. Or Two – Women are ultimately the givers (and takers) of life. The closest living thing to God. Only a women can give birth, so only a woman..right or wrong…should be allowed to press the button. Kelly could be putting women on a pedestal here. Or it could all be one happy coincidence.

Whatever it is…it’s pretty lame. There are consequences for pressing the button. Dire consequences. And I’m talking about the “play” button on your remote.

This film suffers from a message that is so heavy-handed that it stops being interesting, and is so confusing that you just stop trying to figure it out. There are some great visuals…but not enough to hold your interest. Comparisons to Kubrick’s work are incredibly generous…but ultimately fall short in every important regard. The concept is great and should inspire spirited debate but I feel it was best presented in it’s intended “short” form. Stretching the idea out into a feature length film rendered it a flimsy, gossamer, version of what it was intended to be.

I think Kelly is best served sticking to the dark humor slash sci-fi films…like Donnie Darko. This film was humorless and just plodded along. I wanted to like it. I really did. But i didn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: Defendor (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20, 2010 by chainsawcheerleader

Directed by: Peter Stebbings

Written by: Peter Stebbings

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Elias Koteas, Michael Kelly, Kat Dennings

Genre: Superhero, Drama

 

“Look out, termites. It’s squishing time.” -Defendor

Defendor is a film that suffers from being misunderstood. It is more than a superhero movie. The superhero aspect is more of a vehicle to carry the true message of the film. It is about how our past traumas form our beliefs, actions, and desires. It is about how that transformation pushes us to either change nothing or change everything. For many, they take no action and go about their lives. Maybe they complain about a problem and wish something could be done about it. It is often when someone acts and tries to solve that problem do they find the push that they need to stand up and no longer put up with what is going on. In Defendor that one individual that takes it upon himself to act is a man with an unspecified  learning disability. He is child like, mentally slow, poorly educated, and brutally honest. He leads a boring average life and he is just one of the nameless faceless individuals in a crowd, that we all are. He is no one special but he does what so many of us wish we could do, he goes after the bad guys.

The beauty of this is that the movie ends in a way that no one wants it to end. Normally, we want the happy ending and the bad guys in jail. We want our heroes to be safe and to continue the good fight, but there is one problem with that. Reality. Defendor is about the normal average human being standing up for what is right. This bravery not only comes in the form of a superhero but in that of the police or fire fighters. Just like them, the normal everyday man is not immune to violence. They cannot deflect bullets or save the occupants of a burning building without chancing that they too will get burned. These are the chances we take when we go head first into the fight. Defendor does not defy this fact. It is honest and asks are you willing to lose everything to right the wrongs?

The storyline of Defendor follows Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson), a man with a learning disability and active delusions. Arthur is an average boring man who believes he is a superhero named Defendor. He is on a quest to find and bring to justice his arch nemesis, Caption Industry.  While having no superpowers, Arthur sets out to find this arch enemy by finding his goons and making them talk. In the process of searching for Caption Industry’s henchmen, Arthur finds them roughing up an under aged prostitute (Kat Dennings) with an addiction to crack. After being beaten to his knees, the men leave, and the prostitute asks Arthur where he lives to take him home.  The prostitute named Kat, informs Arthur that she will be staying him for a short time until everything cools down with her pimp. A friendship forms between the two, despite Kat stealing from Arthur and taking all of his money. After  Arthur asks Kat if she knows who Caption Industry is she lies and tells him that a certain crime boss is who he is looking form. Well, in reality the crime boss is her former John who is the leader of the crime syndicate that her pimp belongs to.  Thinking he has found his villain, Arthur begins his quest to capture Caption Industry.

It is not until the movie nears its end that Arthur explains why he must defeat Caption Industry but before he does so the story turns to flashbacks to help show how Arthur developed as a child. It is these flashbacks that help explain how he has become the man he is now. Had the flashbacks not blended well or were edited well into the scene it proceeded then it would have seemed blocky and would have interrupted the flow of the movie. Credit must be given to those who edited this film. Going from one period in time to another and back again can at times weaken the emotions that the movie has stirred within you. Defendor flows effortlessly and the emotions drawn from the flashbacks continues into the present.

The most surprising thing about Defendor is how well Woody Harrelson can act. Harrelson feels like an actor that one does not actively seek out but is always pleasantly surprised by his performance. Harrelson’s delivery of his lines was always perfect. His body language always fit the moment. With a sly smile or wonder in his eyes, Harrelson spoke with his body in a way that made it seem that he was more than actor, that he could be Arthur had he been born into that life. It would be wonderful if Harrelson was given more roles that are seen by larger audiences. The man really does deserve the recognition.

Defendor does what most movies with important characters that are prostitutes fail to do. It stays as far away as possible from the old clichés. For example, the hooker with a heart of gold. Kat, one of Arthur’s few friends, smokes crack, steals from Arthur, lies to him, and charges him forty dollars a day for her to live at his residence with him. Kat has to support her addiction to crack somehow and she does so by taking that out on Arthur. Kat Dennings, who plays Kat, is average at most. It is very apparent that she is trying to act to her very best but her best falls short. It feels as if another actress could have offered more to the role. At times Dennings makes up for this by being very attractive. She has full beautiful lips, which may distract some from her acting.

One wonderful aspect of Defendor is that it gives hope to directors who are given their first shot at making a movie that wasn’t filmed in their backyard and with a group of their buddies. Defendor is Peter Stebbings’ first feature. Stebbings  also wrote Defendor. It is refreshing to see new talent given a chance in Hollywood. With so many movies being remade and so many writers just begging for a chance, Defendor proves that there is untapped talent just waiting for the opportunity to be seen and heard.

Defendor receives 7 1/2 out of 10

Tigris Rose reviews Arthur (1981)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 18, 2010 by tigrisrose

Arthur
(1981)
Director/Writer: Steve Gordon
Stars: Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, John Gielgud


This is rather a guilty pleasure movie. Not exactly a great movie, not exactly a good movie. It’s very nitch. I think the one thing that would make the movie a hell of a lot better is to get rid of Liza Minnelli. God I hate her. She plays a New Yorker, independent but almost con artist like. She’s sassy, but the problem with Minnelli looks like Janet from “Threes Company.”
Arthur is a rich man, who has spent the greater point of his adulthood in a bottle. He is being forced to marry a woman he doesn’t marry so he can stay in the family worth 750 million dollars, otherwise he was going to get cut off. And it gets pretty crazy after he meets Linda (Minnelli) after she steals a tie for her father.


There are three characters that really make this movie likable. First off, Arthur’s grandmother. The grandmother has the dough. Arthur will inherit the money. But she is funny, she is this surly old lady. She loves Arthur, almost understands him more than anyone but the butler. But she is a perverted, hard nose, and dastardly. One funny part with her is when Arthur is trying to explain that he loves Linda, she says to marry the rich one and cheat with the poor one.
The second person is Arthur. He is like a really old kid. Always playing with toys, drinks constantly. Moore has a very infectious laugh, especially when he is drunk. But he reminds me of a hobbit. The way he acts, drinks, laughs he just reminds me of Bilbo Baggins. Actually if it wasn’t for the fact he died 8 years ago Moore would have probably been good for a hobbit role in the Lord of the Rings.
But the greatest part of the movie is Hodson the Butler played by John Gielgud. This is the type that you could actually think and say that the butler did it. He’s pushy, brutally honest, and has a retort for everything and everyone. He’s always been the father figure to Arthur because Arthur was bounced around from school to school, and Hodson always looked after him. But Hodson has a very unique way with Arthur and with other people. But his contentment and mouthy expressions are absolutely hilarious. So much so in fact that I am going to put down my favorite Hodson lines.


Hodson the Butler: Man of many Words
Arthur: Hobson?
Hobson: Yes.
Arthur: Do you know what I’m going to do?
Hobson: No, I don’t.
Arthur: I’m going to take a bath.
Hobson: I’ll alert the media.
Arthur: [rises] Do you want to run my bath for me?
Hobson: That’s what I live for.
[Arthur exits]
Hobson: Perhaps you would like me to come in there and wash your dick for you, you little shit.

 
Hobson: Thank you for a memorable afternoon, usually one must go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature.

 
Hobson: [to Ralph] If you and your undershirt will walk two paces backwards, I could enter this dwelling.
Executive: He gets all that money. Pays his family back by… by… by bein’ a stinkin’ drunk. It’s enough ta make ya sick.
Hobson: I really wouldn’t know, sir. I’m just a servant.
Executive: Yeah.
Hobson: On the other hand, go screw yourself.

Hobson: I’ve taken the liberty of anticipating your condition. I have brought you orange juice, coffee, and aspirins. Or do you need to throw up?
Arthur: I just told Linda I was getting engaged.
Hobson: I don’t know why; a little tart like that could save you a fortune in prostitutes.

Hobson: You spoiled little bastard! You’re a man who has everything, haven’t you, but that’s not enough. You feel unloved, Arthur, welcome to the world. Everyone is unloved. Now stop feeling sorry for yourself. And incidentally, I love you. Poor drunks do not find love, Arthur. Poor drunks have very few teeth, they urinate outdoors, they freeze to death in summer. I can’t bear to think of you that way.

The movie has its moments. Mostly with the Butler’s witty remarks or with Grandmother’s perverted undertones. I really enjoy this movie, but as I said would have been a lot better with out Miss Liza. I give this movie on a rating scale a solid “C.” It isn’t a great movie, low budget, plus it’s a screwball comedy they don’t exactly rank up there in cinematography. Everyone should at least see this movie once in their lives.

%d bloggers like this: