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Sabbath Reviews: Scream 4 (2011)

Posted in Uncategorized on May 20, 2011 by Sabbath

Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson

In 1996, Wes Craven directed Scream and attempted to breakdown the horror film genre while delivering the scares. Most importantly, he took on the slasher genre which at the time was dead. The greatest killers of the slasher genres all started in the late 1970s and the 1980s. Jason, Freddy, Michael … they were all part of franchises that were being driven into the ground by the time the 90s rolled around and new new challengers stepped up to the plate until Ghostface.

I wasn’t an intense fan of the Scream series when they came about in the ’90s, but I enjoyed them. I enjoyed them enough that even though it ended on a sour note with Scream 3 — which was at best all right, and at worst pretty shitty by the series standards — when a 4th installment was announced I’d knew I’d be in the theaters to see it. I’m a sucker. You deliver me a sequel a decade later, and I’m going to be curious to see what you can do with it. In some cases, it worked. I find Rocky Balboa to be one of the best installments in the series. On the end hand, I found the last Rambo to be pretty fucking mindless. Would Scream 4 stack up? Who could be the killer this time around?

So, I watched Scream 4 knowing it could either be a pleasant surprise or a complete dud.

IMDb gives Scream 4 a 7.1, just shy of Scream’s 7.2 and way ahead of Scream 2’s 5.9 or Scream 3’s 5.3

Has the world gone fucking mad?

It’s been a decade since we’ve last seen these characters. At one time we knew them, at one time we gave a shit about them, but at some point they forgot they need to make us care about them again. Again. Because it HAS been ten years. I’m getting ahead of myself though.

Scream 4 opens up on the traditional scene. Phone call. Killer in the house. But wait! Fakeout! It was a movie. Two girls sitting on a couch, talking about the movie. One bitches about how predictable it is … she gets stabbed! Fakeout again! That was a movie within a movie, and now we’re in the real movie and … this pretty much sets the stage for what Scream 4 is going to be about. Meta. Meta on top of meta on top of meta. Where the original trilogy tried to disassemble the slasher movie cliches, this one’s bread-and-butter is metareferencing and basically going all the way back to the beginning … which, yes, is what the third one was about, but this is going back to the beginning in a different way.

This is remaking the movie.

And failing at every corner. So, of course we get to meet up with the characters again. Dewey is the Sheriff and he’s … dopey. He’s his character from the Scary Movie franchise. A joke, completely incompetent, and not helpful at all to the plot. Gale is retired but still a bitch, which is nice to see, and yes, they’re married. Honestly, Gale is probably the only one of the original series to get any kind of soul in her character and the only one I gave two shits about the whole movie. What about Sid? Wooden as the posts they crucified your savior with. Zero character development, zero heart in the acting … I couldn’t care less about her throughout the entire movie and this was a character we’ve had THREE movies to grow attached to.

The new characters include Sid’s … niece? Cousin? I think cousin, but I’m not going to bother looking it up because that would mean researching this movie and it doesn’t deserve it. She’s the Sid of this movie. Her friends start dying one by one, etc. etc. Hayden Panettiere plays Kirby, the only friend you’ll care about in this movie and I’ve got to say Hayden was impressive in this movie. Not usually a big fan and I found her sometimes annoying on Heroes, but I give her props here.

We’ve also got two nerds to replace the superior nerd Randy who was killed off already in the franchise and —

Did I mention most of this movie takes place in about two locations? They’re under house arrest most of the movie, so we get to see the interior of Sid’s cousin’s house most of the movie. Truly … boring. Also, while under house arrest, they’re watched by a total of two cops who have failed to protect them and their friends ONCE while under house arrest, yet security is never amped up. Fucking convenient.

You want to know who the killer is? No, you don’t — and not because it’s a spoiler, but because the logic and spin they put on it is the dumbest fucking reveal I’ve ever seen in any kind of horror or suspense movie. They must have written the script without a killer in mind and at the end tried to concoct something, because that’s how it seemed. I was floored by how uninspired the killer’s motives were. It was like I was being mocked. “You really think we had anything left in our tank? Are you retarded?”.

I was literally blown away by how pathetic the ending was, by how boring the entire story was leading up to it, and by how much they shit on the souls of the characters they spent three movies developing. Poor Dewey … poor, pitiful Dewey. He was always a dork, but now he’s just a caricature. Sid? She picked up a few martial arts moves from a self-defense class, but came across as a complete mouth breathing, soulless jackass up until the climax.

And as I walked out of the theater and I turned to the two people I was with and asked them what they thought … they both told me they loved it.

I’m starting to believe it. Wes Craven is just a hack who managed to hit a couple of balls out of the park with some random swings. If you actually consider this a good installment, a good movie, or deserving of it’s 7.1 on IMDb, I don’t even know what to say to you. I would rather watch Scream 3 100x consecutively than take in this piece of garbage ever again.

Sidney said it best in Scream 4. “You forgot the first rule of remakes: don’t fuck with the original.”

I had more I wanted to say, I think. I don’t know. I got so mad thinking about the movie all over again that a fuse blew. Call me in 10 years when you’ll make Scream 5 so I can be a little bitch ass and put myself back in the seats because like all horror fans, I never learn. I’m like the little boy who put his hand on a hot stove, then sat on it. Don’t. Fucking. Learn.

— Sabbath


Sabbath Reviews: The Social Network (2010)

Posted in Uncategorized on February 23, 2011 by Sabbath

Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Aaron Sorkin (screenplay) & Ben Mezrich (book)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, & Justin Timberlake

The Social Network swept the Golden Globes by storm despite having some stiff competition from Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Darren Aranofsky’s Black Swan. Immediately I reacted with outrage — having just seen Black Swan and thinking it fantastic, I thought there was no way in Hell a bio-drama about the founder of Facebook could claim such a victory. My opinion was completely uninformed because at the time I had not seen The Social Network, but I’m a dick and that doesn’t stop me from being highly opinionated even when I have little to support my argument. I’m allowed to be from time to time.

David Fincher is a brilliant Director who has brought us the men’s bible in the form of Fight Club, an excellent detective thriller in Se7en and is responsible for the very underrated movie The Game. Even when he stumbles (Alien 3), he’s not without his charm. It’s not like I expected The Social Network to suck. I just refused to believe it could hold a candle to more films with more entertaining ideas. In either case, there was only one way to settle it, so as soon as I could I got my hands on a copy of the film.

The film starts with a conversation between Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) and his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). The opening of the movie started things off on a bad foot for me. Zuckerberg is rambling on-and-on about utter bullshit and I suppose it’s a good introduction to his elitist vantage-point and sets the stage for who Zuckerberg is — a dickhead. The problem is while it’s also my introduction to the character, it’s my introduction to the film and it’s easy to confuse wanting to punch the character in the face with my desire to punch … well … everyone behind the production in the face. The conversation isn’t just annoying to me. It annoys his girlfriend into ending things with him, which is the spark that sends Zuckerberg on a drunken rampage …

… of coding a website where people get to rate females on campus as compared to other females. While he does this he’s blogging about Erica and making her look like a fool in front of her friends and classmates, because, well, he’s a huge tool. The website he creates is a huge hit on campus and the website traffic ends with the server going down. The school’s not happy, but eh, what are you going to do when your student’s going to be the youngest billionaire ever?

We’re introduced to the Winklevoss twins (Arnie Hammer, who plays both by having his face digitally superimposed onto a second actor’s body) who are impressed with Zuckerberg’s ability and pitch to him an idea that would be the base for “The Facebook”. The catch is there version would be exclusive to the Harvard campus. Well, Zuckerberg takes the idea and runs with it, but doesn’t clue in the Winklevoss twins because he has a much better idea and plans for expansion. He teams up with his friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) who provides the equation which becomes the foundation for the code of Facebook as well as the start-up cash.

While this is all happening the film is cutting between the story and the depositions of two cases. Unsurprisingly, one of them is the Winklevoss twins who are suing him for theft of intellectual property and the other is … Eduardo Saverin. The story involving Eduardo is the real meat of the movie because, while the Winklevoss law suit could be seen a mile away, the one filed by his own best friend is only explained at the events unfold.

The Facebook becomes a huge hit and quickly Zuckerberg looks to spread its outreach. Saverin once more provides the cash to keep things going and has hopes to see a return on his investment by pimping it out to advertisement companies. This is an idea that Zuckerberg highly resents as it would ‘remove what makes The Facebook cool’, but as the one putting in the money, Eduardo obviously wants to see a return.

At some point Zuckerberg and co meet up with Napster creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who is portrayed as an overly paranoid, party-loving … psycho with charm. As much of a hater as I am on Timberlake, the boy proved he had some acting chops in this role and I can’t take that away from him. Parker becomes the wedge between Zuckerberg and Saverin as he too agrees with Zuck’ on what makes The Facebook cool, and also gives him the idea to drop the word “The” from the title.

As events unfold, Eduardo finds himself being cut out of the loop more and more all the while Parker’s presence becomes more evident within the company. Unceremoniously, one day Saverin finds that his share of the company had been reduced to less than 1% and due to signing some contracts, this was perfectly allowable — but his trust in his friend led him to make the mistake that ended in his undoing.

The heart of the movie is the betrayal between the two friends. Eisenberg plays the Facebook CEO without pulling a punch, proving he is not just the poor man’s Michael Cera (a very sad title for anyone to have to claim). The character is a total dickhead, completely introverted and robotic in his decision-making while still remaining a very human character. I don’t know anything about the real Zuckerberg, but if he’s anything like his movie counter-part, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he had Asperger syndrome. You want to punch him in the face on an almost frame-by-frame basis, but it works somehow.

The story is a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be and that’s probably due to a lot of Hollywood fabrication and magic. The beginning started me off on a bad foot, but as time went on I started seeing what everybody else saw in this film. It’s just very well made. Now, the verdict … should it have beaten Black Swan or Inception?

I can at least with honesty say I can see how it’s a matter of personal opinion. The movie is very good, but I wouldn’t put it above Black Swan and Inception is a tie at best. Fincher’s a talented director, the actor’s pulled their weight, and the soundtrack was great … but you’re pitting a story about the founding of Facebook against movies that … well … are NOT about the founding of Facebook. Really, no matter how you stretch that story it is what it is. I stand by my objections, but not with some humble respect towards The Social Network.

Still … come the fuck on. Black Swan, hands down.

— Sabbath

Sabbath Reviews: Salt (2010)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25, 2011 by Sabbath

Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Written by: Kurt Wimmer

Disclaimer: There are 3 versions of Salt. The Theatrical Cut, The Director’s Cut, and The Extended Cut … each have several differences. For this review, I watched The Director’s Cut … ’cause it seemed like the thing to do at the time.

Angelina Jolie has never exactly wow-ed me with any of her performances. I know, she’s beautiful. And she’s really not a bad actress. She’s just not exactly a fantastic one given her star power. Therefore, a Jolie-vehicle like Salt shouldn’t really appeal to me, but it did because of one word.


There’s something inherently interesting about the clandestine world that spies live in, wrapping themselves in layers upon layers of lies. I’ve run the gambit from James Bond to Xander Cage to Austin Powers and back again to Jason Bourne, and I’ve enjoyed each trip unrepentantly. As I said, I don’t dislike Jolie at all. Her presence just doesn’t automatically draw me in like other actresses would. Regardless, I was very curious to watch Salt and see how the genre treated a spy of the fairer sex.

Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) works for the CIA, is highly trained, and when we find her she is being tortured by the North Koreans under suspicion of being an American spy. Well, they’re right, but she doesn’t tell them that. That’d be dumb. She takes her abuse until one day, as part of a prisoner exchange program, she’s released. This is in little part due to the CIA, but mostly due to her husband Krause (August Diehl), one of the world’s top arachnologists. Now, I know what you’re asking … how does a German national/arachnologist have enough political sway to release a suspected American spy from a North Korean military facility?

Salt (the movie, not the person) tells you to go eat a dick for asking that question. Like it’s main character, it’ll never talk.

So, Salt continues her work for the CIA until one day a Russian named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski … do you know any of these names besides Jolie? No? Didn’t think so) shows up and says he has information about “Day X”, a Russian plan to awake sleeper agents in the United States. Salt ‘interrogates’ him, gets the intel, and is about to make her leave because it’s her and her husband’s anniversary and international security is less important than the snuggles, so, fuck it, right? Well, Orlov flings feces at her plans by outing her as one of the sleeper agents.

Her boss and friend, Ted Winter (Liev Shrieber … oh, hey, I know him) isn’t so easily convinced, but some guy named Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) wants to hold her. Caress her. Sniff her underwear. Well, I’m sure he wants to do that too, but actually he just wants to detain her. I’m not sure who Peabody is. I’m guessing he’s head of security or something. I’m not sure if he’s Winter’s boss, or Winter’s his boss … the chain of command isn’t made solidly clear.

In either case, Orlov is taken into custody but starts fucking people up and escapes. Salt manages to escape from her holding room by outwitting the guards (she snaps her fingers, says she has to go to the bathroom, and leaves … your tax dollars at work, people). She seems to want to go after Orlov … I think. Either that or she decided to take the longest possible to the route to the bathroom because it involved her holding herself up in a room on a security buffer level of the building while Peabody and his gang of men try to breach the door.

Salt literally MacGuyver’s a rocket launcher out of a table leg, some cleaning chemicals, and I think a lock of Brad Pitt’s pubic hair. I’m a little confused on the last ingredient. When they open the door, she blasts them. Luckily for them, it’s not explosive … it just somehow has enough concussive force to knock everyone the hell out without killing a single one. She escapes, heads back to her apartment because, oh, she’s worried for her husband’s life and finds the place empty.

Considering this was the dumbest move she could possibly make, they obviously follow her there where once again she narrowly escapes by climbing out of the building and shimmying along the window ledges. She asks a little girl whose home alone to let her in, forever setting a precedent for this child to know it’s okay to let strangers in if they’re outside your apartment window several stories up and ask nicely.

Well, here’s where shit gets tricky. Orlov mentioned there was a plot to kill the Russian President who would be visiting NYC to attend the funeral of the American Vice President who he considered a dear friend. Salt dyes her hair and decides “It’s Game On, Bitches” … which means spending the entirety of the rest of the movie trying to confuse the audience over whose side is she on.


Salt manages to crash the funeral, “kill” the Russian President but refuse to shoot Peabody when he shows up. She escapes police custody, meets up with Orlov and the rest of the sleeper agents that she knew from her childhood, sees her husband and watches him die to prove that she’s loyal to Orlov’s cause … then kill him and all of the others. She then continues on with the plans of Day X, which seems to be a plan to kill the American President. Next stop, White House.

Now, of course everyone believes her to be working with the Russians and I think the Director and the Screenwriter both hoped to keep people guessing all along. Here’s the thing? It’s B.S.

Salt never once kills one of the “good guys”, always opting to stun them or knock them out. Clear give away. Yeah, she “killed” the Russian President but before that scene we see her extracting spider venom and I’ve seen this done so many times before that I saw it coming a mile away. I knew he wasn’t dead (spoiler: he isn’t dead, by the way). In fact, the worst thing Salt does is stand there and watch her husband die, which while probably a more realistic situation for a spy to be put in (having to choose national security over personal interests), it makes her look incredibly weak and incompetent.

James Bond wouldn’t have stood for that shit. I know he’s had his share of women offed, but never while he watched.*

*Editor’s Note: I’ve been informed that he, in fact, did watch his wife die in one of the few Bond films I have yet to see. Well, I’ll eat a bit of humble pie here, but I still doubt he would have watched her die slowly. Pretty sure if he had the chance to prevent it, he would have.

Another problem is that Jolie often looks bored. She starts off looking like a Librarian then dyes her hair and we’re supposed to buy her as this bad ass … but she’s too often making poor decisions. She’s a spy, I guess. I think what we’ve come to expect from our spy movies aren’t just ordinary spies though. We want Super Spies. Is that unfair of me? Perhaps, but it’s what I wanted and Salt didn’t deliver.

Now, let me explain that I wasn’t expecting a stroke of genius. I figured this would be a popcorn action flick — but even in bad popcorn action flicks, I genuinely like the hero. I find the hero to be flawed, but competent usually and if everyone would just shut up and do as they say, they’d live to fight another day. Salt was often silly in the suspensions of disbelief it asked you to make and the twists were just so boringly obvious, I don’t know what to say.

Sadly, the Blu Ray will probably make its way into my collection but only because I’m a collector. Otherwise, aside from the last kill of the movie, Salt was wholly disappointing. Angelina Jolie was better as a spy in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and I really didn’t like that movie. Some people might get enjoyment out of it and accept the huge gaps in logic and try to pretend they don’t see the twists coming, but most of you will go in looking for a dumb popcorn flick and find that you’ll have to turn your brains off a lot more than you thought to really enjoy this movie.

— Sabbath

Sabbath Reviews: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 17, 2011 by Sabbath

Directed by: Sam Peckinpah
Written by: Walon Green & Sam Peckinpah (Screenplay), Walon Green & Roy N. Sickner (Story)

The Western is America’s genre contribution to the world. Where everything else has its roots elsewhere, the Western is an American made creation. While Italy might have produced a ton of spaghetti Westerns, the genre itself is homegrown in the United States of America. I think that plays a part in my desire to like Westerns. I think part of my would really like to, but it’s been a hard, tough road. I haven’t amassed a great collection of Westerns, but that’s because I’ve been so thoroughly un-thrilled by the ones I have seen that it takes up a certain amount of courage for me to want to go back to that well.

I might have started my experimentation into the genre on the wrong foot. I didn’t start with — and still haven’t seen — The Man With No Name Trilogy. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly might be the most popular Western out there, but damned if I’d seen it or a single Clint Eastwood Western at the time. No, I started with the lesser known Navajo Joe (1966) and Il Grande Silenzio (1968) — both spaghetti Westerns. While they weren’t without their redeeming qualities and certain charm, they were what I expected a Western to be … mostly boring with little bits and pieces of good ideas.

From there I decided that I should try ones that were most recent and popular. So, I tried Unforgiven (1992) starring the legendary Clint Eastwood and one of my favorite actors, Morgan Freeman. Not only that, but Unforgiven is an Oscar winner … I figured … surely I’m going to be hit with a great movie.

I was wholly disappointed. It didn’t captivate me. The climax was somewhat redeeming and there were several beautiful shots. The acting was fine … but something didn’t click. It was at this point I gave up on Westerns until about two years ago when I decided to give The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) a go. It was getting a lot of good reviews and it starred Brad Pitt, who I don’t think can be dismissed as just a good looking actor. He’s proven himself time and time again to me, so I figure, what the Hell.

Bored out of my fucking mind. I don’t know what to say. It just didn’t do it. It just didn’t do a damn thing for me.

I was growing frustrated. At some point I watched the Japanese culture mish-mash Western homage Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) by Takashi Miike, fresh after watching and loving his Ichi The Killer. Garbage. I thought it was complete garbage. I gave up on Westerns. It wasn’t going to work. The genre just wasn’t for me.

Cut to a couple of weeks ago when for some reason or another I decided it was time to get back on the saddle, pun intended. I knew The Magnificent Seven (1960) was a remake of the legendary Seven Samurai (1954), so I figured it couldn’t be all that bad. I could do an entire review on The Magnificent Seven, but I hear another reviewer is doing a take on both the Japanese Samurai film and its American counterpart, so I’ll leave it for them. I’ll just say that I loved it. Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, and the entire cast were just fantastic and the story, while more than just a love letter to the original, was still amazing.

Bolstered by my love for The Magnificent Seven, I thought it was time to go after another one of the more popular movies on the genre. Netflix provided the means and a few days ago The Wild Bunch (1969) arrived. It was the original Director’s cut and clocked in at almost 2 1/2 hours.

Out for one last score, aging outlaw Pike (William Holden) and his men (“The Wild Bunch”, aforementioned, I presumed) hits up a railroad office. Pike’s plans turn to Hell when his former partner Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan) and a bunch of mercs open fire on them. Pike manages to escape the ambush with a few of his men, only to find out the silver they had just robbed were actually valueless metal washers. Meanwhile, Deke and the mercs (a group of greedy pinheads) are put on their tail. Thornton is told to bring Pike in, or he’ll be the one that gets sent back to prison.

The Wild Bunch cross over into Mexico and it’s there that they get wrapped up in a Mexican civil war, making a deal with the devil, General Mapache. Mapache hires Pike and his gang to rob an American military train on its way to deliver a shipment of guns in return for gold. Still needing that one last score, they oblige. Deke knows his former partner all too well though and makes plans to intercept that only go halfway according to plan. After the robbery, bad blood begins to emerge between The Wild Bunch and Mapache after one of their men is taken and tortured for the crime of stealing from the General. The result is something that should not be spoiled.

While the plot might sound simple enough, and its very obviously something the creators of Red Dead Redemption drew from heavily, it’s actually even better than it sounds. The relationship between Deke and Pike is excellent. Both men respect eachother a great deal, and it would seem that even though Deke has reason to resent Pike (Deke was shot and arrested while Pike escaped), he admires him and one easily assumes is only chasing him because his hand is being forced. Pike on the other hand doesn’t seem to begrudge Deke. As he put it, Deke is hunting him because “he gave his word [to the railroad]”, and that’s good enough for him.

While Pike is the robber, he is not necessarily the villain. In fact, the mercs Deke brings with him are so much worthier of scorn and loathing than any of Pike’s men, something Deke himself is very aware of. Pike himself is a brilliant tactician and incredibly charismatic, not to mention surprisingly moralistic in his own way. William Holden and Robert Ryan were both fantastic in their roles, but Holden just had something extra special about him and his character.

While I’m sure many of you have at watched, or at least heard things about this movie, I will try not to spoil too much of the ending for those of you who don’t know. What I will say is it’s a bloodbath very worthy of Tick’s Top 5 Deaths list. In my mind, I would have given the award to a single person out of the bunch for their death.

I will say that the first half hour or so despite opening with a robbery and a gun battle was sort of slow and indicative of the Westerns I have been so bored by in the past. I thought for sure that I was up for another disappointment. I’ll gladly take it all back though. Once the movie crosses the Mexican border, The Wild Bunch went from just a Western, to a God damn good piece of cinema history.

While still second in my mind to The Magnificent Seven, The Wild Bunch is one of just two Westerns I’ve watched so far worthy of their accolades. I know there’s a ton more out there that I have yet to see that have been praised by critics and movie-goers alike, and while I’m not sure The Wild Bunch has given me the confidence to check out 3:10 To Yuma or even the most recent remake, True Grit, I at least know I will be up to revisiting the genre again. Sometime.

So for those of you like me who have been bored by Westerns, The Wild Bunch is something to check out. For those of you that love some of the Westerns I was let down by, maybe you can explain to me what I’m missing … if I’m missing something. Also curious to hear what others you’d think I’d actually like.

— Sabbath

Sabbath Reviews: Following (1998)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 28, 2010 by Sabbath

Directed and Written by: Christopher Nolan

In 2010, the name Christopher Nolan has entered the vocabulary of film aficionados and casual film goers alike. The majority of people associate Nolan with the reboot of the Batman franchise, saving the caped crusader from the clutches of his arch foe, Joel Schumacher. After The Dark Knight, Nolan directed a little sci-fi psycho thriller called Inception, heard of it? Of course you have. It hit the world like a hurricane when it came out and is currently nominated for 4 Golden Globe Awards. There’s also another group of you going …. hey, don’t forget The Prestige. I won’t. Also a film that I thought was excellent, but obviously not amongst his most popular, but that’s what I’m counting on the other collection of you to chime in with …

Memento. In 2000, Christopher Nolan directed the critically acclaimed psychological thriller about a man with anterograde amnesia, making use of non-linear storytelling to tell a very compelling tale. The film geeks out there might get where I’m going with this though. This was not the first time Nolan had used non-linear storytelling. While a good amount of people know of Memento, a smaller faction know that his first feature length film was made on a budget of $6,000 and filmed on weekends with his cast and crew because they all had full time jobs. That film is the one I’m reviewing today. 1998’s own Following was in fact Christopher Nolan’s feature length debut, not Memento.

First of all …. I’m not attempting to go for a theme here … I know I talked a bit about “low budget filmmaking” and low budget filmmaking when I reviewed Six-String Samurai. Nolan’s first real outing was done in much the style I’m familiar with and as much as Robert Rodriguez’ success story is a beacon of hope for budding filmmaking, so to is Nolan’s. He just hasn’t written his version of Rebel Without A Crew yet.

Following is the story about a young man named Bill (Jeremy Theobald) … who’s a writer … who just happens to decide to follow people randomly. Bill comes up with a couple of pretty good rules, you know, like don’t follow women down dark alleys. It’s just not polite and pretty damn creepy. One of his other rules is that once he’s established where a person lives or works, he won’t follow them again. The problem occurs when he breaks his rule.

Cobb (Alex Haw) is a well-groomed man whom Bill decides to follow and — this time — things don’t go as planned. Bill follows his target into a restaurant, orders his food, and is then confronted by Cobb. After the initial awkward conversation, Cobb does reveal himself to be a burglar and this intrigues Bill who begins to accompany this man on his burglaries. Cobb isn’t a normal burglar. He’s articulate, handsome, and he has a romanticized notion about why he does what he does.

“You take it away… to show them what they had. ” — is just one of Cobb’s many poetic justifications for his actions. Cobb also has a particular knack for reading people based on the items in their homes, as he routinely showcases, including in one particular scene where Bill takes Cobb to his own apartment and pretends for it to be a random stranger they’re burglarizing. He feeds Cobb some bullshit about how the resident works at a bank — and Cobb calls it. Whoever lives there is unemployed, and basically a loser. At this point we can see Bill is becoming thirsty to become someone he’s not, to be someone more like Cobb.

He doesn’t just accompany his mentor anymore. He becomes an active thief, stealing items from the houses they intrude into. “Disrupting lives” as Cobb refers to it becomes a thrill for Bill, and this thrill ride eventually leads him to the home of “The Blonde” (Lucy Russell). After stealing her underwear, some photographs, etc. Bill becomes infatuated with her and decides to take up his previous habits and follows her.

The two begin a relationship and she tells him about the burglary. Of course, Bill plays dumb but continuously asks her how it made her feel. However, things are more twisted than they seem.

Relationships intertwine in ways you never see coming in this movie. While M. Night has been a hack for a long time, Nolan genuinely introduces twists and layers in a very natural way. The beauty of Nolan’s work is that he always knows what he wants to say and he says it. There’s a lot of nooks and crannies to be talked about, but one of the more simple and elegant themes of this movie is the individual. On any daily basis, you see hundreds of people that you know nothing about and this movie questions — ‘what would it be like to walk a mile in their shoes?’ in an almost literal way. Bill’s developed compulsion to follow people explores this and then adds the price to pay for doing so …. maybe it’s best not to pry into people’s lives. How much can you really know a person? What makes a person themselves? What they own? What they say … or what they hide?

I’m not trying to be some deep, artistic twit and I don’t pretend to be but there’s some real shit going on here and it’s not hidden behind Picasso-like abstractions. Just good old fashioned storytelling.

Following is what makes Christopher Nolan one of the greatest filmmakers to emerge within the last two decades. He’s brilliant. On a limited budget, with limited resources and time, he churned out a 69 minute neo-noir with stunning, simplistic visuals (each frame could be mounted on the wall, easily) and a compelling story. Yeah, the run time is short but Nolan told his story. Every last minute was worth it. There was no drag … and trust me … drag can really ruin a film.

As in Memento, the non-linear storytelling adds a lot to the movie. It’s important to see, for example, a scene where Bill says something only to travel back in time and see how fucking blatantly he lied. It’s important because it’s all a part of his downward spiral into this life. You get the feeling this wasn’t always him, but he’s loving the transformation and unfortunately for him, other people are loving it for the worst of reasons. Spoiling the ending would be a grave injustice, so I won’t. The point is if you’re a Nolan fan, do check out his original feature length. I expect a lot more good to come from this guy. I might cry when he makes that shitty movie that all good directors are destined to make, but I’ll bounce back and keep on supporting him. With $6,000 dollars he produced this, which gives him some serious cred in my book. Now he can make all the big budget, spectacle filled movie he wants because I know what he can do with barely any cash and just a lot of passion.

Kudos to you, Mr. Nolan. Kudos.

— Sabbath

Sabbath Reviews: Six-String Samurai (1998)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 23, 2010 by Sabbath

Directed by: Lance Mungia
Written by: Jeffrey Falcon & Lance Mungia

Sit down and let me teach you about the Birds and the Bees. You see, when a film genre loves pop culture and then decides to love another film genre, you get a Quentin Tarantino movie. Most of the time. Every once in a while you get something along the lines of the low-budget ($1,000,000 USD) apocalyptic samurai rocker film Six-String Samurai.

A little bit of self-publicity here. I make independent films — and by independent, I mean seriously independent, low budget movies. I’m a long way away from making a million dollar budget film, but regardless, since my next film in the pipeline is what I’ve dubbed an Elvisploitation, the word that another film exploiting The King was made on a low budget got my ears ringing. Now, I’ve watched Bubba Ho Tep and no, I haven’t seen 3000 Miles To Graceland though I’m sure I should. However, I really had no idea what I was getting into with Six-String Samurai. Part of me kind of worried that something similar to my script had already been done … in 1998. Honestly, with a name like Six-String Samurai I figured the less I knew about this film the better.

I ordered it on Netflix and read the blurb on the disc cover:

After the Russians lob an atomic bomb at the United States in the late 1950s, survivors flock to the neon lights of “Lost Vegas,” where Elvis Presley is a bona fide king of music and men, but when His Majesty dies unexpectedly, the city’s shiny throne is up for grabs. Armed with a six-string in one hand and a samurai sword in the other, rock ‘n’ roll hipster Buddy (Jeffrey Falcon) vows to make it to Sin City in time for his coronation.


Uh … yeah. No. Not my film at all. I discovered that quickly. I popped the DVD in and decided to see what it had to offer.

The opening text provides some back-story that the above blurb mentioned. This is some sort of revised American history where the Russians bombed us, America is some Mad Max-like apocalyptic world and Elvis is the King of ‘Lost Vegas’. The King is dead and now people from all over are trying to claim the throne. Enter Buddy.

Buddy looks a bit like … well … Buddy Holly. He’s a hipster with a guitar and a samurai sword and at least from what we see in the beginning, he’s good with the latter. The world is full of savages that he has to cut down by the sword on his way to get to his ‘gig’ in Lost Vegas. Unfortunately, while slicing down post-apocalyptic cavemen, he picks up a nasty disease.

And by nasty disease I mean a really annoying child sidekick. After saving his life kind of inadvertently, the kid follows Buddy. Our hero realizes this is a plot point that can go nowhere but down and tells the kid to stay fucking put. The kid being a kid doesn’t listen. He’s in for the long haul. Shit.

The kid doesn’t even talk. All he does is let out this whine/scream whenever he wants to get Buddy’s attention. Now, Buddy wants nothing to do with this little puke … but he’s our protagonist. Our gruff protagonist. Are you thinking I’m setting you up for the whole ‘He’s rough around the edges … but he’s got a heart of gold!’ movie cliche … well, let me tell you something.

Yeah. He is.

Now, to be fair, Buddy does try leaving the kid with the cannibalistic version of the Waltons, ditching him on the road with a broken down car and post-apocalyptic caveman approaching, leaving him with a Mexican midget … the works. Buddy just keeps having last minute changes of heart and goes to pull the kid out of the fire at the last minute. I know convention dictates it, but this kid really is damn annoying. And I know what you think we’re setting you up for. ‘He’s going to have a moment of bonding with the kid which will lead to him taking on a shine/protective role to the kid’, and boy let me tell you …

If you don’t stop getting ahead of me right now, I’m not going to write this review.

Yeah, they have that moment in the sand dunes where Buddy is practicing some spiritual martial arts stuff and the kid mimics him.

But here’s the curveball I’m going to throw you: this movie is pretty fucking awesome. Snotty kid aside, I really dug this movie. Buddy is just over-the-top cool, like the Fonz except with top notch martial arts skills and he’s a samurai sword wielding boss. The post-apocalyptic setting is a homage to obvious movies of it ilk, but I love the classic samurai film cliches. Even the whole samurai becoming protective of someone/something weaker is a cliche of the genre to itself and even though I find the kid annoying, I understand and appreciate the connection. The swordplay is also done in classic Japanese samurai film fashion and by that I mean both the choreography and the lack of bloodshed when the sword slices through a person. Yeah, I know, it’s also a budgetary thing but … it’s how things were done.

The marriage of the samurai film with 1950’s rock is also done really well. Throughout the film, Death himself — a Slash look-alike — with archer henchmen is eliminating the competition on the way to Lost Vegas. Buddy is obviously his top rival. Before the final fight, they have a musical duel of sorts and if the imagery didn’t do it enough for you, the music lets you know this is in part an allegory to the death of the classic Rock ‘n’ Roll of an era and the emergence of hard rock and heavy metal. It’s kind of like Don McLean’s American Pie with swords.

Six-String Samurai is definitely a niche film that’s going to have its fans and its detractors. It’s not a perfect film — it has its flaws. The child sidekick who just grates on my every nerve is chief amongst its biggest. The other — and this is completely bias — is that I’m not too sure where $1,000,000 went. I’m not saying the locations aren’t good, the costumes are great, and everyone (even the kid … but ONLY because he’s a kid) earned their paychecks. I just can’t help but think I could have stretched the money further. I don’t know. Once again, that’s just me.

What Six-String is though is … a really cool film. Cool is the word to describe it. Buddy is able to pull off the 1950’s hipster look, perform martial arts, swing a mean blade, and pull off a bad ass guitar solo. If you want to know my opinion musically? He kicked Death’s ass. He made me realize just how sweet a good blues riff could be and how even a mean electric guitar riff just cannot match its beauty.

Lance Mungia later went on to direct the much critically panned Crow installment, Wicked Prayer. I haven’t watched Wicked Prayer and it’s on my ‘To Do When I Really Want To Hate My Life For About 2 Hours’ list. I know that doesn’t bode well and might turn some people off to giving this a view, but I definitely say do it. If nothing else, it was a brave attempt to join a lot of different aspects of genre and cultures and the final result was enjoyable in my opinion.

Oh, and there was pretty much zero Elvis in this so any fears I had were squashed. In case anybody cared.

— Sabbath

Sabbath Reviews: JCVD (2008)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2010 by Sabbath

Directed by: Mabrouk El Mechri
Written by: Frédéric Benudis, Mabrouk El Mechri, Christophe Turpin

Sylvester Stallone is 64. Arnold Schwarzenegger is 63. Steven Seagal is 58. Chuck Norris … 70 years old. As of October 18, 2010, Jean-Claude Van Damme is 50 years old.

These men are a pantheon of action movie Gods and they’re all fucking old. I’m not going to argue the merits of their acting abilities or the quality of their filmographies. It’s kind of pointless. Some were bad, some were good, some were great (mostly thanks to the first two). The point is they’re going to be remembered down the road and their names always do bring up a bit of nostalgia. What happened to bad action films? They used to have some kind of charm to them. I don’t know if I’m getting older, if it’s just nostalgia — or what — but bad action movies today just suck.

But hey, Sly has Rocky and Rambo. Arnold has The Terminator. Steven Seagal has … himself … and lets face it, he’s just so bad it’s kind of entertaining sometimes and I still have some kind of weird love for him. Norris has become an internet meme. JCVD is the baby of the bunch and he hasn’t — for better or worse — lived up to his action hero Gods. Did he do it in JCVD?

It’s kind of surreal watching JCVD in a modern film. I don’t know what he’s been up to lately, if anything. I just haven’t seen him in a movie utilizing modern cinematography and with modern film quality. Immediately you expect a popcorn action flick, but you’re going to be disappointed if that’s what you’re here for. Van Damme does very little action in this movie, which means the film lives or dies on his acting and … the result is fucking surprising.

At the beginning we’re treated to an incredibly choreographed scene of Van Damme being an action hero, storming war-torn streets and taking out the bad guys with his martial arts skills. It’s in one sweeping take and it’s actually kind of beautiful and stunning to watch him do all of this at his age. He’s still as fit as ever and hasn’t missed a step. This is the most action we’ll see all movie though and serves as dual purpose — as a “Welcome back!” of sorts to this youngest of our old action heroes, and as a way to set-up the inevitable plot.

JCVD is broke, dealing with massive tax problems, a custody battle, and can only get roles in foreign films with directors who don’t give a shit. At the end of the take, something goes wrong and he’s told it needs to be done. He makes it a point to mention his age (48) and how tough it is for him to do this stuff, and it was a lot of stuff, all in one take. The director is some Asian schmuck who could care less.

From there we move to the courts where previously mentioned custody battle is taking place. Van Damme’s violent movie career is used against him by the opposing attorney and any attempt JCVD makes to try and justify himself (“I was putting food on the table!”) is silenced. He’s just not having a good … uh … life?

That’s the set-up. Here’s the meat of the story: Van Damme goes to a post office to receive a wire transfer and soon the alarm sounds, the building goes into shutdown, and when a nearby cop goes to inspect gets told by Van Damme to go away. Shots are fired afterwards from underneath a security gate, the shooter unseen but one thing’s for certain as far as the police are concerned … the actor, the Belgian hero, has lost his mind.

The reality of the situation is a bit different. Van Damme has stumbled into a robbery and is not being used by the crooks to take the fall. The actor is made to make the negotiations as if they are from him and fool the world.

At this point Van Damme starts karate-ing it up, slaughtering the robbers and proclaiming himself the hero of the day … right? Wrong. The movie isn’t action, I told you. It’s a drama. One of the robbers happens to be a big Van Damme fan and we get to see him kick a cigarette out of a hostage’s mouth without harming him (per the insistence of the robber), but that’s about it. What’s really stunning — and I don’t mean to be a dick — is that JCVD has some real acting chops. I’m not crazy here either. Time Magazine considered his performance the second best of the year (behind Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight). That’s some serious praise and it’s actually well-deserved.

In one of the more famous scenes from the film Van Damme gives an unscripted monologue … and it feels/sounds unscripted. At first it’s sort of random and all over the place, but then he starts shooting from the hip and his words come from the heart. He talks about his life, his pitfalls, his highs … it’s actually pretty awesome. It came close to getting added to my Top 5 Speeches/Monologues list for this blog. This movie might be a sort of satire of the actor’s life, but this part right here is all heart. Kudos to Van Damme.

If I have any complaint with the film its with the brown/desaturated look the whole movie has. Apparently it’s very common in French cinema these days (also in post-apocalyptic shooter video games) and while it’s not AWFUL … it’s a little too on the nose. Yeah, I get it. His life is pretty bleak. Appreciate the symbolism, but I’m kind of choking on it here.

Other than that I highly recommend JCVD as a very nice surprise. I hear Van Damme’s trying to steer away from his action roots and do more serious films like this … that’s upsetting and I hope he doesn’t forget that those movies made him. He has the chops. He could definitely do better action movies if he took the right roles … but most of all, Van Damme, The Expendables 2 needs you. Just do it.

I’m including the trailer, but there’s no point. The trailer is filled with scenes from the first 5 minutes of the movie and try to pimp this as an action movie. Once again, that’s NOT what you’re getting. Also, I don’t recall the scene with Van Damme doing blow and somebody going through a glass window at a club. They probably got cut. Damn shame.

— Sabbath

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