Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Coen Brothers: We're Going To Be Fine

Do you know who kicks ass at making trailers?

The Coen Brothers.

Now yes this is just another of the many many things the Coen’s kick ass at. But it’s worth noting. It’s not an understatement to say that the Coen brother’s trailers are works of art in an of themselves. Little mini movies that capture the spirit of the films rather then just crassly pushing them.

I guess I’ve always known that but the trailer for their new one, A Serious Man, which I’ve been watching compulsively all morning. If you haven’t seen it go to apple trailers now. Seriously. Threw that into sharp relief. It’s hypnotic, and the punchline is perfect. I get more satisfaction from that trailer then I get from most movies.

Oddly enough the first time I ever heard of the Coen Brothers it was through one of their trailers. An anecdote in a Sam Raimi book I was reading which mentioned that the brothers had used Bruce Campbell to shoot a faux trailer for Blood Simple as a fundraiser.

The trailer itself is a nasty piece of work, dialogue free and letting you know right up front what a nasty piece of work you’re getting into.

Or the Raising Arizona trailer which somehow manages to catch the films charm and lunacy. Casio music aside.

Even at there most standard the trailers are still insane. I’ve always loved The Burn After Reading One. How anyone could not want to see this one after that shot of Malchovich in his ratty boxers wifebeater and bathrobe clutching a hatchet is beyond me.

Then there are the ones that don’t even try to disguise their lunacy.

And those that are simply… Art.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


So yeah Moon blew my God Damn mind.

I'm so shaken by it that I don't know if I can write anything that resembles a coherent review. Being a genre fan means shifting through a lot of crap. That's what makes us fans the fact that we'll go the extra mile, watch things off the classic beaten path. That means watching alot of junk, sometimes that junk is pretty interesting. But at it's core it's still junk.

But we do it anyway because every once in awhile we're rewarded with something as quirky, and funny and achingly sad beautiful and human as Moon. And Damn it that makes it all worth it. Moon blew my mind and broke my heart. There's not alot more you can ask from a movie.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Flickchart: JOIN US!!!!!!

Oh my blog. I know I always say I shall update you consistently, and then fall short. But it’s not my fault this time really. I’ve come to warn you, I only have a short time before it takes me again.

Flickchart, that’s the name of the beast that has kept me from updating you, or doing much of anything else. The most devious trap ever laid on the internet for the unwitting mild mannered movie fan.

If you haven’t heard about it by now, what this devious site does is randomly choose two unrelated movies, and then has you pick your favorite between them. Using this data it begins to calculate your top 20 films. Sounds easy right?

Well occasionally it is sometimes you have to choose between La Dolce Vita and White Chicks or The Godfather and Little Nicky. Other times it’s more difficult like when you have to choose between Evil Dead 2 and Dawn Of The Dead, Suspiria Versus The Warriors or The 3rd Man and Out Of The Past.

But what really makes the fucker Devious is when it makes you choose between two completely unrelated movies that you love. Causing a kind of cinematic cross chatter that casts both movies in new light. After all what is it that really puts the delightfully civilized pleasures of Annie Hall above the lizard brain satisfaction of Sin City? Or the soaring ambition and vision of 2001 over the down and dirty pleasures of Boogie Nights. The homey comfort of watching Ed Wood versus the extreme discomfort of watching Blue Velvet. Flickchart does nothing less then make you question everything about how you watch movies.

It’s also a great way to kill time at work

Another interesting facet is that when your top twenty finally forms it looks like exactly what it is. Your favorite movies picked by a computer. Accurate enough to be interesting, but also bizarrely compelling in it’s wrongness.

Here’s a quick look at my “Top Twenty”

1. WallE
2. Children Of Men
3. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
4. The Royal Tenenbaums
5. The Blues Brothers
6. Big Trouble In Little China
7. Zodiac
8. Ratatouille
9. The Apartment
10. The Fountain
11. Hot Fuzz
12. Army Of Darkness
13. 12 Monkeys
14. Eyes Wide Shut
15. Rebecca
16. Modern times
17. Matrix Reloaded
18. Gangs Of New York
19. Corpse Bride
20. Escape From New York

Now out of this list six are films that could conceivably be in my actual top 20 though probably not in that order (WallE, Children Of Men, Raiders OF The Lost Ark, Ratatouille, The Apartment, Gangs Of New York). Eyes Wide Shut, 12 Monkeys, The Blues Brothers, The Fountain and Zodiac could all squeak into the top fifty. The rest of the list is superb comfort food, that probably wouldn’t make it into the canon for me Hot Fuzz, Army Of Darkness, The Corpse Bride, Escape From New York. The rest is just fucking weird. Take Matrix Reloaded, a film which is on the list apparently because I don’t have the same Pavolovian hate reaction to it that most do. How did it get above Gangs Of New York, which is perhaps my favorite movie of all time? How’d Rebecca get up there? Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I doubt it would rank on my top twenty Hitchcock films, let alone my actual Top Twenty. Same thing goes with Modern Times, I love it, but City Lights would go ahead of it, and Keaton would rank above The Both of them.

Oh God after writing it’s name so many times it’s noticed me again! It’s coming for me!!! HALLOWEEN VERSUS RATATOUILLE NOOOO!!!!!!

PS. Alot of the posters they use are European and Asian and they're fucking awesome.

Monday, July 13, 2009



I know first I review Southland Tales, Push and then Knowing. I know what you’re thinking maybe you misread the title of the blog. While I’m not going to argue that Knowing is an underrated gem like I did with Push, I will argue that it’s well, interesting.

I wanted to see Knowing for a couple of reasons. For one thing I’m always going to have enough affection for Alex Proyas’s first two films, to check out his movies when he has something new. No matter how much his last two films disappointed me. And then their’s Roger Ebert, who fell head over heels in batshit crazy love with this film. One of the things about Ebert that makes him such a valuable critic is his total ignorance of herd think. When he gets a wild hair up his ass about something and say gives four stars to Bratz The Movie, I tend to listen because when Ebert sees something that almost no one else does, you can at least be sure that the film will be interesting.

And there’s a lot in Knowing to recommend. It’s the first time in quite awhile that Nicholas Cage has had a performance that’s somewhere near the realm of recognizable human behavior, except for a couple of strange moments ("I’m the SON of a PASTOR" and "THE CAVES WILL NOT SAVE YOU!!!"). At no time does he hold the Earth and scream "HOW'D IT GET BURNED HOW'D IT GET BURNED!" the films got a pretty great genre hook at it’s center, numbers dug up in a time capsule that have predicted every catastrophe in the past fifty years plus a few more, it’s classic Twilight Zone stuff. Even capturing The Zone’s appealingly self serious thematic resonance with the whole predestination vs. free will thing. Best of all Proyas really brings his A game in a way he hasn’t in over a decade. For whatever reason this material seems to have really energized him.

Scenes like the plane crash, the first disaster the numbers predict, a vision that Cage's son has of a flaming herd of Moose (trust me it's creepier then it sounds) and of course the jaw dropping final apocalypse itself, have a sort of Boschian grandeur too them. Portraying a nightmare grey world, illuminated only by flaming bodies, and echoing with the screams of the dying, and holy shit how the fuck did this movie get a PG-13?

Still it’s easy to see why this movie annoyed so many people. The fact that someone made a movie about the apocalypse without conforming itself to either Religious or Secular terms seems to have driven the majority of critics genuinely crazy. A lot of the reviews you read of the film aren’t just negative but actively angry, reading more like the movie hit their wife with a car, rather then wasted their time. It’s a legitmate beef, the fact that movie is trying to have it’s cake and eat it too by tapping into the apocalyptic zeitgeist of The Left Behind series without coming off as too crazy. But is that really worth getting that pissed about?

Other gripes are more legitimate. The film does get bogged down in some rather meaningless subplots near then end (if ever their was a two hour movie that begged to be a good half hour shorter it’s this one). But it’s “The Whisper People” who communicate apocalypse to the chosen ones in the most maddeningly indirect ways possible, that seem to be annoying the most people. Yes they are a bit silly and yes we’ve seen these types of obtuse ass creatures before. But it’s also a bit facetious. You have to allow some mysterious hugger mugger in these types of movies. If one of The Whisper people just went “Well let me tell you kid, the world’s about to be blown up by a huge solar flare so we’re going to take a couple of you children and stick in giant wheels that’ll take you up to another planet. Now how does that sound?” It would probably also come off as a bit silly.

Yeah so Knowing isn’t perfect. Not nearly. But I can’t help but have some affection for it. Any movie that sticks to it’s convictions enough to roast the entire world and nearly every man woman and remaining child on it like a marshmallow is OK in my book.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fulci Fest

I'd be derelict in my duties if I didn't point you towards the awesome array of Lucio Fulci posters that the amazing Stacie Ponder has displayed on her site.

Do yourself a favor and check that shit out.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Push is the kind of charming B movie that hardly ever gets made any more. Small scale, you could almost call it intimate, it’s a programmer in the best sense of the word. The type of decent genre fare that hardly ever gets made anymore since this type of film almost inevitably get’s needlessly roided up to a 200 million dollar film. Why this is bad for the film has been written before, and I won’t rehash, all I can say is a lot of good movies aren’t getting made because of this thinking. There’s a reason John Carpenter and Joe Dante haven’t had a new movie out in almost a decade, their niche has been taken out from under them.

To be fair I’m in the minority here. I remember Push coming out and thinking that I should see it, and then shit just getting in the way. So I apparently didn’t notice that it ranks somewhere lower then Battlefield Earth for most critics. 36 on Metacritic (for comparison 12 Rounds the Renny Harlin, John Cena master work has a 38) and a freaking 22 on Rotten Tomatoes. Reviews have been vicious and I can’t really figure out why.

I mean the film’s not perfect, it’s definitely jargon heavy, playing like it’s already a sequel, the budget is definitely limited (which is once again kind of what I like about it). It’s more or less live action anime, for all the good and bad that implies, stylized, built around gimmicks, mythology heavy, and fast moving.

The story under the film’s dense terminology is pretty simple. Focusing on a group of psychics battling to keep a test subject and wonder drug out of the hands of an evil Government Agency and the Hong Kong Crime Families.

Still there’s a lot to like about Push. It’s fast moving, and has a creative sense of how to play with it’s powers and ideas. The Hong Kong setting gives it a unique exotic flavor, and the actors don’t condescend to the material. Djimon Hounsou clearly relishing not having to play noble, tears into the bad guy. Chris Evans, an actor who gets a bad rap by virtue of the fact that most of his movies are awful, sells his role as the lead. Particularly when he’s playing off of Dakota Fanning, in a performance that tips nicely towards the Jodie Foster rather then Brad Renfro side of the scale, with whom he develops a nicely believable fraternal bond that gives the film it’s heart.

The film moves fast, has a good sense of action, and has a lot of fun thinking of creative ways to tweak the subjects powers. It’s nice to see a movie refuse to stop at point A for once.

Push is a charming experience, an old school Saturday matinee that made me more then a little nostalgic. It’s a movie I have a lot of affection for, the kind of movie I grew up loving. And I’m happy to put it on the shelf next to Highlander, Hellboy and Christine

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Public Enemies

Well played sir well played.

It’s been five years since Michael Mann went off the rez and decided that film was dead. And now he’s finally made a film that communicates why he thinks that. Collateral was a good little genre picture, and when I first saw it I was blown away. Which helps explain why I was so thoroughly confused with Miami Vice. Taking away the fact that it’s a terrible terrible movie, Vice also had a degraded image when compared to Collateral. Rather then Collateral’s soft sodium film like glow, Miami Vice looked like it was shot on a particularly harsh camcorder. I didn’t understand the backslide.

Part of the problem with Michael Mann’s defection to video is like David Lynch, he just made film look so purty. When say Bryan Singer or Robert Rodriguez decides they want to start shooting their projects in HD, it’s no big deal. While both are good storytellers and energetic directors, the degradation of image doesn’t hurt what I think of when I think of a Singer or Rodriguez film. Mann’s another story, go back and watch Last Of The Mohicans’s sometime the deep focus and saturation of color makes the film damn near 3D. (Not to mention, The Keep like a motherfucker)

I expressed as much when the Public Enemies trailer was released. Now having seen the movie I can actually understand for the first time why Michael Mann does what he does..

Public Enemies is like no “Period Film” you’ve ever seen. It’s like Mann happened to stumble across a time machine took an HD camera with him, and shot a documentary. It’s a movie that bustles with anarchic energy and immediacy that’s almost shocking. It’s easily Mann’s best film since Heat.

A lot of that has to do with the actors. Johnny Depp is the fucking man in this thing. Walking out of the theater I was confronted with the poster of him as the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s Alice And Wonderland. After watching him for two and a half hours as the cold blooded Dillinger, it was a shock to see him in a red fright wig, Kabuki make up, green contacts, and buck teeth. The fact that the man can play both roles makes him a national treasure.

This might be the “straightest” role Depp has ever played. I don’t think he’s ever played someone so unambiguously cool before. Even in the first scene as he’s lead out in shackles admist a bunch of prison grays, he commands the frame with an authority I’ve never seen him play before.

With such a magnetic figure at the center it would have been easy for Christian Bale’s Melvin Purvis to come off as Captain Bringdown on an epic scale. Mann’s very smart with how he plays it though. Dillinger is a romantic figure but Mann doesn’t shy away from the damage he leaves in his wake. The Violence isn’t gratuitous but it is matter of fact and Mann doesn’t shy away from it. Everytime the aftermath leaves bodies on the floor, Bale’s boy scout straightness and moral certainty seems a little less priggish and a little more necessary.

To me the one who really makes an impression is Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover. It’s hard to connect the Crudup here to the boyish Russel Hammond in Almost Famous. He’s aged in fascinating ways, his face is less defined, his neck a lot thicker. He plays Hoover like a thuggish Bull in a pinstripe suit. Someone not to be fucked with under any circumstances.

The story of Public Enemies is one we’ve seen before. That of the noble outlaw whose unlucky enough to have outlived his time. Every day Dillenger’s out Organized crime becomes a bit more business like and a bit less tolerant of an outlaw like him. Every day he’s out people like Baby Face Nelson (Played in an unforgettable performance by the great Stephen Grahmn, who between this and This Is England should have the market cornered on terrifying cowardly psychotics) push things a bit further, stripping away years of careful planning and hard one public sympathy.

Dillinger sees all this coming but can’t quite bring himself to step out of the way of the moving train. And Depp makes his doomed defiance really hurt.

Of course when he’s got such an obscure object of desire as Marion Cotillard it’s easy to see why. While Public Enemies does kind of belong to the men. Cotillard has a fresh faced natural beauty and charm that makes her easy to buy as the object of Depp’s affection, as well as tough inner reserve that makes her big scenes really shine. The best thing you can say about her is you want to see much more.

Simply put this is a great crime, and a welcome slab of adult entertainment in the middle of a summer that’s turning out to be a fucking wasteland.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Southland Tales: A Year After The Apocalypse

Southland Tales remains an intriguing conundrum. I don’t even know if you can say it has a proper cult so much as a few intrigued apologists. It’s certainly not a film that I would recommend or defend as good in any objective sense. As a piece of filmmaking it’s meandering, it’s story, script construction and editing are damn near dadist. And the whole thing has such a self satisfied air to it, as if it had already decided it was a classic before it was even half way shot make it pretty hard to like. And yet it’s a movie I’ve watched at least a half dozen times and one that I’m likely to keep rewatching despite the fact that I realize it’s not any good at all.


A word like unique gets tossed around a lot. Used for stuff that’s merely quirky. Southland Tales though is truly unique. It’s like a movie from another dimension, one with a style of film completely alien to our own. Not bad filmmaking but filmmaking that’s developed on a separate evolutionary track from ours. One where every shot is a few seconds too long, every scene has got a few too many beats, every transition is a bit too abrupt, every revelation a bit too hazy, where the CGI is so bad I can only hope it’s intentional, one where a dwarf singing Jane’s Addiction Lyrics is a suitable payoff for a scene, one where The Rock’s and Seann William Scott’s strangely sympathetic childlike performances are acceptable, and there is nothing odd about cutting to a random computerized model of the human muscle structure at random intervals during a conversation. It’s not exactly a place I’d like to live, but it’s fun to visit.

The film is hypnotic. Roger Ebert famously wrote that I Heart Huckabee’s seemed to be the first movie that could exist without an audience. Southland Tales might be the second (Tideland is probably the third).

Part of Southland Tale’s problem was Richard Kelly, in the run up to the films Cannes release he kept name dropping the likes of Dr. Strangelove and Brazil. Now those are pretty big shoes to fill no matter who you are. If you happen to be a wunderkid director whose looking fixed for a comeuppance after writing freaking Domino and cutting an underwhelming “Definitive Version” of the beloved movie that sent you to stardom. It starts to look like you’re painting a bulls eye on your forehead even if you have a masterpiece in the can. Which, as we have established, was simply not the case.

It’s the wrong comparison to make anyway. Brazil and Strangelove are both intricately constructed satires. Southland Tales has the skuzzy charm of something that grew inside a beer can. It’s organic, bizarre, spontaneous not made. It’s closer to something like Repo Man, from which the film takes it’s biggest steal (and considering there are some pretty egregious lifts from Muholland Drive, and Donnie Darko itself; shots through the eye, time travel, the end of the world at a distinctive date, and the long ass tracking shot in the mega zeppelin that’s a total rip off from the high school shot in Donnie Darko; that’s saying a whole hell of a lot).

Because it’s impossible to deny that there are some chunks of the film that really work. The sequences involving Sara Michelle Gellar’s cultural Icon Porn Star (And maker of a really good tasting drink) and Wallace Shawn’s effete Anti Christ, not to mention the unforgettable fucking cars, hit the level of Social Satire done by the Looney Tunes that the rest of the film is so desperately aiming for. A lot of the film is visually striking (The perpetually clear streets of Hermosa and Venice shrouded in Fog are a remarkably creepy image)And The film’s twin musical sequences set to The Killer’s All These Things That I’ve Done and Rebecca Del Rio’s National Anthem, as well as the raids on The Neo Marxists and USIDENT, and the opening Nuclear Attacks on the good ole suburbia of 2005, verge on being, dare I say powerful.

That’s why despite the fact that it contains toxic amounts of Cheri Oteri and Jon Lovitz, despite the fact that I literally have no idea what’s happening in the final fifteen minutes of the film, despite the fact that I have no idea why Curtis Armstrong and Kevin Smith are present, and yes despite the fact that Justin Timberlake has a five minute monologue about speaking with angels. I’ve seen this movie six times and will probably see it six more. It’s not a movie it’s an artifact. One from a world of Nana Mae Frost threatens to criminalize teen horniness and the wave of mutilation rolls merrily through the southland. And it’s One I can’t help but keep examining.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day

Let's celebrate by watching Buster Keaton outrun a fucking Pitbull.

You just watched Buster Keaton straight up outrun a Pitbull.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Princess Mononoke AKA How To Freak Out A Movie Geek With Signs Of His Mortality

I’ve recently moved from LA and with it the best revival theater scene in the world. Still the local theater has eased the pain somewhat with its excellent Palm Wednesday program. Last Wednesday I went and saw Princess Mononoke. In the same theater I saw it the first time. Over ten years ago.

It was a little freaky.

Princess Mononoke remains of course a freaking tremendous film. Seeing it on the big screen only increases it’s grandeur. The film is amazing for the first hour and then slips into the transcendent gear starting with San’s raid on Iron Town. Scene after adreniline pumping, eerily beautiful, just plain awe inspiring scene pass by. It doesn’t break it’s streak, never gives you time to breath, every new sequence just casually seers itself into your brain. Princess Mononoke isn’t just a movie I like, it’s what I like about movies.

That’s how it felt when I was fourteen. That’s how I feel at twenty four.

But still it’s an odd feeling watching a movie that I was young enough to see on it’s first run playing in a revival circuit. Just another reminder that I’m getting older. And that even a hand grenade like Fight Club is going to be turning freaking ten years old this year.


Since most of my taste is so retro (a professor once described me, with a depressing amount of accuracy as being 23 going on 55) I haven’t really had to deal with the fact that the stuff I like is getting old. For the most part it already is old. But I can’t run from it forever. The stubborn fact is that there are actually things made in past the date 1980 that I enjoy. And they’re not getting any younger. Soon even my current taste will probably be retro.

But you know what. That’s fine. That’s the whole point. If you’re lucky your taste is good enough that the stuff you love lasts. And you can start looking backwards at it and still see it clearly.

And if you’re extremely lucky you can sit in the same theater where you first felt the slap of something great and feel the pleasant shiver as you realize in ten years you’ve changed.

But not too much.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Friday The 13th (2009)

So I watched the new Friday The 13th.


It was, not good. That’s why you come to this blog right the eloquence? The ways in which is was not good are long and varied. They’ve been listed before and I will not list them again. All I can say is it finally proved my greater Friday The 13th theorem wrong which heretofore had stated that a six pack of Budweiser, a pizza, and a Friday The 13th movie would always equal a good time.

On the surface it’s the exact type of movie I keep bitching at Hollywood to make. Unabashedly R rated with blood and boobs galore. But damnit it just wasn’t any fun.

It did bring up an interesting point though, which caused more personal reflection then any shitty horror remake would. Which is to say that the way that Friday the 13th was not good is the same way that the other films in the series are not good.

Let’s take a step back, Halloween. Love it or hate it Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween is a completely different beast from the original. So if you don’t like Rob Zombie’s Halloween and you don’t like John Carpenter’s Halloween, it’s not going to be for the same reasons.

Objectively though, I have to admit that Friday The 13th is pretty damn similar to the original 80’s films. A cast of idiots go to the woods drink, smoke, fuck, and get killed by a giant undead backwoods mongoloid. This is not a bold reinterpretation of the work, this is a step by step recreation. Of what I consider to be the prototypical slasher movie.

So why didn’t it work for me at all?

It’s possible that I’m just an old fogey and the sight of stupid twenty something pretending to be stupid teenagers and then getting killed no longer has the same allure that it once did. But whose kidding who, I’m the guy with a poster from The Burning hanging on my wall. I love the sight of stupid twenty something pretending to be stupid teenagers and then getting killed.

One possible explanation is that I may have underestimated the kitsch factor that those eighties films had. Sure those films may have been stocked with characters just as unlikable as those in this one (Well maybe not quiet as douchey). Am I able to except those guys simply by virtue of the fact that they’re wearing knee socks rather then trucker caps?

I think part of the problem is the film just isn’t fun. Though it’d be wrong to call the Friday the 13th series tongue in cheek (at least in the beginning). It always managed to have a loose appealing energy to it. Here’s what I wrote in an earlier column.

The Slasher movies tended to fill that hour with nudity, sex, herb smoking, drinking, practical jokes, Hell if you subtract the killings most Slasher movies are films about a bunch of friends having a good time.

It’s this lack of lightness this dedication to being Totally eXtreme, squeezes all the fun out of it. I wouldn’t share a cab with anyone in the film, why should I want to watch them die?

I don’t know why I’ve spent so much time wondering why I didn’t like a bad movie. The answer seems fairly self evident, it was after all, a very very bad movie. But it’s also a movie that proved as much as I may like to deny it, that I have a Dogma, one as strange as exacting as any movie critic. And brother, this one doesn’t fit.