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Saturday, April 23, 2011


Drag me to Hot Topic

There's a sense of familiarity in a movie like Insidious. Horror movies these days are a dime a dozen. But Insidious' familiarity comes from a deeper place; it comes from true classics like Poltergeist or even Paranormal Activity, who's producers helped get this film done. Those films work because the have a handle on their atmosphere (something every good horror film has). If you can't control the tone of your film, how can you hope to control the tone of your audience? The answer to that seems easy - that's why films like The Fog get remade, and films like Boogeyman are conceived every day. Tell some audiences to be afraid, and naturally they will be. An example of making your audience afraid, rather than simply suggesting their fear, is a Japanese film called Ju-on, later re-filmed as The Grudge (to, arguably, the same effect). An even better example, Psycho. 

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Friday, April 22, 2011


God's lonely dork.

Super is twisted. Some films can pull that off in a positive way. Recall a film from '98 called Happiness, directed by the superbly screwed up Todd Solondz. That's a film that somehow manages to find the dark humor in the sexually disturbed characters it portrays. Of course this isn't a Todd Solondz film. It wouldn't be as ugly if it were. No doubt, Super is very funny, in parts. Director James Gunn, who's last film was the deliriously strange Slither, gives us a portrait of a mentally unhinged man who accepts a calling from God to be a superhero. He sees visions of demons and rights small wrongs, until stumbling into a big crime. He wields a pipe wrench and cracks skulls for a living. The line between fantasy superhero and regular hyper-violence is blurred. Not just in his mind, but in the film's as well. We aren't ever really shown a man we can get behind, even if it's just to sympathize. 

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Willy Wonka's party days

There are moments of genuine comedic genius in this updated remix of 1981's Arthur, starring Dudley Moore, Liza Minelli, and John Gielgud. Here, Russell Brand portrays our titular loafer in wildly expensive loafers, while Helen Mirren takes Gielgud's spot as his live-in nanny Hobson. Greta Gerwig, affable and luminous as ever, takes over for Liza Minelli as Arthur's love interest/savior. He drinks more than anyone should, to a debilitating degree, and every time he steps out of his house, it's a party. Drinks are on him, of course. Most remakes today have nothing to offer audiences, and do nothing to improve upon or rethink the original films. Admittedly, this version of the popular Moore film (for which he was Oscar nominated, and Gielgud won) doesn't do much to rethink the original, but... the improvement is there. In the 81 film, Arthur's alcoholism isn't treated with the same touch (it's merely a plot point, it feels) and Brand's performance here has more heart than most things Dudley Moore did. Both are fine films, and this one certainly won't see the Oscars, but that doesn't stop it from being a warm, and abstractly hilarious afternoon at the movies.

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In Theaters This Weekend

Taken moments before Pattinson breaks into "Baby Mine"

Hitting theaters this weekend, three major releases bordering on the cusp between greatness and merely watchable - Water for Elephants, the sort of lonely circus drama that will most likely recall the glory days of Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken; Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family, in which Madea gathers her grandchildren to give them all bad news; African Cats, in which Samuel L. Jackson talks about lions for an hour and a half. But which is going to be worth your money? Or your time? Find out after the break.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

The King's Speech, Gulliver's Travels, and Others on DVD This Week

Fuckin' ass and blap blap

Yes, that's the "f" word above. It's okay, though - the Weinstein brothers will edit this post down after its release. 

If you're confused by the joke above, The Weinstein Company, who produced The King's Speech, had the film edited down from an R rating, taking out the scene where Bertie swears comfortably, and several times, in front of his speech therapist. The film is now available as a PG-13 release and an R release, but only one of them is actually worth money. It's the R one. That scene is a key scene, and there was no reason for it to be cut out. Especially after so few people gave a damn about it in the first place. It isn't the movie that's offensive, not by a long shot, but the MPAA's rating system. 

But, a bitter rant on the MPAA isn't what this post is about. It's about the DVD releases for the week. So I'll stay on topic. The King's Speech, Gulliver's Travels, Rabbit Hole, and Somewhere. I've seen all four. So I can give a fair assessment. Let's get down to it. 

More after the cut--

The Rite

Don't stop believin' 

The Rite is a curious film. We get a film in the exorcism genre once a year, it seems, but we don't usually get films that take consideration of what they're studying. In 2005, The Exorcism of Emily Rose came to theaters, and was much maligned. And in 1973, The Exorcist debuted to stellar box office and reviews. The more serious and accurate the film, the less popular it becomes. Emily Rose, based on the factual exorcism of a young German girl called Annalise Michel, has been called more authentic than The Exorcist. However, that isn't the famous one. The Rite falls in the middle of that - a serious film, that still comes with all the frills. No spinning heads, no constant vomiting, but still loads of flopping around and "film possession". It's a film that ponders several questions, most importantly "what happens when a priest gets a demon?".

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Sunday, April 17, 2011


Why the long, blood-spattered face?

There are few things worth an eleven year wait. And I was on the fence about Scream 4, until the trailer came out that is. Ever since, I hopped off the fence and onto the bandwagon. I'll admit that while I'm a huge fan of the series, only the first Scream was worth anything until now. 2 and 3, while loads of silly fun, are redundant and small compared to the original, which was a game changer for the horror scene in 1996. Kevin Williamson's screenplay is mostly to thank for that, as it dissected pretty much everything audiences then knew about modern horror movies. And, again, over the weekend, Williamson took the genre back under the knife, grabbiing the clichés we see every weekend and turning them upside down. Make no mistake - this movie is pure formula; we've seen it already, hundreds of times. What makes it fun is Wes Craven's approach to it. He's still the master of suspense, after all. 

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