Wednesday, April 25, 2012

25 Moments in Cinema

This is a little ditty I saw over at Cinematic Paradox a while ago. That post was titled "25 Moments of Cinematic Awesomeness" and it sounded like something that would be very fun to do. I've changed the title a bit to show that all things listed below are 25 random moments in cinema - a line of dialogue, an entire scene, or just one shot - that I like for whatever reason. It could be cool cinematography, something that makes me laugh or makes me cry - whatever it is about this particular moment, it's awesome to me.

These include both horror and non-horror films, AND THEY ARE NOT IN ANY PARTICULAR ORDER! No countdown. Here we go!

1. Stranger Than Fiction - Harold brings Ana "flours."

She's a baker so he brings her "flours" instead of "flowers," geddit? This moment is so sweet (and also so clever) it almost makes me cry.

2. American History X - Dinner scene.

Actually, both dinner scenes in American History X are very poignant and important to the film but this one (with the mother's Jewish boyfriend, played by Elliot Gould) where they're talking about the Rodney King trial is almost hypnotizing. Fantastic performances all around, and a really, really stellar film.

3. Dirty Dancing - The final dance.

Don't judge. I grew up with this movie. The music, the perfect choreography, and the whole feeling of this final dance between Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze is that feel-good thing that every chick flick strives for. It's still awesome to this day, and always puts a smile on my face.

4. Child's Play - Burned up Chucky goes after Andy in the hallway.

I swear to goodness, you guys, this is the scariest 2 seconds of film EVER. Burned up Chucky taking that one step toward Andy in the hallway with a knife... it freaks me the fuck out. I think it's mostly about the camera angle and how real Chucky looks in this shot that always scares me. 

5. Ghostbusters - "Back off, man. I'm a scientist."

Best line from the movie. 'Nuff said.

6. Seven Days - Father finds daughter's dead body.

This whole movie is a serious emotion-drainer, but the scene near the beginning where Bruno finds his daughter Jasmine's dead body in a ditch is incredibly heartbreaking and horrifying. The closeup shot of Jasmine's frozen, blue face was so horrible that I had to look away.

7. Little Miss Sunshine - Olive comforts Dwayne.

When self-induced mute Dwayne finds out that he is colorblind and probably won't be able to get into the Air Force, he flips out and runs from the family. The one able to bring him back is little Olive (most likely the only member of his family that Dwayne likes), who only has to lay her head on his shoulder and silently let him know that it's going to be okay. Perfect little scene.

8. Rope - Brandon hides the evidence.

This bit from my favorite Hitchcock movie is wonderful for its timing. As Brandon goes into the kitchen to put away the rope used to kill his classmate, the door of the kitchen swings open to reveal this perfect shot of Brandon dropping the rope into a drawer, with a ghoulish smile on his face. Love it!

9. The Fly - Brundlefly shows Ronnie how he eats.

As probably the grossest movie I have ever seen, it's weird that the part that really makes me want to throw up is one that you never even get to see. Seth explains it, then the scene cuts away. The sound effects and your imagination do the rest.
"How does Brundlefly eat? Well, he found out the hard and painful way that he eats very much the way a fly eats. His teeth are now useless, because although he can chew up solid food, he can't digest them. Solid food hurts. So like a fly, Brundlefly breaks down solids with a corrosive enzyme, playfully called 'vomit drop.' He regurgitates on his food, it liquifies, and then he sucks it back up. Ready for a demonstration, kids? Here goes..."

10. Cape Fear - Robert Mitchum is the scariest person in the world.

Robert Mitchum's Max Cady from Cape Fear is the best villain in cinema history to me. This shot of him right before he attacks the drifter girl is enough to show just how evil and dangerous he is. The look on his face, the way he slowly balls his hand into a fist... it gives me the shudders. I wouldn't want to ever see someone look at me like that. So, so scary.

11. Pay It Forward - I cannot stop crying.

Pretty much from the moment Helen Hunt falls to the floor in the hospital after her son dies to the last shot of the movie, I cry uncontrollably. I'm not ashamed to admit it. You could show me that scene right now, and I guarantee that the waterworks would start on cue. Never fails.

12. The Descent - Cave in. 

So not that I would have ever gone spelunking in the first place, but after watching The Descent, and especially the cave in sequence, I'm thinking that the probability of me going anywhere near a cave in the future is rather slim. When the girls are crawling - no, scooting - through a tunnel no bigger around than their own bodies, all I could think was "Nuh-uh!" No way could I ever something like that without severely freaking out. This scene is the best example of the movie's exploration of extreme claustrophobia. 

13. Arachnophobia - Spider jumps on girl's face in the shower.


14. The Devil's Rejects - "And this bird you cannot change..."

I don't care what you think of the movie or what you think of me for liking The Devil's Rejects, but I do. Love it. Especially love the use of one of the greatest songs ever in the final scene - "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I think the shots flow really well with the song, and the song itself (sort of?) matches who our characters are. I really think this scene is kind of beautiful and I always watch it all the way through when I watch the movie.

15. Chicago - The Cell Block Tango.

Speaking of music, sometimes you need a good musical movie to put you in an awesome mood. And the "Cell Block Tango" musical number from Chicago is probably my favorite of all of them. It's hot, sexy and mean and all the dancers here are fantastic. I love the choreography and the way the scene builds up to the epic dance number at the end. Awesome!

16. Hard Candy - These two shots are pretty.

Well, not these two exact shots because I couldn't find the ones I wanted and the second one looks shitty, but whatever. I like this little bit because of how the shot goes from a red background to match Hayley's sweatshirt and then cuts to a different angle where the yellow background matches the orange juice she is holding. Shows that the filmmakers at least put some thought into how the movie looked.

17. Casino - "In Vegas, everybody's gotta watch everybody else."

Casino is a movie that never gets old to me and for some reason, I've always loved this little bit that DeNiro says about how everybody in the casino has got an eye on somebody else.

18. Leon: The Professional - Mathilda and Leon say goodbye.

The relationship between Leon and Mathilda in The Professional is one of my favorite love relationships in film. No, it's not an icky love relationship because that's just wrong, it's two people who have a genuine bond - a love and acceptance of one another and the determination to make the other person's life better. Leon beautifully captures what Mathilda has done for him when he says (as he is helping her escape the firefight) "You've given me a taste for life. I want to be happy, sleep in a bed, have roots." It doesn't sound like much, but to him it is everything.

19. The Omen - Decapitation of David Warner.

The original, accept-no-substitutes best decapitation ever. It's unexpected, it's graphic, and it's got the heading spinning around in slow motion. It's perfect.

20. Life is Beautiful - Guido stares at Dora in the theater.

Roberto Benigni was hot shit for a while there around Oscar time when his movie Life is Beautiful won the award and stole everybody's hearts. I love the movie and even though Roberto's performance seems like he's trying way too hard to be all lovable and stuff, I gotta admit that this scene where Guido is staring at Dora in the theater, his head completely turned to the side, is so sweet and makes me smile.

21. Martyrs - Revelation of Anna's flayed body.

Lots of things about Martyrs are very unsettling, but this scene that shows what those nutso people did to Anna shocked me to the core. I couldn't believe it. Left me totally speechless. Like I am right now as I'm thinking about it...

22. Pulp Fiction - The Wolf takes care of business.

One thing that always annoyed me about this scene was why Jules and Vincent needed help with the situation when it was pretty obvious to me how to handle it - clean up and get rid of the body. But Harvey Keitel's role in Pulp Fiction was to get in there and get things done. And this whole sequence has lots of funny little bits in it so I love it.

23. O Brother, Where Art Thou? - The singing Sirens.

Representing the mythical Sirens from The Odyssey, who stray sailors from their path with song, these three chicks in O Brother, Where Art Thou? give us a great scene from a great movie. The locale on the water is beautiful - as is the rest of the movie, of course - and I loved how different each of these girls looked and the harmony of the singing. 

24. Revolutionary Road - Michael Shannon comes to visit.

All the performances in this fantastic movie are stand-outs, but Michael Shannon absolutely steals the show. He is a most underused actor and his two scenes in Revolutionary Road not only let his talent shine through, but also really hit home the message of the film.

25. Robin Hood: Men in Tights - Abe Lincoln.

Here's a funny one to (FINALLY) finish things off. This is the best exchange in the movie:
"Hey, Blinkin."
"Did you say 'Abe Lincoln'?"
"No, I didn't say 'Abe Lincoln,' I said 'HEY BLINKIN!'"

Obviously, there are tons of other random things in movies that I love, and these are probably just the tip of the iceberg. Whatcha think?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

The only word to describe my feelings right now is giddy. Thinking about what I saw in the movie theater yesterday, I still have a gigantic smile on my face and I just have to say that I am so goshdarn happy to be a horror fan right now. My love and loyalty to Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon (and in the same way, director Drew Goddard, who was also a great writer for Buffy) had given me complete faith that he would make a movie I would love, so The Cabin in the Woods was one of those movies where I completely avoided reading even a single word about it (I never watched the teaser trailer either) before heading to the theater today. And wouldn't you know it, that's exactly the way this movie needs to be seen!

I can't talk about how much I love this movie without spoiling pretty much everything so if you haven't seen it yet, you need to get off your ass and go do that right now. I think this review is going to be more about what the movie does and how it is different rather than something analyzing the acting and effects like I usually do anyway. That might have to come later.

So basically all I knew about The Cabin in the Woods was that it was a horror movie, there were people in a cabin in the woods, and Joss Whedon was involved. But right from the beginning of the movie, I realized that I was dealing with a bit more than that. The opening credit sequence starts out familiar enough, all dark and with blood spattering over the screen, then it immediately shifts to a scene of a mundane office conversation between two middle-aged dudes. Huhhhhhh? How is this related to the movie we think we're going to see? But as the tagline suggests, this is not the typical horror movie story you think you know.

Indeed, "Huh?" is what you will be asking yourself throughout most of the film, as the scenes in the strange office building are interspersed with the scenes of our five cliche college students heading to the cabin for a weekend of fun - the nice girl, the nice guy, the jock, the sexy girl, and the pothead. As the cliches kept coming at me (especially in the scene where the group stops for gas at an old, abandoned station and meets the crazy townie who warns them of the cabin) I was getting annoyed and disappointed at my pal Joss Whedon. Joss, what the hell are you doing with all these stereotypes? I know for a fact that you are way better than this! Oh, little did I know that that was his exact intention. While it takes a while for the truth to be revealed, the payoff was beyond anything that I ever expected. I admit, I was mightily frustrated there for a bit, not knowing what was going on, but when I sat back and just let it happen, believe me I was more than satisfied.

The entire concept for this movie was simply GENIUS. Other movies have of course already poked fun at (but still been respectful of) those same old scenarios and characters and rules that prevail in a wide range of both classic and modern horror films. The Cabin in the Woods takes that about 10 steps further. Here, we have an entire company with a full staff watching the five potential victims in the cabin, and doing everything they can to make sure that these kids actually follow the standard horror movie cliches. Reading the Latin from the diary, going off into the woods to have sex, going for a walk by yourself, splitting the group up when they should be sticking together - it's all here. The kids are secretly given drugs to make them act like the stereotype they're supposed to be and the company has complete control over everything in the environment inside and outside of the cabin to make the situation go the way they want it to.

To really get the situation moving, the company gets the kids to go down into the cellar, where there lies a myriad of strange objects, most of them seemingly innocuous. The kids don't know that each object holds the power to raise a certain kind of foe that will eventually kill them - a ghost, a Pinhead-like torturer, a werewolf. All these monsters are owned by the company, deep underground underneath the cabin itself, lying in wait for their turn to be chosen. Dana reads from a diary first and thus the choice is made. The kids are now fighting against a "zombie redneck torture family" and the company's mission is almost complete. Finding out just what their final goal is is half the fun of watching the movie, and I hope that everybody loved it just as much as I did.

I cannot wait to get this movie on DVD so that I can catch up on all the little jokes that I probably missed. In the huge wide shot where they show all the cubes with the different monsters in them, I was frantically trying to catch a glimpse at what all was in there. A giant tarantula, two little twin girls, and other unrecognizable creatures are the only ones I can remember. Likewise in the scene where the winner of the betting pool was announced, I was listening to the dialogue whilst trying to quickly read all the possible monster scenarios on the dry erase board behind Richard Jenkins.

On that note, I have to say that the characters and the actors playing them in the unnamed company were far more enjoyable than the kids in the cabin. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford were a hilarious duo that I couldn't get enough of. Jenkins's comedic genius is untouchable; I have loved all of his performances in a variety of roles. Buffy and Angel fans will really get a kick out of seeing Amy Acker and Tom Lenk in supporting roles, the latter one being just as charming and funny as his Buffy character, Andrew.

The bad thing about The Cabin in the Woods is that it mostly caters to a specific audience, I believe. Mainstream audiences probably do know about all these horror movie staples that are introduced and played with in this movie (perhaps because Scream flat-out told them about some of them) but overall the ones who will appreciate it the most are horror fans. The audience I was with in the theater, though small, was most likely not comprised of others like me because they never laughed or showed any kind of understanding once through the whole thing. In the climactic and freaking awesome scene where the monsters are released from their boxes and all holy hell breaks loose, I was laughing my ass off, silently clapping, and wanting to stand up and cheer my absolute approval. Everybody else? Hardly any reaction at all. It made me a little sad.

But forget about them. This movie made me so stoked and excited about horror again. I don't think it necessarily "reinvented" the genre as other reviewers are suggesting, but I think it might be a "refresher" of sorts. It's one of the most original ideas to come to horror in a long time, and it serves as a reminder that horror doesn't have to ever die. With this genre, we can go as far out there as we want to with stories and concepts for future horror movies. We can use the tried and true methods for making a successful and gory film (i.e. five kids going to a cabin in the woods) but we can twist it into something completely different. Or we can learn from this movie and stay away from those stereotypes and continue to think of fresh, exciting ideas. It is possible, and Whedon and Goddard proved that with this stellar and mind-blowingly impressive film. I think it's going to be one to talk about and look back on for years to come.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Movie Review: Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

Sorry to be doing the same review as you this week, Alec, but that's how it went with the movies I said I was going to review next. Definitely don't think I'll be stealing your thunder on this one, though. I mean, I enjoyed Humanoids from the Deep enough for what it was, and I really enjoyed the ridiculousness of it, but at some points it's just not that good of a movie.

What? It's not supposed to be a good movie, you say? Oh, thank goodness. Glad we got that out of the way. Moving on!

A seaside town is suddenly beset by a host of human-like fish creatures, who wreak havoc on the town and mate with all the lovely young girls they come upon. Cue the requisite semi-hot female marine biologist who has all the answers and the ragtag group of townspeople who fight the monsters.

So first of all, I gotta say that I loved one of the first shots of the movie. Right before the guys go out on the boat, there is a hilarious shot of a freaking one-legged seagull, whom I am nominating as the real star of the film. Like, was that just dumb luck or what? If so, that's pretty dang lucky because if you happened to notice it, that shot was simply awesome.

From then on, the movie seems to be solely about fish monster rape and explosions. That's kind of all I got from it. I mean, this plot is incredibly thin. No time is wasted with coming up with credible plot points or character development - heck, I barely remember any of the characters's names. I think the main guy is like a John or a Jake or something. No... Jim, sorry. But why am I even expecting anything more than what's on the surface from Humanoids from the Deep anyway? Let's check out the fun stuff.

The fish monsters are pretty much just like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, with some added long gorilla arms and a weird bulging brain on the outside of its head. Razor-sharp teeth and lots of seaweed draped over their shoulders completes the look. The fish monsters focus on using their claws to gash anybody that gets in the way of them finding the girls who look the best naked to make whoopie with. So of course there's no shortage of boobs here, much like every other slasher movie from the 80s.

Soon after the first nubile coed is manhandled by a fish monster, we get probably one of the best pre-sex scenes between two young people EVER in a horror movie. I give you: A guy, a girl, a tent on the beach, and a ventriloquist dummy. Let the seduction begin. If this part doesn't have you saying "What the fuck?" then I don't know what else will. But it's hilarious.

Like I said, explosions and fire are another big thing in Humanoids from the Deep. In the first scene (where a poor little boy becomes the first fish monster victim) there's a huge boat explosion on the water. Not long after that, the nice Indian's house is blown up by the racist townies. And not long after that, a girl dies when a fish monster attacks her while she's driving a truck, the truck skids off a bridge, and - you guessed it - it explodes. The big fight at the end when the fish monsters attack the Noyo Salmon Festival (wow, what exciting lives these people do lead) also includes some nice fire effects - a little kids makes the best creature kill when he throws a flaming javelin at one of them. See what I mean? Fish monster rape and explosions. Obviously that's all you need to make a film.

I must say, about the final fight, though, that the fish monsters make a surprising great entrance at the Salmon Festival by busting up through the dock. Thumbs up, guys.

The gore scenes throughout are pretty good. A bit more graphic than I was expecting, only because I was expecting the filmmakers to hide the fact that they probably had a shitty makeup effects team. There's lots of face- and body-gouging and stabbing and shooting of the creatures, and one great little bit where a creature rips at this guy's neck and there's like, a ton of blood spraying out. All this stuff actually looks very good (aside from the too-bright blood) and I was pleasantly impressed.

The final scene comes as no big shock. With all the aforementioned fish monster rape and that one girl who is left alive after the attack, you should have guessed that the climax would involve something that is a cute little mish-mash of the birthing scene from The Fly and the bursting-through-the-chest scene from Alien. One thing I'm a tad fuzzy on though is the intentions of Dr. Drake. It seemed like at the end that she got herself involved in all this because she actually wanted the fish monsters to mate with a human and see what comes out. Yes? No? Probably. Scientists are stupid like that sometimes.

So that's Humanoids from the Deep! Light on plot, heavy on fish monster rape and explosions. And that's about it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Passing on the 7 x 7 Link Award!

Fred [the Wolf] at Full Moon Reviews and a new blog friend, Craig Edwards of Let's Get Out of Here! have both awarded me the 7 x 7 Link Award. Thanks a mil, guys, I really appreciate it!

Now I've got to do some stuff to properly receive and pass along the award.

Rule Numero Uno: Tell everyone something that no one else knows about you.
I'll say something movie-related... and kind of embarrassing. I used to practice, or fantasize about, giving interviews and speeches for when I ever became famous or otherwise note-worthy in the movie business. I would vocalize my thoughts about movies or moviemaking to myself as if I was talking to an interviewer, for crying out loud. I am such a freaking dork. And, um... I still kind of do that sometimes... BUT ONLY as a way to help me talk out what I think about certain movies so that I can better write a review. And I'm sticking to that story.

Rule Numero Dos: Link to one of the posts that you personally think best fits the following categories:
1. Most Beautiful PieceMovie Review: Seven Days (Les Sept Jours Du Talion, 2010)
I chose this one because Seven Days is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen and it inspired me to write more than a mere review of it. It's one of the longest reviews I've done simply because I felt like I had to examine and analyze pretty much everything about it and every issue it brought up. Seriously, I love that movie and you all should see it.

2. Most Helpful Piece - Women in Horror Month: Stephen King's Ladies
This has always been a favorite of mine, but I believe it is helpful in the sense that I tried to spotlight those characters and novels of King's that are not as well known to those who are not big King fans. Hopefully somebody read this post and decided to pick up one of the books mentioned.

3. Most Popular Piece - A Week of "P" Movies: Piranha 2
If we're going by pageviews alone then this one wins the title hands down. Every time I would check my stats I couldn't believe that this post was always at the top of the list - 7,532 pageviews! So weird. But I posted it while the Piranha remake was still in theaters so I'm thinking that people surfing around for that, or stuff related to it, got to my review that way.

4. Most Controversial Piece - Movie Review: The Woman (2011)
Going with this one because I don't know what else to say. I guess I'm not that controversial. But this movie was pretty controversial with some of my blog buddies who didn't seem to agree with my thoughts on the film!

5. Most Surprisingly Successful Piece - Asian Horror Week: Tokyo Gore Police (2008, Japan)
Another shocker at the number of pageviews! 4,744 for this one. I really don't care why so many people searched for this movie because they totally should. Tokyo Gore Police is Asian insanity at its finest so I'm happy to do my part to get more people to see it.

6. Most Underrated Piece - The Worst Family Members in Horror Films
I got the idea for this post out of the blue one day and was super stoked at getting it out there and seeing what other bloggers thought of it. I worked on this thing for almost a week and thought it was going to be pretty popular. Hello? Ego, much? While I got a few good comments on it, I have to admit that I was still a little disappointed at the overall lack of response. It's my pride talking... I'm a horrible person.

7. (speaking of pride) Most Pride-Worthy Piece - Animals Run Amok!: Jaws Marathon
This post is probably the most pride-worthy to me because I'm proud of (and amazed at) myself for being able to watch four movies in one day and write reviews for all of them in the same day as well! Given my usual track record for watching movies and reviewing them, that is quite a feat, lemme tell ya.

Rule Numero Tres: Pass this award on to seven other bloggers.

Here you go, blog buddies!

Bryant Burnette of Ramblings of a Honk Mahfah

BC of Horror Movie A Day

Zena of The Real Queen of Horror

Kaijinu of Sticky Red: A Bodycount Compendium

Christine of Fascination with Fear

Wolf Ninja of Gaming Creatively

Malice of Malice of Horrorland

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Movie Review: Burnt Offerings (1976)

Well, hey! I kinda dug this one! Good choice, y'all. Burnt Offerings always looked to me like it was going to be some mediocre 70s attempt at a haunted house story that wasn't scary at all. And while that last part is true - there are no scares in the movie at all - its simple and kinda-sorta original plot mixed with some cool characters played by cool actors make me want to give Burnt Offerings a thumbs up.

The Rolf family (which includes Marian, Ben, their son David, and Ben's aunt Elizabeth) rent a lovely Victorian house for their summer vacation from the quirky Allardyce siblings. The house soon begins to change the members of the family, especially Marian, who becomes increasingly obsessed with the house and with caring for the elderly Mrs. Allardyce whom no one but Marian has ever seen.

Burnt Offerings is a different look at the typical haunted house movie. Like most of them, it takes place in a very stately manor (gosh, just once I want to see a one-story ranch house like the one I live in be haunted) with a lot of history and is isolated from any surrounding neighbors. The house is a bit rundown when the Rolfs first arrive, but as their stay progresses, and as Marian and Ben do some basic upkeep on the place, it slowly starts to change seemingly on its own. The house becomes brighter and fresher, the plants come back to life, the flowers bloom, and the house becomes almost magically restored to its original state. But how? That is the question, indeed... There are no ghosts in the Allardyce home (which made me a little sad) but there is something freaky and supernatural going on and though it is never fully explained just what is happening, I liked this different take

Sidenote: What kind of summer vacation is it to stay in a house where you spend a good portion of your time cleaning and working on the place? Not to mention having to deal with the fact that there's a strange old lady upstairs who "supposedly" never leaves her room. Not exactly my idea of a relaxing 2 months away from home.

I loved all the actors in Burnt Offerings and the characters they created. Since the story is more about what happens to the family on the inside, rather than anything external, this is an important element for the film. Burgess Meredith gives a very funny performance in the first few scenes as wheelchair-bound "Brother" Allardyce, along with his sister Roz, played by Eileen Heckart. They don't do a very good job at hiding the fact that they are pretty weird and are probably hiding something from the Rolf family. Bette Davis is probably the best out of all the main actors, as she makes Aunt Elizabeth so incredibly charming and the kind of relative anybody would want to have. Ben's colorful relationship with her is very cute and endearing, which makes it all the more heartbreaking when the house's weird mojo makes Elizabeth lose her spunk and vitality.

The two leads, Karen Black and Oliver Reed (whom I had only seen in The Brood), are also pretty good, but they both have little quirks to their characters that make me a little unsure of them. As aforementioned, Marian becomes obsessed with the house and its history, spending much of her time in Mrs. Allardyce's sitting room. She even starts to dress in an old-timey manner, with cameo chokers and flowing robes, and wearing her hair back in a bun. But with this comes one of the movie's problems, which is that it is never explained just what the power of the house is and what it is doing to Marian. Is it stealing the youth of the families that inhabit it to make itself new again? Does it just take one person to become "Mrs. Allardyce" who will always take care of the house? I dunno. But it did make for one freaky ending to the movie.

Ben has a weird thing from his past that is also never explained. He keeps having dreams and flashbacks to his mother's funeral when he was a child and this creepy smiling chauffeur that he sees there. That's it. No elaboration at all. This is just something that I guess scared him as a kid and it has traumatized him, but goodness knows why. I mean, the guy was kind of scary looking, but why would this have such an affect on Ben as an adult?

Anyway, Burnt Offerings was still a cool movie. The conclusion is pretty awesome and gives us some great gore and violence that comes as a total surprise after the rather uneventful rest of the movie. This one is a nice slow, methodical tale with an interesting story and great actors to pull the whole thing along.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

And The Winner For My Next Review Is...

Really? You guys picked Burnt Offerings for my next review? I thought for sure that the winner would be Humanoids from the Deep by a long shot. Are you sure that Burnt Offerings isn't some horrible piece of shit that you want me to watch just to torture me? I wouldn't be surprised. You guys are evil, sadistic freaks sometimes.

Just kidding, obviously. I love you all! Okay, so I guess I'll do my reviews in the order of what got the most votes - Burnt Offerings first, then Humanoids from the Deep, then The Falling. This should be magical.

Speaking of magical, it's also my birthday today and I got an awesome gift from my best blog buddy Maynard (his real name is Harry, but I can't stop calling him Maynard for some reason) via email this morning. I hope he doesn't mind me sharing it.

Doesn't that rule??!! Oh, if only I knew you guys in person. You understand me so much more than the people in my real life. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Stieg Larsson's (RIP) Millenium Trilogy is a phenomenal series of books that I fell in love with upon first reading them a few years ago. Likewise, the Swedish film adaptations are just as wonderful - and just as popular - as the books themselves. Now director David Fincher has brought us an American version of the first book in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Having such a strong connection to both the book and the original film, do I think Fincher's version was as successful? Let's see...

Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist takes a private job with millionaire businessman Henrik Vanger to solve the 40-year-old mystery of Henrik's missing niece, Harriet. Working with the odd computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, Mikael soon uncovers a deeper mystery involving several murders around Sweden - a mystery that someone in the Vanger family doesn't want them to solve.

First of all, I'm very happy that they chose to keep the film set in Sweden though this is an American film. It would have been just as easy to change the location and Americanize the names, but that almost would not have felt right to me. With the popularity and admiration thrown at Larsson's books, I'm hoping that this choice was about respect - respect for an author who created such amazing stories, and then sadly died without ever knowing the effect his work would have on the entire world. Plus, these books seem to be pretty specific to and about Sweden itself, which is given much more emphasis in the second and third books.

David Fincher's films always have amazing title sequences and this one is no exception. It's all this weird stuff with people emerging from a black ooze and becoming black-ooze-sculpture-people themselves and the camera is moving around and more weird stuff gets made out of black ooze. I'm not quite sure what it has to do with the film itself but it was very cool to watch nonetheless.

Anyway. From then on, the movie plays out in a way that is very faithful to the source material. Actually, I read before this came out that the filmmakers would be doing a sort of different adaptation of the book rather than a remake of the movie; however, the first few short scenes are pretty much exactly like those from the original movie so I was a little confused for a while. But while the two films are very similar, Fincher's version seems much more streamlined and easier to follow. The clues to the mystery are revealed quicker and with less detail so as not to confuse the viewer. A few minor things, mostly stuff about Lisbeth's character, are left out, but if they continue on and adapt the last two novels, hopefully all that stuff will be filled in.

There are three distinct, key, and violent scenes from the original film that I was most interested to see what Fincher would do with: when Lisbeth is raped by Bjurman, when Lisbeth takes her revenge on Bjurman, and when Mikael is in what I call the basement of horrors at the end. All three scenes were wonderfully executed, and just as disturbing and difficult to watch as they should have been. The actor playing Bjurman is every bit as vile and repulsive as he needs to be in the scenes where he assaults Lisbeth so that her clever, if not equally violent, revenge on him is greatly welcomed. The strange harness-neck brace contraption that Martin puts Mikael in is a bit weird and not as visceral as the rope around his neck in the original, but that whole scene to me is so key for the character of Mikael. As a financial journalist, he went up against business bad guys, but now here he is face to face with pure evil, and not able to comprehend or understand it. It's a turning point for the arc of his character and I freaking loved this scene, in both films.

Here is a rare SPOILER warning for anyone who has not seen the movie. It's coming up in the next sentence...........

One change I was not too keen on was the reveal of what happened to Harriet. To have her living as her cousin Anita in London just... doesn't work. Henrik has been obsessed with Harriet's disappearance for like, half a century, right? If Harriet was just living a normal life, not in hiding, as Anita - a member of Henrik's family - are you saying that Henrik never once saw a picture of Anita/Harriet and realized who it really was? Sure, she said she hadn't had any contact with anyone in her family in a long time, but with Henrik's obsession and his resources, this should have been a fairly easy mystery to solve. Like, wouldn't Anita have been someone Henrik would want to talk to about Harriet in that 40 year span? Am I putting too much thought into this? Can't help it, sorry. 

I was feeling sketchy when I first heard that Daniel Craig was cast as Mikael, but that doubt was completely without merit. I didn't see James Bond once in this movie, which is probably what I was most worried about, and Craig actually became a wonderful Mikael. Especially in the above-mentioned scene, Craig is completely believable as the somewhat weak man that Mikael is in this situation, and his helplessness is again believable and heartbreaking. Knowing the end of the movie, I was a bit surprised at Stellan Skarsgard playing Martin Vanger, because he usually plays such nice, likable dudes in his other films (at least the ones that I've seen). It's hard to see him as this kind of character but he gives such a standout performance that that didn't really matter. Christopher Plummer and Robin Wright also give convincing supporting performances. However, I don't believe Joely Richardson for one second as a Swede. Just sayin'.

Then, of course, there is the big question. Who is the better Lisbeth Salander: Noomi Rapace or Rooney Mara? For me, Noomi still wins it all around, even though Rooney does do an amazing job at physically acting and looking like Lisbeth. Her performance is brilliant and brave and will no doubt have an amazing affect on her career. But... I still like Noomi better. Her physical look is more appealing and the way she drastically changed her body to look like Lisbeth is truly creepy - she literally gave herself the body of a frail teenage boy, which is how Lisbeth is often described in the book. But it's Noomi's acting that really sold it to me. At times, Rooney seemed to show almost too emotion. Noomi was better at keeping the blank, emotionless face while still making it known to the audience that there is a lot going on inside Lisbeth's mind all the time. Rooney is still awesome, though, don't get me wrong. The way she does Lisbeth's quirky actions like stuffing her face with junk food and walking very quickly with her head bowed also sell the audience on this quite odd but equally endearing character.

Let's just say that I don't care what version we're talking about here, I love The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and pretty much everything about it. I love the book, I love the Swedish film, I love the American film. Really, with a story like this it's hard to mess it up, and so far they haven't yet. Go out and see this movie - see it a few dozen times - and remember that box office numbers don't mean shit. This is beautiful and almost perfect filmmaking right here and believe me, you don't want to miss out on this.

Quick sidenote: Look at this poster I found for the movie! That is fucking hot!

Also, if you would like to vote for/recommend my next review, please do so by midnight on Wednesday, April 11th!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Vote for My Next Review! (please...)

Okay, I've got a review coming up soon for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2011 (Nebs! I finally saw it!) but one thing I need to do is plow through all the movies in my instant queue. Seriously, the same 46 or so movies have just been sitting there for months and months and MONTHS. I want them out. I finally watched Peeping Tom and Don't Torture a Duckling this past week as I mentioned here and I'm at a loss as to what to watch next. Maybe you guys can give me some help? Yes? No? Either one is okay, I won't be offended.

So anyway, I'm going to pick out... oh, let's say three movies in my queue that I'm not that sure about and we'll see which one gets the most recommendations and that'll be the one I watch and review. Okay?

1. Burnt Offerings (1976)
Netflix description: The vacationing Marian (Karen Black), David (Lee Montgomery, Ben (Oliver Reed), and Elizabeth (Bette Davis) rent a Victorian mansion in California for the summer and soon discover that all is not as it should be. For starters, dead plants come back to life and the pool appears to be a sort of trap. Behind all the strangeness are the Allardyce siblings, Arnold (Burgess Meredith) and Roz (Eileen Heckart).

2. Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
Netflix description: From schlockmeister Roger Corman comes this creepy chiller about some mutant fish monsters who bring mayhem to a sleepy oceanside community as they kidnap - and mate with - the town's nubile teenage girls.

3. The Falling aka Alien Predator (1987)
Netflix description: Three teenagers (Dennis Christopher, Martin Hewitt, and Lynn-Holly Johnson) vacationing in Spain drive through a town where the space station Skylab crashed several years earlier, bringing with it alien organisms that transform their human hosts into flesh-eating monsters. A NASA scientist (Luis Prendes) who's been working on a vaccine teams up with the teens to help contain the epidemic before it destroys the world.

VOTING WILL BE CLOSED AT MIDNIGHT ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11 because Thursday is my day off so hopefully somebody will have voted for something by then.