Sunday, July 18, 2010

Inception

The Takeaway: Great Googally Moogally! When I die, I'm gonna wake up and discover it was all a dream? And that could be another dream? And that could be another dream? And that could be a 7-year old boy making up a story to his best friend? Sweet! Well I should really plan a totally badass blastoff then. Who's up for a jump off the Empire State Building?

Format: IMAX

Christopher Nolan is a dreamer. He's an artist who paints with moving images, with theme, with story construction, with sound design, with pacing. He broke open the thriller flick with his destined-for-classic Memento, a simple, elegant, linear story shattered like the memories of its hero. He deconstructed the superhero flick and delivered a completely realistic almost crime drama with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. And now he wows us with his latest - the 10 years in the making SciFi stunner, Inception.

The premise alone is genius. You can enter another person's dreams to steal vital pieces of information otherwise unattainable. But you can also do the opposite - you can place an idea in someone's mind, a tactic known as Inception. Some in Nolan's world claim this is impossible. After watching the film we are left to wonder whether or not it is. But more on that later.

Leo continues his hot streak. Seemingly he can do no wrong and he tackles the subtle complexities of his character, Cobb, with ease. His supporting cast is equally exceptional, proving Nolan has a gift for letting actors do what they must to convince us of these fantastic realities surrounding them.

Visually - Nolan crafts beautiful films, but this is his masterpiece. Some claim he's a modern Kubrick, but that's simply ridiculous. Nolan, while being both artist and master craftsman, doesn't have that final color in his palate to compete with Kubrick. In a Kubrick film, you can slice any frame out and hang it on the wall - it's a work of art. That's not to take away from Nolan; he's one of the most talented directors of this generation. But Kubrick stands alone.

Where Nolan excels is in tension. The second half of the film rockets off and I'll be damned if it didn't feel like it passed by in the blink of an eye - like a dream itself, from the outside of course. Inside a dream, that blink is an eternity; a fact cleverly exploited in the film. But there was so much tension in some points I was literally craning slowly forward during the builds and felt bad for whoever the dude was in front of me; surely I was impinging on his happy zone.

And back to whether or not Inception is possible. The beauty of the film is just that. Is it real? Is it possible? Where am I? And who? As layer after layer is peeled back, people will discover there is so much more to discuss. Before my son was born we held monthly movie nights and chose films that would easily lend themselves to a lengthy discussion. Our first film was Mulholland Drive, my personal favorite flick. That discussion twisted and turned like the film itself, and if memory serves (and we can never be too sure about that now can we, Mr. Nolan?) three hours had passed before the conclusion. Inception will fit nicely into this category as people go back into the film to unpack what they just saw, peel back the layers, and discover the emotional and existential truths that are hidden within.

What is a dream? A puzzle - your mind at work while you sleep - trying to come to conclusions about the world around you - your day - your life - your love...

If David Lynch is known for dreamlike cinema, so too will Christopher Nolan be in the years to come.

My rating is going to be lower than I suspect it to ultimately become as the years pass. I cannot deem a film a classic upon a single viewing. For now: Twilight Zone Marathon. But like, loaded with all the best episodes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Iron Man

The Takeaway: Robert Downey Jr. is actually a superhero in real life too. He's known as Talk Too Fast Man.

Format: DVD

It's interesting that I would follow up Pirates of The Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl with Iron Man. It wasn't until today that I discovered my subconscious was directing me to actors. I say actors, because much like Depp in Pirates, Robert Downey Jr. hands down steals the show in Iron Man and turns what could easily have been a run of the mill superhero flick into one of the best of the genre along with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, HellBoy, Spiderman, X-Men, and the original Superman.

That's not to say Favreau didn't have control over his flick. But it seems to me he was more about situations and letting his excellent cast goof off a bit to find their way. Downey took that freedom and created one of the most fascinating superheroes ever put onscreen. His Tony Stark exudes childlike glee when he's drinking and charming the chicks with his lightning tongue nearly as much (probably more) as when he's zipping through the air in his Iron Man suit. And to think they once had Tom-Tom in mind for the role. Yikes.

It's really impossible to not have a smile on your face while watching the film - what more can you ask for in a summer flick? Proves once again that just because it isn't the 80s - Summer Movies That Don't Suck can be produced. Ya just gotta have a writer, director, and cast with heart. Execs - pay attention: It's a director's medium - let them create... pretty please... with sugar on top?

Twilight Zone Marathon.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

The Takeaway: Rum makes everything better. Even being on a deserted island with Kiera Knightly.

Format: DVD

Johnny Depp has always been one of my favorite actors - all the way back to 21 Jumpstreet and Nightmare on Elm Street. But the man has really been slaying it in the last ten years or so. Beginning with his collaborations with Tim Burton, Depp has a way of embodying a role, making interesting choices, and delivering something another actor simply could not. And that is absolutely the case here. In what could have been a paint-by-the-numbers Disney pirate flick, Depp makes the boldest choice imaginable - play Captain Jack Sparrow like a drugged out rockstar who may or may not have 3 hot underage groupies draping from his arms. Not exactly usual Disney material - and it pays off big time.

The story is fairly engaging, but life blasts on screen every time Jack Sparrow slinks across it. Though I also loved the pirate skeletons. My only question is this: How come when the sun came up, Kiera Knightly's character still looked like a skeleton? Oh wait - she didn't have that curse.

Movie: Soft Serve Ice Cream @ 67th and B'way. Johnny Depp: Paris.

Friday, July 9, 2010

X-Files: Fight The Future

The Takeaway: Them damn jiffy pop poppers in the middle of the desert are way more dangerous than you could possibly imagine.

Format: Bluray

Season 5 came to a close and Fight The Future hit the theaters that summer. X-Files mania was in full swing. The mythology had yet to become completely muddled, confusing, and frankly - boring - as would be the case for the remainder of the series.

This was one of the best leaps to the silver screen I've ever seen. The scope of the regular series episodes had always been rather expansive for television, but Fight The Future really upped the ante both in visuals and in storytelling. The mythology deepened. The relationships of our main paranormal-fighting twosome expanded upon in a way fans had been hoping for since they were first brought together in the pilot episode of the series. And many of our favorite minor characters made crowd pleasing appearances.

What was most impressive though was how the film managed not only to please long time and casual fans of the series, but was constructed in a way that allowed someone who'd never seen the television show to go along for the ride in what turned into a great mystery adventure flick with some brains.

This bluray edition only enhanced the experience, definitely a MAJOR step up from the DVD, so fans shouldn't hesitate to pick it up and go where no man has gone before.

Oh - wait...

Twilight Zone Marathon

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Grease

The Takeaway: If you want to look really, really tough, your best bet is to sing and dance with FLAIR, baby! With flair. Also - you can totally change the girl you want into the girl you want her to be with a little effort. Not sure that's what the filmmakers wanted me to takeaway from the flick, but come on, let's be honest - you thought that too.

Format: Bluray

Let me just say this - god bless bluray. Anyone out there see the disgusting transfer of Grease on DVD? It was nearly unwatchable. So unwatchable, that I've never sat through it. After the first couple scenes you want question whether Paramount actually PAID to have it degraded and puked on by some film school dropout. Paramount treated their release of Grease on DVD like it was the monstrous, deformed, droopy eyed, evil twin brother (who has a tail!) your mother has always hid from you in the attic.

Then came the bluray - and God sent his angels down from high to sing and strum harps upon its arrival. Honestly - I don't know if Grease ever looked better. Even in the theaters. I mean - this picture is gorgeous and the sound - just downright amazing. I don't want this to turn into a bluray review - but seriously - if you love the flick and you have a bluray player - you MUST see it in this format.

Okay - enough of that. Embarrassing admission time. So I love Grease no matter how much a badass I pretend to be. And on the eve of entering High School, I decided to watch it again - probably for the hundredth time. On VHS! Anyhoo - I just thought I was the coolest cat in the crib. Grease gets ya in that kind of mood, even though all the supposed badasses onscreen SING and DANCE! So - the next morning arrives and I'm going to frickin' high school. And I dolled myself up in all black. Black jeans, black T. I was THE badass that was gonna rule the school, as Rizzo would put it. Until I realized - yeah - not a badass - I'm a freshman. It didn't end well for me that day, my friends. But my love for Grease lives on.

Paris.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Star Wars: The Original Trilogy

The Takeaway: All right - so a wookie, a droid, and whiny little farm boy walk into a cantina...

Format: Laserdisc/DVD

Yes - you read correctly - Laserdisc. I watched part of the holy trilogy on Laserdisc. Do you know why I did this? A funny thing happened in a little boy named George's mind a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. He decided to make this cool flick - a tribute to the space operas and serials of years past. It took the world by storm and rightfully so. No one had ever seen anything like it before. It had us standing up in theaters and cheering, then standing in line and buying stuff. Lots of stuff. Action figures, bedsheets, lunch boxes, cereal, halloween masks, more action figures, comic books, novels, video games, candy, bandaids, and every conceivable form of product known to man. I'm sure there's a lightsaber inspired vibrator out there in the galaxy to battle the Rancor in every woman you meet.

This became truly the greatest saga ever put on screen. Then the funny thing happened. Like most artists, George wasn't happy with his finished product. The rest of the world was - at least until the wookie battle at the end of Jedi turned into the muppet show. But that's for another paragraph. Still - the world had spoken. Star Wars was a spectacle that needed no changes. Except, George changed it. Some minor changes, some enormous, inexcusable, character-changing changes. HAN SHOT FIRST, DAMMIT!

So the artist George carried on with his "adjustments" much to the chagrin of his loyal servants (us, the multiple times over paying public). Still, we flocked to the theaters as he unveiled his Special Editions of the timeless classics and it was like seeing Casablanca in color - it just didn't work. And then came the big slap across the face. The artist George blasted from high above - the Special Editions were it. This was the past, present, and future of Star Wars. There would be no Original Trilogy as we fondly remembered it. The Special Editions were what we were stuck with - unless one possessed the ancient art of the Laserdisc. On Laserdisc - you are permitted to see the films that captured your imagination in the highest possible quality - surpassing that of the lowly VHS or Beta copy you may have owned. But nowhere near to beautiful DVD quality that was to be the latest release of the Original Trilogy (with multiple nagging modifications aka: the Special Edition) Yes - if you wanted to see a clear, stunning picture and glorious 5.1 audio - you would only do so by watching Jabba the Hutt get his tail stepped on in a repetitive exposition-filled sequence.

The artist George did eventually release his untouched OT on DVD - in a non-anamorphic, crappy quality, virtually useless set. And thus we come full circle - I watched most of the OT this time on my prized Laserdiscs. I was booted from the theater a few times by my wife who had a startling desire to watch that damn dance reality program, during which I was forced to switch to the special edition dvds - hence "mostly" watched on Laserdisc.

The films - well ya sure as hell know the story. But ya don't know what it did to me as a child. I first saw Star Wars: A New Hope when I was 3 years old in the back seat of my folks' car at a drive-in movie theater. I don't remember much from that first experience, but I do remember Obi-Wan saying "Damn Fool" and then me saying to my parents that Obi Wan had just said a bad word. But it was the start of a relationship with Star Wars that would eventually lead to the rebel symbol being tattooed on my back. And it also began my life as a writer - eventually writer/director. No other film influenced me, as it did millions of others, in such a way as to literally change my life. I wanted to do that! I didn't even know what "that" was at the time. But I knew I wanted it.

The story is simple - it's the hero journey - it's about figuring out who you are in the world, and then going after what is most important to you. And that's why it was so powerful to all of us. It's why it's probably the greatest of all "Summer Movies That Don't Suck".

Despite what the artist George has decided over the years about his masterpiece - I will always love Star Wars - the one that I saw first as a wide-eyed 3-year old in the back of a car, the pictures gleaming down to me from that giant screen in the drive in theater, showing me what can be done; and then on into my adulthood as it continues to be a beacon - inspiring me to push forward with all my projects - to work til I bleed - continuing to create, and hopefully inspiring others along the way to carry on as well.

Live long and prosper. Oh wait...

Paris in Fall.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Paris Je T'aime

The Takeaway: Never make eye contact in the subway. You may end up kissing a girl with that thing on her bottom lip.

Format: DVD

The biggest surprise of the summer of 2007 for me (other than discovering that a very pregnant wife in the humidity of a Manhattan august will mean the husband is surely wrong no matter what he does. Black is not black. It's white, jackass. It could be green. Really, it's entirely up to her. It might even be the number 3) Again - biggest surprise other than that: this lovely flick - a collection of 18 short films each dealing with a different aspect of love in the city that will forever be known as the epicenter of that emotion - and rightfully so. Having been to, and completely fallen in love with Paris (with my decidedly unpregnant wife. In case you're wondering, black was then the letter A; no free rides, pal; pregnant or not) this collection was like going back for a stroll down the Seine with a bottle of wine and a fresh baguette from the local boulangerie.

When you have so many films in an anthology, surely not every one will take you by surprise and wrap its fingers around your heart - but here is an excellent collection with most of the films delivering the goods. Different styles, different points of view - all add up to one very decided thought - the filmmakers all love Paris. And after watching Paris Je T'aime - so will you.

Not surprisingly - it's Paris.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Karate Kid

The Takeaway: William Zabka begins his career as "greatest teen dick" here in the original The Karate Kid. You know, the one where they actually use karate as the martial art of choice.

Format: Netflix Instant Streaming

From Van Damme's Universal Soldier, I decided to continue reliving my karate flick youth with another one we never stopped watching after martial arts class. Thankfully this one holds up well - very well. The Karate Kid is every bit as enjoyable years later as a somewhat full grown adult as it was when I was peeking into the girl's locker room, playing nintendo, sucking down soda like it's my lifeforce... wait a tick - yeah - not much has changed. And point being - neither has this wonderful film.

What makes The Karate Kid standout so much is the relationship between Miyagi and Daniel. This a relationship that each needs so desperately to feel complete in their life. We don't know what happens to Daniel's father - we just know the guy aint around. A boy needs a father - Miyagi steps in. Conversely - Miyagi lost his family. Daniel fills the void. It truly is touching and sweet and played to perfection by Ralph Macchio and the late Pat Morita.

Other standouts are the beautiful cinematography, energetic score, sensational 80s music soundtrack, and fishing boat loads of badass karate action. Hell - they even have a Halloween scene thrown in. When I think of 80s flicks, a few come to mind: Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies, Blade Runner, and The Karate Kid is right there along with (sound the cheese bell!) the best around.

Twilight Zone Marathon.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Universal Soldier

The Takeaway: Van Damme's ass looks amazing on bluray.

Format: Bluray

As a a kid studying martial arts in the late 80s, early 90s - Van Damme could do no wrong. The man was frickin' incredible. He'd totally kick Segal's tailend from here to next week! Except if he was playing the character he played in Universal Soldier.

Wow. So this doesn't hold up well. I remember thinking this was so badass back in 90s. I mean really - Dolph and Van Damme slamming each other every which way? How could you go wrong? Well - you go wrong when you grow into an adult and realize the film is utter crap! I wish I could steal a time machine from some super secret government organization, find myself at Guilderland High School (probably hiding in some bathroom skipping class), and flick myself in the ear for even thinking of watching the film, having a good memory of it, which then makes me watch it again years later.

I won't call this a bomb. I won't even give it my worst rating. But it is: Reality TV. Um - try and enjoy kiddies. Better yet - if you have fond memories of it - please refrain from ever watching again. Just keep it in the sweet sanctity of your mind's eye.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

The Takeaway: We all know why Liz walks around with a pout on her face for so much of the movie. Just look at Hellboy's hand. I can't believe she isn't limping too.

Format: DVD

After the early works of Spielberg, Summer Movies That Don't Suck had to jump ahead in time so I could remember that yes - badass summer flicks do exist in the 21st century too. They just don't come as fast and furious as they did in the late 70s/early 80s - when almost every summer month had not only a great flick, but an instant classic. June '82 anyone?

Hellboy is my favorite comic book character of the last 20 years. He's cool as all getout. He chomps a cigar. He says "crap" a lot. He beats the bad guys to a pulp with his really, really, really big hand. And he's the lead good dude in a secret US government paranormal protection agency. The first film was so damn good I wore out the DVD - and that's really, really, really hard to do. Okay - I'm lying. The DVD is just fine - but I watched it way too many times. So when they had so much trouble getting a sequel off the ground (damn studios!) I was pissed. Then came the news that Del Toro pulled the upset and got the flick into production. Needless to say I was there opening day.

This is just a cool flick - really, really, really cool. I like saying really, really, really - what are ya gonna do about it? Del Toro does here what every great sequel manages - keeps the tone the same, but expands the scope of the original without going to the absurd. There are awe-inspiring moments that will leave your eyes plastered to the screen for complete sequences at a time. Troll Market! What sets the film apart from most comic book flicks, other than the quirky humor, is the heart of the characters. They make you feel. They make you believe that despite their oddball shapes and sizes - they are real people in real relationships. It's pure magic.

You really, really really need to see it if ya haven't. Twilight Zone Marathon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

E.T.

The Takeaway: You will not get a lawsuit from a dear old friend even if your creature looks like his.

Format: DVD

How can a full grown man still cry at this movie? I kept asking myself that question while watching this time around. I get choked up every time I see it. You wanna know why? Spielberg is the master puppeteer and we are his puppets. He knows exactly how to get to us, and as I completed the trilogy of his early works (Jaws, Close Encounters, and E.T.) I realized just how truly incredible he was at that point of his career. He knows exactly how he wants us to feel or what to think at any given moment and carefully crafts the scene to deliver on his desire. I said it in a previous post - but this is a master craftsman at work at arguably the finest point of his or anyone's career.

What a treat to watch these three masterpieces to open the Summer Movies That Don't Suck event. My challenge to all budding filmmakers out there. Watch these films. Over and over. Til your eyes glaze over and possibly even bleed. Study the greats and we will have a new generation of filmmakers to be proud of. I realize how difficult Hollywood has made it. You need to figure out how to take the reins back. Wrestle control away from the executives and please - get us back to where we need to be. The revolution begins with you.

Paris.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

The Takeaway: Watch out for the giant flashing shofar in the sky. My Jewish homies know what I'm talking about.

Format: Bluray

Spielberg's first foray into HD is an absolute rocket ship! Blastoff. This is by far the best Close Encounters has ever looked and sounded at home. We all know the story about the peaceful aliens who come a' callin' to this little rock we call Earth. If this film, along with Jaws (see yesterday's post) and E.T (see tomorrow's post), proves anything - it's that Speilberg had us by the balls with his awesomeness in the early days of his filmmaking. NO ONE did it better. Just imagine having those 3 films along with Raiders of the Lost Ark in your resume. That's all that went through my head as I watched these films over the past few days. Having one of them still gets your name in the history books and Stevey-boy has all 4.

Wow.

Yes I devoted a whole paragraph to "wow" - he deserves it. We are talking knockout filmmaking at the master level in every category. I'll even go down as saying Dreyfuss' performance here is his best to date. Although I still have a bit of a soft spot for his character in American Graffiti. Anyone who has a bluray player must go and get this release asap. There is simply no reason not to at this point - it's on Amazon for $15 and includes all 3 versions of the film, a small book, a poster, and tons of special features over 2 discs.

I couldn't have picked better flicks to open the Summer Movies That Don't Suck extravaganza. Jaws, Close Encounters, and E.T. (again - swing by tomorrow for the review) are what summer flicks are all about. They have big concepts, elegant stories, plenty of action, and most importantly - they ooze with heart.

Paris.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Jaws

The Takeaway: When you follow a hot chick down the beach as the sun is setting and you've had too much to drink - don't be a hero - let her go in the water and you just calmly pass out like you're supposed ta. You'll get your chance with her later. Oh, er, wait..

Format: DVD

Let's just start with that story I promised you all in the last post. So yeah - I was born because of Jaws. Spielberg is therefore my rightful father and I am due his millions. Here's the tale. My momma and papa were at the beach the summer Jaws came out. They saw the flick. Next day, everyone was going in the water. They were scared to death from the flick, stayed back, made some sweet summer lovin', and I came to be 9 months later. Well - 8 months later, but that's another story.

How's that for a horror film doing its job? And yes - make no mistake about it - Jaws is a horror film. An expertly crafted horror film - it's a master class in horror and tension, not to mention character development, pacing, music - the film is damn near perfect if not so.

It's Paris in Fall!

Friday, June 18, 2010

SUMMER MOVIES THAT DON'T SUCK!

As the summer steams ahead in sweltering sticky gooeyness, you may have noticed a distinct lack of blog entries here at Flick A Day. Well my faithful demon hordes, I've been prepping the awesomeness that will forevermore be regarded as Summer Movies That Don't Suck, aka - The Flick A Day Summer Movie experience.

Due to the lack of vision, creativity, and any sign of pulse of life in Hollywood, we have maybe 2 or 3 films worth seeing this summer. I'm sure you'll agree this could well go down as the worst year for movies since good ole Tommy boy starting twisting the crank in 1891. And so I decided it was time to go back and watch all the summer movies of years past that I can possibly fit into my diet here at Couch De Roer. For the next 2 and half months I will be watching exclusively movies that were released for the summer movie season beginning with the summer blockbuster that started it all - Jaws. When I say it started it all - I mean it started it ALL. I was born because of Jaws! Read the review in the next day or so for more on that astonishing tale of wonder.

So make sure to check back every day for your new Summer Movies That Don't Suck review!

Cheers,

Jason

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage

The Takeaway: Dario Argento made a better debut film than most modern directors make after years of practice. I usually reserve this space for something funny. But there is nothing funny about the pathetic state of affairs in Hollywood today. Our industry is dying and this is the WORST year for movies I can remember. End rant.

Format: DVD

Argento may be better known for Susperia, but Bird is his masterpiece. Hypnotic, stylish flick that keeps you watching, keeps you guessing, and entertains you, while showing little blood (in a horror film! Imagine that! Using ACTUAL fear and suspense instead of tearing someone's head off?) and hitting the chill bone with slick direction and an excellent score by the legendary Ennio Moriconne.

Taking a page from Hitchcock's notebook, Argento realizes that what truly terrifies us is what we don't see. DON'T SEE. Got it Hollywood? We good now?

The only horror coming out of Hollywood these days is that the industry I LOVE so much is collapsing under its own stupidity. God willing this will lead to the sort of 1970s revolution that, ironically led to the disaster we're in now, but for awhile gave us fresh, exciting, filmmaking and classics I will cherish forever.

All right - sorry for sideswiping my own review here - but it's something that needed to be said. Back to Bird - get it. Now. Enjoy, kiddies! It's a Twilight Zone Marathon!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Ugly Truth

The Takeaway: Charming rogues always win. Someday - I'm gonna be a charming rogue.

Format: DVD

First Time Viewing: The Ugly Truth is an anomaly in the modern rom-com world and I think that's why it succeeds so well. It hits every goddammed traditional rom-com beat - I mean like EVERY SINGLE FREAKIN' ONE. The structure of this bad boy is as formulaic as they come - the kind that studio execs regularly slap themselves on the back for saying how creative they are - no you're not - you followed a pattern set in motion when a caveman first gathered a crowd of his cavemen companions around a fire and told a rom-com (exclusively in grunts I might add) to try and get lady cavemen to do nasty cavemen business with them. Anyhoo - The Ugly Truth? No different than the grunted caveman rom-com - except this - There has been a trend in the post 40-Year Old Virgin world to make rom-coms for dudes. These come in many forms - even the painfully annoying Bromance Breed. But the thought is this - let's make rom-coms that dudes will like. And guess what? Cavemen like them. So they keep churning them out. But the dude rom-com follows different beats than the chick rom-com.

What did The Ugly Truth do? Followed the chick rom-com beats - EVERY SINGLE FREAKIN' ONE (oh - did I mention that before?) - BUT infused it with dude rom-com funny. So what you get is a hybrid - a hermaphrodite rom-com if you will. And it is fucking hilarious after the first 7 minutes or so, which honestly aren't so good. I'll also add the last 5 minutes blow too. But everything between those 2 points - very nice. Well played, Ugly Truth. Well played.

Enjoy, kiddies! Soft Serve Ice Cream @ 66th and B'way.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dennis Hopper

"I should have been dead ten times over. I`ve thought about that a lot. I believe in miracles. It`s an absolute miracle that I`m still around."

The Takeaway: Live fast - on your terms - as you will.

Hopper leaves on the tail end of the Lost finale week - a week where we learned about a Gathering World in Lostland - a rest stop on the way to wherever we may go next. And right now, Hopper is waking to that Gathering World, perhaps sitting down with Vincent Price, Elvis Presley, and James Dean.

Dennis Hopper cowrote and directed one of the greatest American films of all time - a favorite of mine - Easy Rider. And that's his way of life, man. He just cruised along - his writing, acting, directing, photography, sculpture, painting - his salvation - his gift to us - his inspiring badassery just captivated us and made us all better artists.

If memory serves (and gods knows that ain't reliable these days) my first experience with Hopper was the astonishing Blue Velvet, where he just fucking slayed us with his portrayal of Frank Booth. I couldn't take my eyes off this dude. His passion, his intensity, his raw being exploded on screen and I said to myself, "Self? Go gettcha some more flicks with this cat." And I did. And that's when I found Easy Rider. Holy good god, this movie rocked me. Spirit. That's the one word answer to riddle. Spirit. This film takes you on a journey both existential and physical. And you come out knowing. Just knowing. Comfort food in the form of film.

His film career was beyond impressive - 5 decades of pure awesome for us to explore for all time. He worked with some of the greatest filmmakers and actors to ever live. Corman, Coppola, Fonda, Nicholson, Dean, Lynch, Romero, Polanski, Hackman, Duvall, Brando, Eastwood, Newman. If you shook any one of their hands - you had a good day. Hopper worked with them, lived with them, experienced their greatness firsthand - and they his.

I didn't know him in person. But I knew him. And when I go to the Gathering World, I know who's buying.

Paris in Fall.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Black Christmas

The Takeaway: Egg nog isn't the only scary thing at Christmas.

Format: Netflix Instant Streaming

Okay - so this was the slasher that started all modern slasher flicks. It came out 4 years before Halloween really jumpstarted the craze. In that respect it's clearly a must-see for any diehard horror freakazoid (like me), but unlike Halloween - it cannot break out from genre nutsos into the mainstream. Aside from a few standout performances and one VERY supercool, icky, freaky shot, it doesn't have the swag, the character development, or honestly - enough genuine scares to crossover. But it is a horror movie set at Christmas time and like anyone who's had the old family gatherings round that time of year - I think it's a fairly honest depiction. So it wins points there.

Enjoy, kiddies. It's a Wednesday.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Peeping Tom

The Takeaway: It just goes to show you, all filmmakers are raving mad, psychotic serial killers. Wait. Uh, oh. So - who wants ta come over for dinner?

The granddaddy of all POV films is a stunning exploration of the psychotic mind in gorgeous technicolor glory! Mashes up some nice fetishes all into one package - voyeurism and stalking, and apparently killing people with a tripod. I know, the tripod thing is a little known fetish, but if you've ever been on the film festival circuit...

I always walk the line of enjoying motivation for a killer and not wanting to know why they do what they do. Usually I think it's far more frightening not to know. Without motive, the unpredictable is the only expectation. And that is truly horrifying - not knowing when, where, or how someone will strike. On the flip side, when done well (Silence of the Lambs comes to mind with Buffalo Bill) a motive can be used to up the creep factor to dizzying effect. Such is Peeping Tom. When we learn what we learned, I got the icky-wicky feelings inside me bubbling up to the surface and not just from the burrito/Red Bull combo I had prior to the screening.

This should be required viewing for all horror and thriller fans. End of story. Enjoy, kiddies! It's a Twilight Zone Marathon!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost - The Finale

The Takeaway: When a dog licks your face; it's all good.

Format: TV

Lost has the best pilot episode I have ever seen. It captured us right from the opening frame, which quite literally was an opening - Jack's eye. A starting image that led to some of the most tense moments I've seen on television. Lost has the best finale episode I have ever seen...

But apparently not to everyone. The internet was buzzing not moments after the finale ended. Many people were confused. Some were pissed. Some were drunk and only realizing this afternoon that they are confused and pissed - this of course could be because they woke up naked under an aerobed with an empty paper towel holder stuck up their keister, and nothing at all to do with the finale of Lost.

Angry they are - but they shouldn't be. Let me explain why.

Most oft noticed question by yours truly from scouring the net - What is the island? Seriously - you don't have that one? What is the island? We were given the answer a few episodes ago. The island is a mystical place that harbors the source of all light and goodness in the world. Light goes out, we all die.

But the light did go out. Correction, astute viewer - the beam of light disappeared when Desmond lifted the stone out. But there was CLEARLY light under the cracked ground. It never fully went out and eventually Jack sacrifices his life to replace the stone and restart the beam of light - hence saving the world. Not too shabby for a little doctor from the states.

Okay, okay - but everyone was dead for the whole 6 seasons? WEAK, dude! They died in the plane crash and then we watched - like - what - purgatory for 6 years? HUH?????!!??? I'm sorry - were we all watching the same finale? Cause the one I watched EXPLICITLY tells us (actually it was Christian telling Jack - but we were on the other side of the TV screen listening in) that EVERYTHING that happened on the island was REAL! That the time all of the castaways spent on the island together was the most important time they ever spent on earth - and that it was such powerful stuff (bonds of friendship and all) that they collectively created this sort of waiting room between the real world and whatever lies beyond. This tangible place in intangible space (Jimmy Buffett wrote that song during his brief stint as a quantum physicist) has no NOW (no time element) and thus as each of them died in their own time - they all arrived in this Gathering World. Our next clue that EVERYTHING on the island was real and actually happened is: once Jack realizes he's dead he asks if everyone else is dead too. Christian replies, "Some died before you; some long after you." Lastly we have the great moment between Hurley and Ben where Ben tells Hurley he was a great number 1 (referring to his tenure as Guardian of the Island). Hurley says Ben made a pretty great number 2. (referring to Ben being Hurley's right hand man on the island, post Jack's death).

But, but, but - wait a second - if they all lived out their lives off the island - then why do they look the same in the Gathering World? Ha, ha - gotcha there, smarty J! No ya didn't. Remember what Kate says to Jack in the Gathering World (flash-sideways/alt universe - whatever-the-hell-ya-wanna-call-it-at-this-point) - she says, I missed you, Jack. I MISSED YOU. Because she lived a hell of lot longer than Jack. She made it off the island with James, Lapeidis, Miles, and Richard. She probably lived a really long life. Don't know how long - but she missed Jack at the end of it. When they all arrive in the Gathering World - they return to the form that all the others would remember them as. The way they were when they met - right after the plane crashed on the island. That's what this whole shebang was about - the bonds of friendship - redemption by community. They each of them had things to work through and together they did it. In the end, after their deaths, they arrive in the Gathering World - the place we all thought was an actual parallel universe that resulted from Juliet setting off the bomb. Desmond "wakes up" to the reality that he is dead and "lets go" first. He then goes on a season long mission to wake up the rest of his friends so they may all move on to the next plane of existence together. And in the end - Jack comes to the realization. Christian opens the doors of the church letting in a glowing light (that looks quite a bit like the light from the cave on the island. The source?) and all of them move on. I take it to mean they reassimilate into the source of goodness and light - in other words - back to the island. Remember what was said - there is a bit of the light in all of us.

As to the many other questions people had - such as Eloise - why did she ask Desmond if he was going to "take" her son? Well - she killed her son in the real world, if you recall. In this Gathering World, she has somehow woken to the fact that it isn't "real". That it's just a stopping point. But her grief over what she had done in the real world compels her to be selfish and keep Daniel from moving on. She wants him to stay forever with her in the Gathering World.

The Dharma Initiative? Group of scientists who come to the island to identify and experiment upon the mystical properties of the island. What else do you need to feel satisfied?

What's up with the mystical properties of the island? Otherwise known as - How many midiclhorians does it take to screw in a light bulb? It's a frickin' mystical, magical place, dudes! No explanation necessary. What happens, happened.

Walt? I got no answers there, brotha. Sometimes - ya just gotta let go.

I was weeping almost throughout the runtime of last night's finale. The closure brought to the arcs of these unbelievably real characters we've grown to love over the last 6 years was so elegant, beautiful, and moving - that even now, as I type this the tears are welling in my eyes. This was very much like a funeral. We were putting our friends to rest forevermore. And yet like much of last night, I have an overwhelming sense of love stirring in me. A love for my wife. For my son. For my family and friends. And for my fellow man. Even NYC cab drivers.

Paris in Fall.



Friday, May 21, 2010

Sex and the City

The Takeaway: I totally gotta get me the lifestyle of the stallion living next to Samantha.

Format: Bluray

Yeah. I'm a dude. And I willingly watched the Sex and the City movie. Twice now. Might even see it again at some point. I'm straight by the way.

The series upon which this flick is based is really excellent. Great characters - very light and funny. So I was expecting the same formula. I didn't get it. They threw a curve ball at me - and anyone who watched the film of course - this isn't just about me. For now. Let's face it - everything really should be about me - but that's a different blog. Anyhoo, they made this a dark film. Kinda surprising actually with the completely different feel swinging in from the TV series. And it was a little jarring. Don't get me wrong, there was quite a bit of humor in it still. The girls were the girls. But the second act really went into some territory I wasn't expecting.

If you're a fan of the series - chances are you saw the film already and are eagerly awaiting the sequel, which comes out next week. For me - I am hoping the 2nd film goes back to what worked so well for 6 seasons on HBO. Enjoy, kiddies. Soft Serve Ice Cream @ 66th and Broadway.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Takeaway: WHAT? Um... drugs are good, I guess?

Format: Bluray

First Time Screening. Let me say this first: Terry Gilliam is one of my favorite directors going these days. The man is a genius - so talented, so spirited - his battle with Universal over Brazil (one of my favorite films, in fact in my top ten) is legendary, and quite frankly inspiring. I love his work. Most of the time. This is not most of the time.

We've all heard the story - Heath died during production, others stepped in to finish the job. Not distracting as you might think, actually. What was distracting was the freaking mess of a screenplay. For those complaining about Iron Man 2's script - check out of this one, kiddies - it's a whole other ganja-smoking animal.

Honestly I cannot tell you what the film is about. Not one bit. And it wasn't trying to be elusive from what I could see. It just didn't congeal into much. It didn't capture me at all. Yes - the visuals were impressive and I definitely enjoyed that. In fact, the gorgeous sets and CGI and the acting from everyone involved, kept enough of my attention to get me through the film. But that was it. Here's hoping Gilliam returns to form now that he finally has The Man Who Killed Don Quixote off the ground. Try and enjoy, kiddies. It's a Wednesday

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Iron Man 2

The Takeaway: The best superheroes are the ones with daddy issues, sucking down the whiskey. At least, they have the best time at parties.

Format: Movie Theater

First Time Screening. What in the holy heck is everyone complaining about here? Yeah - I read the reviews before I went to see it. Sue me. I live on the internet; it was unavoidable. But was I watching a different movie - or do I just try to have fun - you know - like the main character in this film radiates in just about every scene he's ever been in. RDJ wowed me in the first Iron Man, but he blows the hinges off this muthafucka in the sequel. The man is so beyond gifted. Who needs a script with that kind of improv genius on hand?

And that seems to be everyone's major problem. The script. Why, exactly? Look - I write scripts - I've made movies. I don't just watch, I study. Was there something I was missing here? Why did the internet buzz with "muddled script"? I didn't see one at all. If anything I thought the script was laid out nearly exactly as the first Iron Man. Was it just that the novelty of having a superhero who enjoys life and his powers has worn off for these people? Maybe they just don't enjoy life? Just saying.

Was this as good as the first Iron Man? Can't say that. There were many parts that were better. But even novelty has me on this one. Iron Man took me completely by surprise. Iron Man 2 didn't have that luxury. And I still fucking loved it! Enjoy, kiddies! It's a Twilight Zone Marathon!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2

The Takeaway: Do not piss off a chick with a sword. That is all.

Format: DVD

QT is the master mixup mashup hipster. He begs, borrows, and steals from virtually everything in existence and slams it all into the food processor he has in place of a brain, then hits puree. Out comes the dazzlingness of whatever the hell he's working on at the time. In this case, the bloodtastically stunning (and splattering) Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2.

Without hesitation I recommend these flicks to everyone for the simple fact that you will never again see such evidence of a writer/director having so much fucking fun - his child-like glee on display in every frame - as you do here. HE LOVES MOVIES - and just about everything else for that matter. It's absolutely infectious. And the tone isn't all - this man has truly honed his craft - he is in charge throughout - no missteps at all. He is showing you with a strong, confident hand exactly what he wants you to see.

I personally loved Volume 1 over 2 - probably for sheer novelty. The kinetic energy onscreen just had me from the second the Shaw Scope logo popped up. Volume 2 was a bit slower and talky - but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The deliberate pacing building up to the final clash with Bill was a spark of genius - but as you may have guessed from the 6th word in the previous sentence - ya know - it just took a bit to get there - that's all. They both rock and you know it. So get watchin'! Enjoy, kiddies! Twilight Zone Marathon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trick R' Treat

The Takeaway: Watch out for tiny pumpkin headed freaks. They tend to be real savage-like with lollipops. Oh, and just for the record – my principal in elementary school was worse. Don’t know about his kid.

Format: Bluray

This movie completely took me by surprise. I’d been following its development for years and was astonished when Warner Bros screwed the pooch and decided against a theatrical release. Thank the maker it found a very warm, inviting home on DVD/Bluray – where presumably it will live on for years to come as a Halloween classic.

The filmmakers clearly adore Halloween night – they nailed the feeling and atmosphere so perfectly, that even watching it on the cusp of Summer, I was thrust back to a chilly, late-October eve. Could have been the open window and the cold front – but I suspect it was the startling imagery, mischief, and sinister fun bursting onscreen.

This is a live action horror comic book with all the trimmings – 4 inter-related tales of the macabre, each one more fun than the next. It is cleverly assembled in an almost Pulp Fiction timeline style with background imagery telling us WHEN we are in the overall story. Simply put – this is brilliant, exciting filmmaking and it must go on your list. Enjoy, kiddies! It’s a Twilight Zone Marathon!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tears of the Sun

The Takeaway: Action movies should really be exciting more than boring, right? Anyone? Bueller?

Format: Netflix Instant Streaming

Bruce Willis is just one of those guys, man. He's your bud, he's your worst nightmare. For chicks - he could cuddle you tenderly, then beat the piss out of the other dude trying to steal your purse. The man just rocks. He's a great actor and a seemingly cool, badass dude. And he's the only thing saving this war flick from getting the big "Suck it, producers!" from me. Speaking of the producers, why didn't they just go with Bored To Tears for the title? It would have been closer the mark.

There's nothing more to say. This is for Bruce Willis completists only. Though my wife liked it. Got all choked up and stuff. Still don't know why. You'll have to ask her. I didn't bother cause let's face it - that turns into a reallllllllllllllllly long conversation, and of course, my ass already hurt because even it thought it had just watched a nine hour movie. Try and enjoy, kiddies. It's Reality TV.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Silence of the Lambs

The Takeaway: Tearing off someone's face and then wearing it as a mask to make you sorta maybe look like a real bloodied up version of that person - yeah - that's pretty much still the best way to escape. Also - I've really gotta work on learning how to smell Jodie Foster's vag. It's an underused talent.

Format: Criterion DVD

I still remember the Oscars that year. How could a bloodhound not? A horror flick took home the big prize. But this was no ordinary horror flick was it? Blood? Tons. Serial killer? How about 2. Chick being thrown down into a dingy well? Sure. Creepiness in every scene? You betcha.

But this is a horror/thriller - crafted by a superior director, expertly acted (Jodie and Anthony did in fact win Oscars for their respective performances), beautifully shot - this is a masterpiece of the genre - and along with Halloween - possibly the very best on offer. Because these movies exist - I know others CAN exist - somewhere in the future. Horror movies can cross over, gain mass appeal and be truly terrifying, excellent movies. Until then - I'll always have Hannibal to whisper sweet nothings into my ear - and hopefully leave it attached.

Enjoy, kiddies! It's a Twilight Zone Marathon!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

He's Just Not That Into You

The Takeaway: If you're going to cheat on your wife - definitely go with Scarlett Johansson. Didn't work out too well for this dude - but that's mainly cause he's a douche - in every movie he's ever been in. You certainly have a better shot. How's that for a motivational chocolate bar?

Format: Bluray

Who'd a thunk to make a romantic comedy that was neither funny nor romantic? The producers of this mindnumbingly booooooorrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnngggggggg, drawn out, fucking mess, that's who - and they should be targeted for the next car bomb! Too soon? Ah shit - that's what this film did to me.

Seriously - how did THIS cast - yes this incredible cast of likable, talented actors (outside of the douche nugget previously referenced) ever accept this stank-pile of a script. I hope they just wanted to buy another car that I can never afford, go on another vacation to a place I can only dare dream of, or purchase yet another gigundo house high in the hills - that would at the very least explain why they took time out of the schedules to film this. I'm totally down with selling out to send your kids to college or go on an all night drunken binge and need some hard earned cash to bribe the jury. But if there's any other reason these guys and gals signed on - well - I may just lose faith in Hollywood. Oh - wait. Never mind.

Incidentally - I LOVE rom-coms. Even this sub-genre of "too many actors in one flick, with too many plot lines, all in an effort to hedge the producer's bets" as noted by the well crafted, actually funny, actually romantic, Love, Actually.

Try and enjoy, kiddies... it's gonna be a rough night. NYC Cab Driver.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Joy Ride

The Takeaway: If you're a truly terrible actor, and impersonating a girl only accentuates how truly terrible your acting is, best not to sign on in the first place. This goes for you too, Lindsay Lohan.

Format: DVD

I'll save you the read and just give you the rating: Wednesday.

All right - that's not as much fun as thought it might be. But I'll make it quick - quick like I wish the screening of this film had gone. New flash - it did not. Here's the thing. The 2 lead characters are just wrong, plain and simple. Not that the big baddie didn't slightly (and I emphasize - slightly) go overboard, just a hint maybe, in his retaliation. In any case - it was kinda hard for me to sympathize with them. This wasn't terrible by any stretch - and I'd actually recommend viewing it if you haven't seen it - just keep the expectations in check. What sucks is this - the best thing about this movie - I can't even tell you about without ruining something, so - whatever - go rent the damn flick and we'll chat later. Enjoy, kiddies.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hot Fuzz

The Takeaway: There's a point on a man's head where, if you shoot it, it will blow up. This is pure scientific fact. Don't question me.

Format: HDDVD

Proving they aren't a bunch of one hit wonders, the Shaun of the Dead team returns to the silver screen and the shit gets real! I cannot describe to you the pure joy of watching Hot Fuzz. I saw it 4 times in the theater and countless more on HDDVD. And every time - I'm still catching new stuff. Lines that are twisted into something else later in the film, foreshadowing, images in the background - like Shaun - Hot Fuzz is crafted to perfection. It's amazing to me that more producers haven't caught on to what Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are doing - they are creating content of the highest quality and ensuring that their films live on in the home video market. And it's no secret to how they do this - they LOVE their product and sit with it for a while. A long while even - but they continue to work until the script is so rich and layered that you get the feeling of almost watching a completely new movie on each screening. Simply brilliant. Enjoy, kiddies! It's Paris.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Shaun of the Dead

The Takeaway: A zombie invasion is no reason to stop drinking.

Format: HDDVD

Whoever it was that said you can't make a movie where a Zombie unwittingly participates in a drunken singalong of White Lines, was obviously mistaken. I'm not sure who this sad, little person who claimed such a scene could not exist is, or if this blundering buffoon is merely a figment of my imagination concocted by the deep recesses of my psyche to make me feel smart that such a person could exist in a world where the greatest Horror/Comedy ever produced proved this dolt incorrect in such astonishing fashion that this, let's go with 'figment of Jason's imagination', was anointed the nickname, Heidi Montag.


Wait…what? Someone get me my meds. Pronto!


Shaun of the Dead is so incredibly brilliant - so richly detailed - with characters defined from the second the opening bell dings - that you simply MUST view the film many, many times to fully discover its genius. And it rewards you, oh yes - it rewards you with the cinematic equivalent of a 10Lbs Cornetto! Look everywhere at everything, listen to every line - every sound - every last thing in this film was layered in with purpose, crafted to genius levels by a 1/2 punch of comedy gods - co-writer/star Simon Pegg, and co-writer/director Edgar Wright - who clearly have nothing but undying (undead?) love for the genre.


If you haven't seen this film, you need to reexamine your life and discover why. I suggest therapy. If you have, you already know the shitstorm of badassery that is Shaun - and should be watching it right now. Enjoy, kiddies!


Special ratings award: Slice of Fried Gold!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pulp Fiction

The Takeaway: There's a lot worse that can happen then a car crash. And if it does, always go with the samurai sword.

Format: DVD

The question of QT's masterpiece has come up quite a bit lately. With the last line of Inglourious Basterds, we know what the big Q thinks. After all, Brad Pitt stares into the camera and says, "Ya know I think this may be my masterpiece."

But what does it matter what he thinks? We should only be concerned with what I think. And I don't agree with Tarantino. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Inglourious Basterds. But in the future when we look back, Pulp Fiction will continue to be remembered as an industry gamechanger and the work of the Dr. Frankenstein of the film industry, who broke all the rules and made one of the greatest American films of all time.

Pulp Fiction is savage coolery; a most delicious, decadent, deluge of badassness, seasoned with slick dialogue and a kickin' soundtrack that makes ya feel like a pimp just listening to it. We all know how it took the world by storm when it first came out, but now - 16 years later - it continues to startle, to entertain, and to challenge the powers that be in Hollywood. Plus it has this line: "I'm prepared to scour the the Earth for that motherfucker. If Butch goes to Indochina, I want a nigga waitin' in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass."

Enjoy, kiddies! It's Paris in Fall! That's two in a row, baby!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Halloween

The Takeaway: You wanna scare the hell out of people? Pretend William Shatner is a mechanic and then dress up like that. It helps if you breathe like Darth Vader.

Format: DVD

The blueprint for how to make a truly intense, actually scary horror film that drips with tension and atmosphere in EVERY scene was created in 1978 with the release of the brilliant Halloween. It's a simple, elegant story - Killer stalks people, slaying them whenever the mood strikes him. How does this film work so exceedingly well where nearly every slasher film to follow does not? The answer lies in how expertly crafted the film is in both direction and cinematography.

John Carpenter is responsible for some of the greatest exploitation films of the late 70's - mid 80's - Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, Escape From New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China. The list goes on. But nothing compares to what he accomplished with Halloween. The full extent of his skill on display. His patience is staggering. Why was this film so scary? Because he draws everything out until the last possible moment and then just when the killer is going to strike - he pulls the rug out and has Myers attack from the opposite direction. Every time we think we know what's going to happen, Carpenter makes sure to surprise with a bold and riveting choice.

The mood is set with his excellent score right from the title sequence with the creepy and painfully slow push in on the jack-o-lantern, which echoes the slow, methodical stalking Michael Myers exhibits upon his victims. The characters are well defined - these are people both likable and believable - people you go to school with, children you babysit - this is a world that exists right outside your door - and death is now at YOUR doorstep. Because John Carpenter understands what is truly terrifying is not buckets of blood. It's a killer who will strike without reason, without hesitation, without fear of being caught, completely at random, and when and where you least expect it. Terror is something that can happen to you. Terror is something that you connect with on a very personal level.

The shot selection adds so much to the tension here. Wide shots with a small dot in the background - the man in the mask - the man standing there, examining you from afar. Medium shots with the Myers shoulder in the foreground. Everywhere the characters go - Myers is there - omnipresent - ready to strike - maybe? Maybe he just wants to observe until whatever evil runs through him overflows.

Halloween is what true horror is all about. Enjoy, kiddies! It's Paris - Paris in Fall!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Monster Squad

The Takeaway: Kick him in the nards, even if you don't think he has nards. Cause you know what? He very likely does.

Format: Bluray

Nostalgia + being an 80's child = Nintendo, Rubix Cubes, There still being mystery left in the world and a reason to dream because there is no such thing as the freakin' internet yet, Michael Jackson's Thriller *Album* (yes those big discs that spun around in circles), The slow steady transition to tapes, the slow steady transition to CDs, Home Video, Transformers cartoons, and tons of movies - including The Monster Squad.

Some of those movies live quite well in the nostalgic mind, but once they hit your Bluray player, you wish you'd kept the memory just that - an unspoiled memory. I'm looking at you, The Last Starfighter! Others are still like, totally tubular, dood. The Monster Squad is of the latter cocktail.

While I always preferred The Goonies, The Monster Squad was a tremendous effort in bringing the thrills and chills of old skool monsters to the teen/tween audience. It has great characters, lots of humor, and some totally badass action. Absolutely a must-see. And it's never looked better on home video than the new Bluray release from Lionsgate. Enjoy, kiddies! It's a Twilight Zone Marathon!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

American Psycho

The Takeaway: I totally agree. Oh wait. This is a public forum? This film disgusts me!

Format: DVD

Dripping with dark humor, this is simply the most fun you're ever gonna have in a sorta slasher flick. I say "sorta" cause this is way more than your run of the mill slasher. This is biting social commentary of an indulgent, over-the-top period in our history, and also a tremendous character study, brilliantly written by Guinevere Turner, brilliantly portrayed by Christian Bale. I've seen this film countless times over the years and cannot get enough. The film spirals along its path with breakneck speed - it's as lean as its lead character. The film itself could do 1000 situps. Quotables are fired off in nearly every scene. In fact, if you are following my @flick_quotes site on Twitter, yesterday had near nonstop entries, as I tried to include every quote I could think of from the film. Sorry to those I overloaded! End of story - you just have to go out and see this film if you haven't. And if you have - you already know - so why aren't you watching it RIGHT NOW???? Enjoy, kiddies! Twilight Zone Marathon.

Monday, April 26, 2010

It's Alive (1974)

The Takeaway: It takes an awful lot of cops to take down a baby.

Format: Netflix Instant Streaming

First Time Screening. Holy 70s Batman! Er - well, I guess that's the 60s - but you get the idea. Man oh man - watching this film was like stepping through a portal back to my mom's apartment growing up. I'll save you the suspense - I was talking about the interior decorating of their house. I never, as far as I remember anyway, killed anyone as a baby. I waited until after college for my spree. Laugh, funnyman. But you're next. And I watch a lot of horror flicks. So this aint gonna end well for ya. Whoa - where'd that come from?

Anyway - great googaly moogaly that newborn can launch a bloodbath! Just think - all that milk wasted. What would you do with a milk truck filled with spilled milk mixed with the splattered blood of a newly dead milkman?

I never got totally into this film. I'm sure there are a number of reasons. Maybe it was the incredibly awful baby monster puppet. Maybe the fact that very little happened in the film. Maybe I thought I was watching straight horror and got cheesy fun (mindset wasn't there). Who knows? It was just sorta there for me - background noise. Not terribly scary, though quite gory. I guess for gorehounds - it'll satisfy. And also - even though the terrible baby monster puppet really was completely unconvincing - it did have a certain charm to it. Look - if you have the choice between watching this and being forced into a Dora the Explorer marathon by your toddler - I'd go with this. It's not the greatest recommendation in the world, I know, but it's all the excitement I can muster. Enjoy, kiddies. It's a Wednesday.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Fly (1958)

The Takeaway: If you're in a movie and Vincent Price happens to walk onscreen with you, chances are you're gonna have a really bad day.

Format: Netflix Instant Streaming

First Time Screening. Vincent Price. Have any other 2 words in cinema language ever been more perfect? Well I guess - FADE OUT on a Michael Bay movie, but why be negative, right? Vincent Price is one of my all time favorite actors. The man can simply do no wrong. That voice, oh, that voice: chilling, lyrical, exciting. I wish Vincent Price were in every movie ever made. Even a bit part - it could be like a Where's Waldo - "Didya spot Price in that one?"

Here, sadly, he's underused - but at least he fills up lots of the first act.

I've only ever seen Cronenberg's remake of The Fly, which as it turns out, happens to be a radical departure from the source material. What struck me most about the original is its non-linear structure. A very bold and exciting choice for its time, really. Having the after effects of the disaster/experiment play in the opening act adds so much mystery to what is actually going on, and to be honest - is better structurally than Cronenberg's film. However, Cronenberg's remake does have the whole visceral, organic body mutilation thing going on. Cronenberg treats the effects of the experiment as a disease really with Goldblum's scientist, Seth Brundle, literally falling apart as his body handles (rather poorly, I might add) the assimilation of the fly's DNA.

You can't compare two films made nearly 30 years apart. Everything from the state of motion picture production to societal parameters have changed so radically in that duration of time, it would be foolhardy. So - here we go:

Original: Totally badass "human head on fly" getting nearly eaten by a spider before getting whacked by a police doctor (whatever the hell that is - it's his character name though).

Remake: Brundle's fingernails plucked out - by him.

Original: Vincent Price.

Remake: David Cronenberg playing a gynecologist - which is creepier than any special effect he put in his film.

Original: Labcoat sportin' scientist whose head is now a FLY's head! ARRGGGHHHHHHHH!

Remake: Nasty ole' hairs on Goldblum's back. His ex-wife/co-star Geena Davis complained about the same thing for years - my guess is it led to the divorce. Apparently he didn't need to sit in the makeup chair for that application. Yes, I'm kidding. It probably wasn't the only reason they got a divorce.

Original: Patricia Owens. In bed. A lot.

Remake: Geena Davis Side Boob.

Winner? It's a draw for me. I love the fast paced, gooey onscreen nastiness that Cronenberg drenches me with. But the original has Vincent Price, A human man with a fly head walking around, inventive structure, it's in B+W!, and the cheesy, but still freakin' sweet fly with human head superimposed on crying, "HELPPPPPP MEEEE.... PLEEEEASE HELLPPPP MEEEE!" in a wee little voice.

Enjoy, Kiddies. Twilight Zone Marathon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

9

The Takeaway: Those little rag dolls are totally frickin' badass! Oh - and Elijah Wood was clearly hired for his ability to sound anguished. Every time I closed my eyes, I thought Gandalf might stroll by.

Format: Bluray

Holy moly them there were some stunning images! The detail was astonishing. The detail in the visuals, of course, as there is little to no detail in the story. Very simple story - too simple and not terribly engaging if you ask me. However you are SO drawn in by the mindbogglingly gorgeous imagery to really care. Honesty - I'd rather have my cake and eat it too, but when the cake is so beautifully rendered, sometimes it's better to just sit back and stare, while snacking on stale popcorn instead. If you use that comparison, you're watching 9, but thinking about a story your kid told you that maybe he overheard in the bathroom at school or something... Well, you get the idea - don't worry about the story, just gaze unblinking at the screen. It's a briskly paced flick nonetheless with action throughout its brief 79 minute runtime. When you compare it to something like Nightmare Before Christmas (one of the greatest animated flicks ever made) and ya know Tim Burton can produce better, maybe ya feel a little short changed. Nightmare also has outstanding visuals - playful, dynamic, unique - but it also has incredible, delightful characters, a terrific original story and just amazing singable music. Dammit! I think I'm talking myself out of liking 9! No, no, no! I still say you have to give this a screening for the visuals. I promise you will not be disappointed. Enjoy, kiddies! Soft Serve Ice Cream @ 66th and B'Way.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Body Heat

The Takeaway: If William Hurt takes his clothes off one more time, I swear to god... I'll turn gay.

Format: Netflix Instant Streaming

First Time Screening. Lawrence Kasdan. The man is pure genius. He's the last of the great screenwriters, embodying the classic style of cinema gold - crackling dialogue that stews with subtext. They don't make 'em like they used to - unless Kasdan is at the typewriter. He's responsible for The Empire Strikes Back (still the greatest Star Wars flick!) , Return of the Jedi (not nearly as bad as everyone says), Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Big Chill, Silverado, The Accidental Tourist, The Bodyguard, and a hidden gem - Mumford. He also wrote the absolutely sensational dialogue (and the rest of the script) for Body Heat. From the first scene I could tell this was Kasdan in rare form. He nails the film noir tropes with sumptuous imagery. Even William Hurt's ass sizzles here. Only the more recent L.A. Confidential rivals Body Heat for the last of the great noir classics - but it falls short. Body Heat is tops, a tremendous film, and MUST be seen.

Oh - and William Hurt loves to be naked. Enjoy, kiddies! Twilight Zone Marathon.

Body Double

The Takeaway: I never thought a vampire could fondle a a girl's breasts in a shower like that. I really don't know why I didn't think that before. Even worse, I can't say for sure why I'd even have put in the time to think about such a thing in the first place.

Format: Netflix Instant Streaming

First Time Screening. Hmm - I liked this film WAY better the first time Brian DePalma made it and it was called Blow Out. Now that was an excellent film. DePalma tries to rehash the same material here and it simply doesn't work. Yeah - I get it - he likes to reference Hitchcock, move the camera all fluid and stuff, take a swing at Hollywood, and sure likes low budget sleaze pictures and boobies. But here he doesn't have anywhere near the talent level of the earlier and far superior picture. Seriously - Blow Out has Travolta in his prime, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, and Dennis Franz. Sure, Franz shows up for work here, but there isn't much else going on in the acting department. It felt very sloppy all around. Where was the incredible creativity like on display in Blow Out? Blow Out starts with a brilliant opening scene and leads into some very inspiring visuals, top notch acting (I'll argue one of Travolta's best roles), non-stop tension, and a superb script. Here - nada! No tension at all, and this is a thriller! Ah, maybe I'm being hard because I know that DePalma can deliver - Carrie, The Fury, Blow Out, Scarface, The Untouchables, Mission Impossible. And then you have the drunken, pedophile uncle in the family no one likes to talk about: Body Double. Try and enjoy, kiddies. Welcome to my first Reality TV.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dracula A.D. 1972

The Takeaway: Hippies pretty much fuck up everything, don't they?

Format: Netflix Instant Streaming

First Time Screening. I did some research on this and it seems that horror fans are very disappointed with this film. Hammer Film Productions was of course known throughout the world as the leading producer of low budget and usually high quality horror flicks taking over where Universal left off. The films had swag, plain and simple. The production company often hired Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in titular roles to add some much needed acting beef to their films. So when Dracula A.D. 1972 came around and didn't do much in the way of scaring people - they got pissed. This is only my assumption of course; you can read other reviews and decide for yourself. What I think happened was the other reviewers forgot the title of the film. It's called Dracula A.D. 1972 - and that SCREAMS to me - this is gonna be fun! Not necessarily scary. And that's what we have here. The films is about a group of hippies who raise Drac from the dead. How can you take that seriously? It was meant to have laughs.

So - let's go through the good stuff, shall we? All right - here we go: A groovy hand-holding devil circle complete with bongo music raises Drac from the dead. The hippies sway back and forth and some plant fine kisses on their ladies. And then another dude slits his wrist and blood pours over a half-neked chick and Drac starts writhing around under the ground outside the "bloody" church they happen to be conducting this badass ritual in.

A lot more happens. And eventually the movie ends. But in the middle - we get: Christopher Lee as Dracula! Peter Cushing as not only one, but two Van Helsings! A lot of funky, near porn-quality music! Some hot girls! Swanky british dialogue! Blood! More blood! More hot chicks! Even more funky, near-porn-quality music! Honestly - what more could you want? Enjoy, kiddies! Soft Serve Ice Cream @ 66th and B'Way.

The Terminator

The Takeaway: No matter how many times you get lit on fire or blown in half, you just gotta keep reaching for your goals. Also - it doesn't matter if you send your father back in time, he can still father you in the past. Wait - what?

Format: DVD

Titanic. Avatar. Aliens. "I smoke all these fools," says both Cuba Gooding Jr. and The Terminator. Without a doubt this is James Cameron's masterpiece, gripping from the opening frame and not letting go till the credits roll. In between titles and credits we get a brilliantly realized time travel/chase picture with well-defined characters (thus the elusive 'heartbeat' in most action flicks) incredible set pieces, amazing special effects (for the time), and Linda Hamilton's sex face (an astounding special effect in and of itself). This is the film that sky rocketed Arnold Schwarzeneggar and his penis to superstardom. Yes - the shot of him walking with his schnitzel swinging makes me laugh every time. It's like another weapon. I kept waiting for him to use it as a lasso or something during one of the action sequences - maybe leap out of a building and toss it back and hook it on something like Bruce Willis with the fire hose in Die Hard. Honestly - Arnie's robo-penis being used as a bungie cord really is the only way I can think to improve the film. This is the greatest scifi/action film ever produced. If by some miracle you haven't yet seen this - it is imperative you go to the hospital, find a brain surgeon, have him examine your head, make sure you don't have damage. While you wait (and you know it's gonna be a freakin' long wait with doctors these days), watch the damn movie on any device you have. Enjoy, kiddies. It's a Paris!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Delicatessen

The Takeaway: French people have insane, psychotic dreams. All right; I'm willing to admit maybe it's just the character in this film and not the entire French population. My wife says I exaggerate. I say I "invent."

Format: Netflix Instant Streaming

First Time Screening. WOW. There was a grossly disproportionate ratio of humans to frogs living in that one room. Oh - and son, that butcher has some issues. Clever, clever, clever little French flick with a non-stop bombardment of such incredible visuals filled with whimsy, love, horror - it was all there - most of the time in the same damn frame! Hell there was a woman trying to kill herself throughout the entire film with rigs that could have come out of The Goonies. Hysterical! "The Australian is nothing without it's master." Watch the damn flick - you'll know why that last line is so frickin' funny. One of my greatest discoveries of the last few weeks. Will certainly be watching this again. Enjoy, kiddies! It's a Twilight Zone Marathon!