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!