Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Abandoned (2007)

The Abandoned (2007) was a pretty good ghost story. Ghost story/haunted house movies are a) few and far between & b) mainly crap. It just works out that way. The Abandoned wasn't particularly complicated or rife with twists but there was something satifying in it for me. I wouldn't say run out and throw down money for it in the theater but rent it when it comes out in time for Halloween.

Apologies but I am under the weather and can't summon the energy for a grand slam review. Here's a full review from

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Number 23 (2007)

While this is not a review of the movie I just had to bring this The Number 23 review to your attention. Kevin Crust - you rule. I'm a bad review junkie and this is an awesome bad review. Check it out.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Starter for 10 (2006)

Starter for 10 is my generations' sort of second hand nostalgia - that is if Adrian Mole was more of a role model than Holden Caufield, your favorite bands ended up Mancunian and mix tapes were the only way that you could let someone into your life.

The plot is basically this: University bound guy from a working class boardwalk town gets accepted on his own merit. Falls for busty dream blonde while ignoring the fact that the "funky" hat brunette is the better match. Ends up screwing everything up, has falling out with his buddy who was left behind. Life goes to shit, he sulks back to his working class roots while Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want plays. Makes up with his best friend, gets his shit together, and goes "Once more unto the breach."

If this doesn't sound particularly fresh well...shut up. I had a smile on my ugly mug, a toe tapping, and laughed at those moments - "I can smile about it now but at the time it was terrible."

I honestly didn't know this was a period piece until I saw the preview - by the by the preview has an awful song playing over it that would have been better replaced by an Echo & the Bunnymen or Tears for Fears song or hell Peter Gabriel's Games Without Frontiers would've worked well.

Here's the obligatory run down:

Acting: I don't know who these actors are - except for Charles Dance who in my opinion should get a lot more work than he does - but I plan to see what movies they've been in or will be in. Protagonist Brian Jackson - James Chronicles of Narnia. Well. Huh. In any case he was really good in Starter for 10. The ladies were spot on and hot, y'know in an accessable way. Supporting cast was solid through and through.

Directing & Cinematography: I had not a single problem. Solid work. What can I say I'm a sucker for shots of shutdown for the season boardwalks. Most of it was unobtrusive and there were no fireworks or "look at this fabulously artistic shot".

Writing: Adapted from David Nicolls' A Question of Attraction - which I plan to read soon - by David Nicholls was brilliant. It captured the awkwardness and humilitations of those years of life. I was cringing as I was laughing.

Soundtrack: All joking aside I think that I made this mix tape in the mid-90s. I'd buy the soundtrack if I didn't already own all the songs...except for one or two.

If you get the chance to see this movie then I hope you do. That is if you're an old fart close to or past 30. If you're not then you should see it anyway - at the very least it's a really endearing romantic comedy of errors of sorts with an amazing soundtrack.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go lay upon the floor, smoke, and listen to something melancholy.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

I'm going to start by saying that I never liked the books even as a kid. I was much more a LOTR and Lloyd Alexander fan. The characters in Lewis's books were all pretty much spoiled English brats and nothing particularly interesting happened. I didn't and still don't care about any of the religious allegory folderol. This movie gives the impression of being made simply to have something to plug the post-LOTR holiday fantasy movie vaccuum.

Narnia is an excellent example of what can potentially go wrong with fantasy movies:
1) None of the characters are interesting, developed, charming in that little British kid way, or even remotely likeable.
2) Everything that could have been cool was pretty crappy - either because the movie was edited slap-dash and quick cut or because there wasn't really anything cool in the movie save a couple of WETA monsters.
3) The score was...well...I don't remember any of the score so that's a bad sign.
4) Aslan died because he was ashamed of being in such a crappy movie.

I hope I don't have the kind of kid who would like this swill. Then again if fed a diet of the same stuff I grew up on plus LOTR chances are they might have decent taste.

Because I Said So (2007)

I am never going to see this movie. Chances are that none of you are going to see it either unless forced to by family members during some sick holiday spending time together death march.

The reason I mention this movie is because i have to draw your attention to the reviews for it: Man, some of the reviews are brutal. Scroll down to the bottom to read the Wall Street Journal verdict.

Reading negative reviews on is one of my favorite ways to waste time. Granted I also like reading negative reviews for movies I like just so I can get my dander up. If you have the chance check out the reviews for Ghost Rider.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tears of the Black Tiger (2001)

This was kind of a crap shoot. Either this movie was going to be abyssmal or pretty cool. The group we went with was fairly divided. I thought that it was pretty cool.

If you haven't heard anything about Tears of the Black Tiger then let me tell you the basic premise. It's a Thai Western with star-cross'd lovers shot in a classic '60s style only with insane ultra-violence and filmed only a few years ago. If you're familiar with classic Westerns with "John...Marsha...John...Marsha" melodrama complete with sighs, wistful glances, and tears...lots of tears then you won't be surprised. If you're familiar with old HK movies with melodrama/violence/melodrama/violence/"Happiness is as fleeting as the sweet Spring breeze." sigh/cheezy song/violence/melodrama/big showdown/tears/the end then you won't be surprised. Some of you may be surprised by the level of graphic violence. I was to a certain extent. There are: a couple of pretty grisly head shots, explosions that blast people into little chunks, dismemberments, and lots of people getting lead poisoning. It's pretty refreshing actually because the action breaks up a good chunk of melodrama & flashbacks. The violence also creates a good amount of the humor in the movie, at least in my book.

Apart from the cheese and the action and the astounding colors I will say that I really dug the soundtrack and look forward to adding to my collection if I can find it. The soundtrack consists of an insane mix of Thai ballads, lounge numbers, mushy love songs, bizarre pseudo-Spaghetti Western influenced scoring, twangy guitar & whistling - I swear to God it was Thai Western Swing, and one bizarre piece of scoring that had a lot of disconcerting warble on it. Sure it wouldn't make for everyday listening but still it'd be a solid addition to a collection.

I wouldn't say that this movie is for everyone. I can understand why it would turn a good number of people away. Watch the trailer. If you like what you see then watch the movie. If not then don't watch the movie. Simple as that.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)

After his success with Escape From New York (1981) Carpenter decided to remake The Thing. I'm sure that somewhere in my N-BOT sodden mind I can remember why he chose to do this but for here and now I cannot remember why. Really my shady memory doesn't matter because...

His version of The Thing is fucking brilliant. It's in my top five best horror movies ever made. Seriously kiddos - this is a scary fucking movie. This is not a movie you watch with your buddies and quaff ungodly amounts of cheap cerveza and yuk it up. Like the original Night of the Living Dead or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre this is a movie best watched alone. Personally The Thing is best watched on a snowday.

So what makes me love this movie so much? Well...Carpenter's homeboy Kurt Russell puts down some fucking awesome acting as R. J. MacReady. The fact that this cowboy on the ass-end of the world doesn't play into the "oh gosh it an...huh...what was that?" kind of role makes it. He reminds me of Dallas - Tom Skerrit's character in Alien - that is if Dallas hadn't been such a corporate cog. Add to that the fact that the "supporting" cast is brilliant makes for an awesome movie. It really is an ensemble piece. You'll recognize everyone if you're old enough.

Why is this a scary movie and in my top five of scary movies?

Well...because it's perfectly paced. From start to finish there's doubt and an overwhleming sense of unease. No matter how many times I see The Thing I still get that twisted-up sensation during the blood test. I get wrapped up with this movie every time.

Add to the fact...

Ennio Morricone's score to The Thing is flawless. The last time I checked the score was out of print (OP) and remaining copies of the CD reprint were very expensive. Not quite as $$$ as Michael Kamen's score for Die Hard but still...

All in all: If you haven't seen this movie then the fekkin' Hell wit ya. This is one of the best.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Action movies of the late 80s and early 90s were awesome - this is something we can all agree upon. I was digging around on netflix and ran across Roger Ebert's review for The Last Boy Scout. Part of me wants to call him a sissy panty waist for crying about violence. Lately I've become more and more annoyed by people who complain about violence and profanity in movies. I don't care if they don't want to watch those kinds of movies that's fine. I don't want to watch movies with Drew Barrymore. However don't watch a movie then piss, bitch, and moan about how it was so violent and so vulgar and crude - a recent example being The Departed. It's a fucking action movie.

Part of my love for The Last Boy Scout is because of the insane violence and over the top profanity. Joe Hallenbeck is one my heroes. Seriously. I love the fact that he's completely beat down by life and just doesn't fucking care. This is what saves his bacon throughout the movie.

I'm pretty sure that this movie is a litmus test for new people I meet. Chances are if you don't like this movie then we're not going to get along. I'm just sayin'.

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

We made this our Tuesday night feature and it was well worth it. Most of you have probably seen it or heard something about it or seen a preview or two by now. This was another one of those movies that we had been tracking since started mentioning it. Then it opened in Europe and was delayed in the States for what seemed like ages. I had almost given up on seeing it and just put it on netflix.

I am really happy that I didn't. I haven't felt my insides shifted by a movie in a long time. It sounds nuts but I'm sure you know what I mean. There are some moments in movies where you feel your guts get twisted up or you're so engrossed in the movie that bizarre cinematic empath kicks in. There some truly visceral moments in Pan's Labyrinth - not blood and guts and veins in your teeth - but some moments that are hard to watch. Not because of Argento-esque splatterpunk or gore for the sake of gore. In fact Del Toro and his editiors manage brilliantly to cut to another scene or angle just at the moment of impact. This old fashioned "what you don't see is worse than what you do see" sensibility mixed with a few moments of "oh shit" - i.e. the bitten off leg floating to the bottom of the boat pond in Jaws - makes for some gripping watching.I think that I might be putting the cart in front of the horse by starting off this review by talking about how gory or not gory it is. Then again...

Pan's Labyrinth is a fairy tale. It bothers me that many reviews call this an adult fantasy. Many of us read Grimm's Fairy Tales while growing up. If you didn't then you don't know how fucked up those stories are. Cannibalism, infanticide, beheadings, baking with bonemeal, abandonment, white slavery, wicked stepmothers...and people worry about video games making people go apeshit whacko? Pan's Labyrinth has some bizarre, menacing, and really troubling moments in it. There were times I was worried for the main character Ofelia. I don't worry about protagonists in fairy tale and fantasy movies. Fuck, the term fairy tale these days usually has an element of risk akin to eating a new dish at a restaurant you go to weekly. Fantasy is nothing more than shit shovellers saving the day. Now don't think that you should drag a little kid to see this movie - Del Toro doesn't sugar coat a single god damn thing and that's why I love him. Hell I'm worried about having nightmares from a few moments of this movie.

All right, enough, how was the movie? Pretty fucking awesome. Sergi Lopez is an actor I swear I've seen before but in this movie he is a monster. His El Capitan Vidal is truly evil. Sure there's some redeeming nepotism but all in all this guy is someone who would be perfectly happy running a forced labour camp or a death squad. I'm going to look into finding more movies that this guy is in becaue he makes my blood run cold. Ivana Baquero - Ofelia - has a quality to her that I can't quit put my finger on. Not china doll, not fragile, not innocent, not creepy hot Natalie Portman, I really don't know what it is except that she was completely believeable in her role. If someone has some input on this I'd like to hear it.

The cinematography is amazing though some may think that it's overly dark. I'd be interested in adding the score to my collection though no one theme or piece - save El Capitan's 78rpm really sticks out. I recommend this movie to a friend, family member or neighbour. It's been a long time since I've seen something that I get feeling that the director said, "Fuck it. This is the movie I want to make and fuck you if you don't like it."

Man it's nice seeing movies in the theater again.

Late addition: Turns out that Sergi Lopez was in Un Ami Qui Vous Veut du Bien or With a Friend Like Harry or possibly a more accurate translation With a good friend like this. This is a movie I've ranted about before and Sergi Lopez is the bad guy in this too. Man this is a creepy movie. Slow and excellent Sunday watching.

Children of Men (2006)

Solid dystopian speculative sci-fi movies are very hard to come by. Post-apocalytpic movies usually involve zombies, eating dog food, and driving machines built out of buses and aluminium siding - all well and good for hooting and hollering and spilling cheap beer on yourself. Movies like 1984 and Blade Runner are a rarity. Cyberpunk is kaput. Really doesn't leave fans with much.Children of Men really worked on every level for me. I'm taking it for what it is - dystopian misery in a reality not far removed from our own. Yes I realize that there are different themes and inferences to be drawn from The Nativity to left-wing propaganda. I don't care - it made me feel like I was watching the future. No flying cars, no robots, no hope, everything gone to shit, bombings, pandemics, and all the fun ways people treat each other like shit. The more I think about this movie the more I like it.

Down to brass tacks: the acting was great and completely believable in my book. The cinematography was brilliant. Part of the reason why I want to buy this when it comes out on DVD is because I need to read all the graffiti and assorted set dressing. The script worked for me - I'm going to pick up the novel ASAP. I recommend seeing this in the theater because the sound is top-notch.

Just go see this movie. If you don't like it please let me know why. I'd be interested in hearing other people's views on this one.

The Departed (2006)

I'll be completely honest - I thought this movie was gonna be pretty crappy and at certain points I thought it was going to crap out. The last couple of Scorcese movies just haven't done a single thing for me at all. In fact quite the opposite I thought they sucked or have held no draw for me. DiCaprio & Nicholson aren't actors I go out of my way to see. Most of time that turns me off of the movie. What can I say? I'm not a fan.

The Departed worked for me. I left the movie happy which is on the twisted side considering that it's a pretty grim movie. Whatever plot holes or problems there were didn't bother me at all - I'm not going to nitpick. The acting was solid across the board - though Nicholson grated on me at times. DiCaprio pulled off a good performance. Matt Damon is a great scumbag. Alec Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg, and good old Ray Winstone were the real prizes for me. Personally I would have prefered to have seen them on screen more often.

For a remake of an HK movie I thought that The Departed was pretty damn cool. The script was pulled from Infernal Affairs (2002), a Hong Kong cop drama with Andy Lau and Tony Leung - both fine HK actors. I can't recall seeing this movie in all honesty though I know I've pulled the box off the shelf at Vulcan and gone, "Huh, HK cop drama." Oh yeah, checking I realized that I haven't seen Infernal Affairs because it sounded like any number of HK cop/action/dramas from the early/mid 90s only without Chow Yun Fat in it. Many thanks to Mike for opening my eyes to those.

Hands down it was the dialogue that really shone. Sure it was tough guy dialogue but hey these were tough guys in a tough guy movie. The soundtrack was typical Scorcese - no real surprises or tracks that stick in my mind. The editing was good though I have to admit that I think there might have been something wrong with the print at the theater. Some of scene changes seemed really abrupt and early on the dialogue just cut out - unfortunately it a chunk of the scene where Wahlberg is tearing DiCaprio a new one.

Pros: Dialogue. Wahlberg, Baldwin, & Winstone. Nice seeing a movie when nothing good happens in the end. Matt Damon getting beat to shit.

Cons: Editing. Forgettable soundtrack. Jack Nicholson making shit up - no seriously. There are three scenes which Nicholson just acts all weird. I can just imagine him saying, "Look I wanna do this see. It'll be fucking genius. Add all these layers and shake up the squares." There are people out there who like watching Nicholson blow himself on screen but I'm not one of them.

All in all it's not Scorcese's best movie or my favorite movie of his. Hell I don't think that it's really Oscar material either. It is what it is though: a solid, mean, nasty, vulgar, brutal, depressing, and thoroughly enjoyable cops and robbers movie.