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Archive for September, 2008

Family members used to say to me when I was a kid, “If you keep rolling your eyes like that, your eyes are going to roll right out of your head.” And my mother, bless her, would tell me, “Your face is gonna stick like that if you’re not careful,” when I was in awful, sour moods.

Momma, assorted family members: My eyes didn’t roll out of my head and my face didn’t stick like that, and I think P.S. I Love You is the scientific test to see if either of those statements are actually true.

This movie is so bad it has to be given the full, awful treatment. What can I say? The suffering – I’m passing it on. Think of it as paying it forward, just with badness. Strap in, grab your booze, because I’m going through this one every arduous bit.

We start out in medias res (how’s that for a fancy term, eh?) with Holly and Gerry, a married couple living in NYC who are having a huge fight. Holly’s mad that Gerry told her mother that they wanted to wait to have children, which she equates with Gerry telling her that this means she doesn’t want to have children. From this ensues the most manic, nonsensical fight I’ve seen on film in a while. It’s a lot of What Holly Thinks Gerry Says and Gerry just standing there, bewildered and defending himself, while his wife throws shit at him and has a Life Crisis.

This is where I firmly hopped on the “I HATE YOU, P.S. I Love You,” train, for two reasons: One, I loathe this sort of thing, where the woman rants and raves about things that make no sense while the husband has to calm her down, and two, because she pretty much gets away with throwing shit at her husband’s head. If you’re trying to make me like Holly, this isn’t the way. If you reversed their roles, no one would ever think Gerry throwing things at Holly was remotely acceptable, but since she’s a woman and she just threw a Marc Jacobs shoe at him, that’s okay.

Whatever.

Then they kiss and make up and Gerry says, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” – cue me, screaming at my televison, “FOR WHAT? MARRYING A CRAZY BEEYOTCH?” – and they go to sleep, with words of love and giggling. So, I’m already reaching for the whiskey bottle that doesn’t exist.

Also, I have a really hard time buying Gerard Butler as a devoted husband. Gerard Butler always looks to me like the drunk guy at the end of the bar with the cute accent. He’s the guy that you know is a lot of fun, but only in that he’s fun from the hours of 9 p.m. to last call o’clock and that he’s a miserable wretch for the rest of the day. So seeing him as Husband of the Year is kind of weird to me, in the sense that I keep thinking, “Don’t you have somewhere to go to pickle your liver or something?”

Moving forward.

We land in the present time, where we’re at a bar. And while we’re at it, let’s cue up the Irish Stereotype Counter right about now.

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#1467: Cloverfield

Shaky cam, ahoy!

Seriously, I saw this movie a few years ago.   It was called The Blair Witch Project.

Cloverfield tells the story of a group of friends who are living it up in Manhattan, celebrating one friend’s new job in Tokyo when something goes horribly wrong in the city.  Things start blowing up and buildings come crashing down, and the group of friends rushes into the street to see a glimpse of a large monster doing its best Godzilla impersonation.  From there, the rag tag group has to survive crazy obstacles to survive, including their own stupidity.

What amazes me about Cloverfield is how thoroughly unappetizing fare it is.    What should have been buttery, popcorn fun is just plain gross.

Any movie like this, you should actively care about the survival of the main characters.    The idea of the introduction to our scrappy bunch of survivors is by showing them at a party, where it’s painfully evident that they’re shallow, self-absorbed types who have some randomly interspliced love problems to keep things predictably interesting, in a way.   So, right from the get go, you think to yourself, “Right…I should care…why?”

That’s a problem.   Oh, and they have crap taste in music, which certainly doesn’t help matters any.

And when the big bad monster starts destroying New York skyscraper by skyscraper, the conversation descends into less of “Dude!   Bro!  MAN!”   and more into, “AIIIIIEEEEEEEEEE, OHMIGOD OHMIGOD OHMIGOD” for thirty minutes straight.

Me:    “AIEEEEEEEEE.   When are you all going to die?  Hurry up.   I’ve got another terrible movie waiting to be watched.”

Then the little monsters that spawn from the big monster come out, and the characters make the most infinitely stupid decision imaginable – head into the subway tunnels.   They get picked off, one by one, in a grueling testament to my patience and ability to grind my teeth into a fine powder.   By the time one dies via stomach explosion, it’s easily apparent that everyone is going to die.

Oh, wait.   There’s still another 45 minutes left to the movie.   Filler time.

So the characters are left zig-zagging around Manhattan, trying to rescue a friend and board a helicopter, and you get a subtle, Jason-esque “Gotcha!” moment, where the remaining survivors believe they’re free and then are pretty much bitchslapped by the monster into Central Park.

At the end of the film, you’re left with two characters professing their love before Central Park and the rest of Manhattan is carpetbombed to destroy the monster.   Fun!

I was actively cheering for the monster to win by the end (“Go, big grey thing, GO!”).   That’s how shallow and single-layered these characters are; the dumb guy is dumb, the best friends truly ARE in love, and the nasty, bitchy outsider is … nasty and bitchy.

Not a moment of it is really, truly terrifying.   If you could get a good visual lock on what’s going on, that would certainly help.   Most of the movie is set at night from the perspective of a handheld camcorder, so it’s not exactly easy to make out what’s going on.   Further, this whole “civilian footage” thing would be infinitely more appealing to me had we not already seen this for The Blair Witch Project.

Now, I’m not a professional – I have no film degree, no (real) writing experience, no great depth or understanding of film criticism in general.   I watch movies and I write about the impressions I get.   After 1,400 plus movies, I think I can honestly say that if your story really blows, your movie is going to really blow.   They do a lot of things right:  minimal shots of the monster to heighten tension, using the whole shaky-cam shot by a Real!Person! effect to create confusion and chaos, and so on and so forth.   But the general outline of the plot doesn’t feel good to me; it feels weak and like the monster should be the star attraction, but it’s really not.

The problem is that to make an effective movie like this, you have to have something to care about.   We’ve all seen monster movies before; we’ve all seen New York Gets Destroyed movies before.   Hell, we all saw big chunks of New York get destroyed in real life.   The trick is that you have to make it feel fresh to feel scary.   There’s nothing new or exciting about Cloverfield whatsoever, aside from some intelligent marketing.

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Blog Notes

Three posts in one day.  Can you handle it?

Before I turn in for the night, here’s some random stuff to keep you updated:

*  If you have my old e-mail address saved somewhere, you need to update it to 1416andcounting@gmail.com.  Much obliged.

*  You can now follow the blog (and what’s arriving and departing for Netflix) on Twitter HERE.

*  Since I am a hermit am very dedicated to the Internets, an index will go up in the next couple of weeks of every movie I’ve reviewed.   More caffeine, please…

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Okay, I have the WORST case of writer’s block ever.   EVER.   Nothing’s coming to me.  No movies are enticing me.   Nothing is making me angry or blissfully happy.   Not even freaking Die Hard is working, and that’s saying something.  I can tell in a couple of days that unmitigated rage bubbling forth from my soul will cure this, as P.S. I Love You is currently en route to my place of habitation, but I just wrote a post about Guitar Hero and Brett Ratner, so here’s something tangentially related to movies that might take the edge off that.

I hate these damn things.   Death to VHS.

For those of you who still do the whole drive to the video store thing, you have a regular clerk or clerks who check you out, I’m sure.   (And not just in the whole, “That person has a nice rear,” sort of way, either.)    Be kind to them.   There should be an International Appreciate Your Video Store Clerk Day, I’m convinced.   And this relates to movies because I’m sure a lot of film geeks like me spent much of their time restocking five copies of Freddy Got Fingered while wondering why your defective copy of Seven Samurai hasn’t been replaced.

Either that, or I’ve totally lost you by now.

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Brett Ratner, please step forward for your whack upside the head.   The man seriously wants to make a Guitar Hero movie.

Via Dark Horizons:

“I’d really like to do it, but they’re not letting me… I expressed my interest, but because it’s such a success, it’s like now there’s no reason to make a movie about it…. The game is wish-fulfilling, everyone can be a rock star… I might prevail… I usually do.”

I keep expecting Ratner to say, “Haha!  April Fools!”

How exactly would one make a Guitar Hero movie?   As the ever astute Mr. Ratner has pointed out, the mass appeal of the video game is that everyone can be a rock star.   How do you translate that into a movie?   Would we see nothing but the instantly identifiable Guitar Hero screen for two hours?   Would we have some sort of melodramatic, overplayed showdown between two people playing plastic, battery-operated guitars?

Besides the fact that this is just the most utterly stupid thing I’ve heard in about the past four days or so, it’s Brett Ratner, he of the Rush Hour franchise and X-Men 3.   There’s no way that this movie would be good.   In Ratner’s defense, he seems to make brainless movies that kill at the box office which I have no problem with at all.  (It’s when he and guys like Michael Bay start getting all artsy and talking about their “craft” that I begin to roll my eyes and gag.)   He fills a niche.   Kudos to him for making a living at it.

Ratner’s Guitar Hero movie would probably look something like this:

Main Character:   Oh man, I finally beat Slayer on expert!   I rock!   Where’s my cute girlfriend that looks like Elisha Cuthbert so I can make out with her?

Jackie Chan:   OH NO, YOU DON’T.   Time to battle!

Main Character: But…you don’t even play guitar, dude!   How am I supposed to battle you?

Jackie Chan: Do you want to get karate-chopped in the face?

Main Character: Alright, dude!   Let’s rock!

Thus a furious guitar battle played on plastic guitars with five multicolored buttons would ensue, where Jackie Chan’s awesome power-ups would destroy buildings and cause earthquakes.   Dancing zombie monkeys would arrive, and the chick that played Calypso from X-Men 3 would hold the Elisha Cuthbert lookalike girlfriend hostage while Chan and the main character duked it out for supremacy.

Knowing Ratner, he would also call it, “Guitar Hero EPIC” or something inane like that.

I know it’s bad.   The Guitar Hero people know it’s bad – hence why it’s not getting made.   Basically, everyone but Brett Ratner knows this is a very bad idea.

Whatever Ratner is smoking, I certainly don’t want any.

For the record, how sad is it that movie news is so slow that this is what finally riled me up enough to write about it?   Good heavens, it’s awfully boring out there right now.

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How ironic that the girl who doesn’t care much for romantic comedies would actually like what is billed as “the ultimate romantic comedy”.    It’s also the ultimate palate cleanser for when you’ve overdosed on a certain horror series.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking.   I know you think I only like this because a certain actor is in it, and you’re wrong!   All wrong!    I mean, sure, that helps…but come on.   There’s more to it than that!

It’s the overlapping story of a whole bunch of folks living in London and their various stories involving love set around Christmas time.   Cue the “awwww”s right about now.    There’s the Prime Minister and his secretary; his sister and her husband; a man who has lost his wife to cancer and his stepson, who is in love; stand-ins on an adult film; a jilted writer and his housekeeper, neither of whom speak each other’s languages; a past-his-prime rock star and his manager; two office workers with problems of their own; a happy couple with a friend who loves the bride thrown into the mix, and so on and so forth.   All stories flow in and out of each other surprisingly well.   Some are very well done and others are just…so typically Hollywood romantic that I can’t get quite involved in them.

Love Actually has its problems.   Like all romantic comedies, at some point I find myself spacing a bit.  What makes me like Love Actually is the variety.   Even though the idea of 8 million people having their own stories shoved into one movie gets very overloaded very quickly, the variety is really, really nice, especially because I can fast-forward past the ones I don’t care for.

I’ve never pinned down exactly why I don’t like romantic comedies, but I think part of it is that things like this don’t particularly appeal to me as “romantic” or make me sigh, in the slightest.

My version of a romantic comedy would never get made, because it would involve that man (maybe, he could always be recast) holding a copy of Die Hard and Die Hard II and no silly sign.   My standards:  they are low…I think.

It’s the less syrup-y stuff that gets me.   Like Bill Nighy as the aging rocker who insults everyone and everything live – on the radio, on TV, in his videos.   Or Emma Thompson, as Alan Rickman’s poor, put-upon wife.

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BABY JESUS IN THE MANGER, I’m DONE, y’all!

Here’s where things get topsy-turvy.   This is real life, where we follow Heather Langenkamp, her husband Chase and their son Dylan.   Heather is hard at work, but the invite is extended to her to join the newest Nightmare movie that Wes Craven is writing.   We see appearances from various cast members playing themselves and Heather’s husband is a special effects guy who’s working without Heather’s knowledge on Freddy’s newest “glove”.   In fact, the dream opens with a nightmare of Heather’s about this very thing.

When Heather wakes up, she’s in the middle of an earthquake and after said quake subsides, she and Chase run off to work, leaving young Dylan in the capable hands of Super Babysitter Julie.

Heather feels a bit besieged by all of the Freddy Krueger brouhaha; she appears on a TV show where Robert Englund as Freddy Kreuger makes a surprise appearance, the head of New Line Cinema pressures her to be in another Nightmare sequel, and she finds out her husband’s been doing Nightmare related special effects behind her back.    Not only does she want to move on to other projects, but there’s a sense that she worries that her involvement in the string of horror films may leave an impression on her child.  She’s already scared by a stalker who calls in a Freddy voice and leaves notes in her mailbox.

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