Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

My thoughts on Kill Bill are this:  it should have been one movie.   One very long movie, but one movie nonetheless and that Volume 1 makes Volume 2 pale in comparison.

I don’t know if Tarantino can ever top that House of Blue Leaves scene.  It has so much good in it and so much going on that everything after it looks not as good as it is.   (Poor Volume 2, although I will say that the Bill monologue at the end is some fantastic stuff.)


I’ve only taken screencaps from Volume 1 (you don’t want to see how the caps from Volume 2 turned out; it was bad, bad, bad) but Tarantino took an age-old theme of vengeance upon those who have wronged a person.   He twisted it into something original with heavy doses of nostalgia and the usual tips of the hat to his favorite flicks.

Kill Bill is really Tarantino’s love letter of sorts to kung fu and samurai cinema with a dash of spaghetti westerns thrown in.


I would say that Kill Bill is actually my favorite of all Tarantino flicks, something I know that borders on heresy in some quarters, but it’s the perfect blend of homage and originality.     The Bride might be up there with Ellen Ripley in terms of my favorite female action characters ever.


It’s a colorful and stylized two volume set that runs at a smooth pace.   Oddly enough, it is the House of Blue Leaves scene that ends Volume 1 that, as I said before, does Volume 2 some heavy injustice.   The Bride’s final interaction and showdown with Bill, muted and as somewhat anticlimactic as it is, is pitch perfect.


The usual Tarantino fare is there, from the close ups to the crazy foot fetishism, but he upped his game with Kill Bill.   Everything is bigger, brighter and bloodier.   The soundtrack, a medium in which Tarantino had demonstrated remarkable adeptness at picking out catchy forgotten gems to paste into his movies, was even better than his previous three film efforts.   If you saw Volume 1, you can at least pick out the strains of Twisted Nerve (the song Elle Driver whistles in the hospital) and place it in reference to the movie.


Unlike, perhaps, Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill offers no apologies or questions for the long trail of severed limbs and hacked up bodies left in the Bride’s wake; it’s a mission justified for which the reward is offered up in the last scene of Volume 2.

There is nothing to question about it; it is the story of one woman who sets out to punish those who wronged her in an uber-violent fashion.    And when she’s done … she’s done.   But along the way, Tarantino makes everything interesting and captivating even at its most brutal.

Given everything that’s effectively smashed into the movie, all the pop culture references, nods to various styles of cinema, musical cues and plain Tarantino oddities, it’s funny that Kill Bill works as well as it does, but it works very well.

Read Full Post »

Rear WindowImage found here.

L.B. Jeffries, known as “Jeff” to his friends, is an in-demand photographer.   He’s traipsed through jungles and battlefields, but is sidelined in his small New York apartment after suffering a broken leg.   The only company he has is an insurance company nurse named Stella and his sophisticated girlfriend Lisa.   With nothing to do and nowhere to go, Jeff begins to stare out his window.   It is a sweltering hot summer and everyone has their windows open.   Jeff’s idle curiousity turns into a daily habit of watching his neighbors’ humdrum affairs.


The neighbors are an odd mix that Jeff nicknames.   The Composer is a frustrated songwriter living across the way.   Miss Lonelyhearts is the sad lady who longs for affection, while Miss Torso, a pretty dancer, has no shortage of gentleman callers.   One couple sleeps on their fire escape and hauls their dog up in a basket at night, while a housewife tends to her child and cat.   The Thorwalds are an unhappily married couple and it is they who land Jeff in a mess of trouble.   Mrs. Thorwald is an invalid and she and her husband quarrel regularly.   Jeff wakes up one day to discover she has disappeared, ostensibly to visit family in the country, according to her husband.   Jeff is convinced that Mr. Thorwald has killed her.



Read Full Post »

#1553: Sudden Death

Nothing to start your day off right like some Van Dammage.


Image found here.

Van Damme plays a fire marshal who takes his kids to a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game.   It’s not just any hockey game, it’s the last game of the Stanley Cup Finals.   The only thing he didn’t count on — cue the ominous music — is a madman who shows up and takes the Vice President’s box hostage to secure some $1 billion of government slush fund money.

It’s a ridiculous premise.   What’s hilarious is that it doesn’t take long for it to get more over the top.

As with all the Van Damme/Seagal/bad action flicks, Van Damme gets some useless plotting to portray what a loving dad he is.   An unnecessary scene involving him showing up to get his kids from his ex-wife is stupid and tired.   The ex-wife is a shrew!  Van Damme’s a really good guy!    He loves his kids more than anything!


I suppose if Van Damme can get his cinematic children Game 7 SCF tickets, he really can do anything.

Kids in tow, Van Damme heads to the game where an elaborate ruse is already being conducted.   People all over Pittsburgh are being held hostage.   Old people are being shot.   Powers Boothe is rockin’ a tuxedo.   These dudes are EVIL.


Why hello there, Mr. Boothe.   What are you doing here?  Fancy a drink?  Rrrrrrrawr.

Aside from the fact that Sudden Death is a testament to the insane shit people will come up with after smoking copious amounts of marijuana, Powers Boothe really is the entire reason to see this movie.    He plays the unnamed villain with a great sense of the fact that he’s in a film shitpile.   I’d like to think Boothe just spent the enter time being completely outrageous on set, showing up with a whiskey in one hand, cigar in the other and spouting silly axioms that made no goddamned sense.    Boothe plays it half-drunk, half-Bond villain.

Van Damme doesn’t get involved until some damn dirty bastard abducts his daughter to the VP’s box after she sees some bad shit go down.    It is more than a little hilarious that said damn dirty bastard is Icebergh.   That would be the Pittsburgh Penguins’ mascot.


Icebergh:  Abductor of children, hostage taker, killer.   Also:   Bringer of joy to thousands of Pittsburgh fans!

Now, we know Van Damme can’t let that slide.   That’s his daughter, man.  We previously established is the best father ever, so …


What other movie can you watch that offers Jean Claude Van Damme fighting a penguin mascot in a fight to the death involving meat slicers, fryers and a professional grade dishwasher?

That’s not all!   This one-time offer also includes a bizarre scene in which Jean Claude Van Damme plays a few minutes as the Penguins’ starting goaltender in order to hide from the bad guys!   Yes, you heard me right.   JCVD plays in a Stanley Cup Final to hide from the bad guys.   Because that makes TOTAL SENSE.


Goaltender extraordinaire.


Anyways, the bad guys have developed an unnecessary and intricate plan to have the money wired to them in chunks that correspond with the periods of the hockey game.  If their instructions are not followed, they shoot hostages in increments that involve math.   I never was very good at the arithmetics, so fuck that noise, but needless to say, it’s complicated.   They shoot old women and children.  These dudes are bad, bad men.

Of course, it all ends with Powers Boothe in a helicopter crashing to the ice rink at Mellon Arena.   Seriously.   If you didn’t see that coming, well … in the words of Cher from Clueless, “duh”.


It’s so atrocious but fun.

Read Full Post »

Oh, Guillermo del Toro!


Poster found here.

Hellboy II picks up mostly where the first left off.   The paranormal team is still fighting the good fight sans Harry, who was shipped to Antarctica, and a new member comes aboard.   Johann Krauss is a German ectoplasmic man in a steampunk looking suit and he’s a stickler for rules and regulations.   Naturally, he and Hellboy don’t get along well.

In other parts of the world, Prince Nuada of the elves has returned from exile with a mission — to unite all the pieces of a long forgotten crown broken apart in a truce between elves and humans in order to reawaken an indestructible Golden Army.   As fate would have it, Hellboy and friends are the only ones who can stop Nuada from extinguishing the human race.

I don’t know if there’s another director out there who can top Guillermo del Toro, who directed this, the previous Hellboy movie and films like Pan’s Labryinth, Blade II and others, for flawless style.   Del Toro’s films are almost always jam-packed with rich and stunning sets with laborious details.



Hellboy II is odd because it’s an inviting action/sci-fi flick.  It’s filled with warm reds and golds as well as these crazy sets and creatures that del Toro dreamed up.

Beautiful, striking features only carry you so far and that’s where Hellboy II stumbles.   The story is nothing new or inventive, of course, but the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Blah Blah Blah is so tiresome, so banal that you wonder why the camera lingers with them for so long.   Selma Blair’s Liz Sherman gets a new haircut and some new power control but remains the same wishy-washy sort of girl from the first movie.   Hellboy obsesses over Liz but refuses to do dishes, griping about it all the way.   Abe Sapien has a childish crush on an elven princess.   These stories are engineered to make an audience feel receptive or sympathetic but all they do is grate on one’s nerves.

The slog through the boring character arcs is worth it for the gorgeous visuals; no expense was spared on special effects and sets and it shows.   If Hellboy II had reached a little higher on the characters, it could have been much better, though.

Read Full Post »




Read Full Post »

#1549: The Hangover

Doug (Justin Bartha) is traveling to Las Vegas with his friends Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) as well as his soon to be brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis).    Stu’s stuck with a harridan for a girlfriend, Phil’s excited to get away from his wife and kid and Alan … well, Alan’s just got a few screws loose.  They arrive at Sin City in Doug’s future father-in-law’s vintage Mercedes, do a couple of shots of Jagermeister on the roof and a few hours later, the gang minus Doug wakes up in their swank hotel room.    There’s a baby in the linen closet, a tiger in the bathroom, Stu the dentist is missing a tooth, and no one has any idea where Doug is.

Thus begins The Hangover.

I think I must be the only person in America who doesn’t find Zach Galifianakis all that funny in this movie.  His portrayal of Alan is one of a brain damaged, socially inept whacko who reads awkward speeches about wolf packs and has a Rain Man moment in a casino.   While his performance is worth a few chuckles, he’s mostly way out there and a source of strange tension.

The real comedy of The Hangover is in the strange, absurd moments like the tiger in the bathroom or a naked man popping out of the trunk of a car and beating everyone in the vicinity with a tire iron.   The constant apparitions of the unknown and bizarre keep the film lively, interesting and funny.   These events are paced so well, the film doesn’t even peak early with a hilarious cameo from Mike Tyson a third into the movie.

The friends’ desperate search to find Doug in time for his wedding back in LA is comical but the payoff to the search isn’t as good as one hopes it will be.   In fact, almost all the characters in The Hangover smack of buddy-comedy / road trip clichés; it’s really the variety of the absurd that makes the movie worth watching.

Worth the $9.50 a piece Younger Sister and I spent to see it, but nothing life-changing.

Read Full Post »

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

— Macbeth, Act V, Scene V


Good old William Shakespeare wasn’t referring to Michael Bay flicks, naturally, but rather life.   The above quote is one of Shakespeare’s most famous and overused quotes but I could think of none other that so exactly summed up the movie I watched this afternoon.

Transformers 2:  Revenge of the Fallen starts out on the wrong foot simply by virtue of being an obnoxious two and a half hours.   Roughly an hour could have easily been trimmed out of the film with no undue impact to the film’s dubious, threadbare plot.   Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is heading off to college and leaving both girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) and protector Bumblebee behind.   His overall goal is to have a normal life after the events that transpired in the previous film; however, fate has other things in store for him.   After a shard of the now-destroyed Allspark falls out of his clothing, Sam begins to see strange symbols and have bizarre, unexplained episodes of abnormal behavior.   Meanwhile, the Decepticons are gearing up for a big showdown, as they rescue Megatron from the depths of the Laurentian Abyssal and begin to search for a new energy source on Earth.

Transformers 2 is so much of a mess it’s hard to know where to start.   Megan Fox didn’t even bother to try to act.  I suppose she knew what she was signing on for when every article of her wardrobe is cut up or down to her navel, but she ho-hums her way through the movie.   LaBeouf is a decent actor most of the time but he’s forced to jerk and twitch his way through this bloated tangle of a movie.   The normally impeccable John Turturro is reduced to a blubbering knuckledragger who shows up to scale a pyramid and to drop his drawers and reveal a set of g-string underwear to the audience.   God Almighty, I hope Turturro bought a nice house with his paycheck.   Even Witwicky’s parents are dunderheads who can barely survive the flick on their own without being swaddled in bubblewrap and bodyguards.

Plot points such as tattoos are brought up and then dropped, ne’er to be seen again.   The film meanders from explosion to explosion in the first half before a geriatric robot named Jetfire shows up to monologue some exposition for the audience, explaining what exactly has been going on for the past hour and a half before picking right up again with – you guessed it – explosions.

The robots are tiresome, particularly The Twins, two robots who are the worst racial caricatures I’ve seen on film in a long time.   Decked out in gold teeth and lopsided faces, these two spend the film beating each other up and firing off such treasures of dialogue involving profanity and odious slang.   I have no idea who thought these two were a good idea, but it shocks me that someone tossed them in such a cavalier fashion.   The adolescent humor that pervades the film, like scrotum and ass jokes, feels more at home in something like Meet the Spartans but I suppose Bay never met a barrel he didn’t like to scrape.

What is amazing is the level of detail to the CGI but even that wears thin quickly.  Bay’s biggest forte has always been the fact that he can direct action scenes particularly well but the scale of the Transformers combined with the closer shots doesn’t lend itself well to a viewer making heads or tails of the bots fighting on screen.   Sometimes all that detail does is make your head hurt.

Transformers 2 isn’t a film so much as a cinematic beatdown for the theatergoer.  Bay’s purpose isn’t to entertain; it’s to pummel a ticket buyer into the plush theater seat with explosions and a soundtrack that would make the deafest of persons wince.   (I left the theater at roughly 6:00 p.m. with a raging headache that has only moderately subsided three hours later.)   If this film is a testament to anything, it’s Michael Bay’s unchecked ego.

Revenge of the Fallen is a behemoth of idiocy.   There is nothing entertaining or amusing about it.   There is no reward to this experience.   If you go see it, aspirin and a cool cloth await you post-film with a strange sense of having been clubbed half to death.

If we were running on the star rating here at 1,416 and Counting?  We’re talking half a star for those poor ILM folks who worked their tails off on the CGI.   That’s it.

Read Full Post »

#1546: Drag Me To Hell

Mr. Raimi, I missed you.


I saw the Evil Dead series somewhere around the age of 17 or so and ever since then I’ve been in cinematic love with Sam Raimi.   In the past few years, however, this adoration had dulled over the plethora of Spiderman movies that had come or are to come; I never much cared for Spiderman and I watched the flicks primarily for (who else) Bruce Campbell’s cameos.   Yawn.

Drag Me To Hell is a gooey, oozing horror flick that’s a marked return for Raimi to the genre.   Equal parts funny and frightening, it’s a very tight piece of movie making.

Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is a Midwest farm girl escaping from her roots by moving to a big city, losing her accent and desperately trying to get ahead.  When her boss at the bank informs her that he needs someone to make “tough decisions”, she denies an elderly gypsy woman an extension on her mortgage even as the woman begs and pleads with Christine to save her house.  After work that evening, the gypsy woman hunts Christine down and attacks her, placing an ancient curse on her that will result in Christine getting dragged to hell in three days.

Raimi relies on jump scares and gross scenes but goes easy on the gore.   It’s effective but never tiresome.   If you’re paying attention, Raimi telegraphs the gags before they pop up, but even then my theater had grown men popping out of their seats in fright and screaming like little girls.  Some of Raimi’s signatures are evident in the film; the classic Oldsmobile pops up and you can definitely recognize Raimi’s style.   (Bruce Campbell for once doesn’t cameo.)    Allison Lohman and Justin Long (as her reticent professor boyfriend) are wonderful, with Long being surprising given the fact that he’s popped up in a variety of roles that often border on irritating.

It is definitely a throwback to the horror movies of twenty years ago; Raimi even opens the movie with the ’80’s styled Universal logo, a logo which incredibly stirred up a lot of nostalgia in me.   The movie itself is bright and colorful, with a brilliant score and soundtrack that will stay stuck in your head.   (The sooner they offer it on iTunes, the better, because the soundtrack will stay on repeat on my iPod.)

More than anything, I give points to Raimi for tying up all the plot points nicely as well as making a movie open to interpretation.  While on the surface Drag Me To Hell is a curse-flick, quite a bit of the imagery and repetitive themes of the movie can lead you to different meanings if you let your mind stretch and wander a bit if you’re willing to dig that far.

It was worth the $9.50 Younger Sister and I paid and more.   It should be noted that Younger Sister has relatively no clue who Sam Raimi is or had very much of an idea of the Evil Dead movies before we went into the theater, but I think it’s safe to say that if I tell her that I have a Sam Raimi movie to watch, she’ll watch it now.   We were both suitably happy with the film and judging by the grown men sitting beside us that nearly tore out of the theater in terror, the rest of our audience enjoyed it as well.

Read Full Post »

#1545: Darkman

Three words:  Disfigured Liam Neeson.


Neeson plays Peyton Westlake, a scientist working on an artificial skin to help burn victims.   It’s got one problem:  it can’t survive more than 99 minutes in direct light, but functions perfectly in the dark.  Other than this stumbling block, his life is moving along well:  he’s got a great girlfriend, a sweet research gig and a swank laboratory.   Until he hits the worst day of his life.

Westlake’s girlfriend Julie (Frances McDormand) is a lawyer working for the Strack company, headed up by the evil Louis Strack.   She discovers an internal memo by accident.   It’s too bad for her that the memo contains information about Strack’s shady business dealings with a mobster named Durant and Strack’s bribes to the zoning committee.   Westlake picked it up by mistake on his way to his lab, so off go Strack  & Durant’s minions to clean up the problem.

Poor Westlake got his marriage proposal to Julie laughed off that morning, then mobsters come in, beat him, drop him in a vat of acid, kill his assistant and explode his lab.


Yeah, that day would go right in the “Shittiest Day Ever” category.

Westlake’s battered, burned body washes ashore and the local hospital mistakes him for a homeless person.   You know what this means!  Experimentation!   They snip some nerves so he can no longer feel pain, making him sorta superhuman, but with the major bummer side effect of increased emotional angst and some serious adrenaline rages.   Think half-Wolverine berserker kind of stuff.

Westlake escapes the hospital, rebuilds his lab and decides to take out the bad guys who basically fucked up his awesome life and win his girl back.   Said girl is operating under the assumption that he’s dead, actually, so Westlake has a ton of work ahead of him.


Darkman is far from greatness but it is fun.   Made by Sam Raimi, it features a lot of Raimi hallmarks, but it feels more like a throwback to the old monster & sci fi flicks from the ’30’s – ’50’s than it does a modern flick.   (Raimi’s montages in particular are evocative of this.)

Neeson does about as good a job as one can expect.   He’s part Phantom of the Opera, part Hunchback of Notre Dame, and he spends most of his role (sadly for us shallow folks) in full burned up makeup.   He’s stronger in the first part of the film, where he really does tug your heartstrings after he’s escaped from the hospital and is gradually realizing what happened to him.


What’s shocking is how much of a dullard Frances McDormand appears to be in this one.   She looks shell-shocked for most of the movie, even before Peyton catches the fireball express to the river.   Afterwards, she doesn’t get much better.   Sad, but true – and it makes you wonder what Westlake’s expending all this energy to recover.

The ending of the movie is great and solid, but probably not the one audiences wanted to see.  While the bad guys get their just rewards, the story line between McDormand and a progressively more and more unstable Neeson can only end in an unhappy way.

While it is entertaining, the effects can border on the bad and muffle the actors’ ability to do what they do best.    It’s fun, but not inventive; dated and not fresh.   This is something you’d pause to watch on cable on a Saturday afternoon and then move about your day, nothing from the movie sticking in your head.

However, since this is a Sam Raimi flick… obligatory Bruce Campbell cameo!


I know it’s widely popular to love Bruce Campbell, but how can you not?  I adore the man, so this was the cherry on the top of a fun movie.

Read Full Post »

Okay, so  I didn’t mean to make these past few days Hellraiser-tastic, but Tommy dared me to do this one!  Unless it’s sticking my tongue to a frozen lightpole , I have been known to very rarely refuse a dare.


Hellraiser III starts out promising and then blows away all its promise in the second half of the flick.   It begins with an enterprising newswoman, hot on the trail of a Very Big Story, a hedonistic club owner, an eviscerated guest of said club and the club owner’s desperate girlfriend.

Meet the asshole club owner:


He buys an expensive statue that’s actually got some very bad things contained inside, like, for instance…Pinhead.  (At the end of Part II, we saw Pinhead and friends torn apart and shoved onto a spinning column.  That’s the statue, essentially.)   After a clubgoer of his messes with the puzzle box stuck inside the statue, aforementioned clubgoer meets a dubious end at the end of some chains.  Familiar territory we’re finding ourselves in.

Terri, the determined newscaster, smells a story.  She hooks up with Joey, the girlfriend of the piggish club owner, J.P.   Together they investigate the origins of the statue and the box, as Pinhead begins to reawaken and starts to sway J.P. into bringing him into the land of the living.

The last half of Hellraiser III is a strange brew of items that make no sense in the established canon whatsoever (Pinhead’s human self and hell self are separated and must be reintegrated, but only through Terri’s dreams).   What’s worse is that the old crack team of evil-people-retrievers are gone, gone, gone.   Pinhead slaughters a whole club full of people, trying to out-stupid his own tactics one by one.   One attendee is killed by ice, another by CD.  Yes, CD.   Don’t worry, he’ll pop up again.

Characters in this flick are bland, boring and make some of the most nonsensical decisions ever.   The sets are cheesy and the special effects are sad.

While everyone else tries to make sense of what in God’s good name is going on in the last thirty minutes or so, Terri’s being chased by eeeevil new Cenobites.   They’re the modern upgrades!   Think of them as the Windows Vista version of Cenobites, but they’re not without problems.


That, my friends, is a Cenobite who kills people by throwing CDs like ninja stars.

It’s a great idea if you want to make the concept of Hellraiser completely laughable.  If so, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.   There’s another Cenobite with a video lens for an eye and a blowtorch Cenobite.  Each is … mind-numbingly stupid.

From there, Terri, who looks as confused and stricken as any viewer would be expected to appear, travels into dream-world to reintegrate Pinhead and escapes.   Of course she does, because if formulaic horror movies have taught us anything, it’s the sacred rite of the Final Girl.

She drops the Lemarchand Box into a vat of wet concrete, which becomes…


An office building that looks like the box?  Is this Dana’s apartment building from Ghostbusters?  I don’t know.   …But it looks cool.

Stupid, stupid, STUPID movie.  STUPID.  I have a wall that my head needs to meet, thanks.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »