Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Inception: Does For Dreams What Jaws Did For Oceans

Inception Poster

Christopher Nolan has been directing some of my favorite movies of the 2000s. I loved Memento, even the second time. I've been reading comics since 1991, so I was extremely glad for what he's done to the Batman franchise with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The Prestige was the best supernatural mystery featuring magicians I saw that year (and yes, that includes The Illusionist). I even liked Insomnia, even though he didn't write it. This year, he blew everything away with Inception.

It feels like M.C. Escher had a baby with Philip K. Dick, and this baby was raised by Danny Ocean. Part sci-fi, part magical realism, part caper, and all awesome. After seeing it twice, I feel like I get it enough where I can write about it and it won't be utter gibberish.

The first time I saw Inception it was the weekend after it opened, and the theater was packed. Normally, I hate sitting within the first 20-30 rows of a theater (I know, I'm a stickler), but I sat in the 4th row with my fiancee and we watched it anyway. The second time was just this past weekend, it was less packed, but I still wasn't able to get my optimum seat. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed both viewings, regardless.

I studied film in college, so I'm very much of the mindset that movies are best when they're engaging as well as thought-provoking. Nolan is able to balance a totally insane plot in a rational way. He explains certain things (some critics have said too much), but it's necessary. The viewer would have virtually no way to keep up with the story without the explanations. In reality, very little of the history of their technology is explained; they just explain how it works once you're in the dream.

I'm getting a little ahead of myself. To fully talk about the movie, especially to those who may ot have seen it, I should explain a little about what's going on. In the world of Inception, a technology exists that lets people share dreams. This leads to an illegal practice of sharing dreams to extract secret information; essentially, master thieves called extractors steal secrets right from your head. The plot follows Cobb (DiCaprio) and Arthur (Gordon-Levitt), two talented thieves, an expert Extractor and an ingenious Architect. Cobb is plagued by his past, and Arthur is just looking towards the next job. When an opportunity arises that Cobb can't pass up, he must organize a group of dreamers: An architect even better than Cobb (Ellen Page); a forger that can assume identities of others in dreams (Tom Hardy); a chemist to design the perfect sedative to create all the dream levels they need (Dileep Rao); their client (Ken Watanabe); and their unwilling subject (Cillian Murphy). Cobb's secrets come out of his subconscious with a vengeance as the team tries to pull off the perfect heist in reverse: Inception. Planting an idea in a subjects mind is more difficult than removing information, and they must face dangers and dream levels they haven't seen before to complete the job.

About 75% of this movie features visual effects and tricks that I literally have no idea how Nolan did. As per usual, he doesn't use a 2nd Unit, and does it all himself with his director of photography Wally Pfister. Featuring a deep, intense, and ambient soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, the whole team does a phenomenal job of bringing the viewer into the world of the film, and of the dream. Visually stunning, outrageous, and ground-breaking, you almost can't believe what you're seeing, but it's completely fascinating.

It's been awhile since I've seen a movie this actively thought-provoking, and that sparked such real, actual discussion. There's a lot of great actors giving fantastic performances. The visual effects aren't all clogged with 3D and too much computer generated work. There's an entire set of scenes where Joseph Gordon-Levitt fights and runs around in a hallway that's constantly shifting (and sometimes losing) gravity. The way the dreams work are all carefully thought-out and actually does make sense (in a weird, dream-like sort of way).

I highly recommend going to check out this movie. Not only is it greatly entertaining, but it's a master stroke from Christopher Nolan. It's a culmination of all that he's done so far, and pushed way beyond what we've seen him do. The theater experience is worth it, and I'll probably be buying this movie on Blu-Ray when it comes out.

Inception gets four crazy spinning hallways that should make the Wachowskis tremble in embarrassment out of five, or four crazy-manipulated dream-level mazes that feature endless staircases and other physical paradoxes out of five.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Carriers: Like A Zombie Movie, but With Sick People


Article first published as http://blogcritics.org/video/article/movie-review-carriers-like-a-zombie/'>Movie Review: Carriers - Like A Zombie Movie, But With Sick People on Blogcritics.

In 2009, brothers Álex and David Pastor released a horror thriller film named Carriers. It follows the exploits of two brothers and their girlfriends as they navigate a wasteland of America. A deadly virus has swept the globe, killing nearly everyone. The survivors have learned to distrust virtually everyone they encounter, trying to avoid infection at any cost.

I've found that it's very difficult to do a post-apocalyptic movie well. The Pastors pull it off pretty well, though. They utilize a lot of desert scenery, and it features a very sparse cast. Chris Pine (Star Trek) and Lou Taylor Pucci (The Chumscrubber) are brothers Brian and Danny Green. Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly) is Bobby, Brian's girlfriend. Emily VanCamp (The Ring Two) is Danny's friend Kate. Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU) has a cameo as Frank, a father whose daughter is infected, and runs across Danny, Brian and the girls.

This film is like most Zombie movies, in that the survivors are eking out a simple and stressful existence in the ruined world, avoiding others, locking their doors, and protecting themselves from infection. In a nod to the youth and gallows humor of these people, they often decorate their masks with faces, designs, teeth, etc. They also run across an abandoned hotel and golf course, and there's a great montage of them golfing, driving around in golf carts, drinking, and playing in sand traps. Their reverie is cut short by their discovery of the pool, which is deeply infected with a dead body.

They run across a few survivors, but they're all openly hostile to our main characters. Plot-wise, Carriers is a little bit thin. Essentially, Brian and Danny want to go back to some beach they remembered from their childhood. The girls are basically along for the ride. Much of the story focuses on Brian and Danny and their relationship; as brothers, they share a unique dynamic in how they deal with conflict. Brian is the de facto leader, but when things start falling apart, and people in their group start getting infected, he may not be quite capable of handling things.

Overall, Carriers is an entertaining but somewhat predictable horror film. It does have some genuine chills, especially when they encounter a deranged scientist experimenting on children to find a "cure." The cliché'd message about family and the journey being more than the destination gets a little hackneyed, but overall, it's enjoyable for its genre.

I give it two demon-masked twenty-somethings poking at dead bodies in pools with sticks out of five, or two predictable but entertaining endings out of five.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World: 8-Bit Awesomesauce

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

So I kind of dropped the ball during ComicCon weekend by only blogging about Kick-Ass, and leaving my review of Iron Man 2 in the gutter. But, friends and neighbors, I was able to attend an advanced screening of Edgar Wright's upcoming film based on Bryan Lee O'Malley's mini-series Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, so I hope that makes up for it. Today's the day the soundtrack and original score albums come out for SPvsTW, so it's only fitting that I get to it today. Scott Pilgrim hits theaters this Friday, August 13th.

Scott Pilgrim is a slacker. He's in a band but they kind of suck. He's dating a high schooler but they barely hold hands. He owns approximately two things in his apartment and shares a bed with his cool gay roommate Wallace because he can't afford a bed. He has no job, no goals, no hope. But then he meets Ramona Flowers, a rollerblading American bad-ass hipster babe. You'd think things would only get less complicated from there. But, holy crap, it turns out he has to defeat her seven evil exes in combat in order to earn the right to date her. You'd think this would be too much for a girl Scott just met, but you have severely underestimated how much more interesting his life is now.

The comic book series is six volumes long, and the movie is less than two hours. That being said, they manage to do an extremely good job condensing the plot and action. Things that are left out aren't exactly "unnecessary," but they aren't missed much in the movie. Many of the scenes, shots, lines, and especially costumes are lifted directly from the comic itself. Luckily, Volume 6 had come out just a week or so before we saw the film, so we were able to complete the series before checking out the movie. The film version is different, and has a fairly different climax, but at their core the two are very similar.

Directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, & Spaced), SPvsTW is a fanboy homage to comics, video games, pop culture, and romance wrapped in purposefully dated references, sounds, and even computers (Scott uses AOL, for Pete's sake). The music is hip and has an "indie" feel, and the score is sweeping and hardcore at the same time (Nigel Godrich is a genius). At its core, it stars Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona, Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells, Mark Webber as Stephen Stills... Well, why don't I just point you to The Database page? There are far too many good people in this movie to list them all. With the exception of Ramona, the casting was perfection. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was good, and she's a capable actress. However, I just didn't buy her as Ramona, and felt the casting may have been wrong (though I don't know who could have played her instead). I had my doubts about Michael Cera at first, but I was on board right away once I saw him in action.

The fight scenes were brutal, engaging, entertaining, and very much under the influence of video games. There were some great cameos (wait until you see who they get to play the Vegan Police), and fans of the series should be very satisfied. If you've never read the comics, you'll still enjoy this movie, as long as you enjoy twenty-something romances, kicking rock bands, epic bass battles, and sword duels. The actual violence is minimal: When evil exes are defeated, they explode into coins. Some of the exes don't get enough attention (I didn't like how small the Katayanagi twins were in the film, though their battle was epic), and Scott's own evil ex Envy (amazingly played by Brie Larson) was severely downplayed.

The only real negative to the film was the condensed timeline; the comic series takes place over a series of months, but the movie takes place over what seems to be a week or less. This unfortunately lead to more of a "love triangle" between Ramona and Scott's high-schooler girlfriend Knives (though she's brilliant, played by Ellen Wong), which I didn't feel was a match to the tone of the book. It worked for the film, though, and it wasn't totally random.

Overall, I was really excited I got to see the film in an advanced screening. I've never been able to go to one before, so that definitely was a bonus. I might actually want to go see it again when it comes out, but I may not. It's definitely on my list of DVDs to pick up (or BluRays, if I have a player by then). It's fun, cute, quirky, hip, and wacky. It has action, video games, rock bands, Japanese twins, and Jason Schwartzman as a sword-wielding jerk villain! It has basically everything that you need in a movie.

I give Scott Pilgrim vs. the World three and a half three-second songs by Crash and the Boys (literally) out of five, or three and a half giant hammers being pulled out of handbags out of five.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kick-Ass: 'Nuff Said, Am I Right?


In honor of San Diego Comic Con going on this week, today and tomorrow will feature two comic book movie themed blogs! Rejoice, ye nerds, and bask in the glory of my nerd-reviews!

Are you basking?

First off, it's one of the most outrageous, violent, ridiculous, and most awesome comic book movies in a long time: Kick-Ass. Based on a series of comics by legendary creators Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita, Jr., Kick Ass is a tale of a young man who dreams of becoming a superhero. After minimal training, and in a home-made costume, Dave Lizewski is critically injured while attempting to stop a mugging. Stabbed and left for dead, he's taken to the hospital. When he recovers, he suffers from nerve damage. Still spurred by his near-insane need to help people and function as a superhero, he goes back on the streets. His actions attract the attention of the mob and other costumed vigilantes. How can a high-school kid with no superpowers stand up to the entire mob? Well, when he's got a gun-toting, knife-throwing 12-year old girl with him, he may have a chance.

Directed by relative newcomer Matthew Vaughan, Kick-Ass stars Aaron Johnson as Dave Lizewski/Kick Ass, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Red Mist/Chris D'Amico, Nicolas Cage as Damon Macready/Big Daddy, Marc Strong as Frank D'Amico, and Chloe Moretz as Mindy Macready/Hit Girl. It's a pretty interesting cast of actors for a comic book movie, and surprisingly, Nicolas Cage is not only tolerable, he's actually pretty good. I'm not really familiar with Aaron Johnson, but I guess he plays a young John Lennon in Nowhere Boy, which looks good, too. Chloe Moretz really steals the show, though; she's been in a few things, but she is absolutely malicious and terrifying here.

This film also features one of the better soundtracks out there. It features a few great songs by The Prodigy, and a few good updates of crazy songs for Hit Girl's scenes: Banana Splits by the Dickies, and Bad Reputation by the Hit Girls. I especially like the sort of theme song to the movie, Stand Up by the Prodigy. I normally don't get into film soundtracks, but this one was especially good.

I took my lady to this crazy movie, and surprisingly, she didn't hate it. Essentially, it's not the kind of movie she'd want to go see on her own, but she liked it once she got there. It was funny, interesting, unpredictable, and shockingly violent. A dude gets his leg cut off! Seriously, it's wicked.

It's a fairly standard action movie as far as direction goes; the costumes were amazing, though. Everything looked like it could have been made at home, with household crap, but it also had that slick, Dark Knight kind of look to it, as well. The characters were interesting, and Kick-Ass was a surprisingly ineffective hero, and didn't do a whole lot of ass-kicking. Hit-Girl was the actual bad-ass one, and her dad Big Daddy is crazy brutal. Imagine Batman with a moustache, a shotgun, and a huge grin, and that's almost as intense as Big Daddy was. Red Mist is fantastic, as well; it's basically McLovin' in a costume, driving a fancy car around. I don't want to give any spoilers, but Red Mist has his own reasons for becoming a superhero, and his own agenda.

In some ways, I think the film is moderately realistic. Hear me out, don't just laugh. It's essentially supposed to be our world; a world where people read comics, and there are no superheroes. Nobody turns into Batman; nobody has utility belts full of awesome gadgets. Kick Ass is a kid in a repurposed wet-suit and Doc Marten boots, with two lead pipes strapped to his back. Big Daddy is an ex-cop who trained his daughter to be a killing machine; they both use guns and knives and their crazy fists as weapons. Red Mist does nothing at all, really. They don't go around saving kittens from trees, but they don't battle intergalactic invasions, or giant robots, or supervillains. They fight muggers, gang-bangers. Dave fights High School; imagine that nerd who gets wedgies all the time started working out, threw on some tights, and beat up petty bad guys on weekends.

Overall, it's an extremely entertaining movie. It has little value other than that, but that's by no means a bad thing. It's wacky, insane, violent, full of actually decent action, great nerdy characters, great nerdy comic-book discussions, and things you didn't know you wanted to see until you saw it. For instance, I had no idea I wanted to watch Marc Strong punch a little girl square in the face until I saw it.

I give Vaughan's Kick-Ass three weird, creepy, and sort of amazing performances by Nicolas Cage as a gun-toting maniac ex-cop superhero out of five, or three incredibly amazing scenes featuring a tiny 12-year old in a superhero costume running around shooting, stabbing, maiming, killing, and generally messing up dozens of angry, hulking mobsters out of five.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Crazies (2010): Somewhat Less Crazy

The Crazies

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about the George A. Romero film The Crazies? Well, we finally tracked down the remake from this year, and gave it a good gander. The remake was directed by Breck Eisner, who directed a little piece of something called Sahara a few years ago. Go ahead and scope out his IMDB page; it's right here. He has like four movies in development; three of them are remakes (of Cronenberg's The Brood, Mike Hodges's Flash Gordon, and John Carpenter's Escape From New York). He didn't do an incredibly terrible job remaking Romero's insane original; still, I'm not sure how I feel about a guy making a career out of making remakes of semi-cult classics.

One thing I like better about the remake of The Crazies is the male lead is a lot less unibrow-y; Timothy Olyphant does a pretty good job, as per usual. Let me rewind a moment; let's list a few major differences between the two films. In Romero's version, the film starts much more rapidly. The main character, David, is a firefighter who served in 'Nam. His friend Clank is also a firefighter, who was in 'Nam, Special Forces. David's girlfriend Judy is a nurse, and is pregnant. The military features a much more immediate and overbearing presence in the original film. It also features a much more ambiguous, much less optimistic, and somehow much less open ending than the remake.

In Eisner's version, David (Olyphant) and Judy (Radha Mitchell) are married; David is the Sheriff of the town (in Iowa, rather than Pennsylvania), and Judy is a small-town doctor. Clank is now Russell Clank (Joe Anderson), and is David's deputy. The action starts much more slowly; maybe because it's a modern film, or maybe the style is different, but the remake takes much longer to get underway. A certain amount of time is setting up how idyllic, small, and quaint the town is. In the original, the opening scene features one of the Crazies burning his own house down with his children and (dead/murdered) wife inside. The military shows up almost immediately after that. In the remake, the occasional Crazy shows up; first, at a local baseball game, where David must shoot the man. Then, one of Judy's patients seems to be afflicted. Eventually, David finds the downed plane that Trixie escapes from (something nobody ever does in the original), and eventually determines that the water supply is poisoned (something nobody connects in the original, either). The first few people going crazy were the first houses in the water supply line (a huge leap of reasoning, actually).

Overall, the plot is fairly similar. Plane crashes into the river, the toxin Trixie seeps into the small town's water supply, and the military blockades them in, killing those infected, capturing others, experimenting on them; our heroes get captured (in this version, Judy is captured because her pregnancy elevated her temperature, an early sign of infection), so David and Russell have to rescue her. They eventually escape to the outskirts of town, running across a few more survivors, and seeing more military brutality firsthand. The ending is quite a bit different, as well; it's ultimately a lot more explosion-y, and a lot more open ended. A large chunk of characters featured in the original don't make it to the remake (like the military scientist researching a cure in the town, the man and his daughter that join the group, get infected, have sex [ew], and then get killed), and actual military characters (the military is largely faceless in the remake, and featured surprisingly little).

Overall, I'd say this movie is about as good as a modern version of this story can be. One of these days, I'll have to study the differences between these old horror movies from the 70s and 80s, and their modern remakes. There are a lot of social, cultural, political, and even technological differences between now and then that account for the changes. There's a lot of action, a lot of gore, a lot of creepiness, and a different brand of military representation in this year's The Crazies. It's a decent flick, and you should check it out; I almost wish I had seen the modern version first. It's kind of like watching the movie version before you read the book; oh well.

I give The Crazies three arbitrary nuclear explosions as the heroes drive frantically away in a truck out of five, or three deadly-crazy toxic viruses still inexplicably nicknamed Trixie, stored inside a giant plane that then crashes into a river water-source out of five.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Chloe: Who Wants to Watch Amanda Seyfried and Julianne Moore Make Out?


I had never seen a film by Atom Egoyan before, to the best of my knowledge. I may have to look up more of his movies if they're all like his 2009 film Chloe. Starring Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, and Amanda Seyfried, Chloe is a psychological thriller with erotic tendencies; I hesitate to call it a flat-out erotic thriller. Mostly because I didn't really realize that's what it was when we watched it... Until the erotic parts happened.

Catherine Stewart (Moore) is a gynecologist, throwing a surprise birthday party for her husband David (Neeson), a music professor. He's in New York giving a lecture, and is late coming back to Toronto, and misses the surprise party. Catherine begins to suspect he's having an affair, especially when she finds a text and photo on his phone from one of his students. After a chance encounter with a young woman in a restaurant bathroom, and frustrated by David's constant flirting, she hires the young woman, Chloe (Seyfried) to seduce her husband and confirm her suspicions that he's cheating. Things eventually take a turn for the scary when Chloe forms an obsession around Catherine, and in addition to David, seduces their son Michael (Max Thieriot). Full of twists, turns, thrills, and surprising sensuality, Chloe has a surprise twist ending to cap the whole crazy mess off.

Since the movie just came out last year, I can't in good conscience spoil it. It's a pretty good one, though; if you pay attention to how the story is being told, and some of the subtle details, you may see it coming. It's still interesting, though.

Where Sharky's Machine was almost unequivocally a violent tribute to manliness, Chloe is the opposite; it may not necessarily be feminist, but it does feature female characters in prominent roles, in somewhat opposite ends of the spectrum. Catherine is a strong, professional woman; although it's interesting that she's a gynecologist (though we only really get to see her actually doctoring in an early scene). Chloe, as a prostitute, is also sort of strong and professional, in a totally different way. They're both a little nuts, too; Catherine is so paranoid that her husband is cheating on her, that she wants to create a situation in which he cheats on her, so she can be proven right. Chloe forms an immediate and unhealthy obsession with Catherine, feeling a deep affection and attraction for her, attempting to inject herself into life as much as possible, even sleeping with Catherine's son. Chloe uses her sexuality as a weapon, and Catherine finds her sexuality shifting and morphing in unpredictable ways.

I'm not gonna lie, there are some pretty intense scenes with Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried. I knew to expect some of that, but the full extent of it was a surprise. I can't really use it as a selling point, but it was definitely a surprise, both in terms of the scenes being in the movie, and it was surprising that these two actresses would be involved in something like that.

Everyone's great in this movie; Liam Neeson is always interesting, and Julianne Moore is intense as a woman facing her middle age, her husband's flirtation, feelings of inadequacy, and her new, growing desires. Amanda Seyfried plays an unusual role as Chloe; she's manipulative, often violent, aggressively sexual, and often times entirely menacing. It's intriguing that as a younger woman and a less experienced actress, she can dominate so many scenes over Julianne Moore (not to mention physically and emotionally dominate Moore's character).

Egoyan seems to pay special attention to th sets, backgrounds, and especially mirrors throughout the movie. The mise-én-scéne is modern and simple; Catherine and David's home is large, modern, full of tall doors, tall windows, mirrors, paintings, and expensive equipment and furniture (which is just in the background, having nothing to do with the story, but showing their evident affluence). There's also an understated and nearly subtle connection between Catherine and some sense of Chloe's mother; Chloe wants to give Catherine a hair pin that Chloe's mother gave her when they first meet; she tries to give it to her again, later. Chloe tries to kill Catherine with it in the climax of the film, and Catherine is wearing it in her hair in the final scene and final shot of the film.

Chloe is an intense, surprisingly twisty modern erotic thriller. Again, this isn't normally a genre I enjoy, or even really watch (as in, at all), but I was pleasantly surprised by this film. I'd recommend it, if this is the kind of thing you might enjoy.

I give Atom Egoyan's Chloe three creepy bug-eyed starey shots of Amanda Seyfried out of five, or three completely unanticipated and random shots of various actresses naked, holy crap it was so weird out of five.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sharky's Machine: Nothing to do With Sharks or Machines

Sharky's Machine

Burt Reynolds has directed a few movies, did you know that? And some TV shows, too. He's no Scorsese, but at least he's no Edward D. Wood, Jr., either. In 1981, he directed and starred in Sharky's Machine, which was his most successful. It also featured some impressive stunt-work by the legendary Dar Robinson, who performed the highest wireless free jump from a building in a film, although in the final cut of the film cuts short the full extent of this fall.

While undercover, Narcotics officer Sharky (Reynolds) is interrupted by fellow officer Smiley (Darryl Hickman), and the bust goes sour, resulting in a pregnant woman being held hostage, and Sharky having to shoot and kill the dealer. After, Sharky is busted down to Vice, literally in the basement, where a rag-tag group of weirdos and more weirdos struggle at the bottom of the barrel. They accidentally discover a high-class prostitution ring, and a mysterious assassin is picking off high-end clients. During their observation of the $1,000 per night hooker Dominoe (Rachel Ward), Sharky begins to fall in love with her. Eventually she is shot and killed, and Sharky seeks to find her killer, a drug addict named Billy Score. His brother Victor seems to be pulling the strings in the prostitution ring, even being involved with a gubernatorial candidate. Sharky and his "machine" (the group of vice weirdos he assembles around himself) find Dominoe alive (her friend was killed accidentally, because she was staying at Dominoe's), find out that Smiley is involved somehow, Sharky gets tortured by Smiley before killing them, until they finally confront Billy Score.

If that synopsis didn't make much sense, don't worry; it's not entirely my fault. The entire scope of the movie is largely nonsensical, and based almost entirely on action movie cliché, motivations, and characterizations. Sharky seems entirely motivated by the fact he's a cop; there's no real sense of his home life, friends outside of other cops, etc. There's an attempt to show maybe a glimpse of what he's missing by having one of his machine have a wife and family; but he seems uninterested. The machine are motivated by hating being in vice; they look up to Sharky because of his reputation, but also seem to have little of their own aspirations aside from this one particular investigation. Sharky runs around, shooting bad guys, falling in love with hookers (and then threatening her with violence when she stands up to him and refuses to give him some information). I'm sure an entire study on masculine roles, general masculinity and violence, and the roles of females almost entirely as prostitutes, but it would take far too long. It's kind of everywhere, and likely doesn't even attempt to make any apologies for it.

Overall, there's not much to say. It's an early 80s action movie, which means it's still mostly the 70s; there's a lot of Dirty Harry flavor going on here, but it's hard not to say that about any action movie. The "Machine" does get a good bit of screen time, featuring some great character actors, and everyone does actually have their crucial role to play in getting things resolved.

My favorite part is the ending; Billy Score kills his brother Vincent in some sort of drug-rage. Then Sharky confronts him, shoots him, and he crashes through the window, falling like 60 stories to his death. Then, after that, there's a jarringly random shot of Sharky and Dominoe at some sort of playground, and I think she's on the swings. Happy ending! Credits. This was the famous Dar Robinson stunt, where he fell free of wires over 200 feet to an airbag, but the shot only shows him for a few seconds, and then the rest is obviously a dummy. I think Burt Reynolds probably didn't get a good enough usable shot after the first few moments of the stunt, so they had to just chuck a dummy wearing a suit out a window.

The jarring ending actually takes a star away, because it's so random and tacked on. That may not be Burt's fault, but it's still a major issue with the movie. It's kind of funny sometimes, though, and has some decent action; and by "decent action" I mean "really loud gunshot sound-effects and smashing into stuff."

If you like that sort of thing, check it out. If you don't like action movies at all, then you probably won't like it. It's always interesting to see Younger Burt Reynolds, though. I give this movie two and a half nonsensical and frustratingly misleading titles out of five, or two and a half terribly wasted stunts combined with incredibly random and totally unnecessary endings out of five.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Night Shift: Hookers, Corpses, and The Fonz

Night Shift

I really love the 80s. I mean, what other decade can Shelley Long play a prostitute, and not be considered churlish. It's also the time for funny Michael Keaton, early Ron Howard, synthesizer music, and bizarre cameos of later-famous actors. Specifically, I'm here to talk about Night Shift, released in 1982. Directed by Ron Howard and starring Michael Keaton in his first film role, and Henry Winkler in an amusing mid-Fonzie role. Co-starring Shelley Long and featuring a brief appearance of a young Kevin Costner as a frat boy, a very young Shannon Doherty, and enough corpses, hookers, pimps, and a disturbingly young Richard Belzer to fill some bizarre quota you didn't even know you had.

An oddly simple plot allows this movie to simply run around like a hyperactive toddler, following a relatively cohesive storyline, with surprisingly good pacing. Henry Winkler plays a decidedly anti-Fonzie milquetoast Chuck Lumley, a former Wall Street stockbroker who now works in a morgue to reduce stress. He gets moved to the Night Shift, and he just accepts it. He meets Bill "Blaze" Blazejowski (Keaton) a young, hip, exuberant crazy person just hired to work at the morgue. He almost immediately breaks the rules by using the hearse as an impromptu limo (and uses it to take a young Clint Howard to the prom). When Chuck finds his neighbor Belinda (Long) in the elevator, beaten up, he realizes that she's a prostitute whose pimp was killed in the opening scenes of the movie. Somehow, Bill convinces Chuck to become "nice pimps" to Belinda and a handful of other women. Needless to say, things get wacky, weird, crazy, and a little scary. Belinda's pimp's killers are looking for them, since they're muscling in on their racket with their stock options, benefits, and flex-plans or whatever. A shoot-out ensues, and eventually things turn out ok for everyone, except for the pimps, I guess.

Ok, I need to work on making my summaries a little more succinct. But I can't help it! This film is a classic in the Lady's household, and I'd never seen it up til a few weeks ago. I do have to say, Netflix has been a lifesaver lately.

I've always been a Ron Howard fan; a little trivia, the year before I was born (the year before this movie was released), my parents were in California visiting friends, and while out to dinner, they saw Ron Howard and his wife having dinner. They also had little baby Bryce Dallas with them, too. Anyway, good ol' Opie knows how to direct a movie, and he started to show his real chops with movies like Night Shift. Some of you out there may not know this, as well, but Michael Keaton was originally a purely comedic actor. In the 80s he gave us such gems as Beetlejuice and Johnny Dangerously. And now I realize that Night Shift fits that category as well. Henry Winkler is a great actor, as we see his transformation to hip, awesome, cool Fonzie into meek, antacid-popping Chuck. Of course, both Chuck and Bill learn some valuable life-lessons along the way.

I was never a fan of Shelley Long, though. Having her portray a heart-of-gold hooker doesn't do much to make her seem any cooler, either. She's a little Julie Hagerty to me, a little too waif-y and skinny and interesting looking to be pretty. Luckily, we don't see much of her anymore.

It's also interesting to note that Kevin Costner appears in this movie; he literally doesn't speak. He's a Frat Boy at a party that Bill decides to throw inside the morgue with the prostitutes. He also had a brief role in The Big Chill, released the next year, but his scenes were cut. Within ten years of Night Shift, he was literally directing, producing, and starring in an Oscar-winning movie. What the hell, Kevin Costner. If you can do that in less than a decade, why haven't I wanted to watch a movie you've made in longer than that? It's crazy.

Overall, this was kind of a rambling post. But the main point to take away is: It's funny. It's not ridiculous; well, it is a little, but in an oddly believable way. It's early enough in the 80s that it's not all hypercolor and neon and velcro Reeboks and whatnot, but it's not totally 70s anymore, either. The characters are interesting, fairly round, and easy to identify with. The premise is just outlandish enough to fit in with the era of Airplane!, Animal House, and the like, but real enough to not be some sort of bizarre spoof.

I liked this movie. I miss the comic days of Michael Keaton, the days that Kevin Costner didn't say anything, and the days that Shelley Long was a star. I miss nerdy Henry Winkler (he kind of reminded me of a less insane version of Henry's Barry Zuckerkorn character from Arrested Development. Ok, not really, I just wanted to remember Arrested Development for a minute). I think this post is getting so rambling because I'm watching part of the movie in my head as I write this. I liked it, and want to watch it again.

I recommend it. Go rent it. Find it, it's worth checking it out. And it's pretty low-key, so you can belong to a pretty cool exclusive club. I give it four start-up corporations featuring benefits, insurance, stock options, all for hookers out of five, or four strange senses of disbelief that Shelley Long could make a living as a prostitute out of five.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tiptoes: Literally One of the Worst Movies I've Seen

Tip Toes

In 2003, a movie was released with such a ridiculous premise, such an outlandish plot, that one would assume it had some redeeming qualities. I assumed that it would be one of those movies that was so weird, so utterly idiotic, and so utterly stupid, that it would almost certainly have to be entertaining. If I was a betting man, I'd owe Ben Franklin an iPod, because this movie is absolutely terrible.

Seemingly written, produced, and cast purely on a bet, like Scottish cuisine, Matthew Bright's TipToes "stars" Matthew McConaughey, Kate Beckinsale, Gary Oldman, Peter Dinklage, and Patricia Arquette. Sounds like a pretty good cast, right? Oh, that's what we thought, too. Anything with Gary Oldman simply must have something good about it. Again, I think this is based on dares or bets or blackmail; Gary Oldman plays a dwarf named Rolfe, who is the twin brother of Steven (Matthew McConaughey), who is not a dwarf. Kate Beckinsale plays Steven's girlfriend Carol, who didn't know Steven's family was all dwarfs until the movie. What's more, she's totally pregnant with his child, and she's (I'm serious) deadly concerned the baby might be a dwarf. You know what's weirder? Steven, who grew up with dwarfs and goes to annual conventions, is dead-set against the baby, again because of the fear it will be a dwarf. So she gets to know his family, may or may not fall in love with Rolfe (it's never clear), and SPOILER ALERT the baby is in fact born a dwarf.

At first (nothing against little people), I thought the movie must be spun as something of a comedy. But it's as melodramatic as an emo Nicholas Sparks after being stood up at the prom. They fight, they yell, they scream at each other, and they seem to have had entire discussions about starting a family where it never once occurs to Steven that his genetic proclivities may produce a dwarf. Also, I apologize if I'm using any un-PC variations here; I can never remember the rules. I suppose I should switch to "little person."

In addition to the "story," the other cinematic features of this "film" are questionable. The editing is haphazard and most often abrupt. Transitions are nonexistent or nonsensical. It never quite seems to do what you expect it, but in a jarring, alarming way. Many of the shots are set up awkwardly to accommodate Gary Oldman's costume; they use some fairly poor tricks to make it appear as though he's a little person.

The characters are all vaguely uninteresting, fairly flat, largely underdeveloped, and licking in common motivation. Often times, they do, say, and react in ways that make no sense at all. Coupled with a plot that rapidly deteriorates into pure melodrama and unrelenting conflict, with an incredibly dissatisfying hackneyed ending that completely refused to actually resolve anything, or complete even a coherent thought. It just simply ... ends.

Apparently this film debuted at Sundance, and I can't imagine it received any rave reviews, awards, etc. The rumor is that Oldman was the driver of the project and wanted to play this dwarf character. Although in general he's a fantastic actor, even he couldn't save this abysmal production. Up to this point, Matthew Bright had only directed odd action/comedy films (Freeway, Freeway II, and Bundy), so this serious, romantic drama seemed a bit beyond him.

If you see this film and think "wow, that may just be wacky enough to be good," or "hey, this may be funny, it's extremely not what you think. It may be entertaining if you're drunk, but I highly doubt it. I wouldn't even really recommend this film out of morbid curiosity.

I give Tiptoes a well-deserved one obviously fake and laughably unconvincing dwarf Gary Oldman out of five, or one painfully awkward series of events, plot points, and the stilted dialogue of Anne Rice fan-fiction out of five. Did that last one make sense? Doesn't matter; this movie didn't.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Toy Story 3: Holy Lord Those Toys Are Freaking TALKING

Toy Story 3

We haven't had a new Toy Story movie since the last century. Can you believe it? Can you?! You can't, you liar. The third installment in the immensely popular Disney/Pixar film has been highly anticipated; the last one came out before I was a legal adult! That's crazy to think about. It was worth the wait.

While not directed by John Lasseter, it found itself in the capable hands of Lee Unkrich (Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo), and is truly epic in its scope, scale, and animation. Where the original Toy Story pioneered the use of this level of computer animation for a full-length film, Toy Story 3 kicks it up a notch. It does have 3D, yes, which is done tactfully and tastefully (adding depth and weight, rather than trying to throw things at the camera), but I don't assume it's essential to the process (as 3D generally isn't "essential"). I had heard rumours that the plot was slightly derivative, and I didn't find that to be the case. It calls back quite strongly to the original movie (almost skipping Toy Story 2 references entirely, with the exception of Jessie and Bullseye), and it was actually nice to see all the main characters back together.

Andy, the little boy, is now a young man. He's 17, and going off to college. He's gotten rid of most of his toys, but has kept the main cast of characters; Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Bullseye, Ham (John Ratzenberger), Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles & Estelle Harris), Slinky-Dog, and T-Rex (Wallace Shawn). All the voice actors are back, with the exception of the late, great Jim Varney for obvious reasons (voiced this time around by Blake Clark). The characters have always been wonderfully defined, so they fall back into their old routines without a hitch, and are familiar instantly. Even Andy has the same voice actor, in John Morris, who has grown up with the character.

The plot is somewhat new, but also mixes up several elements of the first two movies. As Andy's going off to college, the toys are afraid they'll be thrown out. Andy wants to take Woody to college with him, and put the other toys in the attic. Andy's mom, however, mistakes the bag of toys for trash, and the toys think they've been rejected. They're donated to a day-care, which is run by Lotso, a strawberry-scented old teddy bear (voiced by Ned Beatty). The toys soon find out that there's more to this daycare than meets the eye, and desperately seek a way to escape and get back to Andy.

The story also focuses somewhat more than usual on the human characters; we get a sense that Andy and his family have been fleshed out in more ways than just their updated appearances. Laurie Metcalf returns as Andy's mom, and Andy himself is shown to feel a strong connection and love for the toys. I had heard rumours that the plot was similar to The Brave Little Toaster, an incredibly melodramatic (and slightly terrible) animated movie about appliances that seek to reunite with their owner (inexplicably a child). I'm not sure why this kid loved his frigging toaster and vacuum cleaner so much, but it's creepy. We know that Andy loves his toys, and it's understandable that he's reluctant to let these go and grow up. I assume that there are a lot of members of the audience bringing their children to this movie, after having seen the first one fifteen years ago. I don't have kids, but in the future, I can definitely imagine showing these movies to them.

The film is honestly frightening in several scenes. It has an intense climax, and a deeply heartwarming and unstoppably tear-jerking ending that fully, aptly, and satisfyingly wraps up the film series. It's the best ending the films could have. I highly recommend that you see this movie, in 3D or in regular ol' 2D. If you have kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids, you need to take them along. It's a fantastic family movie, a great ending to a wonderful series, and it's actually a great story, set of characters, music, computer generated effects, it's all over great.

I give the film 5 creepy old strawberry scented evil bear monsters out of five, or five Spanish Buzz Lightears dancing the flamenco or lambada or tango or some such nonsense out of five.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Crazies: Romero's Autobiography

The Crazies

I kid, I kid. It's not really Romero's autobiography. However, it's rather apt that one of his early films (after he established himself as a crazy person) would be so cleverly titled. Released in 1973 (five years after Night of the Living Dead), it was only his fourth movie.

Nobody in this movie is likely to be familiar to the average audience. The only thing I noticed is that the hero of the story looks a bit like Judd Hirsch (you know, that guy from Taxi?), but more fit, and with an immensely wicked and appalling unibrow. His partner Clank is probably suffering from PTSD, and is also a really goofy-looking S.O.B. I'm not entirely certain how such undeniably handsome gentlemen became the leads in this movie.

The film was remade last year, and is on DVD now. I need to check it out as well. (I'm also going to get on a kick to watch original horror movies and then their modern remakes to compare and contrast the methods of storytelling, plot, character, and how the elements of horror and how the horror is presented changes over the years.) Overall, the story revolves around a small town (as it always does) and its cache of quaint, fairly normal inhabitants (of course). Unbeknownst to David (Will MacMillan) and his pregnant girlfriend Judy (Lane Carroll), a deadly toxin ha seeped into the town's water supply. This toxin (codenamed TRIXIE of all things) causes people to turn against their neighbors, friends, and family, turning into raging, slavering, murderous slaves to their own impulsive ids. Of course, this is supremely dangerous (even though they tend to act violently, they are essentially free, which the 60s was all about). The powers-that-be decided that they would be best to nuke the living bejeesus out of Evans City, Pennsylvania.

The plot follows David and Judy, as well as his friend Clank (Harold Wayne Jones). David and Clank are firemen, and served in Vietnam together. When called to a house-fire, it becomes apparent that it was set on purpose. The military almost immediately swoops in and surrounds the town, putting it on lockdown, and sequestering the infected (or killing them, or both). I think we can assume how the movie ends from there.

As with NotLD, Romero seeks to make a statement through these films. The American Military (its infantry, its administration, inherent bureaucracy, extreme violence, etc.) is heavily featured. This is a general theme, even in Zombie films. It fits that the main characters are firemen; several of his zombie films feature police officers as survivor characters. The small town itself is an innocent; "Trixie" is released into the water supply when a government plane crashes in the outskirts of the town (prior to the events depicted in the film). The audience is treated to the backstory of these events by round-table discussions of military men (though they could be more corporate; most of them wear suits without displays of rank, affiliation, etc.).

The Crazies features zombies of sorts; it's interesting that they're so clearly and obviously explained away as being a toxic infection. It could have easily been a sequel to Night of the Living Dead, some interstitial zombie film between NotLD and Dawn of the Dead. But it isn't; it's The Crazies, the word "ghoul" or "zombie" or similar doesn't appear in the film. There is still the fear of the infected, the fear of turning. The warning signs appear on all the survivors except for David, and we dread the moment they turn. The military is quick to react, quick to gun down an infected person, no matter what.

The Crazies amps up the violence, gore, mutilation, and horror factor tenfold in the five short years after NotLD. There's blood, beheadings, incest (seriously, it's pretty messed up), and in general craziness. It went relatively unknown for quite awhile in larger circles, I think. The zombie films always get the most attention. I've been trying to find it for years; I'm lucky they remade it. It made it much easier to get via Netflix.

All in all, I'd recommend this movie to any Romero fan, horror fan, or general 70s zombie-style insanity. I'll have to check out the remake, as well, to see how they differ. Based on the trailer, I have a pretty good idea of what'll be different (I think David is a Sheriff and Clank is his Deputy in the new version).

I give it three and a half unibrowed Judd Hirsches out of five, or three and a half insanity-inducing government toxins named "Trixie" out of five.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Alice in Wonderland: It Ain't Yer Mama's Disney

alice in wonderland,tim burton,movie poster,johnny depp

I grew up with the Disney version of Lewis Carrol's "Alice in Wonderland," like many people of the last fifty years. I've tried reading it, and the guy was so fueled by drugs (evidently) that it's difficult to get through. I'll have to make another stab at it, after watching Tim Burton's interpretation. Not to say that Burton's interpretation is extremely accurate; in fact, I'm quite sure there are many departures from the original material. Tim Burton has put forth a lot of interesting adaptations in the last few years, though this is somehow even more light-hearted than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Tim Burton's interpretation stars Johnny Depp (the Mad Hatter) and Helena Bonham Carter (the Queen of Hearts), of course, as well as Anne Hathaway (the White Queen) and relative newcomer Mia Wasikowska as Alice. Alan Rickman has a brief cameo as the Caterpillar, and Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts. One of the best characters has always been the Cheshire Cat, which is marvelously CG'd, and voiced perfectly by Stephen Fry. It really is great casting, and if anyone was to play the Mad Hatter as a primary character in a Tim Burton Movie, it had to be Johnny Depp. Mia Wasikowska pulls her own weight throughout the film, which is interesting considering she's presented at varying heights and sizes thanks to potions and cakes.

Now, I really enjoy Tim Burton's films. It is kind of strange that he's only directed adaptations in the last few years, and nothing original. It's not terrible, per se, but I kind of wish he'd come up with something new. Of course, I like new versions of classics or well-established film institutions. But I kind of miss new things like Edward Scissorhands. Oh well. It remains a visually intriguing, sweeping film with subtle and cinematically relevant 3D effects, with a whimsical touch to the original story and a strong attention to character and emotion.

There have been a lot of complaints and criticisms out there about the lack of plot in this film, and I'm not entirely convinced that these detractors actually recognize what that word means. This film clearly has a plot, and is much more attentive to character and overall story than previous versions. Generally, Alice in Wonderland is little more than a random series of bizarre interactions that eventually stop. However, I feel that Tim Burton was able to turn this into something compelling and filled with action, as well as humour and good character. This is partly due to the writing (not by Burton, but Linda Woolverton), and partly the depth of performance.

I may be gushing a bit too much, since I have a near-perpetual soft-spot for Tim Burton movies and the absolute insanity of Lewis Carrol. It's still a good film, worth watching, entertaining, and engaging. Plus, it's almost always worth seeing a film in 3D if you can help it. Johnny Depp is an interesting Mad Hatter, truly crazy, with big crazy eyes, and the occasional Scottish Braveheart-esque accent when he's feeling particularly determined. The Queen of Hearts is comically evil, with her giant bobble-head. The final chess-board showdown is pretty intense as well, where Alice must face down a dreaded monster to win a war she's barely even aware of.

Go see it in the theater in 3D if you can, it's a great experience. Otherwise, I guess you can wait to rent it, but I don't see much point in it. Of course, I'll probably buy it when it comes out on DVD, and I'll hope it's released in 3D there, too, like Coraline. Plus, I just like seeing the Lady wearing those big ol' Buddy Holly glasses. I just wish they'd release it in the same formatting as the theatrical release, that way I can use these dumb glasses again.

I give Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland three and a half rampaging bandersnaches out of five, or three and a half delirious, Scottish, mangy, twitchy, manic and tea-loving March Hares out of five. EAVB_BAEKJGFYIL

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Give 'Em Hell, Malone: Give 'Em A Plot, Instead

thomas jane,give 'em hell malone,russell mulcahy

The title of this post probably sounds a little harsher than it really needs to. However, I couldn't think of anything more clever. Give 'Em Hell, Malone is a stylistic and action-packed neo-noir, full of hard-boiled, square-jawed, gravel-voiced pile of weirdness. It lacks the snappy, intelligent dialogue often characterized by traditional noire or neo-noir. It's basically comic book noir, lots of hard-punching, hard-shootin', gritty-ass action.

Directed by Russell Mulcahy (Highlander, The Shadow, Resident Evil: Extinction) and starring Thomas Jane (Hung, The Mist, Dreamcatcher) as the titular Malone and Ving Rhames (Mars Attacks!, Mission: Impossible, Surrogates) as a hired gun set out to butt heads, this film is totally ridiculous. It's written by Kurt Wimmer though, and he wrote Equilibrium, Ultraviolet, The Recruit, and the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, so...

It opens with a completely arbitrary gunfight, where Malone is only distinctive in the fact that he's Thomas Jane. The audience isn't even completely sure that he's a "good guy," because he shoots and kills a building full of henchmen. It gets even more nonsensical from there!

Basically, Malone steals a briefcase, which contains "The Meaning of Love," a small toy. He's contracted to do it, and when he meets his client, a beautiful woman, he's instantly suspicious. Why wouldn't he be? It's not set in the '40s or anything; it's completely contemporaneous. Yet he wears a fedora, classic old-school suit. He's misogynistic, quick to shoot, quick to punch, and a raging alcoholic. While investigating who set him up to steal the case, he's being pursued by multiple assassins, hired by a crime boss trying to go legit. Sort of. I guess. Also, his mom's a drunk and patches his gunshot wounds, and his cat won't take his medicine. These are real sub-plots.

Overall, it's not terrible. Thomas Jane is really, really good at the ol' lantern-jawed ass-kicker. Ving Rhames is pretty brilliant as a hitman named Boulder whose wife is dying, and wants to go legit as well. There aren't that many interesting characters, because they're either liars, drunks, thugs, or a combination therein. He also drives an extremely awesome car, a 1952 Chop Top Buick Straight 8, primer black with red rims and white wall tires. It's a huge, imposing, ridiculous car. Much like the film itself.

Give 'Em Hell, Malone is a huge, lumbering, staggering, face-punching pistol-shooting dame-swatting rampage through noir wearing an action costume. Thomas Jane is anachronistic, flat, and predictable, but he's entertaining. Uh, I mean, his character is. It's fairly entertaining, somewhat thin in plot, and it's fairly stylishly directed. One thing I hate about movies these days is the continuous use of computer generated blood; I miss the old days of squibs and blood-packs. It's too fake, it's too strange. Oh well, I guess.

I give Give 'Em Hell, Malone two-and-a-half dudes being lit on fire, only to come back and get lit on fire again later out of five, or two-and-a-half "meanings of love" that turn out to be toys in the end for some reason out of five.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Saw VI: Six Times Not As Good

saw VI,horror film,gore porn,film criticism,modern horror

Unfortunately, I already own Saw I-V, so I pretty much have to buy Saw VI now. At 1hr 30something minutes, it's the shortest one that I can remember, but I may not have noticed before. It picks up right where Saw V left off, which is to say, right in the middle of Crazy Murder Town. I don't want to give too much away in terms of plot, since none of these films are very old, but it's not quite as good as the others. Directed by little-known Kevin Greutert, he was an editor on several of the previous Saw films. He's also filming Saw VII as we speak, despite the tagline "Game Over" associated with the sixth installment. I'm honestly wondering how many more of these they're going to end up making...

Quick plot run-down: Jigsaw is a crazy mo-fo. He designs Rube Goldbergian deathtraps for "bad" people to sacrifice themselves out of; in essence, his victims "kill themselves" trying to escape their traps. Throughout the previous five films, various police detectives have tried to track him, as he constructs more and more elaborate traps and machines for his victims. They also attempt to show the audience some sort of "pattern" involved in the victims and the accomplices Jigsaw ends up roping together. Jigsaw (or John) was a cancer victim that decided to use his last days, somewhat considerable money, and criminally insane mind to show people the value of life by making them face their death (and prior sins) head on.

In this installment, Jigsaw's accomplices capture an Insurance Vice President that, through his decision to deny coverage, has been responsible for the deaths of several validly sick people (including Jigsaw). He forces him to go through four tests in order to save his loved ones; he ultimately ends up killing seven of his employees in the process, as part of the game. Meanwhile, the police are catching up to the accomplice(s), and John's widow receives a mysterious box from her husband with his final wishes as Jigsaw.

All in all, these movies are generally enjoyable for fans like me. I didn't like Hostel, but mostly because I found the European Sexcapades portion of the first half quite arbitrary and frankly boring. I just wanted all the gore and horror and violence! Saw never disappoints in that respect; the first "throwaway" trap (often used in these later films to show some quick victims that don't necessarily affect the overarching plot) features people required to remove "pounds of flesh" from themselves to prevent time-released bolts from screwing into the sides of their skulls. I know this doesn't sound entertaining, but for some reason, it kind of is.

I studied horror film somewhat in college, and have read many articles that liken horror to pornography. It's essentially designed to elicit an involuntary bodily response. In horror's case, that response is fear, terror, revulsion. The impulse to recoil, cry out, and hide your faces. For people like me (more or less casual sociopaths, people that watch eagerly as the guy cuts his love-handle off to put on a scale, or watch a woman hack her own arm off with a butcher knife), it's engaging and entertaining, we look up at the screen and enjoy. It's over the top, of course, and clearly not realistic in any possible fashion.

I wouldn't say I'm maladjusted, or desensitized to violence. I'm sure if a woman walked up to me on the street and cut her own freaking arm off, I would probably vomit all over myself in sheer pants-shitting terror. However, when I watch Saw VI, I'm constantly, acutely aware that this is a movie, and nothing more. At best there are some metaphors here somewhere, but it's unlikely. This film has no great love for good directing; Greutert's job is to point that camera at someone getting shot, or crushed to death, or injected with acid, or getting hot steam blown in their faces. He's not trying to create visual metaphors or some deeper meaning. He's trying to scare the hell out of anyone that he can.

If you like Saw, or have seen any of the other five, you may want to check it out. They really are trying to tell one big, long, crazy-ass story across all these movies. I'm curious as to how many there will be, and where it's really going. However, if you've never seen them, don't start here. Overall, they're all pretty terrible. But they're a special kind of terrible, known to every true horror fan out there.

I guess I could give it a cliché'd three severed fingers out of five, but I think I'd rather give it three terribly edited "frenetic" scenes of screaming faces out of five, or three pounds of human flesh self- removed out of five.

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