Sunday, November 29, 2009

That angry yell/growl thing Japanese chicks do is so adorable

Some Thanksgiving stuff, starting on the night before and following through to dinnertime. Less a rambling I want to post and more a way to get my monthly minimum of 4 posts. This is where you mouse it on over to the top left corner and click away.

Over at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre (how about that for a simple name for a place?), they were going to screen a Japanese flick last Friday called Love Exposure. It's from the director of Suicide Club (or Circle) and supposedly this movie is so good it'll bring sight to the blind and peace in the Middle East. In these trying financial times, only movie marathons and court ordered appointments bring me to the city of Los Angeles, so I wasn't going to be able to catch this one.

But the cool video store where I was able to rent imported DVD's of Ong Bak 2 and Red Cliff I & II -- yet inexplicably only stock the full-screen version of Gran Torino and the theatrical cut of Watchmen -- happened to have the Region ? DVD of Love Exposure, so right on.

The movie starts with a young boy in a religious family, named Yu -- we're not talking Carrie White's mom over here, these are ultra-devout but kindhearted believers -- everything's cool until one evening, right after saying grace before dinner, Yu's mom has a sudden coughing fit. Since this is a movie, you know that there is no other cough in cinema but the Cough of Death, so a couple of scenes later, Yu's mama is on her deathbed. Before she kicks, she gives Yu a little statue of the Virgin Mary and tells him to find a woman just like her to marry.

While Yu grows into his teens, his dad takes it up a notch with his beliefs and becomes a priest -- and not just any priest, but one of the cool priests, the kind who give entertaining sermons and are very down-to-earth with the parishioners and don't fuck little boys. Despite being minus a mother/wife, Yu and his pops do pretty well for themselves and they seem to have achieved that ever-elusive state of contentment.

Then that fucking woman came into their lives.

One day, some drama queen shows up at church sobbing up a storm during one of the priest's services. Next thing you know, she's totally into the Jesus thing and gets baptized and all that. This bitch inhales anything Catholic, and that eventually includes the priest. Yup, a man's brains and a man's morals have nothing on a man's dick. This dude ends up shacking up with the crazy lady on the down low, going as far as moving out of the church and getting a place of his own so they can live together.

Yu is pretty bummed, not so much because Bros Over Hos has gone by the wayside, but because this bitch is a real pill. Goddamn nuts, is what she is, but I guess because Yu's father is lonely/horny, he puts up with all of it. But as time goes on, the lady becomes more and more bored and more and more tired of living with the priest. She even starts acting pretty cunty with him, but you know what? Fuck this guy, this dumbass who wants to get some pussy but won't marry her and still shows up every week at church acting as some kind of example to follow. She gets in his face about that, like Hey motherfucker, you like to talk shit about that corrupt Zero Church cult, but you're just as corrupt with your "I can't marry you 'cause I'm a priest" while still wanting to fuck me. She has a point, this dizzy broad.

Eventually she grows tired enough to leave him for a younger man, which was probably gonna happen whether or not he married her, and Yu's dad goes into a deep funk. A funk so deep, the priest starts acting creepy and starts giving depressing/scary sermons and getting into his son's face about being a sinner. This fuckin' asshole. Yu is a goddamn saint, a Good Boy, and here is is, being given shit every morning about how he's not good and will never be good. Yu is being punished for his father's douchebaggery.

Yu is forced by the old man to come to confession every day and confess made-up sins. Soon, even THAT isn't good enough for the priest, so he forces his son to go out and commit sins just so he can have some real shit to fess up about. Fuck This Asshole, and while I'm at it, Fuck The Bitch Who Fucked Him Up. And while I'm at that, God Help This Kid Yu.

Ladies and gentlemen, I've given away the first 20 minutes of the movie, and yet, I've given away nothing. Because there is so much that follows, so many little turns and detours and twists and reflections and new plot strands, what I've spoiled for you amounts to bupkis in the story department. So I'll just get into other things about this flick.

Sion Sono is the director, and while I thought his Suicide movie was alright, the guy jumped quite a few notches with this one -- quite a few. Shit, let's be real, this guy has jumped a lot of fucking notches. This is his Goodfellas, his Boogie Nights, his Pulp Fiction. This is Sono strutting confidently up to the big boy table of cinema and throwing down his motherfuckin' gauntlet and declaring "Here's MY postmodern epic, motherfuckers!" Except he'd say that shit in Japanese; Scorsese, Tarantino, P.T. Anderson, et al, would all look at him like "I don't understand you".

But I honestly do think it's just about as good as those movies, in my humble opinion. It both shares similar tricks to some of those flicks (my fave being what I like to call the Wes Anderson Camera Zoom), but mostly the style of Love Exposure is very much its own. It's also very much its own when it comes to running time; this motherfucker is three minutes shy of FOUR HOURS.

That's why I'm not too heartbroken about missing this on the big screen; an intermission is the least you can do when showing a movie of this length, and that's not necessarily a given with these screenings. I still remember going to see the 227 min. Once Upon a Time in America at the American Cinematheque and finding out they were NOT going to have an intermission. I don't care how good your movie is, that's some bullshit right there. Even Hitchcock knew you shouldn't make a flick longer than your bladder can take, and if you have to, then you better place a break somewhere in that motherfucker.

As long as it was, the flick never felt the least bit boring or tiresome. If having my own intermission (15 minutes to hit the head and brew up some coffee) at the two hour mark had something to do with that, I don't know. I just know that it had a damn good pace going. I will admit that there was a good 90 minutes or so that weren't as fun to watch as the rest, but I think that was the point. These 90 minutes are to Love Exposure what the Clementine's Loop sequence was to Boogie Nights; Yu's character goes through the most fucked up shit here, and it really got me riled up. There were many loud exasperated breaths and "Oh no!" and "This is bullshit!" coming from me during this period. But do you criticize a film for doing its job? I mean, I think that's how the audience is supposed to feel for this stretch.

Sono is a goddamn brutal manipulator of the audience's emotions; during this film, he can make you dig a certain character and make you think they're cool until an hour later when you're screaming for someone to shotgun this motherfucker, and vice versa. You think the movie is gonna be about one thing and then it turns into something else, and then when you've grown accustomed to THAT movie, this crafty bastard switches it up yet again. A villain can go from someone you despise, to someone you pity, to someone you pretty much forget about. And other stuff like that I don't want to spoil.

It's pretty funny the kind of subjects and themes Love Exposure delves into and how they manage to feel natural, part of the world of the movie, rather than coming off like the filmmaker bragging "Look at the crazy shit I put in my movie". The main stuff here seems to deal with religion and perversion, which I know go together like peanut butter & jelly, but still, Sono seems to be on the "pro" side of both those things. If there's anything that he's against, it's cults. There was some similar shit in Suicide Club or Circle or whatever that shit was called, the whole idea of blind sheep following and doing whatever the fuck the motherfucker they worship tells them to do. Maybe it's because I'm thick and stupid, but to me, Sono doesn't appear to come from the camp of "cults and religion are all the same shit" because he's far more damning of the film's Zero Church than he is of Catholicism.

Anyway, I'm going into the movie a bit more and that's not how I want to go about this, so I'll stop. It's a great flick, definitely one of my faves of the year, and hopefully this gets some more play here in the States rather than the occasional screening. The copy I had featured some pretty dubious subtitles on occasion, and I still dug this one pretty deep. By the time the credits rolled, I was both drained and ecstatic. It didn't bring the dead back to life or create a new messiah, but it gave me four awesome hours of entertainment.

Usually, when I watch a movie that good, I quit while I'm ahead. But because this was the night before Thanksgiving, I had my annual viewing of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. This is cinematic comfort food at this point, and it just seems like a very Turkey Day thing to do. I won't go into the movie, because you're probably as familiar with it as I am, but I will bring up how it would be nice to someday watch the rumored ninety minutes or so that hit the cutting room floor.

The production tales of going way over budget and shooting way too much film make it sound like this could've been John Hughes' Heaven's Gate for all the behind-the-scenes madness that occurred. But unlike the Cimino movie, this one was a hit, so I guess all was forgiven. You do tend to notice that the movie feels noticeably trimmed down, kind of like Dogma, another flick that was cut down to the bone in post. I had to look up online why John Candy suddenly had a black eye in one scene or what the fuck they were doing in Wisconsin in the first place, and sure enough, it's all shit that was shot but cut down for length or something. I doubt it would ever happen, but I'd love to see some of that footage make its way to a future release.

So then came Thanksgiving, where I had my second cinema-related tradition; I catch a flick at the theater before I go to meet the folks for dinner. I time it so that I arrive for dinner anywhere from 15-25 minutes before chow. This is good for all of us. Schedule-wise, it was best to go check out Ninja Assassin.

I barely remember the story, because the story was barely worth remembering. Something about Interpol agents in Berlin trying to figure out who is killing the fuck out of gangsters or KGB agents or politicians or something like that. They figure out this must be the work of a ninja, and the flick focuses on one played by Rain, who I only know as the guy Stephen Colbert has beef with. In between the dull detective-ing being done by some Brit and a cute Brit actress playing American, we have scenes of Rain eating noodles and looking pensive as he has flashbacks to his tough childhood upbringing as part of a ninja clan. The ninja clan master is played by none other than muthafuckin' Sho Kosugi, which goes a long fuckin' way towards showing you where the filmmakers hearts lie with this material.

This is an apologetically bloody ninja movie. That's all they wanted to make here and they accomplished it. The fuckin' movie is called Ninja Assassin -- he's a ninja who kills other ninjas, so calm the fuck down about redundancy -- and that's what you get here. They don't pussy out with the blood or the missing limbs, and even though a good portion is CGI'd, it's the best looking computer blood I've seen yet. Plus, they were going for a stylized blood pattern effect anyway, and CGI is the way to go for that shit. I'm more upset when I see guys like Romero use it, but couldn't care less if the director of V for Vendetta wants to do that shit.

I just wished I cared more for the actual goddamn story, or at the very least, I wished the story and dialogue were enjoyably bad like the Ninja flicks of the 80's. Instead, it's far worse -- it's just dull. It really is just blah. The girl is cute, so that helped a lot, but that's about it. But as soon as Rain and at least one other person of the Ninja persuasion found themselves in a room together, right the fuck on. The opening scene and last fifteen minutes are the best, and this will make great DVD/Blu-ray material because you can just jump to the bloody Ninja ownage. I liked Rain's voice/accent, too. Digging Sho Kosugi's voice/accent goes without saying.

One last thing, though. If you own a theater and project your shit in digital, for God's motherfuckin sake, turn up the goddamn motherfucking brightness on your shit. Christ almighty. I'm sure some of the shit in Ninja Assassin was cool had I been able to SEE it. Ugh. Really, people.

Then I went to have dinner. This time I decided to take a chance and try some cranberry sauce with my turkey for the first time. That's right -- I'm such a pussy, I actually had to man up to eat cranberry sauce.

Friday, November 13, 2009

That's some 3G network for your ass right there

So I checked out Roland Emmerich's new joint, 2012, last night (or is it this morning) for the midnight show. With the exception of that piece-of-shit 10000 BC, I've enjoyed all of his movies as dumb fun spectacles -- even his Godzilla flick, I dug. It was a packed house; on the other end of my row were a bunch of rowdy teens who would ask people in other rows if they believed in the whole 2012 phenomenon, and those who agreed were met with cheers and "Yeah, 'cause its TRUE, baby!". These kids were harmless, just having fun; I did not wish for Charles Bronson to show up and introduce them to his friend Wildey like I usually do to troublemaking youths. The best part was when one moviegoer told them that not only did he believe in 2012, he's already stocked up with food and ammo. One kid asked him what if it comes down to a flood, and the man smiled -- "That's why I have a boat". The kids cheered.

When the movie started, the framing was off, with the bottom of the film on the top. The place went ape-shit, but this might as well have been the cinematic equivalent of Kitty Genovese because nobody did anything. After about a minute of this, I ran outside and picked up the conveniently placed Guest Services phone in the aisle and told the person in charge. It was fixed quickly. More theaters should offer these direct line phones, they fuckin' rule. You can call them for projection problems, sound problems or people problems. If I ever have to do it for the latter, I'll probably act like some 70's style snitch leaving an anonymous tip to the fuzz.

Does it really matter what the details are in how our planet comes to an end? I hope not, because I've mostly forgotten it by now. Something about the neutrinos boiling up the Earth's core and somehow that's gonna cause Earth Crust Displacement and mega-quakes and super volcanoes and tsunamis like a mutha. Some Indian (dot, not feathers) scientist discovers this shit in 2009 and tells his fellow scientist/good friend (played by homeboy from Redbelt -- SEE THAT SHIT NOW IF YOU HAVEN'T), so Redbelt goes off to tell Oliver Platt about it. The cool thing is that I figured half of this movie was going to be about how nobody believes Redbelt and the guys in charge get all Mayor Vaughn about it, laughing the warnings off and saying shit like "That is preposterous!". But no, in this movie, as soon as the government bigwigs get the report, they take that shit seriously and are on the motherfucker, like Marsellus Wallace.

The prologue takes us through some of the going-ons between 2009 and 2012 and then the shit gets real. In usual disaster movie fashion, we are introduced to a variety of characters, doing the whole ensemble cast thing. The top guys in this flick are definitely Redbelt and John Cusack, though. Speaking of Cusack, I remember an interview he gave a few years back when he said something like how he only liked about 10 of his movies and the rest were for money. That was pretty funny, and I don't think you need fuckin' Kreskin to pull out the reason for doing this movie out of the darkest recesses of Cusack's mind. I wonder if he kinda resents the peeps for not going to see him in movies he obviously cared about, like Grace is Gone or War, Inc. but flocked to see him in shit he straight-out considered beneath him like Con Air or Must Love Dogs. It sucks that he doesn't seem to be a fan of his work with Savage Steve Holland either, and I can live with that -- but if I ever find out that he thinks Tapeheads is a piece-of-shit, then he will have cemented himself in my mind as Talented Actor/Supreme Douchebag For Life.

So Cusack's a guy who wrote a book that only sold 422 copies and makes a living as a limo driver, his ex-wife Amanda Peet (who must be happy to be in something people will see for a change) and his two kids live with some plastic surgeon (who is only 15% of a dick instead of the usual 125% you'd expect in these kinds of flicks), and somewhere along the way he's gonna try to save them. There's also a Russian billionaire with his two scumbag asshole kids and his bimbo, Woody Harrelson as some nut who broadcasts a radio show out of a camper in Yellowstone National Park (he's pretty much Art Bell), a Buddhist monk and his family, a singing duo on a cruise ship (one played by George Segal, in a role not as big as I thought it would be -- no Judd Hirsch, this one), you got Thandie Newton here looking cute for a change, and playing the President of the United States, Danny Glover. Upon his introduction, one of the kids in the audience said out loud "I'm too old for this shit".

It's cool to see Danny Glover in a big-ass movie like this nowadays, because there was a period where it looked like that would only happen if he was saddled with the Drunk Jew Hater. But over the years it appears that D-Glo has gotten some dental work done. Maybe "appears" is the wrong word, more like it "sounds" like he's had work done, because every time he opens his mouth it sounds like he'th got himthelf thome dentureth and now he thpeakth with a lithp. Goddamn, this has been a bad year for actors with dentures; first you got Leonard Nimoy orating on the "voyageth of the thtarship Enterprith" in this year's Star Trek, and now Danny Glover is having trouble speaking. These guys have money, yet this is the best dental science they could buy? I'm broke, and I was rather British with my teeth growing up, so I know this is gonna be my future. Fuck. For God's sakes, people, floss floss floss. Don't be like me or Danny Glover or Leonard Nimoy.

Emmerich's older hits like Independence Day and Stargate were co-written with Dean Devlin and I don't know if they got into a lover's quarrel or split that shit amicably, but either way they don't make movies together anymore and you tell in the tone of the later films. How can that be, you ask, aren't all these flicks just shit exploding or falling apart? Well yeah, they are -- except the biggest difference is the lack of corny-ass jokes. That shit was obviously a Devlin special, and I still remember when the motherfucker was promoting Godzilla by showing clips from it on some E! program; he remarked on the creature's huge/deep footprints by claiming the big G wore "some big-ass Nikes", followed by the kind of goofy and satisfied chuckling that only the corniest of the corny give.

But the side-effect to all the Komedy! disappearing is that the sheer joy is gone as well. I mean, ID4 featured aliens vaporizing the fuck out of cities, millions of people died and yet you never really felt that loss because you were too busy laughing at Big Willie Style decking an alien and saying "Welcome to Earth!" -- we should be ashamed for finding that shit funny, by the way. Now that Devlin's gone, Emmerich writes his disaster movies with a dude named Harald Kloser. Think about that; without Borscht Belt Devlin, there's only a German and Austrian writing this shit and do you know what that means? It means you got motherfuckin' Sprockets in das haus. I noticed this shit with The Day After Tomorrow and straight on to 10000 BC and it's still in full effect here; I'm talking about the substitution of joy for utter bleakness. To put it in ID4 dialogue terms, 2012 is less "Now that's what I call a Close Encounter" and much, much more "Is Mommy sleeping now?". This isn't to say that it's completely humorless, because there are jokes, just not nearly as many as in the Devlin collaborations.

You can play a drinking game with how many tearful farewell I'm Gonna Die phone calls are made to family members in this flick. I'm not complaining, because if I recall correctly, there were lots of phone calls made on United 93, so it's a nice harsh dose of realism to a fantasy scenario (or is it? DUN DUN DUN!). Plus, one of those phone calls pays off with a particularly nasty ending, which I think was done on purpose, because Emmerich's a fuckin' sadist/German.

He extends his sadism when it comes to who lives and who dies. It's not quite Deep Blue Sea, because most of the characters you expect to live, will in fact, live. It's just that those who do end up getting owned get it pretty bad. Two of the worst deaths (in my opinion) go to two relatively likable people; in Emmerich's 2012, the innocent suffer and the guilty are not punished -- with the exception of one jerk whose death is so slow-mo'd that it was like Emmerich was telling the audience, "I hope you guys enjoy this asshole getting it, because this is the only time I give you douches the satisfaction, oh and by the way, thank you for paying money to see my movie". To make matters worse, I'm pretty sure that motherfucker died quickly (which is why they slow-mo it), whereas I Just Fucking Know the two cool people went slowly and painfully. Shit, there's even a character named Roland who gets got; the director doesn't even spare a motherfucker with the same name as him!

I'm reminded of something Quentin Tarantino said about watching the film Silver Bullet; he said that in the climax of the movie, you have this girl, a boy in a wheelchair, and Gary Busey, all fighting a werewolf. Now, you know they won't kill the girl because she's narrating the movie, and they're not gonna kill the boy in the wheelchair, so that leaves Busey. The movie can kill off Busey and not break any rules, and because of that, Quentin was totally scared for Busey's character. That's kinda how I felt about the secondary characters in this flick.

It's a great looking movie, as long as it's some special effects shit you're watching, because this movie was shot in HD, meaning that half of the human scenes look like film and the other half suffers from that goddamn video blur that makes you think you're watching a Samsung display in the Dynamic Vivid mode at your local Best Buy. Now the video blur might be okay when it's a Michael Mann or Lars Von Trier joint, because they want it to look that way, it's part of their style, but I hate when it happens on your average Hollywood movie. Dean Semler is the cinematographer here and he is an Oscar-winning badass responsible for shooting The Road Warrior and Dances with Wolves, but for God's sake, keep him away from the goddamn HD because he's one of the worst motherfuckers to use that format. Every movie he's shot on it, with the exception of Click, suffer in large parts from that fuckin' video blur. That's a fucked up place to be when your best looking movie in the format of the future is a fuckin' Adam Sandler movie.

2012 isn't a fun movie, but it's never boring and the flick's full of the kind of spectacle you put down your hard earned $6.50 to watch (if you're like me and buy a Child's ticket through the automated kiosk), if that's what you're looking for. It's a SyFy channel quality script given a Sony Pictures budget, but it's an above-average SyFy channel movie, the kind that you spent two hours watching at home with a bowl of Lucky Charms and a bowl of Strawberry Diesel and after, you're like "Hey that wasn't half bad, and it's good to see Jason London/Lorenzo Lamas/Stephen Baldwin working again". The acting is as good as can get in this type of movie, motherfuckers acting like they're doing Harold Pinter or some shit. No joke. With the exception of the awesome dude who plays the Russian billionaire (he plays that shit like he was a bad guy from one of the Boondock Saints movies), some of these thespians are thespianing the shit out of this flick -- especially Redbelt, he has this one scene where the vein is popping out of his forehead and he's near tears and I wonder if a CGI-techno-fetishist Kraut like Emmerich even cares THAT much, and he made the fuckin' thing.

When the trailers started, it was 12:00 and when the end credits came up, it was 2:45, so it's a long fuckin' movie. But it never felt long, it moved fast and always kept my interest. Even ID4, which I liked as a kid (but has since gotten worse as time goes on) had its lame boring parts to get through, but I didn't feel that way with this one, I was always into it. So much so, that I managed to hold in a piss for the second half, but it wasn't one of those painful pisses, it was one of those that merely makes itself noticed, so maybe that doesn't count. I'll tell you what does count, is the time I almost died holding it in when I first saw Mars Attacks! and didn't want to miss a second of it.

It's a weird conundrum or whatever the right word is; it's not a movie one should go out of the way to buy a ticket to see in a theater, 'cause it's not that fucking good, yet the beautifully-made apocalyptic visuals demand a theatrical experience, so if you're not going to see it in a theater, then just don't see it period. I don't give a fuck how big your fuckin' HDTV is or how awesome your Blu-ray plays, it's still not quite the same. So I guess the way to go is to just hit that shit at a discount house and I think I'm just gonna end it here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The title of Most Eagerly Awaited Sequel to a Cult Classic from 1999 now goes to Free Enterprise.

Back around '99-00, I remember seeing huge window ads at the local Blockbuster for something called The Boondock Saints, and while I recognized the names, it didn't really get me interested. Then a friend of a friend raved about it a couple of years later, and around that time, Ain't It Cool News had an article about a sequel. A sequel? Well, I had no idea what a fuckin' cult juggernaut this Boondock flick was. So I went ahead and took a chance and bought the uncut Japanese version from eBay (at the time, that was the only version that was untainted by the MPAA) and checked it out.

I dug it, man. It was a lot of fun and I got a kick out of the characters. Over the years, as word kept coming and going on a possible sequel, I discovered something else that bothered me (via the Internet, of course). Apparently, being a fan of this movie makes you as bad as a fuckin' Juggalo, because in the eyes of the hipsters, not only is the movie a piece of shit, but the people who like the movie as well. Many a commenter on AICN or the AV Club would say things like If I found out my friend liked The Boondock Saints, I wouldn't want to be friends with him or her anymore. Wow. I don't understand that kind of sentiment; I think it's safe to say that I'm as nutty a movie fanatic as possible, but I've never hated on someone for liking something I straight up abhorred. I've felt upset at not digging a movie the way everyone else dug, but that's more I Wish I Saw The Same Movie and not at all Fuck You For Not Having My Opinion.

Even the motherfuckers who made that fuckin' Paul Blart: Mall Cop a box-office behemoth, I don't hold a grudge against. Shit, if that shit floats your boat, then god bless ya. Then you got those that go, Hey, fuck that guy Troy Duffy, he's a piece of shit as a human being. Look, I saw Overnight and I know that the director's probably a supreme asshole dickbag, but if you're gonna use the director's personality to judge a film's worthiness, then be prepared to start reading a lot more books. Do you get what I'm trying to say here? Probably not, because I'm an idiot who really liked The Boondock Saints and what are you doing hanging with me?

So, the filmmakers finally got their legal troubles settled and we now have a sequel, The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (almost beating out Excessive Force II: Force on Force as my favorite redundant movie title). If you haven't seen the first one, in short, it was about two Irish brothers who start going Death Wish on criminals in the city of Boston. By the end, I felt like I had watched an origin story and the follow-up would be purely about the continuing ownage of evil men by the "Saints". It didn't turn out that way, because when we're reintroduced to the brothers McManus and their father, we see that they are now raising sheep on a farm in Ireland. It appears they went into hiding shortly after the events of the first film, on the run not only from the U.S. authorities, but from soap, razors and clean clothes.

Back in Boston (played by Toronto), some old priest gets assassinated in the same manner the Saints used to take out many a bad guy; double taps to the back of the head, then leaving pennies over the dead guy's eyes. Once the McManus bros get wind of this news, they stowaway on a cargo ship (do people still do that shit in the 21st century? just wondering) and head back to Beantown to take out anyone remotely responsible. Meanwhile, both the Boston police and the criminal underground are scratching their heads wondering if the dead priest is really the work of the Saints. They each have their own reasons for being worried; the Mafia guys are afraid of being attacked and three detectives are freaked the fuck out that their simpatico connection to the Saints will be discovered and it'll be slammer-time for them.

Willem Dafoe was in the last one, portraying a brilliant and queer (in both senses of the word) FBI agent investigating the Saints murders. This time, instead of Dafoe, the sausage fest that is the main cast is made slightly less pork by casting Julie Benz as a brilliant and queer (in only one sense of the word) FBI agent investigating the possible Saints murder. This Benz chick has been carving (pun!) herself quite a niche in anything resembling cool and violent; Rambo, Punisher War Zone, one of those Saw movies, and two shows I never watched but are supposedly among the Greatest Shows Ever Made Oh My God I Can't Believe You've Never Seen It -- Dexter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Anyway, she's really good here and she's pretty hot for a woman in her forties. Except she's in her mid-thirties.

See, that's something about this movie that I noticed right off the bat -- everybody has aged like a motherfucker here. In the case of Benz, it's probably the harsh lighting employed by the relatively gritty cinematography they went with for the sequel (the first one had a more slick and classical look, which I preferred). Sean Patrick Flanery was a good-looking motherfucker but here it looks like he got into the same car accident as Rose McGowan, the kind of car accident that involves getting into your car and driving over to a clinic for a particular kind of surgery. Norman Reedus could only look 19 for so long before time caught up with him and stapled those sag bags under his eyes. Bob Marley (the comedian, not the dead reggae singer) probably works a lot of late night clubs. The only one who aged well is Billy Connolly, and that's probably because he made the decision to look old back when he was still relatively young. The movie takes place eight years after the first one, but they could've got away with eighteen.

Clifton Collins Jr. has had a great fuckin' year in the '09; he got to fuck up the Enterprise's shit with Eric Bana, he chain-whipped the hell out of Jason Statham, but most importantly, he got to hook up with Amy Adams and Mila Kunis and all he had to do to swing that was lose an arm and a testicle. Now here he is playing Romeo, a guy helping out the Saints in hopes of becoming a part of the team. He's pretty funny as this sort of combination badass motherfucker and overly emotional weepy bastard.

Romeo's also subject to the occasional joke made at the expense of his Mexican heritage. But that's okay, as long as they're funny and besides, there are jokes made at the expense of the Irish, Italian, gays, and I think that's it, actually. Surprisingly, the Chinese get off pretty easy and are only violently killed -- it's like the anti-Crank.

While the brothers are out doing their thing, father Noah (known as the badass Il Duce in the original) stays in Ireland to keep the home fires burning. It is during these occasional cutaways to him that we're treated to flashbacks of his past reminiscent of The Godfather Part II. We see young Noah as he makes his living helping his father at a leather factory, and I guess you can see where this is going, but I don't give a fuck whether I can see that shit coming or not, I still enjoyed watching it happen.

On the whole sons and fathers tip, the sequel also introduces us to the son of the Mafia don from the last movie. He's played by Judd Nelson, and if the mere mention of his name does nothing for you, then I can't fuckin' help you and should leave you be. Jay minus Silent Bob said it best, calling this motherfucker "way harsh". He's not in the movie as much as I'd like him to be, but it was fun to see him do his thing whenever he had an opportunity. It's even better because he's overacting and overacting is the name of the game in Boondockland. You can't overact? Then you're not welcome here.

I don't know how seriously Troy Duffy takes this shit, I mean, past the whole "kill 'em all" wish fulfillment deal, I don't know how much more of this is meant to be taken beyond It's Awesome To Watch Motherfuckers Get Owned, and I really don't care. The way I see it, this is like watching a comic book movie and I'm not talking about The Dark Knight or Road to Perdition, where that shit is played as real world as possible, I mean more like Darkman or Punisher: War Zone where the rules of reality don't apply in this motherfucker and people act like they have dialogue bubbles hanging over their heads, complete with bold letters and underlines. Shit, if you did with this movie what they (unfortunately) did with the director's cut of The Warriors by adding comic book frames in between scenes, it wouldn't feel out of place. Also, I know Darkman was not based on a comic book, but it might as well have been.

I'll be honest though, the first 30-40 minutes of this flick were downright terrible. It was hard to sit through and it got to the point where I thought I was watching not only a shitty sequel but the worst movie of the year. It was suffering from many problems; it was dull, it was desperately trying to be funny when it didn't have to be, the pacing was way the fuck off, and worst of all, it was suffering from sequelitis. I'm talking about the kind of sequel that not only rehashes the same shit from the last one, but then continually makes cute references and callbacks to the first movie. Remember the way Agent Smecker was introduced in the first one? Well, here's the same exact thing but with a woman! It just wouldn't stop and I wouldn't have been surprised if Bruce Willis popped up and said "How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?" All right, I'd be a little surprised if that actually happened.

But then, somewhere after that tough first and 1/4 acts, the film turns on a dime and actually stops becoming a rehash and starts getting real about becoming a goddamn true sequel. It happens around the moment a particular character's confesses his or her true motivations, and it was like Duffy purposely was leading us on, making us think that the worst case scenario was happening with this movie, all before stepping in, blowing cigarette smoke in faces and going "Uh-uh, faggots. You gay faggots thought this was gonna be some more of the same faggy shit, huh? Nope, I know what the fuck I'm doing, queerbait, because I'm not a gay faggot." Then he'd turn up House of Pain and show off his shitty Fighting Irish tattoo for the 16th time. Because Overnight notwithstanding, something tells me Troy Duffy probably talks and acts like that in real life. He's probably called more people gay then there are gay people in the entire country.

ADDENDUM IN THE MIDDLE OF MY SHIT AFTER THE FACT: In the interest of full disclosure, I'm making all these fucked up jokes about the guy, but I actually met him and his producer Chris Brinker at a Best Buy, back in December '02. My buddy and I were looking at the Boondock DVD's, and my friend was going to buy one for himself. Some dude walks up to us and introduces himself as one of the producers, then tells us that the director is in the next aisle. They had been buying movies as stocking stuffers for friends. He asked if we wanted to meet him. Holy shit, we thought, this could be awesome or this could be how guys in their early 20's get kidnapped and sold to white slavery (or brown slavery, in my case). But there he was, Troy Duffy, and he was really nice, actually. Not an ounce of asshole on him. He offered to sign our DVD's, so of course I bought one, even though I had the uncut Japanese version at home. He used his pocket knife to tear open the plastic from the DVD cases, and on mine he wrote "VERITAS AQUITAS" and the first couple lines from the Latin prayer. On my friend's copy he wrote "Keep it stiff". So that's my Troy Duffy story. I can't speak for everyone else, but he was nice to me and my buddy. And here I am, talking shit about him on a blog. But nobody reads this blog, so it all evens out.

From a certain point on, you (if you're me) start getting into the movie and start digging the proceedings instead of wishing them to end. The rest of the film won me over; the story started to catch my interest, the pacing started to flow right, the jokes started to get funny, and only traces of sequelitis remained in the system (the slow-mo gunfights, the dramatizations of what the agent thinks happened at the crime scene). But those traces were acceptable because it felt more like the kind of stuff that was put there because the fans expect it, not because it was Duffy being lazy. Kinda like how every James Bond movie needs a pre-credit sequence and every Star Wars movie needs a space dogfight and every Pixar movie needs an emotional moment that makes you want to cry in the theater and embarrass yourself because the Pixar people are evil sadistic bastards who want to fuck your shit up and I HAVEN'T FORGIVEN YOU FOR WHAT ALMOST HAPPENED TO ME WHEN I SAW UP, MOTHERFUCKERS! Those aren't comparisons, by the way, just the best examples, so calm down and have a drink or a smoke or something. I really wish Duffy didn't feel the need to give the Benz character what basically amounted to her version of "There was a FIREFIGHT!", that was kinda douchechilly.

Anyway, it comes out to about 1/3 of a shit movie and 2/3 of quality shit. The stuff you expect to see in a Boondock movie is here in spades; motherfuckers get owned, off-color remarks are made, actors overact with terrible accents and a guy shits himself if you like that sort of thing. There are a couple of genuinely awesome lines, quite a few hilarious ones, and plot-wise, Duffy pulls out the occasional ace in the hole -- particularly near the end, and boy is it a beaut. There are also moments in this movie that I would go as far to say have Fuck All to do with the plot but were put in there because maybe Duffy figured he might never have the chance to do so again. My favorite such example is a dream sequence where a character basically gives a speech on how men have to take their balls back and de-pussify themselves.

It suffers from those godawful opening 30-40 minutes and a cheaper look (larger scope in story with only a slightly larger budget to tell it), but aside from that (and that darned sequelitis) I'd say that by the end credits, the flick worked its way to becoming about as entertaining as its predecessor. Was the first one a classic? No fucking way. But it was Good Times, and overall, so was this one. I left happy to see this sequel and look forward to a Boondock Saints III: The Saints Go Marching In if Duffy decides to make another one. Non-fans need not apply and can instead stick to making snarky comments on some message board about those of us who dig this shit.

P.S. I apologize to any Juggalos out there for what I said earlier. I was just trying to make a point, I wasn't being as judgmental as the Boondock Saints detractors. I've never heard an ICP song, but I'm sure they're fine musicians and I'd probably like their stuff so much that I would go out and paint myself in that stupid clown makeup which is all I'd need to complete the look since I'm already fat and stinky. Peace.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I appreciate the invite, but driving to the New Bev would've meant extra gas money and I committed that night to doing things the Cheap Bastard way

My computer monitor ate shit a couple of days ago. I ended up hooking the computer up to my television and it works pretty well. Videos look spectacular but the fonts are a little on the blurry side. Whatever. I'm just letting you know in case I use the wrong letter on a word it's probably because some of these letters look the sane om thc televisiom nomitor. See what I did there?

So I was going to go to the Aero Horrorthon for Halloween, but my friend cancelled due to low-fundage and in the battle between putting your last $20 into either Movie Tickets or Rent, Rent won the fuck out, and by Rent, I mean the amount one pays to not get kicked out of their residence, not the musical about how awesome it is to have the AIDS. Anyway, he was actually doing me a favor because I'm in the same boat, albeit mine is about halfway sunk while his is merely residing in trenchant waters. Boo-Hoo on not being able to go to the Horrorthon but Yay for saving money. After sitting at home for a while, being sullen and drunk, I got the idea that Hey! Why Don't We Watch Horror Movies At Home? and I called my buddy to tell him and there you go.

And there I am, at my friend's place, about to watch a couple of flicks; I brought Trick R' Treat and he brought, Activity. The former I've never seen and the latter, well, just read my last post. In true finish-your-dinner-before-you-get-dessert fashion, we would watch Paranormal Activity first. In case you're wondering, yes, this was a bootleg, and not only was it a bootleg, it was a bootleg of the original cut that played film festivals for a couple of years before Paramount/Dreamworks decided to buy it. All I knew was that this version was about 10-15 minutes longer and had a different ending. I would give it another shot, plus I had no choice, really. Paranormal was my friend's choice and I'm not gonna be the dick to push that by the wayside just to watch what *I* fuckin' brought. It's called good manners, people, and sometimes, I have them.

(I'm assuming at this point that you've seen PA or don't care if I give anything away, so yeah)

My thoughts? Believe it or not, longer did not mean more painful. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that this version was better than the one currently robbing people of their time and money at theaters. This isn't me turning into Roger Ebert and going from calling the Cannes cut of The Brown Bunny one of the worst films ever made to giving the shorter version 3 stars and Thumbs Up; in the end, I still think the movie's a disappointment. But after watching this longer version, I feel that in their attempt to make Paranormal get to the Good Stuff faster by cutting it down, they (either filmmakers or studio or both) hurt the movie and turned something that was OK-at-best into something that was completely shitty.

First off, they trimmed quite a bit of character moments; now, that may sound like they did us a favor, considering how douchey/insufferable the characters came off in the theatrical cut. But the longer version helps make a bit more sense of it; Katie's change in attitude is more believable. In both versions, you find out that the demon has been more or less a part of Katie's life since childhood, but in the original cut, you get more of an idea of just how badly this has been affecting her. In the theatrical cut, she goes from zero to whiny bitch immediately but in the original cut, you get more of a sense of someone slowly but surely losing her shit. It isn't as sudden and off-putting here.

I'm sure the studio thought all the scenes of Katie looking tired and drinking coffee the morning after was boring and useless, but they're sadly mistaken. If you pay attention, you begin to notice how much more out of it Katie is looking after each haunting; it's getting to her, she's getting less and less sleep out of it -- of course she's gonna start acting more and more irritable and nutty! But since the theatrical cut is missing this shit, it just comes off like this chick needs a couple doses of Shaddafuckup and Chilldafuckout.

While there are more scenes in the original cut, it's also missing a couple that are in the theatrical, but I don't miss them at all. One is the scene where Micah and Katie have just finished making love, talking some annoying shit about how what they did was illegal or something. It's not in the original version and I think it was added for two reasons:

1) make the movie "sexier", whether or not that shit is even necessary
2) make it more of a Man Trying To Protect His Woman type of plot

This is further cemented with the second scene that was added in the theatrical, where after hearing something smash upstairs, our happy couple run up and find that a framed photo of them has been bashed in by Mr. P. Activity, with a big dent directly on Micah's face. In other words, the demon has thrown down the muthafuckin' gauntlet and it's gonna be a muthafuckin' throwdown between Micah and Demon over Katie's hand, kinda/sorta/not really.

Both versions have a scene where Micah is reading a book on demons and shit (since what the psychic told them was that they had a demon in the house) and he tells Katie that demons are evil fuckin' inhuman things that thrive on causing people pain and fucking shit up. So basically, Katie had the fucked up luck of having a demon fuck with her. Later on, there's a scene where Micah shows Katie a story online about a woman who had the same shit happen to her, and from what I remember, that's as far as it goes in the theatrical cut. The extended one goes further in that we find out what happened to that poor woman: she got possessed and there was a failed attempt at an exorcism that ended in her death (she bled to death after chewing her own fuckin' arm off! AIIIEEEE!). The idea here is that the demon then must've searched out another victim afterward and that's how Katie came to play.

I thought the orginal version of the demon was scarier, because all it wants is to cause pain to someone, that's it. It doesn't have some I Want Your Body And That Means Your Man Gots To Go bullshit agenda. But either the filmmakers or the studio people weren't happy with that and decided to fuckin' Entity that shit up with the added scenes, and make it about some kind of otherworldly infatuation. Fuckin' bullshit is what it is.

When put into perspective, the ending of the theatrical version makes a lot of sense considering how Paramount/Dreamworks/Steven Spielberg/Oren Peli/Joe Momma/Heywood Jablome/etc. were already trying to make it more Hollywood by going with more of a shocker BOO! type of finish. Needless to say, I prefer the original ending, it feels like it's part of the same movie. I do hate the super-gay slow zoom-in of Micah & Katie's photo that followed it though, made worse when "Dedicated to Micah and Katie" comes up afterwards. That was lame. There's a third ending that's pretty messed up and would actually make sense if used in the original cut but not the theatrical. Who knows if that one will ever pop up somewhere.

I'm still not a fan, but the original version is certainly better than the one that's currently being loved by everyone who isn't me. My friend and his sister-in-law (the wife isn't big on scary movies and was busy watching the latest Harry Potter in her room) dug it, so there you go. When it comes down to it, the original cut of Paranormal Activity is a creepy/tragic tale about a woman driven to the brink by a force beyond her control, while the theatrical cut is about a couple of assholes who get a visit from a perverted entity looking to cock-block the husband. I'm exaggerating, of course, but you get what I'm saying. I don't, I finished up my bottle of Sobieski, so I really should stop writing but...

The second film of the evening was Trick 'r Treat, a film that not only got every geek and genre website and publication praising it to the high heavens, but even regular people who managed to catch a screening dug the hell out of it -- so naturally Warner Bros. sat on it for a couple of years before sending it straight to video. Because why bother releasing a Halloween movie in October when you got shit like Saw LXIX to contend with? Or maybe it was revenge against Trick producer Bryan Singer; that motherfucker shot a Krypton sequence for Superman Returns that supposedly cost upwards of $10 million and then junked it. If that's true, then Holy Shit. Whatever reason Trick 'r Treat didn't get a theatrical release, it all adds up to Quel dommage.

I think this flick is supposed to take place somewhere in Ohio, but it might as well be Halloween Town, U.S.A. considering all the holiday-related craziness that ensues there. You got four stories being told out-of-order, Pulp Fiction style; one follows an evil kid-killing school principal, another is about some asshole kids going to the site of a fatal school bus crash, you got one where Anna Paquin is being all virginal and alone on such a scary night, and the last is about Brian Cox paying a hard price for being a such a Halloween Scrooge.

Unlike Pulp or even Go, Trick 'r Treat doesn't stick to telling one particular story at a time, it kind of mixes it up and there's a bit of cutting back and forth between some of the shit going on. So in addition to being Halloween Pulp Fiction, this also feels like Halloween American Graffiti. It's got a bit of Creepshow thrown in there as well, since the entire movie is framed as if they were stories from a comic book. Plus, the credits are in the John Carpenter font, which I got a big kick out of and I know that shit wasn't an accident either.

It may sound like some derivative shit going on here, considering all the different movies I mentioned, but it isn't. This flick is really its own thing and it's too bad it didn't get a shot at theaters, but if there's any justice in the world, it'll find a big audience on video. Is it the greatest thing since sliced bread? Not by a long shot. But it's definitely a lot of fun and it hits on damn near everything Halloween related. It's kind of a mean asshole of a film, too, with some ultra dark humor thrown in. I don't want to give away everything, but I'll give out one example of some of the dangers Trick 'r Treat offers the audience --


And not just your regular, garden-variety zombies, but Retard Zombies. Think about that, that means you have laughing zombies with superhuman strength to contend with. A Retard Zombie is almost up there with the teleporting zombies from City of the Living Dead/The Gates of Hell when it comes to inevitable That's Your Ass ownage. If the world is taken over by Romero zombies or even those fast zombies, I'll load up the guns and fight to survive. But make that a Fulci zombie outbreak or an onslaught of Retard Zombies to deal with, and I'll save myself the pain and make like R. Budd Dwyer instead. I wouldn't be able to handle it, the news bulletin alone would make me shit myself. Would blasting reruns of Life Goes On out loud help or would that speed up my demise?

You son-of-a-bitch, that's not funny. My brother is mentally handicapped and I don't --

Stop it. Please stop it. I can make these jokes because I know I will pay somewhere down the line. I'll get hit by a car and become a paraplegic or a Terri Schiavo or I'll get the HIV and live Rent for real or I'll get Alzheimer's or I'll lose control of my faculties and start kicking it Depends style or someone in my family will die in front of me or whatever. What I'm trying to say here, sensitive people, is that I make all the fucked up comments and jokes that I want because God will have the last laugh. He always does. The motherfucker killed his goddamn SON, what hope do WE have? None, that's what. But I digress.

Anyway, this small town, this Halloween Town is a terrible place to live considering the high mortality rate -- even higher if you're a kid. Oh yeah, kids get straight out fuckin' murderized in this flick. Some people say that's part of the reason this didn't play in theaters; the studio thought that kind of shit would be upsetting. I hope that's not true, otherwise we really are beyond help as a society if we can't handle over-the-top unrealistic fantasy kid death. It's not like you're dealing with weeping kids getting shot in the fuckin' head like in City of God. Calm down. But for the record, I'm pretty damn sure more kids get it in this flick than adults.

The evil kid-killing principal is played by Dylan Baker, which is kind of funny because he's an actor who made his mark playing a pedophile in Happiness. After this movie, the talented motherfucker has gone to the other end of the Bad Things To Do To Kids spectrum, from fucking kids all the way to killing them. Anna Paquin is in this movie, wearing a Little Red Riding Hood costume, so you can kinda see where that shit is going, but never mind, it's still fun to watch it happen. I don't know what it is about her, but I started really digging her in *that* way around the time she did The Squid and the Whale. A friend of mine thinks it's because she seems very attainable. I don't know about that, let me look up who she's dating and we'll see about that, give me a second. Okay, she's married to a guy who's about 15 years older than her and still better looking than I can ever hope to be, so fuck her and that ugly gap in her teeth. This is me being hurt. Lash lash lash.

There's a character here named Sam, and I guess you can call him the mascot of Trick 'r Treat. He manages to show up for each story and even becomes a big part of the final one. He's a really cool character, and I wasn't surprised to find out that they already sell little collectible Sam action figures now. I'm not even into the collecting thing, but I'd totally get a Sam if I could. He looks awesome. Maybe in a few years, if and when this flick picks up more steam, we might start seeing more and more Sams roaming the streets for Halloween.

Seriously Warner Bros., what the fuck? This shit was entertaining as hell, it had a cool gimmick, and a character with definite iconic appeal. Also, there be titties here. I'm sure would've done well on simple "Hey, it's Halloween, let's go see a Halloween movie" curiosity. But what do I know? If I ran a studio, we'd have Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man part 7 by now -- and that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man is playing right now. Whatever, this shit was a fun time and next year when I visit Blockbuster on Halloween night, all copies of this movie better be rented out. I'm talking about Trick 'r Treat now.

After the two movies, I took off and made my lonely trek back home. I stopped at the end of a residential street and could hear music coming from a nearby house, so I U-turned and slowly drove past to check it out -- lots of people standing outside, milling about, talking. I had nothing else to do that night, so I figured, Why Not? and parked down the street. I put on a leather coat, thereby making it look like I put in some effort to my t-shirt and old raggedy jeans ensemble. The jeans, by the way, had a hole right where my left testicle would be. I don't remember scratching my balls that much as to wear down a hole in the fabric, let alone on that particular nut, but fine. So I walked to the front yard, nobody giving a fuck who I was, and I stood near the door pretending to check a text message on my cell but in reality scoping out the inside to make sure if I could get away with what I was intending to do. It was packed. Music and beers and chatting.

So I went inside and acted like I was looking for someone, but in reality checking out the partygoers; I would guess early-twenties, half in costumes, half in regular clothes. There were lots of goth-types, angels, devils, cheerleaders and anything else remotely slutty. I don't know what the guys were wearing, nor did I give anything resembling a fuck. I made it to the kitchen area behind the counter where there were three guys standing near the cooler, talking about the Phillies either winning or losing or whatever the fuck. I opened it and saw nothing but Coronas. These kind of motherfuckers are always drinking Coronas. I grabbed one and walked toward the back patio, where the music was coming from.

One of those little black strobe balls with colored lights shooting from it was placed near the D.J. in the hoodie. This was the only illumination in the backyard. There were about 20-25 people back here, and the yard wasn't that big. The music was really loud, playing some 80's mix that I couldn't put my finger on but I've heard it at damn near any house party. As I drank my Corona, a guy in Dead Presidents makeup nudged me -- therefore scaring the absolute shit out me -- and held out a joint. Because I'm unemployed and my next shit job could potentially be right around the corner (shit jobs always piss test), I had no choice but to decline. I have only the alcohol to soothe me for now. Because when it comes to getting lit after work, society allows you to Chinaski that shit but you sure as fuck can't Cheech & Chong.

After finishing the Corona, I left the house. Not once did anyone stop me or look at me weird. Driving home, I called another friend and left a message telling him to join me for coffee somewhere, preferably a restaurant where we can look at costumed girls coming from parties. I stopped at a Denny's and ate a slice of apple pie (a la mode) while checking out what I came to look at. It didn't seem as sad and pervy then as it does now. My favorites were the two girls who were wearing football jerseys, knee socks, cleats(?), very very short shorts and had what I can best describe as hair that looked very P.J. Soles. They looked like potential victims in any 80's slasher movie that involved a sorority sleepover. I never heard from my friend, so I finished the pie, and went home to sleep. During all of this, time went back an hour. Not far back enough, if you ask me.