Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child (in Fuck Me Shoes)

For the first (and last) time, I decided to take notes while watching a movie, because I'm sure I read that Cathie Horlick would do that for her blog and I know Roger Ebert does that shit for his reviews; I believe Cat jots her notes down in a notepad while Ebert scrawls his fuckin' thoughts on composition-sized paper and then just drops it to the floor beside him, where I assume his servants pick them up and place them in a velvet-lined basket for later. Since I ripped off my Movie Tally format from Ms. Horlick, I might as well take her note-taking style as well, so I went with the notepad.

Well, I won't do that again because it's too distracting for an easily distracted motherfucker like me; plus, my left-handed chicken scratches are even worse when being written in the dark PLUS I was stoned while watching the film, so that shit was even harder to make out the following day and damn near impossible the day after that when I decided to give it another try (now that I was more clear-headed). One of the few notes I was able to make out read "PARADIGM ALIENS" and I have absolutely no fucking clue as to what I meant. I would've made a shitty detective or a great doctor with my terrible note-taking abilities and Quentin Tarantino-style depths of penmanship.

This is one of those movies that I'm rapidly forgetting about with each passing hour, which sucks because it's been about 3 days already since I've seen Sucker Punch, which I rented from my favorite video store/head shop. Zack Snyder directed this one (he co-wrote it too) and I've always been cool with this guy; lots of people seem to be throwing him in with the Michael Bays of the cinematic world and I don't think that's right. Sure, he's a flashy motherfucker but I also think he's more restrained than Bay; people hate on that trick he does where he slow-mos a shot and then towards the end he cranks it back to regular motion, but they seem to be forgetting that by doing that, he's not cutting to 17 different camera angles fast enough for your brain to barely register the image, but people always gotta bitch about something.

I didn't see this in the movie theater because I read an interview with Snyder where he talked about how he shot this movie with the intention of getting a PG-13 rating, so he shot it with no gore and no foul language. But the MPAA still gave it an R-rating, so he had to cut shit out anyway -- meaning a total of 18 minutes of footage ended up on the cutting room floor. By the way, isn't "cutting room floor" an outdated saying nowadays? I mean, that used to refer to the days of cutting movies on film and using actual trim bins and hanging film strips up like they were freshly washed socks or something. So unless you're Steven Spielberg or Christopher Nolan, you're probably cutting your shit on Avid or Final Cut Pro and deleted scenes are hitting the cutting room hard drive, not the fucking floor.

Anyway, Snyder did us a solid by saying that his cut of the movie would be released on Blu-ray, which was cool of him because it was like he was telling us "Hey guys, don't waste your money on a watered-down version, wait a few months and get the Blu-ray!" Shit, maybe that's why Sucker Punch didn't do well in theaters -- everyone decided to wait to see the full version at home. Shoulda worded that one differently there, Snyder.

So I rented the Extended Cut Blu-ray (the word "extended" must mean that Snyder approved both cuts of the movie, hence no "director's cut" -- either that or he's gonna Ultimate Watchmen our asses come Christmastime with an even longer version) and the clerk behind the counter (he appeared to be in his late teens, lucky son-of-a-bitch bastard I'll kill ya) smiled and told me that this movie was "the best softcore movie ever".

I told him what I just told you about the Extended Cut and he looked confused; turns out that he only saw the PG-13 cut in the theaters, which made me wonder if this guy had even seen or heard of Cinemax. Really, video store clerk? Softcore? Whatever, little boy; in my day, softcore featured Shannon Tweed or Shannon Whirry or any other fuckin' Shannon. Softcore in my day did not feature actresses from Into the Wild, they featured ladies so smokin' hot like Athena Massey that you felt bad they weren't gonna get more famous but at the same time you were grateful because their lack of success meant they wouldn't pull some "I'm an actress now!" legit shit and you would continue to see them in even more softcore joints because America is the greatest country EVER.

OK, so the movie starts out with this pretty cool intro (done to a cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams") that felt like 10 minutes but was probably only 2, but you know how it is when you smoke that devil weed, that shit makes you think you just activated Jack Deth's Long Second Watch (which would make a pretty cool name for a strain, now that I think of it; I'll take an eighth of Sour Diesel and an ounce of Jack Deth's Long Second Watch). The opening gets you up to speed with a Her Life So Far montage as it approaches the main character's present situation, getting to a point that I felt like I was watching a hot chick version of Up only not nearly as depressing (in the way that only Real Life can be that fucking depressing).

Anyway, this main chick and her little chick sister are being hurled into a world of shit; their rich (and I'm assuming much-loved) mom is dead and their step-dad is hating on them because the lion's share of the inheritance is going to them. Eventually, Big Sister has had enough of Asshole Stepfather's bullshit and pops a cap into him, wounding the asshole but accidentally killing Little Sister in the process which is sooo not the results she was looking for.

As a result of this fuck-up, our main girl (now known as Baby Doll) gets thrown into a nuthouse (where Asshole Stepfather pays off an orderly to drug her up until the lobotomist arrives to fix her permanently) and suddenly she's imagining herself in some kind of slut orphanage crossed with some Suspiria dancing-school shit (it's a brothel, but they don't seem to do much brothel-ing -- ha ha, Snyder, so much for your attempted PG-13) because that's what you have to do, you have to escape the troubles of the real world by escaping to the safe confines of your imagination (I didn't see a single book in that asylum, so it's not like she could just hop a ride on the muthafuckin' Reading Rainbow and escape to a world of imagination THAT way).

Yeah man, she starts having fantasies about being in some brothel/cabaret/Suspiria school and hooking up with 4 other chicks and before you go OH YEEEEAAAHHH, calm down because no, they don't dyke out, they don't even hint at the possibility of that. Instead, they're bonding on a Girl Power vibe rather than a Box Lunch At The Y vibe, which I hope makes the straight girls happy because it sure as shit ain't pleasing me and my lesbian sisters, that's for fuckin' sure.

Actually, the lack of Brown Chicken Brown Cow doesn't bother me, the film offers a fetching enough scenario on its own and it's fun enough for me to look at these girls all huddled up and Baby Doll my mind into a NC-17 version of this movie. It's an awesome movie, the one playing in my head and besides, even if I didn't have the power of imagination, I do have the power of the Internet and if that's what I really want to see, then I can see it. This is also why Tits In Cinema is pretty much dead. Goddamn internet -- invented for stable communication following a nuclear war, but resulting in vaporizing the hopes of many a lonely moviegoer. Anyway, I haven't seen the theatrical cut, but I'm really surprised that this version was going to get an R-rating, because this is truly one of the lightest R-rated movies I've seen.

I only remember 3 shots of blood in the entire movie and it wasn't some kind of Kill Bill arterial spray-fest either; I watched some of that Charles Bronson movie Assassination after Sucker Punch and I thought that was a bloodier movie -- and that shit was rated PG-13! I saw one motherfucker get his chest all squibbed out after Chuckie B blasted him with a machine gun, then later on, some asshole in a wet suit got his all over the face, and the movie still managed to get a PG-13. But then again, that was 1987 and this is now. Plus, I don't remember seeing Bronson stroke a dying dragon's neck like it was a throbbing cock while Jill Ireland sticks her hands in the dragon's vaginal-looking slit throat and pulls out a glowing pair of balls, but I sure as fuck saw the girls of Sucker Punch do that Work The Shaft/Cradle The Balls shit, so maybe I can see why the MPAA was harder on Snyder than they were on Peter R. Hunt.

You're probably now thinking "How the fuck do dragons and their glowing balls figure into this movie?", and if you quiet down I'll tell you. See, it's not enough for Baby Doll to pretend she's in a fantasy world of even more fucked-up shit to escape the already fucked-up shit in her real life, she also escapes into a fantasy world within the fantasy world, where she looks like the Dream Girl for the kind of guy who swears he watches Sailor Moon because the stories are well-written and the animation is great -- an underage-looking chick in a schoolgirl uniform, wielding both a samurai sword and a semi-automatic handgun.

Call it female empowerment or call it exploitation of women, but most of this movie consists of hot chicks killing the shit out of everything while wearing the fuck out of sexy fetish wear. Scott Glenn is in this movie, and that freshly-squeezed orange juice-demanding motherfucker must've been very happy on the set of Sucker Punch, because that meant that whenever he wasn't playing this dreamworld guru (the Wise Man, he's called), he got to hang out and do his best not to be too obvious when ogling these young hot chicks with their high heeled boots & giant machine guns, all the while these girls were probably all Scott's such a good listener! when in fact he was probably just too busy checking them out while pretending to listen to their life stories because really girls, we just don't care.

Don't take that the wrong way, girls, because I love ya. In fact, watching this movie brought up my said-before thought about how movies would be better if the casts consisted of only women. Eventually the movie works itself into being one of those prison-break joints, and it even has one of those scenes where the girls are gathered in secret and discussing who's gonna do what part of the job and how are they gonna do said part. I love that shit, and I love it even more when it's a group of attractive women involved, rather than some fuckin' guys. I don't know how you straight girls and gay guys can do it; as a man, I can safely declare that men are just about the most disgusting creatures on the planet (next to the monkey), and because of that, I feel bad for those who are cursed with this innate attraction towards us (well, not counting Me, of course).

The villains in this movie are effectively Boo Hiss and sure enough, they're Men; there's really only about 2 of them, the stepfather and the evil piece-of-shit orderly of indeterminate (but very likely to be a dirty Hispanic) origin. The orderly (like the rest of the asylum's staff and patients) also shows up in a dual role in the dreamworld; in his case, he's the evil piece-of-shit brothel boss/mobster of indeterminate (but very likely to be a dirty Hispanic) origin; he's very effective because in addition to being Mean and Cruel, he also genuinely believes himself to be the good guy in the movie of his life. He's not a mustache-twirler (his mustache is too small, anyway), he doesn't necessarily enjoy being a scumbag, but he genuinely feels he's being wronged by the people around him -- which I guess justifies his horrible treatment of them. What a fucking asshole.

Laugh all you want, but I'm gonna say that this is Snyder's most personal film; first of all, he co-wrote the fuckin' thing and second, it's obvious this was all shit he grew up thinking of and dreaming of and maybe even occasionally jerking off to. It's like Snyder, after the success of 300 and the kinda-success of Watchmen, was summoned to a meeting with the Warner Brothers (and the Warner sister, Dot) and was told that they had $80 million burning a hole in their pockets and if he had an idea for a movie, any movie, they would give it to him. I bet you Snyder sweated it out in that office, because based on his past works (all adaptations of existing material) the motherfucker ain't exactly a fountain of original ideas, but he is a fountain of great ways to visualize that shit.

He had only half-a-second to come up with something -- anything! -- and the first words that came out of his mouth was "Sucker Punch". The brothers Warner (and sister Dot) were intrigued, and because everything is bass ackwards in Hollywood, rather than have him elaborate right then and there, they scheduled another meeting. So Snyder, he probably raced it over to his attic and pored over his old high-school notebooks and sketchpads and took that to the meeting. He showed them all of these crazy doodles and sketches he drew in high-school (instead of paying attention to his English Literature teacher's lectures) and passed it off as storyboards for this movie, along with some notes he scribbled during the drive to the studio.

The suits looked it over -- German zombie soldiers, orcs, dragons, exploding zeppelins, a badass squad of All-Girl killers, musical sequences, Carla Gugino looking very angular, green-screens, CGI, practical action, fuckin' killer robots with fuckin' pink bunnies drawn on them, etc -- and their reaction was "Hot damn! We still don't know what the fuck it's about, but my man, you got yourself an $80 million budget!" and that's how we now have Sucker Punch.

This is the kind of movie that will probably live on in midnight showings, and as the years pass it'll get overpraised as being some kind of underrated classic, like Tron (sorry Tron fans). If you mean classic in terms of snazzy visual sequences, then yeah. But if you mean classic in terms of something like, oh, I don't know, I'm just pulling this one out of my ass -- Brazil, maybe -- then no. To put it in Gene Kelly musical terms, Sucker Punch is no Singin' in the Rain but it certainly is It's Always Fair Weather. In other words, it's a decent story with great setpieces. I'm not a girl (despite what my ex-girlfriends say), so I'm not even going to pretend to know if this shit is empowering to females (as Snyder claims), but I am a man, and as a man I can say with confidence that I did get a bit of a semi while watching.

Like I said, I've been cool with Snyder's joints but I haven't seen one that rocked my world yet. This one comes closest and Snyder's only real crime here seems to be that he's not a great filmmaker because his screenwriting muscles are not nearly as buff as his visual storytelling muscles. Whatever, man -- the guy did the best he could to the strengths of his abilities and the result is an overall entertaining movie, warts and all. The girls are attractive, the music is cool, the action is pretty sweet and even some of the mise-en-scene makes you feel like you're watching the cover art for a shitty metal band come to life -- that's a positive, by the way.

I haven't seen the theatrical version, but I did read about some of the stuff that shows up in this R-rated cut that didn't show up in the PG-13 version, and based on that I would say if you're gonna see Sucker Punch, by all means see the extended R-rated cut, otherwise you are missing out on some shit that probably made the PG-13 version damn near incoherent as a result of being snipped out because a group of prudes working for an outdated system didn't like what they saw.

In conclusion, this movie is a 14-year-old Asian boy's wet dream. What, too offensive? Fine, then.

In conclusion, this movie is a 14-year-old Mexican boy's wet dream.

Are you happy now? Jesus fuckin' Christ, people.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

J.J. Abrams' ideal woman has a great personality, a pretty smile, big tits and lens flares all over her.

The sucky thing about being self-employed is the whole lack-of-medical-insurance thing, but a cool thing about being self-employed is that you sometimes find yourself able to attend a showing of Super 8 at your local theater at 9 on a Monday morning. I previously declared that I would attend movie theaters far less since The War of the Considerate vs. the Inconsiderate ended in a victory for the latter, leaving me roaming the barren lands like Ethan Edwards, looking all assed out as the doors to the movie theater close behind me, separating me from all those happy people talking and texting their asses off, content in raising discontent in their fellow moviegoers. But hey, give me an early morning option with fewer people and fewer possibilities of Cocksucker or Cuntbag busting out with his or her iPhone and I'll give you a happy moviegoer. 

The night before going to see Super 8, I got a text from one of my preciously few friends and she told me that she had just finished watching said film, and that there was a character in it that reminded her of me. Oh fuck, like I really needed that; now I was cursed to watch the movie with the thought in the back of my mind of "Is that supposed to be how she sees me?" while trying to enjoy it. Turns out she was talking about the character of Charles the kid director, because that was pretty much me growing up; making movies and being a fat fuck. 

So yeah, it's summer 1979 and Charles is trying to make a zombie movie with his friends, and Super 8 focuses on one kid in particular named Joe Lamb who's had a shitty four months so far, what with his mother being crushed to death by a fuckin' steel girder. But whatever, you can't waste your life crying over the dead, so Joe's pretty well-adjusted and not nearly as fucked up as you'd think; he's painting train models and living life with his father, who's deputy sheriff of a small fictional Ohio utopia filled with clean wonderful White people (father's interests include pizza, baseball, and crying on the toilet while reminiscing about dead wives). 

Because Charles reminded my friend of me, I'm gonna say that he's an awesome motherfucker who knows what the fuck is up. He's very bossy and take-charge because that's how young winners and future big-ballers roll, ain't that right, Charles? Not only does this guy have no problem walking up to a cute girl in his class and asking if she wants to be in the movie, he also somehow manages to get her to jack her father's ride and drive them to the location -- that's straight-up pimp, talking that smooth shit! 

The only thing not that awesome about Charles is that he keeps calling things "mint", which I'd like to think was the summer '79 version of "awesome" but is most likely just writer-director J.J. Abrams' trying to make Fetch happen. I'd have to ask Billy Corgan or anyone else who grew up during that time, ask if people threw "mint" around, like "Hey, I just saw Apocalypse Now. That movie was so mint!" I was going to use another '79 movie like Moonraker as my example, but I didn't think that movie was mint at all. 

Anyway, if that's the case, if "mint" is just Abrams trying to create slang, then he should just stop it. I mean, he's the creator of two hit shows (one of which was a genuine fuckin' pop-culture phenomenon), he directed two hit movies (one of which reignited a franchise), and it's still not enough for the guy? He wants to hear kids on the street calling shit "mint" just so he can feel he made an impact on this planet, I bet.

One day, this guy's gonna drive over to Baskin-Robbins and while standing in line, he's gonna hear some kid go "That's so mint!" and I bet he's gonna have this smug satisfied look on his Regarding Henry-writing face, but then he's going to realize the kid was referring to the Mint Chocolate Chip cone he was tasting. Crushed that not everything in the world revolves around him, J.J.'s gonna do a Charlie Brown walk back to his car and sadly drive home and cry on his giant bed of money, the ungrateful fuck. 

So Slick Charles The Ruler, Elle Fanning and that pussy-ass dead mama's boy Lamb, they're out shooting the zombie flick with their friends at one of those old, out-of-the-way train stops -- when suddenly a pick-up truck drives up the railroad tracks and crashes head-on with an oncoming train, which I'm sure they showed in the trailers and commercials, but I wouldn't know because I never watched them. I knew about this movie, I knew the title, I knew who was behind it, but that was it. I'm pretty good about blocking shit out, even when I'm on the internet (and in exchange for my movie-spoiler-blocking abilities, I was also cursed with a hyper-sensitivity of my everyday surroundings) and all I have to do to avoid spoilers in a movie trailer is look away. So, I don't know about you guys, but I was all like Holy Shit when that train crash happened because I sure wasn't expecting it. 

Part of my Holy Shit reaction came from how scary/impressive the train crash/derailment looked, and the other part of the Holy Shit reaction came from watching these kids end up in serious danger and that's something you don't see that much of these days -- kids mercilessly tossed into serious life and death shit. Fuckin' flaming metal debris is crashing all around them, some of them are crying, one's even throwing up from his fuckin' shattered nerves, and the awesome Ben Burtt-esque sound design is just as unforgiving and insane as all that twisted burning steel trying to murderize these children. Harrison Ford in The Fugitive is a pussy compared to these kids. It's a scary scene, is what I'm trying to say.

Anyway, it turns out the guy who crashed his pick-up truck into the train also happens to be like the only Black dude who lives in that small town, and I guess if you're the kind of person to get all racially sensitive about this shit in movies then now's the time to go Why Does It Have To Be A Black Man? But then later on you find out that this dude was actually pretty righteous, trying to do some good -- but then the same racially sensitive people can complain about him being a variation of the Wise Magical Negro.

And yet if the filmmakers cast a White dude in that role, then you'd hear complaints about how there are no Black people in this movie (actually, there's about 3 and one tense scene even possibly appears to be making a humorous statement on the expendability of Black guys in general) and basically Nobody Wins when it comes to representations of race in movies. The way I see it, if you're a filmmaker, you're fucked when it comes to how you represent race and ethnicity, so just put on your Racist hat and dive right in like it's the 70's again, because since you're a racist either way, you might as well enjoy it, you fuckin' racist. See what I mean? 

Anyway, the military gets involved in cleaning up the train crash mess, and in old-school Spielberg style, these guys are scary, secretive, and probably evil too because the government in these kinds of movies are usually up to no good. See, the beauty of this film and old-school Spielberg joints is that conservatives and liberals can get together on them; your jacking-it-to-Glenn Beck types watch these feds do their thing in Super 8 or Close Encounters of the Third Kind and go "You see? This movie tells us that we can't trust the government!" while forgetting that this is a science-fiction fantasy, and then Rachel-Maddow-Can-Do-No-Wrong types apparently have some perverted fantasy about their precious government doing rank shit behind the public's back, considering that it's mostly liberals who make these movies in the first place. 

I noticed Spielberg's name was featured on the poster outside about as prominently as Abrams' and after watching the movie, I can see why; an alternate title for this movie could've been called Thank You For My Childhood, Mr. Spielberg, I Love You (But Not In A Gay Way) because it plays like a cover of that Asperger's Syndrome-having motherfucker's greatest hits. It's mostly a E.T. The Extra Terrestrial meets Close Encounters vibe going on here, but Abrams wisely adds his own nasty little touches to it.

This felt like J.J. Abrams' version of Grindhouse, only instead of paying homage to drive-in/exploitation movies, he's paying tribute to the kind of awesome suburban adventures that guys like Spielberg, Joe Dante, et al., used to make, back when the best way to watch a movie wasn't in 3D or IMAX or Fake IMAX, but in 70mm and 6-Track Dolby Stereo. Unfortunately, the overall result feels less like a recreation of the kind of movie that is fondly remembered for its quality and feels more like a recreation of a movie that is fondly remembered purely for nostalgia. 

Listen, the movie is very well-made and it's worth watching, and hell, for the first half of the movie I was ready to say this was just as fuckin' great as an old-school Spielberg joint, but then somewhere during the back half of this film, I felt like the train derailment from the movie ended up serving as a metaphor for Super 8 itself -- the shit rolls along beautifully until something gets its path and fucks it all up, damn near leaving a fiery mess at the end. OK, that's a little too harsh.

Perhaps a better way to put it is by using Spielberg movies and their varying qualities; Super 8 is 70 percent E.T./Close Encounters and 30 percent Minority Report. The movie starts off Promising, speeds on down towards Greatness, then makes an unexpected left-turn to Good, and that's a tad disappointing because goddammit, we saw that we were approaching Greatness, it was on the fuckin' horizon, and we certainly had the gas to make the mileage, so why did my driver chicken out and take the nearest exit? 

It's like Abrams can shoot like Spielberg and cast like Spielberg and production design like Spielberg, but he can't duplicate the missing ingredient of Genuine Fuckin' Emotion like Spielberg. He surely tries his absolute hardest to pull it off, but he can't; it's that whole "fails to stick the landing" deal. So while you have the occasional spectacular setpiece that is even more impressively crafted in today's age of Shoot The Shit Out Of It and Edit The Fuck Into It, you're also left watching dramatic scenes that look and sound like they should make you tear up and sniffle, but they don't because they're missing that know...that emotional, uh, I don't know what. It's missing that extra oomph, I guess. 

I was left watching with this unfortunate sense of detachment and the last fuckin' thing a Spielberg movie -- or a wannabe Spielberg movie, for that matter -- should have you feeling is detached. Say what you will about the guy, but most of Spielberg's movies (his good ones, anyway) are sentimental motherfuckers, and I think it's because the dude was totally putting his heart into those flicks back then. Of course, Spielberg is now the long-time ruler/king of Hollywood, and he's proven himself a hundred times over, and he's a family man and his bank accounts have dollars on their dollars, and as a result, his popcorn spectacles now feel like obligatory Give Them What They Want works that engage the senses but not the fuckin' soul. 

And that's kinda how Super 8 ended up feeling to me; the final shot before the credits has this beautiful Michael Giacchino music that's basically slapping John Williams in his old man face and demanding that he step up before the young gunslinger takes him out like a bitch in front of the whole town, and it's all shot with this very reverent Wow Oh My God Wow style, and all of this shit should be tugging my fuckin' heartstrings but instead all I'm thinking is "Ah yes, I see what he's doing, this is where the audience would begin to cry." 

Motherfucker. I should be embarrassing myself in the theater by crying like Bradley Cooper on Inside The Actor's Studio, not thinking how impressive it is that Abrams almost made this look and feel like a Spielberg joint. What makes this even more painful to write is that I'm sure Abrams DID put his heart and soul into this movie; maybe he just probably expelled all that energy into working the surface, but had nothing left for the core, if that makes any sense and I'm sure it doesn't. There's nothing wrong with Good, But Not Great, but it does sting a bit when a movie is Great, But Then Good. There's an end credits sequence that I wish I could say was the cherry on top of the sundae for this movie, but sadly, compared to the movie that preceded it, it was the entire sundae while the movie was mostly vegetables. Jesus Christ, it really is always about food for me, isn't it?

Hey, by the way -- fuck Bradley Cooper. I'm sure he's a nice guy but fuck that guy; women swoon when he speaks French and go AWWW when he cries, and I guess that's OK because he's a great-looking guy. Yet if I do the same thing, these same women would call me a pretentious faggot. C'mon girls, Bradley Cooper's got better things to do, and you're not among them. A guy like me, on the other hand, I have no shame and can be easily molded to fit your standards, so it should be my out-of-shape ugly goods you should be after, not his. Because let's be real -- the closest you're gonna come to getting fucked by Bradley Cooper is when you pay full price to see The Hangover Part III

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pillow talk should never involve bringing up how the chick you just banged reminds you of your mother.

During my Sucks To Be You, Blockbuster Video shopping spree last year, I managed to get a few films featuring The Adorable Amy Adams (she's so precious). Some I'd already seen, others I'd yet to watch, and one I didn't even know existed: Moonlight Serenade. Because it was from Magnolia Home Entertainment, I assumed that maybe it was one of those joints that played for a week at the Nuart while simultaneously available via VOD, but that wasn't the case, it was a DTV deal. The DVD box gives out 2009 as the year it was released but the film's end credits reveals that this was a 2005 production, which means this was probably made shortly before or after her role in Junebug, the film that really got people's attention as to who this precious redhead was. 

The tagline under the title says: "She'll sing her way into your heart" which I honestly didn't think was necessary because, c'mon people, that's like saying putting a gun into your mouth and pulling the trigger is most likely going to kill you -- well, duh. Amy Adams is sweet enough, she doesn't need you to help convince people of her powers in being endearing. I mean, all they really had to do for cover art is just have a picture of her precious face giving out that endearingly peculiar smile of hers with the name Amy Adams under it and people will be like AWWW and there you go, she just sang her way into your heart without singing a fuckin' note. 

So the movie stars one of these Scottish motherfuckers who thinks he can come to my country and play an American-born American better than my fellow countrymen. He was also in those made-for-cable Dune joints that was meant to satisfy all the Dune nerds who got all bent out of shape the first time out, when David Lynch took that book and went all Frank Booth on that literary Dorothy Vallens. Anyway, he plays a dude working a high-paying job doing the financial managing thing for one of those firms that tell you the best ways to invest your money, only to shake in their expensive Italian shoes after you leave because when it comes down to it, they have about as much a clue about that shit as you do. 

Some of these guys, they like to unwind by bro-ing out with their fellow suit-wearing bros at the local sports bar, while others like to take prostitutes home and chainsaw their vaginas or something, but Low-Budget Ewan McGregor, he prefers to chill out at home with a glass of scotch and his piano, before heading off to his favorite nightspot where he drinks alone (like me) and gets hit on by Moon Bloodgood types (not like me). But these assholes always have to be all fucked up over something; turns out homeboy can really tickle the ivories but for some reason, he keeps it to himself, not even letting his buddy (who heads a jazz band at said nightspot) know about this. I guess he's supposed to be the singing musician equivalent to some martial arts master who can fuck everybody up but chooses not to, no matter what, because long ago he killed somebody in the ring. Or maybe he's just an asshole, I don't know. 

I say that because his friend would probably really dig having his bro join him on-stage, but Ewan McGregor Lite won't tell him about his talent. Yet, such is the power of the coat-check girl played by The Adorable Amy Adams that he's running up to her on the street and singing that old When I Fall In Love song that got popular again when Celine Dion and some limey sang it at the end of that Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic comedy -- you know the one, the one that ends with them getting together and living happily ever after. No, the other one.

It's not just because she's Amy Adams that he's understandably smitten with her, it's also because one night while boozing it up at the piano alone in his supposed New York apartment (more on that later), he starts singing and is suddenly joined by some mysterious girl standing outside on the sidewalk below. Long story short, he finds out it's Amy Adams, but because he managed to insult her beforehand, she's all like Go Fuck Yourself. Part of that attitude is because he's an asshole who's better off auditioning for The Asylum's way-too-late cash-in on Trainspotting (Asylum's title: Scottish Heroin Addicts) rather than try to get up in her guts through the magic of Song, but because she has a deadbeat loser drug-addict boyfriend (aka Me Two Years Ago, except it was booze) waiting for her at home, stinking up her cheap couch while watching Huell Howser, I'm sure. 

Let's talk about this loser druggie boyfriend. For most of the running time, I thought this movie was so low-budget that they couldn't afford another actor, because they keep mentioning him but you never see him. At one point, you hear him cough in the next room and I thought Holy Shit, that's as deep as that character is gonna get, but eventually he does show up near the end. 

By the way, I've never gone through a drug withdrawal, so I've never seen dead babies crawling on my ceiling as a result of Kicking Junk, but apparently when you're trying to kick that shit, you need not only hot soup, but lots of untoasted plain white bread to get through it. I notice that -- soup & bread -- in a lot of movies with scenes like that and I noticed it here when Amy Adams brings her recovering boyfriend that meal. I've been sick many times, due to plain ol' everyday viruses, and I've subsisted on chicken noodle soup, crackers and 7-up while I recovered. But never the untoasted/unbuttered white bread. Maybe there's a magic to that combination, maybe plain white bread is nature's methadone. I'm gonna ask Robert Downey Jr. about that if I ever see him. 

But yeah, what was I saying? Oh yeah, this is a very low-budget movie; someone who supposedly worked on this movie posted on some comment board (that I can't remember the name of, at this moment) that Moonlight Serenade was a 7-day shoot and cost a bit under 100k to make. I can buy that; there are a couple scenes where I swear Adams and Newman also served as background extras whenever they weren't required to be a major part of any given scene (it could be their stand-ins, but I doubt it, they probably couldn't afford stand-ins in this movie, at least not those with the same exact hair and body types). 

The movie takes place in New York, but it's obviously Los Angeles, leaving me to wonder why they even bothered trying to pass it off as the city that never sleeps. They were better off trying to convince us that this took place in fuckin' Toronto. I guess there's a larger jazz scene in the Big Apple, but who gives a shit about verisimilitude in a movie where people occasionally break into song during dramatic scenes (yeah, this is kind of a musical)? Or maybe they had it set in New York because most of these kinds of old-school musical romance joints took place there? I don't know, all I do know is that Not Ewan McGregor lives in an apartment with huge windows and yet the curtains are always closed. Because that's what you wanna do with your New York City apartment that you're paying up the motherfucking ass for -- you wanna fuck yourself out of a great view of the city and convince yourself that you're living in, I don't know, Tulsa. 

His office -- which also always has the shades closed -- isn't that impressive either, and when The Adorable Amy Adams first enters his office, she makes a comment like “fancy digs”, which left me confused as to whether she was being sarcastic or if she actually meant it, and if she actually meant it, that would be even weirder because his fancy digs aren't so much fancy as they're just digs. Or maybe she was genuinely wow'd because compared to the closet she works inside of, his office looks like fuckin' Adrian Veidt works out of that motherfucker. The fucked up thing is that someone in his position would probably have a modest office like that, it's just that we're so used to offices in movies that are always too grand to be real, kinda like how we kinda got used to some sitcoms featuring low-income people living in huge apartments. 

There's nothing really wrong with this movie; it's not terrible, it's just, I don't's just there. I can see what the filmmakers were going for, a mid '00s version/tribute to those romantic-kinda-musicals, only it comes off more like a tribute to the poverty-row versions, the ones that played as the bottom half of a double-bill starring nobody you know or people you used to know, following up something truly grand and kick-ass. 

What you have here is an OK-at-best movie that didn't get distribution for a while, leaving me to wonder why much shittier movies didn't have any problems getting picked up. But then I realized why: this flick, it's too slight for theaters and too old-fashioned for DTV. The movie is about as steamy as a Davey & Goliath cartoon, and at the time it was made, Glee and High School Musical were but a mere gleam in a homosexual's eye. It's hard enough to get a movie with no stars into theaters, but it's even harder to go DTV with a no-star movie when you don't even have those magical selling points of SEX and BLOOD and OWNAGE to get a motherfucker to cough up the bucks and make copies to send to Redbox. But then as the years went by, Amy Calico Adams was becoming more well-known and I'm pretty sure she's the reason why this flick eventually got picked up. 

I kid Mr. Alec Newman with the McGregor cracks; he's fine in the role, even though his character is too much of an asshole at times. The Adorable Amy Adams is of course, The Adorable Amy Adams as she always is. I'm usually pretty good about people disagreeing with me, but in this case, I'd probably feel a serious case of the American History X curb-stompies coming on if you did. I guess you can say that she did this movie because it probably brought her fond memories (!) of singing during her dinner theater days, but that's probably not true, she probably was just happy to have a gig.

And maybe that's still her modus operandi today: Work Work Work. Critics were giving her shit for doing movies like Leap Year and the IMAX one where she ran around in jodhpursbut give the girl a break; she struggled for years and now she's gonna take advantage of her time in the spotlight by Gettin' Crazy Paid, and besides, she's already held her own against hardcore motherfuckers, like Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Christian Muthafuckin' Bale, she got nominated like 2 or 3 times for an Oscar, she's proven herself. 

Speaking of Bale, I bet you if Amy Adams was on the set of Terminator Salvation on that fateful day, shit would've gone differently. I bet you if he looked over and saw The Adorable Amy Adams' concerned face, he'd stop mid-rant, take a breath, and begin to tear up. He'd choke up and tell The Adorable Amy Adams "I'm sorry luv, it's just, it's just that acting...they don't understand, they don't appreciate what we put ourselves through sometimes" and then she'd slowly nod and say "I know Christian, I know. We're only human" and then he'd stumble up to her waiting arms and return just as warm a hug as she's giving to him, all the while bawling while Adams slowly strokes that gifted angry manchild's head. The cameras would be still be rolling, but McG -- fuckhead that he is -- would never bother using it, because he's fuckin' McG, man, what can you do?

Anyway, I guess the real reason for this movie is the singing, and thankfully Moonlight Serenade is a success in that department, the song department. It's all jazz standards and the music's really nice and Adams & Newman do very well supplying their own vocals. Newman's got a cool smooth voice to him, and the scotch & piano aesthetic fits him like the proverbial glove. Holy shit, writing that last part made me feel like the proverbial douchebag. Amy Adams could probably stand to dial it down a tad -- her singing seems more attuned to playing large theaters, rather than small jazz clubs -- but that still doesn't change the fact that she has a lovely singing voice, which of course you should know by now because I know you've seen Enchanted by now, I know you're not trying to hurt my feelings here.

So I guess what you have here is the musical equivalent of a low-budget action movie with blah dramatics but kick-ass setpieces, and in that case, I have absolutely no problem calling Moonlight Serenade the romantic musical equivalent of one of those Richard Pepin/Joseph Merhi productions for PM Entertainment Group, only instead of Cynthia Rothrock and Gary Daniels, you have Amy Adams and Alec Newman.

Holy shit, there's an idea. Some of my Twitter friends have brought up that they want to see Cynthia Rothrock come out of retirement/sabbatical/whatever-the-fuck-it-is and maybe Quentin Tarantino is the one to John Travolta that shit for her. I want to add to it by throwing Adams in the mix. Maybe it can be a buddy cop movie done Tarantino-style, or maybe they're assassins-for-hire, kinda like a female version of The Mechanic with Rothrock in the Bronson role and Adams in the Jan-Michael Vincent role. Or a hard-ass chick Western like Bad Girls, only good.

Man, this shit almost writes itself and I can help except I am but a learner and Tarantino is the fuckin' master, so he should write that shit. C'mon, QT, it's up to you to put this shit together. I don't know what it'll take to convince you to make this movie, but I'm sure they'll be fine with you spending an entire day filming their bare feet or letting them walk all over you or whatever it is you foot-fuckin-masters are all about, if that's what it's gonna take. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

What the fuck happened to you, Arclight Cinemas? Shit, your ass used to be beautiful!

The girl was somewhere in the 18-21 range and she had the obvious aura of someone who'd rather be Anywhere But Here, working this summer job -- and only a summer job, get that right! -- here at the formerly awesome Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood. Her name tag did not have her favorite film written on it, like the name tags usually do at this establishment, and in retrospect, that should've told me everything right there.

Anyway, after she asked me what I wanted -- and that's how she said it: What do you want? -- I looked over to the soda dispensers (it's been a while since I last came here) and I could've taken half a second and it still wouldn't have been quick enough for her: "CokeDietCokeSpriteRootBeer!" she told me. Oh.

She then went "OwwwwwOOOOwwwwOOOOWWW" after placing my soda on the counter. Figuring that showing sympathy would lessen her apparent dislike of the Fat Ugly Fuck on the other side of the cash register, I asked her what had happened and she told me that she bumped her elbow on the counter earlier and she was still sore. She then told me that the day before, she had banged the side of her foot near the bottom of the other counter. I responded with "I hate when that happens. It's like when I accidentally stub my toe on the couch" except I didn't say that, I only said "I hate when that --" before she shoved the soda closer to me and said "Enjoy your movie". I was the only one there, nobody else was in line -- unless you count the many invisible undead that I was holding up, hence Time Of The Month's quick dismissal of me.

I noticed a man in glasses go up to the ticket-taker and tell her that his seat was still full of trash, even though the picture was to begin in 10 minutes. She sighed and told her fellow employee, who responded with "But they're showing the movie all day", before taking off with her trusty broom and trash pan.

Before the movie started, another employee of the female persuasion stepped up to give the intro, which went something like this: Ladiesandgentlemen, welcometo,uh,the Arclight Cinemas presentationofTheTreeofLife, uh, starring Brad PittandSean, uh, Penn. Um, this movie, is uh, runs about, uh, an hour and fifteen minutes? *brief pause* Uh, yeah, an hour and fifteen minutes. Uh, enjoy the movie. For the record, The Tree of Life runs two hours and eighteen minutes.

Another tell-tale sign that things changed at this place, this former standard by which all other movie theaters measured themselves: she did not do the usual bit about employees checking the print every once in a while to make sure that sound and picture were top notch. Because sure enough, the print seemed a little jittery. Thankfully, you can only notice this during the credits and whenever the image was completely motionless (the camerawork is handheld and never seems to stop roving about). Sure, I could've gotten up and complained to the staff, but that would mean having to miss some of the movie and for what? To be met with blank stares? I didn't want to find out what other rude surprises were in store for me in the Land Of Employees Who Don't Give A Fuck. Also, it would've involved me having to get up.

What happened? I'm reminded me of that bit in Casino, when Ace Rothstein laments the death of the personal touches the old casinos used to have, before they got taken over by corporate cunts who were all about maximum profit for minimum effort (in other words, The American Dream). The employees at the Arclight used to act like they gave a shit with their friendly attitudes & smiles, and while I knew it was an illusion -- a trick is something a whore does for money -- I was fine with it because I was paying for the illusion. We all pay for the illusion, also known as Customer Service.

But I don't know what happened since; did they start paying less, and therefore got what they paid for, employee-wise? You know, over at the burger joints they pay more and offer better benefits at In-n-Out Burgers, compared to McDonald's where they start off at minimum wage -- perhaps that's why the workers are always smiling at In-n-Out and frowning at Mickey D's. Is this a result of the Arclight franchising out to more locations, and spreading themselves thin as a result? Maybe. Or maybe they just started hiring assholes.

Or maybe I just came on a bad day.

Every Malick film features narration but their uses differ, depending on the film. In Badlands and Days of Heaven, the characters are recalling events to the audience and adding more detail/humor to them with their thoughts. In The Thin Red Line and The New World, the characters are speaking from their souls, pretty much talking to no one but themselves. But in The Tree of Life, it's a mix of that inner soul monologue along with a dialogue with the Creator, whoever the fuck that's supposed to be. Yeah man, I guess you can say all of Malick's joints are religious experiences but this one goes even further or farther or both as it attempts (and succeeds!) to encompass every fucking thing about this universe while asking out loud What Does It All Mean?

The way I saw it, Malick took a different approach from going with the God-Vision camera he used to make The Thin Red Line with, instead, he went over to Panavision or Arriflex or Red and asked -- nay, he demanded -- that they give him a camera that can film the inner mind and soul of the protagonist. Because what most of this movie consists of -- at least to me -- is all of the shit going through Sean Penn's character's mind during one particular day (if it was actually Sean Penn's mind we were looking into, it would probably be filled with very liberal, blow-hardy, and ultra-serious bullshit with no sense of humor whatsoever).

The film focuses on Penn's past, growing up during his personal Wonder Years in Texas but every once in a while, we cut to Right Now and watch Penn doing whatever the fuck he's doing in that office building. I bet you whatever he's doing, it's making him CRAZY bank, or maybe not, because based on the look of his very nice home, the motherfucker can afford nice digs and nice threads but came up short when it was time to buy some fuckin' furniture.

Anyway, we're seeing his childhood memories along with the passing thoughts that stem from them in retrospect, contrasted with the thoughts he had at the time -- this motherfucker has a lot on his mind. And why not? I don't know about you but sometimes thinking of a deceased loved one (Penn's character's deceased brother) might put you in a real introspective/existential place. You begin to wonder about shit, like, what's the meaning of All This? Is there a God, and if there is, what the fuck is His fucking problem and what's His fucking point? And that's where the scenes involving the creation of the universe come into play, so you can wonder to yourself "Really, man? Dinosaurs?"

Early on, we see some dinosaurs and for a while I wondered if they were going to get an inner monologue as well. Part of me wishes they did, because it would've cemented to the rest of the critics and moviegoers that everything is, in fact, bigger in Texas -- particularly Terrence Malick's balls. Also, it would've been both bewildering, admirable and fuckin' hilarious (the dinosaur narration, not Malick's testicles). Imagine how it would look and sound, pensive shots of dinosaurs framed in beautifully-composed images of Nature Long Ago: "rawr. rawr rawr rawr rawr rawr. rawr? rawr rawr rawr? rawr." and because it's a Terrence Malick-style monologue, it would all be done in a whisper.

I'm kinda glad that I didn't grow up going to Catholic school, otherwise I'd be an atheist today for sure. Instead, I'm in that non-committal area -- agnosticism -- and when you get right down to it, it's so much more fun to not be sure. Otherwise I'd be like one of those assholes on either side who has an answer to everything and is Just So Fucking Sure that they're right, even though a dot of doubt surely rests somewhere in that soul of theirs. Because when you get right down to it, who the fuck knows? There are no good solid answers to me, just a betting sheet with different horses and their varying odds, and a lack of willingness to bet everything and Let It Ride.

Shit man, we might not know why we're here or who made us, but the one thing we know for sure is that Love is always a good thing to have and to give. Without that, without just living your life and appreciating the things you have (the things you know -- the fuckin' things you know for sure) then there really is no point to your existence, you're just a robot passing time, meaningless and sad (much like my blog in general).

It's all just a fuckin' mystery and the more you spend trying to figure it out, the less time you have to appreciate the shit that you know is real -- like, every tangible fucking thing that you can see right in fuckin' front of you: the beauty of nature, the wonders of Netflix Instant, the deliciousness of a Chicago-style pizza, and if there's room, the love and companionship of your family & friends. That seems to be what Penn's mom is saying when she says something to the effect of "life flashes by, unless you love", because you're throwing away some perfectly Good Times when you try to live life as Mr. Hard.

I think that's who Brad Pitt's character represents. I know the credits call him Mr. O'Brien, but Mr. Hard is what he acts like. He's not an evil fucked-up dude, he's just strict, and I think one of his flaws is that he thinks love is something that can be demanded and scheduled like a weekly chore. He tells his kids to kiss him or give him a hug in the same manner that he asks them to pull weeds from the lawn, then he wonders why the kids favor the mother. The poor guy, he loves to play piano and you find out later that his is one of those lives where he chose Making A Living over Doing What You Love, and you get the feeling that sometimes all this guy looks forward to after a day of work is sitting on his chair and listening to his Brahms albums. To his credit, he encourages his children to follow their dreams and not let anyone tell them otherwise.

It's kind of a running theme in a Malick joint, this battle between dualities; you have Jesus Christ and Sean Penn (and Elias Koteas and Nick Muthafuckin' Nolte) in The Thin Red Line duking it out -- it's Live Life With Love & Compassion vs. Fuck That Shit, You Gotta Do Some Cold Shit To Get By and they're both right. There's the fuckin' rub. Life is ugly, but it's also beautiful, and it's kind of like God's twisted pay-per-view amusement to see what his creations decide to do about it, which way they decide to Get Through This. Malick's all like "Man, thanks for the free will, but goddamn it's hard to be a good dude in a world of bad motherfuckers."

Here at the Young Sean Penn household, you have a one-parent-is-cool-while-the-other-parent-is-kind-of-a dick dynamic: You have Mrs. O'Brien (aka Miss Grace), this pretty ethereal lady with her loving & caring ways, then you have Mr. O'Brien (aka Mister Nature) coming in to hit the boys with a dose of Man Up, This Is The Real World whenever he enters the picture. Mr. O'Brien is the kind of guy who will send you to your room without dinner, while Mrs. O'Brien would probably sneak you a plate and make you promise that you won't do that again. Mrs. O'Brien would wake you up by gently rocking you awake, while Mr. O'Brien would just yank the blanket off of you. Mrs. O'Brien parents like this, while Mr. O'Brien parents like this. Black people drive like this, white people drive like this.

Anyway, because we're human beings capable of doing both good and bad things, we do both, and sometimes we forget about the things we did, and sometimes we don't and we're haunted by it as a result. Even worse, more often than not, it's usually those we love that are the victims of the rank shit we sometimes pull. Is Malick telling us this? I don't think so, I don't think he's pulling some lame Mt. Olympus bullshit, like Look At You Lame Humans With Your Frailties, he's definitely just as guilty of this shit as the rest of us and The Tree of Life (all of his movies, really) is basically him wondering/confessing out loud and projecting that shit in 35mm and charging us $12.50 at a theater that used to be my homie, used to be my ace.

I remember reading in Jewfro's book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" that Malick grew up with 2 brothers in Texas, and that his father worked in the oil business (that's funny, Penn's character has a very similar upbringing) and that one of his brothers went to Spain to study guitar with the guitar-playing equivalent of Pei Mei. Anyway, I guess Malick's brother thought he wasn't good enough or Spanish Guitar-Playing Pei Mei's cruel tutelage was too much for him, because he later broke BOTH OF HIS FUCKING HANDS.

So Malick's father e-mailed (or whatever it was they did to communicate back in the 60's) Terrence to go over to Spain and make sure the dude was all right, and I don't know, help him wipe his ass or scratch his nose. Terrence was like "Nope, I know he's my brother and he ain't heavy but fuck that guy, I ain't carrying shit." Cut to some time later, and Malick's father contacts Terrence again and tells him, "Yeah, I went over to see your brother, oh and by the way, just a little FYI for ya, I'm bringing back his body because he killed himself." So yeah, it's obvious none of this real-life shit inspired this movie, I'm sure. I don't know why I even brought it up.

There's a line of inner monologue involving Young Sean Penn getting all Book of Job with God. The kid just witnessed another kid die from drowning, then he saw the anguished mother scream in tears, so to God he's all like "Where were you? You let a boy die. You let anything happen. So why should I be good, if you're not?" Lady and gentleman, I came thisfuckingclose to sobbing in that goddamn theater when I heard that, because as much as I'd love to be the cool motherfucker who never had similar thoughts fill my head, as much as I'd like to admit that I don't question Whoever The Fuck Is In Charge up there about such shit on a frighteningly daily fuckin' basis, I'm not and I do.

The Book of Job was definitely one of my favorite parts of the Bible (like The Prestige, the Job section is really intriguing until the disappointing ending), back when I tried to fool myself as a kid by attending Sunday School, back when I had that extra bounce in my young steps, back when I didn't question anything but believed everything. Now, I'm more of a fan of that book because the guy's name sounds like Will Arnett's character from that awesome show that got cancelled, once again compelling me to ask God: "Why oh why?"

Some people are complaining about what they see as an overly-simplistic message in this film, like if somehow being a simple message disqualifies it from being true and worth saying -- because it is true and it sure as fuck is worth saying. Then you have those calling Malick pretentious and if I was a complete piece-of-shit (I'm only 82% shit), I'd find out what movies those motherfuckers love and call those movies pretentious. I really don't consider Malick pretentious -- if anything, his joints are dripping with the purest uncut and non-cynical sincerity and that's part of why I love his films. I'd throw the "love" word towards The Tree of Life, but I need a second viewing of any movie before I use the L-word, and by L-word, I mean Lesbian, obviously. As of now, I will settle for calling this movie Fan-fucking-tastic and Phe-fucking-nomenal -- typical Malick, in other words.

I could tell you that the movie is masterfully-crafted and beautifully shot (Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki! Raza!), but to say that about a Terrence Malick film is like telling you that the sky is blue, water is wet, and women have secrets (and ol' Satan Claus, Jimmy, he's out there and he's just getting stronger). I also noticed in the end credits (which should've started with "You just got your shit owned by TERRENCE FUCKING MALICK" rather than the usual "written and directed by" credit) that there were five credited editors for this flick. Goddamn, the last time I took notice of that many editors being credited in a movie, it was for Street Fighter, which proves the indisputable fact that cinematic masterpieces require more than 3 people to cut 'em.

Listen man, I know I'm a Terrence Malick fanboy and that Malick's an acquired taste for many and your mileage may vary. But I'm gonna take a guess and say that if you dug his other works, you'll dig this one. If you didn't like his other movies, then don't even fuckin' bother, man. Go see X-Men: First Class -- and then tell me how it was, because I want to see that shit too but I have a feeling there would be a higher probability of texting in that audience, and I'm just too hyper-sensitive for the real world and would rather just wait for the Blu-ray.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

James Bond speaks better English than Jean Claude Van Damme (who's Belgian) and kicks more ass than Saoirse Ronan (who's a girl)

Lumping together a few of the movies I saw in the past few days: 

Went to see Hanna at a discount house, and I'm sure I would've liked the movie, being an ultra-stylish action film with touches of weirdness throughout, all done to a thumping Chemical Brothers score, and all -- except I was too distracted by the couple behind me who felt the need to add running audio commentary to the proceedings. It was beautiful, the comments they shared with each other; during one shot of a lonely snowy cabin in the middle of the woods at night, the lady told her man "That's scary!" Then during one scene involving Cate Blanchett's fetchingly cold-blooded (and stylishly-dressed) CIA agent character, the same lady then told the audience, "She's evil!" 

I decided to try something different from the usual "Can you please be quiet?";  I turned around after one of their comments and said "Yeah, I know, right?" in a really friendly way. It was a passive-aggressive masterpiece, that move, because it confused them as well as gave them the message that they were being loud cunts. 

Unfortunately, there were a few other people that Saturday night who figured, hey, it's only $4, no one will care if I take out my cell phone, hold it up so everyone can see it, and start texting my obviously important thoughts to some other asshole miles away. Then a boy with a cup of soda decided that there was no other greater pleasure than to suck on that straw after all the soda was gone, making that sweet, sweet music of a straw slurping the remaining cola moisture hidden in the minute crevices of the ice cubes. After that, he decided to turn the straw into a makeshift talkbox and do his impression of Roger Troutman, that is, when he wasn't just humming through it non-stop. 

At this point, I decided to no longer fight. There is no reward in fighting, only a delay in the inevitable heartbreak that Fighting For A Cause leads to. This fight against Acts of Douchebaggery in the Cinema, it is over. I tapped out. I sat there and Zen'd my soul out of my body and went somewhere else, somewhere quiet. The images of Briony Tallis and Eric Bana beating the shit out of people and bringing down severe pain upon their enemies, they did nothing for me, because my eyes were glazed over and I was no longer in the theater at that point -- only a desiccated shell of my former self was seated 

One day, I will rent the DVD or Blu-ray and watch it proper, the way I should've watched it in the first place -- at home. In fact, I will attend movie theaters far, far less frequently than I used to. Off the top of my head, the only movie I want to see in the theater in the coming weeks (after The Tree of Life, of course) is Super 8, and that's about it, really. Maybe a couple more movies, but other than that, I'm just going to wait to see them at home. If I do go to the movie theater, it will most likely be at a revival house like the New Beverly Cinema, or a Friday midnight show at the Nuart, but even then, I REALLY have to want to watch it. Because it's over, man. The douchebags have won. The cinema is now theirs. It's like Dawn of the Dead and we're running out of safe havens, only it's an even scarier threat than zombies -- it's human beings who should know better.

I don't want to end my current Hanna ramblings on a down note, so I'll tell you my positive Cate Blanchett story. She once held open a door for me at the Arclight Cinema as I did that lame fast walk towards it. She saw me going to the same theater (to a screening for Notes on a Scandal that I was attempting to sneak into) and she held the fuckin' door open for me, because that's what decent people do for their fellow man. Either that or she thought I was handicapped and needed help, because Leonard Maltin did the same thing at the American Cinematheque before a screening of Los Angeles Plays Itself, so maybe there's something about me that screams Please Hold The Door. 

Anyway, she held the door open for me and even gave me a warm smile when I caught up and took over door-holding duties, which was either a display of friendliness or her wanting to laugh at my dumb duck-wobbling ass. I said "thank you" by the way, because that's what you do to show your appreciation -- either that or a simple nod of acknowledgement -- you don't just walk past and ignore the door-holder like most assholes at the post office do to me. 

The next day, I watched Sudden Death, which I really dug back in the final week of December '95 in the theater and I really dug it this time as well. The premise is absurd (Die Hard in a hockey arena) and Van Damme really amazes with his lack of acting ability, but goddammit, he's trying his heart out and so is the movie. With the exception of completely depressing garbage like A Sound of Thunder, Peter Hyams is not only a solid director in the non-artist category of Artisan or Skilled Craftsman (or Hack, if you wanna be a dick about it), he's also one of my favorite cinematographers and it's too bad he only D.P.'s his own flicks (with the exception of the surprisingly tight Universal Soldier: Regeneration, and that's probably because his son directed it). 

Hyams' flicks all have that soft, hazy look combined with his You Don't Have To See Everything aesthetic when it comes to lighting a scene and god forbid you should see one of his joints at the drive-in. But in a properly projected theater (or at home), the shit looks damn near beautiful in its darkness.  If Gordon Willis is the Prince of Darkness in the cinematographer world, then Peter Hyams is the....whatever is below the prince. 

There's an interview somewhere online where Hyams talks about how even though he's worked on some huge Hollywood joints like 2010: The Year We Make Contact and End of Days (that's the one where Arnold figures the best way to fight Satan is with a shitload of guns), he's not only never been interviewed by American Cinematographer magazine, he's also had his membership applications rejected by the American Society of Cinematographers because these assholes hate motherfuckers like him and Steven Soderbergh for being their own directors-of-photography; How DARE a director also light his own set and compose his own shot?! Directors are supposed to be at our mercy -- the cinematographers who are truly responsible for the success of a film, certainly not the director and certainly not those faggy actors and those douchebag screenplays! 

Van Damme plays a former firefighter/current fire inspector named McCord; they explain the accent by saying he's originally from Quebec. The former situation leading to his current one was that he failed to save the life of a little girl during a fire, so he's all bummed about it. Even then, he's trying to keep his head up and be a good dad to his kids (despite divorcing their mother and putting those children in Broken Home City, population: them) by scoring them tickets to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. 

But because the filmmakers intended the title to have more than one meaning, something goes down during the game; a group of asshole mercenaries and former government agents plant C-4 all over the arena and take control of the skybox, holding the Vice President of the United States (and a group of hostages mostly comprised of Eventual Dead Meat) hostage, demanding the usual exorbitant amount of money or else, you know the deal, the innocent get shot or blown up. 

The screenplay is credited to Gene Quintano, the motherfucker responsible for writing Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol and National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1. Now, most of you read those credentials and think What A Bunch Of Shit, but me, I look at those movies and go, Thank You Mr. Quintano For Teaching Me How To Laugh Again. Sure enough, this flick is actually pretty funny (for the most part) when it's not being dead serious, and in some cases, it manages to do both at the same time, like when Van Damme throws down with a 6'5 assassin chick dressed like a giant penguin. 

The bad guys in this movie are Eeeeeevil Boo Hiss types; they make shitty jokes in between shooting innocent unarmed people. The villains in Die Hard were willing to blow up a rooftop of hostages, but in their defense, there's a cold logic to it -- they needed to do that so they could get away while the authorities think they also died in the explosion. But the bad guys here seem to get off on shooting old ladies and pretty blonde girls and while they may not be the most multi-layered characters, let's be honest here -- who gives a fuck. They're evil motherfuckers and it just makes you cheer louder when The Van Dammage shoves a bone into their throats or barbecues their asses with Super Soakers filled with lighter fluid. 

Powers Boothe is the leader of the bad guys and he's genuinely threatening, even when he's making lame jokes. He also seems like the kind of guy who would enjoy a big fat bloody steak; I read somewhere that when he was in the film MacGruber, he had to operate the stick shift for Ryan Phillippe during a scene where Phillippe was driving him around in a jeep, and I bet you Phillippe felt like a fuckin' lame-ass bitch not being able to drive stick in front of a man's man type like Powers Fuckin' Boothe. I bet you at least once, Boothe probably asked Phillippe something like "Really? You don't know how to drive stick?" and even though he probably asked as nicely as possible, because he's Powers Boothe that shit still sounded like "Go put on a dress and heels, woman, and bring Daddy a bourbon". 

Anyway, if you haven't seen Sudden Death, you should. It's a solid action flick, with a pace damn near as fast as the hockey game occurring during the film, and while he doesn't Kumite these assholes as much as he did in other movies, there's still a nice amount of Van Dammage throughout -- plus, he pulls a very well-deserved act of Motherfuckery to the bad guys during the climax. I'd say this movie and Hard Target are my favorite Van Damme flicks. Oh, and Knock Off too -- that movie was made by escaped mental patients/former prop comics from Hong Kong, I'm sure. 

The first movie I rambled about on this blog was Dr. No, and since then, every once in a while I'll pop in a 007 flick. Over the years, I've been watching them in order, catching up on Bond movies I never saw before while re-visiting the rest. Recently, I've gotten up to the Timothy Dalton joints, having an Inspired By The Approaching Expiration Date On Netflix Instant double-feature of The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill

I had never seen The Living Daylights, and for some reason, I was under the impression that it wasn't one of the better Bond joints. How wrong I was; this is a pretty damn good entry in the series, in fact, some people believe this to be the last true Bond movie. I can see their point while not entirely agreeing with them; this is the last Bond film to still have that old-fashioned feel to it. With a few adjustments, this story could've been told back in the 70's with Roger Moore (supposedly it was written with the intention of him starring in it) and it even looks old-fashioned, and I think part of that is due to the work of cinematographer Alec Mills, whose old-school veddy British classical manner of D.P.'ing involves lighting the shit out of everything and composing each shot with less importance on looking stylish and more importance on making sure the audience can understand what's going on. 

In this one, Bond is assigned to make sure Jeroen Krabbe (playing a KGB general, not as Jeroen Krabbe) defects from his country without getting his cap peeled back by those borscht-eating motherfuckers. Said cap-peeling almost happens; a hot Russian cello player is about to sniper the guy until Bond does some sniping on his own, except he doesn't kill her. At first, I was as pissed as Bond's partner in this mission -- this fuckin' guy had his scope aimed right in the center of Russian chick's pretty little forehead, before suddenly changing his aim to the rifle in her arms and blasting on that instead. 

It really looks bad for Bond, given his well-earned reputation as being a notorious slut with the ladies (the common thinking among his colleagues is that he let the little head do the thinking, rather than the big head), but it turns out that he was able to tell that this chick was holding that sniper rifle the way a Catholic priest would deal with a naked pair of titties -- like someone with no fuckin' idea on how to handle that shit. 

This was the last Bond movie John Barry scored, and that's a damn shame. I wonder why he stopped; was he done with doing 007 music or was he never invited back to the James Bond party? Either way, his stuff is missed; nothing against guys like Michael Kamen or David Arnold, because those guys are good, but goddamn, this was John Fuckin' Barry -- a true legend. He was right up there with Morricone, if you ask me. The action music is exciting and catchy, but it's his romantic themes that I really enjoyed, and in true Barry style, they manage to be these grand & majestic tunes that are also tinged with just the right amount of sadness. 

The end credits song, written by Barry and Chrissie Hynde (who also sings it) is a lot like k.d. lang's end credits song in Tomorrow Never Dies in that they're both better than the opening credits song. I guess a-ha was a bigger deal than The Pretenders back in '87, and as for Tomorrow Never Dies, the producers probably heard k.d. lang's song and thought to themselves, "Wow, she sings like Shirley Bassey but she goes down like Ron Jeremy and we need a pretty girl, not some ugly dyke to headline this sucker" and that's a damn shame. 

Joe Don Baker is in this, and because JDB is awesome and fat, he showed up in the Brosnan joints as well, playing a different character. But in this one, he's an arms dealer and his entry in the douchebag sweepstakes is that he's one of these guys who never served in the armed forces but thinks himself a fuckin' military master. He's introduced hanging out among a bunch of statues of famous military conquering motherfuckers like Genghis Khan and that guy Colin Farrell played in that Oliver Stone movie, only they're all made out to have his face. This fuckin' asshole has his own little private army, wears military attire and all of that shit, but he's as military as your average right-wing radio show host (with the exception of that rat-eating mofo G. Gordon Liddy). Fuck this guy. All he's got going for him is that he's played by Joe Don Baker. 

The next Bond film, Licence to Kill, is like the Timothy Dalton of Bond movies, if that makes any sense and I'm sure it doesn't; this one is pretty dark and intense compared to other Bonds, and that's kind of the complaint some people had about Timothy Dalton's portrayal of Bond. They forget that Bond's a dude who's been through some serious shit -- all that killing with a licence can get to a guy sometimes, and I like to think that compared to Connery & Moore, Dalton's Bond is less about drinking-for-fun and more of a drinking-to-forget type. 

The Netflix Instant version was the unrated cut (reinstating stuff that was trimmed to get a PG-13), so it was pretty cool and even a little jarring to see some of the extra violence -- a motherfucker's head goes Scanners in one scene and you see one poor guy's bloody stump after Deep Blue Sea starts chomping on the fuckin' guy. It was probably still jarring in the PG-13 version; up until now, the violence in a Bond movie had never been that particularly visual in it's brutality. But hey, this one's got a particularly brutal story. 

Shortly after his bro Felix Leiter is maimed and Leiter's new bride is murdered (and it's pretty obvious she was raped too), Bond resigns and has his licence to kill revoked as a result, but that really makes no difference to the guy, because it's fuckin' Revenge Time and he's out killing the guys responsible and the ones he's not killing, he's setting them up to be royally motherfucked in one way or another. It's pretty awesome to watch, all this motherfucking. 

Bond uses his particular set of skills to get in with drug kingpin Robert Davi (doing the Eye-tie playing-a-Latino thing). Davi's a pretty interesting villain; he does some pretty harsh shit to people which is actually pretty typical for a Latin Druglord (he has his men tear the heart out of a guy who was dicking Davi's dame), but I honestly didn't consider him nearly as evil as your typical Bond supervillain. I mean, he's a businessman -- he's not out to kill millions of people (not directly, anyway) or take over the world, he just wants to make money. Based on what I see him do in this flick, his big deal is loyalty, and if you're loyal to him, then he's cool with you. It's only if you try to fuck him (or his money or his lady) that he'll then teach you the most painful and permanent of lessons. 

If anyone is genuinely Eeeevil, it's his right-hand hatchet man, played by a very young, rail-thin Benicio Del Toro. That dude really enjoys the perks of his job, watching the victims suffer and beg, or raping helpless former actresses from Three's Company before murdering them. Yeah, that chick is in this movie too, as is that one chick who was in Law & Order for a while. You also have that dude from Quest for Fire and Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (Stephen Lang must've been busy) and you also have Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat jumping in for some Intimidating Asian fun. 

There's also a bit of a Die Hard reunion because both Agent Johnsons (Davi and Grand Bush) are in this film, not to mention Michael Kamen is the film's music composer -- adding even more shades of Die Hard to the action palette used in painting this picture. Also, Wayne Newton is in this movie too, even though I couldn't quite figure his character out; he's either dumb, or weird, or just plain blinded by backed-up semen, given his behavior near the end and what he'll accept from a beautiful girl. 

The downside of this movie is that, yeah, this doesn't quite feel like a Bond movie compared to others, but that's because the whole point of this movie is that Bond isn't operating by the same set of rules as in the other flicks. He's gone rogue (or renegade, if you want to get all Captain Kirk about it), he's not even supposed to be doing this, so he's going about things differently. You know those awesome moments of cold-blooded ownage in a Bond movie like Moore kicking that asshole in the Mercedes off a cliff in For Your Eyes Only, or Connery killing the assassin who ran out of bullets in Dr. No, or Brosnan disarming Vincent Schiavelli and then shooting him in the fuckin' face in Tomorrow Never Dies? Well, that's pretty much all Dalton does to the bad guys in Licence to Kill, and that, dear readers, is what I consider the upside of this movie. 

It's interesting to find out that this movie was a disappointment at the box office in the U.S., and I would guess it's because it came out in the same summer as Batman, Lethal Weapon 2, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Abyss, and Ghostbusters II as its competition. Goddamn, that was a pretty good summer for Hollywood flicks. Hell, Ghostbusters II wasn't even that great, if I remember correctly, but nowadays it would probably be showered with praise in comparison to most of today's big-budget summer extravaganzas. I wonder if people figured Bond was old news and too proper compared to Mad Mel's broken collarbone theatrics, which is why they didn't bother going to see this movie -- which is kind of fucked up because I think Licence to Kill and Lethal Weapon 2 are actually kindred spirits, both solid examples in the Die Motherfucker Die sub-genre of action movies. 

Supposedly, Entertainment Weekly called this one of the worst Bond movies, and I guess it is if you consider how un-Bond it is in comparison to the others, but that doesn't mean it's a shit movie. I mean, Diamonds are Forever and A View to a Kill are among the worst in my opinion, and those were still very much Bond movies. This, on the other hand, is Good Times and when you get down to it, that's all that matters. Also, there's one of the most awesome Iguanas I've ever seen in a movie, the fuckin' thing is wearing a diamond-studded collar because it's all about bling-bling.

Anyway, that's it. I leave you with some NSFW parting words from Mr. Ice-T, which actually kinda could've worked as an intro to Licence to Kill: