Thursday, October 25, 2012


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I'll certainly give you porn if you ask. Everybody likes porn.

To all the readers so far, thank you so very much for being great audiences. It's really a joy to write this damn thing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

STinG describes Inception (Nolan, 2010) in only seven lines...

So, I once was asked to sum up Inception quickly for the two people in the world alive who haven't seen it. After much thought, I decided on a perfect summary of the progression of the plot and the entertainment value of the movie.

'I'm Marion Cotillard and THIS IS JACKASS!' *moves a train into a street*

'I'm Dileep Rao and THIS IS JACKASS!' *drives a van off a bridge*

'I'm Ellen Page and THIS IS JACKASS!' *jumps off a building, grabbing a reluctant Cillian Murphy with him*

'I'm Tom Hardy and THIS IS JACKASS!' *blows up a fortress*

'I'm Joseph Gordon-Levitt and THIS IS JACKASS!' *crashes an elevator - in no gravity*

'I'm Ken Watanabe and this bullet wound gave me Alzheimer's. Who am I again?'

'I'm Leonardo Di Caprio and THIS I--'

I'm not going to really cheat this review, though. Just a joke I've had for that person, summing the movie up in seven (actually six and a half lines). The movie has its strengths and weaknesses. It's not my favorite movie, but I can enjoy it and still watch it every once in a while with friends. The concept is interesting and they open up enough of a dialogue with the study of dreams to encourage both intellectual masses on the subject and then make it an accessible enough cinematic experience to bring in the laymen like myself. But they don't delve too much into it, and it's a bit too torturous of a tease. It doesn't say enough on the subject in the first third of the picture.

My best friend showed me this pic. You gotta admit you saw this meme coming.
Move on to the third act, where they begin sort of saying a bit too much. The cinematic meaning of 'show, don't tell comes to mind.' I think Christopher Nolan is a directorial giant, he's on his way to better things, it's all the more sweeter that he's commercially successful, which means whatever movie projects he should attempt now, since The Dark Knight trilogy has wrapped, he's going to get any project he wants funded. He can make a sequel to Birdemic and it's going to be funded by everybody in film with money. But he can't write well. He just can't. He either puts too much or puts too little. If a moment of realization occurs, he has the character say 'I realize this', he doesn't have enough trust in the nuances of the acting. When he introduces his characters, they are all two-dimensional. Arthur has no arc. Eames has no arc. Yusuf has like an arc that involves 'Huh, I don't go into dreams. Okay, I'll go into dreams' and that's it. The only characters with an arc are Cobb and, to a lesser degree since it gets swallowed up by the action of the third act, Ariadne. Not even the homicidal ex-wife has an arc, she just starts crazy and ends crazy.

'That's right, I have no problems with your unstable
psychological fugue appearing in my dream threatening death.'
However, at least it makes it's plot in threes for easy accessibility to the audience. It's obvious there's a beginning, a middle and an end. And the picture does make a great use of introduction in its opening sequence, allowing us to fully know the details of the mission Cobb and company will be given before he is even offered the job. The train/riot/party sequence could make for it's own short film for its very efficient use of establishment.

This does not change the fact that the visuals are very rewarding as a piece unto themselves. The work put into even the computer-generated effects is very apparent and worthwhile. I'd love to be present on the set to see all this work. Chris Nolan and Wally Pfister certainly have a knack for camera movements and visual elements. The soundtrack ain't too bad neither, with an instant icon of a theme and a revival of Edith Piaf in it of its own.

Overall, I give it a out of ten. Majorly style over substance, but the style really makes for a modern sci fi adventure that could endure long after the life of this blog and portray an icon of our entry into the 2010s.

I discovered Dream Theater has taken to utilizing a piece of score in opening its usual concert setlist. Lol, get it? Dream Theater? Dream? I thought it was funny, man...

Movie Characters That Give Me The Creeps - OCTOBER IS HORROR

So, I was going to post up the scariest movie scenes to affect me, but I decided against it for the time being, not wanting to force any reaction from the scenes or spoil the initial effect of any first viewing. Maybe later on, when I feel most of them had been viewed already.

Instead, I chose to focus on the movie characters that actually frightened me from the movies I'd seen them in, featuring a short log for each character explaining their fright factor to me. They range from the dramatic role to the comedic role to the human to the inhuman. Some of these characters are not at all from horror movies, but they all have some significant level of uncomfortable that they force me to feel, a fact that can be attributed to the director, the writer, the make-up artist and so many others that create a character moreso than just the usual assumption of the actor, who does the part just as well.

All things considered, its the real character of these guys that frightened me.
  • Count Orlock (Max Schreck) from Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) - Just look at the appearance of the thing. I said 'thing' too, not guy. It's too frightening to imagine.
  • Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) from Scarface (1932) - While Pacino's character may kill out of a short temper or paranoia, Camonte kills for the sheer thrill of the kill. He loves what he does and never thinks about the damage.

  • Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) from Psycho (1960) - A charismatic momma's boy to the end.
  • HAL 9000 (Douglas Rain) from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - Cold, calculating, ready to murder, HAL is the 'electric eye' (in the words of the immortal metal deities Judas Priest!) of the third segment of the picture.
  • Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) from A Clockwork Orange (1971) - It's tough to make such an evil character so sympathetic. Perhaps that's part of the horror of the movie.
AFTER-THOUGHT: I'd like to include the majority of the cast in this movie. The crippled husband of a raped wife, his muscular laconic valet, the rest of Alex's droogs, the government officials, the cat lady who Alex murders... They've all got their creeps.

  • Carrie and Margaret White (Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie) from Carrie (1976) - As a high school bully, Carrie White may or may not be your worst nightmare of retribution. But she's really a product of her environment when it comes to her psychotic mother.
  • The Xenomorph (Bolaji Badejo) from Alien (1979) - Look at the way this beast moves. How in the shadows he is. We barely see him. He's like Jaws, except frightening on its concept, rather than solely an environmental antagonist. And let's not forget to add in the obvious rape allegory factor.

  • Lloyd the Bartender (Joe Turkel) from The Shining (1980) - Yea, Jack's the monster of the thing, but the ghosts (namely Lloyd) are the ones pulling the strings on him. And Lloyd is extra-Kubrick-eerie. Jack's deffo an honorable mention.
  • The Thing from The Thing (1982) - We never really know which character is the thing at what time. We never really are safe from infection. And we have no method of escape. It's a creature we can't fight, we can't quarantine and we can't avoid. And it wants us.
  • Tony Montana (Al Pacino) from Scarface (1983) - Like I said, Camonte's scarier because he has no morality (we are revealed later on in an important scene that Montana has some morals, however few). But paranoia just as frightening when you're sitting next to the guy with the best intentions but don't know if he means well too... Really how some of the fright to DePalma, the editor and composer for eliciting this paranoia.
  • Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) from Blue Velvet (1986) - The guy is just a nutjob. Candy-colored clown, baby wants to fuck, the gas mask... He's a serious trip when you watch this movie late at night with no sleep... which is unfortunately how I prefer to watch David Lynch's works.
AFTERTHOUGHT: It's too bad I can't add tv characters, because Killer BOB from Twin Peaks would certainly be up here. And he's a lot worse than Frank.

  • Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) from the Nightmare on Elm Street series (1986-2003) - The first movie character to actually scare me based solely on appearance. When I actually became old enough to start watching the movie, I really got exposed to sadism of Krueger, the glee of his heinous acts. It did not help my impression of the character... Now, Robert Englund is one of my favorite actors, based on many performances, but largely on this.
  • Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) from Natural Born Killers (1994) - Again, very likable protagonists, only because, even when they're a bunch of serial killers, everybody else in the movie is a whole lot worse than them. Won't be winning no Cutest Couple awards anytime soon, though.
  • Brick Top (Alan Ford) from Snatch. (2001) - My first cinematic encounter with a really savage gangster character. Brick Top is ruthless and his speech on 'pig farmers' really shows his creepy colors.
  • Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) from No Country for Old Men (2007) - He's pretty much a slasher element in a Western environment and he's got the personality to boot it.

HONORABLE MENTION: Sid's Toys from Toy Story (1995) - While revealed to be actually very kind and victims of Sid, these guys are scary as hell the first time you see them. Especially considering the shocker of Buzz and Woody's predicament, now living in the belly of the beast.

So, you're planning to commit suicide... Maybe you need to be convinced that life is worth living...

So, it may just be the circumstances around me, but despite ridding myself of some pretty heavy and distasteful vices as of recent, there's still a large amount of pessimism all around me. People left and right have been hating their life or the lives of others.

Well, cinema is meant to elicit a theme in you, and sometimes that theme ought to be an appreciation of life. Not just because if everyone killed themselves, there'd be no audience, but also because when people really cooperate with one another, that company does grow into a miracle of the world. Every life proves to be just as unique and important.

In juxtaposition, I'd suggest one of more of these films be watched as great tales of overcoming adversity in one way or another, or the real joy or good in the world. I had somebody mention to me that she thinks that I only like dark movies. She's right, I hold a great predilection of dark films. But I also enjoy particular movies that showcase triumphs over struggle, internally or externally...

  • The Wizard of Oz (1939) - Just look at the picture once Dorothy reaches Oz, it's in absolute Technicolor, there's no way you can hate anything when she first opens that door!
  • Casablanca (1942) - Rick's cynical heroism knows no bounds and he absolutely deserves a cheer for the entire third of the picture.
  • It's a Wonderful Life (1946) - While a bit more shifty as a choice due to the obvious attempted suicide plot point, it's the tale of the everyman really making a difference in the lives of those around him. And moreso, how grateful and equally gracious the people that everyman has touched are towards him. It brings out the best in people.
  • Singin' in the Rain (1952) - Quite possibly too fun a movie to not be enjoyed even when you're down or worse. Witty and engaging in every single sense, moreso than any musical before or after.
  • The Magnificent Seven (1960) - While Seven Samurai is clearly the better picture, its Western remake proves to be much more lighter and yet still portrays its message with the same intensity. A man has to do what a man has to do. And sometimes that means fighting for a good cause. Fighting for those who will fight, but need help themselves. It's a mission I've taken up for myself since I saw the movie at a young age.
  • Blazing Saddles (1974) - The poor brother Bart has everybody around him wanting to kill him, just for trying to help them in his newfound role of Sheriff. Nope, Bart won't take that especially, he just shows he's the slickest brother ever to enter their no-good town. It's almost Red Harvest-esque in situation, if the Continental Op were to win the hearts and minds of Personville instead of killing them.
  • The Blues Brothers (1980) - Two criminals on a mission from God. Just get the band back together to play great music and use the money raised from that show to save the orphanage.
  • Back to the Future (1985) - If Quantum Leap were never a TV show, I'd have to resort to just watching Back to the Future again and again for a great story on how much of a difference people make, just by moving about in their shoes for bit. Sure, Marty doesn't do it as literally as Dr. Beckett, but he gets an understanding of his parents and knows how to really make them out into more confidant human beings for the better.
  • The Princess Bride (1987) - Not just a good tale of true love fighting off and defeating all, but also some real quality entertainment, full of humor, adventure, swashbuckling and thrills.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) - The future is never written. You can always make a difference, no matter what.
  • Schindler's List (1993) - When it comes down to it, Oskar Schindler did better than any other Nazi who attempted to protect the Jews during the Holocaust, and he did it with the best intentions, not involving currying favor from war crime trials, but just from (while initially wanting to make a business out of them) not wanting to see any more carnage.
  • The Shawshank Redemption (1994) - If you don't see any other movie on this list, see this one. The theme is simple, strongly argued and ever-lasting: Hope. Of course, I do have to warn again of the suicide subplot and the depressing atmosphere of the prison.

  • Forrest Gump (1994) - The continuation of a man's life who goes on to do greater things than any intellectual of the world. And his only motivating factor is also one of his most innocent characteristics by the end of the movie: Love for the girl he grew up with.

  • Mulan (1998) - Probably the best female character Disney has ever developed. She's strong, she's courageous, she fights back and wins for China.
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998) - Is the D-Day sequence going to sink you lower? Yeah, sorry. How about the many different deaths on the journey (namely the one at the German machine gun)? Yeah, sorry about that too. But right after their fight there, when Miller shows his humanity, is where the film starts to turn around and prove to be inspiring. And the biggest moment comes right at the final minutes between Ryan and his wife.
  • Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2 (2002/2004) - Avoiding the subpar third (even though I don't care for the second as much neither), the two movies follow an ordinary man who, despite his gifts, finds an extraordinary amount weight on his shoulders. Whilst cheesy at key points for both movies, the honesty in Peter Parker's deeds make them a bigger strength for him than any of his spider powers or intelligence. It's a tough trail but by the end of the second film, not only does he have his life in check, he has someone to help him keep rolling.
  • The School of Rock (2003) - A guy finds work (albeit illegally), finds a band and finds a great deal of confidence in children that have been forced to conform to their parents' well-meaning, yet close to tyrannical influence. Also, gets his roommate to dump Sarah Silverman. That's always a plus because it means to me Sarah Silverman's open. Remember that, guys.
  • Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) - One of the few movie moments to  make me tear up in a happy manner is 'The Letter That Never Came.' You'll understand what that is when you see the movie.
  • Serenity (2005) - The Magnificent Seven, except closer to the heart, because the farmers needing protection are now a young girl who has spent the rest of her years being a part of the crew's family. And the bandits are now an unstoppable government force. Nothing to gain, everything to lose - Just the way, heroes ought to have it when they jump in the fire.
  • Batman Begins (2005) - Bruce Wayne, the richest man in Gotham, finds his life at its lowest point, finds a true purpose in his life (even steadfast in the face Ra's al Ghul and the League of Shadows' training) and returns to Gotham to stand his ground for his home. It may not seem like much but the story arc signifies a better rise than the underwhelming third installment.
  • 16 Blocks (2006) - A story of people showing they can always change despite themselves. Really can't put it better than that.
  • Slumdog Millionaire (2008) - A full on romantic tale. Come on, rags to dreams. 
  • Up (2009) - Much like Saving Private Ryan, The Shawshank Redemption and It's a Wonderful Life, I apologize. The opening minutes of Up are some of the saddest moments in cinema, both in a good and bad way. The rest of the movie, however, will do exactly what the movie's title suggests to your spirits.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) - My care for this movie is known to be nonexistent among my peers, however, with its vibrant colors, fast pace and character arc of the lead character (despite almost being muddled by Michael Cera's acting), it might work for others.
  • The Artist (2011) - Singin' in the Rain with less of the color, but more of the emotion.
I can always think of more: Shrek/Shrek 2, Kung Fu Panda, WALL-E, Jurassic Park... But I must say these movies themselves should do the trick and more... Be happy, dammit... Be happy...

Friday, October 19, 2012

An American Werewolf in London (Landis, 1981) - OCTOBER IS HORROR

It's so different from the rest of John Landis' classic comedy work, and yet many could argue that, despite such an uneasy shift, it might be his greatest work. At the same time, despite its reputation as an early form of the horror-comedy genre, inspiring such other pictures as Shaun of the Dead (Wright, 2004) and Scream (1996), Landis himself argues that the movie is never meant to be comedic and is a straightaway horror. I don't necessarily agree to both (I leave that best Landis title to The Blues Brothers) but I can definitely say that, so far that I've seen, An American Werewolf in London is the blackest and most tragic of the black comedies I've ever seen.

I have just seen the movie for the first time last month after buying it. It's not usual for me to buy a movie before seeing it (I don't want to waste my money), but it was cheap and I was certain I'd get my money's worth. I've got that much and more.

Quite possibly the best and funniest tag line I've seen .
The story follows, as the title suggests, two Americans who are backpacking across England. After moments of fish-out-of-water status of the most dreadful kind, the two young men are attacked by a werewolf who is promptly killed after the attack. Unfortunately, one of them (Griffin Dunne) does not survive the attack. The other (David Naughton), in a worse state, is having his Dunne's character's ghost appear to him to warn him of the werewolf curse. Naughton's character at first tries to dismiss these as delusions and nightmares, but soon finds out these nightmares are very real...

This is great, ain't it? Just two best friends, cursed as walking dead.
Not too much of the humor comes from the curse of being a werewolf. I mean, there are some shocks that elicit laughs, like a very gruesome decapitation and a vividly graphic and bloody family massacre that, if it were the only scene in the movie with violence and no language or nudity were in the picture, would still get the movie it's R-rating. But those laughs are from a discomfort, a genuine reaction that tells you 'Oh this is where the horror really starts.' The laughs are from Griffin Dunne's character reacting, the quirky situations Naughton's character discovers after his rampage, he steals a balloon from a toddler and the only things the lad has to say for it is 'That naked American man stole my balloons.'
That's like a WTF? I don't mean to tell you about your own movie, Landis, but this is definite comedy. One could justify it by explaining that Landis was only 19 when he wrote the script. Well, that's certainly a point, there's an adolescent streak in the movie, namely along Jenny Agutter's character. She'd certainly fail the Bechdel Test. She not only talks about how many lovers she's had, which is a surprising amount, but she immediately has sex with Naughton's character. Adolescent script, I tell ya.

And yet there's some factor about the movie that doesn't allow us to fully enjoy the humor. Keeps that laugh stuck in our throats. It's the fact that David Naughton's character is doomed, no matter what. While most allegorical products of the werewolf story are abandoned in this picture, he has a sword of Damocles hanging above him. I have no qualms about explaining the ending later on, not just because there's more to the movie than its plot, but because the idea is that once he gets bit, his life is over, there is no way he's coming back from it and it's not just sad, it's absolutely dreadful. To watch this movie knowing he's going to die sooner or later is to have the full effect the movie had on me. And that's not even feeling bad from the gory scenarios, like the couple being ravaged or the final rampage in Piccadilly Circus.

But on the bright side, he can always come back as a vampire! Vampires are cool, right?
We got out of that Twilight/Anne Rice phase, right? Right?
As a genre picture though, and a script that Landis wrote so early in his life, it has some flaws. David Naughton's character, I haven't even remembered his name. I have the movie and I'm not even bothering to check. It's because he was a bad actor. Overall, the acting was not that good in the movie, but Naughton is most notable is that he had some hits and misses. The scenes of fright and horror were the hits, everything else is pretty much a miss. My favorite scene is where Naughton's character is approached by the ghosts of Griffin's character (who at this point has decayed to outright human jerky) and the victims Naughton has killed so far in a porno theater. But Naughton doesn't really carry this scene so much as Dunne (who isn't even physically in the scene, it's a corpse puppet voiced by him) and the victims. It could be better, but it is what it is. 

Dunne's character is a unique one. He's a down-to-earth dead guy. He's only been dead a couple of days and he's so casual about it. It's not that he doesn't make a big deal about it. It's that it's now who he is, so he's going to roll with it but he's still going to have that dry personality he had in the ten to fifteen minutes of the movie he was alive.

Now, the ending. The ending is really a tragedy in itself. The movie doesn't have any closure for the creature, it doesn't have any chance to say good bye. It just ends. Naughton is shot and killed and that's it, go on to the credits with the happy music 'Blue Moon' (By the way, the soundtrack is just to die for). And the thing is that you feel cheated but it just fits with the movie. You saw this horrible thing happening to the lead a million miles away and yet you still needed that shock, that sadness to happen, so instead of giving you a sort of epilogue or scene to let the mood die down, the movie just decides 'Fuck closure, we gotta better things to do, like listen to the Marcels.

On a very final point, I want to mention that this movie is also a horror movie landmark for being the first movie ever to win the Oscar for Best Make-Up. And my, what make-up it is by horror movie legend Rick Baker, up there with Tom Savini's work. In case you readers have not noticed I did not include any clips or photographs of the movie's titular beast for two reasons, 1) The transformation scene - if you have a chance to see the movie without anybody ever telling you about this scene, do it. It's going to come as a shocker, you're not going to see it coming and, even for this day and age, it is a scarcely gory scene and yet to hard to watch and incredibly well-done.You will not just actually see this person turn into a werewolf in light (unlike most shadowy transformations), you will feel his pain and it's awful. It's probably the best work Rick Baker has ever done.
2) The monster itself is distinct and realistic that I think it should also come as a surprise to the viewer the way that, say, the appearance of the Transformers or Freddy Krueger came out. It's a work of movie art and should be admired as such, in the context of the movie.

All said and done, I give the movie a 7.5 out of 10. It has a classic sense, something that will resonate in you, but it's not a perfect picture.

The making of horror movie history right here.
One more thing: The phrase in London is more than just a title. This movie really is a picture belonging to England, no matter how American it feels. The locations, the supporting characters, the atmosphere is one that is uncannily British, despite being an American director and writer and I find that a perfect accomplishment for John Landis. If I ever have a chance to go to London, I will be searching everywhere for the locations of the movie: namely Piccadilly Circus, the porno theater, the tunnel train station... They're all locations that will forever be ingrained in the legacy of this movie.

Is it really a wonder with the work of this picture why Landis went on to create one of the best music videos ever?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

STinG's Personal High Fidelity (Frears, 2000) Lists

So, it's late and I haven't really taken part in a new post, but I'm too lazy to really write too much. I remembered the movie High Fidelity and decided, hey, in my laziness, why not just make a bunch of lists like the lead character? And then using the same format review the movie itself for a short while...

Don't Gimme Dat Look, Cusack...

Okay, here we go. Apologies in advance for taking time to focus this movie blog on music instead... It's what most of his lists are about.

1-5) Boy, is that going to be between me, myself and I for the time being. I think the 'friendly' one I'm going through right now might be up there to number three, but still I'd like to keep my privacy towards numbers 1 and 2.

1. 'All God's People' by Queen - If you really wouldn't like waking up to Freddie Mercury's voice, why are you alive? Honestly.
2. 'Black Rain' or 'Birth Ritual' by Soundgarden
3. 'Generator' by Foo Fighters
4. 'Somewhere There's Hope' by Steve Perry or anything by Journey except that overplayed 'Don't Stop Believin'' - What I said about Mercury goes just as well for Steve Perry.
5. 'Shadow Warrior' by Blue Oyster Cult

1. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
3. The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett
4. At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft; The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy
5. John Dies at the End by David Wong; The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

STinG'S TOP FIVE JEFF BUCKLEY SONGS - I don't listen to enough Elvis Costello and Adam Lambert hasn't made enough songs yet.
1. Mojo Pin
2. Dream Brother
3. Grace
4. Hallelujah
5. So Real

I don't know of any films he's seen and enjoyed except
1. The Battle of Algiers
2. The Magnificent Seven
3. Finding Nemo
4. Scarface (1983)
5. Assorted Charlie Chaplin and James Cagney films

Again, I really don't know what she does like, but she'll tell you when she don't like one
1. I, Robot
2. The Avengers
3-5. Any movie incredibly unrealistic (meaning all the fun ones) or overly dramatic picture (meaning all the big ones).
Yea, I still love my mom

1-5. Assorted Egyptian movies with names I never caught/many Jack Black movies good (The School of Rock; Tropic Thunder; Kung Fu Panda, etc.) or bad (Gulliver's Travels; Envy; Nacho Libre)

1. Fall Out Boy
2. Metallica/Green Day - Ever king has the end of its reign and, shit, have you guys have aged.
^ Note to Dave Mustaine: If you don't clean up your act soon, you're joining Metallica on this list.
3. Taylor Swift/Avril Lavigne
4. Lil' Wayne/Insane Clown Posse
5. All dubstep artists

STinG'S TOP FIVE SONGS ABOUT DEATH - In my metalheadness, I was going to change this to TOP FIVE DEATH SONGS (referring to the band from Orlando, Fl), but then I realized I knew a lot more songs about death than I thought.
1. 'Cemetery Gates' by Pantera
2. 'Don't Fear the Reaper' by Blue Oyster Cult
3. 'The End' by the Doors/'The Air-Conditioned Nightmare' by Mr. Bungle
4. 'Street Spirit (Fade Out)' by Radiohead/'Don't You Cry' by Kamelot
5. 'Take the Veil, Cerpin Taxt' by The Mars Volta/'Moonlight Shadow' by Mike Oldfield

EDIT: Shit... this makes me want to see all the other songs about Death I like.
'Hurt' by Nine Inch Nails
'Swim Good' by Frank Ocean
'The Cool' by Lupe Fiasco
'Would?' by Alice in Chains
'I Die' by Daniele Liverani feat. Daniel Gildenlow
'Not Dark Yet' by Bob Dylan
'The Unforgiven' by Metallica
'Hallowed Be Thy Name' by Iron Maiden
'A Question of Heaven' by Iced Earth
'Wait and Bleed' by Slipknot
'Because of You' by Nickelback <- Yea, I get to have my guilty pleasures, same as you.

1. 'Hell's Kitchen' by Dream Theater
2. 'Astronomy' (Cult Classic version) by Blue Oyster Cult
3. 'Limelight' by Rush
4. 'Achilles Last Stand' by Led Zeppelin
5. '3 Libras' by A Perfect Circle

1. Winona Ryder
2. Eva Green
3. Carla Gugino
4. Veronica Mars - yea, okay she don't exist. So?
5. The subject of Dream Theater's 'Space-Dye Vest' - If only to figure out why Kevin Moore went so crazy, he quit the band.

C'mon, yo!!!

1. Stunt Performer
2. Radio DeeJay
3. Film Director
4. Journalist
5. Session Musician/Drum Tech*

*I will gladly be a drum tech to the following living drummers I look up to and admire: Mike Portnoy, Stewart Copeland, Neil Peart, Terry Bozzio, Carter Beauford, Dave Lombardo, Matt Cameron, Danny Carey, Tim Alexander, Mike Mangini, Ginger Baker, Josh Freese or Ian Paice. Call me!

1. 'Everlong' by Foo Fighters
2. 'Good Times Bad Times' by Led Zeppelin
3. 'Scene Six: Home' by Dream Theater
4. 'Grace' by Jeff Buckley
5. 'One' by Metallica

1. Buckethead - Electric Tears
2. Dream Theater - A Change of Seasons
3. Foo Fighters - Foo Fighters
4. Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
5. Incubus - Make Yourself/Sponge - Rotting Pinata

1. Led Zeppelin
2. Foo Fighters
3. Blue Oyster Cult
4. Dream Theater
5. Buckethead

1. Wu-Tang Clan
2. Lupe Fiasco
3. Kanye West
4. Run-DMC
5. Public Enemy

Now, on for the real focus of this brief, extremely self-indulgent post...

1. Well-selected soundtrack
2. Relatable protagonist
3. Adequate performances from the cast
4. Full of spirit and mood
5. Makings of a cult hit

1. A lot of jokes weren't too funny - at least to me. There seemed to be an attitude behind the humor I couldn't appreciate.
2. Sort of formulaic romantic comedy.
3. Nothing really comes out cinematically. Dialogue focused film, but that's a bit flawed.
4. It's a product of its setting and hence kind of dated.
5. Despite witty script, largely episodic rather than grounded as a plot.

I give it a 6.5 out of 10. Could be better but still worth a watch.

Yeah, I actually think that girl was right... I do make too many lists. O.O

Wipe that smile off your smug face, Po.

Monday, October 15, 2012

괴물 (The Host) (Bong, 2006) - OCTOBER IS HORROR

What do you get when you mix the threat of Godzilla, the family dysfunctionality from Malcolm in the Middle, the genre-bending of Shaun of the Dead, the earnest humor of Sam Raimi's work and the bureaucratic apathetic nightmare of Brazil? Well, if you mix it perfectly, you get The Host, one of my favorite horror/comedies to ever come across my eyes.

It's not secret to most of my friends that I'm pretty in love with most of what Korean cinema offers me, with little exception. Park Chan-wook is one of my favorite directors and the cinematography of most of the Korean pictures I've seen, Kodak fascinations into horrifying circumstances, inspires much of how I try to make my movies and construct my shots (though, I'm barely even able to touch that quality). Let alone the fantastic and imaginative stories these movies tell, most of all present in the movie I'm about to review. I'm surprised I still haven't seen any South Korean music videos... wait, a minute, no!

Anyway, so my experience with this movie goes wayyy back to high school. In between my usual unsavory activities, I actually attended my high school. And one of my best friends and I, we'd introduce each other to different items of pop culture. At least, I'd attempt to, he'd rarely open up to anything. On the other hand, he introduced me to several things, like Wu-Tang Clan, Megadeth without Dave Mustaine's douchery and, my favorite guitarist, Buckethead (Hey, if you read this post, wanna score one of my movies? *grin*). After exposing him to Oldboy (Park, 2003), this old-school Godzilla fan expresses anticipation for the North American release of another South Korean picture called The Host. This was before Stephanie Meyer used that name for another of her novels, so I had no bad connotation with the name and I got interested but never  got around to seeing it in theaters.

After attempting to find a 'working' copy for four years, I move to 2010, when I find one in the library and figure 'meh, I'm game, yo.' What followed was a story that I could not stop watching until the end.

The movie follows the Park family, who seem to be barely making it through life by working a snack-bar near the Han River. Our protagonist, Gang-du (the immensely talented Song Kang-ho), helps his father Hee-bong (Byong Hee-bong - whose appearance really comes off to be as a Korean John Huston) deliver the beer and octopus legs to the groups of people who come by the river everyday. Of course, Gang-du is sort of dim and eats some of the food or just screws up orders. Worst, he's in charge of his daughter, Hyun-seo (Ko Ah-seong), the mother being nowhere in sight. Hyun-seo tolerates her situation but doesn't hide his displeasure with it. It's the usual single father-estranged child plotline. Sprinkled with an alcoholic brother who doesn't care about anything anymore Nam-il (Park Hae-il).

The family's situation is not all that bad, though. They do have a sister who is a national archer, Nam-joo (and is portrayed by the beautiful Bae Doona, so I give that a plus). Except her last televised performance is sort of a letdown to her following. And the situation goes back to bad when a huge monster comes out from the Han River and devastates the place, eating everyone in sight and destroying the park...

Wait, let's back up. This series of events was put into play 6 years earlier when a US army doctor - played by Scott Wilson, whom I recognized from another favorite horror-comedy Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, old folks'll recognize from In Cold Blood and everybody else would recognize from the current television hit The Walking Dead - forces his assistant to dump a significant amount of formaldehyde into the Han River. Apparently that formaldehyde got on something and left a pretty bad situation for the people in the above clip.

Especially the Park family when Hyun-seo is kidnapped by the creature and every survivor from the Han River incident is quarantined by the government. The same government responsible for this fiasco. They're held this way until Gang-du receives a call from his daughter (who ironically earlier on complained about he cell's service), figures out she's alive and tries get the rest of the family to escape the center, battle the monster and attempt to save their daughter and the young friend she found in her captivity as well.

It's unique story of the kind where the Japanese people might find themselves on their own and have to deal with Mothra or Godzilla on their own, if only for the sake that they are the only compassionate ones in the picture. The Park family gets taken advantage of all throughout this conflict but they also show their wit and companionship to be a strength among them. The genre mixing (horror, comedy, drama, thriller, action) is not as obvious when watching it - it doesn't go onto parody. Instead, it layers it all into one so that the conventions blend together and allow for us to see satire and commentary on South Korea's handling of things and on how people in general react to exaggeration. 

Well, I mean, I'd hardly think the beast is exaggerated.
Part of the humor comes from the fact the monster is just as much a screw-up as the Park family is. Just look at his movements, he's slipping and sliding, rolling and tumbling all over the place. Can't even stand up straight. But he's still a killer and he's still got some bad intentions for the people of the town - among which a rumor goes around that the monster is a host of a deadly virus...

The colors of the movie, while present in the initial Han River park attack, are eventually washed away, leaving some really good shots for when the family is fighting the creature or the government, or the daughter is trying to find a new passage of escape, but also mainly focusing on the quieter moments between the family, when they put their differences and arguments aside if only to make sure they have one more member still alive to argue with. The real character of the movie is its bittersweetness, its eventual acceptance of circumstances which make their mission harder but still move them to push on. This mood especially comes to its peak in the end, but whatever's left of the characters (Oh yeah, it's not gory at all, but this is still a very violent movie) have grown up from their journey and have a new sense of pride. They're still a family after going through the grinder.

That's deep, bro!

Yeah, I like some pretty ammoral movies but I also really enjoy movies with heart. I enjoy movies that don't like making that heart too apparent even more. The Host happens to be the in the latter and so it really gets an appreciation from me. It's a monster movie, but it's still a family movie too. I'd probably have no trouble watching it with kids of my own (well, maybe it might scare them but at least there's no big blood or any nudity in it).  Yep. That's a movie, I tell ya. A warm intense monster chase through a South Korean park. That's a movie for my good sensibility.

I give this movie a 9.5 out of 10. It's not entirely accessible if you're unwilling to invest yourself into the 2-hour movie, but if you take the time to do so, hey, it's a huge pleasure.

I am extremely pleased now to find that so many of the South Korean directors I loved are now being accepted in Hollywood. Kim Ji-woon (director of A Tale of Two Sisters, The Good the Bad and the Weird and I Saw the Devil) has taken charge of Arnold Schwarzenegger's big come-back picture The Last Stand. The director of this movie and Memories of a Murder, Bong Joon-ho, is now taking a largely English-picture with Chris Evans and Jamie Bell about travelers in a world of snow. But my absolute favorite director of the South Korean modern movement, Park Chan-wook, of the Vengeance trilogy, JSA, Thirst, and I'm a Cyborg but That's OK, is directing an American thriller written by Prison Break-star Wentworth Miller about an uncle moving in with a family called Stoker which I'm looking forward to.

But before you see any of these, I really urge you to check out the early South Korean works to see just what these guys are made of. For the most part, they're all unique and enjoyable and wonderful, even if some (like I Saw the Devil and the Vengeance trilogy) will be a bit hard to stomach.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Sweep - 2012 additions; Drive (Refn, 2011); Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alfredson, 2011); The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Fincher, 2011); The Tree of Life (Malick, 2011); The Descendants (Payne, 2011); Hugo (Scorsese, 2011); The Artist (Hazanavicius, 2011)

So, as novel as it may seem, I partake in sometimes selecting the movies I watch via the collection of short reviews known as 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and its genre spin-offs. There are some entries I disagree with, some I was pleasantly surprised at, a great deal I am totally in support of, and then a lot more discoveries I've never known to have existed. It's a great piece to keep track of for a cinema aficionado like I.

The book continuously updates with the times, adding and removing entries. To this day, it has had 1103 entries. I can't count how many I have seen. However, I have noticed the newest sweep of movies added to the 2012 edition. They are as follows.

  • Senna (Kapadia, 2010)
  • Le Havre (Kaurismäki, 2011)
  • Shame (McQueen, 2011)
  • The Tree of Life (Malick, 2011)
  • Le Gamin au Vélo [The Kid with a Bike] (Dardenne/Dardenne, 2011)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Fincher, 2011)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alfredson, 2011)
  • Drive (Refn, 2011)
  • War Horse (Spielberg, 2011)
  • جدایی نادر از سیمین [A Separation] (Farhadi, 2011)
  • Bridesmaids (Feig, 2011)
  • The Descendants (Payne, 2011)
  • Hugo (Scorsese, 2011)
  • The Artist (Hazanavicius, 2011)
I will only be reviewing the pictures I have seen and I will be doing them in short paragraphs in order to wrap down the possible reviews (most of them I only have little to say, unfortunately, but it also allows for this efficient style of sweep-reviewing). The movies I've seen are The Tree of Life, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (which I actually just saw a few hours ago), Drive (in my DVD collection), The Descendants, Hugo and The Artist (also in my DVD collection).
Let's begin.

The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick is always given his due as an extraordinarily visionary director. I'm still in awe over Days of Heaven. His cinematography just flaunt the fact that he will not settle for less than perfect. The tale is not as perfect, however. It seems a hammered-down pretension of supposed universal truths. Certainly ambitious, but not totally encompassing as it hoped to be. Prometheus (Scott, 2012) and The Fountain (Aronofsky, 2006) are both pictures that left more than a few questions left unanswered and yet still attacked their subject hard enough to have the audience dig on their own. The Tree of Life was a bit more tedious in this aspect. However, I do appreciate its inclusion in the list and give it an 8/10.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I can't outright say this movie was bad. But I don't see it's inclusion important. As a story, its theme in the unfair treatment of women in Sweden (and other countries) is quite an issue to tango around with, and it brutally makes us face these facts. But the story also seems more than half self-indulgent on the part of the late author, Stieg Larsson. In addition, the remaking was just a 'Let Me In' style job, only this time on a movie I didn't care about in the first place. Despite preferring the relationship between the two leads in the Swedish version, I preferred the American picture more unashamedly. But there are problems with the fact that the delivery was too polished (even with great performances from Rooney Mara and Yorick van Wageningen) and the fact that this is an inherently Swedish tale that should have been left Swedish and it leaves me feeling sort of like this movie shared the pointlessness of The Amazing Spider-Man and the Star Wars prequel trilogy, despite its cinematic merit. I do appreciate that, despite the attempts to not have the film Americanized, most of the actors felt smarter than hashing about a poor Swedish accent and chose to use their real voice.
I give it a 6/10.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Much like Kurosawa's Ran, the length of the picture proved tedious but eventually proves by the third act to be incredibly rewarding an experience. With the exception of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Ironically the only Harry Potter movie I enjoy), I never am disappointed by Gary Oldman's delivery in any movie, good or bad. But he's equally supported by an intelligent and intense actors, like Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Hurt, Toby Jones and so on. A story that plays off like a game of poker the way this does relied on the performances to hold off the secretive atmosphere and it pulled this very well off. I do have a supposition, though, as to the choice of director, Tomas Alfredson (director of Let the Right One In - speaking of Let Me In from the previous review) is a Swedish filmmaker. Before he was hired, Park Chan-Wook, a Korean filmmaker and one of my favorite directors, was offered the director's chair. It seemed like they focused on a foreign eye for this picture (possibly for a center on shot construction rather than the usual 100% dialogue and acting focus most British filmmakers tend to give), which is somewhat weird given that this is, much like Dragon Tattoo is a downset Swedish story, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a British story. It would also hinder the production aspect, since I doubt the British government would give to much access to a non-citizen.
I give the movie a 7 out of 10 and have no opinion towards its inclusion in the list.

Drive (My Favorite Movie of 2011)

Oh hell yes, this movie was an experience, both entertaining and uncomfortably psychological. Ryan Gosling's brilliant performance gave his unnamed character a balance of creepy and fascinating that made us fear what was the next thing he was going to do. It's a romantic film in a sense as well, since despite the bad things he does all over the movie, it's only to make sure Carey Mulligan's character and her son live an easy life free from all the organized crime her husband dragged into their home. Albert Brooks, whom I'd only been familiar with previously for Finding Nemo and The Simpsons, matched Gosling's monster by showcasing a sympathetic, remorseful villain who hates what he does, looks forward to leaving his crime behind and becoming legit, but finds himself unlucky and having to take care of business. And Ron Perlman, my oh my, I love this actor in everything he does. But I have never seen him so pathetic and so useless, he's a screw-up trying to prove himself a gangster in all the wrong ways.
Nevermind the elements of cinematography and editing that give us a familiarity and then reel us back in horror at the events of the movie. The first half, every moment with Bryan Cranston's character or between the Driver and Irene was just shot as such a personal level, we love these people. And then the real violence begins and we figure out this was not the character we thought the Driver was. And if you're not hooked into the movie by the very first car chase scene, you, sir, are just a lost case. 'Course the soundtrack was a bit off-putting... but hey, at least they picked some funky tracks.
I give the movie a 9.5 out of 10. And in case you couldn't tell, am extremely enthusiastic about its entry.
Wow, this was longer than I thought it'd be.

The Descendants

This was a pleasant surprise of a movie. I started watching it not knowing at all what it was about. But it was a very warm picture that gently and humorously delivered a message of forgiveness and coping with loss. The two young lead actresses did really well and George Clooney has a habit of selecting stories to tell that are engaging no matter how ordinary they may seem. The character of Sid (who I could've sworn was Beans from Even Stevens - but it's not) sort of was annoying, but he proved his use. What really surprised me, other than the masterwork of a script (good on you Payne, Faxon, Rash and Hemmings!) was Matthew Lillard's performance. For an actor whose notable roles lie primarily on a method of subtle exaggeration, his performance was human. Absolutely human. It's not surprising that he can act - SLC Punk! has proven his stripes, but that he can elicit regret and get sympathy from the audience without trying to be funny or do some sort of standard actor method was very impressive.
I give the movie an 8 out of 10 and support its addition.


I have a cinephile crush on nearly everything Scorsese does. He seems without a doubt the most versatile filmmaker I can see around. Most other master filmmakers have a signature that signifies the movie in question is of their making. Scorsese doesn't make it that obvious. However, there is something outright about Hugo that does not make it seem even remotely a Scorsese picture. This may be due to the fact that the movie is intended not just as a tribute to Georges Melies, the father of cinema, but to the imaginations and efforts of filmmakers everywhere. It's a magic realism, a fantastical adventure grounded in and around a train station, so it mythologizes the focus of the picture a whole lot more. I regret however that I have not been able to see the movie in theaters and so have not seen it in its full 3D potential. One day. Maybe they can recut it without Sacha Baron Cohen (even though I like him as a comedian), he was a little bit too much of a silly aspect, even with their attempt around the third act to give him some sympathy.
I give the movie an 8 out of 10 and support its addition.

The Artist

Unless the movie is pretty terrible (*cough*Shakespeare in Love*cough*), it's usually inevitable that the Best Picture winner will be included into this list. Which in this particular case, is fine by me because The Artist is quite a blast. I'm always welcoming to a movie about Hollywood and what it was built on, whether positive (Hell yeah, Singin' in the Rain) or pessimistic (Hell yeah, Sunset Boulevard). This movie is not on any substantial level of legacy just yet, but it can certainly give the Test of Time a hell of a shake. It's energetic, it's challenging, it's a story of ups and downs and it features a great animal star this side of Lassie. Jean Dujardin himself is probably the greatest thing to happen to the movie, despite its many great other talents, showcasing his several skills of expression and dance the same way a skating video displays the great heights of its star's abilities. It's Hollywood, man.
I give this movie a 9 out of 10 and support its addition.

Anyway, those are the ones I've seen so far. I've been very much meaning to see Shame and A Separation. I am somewhat surprised of the inclusion of Bridesmaids. I suppose it's the Hangover-effect of such a raunchy comedy to take back the genre from the tween-friendly PG-13 ratings, sprinkled with real breakout comedic work. But, I don't know, I'll probably need to see it first. Just glad Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close isn't added. Odin, that was Oscar-bait.

Additions I would've considered myself.
  • 악마를 보았다 [I Saw the Devil] (Kim, 2010) - For being one of the most intense non-horror pictures I've ever seen, a study in where the means justify the ends of revenge, emptiness and the return of the uncanny Min-Sik Choi to the mainstream acting of South Korean cinema.
  • The Green Hornet (Gondry, 2011) - For its stylistic treatment and irreverent atmosphere of a source material some would already call hokey.
  • Source Code (Jones, 2011) - For re-defining how modern audiences treat the science fiction genre and reorganizing its structure of plot and time as a sort of 'video game' for lack of a better word.
  • Hesher (Sussman, 2011) - For being a vulgar picture with heart and the lead character portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
  • Super 8 (Abrahms, 2011) - For its throwback to Spielberg and its point of view towards a normally frightening situation turned to childlike fascination.
  • Midnight in Paris (Allen, 2011) - A novel invention and creative story delivered from our favorite neurotic, Woody Allen.
Thank you.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Geometria (Del Toro, 1987) - OCTOBER IS HORROR

So, while looking up Mexican Visonary Guillermo Del Toro's early picture Cronos (which I intend to find a library copy of and watch soon), I discovered that he has a very much earlier short picture that he made in 1987 called Geometria (Geometry). So far and disappointingly, my downward mood and events in my life have led me to only see one horror movie this month, Spielberg's ever adventurous stalker shark picture Jaws (one of my favorite movies for so many reasons). This premise itself sounded unusually wacky for a Del Toro picture, whose works (the masterpiece Pan's Labyrinth, Cronos, The Devil's Backbone, etc.) usually center on anti-establishment, fantastical escapism and insane designs bordering between the modern and ancient that you really don't see these days. The closest thing to silliness that the man has made was the Hellboy series and well-enough, he gave it such a human treatment - especially with the two inhuman leads, with help from the surprisingly magnanimous (in consideration of his numerous villain roles) Ron Perlman and the master of movement dynamics Doug Jones - that we can treat it as a relatable tale of not letting how you came unto the world define who you are as a person (possible racial message? or broken home? Maybe I'm reading too much into it) while the second Hellboy picture was classic Del Toro in design and treatment, in the same way Batman Returns was Tim Burton's self-indulgence. Granted, Blade II was not really one of those Del Toro pieces, but I just treat that one as a bad movie I really like anyway.

One of my favorite filmmakers.
Look at him, he's just one of us. Another nerd who loves what he does.

So, when I hear Del Toro's short was about a high school kid (Fernando Garcia Marin) who summons a demon to keep himself from failing geometry, I'm wondering how Del Toro's going to treat it like a social piece like he does with any movie he makes. Sure, enough I find the director's cut (in Spanish, a language I don't understand, but I trust in Del Toro's visual language to keep watching anyway) on YouTube and find that it's completely farcical yet still enjoyable. Del Toro had fun with it, it's like a comic book by Dario Argento is how it is. There's a really funny little movie-in-a-movie that the boy's mother (played by Guadalupe del Toro - I don't know if she has a relation to Guillermo at all, possibly his mother) watches in the other room that happens to be a bootlegged version of the Exorcist, complete with an obnoxious all-synthesizer rendering of Mike Oldfield's 'Tubular Bells'. The bubblegum chewing demon of the picture, despite being played by a man - Rodrigo Mora, seems to himself be a throwback to the Pazuzu-possessed character by Linda Blair.

Qué un día excelente para un examen de geometría.
I so wish that were a line in the movie.
Halfway through the picture, a zombie version of the kid's dad, looking like something out of a 50s Science Fiction Monster movie, comes in and the fakest, least gory style kills the mother to the ominous 80s synthesizer score. It's laughably bad and yet really great to see how imaginative Del Toro was even at his roots to treat this demon story with such a homage-riding yet inspired style that fits the content so very well. The Super 8 footage of the movie's rendering and the red and blue shadowy cinematography of Mario Bava's wet dreams beg this movie to have some kind of an old-school VHS release, which I know will never happen but one can dream. Eventually, I found a youtube version (a 9-minute original version that Del Toro reportedly did not like) with English subtitles and was able to follow the story more thoroughly than what I already could tell.

The twist of the film, despite leading to an extremely grim ending, was enjoyably novel. That was creative writing on their part and I found myself chuckling along with the demon when he delivered the facts that sealed the fates of the other characters. I couldn't help it. It was ironic, I'm sure you'd all do the same.

All things said and done, this short I'd give a 8 out of 10. Considering where it started and what kind of a filmmaker eventually came out of it, it's a treat to see, particularly on a month which I made a habit of watching horror movies. It's not perfect, but in my eyes, it's very very close. Fun fact: Despite my current mathematical status, I failed my freshman geometry course once (out of sheer laziness), so I somewhat relate.

I have a friend whose favorite movie, from what I understand, is Pan's Labyrinth. Who could argue with that? Anyway, he mentioned that if he ever met Del Toro, he would ask him why his movies are so depressing. I personally disagreed, mentioning that he seems to show great sympathy for the characters in his movies (even sometimes the villains) and my friend rebutted that with a particularly good argument on the editing and shot choices in Pan's Labyrinth. Then we both humorously mused on whether or not he realized it, given his usual jolly manner and subtle humor in many of his pictures despite the horrific themes, and how he'd react to such a question and it ended up somewhat like 'I had no idea they were depressing... huh.'

'I will look into it and address this issue.'
Geometria can be watched at this link. In the case that any of the individuals involved in the ownership or creation of the short film see this and ask me to remove the link (possibly to salvage sales for Cronos' Criterion release), I will politely oblige on request.