Monday, December 10, 2012

Rise of the Guardians: Mythical Creatures Just Got Bad-ass

A kid's movie? Me? I know. Shocking.

So with all of the special effects, violence, and testosterone-filled flicks these days, it's no wonder when sometimes kids movies get a little beefed up. In the case of Rise of the Guardians (which I keep getting mixed up with Legends of the Guardians, which is a very different movie...) the formula actually works pretty well. While many have tried before to make Santa Claus a little less jolly and a bit more deep, there are innumerable times when this representation of the jolly gift-giver seriously and atrociously fails. However in this movie, I was impressed to find how likable the characters remain, and how many mythical beings get a little more limelight.

It's The Avengers for kids!

The story revolves around Jack Frost, who, in a nut shell, can make things really cold. Giving little kids Snow Days and causing minor mayhem is his favorite, and he loves to help little kids have fun on their days off from school. The only problem with Jack, though, is that no child can see him. In an interestingly accurate presentation, kids do not acknowledge Jack Frost because they have never heard of him. And in the world of the film, if a child does not believe in a mythical creature, they can't see them. Which is where the conflict in the film comes in.

If you can't see this picture, then you don't believe in Jack Frost.

Pitch Black, also referred to as just "Pitch" (which had me chortling in my seat cuz it sounded like they were saying somethin' else...), is the mythical creature known as the boogie man. Being a little uncomfortably scary, even for me, he has been unseen by children for decades. The dude gets fed up with being invisible and starts a war with the mythical creatures so that they will feel his pain. His mayhem stirs up many problems in the mythical creatures' worlds, and without the unfailing faith of children, their extinction knocks at the door. DUN DUN DUUUNNNN.

He's like Saruman for kids!

The mythical creatures in this flick include Santa Claus (voiced by Alec Baldwin), a robust, tattooed man with a strong Russian accent; the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman), a spry guy with an Australian accent and a boomerang; the Tooth Fairy (voiced by Isla Fisher), a class-A spaz that looks to be half hummingbird; the Sandman, adorably short and mute, who uses his golden dust to communicate with his buds; and Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), who always looks freezing (d'oh ho but seriously, he made me cold). All of these creatures have such strong and separate personalities, the film ends up working quite well. Even though they all seem to be a little more human than most illustrations have depicted them in the past, this works for the film. Instead of softy things, they really pack a punch, and are not going down without a fight. And, quite, honestly, their reality makes them even funnier.


Of course the cutest thing, as with all movies involving holiday icons, is the purity of the belief of children that these things exist. When all looks lost, one child's faith in the Easter bunny is what ends up saving them all. And the fact that today kids are still choosing to believe in things like Santa (probably the easiest one), the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and even Jack Frost, I'm sure, after this movie, really warms my heart. Even if these versions are more built to be fighters than the classic representations.

Sweet movie that was hugely entertaining. Highly recommend.

8 outa 10.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Potiche: Who Thought Feminism Could Be So Adorable?

Chaque fois que je regarde un filme francais, je veux depenser la reste du jour en parlant francais. Mais. Bon. Excusez-moi. Tout la reste serais en anglais.*

Vive la France.

So I went to the gym today for the first time in about a month, and you know what that means. Yes, yes, more movies for me to feast my eyes upon so I can endure a half hour on the elliptical, yay!

Today's unexpected gem was a French film called Potiche (roughly translates to "Trophy Wife"). Probably the most adorable movie about politics that I have ever seen. Taking place in 1977, a French housewife named Madame Pujol (Poo-jole, guys) is called upon to take over her husband's umbrella factory.  Her husband, quite unwell following his kidnapping by members of the umbrella factory union, lays dormant for three months while she manages the factory's inner workings. Usually spending her time taking care of a household and writing poems, Madame Pujol is unused to the business world, but takes to it easily. The efficiency with which she manages the umbrella factory in her husband's absence causes the greedy guy to take extreme measures to win it back for himself. What she does as a result is pretty cool.

Also, jeez, look how amazing Catherine Deneuve still looks???

This was a great film for feminism. It adresses the fact that men and women are different, but that sometimes this can be a good thing. Madame Pujol loves beauty and has a definite sense of humanity, two things that her husband definitely lacks. She also helps the factory run smoothly as a result of her respect for everyone, and by finding a job that suits everyone's personalities. Even though she begins the movie as a sort of absent-minded housewife, she ends if as a powerful contender for the political community. Pretty cool for the 70's. Additionally, hints to her indiscretions as a younger housewife remind the audience that sometimes women and men are very much alike, if not always viewed by society in the same light. While her husband traipses around town with different girls on his arm and even has an affair with his secretary, Mme Pujol is so discreet about her own that her husband literally does not believe her.

Who's infidele now, bitch?

I also love the nostalgic spin on the filming style. Dual shots fill the screen as we see her jogging towards the camera in one shot above another side shot of her feet running. The beginning of the film also is very bright and very opulent, calling to mind the movies of the 60's, while the latter half brings attention to the workers and to the reality of what things are. The music is cute, too.

Also these two dance on a lit-up disco floor. Frealz.

All around good fun and important message. Love Catherine Deneuve as Madame Pujol and Gerard Depardieu as Babin, the leader of the umbrella union. I so rarely find French films that aren't heartbreakingly sad or extremely dramatic, but I LOVED how cute and meaningful Potiche ended up being. See it now, kthanks.

*Every time I watch a French movie, I want to spend the rest of the day speaking French. But. Ok. Sorry. The rest will be in English.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hitchcock: The Kinda Sorta Making of Psycho

Had the fortune to see the latest celebrity biopic, one so named Hitchcock in a (somewhat rare) double feature opportunity. The Philadelphia Film Society was offering a screening of Hitchcock followed by a screening of Psycho, the movie whose making Hitchcock loosely follows. They were like "Hey, ya wanna see this?" and I was like "Psh, yeah."

Heh, this guy

So. Plot. What was the plot of Hitchcock? Basically, it follows what occurred before, during, and after the filming of Psycho, a revolution in the horror genre of the 60's. This includes, but is not limited to, problems in production funding, problems in Hitchcock's marriage, problems with the story, problems with the actors, and just general problems.

I have a confession to make: I didn't love this movie.

For one thing, I have discovered that I may be too much of a nerd to take the dramatized flavor of celebrity biopics (unless they're, y'know, political, in which case I need all the drama I can get). When it came to this film, I walked away wondering how much was improvised, how accurate the acting was, and a thousand other things that could've been more easily answered by a cut-and-dry documentary.

Certified badass.

What bugged me about this movie was that I walked out of the movie theatre with about as much information about Alfred Hitchcock as I had had upon walking in. Obviously he was disturbed a little, look at his repertoire. No news there, movie buffs. Psycho is about a murderer who is obsessed with his mother. Marnie is about the effects of childhood trauma. Rope is about two boys that murder their friend and have a dinner party on top of his body, which is stored in a chest. How could this director not have a few dark thoughts?

Don't let his belly fool you, he is not jolly like Santa.

The things that were cool about Hitchcock, though, were the things I learned about the problems in production and how much of an ace his wife, Alma, was. Though the movie claims through its title that it is about the great director Alfred Hitchcock, it is just as equally about his wife. Helping Alfred throughout the production of Psycho from mortgaging their home for the funds with which to make it, proofreading the script, and helping him with the structure of the plot, she really is one of the huge players that made Psycho the tremendous success that it was.

A poster I wish I'd seen more of

The one thing that I liked about this was the personalities of both Hitchcock and Alma. Their sense of humor makes the whole movie worth watching (in addition to the beautiful colors of 1960). Between their witty repartees and their laughing at the truly grotesque, they do add a little bite of humor to the otherwise semi-dreary subjects of their shaky marriage and production woes.

I dunno, the whole film left a bit of an incomplete taste in my mouth. Very cool, but not horribly educational if you are looking to learn about the director himself. The movie offers you a scope of Hitchcock's life, the progress of his film, and the life of his wife.

Interesting, but I'd rather nerd out with a documentary.

6 outa 10.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Rid of Me: When Bro Things Happen to Good People

So since I have been confined to my room for the past three days as a result of what appears to be the lovechild of the flu virus and a sinus infection, what else to do but what new movies? I stumbled upon this film Rid of Me in my Rate Movies tab on Netflix and it was a really interesting watch.

Meris and Mitch have just moved to Oregon (Mitch's hometown specifically) after being married for a little over a year in California. Meris, a little socially awkward, is having trouble fitting in with Mitch's group of friends, who I can only describe as a troupe of raging assholes. Instead of being kind to Meris as new member of their friend circle, they alienate her and focus only on getting Mitch back as a member of their elite friend team. When Mitch asks her for a divorce to pursue his old high school sweetheart, Meris completely reinvents herself as a punk rock badass with the help of her friend, Trudy.

Timid, housewife Meris.

This movie started off with a bang, and a really graphic first image. Hearing that Mitch and Briann (the high school sweetheart) are going to have a baby, Meris throws caution to the winds and humiliates Briann in public. Like...really horrendously. But once this action happens through the movie's course of events, you really don't feel sorry for her at all. Let me explain...

Badass Meris.

So the awful (and really fascinating) thing about this movie is learning what constitutes a good person and a bad person. Mitch's awful friends classify Meris as a socially awkward weakling with no place in their group and with this "group think" Mitch starts to agree with them. But the most horrible thing about Mitch and his friends is that to most bystanders they seem like upstanding citizens. They all dress nice, they go out for social events together, they play sports, and they're all nice to each other. By contrast, Meris's new punk friends seem like aliens to them. And while some of the things that Meris's new crew do are a little extreme, it's obvious that they are all open to new things, fiercely protective of their new friend, and have an appreciation for her that we never seem to see from Mitch's side, even when they're married.

Only the strong can survive douchebaggery.

I also really loved the way that this is filmed. It looks like it's filmed with a handheld camera and Meris has a way of looking at the camera with such a vulnerability that you can immediately be in every situation that she is in.

A really interesting commentary about the importance of fitting in for some people, and the imperativeness of being yourself.

8 outa 10 stars folks. Watch at your own risk!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wreck It Ralph: The World's Most Endearing Bad Guy

Pixar, how do I love thee?
Let me count the ways:
Your mastery of humor
For kids and adults the same,
While dazzling us with great effects
The result is never lame.

O Pixar, thou great beacon
In the sea of dark,
Where stupid animation
And potty jokes live,
Make our movies great again
With HD, humanity, and wit.

I mean, really there was no other way to express my love for this sweet production company. Wreck-It Ralph is nothing but awesome. Compared with Pixar's other sentimentally heartbreaking movies (anyone else have puffy eyes for days after seeing Up?), this one was pleasant, sweet, and ADORABLE. What's cuter than a big hulking clumsy guy who just wants a hug (says the girl who dates a tender-hearted, 6'4 ex-offensive lineman). It is absolutely impossible to single out any one thing about this movie without busting out a great big smile. Feel-good awesomeness, ladies and gentlemen.

Seriously, this has fun written all over it.

As I'm sure everyone in this country has seen from the trailer, the plot follows Ralph, an unhappy bad guy in a game called Fix-It Felix Jr. The game revolves around Ralph wrecking an apartment complex and his good guy counterpart Fix-It Felix being controlled by the player to fix all the damage that he has done. At the end of each game, Ralph is thrown from the top of the apartment complex into a mud puddle on the ground. As we learn in the beginning, Ralph is upset that he gets treated poorly by the other characters in the game and just wants some recognition (and also a medal....or a pie...).

I mean, who doesn't want a pie? (Happy Thanksgiving by the way, guys!)

After a confrontation at the anniversary party of his game, Ralph goes AWOL and sets off to find a medal to prove to the others in his game that he's not all bad. On this mission, Ralph visits a game that looks like a cross between Halo and the movie Starship Troopers, and then another game that looks like a cross between Mario Kart and Candy Land.

Kandy Kart?

The structure of the plot revolves around learning how to accept people that aren't like ourselves. While Ralph bonds with a glitch named Vanellope Von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman, brilliant.), Felix gets close with a strong-willed commander of the game Hero's Duty. Facing opposition from the other characters in her game, Vanellope knows what its like to be an outcast and she and Ralph form a snarky yet loving friendship. As for Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer, genius.) he learns that bad guys aren't always necessarily bad guys.


Clever clever dialogue, some tearjerker moments (I mean, come on, what'd you expect?), and some hilariously awesome characters (look for the devil dogs that help King Candy, I was cracking up). I think Nick and I were laughing harder than the majority of the children in the packed audience. (Also, a bit off topic, but it was so nice to sit in a full theatre for once! So often it's me and Nick and like ten other people...)

So many fellow cinephiles!

The Pixar moniker has triumphed once more. Get your butt out there and remember what movie magic was like during the golden years of Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast.

10 outa 10. Pixar, you keep on keepin' on!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Silent Hill 2: The Hill Just Got More Silenter

Huh. Interesting. Maybe it's because I only saw the first installment of this movie last week and hadn't quite processed its themes yet, but this movie didn't make any sense. "Only once you destroy (and by destroy we mean join with) Alessa can Silent Hill be destroyed! Except it won't actually be destroyed! Mostly! Except for the one part of it! Because at the end a character decides to stay there! So what was the purpose of you coming here? We don't know! ....Look! A scary spider made of mannequins!"


So the film starts out with Alessa/Sharon/Heather being about 18 or something. Why the name change you ask? You find out about twenty minutes in. So (for those of you that have seen the original movie) the way they explain Sharon coming back without the mom is that the mom found a key into our dimension but that there was only room for one person to go through because half of the key was missing.

Observe: The key.

And Heather (aka Sharon) starts having these crazy dreams about all this stuff that's still going on in Silent Hill. She starts to hallucinate things going on around her reminiscent of the Silent Hill dimension, complete with Triangle-Hat Executioner Man and Saw-blade Arms Lady. So what does she do? She goes back to Silent hill of course! Where nothing but nonsensical weirdness ensues.

Also somewhere in Silent Hill they found a carnival.

So the problem with this movie is that it seems like someone was making it up as they went. "I think that Sharon should be back in our world and with the dad."
"Uhh...well she's with her mom right? Her mom helps her get out?"
"Uhhh, maybe there's like a hole in the dimension?"
"How would they reach this hole?"
"With a key...?"

The rest of the movie tries to carry a reason for everything, but each reason just seems like it's totally contrived. The whole plot doesn't really hold water and while the monsters are as interesting as ever, I was spending so much time trying evaluate what the heck was going on, the disturbing images kind of passed me by while I was asking Nick things like "Wait..why is that thing killing her? Who are all these people? Wait...what? I thought they all died in the first one?"

Even Sharon/Heather/Alessa/Margaret/Catherine/Thelma is confused.

Unfortunately, peeps, you'd be just as lost watching it if you had never even seen the first one. I would wait for this one to come out on Redbox or OnDemand.

2 outa 10.

PS It really bothers me when sequels have look-alike actors for children from their originals. Obviously they can't have the original kids but can't they just ex out the kids altogether?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Water Babies (a.k.a. What the Hell Did I Just Watch)

Started watching The Water Babies at the gym on my iPhone because my Netflix recommendations had been hounding me about it for a while and I am baffled at what I just watched.

In hindsight, this cover maybe should've been a hint...

The film starts out as a live action doodad set in London around the early 1800's. The main character is a boy named Tom, who we find out is a chimney sweep orphan working under the apprenticeship of Mr. Grimes (how appropriate) and his buddy Mr. Masterman, whose purpose is a bit unclear. Mr. Grimes and Mr. Masterman set out to the Yorkshire countryside under the pretense of sweeping some lord's manor house chimneys. Unbeknownst to Tom, they have a plot to go in and steal a bunch of this lord's silver and make off with it. One thing leads to another and Tom ends up getting blamed for the stolen silver. After the only hilarious scene in this movie (which includes a lot of yelling "Stop! Thief!"), Tom runs away for fear of being captured and sent to the gallows. He jumps into some creek and ends up turning into a cartoon himself and making friends with sea creatures on his quest to find the "water babies", the people he's been told will get him home.

Nothing more clever than a Scottish lobster I always say...

So I was actually looking forward to this a little bit. After getting over the appearance of the cover, I was like "Oh! Cool! English period drama! My favorite!" and then with the introduction of the little boy, I was kind of like "Huh, you're voice is kind of weird. But sallying forth anyway!" After the appearance of George Banks from Mary Poppins (whose real name is apparently David Tomlinson), I got super excited and waited for the action to kick into high gear.


The minute the boy jumps in the water, the live action opulence is replaced with seriously broken animation. Being a fierce Disney fan, I was really disappointed at the lack of fluidity in the cartoons' motions. Not only that, but all of the characters are like a punch in the face of personality. I don't know if it's their weird facial expressions paired with the jumping frames that make them seem almost scary, or if it's their voices paired with their strange clothing, or if its the fact that they look like they've been drawn by a fifth grader, but there is something seriously awry here.

Also, I couldn't figure out if this sea horse was supposed to be gay or not

Additionally, the movie takes about 45 minutes before you even reach the cartoon bits and then the ending takes another half hour of live action. I bet any kid would be bored out his mind before being let down by the terrible songs and disappointing drawings.

In short, if you didn't get it at this point, I really didn't like this movie. It didn't make much sense, even for a kid's movie. Would've liked to see the whole thing as a live-action thing.

Actually, come to think of it, what was the point in making this a period drama? This could've easily been set in present day with more money going to the animation crews than the sets. Boo.

3 outa 10. And the only reason it's not a 2 is because of David Tomlinson. Who I now love.

My man.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cloud Atlas is...What Exactly?

Is it bad that I am more excited to see Tinkerbell's Secret of the Wings than I am to see Cloud Atlas? It just seems so...complex... I mean the movie has three different directors and four different writers. It's also three hours long. This is going to be more like an experience than just a film. Hope it can stand up to popular audiences. Critics on IMDB seem to think it's okay, giving it an 8.3 outa 10. Hmmm...we shall see.

I mean these don't seem to be even half the 
characters from what I've seen of the preview...

Looking forward to trying to figure that one out...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chernobyl Diaries: What a Disappointment

If you had a plot that revolved around a bunch of teens getting stuck in the Ukraine it would be pretty scary on its own. When you up the ante and make their precise location in the Ukraine the very spot of the biggest nuclear disaster in known history, you'd think that would be ample fodder for a decent scary movie.

I mean, this place has horror written all over it.

What you get instead with this film is a no-nonsense Jesse McCartney (yes. really.), his girlfriend, her friend and his idiotic brother wondering around an abandoned apartment complex/woods for a day and a half and getting attacked by mutant human beings that we never clearly see.

Yes. That we never clearly see.

Let me elaborate. Jesse--I mean, Chris (McCartney) and his girlfriend are traveling around Europe along with his girlfriend's friend Amanda, ultimately going to Ukraine to visit Chris's unruly older brother, Paul-the-Idiot. Paul-the-Idiot somehow ropes the whole group into going on a tour of Pripyat, the site of the Chernobyl disaster. How fun right!? Little do they know that the site is actually occupied with people that never got out and are now the equivalent of mindless zombies that only hunt for food. Or something. While they're definitely not friendly we never really find out what it is they are after.

Wanna know how I know you're gonna die? Haven't 
you guys ever seen Descent? NEVER take a picture.
Terrible luck.

I just cannot get over this missed opportunity. They could've had a gem like The Hills Have Eyes going on here, made twice as creepy by the bleak skies of Ukraine. Yet they sell the story short by making it vague and focusing too much on the drama between Chris-the-Valiant and Paul-the-Idiot. The creepiest thing about this film is the abandoned feel of the replicated Chernobyl site (which I'm betting they blew most of their budget on). Other than that it's a lot of over-acting by an aged pop sensation and a lot of people being dragged away to nowhere.

Woops, there goes another one

Admittedly, it's always difficult to make a movie out of a horrible disaster, no matter the genre. A film about a tremendous human tragedy cheapened by Hollywood gore and cheap jumps doesn't really seem right, and maybe they were timid about this in production. (Seriously, Google some of the pictures from the real-life radiation side effects. That shit is no joke. It's actually horrifying.) That being said, better to not make a movie at all than to make one as half-assed as this one feels. Shame on you, Bradley Parker. Shame on you.

Not terrible, but really such a waste of what could've been a really creepy and interesting plot.

4 outa 10. Womp womp.

Lovely Molly: I'm Both Scared and Really Confused

It is October, dear friends, and that means that everyone should be scanning the movies OnDemand for cheesy thrillers from the 60s, low-budget gore-fests from the 80s, and current horror flicks that fell under the radar. One such underrated recent film was what Nick and I ended up renting on Saturday night, called Lovely Molly.

Soooo I don't really know how to explain the plot of this one very well, but let's just go through the structure of what happens.

Nooormal, perfectly nooormal

Molly is a happy newlywed that moves into her parents' old house with her new husband.  Not long after they move in, strange things start happening. Something trips their burglar alarm and scares the crap out of Molly when she is investigating a noise downstairs. But to add to these strange happenings, certain changes start taking over Molly and make her behave bizarrely. Eluding to her father's abuse of her as a child and even her past use of drugs after his death, there is something deeply unsettling, and even perhaps demonic, about the spirit that is following Molly around. After being literally scared out of her mind (or maybe even possessed by this malevolent spirit) Molly reaches the point where she is doing things that simply are not normal. From attacking her husband to trying to introduce her dead father to him to the even more extreme measures she takes by the end of the film, Molly slowly is turning from herself into something else.

Maybe not doin' so good...

This movie is every film professor's dream. There is nothing concrete in terms of plot structure, yet the movie is deeply terrifying. Why? Maybe it's that old theory that something you can't see or understand is truly horrifying. Look at Paranormal Activity. Holy crap. Never been so scared in my life. Do you see anything? Nope! The same theory applies with Lovely Molly. Despite her (and your) mounting terror, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that she is anything but crazy until a shot near the end (which also scared the living daylights out of me). Even after taking a video camera to this spirit, the audience sees nothing that she claims to see. Her husband, her sister, and we don't see anything except for inanimate objects moved by this spirits energy (we assume).

And also the effects of her crazy

Maybe that's what's so creepy about this movie. She gets totally unglued for seemingly no reason. Yet you want to believe her and even sympathize with what she sees. The scary part of this movie is its power of suggestion, and boy does it work well.

4 outa 10, simply because of the muddled plot and the unclear occult symbols which never get explained. As a sidenote, probably a 6 or 7 outa 10 for scariness..

PS Just for the record, nothing is more unsettling than some weird chick roaming around a forest, spying on kids, and humming to herself.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sinister: Bughuul (With Cream Cheese...)

Well whadya know, a whole new month. I oughta be ashamed of myself. However, I have spent the better part of this month hounding new job opportunities and pulling my hair out and thus am not responsible for the slacking on the blog posts, as it were.

Now where was I?

Ah, yes.


Don't really know why they picked that title for this flick. Sometimes I feel like directors and script writers reach into a top hat full of scary words and just pick one. Sinister. Slither. Underworld. Suspiria (actually I have no idea what that means...but it sounds scary right?). Scream. So many one-words from which to choose. One-word titles are apparently pretty big. But I digress (as usual). This movie was actually pretty scary.

Now I'm kind of a baby about horror films. Honestly I only saw this one because there was a Q and A with the director and the writer of the film and I thought it would help me ground myself in the reality that there is no actual Boughoul (the Pagan demon in the film that, y'know, eats children's souls, nbd) and that hearing these words from the people in charge of the movie might help. Which it did. Sort of.

Me, sleeping that night

The plot revolves around Ellison, a true crime writer trying to make another best-seller, who moves his family into the house of a recently murdered family. Unbeknownst to them, however, (as no one but Ellison knows the house's history) there is something SINISTER lurking in the attic (see what I did there?). About a day into their new home, Ellison goes up to the attic to store a box there or something and stumbles upon an old box of Super 8 home movies.

You're doing it wrong...

Curious about these films, he begins to play them in his office downstairs, and discovers, to his horror, that they are home videos of entire families being murdered in various ways. Instead of revealing the tapes to the police, though, he decides to keep these films entirely to himself in the hopes of uncovering a murderer as he did in his first book. But as things in his own home get more and more dark, affecting both his psyche and that of his family, you start to wonder what the cost of a bestseller could be.

The film is really expertly constructed (as I realized, of course, after talking to the people that made it) by director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and writer C. Robert Cargill. Combining the really popular found-film sort of cinema verite with old fashioned thriller horror and even super-scary demon themes, they sort of stumble on a hybrid genre that turns out to be very interesting. Instead of styles like Paranormal Activity, in which the audience is the person watching a lot of found footage, Derrickson and Cargill end up letting you see what happens to a person who has found footage and maybe should never have watched it. Additionally, the bulk of the footage that he finds is extremely disturbing (especially when you find out what the whole films entail at the end--ah!) with blood-curdling soundtracks. Showing you at first happy families about their business with light acoustic, it then jars you out of this happy was-reality with trippy, unnerving music that accompanies families being drowned, stabbed, set on fire, and hanged (as I'm sure a lot of you have already seen in the previews).

Little late for that, buddy

One thing to keep in mind as you are watching this as well, is to consider the double horror that this movie shows you: that you are being watched by something SINISTER (heh hehe...) and that some people will sacrifice the safety of their family to pursue their own dreams.

All in all, very interesting film with interesting themes. Well done, Scott and C. Robert! (I can call them by name cuz I met them and they borrowed my Sharpie and answered a few of my questions. Ya jealous.)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Paranorman: Chris Butler's Latest

First of all, hello dear readers. Hope you all are well and that you still are maybe reading this when your tv is broken and it's raining outside. Glad to hear that you're still loyal. You keep on keepin' on.

I realize that I haven't written in a month (how embarrassing...) but I hope you will accept my sincerest apologies when I tell you that the reason that I didn't write anything for a full month was because my little brother got his arm caught in the microwave, and my grandmother dropped acid and she freaked out and hijacked a bus full of penguins so it was kind of a family crisis (whoever can name that quote gets a free coupon for Luna Protein bars. Seriously.).


The other night I had the extreme pleasure of getting to see Paranorman in theaters. Now, I should also toss in there that in addition to this rather unusual family crisis I didn't really watch anything new this past month. So I was really excited to get my butt back in the theater to chow down on some popcorn and sip on a mammoth-sized "medium" Diet Coke. So Nick (ooooOOOOoooohhh new bf whaaat) and I decided to see Paranorman. When we were in college we had seen Chris Butler's fascinating take on the hit children's novel Coraline and were both eager to see what Butler was bringin' to the table this round.

Rabid child.

Paranorman is the story of a young boy who can speak to ghosts and, as a result, forms strong bonds with them. But Norman isn't very popular among the living. Taking a daily beating from the school bully every day and regarded as a freak by his peers, he finds solace in zombie movies and talking to his apparitional buddies. At the time the story begins, Norman's hometown is about to celebrate its 300th anniversary with a huge nod to a witch trial which happened at the time of its founding. The witch's curse, legendary in this sleepy town, is said to be set for this very year and with its carrying out, the dead will walk among the townspeople. As Norman discovers the truth of the curse and sets out to stop it, he realizes that maybe zombies and witches aren't always what they seem.

I know, I know. I was shocked too.

If you've seen Coraline, Paranorman isn't worlds apart from it in terms of fantastical theme. Butler seems to have a dark side similar to Tim Burton (Who I thought for about two years was Coraline's creator. Oops.) but somehow a little more accessible to children. Whereas Burton seems obsessed with the macabre, Butler seems more interested in the creepy and the scary but also the turmoil of children (such as alienation and bullying). Paranorman and Coraline both revolve around children being able to sense and interact with apparitions that grownups can't see right away. This special connection between the young audience and the films' focus on children helps make for good child entertainment. But don't be so quick to haul your seven-year-old to this zombie movie. Butler's films seem to hold an interesting edge for anyone 13 and older (i'm surprised they didn't get a PG-13 rating for disturbing images) or else seem to answer to today's seemingly desensitized children. My boyfriend and I, 22 and 23 respectively, were sincerely creeped out and even scared towards the end of the film and gawked at the PG rating. But I guess that's better than scoffing at lame effects and boring zombies.

With humorous elbow-nudge-type jokes and nods to campy horror flicks, Paranorman also really tries to honor old horror films while simultaneously critiquing them and making them more accessible to kids. This keeps the movie accessible to adults as well, and of course to your average horror buff.

In terms of stop-motion, the film is a masterpiece. Between the difficult close-ups and the amazing effects towards the end, it's incredible to see what some people can do with clay. The effort definitely pays off, much like it did with Coraline, and Paranorman is fun to watch even if it's just to look for all the little details of each scene. Instead of creating simplistic characters a la Wallace and Gromit flicks, Butler makes Paranorman caricatured but still realistic enough to include minutia of the people's everyday lives, like Norman's sister's nail polish, the litter in the streets, and even things like Norman's zombie wallpaper. So cool.

Amazing animation and great characters.

I would give this movie an 8 and a half out of 10 (especially if you're over 13).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Jeff, Who Believes in Signs: An Uplifting Indie Movie What?

When I first got this from my local Redbox the other day, it wasn't really at the top of my list.  I was more excited to see We Need to Talk About Kevin (I was in a crappy mood, shush) and Casa de mi Padre (which I still haven't watched because my remote-less DVD player won't automatically put on subtitles). But having a few hours to kill on Sunday, I turned it on to clean my room and I was so mesmerized that I ended up sitting down and watching the entire thing while my dust bunnies held their breath. What an uplifting movie.

The story starts with Jeff (Jason Segel) talking about one of his favorite movies, Signs, and saying how inspired he is by the fact that the little girl has always had a problem drinking water and that that is what ends up killing the hostile aliens (oops, spoiler alert?). So sets the stage for the rest of the movie, which is balanced between Jeff's almost childlike belief in signs and his pessimistic brother (Ed Helms) Pat's problematic marriage.

"Hey, this is Fate. What's up?"

Thrown together by fate, they spend the day trying to decipher what it is that fate is trying to tell them about their respective lives. A cute side story (which becomes surprisingly more relevant as the film moves along) is also Jeff's mom (Susan Sarandon) Carol's day at the office, which is lightened by the hope of a secret crush.

The camera work in this movie is surprisingly innovative. Instead of dead-pan camera typical to indie films that I've been seeing lately, the camera moves more similarly to reality TV shots, with abrupt zooms and pans aimed at characters' facial expressions and reactions. The camera doesn't stop moving the entire film and it keeps you on your toes.

The real reason to watch this movie, though, is for its resounding theme of hope. In current times where there is so much focus set on getting jobs, making money, paying bills, and societal image as a way of normalcy, Jeff sheds some light on the fact that maybe that's not all there is to it right now. This movie dares you to believe in a higher power, and not just because it's cute, but because it means something. And not in a crazy Jehovah's Witness version of a higher power either, but something without a name, or maybe an old name like "fate" or "destiny" before those words got watered down by bad pop songs.

Ah, or soft porn romance novels...

A really inspirational movie, especially for a generation such as ours that, for the time being, just has to keep on chugging along. This movie's message helps us remember important things that can sometimes get swept aside by the pettier and materialistic things in life. So good job, Ray and Mark Duplass, you created a gem that had me bawling my eyes out with happy tears by the ending. (Seriously, the ending is one of the best that I've seen in a really long time.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of victims injured and killed in the recent Aurora shooting.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

We Need to Talk (or Else Severely Repress Memories) About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin? We need to talk about how I never want children after seeing this movie.

Seriously, man. Nothing funny to say about this movie. It's so upsetting and disturbing and sad and creepy. Beautifully and thoughtfully constructed but...damn.

Kevin is the son of Eva (Tilda Swinton) and Franklin (John C. Reilly) and he has been a sadistic son of a bitch since the day that he was born. Crying from morning until night while with his mother and then calm with his father, Kevin constructs a behavioral pattern that sticks with he and his family throughout the rest of the movie. Acting like a normal teenager in front of his father, Kevin seems to live to mess with his mother, testing her every reaction with some sort of violent or emotionally abusive act. The film follows the relationship that Kevin has with his mother his entire life before holding his high school hostage and killing several students inside and eclipses this story with Eva's life after the tragedy.

That description should iron out a bit of the sadness and the tangible tragedy of Eva's entire life after Kevin. Punishing herself throughout her post-shooting experience, Eva does things such as purposefully eating scrambled eggs with the shells in them, and letting people get away with slapping her in public for the things that her son did.

It would be too much to take if it weren't, at times, for the bizarre up-beat soundtrack that follows her around as she goes through her day. It plays as almost a manic denial to the reality which is her life; as if she turns her brain to happy music just to get through a day. And the cinematography in this is actually very poetic and well done also, very stark and blunt when showing the details of Kevin and Eva's past and yet very cerebral and trippy at times when we see Eva's current life. Ugh. Heartbreaking.

This ending will be stuck in your head for days, as it has been in mine.

If you're looking for a true horror movie that won't be leaving you looking for the boogie man or listening for ghosts, this is your film. Kevin gets under your skin with an uncomfortability that suggests that it is sometimes simply the nature of human beings to be evil and sadistic and that it could happen to anyone. All within the framework of an artful and well thought-out film. Interesting mixing of genres.

Someone give me a Disney movie--quick!

7 outa 10 stars.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Anyone Ever Just Feel Like...

Currently watching Hamlet 2 and getting a kick out of Steve Coogan as a down-and-out drama teacher creating an absolutely terrible play.