Tuesday, May 15, 2012

From the People that Brought You Wallace and Gromit: Pirates! Band of Misfits

With my work schedule going from essentially 2 PM until 7 PM, it's kind of hard for me to get the initiative to go to the movies these days unless I'm going on a Saturday. However, today I decided (as I sometimes randomly do) to check the movie screenings for a short matinee preferably occurring before noon. Well, as luck would have it, one of the movies that I have been dying to see was showing at 12:00 and was only about an hour and a half long. Yes, dear friends. The film was Pirates!: Band of Misfits.

Not those kinds of Misfits...

Despite seeing quite a few trailers for this movie, I feel like it never really caught the public's eye. Which is too bad because it's amazing.

For those of you out there who are (like me) huge fans of the Wallace and Gromit movies, this movie will give you your claymation fix. Nick Park creates characters that are both incredibly sympathetic and yet will have you smacking your hand to your forehead for about a third of the running time. Yet somehow, in the way of the Wallace and Gromit series, this combination works incredibly well. And although the main protagonist has the heart of a lion and the brain of a bird, he is balanced out with the overcompensated secondary character.

Can you guess who's who?

But anyway, to get into what the actual movie is about, I'll give you one guess. (If you guessed "pirates" you were correct. Mostly.) The "band of misfits" is quite a motley crew, boasting pirates that don't even have real names, including: Albino Pirate, Pirate with Gout, Pirate With a Scarf (a.k.a. #2), and Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (who, it's hinted throughout the movie, is a woman disguised as a man).

Who needs real-people names?

 Around the time of the notorious Pirate of the Year awards, it looks as though Pirate Captain is going to be outdone again by his peers. And yet, after attempting to pillage the ship of a certain Charles Darwin and finding a rare bird on board, things seem to be looking up. But Charles may be a little bit more shifty in this film (no relation to Creationism, kids, calm down) than the audience may first suspect. And in line with Darwin is the terrifying Queen Victoria, who has a decidedly more sinister air to her in this film.


The film is adorable. I was literally sitting in the theater by myself guffawing like an idiot (act surprised). There are bit jokes and jokes that run the length of the film. And quite honestly, even though I'm a hopeless fan of children's movies, I would recommend this movie to any of my friends. Seriously. It's a short running time, has a cute message, voices by some of Britain's biggest stars (including hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, and Brendan Gleeson), and really, the artistry in it is incredible. I don't know why more people don't do claymation, but the results are 3D with cartoon simplicity, and texture and realistic movement with subjects that are very clearly unreal. Even if you can't check out Band of Misfits, have a look at some of my other favorite claymation masterpieces, which include: Coraline, Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers, Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death, Mary and Max (a bit more mature fodder), and Corpse Bride.

9 outa 10. Funny stuff.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Descendant (No. Not Plural.)

Bet you thought you were about to read of a review of The Descendants. Well guess what, dumb dumb? I already wrote that one. This movie is something completely different. And lacks an "s" at the end of it.

After hearing nothing from Swapadvd.com for about three months, I got accosted by an email from somebody asking for my copy of what is apparently called Horror Cinema V1. Basically during Halloween season I get fed up with not seeing horror movies on cable and decided to go to Walmart and buy a collection of 8 movies on two discs for a whopping five dollars. Obviously all of them are Oscar-worthy.

So seeing that I only had a limited amount of time to watch all of these cinematic gems, I decided to settle for the worst-looking one and call it a day.

Enter Descendant.

First of all, let me start by saying the thumbnail-sized poster on the cover of the DVD case had what looked like a photoshopped red-carpet picture of Katherine Heigl with some creepy shadow man behind her.

This is awkward...

Apparently the real cover looks like this:

So much more terrifying, I know.

The movie starts off with an incredibly disorienting bang (not unlike a Lifetime movie). First off, it's the 1800's and a certain Frederick Usher has just killed Edgar Allen Poe's sweetheart (I think?), Emily Hedgerow, and tosses her still (somehow) beating heart at his feet. Then there's some yelling about how Poe profited from Usher's unfortunate incestuous family situation or something and Poe looks really upset.

Aaaand then we cut right to Ethan Poe (Ethan? So 2003.) smoking weed and getting a lap dance from a call girl with an incredibly awful wig and probably the most boring stripper underwear known to man.

And THEN we cut to Ann Hedgerow (played by the lovely Katherine Heigl) visiting her mother's grave and getting a pep talk from a policeman who we learn is in love with her but who she sees as a big brother type. Typical.

After that the plot evens out a little better, kind of. As it turns out, Ethan Poe's last name is actually not Poe, but Usher, and it seems that he has inherited his DESCENDANT's thirst for blood (see what I did there?). Unfortunately, though, Ann has taken a liking to him and doesn't start to see the signs of his blatant craziness until it's almost too late. The story then goes into how Usher has to marry someone from the Hedgerow family and somehow sell a bestseller or something? Why? We don't know. They don't really go into what the consequences are for failing. Go figure. There are also quite a few half-assed attempts to reference Edgar Allen Poe's works without really ever talking about the man himself at all.

There are so many funny things going on in this weird movie. For one thing, wardrobe must not have been on their A-game for the entire production. All of Ann Hedgerow's shoes are hideous, and for almost the entire movie she's only wearing black and white peasant tops. Also, Edgar Allen Poe's makeup is a joke. They literally drew him forehead lines to make him look older, but it looks like they did it with gray eyeliner a la high school musical.

Actually, this lady's looks way better than his did, even.

Also, they seem to kind of forget film technique. They never show Ethan committing the murders, but always show him in shadow form, even though we all know from the beginning that there isn't going to be any kind of red herring. Why not make the killer more of a presence instead of making him a shadow for half the movie?

Anyway, this movie was pretty good, campy fun. I would watch it while doing a crossword puzzle, like I did though.

4 outa 10 for you Glen Coco, you go Glen Coco.

Also look for William Katt as the doctor!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

MST3K: If You Don't Know What That Stands for, Please Leave.

Ok, guys. First thing's first. You may notice a blinking, colorful, not-white, clearly-an-ad box sitting at the bottom of this post. For that, I am heartily sorry. Except not really. Because I'm a college post-grad who needs more money. And you are brainwashed into not noticing these ads because you (like me) see them literally on every site imaginable. Therefore, sorry for selling out...but not really.

Anyway, moving on.

So this morning, I discovered that the MST3K movie was available and watched it. Now, before I go into the whole review of said movie, I would like to explain a little about what MST3K is:

For all you under-rock dwellers, MST3K stands for Mystery Science Theater 3000, and it is a show based around three characters making fun of really awful movies. And I mean really awful movies.

As their theme song tells us, the first-Joel-then-Mike character has been shot into outer space by people that don't like him for reasons that are never really touched on (trust me, they're not important). These evil villains have decided to torture Joel/Mike by sending him cheesy movies, the worst they can find (lalala).

Exhibit A.

So the show ensues with the awful movie (sometimes headlined with a 1950's health class-esque newsreel) being bashed by Joel/Mike and his co-bashing robot friends, Tom Servo and Crow. The plot of the actual show does come up between commercial breaks but is really just a cursory way of bringing in a reason for these guys to be doing what they're doing. Most episodes of the show are under an hour and a half and, really, they're SO funny.

So the movie version was (somewhat disappointingly?) almost exactly like the episodes of the show. The movie that they chose for it was called This Island Earth and it revolved around the horrible plot of some butt-headed aliens trying to gather scientists in Georgia, then taking them to their planet, and then dropping them off back here again. Bad effects, horrible acting, and hilarious commentary by Mike, Servo, and Crow. It wasn't the worst MST3K that I've seen but it definitely wasn't the best. A little shorter than I would've expected a movie version to be. And not as filled with inside jokes as I would've liked. Still, a cinematic version of a great show.

For the curious, though, I wouldn't recommend seeing the movie version first. I would ease your way up after watching a few select episodes of the original show. That is including, but not limited to: Santa Clause vs. The Martians, Night of the Blood Beast (especially good), Devil Fish, Red Zone Cuba, Prince of Space, The Mole People, Zombie Nightmare (also noteworthy), Soultaker, Final Justice, and Werewolf.

Some of my favorite episodes of the show are:

4. I Accuse My Parents:

In this hilariously dated tale, young Jimmy Wilson is put on trial for murder or something. His main defense: I accuse my parents! Apparently, his parents sucked so bad that they put Jimmy on the fast track to being a moron. Jimmy lies to all of his friends about how great his parents are, gets embarrassed by his drunk mom, and then takes off on his own to work in a shoe store where he meets a "sexy" nightclub singer. Hahaha, oh man..Really, there's just too much material to work with here.

3. Gamera Vs. Guiron

Well, aren't you in luck, this is the full episode. (Also, I couldn't find a "best of" so deal with it.)

So this is the only one of the Gamera series that I've seen, but apparently they're all pretty funny. Centered around a Godzilla knockoff named Gamera, this giant turtle terrorizes (and then apparently helps?) the good people of Japan. This one features two idiot children hijacking a spaceship and messing a whole bunch of stuff up. Also, it's really quite horribly dubbed, making it all the more easy to make fun of. Check it out!

2. Manos: The Hands of Fate

The crown jewel of all awful movies, this horrible flick centers around (here we go) a small family who stumbles upon some kind of weird religious cult thing, guarded by a weird dude named Torgo. There's also a bunch of ladies wearing granny panties under see-through white dresses, a hell beast that's really just a poorly trained doberman, and a goofy man named Manos who wears a silly cape with big hands on it (really, one of the only references to hands of fate). Torgo makes up about half of this bizarre, half-assed movie, but watch for the over-choreographed chick fight towards the end. Pretty funny stuff.

1. The Final Sacrifice

Holy. Crap. Never have I laughed as hard as I have laughed while watching this movie. Seriously. I think I've watched it upwards of seven times with more than ten people. The movie's plot follows Troy McGregor as he tried to search for his father's killers. Quickly getting involved with an ancient cult, he teams up with Zap Rowsdower (That is his actual name.) and tries to search for the answers to his father's death. Oh my god. If there is one way to sum up the hilarity that this movie brings to its viewers, it can be summed up in the word "Rowsdower". Totally destroying the characters of the nerd-tacular Troy McGregor and the too-Canadian Rowsdower, there really is no moment in this movie to catch your breath. Just trust me on this one and see it for yourself.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Korean Cinema: Don't Knock It Til You Try It

Alright, so here's an embarrassing confession: I caught myself reading a book about contemporary Korean film yesterday. Yep. It's official. I have nerded myself out. I am actually taken aback by my own nerdiness. I will no longer make fun of my dad, the history buff, for reading entire books on the Peloponnesian War.
God, aren't you just DYING to look inside this book?

But! In my defense. Korean cinema is fascinating. Alright, haters, I see you rolling your eyes. Not going with my nerd vibe. Hatin' on my Asian film. But just shut up and listen.

Korean cinema is largely based around themes of identity crisis due to its incredibly bizarre historical background. First annexed by Japan, Korea was under their thumb from about 1876 until World War II. As a result, Korean film started off as a national film that wasn't even allowed to be spoken in its own native language. In fact, largely used for propaganda, film didn't find its artistic voice until the 1920's (whaaat). After WWII and that persnickety 38th parallel problem (if you don't know what I'm talking about, read a history book for God's sake), Korea then faced being divided between Russia and the US. This made for interesting developments in artistic endeavors.

Now, as we all know, North Korea is a cultural wasteland built by "leader-gods" who somehow manage to die regardless (no, it's NOT "too soon"), but South Korean film has blossomed into something really freakin' cool-weird! Taking cues from their deep roots in American and European film, South Korea manages to morph typical American cinematic themes and styles into movies that are most definitely their own. Here are a few of my faves:

3. Cinderella (2006)

Probably not the way you want your surgeon holding your face. Just sayin.

Don't be fooled by its title, guys. This is one gruesome and creepy movie. Centered around a plastic surgeon and her daughter, this tale focuses on inexplicable hauntings (which to out to be explicable), the problems with trying to find ultimate beauty, and reconciling what you look like with your personal identity.

2. Shiri (1999)

This says "Shiri" in Korean, I swear.

Basically the Titanic (1999) of South Korea, this film took off like nobody's business. The movie's interesting plot is centered around North Korea's special forces team leading a terrorist attack on South Korea in an attempt to reunite the two countries. As South Korea's special forces try to counter the attempt, they are haunted by memories of North Korea's elusive special agent Hee, who may be a key factor in the success of the attack. A movie that's, in a lot of ways, like an American action thriller, but has more fun. Also stars every major South Korean start from the past 15 years (guy on the left is the vampire priest in Thirst and guy on the right is the lead in Oldboy).

1. Any movie by Chan Wook-Park

He's a director, not a movie.

Seriously. This guy is crazy. Crazy like a fox. He's like South Korea's Guillermo del Toro but more effed up. Instead of plots centered on mystical realism or horror, though, Chan Wook-Park gets inside your brain and freaks. you. out. Having seen three of his famed movies, they all reveal the flaws of human nature, the concepts of revenge, and how much of a bitch reality can be. Not for the weak of heart or stomach, Chan Wook-Park's movies are literally like nothing that you have ever seen before or (hopefully) will ever see again. Look at JSA: Joint Security Area (this one isn't as freak-you-out as the other three, if you wanted to start light), Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Lady Vengeance, and Oldboy. Seriously, guys, his stuff is crazy. But crazy good.

Alright stop!

...Trailer time:



By far, the most messed up:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Two Half-Assed Reviews of Two Actually Good Movies

To be honest, even though I did see both Being Elmo and The Descendants in the past two weeks, I really never had time to write about them. So instead of offering up some watered-down, halfassed, twice-as-long description of those two movies that would take about forty-five minutes each to write without any really saying anything, I’m going to sum them both up:

Who needs feelings when you have a puppet to feel them for you?

Being Elmo was good. A documentary about Kevin Clash, the puppeteer that created Elmo and acts as his puppeteer to this day. Not a bad movie, but could’ve been a little more introspective. Unless of course all this man thinks about is puppets, which is hinted at more than once by the mere subject matter of this film. You get the impression that while this guy is a puppet genius, he doesn’t think about much else…

Totally copying off of my userpic...

The Descendants was incredible. Though it boasts a plot line that could easily be found in any daytime soap opera, this movie is beautifully subtle and incredibly believable. Dealing with the drama of his wife dying as a result of a jet ski accident, Matt King then finds out that she was cheating on him not long beforehand. The frustration and confusion from both Matt King, his eldest daughter (who would've thought that the girl from Secret Life would turn out to be an actually good actress?), and her aloof friend Sid is completely tangible on the backdrop of beautiful Hawaii. Lots of Hawaiian shirts. Lots of family drama. Very cool movie. Very cool.