Archive for May, 2010

Dear Wendy (Thomas Vinterberg) 2005

Posted in D on May 31, 2010 by moviemoses

Dear Wendy is about a pacifist boy in a small midwest town.  He becomes fascinated with a gun and not only starts studying it, but carrying one around.  He starts a group of pacifist gun enthusiasts called the Dandies who try to stay to their moral beliefs while keeping the guns.  Something happens which put their beliefs to the test.

I saw this because Lars von Trier wrote it and it is practically his movie.  Obviously this movie sounds bizarre by the write up.  This is not an anti-gun movie.  By Lars’ own admission in the interview, the main character is an extension of his own character.  Lars is a pacifist but has a curious interest in guns and gun culture.  The movie is a kind of exploration of a contradiction in character.  The point is that its not a problem: a person who studies Nazis for example is not himself a Nazi.  Lars (and by extension his protagonist) are interested in the mystique behind guns but that does not mean he is not totally against killing.

The movie is interesting and has a good performance from Jamie Bell.  It held my attention all the way through.  There are however, some flaws with the writing.  For one, there is a bizarre subplot where Bell’s character gets jealous of his gun when another person touches it.  He basically calls his gun a two timing slut and has a literal break up with it.  Yeah, you heard me.  The final act is also when the movie completely jumps the rails from both a realism perspective and from even movie logic/message.  Lars felt he needed to end the movie with a gigantic shootout which is entertaining but completely illogical.  You expect me to believe these pacifists who at one point are willing to die for their cause are going to change their morality on a dime and suddenly go out guns blazing like Butch and Sundance with the Bolivian army?  There is no reason for it and even the director is at a loss for words at explaining why the kids decide to kill cops in the climax.  He’s just like “Um, ah, oh…well we needed a gunfight. The audience wouldn’t have forgiven us if we didn’t.  Um, er…its up to your interpretation anyway.”  No it violates everything you were building up to.

This movie was alright.  As I said it held my interest all the way through and there are some good points.  It is a little too weird for me to really recommend it for anyone else.  This was really just for my own curiosity.

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Zombie Strippers (Jay Lee) 2008

Posted in Z on May 31, 2010 by moviemoses

Zombie Strippers is about a government experiment gone bad where, through a series of crazy shenanigans, a stripper becomes a zombie.  Even stranger, is the zombie-ness makes her an amazing dancer and a huge attraction at the club.  The owner, played by Robert Englund, keeps her on and disposes of all the bodies of her prey.

There is a problem with doing intentional camp like Snakes on a Plane.  We laugh at incompetence, and it’s hard when you are winking at the camera and nudging us as if to say “See!  Get it!  We get this is a bad movie.”  Its the rare movie like Grindhouse that make fun of it while being entertaining.

To cut to the point: I hate this movie.  Of course, telling Spoony this he gives the smarmy reply of “Its Zombie Strippers, what were you expecting?”  Well, I expect to laugh and be entertained.  This is supposed to be a campy movie.  The problem is this movie isn’t funny.  This movie is one of the most aggressively annoying movies in a long while.  Picture a movie filled with the most annoying caricatures and you have Zombie Strippers.  Robert Englund gives one of the worst performances of any actor in quite a while.  Picture a cross between Harry Reams in Deep Throat 2 and Howard Hughes.  Now picture him turning the scene chewing to 11 and is so flamboyant even Rip Taylor would tell him to tone it down.  Its a performance that makes me question his whole body of work and whether they could have gotten any clown to do Nightmare on Elm Street.  Its that bad.  I’m not done with the acting either.  There is a female dance instructor/head stripper who is channeling her inner Yakov Smirnoff and a Mexican janitor that is just about a lawnmower short of the complete stereotype.  Like I say about Uwe Boll all the time; just because you are trying to be politically incorrect and offensive doesn’t automatically mean you will be funny.  The jokes are so cheesy that there aren’t enough rim shots in the world to make them work.

I will say there is stripping in this movie.  There is a lot of stripping in this movie.  I would say a good half of this movie is stripping because there really isn’t anything else to fill the movie with.  However if I wanted porn, I would just get porn.  After a while it gets to the point where as Mike Nelson said in Girl in Gold Boots where its just sexual wallpaper.

I was willing to give this movie a fuck you but there was one bit that made me laugh.  The bit was the final stripper fight where they are doing stripper pole kung fu and another shoots cue balls out of her hoo haa.  So if I were to give it a grade it would be like a D–.

The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh) 2009

Posted in G on May 31, 2010 by moviemoses

The Girlfriend Experience is a kind of slice of life movie where we follow the lives of a couple in New York during the 08′ Presidential election.  Chelsea (porn actress Sasha Grey) is a professional escort who not only has sex with her clients but is a complete girlfriend for a night who listens to their problems and does whatever they want.  Chris (Chris Santos, who looks so much like Michael Mardsen its scary) is a personal trainer who is going through a minor economic crisis of his own.

I have seen almost all of Soderbergh’s work.  Overall he can be stylish and mainstream (Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic, Out of Sight) and indie and daring (The Limey, Che, Solaris).  But I can also admit his shtick can also be tired (Ocean’s Twelve and Thirteen, The Good German) and he can be too minimalist and indie for his own good (Full Frontal, Bubble).  It almost seems like he tries to hard to emulate other artists that he forgets to make his own movies.  In the Good German for example he tries so hard to be The Third Man its like, where is the story or the characters?  So the long and the short of it I guess is that even from a Soderbergh fan, his movies are 50/50 with me.  He is a flawed artist.

The movie’s themes are obvious even from the trailer.  Soderbergh does not see much of a difference from Chelsea’s “girlfriend experience” with Chris’ job as a personal trainer.  Chris pretends to be people’s friend/confidant and ego booster in order to milk money out of them.  Chelsea cuts through the crap and just tells her clients she’ll be whatever they want her to be.  There is also something to be said of the men Chelsea goes out with.  They are high class businessmen but when they meet up with her, they are more interested in worrying about their financial affairs then with being with her.  Chelsea is also in a recession proof business while others are failing.

The problem is even the director admits there isn’t much more to the movie than that.  The running time is 80 minutes and he struggles to fill even that much.  I almost think its a good 30 minute short film than a strained 80 minute feature.   There are just a bunch of scenes that seemingly repeat and restate the premise of the trailer.  The movie is also padded by about three different musical montages.  I was waiting for the longest time for anything new to come up and it didn’t really happen.

Grey does an alright job but then again this character is not that much of a stretch for her.  Santos is good although the script gives him nothing to work with.  We don’t learn much about the characters which hurts the film because on the surface both of the leads are rather unlikable.  What really made me go WTF? was the decision to show this movie chronologically out of order like in 21 Grams or something.  This serves absolutely no purpose.  There is nothing gained by showing these story lines in an out of place order (unlike 21 Grams) other than to be different and edgy.  And in the end, we don’t really gain any new perspective on these people or anything new (at least in my experience).

In the end this movie is okay I guess.  I didn’t hate it; there was enough to keep me mildly interested.    But I wouldn’t recommend this to the general public or even for that matter a Soderbergh fan.  There’s just not enough to make this work.

Jimmy Carter Man From Plains (Johnathan Demme) 2007

Posted in J on May 31, 2010 by moviemoses

Yeah, Demme.  Who knew?  Anyway this movie is not really a bio of the former President or anything like that.  We follow Carter on a period of his book tour in 2006 for his latest book Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid.  Carter comes under an extreme amount of heat mainly for the use of the word “Apartheid”.  That is seen as too charged a word and suddenly Carter, a man who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his peacekeeping work with the Israelis and the Palestinians is being called an anti-Semite.  This at first glance seems like a too shallow view of Jimmy Carter.  Even I inferred with the opening sentences that I would have liked a little bio with my story.  However, that would be missing the surprising amount of depth in this movie.  This man works harder and does more humanitarian efforts now at the age of 83 than he probably did earlier in his life.  The man also has limitless patience.  During the book tour he is called everything from a liar, to a coward, to an anti-Semite and he still debates them with his pleasant Southern demeanor.  It says something of our media that gets caught up in uneducated hype of people that haven’t actually read the book.  This is a favorable viewing of the former President but there are attempts at bringing his opposition on screen.  One of the members of the Carter administration resigns as a result of the book, but refuses to give his views on screen.  The same is said for protesting rabbi elders.  The only person who agrees and gets a good amount of time for his views is Alan Dershowitz, who was probably his most vocal opponent during the tour.  This is not something you have to go out and rent.  If you weren’t all that interested in the man, I can’t really say this is going to change your opinion.  Still this was a pleasant little doc about the 39th President.

Gamer (Neveldine/Taylor) 2009

Posted in G on May 31, 2010 by moviemoses

The plot of Gamer is the same as Running Man, or Death Race or…ok, I’ll elaborate more.  In the future we have invented a nanobot that has the ability to control a person like a video game.  At first it was used in a Sims like game and later evolved to a Counterstrike game called Slayers.  For the Sims game they hire people that are poor so they can be controlled for a few hours.  For the Slayers game, they use death row criminals and if they survive 30 missions they are freed.  Gerard Butler is a guy wrongly accused on Death Row and close to earning his freedom.

Its easy to dismiss the movie based on the trailer so full of fail it is almost epic.  “Gerard Butler hasn’t kicked so much ass since 300 years ago!”  Ok 300 didn’t refer to 300 years ago or even the year 300.  Unless you are referring to a Gerard Butler performance that was set 300 years ago.  The only thing I can think of that’s even close is Phantom of the Opera.  But I digress.

The reason I really took this seriously and didn’t just dismiss it as shit were the directors.  It is directed by the same people as both Crank movies.  Gamer has a lot of the same satirical quirks that the Crank movies have.  The action is also very good.  The problem is when they actually try to play it straight.  We have the fun moments and the outrageous moments and then we get dragged down by Butler moping about his wife and kids.  I went into this movie knowing the plot was recycled a million times over.  I just wish we would dispense with the formalities to get to the action.  Instead we go through the motions and tread over the same plot twists done so many times that it becomes boring.  I’m sorry, there is nothing new to this story anymore so dispense with all that and embrace what you really are.  You are an exploitation film with a semi clever satirical bent.  But even that is a little sabotaged when the characters pull out the ole soapbox and outright preach what we are seeing is wrong.  That is the real lesson to be learned here.  Satire can be brilliant at delivering a message while at the same time being very entertaining.  When you deliver A MESSAGE you finger wag your audience and we just have to sit there and check our watches and wait for you to sit down so we can enjoy Michael C. Hall chewing the scenery.

Oh yeah, Hall chews the whole studio and its great.  The acting over all is good and you have a few character actors also going over the top and making the experience fun.

Overall, Gamer is an alright film.  If you can catch it cheap or later on rental by all means.  Go right ahead.  This is Neveldine and Taylor’s weakest effort so far simply because they are not as balls to the wall crazy and satirical as they should have been with this material.

Halloween 2 (Rob Zombie) 2009

Posted in H on May 31, 2010 by moviemoses

Now I probably went in with even lower expectations than Spoony.  I was going in figuring I was not even seeing a Michael Myers movie but just a generic slasher.  Even with that, I was still disappointed.

I get the real feeling Zombie REALLY REALLY REALLY didn’t want to make this movie.  It seems like he had his own movie in mind and wanted to make it but the Weinsteins came up insisting he finish this Halloween project and stay even partially to the canon.  When Zombie is given freedom to do his own thing (the only example being Devil’s Rejects) he is brilliant.  However when his work is derivative like House of 1000 Corpses (big rip off of Texas Chainsaw Massacre), it is not so great.  Both Halloween movies get somewhat interesting when Zombie tries to branch out and do his own thing, but whenever he gets pulled into the canon storyline of Laurie Strode and Myers it turns into boring generic torture porn shit.

The biggest problem with this story is Rob Zombie wants to have it both ways.  He wants to make Michael Myers a flesh and blood human being with real emotions and an explainable psychological reason for why he does what he does.  Yet in the same breath he expects us to believe he is a 7 foot tall zombie who survives beatings, stabbings, being shot in the face, has supernatural strength, and is PURE EEEEEEVIL.  Sorry, you just can’t do that.  You try to give a personality to a blank slate and do nothing with it.  That is the very definition of pointless and its what makes both Halloweens boring.  I wonder if Zombie would have felt more at home with Friday the 13th or Psycho or a retelling of Charles Manson (since he has such an obvious fascination with him).

There are a few flashes of great Zombie visuals but then it gets bogged down in terrible padding and slasher cliches.  Zombie is a great cinematographer, but a terrible writer.  I would hate to see the actual script because it almost seems like page after page would be “NO NO PLEASE NO…FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK…MICHAEL MYERS IS AFTER ME HELP ME NO NO…FUCK YOU FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK…PLEASE GOD HELP FUCKING HELP FUCK FUCK FUCK…”  The movie is chock full of plot holes, inconsistencies, character inconsistencies, and plot cul de sacs.  Characters don’t act at all like real people and their motives shift on a dime only on the whims of Zombie and what he wants his characters to do at the time.  Oh, and Myers teleports like Jason in Jason Takes Manhattan.  Strange since the ending is more reminiscent of Friday the 13th Part 5.   I’m not sure whether to call the actress who plays Laurie terrible or just call the writing terrible (or both).  She has no character and has to spend the entire movie quivering and shrieking like a Banshee about Michael Myers coming to get her.  It really is one of the most annoying things about this movie.  The rest of the cast is your general assortment of Zombie white trash hicks whose only purpose is to be annoying as fuck and to make you cheer when he kills them.  The movie is saved with the inclusion of Malcolm McDowell and Brad Douriff.  They are the only people with any kind of personality and they are a breath of fresh air.

This movie, no matter how you look at it, is crap.  If you are looking at it as a Halloween movie, you will hate the direction Zombie takes the story and his utter disregard of Carpenter’s original vision.  If you are looking for a slasher film with flashes of visual brilliance you will also be let down.  The Halloween plot is a hindrance to Zombie’s vision and doesn’t use as many camera tricks and visuals as you would like.  As a generic slasher its unoriginal, dull, and the writing/acting make it migraine inducing.  I didn’t loathe it, but it is not good at all.

Seed (Uwe Boll) 2007

Posted in S on May 31, 2010 by moviemoses

Seed is a faceless man who has killed 666 people in 6 years.  I gotta hand it to the man, he keeps busy.  Anyway, Det. Matt Bishop (Michael Pare) captures Seed and is sentenced to death.  The problem is there is a quirky law in that state where if a person survives three shocks on the electric chair he is set free and Seed survives the shocks.  The prison tries to bury him alive but Seed get free to get his revenge.

This movie was made back to back with Postal.  Suddenly the double feature of Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu doesn’t seem that bad.  I said it before and I’ll say it again: just because you shoot something in bad taste doesn’t make it scary.  Horror is all about atmosphere.  And while you can use a disturbing shot to punctuate the tension on the scene, you cannot just throw random disturbing crap on the screen and generate the same reaction.  In Tunnel Rats, we had a five minute scene of a soldier stabbing a VC in a tunnel.  In Seed, we get a five minute shot of Seed hitting a woman in the head with a tack hammer.  At a certain point it turns from tense, to funny, to boring as you wonder if Boll forgot to turn the camera off and the actors would just walk off the set to go home for the day.  The opening credits also have PETA animal cruelty footage playing cause…well, just cause.  There is no point other than to gross us out.

The movie is crap and not in the funny laugh at Uwe Boll being embarrassing kind of way.  It is boring and intentionally annoying.  The characters are meant to be annoying so you cheer their death and the plot is so generic you could rename it any masked serial killer movie since the 80’s.  What makes this truly annoying is Boll trying to make some kind of moral statement.  Apparently, sentencing the biggest single mass murderer in the history of the world makes you just as evil a monster in Boll’s opinion.  Having Seed be the instrument of moral justice is one of the more reprehensible things I’ve seen this year short of God’s arbitrary genocide in Knowing.

No matter how low you set your bar or how you come into this movie; Seed will disappoint.  The kills are not entertaining, the plot makes no sense (even characters point out plot holes), Seed teleports, the cinematography is too dark and you can’t see most shit, and as I said before most of the shots are meant to annoy and gross you out.  No one should see this, not even Uwe Boll shlock fans.