Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Monday, February 28, 2011

Old Dogs (2009)

dir. Walt Becker

[This is another movie I watched on Netflix streaming, so instead of capturing images while watching, I had to rely on pictures I could find on the interweb.]

As you all know, movie excrement is my catnip. Specifically, I find nothing more entertaining than a serious-minded movie gone wrong. Bad dramatic movies are frequently funnier than most comedies. Of course, the converse is true of awful comedies. A comedy that fails at being funny? Ugghhh. That shit can be more excruciating than a Gaspar Noe film. It is for this reason that I try not to watch joy-sapping attempts at comedy. Yes, they may provide great review fodder, but why put myself through that shit?

More so, I try to avoid watching bad family comedies. Even an objectively good family comedy ain't relatable. In the words of WNYX's own Bill McNeal, "When I was a child, I thought as a child and spoke as a child. But when I became a man, I took that child out back and had him shot." These movies aren't made for me, so there's no sense in analyzing the ways they may fail or succeed in their use as babysitting tools. I don't get paid for this site. I don't work for anyone. I do this all for my damn self. I can write about whatever I damn well please. I'm not required to watch and review every latest movie, no matter how painful. There's no reason for that shit.

And yet, for some goddamn reason, this weekend I though it would be a hoot to subject myself to the in-flight-movie stylings of the John Travolta and Robin Williams family-oriented laff-machine that is Old Dogs. I've tried to understand why I would do this to myself. Maybe it's my masochistic nature that occasionally forces me to do soulless movies to myself. Maybe it's the whole stopping-to-watch-a-car-wreck phenomenon. I just couldn't help but look at a movie with a reputation as poopy as Old Dogs (Nominated for four Razzies!). Maybe I was astounded by the cast of the film. Old Dogs is rife with ringers: Amy Sedaris, Seth Green, Bernie Mac (his last film, sadly), Matt Dillon, Ann-Margret, Justin Long, Rita Wilson, Luis Guzman, and many more. With this many talented folks, maybe, just maybe, Old Dogs might have some amusing moments.


Robin Williams and John Travolta star, respectively, as Dan and Charlie, two successful sports-marketers on the verge of landing a big deal with the Japanese. So many questions are raised and never answered. What exactly does this job entail? What do the Japanese have to gain from Dan and Charlie's services? What exactly are their services? What exactly is this Japanese company? What does it do? Will Dan and Charlie make a deal with this company to advertise American sports in Japan? Or will they attempt to get the Japanese even more excited about such Japanese sports as sumo wrestling and whatever the hell this is? All we know is that this sports-marketing deal with the Japanese is just like super mega important and stuff, you know.

Anyway, everything is put in jeopardy/mishigas ensues when Dan is forced to watch the fraternal twins he put in a purty lady seven years prior, while said purty lady does a couple weeks in the pen on account of some eco-sabotage. No biggie. [Side note: Stupid spell-check is telling me mishigas isn't a real word. This just further proves my theory that the spell-check people are a bunch of bigots.] While caring for the children, Dan and Charlie learn...

Ah, you know what? It ain't worth it. You don't care about the plot. Old Dogs doesn't even care about the plot. This movie's just another excuse for plenty of Robin Williams mugging. [Side note: Old Dogs was released the same year as World's Greatest Dad, perhaps the best movie of Williams' career. Hey, readers, that's a movie you should really check out. You should go watch World's Greatest Dad right now. Why aren't you watching World's Greatest Dad?] I'm just gonna make a list of some of Old Dogs' particularly atrocious moments in awfulness.

This film follows the well-established law of Checkhov's old dog: If you introduce an old dog in the first scene of your movie, you damn well better cut to its tilt-headed reaction shot to every goddamn punchline in the entire fucking movie...and then hate yourself for your crimes against cinema.

Every joke is telegraphed scenes in advance.
["Hey, old friend, while hanging out in the bathroom, why don't we discuss in detail all of the side effects of our daily pills. Not that any of this information will come in useful later in the movie should our pills accidentally get switched or anything and we experience the comically exaggerated side-effects of each other's pills, you know."

"Say, I wonder why the hypothetically laff-inducing side-effects we would each experience were we to accidentally down each other's pills are never experienced by us when we take our own pills."

"Hey, less talking, more next scene."]

Technological ignorance in the form of over-stating the importance of fax machines to the running of a technologically savvy, modern corporation.
["This will come in handy if we need to send work correspondences to 1997."]

Setting a scene in which a woman's hands get crushed, mangled, and, possibly, permanently crippled to the song "Big Girls Don't Cry".

["Hey, watch the finish! I just had this car detailed!"]

Getting an attractive actress (the above-pictured Rita Wilson) to play "ugly" by crossing her eyes.

For some goddamn reason, the makers of Old Dogs also felt that endless laffs could be mined from Robin Williams watching a seven-year-old boy poop.

The filmmakers also thought it best to include shit such as this in a family movie:
[Ape rape. Is it ever not funny?]

If this is what passes for comedy in family movies these days, I'm glad my adult self had the good sense to snuff my child self.

You may ask, of course, of what use a douchily snarky review such as this serves. This film was made with an audience in mind that didn't include me. Who am I to judge? I have no business reviewing such a movie. I knew it wouldn't be for me. You might say that I watched this no-longer-culturally-relevant film just for the opportunity it afforded me to poop all over it; that it was all just an excuse for me to be a mean-spirited dick. And you, folks...yeah, you're probably right.

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Awesome Movie Trailers: The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

dir. Joel and Ethan Coen

Most people who know me, know that I sport major wood for the films of the Coen brothers. I have rarely been disappointed with their flicks (cough The Ladykillers), so it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway), that I always look forward to trailers for their films. Not only do I get to see some sweet Roger Deakins photography, but I get to watch generally all-around awesomatastical trailers. I don't know if the Coens are in charge of editing their trailers, but whoever is understands that these advertisements can be pieces of art. Case in point: the trailer for their neo-noir The Man Who Wasn't There. Opening with Billy Bob Thornton as Ed Crane's deadpan delivery of the somehow portentous-sounding, yet mundane line, "Sooner or later, everyone needs a haircut," melancholy strings cut in as a variety of haircuts are shown in closeup. Ok, a sad haircut movie. Weird, I can dig. Soon, we are bombarded with random beautifully shot shots as characters utter the Coens' impeccably crafted lines dealing with such themes as: crime, blackmail, people not knowing things, science, etc. This trailer shows so many clips, in fact, that it would be spoilery as hell if we had any fucking clue as to the context these clips. We're intrigued without knowing what we're intrigued for. This trailer manages the feat of showing everything while revealing nothing. It is, in fact, best summed up by its last line, uttered by Tony Shalhoub's hotshot lawyer Freddy Riedenschneider, "Sometimes, the more you look, the less you really know."

[The trailer:]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Movies I'm Anticipating: Hesher (2010)

dir. Spencer Susser

As you all know from last week's post (you all read all of my posts, right?), I'm a huge fan of Australian filmmaker David Michod. I will watch anything he has a hand in. Although the upcoming Hesher looks like it could be a typical Sundance indie, I've got high hopes for the film given that Michod worked on the screenplay.

[The trailer:]

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sunset Blvd. (1950)

dir. Billy Wilder

[This entry is part of the Film Noir Blogathon hosted by Self-Styled Siren and Ferdy on Films. Incidentally, this blogathon is being run with the intention of raising money for film preservation. If you have the money and are so inclined, I urge all of you, my three faithful readers, to donate generously to The Film Noir Foundation's Film Preservation efforts. Movie addiction is my overriding OCD, after all, so it's always a bummer to lose any movies to the soulless bastard that is the passage of time. So yeah, we should totally make sure we can preserve what remaining films we have.]

People always get shit wrong. People never understand what stuff is really about, you know. I mean, do you know what I mean? I mean, it's like people see but they don't see, man. It's like...I'm sorry, not sure where I was going with that.

Anyway, when I heard about the above-mentioned Film Noir Blogathon, I realized it gave me like totally lots of noir avenues to travel. Maybe I could expound on slightly lesser known noir titles (Decoy, Too Late for Tears, Crashout). Or maybe I could write about smarmy character actor Dan Duryea, a man who excelled at playing douches in multiple noirs. Or maybe I could write about the way the dark noir mentality invaded the relatively light-hearted genre that was the Western, transforming it in the later forties and fifties, into a brooding, morally ambiguous beast. The possibilities seemed limitless. [Side note: Don't you love how I mentioned all of this, basically just to show off shit I want you to know I know about movies.]

But what did I decide to do? None of the above. Yes, instead of getting original, I decided to go and write about one of the most obvious noirs, Sunset Blvd., made by one of the most obvious noir filmmakers, Billy Wilder. But I had a good reason for my decision. Although this movie has been critiqued to death, I don't know that anyone has focused on my favorite theme of the movie: the joy of artistic collaborations.

[Artist's depiction of a successful creative collaboration.]

It could be personal bias tinting my reading of the film, but I would go so far as to say that the exploration of creative relationships (writing partnerships in particular) is the reason for this film's existence. Sure most reviewers of this film focus on its more decidedly noir aspects (gender politics, noirish camera-work stuff, crime-story-ish-ness, what have you, etc. and the rest), or on its place in the camp pantheon; but I feel they miss the point. (Ahh, that's where I was going with my first paragraph.) Sure, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see where Wilder's masterwork fits in the noir catalog, but I propose that Wilder and co-writer Charles Brackett were interested more than anything in penning an ode to creative partnerships. [Question: Is it kind of a cheat for me to take part in a noir blogathon by tackling a noted noir from a non-noir veiwpoint? Answer: I don't care.] [Side note: I make it a point not to read other pieces on movies that I review, for fear of subconsciously ripping them off. It may very well be the case that someone has already written about this topic, in which case I apologize for the redundant post.]

Because I don't write about myself enough on this here ol' blog (readers, this is your cue to roll your eyes), I suppose it would help here to give you an idea where I'm coming from—writing-partner history-wise. I've a long, storied writing-relationship history. For too long, though, I wrote on my own. Yes, I used to be under the illusion that I was king shit of fuck mountain—writing-wise—and deemed writing partners unnecessary. Either that or I just used to be embarrassed by my stuff and didn't want anyone to see it. I really can't remember which.

Luckily, though, my solo writing wouldn't last forever. A year or so after moving to New York, I joined a comedy group and plunged full force into creative relationships. I went from masturbation to ten-at-a-time, no-holds-barred cluster-fucks—writing-wise. This experimental time in my writing life was an eye-opener. Whole worlds of possibilities were opened to me. It was then that I realized I didn't want to write solo ever again—this blog being a major fucking exception, of course (Hey, even when in relationships you never get tired of masturbating—writing-wise).

I would soon learn oodles of stuff about creative relationships. Finding the right writing partner is sometimes harder and more rewarding than finding the perfect romantic partner. When working collaboratively, you've got to function as one brain, yet be distinct enough to be able to reel each other in when one partner's ideas aren't working. As soon as something veers off course, one collaborator must be able to grab the wheel and steer it back onto the road. I would also learn that, just as every romantic relationship has its ups and downs, every creative relationship has its bountiful and fallow periods. It is the ability to not dwell on, and quickly overcome, the fallow periods that defines a truly special relationship. [Side note: As soon as Hollywood sees fit to send wheelbarrows full of cash to my writing partner and me, you will be able to witness the fruits of our creative labor.]

I should note here that, reading about mathematician Paul Erdos a decade ago, was one of my biggest motivations to write with others. Indeed, in addition to being like one of the best people ever, Erdos remains one of my greatest inspirations. Before Erdos' time, math was regarded mostly as a solo activity. The standard view of a mathematician was that of the hermit in his attic solving formulas and whatnot. Erdos, however, learned what many in other creative/intellectual fields before and after would learn: two creative heads are better than one. Over the course of his lifetime, working with over 500 collaborators (and a shitload of speed), Paul "Wilt Chamberlain" Erdos was able to co-author more math papers than any other math-person. Truly, the man was a math slut; he stuck his math pencil on any math person's math paper he could find. For him, practical math-applications and the glory of math awards mattered not. He was in it for love of the game. Math for math's sake.

[My work ethic/awesomeness inspiration, Paul Erdos. Yeah, he was probably wacked out on speed when this picture was taken.]

As mentioned before, Billy Wilder was, of course, no stranger to creative relationships. As opposed to Erdos, however, Wilder was a one partner kind of man. He didn't like to be unfaithful. His first long-term relationship was with the afore-mentioned screenwriter Charles Brackett. The two of them would learn that differences can sometimes be beneficial. Sure, it helps to be on the same page but opposite personalities can sometimes cause the writing to travel in unexpected, exciting new directions. The vulgar, wild Wilder was the Manic Pixie Dream Girl to the urbane Brackett's Stuffed Shirt Von Upper-Crustington. Over the course of a tumultuous 14 year collaboration, the two would pen some of the smartest screenplays of Hollywood's golden era (Ninotchka, Ball of Fire, The Lost Weekend). Unfortunately, as with most relationships involving two opposing, combative types; although the partnership was exciting, it did not have long for this earth.

Which brings us back to Sunset Blvd. (Oh yeah, I forgot I was writing about that), Wilder and Brackett's final collaboration.

[Side note: This is the second week in a row that I'm writing about a movie I didn't rewatch. Not only that, it's the second week in a row that I haven't watched any movies. I know, I know, I'm falling off my movie-watching game. This is so un-nerd of me. I swear I have a good reason, though (Does no reason count as a good reason?). Regardless, Sunset Blvd. is a movie I've seen more times than I can remember. I can recount most of the details from memory. If I remember shit incorrectly, though, by all means correct me in the comments section. I swear I won't be offended. I also swear that I'll keep my swearing-at-you-in-the-comments-section to a minimum.]

The writing was on the wall with Sunset Blvd. In it, screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) is a man alone in the world. What he writes is from hunger. In a funk like a motherfucker, this poor bastard can't sell any of his derivative screenplays. When repo men try to snatch his late-on-the-payments ride, Gillis lams it, finding refuge at the estate of one Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a woman who used to be big, used to be in pictures. After Norma asks him to read her travesty of a screenplay, the scheming Willis decides to help her rewrite the monstrosity. He falls into a purely mercenary relationship. As is the case with many studio-writers, he becomes partnered with a writer with whom he lacks chemistry, but stays because he needs the money and also just plain gets stuck in a rut. "Alright, we'll stay in this marriage for the kids."

Soon, however, Gillis falls head over heels—writing-wise and otherwise-wise—for script girl Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson), a woman who once trashed one of his earlier screenplays but is, as it turns out, a synced-in-every-way writing partner. The two are able to be blunt with each other in the way that only truly meaningful collaborators can be. Gillis soon sneaks out to writing-cheat on Norma with Schaefer damn near every night. She makes him feel young again. He realizes that she was what was missing his entire writing-life, the key to unlocking his full writing potential. But, alas, it is not to last. As is the case with many transcendent partnerships, it burns out just as quickly as it started. Yes, when Norma finds out that the ho-bag Gillis has been writing-cheating on her, she ices the two-timer but good. Gillis and Schaeffer's relationship is fruitful and exciting but proves too incendiary; it cannot last.

[Artist's depiction of a break-up.]

As mentioned before, Sunset Blvd. was the Wilder/Brackett collaboration's swan song, an ode/dirge to their partnership—their Blood on the Tracks, their Rumours (Not that Dylan or Fleetwood Mac ended their careers after these albums, obviously, but you know what I mean). Wilder and Brackett couldn't even complete it on their own; they enlisted Life Magazine scribe D.M. Marshman Jr. to help them iron out the screenplay. Although Sunset Blvd. showcases the horrifying/ephemeral nature of transcendent collaborations, it is in many ways also a celebration of such relationships. With this film, Wilder and Brackett were saying, "let's remember the good times as well."

After the dissolution of his and Brackett's partnership, Wilder had a lot of rebound lays. It was just too hard to jump right into another relationship so soon. Throughout most of the fifties, Wilder bounced around from writing partner to writing partner until finally settling once again in another long term relationship with collaborator I.A.L. Diamond. Although this new relationship could be similarly combative, Wilder had learned what he needed to make this second marriage work. With such films as Some Like it Hot; The Apartment; and One, Two, Three, this collaboration would prove similarly successful. That's what really matters, right?

[I know I already posted this video before, but you should really check it out.]

[The awesome trailer for Sunset Blvd.:]

Dave's Rating:

Friday, February 18, 2011

We Can Do It, People!

The internet—has it ever done wrong? Short answer: no. Long answer: no. Yes, my heart is continually warmed by the warming warmth cradled in the bosom of this series of tubes (also, it's great for boners and such). So it was with great awesomeness that I discovered, while doing a routine google image search for "hot lesbian sex", that the internet does, in fact, also love me. Yes, if you do a google image search for hot lesbian sex, the eighth result (as of now) is the above embedded picture, which just so happens to link to a certain blog written by yours truly. More specifically, it connects to this page, an archive of my posts from September 2008, which includes my review of two Doris Wishman movies (Bad Girls Go to Hell and Another Day, Another Man).

I soon discovered that links to my blog also showed up in searches for:

lesbian sex
hot lesbians
hot lesbian
lesbians sex
sex lesbian
naked lesbian sex
hot lesb
lesbian hot

[Side note: masturbateurs are a thorough bunch.]

I don't know what I did to deserve such an honor, but I am grateful. When I started this movie review blog, I had but dim hopes that one day, eager, horny men—dicks in hand, looking to get their rocks off—would have their ejaculation dreams dashed by the discovery that the link they clicked on would lead them not to some hot girl-on-girl porn but rather a wankily-written piece on a couple of titillating sexploitation films of yore. My blue-ball inducing dreams had become reality.

But getting my search result at the top of the page was not enough. No, as soon as I got a taste of greatness, I realized that it could never be sated. Call it a pipe dream, but I believe that the number one google image search result for "hot lesbian sex" will soon be my blog. Of course, I won't be able to do this on my own. Here's what I need from you:

Step 1: Do a google image search for "hot lesbian sex".

Step 2: Click on the link to my blog.

Step 3: Get sidetracked and masturbate.

Step 4: Repeat.

It's gonna take a lot of hard work, but with your help, people, this dream can become a reality.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

R.I.P. David F. Friedman

Trash cinema producer extraordinaire.

[Side note: Even if you don't have a desire to watch some of these trash masterpieces (shame on you) you should definitely watch these trailers. Sixties trash trailers are second to none.]

[The Defilers - One of the few movies that Friedman directed]

Here are trailers for some movies he produced for frequent collaborator Herschell Gordon Lewis.

[Scum of the Earth]

[Two Thousand Maniacs!]

[Color Me Blood Red]

Hooray for David Michod

Seeing as my writing partner and I have been in a mad short-film-writing dash, we both figured it'd be a good idea to watch a bunch of other folks' shorts—you know, see what they think they know and best them at their own game. (We are awesome.) Joking-ness aside, I've watched some really cool shit. My favorites so far have been those made by David Michod. For those unfamiliar, Michod is the Australian writer/director who recently made the tragic low-level hood masterpiece Animal Kingdom—basically, a much bleaker variation of the Sean Penn/Christopher Walken film At Close Range. If you haven't seen Animal Kingdom yet, watch it immediately. Also, be prepared to be bummed the fuck out.

I included below a few of Michod's shorts. I would write reviews of each but, considering their short lengths, any discussion of their content would seem spoilery. Just watch them; it won't take long.

[Spider - written by Michod]
Probably the least of the bunch, but this short still packs a helluva punch. (I'm sorry for using the word helluva.)

[Crossbow - written and directed by Michod]
Signs of the genius that would come to full fruition on Animal Kingdom.

[Netherland Dwarf - written and directed by Michod]
More of a mood piece, this one grabbed me the most.

[I Love Sarah Jane - written by Michod]
I know I already posted this but, fuck it, here it is again. It's that good.

Monday, February 14, 2011

When Trailers...and Posters...and Taglines Reveal Too Much: Miracle Mile (1988)

dir. Steve De Jarnatt

[SPOILER ALERT: As is probably ridiculously obvious, given the name of this feature, this write-up contains lots of spoilers.]

Some movies are just plain unmarketable. Although I generally use this feature (I've had more than one entry in this feature, so I can use the phrase "generally use") to bash the wrongheaded marketing decisions of clueless studio execs, I honestly don't know what I would have done were I in their place, trying to sell Steve De Jarnatt's late eighties, bugfuck, goofy romantic comedy/paranoid nuclear-scare thriller/mass hysteria horror film. Who do you market this to? What do you market it as? What do you say about the plot? What do you say about anything? Who are we? Why...whoops, sorry about that.

For reals, though, how the fuck do you market a movie like Miracle Mile? I was lucky enough when I first saw it half a decade ago that I didn't know anything about the movie. A coworker at Movie Place gave me the disc, told me to watch it, said nothing more. Actually, that's not entirely true; I knew a little bit about the movie. You see, the DVD's title menu did have a mushroom cloud, so I knew the movie would involve something mushroom cloudy. (Wow, I just contradicted myself from a few sentences ago. I'm not very trustworthy. [Side note: I should've named this piece "When Trailers...and Posters...and Taglines...and DVD Title Menus Reveal Too Much".]) Of course, given the mushroom cloudiness I thought would pervade the movie, I was in for a shock when the first third or so of the movie took the form of a goofy romantic comedy. 'Wow,' I thought, 'did they put the wrong title menu on this disc? That's awesome.'

Anyway, I guess the point is that it's damn near impossible to go into a movie completely fresh. It would certainly be an interesting way to market a film, though. "Alright, let's give multiple copies of the film to movie nerds who will hand these copies to their friends, never saying anything about the movie. Their friends will repeat the pattern. Everyone along the chain will be sworn to secrecy. Everyone will know about it; no one will know anything about it."

"What should we put on the title menu?"

"Nothing...and everything."

"So reviews?"

"No one will review it. Ever. For the rest of time. It will be unknowable. It will be a movie that is but isn't."

As is obvious—and as I'm pretty sure I've stated elsewhere on my blog—addressing the whole spoiler issue in movie reviews is always tricky. How long do you wait after a film's release before revealing major plot details? Does the quality of the movie factor into this? What kind of plot details are ok to reveal? I don't know. I used to obsess over this shit—making damn sure not a single sentence revealing anything close to a spoiler was posted. No matter how old, shitty, or inconsequential the flick, I could rest assured that none of my readers would have a movie ruined. My spoiler rule now, however, can be summed up with two words: fuck it. I just put that warning at the top and then go to town with spoiler shit wherever in the review I damn well please—the lazy man's route.

Of course, a trailer revealing too much is a different beast entirely. That shit's just uncalled for. Don't spoil the movie before anyone's had a chance to see it. It's unsportsmanlike. And yet, as I stated earlier, I don't know how much differently I would have done things were I in charge of the marketing of Miracle Mile.

I suppose it would probably help at this point to give you guys an at least cursory rundown of Miracle Mile's plot.

[Side note: I haven't seen Miracle Mile in about five years, so my recap will be based on memories of the movie. I know I probably should have rewatched the flick for this blog entry but I had more important shit to do. And by "more important shit to do," I mean I didn't have a chance to watch any movies this week. And by "I didn't have a chance to watch any movies this week," I mean damn you, Cliff for getting me hooked on Marc Maron's podcast. [Second side note: Damn you, Marc Maron for producing such a listenable, revelatory podcast. Hey readers, you should go listen to his interview with Dave Foley. [Third side note: Why aren't you listening to his Dave Foley interview right now? You should go do that.]]]

Nebbish musician Harry Washello (Anthony Edwards) falls for Julie Peters (Mare Winningham) after a chance meeting. The two get they courtin' on and plan a date at a diner on Los Angeles' Miracle Mile (hey, that's the name of the movie). After the power goes out in his building, causing his alarm clock to not alarm, Harry misses his date. Hoping to catch Julie, he speeds to the diner where he is met by a ringing telephone just outside the establishment. "Hey, maybe that's her," he thinks. Wrong. It's just a wrong number from a guy in the defense department screaming that nuclear war has accidentally started. Whoops. Or is it a prank call? Harry isn't sure but he soon takes to panicking. He tells the other patrons in the diner and they similarly panic. Word spreads throughout the city; the whole thing mushrooms with the chaotic mob destruction of Los Angeles as people fight to leave. Harry finds Julie and attempts to find a helicopter that will take the two of them away to the safety of a science lab in Antarctica. We never know whether the nuclear threat is real or a hoax until the end of the film when [SPOILER ALERT] nuclear missiles strike the city. Everyone dies. The end.

[Artist's depiction of Anthony Edwards.]

I know I've already said it a few times before but I feel it bears repeating; how the fuck do you market a movie like this? It's designed to appeal to as few people as possible. Sure, I really dig the movie but I can't imagine many others (you know, aside from the cult following Miracle Mile now has) would get a kick out of this dick-punch of a film. I can only imagine the pitch meeting for this picture. "Ok, it's An Affair to Remember meets After Hours meets The Day After, with a little rioting thrown in for good measure.

"Here's a big bag o' cash."

"Really? Are you sure you don't wanna-"

"Just make that movie."

One of Miracle Mile's biggest strengths is that it's unknowable. Just when you think it's going to zig, it does an eight ball and punches a cop. When making a trailer for it, it'd be best not to mention the dark turn it takes. Then again, if you market it as a romantic comedy, you're gonna get a lot of pissed-off people. (Actually, that would be a pretty funny prank. If only they'd made a version of Just Go with It in which everyone was killed by nuclear weapons.) Of course, this movie isn't about tricking people. The fact that it takes such an abrupt tonal, thematic, and plotic (fuck you, spell-check, I'm making that a word) detour speaks to its effectiveness as a horror film. We don't live in constant horror/thriller scenarios. When bad shit happens to us, one of the reasons it sucks so much is that it usually abruptly fucks up our regular day-to-day shit.

Again, taking all of that into account, I don't know how I would have marketed this movie. The trailer for Miracle Mile, which you can watch below, is basically just a capsule of the movie—explaining everything that happens. It runs the total tonal gamut of the film. Like I said, Miracle Mile packs more of a punch if you don't know what's coming, but I suppose some people would like to have an inkling as to the kind of movie they're parting cash with to see. I honestly don't know how much it ruins the film to know all this. I think I'd still have dug it the first time had I gone into it knowing everything. It has such a weird mix of tones that it's impossible not to be affected by it.

That being said, the mushroom cloud in the poster (shown above) and the tagline (There are 70 minutes to the end of the world. Where can you hide?) are just plain dickish. "Hey folks, there's gonna be 'splosions." Sure, you can tell potential viewers that this will be a dark movie, but you don't need to tell them that nuclear weapons will destroy everything. Most of the tension in Miracle Mile stems from not knowing whether the nuclear threat is real. Hell, even the poster's pull-quote ("Be prepared to be blown through the back of the theatre!"), drives home the nuclear-'splosions-are-gonna-happen plot point. Incidentally, here are some other taglines Miracle Mile's marketing department produced:

The Crying Game: She's got a penis!

The Usual Suspects: Kevin Spacey is Keyser Soze!

The Happening: The plants are...ah, who gives a shit!

This is the last sentence.

[The trailer:]

Friday, February 11, 2011

Awesome TV Movie Trailers: The Day After (1983)

dir. Nicholas Meyer

Anyone who's ever said an eighties TV movie can't be scary, get prepared to say, "holy shit"...and then poop your pants. [Side note: Between this and Carnival of Souls; Lawrence, Kansas is batting a thousand, movies-filmed-there-wise.]

[The trailer:]

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Awesome Movie Trailers: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

dir. Russ Meyer

Like every lover of trash cinema, I was bummed when I found out that cult actress Tura Satana died. Although she had a few other notable credits (Irma la Douce, The Astro-Zombies, The Doll Squad), it was her performance in Russ Meyer's feminist masterpiece (no, I'm not being ironic) Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (my favorite exploitation flick) that cemented her place in film history. Every single shot, line, action, and performance in this movie reeks of awesomeness. Sure, director Meyer and writer Jack Moran were partly responsible for Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!'s bad-assedness, but really, it was Tura who made this movie. Playing Varla, the leader of a renegade band of strippers on a crime spree, Tura brought a wholly believable air of danger and authority to her role. Indeed, she portrayed one of the, if not the, most powerful female protagonists film had yet, or probably will ever, see. To those who haven't seen Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! yet, don't take my word for it; watch this trailer and try to fight the urge to watch the movie immediately. [Side note: I want to make love to the words recited by the narrator of this trailer.]

[The trailer:]

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I've Got the Hunger

I've got the hunger (hey, that's the title of this piece), folks. It can't be sated. Every time I've deluded myself into believing I've kicked it, it bites me in the ass, begging me to try just a little bit more. It all happened so fast I barely new what happened after it happened. It was casual at first. I didn't have any new movies to watch, so I thought, 'hey, let's see what's on here...just to pass the time, you know.' Soon, even when I had new discs to watch, I'd check what else was available. Now, not a night goes by that I don't watch something. Yes, I'm addicted to Netflix streaming.

Specifically, I can't stop watching documentaries on Netflix streaming. Even more specifically, I can't stop watching made-for-TV documentaries and documentary series on Netflix streaming. As mentioned a few sentences ago, it started innocently. I didn't have anything else to watch so I checked out the service. I used to be incredulous about it because of the dearth of available titles. When I started to check it out a few months ago, though, I noticed that not only did it have many more available movies, but it also seemed to have an endless supply of TV Documentaries. I like learning about stuff because stuff is cool. What better way to learn about stuff than with documentaries about stuff.

Although I initially dove into these because I dig the whole edumacation thing, what kept me coming back for more was the cheesiness. These docs are competently made, to be sure. Most TV productions are handled by veterans who could do this stuff in their sleep. Nevertheless, because they are made-for-TV productions they are marked by the most pandering attempts at the sort of unnecessary suspense and drama usually reserved for Lifetime movies. Most of them are marked by the rise-and-fall five or six act structure that is the hallmark of commercial based TV. You gotta keep the viewers on edge so they don't flip to another channel each commercial break.

The TV doc that broke my cherry was a Lisa Ling hosted National Geographic piece on meth. I decided to watch this piece as research for a screenplay my writing partner and I were working on (I figured it was easier than actually starting a meth addiction). Although, it was informative, the whole TV-ness of it turned me off at first. Intense music, editing and artificial suspense accompanied every story. Not only that, it included one story that was peppered throughout the course of the running time about a couple of kids who took meth and got stranded in a blizzard. Stay tuned to find out after the break what happened to these two kids. Break. Alright, after the next break we'll tell you what happened. Break. Sorry about that, we'll tell you just after this next break. Break. Ok, we really mean it this time; we'll tell you after this break, for reals. Break. Please don't leave, we swear we'll tell you after the next break. We promise. We got our hearts crossed and everything. Break. We'll suck your dick. Please keep watching.

You don't need to amp up a story about meth to create artificial suspense; it's meth. The shit's scary enough on its own. Against my better judgment, though I soon got in tune. I started to dig the pandering nature of the production. Not only that, I started eating these docs up by the barrel-full. I plowed through a whole mess o' National Geographic shit. No matter what the topic (stress, the human body, tornadoes, prison, etc...), the structure was always the same. So reassuring.

And then I branched out into nature, science, and historical documentary series made by other production companies. Much to my delight they all followed the same structure. I soon found out that the artificial suspense wasn't even limited to scary topics (the aforementioned meth and prison); that shit was in everything, even the seemingly benign educational science docs. Right now I'm a few episodes deep in a History Channel series titled How the Earth Was Made. Each episode chronicles the history of certain geographical locations and phenomena (the San Andreas Fault, Manhattan, the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883), and examines their histories, showing how they came to be. The forced-suspense nature of these episodes (stay tuned to find out how this mountain was made) gets hypnotically repetitive. It's like an avant-garde mystery series in which every episode ends with the same celebrity guest star revealed as the killer. [Spoiler alert: It was plate tectonics in the conservatory with the candlestick.]

As stated before, one of the reasons I've decided to sit through hours and hours of cinematic dreck is these docs do serve one legitimately good purpose: they're informative. I do learn stuff, after all. Nevertheless, although I was loath to admit it at first, it's the made for Lifetime suspense that I actually dig more than anything else about these docs. Are they ruining my ability to appreciate and create cinematically-intelligent, non-pandering material? Stay tuned to find out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Frozen (2010)

dir. Adam Green

[This "review" is part of Final Girl's Film Club.]

[Side note: This "review" wins the award for weirdest shit I ever put on my blog. Second Side note: I watched this movie on Netflix streaming and I don't know how to capture images while doing that. Instead of using Frozen stuff, I included below pictures from other snow-filled horror movies.]

"I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom but taught her never to dishonor the free enterprise system. She found a boyfriend, not a capitalist. She worked at soup kitchens with him. They didn't ask for payment. I didn't protest. Two weeks ago he took her for a drive, with a busload of orphans. He took them to my ski resort and forced her to ask me for a charity group discount for the orphans. She resisted. She kept her honor. So he guilted her. Like an animal. When I went to her arriving bus, her will was broken. There were too many orphans. She and now I were powerless to resist. I gave them their group discount. My daughter lost her sense of purpose. She was changed. She couldn't even weep because of her change. But I wept. Why did I weep? That busload of orphans was profit lost. I will never have that money back."

The bespectacled George took a long, deep drag from his cigarette before resuming. "I never thought this could happen to me, this grifting. I work. I stand firm. I collect. But orphans want to get by. Orphans try to get by. Orphans get by...without paying enough. What could have been extremely profitable was now just profitable. I can't expect all of you to understand. Perhaps you haven't been affected by orphans. But this is a problem. It is real. Believe me-"

"I know! You think think we don't know! Because this is your first time, you speak as if it is not happening to us on a continual basis. I've warned you many times of these orphans. If this is what it took for you to take notice of this ongoing crime, then so the better. Am I right?" The four other suited-men at the mahogany conference table harrumphed in agreement with the bulldog-faced Larry.

George stroked his chin and walked to the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the mountain slope, the "Ski Resort Owner Convention 2010" banner hanging inches from his head. Seemingly lost in contemplation, George stared at the virgin powder below. Without turning around, George spoke, "For too long I turned a deaf ear to your pleas. I apologize. I now know and feel your profit loss." George turned around and again faced the men, "but gentlemen we could sit here all day throwing blame—who ignored who and the like—but this won't solve our problem. Yes I was slow on the uptake, but I come here as a man humbled, a man asking forgiveness, and a man asking for your help. We need to fight this problem; we need ideas and we need them now."

Mikey ran a comb through his greased-back her before piping in, "How's abouts we's just busts the little orphans' kneecaps. No kneecaps, no skiings."

[Have you readers seen The Children? If not you should really watch it.]

Larry shook his head, "Don't you think we already thought about that? No, we've looked into it. There are laws put in place against just that sort of thing. Lots of laws."

"I'm just sayings is alls."

The rotund Hank shook his head, "Damn gubmint."

Larry addressed Hank, "Hank, do you have any ideas?"


"Do you have any ideas? You come to every one of these meetings, contributing nothing aside from the occasional one-liner. Never once have you given us anything constructive to work with."

"Maybe if I thought y'alls could get any shit done, I'd care more about pitching in."

George barked at the men, "Gentlemen, stop this petty sniping. Let's get down to brass tacks. How do we stop those godforsaken orphans from robbing our profits? As Larry mentioned, harming them is out of the question but what about the threat of harm? Now we don't-"

Larry interrupted, "I've looked into that too. Threatening a crime can sometimes be treated just as severely as a crime."

Mikey responded, "Whats abouts they's crimes of not payings us enoughs?"

George resumed, "If you guys had let me finish, what I was about to say was: now we don't have to actually threaten to harm the orphans, as satisfying as that would be. No, we just need to make them fear the slopes."

The confused Hank jumped in, "I ain't see what the Vietcong's got to do with this."

George shook his head. The annoyed Larry addressed Hank, "Hank, go stand in the corner."

"What? Every time we got a meeting, you make me-"

"Hank! Less talking. More corner."

Angered grumbling from Hank as the defeated man moved to the corner of the conference room.

George: "As I was saying, as long as the orphans fear the slo-...fear skiing, they aren't gonna come. Now how do we make them afraid?"

Larry's eyes lit up, "PSA's. Goddamn, we're on the same page."

"Damn, right. PSA's. All we have to do is make a short little film showing orphans harmed after paying half-price for lift-tickets. We make it scary enough and no orphan will come within five miles of a ski lift."

The previously silent Cooper removed his sunglasses as he addressed the men, "How far up your asses do you guys store your heads?"

[If beards could fuck, I would totally have sex with this. In case anyone who knows me is wondering, yes, Kurt Russell in The Thing is the reason I decided to grow my own woefully only adequate beard.]

George: "Excuse me?"

Cooper: "You think you're gonna solve your problem by making a bunch of orphans poop their pants. You aren't gonna do shit is what you're gonna do. Whether or not they're scared, they'll still invade our slopes by the busloads. Orphans don't drive. The drivers, they're the ones you need to scare. If you want to solve the problem, you gotta cut off the head. "

Larry: "I'm interested."

Cooper: "George, how old did you say your daughter was?'

"Umm, about twenty, I guess."

"Larry, how old are the people who drive the orphans to your slopes?"

"Probably about the same."

"Just as I thought. Just the same as the ones who drive orphans to my slopes. Now, it's those folks, the college age folks we gotta scare. We make a PSA that...fuck it, we make a feature-length film—the longer it is, the more they're scared—a feature length film with college age types getting what for after paying less than they should for lift-tickets."

George: "Should we do research on these kids for the characters in the movie. Should I get to know my daughter, find out what she's like?"

Cooper: "Fuck that. If we make these characters too real, too specific, audiences will be less likely to identify with them. We make these characters and their dialogue as flat, boring, and generic as possible. We want everyone watching to think, 'hey, this vague recreation of a young human type kinda resembles me. I'm also that age, and I walk and talk."

Larry: "Ok, shoot. What're you thinking for the movie?"

Cooper: "Imagine: Three generic college types go skiing. They forgo lift tickets. Instead, they con the lift operator into letting them ski for a smaller chunk of change. After skiing all day, instead of going home, the three douches force the lift operator into letting them go up for a little night skiing. While they're going up the lift, the lift operator gets called away and asks another man to fill in for him. That guy stops the lift, while the kids are on it, not realizing they're on it. They get stuck-"

Larry: "Wait, that's something that could never happen. We have so many safeguards in place for that."

Cooper: "Doesn't matter. We just gotta scare the shit out of them. So anyways, they're stuck on the lift, no way to get away aside from falling a body-breaking height. If they want to climb on the wire, their hands will get cut up by the sharp wire. And then they find out that this ski slope is home to lots and lots of wolves. Even if they get to the ground, the wolves will immediately devour them."

Larry: "Wait, how...umm...wait...well, if all these wolves are there, all these wolves that kill anyone on site, wouldn't the regular skiers constantly get destroyed by wolves? I can't imagine Mount Wolf Kill would stay in business too long."

Cooper: "Doesn't matter. We just gotta scare the shit out of them. So anyways, these three kids have little-to-no survival options. Either freeze to death, fall to likely death, or get eaten by wolves. We just scare the shit out of the shits."

[Artist's depiction of freezing to death.]

Larry: "How do we fill the running time with this stuff? Don't you think feature length is a little overkill?"

Cooper: "While waiting for death, the kids can just have a lot of boring, generic, uninvolving conversations."

George: "Works for me. Let's get this started."

[My review of Frozen: Although I had problems with it, much of it was genuinely terrifying.]

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Movies I'm Anticipating: Rubber (2010)

dir. Quentin Dupieux

Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. Killer tire. Killer tire psychic powers. This is what movies are made for. Oh my God, I can't breathe. Why am I sitting here completely surrounded by, not this movie playing? File this under: shit I'm pissed I ain't thunk up first.

[The trailer:]

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Piranha (2010)

dir. Alexandre Aja

Apparently it's trash week here at the "gooddamn, I need a better name for my blog." Strap in, folks; grab your scuba gear, dynamite and outboard motor 'cause it's fishing season. If ya' ain't got the heart for piranha, boobies, piranha carnage, and boobies; tread no further. That's right, folks, we're in piranha country. Piranha. Boobies.

Of all the 3D movies we were inundated with last year, Piranha and Jackass were the only ones I had any desire to see in 3D. Finally someone realized the true reason 3D was invented: boobies, horror, and self-inflicted pain. Unfortunately, I didn't check out either in the theater. My immense loss.

Although I've never been a huge cheerleader for Piranha remake director Alexandre Aja, I'm happy as hell for the guy. [Side note: For the record, the original Piranha, itself a spoof of Jaws, is sadly one of the only Joe Dante movies I have yet to see.] You see, although Aja never made a movie I could really get behind, the guy always had potential. A viewing of his previous movies High Tension and the Hills Have Eyes remake, makes it only too obvious that guy knows his shit. Unfortunately, until Piranha he had never been able to coalesce that shit into movies that mattered.

High Tension so wanted to be a great movie, and it almost completed the task. I believed in it at first; I really did. The first half of Aja's breakthrough is one of the tensest, most unflinching slasher films of the last twenty years. Unfortunately, as it got to the halfway point, this film had a mid-life crisis. It faced an existential dilemma. It forgot who it was, started questioning itself, fell in with the wrong crowd (cough M. Night Shyamalan), and began a heavy regimen of hallucinogens. A movie that began with so much promise, soon found itself alone, forgotten, doing blow with Charlie Sheen and a bevy of prostitutes at the Chateau Marmont; only to be discovered a few days later when its naked, bloated, fetid corpse was discovered by the hotel management responding to complaints of a stench emanating from the room. But, yeah, the first half of the movie is good.

Although his The Hills Have Eyes remake wasn't mind-blowing, it certainly was effective. It didn't upset me like High Tension.

After watching his Piranha, it is now extremely obvious that the explanation for Aja's heretofore almost-greatness is that he had been going at it all wrong for so long. He tackled the wrong movies. What this motherfucker needed was to go the Troma route—over-the-top, silly, splatter-toons attacked with fuck-all abandon. Namely, the guy needed to abandon his pretensions of seriousness. Although he ain't equipped to make a true horror film, he can certainly make one as entertaining as some of the best low-grade, USA Up All Night schlock. Piranha is the first Aja movie that I have no problems with. All hyperbole aside, it is the first Aja movie that I wholeheartedly, unapologetically have a boner for and want to make babies with.

Piranha follows the tried and true formula of assembling a large variety of douchebags, throwing danger at them, and watching as the clueless fucktards get done in by their own arrogance/ignorance. Shakespeare the shit ain't; awesome it is. Reigning as Piranha's king douchebag is Jerry O'Connell's wonderfully over the top Derrick Jones (a thinly, if at all, veiled take-down of a certain real life douche that I shall not name here for fear of being sued). Derrick hires local sand rat Jake (Steven R. McQueen) to scout the best water locations on lake Victoria from which to film boobies. A true art is Derrick's enterprise. Meanwhile, Derrick's mom Sheriff Julie (the still hot Elisabeth Shue) joins science man Novak (Adam Scott) in an investigation of the strange goings-on going on at the lake. [SPOILER ALERT: It's Piranha.] Meanwhile spring-breakers at the lake-shore get they douche on. The film alternates between the folks on Derrick's party boat, Julie and Novak's containment efforts, and Spring Breakers gettin' all et up.

Aja is aided in his endeavor, of course, by a ridiculously talented cast. In addition to the aforementioned O'Connell, Shue, and Scott, we get some Ving Rhames, Paul Scheer, Christopher Lloyd (basically reviving his Dr. Emmett Brown) and Richard Dreyfuss (basically reviving his Matt Hooper). With this film's pedigree, it is obvious that the major difference between it and its exploitation ancestors is that all involved were in on the joke.

If Piranha can be faulted with anything, it's the long build-up before the money shots. Sure, the slow-burn is ridiculously effective in actually scary horror movies, but here it's just a drag. "You mean I gotta wait another half an hour before the shit I came to this movie to see actually happens? That's just too much unnecessary story. I ain't signed up for that shit." When attacking material of this sort, both less and more are most certainly more.

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating: