Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Movies I'm Anticipating: Super (2011)

dir. James Gunn

Yeah, I'm pretty over superhero movies at this point but I'll always give anything James Gunn related (Scooby Doo movies excepted) a chance. Also, this trailer had me all laughing and stuff. By the way, if you haven't done so yet, do yourself a favor and watch Slither immediately.

[The trailer:]

Monday, March 28, 2011

BloodRayne (2005)

dir. Uwe Boll

[EXTREMELY OBVIOUS DISCLAIMER: Yeah, I'll state the extremely obvious right off the bat that nothing in the following paragraphs in any way represents any kind of reality. Nor is this piece meant in any way to represent any kind of reality. It's all fictitious and such (and obviously so). Yep, just a big ol' fakity fake story thunk up by yours truly while high on caffeine yesterday.]

Gerry Chaplin and Michael Madsen arm-in-arm to the house of their friend did travel, skipping to the tune they half-remembered and sang out of tune. At the yard of the house of Ben—Sir Kingsley to some, friend to them—the two arrived. With an impish grin, Gerry faced her friend. Clenched in her hand, ready to toss, was a stone from the sack she carried on her back.

"You think he's awake?" asked Gerry, the stone almost released.

"I don't know. We ain't a'sposed to." replied the timid Madsen.

Before the words left his mouth, the stone clanged the window. A laugh from Gerry; from Madsen came panic. From the house sprang Ben followed by the woman with the rolling pin who chased him out. "What did I tell you about this commotion? If it happens again, I swear to God I'll give you what for and then some more. These friends are just trouble and-"

"Geez, mom, why you gotta embarrass me?" came the retort from Ben.

"You just wait, buster brown. Anymore shenanigans and don't try coming back. I can't..." her words lost in the ether as Sir Ben and his friends disappeared in the woods beyond the yard of the house with the bed in the room where Sir Ben laid his head.

"Geez guys, why'd you have ta throw that rock? You know what my mom's like. Now I'm in trouble but good."

Quick with an excuse, Madsen blurted out, "Don't look at me. It was Gerry. I told her not to. She-"

Interrupting Madsen, the cocky Gerry put him in his place, "Geez, what a tattletale baby. Why don't you go crying to mommy?"

"Just don't cry to mine," replied Ben to the laughter of his friends.

[Reason # 532 not to take up smoking: you will never look as cool as Geraldine Chaplin does here. Speaking of smoking, Goddamn, Geraldine Chaplin was a fucking hottie.]

As done by the three every day for so long; Madsen, Gerry and Ben arrived at the lean-to by the lake they liked to call pretend-home. They laughed through the day as they played and skipped stones. Sir Ben and Madsen gave in to Gerry, as always they did, and the three soon played Doctor and giggled some more. They continued to bond and to talk and to laugh. As the darkening sky announced night's arrival, the three built a fire to fend off their fright. The marijuana cigarette Gerry brought in her sack was passed to her friends to all their delight.

"I can't believe summer's almost over," announced the wistful Sir Ben.

Gerry, denying emotion at the thought of the end of the season that would bring an end to the playtime she enjoyed with her friends, replied to Sir Ben, "C'mon, Ben, that don't mean anything. We'll still all be friends and stuff."

"It won't be the same. You know it. We won't be able to come out here. The lean'to's gonna be gone in the snow. We-"

[Sir Kingsley rocking out on being awesome.]

"Wait, you guys hear that?" interrupted the skittish Madsen.

"What are you talking about?" came the reply from Gerry.

"Shh. Hold on. Listen."

From the three there was silence and the forest brought darkness. For what seemed an eternity the three stared into space, listening and waiting for what they hoped was not there. Give in to Madsen's fears was what they always did. Sure, he couldn't handle his marijuana cigarette intake, bringing on paranoia as it always did, but Gerry and Ben saw no harm in humoring him. After the usual length of silent waiting, Gerry turned to Madsen, mouth almost open when...


"Oh wait I did hear something," said Ben.

"Shh. Me too. Be quiet," whispered Gerry.

"See, I told you guys," boomed Madsen.

Ben put his hand over Madsen's mouth and whispered to Gerry, "What are we gonna do?"

"You bring your pocketknife?"

"As always."

"Whoever's out there, whatever he thinks he's gonna do to us, we ain't goin' down without a fight."

"What should we do?"

"Ben, hide behind that tree, ready with your knife. Madsen, go behind the lean-to. Me, I'll be by that tree."

The three assumed positions. After the waiting became most unbearable and the three thought all was clear, a dark figured appeared. The three of them tensed, sweat dripping down, waiting and hoping the stranger would leave. And leave he almost did. Just as the stranger turned, there came a whimper from Madsen. Perked ears from the stranger as turn around he did again.


A scream from Gerry, "Ben! Now!"

Quick with the knife, Ben leaped from his spot and sliced the Achilles of the man who arrived a stranger in the camp. The stranger dropped to the ground, screaming profanities and lunging at Ben and the knife in his hand.

Ben: "Gerry, help!"

Before the words left Ben's mouth, a large rock left Gerry's hands and onto the stranger's back. Gerry pummeled the man with the rock and the man went limp.

Madsen, finally escaping the lean-to, cried to his friends, "Oh gee, guys. Oh boy, oh boy. This isn't good. Is he gonna try to attack?"

[You know what you should do right now? Go rewatch Donnie Brasco. Now that's a great fucking movie.]

To which Gerry replied, "Not less'n he wakes from the dead."

A somber Ben finally took in all that had happened. He had to know, he just had to know who came through and why he would try to do what he almost did do. Ben approached the body and kicked the body over. Shock from Ben and sadness as well as he saw the man's face and knew who he was, "Oh no, it wasn't a killer after all. It was old man Withers. I forgot that he comes through the forest for midnight fog walks."

"We done a bad thing," replied the anguished Madsen.

Ben put his head in his hands, "When my mom finds out about this, my goose will be cooked for sure."

Thinking on her feet, the resilient Gerry addressed the two, "Hold on fellas, don't lose hope now. We don't have to do time. We just gotta get rid of the body."

Through his tears, Madsen asked, "But he's so big. How will we do that?"

"Piece by piece. That's the only way no one will find out his true identity."

Ben regained composure, "Gerry's right. We gotta act and act fast."

Taking command, Gerry addressed the two, "Ben, cut off his head and pull out his teeth. The dental records will just bring us all grief. Madsen, sand off his fingerprints before you chop off his hands. We can't leave a trace of who this man was."

"What'll you do, Gerry?"

"I'll start digging holes. I have enough lime to do away with the remains."

The three went to work and work hard they did. And deep into the night and nigh on the morning, the three finished their task. Friends before, they now looked at each other as strangers. No amount of time nor good deeds could make right what they did nor heal the rift wrought by this crime. Partners before, any solidarity now was the result only of mutual guilt and fear. Never again would they regain the carefree bond built that summer. Never again would they be the same.

Just then, Uwe Boll popped out from behind a tree and pointed at the three. "Ha, I saw what you guys did. Now you'll have to be in my movie BloodRayne or I'll call the cops and tell them what you did."

The three: "Dangnabit."

The End.

[My review of BloodRayne: Although Boll's movie isn't nearly as atrocious as I was hoping, I laughed enough while watching it that I considered it an overall enjoyable experience.]

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Friday, March 25, 2011

1992: Year of the Psycho Female Character

After posting my piece on the Cape Fear trailers, I wanted to post a few more early nineties thriller trailers in order to show the similarities between these pieces of movie advertisement. Aside from the stars and locations, these ads are all extremely interchangeable. Any one of these trailers could work just as well to advertise any of the other thrillers from the era. Mostly, though, I wanted to post these because they are the sorts of trailers I find the funniest.

So I started gathering some trailers and I noticed an alarming trend. Apparently, in 1992, women were out of control with the stalking, the psychosis, the murdering, and the general other such mishigas and what have you. Why do the history books feel the need to neglect this important fact? What was it about about 1992 that proved such a perfect storm for female-type crazy-types? How did this problem eventually get contained? Important questions all; nary an answer to be found. We can only watch the documentaries from 1992 on this subject and hope to avoid similar craziness from happening again. With that I present you the most severe girls gone wild 1992 had to offer. Be warned: the below images are not for the faint of heart. The sights you are about to see will chill your soul and shake you to your very core.

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992)
dir. Curtis Hanson

When will people learn, no good can ever come of having children.

Poison Ivy (1992)
dir. Katt Shea

How this movie was ignored by the Academy is a mystery to me.

Single White Female (1992)
dir. Barbet Schroeder

I wish it wasn't the norm that roommate situations always end like this.

Basic Instinct (1992)
dir. Paul Verhoeven

Fuck the haters. This movie is a beautiful piece of trash. I will not have it mocked. Unless, of course, you're really funny with your mocking. Then, by all means, mock the fuck away.

Sister Act (1992)
dir. Emile Ardolino

What? You've never seen the director's cut? Shit gets crazy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Awesome Movie Trailers: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Cub Band (1978)

dir. Michael Schultz

As regular readers may have guessed by now, I've been on a bit of a nostalgia kick lately. Because I recently wanted to reconnect with my white trash New England roots, I started re-listening to a lot of old Aerosmith. Actually, the Aerosmith re-listening was kind of kick-started by my recent viewing of The Fighter. I would post something here but David O. Russell's movie is so damn, fucking, rocking-tits awesome that my blog would not be able to contain a review of it. Yeah, I really dug it. Anyway, I don't wanna give too much away [Spoiler alert: A scrappy underdog fighter from the wrong side of the tracks overcomes great odds to win a championship.] but about midway through the film, Marky Mark begins fighting and winning after a period of loserdom/smashed-hand-imposed-semi-retirement. You could say he gets back in the saddle again. In a bold move, Russell sets this comeback montage to Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle". While watching this scene, I realized that I hadn't listened to Aerosmith since I was a youngster. So I got back in the saddle (I apologize) of listening to Aerosmith and, hot damn, I felt like a kid again. Yes, the music is pretty cheesy but I don't care. I just...fuck you. Don't judge me.

Anyway, I really wanted to post something Aerosmith related here. Of course, the first Aerosmith related movie I thought of was Dazed and Confused. I still remember the first time I saw Richard Linklater's film and the excitement I felt upon hearing the slow-build-to-rocking opening of Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" set against the opening scene of this 70s nostalgia coming-of-age film. Shit gave me goosebumps. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the scene on youtube.

I had to post something else, so I started thinking of my other options. I have always refused to post Aerosmith's abomination unto all that is holy theme song to Armageddon (not that I haven't posted shitty theme songs here before, of course. I don't know why "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" is where I draw the line). Then I remembered, "Hey, Aerosmith sang 'Come Together' in the cinematic abomination unto all that is holy, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Fuck it I'll post the trailer for that shit." You didn't ask for it. You got it.

[The trailer:]

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jason X (2001)

dir. James Isaac

[Hey, readers, if you want to read about the best entry in the Friday the 13th franchise, check out this piece my friend Matt Jordan wrote for my blog some time back.]

I’ve gone and did it to myself again. I went into a movie I knew would suck just so I could write a scathing review of it. Yeah, I feel slightly guilty about being such a dick but, then again, some shit has it coming. Take that, older movie everyone’s already driven into the ground with criticism, I’ll give you what for. In all sincerity, though, I actually didn’t want to do this again. I prefer to defend less-than-reputable movies because, you know, it’s more challenging than just attacking shit. The truly hard task is finding a movie most other people would consider poopy, and making a convincing argument why the supposed poop-movie is something of value. Apparently, though, I just wanted to take the lazy man’s route this week and review Jason X, the tenth entry in the Friday the 13th franchise.

Believe it or not, Jason X was the only Jason movie I hadn’t seen until this week. Obviously I’m a fan of slasher films, and the Jason movies are an important part of this genre. Previously, though, I just never had a desire to watch Jason X. True, there are some stinkers in this series (cough Friday the 13th: A New Beginning), but I always felt I should give the other entries a fair shot. Who knows, there might be some good things in such and such an entry. Jason X, however, announced its awfulness right up front. With a shitty premise, unappealing trailer, and just an all around air of suckitude, I thought it wasn’t worth my while to watch it even ironically.

Unfortunately, Netflix had to go ahead and make this title available on its streaming service. Whenever I skimmed through the titles, Jason X kept beckoning to me. "No," I thought, "I can’t do this. I can’t do Jason X to myself. I can’t give in to my lazy, mean-spirited, this-will-be-an-easy-way-to-churn-out-a-quickly-written-review-with-some-humorous-one-liners side. I won’t do it. I won’t watch it."

But watch it I did. And get everything out of it I thought I would, I did as well. This is one book whose cover you can judge the fuck out of. Of course, the makers of Jason X anticipated potential backlash to its awfulness and included plenty of winking, self-referential, exceedingly unfunny humor. Although I’m not a huge fan of this kind of horror movie, it can be done well (see the sixth Jason movie). This time, however, was not one of those times. As I’ve stated before, nothing is more painful than unfunny humor. But unfunny, we-know-this-sucks, ironic humor? Damn, that shit is soul-draining on a whole other level. "Hey, look, all you stupid viewers who gave us money for this shit, it’s ok that this movie sucks because one of the characters made a shitty joke. All better."

Needless to say, as I expected, Jason X was nothing more than a mercenary, soulless, studio group-think project based on flimsy ideas intended to pander to multiple fan-boy obsessions, with no regards to turning out an entertaining picture. Because of this, I will churn out an equally soulless, thoughtless review in the form of alternate taglines for Jason X (as if the preceding bile-filled paragraphs weren’t enough):

“Movie theater ticket price. Made-for-Syfy channel movie value.”

"Come for David Cronenberg's cameo. Stay for nothing else."

“Unfrozen 1980s cash-cow.”

“It’s just like one of those Brendan Fraser movies, except, you know, shittier.”

“Jason in space. Why not?”

"Yeah, we just up and made a movie out of a Mad TV sketch."

“Jason and robots—two great tastes that equal herpes.”

“All the killings of the Jason movies, none of the anything else.”

"No boobs 'til the last few minutes."

[Exhibiting all the worst aspects of late nineties/early aughts, nu-metal-and-"coolness"-filled, vomit-inducing horror trailers, this is the trailer for Jason X:]

Dave's Rating:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dueling Trailers: Cape Fear (1962) (1991)

It isn't often that I have equal admiration for two versions of a movie. But so it is with the two iterations of the thriller Cape Fear (forgetting the lameness of the Friday the 13th-ish ending to Scorsese's version, of course). Briefly, Cape Fear tells the story of ex-con Max Cady's stalking/terrorizing of the family of one attorney Sam Bowden, the man responsible for Cady's eight year stint in the pen. In the original, Bowden (Gregory Peck) was a key witness at Cady's (Robert Mitchum) trial; in the remake, Bowden (Nick Nolte), as Cady's (Robert De Niro) public defender, purposefully kept crucial evidence hidden from the court, ensuring Cady would serve a maximum sentence. Whereas the original film plays up the outside-force-disrupts-the-tranquility-of-a-harmonious-family theme, in Scorsese's version, Cady drives a wedge further into a dysfunctional family, magnifying already present rifts and tensions.

Although I could continue expounding on the differences between the films themselves and their places within their respective eras, I will instead examine the exploitation of these pictures, that is the means used to advertise them. The trailer and poster for each version act as perfect time capsules for the obsessions, stylistic and otherwise, of each period. Each trailer is typical of its era's thrillers.

Cape Fear (1962)
dir. J. Lee Thompson

The trailer: Action! Action! Action! The trailer for the original Cape Fear doesn't fuck around. Straightaway, Peck and Mitchum are brawlin'. Before the trailer's twenty second mark, Mitchum brings down a club, the picture freezes, and white splatter paints the screen—the title, Cape Fear, jumping out. Cut to: Peck, gun in hand, searching for Mitchum. The word "Suspense" bursts forth. The narrator: "Feel suspense, suspense that grips your heart in a vise." Star swipe: Mitchum looms over a helpless woman in bed. The word "Fear" roars out. Narrator: "Feel fear, numbing, paralyzing fear." Cut to Peck again. The title, Cape Fear, again. Introduction to the actors. The narrator continues selling Cape Fear's "terrifying war of nerves." At about the halfway mark, Mitchum and Peck engage in a war of words, Mitchum threatening Peck's family. Cut to more scenes of suspense: Mitchum terrorizes Peck's family members; Mitchum and Peck brawl again. More words burst onto the screen: "The Ultimate in Shock!", "The Ultimate in Suspense!". Mitchum attempts to drown Peck. Cut to mother and daughter. Mother turns off lamp. The title again: Cape Fear.

The original Cape Fear was of a time that respected genre boundaries. When you made a horror movie, you made a horror movie; when you made a Western, you made a Western; and when you made a thriller, you damn well made a thriller. Audiences went to these pictures wanting what they expected and getting what they wanted. Smartly, Cape Fear's trailer plays up the thriller elements to the nth degree. Like a carnival barker, the narrator (and the words splashing across the screen) announce sights and sounds to chill your soul. For the faint of heart there is no welcome.

Although Cape Fear's plot is vaguely alluded to, the exact reason for Mitchum's terrorizing intentions are never mentioned. And although the characters in the film are hardly one-dimensional, the trailer does nothing to humanize them. They are all players in a thriller game. We just know that Cady has plans to fuck things up for the Bowden family. Yes, the plot is central to this movie (and to thrillers as a whole), but the advertisers smartly knew that folks come to these movies for the roller-coaster experience. Reasons for shit in the movie matter not. We want thrills and we want them now. Show us enough thrills in the trailer and we'll pony up some cash.

[The trailer:]

Cape Fear (1991)
dir. Martin Scorsese

The trailer: Tranquil river. Fluid camera moves. Happy times. Ain't life grand for the Bowden family. They just moved to the beautiful small town of New Essex. "This town is so very nice and everything is very, very nice." Things couldn't be better. But wait, it looks like the Bowden's have a visitor. Who could it be? Answer: Danger! Danger! Danger! Quick cuts to plot-explaining snippets of dialogue. Nolte used to be De Niro's lawyer. Nolte is being followed by De Niro. De Niro smokes a cigar and laughs obnoxiously in a movie theater. De Niro is threatening Nolte and his family in a clever way. The law can't touch him. The family dog goes missing. De Niro stalks the young daughter. Tension within family. Nolte grabs a gun. Quick cuts between family tension, action scenes, storms at sea and De Niro's creepy attempts to seduce the daughter. Loud, sharp music bursts between cuts. Back to tranquil river and fluid camera. The title: Cape Fear.

Where the original trailer has the unrelenting, full-force intensity of a Slayer song, the remake trailer plays it Pixies style—quiet, loud, quiet. Indeed, the trailer for Scorsese's version is all about the tranquility-fucked-up-by-fuckedupedness aspects of the film. Given the fact that, as opposed to the original, the Bowdens of Scorsese's Cape Fear are a dysfunctional bunch whose weaknesses as a cohesive unit are exploited by Cady's machinations, it's interesting that the film's advertisers felt the need to play up the destruction of a happy family-life theme. In some ways, this trailer would have been better suited to the original film. Of course, in the era this sequel was made, the tranquility-fucked-up-by-danger motif had become the norm for thriller trailers. Hey, audience, you thought we were gonna zig but we zagged.

In many ways, this trailer has the veneer of sophistication. The advertisers for this picture knew that its audience felt itself more learned, movie-knowledge-wise, than its predecessors thirty years prior. Plenty of movie history happened between these two points and audiences fancied themselves smarter about genres. You had to cover a lot of tonal ground in your trailer to show that this film would be complex. Yet, in many ways, this trailer traffics in many of the same carnival barker-esque, shock and entice tactics employed for the previous trailer. No, it doesn't do anything as blatant as splash the words "fear" and "suspense" across the screen, but its use of shock music cues and edits is every bit as pandering.

This isn't to say that I don't enjoy either of these trailers. Far from it. As you may have guessed by now, I'm a bit of a trailer fanatic. Mostly, I think I love trailers because they're great time capsules, sometimes even more so than the films they advertise. [The constant repetition of the title in the original trailer, for instance, can partially be attributed to the fact that the studios released far more movies in its era, so the trailers had to work overtime to burrow the movie title into the viewers' brains.] Nothing like examining the means ad-folks use to get other folks to buy stuff, to get an understanding for a time period.

[The trailer:]

[What the hell, here's the Ben Stiller Show parody "Cape Munster":]

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Movies That Could Not Exist Today: Saturday Night Fever (1977)

dir. John Badham

The Plot: Famed at the time for his portrayal of the lovably ignorant, sweat-hog heartthrob Vinnie Barbarino on the hit TV show Welcome Back, Kotter, John Travolta's star shone brighter in 1977 as a result of his movie-star-breakthrough performance in the disco masterpiece Saturday Night Fever as Tony Manero, a self-centered, misogynistic, hair-and-clothes-obsessed douche who spends his weekends at the club in the hopes that the limited, fleeting fame that his superior dance-moves bring him (and his immature ego), will also allow Manero (insatiable pussy-hound that he is) a chance to bed a never-ending string of interchangeable fame-junkies that... [ed. note: We had to put this sentence out of its misery.]

Why this movie couldn't exist today: Oh my God, did you see the way they dress in this movie? Like, John Travolta totally wears a leisure suit and stuff. Like, no one dresses like that today.

[The trailer:]

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Favorite Movie Scenes: Blue Velvet - "Candy-Colored Clown" (1986)

dir. David Lynch

I love "oh shit, that's where that came from" pop-culture moments. Obviously, many of my (and probably most other folks in my generation's) such moments are hip-hop related. Given the volume of sampling (not just of music but of other forms of media) in these songs, it's inevitable that we would experience such spiritually transcendent epiphanies as "Oh wow, this old Michael McDonald song sounds familiar. I didn't think I...oh shit, that's where that came from!"

[Finally, I have an excuse to post a Michael McDonald picture here.]

I should note, though, that aside from the hits, I didn't have a very thorough knowledge of hip-hop as a young'un (that would come later). Actually, until I moved to Maine at thirteen, I didn't know much about music of any kind. Let me give you a rundown of what I was familiar with up to that point: The Beatles, Vanilla Ice, The Beatles, MC Hammer, The Beatles, and...uh, yeah, that about covers it. After moving to Maine, in addition to burnishing my movie geek and TV geek credentials (at a very young age, I could tell after watching the first minute, exactly which episode of I Love Lucy I was in for), I decided to start getting into music. As opposed to my movie geekism, however, I didn't care too much about traveling far outside the obvious shit, music-wise. In high school, I was primarily a classic rock (and metal) guy. My radio station of choice at the time was the typical, small-town, classic rock station 105.1 WTOS: "The Mountain of Pure Rock".

As with any radio station, the DJ's at WTOS had a set group of random sound-clips they played when coming back from or going to commercial breaks. One clip that always stood out for me was Dennis Hopper's immortal line from David Lynch's Blue Velvet: "Heineken?! Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!" [Side note: It's funny to think of a time when drinking Heineken was seen as a sign in ultimate, douchey, upper-class beer snobbery.] Because I loved (and continued to love) cussin', I always got a kick out of this sound-bite. "Damn," I thought, "Where the hell did they get that from?" Little did I know that this line would turn out to come from one of my favorite scenes.

Cut to my late teen years and my first viewing of Blue Velvet. Although I enjoyed seeing the source of the above-mentioned quote, the overall viewing experience was far from pleasurable. I just had no idea what to make of this movie the first time I saw it. Sure I always liked weird movies, but this was weird in a way that so unsettled me I shivered at the thought of revisiting it.

Blue Velvet presents a typical noir (with a dash of The Hardy Boys) set-up. A mystery is established (a severed ear is discovered in a field) and a small-town young man (Kyle MacLachlan) attempts to solve the case with the help of a wholesome small-town young lady (Laura Dern). After discovering the abused victim (Isabella Rossellini) of a sadistic nitrous (or some other such gas) abuser (Dennis Hopper), MacLachlan develops a violent sexual relationship with the victim (this is where the story veers from Hardy Boys territory). As Blue Velvet unfolds, it becomes obvious that Lynch is less concerned with the machinations of the mystery-revealing unfolding of a noir plot, than with the exploration of the dark side of America, one not shown in fifties depictions of white-picket fence suburbia. Blue Velvet plunges deeper and deeper into oblivion, until eventually treating the viewers to an ironic, over-the-top, purposefully fake, happy ending.

[I did a google image search for "happy ending" and this came up.]

Of course, I didn't think about any of this shit the first time I watched Lynch's masterpiece. My thoughts were more of the "oh God, make the uncomfortableness stop. This is too much. I don't ever wanna rewatch this" variety. But rewatch it I did and rethink it I also did. As stated in previous blog entries, I've had my fair share of flip-flop movies—movies that don't do anything for me or repulse me on the first viewing but grow on me after a period of time and repeated viewings. Blue Velvet was one of my first. It was upon a rewatching that I realized one of Lynch's greatest strengths is tension build-up. Indeed, it is Lynch's ability to build and sustain suspense that was one of the biggest factors in my initial revulsion for this picture.

Case in point: the "candy-colored clown" scene. After Hopper discovers that MacLachlan has been having an affair with Rossellini, he takes MacLachlan, Rossellini, and a gang of freaks for a terror ride until they arrive at the home of a fifties style dandy (Dean Stockwell). Lynch builds the tension here to the breaking point.

We know that MacLachlaclan is in for some punishment, just what kind we don't know. Knowing that we know this, Lynch savors his chance at maliciously toying with us. Just as Hopper takes his time with his prey, Lynch keeps pushing and pushing, putting weirdness on top of weirdness until we finally say, "Just get to MacLachlan's punishment. I can't take this." Because Lynch lingers on the strange—implying unspeakable horrors—the dangers we imagine will befall MacLachlan inevitably will be darker than they turn out to be (Hopper et al. eventually beat the shit out of MacLachlan).

We see everything through MacLachlan's eyes. Much as Lynch is putting on a freak-show for us, Hopper is treating MacLachlan to a performance, implying, "Hey, kid, this is only a taste of what's to come for you." To further hammer home the performance aspect of this scene, Lynch stages the apartment as a performance space, curtains hanging on either side of the entryway, seats along the opposite wall for the spectators. This also serves to further accentuate the theme of MacLachlan's voyeurism. Whereas he previously hid in a closet and spied on Rossellini and Hopper, here Hopper has forced him out into the open to enjoy the show.

Here, Lynch fully showcases the contrasting Americas. Standing in opposition to MacLachlan's gee-shucks, respectable, middle-class, malt-shop world; Stockwell, Hopper and the rest are the deviant, outsider, wrong-side-of-the-tracks, underside of America—albeit that of an extremely exaggerated, fifties-caricature-on-acid variety.

Of course, despite the staged performance aspects of this scene, Lynch most succeeds in what he doesn't show. Note for example his handling of Rossellini's kidnapped son. After Hopper allows Rossellini to see her kid who is being held hostage in the other room, she runs inside, the door closing behind her. As the camera moves in to a closeup of the door, we can hear the sounds on the other side. Rossellini frantically screams the following lines, "Donny, Donny, Donny. No, no. Donny, mama loves you." What has happened to her son? Can the same be expected for MacLachlan? Who knows? Additionally, Rossellini's bit of off-screen dialogue, carries extra strangeness weight given her use of similar lines in previous sexual encounters. Welcome to creepy-town, population: ewww.

It is here, of course, that the justifiably famous section of the scene kicks in. Stockwell, using a work-light as a microphone, lip-synchs Roy Orbison's lost-love ballad "In Dreams". Hopper is enrapt. Rossellini returns to the stage room, hung-head, full of defeat. Soon, something in the song makes Hopper snap. He calls it off and tells everyone it's time to leave. After screaming, "Let's Fuck! I'll fuck anything that moves!" Hopper and the rest disappear from the frame.

Because I was so fucked up by this movie the first time around, I didn't realize how funny some of it was. I mean, c'mon, try watching Stockwell's Orbison synching (not to mention the henchman swaying on the couch in the background) and not at least let loose a "what the fuck" giggle. Maybe that's another thing that fucked me up on my first viewing: the strange mix of tones. I couldn't figure out why there would be humor, or attempts at humor, in a movie that deals with such fucked-upedness. But that's the point. Blue Velvet is supposed to unsettle and it does so swimmingly. How many other directors can elicit such strong, conflicting emotional reactions from their audiences. Yes, despite my admiration for the movie, Blue Velvet can still make me feel icky. It's not something I can put in for a lighthearted good time but it is undoubtedly the work of a cinematic master.

["Candy-Colored Clown"]

Friday, March 11, 2011

Awesome Movie Trailers: Carrie (1976)

dir. Brian De Palma

Yes, this trailer reveals too much (it's a capsule of everything that happens in the movie), but damned if it ain't entertaining.

[the trailer:]

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Favorite Movie Scenes: The Cable Guy - "Porno Password" (1996)

dir. Ben Stiller

Back when The Cable Guy came out, I remember the general consensus seemed to be that this movie was an irredeemably dark, unfunny nail in the coffin of Jim Carrey's short career. Because most of the critics hated it, I thought it wouldn't be worth checking out. But when I eventually did see it a year or two later, I was floored. "Wow," I thought, "my finger is not on the comedic pulse of America." This was one of my steps in realizing the pointlessness of paying attention to the general consensus on anything. The Cable Guy managed to take the psycho-stalker thriller of the late eighties/early nineties (Single White Female, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) and play it for laughs. I thought it was brilliantly hilarious. Of course this movie has a cult following now, but I still remember when people used to think I was joking whenever I mentioned that I genuinely loved The Cable Guy.

Although I love damn near every scene from this movie, I think my favorite has always been the porno password scene. Not only is it full of the sort of cringe humor now so in vogue, it is also a perfect comedic take on the villain-turning-family-and-friends-against-hero scene that could be found in nearly all the movies belonging to the sleazy genre that this film so masterfully emulated.

[Porno Password:]

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dreamcatcher (2003)

dir. Lawrence Kasdan

"Fuck Maine. Fuck Maine. Fuck Maine." Each day that the pale, scrawny, clumsy, socially-retarded, poverty-stricken, nerdy, bully-bait, thirteen-year-old version of myself rode the bus to the Junior High School of my newly adopted home of Waterville, Maine; this single contemptuous thought ran through my head. How I had managed to remain bully-free before moving to Maine from my previous home of Norwalk, California, remains a mystery to me. It's not like I was king suave of awesome-town in California (Hell, even I would have bullied me were I the other kids). I was the same person, yet, somehow, I actually had a close-knit group of friends before Maine.

I still don't know the exact reason these new kids (just three kids, actually) were the first to realize that I was perfect bullying material. Back at the time, though, the only difference I could see between the two locales seemed the only plausible explanation for my sudden bully-victim-ness. Whitey sucked.

Needless to say, if I was awkward before the bullying, I soon socially regressed at super-hero speed. I now had new friends to get acquainted with: movies and books. Yes, I was a bit of a movie lover before this, but my movie addiction now took a turn toward full-on junkie territory. This was, of course, aided by the sudden introduction to my young movie-lover self of the wet-dream that was cable TV. More specifically, it was the twin juggernauts of the newly formed TCM and the craptastical awesomeness of "USA Up All Night" that did me in. I was able to get both my culture (TCM) and my trash ("USA Up All Night") on.

Books at the time, however, weren't exactly my bag. Sure, I got literature as a concept and I read the occasional book from time to time, but I never really got excited about it. That all changed, however, one fateful night. Thinking I would be in for the usual not-doing-much-for-me book experience, I took home Stephen King's Carrie from the library. As I read King's tale of a bullied teen who uses telekinetic powers to get revenge on her classmates, I slowly got hooked. Before I knew what happened, horror-master King broke my book cherry. I was forever changed.

Where my young, melodramatic self regarded Maine as a land of horrors, this author used Vacationland as the backdrop to unimaginable horror in damn near every one of his stories. It was as if he read my damn mind. Not only did I soon devour every King novel and short-story collection I could get my hands on (except The Dark tower Series. Sorry, I never got into fantasy stuff), I soon started getting into other authors. More important than that, however, Stephen King's work reinforced my burgeoning love of horror films. Although many derided this as a trash genre, I saw that its social and political commentary possibilities were endless. People just didn't like get it, man.

I didn't read much King after my teen years, though. I guess, just as with a number of other pop-culture artifacts I loved as a young'un but soon grew out of, I assumed I would no longer dig King. This year, however, I started rereading some King short-stories (I always preferred these to his novels), and, you know what, I'm falling in love again. I'm realizing now, all these years removed from my adolescence, that it was probably King's attention to characters that drew me in more than any of the horror. He had an uncanny knack for developing and humanizing well-rounded characters, and then throwing horror at them. I became a King fanatic all over again.

After watching Dreamcatcher this weekend, however, I felt as if King grabbed that 13-year-old version of myself, forced open my mouth, and let loose a liquidy stream of shit. Indeed, Dreamcatcher is what would happen if Stephen King's greater stories were forced to fuck and create an entirely new creature—an ugly, riddled-with-herpes creature. Actually, that's not entirely fair. I never read the book that was the basis for this movie, so I'll have to lay equal blame on Oscar-nominated director Lawrence Kasdan and his writing partner, Oscar winner William Goldman.

With this film, Kasdan et al. ask the audience the deep, probing questions that only true cinematic auteurs have the balls to ask: Hey, remember how great Stand by Me was? Didn't you love The Shinning? Who can forget how much they were affected by Carrie? Stephen King also made The Tommyknockers, right? What coming-of-age-in-the-early-eighties children didn't love to serenade a benevolent-alien-in-the-form-of-a-bullied-down-syndrome-child with the Roy Orbison song "Blue Bayou"? How many intergalactic ass-weasels can one ass hold?

Setting out to answer these questions are four lifelong Maine friends: Beaver (Jason Lee), Jonesy (Damian Lewis), Pete (Timothy Olyphant), and Henry (Tom Jane) (Cast listed in order of death and/or alien possession). Meeting at their cabin in the woods, as they do every year, these folks engage in fakey-sounding banter and reminisce about their childhood down-syndrome friend Duddits, the secretly alien creature who gave them all mind-reading powers. Although they previously thought these powers were useful only for creepy attempts at picking up women and pushing psychiatric patients over the edge to suicide, these men soon learn that they were given these powers as a way to fend off the ass-weasel producing aliens who have been secretly battling the US government for the past twenty-five years. [Side note: Did I mention the ass-weasels yet?] After Jonesy gets possessed by head-alien Mr. Gray, he must go through his memory library-storehouse, represented literally as a library-storehouse, and find the information given to him previously by Duddits necessary to fight Mr. Gray. Also, Morgan Freeman, playing against type, is Col. Abraham Curtis, a man intent on destroying the aliens and their ass-weasel virus, even if it means destroying innocent people. Also, Tom Sizemore, playing against Tom sizemore, is a level-headed, in-no-way-emotionally-unstable, a-ok guy who helps the heroes. [SPOILER ALERT: You just read a shit-load of spoilers.]

All that being said, is the movie fun? You bet your ass-weasel-spewing ass it's fun. Sure, my adolescent self felt violated, but when I emotionally removed myself and recognized this film for the exercise in batshit lunacy that it is, I realized that Dreamcatcher is a fucking masterpiece.

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Awesome Movie Trailers: The Thing (1982)

dir. John Carpenter

Some of you are probably thinking that my hardcore boner for The Thing is getting a little tiring by now. You know what? So fucking what. By the way, I defy anyone to think up a better horror tagline than, "Man is the warmest place to hide".

[The trailer:]

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Movie Comfort Food

A few months back, I decided I wanted to try to go a year without rewatching anything. I thought it would be an interesting experiment, but as you all know (if you've been following this blog), I didn't succeed. I revisited, a few times, movies I hadn't seen in ages. I felt that this wasn't a complete violation of my experiment, however, because, considering how long it had been since I'd seen those movies, they were almost new to me.

After witnessing the abomination that was Old Dogs, however, I needed a palate cleanser (or mouth enema) to wash the taste of poop out of my mouth. I needed to believe in movies again. (Hyperbole, why are you so fun?) I needed to watch a great movie I'd seen so often that I had it committed to memory. And so I returned to one of my favorite pieces of movie comfort food, Once Upon a Time in the West. This movie is always so reassuring, so great, so there for me, so everything. As far as I'm concerned it was the most perfect marriage of sound and image in Sergio Leone's career. It never fails to get me inspired about movies.

Sure, numerous other lazy, misguided movies are puked out year after year, but the fact that a movie as assured, unique, and intelligent as this could get made (let alone funded by a major studio), never fails to warm the cockles of my heart. This movie sure hit the spot.

What are your favorite movie comfort foods?

[Once upon a Time in the West's spoilery trailer. Yeah, I'll probably do a "When Trailer Reveal Too Much" entry about this at some point:]