Thursday, October 28, 2010

Video Game Review: Read Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare (by Dave Machado)

I love zombies. Anyone reading this who knows me knows this is a true statement. I also love Red Dead Redemption. After playing through it this past summer (I take my time with games I love, as I don't want them to be over), I realized it was easily my favorite video game of all time. So it may surprise you to know that when I first heard that Rockstar Games would be releasing an add-on to Red Dead Redemption that would feature zombie play, I was skeptical to say the least. But as word slowly came out that it wasn't just throwing zombies into the landscape and having you run around to kill them, but an actual separate story taking place in the Read Dead universe, I began to warm up to the idea. By the time Undead Nightmare was released, I was officially hooked and couldn't wait to reenter the world of John Marston that I loved and missed so much. Now that's I've spent a few hours playing it, I can say for sure that Rockstar made the right choice and have created one of the most fantastic examples of downloadable content for a game I have ever seen.

I was hooked into Undead Nightmare right from the opening cut scene. Acting as if the final few missions of Red Dead Redemption didn't happen, we see John's wife and son waiting for him to arrive from some errands late at night. He arrives without fanfare, though they are all a bit concerned that John's uncle has not returned home yet. They decide to wait until the morning due to the storm and head off to bed. We then cut to the middle of the night and John's uncle, now in zombie form, bursts into the house, attacking John's wife Abigail before John is forced to take him down. Abigail is seen bleeding from being bit in the neck and John calls his son Jack outside to help his mother. Abigail then proceeds to turn and bite her own son, causing John's family to become raving zombies. After securely tying them up, John head's off to the nearest town to find a doctor and hopefully a cure for his very sick family. Welcome to John Marston's Undead Nightmare.

I really love the idea of Rockstar not treating this as a sequel or feeling the need to shoehorn the real ending of Red Dead Redemption into the beginning of this story. That this game stands on its own as a separate universe. I would love nothing more from Rockstar than to have this be the beginning of a franchise of one-off games that take the characters from Red Dead Redemption and place them into different stylized genres. Who wouldn't love to see John Marston taking on alien invasions or solving a whodunit murder with Noir undertones? I would easily pay $10 every 4-6 months if it meant a new alternate-universe adventure with the characters I have come to love.

Everything from the original game has been slightly tweaked in order to create a true horror atmosphere. This leads me to believe that the makers are true zombie fans and not just cashing in on the current craze of adding zombies to preexisting games. The big difference between what Rockstar did and what others have done before them is that they did not simply drop zombies into the world of Red Dead Redemption. Instead, they took the characters and settings of Red Dead Redemption and dropped it into a zombie apocalypse. Everything is different, towns are left in post-apocalyptic ruins, everything has a rotting green tint to it, and even the soundtrack has been given an upgrade, giving it a late-Hitchcock era feel, complete with piercing violins.

The laws of zombies are held pretty much in tact. If you want to take down a zombie for good, you better aim for the head, otherwise you may just knock it off its feet.  It will buy you some time, but it's going to pop right back up and keep coming after your delicious flesh. Also, if you are too late in saving a fellow survivor and they become zombie food, don't turn your back on their body. As long as their head is intact, they quickly rise back from the dead as well and will attack. The only other way to take them down is by using your new torch, which will roast their bodies until their brains are burnt to a crisp and they topple over with a satisfying "Thump." Whenever you come upon a horde of the undead, it becomes a fun challenge to take them all down properly using only the few weapons at your disposal. 

Most of the undead hordes you find will be attacking the familiar towns from the original game. There will be a few survivors helping you "cleanse" the town and once that is done, you are rewarded with ammo, guns, and other fun items to help you later on in the game. It's worth noting that money and the honor system have both been done away with. What good are money and honor in a world where the undead walk the earth? Now, killing an innocent, living survivor purely for his extra ammo holds no more weight than blowing away one of the nasty undead. It's a fun and believable exclusion from the original game that really helps create the illusion that you are now playing in a new kind of world.

Luckily these typical zombies are not the only new villains. There is also a few more "evolved" creatures that will take a bit more thought putting down. Zombies such as the Boomer, Charger, and Hunter... oops, wrong game. I meant to say that zombies such as the Retcher, Bruiser, and Bolter add an extra challenge, usually when you least expect it. While I joke about the similarities between these super zombies and the ones in Left 4 Dead, it was still a good addition from the folks at Rockstar as a way to keep the player always on their toes. I would have liked for something more original but to be fair, the new zombie types are only similar in a very generic way, as none of them are exactly the same.

One other thing to look out for while trying to save the world are the new breeds of zombified animals. So far I have encountered undead bats, boars, bears, and bwolves (I couldn't think of another "b" animal I saw yet). They don't seem to behave much differently than before (though bats are a new breed in Red Dead to begin with) but it's still cool to take them down. There are some other mythological surprises as well, best of which being the dreaded Bigfoot! I've yet to see the creature myself but I have run into a crazy old man shooting in the woods telling to me be on the lookout. While none of these animals have an impact on the main storyline, it is just another way that Rockstar has gone out of their way to make the world of Undead Nightmare the best I've ever seen in a video game.

I doubt you need me to tell you explicitly at this point, but if you own Red Dead Redemption, you need to buy Undead Nightmare. It is such a great expansion to an already perfect game. Priced at only $10, it makes for one of the best deals you can get. Even if you don't own the original yet, now is the time to pick them both up. You will not regret it. I'll give a quick update once I complete the game (I'm only a couple hours in at this point) but I just needed to sing its praises now to help get the word out. I love zombies.

You're Welcome,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

DVD Review: The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (by Dave Machado) (More Parentheses)

For those who have yet to hear about The Human Centipede (First Sequence), let's get right down to business. It's a movie about a mad German scientist who sews three people together in order to create one living organism that shares a single digestive track. If this sounds like it may be too much for you to handle, then it most likely is. Now I typically enjoy horror movies that revel in the sick and perverse so I was very excited to finally see this movie. I built up how disgusting it must be based on the hype it was getting and ultimately, I did what I was afraid I would do. I over-hyped the sickness factor and when the movie was over and I had yet to feel any physical reaction to what was on the screen, I was oddly and sadly disappointed. 

That's not to say it's a bad horror movie. In fact, it's a pretty great achievement in original storytelling. But in the excitement to see the movie, I made the subconscious decision to wrongly base the movie on its gross factor instead of the actual storyline. I can see how some people would not be able to sit through a viewing based on the subject matter though. But if you've made it through the Saw or Hostel series, then this is a good step up to something that feels more organic and not a genre gimmick ("torture porn").

The thing that really makes The Human Centipede stand out as a great horror movie is the creation of a new horror icon, Dr. Heiter (played by Dieter Laser). The movie takes place in Dr. Heiter's home country of Germany, and if generations of pop-culture stereotypes have taught us anything, it's that Germans are creepy. While it's easy to roll your eyes at a cliche evil German mad scientist, it's the little things that make the character stand out. I was afraid during the whole movie they would add some Nazi-sympathizing trait to Dr. Heiter but luckily that is never the case. They also don't make him so over-the-top that you start to root for him the way we typically cheer on the evil monster in current horror movies. We are simply dealing with a mentally unstable former surgeon (primarily known for the separation of Siamese twins, how ironic!) who has decided to torment a group of humans in one of the most inhumane ways possible.

The victims themselves were one of the few problems I had with the movie. We are introduced to 2/3 of the Human Centipede early on in the film. Two young women, Lindsay and Jenny (played by Ashley Williams and Ashlynn Yennie), are on a trip through Europe and are planning a night out in Germany. On their way to the party, they hit pretty much every possible horror movie cliche that leads them to Dr. Heiter's house, all the while being a very irritating duo to focus on. They get lost on a fairly deserted road at night and then get a flat tire, only to discover they have no cell signal and the one car that stops is a weird fat German guy who wants to have sex with them. So once he drives away, they decide to just walk through the woods but it becomes very cold and begins to pour. That's when they randomly appear in front of Dr. Heiter's house and ask for help. He then proceeds to help by drugging them and tying them down to hospital beds.

It was fascinating how irritating I found these two characters to be. I would have expected a movie like this to really make the victims sympathetic early on so you felt for them later. Knowing what would become of them, I actually caught myself thinking "Jesus, I can't wait until their mouths are sewn to an ass so I don't have to hear them anymore." I then realized two things: I may need therapy and I think that's the point of this movie.  It's almost as if the director set out to make them annoying to the point of you not caring about them and then putting them through something so horrific that you completely switch gears and realize how terrible you are as a person for even wishing them harm in the first place. It's a fairly brutal experiment but it pays off and makes the movie a much more powerful experience.

I also enjoyed the decision of having the 3rd victim be a Japanese male who spoke no English. It makes sense in that the doctor needed victims with little to no connections inside Germany but it was a surprise that they would have it be someone who cannot speak English. It sort of continues the trend of worse case scenarios for these two women. The male, Katsuro (played by Akihiro Kitamura), actually ends up being the voice of the victim later on in the movie as he is the "head" of the centipede. While I'm sure there is much to discuss from a feminist and sociological viewpoint of having the two women simply become the legs and continuation of the digestive system of this new "creature", it mainly worked for me because it continued the horrific victimization of these two women we have been following since the beginning of the movie.

We never learn much about Katsuro. We are first introduced to his character as he is being dragged out of Dr. Heiter's car, unconscious. We never see how he was caught or what he was doing in the area. He is a character that Lindsay and Jenny (and the viewers of the movie) are never given a real connection to until he is literally connected to the them later on in the film. The women have their voice taken away due to the surgical procedure, left to only muffled cries for the rest of the movie (much to Heiter's dismay. He realized too late he should have also removed their vocal cords when he was setting everything up). They are now part of one creature that they cannot even understand, as they do not speak its language. Everything about their humanity has been stripped away, they are truly just the excess pieces needed for the centipede to get around.

As you can see, this movie covers lots of dark territory. It's a movie that can be extremely difficult to get through for some. For me though, it was nowhere near as difficult as something like Antichrist was. Unlike that movie, The Human Centipede is a movie I can actually recommend to any horror fan who is looking for a good original story. It's interesting to note that a sequel is already lined up for 2011. I wonder how they will be able to top the torment of this movie other than adding more victims (which could backfire as the viewers then have to spread their sympathy between more people, causing it to have less of an impact). I have one suggestion that would make it a far worse experience, which can be summed up in one word, "pregnancy." For now, I suggest giving this movie a try. It's not high art (don't expect a Criterion release), but it's still an interesting movie and, due to its originality, is one of the bright spots within the horror genre in the past few years.

You're Welcome,

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rant/Rave: Perfect Movies (by Dave Machado)

Analyzing movies is nearly impossible to do on an objective level. Everyone has different opinions of what makes a movie great and even your own mood can easily impact how you view a film. Try watching a comedy on a day where you are feeling a bit grumpy and you may end up spending most of your time rolling your eyes instead of  actually laughing. I've only been causally reviewing movies for a few months now and already I've noticed that my initial reactions to movies may have been more related to how I felt at the time of writing compared to the movie itself.

I typically try very hard to go into a movie with positive expectations. I use a very optimistic approach when viewing a film in that I would rather focus on the one great moment in a movie (no matter how small that may be) than simply consider it a failure. I still feel like it's good to point out a film's faults as constructive criticism but typically as long as there is one good memory I have of that film, then I consider it worth seeing. Movies have so many outside variables stacked against them that it's a rare occurrence for me to finish a film and not be able to think of one thing that could have made the experience any better. These so-called "Perfect Movies" come around only once in a great while. In fact, my initial thought was to showcase these perfect movies as an on going series until I realized I couldn't even think of enough to make the series last more than half a dozen entries.

The idea of perfect movies came from the fact that as a relatively new film lover, I've been catching up on all the classic films that people consider to be the best of all time. I would go through movies on the A.F.I. Top 100 or in Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" series and while I usually loved the movies I saw, I couldn't consider them "perfect." While I typically enjoyed all of them, there were always a few key things that caused the movie to lose just a little bit of steam. I'm not saying these movies are not deserved of such high praise, but I think my initial reaction was that I would be continuously blown away by how perfect these movies are. I don't think perfection is the true goal of cinema but I became intrigued and began to think about what films I would actually consider to have reached that level of perfection.

So the first thing I did was set-up the criteria for what I would consider a perfect movie. It's pretty simple actually. It's a movie where no scene is wasted and there is nothing included in the film that drags it down or causes it to grind to a halt, even for just one scene. It's a movie that is all hits and no misses, no matter how small the miss actually is. A movie may be ground breaking and/or world famous, and can easily be considered a 5 star classic, but that doesn't make it perfect. I'm not saying all movies should be held to this standard, I simply think it's interesting to discuss which movies fall into this category. I say discuss and not list because as I already stated, trying to analyze movies is not an objective exercise. You may not agree and in fact some of you may even hate the movies that I consider perfect. You are wrong of course, but at least you have the ability to feel that way.*

I can already feel the tension in the air as I write this (though I may be confusing that with the constant state of fear I live in) so let's get to the fun part, which is what I consider to be some examples of perfect movies. For now, I am just going to give a short list as their inclusion alone perfectly sums up my thoughts. Depending on the feedback I get, I may do an in depth analysis of them at a later date. But just know that I consider everything about these movies, from start to finish, to be essential and interesting:
  • Bringing Up Baby
  • The Night of the Hunter
  • Children of Men
  • Airplane!
  • Back to the Future
Those are 5 examples of what I consider to be perfect movies. There may be more, but not many. So now I turn it over to you. What are some examples of your perfect movies? Share your list and if I haven't seen it, I promise to give it a try and do a write up on it. I don't think we should go into every movie expecting perfection, but when we happen to find it, it's really one of the best discoveries you can have as a film lover.

You're Welcome,

*Just kidding.**

**No I'm Not!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DVD Review: How To Train Your Dragon (by Dave Machado)

How To Train Your Dragon is the type of movie that 3D was invented for. Unfortunately for me, I missed the boat on the theatrical release and ended up seeing it at home on DVD. While I enjoyed the movie, I couldn't help but think I was missing the experience that made How To Train Your Dragon one of the best reviewed movies of the year. The story and visuals were consistently top notch but when the flying/fight scenes came into play, I spent more time wondering how great this would be in 3D and less time being fully immersed in the action. While I think that did slightly sour my take on the movie, I still believe it is a solid movie and belongs in the same group as this year's other animated achievements, Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me.

How To Train Your Dragon is essentially a "boy and his dog" movie, but placed in Viking times and with a dragon instead of a dog. We begin the story as the Viking village is being attacked. The voice over on screen goes through the list of dragon types as we see the village slowly destroyed as the Vikings try to mount a defensive attack. Amidst this chaos, we are introduced to Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), the young apprentice of the local blacksmith (Gobber, voiced by Craig Ferguson). He is a small and scrawny boy who feels left out of the action due to his small stature. He has secretly built a contraption that can take out any dragon and during the confusion of the attack, is able to sneak away in an attempt to prove his device works. Naturally on his first try, he hits and takes down a mythical Night Fury dragon (we are told it is so fast, no one has ever seen one), said to be the most dangerous dragon of all.

Of course the dragon falls from the sky far away from the village and no one else is around to see Hiccup make the hit. During his victory rush, he mistakenly causes more trouble, forcing most of the dragons to successfully leave with the village's food supply. It's at this point that we realize Hiccup is actually the son of the lead Viking (Stoick, voiced by Gerard Butler). The next day, as Hiccup is finally allowed to attend Dragon Slaying Training (much to the chagrin of the other kids in the village, who view him as a loser), he tracks down the dragon he captured and finds him tied up in the ropes he shot at him. He can't bring himself to kill the dragon however and unties him instead. This slowly leads to a bonding experience between Hiccup and the dragon as Hiccup discovers that the dragon's tail was wounded in the attack and he can no longer fly for long distances. Hiccup then takes it upon himself to use his experience as a blacksmith to create a contraption that will allow the dragon to fly again. In doing so, he begins to learn more about the nature of dragons, thus helping him become his village's greatest dragon master.

One of my big problems with the movie was the decision to cast young American actors in the roles of the kids. It seems all the adult characters have a nice thick Scottish accent (which in itself is a questionable decision as I am not 100% sure that is historically accurate), yet all the kids simply sound like the celebrities voicing the parts (Jack Black, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, etc...). I guess in between Dragon Slaying lessons, they have a voice coach teach these kids to lose their parent's accents. I understand this is a pointless thing to complain about because from a business standpoint, you need known actors to sell an original kid's movie and you can't then hide the actor's voices behind fake accents. But it did take me out of the movie a few times as I spent more time trying to place the familiar voice with the actor behind it instead of focusing on the story at hand. My only other note regarding the voice acting is that I typically found Jay's performance of Hiccup to be too dry and sarcastic, especially in moments of danger. The character had a very monotone reaction to certain scary situations that left me rolling my eyes instead of being on the edge of my seat.

What the movie lacks in voice performances it makes up for in visuals and tone. The movie has some really beautiful scenes, specifically when Hiccup is flying on the back of his dragon. There were many times where in addition to being swept up in the action on screen, I was also thinking of how amazing a theme park ride based on this movie could be. Again, I'm sure these scenes were even more spectacular in 3D but luckily the sheer beauty of them still transfered well to a viewing at home. The movie also has a surprisingly dark tone and goes places I really did not expect it to. I'm thinking of one part in particular near the end of the movie that while a little too convenient of a way to mirror two characters stories, was still a very adult way to handle a kid's movie. It was very refreshing to see another quality kid's movie not rely on stale pop culture gags as a way to get kids interested in the story. Instead, it simply focused on a very mature story in a way that is easily accessible to a younger audience while not alienating the older ones. This is typically Pixar's golden formula so it was good to see Dreamworks continue to follow in their footsteps (after the very enjoyable Kung Fu Panda) and make an animated movie that is truly timeless.

I would have liked to see more of Hiccup's transformation from outcast to hero, specifically how the views of his peers changed over time. I had a hard time grasping how much time took place between the beginning and end of the movie as everything seemed to happen really fast. I get that animated movies are typically made for viewers with understandably smaller attention spans so the focus is always on having it be around 90 min, but I feel How To Train Your Dragon would have really benefited from a few more scenes here and there to give the story a better sense of time passing. Despite these minor issues, I still greatly enjoyed How To Train Your Dragon and am very glad it found a large audience this year. I hope the audience continues to grow and maybe we will even eventually get a re-release in theaters before the inevitable sequel so people like me can enjoy it the way it was meant to be seen, on a giant screen in glorious 3D. 

You're Welcome,

Monday, October 18, 2010

Event Recap: Rock and Shock 2010 (by Dave Machado)

This past Saturday (Oct. 16) I made the trip to the DCU Center in Worcester, MA in order to attend Rock and Shock 2010 with 3 friends. I went last year for the first time and had been counting down the days for this year's edition since before I even got home from 2009's event. Luckily all that waiting paid off because Rock and Shock 2010 was an all around improvement to the already awesome convention from last year. I got to meet/see several horror icons and was also able to witness one of the most truly bizarre performances I've ever seen, courtesy of the Charles Band Road Show.

Going in to Rock and Shock I had a small list of people I was looking forward to meeting. Luckily I was able to control my impulse to buy autographs from everyone and kept to that small core group of people (George Romero, Adam Green, Danielle Harris, and Adrienne Barbeau). It was pretty surreal meeting George Romero. I'll admit to being fairly tongue-tied whenever I meet someone famous but it was even worse in this case. I was barely able to utter even faint praise due to my brain simply shouting over and over again "GEORGE ROMERO! GEORGE ROMERO! GEORGE ROMERO!" Luckily I at least had it in me to ask for a picture so I have proof that I did not imagine the whole ordeal. I also had him sign a cool Italian poster for Night of the Living Dead which needs to be framed ASAP.

While it was indeed memorable to meet George A. Romero, the coolest person I got to meet at Rock and Shock was director Adam Green. I went in already being a huge fan of Green's work as I think all four of his movies are great. However, as I waited in line, I caught something on his desk that made me realize just how awesome he actually is. At the front of his table was a little hand-written note that read something to the effect of "I do not charge for autographs and pictures because I love you." This is actually a huge deal because most people there were charging between $20-$30 for an autograph. Knowing that he is not there to make extra money but is there simply to interact with the fans made me respect him more than I already did. Of course I wasn't able to express any of this due to my awkwardness at meeting famous people but I was at least able to tell him that I loved Hatchet II. He also posed for a quick picture and signed a Hatchet II poster that will be hung up in my living room very soon.

Danielle Harris was also really cool to meet. It was nice hearing the genuine thanks from both her and Green when I told them I loved Hatchet II when I saw it in theaters. She also signed the same Hatchet II poster that Green signed, making it one of my favorite pieces of horror memorabilia I now own. I also loved getting to meet Adrienne Barbeau. She was extremely nice and thankfully had a Carnivale picture that she then signed. I know she is mostly known for her roles in Escape From New York and Swamp Thing but I was such a huge fan of that show that I had to go with that one instead. I followed the trend of being too shy to say much so I wasn't able to tell her how sad I was that Carnivale got cancelled prematurely but was at least able to get a good picture with her. It's worth noting how crazy it is that she still looks good at 65.

Luckily, getting in line to meet these people is only part of Rock and Shock. Another fun aspect that I was looking forward to was the large number of vendors selling every piece of horror related merchandise you can possibly think of. It's dangerous how easy it is to spend a lot of money at Rock and Shock. I tried to show at least some level of self-control and only bought 6 DVDs. I was able to get copies of out of print movies The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Popcorn, and The Mutilator. The guy at the booth selling the DVDs was the same one that wrote an article for the amazing HorrorHound magazine devoted to out of print DVDs so I took his word when I asked him for suggestions. I haven't had a chance to watch these yet but I'll be putting my thoughts up once I do. I also picked up 3 Full Moon Direct DVDs (Gingerdead Man, Gingerdead Man 2, and a compilation DVD of movies featuring killer puppets) that were being sold be Charles Band after his Road Show performance, but I'll get to that a bit later.

The other great part about Rock and Shock are the Q&A sessions they have with the horror guests in attendance. I was able to get a standing room spot for the Halloween Remake panel. It was a fun session featuring Danielle Harris, Scout Taylor-Compton, Dee Wallace, Kristina Klebe, and Eileen Dietz. Due to being at the back I wasn't able to hear every answer but all the women were pretty candid which made for a great panel. Once it was finished, I was lucky enough to find an open seat in the front row where I then stayed for the Adam Green and George Romero panels. 

Green continued to be the MVP of the convention by bringing Blu-Rays and t-shirts to pass out to those who asked questions. There was obviously talk about the MPAA situation for Hatchet II but luckily the audience was asked to respect the fact that Green can't talk openly about that due to legal reasons and the issue was then pushed aside in order to focus on Green's actual films and not the controversy surrounding their release. I was very happy to hear that his next film will be an anthology piece with 3 other horror directors titled Chillerama and is scheduled for release in 2011. Green said his segment is titled The Diary of Anne Frankenstein and was shot in Black and White and in German. This is now currently my favorite movie of 2011.

Next up was Romero's panel. Even though I had already seen him earlier in the day to get his autograph, it was still amazing to be in the same room with him for a Q&A session. My night was then made when I was able to ask him a question (I had been trying since the beginning of the Adam Green Q&A to get called on). There wasn't much news to come out of the session but it was still just a cool thing to be a part of. It made me really appreciate how much he's actually accomplished as a director. I look forward to discovering more of his non-zombie catalog as the only ones I've seen so far are Martin and The Crazies.

The night then wrapped up with the Charles Band Road Show. Charles Band is a long time director/producer/distributer of B-movies. He runs the Full Moon Direct company that is known for the Puppet Master franchise along with movies like The Gingerdead Man. His Road Show is a sort of Q&A session without any Qs and just As. He had some great stories about how he got his start but the real meat of his presentation was focused on some amazing Gary Busey stories since Gary starred in Gingerdead Man (as the voice of the title character). We all know Gary is insane but it's still great to hear new stories that solidify that fact.

The climax of the show was a crowd participation skit where he called on three volunteers to act out a scene on stage. He mentioned there are usually lots of props for this part of the show but for some reason that wasn't the case for Rock and Shock so everyone had to just pretend. The basic story was that an evil monster was in the electric chair and his brother and girlfriend were there to say goodbye. Once the chair flipped on, the brother would then grab the ass of the girlfriend because it turns out the brother is the one who turned the evil monster into the cops so he could then seduce the girlfriend. The monster sees this and breaks out of the chair and in a fit of rage, begins killing the audience by shooting lightening out of his hands. The brother goes to stop him but gets knocked down. We are then told the only thing that can calm the beast are the boobs of the girlfriend, who must show them to the audience to make the monster stop. She then flashes the audience and once the monster sees this he is turned into a mumbling weakling who repeats "boobies" over and over again while on one knee, reaching up to his girlfriend's exposed body. Please reread this paragraph with the knowledge that everything I typed happened with 3 volunteers on an empty stage with no props.

Once that show was over, all my friends and I could talk about was whether or not the girl who flashed the audience was a plant or not. I likened Charles Band to a snake oil salesmen from the old west days, in that he must have made sure that at least one girl in the audience would take him up on the offer to star as the "hot chick" in his little skit. While I don't think the girl was an actor or someone who travels with him, I'm convinced he found her walking around Rock and Shock earlier in the day and set it all up. So while she show took an unexpected sleazy turn, it was still an excellent ending to an already excellent day. The Charles Band Road Show is something I will not forget for a very long time. 

As I left Rock and Shock, I couldn't help but be a little sad. Don't get me wrong, I had tons of fun and didn't regret anything. The sadness however was coming from the fact that I would now have to wait 1 full year before I get to go to another Rock and Shock. Sure, there is Monster-Mania in Cherry Hill, NJ in March and August of 2011, but even that is a long wait. I was simply wishing that there were more East Coast conventions to go to throughout the year. I eventually realized however the more conventions they had, the less special it would all become. Going to Rock and Shock is like entering a whole new world compared to the one I live in during my daily life. It is entering a world where people dress up like zombies to meet George Romero and no one looks at them in a weird way. I admit that I loved being in that world for one day but I'm pretty sure if I lived in it much more than that, I'd start to go a little crazy (and be completely broke). 

You're Welcome,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

DVD Review: Greenberg (by Dave Machado)

I went into Greenberg not thinking I would enjoy it that much. I had seen mixed reviews and based on my mood yesterday, I wasn't sure I would be able to handle a dramedy that was a slow character study with an unlikable lead. I'm glad I stuck with my plan to watch it though because Greenberg is a very enjoyable movie that I am surprised has not gotten more attention. It's not a perfect movie by any means but it is well acted and contains very interesting characters despite some of my annoyances with their arcs. While I feel the movie may be a bit disposable in that I doubt I will ever have a need to revisit it, it's still a good movie that I recommend to people looking for a smaller and more intimate movie experience.

Ben Stiller, the star of Greenberg, does a great job as the lead. He plays Roger Greenberg, a 40 year old who is sort of wandering through life without a plan after having just spent a short stint at a mental hospital. He comes back to California from New York City as a way to wind down and is staying at his brother's house who is out of town due to a family vacation. He quickly begins a pseudo-relationship with his brother's assistant (played perfectly by Greta Gerwig) who was given instructions to help out Stiller's character with anything he needs. 

Roger is a very blunt and idiosyncratic character who is prone to random outbursts. It's a character who has never seemed to fully mature and continues to live in the past. This can be a very hard character to pull off but I felt like for the most part Stiller nails it. This could have easily been a very hammy performance but he reigned it in just enough to make the character fairly sympathetic. I've heard complaints that Greenberg (the movie) is not enjoyable because of Greenberg (the character) but I strongly disagree with that. I was intrigued by Roger and the cause of his actions. While the character may have some odd quirks only seen in indie films (He writes numerous letters of complaints to businesses throughout the movie.) it was still subdued enough to make you believe someone like this could really exist and not alienate everyone around him (Something Roger is constantly on the verge of the entire movie.).

Stiller's performance is also helped by the fact that the characters he has to interact with are equally well acted. As I mentioned before, Greta Gerwig was a perfect choice as Florence, the assistant that Greenberg falls for. She's a young actress who I had only previously seen as the friend in House of the Devil who I remember being impressing by despite the small amount of time she was on screen. She really blew me away in this movie though. If Greenberg is going through a mid-life crisis, then Florence is having what would constitute as a quarter-life crisis. She is 25 and has yet to find a real purpose in life. She is the assistant to Greenberg's brother but other than that we don't know much about her life other than that she is an aspiring singer. The movie largely depends on the chemistry of these two semi-lost souls and fortunately Stiller and Gerwig were able to pull it off in a manner that seemed effortless.

Greenberg is a movie that mostly succeeds due to the performances and not the story. I wonder what this movie would have been without two actors of this caliber. Say what you will about Ben Stiller but between this and the relatively recent Tropic Thunder, I still think he has a lot of talent that is typically wasted in broad comedies and kids movies. Anyone who disagrees should really check out Greenberg. It's a shame this movie didn't get a large audience because I fear it means Stiller will take less chances like this again in the future. If you can put aside some of the films non-subtle quirks, you'll find that Greenberg is a solid movie and one that you won't regret giving a chance.

You're Welcome,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Event Preview: Rock and Shock 2010 (by Dave Machado)

Calling all horror fans! This weekend (Oct. 15-17) at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA is the annual Rock and Shock convention! For those unaware, Rock and Shock is a convention held in Worcester where fans get the chance to meet many of their favorite horror stars of the past and present. I attended for the first time last year and was able to meet such horror icons as John Landis, Kane Hodder, and Malcolm McDowell. It was an amazing time and I have been counting the days since for the 2010 edition. Luckily the organizers didn't disappoint as the collection of stars this year contains some amazing horror icons:

George Romero
My reaction when finding out George Romero would be a guest at Rock and Shock this year can best be described as "slightly embarrassing." I'm a huge fan of his work and knowing I'll have the chance to actually meet him is amazing. He is easily one of the most influential horror directors in the modern era. If you need just one excuse to stop by the DCU center this weekend, this is it. He will also be holding a Q&A session starting at 5pm on Sat. You'll find me as close to the front row as I'm able to get.

Adam Green
As excited as I am to meet Romero, Adam Green is a close second. Sure he isn't considered an icon yet, but he is one of the best younger horror directors out there right now. He's already amassed an impressive collection of films with both Hatchet films, Frozen, and Spiral. He's a director that shows a lot of range in his movies and I really think he will eventually be considered a great in the genre. I look forward to having him sign my Hatchet II ticket stub. Adam will be holding a Q&A session at 4pm on Sat. 

Danny Trejo
Another giant score for the organizers of this event. Trejo is a cult icon at this point in his career starring in countless horror/action movies. I was a little surprised he wouldn't be doing a Q&A but it will be cool to get to shake the hand of Machete.

Danielle Harris
This is another guest I am very excited to see. Danielle Harris first become known as the little girl from Halloween 4 and 5. When Rob Zombie cast her as a new character in his remake of the original Halloween, I thought it was a great way to pay tribute to the original series. I recently saw Danielle in the amazing Hatchet II and she is now an official Scream Queen in my mind. I really look forward to this new part of her career and it will be cool to have her sign my Hatchet II ticket. Danielle will be part of the Halloween Q&A panel at 3pm on Saturday.

Adrienne Barbeau
The inclusion of Adrienne Barbeau is one of the reasons I love Rock and Shock. Not only does it feature current stars, but it gives you a chance to meet the greats of previous years. Adrienne has starred in such classics as The Fog, Escape from New York, Creepshow, and the cancelled well before it's time Carnivale. 

Alex Winter
Alex Winter was a late but welcome addition to Rock and Shock this year. I believe it's one of his first convention appearances. It will be a surreal experience to get to shake the hand of Bill S. Preston, Esq. I wonder how many times he will have to give a generic "maybe" response to the possibility of a third Bill and Ted. For the record, I am all for that movie!

This is just some of the 30+ celebrities that will be there the entire weekend. Other notables include Doug Bradley (Pinhead), Bill Mosely (Chop-Top from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Otis from Devil's Rejects), Zoe Bell (Death Proof and 2 episodes of LOST), and Thom Matthews (Return of the Living Dead and Friday the 13th Part 6). Go here to see the full list!

In addition to the celebs, Rock and Shock will also feature nightly concerts by metal bands. Sat. night features a performance by both Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper. It would be great if Rob stopped over to the convention side. The Halloween remake panel would seem like a perfect time for that...

Tickets are fairly cheap ($15-$20 depending on when/where you buy them). I should mention you do have to pay for individual autographs (about $20 each) but it's free to just pop in line to say hello and shake their hand. Plus all Q&A sessions are free, which last year ended up being my favorite thing about the event. There are also tons of vendors selling every horror related thing you can possibly think of. It may seem like late notice, but if you are a horror fan in need plans for the weekend and are in the area, I can't think of a better way to spend your time.

You're Welcome,

Friday, October 8, 2010

Nostalgia is Fun: Old Nickelodeon Shows (by Dave Machado)

It all started with a Sporcle quiz devoted to popular Nickelodeon shows from the 1990s (Take the quiz yourself!). I did well on the quiz (18/25) considering how long it's been since I watched any of these shows. Once the quiz was over however, I couldn't stop thinking of all the shows I used to watch and love as a kid, specifically the ones on Nickelodeon. I can't pinpoint where my love for that channel ended but for a substantial portion of my childhood, it was pretty much the only station on TV (other than Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Suddenly, shows I hadn't thought of in over a decade came flooding back but I couldn't remember any of their names.

That's when I had another "I love the internet" moment because all I had to do was Google a brief description of the show and tons of hits came back to sites dedicated to them. Thanks to Wikipedia and other fan sites, I was able to bring back specific memories I had assumed were long lost. It's insane to think of how certain unknown facts used to drive people crazy before the invention of the internet. Sure we all remember the more popular shows of our youth (the aformentioned Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtle and any of the big Sat. morning superhero cartoons) but I was more interested in the ones the have come and gone, leaving no trace of their existence behind except for these insanely detailed web sites. I thought I'd share some of these old shows and the memories I have attached to them. Please add your own shows/thoughts as well.

Today's Special: This was the show that started my nostalgia trip. I vaguely remembered a show on Nick that took place in a Department store and featured a mannequin that became real when a magic hat was placed on his head. The only other thing I had to go on was that the main female in the show always wore a pink jumpsuit. I don't think I was a huge fan of this show as Wikipedia claims it stopped running in 1987 but I have one very vivid memory about the show that has made it so I'll never forget it. As all networks do, Nick would always show promos for their shows during commercials. I would watch the channel so much that I would memorize these promos based on the simple fact that I saw them so much. One day I was watching Today's Special and a scene that always aired on the promo was featured in the episode. I don't remember details but it was something along the lines of everyone busting out laughing at the same time. Little David was in so much shock due to actually seeing the scene from all those promos.  I jumped off the couch and ran to the VCR and kept pressing the rewind button, because I needed to see it again to make sure what I just saw was real. That was when I learned the important life lesson that the VCR only worked when there was a tape in it. I'm sure my sadness would have been softened had I known that I would end up living in a world where live TV could be paused and rewound whenever I wanted it to be. That would have blown my mind at the time.

Fred Penner's Place: The main thing I remembered from this show was the opening credits where you followed Fred as he walked into the woods to the spot where the show took place around a little camp setting. I literally Googled "Nickelodeon guy walking in woods" and the third link lead me to the title of the show. The only other thing I remembered about this show was an episode where he couldn't get to the place he usually goes because someone put giant patches over the entry ways he needed to get through. This terrified me as a kid because for some reason I imaged some weird looking creature patching up places in the woods outside my house. Luckily I was never able to prove that was actually happening.

The World of David the Gnome: I hated this show as a kid. I thought it was an example of a stuffy boring show and so would only watch it when nothing else was on (I wasn't big on the outdoors). My hatred for it has made it hard to forget. Later in life it came up as a funny reference only because me and my girlfriend share the names (David and Lisa) of the gnome couple in the show. Turns out the show was made in Spain and was dubbed for a later release in America. That explains why it wasn't awesome (USA! USA! USA!).

Hey Dude: For a small period of time, this was my favorite show on Nick. There are two specific episodes I remember very vividly. One involved someone getting the hiccups and that snowballing into them purposely scaring each other. There was one point where a character walked in with something like a chainsaw and a hockey mask and instead of being scared, the other character berated his prop choices for not sticking to one true movie monster (Jason, Leatherface, Freddy, etc...) Even then I could appreciate the snobbery of the horror community which I would soon gladly join the ranks of. Hey Dude featured a Native America character and he is the focal point of the other episode I remember. In it, he tries to show another character the importance of Native Americans in the history of America. They make a bet so the other guy can't use anything the Native Americans invented. This somehow ends up with him not even being able to wear underwear. It kind of disturbs me how easily I remember that part.

So those are just a few of the shows I loved as a kid that never really get the attention they deserve anymore. There were obviously tons of other shows (Salute Your Shorts, Roundhouse, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, All That, etc...) but I just wanted to get the ball rolling with some of my more memorable ones. Please add your own below. When you stop and think about it, you'll be amazed at the things you start to remember that you haven't thought of in years. If the feedback seems good, I'll continue doing these little trips down memory lane.

You're Welcome,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

DVD Review: MacGruber (by Dave Machado)

Saturday Night Live movies don't exactly have the best track record. For the most part, they are PG-13 movies with lots of random humor that feel like a bunch of small sketches strung together with the same characters. So when I heard that they were making a movie out of MacGruber, which was always shown in quick 30 seconds spots between other SNL skits, I assumed the worst and stayed away from it when it was in theaters. I now know what a terrible mistake I made. MacGruber isn't just funny for a SNL movie, it's hysterical from start to finish and one of my favorite comedies of 2010.

MacGruber is not for everyone though. The humor tends to lead towards random outbursts of obscenities coupled with shocking amounts of gore (for a comedy). MacGruber earns it's R rating and does so very proudly. I was happy to see how seriously they took the "action" in this "action/comedy" hybrid. Everything is wonderfully over the top (MacGruber has an obsession with ripping people's throats out) and left me with a big dumb smile on my face the whole time. Don't worry, there is also romance as well as MacGruber gets two hot and sexy love scenes in that are now forever burned into my memory.

Not everything about this movie is obscene though. There are several little running gags throughout the movie that had me cracking up constantly. My favorite being the bit of having MacGruber always carrying his car stereo with him wherever he goes. All these little jokes helped round out the character of MacGruber just enough to make his character constantly funny throughout and never get stale. That in itself makes this movie a triumph in my opinion.

The movie also has a strong supporting cast, mostly in Ryan Phillippe, Kristen Wiig, and Val Kilmer. I expected Wiig to be funny as she always is on SNL and people forget how funny Kilmer can be (Top Secret!) but I was really surprised how much I enjoyed Ryan's character. He is saddled with the somewhat thankless straight man role here but is given a few moments to really shine and show that he has some great comic timing. I also loved the cameos by several WWE wrestlers that ends in one of the best bits of the entire movie.

If you planned to stay away from MacGruber because it is a SNL movie, I really hope you give it a shot. I went in skeptical but by 10 minutes in, I knew I was in good hands for the next 90 minutes or so. It's fun to see the filmmakers let lose a bit and be able to cover material they could never get away with on TV. It may not be the smartest movie out there (celery scenes?) but it is one of the funniest, and sometimes that's exactly what I'm looking for. Time will tell if this signals a turnaround for SNL movies, but due to the poor performance of this movie at the box office, I doubt it will change a thing. Help get more movies like this made in the future by showing your support for it now on DVD. I think you'll be glad you did.

You're Welcome,

Movie Review: I'm Still Here (by Dave Machado)

The idea behind the creation of I'm Still Here is one of the smartest attempts at a movie in quite some time. Throughout the entire filming, the whole entertainment media was buzzing over whether or not it was a genuine meltdown of actor Joaquin Phoenix or if it was all part of some hoax being played on them. By now, almost everyone has seen Joaquin's appearance on the Letterman show in early 2009 (which ends up playing an important part in the movie). Turns out the person appearing on the show that night was not Joaquin Phoenix the actor, but "Joaquin Phoenix" the character, who is the star of I'm Still Here. Knowing it was a performance before I got a chance to see the film, I worried if the impact that the movie strives for would be lost on me as I would know from the beginning this is no different than any other fictional film. While it didn't void the entire movie for me, I still think it loses a bit of it's power and ends up being an good movie anchored by an amazing performance.

I have a hard time calling the movie a hoax though because it's really no more of a hoax than all the other reality shows on TV today. Joaquin returned to the Letterman show a few weeks ago to discuss the film and talked a bit about how the movie came to be. It all started from the idea that the majority of people buy into these reality shows simply because they are shot like a documentary and the people on them are billed as themselves. The idea snowballed from there into what we see in I'm Still Here. Watching the movie, it's insane to think that anyone would think it is real because of how absurd the things he is doing really are. The movie tries to find the line between "obviously fake" and "so crazy it must be true" and see if it can get away with being perceived as real.

Joaquin Phoenix deserves a lot of respect for this movie. He had already proven himself as an actor but his dedication to this role is phenomenal. He took a huge chance in jeopardizing his career by doing this movie and it paid off. Same can be said for the director, Casey Affleck. Casey is someone who really became a star in 2007 with roles in two amazing movies, Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Gone Baby Gone. Now we see he also has talent behind the camera as well. While it's not exactly a polished film, knowing he spearheaded the movie with Joaquin shows he has the smarts to make a really intriguing movie that will get people talking.

So while I really admire the idea and performances that brought I'm Still Here together, the movie itself just didn't intrigue me that much. I spent most of the movie admiring the performance but not invested in the story. There was too much devoted to Joaquin dealing with his entourage of assistants that just didn't work for me. It's where the movie seemed the most "fake" and dragged on a little too much. There are lots of bright spots however, especially scenes where Joaquin meets with P. Diddy to talk about his aspiring hip-hop career. I'm not sure how much P. Diddy was in on it, but I have to assume everything. If that's the case, he did a great job on camera and provides some of the funniest moments in the movie.

The movie also features lots of dark moments where Joaquin's character really goes over the edge. There is one scene in particular where he decides to order some escorts to come over and party. We then get to see Joaquin picking out the girl to call on the computer and upon finding the right one, repeatedly exclaims to the girl's picture how "naughty" she is. It was a very weird moment that made me extremely glad this is all a performance. Luckily, the mood lightens once the escorts arrive and Joaquin begins doing cocaine off one of the girls exposed breasts. 

I was expecting some twist at the end where it shows it was all a setup but I'm glad they waited to admit that until after the movie came out. It allows the movie to live on it's own outside of the buzz of it's release. Joaquin the character may seem like he's gone off the deep end (literally at one point of the movie) but as the title suggests, the real Joaquin is still here, ready to take his bow. I encourage everyone to seek out this movie simply for the performance given by Joaquin. It may not translate to a mind-blowing movie, but it's one of the most important performances I've seen in quite some time. I hope come award season people are able to put aside the controversy surrounding the movie and award him for such a fearless role.

You're Welcome,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Movie Review: Never Let Me Go (by Dave Machado)

Never Let Me Go is, in very simple terms, an art-house science fiction movie. This is not the science fiction most people are used to though. It is a very subdued movie that takes place in an alternate history where scientists in the mid 20th Century were able to increase the life expectancy of humans to well past 100 years old. It begins very innocently enough, following the lives of three young children who are growing up in a sort of boarding school. We see hints that these children are not treated like normal kids (certain adults seem to act strangely uncomfortable around them) but there is nothing explicitly stated that suggests there is something wrong. It isn't until about 20 minutes in that we learn the role these kids have in society (as told to them by a teacher, who is promptly fired) and from there the movie is able to explore the very interesting themes of mortality and the roles humans have in their own fate.

If you do not want to be spoiled of the 1st act twist, I suggest you stop reading now and just now that I recommend seeing the movie though it can get a bit dry at times. 

What the teacher ends up informing the students is that their plan in life has already been decided for them. They are to be raised in this home and once they reach young adulthood, they will donate their organs one-by-one to other living humans as a way to help keep up the newly high life expectancy.  The children will simply donate themselves piece by piece until they "complete", which is the PC way of telling them they will give their parts until their body can no longer handle it and they die. I love the movie's decision to have us be told of this the same time the children themselves are hearing it. It allows us to feel the same shock they do and it makes for a very heartbreaking scene.

The movie then skips ahead roughly ten years and the three children have grown up into Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield. We then follow these three as they are wrestling with the knowledge that their time to begin donating is not too far behind. We learn there are myths about ways to prolong your first donation but are never sure what to believe. I expected the movie to become a chase flick with some of the children taking fate into their own hands but that is not what this movie is about. It's about knowing what your life is set up to be and the sad realization that you have no other alternative.

I will not spoil the second half of the movie but it is a very powerful story that won't soon be forgotten. I have some problems with the pacing and the lack of subtly at times but it really is a movie that people should watch. The performances of the three leads are great. After this and The Social Network, I am very excited that Garfield will be lacing up as the new Spiderman. I hold Carey Mulligan in a similar regard as I have only seen her in two movies but she has been incredible in both so I look forward to seeing her in more things very soon (though her inclusion was not enough to get me to see the new Wall Street. Not even Josh Brolin could get me in that theater). Never Let Me Go is a quiet movie that seems to grow louder the more I think of it. The ideas the movie puts forth slowly creep up on you well after the movie finishes, something I wish happened in more cases. I hope you all enjoy this movie as much as I did because I wouldn't be surprised if you started hearing about it more come Oscar season.

You're Welcome,

Movie Review: Let Me In (by Dave Machado)

Remakes are a very hard group of movies to properly review. I believe that the only way a remake can be deemed "successful" is if it is able to tell roughly the same story as the original but make everything so fresh and new that it almost seems like a different movie altogether. This may seem like a tall order but every once in a while, a movie succeeds at this task. Examples include The Thing, The Fly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and even Dawn of the Dead. Let Me In however does not belong in this small group. While it may be amazing to someone who has yet to experience the original (Let The Right One In), this remake simply follows the same storyline and visual style far too much for it to be considered as a worthy remake.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy the movie. I just felt that the it played like a great but very strict cover song. All the same beats were hit in the same style as the original except a few minor changes here and there that really add nothing to the story except to say it had some differences. Nothing from the original is "topped" in this movie but there are times where it comes very close to at least equaling it. The superb acting in this movie by the two kids Owen and Abby (Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz) along with Abby's "guardian" (Richard Jenkins) really saved the movie for me. Without their amazing performances, there would have been very little to enjoy about the flick other than the parts that I already loved from the original.

I really hate to bash Let Me In because if it wasn't a remake and was the first movie to adapt this story, it would probably be in the top 10 of 2010 for me. But I just can't get over the fact that an American studio felt the need to remake a foreign movie not even 5 years old. I am at least thankful that everyone involved did a great job with the movie because it easily could have been made into a terrible cliche vampire film. Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) gets some really great performances and some amazing scenery on screen (aside from some very cartoony cgi) and seems to hold the original in high regard. I actually think the issue is that perhaps he holds Let The Right One In in too high of a regard because he seemed afraid to take a chance and try something radically different with the story. 

I've heard a lot of critics say that if you have't seen Let The Right One In, then they highly recommend Let Me In. I disagree. I think that if you haven't seen Let The Right One In, then I highly recommend you see Let The Right One In. We don't live in a society where foreign movies are hard to find anymore. You can log on Amazon and have the original shipped to your house in just a few days or simply get it from Netflix (It's part of the "Watch Now" catalog!). As for Let Me In, I wouldn't hurry to see it in the theaters. I still recommend giving it a try at some point on DVD simply for the perfect performances but I do so with hesitation. Studios need to try making more original movies and to stop taking foreign films and "Americanizing" them simply because some idiots won't watch a movie with subtitles. If you are going to remake a movie, prove the remake's existence by having it be its own movie, not a dull copy. I hate to say this about such a well made movie but even if the end result is good, the reasoning behind it's creation is incorrect.

You're Welcome,

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Movie Review: The Social Network (by Dave Machado)

The Social Network is a movie that opened up to a lot of critical praise. I typically worry when a movie is this well liked upon its initial release because the cynical part of me starts to question the validity of the hype. Is it simply good marketing that results in convincing people they loved the movie (fearing they would seem like a crabby contrarian for taking the opposite opinion) or is it the real deal? I'm not saying that audiences are easily duped but it's surprising how often it ends up being just good marketing. Fortunately, The Social Network belongs in the category of "the real deal" because after you strip away the hype you are left with a truly incredible movie.

Now I understand the strangeness of discussing the dangers of over-hyping while at the same time hyping it myself, but it really is just a great film. The one thing that struck me most about this film is that it doesn't feel like a movie David Fincher directed or Aaron Sorkin wrote because it doesn't fall victim to their usual weaknesses. Fincher's movies always have a sort of "bloated" feeling to them for me and Sorkin is known to have his characters be a bit long-winded. Don't get me wrong, just because I think they have weaknesses is not meant to say I am not a fan. It's just important to realize that neither of these things describes The Social Network and so instead of having the movie seem like a generic entry into either of their catalogs, the movie feels fresh and dynamic in the sense that it doesn't come with the baggage of the people who created it. Instead the movie becomes a greatest hits mixtape of both creative forces where it's just the hits and none of the misses.

The Social Network starts off with a bang by opening up with Mark Zuckerberg (played perfectly by Jesse Eisenberg) getting dumped by his current girlfriend at a local bar. Everything you need to know about Mark as a character is exposed in this opening scene that to me was easily the best of the movie. It's always hard when a movie opens so strongly because you sit and wonder just how they could possibly keep this up. While I don't think The Social Network reached the same dizzying heights seen in the opening scene (seriously, it features some of my favorite back-and-forth dialog that I've seen in a long time), I don't consider it a major fault to the film because it would be impossible (and exhausting for the viewer) if the film kept the lightening quick pace of that opening exchange. I simply consider it a fantastic prologue to help you get into the mind of Zuckerberg before we begin the real journey of the film.

The movie is framed around Zuckerberg being questioned for two lawsuits he is currently involved in, both having to do with Facebook. One on side, he is being sued by 3 classmates from Harvard who are claiming he stole their idea for Facebook. The other is a more personal issue because he is being sued by his former best friend and co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield, who to me was the best part of an amazing cast) for being pushed out of the company without proper compensation. Both these lawsuits boil down to one person's word over another, and as someone in the movie even points out, when that is the case, most of what is said is exaggeration and the rest is simply lies.

I've noted above that Eisenberg and Garfield do excellent work but really the whole cast deserves credit. Eisenberg and Garfield may do most of the heavy lifting in the movie but it would all fall apart without the strong supporting cast. Chief amount them is Justin Timberlake, who plays Napster co-founder Sean Parker. I'll admit to being surprised how Timberlake disappeared into a role that could have easily been distracting. It ended up being an example of perfect casting because the role called for someone who is so charismatic that it would be easy to see how an outsider like Mark Zuckerberg could fall under his spell and not see how imbalanced he really was. To me this movie is the beginning of a new era of his career and I really look forward to his next move. 

I have already heard some complaints that the movie is not true to life but anyone who uses this as a negative towards the film has completely missed the point. The makers of this movie realized that the story to tell regarding the creation of Facebook wasn't found in the facts, but in the emotions of those involved. That is the real purpose of the movie. It's not being billed as based on a true story, but people will easily confuse it as such simply because it deals with characters based on people that really exist. Fincher and Sorkin have taken the conflicting words from all parties involved and made a semi-fictional take on real life events. It doesn't matter that the end result may be all exaggerations and lies because it's an amazing story that has become one of the best movies of 2010.

You're Welcome,

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Movie Review: Hatchet II (by Dave Machado)

There has been an unfortunate trend lately to call any new horror movie that plays like an 80s slasher movie an "homage." However, there is a big difference between an homage to 80s horror and a new original movie that maintains the same gleeful fun mainly seen in those movies from past decades. Hatchet II is not an "homage" to the fun slasher movies of the past. It simply is a fun slasher movie. There are no gimmicks on display to make it seem like a dated horror movie. Sure, the movie wears its love of older supernatural slasher movies on its sleeve, but it does so in a way that allows it to be its own thing. Hatchet II is a fantastic horror movie that does what every sequel should, prove its own existence while topping everything from the first movie.

I love the world Director Adam Green has set up in his movies. There are a good amount of returning characters from the first Hatchet and it truly feels like the continuation of the story that began with the original one in 2006. There are also some clever nods to other things Green has done like Frozen (pay attention to a certain news report) and my personal favorite, Jack Chop. Green's ability to combine the new school of horror with what is now considered an older school was one of my favorite things about this movie. It really comes across that Green loves this genre and Hatchet II is an awesome celebration of all things bloody and gory.

It would be easy to simply rattle off all the cool little cameos and references in Hatchet II (Joe Lynch! Behind the Mask! Newbury Comics!) but that was only part of the fun watching it. The real enjoyment I got out of Hatchet II were the glorious kills. The reason they are so amazing (and the reason I feel like Hatchet II is so important) is because it has been released to major theaters without an official rating. This is pretty much unheard of so I feel like it is every horror fan's duty to seek this movie out. I made a special trip to Boston and encourage others to follow suit. You won't be disappointed either because the stuff they were able to get away with instead of cutting it down for an R rating makes for one hell of a fun time.

Another strong point of Hatchet II is the lead, Danielle Harris. It's great seeing the little girl from Halloween 4 and 5 get a chance to really kick some ass and go full-on Ripley in a horror movie. Danielle is not playing the scared helpless girl in this movie. She gets her hands dirty (and bloody) and I had a blast watching her on screen. It's a great role and makes me look forward to what she does next. Speaking of which, any fans of her and Director Adam Green can actually get to meet them both if you go to Rock and Shock in Worcester on the weekend of Oct. 15-17 (I'll be there!).

Hatchet II is not my favorite horror movie of the year (I had a lot more fun with Piranha 3D) but it is still a movie that every single horror fan should see. Victor Crowley is the best horror monster created since Candyman and I would love to see this series continued even further. I have no problem saying that the Hatchet series will be required viewing years from now similar to how my generation devoured all of the Nightmare on Elm St. and Friday the 13th movies. There will always be critics saying these types of movies are what's wrong with America and that's fine because the reason we love horror movies like this is that they are like a great big in-joke. So while they sit in wonderment at how someone could enjoy seeing a person's head get ripped off from getting choked by their own intestines (Yea, that happens. It's as awesome as it sounds...), we can simply ignore them, sit back, and enjoy the gore that Hatchet II offers by the bucket-load. Just please don't call it an homage movie.

You're Welcome,