Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Movie Review: Triangle (by Dave Machado)

Watching a great movie can be a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. A movie typically begins by giving you the basic setup of the story, which is fairly easy to understand. I consider this the "outline" portion of the puzzle, the part everyone always starts with so you can begin to see what exactly you are working with. The complexity of the movie from that point on determines the size of the puzzle pieces that the viewer is left to put together. There are always movies with big pieces for viewers who don't want to do much leg work. Fortunately, there are also movies like Triangle that know certain viewers enjoy a challenge and therefore give them lots of little pieces to work with. Like any big puzzle, you may be frustrated while you attempt to put it all together, but once things fall into place and you take a step back, you really start to appreciate the challenge it put forth.

I won't go too deep into the plot of Triangle because giving you answers (or even clues) as to what the movie is really about would be like turning the jigsaw puzzle into a childish paint by numbers.  Sure the end result could still look the same, but half the enjoyment comes from your own discovery. What I can say is that it is a thriller that focuses on a small group of people who get caught in a severe storm while relaxing out at sea. Their boat capsizes and after spending a while floating in the sea, a giant ocean liner appears seemingly out of nowhere. They board the ship which seems to be eerily quiet and empty except for a few passing shadows and sounds. What's the dark secret of the boat? I'll let you find that out for yourself. 

Lots of movies attempt to unravel a sprawling mystery but end up having at least one small plot hole that can't be explained. To go back to the jigsaw metaphor, it would be like completing a large, beautiful puzzle only to realize there is a small missing piece. Sure the final result is impressive, but whenever you or someone else looks at it, their eyes will go directly to the missing piece. Luckily, Triangle does not have any missing pieces. I was both surprised and impressed at how well everything fit together. It took some re-watching of key scenes after I initially finished the movie to fully understand it, but once I did, it made the movie that much more enjoyable. All the answers are right up there on the screen, it's simply left up to the viewer to put them all together.

That's not to say Triangle is a perfect movie because it's not. But for a small thriller, it has an incredibly tight story and some amazingly haunting visuals that will stay with me for a long time. Director Christopher Smith has an excellent visual style and the movie is surprisingly beautiful at times. I was a fan of his previous horror movie Severance and was happy to see how much range he showed this time around. Severance had a very unique wit (though very dark) that I was happy to see mostly missing from this movie. Triangle is a more serious effort and he luckily didn't feel the need to inject any silly gags that would break the tension. That's not to say I didn't enjoy Severance because the humor worked in the universe he set up for that film. Actually, if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend you check it out. It features my favorite rocket launcher gag of all time.

Triangle is also helped by a fairly impressive (and mostly unknown) cast. The movie is anchored by the role of Jess (Melissa George).  Melissa does a fantastic job with such a complicated character and really adds a lot to the role that could have easily been too "schticky." The rest of the cast does a good job for the most part but since the movie really belongs to the character Jess, most are never given enough to do and therefore become fairly one-note characters. I would have liked to see more complex supporting characters but like I said, Melissa does such a fine job pulling her weight around on screen that it simply makes everyone else seem more 1 dimensional.

The movie goes a little too heavy on symbolism at times but I can forgive it because it's never so bad that it ruins the movie. This is simply a pet peeve of mine and will most likely not even be an issue for most viewers. Other than those few nitpicks, I was highly impressed with Triangle. It's the type of movie that surprises me how little of a following it has. I hope more people check it out in the years to come because it accomplishes a lot for such a small film. I understand it may be too "confusing" for some but as I said before, the answers are right there on the screen. You just need to take the time to put it together yourself. For those willingly to try out this puzzle, you'll be extremely happy with the end result.

You're Welcome,

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dave's Decorum: Rules for the Movie Going Public - Part 2: NOM NOM NOM (by Dave Machado)

Welcome back to another installment of Dave's Decorum, where I slowly roll out some rules that I think the entire movie going public needs to start following. Last time, I tackled the issue of talking (See post here!). Now that I've hopefully shut you up, let's turn our attention to America's favorite thing about going to the movies, food! Eating at the movies is something that many of us enjoy, including myself. I usually get some popcorn or candy along with a soda before most movies, even though it typically ends up costing more than the damn ticket. I'm not here to say that eating should be removed from the movies or to complain about the high cost of said food.  We all know the prices are way out of line but these are not rules for the movie theater itself, but the people who have already decided it is OK to spend $5 for a soda that will be gone by the time the 3rd preview starts (remember, I'm one of these people!).
  1. Chew with your mouth closed - It is kind of amazing that I even have to mention this. I can't be the only person who is constantly annoyed by the "chomp! chomp! chomp!" sounds of the person eating popcorn in the row below me while I'm trying to follow the story on the screen. Granted it's less of an issue with loud action movies, but whenever a movie contains a quiet dialog scene, chances are you can hear at least one person dumbly munching away on their snack. Do people really need to eat that constantly? Take a break once in a while (especially when the scene in question is quiet enough that others will hear you).
  2. Open all packages before movie starts - I almost have to laugh when I'm watching a movie and become distracted by the crinkling sound of plastic as some idiot fumbles around in the dark trying to open his bag of candy. This rule should be simple enough, when you sit down and are waiting for the movie to start, open up any bags you have while you can easily see them. This way, I won't have to hear you failing at your task while I'm trying to pay attention to the movie I spent money to see. Some people may not do this because they have multiple snacks and want to wait until it is time to start eating that specific one. They should probably read Rule #3...
  3. Pick one snack/drink item - When did going to the movies become a multiple course meal? People will start eating some candy only after they have finished the giant tub of popcorn I just spent 30 min. listening to them eat (didn't they read rule #1?). Most movies last not much longer than 2 hours. I'm pretty sure one snack and a drink can hold you over until then. If that isn't enough, please don't leave the house because chances are I would not enjoy looking at you.
  4. No novelty size items - I understand the appeal for a deal is enticing when the person behind the counter explains that for only $0.25 more, you can get a super duper large jumbo tub of popcorn instead of the super duper large tub. But just because it seems like a good deal doesn't mean you need to buy it. Do you really need that much food? I guess this goes hand in hand with Rule #3 which is that you should only need a modest amount to snack on when going to the movies. If you need two hands to carry one item from the concession stand, it's too big for you. The only time this rule is allowed to be broken is when you are sharing a snack with a date. If the snack is just for you, keep it normal sized.
If any of these rules seem too difficult for you, then I'm surprised you even have the ability to read this. Seriously, movies and snacks go together well, but like most things, there is a tipping point. Keep portions down and noise levels low. Remember, the theater isn't your own living room so don't treat it like that. I fully understand some of these rules have no bearing on me as a fellow movie goer (snack size, amount of snacks) but it's just really annoying to look at and these are my rules so please be quiet (OBEY!). If you are upset at these rules, think of it as a wake-up call that maybe you eat too much. Until then, enjoy the movie and please pass the (opened) bag of Skittles my way.

You're Welcome,

Monday, September 27, 2010

Movie Review: Catfish (by Dave Machado)

Every once in a while, a movie comes along like Catfish that seems to pull people in based solely on the reason that it is being marketed as a "twist" movie that needs to be seen to be believed. I typically have reservations about these movies because I feel like the hype of the movie (and specifically the twist) will have become so big that there is no way the movie can live up to it. The marketing for Catfish makes it out to seem like a pseudo-horror movie with some dark secret lurking in the shadows. Even the poster, with it's red on black color scheme suggests something pretty sinister. This ends up being a fairly questionable marketing strategy because while it does hook people in, it doesn't exactly deliver what it seems to promise. That is actually a good thing though because where Catfish ends up going was genuinely surprising and was done in such an anti-climatic way that I have no reason to question the movie's authenticity.

For those who have yet to see the movie, don't worry, I have no intention of spoiling Catfish for you. The basic setup though is that a photographer (Nev Schulman) begins receiving paintings of his photos from an 8 year old artist named Abby. He slowly develops a friendship with her whole family through Facebook and eventually starts a "relationship" with Abby's older half sister Megan. Two aspiring filmmakers (Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost) who share an office with Nev in New York see the potential for a good short documentary film and begin filming Nev's story as he gets closer to this family. The three of them end up getting a gig not too far from where the family lives and decide that once they are finished shooting there, they would stop by the family's house so they can all finally meet.

It's unfortunate that this movie has come out the same time as Casey Affleck's I'm Still Here, which has turned out to be a fabricated story being sold as a real Documentary. We now know that Joaquin Phoenix was playing a character the whole time and that it was not a documentation of his emotional "downfall." The movie was meant to be an interesting study on the fact that if we see someone playing "themselves" and it's billed as real, then most people will take the creators word for it, no matter how outlandish the subject matter is. I fear this will cause people to be cynical towards movies like Catfish, which I think is in fact 100% real. It would be a shame if the true message of the movie gets lost in the arguments over the authenticity of it.

The screening of the movie I attended was followed by a quick Q&A session with director Ariel Schulman and star Nev Schulman. The question came up about their response to people wondering whether the movie was real or not and their response was quite simple. They themselves never even thought that some people would consider it all a hoax because they lived through it so of course it was real. Nobody likes being duped and I think for that reason, some will still stand by their feeling that the movie was faked simply because that way if it ever came out that it was a hoax, they could line up to give you a nice and quick "I told you so." I don't think that moment will ever come so it's unfortunate that those unwilling to make that leap of faith in the filmmakers are losing out on the important issues the movie brings up.

I apologize for being cryptic but this really is a movie that should not be spoiled. I may do a more spoiler filled post at some point depending on the response to the movie as it becomes more well known but in the meantime, I suggest trying to find a local showing in your area. I didn't walk out 100% loving the movie as I felt there were some things that placed the movie in a morally grey area that I am still trying to sort out, but I am glad I got the chance to see it. It won't change the way you use Facebook, but it may make you question how you chose to communicate with people over the internet that you don't personally know.

You're Welcome,

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The State of The Genre: Horror (by Dave Machado)

Tis the season to be jolly! Fall has officially begun and it is time for my favorite season of all to begin, Halloween! I love Fall for many things (cool air, falling leaves, fresh apples) but nothing beats the joy of watching lots of horror movies for a month and half. Sure, horror movies can be enjoyed year round, but there is just something about the the Fall that makes it much more enjoyable. After all, Fall is the season of death as we see the joys of summer fade and the leaves start to drop from the trees, slowly being drained of their color. I felt what better time than now to take a look at my favorite genre of movies and see what recent gems are worth seeking out this Halloween season.

2010 has not been a banner year by any means for horror movies. I can think of only a handful of horror movies that received a major release this year and most have been a disappointment. The saddest part is that most of these major releases were not even original ideas. We had new iterations of The Crazies, Nightmare on Elm St., The Wolfman, and Piranha. Out of these, I'd say The Crazies and Piranha 3D succeeded in being fantastic movies in their own right but still, as great as they were, they were not original. This is the single thing that has been lacking most in horror movies (and movies in general) for the past few years. As of right now, the latest Nightmare on Elm St. is actually my least favorite movie if 2010. Please keep in mind I also saw Sex and The City 2 in the theater. This fact is actually the scariest part of my movie going experience this year. 

Luckily, I also saw good original horror movies like Daybreakers, Devil, and The Last Exorcism this year. None of these stood out as being a new classic, but all were solid entires. Daybreakers especially was an extremely fun flick that I can see myself going back and revisiting from time to time. There are still a couple movies (Frozen and The Human Centipede) that I missed in the theaters and am waiting to see on DVD. I'll share my thoughts on those as I see them in the coming month. Both look extremely interesting and I think will end up being two of the better movies I see this year.

Luckily, there are still a lot of major-release horror movies yet to be released this year. In the next few weeks alone, I hope to see Let Me In, Saw VII, Paranormal Activity 2, and My Soul To Take. These are the ones guaranteed to be playing at a theater near me. If I'm lucky, I'll also get a chance to see Hatchet 2, The Ward, and I Spit on Your Grave. Needless to say, there is plenty of horror left this year and hopefully at least one of these will end up being a cut above the rest we've had so far this year. My money would be on Hatchet 2 but we'll have to wait and see. It's also worth pointing out that all but 2 of those movies are remakes/sequels (*sigh*).

The Halloween season isn't only about seeing new horror movies though. It's also the time of year I try and find some hidden gems through Netflix and see what I have missed from years prior. I encourage anyone reading this to do the same. If you need help finding out where to start, let me start you off with five recommendations:

Splinter is an amazing movie that belongs in the subgenre of a core group of survivors holed up in a small location (in this case, a gas station) while a creature/monster/killer tries to get in. I missed hearing about this movie during its initial release but was told I should see it from a friend. I always love watching a movie that I have low expectations for but end up loving. I understand I am now depriving you of this discovery by already hyping the movie, but it really is a great horror movie and one of my favorite of the last decade. If you love creature features, make this your starting point for the season.

Trick R Treat is an anthology movie that focuses on one town's celebration of Halloween. Everything is connected perfectly by having the same characters show up in multiple stories and not in the ways you would usually expect. This is another movie that didn't get the proper attention it deserved at first but has luckily gained a good cult following. I feel like this is a movie that should be played yearly on TV as it is really an excellent little film that needs to become a true Halloween classic. If you want a fun, supernatural Halloween movie that tackles lots of different sub-genres, this is your best bet to start with.

Deep Red is an Italian Giallo film by the master Dario Argento. Originally released as Profondo Rosso in 1975, it is about a man who witnesses the murder of a woman and is determined to try and solve the case. He knows that when he first discovered the body, he noticed a very important clue but was so flustered, he can't seem to remember it, just the simple fact that he can't recall the missing piece of the puzzle. It's a highly stylized movie with an excellent and haunting soundtrack by Goblin. It's a great movie that keeps you guessing until the end. If you want a more "real to life" horror movie without supernatural elements, Deep Red would be a very satisfying choice.

Dead Alive is a New Zealand zombie movie directed by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame. It's original title when it was released in 1992 was "Braindead" and it focuses on a zombie outbreak in a small New Zealand town. The main thing to know about Dead Alive before seeing it is that it is an insanely gory movie. Blood and gore flow freely and it is one of the grosser movies I have ever seen. I'll admit to feeling a bit off after the first time I saw it but it really is a movie that has to be seen. This movie belongs in the "splatstick" sub genre of movies usually released by Troma. For those who have yet to see one of these beauties, it's basically a movie whose violence is so over the top and "icky" that it is used to comedic effect. If you can stomach it, Dead Alive is a great zombie movie and one of my personal favorites to revisit.

Bride of Frankenstein is my pick for those who want something a bit more "classic." Released in 1935, Director James Wales was able to put together not only a worthy follow-up to Frankenstein (1931) but also created one of the most influential horror movies of all time. This movie really created the blue-print for how sequels should be made, having everything top the original and also moving the story toward more "mature" themes. Bride of Frankenstein is superior in every way to the original and it is surprising how well the movie plays to modern audiences. This is required viewing for anyone who considers themselves a fan of horror.

So those are my 5 picks to get you started. What are your suggestions for horror movies that more people need to discover this season? Share your ideas and if I haven't seen it, I promise to give it a shot. I'll be back with some more of my own suggestions as the season moves forward. Until then, stay scared!

You're Welcome,

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dave's Decorum: Rules for the Movie Going Public - Part 1: Shhhhhh (by Dave Machado)

2010 has seen a resurgence in my love of going to the movies. For a multitude of reasons (cheap,busy,lazy) I had stopped going to the movies on a regular basis and instead decided that unless it looked like I was going to love the movie, I could just wait for the DVD to come out. But of all the excuses I was coming up with, the one thing that annoyed me the most about seeing a movie in the theater was how one ignorant person could ruin the whole movie experience for me. It seems people have either forgotten or never fully learned how to behave in public, let alone in a movie theater. 

Watching a movie is a lot like experiencing an illusion. You get sucked into a story you know is (usually) not real but it doesn't matter because the power of cinema has taken over. But all it takes is one small distraction from another patron in the theater to cause that illusion to break and bring you back to reality. Depending on the movie, this illusion may be hard to get back into, thus ruining the movie for you. I am paying money to see a movie and not listen to/see anyone else. So in the hopes of saving people from this type of nonsense, I will be creating a list of rules that we all must follow from now on. This will be a continuing series as we focus on one important issue at a time. So without further ado, I present the first of Dave's Movie Etiquette Rules:

1) Shut Up.  This one should be simple enough. Once a movie starts, shut your mouth. I'm not saying you can't laugh or make the occasional uncontrollable exclamation or cheer, but don't make full thoughts come out of your mouth. There are three groups of people that I am speaking to here so I would like to address them both individually:

  • Talking to the Screen: What compels people to talk to the screen. This is typically seen when horror and action movies are playing and a character is in danger and some idiot gets so worked up he begins telling the character what they should do. I'm all for getting caught up in the moment, but please keep some level of control and keep your inner thoughts inside your head. Everyone else seems to be doing just fine with that.
  • Cracking Jokes: Oh great, a fan of MST3K is in the crowd. The worst thing about this is that in all the times I've experienced a movie with one of these people, they have never said anything that is remotely funny. I'm not sure what makes them think otherwise but it's pretty damn annoying. If you think you are that funny, keep the commentary to video blogs and private screenings with friends. Please don't make me pay to listen to your lame jokes.
  • The Questioner: I've saved my least favorite for last. This is the person who is constantly asking questions about the plot of the movie to the person they are with. I'm not sure why these people even go to the movies if they can't understand basic storytelling. I understand that some movies are confusing but guess what, if you shut up and follow along, you'll eventually get it. If you have a hard time concentrating and your mind drifts, then that is your problem and you should be forced to silently sit in your dumb, confused state. Here is a novel idea, how about waiting for the movie to end and then talk about what you didn't understand with the person you are with. That is, unless you can't even remember what questions to ask because your memory is so poor. In that case, stay home and watch QVC.
These are typically the most most common offenders of this rule. I've actually seen an old man even answer a cell phone and proceed to talk over the movie! I tried to give him this sad made up back-story of how he is a widower whose only child has moved away and started a new family. Most of his friends have died or moved as well so he doesn't have much of a social life anymore. In order to help him get out more, he likes to go see movies. However, on this occasion, his one son called during the movie and he was so delighted that he could hear the voice of someone he loves that he picked up the phone. I have a weakness of creating elaborate stories to make excuses for the actions of strangers. Luckily, another woman in the theater didn't share this hobby as she began screaming at him to get off the phone. 

This brings up the other side of the argument about talking in theaters, how do you deal with the offenders. I myself am far too passive to tell someone to shut up so I will simply glare at them from the corner of my eye (and complain on a blog they don't know exists). I think instead of needing to provoke them in the theater, we need to simply raise awareness on this issue so everyone knows just how moronically rude it really is. I wouldn't be opposed to wearing ribbons to support this cause.

How do you deal with talking in a movie theater? Does it bother you as much as it bothers me? Let me know because I'd be happy to hear from someone else on this issue. Maybe you have a bigger pet peeve instead? Share that too so we can discuss it in a later post. I have a few other rules I'll be posting in the coming days but I'm sure there are some I missed or some things that may not annoy me as much as it annoys others. This is a shared like of rules so please contribute! Lastly, please keep in mind I am simply talking about when you see a movie in the theater. I couldn't care less what you are doing when watching something at home alone or with friends. It's time we take back the movie theater for the people who actually know how to behave in public!

You're Welcome,

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rant/Rave: Moving Forward (by Dave Machado)

I've had this blog for a couple months now and felt it was time to take stock of what I've done so far and look forward to what I would like to do with it in the future. I started this on a whim on my birthday basically out of boredom and didn't have a real vision for what I wanted. I assumed it would be a mix of pop culture rants with a few reviews every once in a while. However, it quickly turned into a movie review only blog due to a renewed interest in going to the movies this summer. I had even given myself a new rule that any movie I watched, I must review at some point, regardless of how much I think no one else will care about it. I've enjoyed doing this so far and plan to continue with this rule while at the same time, I feel I should branch things out a bit so it doesn't get too stale.

I love watching movies. I am pretty sure that is obvious by now for the dozen or so people who decided to waste their time reading my thoughts on important topics like killer turkeys and the genius of Christopher Nolan. But the one thing I enjoy even more than watching movies, is talking about them. It's that fact that I want to keep front and center going forward with this blog. It may be too ambitious of me to say, but I would love for these writings on here to be the beginning of a conversation that continues within the comments section. If you like/hate/love something, make note of it below! I plan to begin writing more unique entires that don't focus on just one movie as an attempt to get people to join in. In fact, if you have ideas on things you would like discussed on here, let me know. I've already been given one idea for a recurring column that you will see in the near future and would love to have more ideas.

The one thing I didn't want my decision to create a fun blog to cause was a sense of homework when writing down a review. It would be absurd to feel that way because this is all just a fun little hobby that I've decided to start up. When your main hobby is something passive like viewing movies or listening to music, it's good to have some outlet where you actually do something with that interest. That's where Dave's Constant comes into play. Luckily it's been fun so far and I think it will continue to be as long as there are good things to write about (something I doubt will ever disappear).

I have tried to have a unique way of reviewing movies that hopefully people enjoy. I will continue to be as spoiler-free as possible. I am even toying with the idea of having separate "Spoiler" posts on the movies I've written about so I can go into more detail. I'm not here to deeply criticize movies, for two main reasons. First being I don't have the proper background to do that, and secondly, I watch movies to be entertained, not to gleefully turn around and rip it apart. I tried going the route of rating movies but that just seemed too boring to me.

Even movies that I had a lot of problems with (Devil), I still make it a point to let you know that they have some good in them. If I can find at least one redeeming thing in a movie that I can take away from it, then it was a worth viewing. I feel like positive thinking is missing from a lot of online criticism. I also agree that flat out loving something can have an equally negative effect on the reader so I will try to remain somewhere in the middle when not being obviously tongue-in-cheek. I'm new to this type of writing in general so it will take a while so hopefully you enjoy the ride. I fully admit they won't always be winners.

I hope you are enjoying what I've put up so far and continue to read my random posts as they keep coming throughout the year. I look forward to hearing about the things you would like discussed on here. Best case, you might even realize you would like to contribute as well. This isn't created just for me and I would love to begin posting stuff from other people as well. Now if you'd please leave me alone, I have some TV that needs watching.

You're Welcome,

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Movie Review: Devil (by Dave Machado)

Devil is a movie that you can like, perhaps even really like, but not love. It's a high-concept horror movie that is filled with so many logical holes that it begins to resemble a game of Jenga. I spent the whole running time wondering when that final piece of intelligence would be removed, causing the entire movie to topple over itself. Yet somehow, when the movie was finished, that tower of blocks was left standing and the movie was able to get away with having so many issues purely because it was so damn fun to watch. It may lose a lot of its bulk to bad logic, but it is smart enough to keep its base intact, providing a great thriller with some genuinely creepy moments.

The movie focuses on a group of 5 people stranded in an elevator. They are all suspicious people to begin with and start to turn against each other as they realize something is horribly wrong with their situation. The previews hint that one of the passengers is not who they claim to be and are in fact the devil. The movie does a good job in the beginning of making you question whether or not something truly supernatural is occurring but does not stick with this theme long enough. The filmmakers don't seem that interested in this debate of whether or not evil really exists and because of this, the movie loses a bit of steam going forward.

Speaking of losing steam, the movie makes the confusing decision to go back and forth between the people in the elevator and the cops and security guards trying to get them out far too much. I would have preferred something more risky where the movie focused on only one of these groups for the entire runtime. That way at least if it was a failure, it would have been a respectable failure. Instead we are forced to go back and forth between both scenarios, which I felt made it so neither ever got the real attention they deserved. The movie never allows enough time for the real sense of panic to rise up on either side, which just doesn't make sense to me based on what we see happening.

One of the things that really bugged me about the movie is how the people in the elevator react to the first death. The movie ends up taking on a very Agatha Christie feel as one-by-one, the people in the elevator start to die mysteriously (when the lights go out of course.). But once the first death occurs, I was stunned at the lack of reaction from the rest of the people in the elevator. They seem to react to the death the same way they would react if one of the people happened to faint while the lights were out. Sure, there is some nonsense talk about having never seen a dead body before, but they aren't flipping out, which is something I think should have happened. The movie has the characters keep their cool for the sake of storytelling but from a reality standpoint, it starts to pull those Jenga pieces away at a very quick pace.

It seems that a lot of the smaller things that bugged me stemmed from the fact that the filmmakers set up the rules they wanted to work within before fully fleshing out the details. So when the characters are face with a problem that has a logical workaround, they skirt that issue under the rug and try to divert attention away from the glaring issues. One such rule is that the cops outside the elevator are able to speak to the survivors using the P.A. system, but for some reason, the other side is broken so they can't hear anything coming from within the elevator. The only connection they have is what's picked up by the elevator security camera. This leaves many times where the movie simply gives in to the fact that some things can't be communicated because there is no sound coming from the elevator. Apparently these cops cannot read lips at all and the people in the elevator are terrible at charades. 

The movie tries to mine far too much tension out of this problem so it's never brought up how illogical it is that none of this is attempted. They try to pull something by saying the camera isn't sharp enough when they try to have the people hold up their IDs so they can properly identify who is in the elevator, but that is not a good enough excuse for me. I wish the movie was a bit more tongue-in-cheek and it didn't try to be so serious at times. It's hard to take a movie seriously when the address of the building where everything takes place is 333 Locust St. It seems baffling to me that a movie would choose something that corny and not stick with a B-movie tone. Again, it's as if the filmmakers are not brave enough to chose one thing over the other and instead try to have the best of both worlds, which is something that a small horror movie with an 80 min. runtime is not able to handle.

Devil tries to play out like a religious morality play. It contains some pretty bad narration by the very religious security guard who is the first to suspect something is wrong. The movie begins with his voice over but we don't actually become introduced to his character until later on in the movie. It is an odd and somewhat lazy choice to have him relay a story his mother used to tell him about the devil coming to earth to make people pay for their sins. It becomes even an odder choice when we see just how useless the character actually is within the scope of the movie. It's as if they needed a way to get this extra information across and the only way they knew how was to create this one note supporting character and then allow him to narrate the most important parts of the film. They could have at least given his character a good pay off but instead he ends up playing no role in the outcome, other than to annoy me with this cliche ramblings about the devil.

It actually surprises me how many negative things I have to say about this movie because as I said earlier, I enjoyed it overall. The movie is being billed as the first entry in "The Night Chronicles" which seems to be a possible anthology of unrelated thrillers to be setup by Producer M. Night Shyamalan. I would love to see a couple little flicks like this pop up every year. Devil plays out in a twisty Twilight Zone kind of way that could easily make it part of a universe being setup between multiple films. If you are a fan of horror movies, then I 100% recommend giving this movie a shot. Hopefully you will find enough good in it like I did to consider it an entertaining story and something that I look forward to revisiting on DVD. However, for those who only enjoy horror when it's smart and edgy, you may just want to wait in the lobby for the next elevator to arrive.

You're Welcome,

Movie Review: The Town (by Dave Machado)

With his new movie The Town opening wide this weekend, Ben Affleck is officially a director I need to keep an eye on. After his stunning debut in 2007 with Gone Baby Gone, it is a relief to see that it wasn't a fluke and that Affleck really has the talent and skill of a major director. It may seem a bit premature to say this but I'm starting to believe that Affleck is doing for Boston what Woody Allen did for New York City in the 1970s. Ben Affleck knows how to make Boston become a major character in his films in a way that does not seem forced and instead comes from his deep love for the city he grew up around. The movie isn't just a simple love letter to Boston though. It is also a tense and thrilling heist movie with a great cast of characters and a script that luckily doesn't pander to audiences who can't bother to pay attention to what is happening in front of them.

The basic plot of The Town is setup in the opening bank heist by Affleck's character Doug, his close friend James (played by the excellent Jeremy Renner), and their two other crew members (played by newcomers Owen Burke and Slaine). They end up taking a bank worker hostage whom they eventually drop off after they realize they were able to get away clean. But they soon find out that the woman they took (played by Rebecca Hall) happens to live in the same neighborhood as them, Charlestown.  Affleck decides he will follow up on her to make sure she didn't see or hear anything she wasn't supposed to. Without planning to, he ends up falling for her and tries to keep his life as a bank robber hidden while at the same time a pair of feds (played by Jon Hamm and Titus Weller) start zeroing in on his crew.

As you can see, the plot of The Town boils down to a pretty standard heist flick. It may not be breaking any new ground but it is an example of the right way to do a heist movie. The casting of the movie is spot on for every major role. All the people mentioned do a great job but special attention should be given to both Renner and Hamm. Both are very intense characters on opposite sides of the law and it was great to see Hamm get to play a character other than Don Draper (or the handsome and stupid Dr. Drew Baird). I was also impressed with Blake Lively, who plays the sister of Renner's character and also a former love interest of Affleck. It may sound like a backhanded compliment, but she does a great job at playing a Boston druggie who dresses like a hooker.

A major problem with most heist movies is that they all follow a basic formula. The Town is no exception but the talent in front of and behind the camera is far too great to ever let it dip into boring or cliche territory. It may have never left me wondering where the movie would go next, but I enjoyed the ride so much that it wasn't a problem. The Town also features some amazing car chase scenes that rightfully so have been getting lots of attention leading up to the release. Affleck proves that not only can he handle character heavy drama, but when the movie calls for it, he is able to direct some superb action sequences. A lot of action movies lately favor the hyper editing style that makes it so you easily get lost and don't have a sense of where certain characters are in relation to everyone else. Fortunately, Affleck does not subscribe to this editing style and so the movie never becomes a confusing mess and you always know exactly what is happening on the screen.

My one complaint with the movie would be the ending, which I felt was far too much of an easy choice but luckily it does not diminish what comes before it. I question the plausibility of two outcomes that occur but due to my goal of staying spoiler free, I will simply leave it at that. The Town may be far from a 5 star classic, but it is a seriously good movie that should be seen. I hope this movie finds an audience this fall and it allows Affleck to continue making these great films. It will be interesting to see what he decides to do next. Whatever it is, I plan to be in the theater on opening night.

You're Welcome,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

TV Review: Dead Set (by Dave Machado)

Most people reading this will not have had the chance to experience Dead Set, a British show that aired on the E4 channel in 2008. British shows are known for their short seasons and do a great job of telling lots without too much filler. In Dead Set, it focuses on the story of what would happen to the contestants on Big Brother if the zombie apocalypse occurred during filming. It may sound a bit gimmicky, and while Dead Set does mine a lot of its humor from this premise, it is much more than just a nifty idea. The show gets dark, very dark, and thanks to the less strict rules overseas, it is filled with just as much gore, nudity, and swearing as you are likely to see in any modern zombie movie (if not more). At only 5 episodes in length, Dead Set feels like an epic 2 and a half hour long zombie movie that is now one of my favorite examples of zombie fiction.

The first episode of Dead Set opens on eviction night for the Big Brother guests. We see the high activity going on backstage as we are introduced to both the people in front of and behind the cameras. Panic is setting in as it appears some rioting is occurring in some other city that could potentially bump Big Brother's live broadcast. I loved the idea of having this be the beginning hint of the zombie uprising. A similar tactic was used in Shaun of the Dead but was done more as a joke to show how clueless the main characters were by ignoring these broadcasts at first. In Dead Set, it is a situation that the characters are fully aware of. Of course, they think it is just some random rioting far enough away so they have no cause for alarm. The show is able to air but during the live broadcast, one zombie makes it to the gates of the studio. Before we know it, the entire studio (including the live audience there for the eviction) is being eaten alive as full chaos breaks out everywhere but inside the actual Big Brother house. Due to the soundproof studio to make them feel secluded from the world, they have no idea what is going on and simply go to sleep.

I don't want to spoil any more because it really is a fantastic show that should be seen without too much knowledge of the outcome. It does an excellent job of combining the stereotypes of zombie movies with the cliche cast members of a reality show. It is also anchored by what I found to be a surprisingly touching plot about a man (Riq) trying to get to the Big Brother studio where his girlfriend (Kelly) is one of the only surviving non-cast members who made it safely into the house in time. Dead Set never puts too much emphasis on this relationship so it never feels forced and becomes the natural heart of the story. I was surprised how invested I became in their outcome, especially as things go south, as they always tend to do in zombie movies.

Fans of George Romero's Day of the Dead will also be happy to know that Dead Set features one of the best "asshole" characters that I've seen in a horror movie since the iconic Capt. Rhodes. Actor Andy Nyman does such a great job at playing the despicable Big Brother Producer Patrick that it was the first time I've seen a character that didn't seem like a lame imitation of Capt. Rhodes but was more of a loving homage to such a hateful, yet loved, character. You will spend the entire show waiting for this character to die a glorious death and let me just say that you will not be disappointed. For those that think that is a spoiler, you have clearly never seen a zombie movie. The "bad" guy always gets the most gruesome death and I can honestly say that I was shocked at how graphic his was. 

The bad news I have to give is that Dead Set is currently not available on DVD in the US. However, I was able to borrow a Region 2 edition of the DVD that someone bought from Amazon UK that played fine on my laptop. For those of you who don't want to go that route, it seems that according to an old post on, they are planning on airing the show for the first time in the US during Oct. 25-29 (see bottom of link provided). I am hoping this means there will be a DVD release for the US sometime early next year so it can finally get the audience it deserves in America. It's fitting that this will be airing so close to the premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC. Although in the end, it may be a negative for The Walking Dead because after watching Dead Set, I'm not sure another show will ever be able to do what Dead Set accomplished in just 5 perfect episodes of television.

You're Welcome,

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Music Review: Katy Perry's Peacock (by Dave Machado)

For those of you who have yet to hear this new highlight in the medium of music, I urge you to either seek out the song before reading this or at the very least, read the lyrics in the link supplied above. There was a time a few short weeks ago that I questioned the reasoning for the continuation of music after Kurt from Glee sang Rose's Turn but now I see why. Some may think it is crass and others will say it is crude, and to both parties I ask you to reach deep down and remember that time you yourself longed for something that felt so close yet was so out of reach. Music has been around for centuries and has finally reached an apex of human creativity. Oddly, this turned out to be Katy Perry singing about how badly she wants to see a dick.

The song begins like any good adventurous tale does, with a person learning of a possibly unattainable object and the decision to stop at nothing in order to get it. Like Indiana Jones before her, Katy Perry sets us off into a world of mystery with the yearning for a mythical MacGuffin. We follow her along as she begins her quest by immediately pestering a man to show her his penis. My respect for Katy Perry lies in her ability to realize that sometimes the best solution to a problem is also the easiest. In the case of Katy Perry, let us call it "Occam's Razor Burn."

The real pain of this song is that we really get the feeling Katy Perry has never seen a penis of such supposed beauty before. She needs the, and I quote, "jaw droppin', eye poppin', head turnin', body shockin'" which is sadly something it seems she has yet to experience. Luckily, Katy Perry is a powerful person and the man's initial rejections only makes her more determined than ever to have him shove his penis directly in her line of sight. She even begins resorting to what some will call a low tactic, which is to question his manhood. Katy's line "Don't be a chicken boy, stop acting like a biatch" rougly translates in English to "don't be a man with a vagina, show me your big penis." This turns out to be the man's breaking point and we finally get to feel the surge of relief as Katy Perry realizes that the myths were true.

I can't remember the last time I have shared such joy with a fictitious character. Katy Perry is able to really get across the completeness she feels once she is actually able to see this man's penis. You begin to wonder yourself, will you ever really be able to find what is missing from your life in such a way Katy Perry was able to in such a short time. You think, "Surely, not everyone truly gets what they want. I bet Katy Perry is simply using hyperbolic statements in order to make you believe she is happy." Well guess what, you are wrong! I quote, "Oh my God no exaggeration/boy all this time was worth the waiting/I just shed a tear!" So many questions come with these answers. Has Katy Perry really become so happy that she cried? Or is her sadness stemming from the fact that she knows, at such a young age, she has just seen the best life has to offer her? Or perhaps his penis smells like an onion?

Regardless, we have reached the end of our journey and we leave these characters to hopefully have some fun and dirty sex. However, will Katy Perry ever truly be satisfied? The song ends on a bittersweet moment when after expressing her gratitude over this man's junk, she returns to her earlier ploys to have him show off his peacock yet again (or in an even sadder thought, she has moved on to a new man!). I believe Katy Perry is making a grand statement on the insatiableness of the human soul. Our feeling of fulfillment (or of being filled) will never last forever and at the end of the day, we will always be left wanting more. Listening to Katy Perry's Peacock leaves me with that same feeling. Luckily iPods have a repeat function.

You're Welcome,

Monday, September 13, 2010

Modern Classic Review: Memento (by Dave Machado)

Memento is a movie I had some reservations about reviewing. It leaves the viewer with a lot to ponder and I wasn't sure I had a strong enough grip on what the movie was really saying. I felt the same way regarding Christopher Nolan's latest movie Inception and only after seeing it twice did I feel confident enough to share my thoughts (which can be read here). So I decided to give Memento another viewing, as I hoped this may answer some of the questions I was still grappling with since I first saw it. Luckily the movie held up perfectly and I can now say without a doubt that it is a true classic and something that I believe people will be revisiting for years to come.

Memento is a fascinating movie with a very unique structure that allowed it to gain extra recognition when it was initially released. It tells the tale of Leonard (played by Guy Pearce), a man who after suffering a traumatic injury, has lost the ability to create new memories. His unfortunate last memory is seeing his wife die at the hands of the same man who attacked him, leaving him with this life-ruining disorder. His only goal in life now is to find and kill the man responsible for the crime so he can give the justice he feels is deserved. However, due to his condition, he has to resort to using Polaroid pictures and tattooed writings on his body in order to remember the clues he has found thus far. The movie is told in reverse order, slowly peeling back each scene in order for you to learn what Leonard does not know, the recent past. Every scene is filled with little riddles and the scene following it will set out to solve those riddles by showing you chronologically the scene that came before it. It's all very interesting because it changes your perception of the movie in every scene. Each scene causes what you've viewed before it to be seen in a new light, leading all the way up to the finale, which puts a new spin on everything you've witnessed up until that point.

Nolan likes to view his films as magic tricks being performed for the viewer, with the final act showing some grand reveal. This can be seen most literally in The Prestige but is an accurate statement for Memento as well. One thing about a magic trick is that not only should it astound the spectator, it should also hold up on repeat viewings. During the setup, a magician tries to distract you from something else so you won't realize how he pulled off the illusion. A great magician is not only able to achieve this for first time viewers, but is able to keep his methods so hidden that even returning audience members will still have no option but to be amazed again at the finale. Even if you try and pay close attention, you can't figure out how the magician is doing that trick so effortlessly and no matter how many times you see it, it always leaves you satisfied. Memento is Nolan's great magic trick.

One of the things that Memento left me thinking of the most is how much we take our memory for granted. I never really questioned my ability to always remember how I got from point A to point B but after seeing how a person's memory can turn on them really blew me away. There is a scene in Memento where Leonard discusses the usefulness of facts versus memory. He's telling the character Teddy (played by Joe Pantoliano, who it's worth noting is the person Leonard kills in the opening shot) how he goes on things like his Polaroids and tattoos because those, unlike memories, are the things that can be trusted. This ends up being a very important speech because as the movie progresses, it makes you question whether someone can take anything as a fact if they don't remember how they initially came to learn that piece of information. Could someone even trust their own writings if they had no idea how something was written in the first place?

I'm surprised it took me this long to see Memento. I think I was intimidated by the gimmick used to tell the story and was afraid I'd find myself easily confused and not able to follow the story. That was poor judgement on my part because in the end, Memento is a fairly easy movie to follow. During the runtime of the movie, I never once felt lost or confused. Sure, there were questions that I had, but Nolan does an excellent job of answering the key questions related to the plot by the time the credits roll. However, because the ending changes up how the rest of the movie is viewed, I think it takes a second viewing to really grasp how profound the story is. Luckily, Nolan is such a great filmmaker, that even when you know the ending of the trick, its a joy just watching the setup.

You're Welcome,

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Movie Review: The American (by Dave Machado)

They don't make enough movies like The American. I went in not really knowing what to expect from this movie, other than the fact that George Clooney is always fantastic and I was looking forward to seeing him play an assassin. I anticipated a fun Bourne style action movie with a bit more subdued European style. Perhaps something light and fun that would be visually stunning but slightly forgettable. What I ended up seeing however was a beautiful and compelling character study about the life of an aging assassin. I've seen it described as an art-house action movie and that is a fairly good description. One other good way to describe it would be "phenomenal."

The past few years, I've come to realize how much of an amazing actor George Clooney is. Since 2007, his list of accomplishments is fairly impressive. Movies like Michael Clayton, Burn After Reading, Up in the Air, and even Fantastic Mr. Fox were great movies made even better by his inclusion. I'm not breaking new ground with this statement, but I really do see him as the modern day Cary Grant, who just so happens to be my other favorite actor. Clooney's ability to go so easily from comedy (Burn After Reading) to more serious fare like The American is what sets him apart from a lot of other leading men out there today. I feel he has recently entered a new phase in his career that to me is one of the most exciting transitions an actor has made in quite some time. He seems to have a great eye for picking movies and I will now look forward to almost anything he is in.

In the American, Clooney plays the stereotypical aging assassin who has decided that after a successful life of being great at what he does, it's time to pack it in and try to lead a normal life. That really is the only stereotypical thing about this movie though. It takes that premise and brings it to such a refreshing place that it makes it all feel new again. The movie forces you to feel the pain that his life choices have caused him. He is a lonely man with no friends or a home. It's the type of action movie where you actually dread any action that could take place because you fear for the safety of this character that you have come to admire. It's also one of the more visually gifted movies I have seen in quiet some time, spending lots of time showcasing the beauty of the small Italian village the movies takes place in.

So luckily, George Clooney isn't the only great thing about this movie. Part of his last job involves making the weaponry needed for another assassin (played by the gorgeous Thekla Reutan) to complete her job. I loved all of their scenes due to the delightful tension that continues to get stronger as the movie progresses. Normally if the other spy was played by a man, there would still be tension as we are not sure who Clooney can trust, but by having this other spy be a beautiful woman, it adds a dangerously sexy appeal to all of their scenes. The scenes of Clooney putting together the needed weapon while sitting alone in his workshop were some of my favorite in the movie. You can tell from the mix of determination on his face and the ease of his hands quickly putting the pieces together that Clooney's character is a real artist. I was left only slightly disappointed when these scenes ended and it didn't pan out and show that his character made the dildo chair from Burn After Reading.

Thekla's assassin character is not meant to be Clooney's love interest though. That role is played by Violante Placido, who is so stunning it's almost offensive. Her character, Clara, is an Italian prostitute that Clooney is able to find a sense of comfort from. They quickly fall for each other and it's not hard to see why. But of course we know that it's never safe for a hitman to have a love interest but we also know that a hitman can never really trust anyone. Their relationship is played out so perfectly in this movie that my only complaint is that they didn't have a lot more scenes together. It's sort of an irrational complaint though because the movie moves at such a quick pace that it never feels like a scene is wasted. I'd be afraid that adding even one extra scene may tip it in the wrong direction. At only 105 min. it is a movie that knows how to get the job done and does it in a mostly non-showy fashion, much like Clooney's character himself.

I am left quite flabbergasted at the mixed reviews of this movie. Sure it's not perfect (there is one glaring issue I have but it so admittingly nit picky it is not even worth mentioning here due to spoilers) but it is still a very smart movie that left me extremely satisfied. This movie seems to scream out that summer is over and school is back in session. For those "kids" who still crave the inane loudness that comes with summer movies, I can see how they may be disappointed in this relatively quiet study. But for adults ready to get back to actually learning something from the movies, The American is open for enrollment.

You're Welcome, 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

DVD Review: Bronson (by Dave Machado)

Bronson is a superb biopic of infamous British criminal Michael Peterson, who is considered the most violent criminal in Britain based on how much chaos he has caused since he has been locked up. He makes it a habit to fight with guards and has spent his whole life bouncing from prison to prison (mostly in solitary confinement) as they try to find a place that can finally tame him. At one point in Peterson's life, he is released from jail and spends about 2 months free as a bare knuckle fighter. It is during this time that his promoter gives him the new moniker, "Charlie Bronson" after the Death Wish actor. The role of Bronson is played by Tom Hardy, who audiences will remember as the suave Eames from Inception. Seen here in a much more "unrestricted" role, Tom Hardy really shines and helps make Bronson one of the most energetic and unique biopics I have ever seen.

Raised in a normal family setting, Bronson always had a problem with authority. He would constantly get into fights and was never really given the chance at a normal life. He slowly graduated to more disturbing crimes (though never murder) and was finally placed in jail. The film never tries to really iconisize Bronson but you do feel sympathetic towards him as you see that he clearly had some emotional issues to deal with his whole life. Hardy does such an amazing job showing how unhinged Bronson really was, perfecting that certain spark of anger all psychopaths tend to have in their eyes. It's impressive to see how effortless his performance seemed as he disappeared until the role.

The reason Bronson is such an entertaining film to watch is the way it adds to the normally stale biopic genre. The film is mostly told in straight linear fashion, but is interjected with scenes of Bronson addressing the screen as if he were telling his life's tale to an audience. It's a fitting twist for a man who spent most of his life by himself in a small prison cell. To me, I saw it as a man's attempt at staying sane, simply pretending his life is a show so he can address some invisible crowd. Bronson even appears in clown make up occasionally on stage, simply adding to the illusion that his whole life has been one big circus. My only complaint is that these scenes seemed to occur more in the first half of the movie and unfortunately were used less and less as the movie went on.

For a movie about such a violent man, the movie is luckily infused with a fantastic dark wit. This could have been a drab movie focusing on the hate inside this man but due to Hardy's charismatic performance, excellent fight cinematography, and a sharp script, the movie pops off the screen with such ease. It's not that the movie makes light of what Bronson has done, but because the film is framed as being told by Bronson himself, it is expected that his actions would be seen in an almost heroically comic light. I highly recommend this movie as I feel it never really got the attention it deserved. If nothing else, it will allow you to see the greatest "dance party" sequence I have ever seen in a movie.

You're Welcome,

Friday, September 10, 2010

DVD Review: ThanksKilling (by Dave Machado)

I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I've seen ThanksKilling. Words can't really explain what happens in the 60 minute long runtime of the epic ThanksKilling. In short, it is a movie about a killer turkey from the Pilgrim times who is raised from the dead and goes about killing all the white people he comes across. But really, it is so much more than that. If Orson Welles were alive today and was able to view ThanksKilling, he would finally witness Citizen Kane toppled as the greatest American movie of all time. He would also proceed to then eat an entire turkey.

The movie opens with a close up of a big (unclothed) boob. The camera pans out and we see that the boob is in fact a Pilgrim boob and it (along with the boob's owner) is being chased by the killer turkey. She is quickly slaughtered and we cut to present times, where an amazingly cliche group of friends are about to go on a road trip home for Thanksgiving break. They proceed to treat this like Spring Break ("Thanksgivng break! WOOO!") as they all pile into the jock's jeep to go home. Joining said jock are the dumb slut, the fat guy, the nerd, and the sweet innocent girl. These stereotypes are established very quickly and are then hammered into the ground for the rest of the movie. The best is that we know the slutty girl is a slut because the other girl claims "Your legs are harder to close than the Jon Benet Ramsey case!"

The rest of the movie isn't even worth spoiling here because the fun of it is seeing just how amazingly bad the story really is. But just in case I haven't convinced you to see this movie (Seriously!?), let me give you one more reason.  At one point, a character's father is killed by the turkey in his home as the group of kids are on their way to his house (The reason they are going there? "My Dad has a ton of books! One of them has to be about a killer turkey!"). So the turkey then cuts the father's face off (including mustache) and makes a little mask to put on his little turkey head. It's worth pointing out now that the turkey is normal sized and not a giant mutant turkey. When the group shows up, they proceed to talk to the turkey as if nothing is wrong, even bending down to give it little hugs. No one even notices that this is a turkey in disguise. If you are not running to go see this movie right now, you are dead to me.

In summary, watching ThanksKilling is like finding a lost text from the Bible. It changes your life for the better and you wonder how you ever lived without it to begin with. I'm sure some will say that this movie is a real "turkey" and for that, they should have their family kidnapped. I hope you all enjoy this movie as much as I did. I understand it may not be for everyone, but if you are looking for a great movie to put on for a laugh, I can't think of a better movie than ThanksKilling. It truly gave me something to be thankful for.

You're Welcome

Thursday, September 9, 2010

DVD Review: Antichrist (by Dave Machado)

Antichrist is a movie that made me both thankful and regretful that I am not blind. It tells the story of a couple who are mourning the death of their only child, who in a beautifully shot prologue, falls to his death from their apartment window. The rest of the movie shows the couple trying to overcome their unbearable grief as they search for a meaning to go on. It is a cold, heartless movie that focuses on the evil of humans, specifically villainizing their dirty sexual desires. Antichrist is an extremely difficult movie to get through both physically and emotionally and there is nothing redeeming waiting for you on the other end as the credits roll.

I see Antichrist less of a movie and more as an art project. Granted it's art I would prefer never to see again, but I can at least acknowledge that the movie had some strikingly haunting visuals. There were scenes where it mattered less what was happening on the screen as my eyes simply admired the beauty that was on display. The plot is fairly easy to follow and you really get a feeling of the downward spiral these two descend upon as they slowly loose their grip on what's left of their lives. Once the husband (played by Willem Dafoe) decides to take his wife (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) to an old cabin she is having nightmares of (due to spending the last summer with her son there), the movie delves even further into the abyss, thus becoming less interesting and more mean spirited. 

I think I have a grasp on what Director/Writer Lars von Trier was attempting with this movie, I just have a hard time respecting the outcome. The movie contains a fair amount of graphic scenes that were very uncomfortable to watch. I can usually deal with the worst gore a movie has to offer but when it is so devoid of humor or any spark of entertainment, I am quickly turned off. Obviously humor has no place in a movie like this so to see just how far he goes really made me question if I even wanted to continue watching until the end. This is not a movie you watch to be entertained, it is a movie you watch to experience the hell these characters are going through. 

The interesting aspect about the couple though is von Trier's decision to make the husband a psychiatrist. He (that's literally the character's name by the way.  The wife's name is She.) is a very distant husband and treats his wife as a patient as she becomes increasingly more unraveled due to their son's death. The pair come to embody the constant struggle between the mind and the body as she constantly throws herself at him for sex as a way to cope with her issues. We never see the couple before their son's death and it is implied they have always had this distance between them. Calling either of the two "sympathetic" would simply be a lie as the whole movie makes you despise these two characters almost from the very start.  An interesting decision considering the lack of any supporting characters to fall back on. I hope heaven, or any form of the afterlife, doesn't exist in the universe of this movie because their little boy has suffered enough and should never have to see the insane depravity of his parents.

The only experience I can compare this movie to was when I saw the Marina Abramovic exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. There were many people their admiring her work, which like this movie seemed to enjoy linking sex to death. As I walked through the exhibits, a sense of dread came over me and I needed to leave. I was left confused as to how anyone could view this objectively and enjoy it as art when it was so perverse. Antichrist left me with that same feeling and because of it, it was a movie I can easily say I got no enjoyment out of seeing. So if you are brave enough, good luck watching this film. You can't say I didn't warn you though.

You're Welcome,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Movie Review: The Last Exorcism (by Dave Machado)

The Last Exorcism is another "found footage" movie focusing on a fake documentary being made about Reverend Cotton Marcus, who after years of questioning his faith, has decided to allow a film crew to follow him to an "exorcism" so he can show how fake it all really is. Things don't go exactly as planned of course and what follows is an impressive film that is able to accomplish a lot and not feel too restricted by the "shaky cam" gimmick. It's a film that constantly stays two steps ahead of the viewer. Every time I thought I had the movie figured out, a game changer was thrown my way, constantly making me question (in a good way) where this was all headed. The movie does a wonderful job of building the characters and thankfully focuses less time on random jump scares, which sometimes plague these types of movies, making them feel unbearably forced.

Reverend Marcus is an engaging character and I was very happy to see that he was portrayed as a modern man who just happened to be raised in the church. He is a product of his environment but at the same time he is breaking off from his traditional upbringing based on a practical and logical mindset. The Reverend is a great showman, so great that he may have even tricked himself into believing his sermons that he began giving at such a young age. It was a relief to see the movie go this route instead of having him be a broad caricature of a rich southern preacher who gets his jollies swindling his poor followers for his own financial gain. He may be flawed (he admits to being a fake but says he provides a needed service and in return is able to support his family) but he is sympathetic enough so when the film starts to take a turn, you actually care about his outcome.

There is a great scene early on in the movie of the Rev. showing off his "magic tricks" to the camera after performing an exorcism. He closely resembles a young kid gleefully showing how he performed a parlor trick in front of his family. I think it's interesting to see how much Reverend Marcus sees himself as an magician/actor because it adds an intriguing layer to the moral debate of his character. When you really think about it, who are actors but con men playing the roles of other people? They put on a different persona for the camera and are rewarded financially based on how good they are at becoming a fake person. Some movies are so engaging to us that they even help us work through our own issues as we watch them. Is this really that different then how the Reverend helps these people by performing an exorcism? Sure the argument can be made that we know the movies are fake to begin with while the Reverend's followers truly believe, but whose to say that subconsciously, they know it's all a game but need to see the performance played out for them in order to feel relief?

The main question of the movie is whether or not this family needs a show or the real thing. The "possessed" girl (played to perfection by Ashley Bell) is a home-schooled teenager that has had her family torn apart due to the death of her mother from cancer. She lives alone on a large farm property with her now alcoholic dad and her socially detached brother. Ashley Bell plays sweet and innocent in such a loving way that it's even more shocking when she starts acting "odd." It's no question that this girl is in need of help.  What the movie does is make you question whether the help needed is of a spiritual or psychological kind.  I don't want to get into any spoilers related to that in this review because I went in fairly clean and felt that aided in my enjoyment of the movie. As I said before though, the movie never gets predictable and changes things up right until the very end.

The summer is never a great season for horror so it is welcoming to see such a good old-fashioned one get released now. I'm glad they decided on August instead of a couple months from now because while Fall may be the best season for horror, it's hard for smaller movies to find an audience when they are one of multiple horror movies opening up in the same month. I would have hated seeing this get lost in the shuffle between Saw VII and Paranormal Activity 2. While I have my own personal gripes with the "found footage" gimmick, I will admit that those movies always play better in a theater and I believe The Last Exorcism is no exception. At the very least, you'll walk out of the theater with a great new banana bread recipe.

You're Welcome,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Movie Review: Machete (by Dave Machado)

Sometimes the idea of a movie is a lot better than the final product. Machete began it's life in 2007 as one of the fake previews in the movie Grindhouse. The preview set up the story of a blade-obsessed Mexican agent who is double crossed by the American Government. With his family killed and everyone out to get him, he mows down everyone in his path in glorious gory detail until he is the last man standing. I'll admit that even when I saw this preview, I hoped that someday it would get the feature length treatment as the concept seemed too cool to pass up. Turns out I was wrong though as Machete stretched out to a 90 minute feature just doesn't pack the punch that it was able to deliver as a quick 3 min. montage of kill scenes.  

One aspect that has been giving Machete lots of press is the surprisingly large cast that has been assembled. This actually became one of the bigger faults of the movie for me because unlike another cast focused movie like The Expendables, the cameos in Machete sometimes took me out of the movie and stopped me from just sitting back and enjoying what was on the screen. Again, it goes back to idea vs. execution. The idea of having Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, and Lindsay Lohan sounds entertaining but once you see what they are given to work with, it never develops beyond a cool idea. The casting either just turns out to be too meta (Lohan), too culturally wrong (Steven Segal), or you just don't buy them as a certain type of character (Alba).  Luckily, the two most distracting roles (Steven Seagal and Lindsay Lohan) are fairly small so it doesn't effect the movie too much.  
Some of the casting does work though. Jeff Fahey (Frank Lapidus from LOST) is fantastic as Mr. Booth, the aide to De Niro's Senator McLaughlin. Fahey seems to "get" the movie and he plays the character perfectly. I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed Michelle Rodriguez as Luz, the taco truck driver who is also leading the "Network" of illegal immigrants into the country.  Rodriguez always gets stuck playing the "sexy/tough" role in action movies and Machete was the first time I actually felt that's what she was. Kudos also goes to Cheech Marin for a fun turn as Machete's brother/priest. So while the stunt casting wasn't perfect, there were a few instances where it thankfully made the movie better.

One interesting thing about this movie goes back to it being based on a fake preview. I was actually surprised that the movie made use of the more iconic parts of that preview. It was disappointing to see that the coolest parts of the preview ended up being most of the coolest parts of the movie. I would have hoped that they simply discarded the fake preview and simply made newer, better moments and just kept the Grindhouse trailer separate. There were a few scenes that even felt awkwardly shoehorned in simply to have the scenes from 3 years ago placed in the movie. This isn't to say that nothing about this movie was exciting. There are still lots of inventive scenes/kills but I was left hoping for a lot more.

The last few weeks have seen an interesting group of movies emerge through the late summer haze. Piranha 3D, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Expendables, and Machete were all movies with a built-in cult fan base. While I thought Scott Pilgrim and Piranha succeeded in their attempts at hooking in an audience with a promised genre experience, I believe The Expendables and Machete slightly missed their marks. These latter two films fall into the pile of movies that were hyped up before their release and could never quite reach the levels of perfection we all anticipated in our minds. I still consider all four to be some of my favorite times at the movies this year, I just can't see myself revisiting Machete that often while I look forward to wearing out my copies of both Scott Pilgrim and Piranha 3D. 

You're Welcome,