27 February 2012

27 Feb - "With great power comes greater responsibility"

Teen Wolf (1985)
dir. Rod Daniel (Home Alone 4, TV 2002)

Michael J. Fox (Mars Attacks!, 1996)
James Hampton (Sling Blade, 1996)
Jerry Levine (Wag the Dog, 1997)
Mark Holton (A League of their Own, 1992)
Doug Savant (Godzilla, 1998)
Gregory Itzin (Adaptation., 2002)

So apparently that corny line from Spiderman was lifted from Teen Wolf? Fair enough, I suppose.Teen Wolf is one of those classic comedies that I really felt obligated to watch, and it was cute, and funny, and totally not like anything Twilighty at all. Essentially, it was your basic nerd-coming-into-his-own-style movie, with the twist being that Michael J. finds out that he's a werewolf instead of getting some other kind of makeover or pretending to be something he's not. The catch, though, is that the other kids in high school like the Wolf-guy better than they liked the original dweeb, but even then it's sort of in an exoticizing-the-other sort of way. They like the Wolf, but they don't want to really get to know the person. The teenaged protagonist finds that he has become an emblem, and that's alienating.

In different ways, I think most people learn at some time in their life that the price of popularity is to allow the most vulnerable parts of yourself to recede into an indeterminate location. Teen Wolf literally hides behind a mask of fur and claws, and in so doing he gains acceptance. People like him. He's stronger and faster and never appears to be afraid, but the person on the inside is still there, just hidden. But this is a false happiness. They like you for who you are on the outside but recoil from the weak and ugly thing that lies at the core. You gotta be true to you, that's the moral of the story today.

26 February 2012

26 Feb - "When I became a man, I put away childish things"

Hackers (1995)
dir. Iain Softley (K-PAX, 2001)

Jonny Lee Miller (Mansfield Park, 1999)
Angelina Jolie (Mojave Moon, 1996)
Jesse Bradford (Romeo + Juliet, 1996)
Matthew Lillard (Scream, 1996)
Laurence Mason (True Romance, 1996)
Renoly Santiago (Con Air, 1997)
Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit, 1986)
Alberta Watson (The Prince and Me, 2004)
Peter Y. Kim (Sex and the City, 2008)
Lorraine Bracco (Goodfellas, 1990)
Wendell Pierce (It Could Happen to You, 1994)
Michael Gaston (Double Jeopardy, 1999)

When my brother and I first saw The Matrix, he explained to me it's mass appeal. He said it was about computer nerds who were also super cool and totally badass. They have martial arts skills and guns and somehow all that doesn't interfere with the hours and hours they must spend coding and hacking and whatever. Hackers is the same deal. By any standard of reality, these guys ought to be mega-nerds, but instead thet're all sub-culturey and cool. This is even more obnoxious because while Angelina can pull off a convincing cyber-punk, the male lead looked like a high-school geek, and so I was definitely not buying the sexual tension. In conclusion, Hackers: indicative of the mid-90s decline in the quality of teenager movies.

24 February 2012

24 Feb - "I came here as a missionary to the Indians. I think the white man will need me more."

River of No Return (1954)
dir. Otto Preminger

Robert Mitchum (Dead Man, 1995)
Marilyn Monroe (The Misfits, 1961)
Rory Calhoun (How to Marry a Millionaire, 1953)

I mentioned before that something funny I've noticed about the cultural diaspora is that older movies are completely unpredictable for me, because none of the same morals are called into action. In this movie Marilyn Monroe plays a down-in-her-luck showgirl named Kay in a gold mining camp, she's engaged with a smooth-looking fella played by Rory Calhoun, and we know he's a scamp because he wins a gold claim in a game of cards. Robert Mitchum plays a considerate father who's recently reunited with his 9-year-old son after the mother's death. Later we learn that father and son were separated because the father shot a man in the back and went to gasp! jail.

Kay and her guy are rafting down the river (of no return) when they run afoul of some rapids and the father fishes them out and gives them shelter on his farm. The treacherous Calhoun steals the farmer's gun and horse and plays to ride on to Saratoga (or wherever) to claim his land. The farmer points out that this is as good as a death sentence because the Indians will kill them all for sure. As a sign of good faith, Kay volunteers to stay behind with the father and son until Clahoun can come back with the goods.

But that's not good enough for Robert Mitchum!! Man, woman, and child take a death-defying trip down the river, narrowing avoiding Indians and rapids at every turn! All the while, Kay is trying to convince the revenge-bent farmer that her guy really isn't all that bad, he's just desperate and desperate times call for desperate measures. The son has to deal with some confusing philosophical quandaries, can good people do bad things for the right reasons?

The end is a little confusing, but no more confusing than a scene where the farmer pins down Kay, struggling, and kisses her forcefully but then it seems like she liked it? I think that sends a bad message to the children.

Here's my favorite song from the movie:

15 February 2012

22 Feb - "I want you to punish me"

A Dangerous Method (2011)
dir. David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises, 2007)

Keira Knightly (Never Let Me Go, 2010)
Viggo Mortensen (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2003)
Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, 2011)
Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, 2010)
Sarah Gadon (Cadet Kelly, 2002)

Last week I invited some of the ladies in my program to go to the movies with me. I was excited because I'm not usually the social event "planner" - there's a lot of responsibility and potential disappointment in that role, even if it's something silly like going to the movies. I was nervous for a while because I waited ten minutes out front and nobody came! But then it turned out they were inside already, so good. Social activity accomplished.

I think I do not like the character of Carl Jung. He was kind of a dick. His relationship with Keira Knightly's character reminds me of a challenging relationship that one of my friends is dealing with. Not with the sadomasichism and spanking (that I know of), but in that he's giving her a lot of grief with pushing and pulling and he says that he cares about her but also that he doesn't want to be with her (or the quintessential avowal of someone truly spineless: he can't be with her). And it pisses me off because behavior like that is truly self-indulgent. You can't have your cake and eat it, too. At the end of the day you have to make a decision, and the sooner you decide the less heartbreak there is all around. That's what I think. Carl Jung: Royal butthead.

14 February 2012

13 Feb - "I believe that one should become a person like other people"

Taxi Driver (1976)
dir. Martin Scorsese (The Departed, 2006)

Peter Boyle (The Santa Clause, 1994)
Albert Brooks (Dr. Dolittle, 1998)
Robert De Niro (Heat, 1995)
Jodie Foster (Freaky Friday, 1976)
Harvey Keitel (From Dusk Till Dawn, 1996)
Harry Northup (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991)
Cybill Shepard
Mary-Pat Green (My Best Friend's Wedding, 1997)

Taxi Driver was a good, if difficult to access, movie. De Niro's character seems disengaged with reality. His inability to see goodness in the world is only matched by his unwillingness to look for it. His only recreational activity is watching pornographic films, and he seeks out the fares that the other taxi drivers are unwilling to pick up. And so when he finally tries to do something normal, go on a date with Cybill Shepard's character, he has nothing of value to share with here, and she is disgusted by him. There is a proverb that says that you have be careful when you choose your enemies, because you will be become them. The climax of the movie is when Travis rescues young prostitute Jodi Foster, succumbing to his own basest instincts perhaps in the hope that one good pure thing can be elevated from the muck and mire that is the city.

13 February 2012

12 Feb - "I've tried to live my life without breaking a single rule"

Les Miserables (1998)
dir. Bille August

Kathleen Byron (Emma, 1996)
Claire Danes (Romeo + Juliet, 1996)
Lennie James (Lost in Space, 1998)
Toby Jones (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (voice), 2002)
Hans Matheson (Sherlock Holmes, 2009)
Liam Neeson (Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (voice), 2010)
Frank O'Sullivan (The Wind that Shakes the Barley, 2006)
Geoffrey Rush (The Warrior's Way, 2010)
Uma Thurman (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1990)
Zdenek Vencl (The Beautician and the Beast, 1997)

I never read the book, I never saw the play, so I was pretty excited to see how the plot unfolded! It's great when somehow I manage to get through my life without having the ending spoiled, especially for a story that's so prevalent in pop culture.

One of the first things I thought was that the character of Jaubert was a lot like Lt. Gerard from The Fugitive. That is, both had an inflexible interpretation of the law and little regard for the spirit of justice. Jaubert knows that Jean Valjean is a good person and yet he pursues him even until his death. On the other hand, I might also suggest that Jaubert's definition of a criminal was equally inflexible, the idea that a good person can do a bad thing, or the opposite, is inconceivable to him, even as Jean Valjean proves himself again and again. Lt. Gerard is the same. Even though in his heart he knows that Richard Kimble is innocent, the letter of the law demands that Kimble be captured again. The idea that Kimble might slip through the cracks and manage to live a benign, unremarkable life is intolerable. The thought of it haunts Gerard.

Therefore it was this relationship that was most remarkable to me. Even though there were others that could be remarked upon. The love story was just fluffy, though.

12 February 2012

11 Feb - "as far away from the darkness as we can possibly get"

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)
dir. Chris Carter

David Duchovny (Evolution, 2001)
Gillian Anderson (Princess Mononoke (voice), 1997)
Amanda Peet (The Whole Nine Yards, 2000)
Bill Connolly (Pocahontas (voice), 1995)
Mitch Pileggi (X-Files: Fight the Future, 1998)
Xzibit (Hoodwinked! (voice), 2005)
Adam Godly (Love Actually, 2003)
Callum Kieth Rennie (Case 39, 2009)
Stephen E. Miller (Best in Show, 2000)
Lorena Gale (Snow Day, 2000)
Donavon Stimson (Fantastic Four, 2005)
Dion Johnstone (Dreamcatcher, 2003)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Case 39, 2009)

Thus ends the era in which I had yet to see all nine seasons of The X-Files plus two feature films. This last movie was released a few years after the series had already ended. At the end of the series, Dana Scully and Fox Mulder left the FBI and fled the UNited States, because they knew too much. An impeding Alien invasion was alluded too, indicating that it would never truly be blue skies for our star-crossed investigators.

X-Files had two basic episode structures. There were episodes that propelled the mythic arc and related to a conspiracy to cover up an colonization program and the creation of human-alien hybrids. There were also monster-of-the-week episodes, in which Mulder and Scully had to discover and defeat some sort of paranormal menace within the confines of a single episode. This movie could only be said to conform to the latter model, and it wasn't particularly interesting at that.

10 February 2012

10 Feb - "I've nurtured every sensation man's been inspired to have"

The Devil's Advocate (1997)
dir. Taylor Hackford (Delores Claiborne, 1997)

Chris Bauer (Snow White: A Tale of Terror, 1997)
Caprice Benedetti (Practical Magic, 1998)
Kim Chan (Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985)
Marcia DeBonis (The Truman Show, 1998)
Tom Riis Farrell (Sleepless in Seattle, 1993)
Charles A. Gargan (Serendipity, 2001)
Juan Carlos Hernandez (War of the Worlds, 2005)
William Hill (Analyze This, 1999)
Judith Ivey (A Life Less Ordinary, 1997)
Jeffrey Jones (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, 1986)
Monica Keena (Orange County, 2002)
Susan Kellermann (Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 1987)
Vincent Laresca (The Associate, 1996)
Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse, 1995)
Debra Monk (The First Wives Club, 1996)
Craig T. Nelson (Troop Beverley Hills, 1989)
Novella Nelson (It's Kind of a Funny Story, 2010)
Connie Nielsen (Rushmore, 1998)
Benny Nieves (Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, 2005)
Al Pacino (Heat1995)
Keanu Reeves (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, 1989)
John Rothman (Ghostbusters, 1984)
Vyto Ruginis (Cliffhanger, 1993)
Charlize Theron (The Burning Plain, 2008)
George Wyner (Spaceballs, 1987)

I'm swiftly developing an inordinate fondness for Al Pacino, because even though I used to think he was only in boringsnoring mafia movies, but now I see he can be a crazy wild card addition to a cast, and I like that. On the other hand, Keanu Reeves is about as charismatic as a baked potato, but he is clean looking and inoffensive enough to reasonably play the easily manipulated Southern hotshot lawyer Kevin Lomax. In the climatic scene, however, when Lomax is supposed to assert himself and, I dunno, express an emotion maybe, Keanu fell way flat. It was pretty uninspiring.

Charlize Theron was better than I expected, mostly because she still wasn't really on the radar when she did The Devil's Advocate. But she very convincingly fell into a maddening descent. I don't really know what else to say about this movie. It wasn't very remarkable, I guess.

06 February 2012

31 Jan - "So you wish to know something of your destiny"

Drag Me to Hell (2009)
dir. Sam Raimi (The Quick and the Dead, 1995)

Bonnie Aarons (The Princess Diaries, 2001)
Joanne Baron (Valley Girl, 1983)
Adriana Barraza
Tom Carey (Spider-Man 2, 2004)
Molly Cheek (Smoke Signals, 1998)
Alexis Cruz (Stargate, 1994)
Kevin Foster (The Village, 2004)
Reggie Lee (Psycho Beach Party, 2000)
Alison Lohman (NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind (voice), 1984)
Justin Long (Serious Moonlight, 2009)
Ricardo Molina (Spanglish, 2004)
Bojana Novakovic (Devil, 2010)
David Paymer (Amistad, 1997)
Ted Raimi (Clear and Present Danger, 1994)
Dileep Rao (Avatar, 2009)
Fernanda Romero (The Burning Plain, 2008)
Irene Roseen (Beautiful, 2000)
Chelcie Ross (Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, 1991)
Octavia Spencer (The Help, 2011)
Scott Spiegel (Spider-Man, 2002)
Alex Veadov (Air Force One, 1997)

There were a number of odd themes in this movie. The first one, which my buddy Cora pointed out, is that all of the scary parts featured things going in and out of the protagonists mouth. There was a lot of yucky mouth imagery in this movie. First the old gypsy woman removes and reinserts her teeth on the banker's desk. In two or three scenes the gyspy woman puts her gaping toothless mouth on Christine's mouth or face, and in one of those scenes green gooey vomit was involved. There's another part where the old woman sticks her arm down Christine's throat to the elbow, and a nightmare in which a fly crawls into Christine's mouth only to be coughed out later. Christine gets a projectile nosebleed at the bank and her boss asks, "did I get any in my mouth?" There wasn't any psychological horror in this movie, it was just disturbing gross-out scenes.

The ostensible theme was, I think, "does the punishment fit the crime?" or maybe, "who has the right to judge?" Christine is apparently a sweet and good-natured girl, but at the moment before her demise she admits that she could have gotten an extension for the old woman's loan payment, but it was her decision to decline it. Does that mean she deserves to burn in hell for eternity? More so than the nasty co-worker who tried to sell Christine up the river even when she was nice to him? More so than the cursing gypsy herself? We don't know. For one thing, Christine was never repentant. She did not attempt to apologize to the old woman or to her family. I guess that means something.

I still didn't like the ending. I like my movies to have heroes and I like the heroes to win in the end. This was too in-your-face ironic. Stupid.

05 February 2012

2 Feb - "Is this their heartbeat, or ours?"

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)
dir. Werner Herzog (Nosferatu the Vampyre, 1979)

This is my first review of a documentary. Documentaries are a tricky genre because not so many people watch, so I don't very much social capital from talking about them. Case in point, on Friday I had a brief conversation with a fellow about movies with caves. We agreed that The Descent was quality cinema (it's definitely on my top ten horror movie list). We also talked about The Cave and The Abyss, and how it's not surprising that underground is such a fertile subject for horror plots. Then I mentioned how I had just watched Cave of Forgotten Dreams and the conversation went to a screeching halt. Chauvet? Werner Herzog? Documentaries?

Ummm, but we all liked Tremors, right?

So while the likelihood of ever meeting another person who sat through this whole documentary is low (even though in ten years everyone will have seen snippets off the Discovery Channel). I feel a little more sophisticated from having seen it.