Saturday, March 14, 2009


Movies from March 2nd - 16th, 2009

1. White Heat ’48 

  • Director - Raoul Walsh
  • Cinematography - Sidney Hickox
  • Rating - 4/4

Here it is!  One of the best movies I’ve seen in the last two years.  James Cagney has more intensity, anger and depth than I thought was legal.  The movie was non-stop fun with my eyes being glued to the screen.  If I had a naked Penelope Cruz next to me looking for a pillow fight, it would have been a tough call as to what to do.

2 Two Lovers ’08 

  • Director -James Gray
  • Cinematography - Joaquin Baca-Asay
  • Rating - 3.5/4

First movie of the year that I was excited to see and mission accomplished.  For anyone who has been/is involved in a roller coaster relationship this movie should be next to your toothbrush or bible in terms of necessity.  The mood of the movie bares homage to the Italian films of the 1960s by the likes Visconti or Antonioni.

3. Coraline ‘08 

  • Director - Henry Selick
  • Cinematography - Pete Kozachik
  • Rating - 3.5/4

You know a movie is good when it leaves you with a lingering happiness and tranquillity.  This movie brought back nearly ever single creepy/exciting emotion I felt as a kid - a cross between entering a haunted house and seeing presents under the tree on Christmas morning.  Add the 3D to the mix and I would pretty much say that I time traveled back to 1995 for 100 minutes.

4. Shock Corridor ‘63 

  • Director - Samuel Fuller
  • Cinematography - Stanley Cortez
  • Rating - 3.5/4

Produced at nearly the same exact time as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (the book), this film critiques our notions of psychology, the way in which we deal with the sick and the problems plaguing our society; a pretty deep film for a B-movie.  Involves one of my new favorite scenes in which an institutionalized black man goes on a soap-box rant as to why the KKK is the correct ideology.

6.  Identity '03

  • Director - James Mangold
  • CInematography - Phedon Papamicheal 
  • Rating - / / / 1/2 slashes

I haven't seen this movie since its DVD release, remembering the terrible ending which resulted in destroying the movie.  But after seeing this a second time, understanding the twist and reluctantly accepting it as reality, I loved this movie.  Regardless of the conclusion, the entire movie is one of the creepiest motel-setting horror films ever made.

5. Lady of Shanghai ’47 -

  • Director- Orson Welles
  • Cinematography - Charles Letwon, Jr.
  • Rating - 3/4

Another Orson Welle’s film subjected to the butchering knife of major studio editors.  It’s not nearly his best film, but you can see the parts where it could have been amazing.  They cut it down from 155 to 87 minutes...think about it!  I’m awaiting the directors cut like Touch of Evil gave us.

6. Friday the 13th ’09

  • Director - Marcus Nispel
  • Cinematography - Daniel Pearl
  • Rating  - / / /

Just read the entry below.

7. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning ’06 

  • Director - Jonathan Liebesman
  • Cinematography - Lukas Ettlin
  • Rating - / / 1/2 (DOWN 1/2 from first viewing)

As I said in my entry below, this movie was a lot different than what I remembered, though kind of interesting for that reason.  I remebered it to be another addition to the TCM Slasher series and realized its more in line with gorno. Because of this I have changed my mind of gorno - as I’ll talk about in a new entry one day.

8. The Graduate  ’68 

  • Director - Mike Nichols
  • Cinematography - Robert Surtees
  • Rating - 3/4

This is my third or fourth time seeing this movie and I was left with the same attitude as always.  Overrated.  There are hundreds of better movies about rebellion.  Should anyone disagree with me, try this another great movie that Mike Nichols has directed other than Closer?  He combines so much style and story that continuity renders meaningless.  Ben is confused, Ben is a man, Ben is a creepy stalker, the movie is serious, the movie is a comedy (which isn’t bad, but the style constantly fluctuates with no fluidity). 

10. Pump Up the Volume ’90 

  • Director - Allan Moyle
  • Cinematography - Walt Lloyd
  • Rating - 2.5/4

I don’t know why I rented this, I don’t know why I thought Oliver Stone was invovled, I don’t know how this was produced.  Contains Marxist commentary on both broadcasting and free speech, but at ridiculous levels.  All that aside, it is a typical movie about the quiet new kid who falls in love with the girl.

11. The Serpent’s Egg 

  • Director - Ingmar Bergman
  • CInematography - Sven Nykvist
  • Rating - 1.5/4

Ingmar Bergman’s first and last English language movie and.  It stars Bill from Kill Bill as an alcoholic who’s in love with a prostitute.  Scattered throughout the piece are scenes that are true to Bergman’s style and yet quickly fall back into narrative convention cliches.  For such a great sounding synopsis, it sure was a terrible movie.

13. Shocker '89

  • Director - Wes Craven
  • Cinematography - Jacques Haitkin
  • Rating - ZERO!

Figures that with me seeing one of the best movies of all time I would also see one of the worst.  From Wes Craven is one of the most god-awful, incoherently shitty movies I have ever seen in my life.  The final 10 minutes leaves you with more questions than Socrate’s could ask.  Somehow a kid talks to his dead girlfriend through a necklace after a serial killer murders her.  Once he’s captured by the police and awaiting execution he absorbs the electricity of a television.  Somehow this allows him to enter in and out of bodies.  


Considering I have seen the movies below far too many times, they don't ranked.

Empire Records '95

  • Director - Allan Moyle
  • Cinematography - Walter Lloyd
  • Rating - 4/4

Cant’ Hardly Wait '98

  • Director - Harry Elfont/Deborah Kaplan
  • Cinematography - Lloyd Ahern II
  • Rating - 4/4

I love these movies, I don’t need to talk about them, just a few of my favorite quotes.  What’s with today, today?  The first thing you need is a name.  Why’d you glue these quarters to the floor.  I don’t feel the need to explain my art to you warren.  I don’t see no ho’s.  It means I gots a ninety-two percent chance of embarrassing myself. I roll up on that shorty be like, "What's up yo?" she be like, "You don't know 20 different ways to make me call you Big Poppa" cuz I don't yo. Somebody in there just called me a fag. College chicks are totally different, bro. They're all serious and shit. They all talk about world issues and "ecolomological" crap. They all wanna date older guys. 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Deconstructing Jasey

Marcus Spells it Out for Cunningham

            Alas it is upon us, a Friday the 13th film that can actually compete amongst the profoundly grotesque slashers of both Craven and Carpenter...except 30 years late.  (Though after recently watching Craven’s Shocker I feel he is more in conjunction with Rage Against the Machine's music – a few great songs amidst a series of mind-numbingly boring compositions).  Needless to say, Cunningham’s original series never lived up to his peer’s high level of horror expertise and technique.  Films two and three are simply remakes of the first, with Part III being the best of the trilogy – a rare yet somewhat honorable achievement.

            His problem was the characters, or lack thereof.  Absent was the Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson or Sydney Prescott.  I believe the slasher formula indirectly demands a continuation of the lead female character, and Alice (not even possessing a last name in the first movie) is of minimal substance.  This is not to glorify Halloween, Nightmare or Scream’s writing as being the be all end of all of horror, but that Friday the 13th is simply a script that should have been reserved for dollar store video bins or a Walmart 2-for-1 special that shares a box with the third prequel of a Van Damme series. If Paramount took half the time on developing the script as it did on the amazing poster, the movie could have been good. 

            I am not trying to preach that the remake is meant for the horror hall of fame, but if you take the influx of slasher remakes from the 70/80’s that have been completed thus far - Halloween, Prom Night, Black Christmas, The Hills Have Eyes, When a Stranger Calls, House of Wax, The Hills Have Eyes 2, My Bloody Valentine, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - this one stands its ground.  Only the Hills Have Eyes remake is even close.

            First off, the movie isn’t really a remake at all.  It seems to be caught in some sort of space-time continuum between Part 1 (1980) and Part 7 (1987).  For the sake of argument, lets say its Part 3.5, which means its taking place in 1984 and therefore ignore the inclusion of an escalade, GPS, cell phones and IPOD. 

            This is the first horror movie I have seen in the modern day “slasher” genre that has not fallen victim into gorno conventions.  I recently watched TCM The Beginning and what I once thought was a good addition to the series regressed into appalling territory due to its avoidance of slasher themes in favor of torture porn methods.  Thus, although the intro scene for Friday the 13th (remake) teased the audience with Saw-esque obstacles, the “6 week later” transition left them for dead.  I dare even say that Marcus Nispel did this on purpose, a little bit of satire about the reluctantly welcomed sub-genre of gorno.  

            Next up the characters.  The black guy in the movie blatantly and humorously calls attention to his past role in horror films as the “black guy.”  When a girl insinuates that the record label he wants to start is rap he backfires with a critique of her racial stereotyping.  He is not the smooth talking black man who gets all of the girls and yet remains ignorant to the situation.  In fact, he’s a dorky guy who wants to start a record label and tries masturbating to a JC Penny catalogue.  His friend is an Asian who is perhaps the funniest person in any slasher film yet and makes Jamie Kennedy from Scream look like Joshua Jackson from Cursed.  

            Thirdly, the film gets back to what made the 80’s films so good in the social sense.  It’s a movie involving tits, weed and horror.  Without delving into theories as to why these things are common I will just ask what do the majority of college kids want?  I don’t care if you read J.D. Salinger while on your way to buy the latest purple hoodie from American Apparel or if you’re doing a limp bizkit onto a cookie for your latest pledge activity at Kappa Delta , kids want drugs and sex.  Lately there hasn’t been too much inclusion of these elements (with the exception of Nispel’s TCM remake).  It was like enjoying Beautiful Day by U2 after listening to Pantera for three years; felt good to go back to these sub-plots.

          Finally, the lead female character - Whitney Miller - completely deters from previous horror characterizations. There is no indication she is a virgin, rare hints of any conservative agenda and perhaps most interesting, is not the dominant protagonist.  

After thinking about the film for the past few days I'm more inclined to say its a very subtle deconstruction of the slasher sub-genre.  Pay close attention to the formula and how it detracts from the common approach as seen in Halloween, Scream, Nightmare on Elm Street.  Pay close attention to the usual technical approaches - the POV of the killer, the POV of the friend, how the frat boy gets killed - and how they all play with the audience.  For a slasher film this one definitely holds its ground.

Now obviously there are large ingredients of this movie that fall victim to previous conventions and from the initial viewing it seems like nothing new.  But try to keep in mind a few things: this is the twelfth addition to a series that has mostly sucked. My advice is to approach this movie with an attitude that there has never been a prior Friday the 13th.  I would also advise to think of it as a satire of the slasher genre.  If you do, I assure you a pretty decent bang for your buck.

Monday, March 2, 2009


An extremely slow two weeks...

Movies from February 17th - March 2nd, 2009

1. A Wedding ’78
  • Dir. Robert Altman
  • Cinematography: Charles Rosher Jr.
  • Rating: 4/4

A Wedding; the second best Altman film I have seen. Yet again he puts together an amazing ensemble and utilizes his fluid zooms and dollies, overlapping dialogue and humor that would make Kubrick laugh.

2. Rachel Getting Married ’08
  • Dir. Jonathan Demme
  • Cinematography: Declan Quinn
  • Rating: 3.5/4
A great film shot all on digital which genuinely achieves the feel of a wedding. The lead singer of TV on the Radio is the groom which is funny considering his glasses could make Dick Cheney laugh out loud. The interesting thing is that although the wedding is ridiculous in content it seems extremely real. My only problem was that Anne Hathaway’s character gets a bit out of hand – though I’m assuming that was the point.

3. Dr. Strangelove ’64
  • Dir. Kubrick
  • Cinematography: Gilbert Taylor
  • Rating: 3.5/4

This movie is funny, the use of handheld cameras is clever, the long takes add to the comedy, I wish I could have seen Kubrick laugh.

4. Hard Boiled ’92
  • Dir. John Woo
  • Cinematography: Wing-Hung Wong
  • Rating: OOO.5/OOOO Bullet Hole

I wish American action movies had even half the amount of gore/excitement Hard Boiled does. I mean this movie is RIDICULOUS in action and TERRIBLE in dialogue and yet remains one of the best action movies I’ve ever seen. Pay attention to the long take in the hospital, it’ll tickle your feet as you feel the heat.

5. The Siege ’98
  • Dir. Edward Zwick
  • Cinematography: Roger Deakins
  • Rating: 3.5/4
Nostradamus must have helped the writers of this film. Made three years before September 11th and portrays some of the most accurate events that took place afterwards. It's almost creepy.  So, like a good bottle of wine, it's one of the few movies that gets better with age.

6. Out of the Past ‘46
  • Dir. Jacques Tourneur
  • Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca
  • Rating: 3.5/4

My second time seeing this movie and it wasn’t nearly as good as the first. A prime example of developing a decent “noir palette” and discovering some films to lose their initial appeal. Robert Mitchum = Bruce Willis

7. The Last Boy Scout ‘91
  • Dir. Tony Scott
  • Cinematography: Ward Russel
  • Rating: OOO/OOOO Bullet Holes
It was okay, basically another Die Hard movie except without terrorists – same persona though. Damian Wayans has a tattoo in the back of his neck which is pleasant and Bruce Willis does an Irish Jig at the end which bumped this sucker up to three bullet holes.

8. Choke ’08
  • Dir. Clark Gregg
  • Cinematography: Tim Orr
  • Rating: 2/4
This movie is for all the hipsters who think Chuck Palanuk is an amazing author. Here’s my word of advice - the man needs balance. He combines every single ridiculous trait he can find (sex addict, Colonialist tour guide, a nihilist mother, a friend who compulsively masturbates) into a story that lacks any substance whatsoever. Maybe if he tried developing the characters and laid back a little on such trivialities there could be a pretty good story. Balance!

9. What Just Happened? ‘08
  • Dir. Barry Levinson
  • Cinematography:
  • Rating: 1/4
This movie was god awful and I still don’t understand why it was made. The characters suck, the jokes are terrible (and the somewhat good ones are spoiled in the preview), the story is incoherent and Bruce Willis was a let down. Oh well

All in all an extremely slow week – but midterms usually do that so fark it.