Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

30 June 2008

Fingerprints, dir. Harry Basil (2006)

NIKKI says:
So much potential! This is one of those horror movies that annoy you not because it's lame or because the kids are annoying or because the story is stupid -- yes, it has elements of all three of those things, but it's actually really, really close to actually being kind of okay. Just a script tweak or two and maybe we would have had something. As it is, it's yet another bad movie that tried.

I'm starting to think Bad Movie That Tried could become a new tag.

This movie is based on a Texan urban legend about a bus and train collision that killed a bunch of school kids. The legend posits that if you drive up to the train tracks where the accident occurred and put your car in neutral, the ghosts of the dead children will push your car over the tracks to "safety". The filmmakers say in the DVD special features that this happens "every time" someone pulls their car over and while I find that ridiculously hard to believe, it's a decent enough starting point for a horror movie.

So, a new girl comes to town (fresh out of rehab and all) and sees one of the ghosts of the kids, follows her home, and begins to unearth a seedy mystery from the town's past. Why the girl chose our heroine isn't really defined, especially as the girl had been appearing to all and sundry for years. Anyway, we don't sweat the small stuff in movies like this, otherwise we'd have to question about three deaths in this one.

The heroine discovers that maybe there never was a crash after all, which makes that urban legend basis a bit meaningless, and that something else was happening down by the tracks. So, it's okay what eventually happens, but it's riddled with plot holes and random things that just don't make sense. And the twists don't really twist, and the turns, don't really turn. Nothing new is attempted.

It only succeeds because it's not completely awful. The kids are okay, the story starts out well, and some of the scares work. I spent much of the film weirded out by the fact that little Andy Lawrence has gone from this:


... to this:


... while I feel like I haven't aged at all since Brotherly Love. What happened?

Fingerprints didn't totally suck. But it came dangerously close.

2/5

STEVE says:
Fingerprints is a thrilling tale of supernatural suspense ripped whole-and-breathing from real life! If, that is, real life is an episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!

Even so, it was hard to hate this movie. Yes, the script was uneven, the pacing was off, the story contradicted itself at every turn... but everyone involved was just so earnest. I'd really like to see what they could have done with more of a budget and a tighter script.

No kidding, though, I truly expected Sally Kirkland, once unmasked, to exclaim the time-honoured line, "...and I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for you meddling kids."

2/5

29 June 2008

Already Dead, dir. Joe Otting (2007)

NIKKI says:
A nifty little thriller with an interesting premise. It's problem is that it feels like a low-budget TV thriller with its cheesy flashbacks to home videos, its plot-holes and predictability. The central idea, though, is good: that a company exists to alleviate the pain of grieving men by supplying them with criminals to torture and kill thus freeing them and society of bad people and bad feelings.

Obviously, it's not so cut and dried. Our hero here does not want to kill just any random criminal -- he wants the man that murdered his son. After torturing Til Schweiger for a short while, Ron Eldard realises (too long after we've already figured it out) that Til is not his man, and sets about freeing him to the dismay of the "company directors". A big chase ensues and eventually we discover the truth behind the company, which actually has some interesting theories about human suffering and the meaning of justice to the individual.

It just needed a bit more depth. I felt like it all hinged on this one idea, but it was an idea that had so much room to grow and develop. It doesn't, however. It boils down, then, to a good idea almost pulled off.

2.5/5

STEVE says:
What starts off looking like just another exercise in torture-porn eventually develops some interesting concepts about crime, punishment, retribution and absolution, then goes nowhere with them as it inevitably devolves into another game of run, run, run, chase, chase, chase.

It wasn't a bad movie, overall, and the first half was fairly intense - even though we were way ahead of it from the word 'go' - but I have to admit, I'm getting sick of lowering the bar for myself when it comes to this type of thriller. "We saw where it was going, but it was good nonetheless." Bullshit. If I can see where you're going within five minutes, if I'm even one step ahead of the plot, someone's not doing their job.

Are there worse ways to spend an evening? Sure. Hell, we could have been watching Norbit. But there were better ways to spend an evening, as well.

2.5

28 June 2008

14 Going On 30, dir. Paul Schneider (1988)

NIKKI says:
Today turned out to be my little tribute to Paul Schneider, director of awesome body-swapping movies from the 1980s. When I chose this to watch after Willy/Milly, I had no idea they were made by the same guy. How hilarious. Watching them back to back, I started to get the feeling that 14 Going on 30 was Schneider's Disney-vision, while Willy/Milly was his anti-Disney, raunchified vision. In that one, he got to swear. In this, he sticks to Disney formula -- everything is nice, everyone is nice, and no-one ever alludes to the existence of anything remotely resembling sex.

I still love this movie. It's been a long time since I've watched it -- a LONG time. I don't think I've watched it since primary school, to be honest. My sister and I used to watch it as kids, and I still remembered a lot of the lines and gags. It's the Disney TV-movie version of Big, really, where a young guy becomes a 30-year-old and brings his kid sensibilities to the sticky adult world. In this case, he chooses to be made older so that his beloved Miss Noble sees the bad side of her fiance, Coach Jack-Jaw. Along the way, of course, they fall in love, and he wreaks havoc all over his high school where teachers have mistaken him for the new principal.

Does it get anymore Disney-awesome than that? It's all very cute and involves scenes of Danny (our boy-turned-man) trying to drive, to work, and to order food in a classy French restaurant. You know, all the classic embarrassing situations for any adult. And Steve Eckholdt is just ridiculously funny as older, fumbling Danny.

Not the greatest boy-swapping movie of all time, but I still love it, after all these years.

3/5

Steve did not view.

Willy/Milly, dir. Paul Schneider (1987)

NIKKI says:
Oh my god, I had no idea this movie was so rude! iIt's one my sister and I used to watch back when we were kids -- rented it from Magnum Video, if I remember correctly. We loved it. But then, we loved all the great body-swapping movies of the period -- 18 Again, 14 Going on 30, Freaky Friday, Vice Versa, and especially Student Exchange and Just One of the Guys, where characters didn't swap bodies, as such, but still became other people only to embarrassingly get discovered by all the cool kids.

Willy/Milly is about a tomboy who wants to be an astronomer. Her parents, though, tend to treat her too much like a delicate girl and won't let her stay up late to watch the stars from the non-safety of her roof. So, when she's offered the opportunity to wish on some magic powder (subtext!), she elects to turn into a boy -- because boys get to do everything they want.

Next morning, sure enough, Milly has a penis. And she shows it to her friend, her mum, and possibly even her dad. It's her... "surprise". Milly must then choose -- does she carry on living as a girl, just one with a penis, or does she cut her hair and go about life as Willy? She chooses the latter and begins to box and swear and trash-talk chicks until she loses her friends and her parents think she's gone a bit mental. Of course, when she falls in love with Eric Gurry, she realises that she's not supposed to be a boy and that all her trash-talk has only ever been for show. Up pops the magic fairy elf Seth Green to give her another chance at making the right decision.

Man, though, there's so much swearing and sex-talk in this movie that I'm a bit shocked my mum lets us watch it so freely. The words "asshole", "shit", "screw", "suck", and "pull" come up a lot.

But it's all harmless fun (I guess)... Pamela Segall is adorable as a boy and a girl, and John Glover and Patty Duke are heaps of fun as Willy/Milly's bewildered parents. It's very cute, very weird, and way too controversial for kid-flick. Man, I really miss the '80s.

3/5

Steve did not view.

Return of the Jedi, dir. Richard Marquand (1983)

Electric Dreams, dir. Steve Barron (1984)

NIKKI says:
So, I'd forgotten just how wonderful this movie is. I haven't seen it in a while, and had an inkling there might be some cheese to it. I thought my mega-movie marathon weekend was the perfect time for a secret revisit. Oh, how wrong I was, how mean I was to this movie! Cheese schneeze -- this is one of the most effective, intelligent, and genuinely spooky movies ever to come out of the whiz-bang, synthed-up 1980s.

Miles buys a new computer than the store clerk tells him will "make his coffee and keep his house secure". It does that, and then Miles spills stuff on it, and it comes alive. Then it falls in love with Miles's neighbor. And that's all I want to say lest I give any of its awesomeness away to Steve, who has yet to see it. (I KNOW!)

I may update this in a bit more detail when he has. It's just a great movie, that now goes back into my Top 10 of all time where it always belonged.

4.5/5

Steve did not view.

27 June 2008

Céline, dir. Jeff Woolnough (2008)

NIKKI says:
Another one of those Canadian TV movies about prominent women that is smarter than your average TV biopic but still very much a glossing over of events. This one spans Celine's life from the time her family discovered her talent as a pre-teen, right on through to her performance of the Titanic song at the Oscars. That's about 25 years crunched into 90 minutes. With the kind of life Celine has had, including the controversial relationship with her much older manager, Rene Angelil, it's difficult to really get to know the woman in this short time, to understand her decisions, motives, and reactions to everything from the tabloids to her success.

The movie tries its best, though. It is written reasonably well, and the actors are well-meaning and easy to like. I really enjoyed hearing all the old songs again, too. Some of them I haven't heard in ages. I did miss, though, the reaction after "The Power of Love" hit -- I was waiting for that to be the moment Celine finally cracked the business worldwide, but they went straight from "If You Asked Me To" to "Because You Loved Me". So, yeah, a lot was skipped. I did, though, get a real sense of a connection between Rene and Celine, and it was tragic to see just how the two struggled with things.

Not a bad movie, by any means, but really just the quality TV-movie equivalent of a greatest hits package.

2.5/5

Steve did not view.

The Empire Strikes Back, dir. Irvin Kershner (1980)



Shania: A Life in Eight Albums, dir. Jerry Ciccoritti (2005)

NIKKI says:
This kept me interested pretty much because I knew absolutely nothing about Shania Twain's life before watching. I've never thought she had the greatest singing voice, and I haven't connected with her the same way I have with Reba and Trisha Yearwood and Martina McBride, and others. I think I turned away from Shania, too, because I'd been listening to country music forever and then suddenly Shania hit and everyone was into her, and I just resented the fact that this flash in the pan had come along and erupted while the GOOD singers, Trisha and Reba et al were overlooked (in Australia, at least.)

So, I cared not for this woman. I could dance to her songs at parties and clubs, but to this day I do not own any of her records. I may reconsider now, thanks to Canadian TV and their insistence on bringing to the world stories of their successes. Shania, I have to admit, deserves her fame and fortune. If this movie is anything to go by, she certainly put in the hard yards as far as her development and persistence. I had no idea she was in a rock band, I had no idea of her Native American heritage, I had no idea she lost both her parents in a car accident, and I especially did not know songwriting was her major focus. I really shouldn't rush to judge pretty faces in tiger-print pantsuits.

I do think the movie glossed slightly over the fact that any man who showed interest in her and looked able to help her with her career ended up in bed with her. What was that about? And then when she'd had enough, off she went. Hasn't she now split with her starmaker, Mutt Lange? See?! No, wait -- I'm judging again.

This was a thorough look at Shania's life up until that first phone call from Lange, and it was certainly interesting.

2.5/5

Steve did not view.

Hey! Hey! It's Esther Blueberger, dir. Cathy Randall (2008)

NIKKI says:
This was a case of bad reviews drawing me to a film. If I'd not read the scathing bitch-slaps this one received in the papers, I probably would have passed it by. But, man, the hating was major on this. I had to see what all the fuss was about.

And so I was slightly prepared for something out of the ordinary. This is a very weird little movie about girls growing up in Australia and how status affects us and changes us. Esther is bullied at her swank private school and so, upon meeting the ultra-cool Sunni, decides to secretly enroll in Sunni's public school where she is respected as one of the weirdos. Soon, though, she changes to suit her environment in outrageous an offensive ways. Suddenly, even Sunni is wondering what happened to her funny little friend.

But there's a lot of aggression in Esther, and Sunni's group gives her an outlet. She goes over the top, so far over the top that she finds it hard to pull back. When the private school bitches discover her secret, she tells them she's a spy and is only acting out a mission at the public school. Suddenly, the bitchy girls love her, and Esther is suddenly torn between groups. Who is she and why? She neglects Sunni and her weirdo friends, and then tragedy strikes. Esther must patch her problems and find her way as this horrible event consumes Sunni. Suddenly, the pressures of school bullies and new raincoats becomes remarkably unimportant.

I don't know what the critics were on about. It is a difficult movie to enjoy. It's very strange, and Esther is not an easy character to relate to. But if you've ever been an unhappy, awkward teenage girl, you might have a better understanding of the events here. There's a fantastic element to the movie, too, so I think much of its oddness is over the top on purpose. I think the movie is very brave in tackling some of the things it does. It doesn't trivialise the lives of these girls, instead very much digging at the root causes of self-hatred, the effects of bad parenting, and the backwards structuring of the new education system to seems to want to quash creative impulses.

It's different -- and I wonder why oddball movies like Welcome to the Dollhouse receive great praises while this one is made to feel like a mess for going similar places? I love that an Aussie filmmaker has gone this way. It's something fresh.

3/5

Steve did not view.

26 June 2008

Star Wars, dir. George Lucas (1977)

National Lampoon's Pucked, dir. Arthur Hiller (2006)

NIKKI says:
You know, I say it after every movie I watch in which Jon Bon Jovi appears -- he is a really good actor who needs a really juicy role to prove himself. Even stuck in the middle of this lame National Lampoon's comedy, he sticks out. He is genial, relaxed, interesting, and way above his co-stars as far as his natural talent. I know that sounds like the ravings of a mad fan, but it's absolutely true. Hes a great, natural actor. And he's fucking loaded. So, WHY is over hrere making shit like this?

JBJ -- PLEASE pay someone to write you a good movie!

You know, though, for a National Lampoon's piece, this one wasn't that bad. I'm saying that a lot this week, aren't I? As if "not being that bad" is the new "good". Sometimes, it feel like the best you can expect. Anyway... this is about a guy who accidentally gets sent a lot of credit cards and decided to start a women's hockey league. He believes it will make him lots of money so he can pay back the credit card companies and his sister who has been looking after him for years.

He's also a former lawyer, so when the card companies come looing for their cash, he can effectively defend his character.

And that's about the gist of it. Add a sort-of love story, a weird David Faustino, and a rich drunk who lives in the hockey rink, and you've got a recipe for a strangely not-annoying movie to watch while you finish your Chinese food.

I like to think JBJ took this role on because he found out the movie was to be directed by Arthur Hiller. I know, right?! What?! The guy who made Love Story, Author! Author!, Plaza Suite, Teachers, The Lonely Guy... is directing Booger Armstrong. Weird.

2.5/5

Steve did not view.

Blonde Ambition, dir. Scott Marshall (2007)

NIKKI says:
I thought she was adorable. I know it's de rigeur to heap abuse on the big-haired, big-boobed, poorly-educated Ms. Simpson, but she held her own here. I thought she was cute, and that's really all the movie needed her to be.

This is supposed to be an update of Working Girl. It's got a similar premise -- small-town girl makes good in the big city and overthrows her manipulative bosses while finding love. But it's so bubblegum, it's less an update of that movie and more a dumbing down.

Which doesn't mean it's not somewhat enjoyable. Luke Wilson is cute, too, so is Rachael Leigh Cook (though I fear for her self-esteem now that she's found herself playing second fiddle in cheap rom-coms to Jessica Simpson). I didn't like the big-black-secretary jukes, and I could have done without Andy Dick falling about the place. But it was alright for a rainy afternoon alone on the couch.

A really funny cameo from Penny Marshall who gets the flame of hate in her eyes when Penelope Ann Miller dares bag out Milwaukee.

2.5/5

Steve did not view.

The Tracey Fragments, dir. Bruce McDonald (2007)

NIKKI says:
It's been a long time since I've hated a film so much. This one put in a Harmony Korine frame of mind -- the old self-important picture that says nothing about reality but thinks it indeed comments on the evil world at large. Look at this girl who is forced to take her panties off for the big mean man! Look at her as she is consistently beaten and battered by those around her. Look at her as I take her as far into the hell of teendom as I possibly can without any redemption, without any discerning meaning, or intelligence.

Am I wrong? Is there any reason for this picture beyond its 24-like split-screen gimmick? Why am I supposed to care about this girl who turns her brother into a barking dog and them loses him and has the gall to shout at her parents who are afraid for their missing son? No MOM, my teen ansgt is WAY more important than your missing SON who I turned into a barking DOG!

Tracey tries to find the little boy in the city, and we watch her as she prowls the slums calling his name. She thinks she sees him, she follows him, all the while telling us about a boy who loves her, who she loves. The movie attempts cleverness through weird editing, colour choices, and even a little TV-show opening starring Tracey and her boyfriend Billy-Zero. God, I was bored. Anyway, so eventually we learn that Billy-Zero is not all Tracey makes him out to be (don't you love movies that pull the rug out from under you without warning or, um, plot development?), and we discover his part in the brother's disappearance.

The revelation didn't make me sympathise with Tracey, but just hate her more. Believe me, too, that's saying something. Remember how bad the dialogue was in Juno? Well, get a load of these Tracey-quotes:

"I kinda like to ride a different bus every night depending on my mood. Like, if I'm depressed, I enjoy being around other depressed people. And happy people, they frickin depress me! You know?"

"When things happen to people, they radiate a light. Because they have a picture caught inside them. Because they were there and you weren't. And because you only got a piece. And because all you can do is shrink and blow up that one tiny piece."

"How do you know what's real and what's not when the whole world is inside your head?"

"Look, I'm not what you think. I'm not junk, I'm not a dink. I'm not garbage flowers you leave to rot and stink, and smell, and curl up all dry and papery so they crumble as crusty as the flowers on this fucked up shower curtain."

And my favourite:

"I don't cry over spilt milk. I don't even drink milk, because I’m lactose intolerant."

.5/5

Steve did not view.

Moving McAllister, dir. Andrew Black (2007)

NIKKI says:
You know, more and more I find myself telling customers at work that something was "cute". It really has become my word for inoffensive comedies that make me laugh but never really resonate.

Moving McAllister was exactly that sort of movie -- I liked everyone in it, I laughed a few times, I don't think I'll ever watch it again, and I wouldn't have died never having seen it. It is, in a word, cute.

The lead guy, who also wrote the script, was cute. Mila Kunis, though very annoying in the beginning, turned out to also be cute. And even Jon Heder who gets a pimple squished and wears his undies a lot, is cute, too. The story is cute -- Ben Gourney must drive Kunis across the state to California to impress his boss. Along the way they pick up a weird hitchhiker who believes he swapped bodies at birth with an American Indian. Mila doesn't not want to make Ben's journey easy and they end up having to escape from Billy Drago who stole their truck. Among other things.

It's a road movie, a romance, a comedy. And it's cute.

2.5/5

Steve did not view.

Kings of South Beach, dir. Tim Hunter (2007)

NIKKI says:
When a movie's blurb tells me me it's written by Nicholas Pileggi and directed by Tim Hunter, I'm there. I was looking forward to this one for those very reasons, and, a bit, because Donnie Wahlberg stars. It was good, but not great. It told me a story I was unfamiliar with -- the rise and fall of Miami club owner Chris Troiano -- but it was so very TV movie that it lacked any real grit of Pileggi's Goodfellas or Hunter's Saint of Fort Washington.

The story goes that Andy Burnett spent years infiltrating the Miami club scene, acting as a newbie who wants nothing more than to cozy up to the big players. He gets in the good graces of Troiano, who makes him somewhat of a protege. At the same time, Troiano is facing bankruptcy and is doing some illegal dealings on the side. Burnett wants to take him down, but he's also quite into the lifestyle Troiano offers him.

It tries to offer two sides of a complex relationship, but time restrictions meant that what could have been an explosive clash like that in American Gangster is really just a Law and Order-lite bust.

Good attempt, interesting story, great performances -- not enough meat, though, for such a story.

2.5/5

25 June 2008

The Cottage, dir. Paul Andrew Williams (2008)

NIKKI says:
What a crazy little movie! Two-thirds in and I thought it had been packaged incorrectly. The blurb promised a horror movie in the Severance style, and yet here we were in a kidnap situation with crime bosses and ransoms.

And then it all changed. What was a movie about brothers trying to improve their lives through an impossibly crazy criminal act suddenly flipped into a Hills Have Eyes kinda thing where characters started losing heads via shovels.

They call it a horror comedy, but you won't laugh because there are jokes. You laugh because it makes you so damned uncomfortable. It's an absurd sort of funny, and you'll watch in near disbelief as the twists and turns play out. I'm wondering if the writer didn't get halfway through his kidnap script, get writer's block, and go, "fuck it, I'll just cut someone's head off".

It's good, it's creepy, it's scary, it's got bucket-loads of gore. I loved it. I especially enjoyed the finale. How fucking twisted?!

3/5

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, dir. Michel Gondry (2004)

24 June 2008

The Invasion dir. Oliver Hirschbiegel (2007)

NIKKI says:
I'd heard a lot about this movie's ups and downs on its way to release -- that the studio refused to show it to critics, that scenes were recut and re-edited, the Wachowskis were brought in to shoot some scenes. In my head, it was a MST3k-moment waiting to happen. It actually wasn't that bad. And any time I can say that about a movie starring Nicole Kidman, you best take my word for it.

Nicole was her usual sticky self. The woman is perfect for a movie like this -- my favourite part of the trailer is when someone tells Nicole to "try not to show emotion". She doesn't have to try very hard, you know? She is such a cold actress. I don't relate to her at all. I just think she's a woman who reads lines. She did that here, so it was hard to really get behind her character's fear. I also find myself wondering, whenever I watch her, just what her co-stars think of her weird lips and face.

I also thought the movie missed a bet by taking the famous Body Snatchers pods out. Why would they do that? Did they fear making a horror movie? Is this supposed to be a comment on drones in society? Well, the pods are important in this story. It's like remaking A Nightmare on Elm Street and giving Freddy a gun instead. Or something like that. They changed the pod-thing to a face-barfing thing, and it gave the film an unintentional slapstick quality.

To its credit, I was interested until the end (though I hated the ambiguous final scene). I thought it looked great. I found it chock-full of atmosphere. But, thinking about it, it's a movie that wants to be full of political allegory, but it doesn't hold up. Should we look at the zombifying of human as a good thing so we don't fight and go to war? Meh. Characters just talked about this, while war images played on TV. Boring. It wasn't terrible, it just wasn't anywhere near as smart as it needed to be.

2/5

I Could Never Be Your Woman, dir. Amy Heckerling (2007)

NIKKI says:
It was exactly as we'd expected (and hoped) -- cute. Overly cute. Too cute for words. But it wasn't the great meditation on age and romance as perhaps Amy Heckerling was going for. And it tripped over itself many times towards the end when our lead old girl couldn't decide whether or not to trust her younger and always trustworthy new man.

So, Paul Rudd is still the funniest cool actor around, and pairing him with shameless and funny Michelle Pfeiffer was a stroke of genius. It was also necessary to get a woman for this movie in her 40s who looks surgery-free. It's hard to do that, lately, with actresses in their 30s. So, the casting was great.

The story was funny, and I really liked all the stuff with Michelle and her budding-teen daughter who's about to give up the Barbies just as mom decides she wants to go back to them. The sitcom-writer stuff made for some funny in-joking, and it was great to see Rudd and Dash together again 15-odd years after Clueless.

So, yeah, a great popcorn movie. I do think Amy Heckerling should have nixed the Mother Nature aspect of the piece, given Michelle's character a best friend and just been done with it. The age-thing was too heavy-handed here. It could have been just a sweet love story. Instead, it felt like Heckerling was forcing this notion of fit-and-40 down our throats. But we're not at this sort of movie for the subtext -- we're here to see classy, gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer jumping on the bed and getting silly-string in her mouth.

3/5


23 June 2008

Alien, dir. Ridley Scott (1979)

Vantage Point, dir. Pete Travis (2008)

NIKKI says:
It's ambitious, I'll give it that. But this movie may have had too many oars in the water, because by the third use of the rewind-and-start-over technique, I was too busy searching for my perpetrators than engaging in these stories of vacationing kids and dads and doubled-up presidents, bitchy news producers and skitty operatives.

And, yes, I guessed our turncoat in maybe the second flashback. But you might, too, because it's so obvious. Don't filmmakers realise that you can't build suspense in a Clue-type story when a handful of your suspects are famous TV personalities and bit-part actors? As if it's not going to be one of them! Here we get to choose from a large list of potentials:

Matthew Fox
James Le Gros
Forest Whitaker
Bruce McGill
Richard T. Jones
Leonardo Nam
William Hurt
Sigourney Weaver

We can cut out Nam and Jones as, though prolific, they're just not famous enough. We can cut out Weaver, Whitaker, and Hurt -- they're too famous; they have other reasons to be here. So that leaves McGill, Le Gros, and Fox. Now, we're talking -- given the time, current cultural touchstones and the like, he sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb does he?

Anyway, it doesn't hurt the story too much to discover who's behind what. The problem here is that the movie is supposed to be one event as seen from the points of view of various people involved. Only it's never the full points of view. On Quaid's POV, he sees TWO key things occurring and reacts to both. But we don't get to see those things. So, how is it rightly his point of view?

The second issue is the film's final half. After taking us through several POVs, the movie suddenly drops that gimmick when it's time to bring everything together. Ultimately, I wondered at the necessity of the gimmick in the first place. With some time-jigging, it could have been told linearly. But then, it would have just seemed like an overwrought episode of 24.

No, it didn't work for me. It was very same-old in the political terror-movie stakes. It was all about the gimmick and very light on smarts. As a popcorn action thriller, it's not an horrific way to spend an evening, but it won't leave you reeling in a Rendition sort of way.

2.5/5

22 June 2008

Rabid, dir. David Cronenberg (1977)

NIKKI says:
So, I see now where those movies about rage viruses ripped their ideas from. If you can think of a movie in which frothy-mouthed zombie-things scream and run at unwitting victims to gnaw at their necks, then you pretty much know the sorts of movies I'm talking about. Rabid, who knew, started quite a trend.

I was into looking at this for a few reasons -- mainly, though, because Steve said he was in the mood for zombies. I really like Cronenberg's old stuff, too, like The Brood and Scanners. His movies unsettle me, which I think has something to do with the biological and evolutionary themes that always seem to be going on. Horror zombies give me no worries -- zombies in surrounds provided by white-walled hospitals and drip-bags make my skin crawl. So, old Cronenberg is always good for a scare.

This one was good, but not great. I enjoyed the story. The horror was excellent and GROSS. The main characters were relatively intriguing. I did think it could have done with some tightening. I got a bit over Marilyn Chambers seeking out prey in new and different ways. She traverses the streets and heads into a porn theatre where we watch a sleazy guy sleaze on to her. She sleazes back, kills him, and she's off to find someone else. I might have been more into reasons and explanations for the disease and its control of her than for her killing again and again, and then writhing about on the floor.

Still, I wasn't bored. I was really sad at her eventual disposal. It was quite the downer ending. I felt for Marilyn. It wasn't her fault she needed blood to live! It was the doctor's fault! But he didn't get any real comeuppance because he was zombified early on in the piece. Hardly any real penance, that!

Good movie, a necessary part of my horror movie education, but maybe not one worth multiple watches like The Brood.

3/5

21 June 2008

The Ruins, dir. Carter Smith (2008)

NIKKI says:
I read about three pages of the Scott Smith book last year and decided to wait for the mass-market paperback. I just have to be in the mood for trade-sized lately. Right now, I'm reading a 500-page hardcover and it's not fun, let me tell you.

So, Steve read it instead. Listening to him describe the best and worst elements of the story made me feel like I'd read it myself. I got a Stephen King vibe from Steve's descriptions, and figured my reactions would be similar to his.

Now that I've seen the movie, I'm kinda glad I didn't read the book. I know -- blasphemy, right? Well, Steve said the movie was better, and the way it had me jumping and screaming all the way through meant that NOT knowing the movie's twist and turns just made it that much more fun.

I really liked it. I was scared for most of it, horrified by the high gore-levels, and genuinely shocked when certain things began happening. I thought it was extremely well-paced. The scares came at exactly the right moments, and because it was so well-structured and tight, there was never a moment to really relax and take a breath. It just powered on, until its gruesome conclusion.

The characters, too, were all thankfully likable. The movie gets extra stars for having normal, inoffensive young people as is heroes. See, Film World, it can be done! The story was good -- the kids embark on a journey to a Mayan ruin and on arrival are freaked out by some natives who appear to be warning them against going up on the ancient pyramid-type thing that's covered in lush green vines. They go anyway, thinking their friends are on top of the ruin, and the crap hits the fan from there. There is no one to to be found atop the ruin ... no one alive anyway.

They soon discover that the natives will not let them leave the ruin, and so are stuck on it until help arrives. But help doesn't seem to be coming, and then vines start acting weird...

Ughghg... it's so horrifying. I loved it. I'm shocked that a big-budget horror film got it so right. And surprising, too, was the fact that I actually started to like Jenna Malone. Wonders will never cease. I thought the actors here were all excellent.

Just a great horror movie.

3.5/5

20 June 2008

The Ten, dir. David Wain (2007)

NIKKI says:
Steve and I had both heard how this movie was trashed by critics. The poster over there has some positive notes on it, so it would appear not everyone hated it. Something, though, made me think it was supposed to be one of the worst stinkers in history. Still, we thought we'd give it a go because Paul Rudd is in it, and because we'll watch anything with religious satire.

Well, what do you know? This was probably the most guffaw-inducing movie we'll watch this year, second only to Hot Rod. And if you liked the random, weird humour in that movie, you might just love this, too. It really is 90 minutes of silliness tied to a central theme -- that of the Ten Commandments. Paul Rudd introduces ten stories, each featuring a commandment, as he sorts out his own rule-breaking involving infidelity.

The stories are each about seven or eight minutes jam-packed with the weirdest stuff you're ever likely to see. The first one, for instance, is about a guy who sky-dives without his parachute and ends up stuck in the ground where he landed. He becomes a celebrity, with his own catchphrases, a TV show, multitudes of girls chasing him. All from his position as a head poking out from the dirt. Thou shalt not, we learn through the guy's rise to fame and fall to shame, worship false idols.

And so it goes. Coveting thy neighbour's goods sees Leiv Schreiber purchasing more and more cat-scan machines to beat the number his neighbour has; honouring thy mother and father has two black kids worshiping Oliver Platt as their Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator dad; thou shalt not steal sees Winona Ryder forging a perverse relationship with a ventriloquist's dummy. And thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife takes place in a maximum security prison ... think about it.

Oh my god, it's just so WEIRD. Steve and I just kept looking at each other with freaked out looks on our faces. Really, did they really do that? Did they really go there? Yes, they do and they did, and they refuse to stop GOING THERE. And it's funnier than it should be, too, because these are well-known people doing these bizarre things. Paul Rudd marries Dianne Wiest. Bobby Cannavale nudes up, Oliver Platt does the "ice cream" bit from Delirious, Winona Ryder fucks a dummy, Adam Brody channels Joey Lawrence, Justin Theroux plays Jesus, Liev Schreiber sings. It's mental.

Ultimately rather pointless, but damn funny.

3/5

19 June 2008

August Rush, dir. Kirsten Sheridan (2007)

NIKKI says:
Perhaps I built it up too much? I was expecting to be blown away by this movie. I'd been listening to the music for a little while, and enjoyed all the songs, so I expected, even more, to love the movie. And it's written by Nick Castle, who wrote one of my all-time favourites, The Boy Who Could Fly. Sadly, August Rush was a bit of a let down, only because I think it tried to do too much. A rewrite or two and maybe it would have worked.

As it is, I enjoyed it, I got wrapped up in bits and pieces of it, but, ultimately, it lost me a bit because everything just seemed so perfectly timed. Everyone was where they needed to be at exactly the right time, and this really removed the magic. How does a kid navigate New York City so skilfully? That's just one of the questions you'll find yourself asking. And how coincidental was it that August meets Mr. Jeffries and leaves the boys' home at the exact same time Lyla's father decides to reveal his ghastly secret that sets her on her mission to find her son? All this at the same time Louis meets up with an old bandmate and decides to go to Chicago to finally track Lyla.

I don't know. It was too much after a while. Yes, the music was great, and the fairytale aspect of the thing worked on some level. But when you examine it closely, the plotholes mount. Steve was right -- if Lyla's baby died at birth, who buried it? Why did Louis only now decide to seek out Lyla? Where was August living during his stint at Julliard? Why did no one try to stop the Wizard from taking him away from the school when he'd been there so long father-free? That's a child services issue right there.

Loose ends everywhere. I said, too, that the Wizard character would have worked a bit better had he been a good guy. An evil Machiavelli trying to make money off August did not work as the man who also stood up for the street way of learning music, caning Julliard for its text books and teachings. The music is out there! And August should be teaching you! ... it all falls on deaf ears when that same character turns his back on August to exploit his natural gifts.

So close, yet so far. I wanted to love it. At most, I just liked it.

2.5/5

Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs, dir. Peter Avanzino (2008)

NIKKI says:
I didn't enjoy it as much as Bender's Big Score, but it was funny nonetheless. I am really happy we get to see more Futurama. As technology advances, it's fun to see how the show responds. In this movie, someone checked a published version of the Wikipedia for an explanation -- only Futurama can make those kinds of jokes. I hope these movies go on and on.

3/5

STEVE says:
And I enjoyed it more than Bender's Big Score. Go figure.

I thought Score was very funny, of course, and the story of Fry going back in time to better himself in order to woo Leela was handled with just the right mix of bizarre and touching that I'm used to from Futurama. But the pacing was off and it dragged in the middle. Maybe Beast's story wasn't on par with Score, but it beat the snot out of it as far as pacing, so it felt like a better movie because my mind wasn't wandering halfway through. As far as the jokes went, it was as wrong as it ever was.

Example: Amy Wong ("of the Mars Wongs") is grieving the death of her husband Kif. Bender walks in and says, "What's her problem? Somebody die or somethin'?" Leela tells him that Kif is dead and instead of responding with sympathy, which would have been out of character for Bender, anyway, or even indifference, which would have been more Bender's style, he pumps his fist in the air and cries, "Nailed it!"

Up next: Bender's Game. And if I even have to tell you why that's funny, you probably don't watch Futurama anyway.

3/5

18 June 2008

Lake Dead, dir. George Bessudo (2007)

STEVE says:
I'd have sworn there were Zombies in this movie. Go watch the trailer and see if you too aren't convinced it's a Zombie movie. I was thinking Zombie Lake, Oasis of the Zombies, Shock Waves, that sort of thing. Instead of Zombies, though, we were treated to a not-so-interesting tale of murder and incest that was strung together about as tightly as those candy bracelets you used to eat as a kid.

I won't bother to recount the plot, as I'd rather forget this whole exercise anyway. I'll say only that it wasn't as hilariously bad as Garden of Love, but it wasn't as boring and predictable as Prom Night, either. Somewhere in between lies Lake Dead.

Incidentally, this is from the After Dark Horrorfest of 2007. Most of the After Dark films we've seen have left us with the same impression: Nice effort, but way below the bar. It's like the Masters of Horror for beginners. I think we'll give them a miss after this.

1.5/5

NIKKI says:
Wow, what a let down. The trailer made this look like a genuinely scary movie reminiscent of classic slashers I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left -- people getting ruthlessly tortured, while they shriek and cry in overgrown weeds.

It ended up just another bullshit knock-off that tried to take the horror that extra gruesome step, but ended up resorting to boring old hangings and gunshots for its kills. In a movie this silly, the kills need to be top-notch to keep me remotely interested. Garden of Love upped the ante with each kill, so did Mandy Lane. Here, though, right at the start, a girl gets hogtied -- a hollow metal tube inserted through her ankles which is then chained to a huge stone. After that, it all just gets boring. So boring, in fact, that some of the gunshots even have CGI blood-sprays.

As Steve might say: They just didn't care.

So... high points? The kids weren't all bad. The main couple was actually rather likable. Um... it was short -- that's a plus. The set-up was alright -- kids inherit a hotel from a grandfather they've never met. Their supposedly unloving father warns them against going to collect their inheritance, but they are feisty babes and will do whatever they like. So, that was okay.

Low points, though, were many -- aside form the boring kills, the suspense was terrible. The scene in which one character drops his wallet in the lake had the potential to be really scary -- he drops it right near the hogtied girl, now floating at the bottom -- but it's over quickly, and we have very little time to get even small goosebumps.

Then there are the baddies -- so cartoon, so stupid. There's a pair of raging twins going around offing everyone and they look like a couple of wrestlers wearing Fabio masks. Just horrid, with hair dangling in their faces presumably to hide the bad make-up.

And the plot veers off, beginning to make no kind of sense. How did this hotel exist out here for so long? Why did the grandfather decide to change his ways? What made them this way? Why is Fabio about to kill those kids at the end? Was it about the bloodline, or just a raging kill-need? I have no idea. But then, I was so bored I could barely pay attention after about halfway.

So, yeah -- the After Dark movies are nothing to scream about. This seemed to be a wannabe horror movie by a filmmaker who may only have watched horror movies made post-Cabin Fever. Boring, CGI-infused, all about the kills without tight plotting or subtext.

1/5

Margot at the Wedding, dir. Noah Baumbach (2007)

NIKKI says:
What has happened to Noah Baumbach? He used to be clever and insightful. He used to make movies about human beings, believable ones with foibles and idiosyncrasies you could relate to. He used to create characters just like you, and you laughed with them because you'd been there: Young, crazy, insecure, jealous, in love.

Now he just makes movies about reprehensible people who talk and act in ways I've never encountered. Perhaps I'm from the wrong side of Brooklyn, but I just don't know these people.

So, I understand there are crackpots out there. I also understand there are damaged men and women floating on this planet that crave destruction, of themselves or those around them, that thrive on the devastation they create. I also know there are people out there who remains utterly blind to the machinations of others, or who choose to ignore it because the pain of confrontation is just so great. I get that. What I don't get is why I'm supposed to find a story about those people that never seeks to explain them, explore them, or redeem them anything but a waste of my time.

Further, why do I want to watch a movie about these people with no discernible plot, with no beginning, middle, or end? So we open with Margot on the bus, and we leave with her on the bus. In the middle, we just get bunches of random, unexplained activities that do very little to enhance the story or its characters. It just smacked of that much pretension. Watching Margot climb the tree was embarrassing. Watching her do just about anything was embarrassing. I was forced to question how she'd ever succeeded at anything in her life. She was so horribly abusing her son with her esteem-destroying comments that I wondered how they'd even managed to co-exist together for any length of time. Why did her husband care for her? She was never presented to us as anything but a monster. How and why did anyone care enough to give her the time of day?

Is abuse in her past supposed to explain her? Make us feel sorry for her? That part of the story was alluded to and dismissed -- if the movie didn't care to go into it, did it even matter?

What good does it do me to involve myself with these people for an hour and a half? What am I supposed to get from this? A woman rolls into town and sets about destroying her sister's marriage, does that, then leaves. She leaves NOT KNOWING that her sister was about to rekindle the destroyed relationship. So, somehow everyone gets what they want, but no-one really ever comes to know why. Why did Margot have to destroy Pauline? What does it mean to her that it ultimately didn't work? How is Margot's derangement supposed to affect me when SHE WAS RIGHT from the outset that Malcolm wasn't perfect?

Why does Margot get to be right?

Ugh -- the whole thing just infuriated me. Kicking and Screaming remains an American classic. Mr. Jealousy will always be watchable and wonderful. Everything beyond that can go to hell.

1/5

STEVE says:
Noah Baumbach is dead to me.

Kicking and Screaming is and will always remain one of my favorite movies, but everything he's made afterwards has left me questioning whether he should be allowed continued access to film making equipment.

This is just revolting.

1/5

17 June 2008

Rendition, dir. Gavin Hood (2007)

NIKKI says:
As depressing and harsh as it was -- I liked it. It's not an easy movie to watch. It's one of those two-hour experiences where all you're thinking about is how cruel the world is. Still, it's well done. It's visually impressive, the acting is first-rate, and the twisting plot is engrossing and suspenseful. It's not purely a film that reminds you how America abuses its power, it's also a thriller about the people who get caught up in that abuse.

Anwar El-Ibrahimi is a chemicals expert who is detained when deboarding a plane from South Africa. He is suspected of aiding a terrorist who killed an American operative. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Freeman, a CIA analyst who is instructed to oversee the interrogation of Anwar, and who comes to believe Anwar is telling the truth that he is not involved. Meanwhile, Anwar's wife pregnant Isabella is desperate to know where Anwar is, and enlists a Washington DC councilman to help her out.

So, from there it's all about uncovering the mystery of Anwar's disappearance and exposing the lies and cover-ups that go along with extraordinary rendition, the practice of moving terror suspects from one country to another without proper procedure for the purposes of interrogation.

I thought it was a good movie. It didn't seem to chest-thump as much as other movies like it, and that probably had something to do with it being about the people as much as the politics. You really felt for these characters, and what they were dealing with. And the movie did well to show the other side of the issue with an element of the plot told from the perspectives of the suicide bombers. I don't know how accurate it all was, or how truthful, but as a movie, it definitely entertained me.

I was really struck, too, by the scene in which Isabella's water breaks. She is walking through a big, glass building, and we see her in silhouette. The Capitol Building rises up along the horizon behind her. A brilliant shot, filled with purpose, but classy, I thought, rather than grandiose. Much like the film itself.

3.5/5

16 June 2008

Lars and the Real Girl, dir. Craig Gillespie (2007)

NIKKI says:
Here I was thinking someone in Hollywood had finally had an original thought. Turns out this movie has been made before. Well, not exactly this movie but movies with guys who form complex relationships with human-sized dolls. One is Love Object from 1993; the other is Tamaño natural from 1974. And while the films aren't exactly the same, they're close enough in premise so that my initial adoration of Lars and the Real Girl for its originality has slightly dipped.

But that's okay. It's still a great movie. One of the best I've seen this year, in fact. One of the main reasons I liked it so much is because it is entirely free of cynicism. At so many points in the film, I expected Bianca (the doll) to get into some sort of trouble. I expected Lars to become the butt of a very elaborate joke. But this never comes to pass. The story has a goal -- to get Lars back to reality -- and it achieves that goal simply and beautifully.

Lars buys a doll off the Internet and tells everyone it's his girlfriend Bianca from Brazil. Lars is extremely lonely, unable to hold close relationships with people because of something awful from his past. He finds it hard to touch people, and to let them touch him. He solves this problem with Bianca. His doctor informs those around him that in order to bring Lars out of his psychosis, they should treat Bianca as real. So, everyone in town befriends her until Lars finally has a decision to make about whether or not to carry on their relationship.

I hate this word, but man is the whole thing just so uplifting. You can't help but feel good and warm inside whenever Bianca is out and about. The townsfolk come to adore Bianca, and embrace her, all because they know they are ultimately helping out Lars.

There are some really funny moments in the movie, some touching moments. Ryan Gosling is really good, as is Paul Schneider who plays his exasperated but just as caring brother Gus. I loved the setting, the photography, the stillness of the whole thing, the drained colour, and the snow. Just a great spirit-lifting Winter movie.

4/5

15 June 2008

3:10 to Yuma, dir. James Mangold (2007)

NIKKI says:
I don't really know what I expected with this one. A competent Western -- that's pretty much my pre-viewing summation. I wanted to see the movie, but I wasn't yearning for it in any great way. It was just as I anticipated, too. A good movie, with good performances, some really stand out scenes, but not a movie I would throw up there with my fave Westerns like Tombstone or High Plains Drifter. It just didn't have the emotion of those films, the urgency. I cared for the characters and everything, but they didn't get under my skin like Clint's Stranger or Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday.

I was probably thrown off by how much how movie made me think of Young Guns II. I was finding myself seeing parallels all over the place:

* Alan Ruck's character has his farm taken away by the evil businessmen, and Christian Bale's farm is threatened in this movie. Both characters take it upon themselves to fight for their land, and get mixed up with good and bad guys all looking to make their individual stands against "progress".

* Emilio's Billy the Kid spends a fair amount of time locked up, messing with the minds of his captors, proving himself smart and quick-witted, able to talk himself out of anything. Russell Crowe's Ben Wade gets into a similar circumstance. Both movies have scenes of their anti-heroes talking out a second-storey window while handcuffed.

* Ben Wade rolls into town and watches the townfolk as they go about their business -- washing clothes and kids, hanging out, working hard. The boys do the very same thing in the first Young Guns movie, and the scenes are, again, surprisingly similar in the way they are shot.

* 3.10 featured a 14 year old boy as part of the gang, learning the ropes, while (to a degree) idolising the bad guy. In Young Guns II, Balthazar Getty winds up tagging along with the regulators, and worships Billy, but also finds out, like the boy in 3.10 that there's more to being a man than meets the eye.

... I don't know, just a few things. But as I said to Steve, I felt like I'd seen it all before. Does Young Guns owe something to the original Yuma? Probably. It wouldbe worth taking a look to find out.

Still, I enjoyed the movie.

3.5/5

14 June 2008

Penelope, dir. Mark Palansky (2006)

NIKKI says:
And the movie about the girl with the pig nose goes straight into my Top 5 for the year. It even makes me kind of mad that an overly-whimsical, bite-less, so-called subversive picture like Enchanted should be the hottest thing on the rental wall this month when this movie exists.

Penelope is a colourful, beautiful mix of fantasy and comedy, a fairytale with an edge. I expected something cute, but I just adored everything about this movie. The story is great, the actors are sensational, the production design is like nothing I've ever seen before, and the vibes the movie gives off just make you feel so good. I was fully wrapped up in it, and will be raving about it forever.

The stand-out things for me were:

1. James McAvoy's brilliant American accent.
2. The New York-or-London guessing game the movie plays, with its royal characters and old-timey buildings, set in and around a sprawling city populated with Americans.
3. Penelope's make-up -- it looked so real, it was her normal face that looked wrong.
4. Christina Ricci's eyes -- I challenge anyone not to completely love her after this movie. She's just a little fairytale princess, with the most expressive face. You can just tell this role means a lot to her -- she's so into it, and seems to really be this person, with these insecurities.
5. Reese Witherspoon NOT annoying me. I have a hard time with her in most movies, but here she was great. And I loved her hair.
6. Peter Dinklage getting hit in the face with a car door. He is so funny in this movie.
7. The colours -- everything in red and green and purple. It's SO beautiful. It's like you're in a picture-book.
8. The Joby Talbot music -- all the songs are great, especially Joby's, and the final one by James Greenspun.
9. Ronni Ancona from The Sketch Show in a real movie?! Awesome.
10. The overall theme of self-acceptance, which just had me wanting to cry every time they showed poor Penelope locked in her room, away from the world.
11. Penelope's purple coat.

Just a great movie. Absolutely loved it. Everyone should see it.

5/5

13 June 2008

Hack!, dir. Matt Flynn (2007)

NIKKI says:
How is a film like this even allowed? It's mind-bogglingly stupid, puerile, lame, and boring. What the HELL is Winnie Cooper DOING? I can understand Adrienne Frantz -- post B&B careers are rarely that great. And Sean Kanan -- same as above, and he's only done one thing worth remembering, and if you forgot what that was, he'll remind you in this movie, only I'm probably the only one in the world to fully get it ("You're next LaRusso! I own you!"). And Gabrielle Richens isn't even an actor.

But WINNIE COOPER? Come on -- she doesn't need the paycheck from what I can ascertain. Winnie, I have lost all respect for you. And I had lots.

This is just a piece of shit, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It tries to be all cool with its movie references, but they're the kinds of references any jerkhole can make. Here's a Hack!-like movie reference:

Character A: So, Jaws was a movie.

And that's it.

Dumb.

.5/5

STEVE says:
I said as soon as this one started, "This is going to hurt." And it did.

Jesus, it did.

I kept thinking maybe it was meant to be a satire, but I couldn't entirely convince myself that it was true. Let's assume for a moment that it was, though: It even failed at that. Hack! used brute force to make you see how clever it was (the boat that carries the students to the island is called the Orca), then pushes your face in it and stands on your neck (the captain reveals that his favorite movie is Jaws). When it's done with such shameless bravado, the satirical element gets lost in the mix. (And what's the point of making Jaws references in a slasher movie, anyway?)

But Hack! wasn't clever, it wasn't funny, and it wasn't even so-bad-it's-good. It just made me want to swallow broken glass.

.5/5

An American Crime, dir. Tommy O'Haver (2007)

NIKKI says:
This one sparked my interest because of its subject matter, and it was about a case I'd not previously heard of. The little bit I read about it, I wanted more and more to see it. Gertrude Baniszewski sounded, to me like particularly fascinating character. The case itself is horrifying, and yet Gertrude appeared to be unaware she was doing something so depraved. So, too, did the local kids (including her own kids) who assisted in torturing Sylvia Likens -- the girl Gertrude held captive in her basement for the purposes of "teaching her a lesson". That Catherine Keener and Ellen Page were the leads, I expected something really good -- introspective, scary, educational.

Instead, I got a brutal TV-ish movie, which takes the viewer through the atrocities of the crime, step by ghastly step, without ever offering any real insight into just why Gertrude acted the way she did. The film offers standard answers to the question -- it was the time, the situation (Sylvia's carny parents left Sylvia and her sister with Gertrude while they worked the carnival scene), she was wrapped up in God, she was without money, she was desperate to ensure her daughters remained pure. But how did she come to beat and abuse poor Sylvia? Why Sylvia and not her sister? Why not both? How did it come to be that Gertrude's kids abused Sylvia, too? And the neighbour kids? Who are these kids that they find nothing so bad about burning a teenager with cigarettes and whipping her? How did this go undetected for so long?

The film exists not to instruct about these things, but to show us what happened according to court transcripts. The horror of the thing is this film's main point. Or it seems to be, at least. Nothing is offered beyond a fact by fact re-enactment. And what, really, is the point of that? It could have been a 20/20 episode, for all that. The answers required here are tragically beyond this filmmaker.

I was happy to finally see Ellen Page in a different sort of role from her smarmy-teen norm. I thought she was very good here, reserved, and true to her character. It's just a pity she wasn't able to do more than scream and cry, which is all I wanted to do after watching this. If a movie is going to be this harsh, it needs some sort of balance. it needs release. This just hit us over the head with the crime and then punished the criminals. I'm not sure the real story of these two women is just so black and white.

2/5

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, dir. Jonathan Levine (2006)

NIKKI says:
Friday the 13th... you've got to watch a horror movie. This looked like the perfect kind of movie to celebrate the date: A teen slasher with a great title, that looked like it could actually be somewhat okay. That's the best you can hope for, I reckon, with horror movies these days: Please be somewhat okay. You're so shocked when that happen, you're all: Wow, it was somewhat okay! I'm giving it five stars!

This was... somewhat okay. The script was beat-perfect. Kills and scares all coming exactly when they needed to. So, we knew whoever was behind the movie had some sense of what they were doing. The kills were good, the effects were well done. The ending was interesting. The actors weren't bad. The only thing that let them down was poor writing -- they were all sex-obsessed, pot-smoking jerks. And while that might be a staple of these kinds of films, there's a way of writing characters like that so that they're likable. That was not the case here, and really let the film down.

Still, because the script was put together so well, I walked away respecting it. I was disappointed, though, that the final twist did not have ample set up. I can understand why certain characters acted the way they did, but I think a line here and there preceding the reveal would have helped to strengthen that aspect of the movie. I think the writers might have been so afraid of showing their hands, that they refused to give off any hints of what was going on. It worked on some levels and not on others -- which is to say, the final reveal is sensational, but we'd guessed it back at the 20-minute mark.

I'm giving this one the benefit of the doubt, though. In the sludge of offensive horror knock-offs, this one stands above as a movie that knows the rules, does its best to subvert them, and the genuinely shocks and thrills. If only its kids weren't so stupid -- I so wanted to care more when underwear girl was running from the car near the end. Still -- nice effort.

3/5

STEVE says:
Grading on a curve, as we have to these days, Mandy Lane was better than most slasher flicks. It was well-plotted and necessarily bloody without going overboard, and that scores it extra points. But looking at it in a vacuum, away from its progenitors and the rest of the copy-cats, it's really nothing special.

Mandy Lane plays with the conventions of the slasher genre, but doesn't do anything particularly interesting with them. I called the killer in the first scene, and Nikki called the twist - which was good, but not particularly surprising - about halfway through. The cast is pretty much the same group of reprehensible dickhead teens you've seen in a thousand other movies of this type (the stoner, the jock, the token black), and - as in those - you either want to see them dead, or couldn't care less, so there's no one to empathize with but the killer, who we can't really empathize with because we're not given a motive until the end.

Interesting but unexceptional, I thought Mandy Lane was going to raise the bar. As it is, it just cleared it.

3/5

12 June 2008

Revolver, dir. Guy Ritchie (2005)

STEVE says:
Jesus Christ, I just want to punch Guy Ritchie in the face.

1/5

NIKKI says:
It just kept going. And going and going. It would not stop. And the longer it went, the more pretentious, more stupid, more stupefyingly boring it got.

I now understand why this received such a critical hammering. Style over substance is a massive understatement, and it's not even worth watching for its style because you've already seen Quentin Tarantino, Brian DePalma, and Tony Scott perfect these same stylistic moves in their films.

I don't quite know what Guy Ritchie thinks he's doing here. Is this a metaphysical look inside the mind of the gangster? A peek behind the gritty crime curtain with a New Age spin? Is it a rip-off of The Prisoner, only instead of "Number One", we've got "Mr. Good"? Who the hell knows. I just know the repetition of the super-deep quotes about ego and control was so dumb, it was embarrassing. It's as is Ritchie wanted you to guess the ending, he was pushing it so hard. And the whole thing says nothing about ego and mind-control, or the ravages of a depraved mind -- if indeed it was trying to say anything new about those things at all.

I hated everything about this movie, right down to Ray Liotta's butt (normally, of course, something I might not mind having a look at). I felt myself drowning in pretentiousness. Steve and I kept looking at the clock, just desperate for it to end.

It made no sense. It was boring. The action was lame. The only good thing about it was Andre 3000's wardrobe. Which you just know he picked himself.

1/5

11 June 2008

Step Up 2: The Streets, dir. Jon Chu (2008)

NIKKI says:
They keep making them, I'll keep watching them. If there's one thing I'm addicted to more than crappy horror, it's teen dance flicks. And now that the '80s are in vogue again, there's a lot more body-popping and breakin' going on in these movies, and I just can't get enough of that.

This one was as inoffensive and standard as the first movie. In fact, it was very near a remake of its predecessor, only now it's a chick from the wrong side of the tracks who struggles to fit in with her fellow dance students at a big, special Maryland dance school.

Let's see: Andie is a member of the 410 gang that goes about dance-vandalising property. The crew is all about family and togetherness, yet when Andie gets this huge opportunity at the school, all her 410 crew members do is slam her for not being loyal to them. Them being loyal to and supportive of HER never comes into question. It just becomes a street dancers vs. school dancers thing, and you know how that's going to go.

Andie finds her own crew in the school, and starts to fit in with nice kids. So, it's all very cute and nice. It attempts edge through its crazy dancing, and a little street-fighting scene, it's costuming and it's "urban"-ness (the tagline, for instance). But it owes more to Kids, Inc. than Fame. There's no grit, and perhaps that's what I'm missing? These movie need a charge of some kind, to bring them into the real world. And the writers could perhaps try and find a way to tweak the subject matter -- like they did with Roll Bounce, which even Steve kinda enjoyed.

Still, I liked the music, the actors were good, and I'll watch groups of kids dance-fighting 'til the end of time.

2/5

Steve did not view.

Barton Fink, dir. Joel Coen (1991)

STEVE says:
You can have Fargo and No Country for Old Men. This is the best Coen Brothers movie out there. I'm not sure I completely understand it, but that's part of its appeal: Barton Fink is like a cinematic Rorschach test - it's going to be different things to different people.

I've never had the guts to do it, but I always thought Barton Fink would make a great triple bill with Naked Lunch and Eraserhead. We could make t-shirts up and give them away as prizes to anyone who makes through all three without becoming a drooling mass in the end.

5/5

Nikki did not view.