Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Paranormal ActivityIt’s Halloween time and Hallywood…err, Hollywood…is bringing out a spate of “scary” movies to frighten those dollars out of our wallets. Just recently I went to see Paranormal Activity at the local cineplex. Among the previews was The Fourth Kind, which I haven’t seen but pretty much looks like Paranormal Activity but with a bigger budget (bigger budget meaning they hired Milla Jovovich instead of some smelly no-name actor). I’ll be honest and preface this by saying I don’t usually get scared by scary movies. And I’ll get into why, but first let me get into why Paranormal Activity was such a yawn-fest.

First of all, the first 30 minutes of the film was basically a home video of some smarmy San Diego couple Micah and Katie being all couply with Micah being a gadget freak while Katie tolerates it because as she meticulously explains (and I’m paraphrasing here) he’s so cute. After about 30 minutes, I was really hoping one of them would die a grisly death. Then we see footage of them while they’re asleep (which even when time-lapsed seems way too fucking long). What do we get? Strange noises. Then the next morning we get more couple-time. Then more sleep time. This time a door moves. Oooooohhhh! Repeat with each iteration being more bizarre and unbelievable. And I’m referring to the couple time: “Oh, Micah, even though you’ve done everything I’ve expressly told you not to do, I’m going to tolerate you anyway because you’re oh so cute.” By the end, some weird shit happens and then it ends. Fuck me and the $11 I spent.

So Paranormal Activity represents the latest incarnation of shockumentary style horror films including Blair Witch Project. Basically, they’re meant to seem more realistic and thus scarier, but in reality they’re just low-budget movies wrapped in big-budget marketing. If anything, the insane profit margin is what’s scary. But for the most part, they go use realistic tactics to get under your skin: weird noises, unexplainable movements, fuzzy shots. They attempt to poke at our primal defenses…imagine Homo habilis sitting alone in the woods filled with wild animals.

But going back to horror films in general, you have to sort of laugh. I remember watching Candyman when I was a kid and wondering how much fake blood was wasted for this production. When you think about it, most horror films are based on a premise that you have to accept as scary. When you don’t, they lose all their power.

  • The Exorcist was basically about a little girl that said a lot of mean things.
  • The Shining was about when boredom and alcoholism are mixed.
  • Friday the 13th is about how stupid teenage girls are.
  • Carrie is about how stupid teenage girls are.
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre taught us that only nutjobs live in Texas (as well as the last administration — ZING!).
  • The Omen was about how creepy young boys can be.
  • Jaws was about shark attacks — SHARK ATTACKS!
  • The Ring taught us all that plot holes can be scary too.

I could go on, but I won’t. Really at the end you just have to say to yourself: It’s only a movie — a really, really stupid movie.

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Oscar Statuettes…who the hell cares?

I actually sprained my eyeballs with all the eye rolling I was doing during the program. First off, Hugh Jackman does a tribute to musicals. Then, for each Best Actor/Supporting Actor category, they nixed the usual playing of a clip from the movie they are nominated for and in its place they invited previous winners in those categories to give a schmaltzy soliloquy of positive remarks for each nominee. My favorite was when Adrian Brody talks about Richard Jenkins and you know he has no idea what to talk about when he mentions googling the guy! As if the academy awards weren’t self-congratulatory enough, everyone congratulates themselves. Bring back the movie clips.

Besides the Oscars are kind of a joke. It’s so gamed now. First, only movies that come out in the fall end up being considered. There’s nothing nefarious about it, just short memories. It seems that the studios use this to their advantage doling out the crap films in January and February and hold the really good ones until November and December. And then there are the summer movies, which are intended for the kiddies who froth at the mouth at dumb ass films like Kangaroo Jack or Jack Ass 2. Well, anything with “Jack” in the title. Second, the movies that are submitted for consideration tend to be on the schmaltzy side. Easy emotions always win. Third, most of the people voting seldom see the movies they’re voting on. Fourth, politics are a huge factor. A best actor nominee who is seemingly a lock on the Oscar can blow it by blowing his temper or getting some bad press (qed Russell Crowe). The Oscars are handed out by peers and so it stands to reason that those relationships come into play. It’s more a popularity contest than a qualitative assessment of the films of the past year.

Anyway, the Oscar went to Slumdog Millionaire. I had been saying that for months, so time for me to gloat. I need to, my eyes are shot at the moment.

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NapoleonSo I was flipping throught the channel guide one day when I stumbled upon a movie named “Napoleon”. “Oooh, I biopic…about Napoleon, ” I thought. “That sounds good.” Instead of seeing the famous general and erstwhile emperor on the screen, I see a little dog scampering about making me realize they have made yet another dog movie named after a famous person.

If it weren’t bad enough that googling “Beethoven” got you a mix of results including references to the series of dog films starring Charles Grodin, googling “Napoleon” will do the same. My only question is why. Why the assault on famous personages from the early 19th century? Who’s next? Will I see a trailer with a puppy scampering about with someone yelling “Ralph Waldo Emerson” behind? Or one where someone is talking down to a chocolate Lab saying, “Jane Austen, did you poop on the rug again?”

Stay tuned.

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Religulous PosterSo I saw Bill Maher’s documentary on religion aptly named Religulous, and my initial reactions were…well, let’s use the word confused for now. Just to give you a little background, Bill Maher is a doubter, a skeptic. He wants to know what drives faith, what allows rational people to believe in irrational things like voices in the sky, talking snakes, etc. He then enbarks on a journey to get to know people who espouse religion. As a fellow skeptic, I could get behind this.

Let me first say that I like Bill Maher. I used to watch his show Politically Incorrect on Comedy Central and ABC, and now watch his show on HBO called Real Time. I don’t always agree with him, but I laud him for bringing myriad questions for open and honest debate. You don’t see that very often anymore. Anyway, back to Religulous: I was all set to watch this movie. I expected mixed in with a few nutjobs from the Holy Land Experience and evangelicals, there would be some serious moments with religious thinkers like Vatican scholars, Hindu gurus, Jewish priests. Perhaps the Dalai Lama would make an appearance. But there weren’t and that’s what I thought the downfall of this film was. It purported to be a quasi-serious film, an open and honest attempt to understand faith. Instead it was all nutjobs. It was an open and honest mockery of faith.

And in the end, he takes the whole movie off the deep end by linking religion to the end of the world. Were I too look at this film with a critical eye, I would tear it apart. But it behooves me and everyone else to keep in mind that this is Bill Maher. Do I expect him to make a movie about religion and not mock it? No. If you toss aside the “serious documentary” veneer that this movie purports, you get what basically amounts to a Borat. But that’s okay. Because the film entertains. And ultimately that’s the point.

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If you haven’t heard anything about the hot water the creators of South Park are in, then take a look at this. To put it in a nutshell: Round 1…Last season, South Park had an unforgettable episode about Scientology featuring Tom Cruise in a closet with Nicole Kidman urging him to come out. This angered Tom Cruise, who is quite known for being angry about such things and thus super-vindictive. The episode was supposed to be re-aired a few weeks ago; however, rumor has it Tom Cruise threatened to pull MI3 adverts if the episode was aired. The episode was not aired. Round 2…Because of offenses taken about the Scientology episode, Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef and a Scientologist himself, left the show. Last week, the opener for the new season showed the return of Chef, but with mangled dialogue. It appeared the South Park creators clipped together dialogue from past shows to make Chef sound like a pedophile. Then at the end, they killed Chef. You bastards! The South Park kids blame the “fruity little club” for turning Chef against them. Episode ends with Star Wars 3 motif in which Chef becomes Darth Chef…or whatever.

Now the reason why I’m so impressed. Hollywood is crazy. Hollywood is full of nutjobs. Matt Stone even talks in a 60 Minutes interview about how Hollywood actors think they’re so important when in fact it’s just plain silly how they talk. I agree…Hollywood is completely out of touch with America and reality to some respect. Scientology commands a great deal of respect in Hollywood. Some of your favorite stars are Scientologists, or into Kabbala. In fact, you could say saying anything against Scientology in Hollywood is akin to career suicide. But when you’re Matt Stone and Trey Parker, it becomes a dare. And it’s a dare they’ve taken. And not without support…fans of South Park are boycotting MI3 in protest over the censorship of the imfanous episode that started all this. I agree on two grounds: 1) it’s about time somebody took on those Scientology bastards and 2) I think it’s reprehensible how the Mission:Impossible television show was morphed into this Tom Cruise ego-fest that has nothing to do with the original series. It’s just another BAD remake. Worse…it’s a sequel to a sequel to a BAD remake.

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