Sunday, April 17, 2011
It is a pretty sad state of affairs when I can honestly say I liked Donkey Punch better than Scream 4. But it is true. Donkey Punch is a little seen gem from 2008 that is now on Netflix streaming. The film got a little press here when it was released, partly due to the meaning of the title. Since I want to keep this a family friendly blog I suggest you google it right now. Go ahead, I will wait.
Alright, so a "Donkey Punch" is a sex act that involves hitting your partner in the back of the head whilst penetrating him or her from behind. That might be the best sentence I have ever written. And there goes my PG-13 rating. The idea is that the impact will cause certain muscles to tighten therefore increasing one of the partners sexual pleasure. Dan Savage says this does not really work and I am inclined to believe him. In any case, this act gone horribly wrong sets the stage for this gory British thriller.
Three British girls are on holiday in Spain. They meet up with four Sailors who invite them to party on their yacht. One of the girls, Tammi, seen above, is a good girl and the obvious final girl candidate. The boys are a little sketchy but they have good drugs and yacht. While at sea, and after many, many drugs, Lisa and Kim, the two other girls, go into one of the cabins on the yacht to have sex with two or three of the Sailor boys. One thing leads to another and Lisa gets her neck broken. The boys freak out, and decide to make it look like Lisa fell overboard. Tammi and Kim don't quite agree with this plan, and soon it is boys against girls. One big problem: the whole sordid affair is on tape. Of course the Sailors were taping the whole thing. Kim and Tammi know this, and they know that getting their hands on the tape will prove what really happened.
I wasn't expecting much from this film, and I am happy to say that I thought it was well made, exciting, gory, and fun (I always feel weird saying that about horror films). I say watch this instead of wasting your money on Scream 4. Based on box office returns it will be out on DVD soon enough.
Friday, April 15, 2011
I am not going to go in depth on my feelings about the original Scream film or the subsequent sequels. As usual, another blogger did that much better than I could. Please check out:
Dinner with Max Jenke
He pretty much says everything I would about the franchise but with much more art. What I will share is my own personal Scream story. First of all, let me say that I have never felt older than I do now. Everyone (bloggers that I admire) is talking about Scream. For quite a few of them, it is a seminal film. Because they saw it when they were 12! I was already a grown ass woman when this film came out. I can't believe people are talking about it like its the fucking Exorcist! Really, a retrospective for a film that seems to my old ass like it came out yesterday? Whatever. Not that I am done with that rant, let me say I am 36 years old. When the original Scream was filming I was working at the front desk of a very swanky hotel in Santa Rosa, California. Yes, the same Santa Rosa they filmed Scream in. Now a confession: I wasn't the awesome horror geek then that I am now. But I was a pretty big film nerd and was very jazzed that they were filming a major Hollywood film in my town. I was even more jazzed that the producers of the film were staying at my hotel. The cast was stuck at the cheaper hotel up the hill. Nevertheless, I got to make copies of the script, I met the producers, I "saw" David Arquette and Neve Campell briefly, and I got to listen in rapt attention while the bellboy I had a crush on told me about running into the cast at the local bar and pissing off David Arquette. It was a pretty exciting time in my young life. I don't think I even owned a computer yet. And I had yet to embrace my inner Horror geek. What a shame.
That is my Scream story. I loved the first film. The sequels kind of sucked. I remember being disappointed. The first film was original and funny. You really had the feeling that anyone could die at anytime. The sequels? Not so much. Now we come to the "reboot." New Decade, New Rules as the tag line says. Really, just more of the same. The opening scenes I thought were stupid as I was watching them and after some reflection I decided they were the best part of the film. Sidney returns home after 10 years to promote her self-help book. Sid's cousin, Jill, is pretty much a carbon copy of Sid at that age. Sure enough, old Ghostface returns, now armed with Facebook and Twitter. He targets Jill and her media savvy friends. His intention is to torture Sidney, the ultimate Final Girl. Blah, blah, blah. There is nothing new here, except the revelation that Julia Roberts' niece is actually a decent actress and that Hayden Panettiere is not as annoying as I had suspected. Also, Rory Culkin should consider a new career. I wish I could say this was mind blowing, funny, or even scary. Can't say it is any of those things. Go see it. Scream is now like the Saw films (which it mocks). You have to see it. You have invested the time. Might as well see what your old friends are up too. Like a class reunion. My suggestion: get Stinko.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Buried, directed by Rodrigo Cortes and starring Ryan Reynolds, is a Hitchockian thriller that plays on two big fears. The first fear is claustrophobia. The second fear is that people don't really give a shit about you.
Lets start with the Hitchcock. The film this most resembles is Rope, and not just because of the "gimmick." The gimmick in Rope is that is was all filmed in one shot (not true, but it looks pretty damn good.) The gimmick with Buried is that it all takes place in a box. Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, a typical "everyman" truck driver who is taken hostage and buried underground in Iraq. His tormentors are kind enough to leave him a zippo lighter, a flashlight, a flask, and a cell phone. I can't get reception in my apartment in Palo Alto but Paul Conroy has perfect reception six feet underground. He must not have AT&T.
For Hitchcock the gimmick did not overshadow the story. Rope is still an intense thriller, and so is Buried. Political and social commentary aside (and there is plenty here) the main question is: Will he get out of the box? Will Jimmy Stewart figure out where the body is? With Hitchcock we kind of knew the answer. With this film, it is not so clear.
Now the fear. Claustrophobia. As someone who is a mild sufferer I found myself squirming throughout this entire film. Cortes does not let you out of the coffin once. There are not even any flashbacks! I have to admire his commitment. Reynolds portrays the paranoia and rising anxiety very well. I can't think of very many films that play on this fear so well.
The second fear: That no one gives a shit. Not entirely true for Conroy. His wife cares, but he doesn't get to talk to her until the final minutes. He thinks the government cares, but they lie to him, and he and the audience get the feeling that they are stringing him along. Finally, the company he works for. They only care about cutting their losses, and the final phone call between Conroy and his Human Resources guy is more chilling than any other element of this film. I feel the same way when I talk to my Human Resources guy.
I can't say this film was "enjoyable." When it was over I felt like I had been buried in a coffin for two hours. It is well written and well acted. It is scary. It won't keep me up all night, but it did make me think..."That could happen to me."
Monday, April 11, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
Recently I was lucky enough to see Danny Boyle's production of Frankenstein thanks to National Theatre Live. If it is playing at a theatre near you Go See It!
Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternate playing Victor Frankenstein and the Creature. The version I saw had Jonny Lee Miller playing the Creature, and although most of the reviews I have read say that Cumberbatch does a better Creature, I though Miller did a fine job. This version, written by Nick Dear, tells the story from the Creature's point of view. In fact, we never see Victor except through the eyes of his creation. It begins with the creature being born and quickly rejected by his horrified and disgusted "father." The creature escapes to the woods, but not before being beaten and vilified by the local population (this sequence is very "steampunk" if that is your sort of thing.)
The creature learns to read and write thanks to a kindly blind man that lives in the woods. Rejected by the blind man's horrified family, the creature learns the meaning of sadness, hate, and revenge. He decides he can never live in society, but he desires a "mate" to share his life with. His only possession is a copy of Victor's journal, which he stole when he was banished. Through reading the journal the Creature learns how he was made and by whom. He returns to Geneva to confront Frankenstein and demand that he perform the "miracle' again.
The rest of the play follows Shelley's novel pretty closely, with the exception of the cliffhanger type ending. Dear and Boyle focus on the father/son aspects of the story and how the sins of the father will ultimately doom the son. The creature is depicted in a sympathetic light, although Boyle does not shy away from depicting the horrors he inflicts on others. What we see is a newborn who wanted to be good, but who takes the path of evil when rejected by society. He destroys the only two people who were kind to him, the blind man and Elizabeth, but cannot bring himself to destroy his creator. It is pretty heavy stuff for a Sunday morning (when I saw it.) I left feeling really devastated.
The set design is amazing, and the industrial style score gives the production a jolt of electricity. The real amazing thing here however is the performance by the two leads. Miller throws himself into the role of the creature, in what turns out to be a very physically demanding performance. Cumberbatch really makes you hate Victor Frankenstein for what he has done, yet you can understand his pride and disappointment in his "child." All around one of the best adaptations of Frankenstein I have ever seen.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
I just had to put an exclamation mark after Insidious. It is such a great title. And mostly a great movie. Directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell, the duo behind the original Saw (which I love), Insidious is a good old fashioned haunted house story. Or should I say, haunted boy story (no spoiler here: it is in some of the posters.) A middle class family (how can they afford that home on a teacher's salary?) move into a beautiful home. Dad (Patrick Wilson) is a teacher, while Mom (Rose Byrne) stays at home and cares for the three children. She also writes music, just so you don't think this is a total fairy tale. Their oldest son has an accident and soon slips into a mysterious coma. The Doctors can't explain it, and soon the parents bring him home. Then all the freaky shit starts to happen.
The beginning of the haunting is the best part of this film. Instead of relying on cheap scares or gore, Wan and Whannell scare you by giving you glimpses of figures and phenomena. Soon, you are covering your eyes, sure that some nasty is hiding behind the door. Mom is the one who is subjected to most of this horror, and she is soon begging her husband to leave the house. And he agrees! My God, for the first time in a horror film the family is not going to stay in the haunted house! These are actual smart people!
The good times don't last for long however. It soon becomes clear that what ever is haunting them is following them. Barbara Hershey shows up as the sympathetic Mother-in-Law, who just happens to know a woman who can help. The psychic, played by the incredible Lin Shaye, arrives with two ghostbusters (one of whom is played by Whannell) and soon discovers that this is no ordinary haunting..
And here is where the movies takes a nose dive. I swear the last hour of this film is a completely different film both in tone and scares. It is not all bad, but after such a fantastic and creepy set up I was hoping for an ending that reminded me less of the Thirteen Ghosts remake. After covering my eyes for the first half I found myself bored during the second. The ending is pretty satisfying and sets things up for a sequel. I liked the family and all of the characters. None of them, amazingly enough, are assholes. This is pretty amazing considering the film was produced by Oren Peli, whose Paranormal Activity was populated with assholes, including the ghosts!
I think I would like to see a ghost film strictly about ghosts. The recent trend is to make you are watching a ghost story, but then the ghosts turn out to be Demons. Like Demons are so much scarier than ghosts! Alright, they are a whole lot scarier than ghosts-- but give ghosts a chance! Also, give Insidious a chance. It is a rare horror film to make it to the theatres- a feat in itself. And I promise- you will be scared for half of it.
Had a great time at WonderCon in San Francisco yesterday. The main reason I wanted to go to Wondercon, besides to see grown men in Storm Trooper outfits....
Was to get my Zombie Nerd on and see Max Brooks (The Zombie Survival Guide, World War Z) and Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead.)
I got to meet Max Brooks, which was awesome. To think, I am now one degree away from Mel. Just amazing. Here I am looking like a total dork.
Yes, I do have the biggest head in the universe. Sounds like Max is pretty over people asking about the film. He doesn't know when it is coming out. It is totally out of his hands. Maybe soon. Brad Pitt is awesome. He also said some very inspiring words for writers: Just write. Quit being a pussy and write. By far my favorite part of the day (besides the "I Love Guts" booth.) Then, it was off to see Robert Kirkman..
Yes, he looked pained to be there. But his talk was great and surprisingly packed considering that Ryan Reynolds was on at the same time promoting The Green whatever the hell he is in. He talked a lot about The Walking Dead of course, both the comic and the show. Good news is that he his heavily involved in the writing this year, going as far as to move to LA to be in the writer's room EVERY DAY! Also, King and Joe Hill will most likely be writing episodes. A lot of the questions involved the differences between the show and comic. Kirkman loves the changes, and this year is encouraging even more. He is also scared of ghosts. And if the Zombie Apocalypse comes, Kirkman will kill himself, which seems like a pretty good strategy to me. I always tell people that I am going to turn Zombie as soon as possible. If you can't beat em, join em.
All in all it was a great day to let out my inner, not so hidden nerd. Plus, my husband bought me a kick ass Cthulhu necklace!