Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is The Wicker Man Remake Really "So Bad It's Good"?


Robin Hardy's original The Wicker Man (1973) was about a secret society which required a man who conformed to a certain ideal. Specifically, they needed a Fool, and only by putting the officer charged with investigating reports of a missing young girl through a social experiment could they determine whether or not he fit the description. Neil LaBute's 2006 remake takes this idea one step further: it creates in Nicolas Cage a Fool so incredibly foolish that the film has become a cult "so bad, it's good" classic. But is there really anything "good" about it?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Is Under the Skin, and Why Is It Important?


Under the Skin (2013) is a science fiction film which took British filmmaker Johnathan Glazer four years to make, and it is the most exciting cinematic experience I've had so far in 2014. It is a high concept film shot in large part with hidden cameras recording unsuspecting nonactors (who afterward had to give their consent) in order to attempt to create an authentic portrait of humanity. It's also an art house film, and as such refrains entirely from anything which might help the audience along at the expense of artistic vision (eg. expository dialogue), and in combination with its slow, atmospheric focus it is somewhat impenetrable despite its rather simple plot.

In fact, Under the Skin is so narratively nondescript that you may come away from it not understanding what happened at all. So in order to make sure we're all on the same page, I've written up a simple explanation of as much of the plot as I can get into without breaching major spoiler territory. That said, this is the type of movie that will have the strongest impact if you go into it completely blind, so if you're at all interested in it then go out and watch it before reading any farther. It's probably left most theaters by now, but I know it's available on Redbox.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why Should Snowpiercer Make Us Angry?


Snowpiercer (2013) is a dystopian science fiction film from director Bong Joon-ho which was shot in Korea but written in English (for the most part). You're lucky if there's a theater near you playing it though, because it had a difficult time finding its way to America. The Weinstein Company, who picked up American distribution rights for the film, demanded the director cut out 20 minutes or the film wouldn't make it to the US. As any good director would, Bong declined, and thanks to popular uproar the film has finally made its way unedited to the States. Weinstein's revenge? Limited distribution. Despite nearly universal critical acclaim, Snowpiercer is being denied the chance to really succeed financially, and that's a shame because it has what most American blockbusters lack: purpose.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ratatouille (2007)

Minimal Movie Posters
Ratatouille is about a boy who deals with the loss of his father by imagining a rat who deals with the loss of his father by imagining the boy's father. Honestly though, one of my favorite aspects of this movie is the idea that Remy is a figment of Linguini's imagination which he conjured in order to properly mourn his father's passing. The reading has more than a few holes (e.g. Linguini doesn't know who his father was initially), but it certainly gets at the truth that it's hard to properly integrate the death of a loved one into your symbolic reality. Linguini mourns through the fantasy screen of Remy because it's too difficult to do directly. But this isn't really what's great about the film.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Of All The Asylum's Garbage, Why Did Sharknado Succeed?


"We've had unsubstantiated reports of sharks swimming in the streets and falling from the skies—yes, I actually said 'falling from the skies,'" Joni Waves actually said.

I'm just going to be honest: some weird, repressed, idiotic part of me loves the Asylum. So when Sharknado became popular with mainstream audiences, my first thoughts were those of the typical annoying hipster. "These people don't really know The Asylum," says my dumb jerk brain, "they're just jumping on the bandwagon because it's popular." As such, I expected this to be a pretty standard production for the studio. But while it's neither their best (Hansel & Gretel) nor their most ridiculous (Nazis at the Center of the Earth), it's a close contender in both arenas, making it more enjoyable than both overall. Its unique mix of self-aware comedy and excessive splatter gags makes it my new #1 Asylum feature film (see a ranked list here).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lost In Translation (2003)


I have a deep, dark secret. I own Lost in Translation because I'm aware of how critically acclaimed it is, but the only time I tried to watch it I turned it off after 10 minutes. I was young and dumb and not in the mood for a slow moving romantic drama. If you can even call this that. Lost in Translation has so much more to do with its atmosphere than anything else that it's not really worth bothering to try and squeeze it into a genre. The movie is so tranquil and serene that watching it almost puts you in some kind of meditative trance.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel (review)


The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) is the latest film from Wes Anderson, the man who brought us Moonrise Kingdom in 2012 and who is perhaps best known for his signature tone and visuals. His movies are often delightfully quirky and whimsical with an underlying melancholy, and they complement this mood with bright and vibrant color palettes. As we pass our halfway point for the year, I've been revisiting the films which stuck with me most. Grand Budapest Hotel is still my favorite of the year so far, and since my first review was a bit of a cop-out (even if a rather successful one by my standards) I've decided to take a look at the two central reasons why I love this movie.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I, Frankenstein (review)


I, Frankenstein (2014) is a special effects-driven action-oriented creature feature and the second directorial effort of Stuart Beattie, the man who somehow wrote both Michael Mann's lovely thriller Collateral (2004) and Stephen Sommers's campy b-flick G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (2009). It is a movie you probably didn't see in theaters, probably won't see now that it's out on home video, and I'm here to tell you not to see it, so if that's all you wanted to know then thanks for your eyeballs and please come again soon. It's definitely not a good movie, but for me there's something interesting buried beneath the rubble (although I also find enjoyment in the garbage churned out by The Asylum so I'm a pretty unreliable source of praise). I, Frankenstein attempts to stage a conflict between good and evil centered on the ideological debate regarding the religious value of life in itself against the ethical value of a life's purpose. That's right, folks: Frankenstein has gone pro-life.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow (review)


Edge of Tomorrow (2014) is this year's Tom Cruise-led sci-fi/action summer blockbuster. Unlike last year's Oblivion which met with criticisms of its lack of originality, Edge of Tomorrow is adapted from a book, borrows its premise from Groundhog Day and Source Code, and repurposes the exoskeletons from Elysium. In all seriousness though, Edge of Tomorrow is incredibly well paced with a smart and funny script which make it the most entertaining big budget sci-fi flick of the year so far (assuming you're not an X-Men or Captain America fan).

Monday, June 9, 2014

Godzilla (review)


Godzilla (2014) is the latest installment in a long-running tradition of giant-monster films. It is the 4th American Godzilla movie after Roland Emmerich's recent comedy-spiked Jurassic Park knockoff in 1998, and it's the 32nd Godzilla movie since the franchise began in 1954 (all 28 non-American productions were made by Toho Studios in Japan). It's also the second feature film from director Gareth Edwards whose relative success with his no-budget monster flick Monsters (2010) earned him the pilot seat on this $160 million extravaganza. So far the movie has fared well enough with critics and at the box office (more than doubling its production budget at time of posting) to get the green light on a sequel as well as earning Edwards the privilege of directing a Star Wars stand-alone slated for late 2016. What makes this Godzilla so special, and considering that the now-hated previous outing was also commercially successful at its release, will this Godzilla endure?