Archive for January, 2009

THE MIST, Frank Darabont 2007

Posted in Horror, Sci-Fi with tags , , on January 24, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

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This is Stephen King’s first screen version I comment here. I must admit not having read this work, however I consider myself an advanced King’s reader, and therefore I’m quite critic with screen versions.

 

I remember few days ago some TV channel was broadcasting Dreamcatcher, which honestly when I watched it some years ago seemed a piece of shit. A friend of mine was also very disappointed for she had read the book and insisted it was very good.

 

I don’t know what happens with Stephen King, his stories are amazing and his influence is constant in movies, however many versions fail to be very dodgy and awfully developed, specially the more recent ones.

 

Still I have to remark some of the most horror classic titles: Carrie, The Shining, The Dead Zone, The Running Man and the mini series Salem’s Lot. I love them all. Even It is cool although lacks of special effects and more budget.

 

As most of his novels The Mist happens in a small town in Maine. A heavy thunderstorm has stricken the area causing damage all around.

 

David Drayton (now fasionable Thomas Jane) agrees to drive his neighbour Brent Norton to the local supermarket to get supplies for his car has been crashed total useless by a tree and thick and heavy mist menaces to envelop the area. Drayton’s 5 year-old kid accompanies them for the shot ride, entertained by the march of police patrols, firemen and even the Army.

 

Panic reaches all the shoppers at the store when an old man covered in blood reaches the entrance and commands to get the doors closed because there’s something frightening in the mist, something evil and lethal.

 

First people cannot believe there’s something supernatural until few people die attacked by strange creatures.

 

Who's the pussy now?

Who's the pussy now?

 

At this point, after weird events all the action takes place inside the store and film becomes more psychological, due to different attitudes towards what’s going on bringing out several fights, fanatic beliefs encouraged by Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) and extreme situations, dividing people and creating chaos.

 

Drayton’s main aim is to get the hell out of there and protect his son, some people will join him in an attempt to escape no matter consecuences.

 

There two typical King’s features repeated in this film. First, common people are the main characters, subjected to a extreme and unreal situation and the way they react and develop or show hidden skills to face the menace. Second, union makes strength philosophy, or how we can survive if we work something out together, threatened in The Mist by crazy Mrs. Carmody and his vision of the apocalypse as God’s will.

 

This film has a powerful start with plenty of computer effects, camera movements and the feeling of chaos is quite well reflected. Then follows the store action which can become a bit tiring with so much fanatic speech interrupted by some violent events and the end, probably what I liked most, hopeless and unlucky.

 

Recovering my introduction I must say The Mist is not the best Stephen King’s version and is not to be remarked either, but at least is entertaining. In the future I will definitely read the original story and review the movie just to compare and I might change my opinion. We’ll see…  

 

MY NAME IS EARL, Greg Garcia 2005

Posted in Just Fun, TV Series with tags , , , , , on January 24, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

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Alright, I know this is not a movie but because there’s so much crap in cinemas lately, seems that good ideas are better developed in series. This one could be included in a quick growing list.

 

The plot is very simple: Earl Hickey (Jason Lee), a guy with bad habits suddenly wins a 100,000$ in a scraping lottery but seconds after is knocked down by a car. At the hospital he comes to the conclusion that he will never enjoy his reward unless he makes up for his old bad actions with good ones, this is Karma main concept, good and bad to be equal, and this applies to fate, so he decides to write a list including all these bad actions.

 

To solve all the mistakes written down in the list will take Earl to very comic and weird situations and every chapter will deal with one or two of the points in the list.

People close to him will help him to accomplish his task, like his brother and  Catalina, the Mexican stewardess, or put his goodwill acts in danger, specially his ex-wife Joy who thinks he owes her the money won in the lottery.

 

A tight family

A tight family

 

Earl is not only the main character but also the narrator. He’s a cool guy, lazy, badass and fun and loves rock n’ roll, he always wears Lynyrd Skynyrd or AC DC t-shirts, it’s very easy to empathize with. You are acquainted with his old habits with constant flashbacks, and get to know he was a dumb punk and a total loser. It’s not difficult to find similarities with one of my favourite fictional characters, The Dude, probably that’s another reason to love him.

 

Greg Garcia created My Name is Earl in 2005 apparently inspired by a real Earl who also got married with a pregnant woman while drunk. It took some time to convince Jason Lee to become Hickey who eventually accepted. Nowadays he’s one of the executive producers.

 

It’s  a good series if you don’t want to get hooked, for each episode length is around 20 minutes , and most of them are independent from the rest.

 

By the way, I was able to visit NBC store in NYC and merchandise was pretty cool, pity I fell in love with a t-shirt my size wasn’t available, nchst!

LORDS OF DOGTOWN, Catherine Hardwicke 2005

Posted in Action!, Drama with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

lordsofdogtownposter

The only reference that made me interested in this movie  was a song by Fu Manchu called Downtown in Dogtown.  Of course, skateboarding is one of these extreme sports which has always captured my attention. I’m not a fanatic but kinda like it.

The movie is a biopic about the skate legends Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva and Jay Adams, also known the Z-Boys ,and how their skating skills and their lifestyle turn this sport into what we know nowadays.

Venice Beach in the 70’s, the owner of a surf board store has the vision of creating a skateboard group in order to get money and success. He’s got the perfect kids to do it, street punks who make of skateboarding not only a lifestyle but a rebel act against law and rules. Under Skip’s (Heath Ledger)  sponsorship  they become Zephire team.

Lords of the swimming pool

Lords of the swimming pool

As they become more pro and companies start to contact them for major national sponsorship friendship becomes a low priority so each one will follow their own path.

As you can see, argument is not the strength of this film, it’s not necessary. A bit of drama to justify footage for amazing skate performances by the actors and to justify why these kids created a trend and became legends.

Not a fake!

Not a fake!

We’ve seen many films made just for viewer’s pleasure enjoying amazing scenes: Vanishing Point, Point Break…are examples clear for me right now.

From time to time I enjoy watching some of these films just for the effect and excitement the images cause me.

I almost forgot to mention that soundtrack is very very cool: from The Stooges to Neil Young, Black Sabbath or The Faces…Awesome!

So if you just feel like being easily entertained this is the movie, length is extent but just focus on what I’ve told you: urethane wheels, swimming pools and good skating.

 

DEATH PROOF, Quentin Tarantino 2007

Posted in Action!, Horror with tags , , , , , on January 11, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

deathproofsh2

Second part of the Grindhouse, a  project created by Quentin Tarantino and his friend Robert Rodriguez, Death Proof is quite different not only from the first part Planet Terror but also from  his previous successes. It’s probably the less acclaimed film he’s ever created.

The film is divided into two main stories whose common points are Stuntman Mike and his death proof car.

First part is set in Austin, Texas. Arlene and Shanna (remember Shanna Banana, not Shawna Bannuna) pick up the famous local DJ Jungle Julia to spend the evening having drinks and scoring some weed from Lana Franks before going to a cabin by the lake to chill out and rest for some days. Thus, they start their night tour, starting at Guero’s.

Jungle Julia has prepared a special joke for her friend Arlene on the radio, she’s announced they’re hanging around and if some guy would dare to approach her hot and sexy friend and buy her a drink, and recite a small poem looking at her in the eyes to finish calling her Butterfly, she would reward him with a lap dance.

Then, they go to Texas Chili Parlor run by Warren (Quentin Tarantino), whose jukebox is acclaimed as one of the best, and here the girls relax and get drunk, meet some friends and Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) eventually approaches Arlene and makes his presentation.

Butterfly's Lapdance

Butterfly's Lapdance

After a funny night, when the bar closes, the girls take the car and leave and Stuntman Mike, who has offered the beautiful blonde Pam (Rose McGowan) to give a ride, starts the engine of his evil car.

Second story happens in Lebanon, Tennessee. Stuntman Mike happens to stop at the same convenience store where three beautiful women are trying to recover from previous night hangover before picking up their friend Zoe at the airport. He’s attracted by the girls and decide to stalk them for his purposes.

The girls are working in the movie, Abernathy (Rosario Dawson) is the make-up girl, Lee is an actress and the driver Tracie is a stuntwoman, also Zoe.

You can choose

You can choose

Zoe and Tracie are die fans of Vanishing Point, and Zoe’s been checking local press for few months searching for the car in her dreams which happens to be in such remote place: 1970 Dodge Challenger. She can’t afford buying it but at least she’ll be able to test it, so they head for the owner’s house and fool him to enjoy a delightful drive…or maybe a nightmare.

Quentin Tarantino’s taste for feet, vintage cars, good looking women and music is definitely present in this movie: great soundtrack, awesome cars and great car chasing scenes (as classic as Bullit, for instance), very often feet close-ups…

A White-Hot Juggernaut At 200 Miles Per Hour!

A White-Hot Juggernaut At 200 Miles Per Hour!

Nevertheless there are some cons, which seem the cause for audience and critics not being too enthusiast this time, no matter Tarantino is considered a genius, he wasn’t able to balance dialogue and action, specially the first story is not very dynamic and seems longer due to so much nonsense chatting among the girls, sometimes you get bored. You can say girls love chatting and this is the way we are, but not for a movie, specially when you are waiting for some action, blood and fights the director is accustomed to include in extent in his footage.

I must admit that, thanks to such long chats and stupid teenage dialogues the turning point seems more effective, a masterpiece I dare to say, it’s amazing how the fun ends so tragic, and the several takes from different angles used for the car crash are absolutely delicious.

Second story is more dynamic and more fun, you can enjoy a baby doll cheerleader posing just for men’s sake, but also you have smart warrior girls such as Zoe and Tracie, in my opinion too much smart and with  too male attitudes. What was Tarantino trying to achieve with this story of revenge? Maybe to remind audience of the Black Mamba? I’m sorry, but nobody can break Uma Thurman’s performance in Kill Bill.

Death Proof is not a bad movie at all, but seems you have to be in the mood for watching it or is at your risk not to get too bored or even fall asleep for action is served in small doses.  

DIARY OF THE DEAD, George A. Romero 2007

Posted in Horror with tags , , on January 11, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

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Zombies movies are very fashionable nowadays and seems that plenty of productions are being released however most of them are rubbish, no matter what horror critics try to sell. Here we’re dealing with the responsible for this fashion, the master of zombies, great George A. Romero offering this time more modern version of the typical zombie epidemic using devices such as cameras, computers and internet to show the word the facts.

A group of film students and their professor are trying to shoot some night scenes for a horror mummy film in the middle of some woods in Pittsburgh when one of the assistants listens in the radio some news about the dead awaking, walking and attacking population. The mummy, Ridley, a wealthy guy, offers the crew his place to crash, a huge mansion with surveillance cameras and even a panic room, but only scared Francine decides to join, so they split.

Jason the cameraman decides to stop at the students apartments for picking up his girlfriend Debra. 20 minutes after the news were announced everybody is gone in chaos for panic has spread amazingly fast. At this point, Jason is up to record everything that’s going on in order to show the truth and share this experience with everyone.

Jason recording his last shot

Jason recording his last shot

Debra is trying to contact her family, who live in Scranton, Penn state, so everybody agree in driving her there, to check if they are all right. As you can imagine it won’t be an easy travel, full of fights, blood and death.

I think Romero uses this zombie universe to exercise some kind of criticism against society and some establishments in a not very subtle way. This time he strikes against mass media and how news are hidden and manipulative, better informed population and actual advises could help more, but sometimes seems that audience better live in ignorance so power can be totally influential. However, the fact that Internet has become the mail channel of exchange of information to be accessed by everyone is vouched as the solution to be aware of real situations.

Also, on the other hand, there are interesting moments which depict how unattached society have become, everybody looking for their own ass, stealing from each other and not supporting in emergency cases. I don’t mean people have to walk holding hands together and singing Church anthems, but seems that in such extreme and hopeless situations people do not get organized and don’t join each other to face the menace, and probably that’s the reason why zombies virus spread so quick.

No matter how many zombie films I have seen, still Romero is able to create such extreme situations to give the creeps, whenever I see one of his movies I get nervous and excited from the very beginning, not so much for the special effects or the zombies attacks and bites but for the situations themselves. He’s got such taste for portraying these non-real creatures so realistic that the effect caused on the audience is not only the feeling of just being watching a blood bath but something else. I love it!

The day the dead really awake and walk among us, I will thank Romero for his survival advises and hopefully I will make it longer at least for a while.

 

SURVEILLANCE, Jennifer Lynch 2008

Posted in Horror, Thriller with tags , , , , , on January 6, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

 

surveillance

Children are told to be like their parents, resemblances are not only physical but also in behaviour terms, sometimes I don’t agree but in the case of Surveillance there are plenty of David Lynch’s features, in fact he produces the film and his daughter Jennifer is the director. Similarities can be either good or bad, with a positive result here.

Surveillance is set in Santa Fe area, recently unsettled by consecutive aggressive blood baths performed by an apparent band of serial killers. Two FBI agents, Sam Hallaway (Bill Pullman) and Elizabeth Anderson (Julia Ormond) arrive to local police station in order to take statement from the three survivors from the last attack, and analyze their behaviour and reactions during the questioning so they are able to establish links and patterns for tracking the killers. Hallaway, by an audio video equipment which allow him to coordinate the three interrogations simultaneously, is able to address questions and obtain conclusions faster.

Tension between police and FBI is noticeable from second zero, being a police officer one of the witnesses, together with a young cocaine addict called Bobbi and an innocent kid, Stephanie, who has just lost her parents and older brother.

As questioning starts every witness explains their own experience of the massacre lived with their own issues to be hidden for their benefit, creating a puzzle that is getting solve and by the time it finishes seems that people fully agree on what happened bringing to an unthinkable and sudden end.

Gimme five, alright!

Gimme five, alright!

Very psychological thriller, it starts catching viewer interest immediately. You don’t really get acquainted with the massacre almost till the end, for facts are showed little by little. The starting point only shows 3 witnesses, few officers included classic Michael Ironside as captain Billings, around to assist during interrogations and the two FBI agents more concerned about the killings than the rest.

By the time interrogations start, the two adult witnesses are depicted as corrupt and fiends lying on purpose during the interrogation but also shocked enough not to realize what trap they‘ve been caught in, and Stephanie as the less affected of them, protected and treated with care for being a child, but also smart and focused enough to know what’s going on, which will help her extraordinarily.

Unfortunately the last part in the film is, in my opinion, a bit sudden solved and quite foreseeable, I expected something more shocking or even more twisted as it seemed it was going to be, and as usual few aspects weren’t clear at all, whether Hallaway and Anderson were real FBI agents, what caused their behaviour and what would they obtain for what they were doing.

Bill Pullman, a lucky charm for David Lynch, repeats under Jennifer Lynch’s commands with success. Undoubtedly he’s the best character in the movie and the most interesting one. On the other hand Julia Ormond is still a pretty face to me who does not contribute much to the result compared to the dope addict couple and the corrupt cops, whose stories help the movie not to be too dark and serious bringing some dark humour thanks to the technique of narration against the true facts showed by images.

There’s no doubt Jennifer Lynch is very influenced by her father. There are some non relevant aspects that in some way remind me of Twin Peaks. For instance the obsession for coffee, brutal murders, the action located in a small town with redneck characters, however as a difference everybody is very hostile and tension is constant.

I like the way the plot is not really introduced, which makes you be analysing any single detail in order to find out the root of the story, for audience don’t really know what has happened, and how the stories, totally unattached among each other, eventually complete and close the case.

What I don’t really understand is why nobody discredit’s the cops, who in some way caused the massacre by causing the 3 parts of the story to be involved and together in that particular moment. Would it be fear? I don’t really know.

Surveillance was awarded in the last edition of Sitges Festival and has been well acclaimed. I think it is a good movie, maybe not so big as to receive awards, but compared with other 2008 productions which are crap it really deserves to be separated and acknowledged.

 

JAWS 3-D, Joe Alves 1983

Posted in Horror with tags , , , , , , on January 4, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

jaws3

Classic movie for Christmas time, together with the 2 previous parts. I can’t help it, whenever I listen to John Williams’ theme I get hooked to the TV and can’t stop watching it, no matter this is the worst part of the saga without question neither it was around 2 A.M when I caught it.

I remember when this movie was released and 3-D was the bait for people to head for cinemas, I remember myself watching it with the glasses when I was 6 or 7 scared to death for the killing great white was coming straight to me…buffff! Impressive!

Mike Brody, chief Brody‘s oldest son played by young Dennis Quaid,) and his girlfriend Kathryn Morgan (Bess Armstrong), work for Sea World theme park , an amazing complex full of attractions, performances, and its amazing underwater walk built in an artificial lake just linked to the sea by some conducts.

One of the access gates fails to work properly and the mechanic Shelby is required to solder it underwater, unfortunately while working he’s attacked by a gigantic shark without anybody’s notice. His disappearance becomes scary when his girlfriend Charlene starts wondering and worrying about him.

On the other hand, dolphins act very nervous and uneasy and Kathryn asks Mike to check underwater what’s going on, discovering Shelby’s forearm and the presence of a Great White. She convinces her boss Calvin Bouchard to chase the shark as it would be the first in its species to survive in captivity with proper care and studies would reveal important discoveries, however as money talks, Bouchard decides to exhibit the shark without Kathryn’s approval and it dies right in front of the public.

Late Bruch  served

Late Brunch served

Only after analysing Shelby’s body injuries once the body horribly mutilated was found by some guests in the tunnels it’ll be realized the shark just dead was a baby one and the park safety is endangered by a 35 feet Great White full of appetite for blood and destruction.

The pattern of the story seems very copied from the first one. The original one was set in a coast at the start of summer season waiting for massive arrival of guests, and this was at the launching of a theme park, and the most obvious part copied is the end, not very original.

Special effects are not amazing although they were designed for 3D watching, something noticeable since the very initial credits, and the dimensions of the Great White are sometimes ridiculously huge.

Huge 3D shark coming to you!

Huge 3D shark coming to you!

Unfortunately there’s a lack of attacks and seems more an all audience movie rather than a horror one. Still, it’s an entertaining popcorn movie.