Friday, September 15, 2017

Harry Dean Stanton (1926-2017) - We Love You

Today, all cenophiles' hearts have broken.

We are so much poorer for losing him.

You may not have not known his name, but you sure as hell will recognize his face. Arguably the ultimate character-actor has been taken away.

"Wild at Heart"
"Twin Peaks"
"Escape From New York"
"Pretty in Pink"
"The Straight Story"
"She's so Lovely"
Countless parts in TV Westerns from "Gunsmoke" to "Rawhide" to "Bonanza."
He even played Saul of Tarsus in "The Last Temptation of Christ."
...and the list could continue.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Split - M. Night Shyamalan (2017)

I approached M. Night Shyamalan's "Split" with mixed feelings. I had heard the film was the best work Shyamalan had done since his 2000 masterpiece, "Unbreakable."

But I had a problem with the film's concept. Until now, I had refused to watch the film because it looked like an excuse to exploit the mentally ill for plot twists, backstories and any other cheap tricks one could think of.

The story centers around three teenage girls (Anna Taylor-Jo, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula) who have been kidnapped by Kevin, (James McAvoy) a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID.) DID is better known as the term for MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder.) Kevin has twenty-three personalities and they all wait for a twenty-fourth personality known as "The Beast." We're meant to think there is something Messianic transpiring in his head.

The personality in charge at the time when he snatched the girls was violent and deliberate in the act. He was not frightened. Every movement was bold.

Then, as the man continues to interact with the girls, other personalities, kinder ones, have taken over.

As an actor, McAvoy deftly takes all alters, benign and malicious, and balances them like a pro.

And so goes the movie. They try to get help from some of Kevin's alters while trying not to get caught by some of the others. Before the story is wrapped up tight there are twists and turns we do not see coming.

All of the events thus far, all that we see of the other personalities, Kevin does out of fear for the oncoming twenty-fourth personality, known as "The Beast."

I will concede that "Split" is Shyamalan's best work since "Unbreakable."

It is a perfect psychological horror film.

Also, "Split" is the single most offensive movie I have ever seen.

Why is the concept of DID so frightening? Is it just morbid fascination? I have to admit Shyamalan has crafted an incredibly tense film wrapped around the phenomenon.

I think the idea of multiple personalities opens up a world of possible scenarios, especially to those who have no concept of what mental illness is. We don't even know who the villain is here. He or she hides in plain sight. The situation could blow up anytime because the villain is right there and can jump out at any scene.

Shyamalan uses his own presumptions of people with DID and crafts them into an accomplished film.

Not only does Shyamalan reveal himself as somebody who knows nothing about mental illness, he exploits DID and other disorders for entertainment. It  villainizes those who struggle with mental illness.

Shyamalan sees patients of this type of illness as sources of potential violence. He uses them to frighten us, just as our world is trying to get rid of the stigma of mental illness.

People with mental illness are not killers nor are they "Beasts." The name he gave the villain, Beast, identifies all people with DID or mental illness as potential monsters of whom we all should be afraid.

Kevin talks of all his personalities siting in one place together in a room with chairs. Shyamalan would have us believe that one with DID can switch from one personality to another at will. Medically and psychologically this is incorrect, as it is not particularly typical for DID patients to have that much control over their alters. Not only that, but this mindset is dangerous and irresponsible.

And not for nothing, but Shyamalan does not limit his prejudices to the mentally ill. "Split" is also unbelievably misogynistic, homophobic and most of all, trans-phobic.

And just as an aside, I don't usually address matters like this, because of my love for hardcore material, but as a father, I have to tell you that "Split" should been rated 'R.' I would never take a thirteen-year-old to see it.

And despite how clever of a thriller "Split" is, I can not, in good conscience, recommend this movie.

But I must admit, I am damn excited about the prospect of revisiting the "Unbreakable" universe in the near future.

David Dunn is an unsung hero.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Quote of the Day: The Magnificent Seven (1960)

"I have been offered a lot for my work. But never everything."
- Yul Brynner as Chris Evans in "The Magnificent Seven"

"Once you begin, you'd better be prepared for killing and then more killing. And then still more killing until the reason for it has gone."
- Yul Brynner as Chris Evans in "The Magnificent Seven"

Just watching this makes me want to watch it for like the eighty-seventh time.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Quote of the Day: "Parks and Recreation"

"Don't you do it, Hitler. Don't you dare fall in love with me."
- Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer

Yes, I know I only exclusively film. I stay out of other mediums, but this has to be shared.

Quote of the Day: Fight Club - David Fincher (1999) Maybe More Like the Monologue of the Day

"I see all this potential and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need."
- Brad Pitt as Tyler Durdin

Friday, August 25, 2017

Quote of the Day: Dead Ringers - David Cronenberg (1988)

"And tomorrow, well take some Percodan...just because it's Saturday."
- Jeremy Irons as Elliot Mantle

"Dead Ringers" is one of David Cronenberg's finest and overlooked films. His imagination is grim and he focuses it all on his audience with the precision of a rifle's red dot. His dialogue goes with his nightmares because it's both innovative and natural.

Filth - Jon S. Baird (2013) Does "Filth" Stand Up To "Trainspotting's" innovation?

Along with films like "Pulp Fiction," "Trainspotting" revolutionized the way all of us watch movies today. "Trainspotting" naturally wove between true life and fantasy. Finally, we were starting to hear our heros' inner-monologue. These films, along with others, unlocked a fifth wall.

The films also created a new height for dark comedies.

When "Filth" opens, Bruce, (James McAvoy), a detective, is focused on the race in his department over who will get a much envied promotion. It may not sound like much power, but Bruce covets it. It's a jump from Detective Sergeant to Detective Inspector and Bruce's lust for power has no threshold.

Bruce goes to great lengths to undermine the others trying for the job. Bruce is so amoral, he outstrips Harvey Keitel's LT in Abel Ferrara's 1992's "Bad Lieutenant," one of the most hedonistic and vomitous roles of the '90's, and probably any other decade, I guess.

Meanwhile, Bruce's lonely wife, (Shauna McDonald), has an insatiable lust for sex exceeded only by her lust for power. Power is her aphrodisiac. She loves power above all, even more than sex. Though it's power for her husband she wants, not for herself. Her sexual fantasy is to have Bruce to come home from work and call out, "Honey, I'm home! I'm a Detective Inspector!"

It does not take long before filmmaker Jon S. Baird establishes that Bruce is a bastard. He is the worst kind of cop and he belongs in prison. He is also the nastiest kind of man and deserves to be abandoned by everybody who loves him.

As this is based on the works of Irvine Welsh, it's no surprise to find that much of the story is wrapped around Bruce's so-called medication. These drugs collude with his natural fiendish disposition. The only brights spots of what you might call hope in his life are his consultations with his brilliant but rambling psychiatrist, Dr. Rossi (Jim Broadbent.)

Bruce's manipulations are masterful. He systematically ruins each contender for this promotion, both personally or professionally, friend or not. This changes a murder investigation that just so happens to be going on, into a minor backdrop.

As "Filth" continues, it becomes clear that the real, actual Bruce is only a cool guy in his own mind. But in reality, he's not suave or in any way impressive.

Much of the visual imagery in "Filth" is not as much fun as intended. It's hard to tell if these cheap cinematic tricks are inspirations of Welsh's book or "Trainspotting."

A pathetic attempt at a shocking twist at the start of act three is not enough to save this mess.

Baird is clearly trying to revisit the style, tone and fashion of "Trainspotting" and he falls tragically short.

The first part of the film is quick, funny and hard to criticize. Unfortunately, it falls tragically short due to sloppy character structure and plot development.

Not only does the "twist" fall short, but the entire third act is a contrived wreck. The only part of the film that really works is the deconstruction of Bruce's brain by the mad Dr. Rossi.

And not for nothing, but "Filth" is overtly homophobic and trans-phobic.

"Trainspotting" was innovative in style and tone, but it didn't exist just for the sake of itself. It had so much more to give. It had life and hope and joy to offer. We intensely cared about those characters, even Begbie.

I'm afraid that we just don't give a damn for Bruce.

Quote of the Day: Muriel's Wedding - P.J. Hogan (1994)

"I tell the truth, too. Nicole's having an affair with Chuck. Muriel saw them fucking in the laundry
room on your wedding day. Stick your drink up your ass, Tania. I'd rather swallow razor blades than have a drink with you. Oh, by the way, I'm not alone. I'm with Muriel."
- Rachel Griffiths as Rhonda

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Hitman's Bodyguard - Patrick Hughes (2017) This Guy Single-Handedly Ruined the Word!

What the hell happened to the buddy-cop movie anyway? I'm racking my brain way back to "Lethal Weapon" and I don't remember anything. Wait, I guess there were the "Bad Boy" movies. Also, "Stop or my Mother will Shoot." So, it's not just that they went away as much as they started to straight-up suck.

I know "The Hitman's Bodyguard" isn't technically a buddy-cop movie, it's a buddy-hitman movie. But it has the same style, plot construction and tone as the best of the sub-genre like "Lethal Weapon."

Michael (Ryan Reynolds) is one of the most competent bodyguards on the planet. But when a client of his is killed, he plummets down to the bottom of the bodyguard rankings. Now, he's still great at his job, but he's also a washed-up mess.

Meanwhile, the President of a war-torn nation is on trial for war-crimes, including genocide, and Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) is the one witness who can bring this monster down.   

"The Hitman's Bodyguard" doesn't exactly hit the ground running. It's slow at first. The film should have shed about ten minutes, but you just have to be patient.

When the first attempt to get Kincaid to the Hague goes tragically wrong, the only surviving Interpol agent, Amelia, (Elodie Yung) breaker of Michael's heart, contacts him because she just has no other choice.

Much to Amelia's surprise, Kincaid and Michael are mortal enemies. But she convinces the two of them to put their murderous differences aside long enough to get Kincaid to the stand.

The fact that each of these men want each other dead is really the hook in this film. And it is used beautifully. Not only are there plenty of laughs to lift from the situation, but it makes the action sequences deeper.  

These men have dozens of chances to kill each other, but they stand side by side, surviving the onslaught of bullets and bad guys together. I expected to see one of these guys just shoot the other. And that's what adds some tension to what would usually be standard action sequences.

I also expected Mike and Kincaid to start getting along, which doesn't happen until late in the film. The bonding that does happen is doled out in small, hilarious doses. The funniest damn scene in the whole movie is the backstory of Kincaid and his wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek.)

The bulk of the film is just a standard, racing the clock action film. Mike and Kincaid rush to the Hague, with lost of bodies left in their wake. And those people became corpses in many hilarious ways.

Director Patrick Hughes is certainly comfortable with killing lots of people, including innocent bystanders by the ton.

In the end, he ties it up nice and tightly with a bow.

"The Hitman's Bodyguard" is tight as an action movie and hysterical as a comedy.

No, it isn't the best action film of the year. That honor still belongs to "Atomic Blonde." But as an action film, it's tight, and as a comedy, it really is funny as hell.

So You-ou-ou will always love "The Hitman's Bodyguard."

Okay that was really forced and may not even make any sense.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Quote of the Day: Dancer in the Dark - Lars von Trier (2000)

"This isn't the last song, there's no violin, the choir is quiet, and no one takes a spin, this is the next to last song, and that's all..."
- Bjork as Selma

How many actresses could have made a terrible scene like this and make it feel wonderful?

Quote of the Day: Death Proof - Quentin Tarantino (2007) Hate Stuntman Mike! Stand With the Girls!

"It was a fifty-fifty shot on whether you'd be going left or right. You see we're both going left. You could have just have as easily been going left, too. And if that was the case, it would have been a while before you started getting scared. But since you're going the other way, I'm afraid you're gonna have to start getting scared - Immediately!"
- Kurt Russel as Stuntman Mike

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Quote of the Day: Support the Local Sheriff - Burt Kennedy (1969)

"He strikes me as bein' a lonely man."
"Lonely? Danby? Why he's a mean, no-good lowdown bushwhacker!"
"Well, there you see? No wonder he's lonely."

When I was a kid, sometimes we didn't have a TV, but that was okay. My dad was a pastor and he would take home the church's film-projector and a screen. Our library rented out films on reels. We would all shut off the lights and watch "Bye-Bye Birdie," "The Sound of Music," "Fiddler on the Roof," all the Laurel and Hardy you could watch, and best of all, "Support Your Local Sheriff."

Seeing as how this movie was one of my favorites growing up and seeing as how it's full of great quotes and nonsense, expect to see the film here again.

Jerry Lewis Dead at 91 Years

We've lost one of the great ones. Well, one of the good ones, at any rate.

Hey ladies buddy!...sniff... Hey ladies forever!

"Every man's dream is to be able to sink into the arms of a woman without also falling into her hands."
- Jerry Lewis

(I don't believe Lewis ever fell into the right girl's hands.)

Backcountry - Adam MacDonald (2015)

If you are willing to put yourself into the hands of a great storyteller, they can do wonderful and terrible things for you just with the backdrop of their story. If you rely on a mediocre storyteller, you are in for a tedious experience. So what advantages can a filmmaker take with the characters' surroundings? In the right hands, they can terrify you so deeply that you'll never, say, go into the water again ("Jaws") or never take another shower ("Psycho".)

So is Adam MacDonald up to the task? Does "Backcountry" do for the woods what "Jaws" did for the water?

Alex (Jeff Romp) has wonderful childhood memories about hiking and camping at a beautiful lake deep into the forest with his family. Now, he wants to share this place with his girlfriend, Jenn (Missy Peregyrn.)

So there's our background. We are in the woods where one can get turned around and lost or get into all sorts of trouble like meeting a threatening stranger or a bear. Our heroes deal with the fear of the uncivilized world.

First, they come across a stranger, Brad (Eric Balfour) who seems nice at first and has a campfire dinner with him: fresh fish. It's a sequence we have seen played out countless times. The stranger and our heroes laugh with each other, then the stranger turns rude, then aggressive. It's a trick used by suspense/thriller films as far back as any of use remember.

When they part ways, that specific threat is gone. Alex and Jenn only face the unknown of the wilderness.

Every time there is a small emergency, or the couple gets a fright, you expect them to turn around and go home like any of us would do. But of course, these guys are horror film protagonists and therefore, by definition, stupid. 

So they plow through the woods until they find their destination. But Alex doesn't seem to have the memory he used to. They can't find Alex' beloved lake. The're in the wrong place with no map, no cell phone, no food and no way out.

To put it simply, they're lost. At about the half-way point, the question of what is the most terrifying thing in the woods is answered: BEARS. Bears are the scariest things in the woods.

At the beginning of the "Backcountry," Alex teases Jenn about bringing bear spray with them. Turns out bear spray is no joke.

But if a bear is determined to drag you off somewhere into the woods, spray or no spray, he will most likely get his way.

It comes down to how fast can you run, how high can your crawl and how healthy is your will to live?

When "Backcountry" starts, you'll see some potential in the film.

Their interaction with Brad, the creepy stranger they came across in the first act, showed promise. That sequence was admittedly tight and menacing.

After that, all attempts at horror or suspense fall flat. We are left with a tedious exercise of a filmmaker trying in vain to build a successful suspense/thriller. But there is really no suspense here. We just sit there and to think to ourselves, "Could the bear just eat these two pricks so I can go make a sandwich?"

So skip the movie and you make that sandwich. You deserve.

I'm not sure why I took the energy to write about this, but I did, so the least you can do is skim it. Here you go.

Connections from the Bride to Mia Wallace - Quentin Tarantino (1994-2004)

I want to make it clear that this is NOT my work.

I don't remember where I first saw it, but it is too good not to share.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Quote of the Day: Scanners - David Cronenberg (1981)

"A brother should be close, don't you think?"

Ladies and gentlemen, the film that had all of us grasping our heads in our hands, trying to keep our brains on the inside.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Quote of the Day: Trainspotting - Danny Boyle (1996) Hell, This Movie is Chock-Full of Quotes.

"Choose life. But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?"

So many backdrops and intricacies and poetry and quotes. I swear to God, this movie, and the book, will be somewhere in my head when I die.

And that makes this movie precious.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Quote of the Day: The Watchmen - Zack Snyder (2009)

"Beneath me, this awful city, it screams like an abattoir full of retarded children."

This is a perfect way to present a character to an audience. This line troubles me and I still do not know how to hear it.

It is disturbing to hear, but it opens up a dialogue: is Rorschach a hero or a villain? I still haven't made up my mind.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Quote of the Day: Twin Peaks: The Return - David Lynch (2017)

"Now back to starting position."

I am surprised that an arm wrestling scene could be so intense.

"Twin Peaks: The Return" part 13. It's the show that just keeps giving.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My "Split" Decision - M. Night Shyamalan (2017) I am of Two Minds About This

I find myself facing a dilemma.

Earlier this year, M. Night Shyamalan released his latest film, "Split," which was received with both commercial success and critical acclaim.

I refused to watch it because I'm tired of people being entertained by DID and mental health in general. I find it debasing.

Now that the film continues to receive such intense praise, I kind of want to see it.

So, do I stick by my convictions and continue refusing to watch "Split?" Or do I give in to temptation and watch an admittedly offensive film?

I'm sure you'll find out soon which side I'm leaning towards.

Quote of the Day: "The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert" - Stephan Elliot (1994)

"Just what this country needs.
A cock.
In a frock.
On a rock."

Why I am Happy With the Casting of "It" - Andrés Muschietti (2017) Spoiler: Bill Skarsgård is Pennywise

When I heard they were making a new film adaptation of Stephen King's "It," I thought a lot about who they would get to play the part of Pennywise the Clown. Could they find anyone who could be as truly terrifying as Pennywise?

Now, that is a tall order. We are talking about concentrated evil, and a master of nightmares like no other. I am not just harping on the fact that he is a popular culture icon. I am speaking about my own personal fright.

When I read this book, I was about the same age as the children are in the story. That forced me relate to the story and the terror exceptionally well. I have not read it since, but it traumatizes me to this day. Like I said, Pennywise is a master of nightmares. I can not think of a better way of stating it.

When one asks what is your biggest fear? I chuckle and say spiders, just to shake off the subject entirely, but it is not true. The truthful answer is Pennywise.

I do not covet the producers of their task of casting Pennywise. Of course the filmmakers could look to the long and tired list of past horror films for the sadistic clown. But my question is: "Who has scared me lately?"

Who could terrorize me as efficiently as this satanic clown who has tormented me my whole life?

I have watched the 2013 TV series "Hemlock Grove" many times over. And every time, Roman Godfrey frightens me more and more.

Played by Bill Skarsgård, Roman wraps all of the horrific events around him to his own desires without empathy for anyone he hurts.

As he slithers through the series, he convinces a lot of people that he is an empathetic and altruistic soul.

He is the ultimate psychopath. He is the perfect hedonist.

This is why he is the immaculate choice to play Pennywise. Both characters are defined by their seduction. This is their weapon, their superpower. Pennywise baits and bribes his victims, letting them get close enough for him to devour them without much fight. They both take their personas directly from Satan, who created the concept of seduce and torment.

I may be eating my own words once we all see "It," but I really believe Bill Skarsgård will effectively paralyze the children in the movie, as well as those of us in the audience.

Also, I have to admit that if I were a teenage girl, Skarsgård would totally be my celebrity crush.