Mar 22, 2010

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

Paranormal Activity – Yeah, I think you know where I’m going with this one. The movie isn’t very good. Well, that’s not true. I’d say that the movie is actually made very well, in some ways. But the movie has no chance with me. Ghosts? or demons? whatever? dumb. You can’t make something that’s so rooted in “reality” but is obviously stupid. I don’t believe in unicorns, so why would I be scared of them? Wait, not unicorns. Ghosts.  Ghosts, right? I don’t know, maybe it was the lucky charms lepruchan, something that doesn’t exist though, I remember that much. On the other hand, the movie is pretty well framed. The handicam thing (even if we’ve obviously moved past handicams these days) is still a manipulatively effective way of creeping an audience out. Something about the limited field of view and lack of control over where “you” are looking makes you feel very helpless and nervous. And, given that I could give a shit about demons, it was still a moderately creepy movie, there were some good setups and such. Sadly, the acting is kind of shit. It’s too bad, I saw the leads on TRS and they seemed like really nice folks who took the whole thing in stride, but I didn’t believe any of it. When things got amped up it was a little better, I imagine they even psyched themselves into some real reactions. But all of the non scary parts fall really flat. It all feels so propped up, not genuine. The relationship bothers me, but that’s just me. I think most people would roll their eyes, but the gender roles are a little tiresome. She’s irrational and crazy and he’s logical and into technology. Meh. Granted, I’ve been in that relationship (the girl half wasn’t to nearly such an extreme, obviously), I still found it a little annoying, just too standard, even though I’m sure it’s far more common. The ending of the movie is fairly horrific. I even watched the alternate on the DVD, also horrible. Maybe not as horrible, but just because of not completely breaking Physics, not because of lack of stupidity. I feel like you could make this movie without showing your hand. I know there have been quite a few suspense/horror movies lately that the punchline was “it’s all in their head”, but usually that means the victim is the killer or some psychosis. I feel like you ought to be able to make a movie like this that doesn’t have a demon or a ghost. It’d be hard, granted, you can’t show video evidence of something and then pretend it’s in someone’s head. Once you have an objective observer, you lose a lot of freedom. But, in as much as I have never in my post-5-year-old life considered paranormal stuff a possibility, i can still be creeped out as fuck rooting around in a basement in the middle of the night. I think we all feel that, even if we are more scared of humans than of spooks. Where’s that movie, that just plays off of our ridiculous fear of the unknown, but makes it clear that there is nothing in that unknown. Maybe I’d dislike that movie too, I don’t know.

Gamer -  Y’know, this movie was better than it had any right to be. On the surface it’s mostly what it seems, blood, guts, and tits. But as far as blood guts and tits shows go, it’s kind of decent. It has this layer of cautionary tale. Sort of a technology out of control with no morals to defend against its excesses kind of thing. I don’t know, I didn’t hate it, I thought it was kind of fine. My big question is, this movie is criticizing this exaggerated future where people exploit each other in a very direct way for their own amusement. Is this movie aware that it is primarily an exploitative movie? I honestly don’t know. At best, it knows it is, but it doesn’t care. No one saw this movie for the moral message, they saw it for the blood and boobs. So we as viewers are the obvious ancestors to the moral decay shown in the movie. Does the movie know that? Are we supposed to feel bad? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t know, but I dunno.

A Serious Man – the fuck? This was a weird ass movie. It’s nominally about this middle aged jewish guy in middle america and his troubles. Wife is leaving him, kids are pains in the ass, neighbors an asshole, etc etc. On the one hand its a fairly bland story of the shit that keeps happening to him and how he is incapable of dealing with it all. He’s a push over and lets all this crap happen. But it is way more heightened than that, to an absurd level. The characters, every single one of them, are fucking annoying. You want to punch all of these people right in their noses. It makes for a fairly annoying movie. It’s not really fun to watch. The movie begins bizarrely with an invented jewish folk tale that has absolutely nothing to do with the movie. I thought maybe I missed hidden meaning, but in the extras the Coen brothers admit its essentially irrelevant. A producer on the film not-so-deftly defers from answering what the hell it means. The movie ends suddenly and oddly. With implication of further disaster for pretty much everyone involved. I guess the message of the movie is shit happens, but that’s not really that interesting. It’s strange, there are good parts of the movie. The little prologue is actually kind of cool, if unimportant. Some of the odd characters are kind of interesting, I guess. But the movie is just kind of unenjoyable. Watching the extras, it was almost like the Coen brothers didn’t even know why they made it. Like it was just a lark that they scammed a movie studio into paying for. Very weird.

Heavenly Creatures – This is a pretty crazy movie. I had heard it was so amazing, I’m not sure if it is. It’s about a real life murder in new zealand in the 50s. Two girls murder one’s mom, cuz they are straight up wackaloon. If this wasn’t a real story, I think I’d think it was stupid. These vapid little insane girls on their stupid little fantasies. That it’s real based on real information is kind of fascinating and frightening. The movie is very fantastical (it’s made by peter jackson) which I guess is interesting. Sort of an insight to these crazy little girls minds. Then again, it’s just crazy shit, not all that amazing. Acting didn’t seem very good, kind of overacted from both of the girls for almost the whole movie. Like they could only play manic by putting on this weird facade that I didn’t buy. I don’t know, I think the real life connection makes the movie, but if it wasn’t for that I might think it was pretty bad.

Spartacus – Had been meaning to see this, and then I’ve been watching the fucking horrendous yet somehow very enjoyable Starz series of the same name (and that is basically all it shares). The movie is pretty good, not quite what I expected. It’s meant to be epic, but I don’t think it really is. It’s kind of the roman braveheart, but I was kind of bored for a good deal. I could have done with more gladiator stuff and less sitting around in a field being a freed slave. I’m not really sure how that part of the movie took 2 hours. The big I am spartacus thing would probably be cooler if I hadn’t hear it my whole life. It’s still cool, just not amazing like it might have been originally. It’s a pretty decent movie, though.

Evil Dead – Huh. So… I’m not totally sure why this movie is so cult. It’s basically a random cheesy horror movie, far as I can tell. It’s not particularly bad, it’s not particularly good, it fits in the genre perfectly. It’s mostly about goriness, and it certainly does that. It’s 80s gore, so a lot of rubber masks and corn starch with red dye #5. But there’s not really anything amazing. If you like this kind of movie, it’s great, I guess, but it’s not as if it is particularly different, as these movies go. And I don’t have any particular affection for this kind of movie, so it doesn’t even get that from me. It does focus on the women, maybe that’s why it’s such a big deal. The women get possessed or whatever and try to kill the dudes, I can kind of see how that might make it stand out in peoples minds. On the one hand, the women aren’t the victims, so I guess that’s good. On the other hand, the women are demons, which is the second worst way to portray a gender, so…. whatevs. It’s funny to see bruce campbell so young, he’s looked the same for as long as I’ve known about him. Besides that, I don’t know. Army of Darkness seems to be the most famous of the movies, so when I get to that one it might explain why the series has such a following. As it is, I’d say I’m not surprised people like it, but if I didn’t know it was a big deal, it would have been forgettable.

Evil Dead 2 – Well, this one was better. It was more… fun I guess. The first one wasn’t really all that campy. Just being bad doesn’t make you campy. Just having B-movie level acting, writing, and physical effects doesn’t make you a fun B-movie. This one was obviously going more in that direction. Most importantly, Bruce Campbell was actually acting like Bruce Campbell. In the first movie, he honestly could have been anyone. There was nothing particular about the character or the actor. But in this one he’s much more over the top. Between being Evil Ash, to strapping on that chainsaw, which is pretty awesomely iconic, he was a real character. Now, I still didn’t love the movie or anything, it’s still not really my thing. But I could at least finally see what people like. And now he’s going into the Middle Ages to fight demons amongst knights? That could actually be cool.

Army of Darkness – Well, I don’t know, this series didn’t really get all that great for me. This one is kind of like the last, kind of fun, I guess. I’m a bit of a sucker for the middle ages setting, naturally, but it honestly didn’t add that much. Mostly it’s nice to see a cheesy b horror movie in NOT a dark cabin in the woods by the lake. But short of that, it’s kind of the same. Ash ramps it up saying “gimme some lovin, baby” and various duke nukem esque things. But meh, I was pretty bored. Sad to say, the evil dead trilogy is just not for me.

Kramer vs. Kramer – Very frustrating movie. Are we all just obviously on the husband’s side? There’s not supposed to be a real quandry here, right? Maybe this is a “oh the justice system sucks” kind of story? It seems pretty damn clear to me. She’s a wackaloon. And if a douche husband can push her to abandon her child, god help the child if she stubs her toe or gets cinnamon on her latte when she asked for chocolate shavings. The more interesting part of the story to me is the dad growing into being a dad. Not particularly original or anything, but because it was the side story, it had a sort of genuine nature that felt good. But she sucks, she should be kicked out of life. I hope that’s not setting us all up to seem sexist, plenty of men suck and are horrible fathers. Just so happens this story was about a messed up woman who shouldn’t be in charge of a life. But I did think the movie was well done, a good movie, just so long as no one expects there to be an actual hard choice here.

The Counterfeiters – Pretty decent movie, interesting because it is real(ish, I assume). About jewish prisoners of the nazis in WW II that were compelled to counterfeit money for the nazi war effort. Their success, or failure, theoretically has a direct impact on the nazis’ ability to run the war. Their dilemma is presented as you would imagine – people who just want to survive vs people who don’t want to support the nazis, even if it means all their deaths. They land in the middle somewhere, but are presented as heroes for not being 100% efficient. It’s kind of a strange conclusion, they weren’t exactly noble. They tried, did what they could, you might say. But others might say that to any extent that they funded the deaths of millions to prevent the deaths of 30, that’s not super noble. But, that’s the history, not the movie. The movie is made well, acted convincingly. Though it is yet another WWII movie, I’d give it a go, if you aren’t overly sick of them.

Ong Bak 2 – I saw the first ong bak quite a while ago, before I was writing this stuff. I saw Tom Yum Goong at some point to. They all star this guy Tony Jaa, meant to be the next coming of Bruce Lee. I did like the other movies. I don’t remember a damn thing about the plots, which is probably for the best, but there was a bunch of ass kicking, and that’s fun. This movie is largely the same. This time set in a few hundred years ago Thailand (the other two were modern day), and as such the focus is much more on weapons than the other two. Jaa has this fighting style, I assume its Thai, with a lot of elbows and knees. He broke roughtly 3.2 babillion people in half with his elbows in the first movies, it was cool and different. This one doesn’t have much of that, though it does make appearances. It’s mostly about swords and whips and axes and stuff. It’s all pretty awesome, hyper-realistic, crazy ninja shit. The movie looks weird, I wonder how they filmed it. The colors seem saturated but in a very earth-tones way. It’s almost like it’s all digital, but it’s definitely not, it just has that almost non real feel. Some of the timing is fucked with too. I assume to get cool ninja effects, but the speed of the video obviously moves around some, it’s kind of cheating. But those are mostly secondary concerns. There’s not really much more to say than that, it’s just dudes choppin’ up dudes, kinda awesome.

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