As High As The Sky (2012)

2014 May 24
by profwagstaff

Directed by: Nikki Braendlin
Written by: Nikki Braendlin

Sisters have a very complex relationship. Of course, I’ve never been a sister, but I’ve known some, and they’re sometimes hard to get a handle on. Issues from the past become issues of the present. They love each other, but sometimes it’s hard.

Maggie and Josephine (Caroline Fogarty and Bonnie McNeil) have just such a relationship. Maggie is a party planner who suffers from pretty major OCD and is going through a breakup. Her aunts (the telephoned voices of Dee Wallace and Jenny O’Hara) think it’s time for her to take the guy’s voice off her answering machine (yeah, she still has one of those), but she’s not quite ready yet.

That’s when Josephine shows up with her 10 year old daughter, Hannah (Laurel Porter), show up on her doorstep. Josephine has always been a free spirit and has led her daughter through a life of travel and fun. The aunts have never liked Josephine and think that Hannah needs stability. Then again, they’re pretty controlling, so “stability” is relative, right?

When the movie started, I was actually pretty annoyed with it. The acting was stiff and the line delivery was stilted. I’m also a little tired of the “stick in the mud OCD” character. Just once I want an OCD character who has some life…they just need to have everything in order. Maggie is so stiff that most sticks think she needs to lighten up.

As the story progressed and the characters got more well defined, I started to realize that this was a pretty realistic vision of sisterhood. These two women, who are 13 years apart, have almost nothing in common. They love each other because they’re sisters, but they barely know each other. Their relationship is strained at best, but it’s not because they hate each other. There’s an underlying reason for the strain that is barely talked about, but it’s there and it’s real.

That really was the best thing about the movie. The portrayal of the relationship between all of these women was pretty realistic. Between sister, mother, daughter and aunt, all of them were great, which is saying something since I never thought that the acting got too much better. (Except from Laurel Porter. She was actually really good.) Writer/director Nikki Braendlin did her best to portray not only the relationships, but the OCD issues with as much compassion as possible. While I wasn’t, as I said, all that into the portrayal of the OCD, she did a great job with the relationships.

Now, if she could only get a better style for her filmmaking. This was a step above Hallmark…but not a very big step above.

One word of advice: Please turn it off before the credits roll. The closing song is fucking awful…complete with “funny” title cards. I know there’s a child singing part of it, but she didn’t write it. Therefore, I feel ok insulting it.

Also, although there is a bit of pot in the movie, this is not, as the title suggests, a pot movie. Sorry, kids.

Return To Nuke ‘Em High (2014)

2014 May 8
by profwagstaff

Wait. You queefed in my mouth when I went down on you?

Return To Nuke 'Em High

Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman
Written by: Travis Campbell/Derek Dressler/Lloyd Kaufman/Casey Clapp/Aaron Hamel

Troma does a few things very well. First off, Lloyd Kaufman and his crew know how to make some disgusting special effects. I’ve rarely ever seen a head smash done as well as in Troma movies.

Second, they know their way around some nudity. Yes, it’s pretty much always nubile young women, but Lloyd does know what he likes. And occasionally, he also likes obese, hairy men.

Third (and you’ll just have to go with me on this if you haven’t seen one of their films), they know how to do some really absurd political commentary. Ever since Citizen Toxie in 2000, their movies have been rife with politics. (Actually, it happened before that, but 2000 is when things REALLY got hot in that area.)

Fourth, they offend everyone. Ev…rey…one.

These four things are why I love them so much. I could watch just about anything made by Troma. (Not necessarily anything RELEASED by Troma. They’ve released some awful shite.)

When I heard that they were remaking/sequelizing Class Of Nuke ‘Em High, I was all over it…eventually. What I didn’t realize is that they were doing so with a THREE HOUR MOVIE!!!

This is the first part. It’s about 80 minutes long and goes pretty fucking far to offend the entire world.

Yeah. I loved it.

Tromaville is no longer threatened by a nuclear meltdown. Oh, no. They tore down the old power plant, so Tromaville High School is no longer in it’s shadow. Now there’s an organic food factory in the plant’s footprint. Nothing could go wrong, right?

But when the owner of the plant is as heartless and greedy as Lee Harvey Herzkauf (Lloyd Kaufman, getting a bigger role than I ever remember him getting before), you know that the high school is in trouble.

Meanwhile, Chrissy (Asta Paredes) is trying her best to figure out her sexuality. She teases her loser boyfriend, Eugene (Clay von Carlowitz), with sex every now and then, but doesn’t really want it. (Then again, who would want it from this guy?) When she meets Lauren (Catherine Corcoran), things change a bit. Chrissy bullies the shit out of Lauren, but can’t seem to stop thinking about her. The feeling is suppressedly mutual. Before, all Lauren could think about was her beloved duck. Now she thinks about Chrissy. A lot.

Did I mention that the organic food at the school is from Herzkauf’s factory? Yeah. So kids start to explode. The glee club turns into The Cretins, a crew of punk bullies who can suddenly sing. And Lauren and Chrissy may now have new appendages. Maybe.

More fun than a ball of glass, Return To Nuke ‘Em High is Troma at its best. Nearly. All of the over the top gore is there, along with all of the surreal political hijinks. I was a little annoyed by the constant fart sound effect, but I pretty much got over it. I mean, you gotta put your standards elsewhere with Troma.

If you know Troma, you know what you’re getting into. If you don’t know Troma…proceed with caution. Great caution. You may have a lot of fun. Or you may want to vomit.

Personally, I can’t wait for the second part to come out!

House Of Dust (2013)

2014 May 7
by profwagstaff

Directed by: AD Calvo
Written by: AD Calvo/Alyssa Alexandria/Nevada Grey/Scott Kittredge
DVD Release Date: May 20, 2014

Insane asylum. Horrible experiments with lobotomies. Super crazy guy goes crazy during an experiment and kills the doctor. Gets put in the crematorium by the orderlies while he’s still alive. Nothing bad could come of that, right?

Fast forward about 70 years. A bunch of really stupid kids break into the now abandoned (of course) asylum and snoop around, finding said crematorium.

None of these people have any real character. Kolt (Steven Grayhm) doesn’t drink and is the “nice guy”. Dylan (Eddie Hassell) is a punk…kind of. Gabby (Holland Roden is “normal” and sort of dating the “punk”. Maybe. Emma (Inbar Levi) is on meds (of course) and another group of girls thinks she’s weird. After seeing her for ten seconds, of course. That’s it. They just saw her get dropped off and decided that she was too weird to be a decent person.

As they snoop around, they don’t even notice that Emma has disappeared. Seriously? There are four people in your group. How does it take you 20 minutes to realize one of them has gotten separated from you?

We don’t know anything about Emma’s issues, but they seem to have been more intense than what most folks on psychotropic meds have. She was in an institution for a bit and her mom is still worried about her. There’s not a lot said about her issues except that she has them. My guess, though, is that she has them so that there’s sort of an explanation for this: She’s the only one of the four kids who isn’t affected by the dust that they breath in the asylum. Dylan becomes angry with OCD. Kolt becomes a sex-crazed asshole. Gabby suddenly hates people touching her and talks about her pet rat. All emma gets is dreams, voices and visions. She’s not possessed by any of the ghosts of the asylum, so she’s free to figure out what’s going on and be the hero.

This is when one of the bitches gets killed in the laundry room by an unseen assailant. Now things start to get…meh.

The worst thing about this movie was that I didn’t give a shit about any of the characters. Emma was the most sympathetic, but she still wasn’t particularly interesting, much like the story. What we have hear is just another possession movie about kids who do something they shouldn’t and get punished by it.

Speaking of punishment, I hated the “mean girls.” I know we’re supposed to, but their brand of bullying is getting old. I know it happens and it sucks. I hate it. There are people out there who make snap judgments about people because they wear black pants. (That really seems to be why they think Emma is weird.) It’s in real life, so I guess it’s fair game for a movie, but it made me hate the movie even more. These girls actually lean over during class to tell her how crazy she is. They call her “psycho…like the film.” (Yeah. They actually say that. Fuck this movie.) When the girls start dying, I really tried to figure out if we were supposed to care.

The leaps of logic didn’t help the case at all, either. First off, I don’t remember actually seeing any of the kids breathe in the “dust” from the asylum early on. Dylan tried to crawl into the incinerator (‘cause he’s a fucking idiot) and said something about getting dust on him…not realizing that it was probably actually ashes of people. But we never see the dust floating around like we do at the end.

Oh, and speaking of the ending…why is the gas still turned on at this asylum that’s been abandoned for 70 years?

Ugh. Skip this one.

Independence DaySaster (2013)

2014 May 7
by profwagstaff

Welcome to America!

Directed by: WD Hogan
Written by: Sydney Roper/Rudy Thauberger
DVD Release Date: May 27, 2014

I loves me some bad movies. I could watch ‘em all day long given the right group of friends to watch them with. My usual group of friends is a space janitor and his two robot pals, but I’ll take flesh and blood, too. Sometimes, that’s better. Sometimes.

For some reason, though, I’ve never delved into SyFy Original Movie territory. I don’t know. I love Roger Corman, but all of the Sharknado and Mega Shark Vs (Insert Ridiculous Animal Here) movies just haven’t grabbed me much.

Sadly, that didn’t really change with Independence DaySaster. Besides the awkward and “hilarious” title, the movie doesn’t have a lot going for it. When your star power includes Ryan Merriman (who showed promise long ago in The Deep End Of The Ocean) and Tom Everett Scott (who showed promise long ago in That Thing You Do), you know that you’re probably dead in the water.

Either way, I gave the movie a shot.

The lead singer of The Wonders is the President of the United States, Sam Garcette. (Come a long way, hasn’t he?) His brother, Pete (Merriman), is a fireman in their hometown of Moose Ridge…some state. Sam’s son, Andrew (Keenan Tracey) has been going to school in Moose Ridge and is now trying to figure out where to go to college. He’s pretty full of himself and, well, that’s really his only character trait. But that goes away pretty quickly. Pete’s character is “hesitant to believe that his brother will show up to the town’s 4th of July party.” Does he not realize that the President has other things to do besides go to some puissant town’s insignificant party? Sam’s character is, “I’m President. Listen to me.”

There’s also a SETI scientist named Celia (Emily Holmes). Her character is “I’m disorganized and I don’t make enough money to get a vehicle that won’t break down all the time.” She sees that some sort of phonon signals are being broadcast from space and then being rebroadcast from Earth. Where are those coming from?

Turns out that they’re coming from giant metal penises that suddenly start drilling out of the ground. Then giant metal balls start dropping from the sky. Soon enough, Moose Ridge is fucked to death.

Luckily, Pete and Andrew make it out just in time (as does one friend who gets sucked up by a blurry CGI rotating blade on one of the penises). They and a couple of other kids were on their way to meet Sam at the helicopter landing pad…which was apparently a lake. The helicopters, of course, get diverted and crash. All of the secret service guys around both the President and Andrew are killed leaving only the civilians to fend for themselves. Naturally. Not a single suit among them.

Pete and Celia meet up, find the three kids and then run around with no particular place to go except wherever the helicopters were supposed to land. Celia saves one piece of equipment when the firetruck is destroyed. It just happens to be the one piece of equipment that might save the world. As big of a coincidence as the fact that Sam drags himself out of the lake and ends up at the one barn that happens to be the home of one of the biggest computer geniuses in the entire state (Iain Belcher). He has everything that a growing boy needs. And everything that the President of the United States might need to get in touch with the secret bunker that houses all of the surviving officials of the government. And all of the pieces of equipment needed to fix Celia’s equipment.

Those kinds of coincidences (and nonsensical events like the sacrifice of one character for no reason whatsoever) make this a bad movie of great magnitude. Sadly, what it doesn’t do is make it a bad movie that’s a lot of fun to watch. Oh, there are some fun scenes here and there and a few real groaners (“America is under attack! On the 4th of July.” Oh, and the rest of the world, too, I guess.)

There’s also a disturbing recurrence of low-grade sexism going on. At one point, Pete takes a piece of equipment away from Celia and then, in a panic, asks her how to use it. Why not just let her keep it since she knows how to use it? Oh, just because he’s a man and she’s a woman. Another time, a woman is panicking and she’s shut up with a kiss…or two…or three. She calms down and says, “I’m so glad you’re here.” In real life, I’m pretty sure she would have slapped the guy and told him to fuck off. I guess the result was the same, either way: The panic would’ve gone away.

That same girl, upon finding out that her hometown had been destroyed, had a look on her face like, “I have to repopulate the Earth with these fools? Shit.”

I think what’s really happening here is that SyFy realizes that they make shitty movies that people like to watch because they’re shitty. WD Hogan, however, thinks that he’s making a real film, even though the movie was really only made to cash in on a sequel to Independence Day that didn’t happen. Those two ideas don’t go together at all. They just don’t gel. What you end up with is a mediocre sic-fi action “thriller” like Independence DaySaster. And mediocre is the kiss of death for a movie like this. Either really, really good or really, really bad. Somewhere in the middle is nearly unwatchable. This one leans a little closer to really, really bad, so it’s watchable. But it’s just not on the level of a Birdemic or The Room or Fateful Findings. Or even Sharknado.

Mr. Jones (2013)

2014 May 4
by profwagstaff

If you see him…….run.

mr_jones

Directed by: Karl Mueller
Written by: Karl Mueller
DVD Release Date: May 9, 2014

This is not to be confused with the terrible Kevin Costner soap opera movie from the 90s.

Imagine, if you will, convincing your wife to leave everything behind for a year to move into the woods so that you can make a nature documentary. Then imagine that you find out that there’s a mysterious man who lives in a house nearby. Could that man be the enigmatic “Mr. Jones” that the art community has been trying to find out more about for decades? His talismans sure do look like the ones made by this man. But who is Mr. Jones, really? And what are these pieces of art for?

Mr. Jones starts off as a found footage movie about the two stupidest people in the world. Scott (Jon Foster) takes Penny (Sarah Jones) into the woods to live and then immediately goes off his meds. She apparently has no idea that he has mental issues because she asks him repeatedly, “What’s wrong with you?” Anyone who knows that their spouse has a mental illness that requires medication would know exactly what was wrong. When he tells her that he stopped taking his meds she gets angry and basically calls him an idiot. I mean, he is, but that is NOT how you deal with that.

This is when they find out that they’re not alone in the woods. Scott follows the mysterious stranger to his house and then runs back home. Later, when he’s sure that the guy isn’t home, he drags Penny to the house! They explore the entire house, including the creepy basement. When Penny starts to realize who this guy might be, she goes insane and starts wanting to explore more…even after the guy gets home.

Then something really strange happens: The movie becomes really interesting. Scott goes to New York to interview some folks who know something about this Mr. Jones, leaving Penny behind in the woods. (Yep. He’s an idiot.) She explores a bit more and even meets Mr. Jones.

That’s when things start to get really crazy and reality clashes with dreams. Is Penny going crazy? Is Scott? And just what in the hell are these talismans for, anyway?

I’ll never call Mr. Jones a great film. There are too many dropped threads (the meds are never brought up again) and it never fully makes sense. But it did what any good horror movie is supposed to do: It kinda creeped me out a little. Mr. Jones is just mysterious enough to make me wonder what the fuck he’s really up to and the ending is surreal, but kinda scary.

Definitely check this one out if you have 85 minutes to kill and want to see something a little creepy.

The Raid 2 (2014)

2014 April 20
by profwagstaff

Hammer later!

raid2

Directed by: Gareth Evans
Written by: Gareth Evans

I highly recommend The Raid 2 to anyone who is in a bad mood. That is, of course, if you have a strong stomach for violence.

Let’s start with a preview or two, though.

LOCKE—Tom Hardy stars in this movie that seems to take place in one car with the titular character drives around town. It’s just Hardy driving and talking on the phone. And it looks absolutely mesmerizing. I’m into it. And so are you.

GOD’S POCKET—This is one of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last films and it looks awesome. He plays a working class guy whose stepson is killed and he has to figure out what the fuck happened. John Turturro, Christina Hendricks and Richard Jenkins also star, and I definitely want to check this out.

Now, let’s check out this ultraviolence, eh?

A few years back, I saw a movie called Merantau. It was directed by a Welsh guy named Gareth Evans and starred an Indonesian guy named Iko Uwais.

I was fucking blown away. This kid was amazing. (I say kid because he looks young. I have no idea how old he actually is.) He hit harder than most martial arts actors and moved faster than them, too. At the time, I thought he would have made a great Spike for a live action Cowboy Bebop film…if only he was about 4 or 5 inches taller.

Alas, he was never cast as Spike. Instead, he’s made two more films with Gareth: The Raid and The Raid 2. (They’ve announced a third film…co-starring Tony Jaa! I can’t wait!) He also made a movie with the guy who was going to play Spike: Keanu Reeves. Man Of Tai Chi bombed, though. And Keanu was a terrible choice for Spike.

The Raid is the story of Rama (Uwais), a rookie cop who gets caught up in a raid on a drug cartel in a high rise. The catch is that his brother is a member of the cartel. It’s some pretty dark shit and the action is non-stop and amazing. It was one of the best action films I had seen in a long time.

The Raid 2 picks up right where the first film leaves off. Rama is forced to go undercover in the cartel while ferreting out corrupt cops. Of course, things go a bit differently.

Once again, this is non-stop, brutal action. There are broken bones a-plenty. There are also bats, balls, knives, guns, hammers and just about everything in between. Luckily, there’s story to go along with it. Rama gets to know and respect these guys. And he’s spent years away from his wife and baby. This is an Indonesian Donnie Brasco…with much more bloodletting. MUCH more.

Evans is becoming a much more interesting director, too. I love the way he and his cinematographers, Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono, move and twist the camera. There’s a scene where a guy gets thrown through a window. The camera follows him and flips upside down with him. Then, as he flips over, the camera flips over, too. There’s so much of this going on and it’s amazing.

I love the shit out of this movie. If you love blood, torn flesh and amazing fight choreography, The Raid 2 is for you.

Of course, Hollywood is trying to figure out a remake, directed by the man who brought us The Expendables 3. Why? Just…why?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

2014 April 13
by profwagstaff

Thanks, Bucky, but I can make it on my own.
I know. But, you see, you don’t have to. ‘Cause I’m with you to the end.

captain america2

Directed by: Anthony Russo/Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus/Stephen McFeely/Ed Brubaker
Based on comics by: Joe Simon/Jack Kirby

Excelsior! Let’s see what’s coming up!

THE AMAZING SPIDER MAN 2—It’s really hard for me to have much of an opinion on this, really. I’m interested really only because I love the character of Spidey so much. I haven’t seen the first in this run yet because I love the first two Raimi films so much. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that they rebooted it so soon. I guess it looks…ok. I don’t know. It also looks kind of terrible. Guess we’ll see…maybe.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST—THIS, on the other hand, looks awesomely intense! It’ll probably confuse the shit out of me, but I’ll have a lot of fun trying to keep up. Plus, Bryan Singer is back! Totally for this one.

Surprised there was no Guardians Of The Galaxy preview here.

Ok, so how was Cap’s new adventure?

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve seen Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans in the role he was born to play), and he’s becoming a little bit less of a man out of time. Sure, he’s still confused about some things (still hasn’t heard Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man), but he knows other things (he’s seen WarGames?). But he’s about to be a man out of phase, too.

Steve and Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) have it out in the first act over the fact that SHIELD is about to launch a program that will keep an eye on everyone and basically pick out who is going to commit crimes even before they commit them. Steve, of course, is fully against this. Nick sees it as a necessary evil.

That is, until Nick is attacked in his car by men disguised as police. Soon enough, Steve is on the run from the new leader of SHIELD, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). Is Pierce out for good or evil? And can Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) be trusted?

Of course, she can. She’s one of the heroes. We never really think that she’s on the wrong side of the law, but just about everyone else is suspect. Even, to an extent, Steve’s new friend, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a recent veteran who may have access to something that might help.

And who is it that is really running things? And…who is this Winter Soldier who has been wreaking havoc for the last 50 years? (I think it’s no secret, really, who he is. Most people who have paid any kind of attention know who he is/was.)

I fucking loved this movie. Was it as good as the first? It may well have been better, actually, but it’s really hard to say why. I love both movies a whole lot.

One thing that was nice was that Black Widow had a LOT to do in this movie. She was a major character and not just some sideline to move the story along. She kicked ass and almost got a real back story! (They still keep it a secret, though.) Her character has become so fleshed out at this point through three movies that I think it’s about time that she get her own! They even sort of set it up at the end of this one. It certainly won’t happen before The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, though, so it probably won’t happen. Sad, really. She’s a badass and Scarlett Johansson is perfect in the role.

Robert Redford. Ah, yes. Robert Redford. His role is pretty actionless (he’s really only on two sets total), but it’s still a great role. It’s almost the antithesis of the roles he’s known for, especially in the 70s. Government conspiracies were his bread and butter back then. To see him on the other side of one is actually kind of fun. And he’s fuckin’ cold blooded. That’s awesome.

There’s an overarching message throughout the film of going it alone vs. getting help from your friends. Cap is so afraid to trust anyone early on that he doesn’t even want to trust Black Widow…or Nick Fury.

I had a pretty in depth discussion with one of my viewing buddies on one aspect: the direction of films like this. Everyone is always excited/anxious about the directors of these tentpole comic book movies. Honestly, though…does it matter? The only people who have really been able to put a stamp on these films lately are Bryan Singer (sort of), Sam Raimi and Joss Whedon. Everyone else does their job and then leaves it to a bunch of special effects artists and editors to make the film good or bad. Thor wasn’t bad because Kenneth Branagh directed it. It was bad because it was badly written and the characters were thin. X-Men: First Class wasn’t good because Matthew Vaughn directed it. It was good because the characters were fleshed out, it was well written and it was well edited. They never hire bad directors for these movies. They hire people who can do their jobs effectively and not rebel too much.

Anthony and Joe Russo directed this film. Their only credits before this were lots of episodes of Community and Arrested Development and You And Me And Dupree. Nothing else was particularly noteworthy. Did they get this job because they did a good job on Arrested Development? Maybe. But they were probably hired because they were competent and they wouldn’t talk back to the producers. They pretty much just had to follow directions on the script.

Which doesn’t mean that the job’s not hard. I’m sure it is. But they don’t really have a say in how the movie is going to turn out. Not really.

Anyway, the movie was amazing, no matter who directed it. The action was well-paced and plentiful. (Not confusing at all, either, which is a nice change of pace.) The characters were well-drawn and interesting. And there was never a dull moment. Ever. All great indications of a good movie. Luckily, it rose above “good” and became one of the best of the Marvel films.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

2014 March 29
by profwagstaff

I’ve never seen her like that. She was shaking like a shitting dog.

grand_budapest_hotel

Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson/Hugo Guinness
Inspired by works by: Stefan Zweig

When Wes Anderson makes a new movie, it’s an event for me. I kind of wish that I had seen this movie at SXSW or under different circumstances, but seeing it at an Alamo Drafthouse with a good friend is good enough.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is about a hotel. It’s also about the hotel’s lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori) and the concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Feinnes) and their grand adventure after Madame D (Tilda Swinton) dies. The two go to her funeral and the reading of her will, which leaves the priceless painting, Boy With Apple, to Gustave, against the wishes of her entire family. Mainly, it’s Dmitri (Adrien Brody) who is angry, but that’s enough. Dmitri is a very naughty boy.

With a cast of Anderson regulars (including Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Defoe, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton and many others) and collecting more regulars for future projects (F Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Tom Wilkinson, Saoirse Ronan, etc), there was no end to the great performances, big and small. Newcomer Revolori was especially good.

As always with Anderson, the sets were perfectly detailed, symmetrical and whimsical, but there wasn’t as much whimsy in the story this time. Oh, there was still more than most movies, but not as much as his other films. That might be a good thing, especially for folks who don’t typically like his films. The story was darker with more death and even a bit of blood, but it was still light and fun. In other words, I loved it. It might be my new favorite, but Moonrise Kingdom is a hard act to follow.

Anderson is nothing if not an expert craftsman at this point. There are no qualms with his filmmaking skills, so it really all comes down to his characters and his stories. As far as I’m concerned, they were damn near perfect here.

Why did I take half a star away? I’m actually not really even sure. I just felt like it may not have been a five star film. It’s great and I love it, but there was something that made me take that half star.

Either way, go see it. It’s a great film that might just make you love life a little bit.

Born In Flames (1983)

2014 March 29
by profwagstaff

It is not only the story of women’s oppression, it is the story of sexism, racism, bigotry, nationalism, false religion and the blasphemy of the state controlled church, the story of environmental poisoning and nuclear warfare.

Directed by: Lizzie Borden
Written by: Lizzie Borden/Ed Bowes

There’s a part of me that thinks that I might not be qualified to review this movie on a social level. After all, I’m not a woman, so I haven’t been through the struggles portrayed in it. But, especially after the last five years, I do consider myself a feminist, so I think I can at least comment on it in my own way.

Born In Flames takes place after a peaceful revolution in the US. A Socialist government has taken over. Men and women worked together completely for just about the first time ever for that revolution to happen. But then things changed. Men went right back to the way they were, trying to put women back in the kitchen and take them out of the factories. A patriarchy took over again.

Of course, the women fought back. At first peacefully. They picketed, protested, sang songs, struck…nothing worked. Men were still pushing their power and the government was taking away women’s rights and turning a blind eye to companies firing women in droves. They were also putting rapists in rehab facilities and not giving the victims any kind of recompense. Eventually, it worked its way into a law that gave women money for housework.

Lizzie Borden and Ed Bowes had almost no money to make this film and it shows. It was shot in the early 80s with cheap video cameras and pretty much all non-actors. But none of that really matters. The movie makes valid points about the patriarchal society that, unfortunately, has become even worse over the years. Much of what they talk about as outrageous sci-fi stuff here has pretty much come to pass in recent years. Men and women have become more separate than ever if not monetarily, then legally. Laws have been passed to obstruct women’s sexuality, basically telling them that they’re horrible people if they want sex, but men can want it all the time and have it with no retribution.

The problems are age old and, as much as we think that we’re above them, they don’t seem to be going away. It almost makes this movie less of a sci-fi allegory and more of a documentary.

Is the movie itself any good? Well, as I said, it looks cheap and it’s not particularly well acted. It’s also very talky and seemed long at 80 minutes. But it’s important and should be seen if only to show us that the struggle still goes on.

SXSW2014 – The Case Of The Three Sided Dream/God Help The Girl/Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

2014 March 17
by profwagstaff

THE CASE OF THE THREE SIDED DREAM (2013) Directed by: Adam Kahan Written by: Adam Kahan Jazz is a genre that I want to get more into, but I just don’t know where to start. Oh, I know Miles and Coltrane, but beyond that, I’m nearly lost. So I had no idea who Rahsaan Roland […]

THE CASE OF THE THREE SIDED DREAM (2013)

Directed by: Adam Kahan Written by: Adam Kahan

Jazz is a genre that I want to get more into, but I just don’t know where to start. Oh, I know Miles and Coltrane, but beyond that, I’m nearly lost. So I had no idea who Rahsaan Roland Kirk was. I certainly want to know more now.

Blind since birth, Kirk latched on to music as his saving grace. He learned everything he could. He initially wanted to play trumpet, but was told that it wasn’t the instrument for him, so he took up saxophone. And clarinet. And flute. And recorder. Very often all at the same time.

Yes, Kirk had a schtick, but it was a good one that never got in the way of the music. He could play up to three wind instruments at the same time. All of them playing different tunes. Sometimes with his nose. And he had perfected circular breathing, so he never had to stop. Never.

The Case Of The Three Sided Dream does what it’s supposed to do: it makes the viewer want to know even more about the subject that is being amply covered. I don’t feel like Kahan left anything important out of his portrait of the man, but I know that there’s still a world of music out there that I want to hear. Much of it political. All of it amazing.

At times there may have been a bit too much Behind The Music, but that’s barely a complaint. I was riveted for the entire run time. This was probably the best documentary that I saw all week.
god_help_the_girl

GOD HELP THE GIRL (2014)

Directed by: Stuart Murdoch Written by: Stuart Murdoch

The myth of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl has run rampant through Hollywood for the last 20 years. All guys in their 20s and 30s (including myself) have been accused of wanting that kind of girl. And, while it would be fun for a bit to have her around, I’ve never found myself truly wanting the Summers of the film world, although I love the hell out of (500) Days Of Summer. A) I know she’s not real and B) I kind of think she’s fucked up in some way.

Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian knows this. He’s written the story of what’s really wrong with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Eve (Emily Browning) is just such a girl. She drops into the lives of James and Cass (Olly Alexander and Hannah Murray) like a flash. James immediately falls in smit with her (and, truth be told, she falls for him, too) and the two begin writing songs together. (Oh, yeah. This is a musical.)

The thing is, Eve has escaped from a hospital. She’s there for severe depression, anorexia and possibly other issues. When she leaves the hospital, she only has a limited supply of her happy pills. When those run out…well…things get bad.

There’s another guy, too. A guy that Eve thinks is super hot and he tells her that he can get her tape to the local djs. Or he could just be trying to get laid. In her state, it’s hard to tell. She’s infatuated because he’s paying attention to her.

I probably loved this movie more than I should have. It glosses over a lot of the real pain of depression (and it all takes place within one summer…not over 5-10 years like most severe depression can eat away), but it’s like a beginner’s guide to clinical depression. And it shows the typical Hollywood trope for what it really is.

The music is, of course, very good and very twee. And Emily Browning is fucking amazing. I can’t wait to see what other people think of this movie.

KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER (2014)

Directed by: David Zellner Written by: David Zellner/Nathan Zellner

Speaking of depression!

Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi from Pacific Rim) is slightly delusional from her depression. She hates life and can barely function outside of her job, which is getting worse every day. Her boss has noticed that something is up, but Japanese society doesn’t really prepare people for this sort of thing. And he’s kind of an asshole, so he doesn’t really care. Her mom just wants her to either get married or move back home.

But Kumiko has other things on her mind. She wants to find the money that Carl Showalter buried at the end of Fargo. ‘Cause, ya know, Fargo is a true story. So the money must still be there by that fence in North Dakota, right? So, Kumiko takes off for America and tries to find this money. Hilarity ensues.

Or so you would have thought from the reaction of the audience. To them, this was the funniest movie that they had ever seen. My friends and I were a little less amused and more horrified by what we were seeing. Sure, there were funny things and the movie was really good. But it was sad that so many people didn’t realize what was really going on.

Kikuchi was great in what was almost a one woman show. There were other actors, but none of them mattered nearly as much as her and she was in every scene.

The only problem I have with the movie is how stupid some of the people were. The bus driver just let her wander off in a snowstorm. The cop didn’t know the difference between Japan and China. Kumiko survived for a long, long time in the incredible cold of the far north US.

It was a really good movie and I’m glad that the Zellners are doing something new with their talents. Actually, the only movie of theirs that I’ve seen is Goliath. I hated that one, but this one was far better.