Thursday, July 31, 2008

YOU WOULD LOOK SO GOOD IN THIS PICTURE IF YOU WEREN'T SO DECEASED

allow me to vent for a moment concerning my hatred of the theatrical trailer. i can't remember what film the wife and i intended to see, probably something totally awesome because we don't watch suck films. whatever the case, i vividly remember seeing the trailer for SHUTTER, which, admittedly, scared the pocky sticks right out of me. latonya said, "oooo, baby, you liked GRUDGE and THE RING - you think you'll like that?" i leaned over and whispered, "no, no" (i was also shaking my head in the dark). i said, "that looks like the real deal. like a real scary mo-fo."and it did. what with all that throwback there to the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, "the pictures you are about to see are real" and all the ghostly images of little boys running into little ghostly boys on the playground - no, no. the secret to being a successful horror film fan resides in drawing the lines. there should be some boundaries, personally chosen, that viewers just do not cross. this theatrical trailer, for whatever reason, drew that boundary.

but i'm a sucker for asian horror, particularly the usually awful american remakes. so when neighbors asked me to watch SHUTTER with them, i said sure. why not? rules are meant to be broken and boundaries meant to be stretched. this is, of course, where i went wrong.

SHUTTER tells the story of a newly married american couple haunted by the ghost of a young japanese girl. conveinantly, the couple find themselves haunted by the japanese ghost in japan - which means that the ghost-girl did not need to travel too far to reek havoc. however, as the story progresses, we learn that the ghost has been haunting this couple throughout their entire relationship - even in america. and, not that i'm a ghost or anything, but you would think that a spirit could find someone a little more local, like, within the span of one's own telephone directory, to haunt. that's a really hard-up, desperate japanese ghost-girl.

oh, and did i mention that the japanese ghost-girl haunts this american couple through their photographs. which is conveinant again for the ghost-girl because the dude-half of this couple is a photographer and the girl-half of this couple is hot, which means that the dude-half is always taking pictures of the hot-half which offers more chances for the ghost-girl to get her haunt on - which she obviously really wants to do.

this whole idea of being tracked down and haunted through the photographic arts sounds scary enough; however, SHUTTER is the most unscary-scary movie i've seen yet. this film needs zero editting to win a saturday afternoon slot on the USA network. pop some corn and bring the kids - i was more spooked in THE MONSTER SQUAD than this. just pitiful. pure pitiful.

nevertheless, the ending to SHUTTER offers a twist to the normal japanese ghost-girl stories, as in THE GRUGE and THE RING, that almost proved worth the watching. usually, these ghost-girls haunt young attractive americans because young attractive americans are resourceful enough to solve crimes that the asian police could never crack. the moral to these stories is that if you ever find yourself a disenchated japanese ghost girl, just chase sarah michelle gellar or naomi watts around tokyo a bit and they'll right the wrong of past family sins for you. however, in SHUTTER, this ghost-girl has another agenda up her translucent sleeve. i will only tell you that she has good reason to target the girl-half of the couple. and what she wants the girl-half to discover about the dude-half is enough to keep any girl's spirit around and pissed post-mortem.

also, i seemed to have glanced right over rachel taylor in TRANSFORMERS - she was the hacker girl in perpetual stilletto heels chasing mega-tron around the hoover dam-like base place. whatever the case, rachel taylor's performance in SHUTTER was far too good for this film. i felt sad that she wasted so much talent on a poopie shoot of a flop. taylor could give gellar and watts both a lesson in getting the job done.

this hamster give SHUTTER 2 pocky sticks out of five. would have gotten zero - but the twist ending and rachel taylor each deserved their own pocky.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

AFRAID OF ALL THE AMPUTEES


When I was eight years old, I saw Cloak and Dagger for the first time, and for the first time, I had a monster under my bed. I kid you not--I wasn't allowed to watch any of the traditional 80s scary flicks as a youngster. I had to wait until my college years to come under the tutelage of Kevin Still to be introduced to the quasi-baddies, and even today, I don't do so great with the opening scene of Scream. My monster, unlike the Freddys or Jasons or Pinheads or Bill S. Prestons of the 1980s, had three fingers and wore a really bad hat.

In Cloak and Dagger, the villan (SPOILER ALERT) turns out to be a grandmotherly figure who heads up a spy ring interested primarily in government secrets encased in video game cartridges. The distinguishing mark of this matron of evil? Inexplicably, she only has three fingers on her right hand. No background is given for this disfigurement, but like the traditional villans (Jason, Freddy, Pinhead), her villany coinsides with physical deformity. This is a tradition which goes back to Scripture itself, in which the outsiders and sinners are characterized in Scripture by their physical ailments (blindness, leprosy, lameness). Granted, the Gospels characterize sin in this way in order to undo this misnomer about physical disability, but you get the point: traditionally, if you want to point out that someone is "not of us", you give them a physically distinguishing mark, and the job is done: a scar, an extra toe, loss of digits. My childhood is marked, thus, not by a boogeyman under the bed, but a lady with three fingers and a doilie around her neck, stretching out for my pubescent ankles as I jumped into bed.

I watched this again for the first time in nearly two decades this past weekend, and was surprised how well it's aged. Sure, it's got the 80s pacing and acting style, but what didn't? But it's got Henry Thomas, Dabney Coleman, intrigue, spy games, mistrusting parents, and emotional drama. Good times.

The occasion for watching this was being at home with the folks in Shreveport, which turns into a concentrated time of relaxation and general lounging. For the last few years, Dad has sworn that he's going to cancel the cable and just go DVD, and so, every time I come home, part of our ritual is him updating me on the latest DVD acquisitions. I don't think he'll ever cancel the cable, but he enjoys becoming a movie buff, and it's part of coming home that I look forward to, so it works. Dad works hard all day, so enjoying a movie sacked out in the recliner is the least he can expect, I think.

I might also mention that Mom and Dad have this for their TV, so that even the innocuous "pissed" wind up getting bleeped. Again, it's part of what I look forward to about coming home, that there are places in the world left where the f-bomb isn't common currency.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A LETTER TO OUR SOON UNSILENT FANS


dear readers and hopeful commentators of our humble little THREE HANDS film-loving website,

recently, it has been brought to the attention of the THREE HANDS management team that several readers who do not yet possess the hallowed google account fraternity blazers and breast pocket emblem patches have desired to join in the fun and conversation of films, filth and femme fatale here with us at the THREE HANDS party house. however, your revelry has thus far been squelched due to technical problems existing on our end of things.

for this inconveinance, we here at THREE HANDS wish to extend to you an apology for these complications. we personally saw to it today that our technical support hand was successfully seized and delivered to the vorhees estate for cast placement in an upcoming FRIDAY THE 13th slaughterfest sequel. the vorhees estate expressed great elation to receive our technical guru as they informed me today FRIDAY THE 13th part 29 will showcase the subtitle - JASON TAKES M.I.T.

with this little human problem eliminated, we wish to offer all our readers (all four of you) the right and privilege to join in the THREE HANDS conversation. come with your banter, your opinions, your views, your reviews, and your revolts! we invite it all! we are the theatre that allows you to keep your cell phone on! the more chatter, the better! without you, we are simply emailing one another. which is how this whole gig got started in the first place.

so, here's to you, faithful reader. thanks for attending our show.

- hockey-maskers, inc.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Not a review.



A word of caution - there is no actual movie content here. Just a recommendation. There's a new article over at Entertainment Weekly that combines two favorites of this site. One, Stephen King: the father of modern horror's opinion is always respected, especially when he talks about something as important as Two, food. The article is about movie food and what King likes and doesn't like. The do's and dont's if you will. Good stuff. Here's a money quote concerning popcorn:
If the counter guy puts on the glandular butter substitute himself, I watch carefully to make sure he greases the middle of the bag as well as the top layer. If it's self-serve (at the beginning I didn't like this option, but now I do), I proceed to hammer on that red button until I have what I call a ''heavy bag.'' You know you have a heavy bag when the bottom starts to sag and ooze large drops of a yellow puslike substance before you even get into the theater. And don't forget the salt. Popcorn salt is a little strong for my taste (and it looks like powdered urine); I prefer plain table salt. Half a shaker is about right.

It's good stuff from the master. Highly recommended.

A COMBINATION OF FERGI AND JESUS

the newest adam mckay-will ferrell film - STEP BROTHERS - is completely foul. thus far, will farrell has successfully made very funny films void of overly gratuitous sexuality and cussing. well, for the most part. most of you are thinking - what about the rainbow sex scene and the bone in burgundy's khakis from ANCHORMAN? and, sure, sure, you have a point (so did burgandy); however, the crudeness of STEP BROTHERS makes ANCHORMAN look like the gospel bill show. it would appear that mckay and farrell took notes from the popularity of seth rogen's 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and SUPERBAD while writing yet another farse about grown men acting like spoiled ridiculous prebuscents.

ripe with sexist references about every inch of the female anatomy, blatant celebration of hustler pornography, violence towards schoolchildren, inappropriate uses of white dog poop, unfortunate displays of male gentalia on a snare drum, and a rap song that would make even the too live crew feel inspired - STEP BROTHERS is fouler than foul: it's durty.


and i loved it.


the wife and i both agreed that STEP BROTHERS is the funniest film will farrell has made since ANCHORMAN. personally, i think that ANCHORMAN is the greatest comedy ever made. STEP BROTHERS certainly is not the second (perhaps DUMB AND DUMBER could get the silver medal), but i did laugh from the moment STEP BROTHERS started until an hour after it was over. will farrell and john c. reilly rival richard pryor and gene wilder for best comedy duo. at least, farrell and reilly have provided the current generation with a worthy replacement.

i'm recommending this one, people. if you love the will farrell - and i know you do, and if you think, as the hamster has been quoted for saying, that "EVERYTHING IS SACRED IN A JOKE," then this is for you. i give it three-and-half white-man-fros out of five.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

THE GREAT DEBATERS, or the many faces of a Forest.



Denzel Washington plays the coach of a rag-tag bunch of unproven young people who, despite fighting amongst themselves and dealing with the injustice and racism of the times in which they live, overcome all the obstacles to find victory and validation in eyes of their enemies. Branding is a funny thing.

I saw the trailers, I looked at the posters, I gazed into the steely eyes of Denzel, and I truly believed that this film was to be nothing more than REMEMBER THE TITANS 2, only this time the titular Titans would be debaters, not footballers. How wrong I was.

THE GREAT DEBATERS was directed by Denzel and produced by Oprah. The story is simple, a debate team from small, all-black, Wiley College in Texas, takes on the world, and ultimately, Harvard. But here's the rub: unlike TITANS, the sport is secondary. This movie is about the kids. Maybe it's because there are only 4 members of the debate team, unlike 50 on a football team, but the interpersonal relationships that exist here are deeper and more interesting than anything in the rest of the movie. Certainly they are archetypal and simple in places, but they are true in others. And the young actors, predominately Denzel Whitaker (yes, real name), are magnificent.


Denzel Whitaker, Jurnee Smollett, and Nate Parker upstage just about everybody in the movie. They seem honestly naive and sincerely unsophisticated. On the other hand, Denzel Washington's character is shallow and boring. Appropriately, his acting job is shallow and poor.

Fortunately, Forest Whitaker is in this movie.

Let me break from the movie for a second to sing the praises of Forest Whitaker. Of all the actors out there, he's among the most versatile and consistent in his emotional profundity. From BIRD to GHOST DOG, even this year's tepid VANTAGE POINT, Whitaker is a chameleon, never doing the same thing twice (unlike Mr. Washington, who is the same character in every movie).

There is a scene in DEBATERS where Forest and his family are driving in their car and he hits a hog belonging to a white man. Forest gets out of his car, apologizes for killing the pig and offers to pay for it. Meanwhile, his son is watching his eloquent, educated father sign his paycheck over to a man who is poor, ignorant, and disgusting. And knowing that his son is watching him genuflect to his intellectual inferior but social superior, the pain in the eyes of Forest's character is so acute to the viewer, that it's a difficult scene to watch. In fact, the best scenes in the movie are the interplays between Forest Whitaker and Denzel Whitaker, his character's son in the film (the two are not related in real life).

Lastly, let's have a word about civil rights era movies. I should be emotionally affected when I see a group of rednecks lynch a black man who has done nothing to deserve it (not that you could do something to deserve it, but you get my point). But, dang it, I've seen it so many times that I'm just not shocked any more. MISSISSIPPI BURNING shocked me. THE GREAT DEBATERS? Eh. Are we overly saturated by this stuff? Maybe we should take a break from these movies for ten years or so? I don't know.

Anyways, Is THE GREAT DEBATERS a great film? No. It is scattered, overly long, and not as emotionally compelling as it would have you believe. The side plot about Denzel Washington's character and his politics is unnecessary and probably should be on the cutting room floor. But the film is saved by two Whitakers - Forest and Denzel. They are worth the price of admission. Just fast forward through the rest.

Two and a half W.E.B. DuBois references out of 5

Dude, Where's My Hockey Mask, Part IV


Here’s my pitch for the new film:

Michael Bay decides to remake the original FRIDAY THE 13TH, but wants to build a larger audience, so he conspires to combine two successful movie franchises. He casts Ice Cube, Chris Tucker and John Witherspoon and sets the film at Camp Crystal Lake. In an effort to save on the budget, he decides to shoot on location at the actual Camp, rather than using a set in Hollywood.

After reading about the upcoming production on IMDB, the real Jason Voorhees licks his chops and waits for the fun. On the set, Jason quickly subdues and skewers (with a boom stand) the actor playing Jason and dons the costume in order to gain access to the actors and crew. The actors die one by one in increasingly gruesome and ingenious ways (i.e. Ice Cube is killed when Jason burns out his eyes with a doobie and suffocates on a large bong shoved down his throat). Unbeknownst to Jason, one of the minor cast members is an ex Navy Seal (played by Nicolas Cage) who suspects that something fishy is going on.

In the final act, after Jason has killed Michael Bay by winding his entrails around a film reel, the ex-Navy Seal and Jason face off on the swimming platform in the lake. With his final breath, after suffering multiple machete blows to the arms and torso, the ex-Navy Seal calls his Navy pilot buddies to carpet bomb Camp Crystal Lake. Jason looks up skyward to see a bunkerbuster screaming toward his face.

Our final scene is a broken hockey mask lying at the bottom of the lake. Then, suddenly, Pamela Voorhees emerges from the lake bottom, takes the two pieces of mask, and knits them back together, all while singing a lullaby to the infant growing in her belly. Dum-Dum-Dum!!

Dude, Where's My Hockey Mask?, Pt. 3



In keeping with the ongoing commentary on the Fridays, I'll attempt the feat of all feats, and write an entire post without reference to any of the past Friday the 13th movies. With that in mind, I propose the following for the next Friday the 13th script:

Awakened by an electrical short from the 4th of July celebration, Jason awakens to find a box of Black Cats on his feet. Putting them in his pocket, Jason lumbers off into a cave, eating rats and endangered species of owls for the next nine days. It is, after all, only the 4th, and everyone knows that he can't do jack until the 13th.

The morning of the 13th, Jason rolls over from a long night's slumber, cooks a dozen or so eggs, reads David Brooks' column in the NY Times, and stalks through the woods. A deep hunger drives him, deeper than the drive for human blood...it is the drive for caffienated beverages. Coming across the only rural Starbucks in North America, located somewhere on rural route 81 in northern Oregon. Avoiding the stares of the other patrons, Jason draws out a picture of a steaming cup of coffee for the barrista. The unfortunate exchange ensues:

Barrista: I'm sorry; I can't make out exactly what that is. What's that coming out of the top of the cup in the picture--is that a worm?

Jason: ............

Barrista: Okay, let's just make it a venti coffee. Room for cream?

Jason: .............

Barrista: Room for cream. That'll be $1.84.

Jason: .............. (reaching in pockets, pulling out tufts of hair and maggots) ............

Barrista: (eyeing Jason's mask suspiciously) Frank, venti house. $1.84, sir.

Jason: ................ (right hand twitches around precariously held map of Oregon).

Guy behind Jason in line: Buddy, there's other people waiting here.

It's at this point that Jason recognizes the barrista as the last remaining counselor for Camp Krystal Lake. I've never seen coffee stirrers used in such a gruesome fashion. Now that's disgusting--I'm never drinking a frappucino again.

Days later, Starbucks franchise owners come to investigate, finding two of their employees stuffed in the drive-through speaker, and the bake case discretely unlocked, with one toffee-crunch bar missing. An investigation ensues, concluding with the firing of the shift manager who was apparently not sick as he claimed, but rather taking a 'sick day' to watch the USA marathon of Nightmare on Elm Street flicks. Ah, the sad, sick irony. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

Jason, caffienated and alone, lumbers through the woods of Astoria, until he spies, off the coast of Oregon, a lone pirate ship. Taking his last shot at the good life, Jason skips the coast, and sails the globe with One-Eyed Willie's ghost crew, never to be seen again, until the next sequel where he will again be inexplicibly dead and resurrected.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"CATS WANT TO POOP IN MY SANDBOX" - burke douglass


the only thing that i possess a greater affinity for than things that devour people is animals. i freaking love animals. the fact even found its way onto my resume under hobbies and interests. right down there in the corner it says: "self-proclaimed and instructed entomologist. herpetology is a close second." one of my favorite activities is turtle and snake hunting in the creek behind my texas townhomes. to date, i have seen three snakes, four turtles and a gaggle of totally stylish salamanders. we also have some really great beatles and moths in this area. not to mention, this past spring i picked up the habit of catching live wasps in juice glasses, just as a middle finger to their hinney-hooks. animals are so boss. if you don't believe me, go watch some of that america's funniest home videos. the only clips worth a good gosh-durn are the one with babies and animals. animals rock. i mean it. go, God. high-five for the animal kingdom.

so the wife and i spent this past saturday day with the douglass children. i told the douglass boys they could watch a bit of a movie between lunch and nap time. of course, they squealed for TRANSFORMERS - and who wouldn't? but i couldn't find TRANSFORMERS. so burke found a copy of THE ADVENTURES OF MILO AND OTIS. he said, "i wanna watch dis one! i wanna watch dis one!" liam was none too happy. he wanted a good battle sequence, some quick stepping fightin' action. but burkey had made the MILO AND OTIS call and that's that.

so all three of us - burke, me, liam (in that order) - squeezed into a giant leather arm chair. blythe occassionally shared the chair with us, but spent most of her time crawling on latonya and then trying to turn the television off. i had never seen the MILO AND OTIS. maybe i'd caught a glimpse of it in the video store or at wal-mart and, more than likely, i sluffed it off as a cheap remake of HAMBONE AND HILLIE or LASSIE COME HOME. also, i must add here, that as much as i love animals, i despise films about talking animals. seriously, the joke is over. eddie murphy buried that that one up ages ago.

but MILO AND OTIS was none of those things. in fact, MILO AND OTIS was pure magic. i just kept wondering how they got those animals to do all that. they had cats swimming in rivers, a kitten white water rafting in a wooden box, and a pug boxing a black bear. and i was utterly enthralled - maybe even more than the boys. i kept saying, "whoa, dudes! look at that freaking cat!" and liam kept saying, "yes, kevin, we know. we own the movie."

i'm recommending THE ADVENTURES OF MILO AND OTIS for kids and adults alike. particularly, adults hanging around kids. or kids who own any adults who happen to love animals. either way, this film was a winner, winner, chicken dinner. i give it four kibbles out of five bits.

Monday, July 21, 2008

WHY CAN'T THE BAD GUYS LOSE or HOW TO TALK PAST ONE ANOTHER IN THREE STEPS


In this post, I'm going to attempt to do two things: 1) discuss two seemingly dissimilar movies (No Country for Old Men and The Dark Knight, and 2) offer up a theory of why in both of these movies, the bad guys keep getting away. Here's a hint: it has nothing to do with the bad guys being really slippery or the good guys being inept.

The Dark Knight, by the way, was freaking awesome, and I'll try to talk about the movie without actually talking about it, for the sake of the three readers of this blog who still haven't seen it.
***

In No Country, you have the story of Anton Chigur, an unstoppable force of evil who takes delight in being the purveyor of death, as evidenced by the near-orgasmic look on his face in his first kill. It's no small stretch to see Heath Ledger's take on the Joker in a similar vein; he gleefully describes the difference between using knives and guns, noting that the knives are just more exquisite. Two films, two villans who have looked over the edge of the abyss and found only their only reflection looking back. Both villans are described as living by their own internal code of right and wrong, and as such, find absolute joy in living out that chaos and destruction.

This is the genius of these characters: it's not that they have chosen to live out the 'bad' end of society's spectrums, embracing the illegal end of the law; for both Joker and Anton Chigur, there is no law. All that is left, having broken past the bounds of right and wrong, lawful and unlawful, is sheer aesthetics: the delicious and exquisite embrace of pleasure for its own sake. At one point, the Joker remarks to Batman that he could never kill him. Why?

"You're just too much fun."



The problem that both Batman and the sheriff of No Country suffer from is the same: they operate within a framework of good and evil that their villans simply do not recognize. Seeing it in the chaos wrought by the Joker is easy: Batman's heroics are characterized as stretching the limits of what constitutes pursuing the 'good'. As he taps citizens cell phones and risks the lives of the innocent, Batman strains the limits of being a good guy, doing what he does for the sake of the city; the Joker's crimes, however, have no logic of right and wrong and so for all Batman's straining the limits of moral behavior, the Joker moves along unphased. In No Country, we see the same behavior, as the sheriff and his crew struggle to make sense of why Chigur is chasing after the money, when for Chigur, it isn't really even about the money; in the closing monologue, the sheriff describes a dream of his father, and how in it, he loses money, but experiences no real remorse over this loss: for him, the money central to the narrative of No Country bears no meaning for the sheriff, a man of the land and of family. This, of course, is where the sheriff fundamentally misunderstands Chigur: Chigur doesn't care about the cash either, but about pursuing his own internal code, which demands blood at every turn, from the innocent and guilty alike.

And so, two heroes, and two complete lacks of understanding. In both cases, it is not that the hero tries to overcome evil and lacks the will to do it; evil is simply playing a game that good knows nothing about, and so, the good guys come off looking befuddled and helpless, grasping at straws, making heroic gestures that completely miss the point. Because for Chigur and the Joker, the hero's willingness to go beyond the normalcy of good is not what is required; for either to be stopped, good and evil have to be discarded altogether, and they must be defeated by being more beautiful than their opponent, by performing an act so altogether haunting that their opponent respects them, not as a moral superior, but as a true artist.

It does no good extending our own definitions of good to match the excesses of evil, for evil plays by a logic that has no respect for the rules; it goes up chutes and turns over ladders, examining lines on the board as no more solid than light beams streaming through the dust. And so, approaches to evil must not seek to match their excesses, but operate from within the core strength of goodness--exercising virtue and true justice-- and in doing so, goodness bears the scourges of evil in order to overcome it--not by force, but by suffering.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dude, Where's My Hockey Mask, pt. 2




It seems there's an announcement that bears mentioning: Michael Bay is remaking the original Friday the 13th. I would say this is pure conjecture, except there's confirmation. Now, for this reviewer, this is pretty fine news for a couple of reasons: 1) I loved Transformers, and 2) the original Friday the 13th needs to find new blood (pardon the pun) in the same way that the Batman franchise did after suffering through the Val Kilmer/George Clooney incarnations.

Can you ever remake an original, as campy as it might be? Can a film ever be remade, or is something new made? As low-budget as the original two films are, they're...what's the word...charming? the right degree of campy? fart-tastic? I'd argue that since films are each unique instantiations, singular visions which are not repeatable, what Bay is putting together promises to be not a blow-for-blow filming of the original, but some kind of social commentary or bleed-fest all its own. I'm hoping that Jason Vorhees doesn't wind up being a metaphor for child welfare or single-parent families.

And thus, in honor of Michael Bay's honorable effort, I give you the top 5 films I'd love to see someone give a facelift to, in no particular order:


1)
Plan 9 From Outer Space--I love Johnny Depp. If he's in the film, I'm watching it, and Ed Wood was the most bizarre of his films that there is, I think, with this film was the subject of the film. By all accounts, it was the worst of the worst B movies, and is dying to be reborn.

2)
Simon Birch--I nearly threw up watching this, because it was a complete and total butchering of one of the most fantastic books I've ever read: A Prayer for Owen Meany.

3)
Dune--I've never read the book, but been told the film doesn't come close.

4)
The Stand--this one only made it to the mini-series level, but still, the miniseries was awful. The Stand is almost universally recognized as one of King's masterpieces, and if Dreamcatcher can wind up on celluloid, so can this.

5)
Catwoman--I wasn't born with enough middle fingers to rank this one.

Honorable mention:
Ishtar--Dustin Hoffman has to find redemption from this.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

DUDE, WHERE'S MY HOCKEY MASK? pt. 1


I feel a responsibility here to pay homage where homage is due – and, in this case, all of us here at Three Hands owe hockey-masked Jason Vorhees a round of applause. Jason’s passionate perseverance and undying spirit (and flesh) shine as an example to never – even in the face of eleven deaths and burials – let go of your dreams. It is because of Jason, (particularly his resourcefulness in part 3 when he swiped said mask from Shelly, that sniveling tub-o-lard in the wetsuit, after splitting him open in the barn), that we have the address to this website. We thank you, Jason Vorhees, for the slashing good times. Again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And, finally, again.

John Barber and I, in our personal correspondences, have brilliantly discussed in biolastrophilosopontificationacating detail the goodness of bad films. We have even admitted that, at times, the worst films offer the best viewings. Such is the case with the FRIDAY THE 13th franchise. These films do not work as parables of human nature or metaphors of social woes, nor do they probe the human condition or speak prophetically of our inevitable end. There is no secret undercurrent to delve into, no mysterious symbolism to solve. In fact, these really good bad films may function as cinematic black holes, vacuuming viewers’ intelligence and good common sense between really boss skin-shots and the next machete blow. If that’s the case, which I would not doubt that it is, I actually may be getting dumber each time I sit through one of these films. It’s like eating lettuce for a meal – zero nutritional value, pure negative energy. But, honestly, that’s sometimes what I’m looking for at the end of a long day: cheap lager instead of fine ale, popcorn instead of hummus, a mindless slasher fest instead of the next Sundance miracle.

By the way, just as some unrated bonus footage here: I’ve grown a wee bored with all these artsy independent numbers clogging up my video rental shelving space. Really, Mr. Sundancer, I know you’re sad. I know you’ve had bad luck with love or drugs or sucking your thumb. I know your family is jacked and your sex-life is slacked. I know you are searching for who you are up someone else’s skirt. I know you can gaze forlornly out the passenger window while really somber music plays and the shadows of the telephone poles pass on the side of the road flickering in grass that’s too green for real life. And I know that if I see one more cheap Wes Anderson knock-off, I’m going to personally gnaw at my own feet. Hear this: YOU ARE NOT WES ANDERSON!!!!!!!!! (Have I mentioned that I have an affinity for things that devour people.)

I digress.

Though it’s a shallow goal, I have set myself to the task of watching all ten FRIDAY THE 13th films this Summer. I’m skipping FREDDY VS JASON, which I already endured with Jesse when we lived together in Kansas City, both of us agreeing there’s more titillating action in a single ice cream sandwich than in that sorry lump of wasted reel. Nevertheless, I am pleased to announce that as of last night, I am currently half way through the FRIDAY THE 13th franchise. And, so far, I have had a total blast.
I'll bring some actual reviews in the weeks to come. Since there's ten of these babies, I'll probably review them in pairs - starting with parts 5-6. Surely, the blogosphere will be chomping at the bits for each and every installment. I mean, surely.

To be continued…..

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

VEGETARIANISM IN REVERSE



(this is the second time i've written about this film. here's the first.)

I recently said about another film what I’ll say here about THE RUINS: I have waited years for this! Considering the themes of the two films I have so heralded, it appears I have an odd affinity for things that devour people. Not to mention, I’m also quite big on vampires, werewolves and zombies. So whether we’re talking revenge-toothed vaginas, classic man-eaters of yore, or these Mayan plants sucking skin off young bones like watermelon fresh from the rind, this skinny boy feasts on them all. The all-you-can-eat buffet style horror flick: it’s my own personal genre.


There are too many good things to say about THE RUINS. Far too many. Here’s just a few tantalizing morsels:


- THE RUINS is filmed almost entirely in broad daylight. Pray tell - what could possibly happen at noon:thirty scary enough to inspire a whole horror film? Sunbathed nightmares are quite a feat, but it works like a charm.

- The killer here is a plant. A freaking plant! And not some Audrey II swoonin’ Rick Moranis Broadway sucker – these things are diabolical. They think. They plan. They devise schemes to turn friends and lovers into monsters. They mock their victims’ voices, laughing at their escape attempts. These pretty little flowers are some bad ass botanical effers.

- Dude, anything Mayan is freaking freaky. They’ve got those huge rock faces and cryptic prophetic calendars, and they were way smarter than everybody before anybody was smart enough to know they were even there. In THE RUINS, the Mayans have some mystical understanding with these plants, a holy fear that holds the Mayans to the land but away from the ruins. As a rule, I don’t jive with folks who jive with killer plants. Call me close-minded, it’s just one of my deal-breakers.

- I loved, loved, loved Jena Malone in SAVED. Then her lead in THE RUINS blows anything Jamie Lee Curtis ever attempted in horror out of a top story window. Jena Malone made me hate her despicable RUINS’ character, but still hope for her safe escape. The girl is wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully brilliant.

- Scott Smith, author of the novel THE RUINS, wrote the screenplay for the film – yet, they are completely different stories. I finished the novel yesterday morning; then I watched the film a second time last night. The book is ten times gorier than the film, plus the psychological terror runs deeper in the book. However, (and I realize this is a complete contradiction) I still think the film’s storytelling is more compelling, shocking, and disturbing than the book. I recommend starting the novel around page 200, once the travelers have found the ruins. The last three hundred pages are a bloody fun ride. The film, of course, receives my highest recommendation.

- There is a very pretty girl in this film named Stacy. Stacy’s fate is, hands down, the craziest, nastiest, nightmarish thing a hypochondriac like me could imagine. If you ever fear what may lurk beneath your own skin – Stacy’s story is for you. I mean, holy crap, dude.

THE RUINS is definitely one of my top three favorite films of 2008. I easily give it 5 stripped clean watermelon rinds out of 5. I freakin’ love it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

UNITED, WE FALL; DIVIDED, WE FALL


To begin: The Happening is as much about global warming as American Beauty is about teen sex. Like the rest of the Shyamalan canon, the movie is never just about the movie: the plot is never just an excuse to make some larger political statement, i.e. any Oliver Stone movie, but rather the plot is itself a larger metaphor. In that way, Lady in the Water, being told as a fairy tale, was the most true movie he's made to date. That being out of the way, this apocalyptic tale is one of judgment upon the manifold ways we distort the basis of real realtionships: interdependence.


To be sure, the environmental theme is a part of this larger canvas. References to decline of species and the tenuous balance of the natural world are peppered throughout the film, but here's why this isn't a movie about the environment: repeatedly, the dialogue hammers home that despite our attempts to pin down the reasons for why things happen (nature and math being the two first targets to fall), the mystery of how things are held in balance expands beyond rationality and science. Throughout the film, commentators mutate their explanation for why people are dying, pinning it on this plant or this genetic outburst, but never able to fully explain the hows and whys. But if this is the message of the film, 80% of the dialogue and encounters remain superfluous. At the root of the environmental crisis is not that people exist, but that people exist badly with the earth, using more than they need, but I'll leave those pontifications for Al Gore. Shyamalan's target is bigger than the environment.

The problem in Shyamalan's world is that people begin inexplicably to kill themselves, after a period of loss of communication and disorientation. As suicide notes tell us, self-harm is not always about self-destruction for its own sake, but as a last desperate effort at communication. In a world built on false communication and shallow association, suicide functions in Shyamalan's vision as the most graphic way of reaching from one to another, with violence binding one person to another. Note the ways in which guns in the movie are dropped and picked up by another, uniting the people in death in ways they were never united in life. Once our ability to communicate with one another is destroyed, it is only a moment of time before we resort to violence to communicate with one another, however badly.

Against the backdrop of environmental breakdown, we see endless scenes of people connected to one another through cellphones, through unspoken fears, through miscommunications and lies, perversions not limited to the big city. As the deaths move to the smaller regions, it becomes apparent that what are being attacked by the plague are corrupted relationships of all manner: the big cities are damned for their surface relationships, for their cell reception and for their pragmatic relationships, but small towns with their rampant isolation and begrudging hospitality are targeted as well. Case in point: Mark Wahlberg's character finds himself in a relationship characterized by these alternating waves of isolation and victimhood--his wife dwells in isolation, while Wahlberg wallows in victimhood. At one point, a child accosts him with saying, "You have to take responsibility for your relationship." And thus, the question of Wahlberg's relationship--and of the movie--is what a good relationship looks like, both with the earth and with other people.

The answer? One of interdependence--of the earth and humanity, of people with one another. This is why we find the reunion of Wahlberg and his wife at the crecendo of the film. Why do Mark and Zoe not fall prey to the swirling winds? Because they alone mirror the right relation of the earth to humanity: one of need, interdependence, of admitting of fault, and of reunion. Once the world goes haywire, the thin veils which hold us together in the absence of the wildness of true interdependence (math, science, formality, custom) come crashing down, showing corrupt relations for what they are. Once the veils come come off, the corruptions become evident, played out throughout the film: strangers shoot strangers instead of offering hospitality; children are murdered by adults. Time and time again, the false groupings of people are dispersed and killed, while the only relationships in the film that admit to their need of one another survive. You could make the case that the group that finds themselves at the crossroad "need" each other, but their need, again, never really sees the other people, but only how the other people further their own ends. By contrast, Marky Mark and Zoe are perfectly safe at the end in their respective houses with the wind swirling around outside, but brave the wind to stand with one another in its midst.

In the end, The Happening holds a mirror up to human society, showing that what happens in the environment is only a large scale explosion of the human condition: what lies silenced by technologies and false relations in the urban world becomes naked aggression in the environment. Whereas people are able to, in the absence of interdependence, are able to loathe each other from a distance, the environment knows only either cooperation or belligerence. While stilted at times in dialogue, Shyamalan's film succeeds in the way his films always do: by telling parables that paint in large pictures what diatribes cannot do. As Flannery O'Connor said, "to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures."

The problem with the environment is that we approach it with science: rather than seeing our lives as interdependent, we approach ourselves and our worlds as managable entities, rather than live gifts, gifts to which we must give ourselves.

4 abandoned Jeep Wranglers out of 5.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Redemption in an Unlikely Place


Ok, read this in your best Jerry Seinfeld voice: "Who's the ad genius that came up with this one? A children's movie that has almost no dialogue, no characters that are kids, and is chocked full of pop culture references from 30 years ago - you gotta be kidding me!"

Such is the story of WALL-E, the newest offering from digital animation powerhouse Pixar. WALL-E is the post-apocalyptic tale of a robot with a singular directive, to take the mounds of trash that people have left behind and compress it into blocks that can be neatly stacked. Wall-E, while carrying out this purpose, has become somewhat of a collector, sifting through the refuse in search of something interesting, something meaningful. His collection, a melange of the flotsam and jetsam of everyday people's lives brings Wall-E joy, but after watching Hollywood musicals over and over, he knows that the one thing he needs to add to his collection is something he can never find in a trash pile: love. Enter Eve, a probe sent by humans looking for signs of life on the dormant earth. And this, friends, is how the greatest love story between two robots at the end of the world begins.

I won't go into detail about the rest of the story. I'll leave you to explore that yourselves. Suffice it to say that the previews and trailers give no hints of the rest of WALL-E. There are plenty of wonderful surprises inside.

I've held off reviewing this for a week because I didn't want to overstate how much I liked WALL-E. I wanted it to settle, thinking that my affection might fade, that I might come back to earth as it were. No such luck. This is simply the best movie, animated or otherwise (and make no mistake, there are long stretches of WALL-E where you forget you are watching a cartoon) that I have seen in years. I left the theater with the same feeling of elation that I had with ALMOST FAMOUS, the same goofy smile that I wore with THE RETURN OF THE KING, the same sense of beauty that I experienced with LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.

This movie really shouldn't work. There are immense periods of silence that echo 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, yet the children in the audience (and me as well) were enraptured with the beauty of it. The underlying message of the film, that humans have been lazy and wasteful, should have come across as heavy-handed, but instead the people are lovely and ultimately redeemed by someone who looks more like Johnny 5 than Luke Skywalker.

There are no famous voices in the film, no celebrities to adorn the poster. The appeal and the draw come from the knowledge that there is no risk with Pixar. There is no chance that the movie could not be good. When is the last time that a studio had that much cache with moviegoers? In fact, it should work against them, they should have nowhere to go but down, but with WALL-E, Pixar doesn't only meet expectations, but exceeds them in spades.

It's animated, so it probably won't get much consideration from the Academy for best picture, but I don't feel risky guaranteeing that it will be the best movie you'll see this year.

5 plants in boots out of 5.