Friday, May 29, 2009

TO LOVE A BROMANCE


There's a dollar theater in town that occasionally gets the good ones after the fact, the perfect place for movies that I'd like to see, but am pretty sure aren't going to be good enough to spend five dollars on. It's also the perfect place to see movies that I'm pretty sure I don't want to say the names of in public, such as or Borat or Knocked Up. Such is the case with I Love You, Man. It's not that I mind saying that phrase, but in context.

Some undergrads throw this phrase around like it's equivalent to "see ya, dude" or "so, what was our homework?". But this is a serious phrase, one to be handled with delicacy and care, and one I don't say to every male friend. The love of friendship, C.S. Lewis says, is a great thing, and one of the rarest loves, because it has to be about something. It's something I've been contemplating a lot over the last year and a half, as I move from single to married and see more clearly who my friends have truly been friends and who are the ones that have been along for the ride as an accident of time and place.

John Hamburg's I LOVE YOU, MAN is the story of Paul Rudd's character who realizes that he's about to get married, but doesn't have any male friends. Before you laugh, this is not an unbelievable dilemma. Prior to Sarah and I dating, this was kind of my predicament, and one of the early things we had to come to terms with--that I had a lot of female friends but not a lot of dude friends. Not quite as severe as Paul Rudd's problem, but I could relate. And so, in an almost dating-service sort of way, Rudd goes in search of a best man. Enter Jason Segel as the single, honest, good-hearted dude.

I won't spoil the rest of the movie, but you can probably see where it's going. It's a little predictable. It's a comedy, after all--in the classical sense, this means that things get redeemed (hence, Dante's work is called a commedia, because it culminates with Heaven and our redemption). Paul Rudd finds true friendship in unexpected places, Jason Segel turns some corners, and the audience realizes that friendship is something to enjoy, not analyze endlessly or mock. Don't get me wrong: I love the Judd Apatow movies, but they make friendships look like endless farces, whereas Hamburg goes the more realistic route of guys hanging out and jamming to Rush.

Does it rank up there against the Judd Apatow buddy movies? Hamburg's movie is more subtle; there are lots of crude man-humor moments that mean that I'll be re-watching this with the guys and sans my wife-to-be, but that's the way this should be. This is a movie about male friendship, for guys. Segel and Rudd have great chemistry; they always play the minor characters in Apatow's flicks, but when given the top billing, they're total goobers and do it great. Throw in Rudd's ability to play the geeky, smiley guy who can't quite be casual and Lou Ferrigno's best acting turn since The Death of the Incredible Hulk, and you're looking at a movie that I'll be watching again as soon as I can get it on DVD.

Four and half farts in an open house out of five.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Muse City

Well, if we're excepting the top five over on the right, my list starts to look like this (and I'm gonna steal some from Myles):

1. To Kill a Mockingbird
2. Rushmore
3. Tommy Boy
4. The Natural
5. Big Fish
6. Slumdog Millionaire
7. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
8. The Omen
9. Return of the Jedi
10. Serenity
11. Raiders of the Lost Ark
12. Pump Up the Volume
13. The Princess Bride
14. The Fisher King
15. Dawn of the Dead

MY MUSES

In no particular order:

1) Gross Pointe Blank
2) Gone With the Wind
3) Shaun of the Dead
4) Schindler's List
5) Atonement
6) Snatch
7) To Kill A Mockingbird
8) National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
9) Magnolia
10) Ernest Goes to Camp
11) The Dirty Dozen
12) The Empire Strikes Back
13) Raiders of the Lost Ark
14) Rushmore
15) The Wrestler

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

NAMING MY MUSES

tonight i walked about the lower-east side of bryan, texas (not sure if it really is the "lower-east side" - just sounds good) with my compadre marky-mark pepe-guzman. mark carried an aluminum bat along with us, just in case we met a pit bull or a opossum. seems a big gnarly vermin of sorts has been disemboweling the douglass family chickens, which is disturbing and unnecessary even if you're not a chicken. 

at the front of our walk, mark pulls out a list of his TOP 15 FILMS. it was a colorful list, attempting to touch each genre of film, except horror because marky-mark don't rock that way. we chatted up his list and my list for a good half mile, seeing no pit bulls or opossums in the process, nor disemboweled chickens for that matter. the whole night was fine and ended with us at the douglass' kitchen table sipping ales and watching YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN, which is disturbing and unnecessary if your head is up your whoo-who.

the whole film conversation got me thinking about my own favorite films. and it encouraged me to make a similar list, disturbing and unnecessary in and of itself. i nixed the TOP FIVE list over to the side, since they are givens and i talk about them a great deal to people i trap over beers and backgammon boards. so here's an additional 15 films - in no particular order - that colored, changed, or mirrored the way i view people, art, storytelling, and myself. please feel free to call bull-honky or inquire about specific titles in the comments section. also, i urge you, one and all, to submit your own lists. this could be fun. thanks to marky-mark pepe-guzman for starting such a trend.

in no particular order of greatness or preference . . . . . . 

1. SAY ANYTHING
2. MEAN GIRLS
3. ALIEN
4. ANCHORMAN
5. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
6. THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS
7. STAND BY ME
8. SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL
9. THE RUINS
10. A TALE OF TWO SISTERS
11. STEEL MAGNOLIAS
12. TEEN WOLF
13. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
14. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2
15. ALMOST FAMOUS

Sunday, May 24, 2009

No, Really. This is how to Reboot a Series.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

If you were to look under my bed in the clear plastic container with the blue lid, you'd find some things of which lesser mortals might be embarrassed. You'd find the 8x10 glossies of Riker, and Uhura, and Mr. Scott (all autographed - eat that!). You'd find ancient VHS's of The City on the Edge of Forever and The Trouble With Tribbles. You'd find one of those little logo thingees that the Next Generation guys had pinned to their uniforms and they used for communicators (alas, all mine did was hurt when I put it on too fast). And there's more. True, and not sad at all.

I tell you all of this in the name of complete disclosure, and also to tell you that I am a Trekkie (or Trekker) at heart. No, I never dressed up for a convention. But I did go to a couple of conventions when I was a kid. I shook hands with Spock and Picard. I lived the dream. So I am exactly the kind of person that JJ Abrams lost sleep over. Could the new movie please the once hardcore fan? The guy that once believed that an argument over the original series vs. the Next Generation was just ridiculous (let's be real, Kirk would kick Picard's lillywhite British fanny). Well it did, and it did it in style.

I liked almost everything about STAR TREK. The opening scene set the stage for a total reboot of the STAR TREK mythos (Janna laughs at me when I use the word canon) without breaking any rules. Then, the scenes of a young Jim Kirk laughing in the face of authority (with a Beastie Boys soundtrack, nonetheless!) left me smiling. And while the tension between Kirk and Spock form the backbone of the movie, it was the little things that, added together, made the whole thing wonderful. From the Kobayashi Maru sequence, to Pike's wheelchair to Sulu's fencing to Chekov's accent (Wictor, Wictor!), the details were spot on. Best example: when Kirk and Sulu jump down to disable the drill, they take along Olson. In true STAR TREK fashion (and you know that JJ Abrams cares about this stuff), Olson is wearing a Red Shirt so that you know that he's not making it back alive.

Of course, in true JJ Abrams fashion, he plays fast and loose with time travel (but that's no big deal really). And my one complaint about the movie is one that I wouldn't have had ten years ago. Did we really need a sex scene? I know it was over fast, but come on. Take that scene out, and we can all take our sons to the stinkin' movie.

Still and all, I really loved the film. STAR TREK gets 5 Eric Bana face tattoos out of 5. I wanted to say that it was the best STAR TREK movie to date, but come on. Nothing tops THE WRATH OF KHAN. And I really dig THE VOYAGE HOME, too, but that's just me.

Oh, one more thing. Karl Urban was almost as good as the real Bones. Seriously.

THIS IS HOW NOT TO REBOOT A SERIES


that picture there is of christian bale as patrick bateman in the film AMERICAN PSYCHO. yes, this is a review of TERMINATOR SALVATION, but i liked christian bale way more as patrick bateman than john connor. so i'd rather look at bale swinging an ax than juggling time in his bare hands. 

here's the deal: i'm a TERMINATOR fan. james cameron won me with the 1984 original and then double swooned me with the 1992 sequel. i would name a beloved pet after james cameron as a token of gratitude for his cyborg gift, and i would name another beloved pet after cameron's wife, linda hamilton, just for being hot. i love the TERMINATOR films. love them. and i want other people to love them. i'm a bit of a TERMINATOR evangelist. 

and it is because i love the TERMINATOR story so dearly, and i have so longed to see john connor build the resistance and lead the wars of the future, that i despised this new TERMINATOR SALVATION.

let's get one thing straight: for those who do not care a lick about the TERMINATOR storylines, or for those who have never seen the TERMINATOR films, this new movie will be worth your every ticketed dollar spent. it's big. it's explosive. it's loud and dusty and gravity is not an issue for how hard these machines can hit a brotha. not to mention, every person in this film is stupid gorgeous. the casting agents obviously stopped all the ugly and average people at the door and said, "you're not worth the $6 ticket." so, yes, if you do not love the TERMINATOR as i love the TERMINATOR, then go and relish you some pretty people fighting machines and defying the laws of physics. 

as for those who love the TERMINATOR saga, as i love the TERMINATOR saga: just go back and watch your T:2 vhs again. and again. and again. and then, if you feel a need for a christian bale fix, pop in your dvd of AMERICAN PSYCHO. these films are all you will ever need. 

and so, because this is the fourth TERMINATOR film, i will give you all FOUR reasons i did not like TERMINATOR: SALVATION -

1.) THERE WAS NO STORY. james cameron was a helluva cinematic storyteller. need i remind our three-person readership that cameron found inspiration for the original TERMINATOR from harlan ellison's THE OUTER LIMITS episodes. and ellison was a helluva storyteller also.

2.) THERE WAS NO HEART. the first two TERMINATOR films wooed us in to the story. we wanted the best for the characters. we believed in them. we yearned for them. we felt the weight of the future and the world on their shoulders. and this connection made the action that much more heart-wrenching. in TERMINATOR: SALVATION, i felt nothing for the people or the story they were trying to tell. except the little frizzy-haired girl that never talked. she was the best part of the entire business.

3.) THERE WAS JUST TOO MUCH. all the visuals were drastically over the top. T:2, honestly,  pushed all the old action limits and set all new sci-fi standards, and it did so in a way that we, as audiences, believed and readily accepted. TERMINATOR: SALVATION felt like one big cinematic peacock strut: get it bigger; get it taller; get more explosions and blasts; get less gravity and honesty in every shot. after awhile, the enormity of it felt like a pink floyd laser show in a southern baptist church: totally unnecessary and ridiculous.

4.) BRUCE WAYNE. this is hard for me to say, because i have openly professed to a near homoerotic attraction to christian bale: but the guy played TERMINATOR like he was playing BATMAN BEGINS. no diversity. no newness. no glimmer of the genius in AMERICAN PSYCHO or THE MACHINIST or EMPIRE OF THE SUN. bale simply fell back into an old hat, possibly thinking that his portrayal of beloved bruce wayne worked, so why not play up the same bloke as john connor. i, personally, did not like bale's plastic john connor performance. and, let's just be honest: bale may be losing his cool. there is reason that controversy has flown like garden fertilizer into an oscillating fan over christian bale's on-set tirade against the lighting-technician. the reason is because bale was out of line. i think bale's own enormity and greater-than-gravity persona may be catching up with his acting career. i hope not. i have dearly loved this actor in the past. not to mention, he was made for more than all this. oh, shite: i pulled out theology on that one.

a few highpoints in this film:

- bryce dallas howard
- moon bloodgood
- jadagrace
- those aquatic terminator machines

sadly, i have to give TERMINATOR: SALVATION 1 totally mute jadagrace out of 5. this film sucked. and i am sad for it. and i want my 17 years of waiting and my $4.50 for a movie ticket back. and i want christian bale to give it to me calmly, without volume or f-bombs. 

pshaw. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

THIS IS HOW TO REBOOT A SERIES


I've been a fan of J.J. Abrams since I got sucked into watching LOST a few years ago, even with his weird penchants for time travel and alternate universes. I think the thing I like about his style is that he tells the stories in pieces without feeling the need to explain everything at once. He jumps in mid-stream and then by the end, things begin to come together more beautifully than you could have predicted.

With that in mind, and with a strong dose of Star Trek growing up, I went to go see the new STAR TREK flick by Abrams. One of my earliest memories is being checked out of school by Dad to go see Star Trek III: The Search for Spock in the theatre, and even as a child, I remember liking the special effects and the mammoth story arcs that were less about special effects than friendship and mythic exposition.

All that being said, I flat out loved this movie. It gave the appropriate number of head-nods to the original cast and storylines, without being a total geek-fest. My novice fiancee and her equally novice roommate liked without having any knowledge of the original stuff, while I was able to giddily reminisce about little elements of foreshadowing. The storyline was good; Eric Bana was a great villan; the casting of the young Enterprise crew was spot-on. Simon Pegg as a young Scotty was great, no matter what EW says.

What makes a reboot great is how it's able to deal with its own mythology, I think. As excited as I am to watch the new G.I. Joe movie this summer, I'm not sure based on the previews that it gets that mythology is what makes for a great prequel: the ability of a tired series to dig deep into its own soil and excavate the earthy matter that gives rise to storylines. In the case of Star Trek, Abrams digs deep into the ethereal soil and comes up with chunks of exploration, self-disclosure, destiny, and coming of age.

Five green-skinned alien chicks out of five.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"I WOULD RATHER HAVE MY BRAINS INVADED BY CREATURES FROM SPACE THAN PLEDGE A FRATERNITY." - a boss character in this film



i'm writing this post at 3:24 am. 

went to a farewell party tonight for my dear and beautiful friend, jen borden. drank two piping hot cups of excellent joe out of stephanie lee's antique cabbage patch kids coffee mugs. so i'm still awake. watching films and writing reviews. which is what i love to be doing a 3:24 am, even without the caffeine.

here's the deal with NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, there's three primary reasons this ANIMAL HOUSE-meets-george romero-meets-WEIRD SCIENCE-meets-john hughes-meets-SLITHER-meets-the crocodile hunter kinda movie should have been more rock-n-roll than it was:

1.) anytime a zombie film starts in outer space with naked space goblins shooting mini-bazookas and speaking some regional dialect of klingon, especially when all the naked space goblins look like an angry and drunken joe pesci at 3:24 am, then you'd think the film might be worth a dern.

2.) anytime a film revolves around zombies shooting slugs out of their mouths and foreheads and into sorority girl's mouths, you'd think the film is a winner.

3.) tom atkins: enough said.

i wanted to like this film. and at brief moments, i did like this film. when the hot sorority girl turn-cranked her middle finger up at the main frat boy, i liked the film. when detective cameron, played by tom atkins, walks into the first zombie death toll and says, "is this a murder scene or a bad B-flick film?", i liked the film.  when the kid on crutches takes a crunch near bathroom graffiti that reads "STRYPER RULES", i liked the film. and, last but not least, when the hot girl shoves a flame thrower in a zombie's face and pulls the trigger, shooting flaming slugs everywhere around her geek boyfriend's head, i liked the film. honestly, there is so much to like about this film, but there is one big-ass thing to despise:

it's so sluggishly slow.

on top of that, the film never really decides if it wants to work as a comedy or as zombified social commentary or as a basic '80s geeks-to-glory drama. are we talking SIXTEEN CANDLES, DAWN OF THE DEAD, or REVENGE OF THE NERDS here, people? i don't know. an hour and 25 minutes later, before the credits i did not watch, the film never seemed to decide.

however, as i just confessed, the film held me for the duration. i wanted to see what would happen to the dork and the hot girl. i wanted to see tom atkins come out on top. i wanted to see some good zombie gore! but all three slightly overshadowed the other ones, and the film ended with me wanting another beer at 3:24 am. 

i give NIGHT OF THE CREEPS 2.5 split open dorm mommas out of 5. this seemed like the exact kinda film that we here at Hockey Mask, Inc. are looking for; however, and alas, it did not fulfill my wishes. even though tom atkins gets a whopping 5 bullwinkle mooses out of 5, he is always winner-winner-granny-gizzards to this hamster.

Monday, May 4, 2009

LYCANTHROPHY AIN'T ALWAYS AS BOSS AS IT SOUNDS . . . . BUT, CRAP, DAWG, IT SHOULD BE




"Do you know what
the greatest commonality
between man and animal is?
It's not the drive to mate,
or the maternal instinct.
It's not even the will to survive.
It's just this, plain and simple:
every now and then, they, like us,
they lose their minds.
They go crazy. Psycho."
- Deputy Jack -


listen, people, do you know what really grinds my gears? do you know? well, here it is, people, it's this right here: i am sick of vampires getting all the limelight. that's right. you heard me. i am sick of vampires getting every moon-lit, all-caps, bold-faced, twilighted, yellow bulbed and flickering marquee all the bloody time. and they do. vampires are always stealing the spotlight. and you know why? because people just love the vampires these days. in recent years, vampires have tragically become too chique for their own blood-guzzling good. and, sure, cinematically speaking, vampires may be hotter than polyvore outfits on the streets of new york city, but, honestly, the adoration is getting a little out of hand because all this undead shimmering does not allow any other hard-working, shape-shifting, esophagus-scooping, skull-splitting, spine-tingling monster of yore to get any props. i swear, you'd think there'd never been a frankenstein or a mummy or a creature from the black lagoon. you'd think that a bloke living in the republic of tejas couldn't be half-man and half-hamster. you'd think that vampires were the only undeads worth a good gosh-reel these days. still, the ticket-selling proof is in the jugular pudding. i mean, crap, we've got kids filing down their canines and powdering out their skin, just to be a bit more sucky looking: this is surely the age of the parasite.

personally, i am a huge fan of the lycanthrope: half-human, half-wolf. i find werewolves vastly superior creatures to vampires; although, i am not entirely sure why. if anything, i think it's the dual identity of the man-wolf that is so attractive: one man with two personalities, one containing more of an excuse for his carnage than the other (which half has the excuse is usually the plot of any good werewolf tale).

however, despite my own enthusiasm for werewolves, i am usually quite disappointed with werewolf films. for instance, tonight i viewed paul moore's less than appetizing approach to cinematic lycanthropy - THE FEEDING. the story begins with a typical joke set-up: two yahoos in the woods drink beer and talk trash until they hear some squalor in the bushes. they get jazzed, pump their rifles and fire. something falls. one gets down to investigate, and then the fallen animal rips out his voice box. the other bloke, toked up on miller high lites (love 'em) jumps in the bed of the truck, only to find the keys missing. the wolf-monster bashes in the back windshield and the dude's head, beginning a killing spree that actually yawns more than squeals.

from this point on we meet college kids smoking, screwing, and spinning the bottle on a camping trip in the woods (typical), as well as the local yokel police force that hopes to stop the werewolf. 89 minutes later nothing redeeming has occurred, and, unfortunately, we better understand why cinema belongs to the vampire. according to THE FEEDING, which seems to line up with far too many lycanthrope films: cinematic werewolves are usually tragically and typically boring creatures.

top lines from THE FEEDING: "Was that her boyfriend?" "Of three years." "She gonna be okay?" "Thirty years of therapy and a lifetime of Xanax might help."

although i give THE FEEDING 1 throat chew out of 5, i still have hope for lycanthrope theater. here's some lists of werewolf films that i dig or want to dig. vampires shall not claim all the stakes!

TOP FOUR WEREWOLF FILMS I'VE SEEN:
- TEEN WOLF
- GINGER SNAPS
- DOG SOLDIERS
- SILVER BULLET

FOUR GOOD WEREWOLF CAMEO FILMS I CAN ATTEST TO:
- FRIGHT NIGHT
- MONSTER SQUAD
- UNDERWORLD
- WAXWORK

TOP FOUR WEREWOLF FILMS I WANT TO SEE:
- TEEN WOLF TOO
- THE WOLF MAN
- SKINWALKERS
- THE HOWLING (any and all)