Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mo' Horrible Music

Mo’ Better Blues
1990, USA
Spike Lee

Apparently, “My Humps” by the Black Eyed Peas is not the worst song ever made. That particular honor goes to anything and everything Denzel Washington sings in Mo’ Better Blues, in particular the length title song about love, which is mix between spoken word, jazz, rap, and a beat poet with Tourette’s. Washington plays a talented trumpeter with ego and commitment problems, juggling two women and a band that’s beginning to resent him. There’s a lot to complain about in this movie, like the fact that neither Joie nor Spike Lee can act, or that while Lee’s over-arching filmic thesis is that white people hate black people, he seems to be proving everyone else’s point that black people hate Jews, with his consistent portrayal of them as slimy agents and managers. But all of this is secondary to the hideous, hideous music, which so distracts from everything else that you can’t distinguish the good from the bad, as if the film were an otherwise beautiful stripper with ingrown hairs and razor burn. Despite some interesting directorial flourishes, despite a strong performance by Wesley Snipes, you’ll leave the film with nothing but ringing ears and a bad taste in your mouth, like you’d just given head at a Chemical Brothers’ concert.

Sounds like fun. Tastes like semen.

Since I brought it up, and since the movie has left me with nothing else to say, here’s my top five worst songs of all time.

  1. “My Humps” – The Black Eyed Peas. This seems like the sort of thing a rapping granny would free-style on the spot in an Adam Sandler film. And “lovely lady lumps” just sounds distasteful.

  1. Anything by Queen. Queen is the worst band that has ever been. One of the worst memories of my teenage years involves working in a kitchen and being forced to listen to a ‘classic rock’ station, and the crawling sensation that would creep up my spine whenever the rest of the kitchen staff would join in with “Bohemian Rhapsody”. It was like a hellish, GED opera.

  1. “Grillz” – Nelly featuring Paul Wall, Ali, Gipp. Several large, frightening gorillas mumble while a hooker with a tin ear makes up a hook on the spot, then forgets it by the next verse.

The Beastie Boys’ entire discography almost made the cut, but I wouldn’t want to give them any more press. Plus if I put them in the same paragraph as Nelly, he’d probably start a fight.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Depravity, Lust, and Adobe After Effects

Running Scared
2006, USA
Wayne Kramer

Remind me never to move to New Jersey. If Wayne Kramer’s nihilistic crime thriller Running Scared is to be believed, pretty much everybody who lives there is a sociopath of one variety or another. It’s the type of place where you pray the person you run into on the way home from work at night is just a rapist, instead of a necrophiliac. Fairly early on in Running Scared, the film reaches a level of absurdity better suited for fantasy, but bizarrely, instead of falling apart, this is where the movie really succeeds. Almost unnoticeably, the film segues from pulpy crime thriller into a dark urban fairy tale. Wait, that sounds pretty gay, like the movie turns into Little Red Riding Hood with track marks and a shaved vagina. What I mean to say is that the cartoonish nature of the characters works in the film’s favor, instead of reducing it to a Quentin Tarantino parody.

Careful. She's best friends with Little Miss Syph.

Telling the story of a lost gun and its repercussions throughout the criminal underworld, Running Scared stars Paul Walker and Claire Forliani. Wait. No it doesn’t. It stars someone who looks exactly like Claire Forliani, but is probably considerably cheaper to hire. Walker is best known as the blond guy who takes his shirt off in movies about fast cars or surfing, but here manages to hold his own. He plays a low-level mob strongman who gets in over his head when a gun he’s been assigned to dispose of falls into the hands of the creepy kid who got diddled by Nicole Kidman in Birth. Along the way to retrieve the weapon, he meets pimps, child murderers, and dirty cops, and that’s just in his driveway. Essentially, Running Scared is Sin City with colour film stock and an ear for dialogue not cribbed from a Raymond Chandler novel.

Not the star of Running Scared.

The film’s main flaw, however, is in its over-reliance on style. Have you ever met a beautiful woman so insecure that she masks her natural looks with garish make-up? Well, Running Scared is that woman, except she’s painted up like a clown prostitute, distracting you with her red, bulbous nose and the way her mascara runs when you pop one off on her face. The story, performances, and characters in Running Scared are entertaining, but not strong enough that they can cruise along without a good head of steam. By the time the film reaches its illogical and improbable conclusion, it needs to be going fast enough that you don’t notice how little sense it makes, but it’s hard to get carried away with the movie if it stops every ten minutes to jerk off at the editing console, cutting every action scene into a million pieces like a jigsaw puzzle of a Marilyn Manson music video. Everything switches speeds and flashes back so often, I thought I was high on time. Nevertheless, even that can be forgiven, because it’s better to have style and substance than a lack of either, and this movie has both. In the world of Running Scared, you can have your cake and rape it too.

R.I.P., Kolchack and McCloud.

Darrin McGavin died on Saturday of unnatural causes. He was found lying in a crypt, veins coursing with dust and mouth stained with the blood of Dennis Weaver. He will be missed, as creatures of the night will now be free to reign unopposed by plucky reporters.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Hair Of The Dog That Bored You

Agents Secrets
2004, France
Frédéric Schoendoerffer

In the grand scheme of the world’s socio-political climate, France gets laid a lot. The US pushes many of the smaller countries around and makes a great deal of noise, but spends quite a bit of time jerking off to grappling magazines. Germany smiles a lot and looks friendly, but there’s something wrong with the way it looks at you and asks where your last name is from, and no one wants to be alone with Thailand. France, on the other hand, impresses women with a sexy accent, sophisticated continental tastes, and the way it flicks the tip of its tongue over your earlobe.

The first step to a fine case of crabs.

However, Agents Secrets is France the day after stumbling home to your hostel at 4 am. France spent the night, and now your room smells like curdled milk and it kind of hurts to shit. In the harsh light of the morning, what looked like a sexy stubble is actually a weeks worth of beard after a bender, and the sensuously shaggy hair is leaving grease stains on your pillow. The liberated European lifestyle is manifesting itself in poor hygiene and even worse manners, and you’re beginning to notice that the accent is not covering up a stunning lack of education.

Offensive caricature of a Freedom-man.

And that’s what this film is: a hung-over France. Ostensibly a spy thriller, Agents Secrets is anything but thrilling. Clearly too nauseous to do anything, much of the film involves spies walking from one place to another or doing research. There’s a car crash about 90 minutes in, and an off-screen murder at one point, but by then the audience has nipped off to the bistro for a quick croque-monsieur and an expresso, terribly frustrated that the film managed to get the capital of Estonia wrong in the first five minutes. Star Vincent Cassel is usually in action films, and Monica Belluci is usually in good films, but I guess the morning this film was made, they were too tired for either.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I Wish I Was Illiterate. Were. I Wish I Were Illiterate.

Why do I spend an hour every day churning out crap that no one reads? Because the reason you’re not reading my stuff is because you’re reading shit like this, which was the front page of my local paper this morning:

“With 800 meters to go in the race of her life and her body hung out three klicks north of agony and a block east of despair, Clara Hughes reached down last night into a heart as broad and deep as all Canada and skated to a gold medal for the ages.”
  • Jack Todd, Montreal Gazette, Sunday, February 26, 2006

Wait, how do I get to despair again? Is it left or right at agony? Mapquest can’t find it. When did the news turn into a fucking romance novel? The front page? This guy gets paid for this, and I can’t cover my cable bill? Man, I wish I could write things that weren’t pedophile jokes and vague references to the Thule society.

Death And The Thesis

Metal: A Headbanger's Journey
2005, Canada
Sam Dunn, Scot McFayden, Jessica Joy Wise

Just for the record, Michael Moore did not invent the documentary. He just invented the stupid documentary. Documentaries have existed since motion pictures were created, it’s just that they used to be about boring things, like how to make candles and the Holocaust. Nowadays, however, the genre has been popularized by Moore and others, and there have been slew of successful theatrically released documentaries about people making documentaries. In a charming fusion of the cinema direct style and post-American Idol narcissism, every single documentary made in the last ten years stars some moron trying to make himself famous by eating a metric ton of hamburgers or yelling at the guy who owns GM. The difference with Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, however, is that the moron in question is a master’s student in anthropology.

Really? It took you 30 days to figure out McDonald's is bad for you, and you had to test your theory on yourself? Now do gun control.

Not that that makes the documentary particularly intelligent. All it really means is that if you squint really hard, you can see the grant application lingering behind every frame. “The Anthropology of Heavy Metal! Starring A Long-Haired Weirdo For That Personal NFB Touch!”. The film’s even broken up into chapters titled like a grad thesis, like “Gender and Sexuality” and “How To Get Telefilm To Pay For My Black Sabbath Tickets”. But the film is good. Damn good. Hell, it’s got Gaahl from Gorgoroth in it, drinking what’s probably blood from a chalice in between prison sentences. How could it not be? Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey lays out many of the key issues that make heavy metal actually interesting, though it never quite manages to make the genre seem anything more than accidentally important, like inventing abstract art by projectile vomiting red wine on a tablecloth. My only issue with the content is that it makes heavy metal fans seem like one united culture of outsiders, like musical jihadists, whereas they are more like Europeans, in that everyone lumps them together but they all hate each other. There are so many ridiculously precise sub-genres of heavy metal, and the only level of discourse available to most fans is how their favorite band could beat up your favorite band. I hate how if you like one type of metal, you’re forbidden from liking another, much less give them respect for what they’re doing. You just have to call everything else gay, and go back to listening to Rob Halford preen. Then there’s the sell out factor, which involves being hopelessly devoted to your favorite underground band, then immediately forsaking them the instant you see another 16 year old wearing their T-shirt.

Great. Now I need to sell some CDs.

To help break things down for my loyal reader, I’ve compiled a brief summary of some of the dominant sub-genres in heavy metal.


Black metal is by far my favorite sub-genre, as it’s entirely composed of trained musicians who discovered 9 years into a 10 year Royal Conservatory program that they hate music. So, they do the exact opposite of music, which is black metal. If you’re into verses, choruses, refrains, clearly recorded anything, or in fact music that doesn’t sound like a tin-can full of ball bearings falling down a flight of stairs, then black metal is not for you. This is the most unbelievably uncommercial form of music I have ever heard, created by people who must be doing it for love, because they can’t possibly be doing it for money.

Actually, Abbath Doom Occulta here does it for the chicks. And by chicks I mean Viking boys.

Black metal started in 1981 with the formation of Venom, a British band which took the doom and gloom imagery of Black Sabbath and cut it with cocaine and Motorhead. They sang a lot about Satan while trying to scare parents, and managed to convince a bunch of Scandanavians that they were serious. Then, in 1983, a band called Bathory started up. Essentially a one man project from a guy called Quorthon, the band amped up Venom’s sound by stripping anything remotely listenable away, leaving only overt Satanic imagery and vocals that sound like throat cancer gargling with gravel. The songs still had recognizable structure, but only if you could sift through a fifty pounds of distortion and a bad blast beat.

Look! It's Conan The Queertarian! A bunch of times!

By the mid-eighties, Bathory had abandoned black metal for Viking metal, which is what you call white-supremacist music if you want to sell more records. But not before inspiring a host of other bands, most notably Mayhem. Mayhem is the best band that doesn’t have Danzig in it, and not because of their music. After recording a couple of demos, they settled on a line-up that included people named Necrobutcher, Euronymous, Hellhammer, and lead singer Dead. Dead was 17 years old and probably had schizophrenia, a condition which was not improved by Euronymous continually telling him that no one liked him and he should kill himself. Dead, always eager to please, complied, slitting his wrists with a butcher knife and then shooting himself in the head with a shotgun, leaving a mangled corpse in an I (Heart) Transylvania T-Shirt and a note that said “Sorry about all the blood”. Upon discovering the corpse, Euronymous, wracked with guilt, promptly ran out to the store, bought a camera, took photographs which would later become an album cover, make necklaces out of Dead’s skull fragments, cooked and ate part of the brain in a stew, and then called the police. Mayhem then got a new bassist, one Count Grishnack from one-man black metal band Burzum. Grishnack was being investigated for burning down several churches in Norway, and promptly stabbed Euronymous to death. And then they released their first album. Since then, Necrobutcher has served a couple of jail terms for weapons offenses, and new singer Maniac put a fan in a coma by hurling a severed sheep’s head at him at a concert. And they’re not even the best black metal story. The guys from Emperor have, between them, burned two churches, committed one act each of knife assault and desecration, and killed a gay guy in the Lillihamer Olympic Park. Two members of Dissection killed an Algerian homosexual by holding him down and firing a stun-gun into his head several times, and were convicted of murder and grave robbing. And that just scratches the surface of the litany of black metal crimes, all committed in the name of an unholy crusade to destroy the Christian church by murdering homosexuals and other Satanists. I’m sure the Pope cries himself to sleep every night. Sometimes they record albums, too.

Yes. That is his brain.

Death Metal/Speed Metal/Power Metal/Thrash Metal/Doom Metal/Grindcore/Metalcore/Blackened Death/Nu-Metal/Glam Metal/Gothic Metal/Stoner Metal


And there you have it, the history of heavy metal, from one narcissist to another. Favorite metal bands, anyone? You're not allowed to say Metallica.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Garage Bands In The Savage Land.

Garage Days
2002, Australia
Alex Proyas

Apparently, Australia has electricity now. Which means they have electric guitars. Which means they have shitty music. Now all they need is old Pixelvision cameras and an appreciation of stop-motion animation, and they can start churning out crap indie videos like the rest of the world.

How very retro. Now go write your next album on an Etch-A-Sketch.

Until then, they’ll have to settle for movies about crap indie bands. The twist with Garage Days is that the film knows the band is shitty, and the audience is in on the joke. The only problem is, the joke’s not funny. It’s at times juvenile and always lame, like what a 40 year old who’s never had children thinks kids would find funny. Directed by The Crow’s Alex Proyas, the film is inventive visually, but almost completely forgettable. But it tries, oh, how it tries, to stick in your memory with quirky characters, wild drug trips, and Fight Club twists as out of place as a black kid without a trust fund at a Radiohead show. Plus, the movie, starring a bunch of people you’ve never heard of and will never hear of again, is inadvertently depressing because the band it features could never possibly succeed. Here’s why:

  1. No one in the group appears to be wearing Converse sneakers. This is apparently more important to indie rock than having an alphabetized vinyl collection, or being able to name-drop Roky Erickson into a discussion of 60s psychedelia.

  1. While there is an attempted suicide within the band, this suicide is not attempted while a Smith’s song plays in the background.

  1. The band does not have a name. While this verges on being so very cool it causes Pitchfork Media to melt its server, this will invariably result in hundreds of underground rock bands with deliberately obtuse names killing each other in fits of jealousy for not having thought of that first, thus eliminating the entire target audience. The Go! Team, in particular, will slaughter thousands by swinging around inappropriate punctuation.

As the band must fail, so does the film. Here’s hoping it still makes enough money to keep the lights on in Australia.

R.I.P., Mr. Limpet

Don Knotts died today, at the age of 81. As a fitting tribute to his career, this 16mm Shrine obituary will be painfully unfunny.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Children! More Oil!

2005, USA
Chris Wedge / Carlos Saldanha

Generally, I measure the success of a children’s film in regards to its ratio of fart jokes per minute. The higher the FJPM, the closer it is to the pinnacle of soul-crushing depravity that is Harland Williams’ Rocket Man. The lower the value, the more capable I am of maintaining an erection throughout the entire course of the film, and the happier I am. Don’t laugh, or more likely call the police. It’s fairly trying watching kid’s movies, so you have to you’re your kicks where you can. Unfortunately, despite its relatively low FJPM, Robots has no actual children in it, rendering the pederrific effects of this rating moot.

Currently, this review is at 4 FJPM.

The film also lacks a story, which is perhaps a more pressing concern. This is not to say that the movie isn’t funny; it is. There are some really well thought out jokes and carefully crafted gags, provided your sole source of inspiration is the sort of puns your grandfather would tell after one too many snifters of brandy. The problem with Robots is that it seems as if the script was written by a bunch of really funny guys whose only experience of narrative was Duck Tales. A film like The Incredibles succeeds because it’s a great story that happens to be funny. Robots fails because it’s a funny joke that happens to have a story, and not much of one at that.

God. It's like a bear with male pattern baldness.

Essentially, Robots follows a young inventor, voiced by Ewan McGregor, who travels to Robot City so he can invent things better, or something like that. Once there, he meets several annoying sidekicks, spoiling him for choice when it comes time to pick some comic relief. He finally settles on Robin Williams, thankfully in animated form, because I do not need to see that much hair in one place ever again, thank you very much Good Will Hunting. McGregor then has to defeat an evil robot and find love all at the same time, a set of A and B plots so pedestrian it seems no surprise he walks through them. There’s no hint of tension in the entire film, and while this may not be enough to ruin it for children, for those of seeking something a little more stimulating, I recommend sticking to something that’ll really get the blood flowing. To the genitals.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

It's Late, I'm Tired, and Evil Dead Rules.

2005, USA
Phil Morrison

Fish out of water comedies are a dime a dozen, like dumb names in the indie rock scene and girls with wrist scars. Usually, either the fish is poor and the water is rich, or vice versa, but either way, both are annoying. Unless they’re Junebug, which takes all the good bits out of Sweet Home Alabama and leaves Reese Witherspoon crushed under the weight of her leaden comic timing and bulbous forehead.

Jesus. You could watch IMAX on that thing.

Set in North Carolina, Junebug tells a familiar story without the broad comic strokes familiar to this particular sub-genre, but still with a sense of humor. Starring Embeth Davitdz, the film gives us a predictable clash of cultures revolving around a Southern Bible Belt family dealing with their first encounter with their new daughter in law. The family is traditional but welcoming, and Davitdz is, of course, a princess from 14th century England battle-scarred from winning a war with the unholy Deadites. Wait, that’s Army of Darkness. I think that here, Davidtz plays an outsider art dealer from Chicago, one of those gallery owners who deals in paintings done by retards or women. Doesn’t matter. Both films star Embeth, and that movie’s way better than both Junebug and Sweet Home Alabama combined. Army of Darkness has legions of the undead, whereas Junebug only has a close-knit family believably played by talented actors. Junebug values only subtlety and complex characterization, but Army puts more emphasis on dancing skeletons. Army has Mr. Peterman from Seinfeld, and Junebug only has that doe-eyed mope from The O.C. that looks like he learned to act by pantomiming a Backstreet Boys video and his face stuck that way. But on the plus side, neither film stars Reese Witherspoon’s forehead.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The King Ash Version.

…And God Created Woman
1956, France
Roger Vadim

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be Light; and there was light.

But God still couldn’t find his glasses, and CSI: New York was on in ten minutes, so God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and then maybe he can find our glasses.

In case you're wondering, God has astigmatism. That's why he can't get laser eye surgery.

So God moulded Man out of clay, making him brown, because God also needed someone to do his gardening, and you can pay Mexicans less than minimum wage if you threaten to call immigration. And God called the Man Jésus.

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. Except that Jésus was losing valuable gardening hours masturbating into his cupped hand while staring at a crude cave-painting of a pin-up girl. So, God plucked a rib from Jésus chest, and God created Woman.

For a while, everything was good. Then, Jésus got bored with Woman, and starting jerking off in the cave again, so God gave Woman a few extra orifices to help satisfy Jésus. Unfortunately, one of these orifices was a mouth, and Woman spent the rest of her life shrilly trying to act in bad titty pictures and spouting off about animal rights. God had accidentally created Bridget Bardot.

God soon discovered that, aside from the interesting exploration of evolving European sexual mores that was And God Created Woman, Bridget Bardot movies are much better with the sound off. So, God created the mute button.

And there blessed silence was upon the ears of the deep.

Video Round-Up For February 21, 2006.

Both Rent and North Country were released today. Right now, the AIDS jokes are fighting with the "if she didn't want it, she wouldn't have passed out so quickly when I hit her" quips in my brain, so I've got nothing to say. Watch them both and come up with your own tasteless punchline.

Monday, February 20, 2006

You Must Be This Tall To Ride The Broom.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
2004, USA
Alfonso Cuaron

Ever since its meteoric rise in popularity, Christian groups and conservative critics have been on the warpath against the Harry Potter series. Mainly, their objection stems from the belief that the novels and films will, through the glorification of magic, paganism, and wizardry, encourage children to be gay. This is the only possible objection to the “dark arts” presented in these watered down Dungeon Master manuals, because the only thing the pagan imagery in Harry Potter could make you want to do is wear black nail polish and spend a year of your life trying to like Sisters of Mercy. Hell, I think I saw the guy from the Stone Roses in one scene, and he shows up on gaydar like the soundtrack to Cats.

The interesting thing about the Harry Potter series is that the novels grow in complexity as the readership ages. And so, the films do become more interesting as the franchise progresses, though the whole concept seems to be Lord of the Rings for babies,
female drama students, and pedophiles. Unfortunately, though The Prisoner of Azkaban is darker in both tone and style than the previous films, it still remains a movie for children. Why does it feel like I’m trying to give a review of a Curious George book to a pre-school class every time I talk about these movies, and yet every one I know has seen them? It’s like my entire peer group pulls out a spit-stained teddy bear and starts sucking their thumb whenever this film comes up. So, in order to bring the discourse up to an adult level, it’s time to engage the film on more mature terms.

In this film, Hermione Granger has aged past where she’s so annoying you want to smack her to the point where she’s so annoying you want to fuck her and prematurely ejaculate on her mosquito bite breasts so she never talks to you again. Ever. By the next film, however, she’ll be well into MILF territory.

Daniel Radcliff as Harry Potter has just missed cute and entered the realm of looking weird and out of place, especially since he now seems to be much older than both his peers in the film and his target audience. This is getting creepy, because this age discrepancy makes him seem either retarded or sexually predatory.

Richard Harris has turned into Michael Gambon, which is like turning gold into fat, piggish lead.

The movie moves way too fast, as do most films for children. Probably, this is because the filmmakers assume the audience already knows the story, and is just showing up for a eight-year old’s birthday party, or to see a young boy riding a broom.

Now that the film has been discussed on a more adult level, it’s time for the next entry in the series, where Rupert gets Alzheimer’s and Hermione breaks her hip.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I Can Hear The Colour Yellow.

Throne of Blood
1957, Japan
Akira Kurosawa

One day, I will stop watching Akira Kurosawa movies. This will be the day that I die, swallowing my tongue after a seizure caused by seeing moonlight flit through yet another wisp of fog on a barren, black and white Japanese plain, because Kurosawa apparently never stopped making movies, even when he was dead or asleep. Every time I think I’m done, another movie rears its squat, Japanese head, replete with patchy beard and male pattern tonsure, and I have to spend another three hours watching a Criterion collection DVD. Then, lights flash, I taste the sun, and all is beautiful, at least until I’m found in a puddle of froth, black blood, and sick.

I suppose, however, that if I were to die, I could think of worse ways to go than watching Throne Of Blood. Like eating sugar laced with ground glass, or seeing Rent again and catching AIDS from a sharp edged DVD case. This way, at least I get to see one last legendary over-performance by Toshiro Mifune, or the “yellow Charlton Heston”, as he’s known in cinema’s academia. And I experience yet another dense Shakespeare adaptation from a culture that generally puts more effort into the scriptwriting of Nintendo RPGs than motion pictures. I complain, and I complain, but still I watch as the iconography of Elizabethan pulp fiction is replaced by the rich visual cues of feudal Japan. I see Macbeth's Highland moors become the fogged hills of the Orient, and the pride and greed of the Scottish aristocracy changed to the soulless nobility and bottomless treachery of the samurai bushido code. And then the lights flash, I taste the sun, and my mouth fills up with blood. And worst of all, it stains my favorite Samhain T-shirt, and the spot just won’t come out.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

And So Begins The Apocalypse

Incident at Loch Ness
2004, USA
Zak Penn


Everything Werner Herzog has to do with equals good.


Everything that Werner Herzog is in equals funny.

Incident at Loch Ness is a mockumentary starring Werner Herzog.

However, Incident at Loch Ness does not equal good or funny.

Does not compute. Does not compute. Imperfection. Imperfection. Must sterilize. Sterilize imperfection.

Meet You In The School Yard At 3:15.

Of course, all true fans of this site and cinema in general will already be attending the prestigious Rendez-Vous Du Cinema Quebecois festival this month, specifically the screening at the Cinematheque Quebecoise this Sunday, the 19th, at 4:00pm. Provided, of course, you live in Montreal. Anyone who attends will get a personalized disapproving stare from yours truly.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Hunting For An Ending.

2004, USA
Renny Harlin

To my knowledge, Renny Harlin has never made a good movie. I, also, have never made a good movie. Therefore, I propose that the next time some sweaty screenwriter jonesing for Vicodin coughs up a lump of phlegm and a script like this, I get to make it. I guarantee it will be just as mundane and familiar, and will be cast just as full of up and coming actors meeting falling stars right below the threshold of familiarity.

These little babies are responsible for more action movies than the Cold War.

Mindhunter is a whodunit made by people who clearly don’t care who did it. The main problem of the film, and there are many to chose from, is that it seems that they could have substituted any ending and the film would have worked fine. The best mysteries all build toward a conclusion that feels like pieces falling into place, not a desperate attempt to keep them from falling apart by slapping on the ending that scored higher in mall test screenings. Also, the premise of the film is somewhat ridiculous. It’s about a group of FBI Behavioural Sciences students being put through an elaborate training exercise on an isolated island. I’m not sure exactly how things work in the USA, but I’m pretty sure the FBI has more important priorities than spending a few million dollars training seven people to be advisors on Criminal Minds. Among the recruits are a bunch of people you vaguely recognize, Johnny Lee Miller pretending, I believe, to be from Texas, and L.L. Cool J, who manages to go almost twenty minutes without licking his lips like a pervert.

Shhhh. Don't tell your mom.

Despite what I’ve said above, Mindhunters is not terrible. It’s just sadly average. This is mildly depressing because the film is so stupid it should be awful, but instead it’s a sad reflection on the state of modern cinema. And this mediocrity pervades the film on every level, both stylistically and formally. I’ve seen films that had great editing, like Insomnia or Don’t Look Now, and films that were edited terribly, like Aeon Flux, but Mindhunters again finds itself right in the middle, pulling out every stock trick in the book and doing everything by the predictable numbers. Which, incidentally, would be another show that would probably benefit from the recruits in this story.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Show Me On The Doll Where The Frenchman Touched You.

Que Dieu Benisse L’Amerique
2005, Canada
Robert Morin

I’m not sure, but I think this is a comedy about sex offenders. I thought I was edgy, but apparently I’m just an asshole. What edgy really is, this film has taught me, is getting a couple of million dollars from the government to make a movie in which half the characters are rapists or pederasts. Essentially, there are two constants in Quebec film. One is that the characters speak gibberish, and the other is that the films are very casually amoral, so much so that you’re never quite sure if they’re pushing the envelope or filling it with Polaroids of eight year old boys getting violated.

It's all downhill from here, folks.

The gibberish factor is what makes me say that I think the film is a sex offender comedy. I speak French, but Quebecers don’t, so it can be pretty hard to follow an un-subtitled film, unless you happened to have worked in a Gatineau paper mill for at least five years. The amorality thing is more interesting, however. Quebec has a long standing and resilient separatist movement, one dedicated to protecting Quebec’s unique culture of being like France had the entire population dropped out of grade school to grow pot on wheat farms. Essentially, I think all this separatist nonsense is just a smokescreen to keep people from coming into the province and telling them they can’t smoke in church, or sell alcohol to minors in a strip club. But every once in a while, the rampant, unabashed hedonism results in something immediately arresting, like this film or a herpes blister. What’s interesting about Que Dieu Benisse L’Amerique is that it’s so casual in its shocking subject matter; it’s not a sex offender movie, it’s a comedy for people that happen to find sex offenders funny. And that’s refreshing. The truly progressive movies are not the ones that sensationalize controversy, but rather the ones that treat unconventional subject matter as par for the course. href="http://www.oldies.com/product-view/0814GD.html">My Baby Is Black or Look Who’s Coming To Dinner don’t advance social causes, they exploit them. As much as I loathe to admit, it’s stuff like Will and Grace, where homosexuality is just part of life, that do the most good. Jesus, that Quebec film must be contagious. Now I’m speaking gibberish.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Terminal Career Velocity.

2004, USA
Marcus Nispel

When you fall off a ten story building, your legs shatter, driving your thigh bones through your hips and into your body cavity. Your vertebrae crack, most likely severing your spinal cord, and if you’re particularly unlucky, your stomach will burst and spill your guts like a wet piñata. When you fall off a step-ladder, however, you just get an egg sized lump on your forehead and invent a new way to work the words “Jesus Christ” and “cock-sucker” into one sentence. Which is why it’s so bizarre that Parker Posey looks so bad in this film; she hadn’t climbed very high in her career, but her fall from grace seems to knocked her around but good, like a Southern housewife who burnt the pork chops.

What do you tell a Parker Posey with two black eyes? "Make my fucking dinner again!"

Formerly an annoying indie darling, Posey must have some pretty heavy gambling debts, because it looks like she’s pretty desperate for money here. The presence of co-stars Adam Goldberg and Michael Madsen are understandable. Goldberg is probably anxious to move out of his mother’s place, and Saving Private Ryan residuals and guest spots on My Name is Earl are probably not paying the bills, and Madsen has been desperate for recognition ever since Hollywood figured out he wasn’t Tom Sizemore. Posey, however, worked up quite a bit of indie cred through films like Waiting For Guffman and The Doom Generation, but she apparently spent that credit buying a house she can’t afford, because she’s really slumming here.

Frankenstein is a modern adaptation of the general idea of a vague concept presented in a poor summary of Mary Shelly’s 1818 novel. Updating the story to an alternate present in which no one washes and interior light-bulbs haven’t been invented, the film is a grim, stylishly cut music video of a movie, which makes sense because it’s from the guy who ruined The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Everyone in this film looks tired, beaten up, and old, especially Madsen and Posey. It also looks as if everyone has seen Se7en, and the fact that they’re ripping it off is the big, uncomfortable pink elephant in the middle of the movie. In terms of the general story, it seems as if the plot is taken from a much larger back story that is barely explained, but I mean that as more of a compliment than as a criticism. It gives the film a surreal feel that would almost keep it afloat if it weren’t continually being sunk by the leaden dialogue. Apparently, Frankenstein was intended to be the pilot for a Martin Scorsese/Dean Koontz TV series, which explains the loose ends and the terribly open ending, and while I wouldn’t watch a sequel to this film, I’d probably watch the show. So, in a way, it’s a shame the series never hit the ground running, though judging from Posey’s face, it certainly hit the ground hard.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Special Valentine's Day Gift To All The Ladies

New Releases 3
2005, USA
Danny Case

Conceptually, New Releases 3 is a bit confused in its representation of female sexuality, as well as in its treatment of the twin concepts of empowerment and exploitation. Ambitious but uneven, the film attempts more than can be done justice by its low budget, but every twenty minutes someone ejaculates on an 18 year old’s face, so there’s a lot I’m willing to forgive.

In what is proving to be a popular format in a post-Sin City cinematic landscape, the film tells 5 separate vignettes, each connected through similar thematic elements and anal sex. New Releases 3 opens with Tiffany Taylor, who begins the documentary with an intriguing interview segment in which she discusses issues of pubescent sexual awakening while squatting nude on a tiled floor. As the scene progresses, the audience gets to see how the aforementioned issues have allowed Taylor to develop in a post-feminist cultural landscape into someone who is ejaculated on for money.

The theme of racial boundaries is are examined quite thoroughly in the next scene, which stars Lexi Love, Aleia Taylor, and nine inches of erect male genitals. What’s interesting here is not the comment on the integration of racism into culture, which has been explored before in films like Crash, but rather the way in which these tensions are explored, which brings to mind prior taboo-breaking films such as Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and Interracial Creampie.

In the third scene, actress Georgia Peach provides an interesting counterpoint to the racial issues dealt with previously. Culturally, the American South is viewed by many in Western society as a hold-over of antebellum attitudes, but Peach presents a South that is open, welcoming, and spread. There is also a great deal more anal plug usage than I recall being in Gone With The Wind or Birth of a Nation.

Ria Lynn’s segment, sadly, adds little to the discourse established in the previous sequences. Preferring to step back a little from the hot-button social issues presented in the previous scenes, Ria Lynn masturbates and then has sex in seven different positions.

Finally, Nikki Hilton and Kaiya Lynn give insight into issues of celebrity and cum-swapping. Somewhat meta-textually, Hilton’s performance harkens back to the infamous 1 Night In Paris sex tape featuring Paris Hilton. By giving herself a stage name just one letter removed from Paris’ famed sister, Hilton is clearly dealing with the fine line between celebrity and caricature. At what point, the scene asks, does a celebrity cease to be an individual and become a brand, or an icon? Is it when the world of the private becomes public? Or is it when she takes it in the shitter while another girl fingers herself? Either way, the scene, and in fact New Releases 3 in its entirety, poses interesting questions that, while left unanswered, at least leave room for discussion and ejaculation.