|There are very few things in this world that bring me more pleasure than going to see a movie.
I love the glowing marquee that blasts electric neon into suburban skies like a beacon of hope. I love watching hustling teenagers mix with middle-aged couples, introverted stoners shuffling past exhausted parents, loudmouth "comedians" with bad jokes merging with comic book nerds who greet new trailers with elitist disdain. I love listening to the popcorn machine crackle like two drunks humping on a sheet of bubble wrap. I love buying gargantuan sodas I'd never consider in "real life" but somehow justify when I'm watching Vin Diesel land a Dodge Challenger on Mount Rushmore. I love cushy seats that recline and allow me to sprawl out in positions I'd never attempt in my own home. I love screens so big they overwhelm me, and surround sound so punishing it feels like I just saw Iron Maiden play in the back of a cargo van. From watching people to watching movies, I love going to the theater.
Well, most of the time.
We've all had those days where Sweet Mother MegaPlex takes our clammy hand and leads us straight to movie hell. From the asshole on the cell phone (what brightness setting are you using, fucking SUN?!?) to the idiot who can't follow the movie and keeps asking questions, modern theaters are a roll of the dice. In fact, I've come to expect a certain amount of chaos when I head to the cinema.
Today we start in the town of Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb. This was a unique time in my life, as I was just starting to get my shit together and was desperate to achieve something other than collecting Camel Cash. The arrival of my lovely daughter 4 years prior pulled me out of my funk and provided me with a sense of purpose that had been lacking. I was infused with newfound vigor and decided I needed to accomplish something - ANYTHING - if for no other reason than to prove that I could. So I moved to the Twin Cities to get a fresh start and pursue a coveted degree in Television Broadcasting (I graduated, but have been in the car business for over a decade so I have no idea what the hell I proved). During my first year I was working full-time during the day and taking classes at night which started to take its toll. Plus, there was a small window where my family was in Winona while my wife finished school and that meant every Thursday one of us would make a two hour trek across the state. This was exhausting, but knowing I'd see them got me through the week and I look back on these times quite fondly. But when a weekday evening opened up I made damn sure I utilized it. And on this wintery evening I caught a break.
Around 3:30pm I made a call to the attendance line and get the news I'm hoping for - no evening classes! I touched the front of my pants to make sure my excitement boner wasn't visible and skipped back to my desk like a flamboyant Yeti. Tonight, I go to the pictures I muttered to myself in an old-timey accent. I quickly peruse the movie listings and see that a buzzed about crime picture called Narc is playing just a few miles from my humble abode! So I pile into my 1996 Mercury Mystique, crank up the trunk mounted 8-disc CD changer, and speed off into the black.
I arrive at Regal Brooklyn Center Cinema and immediately notice how dead the place is (except for the outside lighting - the place looks like a Branson, MO casino designed by Liberace's Filipino pool boy). There are maybe two cars in the parking lot, no visible humans, and about two feet of snow - perfect. I quickly take a puff of nature's medicine and stagger in grinning and slant-eyed, ready for my private screening. I purchase my ticket, grab an orange Fanta, and enter the carpeted cavern where I grab a seat seven rows up, directly in the middle of an empty theater. Everything is coming up Millhouse.
Then I see him.
Let me start by saying I'm a big dude - 6'4", 275 pounds. But I've never quite seen anything like this. The guy appeared in the same way a giant ocean liner might appear in a foggy bay. He was a disturbing cross between Prop Joe from The Wire, and a 1978 Chrysler Cordoba, and Grimace. In his right arm was a tub of popcorn so large I assumed he was using a hollowed out elk stomach to carry it, and in his left hand was a soda the size of Hervé Villechaize. He approached, shuffled up EIGHT rows, and sits directly behind me.
No big deal I tried to tell myself - and I believed it until I heard him breath. It was a thick, labored breathing like he had a throat full of Dinty Moore Beef Stew and nasal passages crammed with cottage cheese and gum. The lights went down, the sound came up, and my new movie pal seemed 100 miles away. Narc opens with a gangbuster sequence that immediately grabbed me by the throat and announced itself as my kind of jam. Jason Patric aggressively chasing a suspect through the inner city; a handheld camera used with startling effectiveness; desolate locations that add a level of fear for the viewer; life-altering decisions in the first five minutes - THIS IS HOW YOU OPEN A MOVIE. Sure, it sounded like someone was fucking a tube sock filled with tapioca behind me but I didn't mind. It was movie time!
But my bliss was short lived. At that moment, the doors burst open and a rag-tag group of loudmouthed punks spills in like a pack of stray dogs. Running through the aisles, throwing popcorn, blatant cell phone usage, and general fuckery were not in short supply. These kids were relentless and there were five of them. Five!! Sure, I'm a grown-ass man but I'd rather cornhole a beehive then bring down the wrath of teenagers, particularly in an empty theater with only Big Worm's dad as (possible) backup. I started an internal monologue where I debated staying and putting up with the distractions, or bailing like a sad coward. And before you say "why didn't you tell the staff" just know that the 17 year old behind the counter would've been dangling by his underpants atop the marquee had he tried to step in. I wasn't going to put anyone in that situation. Plus, I may be a coward but I'm not a Narc..... So with my options running out and the theater in total chaos I decided to cut my losses and leave. That's when I heard it.
"Ya'll better shut the fuck up right now."
It sounded like Zeus himself. The words hung in the air like a thunderclap and graphic violence seemed imminent. The teens turned their heads around to locate the voice and of course the first thing they lock onto is a portly, wide-eyed white dude whose mouth is agape as his pumpkin head shakes from side to side in disbelief.
"What was that motherfucker?" one of the spirited youngsters yells out.
"I said shut the fuck up or I'm 'bout to come down there whoop all ya asses," my large friend shot back.
The hijinks stopped. Sure there were a few murmurs and some curse words softly muttered, but those punks did indeed shut the fuck up. Amazing. I had to let this hero know how appreciative I was so I turned my head and quietly whispered, "Hey, thanks man I really appreciate that."
He gives a nod that I can only describe as a cross between Yoda and Jules from Pulp Fiction and basically yells back, "Punk motherfuckers ain't gonna ruin my movie. Shiiiit." As if that wasn't cool enough he leans his head and lets out a booming laugh that was so cartoonish and over-the-top that I have to believe it was real. I turned back just in time to see a handful of M&M's whizz past me and make contact with the defiant brute sitting behind me. Uh oh. Homophobic slurs and dietary insults rained down from the young bastards almost as forcefully as the candy, and even my manatee sized pal seems caught off guard. At this point I'm near panic and have genuine concern for my wellbeing but have to see how this plays out. I was hoping for a reply, and I got it.
"Ya'll fucked up now."
And like something out of a National Geographic nature special my new pal sprang into action with a speed and ferocity that I hadn't dreamed he could possess. Before I could even process what was happening he was two rows and front of me and had murder in his eyes. Clearly the punks saw it too because every last one of them shrieked like the front row at a Bieber concert and sprinted for the exits. From my vantage point I could see a large, panting silhouette flailing his arms about and yelling something about having "eyes everywhere". He rumbles back to his seat and is wheezing like a Model T, sweat glistening off his forehead like frost on a car hood.
"What a bunch of assholes. You ok man?" I meekly offer.
"I'm good. Punk bitches always acting crazy at this theater," he replies like this is a normal occurrence.
"I hear that bro," I say with the whiteness of a thousand Donny Osmonds. He just softly chuckles. After a few minutes his sinuses roar back to life and everything seemed ok. Never has the sound of another man's phlegm been so comforting.
Oh, shit... sorry. I forgot about Narc. It's pretty cool. Maybe see it if it's on cable or something.
|"My Own Private Idaho" is a cool movie. Certainly cooler than I will ever be. I would probably be a lot cooler if I wore red skinny jeans, but I don't know if I could pull it off. Everyone's sunglasses game is on point in this movie too, and I don't have cool sunglasses. I just bought some so I could look like the lead singer of Portugal. The Man, but I am not nearly as political or capable of growing a mustache.
If anything while watching this movie I just got really self conscious about how uncool I am, and also because I am super straight.
Anyway, Udo is great as always. If there is anything I have learned from watching lots of movies with him in it, it's that Udo should just be a side character in every movie that is released. That way even if it's the worst thing ever like the Halloween remake, Udo is still there just trucking along. I might be excited about one of these Marvel movies again if Udo shows up as Squirrel Girl or some shit at the beginning of the third act to help fight Megatron. That would be cool.
|A triumphant return to form.
Is it weird if I got an erection watching this?
Probably not, lemons are the hottest citrus in the animal kingdom.
At the end it says: For Robert Huot.
Well Rob wherever you are, I hope you're happy.
|Everybody is all on this Denis Villeneuve train with "Ah, he's released the best movie ever made every year for the past five consecutive years, Denis Villeneuve is the best thingy ever", to which I would quietly wipe a tear forming in the corner of my eye, and slap the shit out of each and every one of you sub-human degenerates! Have you lost your respect for the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, omnitrash, Nic Cage?! Let me let you in on a little secret my guy, Ennhh Denis Villeneuve releases a movie annually? Nic Cage is out there in the field, churning 70 of these babies out in a week's time like fuckin Octo-mom, and all you are on Denis's dick like... mmhmm Blade Runner 2049, but I'm like mmhmm USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage.
YOu gOt To pAY rEsPeCT WHerRE ReSPecT Is DuE.
Anyway, Ryan Gosling plays the guy that was in Drive, fucks Katy Perry, shoots a couple people, talks to a lot of people, goes on walks, and all to the magnificent tune of Hans Zimmer revving a car engine and blowing raspberries into Harrison Ford's tummy.
Cool movie tho.
|Swartacus' Best of 2017 (aka the Barking Seal of Approval)
It's hard to imagine getting back into bands you've half ignored for the past 15 years. But yet here we are. I haven't been into QOTSA since 2002's "Songs for the Deaf". This was seemingly the last time they surfaced above the murky, monotonous festival circuit and onto my dadrock radar. That album featured none other than Josh Homme bestie Dave Grohl on skins, and a chunka chunka anti-rocker entitled "No One Knows".
Well imagine if you will, the groove of that spunky single flying off the rails with more funk, grit, and 15 years worth of ironic gallows humor and you have just a kernel of all that is 2017's "Villains". The album starts off with a low, ominous 80s synth straight outta some bad Schwarzenegger movie and ramps up into a Clockwork Orange inspired synthy crescendo. Then the kick drum hits. The kick drum hits like a freakin' nail gun to the gourd... and in struts that greasy riff. The almighty meat hook of terror. The furry, filthy stomping of "Feet Don't Fail Me", one of the most intricately bombast rock songs I've heard in the last 6.5 to 7.5 years.
Homme has said repeatedly that he wanted to create some QOTSA you could swing to... and this is some ferocious, metallic rockabilly that will cause your ear hair to vibrate. The first five lines of "Feet Don't Fail Me" set the tone for the entire album:
I was born in the desert
It's infectious and personal. A great lead-in for the gut-busting 9 track set that is all killers, zero filler. Remember when albums were 9 songs long? The 70s. A great time for albums. No 16 song hodgepodge albums with "skits" and filler tracks about doo doo dick. Albums could only be so long or sound quality was lost. You brought your game or else. You know what a 16 song album is? It's a fucking double album. You know how many classic double albums there have been in the history of rock? About 4... maybe 5.
That's right; you bring your best shit. You know what 16 songs says to me? You don't have a fucking plan. You don't have confidence in anything, so you throw everything at the listener hoping that the perceived value of extra songs alone will make 'em love ya.
That isn't Villains. Villains is razor sharp and exquisitely polished. But that doesn't mean it only contains 2-3 min. pop ditties. Hell no, it's fits and starts. It's rollercoasters and sidewinders. It's sonically adventurous. Every song is an epic. In this funhouse land a 3-chord goof riff like the one in "Domesticated Animals" can morph into raw menace when paired with Homme's apocalyptic lyrics. A sloppy homage to Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean" is put in the spin cycle with Tame Impala's "Elephant" on "The Evil Has Landed". And why not end the album with a slow motion depresso bass line take off of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild side"? Then switch gears completely and lift everyone up during the chorus with floaty Bowie-esque warble-chanting lyrics like:
Close your eyes and dream me home
Homme has clearly been influenced by many things in the past few years (overarching current events aside) - he's toured and created music with Iggy Pop as well as endured the tragedy of Bataclan with his old pal Boots Electric. It's an interesting stew he's created, and one I'm not sure he can replicate ever again.
|Over the years, "Sleepaway Camp" deservedly gained a cult status and became a franchise that already has 3 sequels and an "incomplete" film.
The last film released, 2008's "Return to Sleepaway Camp", ignores the other sequels and is considered the only true sequel to the original film for being directed by the same director (Robert Hiltzik) and having the two main actors of the original (Jonathan Tiersten and Felissa Rose) back in their roles.
Obviously, the first thing people remember about this movie is the iconic final scene. One of the biggest "WTF" moments in horror history. But those who just watch this scene and discard the rest of the movie are missing out on one of the funniest teen slashers ever made.
Ricky Thomas is one of the coolest teenage protagonists I've ever seen. He doesn't take shit from no one and always stands for what is right, facing the bullies without fear.
Poor thing tries to relive last summer's kisses with Judy (Karen Fields), but the little bitch now feels like the last drop of water in the desert because her breasts have grown since the last summer.
Even though suffering from the lack of girls at the camp, Ricky doesn't become "pussy whipped" and doesn't fall into Judy's traps like the other less intelligent guys.
Judy is like a full-blown version of the unbearable Amanda Buckman (Mercedes McNab) of "Addams Family Values". With the support of the equally annoying counselor Meg (Katherine Kamhi), both of them make Angela's life miserable while they also make it easier for the audience to cheer for the killer.
The death scenes are quite censored, but we can see enough of their good makeup and practical effects.
It's a pity, since the killer is quite creative and uses everything from a simple knife to bees and a hot curling iron (probably inserted in the victim's intimate parts) to kill his victims.
Surprisingly, the death scene I liked best is one of the simplest and involves only a knife cutting the victim's back from top to bottom. I almost felt the pain just by watching. Great stuff.
The most "flashy" point of "Sleepaway Camp" is the enigmatic Angela, played by Felissa Rose. I love the way she stares at her bullies, saying nothing. Such a strange and fascinating character.
I wonder if the ghost of the killer's mother in "Insidious: Chapter 2" was inspired by Martha (Desiree Gould), Ricky's mother and Angela's aunt. Both are insane bitches who ruin the life of a child to get what they want: a daughter.
"Sleepaway Camp" is a unique 80s slasher.
|One of my favorite movies and perhaps the most detailed and scary pagan cult ever created by the cinema.
Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) plunges recklessly into the whirlwind of beliefs and rituals of the gentle people of the Scottish island of Summerisle, a hidden pagan paradise on Earth.
Guided by his duty and morality, he ignores the power that blind faith and isolation from the rest of the world can have on the most basic concepts of humanity and decency.
The moral pain of being literally made up as a fool soon becomes insignificant when faced with the real horror.
It's only when Howie faces the petrifying vision of the Wicker Man that he realizes the extent of the horror in which he put himself.
Praying will not relieve the excruciating pain of feeling your organs boiling inside your body while your skin slowly turns into ashes.
Just as in "Rosemary's Baby", what makes the religious cult of "The Wicker Man" so scary is the naturalness and simplicity with which it is presented to the audience. After a time of exposure, everything becomes quite believable and even understandable.
It's fascinating the tour the film does presenting the details of the cult, from the ornaments, animal masks and phallic symbols of its most famous ritual to the various songs of soft melody and highly inappropriate lyrics that everyone seems to find normal. It's amazing how much content they managed to fit into 93 minutes.
"The Wicker Man" was filmed entirely in Scotland and the island's natural settings were crucial to the immersion into the cult atmosphere.
It's also worth mentioning the excellent performance of all the various villagers presented, especially Diane Cilento as Miss Rose, a teacher who takes her students to dance naked around a campfire in broad daylight, Britt Ekland as Willow, the beautiful daughter of the owner of the town's inn who invokes Aphrodite's power to take the virginity of the lads, and, obviously, the mighty Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle, a charlatan who controls his people through belief in ancient gods, but that also loves the cult's macabre rituals.
Without the rich performances and beautiful natural scenario, the rest of the film could've easily become an unintentional comedy, like the disgraceful remake with Nicolas Cage.
With catchy indecent folk songs, a free expression of sexuality, scenarios of raw nature, excellent actors and unforgettable visions of rituals from a false paradise, "The Wicker Man" is a haunting and unique journey through the domains of blind faith.
People say movie franchises go to space to die. But "Jaws" went to the Bahamas.
"Jaws: The Revenge" takes the franchise at its lowest point, with no hope of returning to the status it had after the first film and decides to just deliver something trashy fun, with enough blood, some cool death scenes, colorful characters and some fan services.
The film marks the return of Lorraine Gary who brilliantly played Ellen, the Brody family matriarch, in the first two films.
She deserved a better movie to say goodbye to the character instead of this mess.
It explores nostalgia and relies on the legacy of the franchise, as when Jake imitates the movie's famous soundtrack to scare Mike or when we see the younger son of Chief Brody continuing his father's work.
This movie reminds me a lot of what happened in "Alien: Resurrection", after "Alien 3" has been massacred by critics and fans, but on a far worse level. There is no concern with making plans that make sense or respect for the old characters. It's all at the service of a cheap show that appeals to the nostalgia of fans disappointed with "Jaws 3".
The best way to demonstrate the stupidity of this film is to compare its final part with the fantastic third act of the original film, which it tries to reference.
As I said in my review of "Jaws", the 1975 film has a clever plan with well-defined steps and options. The death that really happens shocks you because it is one of yours that is going and the final shot is iconic, extremely well filmed and seems logical, invoking more skill than luck.
Here in "Jaws: The Revenge", death only pretends to take an annoying supporting character and there is no plan on Ellen's part when taking the boat. The only thing she does is make the shark's job easier by putting her life and the lives of another three people, including her son, at risk.
Without a gun, I wonder if she wanted to run over the shark with the boat. Fortunately for her, the world of "Jaws: The Revenge" also disregards any and all existing logic and that is basically what happens.
One of the worst horror scenes of all time! So stupid and poorly filmed that it can leave anyone in shock for a few minutes.
The banana boat death scene is okay, but all the others, including that of the shark itself, are extremely poorly made, with hideous editing that doesn't let the audience see anything.
And the chase scene with Mike swimming away from the shark in the remains of a shipwreck is fun. A good concept but with a weak execution that abandons logic in the final part where Mike uses an oxygen cylinder to return to the surface without worrying about the depressurizing (problem already demonstrated in another film of the franchise).
Is "Jaws: The Revenge" more fun than "Jaws 3"? Yes, but anything would be. Is it better than "Jaws 3"? It doesn't matter if one shit stinks a little less than the other because both are still shit.
|Besides nailing the faux documentary/found footage aspect, what I loved most about this movie is how well it conveys the devastating effects of missing teens on their families.
The Josh/Ashley/Mark trio are super likable. The unrequited love story is subtle yet affecting. The integration of real news clips, non-actors, and fictional elements is seamless. And the end really delivers too.
This could end up becoming one of my favorite found footage movies.
I understand the comparisons to "The Blair Witch Project", but the faux documentary elements elevate "Phoenix Forgotten" beyond simple mimicry. (In fact, this is more what the Blair Witch guys wanted to do but they didn't have the budget.)
|I love when a movie grabs me so completely that it can't even be ruined by a bad theater experience (I had to walk down the aisle and shut up an elderly couple who were yapping for the first 20 minutes straight; someone's cell phone kept beeping intermittently for the last hour; I'm really just a few more bad experiences away from throwing in the towel and giving up on movie theaters completely).
Taylor Sheridan made me cry this time. That, on top of giving me another GTA-worthy shootout. Oh yeah, and nuanced performances in an emotionally complex story.
Favorite scene (besides the GTA shootout, that is):
Early on, Elizabeth Olsen (essentially our fish-out-of-water avatar in this Wyoming reservation snowscape) goes to interview the parents of the dead girl, and she's treating them like they're all in a Law and Order episode. Up until that point, the movie is hitting all the appropriate crime procedural beats. Then she's slapped in the face with the reality that these people have just lost their child; they can't help themselves let alone her. I loved that moment. It let us, the audience, know that this death is not just a plot point. It matters.