Sunday, May 29, 2011

Everything Must Go

Everything Must Go

I've always been pretty big fan of Raymond Carver but I've never felt like his stuff translates to the screen very well.  He is sort of John Cassevetes in short story form already and it just doesn't seem like it can come back onto the screen.  Short Cuts is pretty great but I give the majority of the credit to Robert Altman and Julianne Moore's bottomless scene.
Everything Must Go is based on one of the Carver stories that I, actually, have not read.  He's, Carver that is, frequently funny so I didn't rule out Will Ferrell as a possible stand out in this role.  I find Ferrell funniest at his most subtle.  I had to assume that he was going to pull it way back for this role and he did.  But I'm not sure he completely pulled it off.  The movie is pretty slow and Ferrell is in pretty much in every single frame so it's a lot to carry.  I give him a lot of credit for putting himself out there.
Ferrell plays basically the same guy who is in every Raymond Carver story.  A slightly too smart for his own good drunk with both lady and work troubles.  In this case, he gets fired from his job by one of the guys from It's Always Sunny (that's got to sting) only to arrive home to find all of his belongings on his front lawn and his wife absent from their home.  He then decides to live on the lawn for as long as the police will let him.  I won't give to much of the plot away because not all that much happens.
The best scenes are with a little kid from the neighborhood who happens to be played by Notorious B.I.G.'s son.  They play off each other well as Ferrell teaches him theories on sales while hocking all of his junk off the lawn.  Ferrell isn't as sure of himself in scenes with his new neighbor, played by one of my favorite actresses Rebecca Hall.  Ferrell is pretty convincing when playing drunk but he isn't as able at playing a drunk.  His performance is good but I was left wanting a little bit more from him.  I guess that's the most you can hope for with Will Ferrell though.  It's a better performance than the one he delivered in Stranger Than Fiction. 
Everything Must Go sort of solidifies his position near the top of the list of contenders as "The New Tom Hanks."  Why everyone is yearning for this I'm not sure but people sure seem to be.  He's got to be ahead of Adam Sandler whose jaunts into drama have been choppy at best.  Is he a better dramatic actor than Jack Black?  I don't know.  He's certainly no Steve Martin or Bill Murray though.  Of course, the best performance by a comedian in a dramatic role is Richard Pryor in Blue Collar.



I have one vivid comic book related memory.  When I was a kid, maybe eight or nine, there was a horrible, violent ice storm in my home town.  The power was out for, I think, a week.  We had to sleep in my dad's shop for most of the time.  My dad took me and my brother to the Town Crier (Later, after I grew up a bit, my dad and I used to go to the very same Town Crier and laugh at all of the off brand porn magazine titles.  My favorite:  Shaved Snizz) to get some comic books to see us through the long power outage.  I wish I could remember what the comic was that because I was pretty entranced by it.  It was a sort of Conan the Barbarian type thing.  It may have, in fact, actually been a Conan comic.  I don't know.  What I do know is that it had a whole bunch of cuss words and exposed boobs in it.  And we had to eat all of the ice cream, nine year old awesome.
Fast forward through periodic bouts with X-Men comics until Marvel started putting movies out.  I've seen all of them.  And they've been almost all terrible.  I suppose the X-Men movies are the best of the lot, perhaps if I didn't think Spider-Man was a complete wiener, then I might have liked those but I do so I didn't.  I'm also not a huge fan of the Batman movies but I have to say that they are definitely raising the bar for future endeavors in the genre.  Most are half good at best and that's where I was with Thor.
Thor was never, even in my amateur forays into comics, that intriguing to me.  He's a Norse god with a big hammer that can fly around and nobody else can pick up?  Um, OK, but why does he hang around with those lame Avengers?  I could take or leave him.   But I have to say, Chris Hemsworth, the actor playing Thor, is great in this one.  It's one of the most likeable performances in a superhero movie to date.  Unfortunately, he's playing opposite a completely flat, over matched, lost appearing, Oscar winning actress.  What the fuck, Natalie Portman?  Seriously, that was garbage, no it was worse, it was rubbish. 
The best parts of the movie feature Thor and Odin yelling at each other.  Odin is played by Anthony Hopkins and, as usual he's great but you're kind of left wondering what the hell he was doing in the movie.  I can't remember the last role he was in where I though, yeah, this is perfect for Anthony Hopkins.  The combination of Hemsworth and Hopkins make the movie worth seeing for simple summer fare.  But the rest was pretty much in shambles.  Asgard looked like the set of an 80's space porno and Thor's buddies are all pretty hammy.  The plot is spotty and barely functional and I'm not sure why they went with all the comedy in the middle of the movie.  Not that it was completely unfunny.  Kat Dennings proved able in the wisecracking side kick role and Hemsworth got tons of laughs from me immediately after waking up in the hospital after crash landing on Earth.
Obviously, Thor has it's issues but I think it's a successful Marvel movie.  I'd put it just above the Spider-Man and Hulk movies but below the X-Men (Not including Wolverine, gerf) films.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I saw INCENDIES at two in the afternoon on a Friday. The theater in which I saw it has five hundred seats in it. I counted fourteen people at my particular showing. Why is it then that two people should walk in and sit right next to me? I mean, they didn't even leave the customary one-seat gap that is common courtesy in a theater not filled to capacity. They sat right next to me. I sighed, stood up, and walked about seven seats farther down and sat again, furious. What kind of sick human being does that kind of thing? I had to take a second look at them just to make sure it wasn't somebody I knew playing a joke on me. Nope, no one I know, just a couple of middle-aged ladies. I was wondering if this was going to affect my enjoyment of the move or even color my review when, would you believe it, the same two women got up from their seats and moved closer to the center. They sat only one seat away from me! Did I mention that there are literally five hundred seats in the theater and fourteen people? I'm sure I did because there is no reason to sit anywhere near another human being in such conditions. The one-seat courtesy gap is not courtesy at all--it's a downright invasion of personal space. "Jesus Christ," I hissed. I stood up again and moved way the hell down the row of seats, to the opposite side of the theater from where I had originally sat. What kind of monsters behave this way? I wished I had a large coke to dump on their heads. I do not want to smell you, or hear you whisper, or listen to the bovine way you chew your popcorn. I still would rather see a movie in the theater than watch it at home, but it seems that every time I leave the house something like this happens. This is at the locally run, independent art house theater, mind you. It's a foreign film with subtitles. I guess the clientele there is a much a bunch of apes as they are anywhere else. I may as well go out and see the new PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie for the experience I had.

I was half entertaining the idea of leaving my review of INCENDIES as the above paragraph. I did cool down enough to enjoy the movie. I don't have a lot to say about it, actually, though I would recommend it with a couple words of caution. First of all, at two hours and ten minutes, it's too long. I found myself editing the movie as I was watching it. There's a lot of fat to trim. Twenty minutes could easily be cut. Second, and this is completely related to the first, I do not think that we need to cram music videos into movies, so that we are forced to listen to entire Radiohead songs over static camera shots of desolate landscape that does nothing to advance the story. This happened, I think, three times during INCENDIES. There's nine minutes that can be cut right there. Am I alone in that I don't go to the movies to listen to music?

The negative tone of this review might give some the impression that I didn't like INCENDIES. I liked it a great deal, actually. The sense of mystery is strong, the performances are good, and the resolution is surprising enough to justify what seems to be a weird structure. So, if you are made of tough enough stuff to withstand the thousands of depraved individuals that make up today's average moviegoer, I recommend you go to a theater and check it out.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Meek's Cutoff

MEEK'S CUTOFF has a way of keeping you at a distance. I thought at first that I wasn't going to like this movie. It seems nothing more than a series of shots of a wagon party wandering a desolate strip of the American landscape. There is no dialogue for the first several minutes of the film. This is something I usually applaud if it's handled well and the visual storytelling is compelling enough to hold my interest. Here, however, the pacing was so slow, the plot so difficult to extract (the only clue we are given is when one of the settlers etches the word "lost" into a fallen tree), and the dialogue so sparse that I was beginning to prepare myself for ninety minutes of art-house frustration.

But something happened along the way. The scraps of dialogue we are given--many of which are from a faraway vantage and difficult to hear--begin to take the shape of a story. Meek, the guide, is a pompous buffoon who has gotten the party lost. Their water supply is dwindling and the hope of finding water diminishes with each passing day. Complicating matters are sightings of a Native American who, according to Meek, is a member of a savage and bloodthirsty tribe.

Before you realize it, a story has taken shape and a compelling one at that. Meek takes a Native American prisoner and much of the dramatic tension comes from opposing viewpoints on what to do with him. Meek says he cannot be trusted and must be killed right away. Some in the party feel that he can be used to lead the party to water. The clashing over the prisoner becomes the bulk of the story. Emily Tetherow, played by Michelle Williams, is the least afraid of the Native American and, to Meek's frustration, treats him humanely. She brings him water and food and mends his broken moccasin.

The tension among the party seems that it will come to a violent end, but MEEK'S CUTOFF plays against many of the traditional Western tropes. The ending is ambiguous, the journey is slow, the landscape is arid to the point that I found myself wishing for a glass of water. This is a film that rewards the patient. So see it. And be patient.

Monday, May 16, 2011



I am unabashedly into Kristin Wiig.  So the fact that this movie was actually the funniest movie to come out so far this year is just sort of an added bonus.  Basically what's going on is this:  Maya Rudolph is getting married and wants her best friend, Kristin Wiig, to be her maid of honor.  Wiig, of course, can barely get her life together and the added pressure of planning the wedding spins her life out of control.  There's so many hijinks and shenanigans in this movie it's hard to keep track of all the hilarity!
The funniest stuff all involves Wiig who wastes none of her screen time.  There are a few others that really shine too.  John Hamm is real funny as Wiig's super handsome fuck buddy.  He doesn't have too many lines but he makes every one of them worth the price of admission.  Also, Chris O'Dowd, who plays Wiig's cop paramour, was particularly good.  I found the other bridesmaids to be average at best.  I just didn't find Rose Byrne that appealing as the woman who supposedly has everything Kristin Wiig doesn't.  But she was adequate.  The other three were kind of boring, one is a goody two shoes, one is a fat tomboy, and one is a mom who hates her kids and marriage.
What separates Bridesmaids from other recent comedies is the consistency and intelligence of the jokes.  They go for more than sight gags, which you might not think from the trailer.  There is time allowed for jokes that take longer than twelve seconds to tell which is shockingly rare in American comedies.  It does make the movie oddly long at just over two hours.
I highly recommend you catch Bridesmaids in the theater or at least the cheap theater.  You won't be disappointed and you'll find your self somehow laughing at a shit joke.  No kidding.  I couldn't believe it while it was happening (me laughing at the joke that is).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Kuroneko (1968)

At some point in my movie viewing, I happened upon a clip from an old Japanese movie. A samurai is standing near a small body of water when a bloody female corpse appears. Perhaps this clip was part of a documentary on horror or Japanese cinema. I remember someone recounting the nature of ghosts in Japanese culture versus that of those in the West. In American films, a ghost will seek to harm you and may even kill you. Japanese ghosts, though frightening, do not typically attack the individual they are haunting. Rather they appear as a reminder of a past injustice. I have wanted to see this elusive movie ever since. I don't even recall that the title was ever translated, but there was one word that stuck out: Kuroneko. Black cat.

Imagine my utter joy when I discovered a movie titled KURONEKO was available for streaming. I was also elated when I learned that it was directed by Kaneto Shindo, who helmed the excellent ONIBABA. I wasted no time in beginning the movie. Right away I was suspicious that I was not watching the elusive movie I had for years been searching for in my distracted lazy way. KURONEKO is in black and white and the clip of the samurai near the body of water I remembered as being in color. By the end of my viewing, no such scene appeared. It wasn't a total loss, or even a loss at all. KURONEKO is a chilling little ghost story.

I've got to assume that KURONEKO is an exception to the rules of Japanese folklore. The mother and daughter pair of ghosts are certainly out to do more than remind samurai of the wrong they have been dealt. They are much happier when they are seducing these unsuspecting swordsman and tearing out their throats.

Gintoki, a powerful samurai warrior returning from a prolonged battle, is given the charge of killing the ghosts (apparently in Japanese culture, ghosts can be killed by physical means). Matters are complicated when Gintoki discovers that the duo are identical to his missing mother and wife.

There is a particularly effective scene toward the end. Gintoki has cloistered himself in a room for seven days in order to observe a ritual to ensure the demise of the ghost of his mother. On the sixth day, a voice comes from outside his locked door, trying to convince Gintoki to open the door and let her in. Gintoki has a rather long conversation with the voice, who claims to be there to perform a rite as ordered by the emperor and that Gintoki is bound by law to open the door. Of course, we know that no such order was given by the emporer and Gintoki is highly suspicious. But, in the case the voice is not lying, to refuse the emperor's word and not open the door would be met with a severe punishment.

KURONEKO is definitely worth a watch, particularly if you are a fan of Japanese cinema. The black and white is gorgeous and the camerawork is typical of that particular era in that the compositions are relentlessly stunning. Though this turned out not to be the movie I had been looking for, Shindo's direction did not disappoint in the slightest the high hopes I had.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Nude Nuns With Big Guns

Things sure have started to slow down here on The Movie Goer so its time to turn around my lackluster attempt to be a film critic and give everyone a glimpse at a seriously awesome little flick I was fortunate to see (it was the world premier even!) at the Arizona Underground Film Festival last year. I mentioned in a previous post about the film festival that Nude Nuns was one of the most bad-ass films I have seen on the big screen and after watching it a second time I still stand my ground and would go so far to say it was the #1 film at the festival (which was hard to narrow down, a little Tucson secret for y'all: if your not a pussy the Arizona Underground Film fest will rock yer socks and was a great time last year).

Being fairly new to the "nunsplotation" genre of film I was pretty mixed on this one, I mean, I have sought out some pretty bizzar-o movies over time but the whole nun thing never rang my bells. I have only seen one video store ever dare to have a Nunsplotation section (Le Video, San Fransisco) which I have a picture of because the huge dork in me figured this is the furthest you can break down a genre without getting out-of-control pretentious and wanted to remember it.

Nude Nuns With Big Guns is basically about a bunch of nuns who have been forced to give into a life of producing heroin, factory line style, for a band of villains who get their orders from higher up priests from across the land; it seems everyone out in this remote desert landscape is in on things. One of the nuns (Sister Sarah, played by Asun Ortega who is ,dare I say it, one very sexy nun) gets put through a round of very strong forced heroin trips and while coming out of these claims God came to her and let her know her higher purpose in life.

Man, I am getting a heaping of guilt rush just writing this, *flashbacks to Sunday School as a child* ....ahem...anyways

Sister Sarah then explains this to an old man who is taking care of her and while he attempts to rationalize the effects of the drugs she was forced to inject she stands firm to the fact that God talked to her and instructed her to kill all who sin in his name. This old sage/vato like man then bestows upon her the weapons of holy order as she proceeds to tell him "I will have to show no mercy, even to someone, who shows mercy to me" then shots him in the face.... Fuck Yeah. This scene ended up being one of the best in the movie, very reminiscent of Sergio Leone right down to the Ennio Morricone like score and would rank way high up on the bad-ass meter as would this entire movie.

Sister Sarah is on a high risk mission from God and is kicking serious gory ass along the way. She also gets caught up in a pretty hardcore relationship with another nun which brings into play some nun lesbian scenes. There are also a gang of ruthless villains that tactically use rape as a means to scare the truth out of people , which, I thought was a bit much after one time but these villains are pretty mean dudes and rape apparently seems like a good option several times over. I guess this movie may push it a bit far for most people, rape and nuns in combination does seem downright wrong in print so bring your dark sense of humor for the whole movie or reader beware.... there are also lots of drug use , nudity and guns in this one as well; you're pretty much guaranteed to go to hell after a viewing of Nude Nuns With Big Guns but its so bad-ass and over the top in a very stylized way that even the artsy prick in you can still enjoy a trashy little gem. Also, hell is not real, so don't worry about it.

Shit like Machete and icons like Tarantino should tip their hats to Nude Nuns as its probably not going to get noticed much which is very unfortunate as it is the best out of the newer "grindhouse" type movies being made. Sure, you must be in the mood for a trashy sort of romp through underground cinema but just relax, stop being such an asshole and let the good times roll with this one.

A side note:
Grindhouse has a 7.9 on imdb and Nude Nuns has a 3.9; those numbers should be flipped as this is just another example how most people who vote on IMDB are complete idiots and should just refer to The Movie Goer for all future movie analysis.

The short that opened for Nude Nuns With Big Guns was titled Thy Kill Be Done, which was another excellent nunsplotation type film. What a great way to present a feature film: show a somewhat related short beforehand! Another good idea played out at the Arizona Underground Film Festival. Here is the trailer for The Kill Be Done and good luck finding this one.