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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Ten Word or Less Review: Much better than the one with Brando and a bucket.

The early 30’s are regarded as Hollywood’s golden age of horror.  Before it slowly became a bastardized genre for the over-the-hills and never will be’s of Tinseltown, studios treated their horror properties with as much dedication and attention as any A-list production.  The age gave us such hallowed icons as Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, The Mummy and King Kong.  All properties which contemporary Hollywood still remakes and pilfers from to this day, these genre stalwarts are regarded as the foundation of movie horror.  Not routinely discussed with these long held classics is 1932’s The Island of Lost Souls.  Sharing many of the same elements and atmosphere as its legendary cousins, Souls is one of the most intriguing horror vehicles of the era and its lack of stature among other classics from the time is odd.

An adaptation of H.G. Wells The Island of Dr. Moreau, Souls stars legendary scene chewer Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau, an amoral scientist who, hidden away on a tiny island, conducts bizarre experiments in which he turns animals into men-like creatures.  Fashioning himself as a self appointed God over his creations, Dr. Moreau wishes to perfect his methods which would culminate in the creation of a perfect human.  One day a shipwrecked fellow named Edward (Richard Arlen) winds up on Moreau’s island and becomes privy to the doctors mad creations.  Repulsed by the doctor’s scientific abominations, he desperately wants to escape before becoming entwined in his mad plans, plans that have now changed to include Edward.

Classics they may be but several of the above mentioned horror icons are creaky as Hell.  They will always be classics by definition but if you can watch the original Mummy with Boris Karloff without noding off I salute you.  The Island of Lost Souls is stylistically more adventuresome than most of its more regarded brethren from the same time.  Director Erle Kenton utilizes interesting techniques that other directors of the time hadn’t yet grasped or perfected.  His film is never visually drab, stagnant or drawn out.  At a brief 70 minutes Lost Souls chugs along nicely.  The lack of musical accompaniment is problematic but that’s indicative of all movie from the time.  The make up on display is uniformly impressive at Souls required large numbers of actors to get done up as various kinds of dog and pig men.

What also makes Lost Souls stand out is it Charles Laughton.  In one of his early starring roles, Laughton’s devilish take on the mad scientist with a god complex is one of the best.  Laughton lords over the movie with his Hitchcokian physic and sinister goatee, acting his co-stars right off the screen.  Richard Arlen is technically the star of the film but he’s not much more than your typical, square jawed leading man/block of wood that bullied through many movies of the era.  You have to look very hard to see Dracula himself, Bela Legosi, as the leader of the half-breed beasts.

Fans of classic horror have a new film to look forward to.  This wonderful restoration from Criterion is the film’s first foray onto the home video format since VHS.  If watching the old classics one more time feels like a been there done that proposition, Island of Lost Souls will give you a new old movie to delve into.


Ten Word or Less Review: Aliens meets Boyz in the Hood.

2011 has been the year of instant cult classics.  Oddball movies marginalized or ignored by the masses but embraced by the fearless few have been popping up with increasing regularity as the ability to achieve a theatrical release becomes almost impossible for smaller, idiosyncratic efforts.  Super and Hobo With A Shotgun are leading examples.  One of the most talked about, unseen films of the year is the new to home video release Attack the Block, a British effort about a gang of hoodlums fighting off an alien invasion of their apartment building.  The geek circle went off its nut for Block but despite a mountain of online press pushing people to see it, no audience could be found.  In limited release it made a paltry $1 million.  Now widely available on various video markets, Block has a chance to find the audience so many geeks wanted it to.  It’s an interesting viewing experience to say the least, but I don’t see droves of people in this movie’s future.  Maybe a small horde, but no more.

Attack the Block is a much needed antidote to Hollywood’s worn out, big budget alien invasion genre.  With large, generic, CGI aliens, massive space ships hovering over metropolitan areas and stock characters spouting crap lines from trite dialogue 101, the alien invasion movie has become unbearable.  Block benefits in a small way from the wretched Skyline.  That disaster shares a small strand of movie DNA with Block but gave the entire genre nowhere to go but up.  Attack the Block takes the tried and true conventions of the genre and gleefully ignores them, almost to a fault.  Block’s central characters are a pack thieving, thuggish hoodlums who first encounter as they rob a lady on the street.  Interrupting their crime is a meteor which comes crashing down into a car right next to them.  Within it is a vicious little alien which after attacking one of them, the group promptly kills it and totes around like a trophy to scare girls.  Soon after, larger aliens come crashing down and before anyone knows it, the whole neighborhood is being overrun by toothy, ravenous alien invaders.

Block’s desire to run against the normal grain will be a hard pill to swallow for many and this film will be a no go almost from frame one.  Starting off your movie by having the audience hate your heroes is a tricky place to begin things.  Being sympathetic towards these blokes isn’t an option at first because they come across like a bunch of worthless, mouthy little jerks worthy of becoming alien bait.  They’re the characters you look forward to seeing devoured in movies like this.  Also, the constant barrage of aggressive and unfamiliar slang mixed with thick British accents will probably loose many a viewer.  How and why Block expects us to come around to the side of these degenerents is a strange journey that none the less takes place.  Slowly but surely Block builds a case for these characters as they rise above being a loathsome, ghetto cliche.  One by one Attack the Block shades things just enough to make the various demises which take place feel regrettable.  By its conclusion this pack of reprobates has become a group worth rooting for, or at least a group to not enjoy watch being eaten alive by freaky aliens.

Directed by Joe Cornish, Block has a busy and contemporary style, but it’s not abrasive or annoying.  It doesn’t feel over cut or too ramped up on itself.  Cornish builds a movie which sits squarely in the middle of humor and horror without being definitively one or the other.  Some may feel that because it isn’t quite either its neither.  Cornish and his creative team’s best decision may be their alien design.  With scores of aliens in other films feeling like interchangeable CGI, Block’s aliens are little more than guys in suits which look like hairy black silhouettes with lots of glowing teeth.  This simple take on a consistent sticking point of the genre makes everything work better.  Giving actors an actual physical presence to run from, as opposed to a slipshod, CGI creation, will usually be more effective for thrills.  Add to that the simple but effective look of the aliens and you’ve got a good creature to make actors scream and the audience buy into.

Despite the accolades from so many sources Attack the Block found no audience and it’s easy to understand why.  It’s a goofy, half comedy, half horror show which presents its audience with a group of thugs as protagonists speaking in a borderline incomprehensible dialect running from aliens which are not much more than fur and teeth.  The masses were never going to this movie no matter how many geeks and nerds said it was the greatest thing ever since the last great thing ever.  This is a well made lark of a film for that small percentage of appreciators who enjoy the unorthodox, contrary and weird.  If that doesn’t describe what you watch on a weekend night then stay far away from this.


Ten Word or Less Review: Limited.  But good enough.

Limitless comes with the kind of wish fulfillment premise that many of us dream about as we slug it out in our daily grind.  What if by simply taking a pill, the fog, baggage and general malaise that hangs on our mind everyday would lift?  Our minds would expand in crystallizing new ways allowing us to think with complete clarity and unparalleled foresight.  Writing beautiful novels on the human condition would be kids stuff.  Becoming a stock market guru would be as simple as using a calculator.  Watching Bruce Lee movies would bestow us with everything we need to know about perfecting the martial arts.  This is the plot of Limitless, a star vehicle for Hangover’s Bradley Cooper, and while the potential to have a grand time with this fantasy scenario is there, the film itself only gets about half the mileage out of it that it should.

Cooper is Edward Morra, a so-called writer who spends most of his time looking for inspiration in his ceiling.  He’s unshaven, slovenly, in desperate need of a haircut and newly single.  His longtime girlfriend has finally bailed.  On an afternoon of hitting rock bottom Edward runs into a former, now spiffy looking, brother-in-law who sympathizes with his sluggishness.  Feeling generous, he gives Edward a little clear pill.  Ed takes it and that afternoon he nails his landlord’s hot daughter after helping her write a legal paper, cleans his apartment from top to bottom, writes 90 pages of his long gestating novel as if it were no more than a two ingredient meatloaf recipe and sees with total effortlessness how to reinvent his entire existence.  The next morning the clarity and the ideas go away.  Edward goes looking for more pills only to find his brother in law dead via bullet to the head.  Edward steals his stash of pills and begins the greatest life turn around in human history.

For a good stretch Limitless is ramped up, innovative fun.  Directed by Neil Burger, the story hums along on its premise like a well oiled machine, keeping the viewer locked in with its highly desirable fantasy scenario.  Watching a character the audience can relate to, or at least like, throw off the shackles of limitations and exceed at anything can be mesmerizing.  Cooper plays slovenly well but he’s an actor who seems pre-ordained to wear Armani suits and have a dazzling haircut in every part he plays and such is the case here.  His shift from slob to savant is obviously seamless.  Cooper is a watchable actor and this is a part tailor made for his kind of screen bravado/sleaziness though his persistent narration is a bit flat and uncalled for.

As good as things go for Edward, and Limitless itself, half way through as problems develop for Edward, so do problems develop for the movie.  Hiccups creep into his new found mental abilities.  He loses large amounts of time he can not account for and maybe even killed someone but can’t remember.  A rather rudimentary conspiracy plot starts to take over and before long the hum Limitless had going becomes a sputter.  For a story about a guy who can suddenly out think anyone Edward’s actions start to become poorly thought out.  The scope of the story also stays small.  It’s never a good thing when movies push past credibility but Limitless feels under imagined in some important areas.  It doesn’t completely deteriorate or become a chore to watch but the strong vibe it established during its first half doesn’t last.

Nagging problems aside Limitless is still enough of a good time waster to warrant a watch.  Though it had the potential to be more than okay it’s good enough by half.  Perhaps like Cooper’s character the creative minds behind it ran out of little clear pills to provide inspiration.  Regardless, it can easily stand above what passes for entertainment at the mutliplex on many a weekend.  Camp out with a mate on a Friday night and enjoy it for what its worth.


Ten Word or less Review: Ferrell as an funny alcoholic.

Comedians defined by a certain persona eventually burn out on it.  Acting like the same semi-moronic jackass in one movie after another pays well but the desire to be artistically validated by those who traditionally loath or expect little from you eventually creeps into big name comedians.  Jim Carrey talked with his butt cheeks then made The Truman Show.  Adam Sandler inverted his man-boy rage shtick for Punch Drunk Love.  Even Bob Hope wanted to be taken seriously at one time.  Now Will Ferrell gives it a go at turning his well-worn comedic persona a serious slant.

In Everything Must Go, the Ferrell archetype is given a real life, straight shot makeover.  Ferrell plays Nick, a successful salesman with awards and accomplishments as well as a raging problem with alcohol.  After falling off the wagon one too many times he’s unceremoniously fired from his job.  As he arrives home on the same day he finds his wife has left him.  Not only does she leave, she changes the locks on the house, leaves for parts unknown, freezes their assets and places all of his material possessions on the front lawn.  With no money and nowhere to go, car gets repossessed, Nick begins to live on his front lawn.  With the neighbors annoyed and local law enforcement on his back he’s forced to sell his possessions to get them out of sight or face jail time.  Nick’s life has been building towards this for years but now it’s been paralyzed and dismantled in a matter of hours.

Everything Must Go is unapologetically material glum but it is an honest story with noble intentions.  For years Ferrell has portrayed boisterous morons who pound down brewskies and act like reprehensible scum but the audience has never been asked to seriously think about the repercussions of such behavior.  No one watching Talladega Nights wants to dwell on alcoholism and why should they.  They’re watching Talladega Nights for f’in sake.  But Everything Must Go, while sold as a quirky, charming indie comedy, is really an honest examination of an alcoholic losing his grip on things.  We watch Nick slowly but surely become more desperate and pathetic but our sympathies are with him.  Ferrell gives Nick a likeable and empathetic soul, laced with a sense of genuine sadness and lost opportunity.  It’s by far the most mature work, maybe only mature work, he’s ever done.  I never saw Stranger Than Fiction.

Alcoholism is dealt with rarely in movies and even more rarely is it this well observed.  Everything Must Go never lapses into hysterics or melodrama, instead choosing to focus on the small series of crippling crisis’s which befall people with addiction.  It may be ultimately be too low key for some but it’s the kind of sure handed effort few people go for these days.  There are sporadic giggles but pounding the funny bone with Ferrell madness is nowhere to be found.  Director Dan Rush deserves a lot of credit for not going for obvious story beats or baiting the audience with cheap pay offs.  Nick even sparks up a relationship with a lonely neighborhood kid, a situation which miraculously doesn’t feel contrived or trite.

Fans of human interest dramas will be surprised by Everything Must Go.  People who expect to see another Will Ferrell romp will be bored.  It is the kind of patient, small scale movie which sees the inside of theaters with increasing irregularity.  Only the presence of an actor like Ferrell make them possible anymore and it’s a pleasant surprise when they come off as well as this.  Maybe the borish Ferrell I never liked has finally evaporated.


Ten Word or Less Review: Green Lantern makes audience blue with boredom.

What is it with this movie and giant foreheads?  Half the characters have been given either prosthetic extensions to increase their head size or bad cases of poof hair to create the illusion of enormous noggins.  The bad guy has a giant, mutated forehead, the alien overlords have giant foreheads, space cop Sinestro has a giant, purple forehead.  It’s as if the entire movie is some kind of subversive tribute to the aliens of This Island Earth.  This is just one strange quibble in a movie loaded with quibbles.  Quibbles is too nice a word for this junk.  Quibbles sound cute.  Nothing in this movie is cute.  Green Lantern is a movie which is bloated with crap yet feels like a void, expensive but cheap, loaded with extravagant CGI but boring to look at.  In short, it’s a huge pooch screwing wearing a digital green superhero uniform.

Lantern looks to have been crafted on the oft held Hollywood assumption that the audience watching it wants their movies dumb, dull and noisy.  In an age when superheroes and their corresponding movies occasionally become more progressive and complex, to see such an egregious regression in ambition is unfortunate.  Filmmakers have a large catalog of superhero movies to reference for do’s and dont’s by now but Green Lantern feels like it was made by people who haven’t watched or paid attention any of them.  Lantern’s largest deficiency is a total void of originality.  The entire enterprise feels like a Frankenstein creation with the brain a forgotten part.  Pieces of different superhero arcs are pasted onto its rickety skeleton of an over told origin story.  Iron Man’s snark, Superman’s limitless abilities, Batman’s dead parent baggage, an evil cloud thing that never works as a proper villain but they keep putting it in movies, are all wrapped up in a green CGI uniform which looks more expensive than impressive.

The casting of movies like this are always a big deal to nerds everywhere and this time the casting is lousy.  Hollywood keeps trying to make Ryan Reynolds a legit movie star but he’s only good for snappy comebacks and walking around in his tighty whities for the ladies.  He doesn’t have enough gravity as a performer and working from a screenplay as flat and dictated by committee as this one, four credited writers, makes things hopeless.  Peter Sarsgaard is slumming it as the large craniumed villain Hector Hammond, a bad guy whose nefarious nature is telegraphed to the audience immediately because he has a large, balding head, ugly mustache and was rejected by a girl when he was 11.  All a recipe for genocidal tendencies in anyone’s comic book concoction.  He eventually winds up in a wheelchair because his head gets bloated and warped and we all know how terrifying large headed, wheelchair bound quadriplegics can be.  Blake Lively plays the generic, sexy superhero girlfriend.  That’s the name I kept hearing people call her.  Tim Robbins shows up to overplay everything and look silly in tall hair.  Mark Strong makes a good Sinestro but once again we’re distracted by the fact that we have another character with a large forehead.  If you stacked all the enormous foreheads in this movie side by side you could repel Mongolian invaders.

Not so much directed as assembled in a computer by Martin Campbell, Green Lantern is not only unoriginal but painfully inert.  There are special effects all over the place but actual action sequences are sparse, unimpressive and occasionally embarrassing.  A helicopter begins to careen wildly out of control and an entire audience stands frozen with fixation as if it’s some kind of firework to gawk at.  Running away from the likelihood of decapitation and dismemberment doesn’t enter anyone’s mind.  And for having the ability to materialize anything he can out of thin air, Hal Jordan can’t muster up much to impress us.  Guns, swords and jets make up his arsenal of imagination, though that sequence of helicopter blindness culminates in a sidesplitting use of giant Hot Wheel tracks.  If the rest of the film had had that kind of unhinged use of imagination/stupidity it may have amounted to something worth watching.

Costing as much as the space program and winning no legion of sequel anticipating fans, Green Lantern stands as one of the bigger franchise wipe outs in a while.  I guess it and Jonah Hex can hang out on the WB lot, smoke cigarettes and talk about what almost was.  Captain America and Thor stand to the side thanking the movie gods this was not them.  It’s a silly, dimwitted, poorly executed exercise which was doomed and outdated the minute someone yelled action.  Watching it is like watching mountains of money burn away for an idiotic cause that no one cares the slightest bit about.  Should the likes of other DC stalwarts make it to the screen in future years, Flash or Wonder Woman perhaps, whoever helms them would be wise to watch Green Lantern and do nothing which remotely resembles it.

Ten Word or Less Review:  The Thing That Sucked is a better title.

At the end of John Carpenter’s 1982 creature feature masterpiece, Kurt Russell looks up at the gargantuan, slimy collection of pulsating limbs, tentacles and teeth that is The Thing of the title and right before throwing a stick of dynamite down its throat(s), he states with pitch perfect action movie bravado “Ahh, fuck you!”  It’s not Shakespeare but it is one of cinema’s great, pointed f bombs.  There’s zero good to say about this new Thing so when it’s over one is inclined to repeat Russell’s great climactic quip and then lob explosives at the soulless monstrosity that wiggles in front of us.  It is a strange and sad bit of irony that The Thing of 2011 acts just like the movie’s monster, it attempts to absorb it’s 1982 relative and immitate it, but mostly just flails around, making a lot of noise in the process.

A pseudo remake/prequel, The Thing of 2011 tries to build in a back story, shouldn’t that be front story, to Carpenter’s 1982 horror opus.  In that feature, Kurt Russell and company visited a Norwegian geological site which had been burned to the ground.  A large block of ice with a very big hole in it was discovered, a gruesome suicide was found, a giant flying saucer was located not far from the site, and most important, a gruesome, burned up, mutilated collection of melded bodies was found smoldering in the snow.  If you’ve seen Carpenter’s film then you know where all that went.  What happened to these Norwegians wasn’t much of a mystery considering the movie we were watching but the new Thing thinks that backtracking to the events of the Norwegian camp is necessary.  It’s a lame case of deja vu for the viewer because what happens in the Norwegians camp looks and sounds an awful lot like what went down in Carpenter’s camp of Americans 29 years ago, except it isn’t spooky, atmospheric, interesting or scary.

It’s hard to know where to place blame for this derivative horror show because everyone seems to have done a shit job.  Considering how glum the performers seem I’d guess even the catering was lousy.  First time director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. is stuck with a story impossible to make intriguing by its very nature.  Would it kill a film franchise to go forward with its story instead of back?  Given a modest budget, some cameras and saddled with the foolish task trying to graft a useless appendage onto Carpenter’s version, Heijningen can establish no identity of his own as a filmmaker.  His movie haphazardly tries to find the same tone and mood that the 1982 film achieved but he can’t come close.  His direction comes off feeling generic and routine, cursed with a dull pace and total lack of tension.  Reshoots were apparently numerous.  The flat, dimensionless, screenplay he’s grappled to doesn’t help matters.  Noted sci-fi writer Ron Moore (Battlestar Galactica) apparently wrote a screenplay for this movie but it’s not here.  His name isn’t even in the credits as sole writing credit goes to Eric Heisserer.  Mr. Heisserer you did a bad job.  A very, very bad job.  Putting another large nail in the coffin of this crap is the dubious use of subpar CGI that undermines the effectiveness of the Thing itself.  Remaking/prequelizing The Thing wasn’t a good idea to begin with but replacing the original’s legendary physical effects work with CGI that would’ve been considered shitty 5 years ago is committing movie suicide.  Throw in the fact there’s very little intrigue as to who the Thing is at any given moment, something the original did a masterful job at, and we’re left with a movie that bungles along until it’s merciful and stupid conclusion.

If The Thing of 2011 is a dispiriting remake it becomes an outright embarrassment by its finale.  Being tied to the 1982 feature, certain things have to be in certain places in order to tie things together and the 2011 movie can’t find a way to make these things happen with much skill.  It’s almost as if the decision to connect directly to Carpenter’s movie was made at the 11th hour and up until then they were simply going for a misguided tribute.  Not only that, as the film concludes the creature does something which in my mind seems to negate the entire story on a fundamental level.  If you’re curious e-mail me and I’ll explain.  At the end the new movie doesn’t so much do the work to get where it needs to be, it simply places its pieces where they need to go because they have to go there, effort and logic be damned.

The actors who have been charged with dredging through the snowy muck get between little and nothing to convey besides shock and worry.  Carpenter’s cast was made up of a lot of pros who didn’t get great monologues or spiky dialogue to work with, but each one brought a small amount of quirk to the little pieces they did get.  Together they formed an interesting lot of cantankerous Americans stuck with each other in the middle of Antarctica with Kurt Russell at the center in his enormous sombrero.  The lot of Norwegians that make up the bulk of the cast here are unnoticeable from each other and their subsequent disposal by the Thing leaves no impact.  They’re horror movie fodder, nothing more.  Standing in the center of the Norwegians is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, a spry, talented actress stuck in a bad movie she has no ability to lift up past its crippling short comings.  Her character’s name is Kate Lloyd and her role is as dynamic and imaginative as that name.  She doesn’t even get an interesting hat to wear.  Was a beret even discussed or considered?  Joel Edgerton is supposed to be the equivalent of Kurt Russell’s part but he barely gets a line, much less the quirk colorful head gear.

It’s been floated around that John Carpenter got out of directing because he was washed up.  While that statement certainly holds no small amount of merit, contributing to his lack of directorial efforts was probably the fact that Hollywood choose to cut him a lot of checks so they could regurgitate his early output.  The Fog, Halloween and Assault on Precinct 13 are forgettable remakes and hopefully this crappy version of The Thing is the last of them.  If not, when they finally decide to redo Big Trouble in Little China we may have to drop a few more f bombs.


Ten Word or Less Review: Getting cancer sucks.

Not perfect but at the least very respectable, 50/50 gets into the painful experience of living with cancer at a young age.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Adam, a pleasant and affable guy who works for public radio but who isn’t a pretentious hippy.  One day he finds out he has a rare and aggressive form of cancer on his spine.  His tidy, burgeoning, little world is no more.  Adam begins chemo and quickly begins to suffer the ravages of the therapy.  He shaves his head to avoid the gradual hair loss, pukes often, and has little stamina for staying out when friends beckon.   For support Adam has a dog named Skeletor, a good time seeking best friend (Seth Rogan), and an inexperienced therapist (Anna Kendrick) to help get him through the terrifying ordeal.  Add to his trauma a girlfriend (Bryce Dallas-Howard) who’s exposed as a selfish cheat, a father with advanced Alzheimer’s and a mother (Angelica Huston) who flirts with being a basket case and you have a pretty well rounded drama.

Gordon-Levitt continues to show that he has unassuming but noticeable range as a lead actor.  At just 30, Gordon-Levitt looks poised to have a career composed of a variety of unorthodox roles.  Being in Christopher Nolan’s stable of go to actors shouldn’t hurt anything either.  50/50 may require him to be the proto-typically ‘nice’ guy, but he’s great at portraying pathos, avoiding cliche or making cliche’s work when they do arise.  The only real drawback to lodge against 50/50 is Bryce Dallas-Howard.  Why this talented actress keeps landing in thankless, unflattering bitch parts is a mystery.  Her girlfriend role is two dimensionally manipulative and designed to be terrible almost from the start.  She feels like a very artificial element in an otherwise genuine movie.  Be sure to bring a hanky.



Ten Word or Less Review: Clovertroll.  The Troll Witch Project.

A low budget Norwegian take on the found footage of doomed videographers genre.  A group of three young journalist start following around a mysterious hunter named Hans who they think is a bear poacher.  It turns out he’s actually hunting giant trolls which the general public has failed to notice lumbering around the land side.  Who doesn’t see a 80 foot monster walking around?  Are Norwegians blind?  Kind of fun but it doesn’t bring much new to this limited genre.

If watching people run from giant monsters while holding cameras is your thing then it should be enough to hold your interest.  Having an interesting character besides Hans the Troll Hunter may have made things a little more involving.  The camera crew kids are never more than participants on the run from the various flesh munching trolls.  The special effects are surprisingly effective if a little low rent looking.  The dark cinematography and use of night vision video in places helps keep the edges between CGI and reality nicely blurred.  In the end Troll Hunter makes no sense but it’s a fun ride to take.


Ten Word or Less Review – It’s nice.

A low key independent vehicle that got rave reviews but failed to generate the Juno/Little Miss Sunshine audience some felt it deserved.  The comparisons aren’t off base but Win Win isn’t as plucky and spirited as either.  It’s very well meaning but too glum and visually dour to ever reach the kind of elevating place those efforts achieved.  It is cute in places but never laugh out loud funny.  It has some decent dramatic beats but it never socks you hard.  Win Win’s dogged refusal to leave this realistic and cloudy middle ground is what keeps it from being as much as it wants to be.  Paul Giamatti turns in the kind of work he’s known and respected for but playing this kind of nice, schluby, put upon every man seems like something he can do in his sleep now.  It’s unfair to criticize an actor for turning in solid work but this is an odd case of an actor perhaps being too on the nose for a part.  The supporting cast is sturdy and respectable (Burt Young!) and the screenplay is solid but once it’s over it is likely to pass into the vast swath of vaguely decent movies you watch one time but never think about again.

Ten Word or Less Review:  What you expect when there’s a 4 in the title.

Revisiting the Scream franchise after 11 years felt like a desperate move when it was announced.   Scream 3, way the Hell back in 2000, was proof that this self-aware, psuedo parody, horror franchise had badly burnt itself out.  Long lost brothers equal soap opera garbage.  In the subsequent decade the series’ stars, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, have all watched their place in Hollywood hierarchy fade drastically.  Campbell hasn’t been in a notable film or TV show since the last Scream film.  Director Wes Craven was starting to look like forced retirement was the only thing coming soon.  Cox and Arquette did this movie and then got divorced.  Very bad omens floating everywhere.  Not helping anything is the fact that the horror genre as a whole is once again in a state of repetitious limbo, mired in remakes and endless sequels to Saw and Final Destination.  Some hoped that Scream 4 would be able to do what the original Scream did, I.E. provide clever commentary on the genre all the while being an effective, reinventing horror vehicle at the same time.  That was wishful thinking because Scream 4 is a tired, worn out crap shoot.

Scream 4 doesn’t reinvent anything as much as dogmatically retread the footsteps of its predecessors, beat for beat, clinging to the now worn idea that selfawareness equals clever.  It doesn’t.  People run around getting butchered by Ghostface.  We sit and try to figure out who’s wearing the mask but actually caring is out of the question.  The reveal itself is about as shocking as a glass of warm milk.  Never out and out horrible but never close to being good, it feels like one more perfunctory sequel for the franchise.  Something that should have come out in 2002 and subsequently ended the series forever.  Hopefully that’s the case now.