Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Passion of the Christ

In all the hype about Mel's religious beliefs and people dying of heart attacks during screenings and other people confessing to murder after watching it and anti-Semitism and a million other things, mostly lost in the noise was the simple fact that the movie is terrible. Jim Caviziel gives it his all, but Crazy Mel only cares about the blood, and making sure each and every member of the audience is drenched in it by the end. Is there a higher meaning to any of it? Maybe, but only what you bring to it, which the movie's greatest flaw -- if you're already moved to tears by the story of Jesus, then the movie might move you to tears; otherwise, you'll be bored. Or sickened. Or really, really pissed off. Gibson doesn't try to persuade you over to his side of the fence either way, expecting the story to speak for itself. And it might in the hands of a more talented filmmaker, but endless shots of Christ falling to the dirt in slow-motion do not equal "emotional insight." There are a few scenes here and there that show that Gibson could have had something (the beautifully shot opening sequence in Gethsemane, or when Mary gently cleans her son's blood from the stones after his torture), but he falls flat on its face right into a big puddle of blood and entrails.

Rating: DUD

Kill Bill, Vol. 2

So all that wonderful chop-socky stuff was only a warmup. The second half of Quentin Taratino's valentine to '70s kung fu flicks reveals that there actually were characters under the pile of body parts we saw last October. Part two is far more patient and somber than the first half, letting Tarantino's celebrated dialogue take focus rather than the action most of the time. But fear not -- there's action to be had, like the brilliantly staged swordfight between the Bride (Uma Thurman) and her one-eyed rival Elle (a cackling Darryl Hannah, who is just wonderful) in a cramped trailer home with breakaway walls and a poisonous snake slithering around. And there's the obligatory Training Montage, with becomes comedic genius here with the volatile Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) barking orders and flicking his ridiculously long white beard in disdain. There's also a wonderfully claustrophic buried-alive sequence, and a sweet and touching flashback to the past between the Bride and Bill (David Carradine). If Volume 1 blew you away, Volume 2 will do it again. And if it didn't...well, maybe this one can change your mind.

Rating: *****

The Village

Yes, I am one of the very few people who enjoyed the newest M. Night Shyamalan film. Call me crazy. But Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard are superb together, their romance sparkled with just the right amounts of fear and eagerness. Adrien Brody and Sigourney Weaver are solid enough, though William Hurt is questionable. As always, Shyamalan manages to hold one's attention while pushing his story forward at a galacial pace; the tension created by the creatures in the woods never disipates, even while focusing on more non-supernatural concerns. And at least Those Of Whom The Villagers Do Not Speak (Except Pretty Much Every Time They Open Their Mouths) look better than the goofy aliens from Signs. Yes, the ending has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but it made me feel all nostalgic for the old Twilight Zone episodes you only see during Sci-Fi Channel marathons these days. Some people -- including critics I respect very much -- have blasted the politics of the ending, but I admire Shyamalan for making a relevant point without resorting to straight allegory. But no, the film isn't perfect. While the ending is effective, the entire movie hinges on it -- it feels like the script was written backwards. This results in an experience less satisfying than The Sixth Sense or the criminally underrated Unbreakable. I loved this movie, but Night: maybe it's time to give the whole twist-ending thing a rest.

Rating: ****1/2


The thing I like most about Michael Mann's films (like The Insider) is their sheer effortlessness, as though putting together a motion picture is just something you do on the weekends with your buddies. At his best, he makes it look so very easy, and Collateral is no exception. His use of color is amazing: the city of Los Angeles, often depicted as a hellish nightmare, becomes smoky and beautiful in the many helicopter shots we see, buildings lit from beneath by streetlights. Just as beautiful is the execution of the plot: Max (a stunning Jamie Foxx), a cab driver, has the misfortune to pick up Vincent (Tom Cruise), a hitman who kidnaps him into shuttling him from hit to hit. Stuart Beattie's airtight script wisely focuses on the characters rather than the plot, and Mann keeps his camera right in the actors' faces to pick up every grimace and drop of sweat. And the characters are fascinating, far more interesting than the good-guy/bad-guy archetypes they might inhabit in similar films. Vincent is charming and cool in his way, a quick wit and a wry smile providing camouflauge for the sociopath who lurks beneath. And while Max is definitely a likeable guy -- an extended scene at the beginning with Jada Pinkett Smith, brilliantly written, puts the audience firmly in his corner -- he's not perfect, and Foxx displays his flaws and weaknessess wonderfully. Too bad, then, that the movie slips in its final act, pumping up the adrenaline and shifting the focus to the action. But even intricate shaky-cam chase scenes look easy to do with Mann in charge.

Rating: ****1/2

Monday, August 30, 2004

A harmless seaside resort town

Silent Hill 4: The Room will be released for the PS2 on September 7. This is GOOD NEWS.

For those of you who haven't played any of the previous Silent Hill games, imagine a video game as creepy as, say, Ringu, or the better parts of The Blair Witch Project. Or imagine the Resident Evil games...only, you know, not horrible.

The first game is notable for terrifying my friends and me to the point where we had to force ourselves to keep playing. It lays out the template for the series: a lone person, stuck in a situation beyond their understanding, wandering through endless fog and rain and darkness, armed with makeshift weapons, trying to find a way out while avoiding the evil demons and monsters and oh holy shit what is THAT?! Unfortunately, it also boasts some of the worst voice acting ever heard in a game, and features a story which makes almost no sense whatsoever. (It makes so little sense, in fact, that a guy named Dan Birlew became something of a minor hero in game circles for writing an extensive document that actually managed to put the pieces together in a coherent fashion. This eventually got him a job writing strategy guides for BradyGames...including all the Silent Hill guides.)

I'd speak at length on Silent Hill 2, but I've decided to put together that video games list after all, and Silent Hill 2 ranks high. So I'll leave it until then.

Silent Hill 3 doesn't quite live up to the previous game, but it's a worthy sequel nonetheless. Story-wise, it's the weakest of the three (though it does manage to dump a whole lotta backstory that explains most of the "huh?" moments in the first game), but features the best lead character of the series thus far. And the puzzles -- argh! Easily the most brain-straining exercises I've found outside of a Myst title. The bosses are kind of pathetically easy, though, and the ending is rather abrupt and stupid, but it's fun getting there.

So...the new game: will it live up to expectations? Is it possible for anything to live up to my expecatations? We shall know shortly.

these crimes between us grow deeper

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

Man, do I feel left out. Have there always been this many good documentaries around? Because it seems new to me. And Some Kind of Monster is the best of the bunch. In 2001, Metallica invited Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (together they made the Paradise Lost films; alone, Joe made Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, for which he is now forgiven) to document the process of recording their new album. They thought it would be interesting -- operating minus a key player (longtime bassist Jason Newsted had just left the group), Metallica decided to start recording without a safety net, in uncomfortable surroundings, with no prepared songs or lyrics, to let all their emotions flow straight into the music. Unfortunately, those emotions turned inward and very nearly tore the group apart. So what began as a unique but fun exercise -- not unlike Metallica: A Year and a Half in the Life of..., an Essential I'll review one day -- evolved into an epic tragedy about fear, insecurity, and anger. Lots and lots of anger (that the completed album would eventually be titled St. Anger is all-too fitting). Guided by group therapist Phil Towne, the band and collaborator/producer Bob Rock confront one another in a series of increasingly bitter conversations, releasing demons and long-held frustrations: when frontman James Hetfield, fresh from rehab and confined to a limited work schedule, complains about a lack of control in the band's decisions, guitarist Kirk Hammett snaps back, "Now you know how I've felt for the last fifteen years." While non-Metallicats are raving about this film, it's truly a treat for fans of the group, watching the creative process develop -- snatches of random conversation that wind up as song lyrics, the aborted ideas that never made it to record. But no matter your opinion on Metallica beforehand, I dare you not to be moved by the conclusion, when the band joyously takes the stage (to that stirring score from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) as a complete unit again. Monster is a must-see triumph that cannot be missed.

Rating: *****

Saturday, August 28, 2004

I notice things

So I'm over at the official John Kerry website -- I stumbled across it while reading something else -- and browsing through the "issues" section. Each little portion describes in detail what the Kerry-Edwards tag team will do on a number of issues once they're elected.

Now, that doesn't bother me -- I happen to agree with a lot of it. What I notice after the sixth or seventh page is that John Kerry is always referred to as "John Kerry" -- full name. A dozen times a page: John Kerry. John Kerry. John Kerry. John Kerry. Never Senator Kerry, or just Kerry. Always first and last name. John Kerry.

Don't know why this bothers me. I know why it's done -- you have to pound the name of the candidate into the voter's head, over and over, to insure they remember it. I just feel sorry for the poor bastard who had to type "John Kerry" four hundred times to build the section on education.

Something else I noticed: I'm reading through the liner notes of Everclear's Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 2, (recorded in the fall of 2000 and released at the very end of that year) and come across this:

We would like to congratulate President-elect Al Gore; if by some strange chance he didn't win, well...you can't blame us for wishful thinking.

Something I'm sure you noticed: I didn't see any movies today. I'll keep you posted.

I'm just an actor, just like Robert fucking Redford

Friday, August 27, 2004

The Madness of King George

I will attempt to see either Open Water or Hero tomorrow morning. I can't guarantee either will occur, but you'll be the first to know.

And SimCity remains the most addictive game ever made. I turn it on, start a new game, and the next thing I know three hours have vanished and I'm desperately trying to pipe enough water to shut up all 52,000 of my Sims.

This actually reminds me...I've been toying with the idea of a new list. Either a list of video games or music videos. Can't decide which. I'll let you know.

I'm hearing rumors that George Lucas is planning on three more Star Wars films after the release of Revenge of the Sith next year. I'd heard those same rumors many years ago, before The Phantom Menace came out. I can't decide if this is good or bad news.

If Lucas writes and/or directs...it's bad.
If not...I still don't know.

Hey, George -- how's about you think about making one movie, then, if it's a success, you can worry about continuing a story.

hearing you talk just makes me tired

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


I was bored as hell a short while ago, so I began skimming through random blogs. And in between entire blogs devoted to pictures of ugly family pets and incomprehensible blather written by fourteen-year-old girls in which every single word was either (a) horribly abbreviated (for instance: "about" becoming "abt"); (b) misspelled; or (c) a slang term I'm unfamiliar with, I came across roughly twenty online diatribes written by loud-mouthed CONSERVATIVES~! (as opposed to regular conservatives, who are generally decent people once you get to know them) whining and bitching about how the internet is filled with whiny, bitchy liberals and boy-howdy ain't it good for their readers that someone is willing to TELL IT LIKE IT IS~! Usually a link to Sean Hannity appeared somewhere on the front page.

Look, there are a lot of liberals hanging out online. A lot of them are whiny and bitchy. But I don't get this right-wing obsession with the "liberal media" and how their voice is never heard. I mean, doesn't it kinda-sorta deflate your argument that the Republican Party controls the number-one news organization in the entire fucking world? Millions of people listen to the inane pettiness of intellectual gorillas like Hannity and Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter. Where's the liberal media? The Daily Show? I don't think that counts. And don't think I'm arguing the counterpoint, that there's a conservative (or perhaps a CONSERVATIVE~!) bias to the media. Because a lot of the time, the major news outlets at least try to be fair. They don't try very hard, mind you, but they give it a shot. The media is often ill-informed, poorly presented, and not all interested in giving the viewer all the important information, but for the most part I don't think it leans in one politcal direction or the other.

But, the CONSERVATIVES~! are convinced they don't control the media, and if they say it, it must be true. So, speaking for the Liberals of America, I'll make you a deal: we'll relinquish our Palpatine-like hold over all forms of media -- including television, the internet, radio, newspaper, and any and all formats not yet invented -- if Bush agrees to relinquish the White House and get the hell out of public view forever. And, hey, make sure Cheney and the rest of the cabient goes with him, and I'll let you keep O'Reilly.


this ground is not the rock I thought it to be

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


So I picked up The Gorge, the latest Dave Matthews Band live set. Robert asked me, "Don't you have already have a Dave Matthews live album?"

To which I answered, "Yes. Actually, I have two live CDs. And two live DVDs."

The obvious response to that, of course, is "Why do you need this one?" but really, there's little appeal in this set for someone who doesn't already have everything. Because unlike most DMB live sets, this isn't a complete concert, but a compilation of tracks recorded over a three-day weekend in Washington state. While not as engrossing on the whole as the Central Park concert, or as interesting as the Dave & Tim Reynolds acoustic discs, it manages to perfectly fill the holes in my DMB live discography -- here, finally, "The Song That Jane Likes" and "Drive In, Drive Out" and "Proudest Monkey" and "Seek Up" and "Halloween" and an epic 17-minute version of "Lie in Our Graves." Plus Dave solo on "Gravedigger" and a version of "Kit Kat Jam" with lyrics. There's the obvious stuff, too: "The Space Between," "Ants Marching," "Warehouse." If you're already a Dave nut with a few live sets purchased, buy this. If not, I'd start with the Central Park concert.

Oh, and talk about a game right up my alley: Evil Genius. Aw yeah.

And obviously, when I said Chris Kattan was in Taxi, I meant Jimmy Fallon. I get those loser SNL guys mixed up sometimes. Either way, the movie will suck.

and all the captain's cards are kings

Monday, August 23, 2004

Trailer trash

Man, some of the movies coming soon look really bad. I keep waiting for the trailers for the, ya know, good movies, the ones that will fight for Oscars and critic's top ten lists and stuff. But so far, aside from The Aviator and maybe Friday Night Lights (which probably won't be as good as I think it will be), there's nuthin'. Oh, and Shaun of the Dead and Team America: World Police look hilarious. And I'm mesmerized by the enormous image of Reese Witherspoon on the cardboard display for Vanity Fair at the local AMC theater. Okay, so good stuff's coming, too, but ye gods look at the crap we're in for:

  • Taxi. Ugh. Bumbling moron Chris Kattan and Queen Latifah chase after superhot supermodel bank robbers in a taxicab built by Inspector Gadget. And if the horrible jokes in the trailer are the best they can do, I'd better start dusting off that DUD rating.
  • Suspect Zero. I have no confidence in serial killer movies of any sort these days. I'll see this out of respect for the (admittedly weak and overused) genre, which has given us Seven and the Ultimate Motion Picture, The Silence of the Lambs, but I'm frightened. And what the hell is Ben Kingsley doing?
  • Saw. Speaking of stupid serial killers and actors who should know better. Cary Elwes is, I think, a cop held hostage by crazy Danny Glover, "the Jigsaw Killer," who doesn't actually kill his victims, but instead traps them in poorly lit, badly designed soundstages and forces them to kill each other. And boy does that title suck, or what?
  • Paparazzi. The latest example of the horrible trend of trailers giving away the entire movie. Tom Sizemore hams it up as a tabloid photographer who makes it his mission to torment some famous actor guy, "to destory your life and eat your soul" or something. So the famous actor guy goes all Punisher and stuff. This sounds bad enough, but add in Crazy Mel in the producer's seat, and we could be in for sheer torture.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. This looks like a George Lucas wet dream, what with every shot -- and I mean every single shot -- in the trailer obviously filmed before a blue screen. Actually, this looks horrible, but it could turn out to be a bizarre kind of genius if it plays off just right. Either way, it will definitely be totally insane. And I really, really hate Angelina Jolie. Especially with an eye patch. And a British accent.
  • Resident Evil: Apocalypse. The teaser was straight-up fantastic, but the full trailer looks like the same-old same-old. Can we get to Silent Hill: The Movie yet? Please?

See what I mean?

old and wise, with clouded eyes
you can't see what I can
'cause I throw my faith
to the face of the next pretty girl to come my way

Sunday, August 22, 2004

So, that's done

Well, so much for a few days. The site redesign should be complete -- if there are any problems or broken links, let me know.

And the new World of Darkness is kewl. Just so you know.

count the bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums

Saturday, August 21, 2004


So check out the new look. This took frickin' forever, so I hope it's worth it.

It'll take a few days for everything to get transferred over to the new design, so be patient.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Crime doesn't pay

So my roommate -- normally an intelligent guy -- made a mistake. He paid ten bucks to some guy for a bootleg DVD copy of The Bourne Supremacy. Illegal, pirated movies -- tsk, tsk.

And, because there is occasionally justice in the universe, the copy was terrible. Blurry, grainy, out-of-focus sometimes. The picture froze briefly every few seconds, ruining the film's shaky-cam action sequences and making me seasick. And (this is the best part) the foreign languages spoken in the film are subtitled...in French. So the plot was completely incomprehensible, especially since I never saw the first movie.

A screening of this sort is hardly fair to the movie, so I won't give a score based on that. But let this be a lesson to you: pirating movies doesn't pay.

Oh, and that Shinedown cover of "Simple Man" gets better every time I hear it. And has anyone heard anything by Alter Bridge, the band that features 3/4 of Creed and some other guy? I'm curious -- I loathe Scott Stapp, but he wasn't the only reason I hated Creed. If Mark Tremonti still plays his guitar riffs like he invented the fucking thing, Alter Bridge will suck, too. But can they be worse than Creed, which most of the time sounded like Bon Jovi with a cross? That's the big question.

we the people
are we the people?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Guess who's back

I'm updating my blog for the first time in over two weeks. This is noteworthy only because I'm doing it from my apartment.

Aw yeah. The internet is back home. No more trips to the library, no more waiting for a computer, no more standing there, no more paying ten cents to print something, no more any of that crap. I'M HOME! YEAH!

So, I should be updating this more often, since I no longer have an excuse.

For now, the questions are these:

1) What the fuck happened to Jonathan Demme? He goes from Philadelphia, Stop Making Sense, and the Ultimate Motion Picture, The Silence of the Lambs, to this pale, tepid remake of The Manchurian Canidate? You're kidding, right? Denzel's good, Liev's there, and I can't tell if Meryl Streep was so good she seemed out of place or if she was so bad she seemed out of place. The movie left me dizzy. Rating: *, just better than The Bloodletting of the Christ. Or whatever.

2) Should documentaries be eligible for Best Picture? When I make my Top 10 of 2004, should documentaries be on it, or should there be a seperate list? Because as of right now, docs take up two spots in the top five (and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster is currently my choice for Best Film of the Year). What do you think?

3) For those who have read both: which is better, "The Outlet" or "The Sum of His Parts"? This is just a curiosity thing.

That's it. Expect more from me. Possibly tomorrow. Or even later tonight. Hey now!

It'd be better for us if you don't understand
Even better for me if you don't understand

Monday, August 02, 2004

And the hits just keep on coming

The awesomeness continues with Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, which proceeds to leapfrog The Village and everything else to score ***** and become my current pick for best movie of 2004. So far, obviously. And this isn't just slavering fandom talking, either -- everybody loves this movie. It's great stuff.

There's a new poll over there. Finally. Vote. Vote as if your life depends on it.

it comes alive, and I die a little more

Secret Window

Man alive, is Johnny Depp on a roll. Secret Window marks his third straight remarkable performance -- after Once Upon a Time in Mexico and that pirate movie -- where he once again manages to lift an already decent movie to a higher level by his presence. This time, he's Mort Rainey, a writer tormented by accusations of plagiarism from the mysterious John Shooter (John Turturro). Rainey denies it, of course, but Shooter won't take "go away" for an answer and begins to mount the pressure and Rainey tries to prove his innocence, all leading up to a conclusion you'll most likely see coming from several reels out. But it's fun getting there. Writer/director David Koepp (who wrote Panic Room) stays pretty faithful to Stephen King's novella, though he wisely alters the conclusion slightly to include a hilarious sick joke that I loved. But really, once again, Depp is the man. I said it last year, and it got him to a nomination, but seriously: give this man an Oscar.

Rating: ***1/2

I, Robot

You know that urban legend where some clueless woman buys a car with cruise control, thinking that it makes the car drive itself, so she turns it on while driving down the freeway at 70 miles an hour and climbs into the backseat? And the car crashes and she dies? I, Robot is the cinematic equivalent -- a blockbuster on auto-pilot, left without direction, which then crashes and burns. Coming from director Alex Proyas (who also blessed us with the terminally boring Dark City), this isn't much of a surprise. Will Smith tries, though, he really does, but can't do much in the whole Martin-Riggs-in-the-21st-Century vein as Det. Spooner. While never quite descending to a Battlefield Earth-level disaster, I, Robot is a totally flat and uninspiring movie, complete with the most obvious "surprise" villain in recent memory and half-hearted attempts at "social commentary" to make fun of those of us who expected the movie to have a brain. According to a book I have, Harlan Ellison wrote a screenplay based on Asimov's book (which "suggested" this film) -- think how much better that would have been.

Rating: *1/2

Exorcist: The Beginning

Once this movie gets a little gas and gets going, it's really kind of a blast, in its way: Stellan Skarsgard (reprising Max von Sydow's role from the original) going toe-to-toe with the Devil Incarnate, armed with only faith and a half-empty bottle of holy water. Unfortunately, it takes an hour and a half to get there, and in the meantime, director Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger) has nothing but easy, cheap "scares" you've seen a million times -- clocks that stop ticking for no reason, lamps and lanterns that go out of their own accord, windows and doors opening by themselves, crazy people scribbling extremely detailed drawings of horrible things, maggots, crows, blood appearing for no reason, festering sores, leeches, and bad, bad CGI. (The digital hyenas in this flick look worse than the wolves in The Day After Tomorrow. No, seriously.) If you can stay awake long enough to get there, though, the last twenty minutes or so are almost worth waiting for.

Rating: **

The Butterfly Effect

Well, if you're going to make a mediocre movie, you might as well make it goofy and stupid. The Butterfly Effect is certainly that, with a script that makes shockingly little sense upon close inspection. Ashton Kutcher (wading only slightly out of his sitcom/MTV persona) stars as a college student who can travel back in time by concentrating on old journal entries and change the mistakes he made as a child. But alas, minuscule changes in his past lead to bigger changes in his future, and thus begins a frantic race to try to piece his life back together. The movie doesn't really make much coherent sense, as I said, but it's so earnest in its nonsense that it's almost fun. Almost. But the dialogue is stale and cheesy, the acting runs from not-that-bad to yes-that-bad, and it's edited like a horror movie for no good reason. Ultimately, The Butterfly Effect is a failure, but not one you're likely to remember in a few months.

Rating: **

Bubba Ho-tep

It sounds like the opening line of a really good joke -- Elvis (Bruce Campbell) and John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis -- yes, Ossie Davis) are sitting in a retirement home in Mud Creek, Texas. But it's actually the setup for a really good little movie. The year is...well, 2003, and Elvis is a hulking shell of his former self, trying to convince the hospital staff he's actually the King and not Elvis impersonator Sebastian Haff (the two men traded places, just before "Elvis"'s tragic death...or did they?). He's got a painful growth of unknown origin in a very sensitive place, he can't get around without the help of a walker, and his only friend is "JFK," who claims his skin has been dyed black and his brain replaced with a sack of sand (all at the orders of Lyndon Johnson). And to make matters worse -- because the movie just wasn't weird or goofy enough -- the nursing home is tormented by an awakened Egyptian mummy who wears a cowboy hat and boots and sucks the souls of the living out of their asses. Oh yeah, it's strange. But it's also hilarious, and Bruce Campbell is a revelation as the King of Rock. It may be an obscure little indie flick, but find it if you can.

Rating: ****