Category Archives: movies

Movies: Squid Man (****)

I picked this movie solely on the idea that it was new and looked lonely on Amazon Instant Watch. Am I glad I did? Yes, on the whole but it’s not going to be for everyone.

This is a difficult one to wrap words around because it’s so many things at once. It starts out as the comedic movie you would expect. It’s not so much funny as it is sort of smirkingly amusing and in bits seems to remind one of Office Space.

About a third of the way in, the movie takes a decidedly romantic turn and all thoughts of comedy are left behind. It’s also about this time that the movie starts to have a point contrasting the man-child outlook of unmarried men with the more serious viewpoint of unmarried women. There’s a kernel of a lesson here but it’s brief and not much to look at, though colorfully enough portrayed.

The last third of the movie is primarily a super-hero action flick with scads of really bad make-up and intentionally cheesy special effects. It’s not an unpleasant sort of bad really just not a believable sort of good, if you catch my drift. I can tease an interesting lesson out of this section too as it looks at causality and the random events that rule our lives. I *THINK* this may be the main point of the movie but saying anything for sure is really a dodgy proposition in this case.

So in summary, I liked this movie and I’m on the bloody edge of recommending it but you have to be in a really open-minded mood to sit down and enjoy it. It’s just so many things and you have to be ready to accept all of them or it just won’t work. This is a movie to watch on your own when you just don’t know what to watch. Trying to watch this with anyone else will just result in annoyed glares from across the room.

PS: If you read the word ‘romance’ and are thinking, “oh, he said romance, that’ll be nice!” do not watch this movie for its romantic aspects. The last 60 seconds of the film are sufficient to leave anyone wishing for happy romance agape with disappointment. I will say nothing else in an effort to avoid spoilers.

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The evening in movies… a selection of documentaries

This evening I took a little tour, as I often do, of the newly released movies on Amazon Instant Watch. This time the new material included quite a few documentaries. I sum them up here for your perusal.



Baghdad Taxi (4/5)
As is usual, I picked this movie because it looked rather lonely and unreviewed on Amazon Instant Watch. Am I glad I did? Yes, but the whole thing makes me rather sad.

Firstly, if you are a conservative who believes that by going into Iraq that we “did them a favor” or somehow improved their lot in life then you need to look for another movie. This film is very much centered around the everyday Iraqi and the everyday Iraqi… is not happy about our presence in the region.

The overwhelming sense I got from this film was that this taxi driver could be taxi driver anywhere. Sure, he drove past lots of dunes and mosques but those could have easily been mountains and grain silos. As much as we want to assert our American uniqueness, we’re really not all that different. Forgive me if my liberal viewpoints are showing but no matter where you go in the world we’re not all that different. The only way you can tell one region of the world from another is that sometimes the green rectagonal highway signs are in Arabic.

You will no doubt get something different from this film but the grand takeaway for me is that go wherever you will in the world, people are people. The reactions of people in the street in Iraq after being invaded are no different from those in Atlanta, Georgia. Neglecting the difference in language they say the exact same things and ultimately all they want is to have their country back. It’s an enlightening illustration of the human species.



Ukranian Brides (4/5)
I picked this movie because it was very newly released and looked lonely on Amazon Instant Watch. Am I glad I did? Yeah, really I am.

So when I started this movie I expected the standard cliches: Creepy desperate dudes seeking desperate women for love and marriage. That’s not exactly what I got. Yes, there were creepy dudes who were well past their prime. And yes, they were looking for atrociously young Eastern Block women to get married to. The women though… they were surprisingly cagey and knew what they wanted and weren’t afraid to say, “um, no. Go away” despite the fact that they might be going home to a cardboard box.

On the positives and negatives of the film, this was a really revealing portrait of the way guys think. The beginning is classic male-human thinking. They’re all sitting around a big notebook full of women and just picking based on appearance alone. That is *SO* Homo Sapien male that it’s not even funny. This movie has a lot of hidden truths to reveal about the way both women and men think about relationships. The other interesting thing to watch out for is the hidden expressions of the women involved. One minute they’re bright, happy, engaged and the next their faces reveal utter and complete boredom and disinterest as if they’d rather be anywhere else.

To the negative, the one thing that stands out for me is the lack of a final status update on the couples involved. The summary says that there are three couples but really for most of the video it’s two guys who are out to find wives. I won’t spoil anything for you but at the end things… wrap up … but there’s no final statement of “3 years later they were all hit by an asteroid” or whatever to let you know how these couples worked things out or didn’t. It’s rather a letdown because now I’ll never know.

In summary, this is a good movie to watch with a significant other and one that will cause endless conversation. It’s not quite everything you could want in such a film but it is brief, to the point and does reveal quite a bit about the way men and women approach long-term relationships.



Muti Murders (3/5)
I picked this title only because it looked lonely on Amazon Instant Watch and in need of a review. Am I glad I did? Not especially.

The nutshell view of this is that it’s a documentary covering Muti murders, a ritualistic African practice of human sacrifice in an attempt to appease the Gods or the tribal ancestors. The movie covers an intriguing topic but it is incredibly graphic. If you watch this, you will see photos of children who have been beheaded and their heads will be right next to the body staring back at you. This is not a movie for the timid.

To the positive, this movie covers an important topic. This is serious business and several murders of this sort happen every month. It’s a real problem and it can be hoped that by exposing them through this movie we can contribute to putting a stop to the practice.

On the negative side, as I said, the whole thing is periodically very, VERY graphic. If that’s what you’re looking for then I guess you’ve found it. Also, vastly secondary to the disembodied heads on display, the documentary seems rather over-produced with lots of rather vapid transitions and spooky bumper music. It’s somewhat distracting at the least.

In summary…. yeah, I said it all above. An important message but one that turns the viewer’s stomach.


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The Monuments Men – Over-dramatized victim of Hollywood (3/5)

We went to this movie with high hopes because, well, what movie wouldn’t be awesome that has John Goodman and Bill Murray in it. I mean really. Unfortunately, Laura and I came away from this one rather disappointed.

The premise of this one can be summed up pretty simply. World War II is winding down; the Germans know they’re losing so they set out to destroy as much of the world’s great art as they can before they go. Only one thing stands in their way: motley bunch of aging artists. Dramatics ensue from there.

On the positive side, the film does a great job of portraying the importance of the period of history we’re talking about. A thousand years of human art and culture really is on the line. Other reviewers complain about the protagonist’s pontifications but this is the whole point of the film. The Nazi’s weren’t just out to destroy the Jews or rule the world. If they were going down they wanted to take as much of the world with them as they could no matter the price. This story is the ultimate example of “play by my rules or I’ll take my ball and go home.” So all those prolonged speeches aren’t in the way of the real action of this war movie, they are in fact its only reason for being.

To the negative, as a connected narrative this movie was just hacked to bits. It could have made a meticulous and moving 6-hour mini-series but cut down to movie size the whole thing is a disconnected mess. There are, at various points, three distinct story lines but the relationships between them are unclear then suddenly they’re all slammed together in a barely sensical manner. Further, the movie suffers from Hollywood over-drama just for the sake of drama. It’s almost as if they tried to make an action flick out of a story that wasn’t one.

In summary, sadly disappointed. Those looking for a movie about a war… won’t really get one. Those looking for a moving portrayal of an important historical event won’t get what they want either. The whole thing is at times sentimental but never really manages that either. It’s almost as if the movie tried to be 10 things at once and never really accomplished any of them with any deftness. Quite a shame, really.


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The Lego Movie – One of those rare movies that’s equally entertaining to kids and adults (5/5)

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We saw this movie because my 8-year-old said, “Daddy, can we go see The Lego Movie?!” so away we went.

So to the question of entertainment value, as I said in the subject line, the adults and kids both seemed highly entertained. We were in a full theatre and one gentleman in particular seemed to be outrageously entertained with his incontinent guffawing. The kids were, of course, entertained enough and the movie had humor working on all levels from the youngest kids to the adults, though nothing REALLY adult, if you get my drift.

As to production quality of the movie, I was extremely impressed with the level of visual detail. I had assumed that since the Lego world is, of necessity, rather low resolution, that the movie might be clunky but they didn’t shy away from high-definition situations. Seeing Legos animated into an undulating ocean, explosions, fire or billowing smoke and dust was particularly surprising. In a similar vein, if you go see this movie be sure you keep an eye on the stuff going on in the background. I noted several scenes in which what was going on behind the focal point of the camera was at least as entertaining as what was going on in front.

Lastly, on the topic of actually learning something, this movie was surprisingly deep. On the surface there was a profound lesson on the value of individuality vs working as a team. Often in children’s movies the themes crow constantly about being your own person and doing your own thing but this one has a strong streak teaching the value of working together and accomplishing more than any set of individuals working separately could. Later in the film, parents get a strong admonition about letting kids be kids and practice their individual creativity rather than trying to get kids to fit into strict parental expectations. All in all lot to learn here.

In summary, Izzy said, “Best movie Ever!” but then she always says that. On my part I wouldn’t say best movie ever but it had a lot to say, was technically well executed and featured lots of famous voices that parents will recognize. I’m not sure what more you could want than that.


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Movies – The Help – 2011

Today Laura and I wandered out to an early afternoon movie and for a chance, we chose one intentionally. Also of note is that for the first time in a while the theatre wasn’t empty except for your faithful reviewer. By the time the movie had started the theatre was at least half full and it was interesting to note the difference that this made in the whole movie-going experience. Crowds are like sentient beings all on their own so in a way this crowd took on a life of its own and we all seemed to react together in the same way at the same time. It is part of the movie-going experience that one misses when at home or in an out-of-the-way location.

“The Help” is a merciless and poignant view of the life of black servant-class people in Jim Crow era Jackson, Mississippi. I am not a person generally prone to displays of great emotion but it was all the willpower I could muster at several points in the movie to not openly weep. It is a merciful circumstance that movie theatres are dark and private places. This movie moves in a way that very few ever have before and as I walked from the place I wanted sincerely to shake the hand of every person of black descent I met on the way out. The portrayal of the unjust and heartless treatment of southern servants of color during this era was just about all I could bear to watch.

Aside from the sheer emotions evoked, the movie also raised some interesting psychological questions. In these circumstances, white children of privilege were practically raised by black servants and came to view many of them as more parental than their own parents. Given this, how was it that they somehow managed to uphold the horrible injustice of the situation for so many generations? Similarly, it seems that on some level many of the characters were against the treatment received by blacks in the area yet they sat quietly and did nothing while secretly objecting. How can such implication by non-action by tolerated? Sadly this sort of thing is endemic in human history and this movie’s depiction of the circumstance should be applauded.

Overall, I feel confident in saying that this movie is among the best of the year. It’s heart-wrenching portrayals (though mixed with a bit of seemingly inappropriate comedic breaks) of life in the era were flowing and organic and natural and evoked real regret for their accuracy in the audience. As the credits rolled, the audience in the theatre I was in just sat stunned in contemplation of what they’d seen. This is truly a movie to be seen and shared and applauded. I can’t rank it highly enough.

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Movies: Another Earth – 2011

As a general rule, it can be assumed that any movie with the word ‘Earth’ in the title is either an environmental allegory or a science fiction fantasy. “Another Earth” is anything but. While having a slight sci-fi bent with the discovery of a nearly identical copy of the Earth in the solar system, tonight’s movie was more an anthropological investigation than space exploration.

On the day that a new Earth is discovered in the heavens as a tiny, taunting blue spec, our protagonist’s life takes a fateful twist. In the space of a few seconds her dreams of going to MIT are traded for a prison jumpsuit as she is involved in a fatal collision with another vehicle due to her own intoxication. As the movie develops the twin Earth grows closer and our heroine struggles to cope with the repercussions of that pivotal event in her life.

Symbolically the movie gives us the approaching planet as a symbol of redemption and opportunity for rebirth after failure. We also get a chance to see the impact of the realization that we are not, as a species, alone in the universe. Society stands enraptured at the possibility of getting to know the “other” Earthlings. This is a movie that lives on after the viewing in the form of the conversations that result.

At a technical level the execution of the film was amazing. The music, photography and storyline worked in perfect harmony to advance the narrative in the film in a way I’ve very seldom seen in any modern movie. Unfortunately, due to the mistaken belief that this is a science fiction film and its very non-Hollywood ending, I’m expecting the film to fare poorly at the box office. Despite that, this movie earns a very satisfied 9 stars out of 10 from this reviewer.

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Movies: Conan the Barbarian – 2011

This evening wins a very small and very silly prize for drama. I realized at 5:03 that the $5 movie theatre down the street started a round of movies at around 5:00 so I jetted from my place of work at 5:04 and dashed into the theatre at 5:19 just in time to enjoy five minutes of silence before Conan the Barbarian started. Well, to say it with a more hearty and satisfying grain of truth, five minutes of silence before the 20 minutes of previews started.

The Previews

This particular venue is not only desperately quiet before the movie but also pounds down the previews like an addict at a Methadone clinic. Tonight’s total was six and started with “Red Tails” which seems to be following on the coattails of other war movies featuring under-appreciated units made up entirely of minorities. This time it’s WWII African-American fighter pilots. I can’t resist a war movie of any type so it’ll probably have my $5 when the time comes. Next we had “Ghost Rider” a movie with such a twisted and confusing preview that I’m not sure if the self-immolating skull-faced dude is a hero or a villain. We have established, however, based on the preview alone that if you take a whizz while you’re on fire it does hurt. (No, I’m not just making that up to be funny.) “Immortals” seems to be a standard epic adventure mythology flick. The new hero of the week seems to be Theseus and he’s going to save the world or destroy it or something similarly stimulating. Next up was “Drive” which seems to be one of your typical plotless thug movies. Somebody beats up somebody else to get something. Yadda, yadda, yadda. There’s also a new Sherlock Holmes movie coming out it seems making ready to make me spout profanity as I leave the theatre about how completely they’ve destroyed the spirit of the original Conan Doyle genre. And lastly, “Warrior” is apparently one of those stories about a war vet who comes home, doesn’t have any money and decides to become a UFC fight champion to make money to save the house or farm or pay for grandma’s operation. Whichever it is the preview, was nice enough to give away the climax in which the guy has to fight his own brother in the finals. What a devious twist! Pity they told me that BEFORE I gave them the $5.

The Movie

So now after 20 minutes we get down to the movie which, as you will no doubt be unsurprised to learn, is your standard adventure slash-em up western-but-with swords bit. People with impossibly white teeth (and some with no eyebrows) fight each other, heal impossibly fast and fall from impossible heights without any harm whatsoever. Easy enough.

Excessively high level summaries aside, just take the Lord of the Rings and replace it with a weird squiggly, tentacle mask and you’ve about got it. In the beginning (ages and ages ago), evil necromancers (what’s any movie without necromancers, after all) created a terrible mask that they wished to use to enslave the whole world. Well, the barbarian tribes got wind of this and so they united and had a huge and terrible war. As a result they destroyed the mask and broke it into a dozen pieces that they scattered through the world under the protection of the tribes. That takes you up through about the opening credits.

Ages go by and people are still fighting about things but not always about the latest in fashion headgear. In one of these petty squabbles, Conan’s mother, herself a great warrior, is grievously wounded. With her last dying words, the pregnant woman gasps, “I want to see my baby before I die!” so in what I can only describe as the clumsiest C-section ever, Conan’s father plunges his sword into his wife’s abdomen without even looking down and within seconds has produced the instantly wailing infant. Conan’s mother quickly expires from the botched surgery while his father wails his grief that he didn’t pay more attention in nursing school.

More years go by and Conan (that’s pronounced COnan like Conan O’Brien, btw, not coNAN like that OTHER barbarian) grows into a boy. He wants to be a warrior so he and the other children his age are set a challenge. They must take an egg in their mouths and run around some mountain and the first one back without breaking the egg gets to be a warrior. So the boys run out some distance, then stop to beat the shit out of one another and break everyone else’s eggs when suddenly they’re attacked by a band of 7 or 8 large brutal-looking men twice their size. The other boys, of course, wisely run away but Conan wades in and decapitates the whole lot of bandits. In dramatic fashion, Conan arrives back at the village carrying the warrior’s heads and casually spits his unbroken egg on the ground. It’s at about this point that we’re supposed to believe he’s quite a bad-ass.

Well, as you might expect, not long after, some new evil dude decides he’s going to do the Blues Brothers thing and “put the mask back together.” He arrives at Conan’s village having gotten all but the last piece. Evil dude’s armies descend on Conan’s village (which has managed to field quite a sizeable fighting force considering it’s just a tiny village) and bloodshed ensues. It is at about this point that the movie engages in one of my personal movie pet peeves. Either through some complete failure in logic or a flaw in the editing process, evil dude sends in his horsemen, then he sends in his footmen and THEN he lets the town have it with the archers. It is just this sort of disregard for basic military protocol that makes the infantry cut all the archer’s bowstrings the night before a big fight. Evil dude’s footmen don’t want arrows in their backs either. Anyway, long story short, evil dude gets the last piece of the mask, Conan’s dad gets melted to death by a small vat of molten steel that seems to just stay hot FOREVER and evil dude escapes. Conan, however does too but not before he manages to cut the nose off of one of evil dude’s cohorts.

So flash forward several more years and Conan has buffed up into quite the justice-dealing hunk of man meat. We find him first fighting to free a colony of slaves by rolling boulders down from the mountains onto the camp. Doubtless he’d forgotten that groups of slaves chained together or in cages tend to suffer more from falling rocks than guards who can move about more freely, but his heart is in the right place. Conan and his merry band go on to free the slaves including several dozen topless women who remain topless for several minutes as they carouse in celebration. It’s not exactly clear WHY any of them are topless but it’ll certainly make the television edit of the movie shorter.

Conan now starts to pick up clues about the man who killed his father all those years ago. He tracks down one after another without any really notable results except when he finds the man whose nose he cut off as a boy. By now the guy’s wearing a leather face-bra to protect the hole in his face and when Conan finds him he takes the opportunity to shove his finger into the hole until an unpleasantness ensues. Apparently it’s not fatal unpleasantness, however, since Conan has a more brutal method of execution in mind for him. Mr. no-nose runs a slave community so Conan forces him to swallow the key to the front gates and then pushes him out amongst his slaves to be thoroughly “searched” for the key.

Alright, my patience with this movie nearly exhausted, we move into really fast-forward mode. Conan finally finds evil dude and his daughter (a witch). They have the standard cliché fights: fight in an impossible physical situation (this time on a large rotating wheel), fights involving two swords each, a fight between Conan and some sand djinns summoned by the witchy daughter, fight with a monster in a dungeon with a bunch of tentacles. Between fights, Conan manages to schtoop the pretty girl and say those magical words: “I live, I love, and I slay. I am content.”

All in all, it was exactly what you would expect. Excessive gore and insufficient plot but I will say that it had my attention. It was, of course, entirely and utterly predictable but it did have moments of amusement. The eye candy factor was fairly high and on that account I give it a five out of ten. It’s a movie that I will very soon forget, but it’s one that I paid five dollars for and you can’t take that away from it.

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Movies: Alfred Hitchcock’s : “Easy Virtue” – 1928 [silent]

It’s been an entire day since I resolved to watch and review all the Hitchcock films and I’ll admit that his 1928 silent film was an initial challenge to my resolve. In this day and age of HD video and theatre-quality sound, watching a film with no real audio takes a surprising amount of concentration. As if that isn’t enough, it’s even clearer how far we’ve come in the intervening century when you can’t help but notice that even the edges of the screen fade in and out of view because the illumination is inconsistent. Quite a bit is left to the imagination and in some ways, that’s a good thing. In other ways, watching a movie at 11pm that requires this much concentration is just asking for trouble.

The plot synopsis is fairly standard, though it reveals a sensibility that we would today find boggling. Larita Filton is in the midst of a divorce from her drunkard husband and at the same time ensnarled in a bit of impropriety with a painter (Claude) who has been commissioned to do her portrait. Larita does finally escape her marriage but her honor and reputation is sullied forever when she’s “found guilty of misconduct” with Claude. Her reputation in tatters, she escapes to the French Riviera. There she meets John who falls desperately and almost immediately in love with her. Larita keeps mum about her past and only John’s mother suspects that something might not be on the up-and-up. The couple are quickly married but not shortly after, the meddling mom finds a picture of Larita in the paper and the connection with her scandalous past is made. Remaining married is, of course, unthinkable and Larita steps aside so that John can divorce with his honor intact.

Despite the lack of actual audible dialog, the movie doesn’t suffer from a vacuum of memorable quotes. Early on, the love interest, Claude, writes Larita a love note and it’s as sappy and as generic as could be possibly imagined:

Darling,
Why suffer that foul brute when you know I’d give anything I have in the world to make you happy?
–Claude

Near the end, the Larita spars with John’s mother in a manner so standard between generations that it’s almost cliché:

Mother: In our world we do not understand this code of Easy Virtue
Larita: In your world you understand very little of anything

Larita’s position is summed up quite nicely by her closing line: “Shoot, there’s nothing left to kill!” Her virtue lost, her prospects dim, there is nothing else for her to live for. Sensibilities have certainly changed, haven’t they?

Visually, there are a few interesting moments as well. During some of Larita’s time in the Riviera she takes in a few sporting events and it occurred to me as I watched (somewhat bored, honestly) that audiences of the time might very well have been fascinated by the prospect of watching filmed sport. With the cinema still a relatively new and novel art, things we find mundane today would doubtless have been viewed with breathless wonder. Also, earlier on, John anticipates the response to his proposal from Larita by phone and we’re treated to an extended segment of the telephone operator connecting their call and then reacting as she listens in on their conversation. These are images of a day long, long past.

To close, while I’ll admit that I didn’t find much Hitchcock in “Easy Virtue” I did find plenty of 1928 which is almost as good. While these bygone relics don’t entertain in the way that modern movies do, they do act to make us think and help us to know where society has gone before. Whether these changes are progress or regress is left as an exercise to the viewer.

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Movies – Fright Night – 2011

Today’s ‘next available movie’ was Fright Night. I will admit that going in I was expecting an utterly mindless slasher flick. When it was over, I’d watched a nearly mindless slasher flick but it had its up sides. This trip was my first to the newly restyled theatre at Michigan road and 86th redubbed “The Movie Buff Theater.” I’m not sure I see any real elements of movie buffness in evidence but it was at least semi-clean and utterly quiet. When I questioned the cashier about the utter desolation she acted as if she had no idea what I was talking about. Apparently such things are typical. I should also say that I went into this movie with absolutely no foreknowledge. I’d heard of it from movie listings but hadn’t seen a preview or in fact heard any word that I remembered so I was utterly clueless at the onset.

The Previews

The Movie Buff theatre is certainly no frills in that before the movie starts there is… silence, utter and complete. Awaiting a movie which ones assumes to be suspenseful it does create a certain amount of tension. It’s unclear whether the movie will fade in gradually or crash into presence on the screen like a semi-truck full of cymbals getting into a wreck on the interstate. When finally the previews did begin, they certainly didn’t skimp. For the third time I saw a preview for the “50/50” movie. Long story short, guy is diagnosed with cancer lives out the last days of his life… maybe? I’d say it qualifies for the list of movies not to avoid like the plague but it would be one to take a date to. (A date who doesn’t mind occasional scribbling in a notebook.) Next up was “The Woman in Black” a very gothic-looking horror movie about a gent trapped in an isolated and apparently haunted house. I’d say that one deserves an intentional look though it’s not for the easily creeped out. The sci-fi movie “In Time” has a title that doesn’t really do it justice and I think it’ll eventually suffer for that defect. This futuristic yarn is at heart a crime drama but with the twist that in the future the only real currency of exchange is time itself. When your “bank clock” runs down…. Well, you drop dead. Interesting concept I’d say. Next up we have one of those previews that leaves one wondering what the movie’s actually about. “Killer Elite” has something to do with shooting people. More than that I couldn’t really tell you. Lastly and mercifully we had “Real Steel,” the movie about an old down-and-out robotic boxer who finds new inspiration at the hands of a child-hero. This movie is guaranteed to annoy me if it comes up in a “next available movie” review. Kid heroes piss me off.

The Movie

The first five minutes of this movie are so sudden and so gory that I honestly expected the director to pop up and yell, “Cut!” With no pre-amble or setup whatsoever a family of three is devoured by some monstrous beast. After the devouring, we pan out typical Hollywood style to show the whole neighborhood full of cookie-cutter houses… that are… well… JUST LIKE THE NEIGHBORHOOD YOU LIVE IN! OH SPOOKY! Well, not really, but it’s a pretty typical movie device.

So to set the scene we have Charley, a recently rehabilitated geek who has abandoned his old posse to hang out with the cool kids. That is, until Ed, one of his recently abandoned buddies, contacts him to say that one of their mutual friends has been killed by a vampire. As it turns out, this vampire just happens to be Charley’s hulky new neighbor who is putting the moves on Charley’s mom. After some amount of negotiation and blackmail, the duo find themselves vampire hunting.

Unfortunately, before they can really make much headway, Ed runs into “Jerry the Vampire” (as the movie points out repeatedly, what the hell kind of name is Jerry for a vampire?) and is taken in typical vampire style to the dark side. It’s not long, however, before Jerry learns that Charley too knows the truth and quickly Charley and his family become targets. A lot of gratuitous violence ensues which everyone survives just fine (conveniently).

After this wake-up call that he just might not be able to destroy the undead all on his own, Charley decides to enlist the help of Peter Vincent, famous Las Vegas act specializing in on-stage fake vampire killing. This relationship goes through the standard stages of any such movie relationship:

Stage 1: Oh, it’s all an act kid.
Stage 2: It’s all an act kid, but my family WAS killed by vampires.
Stage 3: It’s not just an act kid, but I’m too chickenshit to help.
And finally, Stage 4: Oh hell, let’s go kill some vampires!

So now having a reluctant ally to assist, Charley and Peter head off armed with Peter’s collection of vampire killing goodies (wooden stake guns, holy water and a wooden stake blessed by St. Michael that will revert all the vampires victims back to non-vampire form). In typical movie fashion, some drama happens, things look hopeless for a brief period and then all the vampires end up dead. Happy ending ensues. Nothing very surprising about any of that.

At its heart this is a typical suburban vampire tale to help inspire you to keep a little closer eye on what the neighbors are doing out in their back yards late at night. It has all the standard plot devices and processes from holy water to the standard vampire speech: “I’m doing you a favor making you undead. You can live forever!” So in that respect it was as cookie cutter as the houses depicted in the opening scene.

I will say though that it touched a bit on some interesting and newish points. Our vampire antagonist thought ahead and actually had small rooms built into his house to act as ‘meat lockers’ so he could keep his victims in captivity as he periodically fed on them. This is a practical matter not often touched on. Further, rather than being a single individual of an undead form, this vampire is one of a species. It is infrequent (ok, less than 50% of the time at least that the vampire is looked upon as a biological entity rather than a mere result of satanic influence. So while the standard vampire lore was still in place, the story did go in somewhat non-standard directions.

The best thing about the movie, however, was the casting. While the story itself was somewhat lame, Colin Farrell made a wonderfully menacing member of the undead empire and David Tennant of Dr. Who fame did a spot on portrayal of a Las Vegas showman who was at once less than he appeared and more than we expected. To me Tennant saved this movie from utter oblivion. So it earns five stars out of a possible ten. It loses stars for its lack of originality and needless use of violence but as usual the actors save the day.

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Movies: 30 Minutes or Less [3/10]

To me the idea is simple and intuitive: You decide on no notice to traipse off to the movies and when you get there you watch the next available movie no matter what that happens to be. What could be easier? There are three possible outcomes.
Outcome the first: You end up seeing a movie that you would have seen anyway. Delay of gratification fail but nothing really lost or gained otherwise.
Outcome the second: You see a movie that you would have ignored otherwise and it turns out to have been the most awe-inspiring and amazing cinematic experience of your entire life. Or… some shade of gray between that and “eh, should have stayed home and watched Jerry Springer.”
Outcome the third: You see a movie so bad that you can have endless fun regaling all of your friends/readers/countrymen about just how utterly and absolutely moronic it was and invoke mirth if you tell the story right or at least pity if you don’t. With these three possibilities at hand, I fail to see how any such scantily-planned scheme can fail. (As long as you ignore the $7-$12 you paid to get in, anyway.)
So today’s winner of $7 was the movie “30 Minutes or Less.” Instinct and reputation said immediately that this movie was an utter loser but one must stay true to one’s beliefs so I boldly went forward unto the ticket stand and placed my order. I was immediately accosted by a rather glacial woman next to the cashier who was hanging all over a notebook filled with movie reviews like too much icing on too small a cupcake. “Why’d you pick that one?” she said. Ever-ready and well-rehearsed I went into my standard spiel on movie selection criteria which left her with exactly as much information as she had before. She went on to explain that she lives in Frankfort and “they don’t get no fancy movies like this in Frankfort.” Having been born in that town, I can well believe her statement. I turned my attention back to the cashier (a teenage girl) who handed me my ticket and conspiratorially whispered “You’ll like it, it’s really funny.” Now my doom was assured.
The Previews
Whenever I’m in movies I always think to myself that I should actually make note of the previews and review THOSE so that I can make an informed decision about actually picking a movie later (gasp, I know, sacrilege, right?). In this case, a couple of movies actually struck me as having some weird non-zero potential. The faithful-servant turned crook movie of the fall seems to be “Tower Heist” (due out November 4th) and it intrigued me not only because of its cast of actors I’ve actually seen before and can name but also it’s sort of sweet timeliness. Like any movie-going schmuck I love justice and especially when it’s at the expense of rich, powerful corporate types. I’ll definitely put this on my “don’t offhandedly ignore” list. The other movie that made me actually bother to write down its name in the movie theatre was “Moneyball,” (September 23) a baseball movie about the Oakland A’s and their success at using analytical methods to win baseball games rather than relying on the conventional wisdom of 150 years of baseball history. When you put baseball and analytical analysis together you’ve got me hooked already. So I’ll put that down solidly in the “think about going to see on purpose” category.
The Movie
Yes, hard to believe that after ALL that blather there is actually still a movie to be reviewed. Well, before I go on, I should say a bit about spoilers. In this case, there’s nothing to be spoiled so no worries. Long story short, Nick’s a pizza delivery guy who seems to have only one actual friend, Chet. Chet is the highlight of this pair and he has some wonderful one-liners. Early on he sets the stage for Nick’s character with the line: “Dude, you had a Lunchables for dinner last night. You are a total manchild.” That about sums up those two.
Dwayne is the maniacal idiot son of an ex-Marine. He and his sidekick Travis plot to kill Dwayne’s dad for the inheritance but in order to do this they need $100,000 to hire a hit-man to whom he is referred by a stripper with the moniker of Juicy. So their plan to get this money, is to call for a pizza delivery and when the delivery guy arrives, they’ll strap a bomb to him and make him rob a bank. It’s utterly fool-proof. Dwayne and Travis too have a few amusing exchanges but this one made even me blink with a bit of aghast surprise (paraphrasing a bit):
Dwayne: I have an idea for a cash business that’s just crawling with hot bitches!
Travis: Taco stand?
Dwayne: No
Travis: Abortion Clinic?
So after much kerfuffle the plan comes to pass. Dwayne and Travis wire Nick with a bomb and he finds himself forced to rob a bank in the company of a surprisingly faithful Chet. The duo makes the standard preparations for the robbery and manage to pull it off in a friendly fashion that gives one faith in the kind, honest hearts of criminals everywhere. After even more unnecessary and gratuitous violence they thwart the bad-guys and even end up with the $100,000 for their trouble which they don’t even consider actually returning to the bank. There seems to be little justice in this movie that can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be a comedy or an action movie and even takes a short side-trip into the maudlin. This movie gets a solid 3 out of 10 stars due only to the fact that you could get some enjoyment about of the first 30 minutes… assuming you had had enough to drink beforehand.

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