Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Final Destination (2000)

Apparently I'm not alone in thinking that this movie is an amazingly quintessential teen thriller. I mean, if you're only going to see one movie with fake teenagers, crappy music and slasher deaths made between 1995 and 2000, this is it. You've got to give them credit for using John Denver and the images of a bunch of dead famous people like they were actually trying to make a point or something; does that even happen anymore? The film brings a new meaning to the value of absurdity with a grace that not even Michael Bay has been able to capture (take that douchebag). And they manage to keep the tension high with a choreographed dance of prolonged and sudden deaths (always dramatic and disgusting) that keeps you guessing. Seann William Scott plays his classic fool with Ali Larter as the hot chick and Devon Sawa as....Devon Sawa (does he really need to be anything else? It's hilarious to me how well he's grown into ugliness). To top off the creepiness factor, the film is actually based on real plane crash where tons of teenagers died. Yikes. And the best part of all?: the script was written to be an X-Files episode by the obviously awesome James Wong (The One, Dragonball Evolution), but was actually discarded and transferred over to become a single mass of teen orgasm that grossed a respectable $70 million world-wide. And all that on a wisely-spent budget of $23 million that clearly went into the special effects category. I'm cool with that.

Final Judgment: "Why spend cash on the actors when you can pay them in weed and bad chinese food?/The Supernatural Ourobouros strikes again!/Anxiously absurd and brilliantly transparent = the perfect teen slasher for our generation!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Recap! Action Bonanza!

I think I'll make this one an action feast! I've been joining with friends in the re-consumption of some of the best and brightest. And while these films are certainly not obscure or underrated, there's no doubt that they define my existence. Let's keep it brief and stick to the final judgments, shall we?

The Rock (1996) - "Infinitely better after a spooky night trip to the island of doom!/Michael Bay strikes again with his blatantly gratuitous music video of death, destruction, receding hairlines, military nostalgia, and biting one-liners!/God Bless America!

Commander Anderson: Have you ever been in a combat situation before?
Stanley Goodspeed: Define combat, sir.
Commander Anderson: Shep?
Lt. Shephard: An incursion underwater to re-take an impregnable fortress held by an elite team of U.S. Marines, in possession of eighty-one hostages and fifteen guided rockets loaded with V.X. poison gas.
Stanley Goodspeed: Oh. In that case, no sir. Excuse me...

Waterworld (1995) - "One of Hollywood's greatest blunders is only good news for me!/Dennis Hopper was never meant to be anywhere else!/Crazy costumes, meticulously constructed sets, an interested albeit misinformed idea about the future, and all the bang you could want for your buck!/Long live the short-lived era of real action films!"

Deacon: Don't just stand there, kill something!
Deacon: Well, I'll be damned. It's the gentleman guppy. You know, he's like a turd that won't flush.

Deacon: If I ever see him again, I'm going to cut open his head and eat his brain.
Deacon: Dry land is not just our destination, it is our destiny!

Die Hard (1988) - "The mack-daddy of big-budget action films!/Reginald VelJohnson can save me any day!/This should start with a disclaimer: real sets were used, people really fell off buildings, the sound effects are not stock, we let people swear their pretty hearts out and those explosions are full-scale. Fuck Yeah!

  • When the bomb in the elevator shaft blows out the side of the building, the effect was accomplished by (a) collecting virtually every camera flashbulb of a particularly powerful type in the Los Angeles area and wiring them on the outside of the actual building to simulate the flash, and (b) by superimposing a shot of an actual explosive blowing a hole in the wall of an all-black miniature of the building at the appropriate location.

  • The fireball in the elevator shaft was shot with real pyrotechnics using a miniature shaft; the camera speed had to vary over the length of the shot because otherwise the fireball would appear to change speed as it moved up the forced-perspective model. The effects people weren't sure exactly at what rate to vary the speed, so they rigged a manual variable-speed control and did several takes changing the speed at different rates and then picked the one that looked best.

  • The firearms used in Die Hard (1988) are, as in most action films, real firearms modified to function with blanks. Although modern small arms ammunition is intended to have minimum muzzle flash, director John McTiernan wanted vivid, "exaggerated realism" in the muzzle flashes. Weapons specialist Michael Papac hand fabricated some blanks that were so powerful that the standard firearms modifications weren't workable. Papac had to specially modify the firearms involved. Special Effects Coordinator Al Di Sarro said of these blanks that 'in the world of blanks, there are loads that are not so loud and loads that are deafening', and these were deafening. These blanks did cause some cast members, notably Alan Rickman, to flinch. Furthermore, normally most sound effects come from a studio library of sound effects. Sound designer Richard Shorr didn't want to use these clips as modern sound equipment would show their age, as some of them were recorded in the 1950s. To resolve this and further the "exaggerated realism", the sound crew took the appropriate firearms to a firing range in Texas and recorded them being fired with live ammunition.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Name is Bruce (2007)

Well, if you thought that Bruce Campbell was somehow limited by his B-movie status, you were dead wrong. Because here-in lies a film in which (you won't believe this), Bruce Campbell plays a stereotyped version of himself. Yes, that's right. He has become so iconic that even his real self has become a work of fiction. It's mind-boggling, as is everything that Campbell is in (from the brilliance of course!). Let's face it. I love Bruce Campbell. I want to hang out with him. I want to make out with him (who doesn't?!). And I want to take up drinking so we can share a beer. So it's no surprise that I also wouldn't mind seeing every film he's ever been in. The movie isn't really important. The plot is beyond absurd and there's absolutely no reason for anyone who's not a Bruce-maniac to watch this. But that's not really the point. According to my research gathered from various sources (including "Heart of Dorkness," a documentary included in the special features [yes, I own the DVD; that alone should prove my dedication]), this is more of an event. It's about making a movie that's fun and entertaining but is still about the people who are involved instead of the people who will be watching it (this one is for all the Strines out there...). The sets were actually built on Campbell's property in forested Oregon. And the bad acting can be explained away by the fact that they cast straight off the stages of Ashland (at least anyone who wasn't swept up in Shakespeare). But let's face it; without the homegrown honeys, there would be no way they could find a chick with real tits that big. They're insane! In true B-list fashion, this movie cost a mere $1.5 million (probably provided by Campbell himself) and failed to garner a solid return. This is most likely because (according to imdb comments), everyone who saw this comedy saw it at some ho-dunk film festival. Talk about awkward exposure. Oh well. Don't worry; if you want to feel better about watching this piece, just remind yourself that it was written by the glorious creator of The Mask and Timecop. Awesome!!!

I deem it: "A hilarious tribute that delivers as much or more than can be expected/Bean curd, guitars, and racist stereotypes for all/No presumptions here/A delicious inside joke, and I'm finally on the inside!

The Accidental Spy (2001)

Oh, Jackie Chan, are you living on some plane above us mere mortals or does your glory shine that bright? It seems indisputable that Jackie Chan has brilliantly mastered the action-comedy genre. And he's actually talented! It's a miracle! The best thing about his movies is that he attempts new stunts with new props all the time. It never gets old, and I'm always impressed. I mean, come on; it's not very often that you watch a movie and think, 'man, I could never do that!'. No, no; it's always, 'why are they getting paid for this?' At least on my couch. And while this movie cost an astonishing 200,000,000 HKD ($25 mill by our banks; tricked you with all those zeros, huh?), it was worth every penny. Like most Chan movies, the plot was barely relevant; something about addictive drugs and a fitness store or something. I was pretty confused because there were two different women who both looked like 10 year old girls, and I wasn't paying enough attention to distinguish them from each other. The loss was minimal though, let me tell you. Jackie's stunts are universal! In fact, this movie was like one of those pornos you buy on a street market in Ecuador (cough cough); the cover pictures are completely random and have little to nothing to do with the actual film (choke choke), but in the end, you still know exactly what you're getting. This holds true for The Accidental Spy primarily because I was under the delusion that it was something similar to The Tuxedo. These initial impressions came from the flashy font with exclamation marks and the blonde bimbo on Jackie's hip. No, there was no blonde in the movie, none at all. So what the fuck is that chick doing on the cover? They were totally trying to trick people into watching it, since it was never even released in the US and the whole thing is dubbed and crazy and confusing. And it worked. I pulled it away from the dozens of other Hong Kong movies with Jackie Chan in them, and I watched it. And blondie or no, it was totally awesome. Speaking of porn, the big budget on this sucker must have partially been to pay Chan to strip down, thoroughly tarnishing his family-friendly image. Yes, folks, you can see Jackie Chan's Junk. Jackie's Junk right this way. Okay, it's not technically full frontal. But let me tell you, doing round kicks with only a fruit basket to cover up can reveal many things about a person. And his ass was dual-toned due to a dose of Turkish spices! Oh, the Turkish bath scenes, how many homoerotic action sequences you have blissfully blessed. All the other action scenes were excellent as well. If you want some sort of action rundown (no spoilers, I swear), you can watch this quasi seizure-inducing music video with none other than Chan the Man taking the top harmony. Yes folks, Jackie's always on top.

Final Judgment: "Traditional yet original+ safe yet scandalous + Jackie with his pants off = Everything you could ever ask for/Chan the Man delivers yet again/Family-friendly humor in the form of acrobatics; And you can talk over it!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Houseguest (1995)

Well this one is for the light-hearted and not the light of heart. There's a joke at the beginning of the movie that cued me into the fact that I was going to laugh away the pain for the next 1.5 hours, and that intuition was pretty much spot on. Somewhere in Sinbad's orphanic childhood, a nun is making up some story about how Poseidon started out as an orphan and eventually overcame the odds to become ruler of the sea. And Sinbad Jr (small boy with a large fro) says: "I don't want to be no po' Seidon. When I get big, I'm gonna be rich." Now for me personally, and maybe it was just the context or the delivery or something, but I think that's pretty freaking hilarious. Yes, I'm a weirdo (gasp!). If you also think that joke is funny when erupting from the mouth of an angsty eight year old, then this movie might be a solid move. Otherwise, I can't promise anything. The whole story is pretty confusing and out-of-line. While concerning both rich people and black people, I am fairly certain that the writers had never met either before penning this piece. It's just so off! But that's probably what makes it funny. That and the ridiculousness that is the 6 foot 4 and 1/2 inches of smiling sap known as Sinbad. He fits right into that loud-mouthed, over-the-top comedic style that has been so sucked dry by the likes of Chris Tucker and Chris Rock and probably some other Chris's too. Spencer and I agree that we'd never want to be friends with him, but boy is it fun to watch him crash and burn. A key scene is when he manages to pretend to be a world-famous dentist in front of a bunch of students and other professionals by accidently ripping out a tooth while dodging a swinging dental light. And they clap. Classic. Phil Hartman is also hilarious, but mostly because he seems so unnatural. While most folks may give him props for his extensive stint on SNL, I personally relate to his more childish work (eg. Smurfs, Talespin, Scooby Doo, Captain Planet, etc.). As for the rest of the cast and crew, they're pretty much forgettable. The preacher from Firefly is in it, but he's eerily thin. And the director hasn't done anything else I've heard of besides The Sixth Man, which, despite my many weaknesses, I have never been able to bring myself to purchase. The film was a success, though it's not surprising when dealing with such a cheap comedy (in all meanings of the word).

Final Judgment: "McDonald's is a lifesaver? Houseguest has dubious morals but big laughs/Bringing down the uptight conservatives everywhere/Thank god I don't live in this reality!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Unspeakable (2002)

This unreleased movie, stars the impeccably glorious Dennis Hopper with a shiny appearance by Lance Henriksen (why do I like him again?) and Jeff Fahey (am I the only one who watched The Lawnmower Man?). Oh yeah; and it's got that topless chick from Starship Troopers in it (as I scan her imdb credits, I am more and more impressed; and who wouldn't be with titles like Dragonheart and Johnny Mnemonic coming up?). Truth be told, this movie is pretty fucking epic. And I mean that in the, "I can't believe this exists and that I watched it (but I'll probably watch it again)" sense of the word. In true Tesla fashion, I'm going to flat out list all of the craziness in an eccentric attempt to grasp a the big picture of this frenetic film. goes: Wrongly executed Mexicans, brains falling out, a machine that can let two people share visual images of their dreams and imaginings, some sort of supernatural mind control, Dennis Hopper ripping his own face off, maggots in the brain, bizarro science and questionable physics, horrific creatures, psychopaths and regrettable abortions. How do all of those things go together you ask? Pretty strangely. It's sort of like this supernatural, religious, creature-feature, horror, action-thriller. But I guess since this clearly-a-plastic-surgeon-in-LA character wrote, produced and starred in the film, he thought this was his one shot and promptly blew his load all over every genre typically attributed to superficial macho types who for some reason don't want tits in their movies. That would be my guess at least. Spencer seems to think that the only reason Dennis Hopper did the film is in exchange for a little "work" if you know what I mean, and I incline to agree. I mean, there was only a $2 million budget for this shebang. And there were some pretty serious sets, props and actors for that much. They even had a helicopter! Makes you think, huh? All in all, the whole event was pretty confusing. And, for some reason, I'm pretty cool with that. I guess confusing is a refreshing perspective when you scan the Rasputin stacks and every fucking VHS cover says something about a cop or a government agent and the Mob or the Russians or some fucking shit. I get it already! I can't even bring myself to buy Jean-Claude movies anymore because I own all the good ones and all the other ones have the same flipping summary on the back and stylized mullet on the front. Lordy, lordy.

Final Judgment: "I'm pretty sure Dennis Hopper didn't even bother with a script in this one/For most people, the title pretty much says it all!"

My favorite quotes:

"Even Jesus Christ himself would come down off the cross to juice this guy!"

This one's from a fellow commenter:

"There was an exchange of dialogue near the end of the film between Henrickson and Meyer.
H: "You were really fascinated by him weren't you?" M: "Yeah, grotesquely fascinated. I probably could have studied him for years." H : "Yeah, but at what cost to your psyche?"

That's really what 'Unspeakable' is all about. Yeah, you could watch it. But at what cost to your psyche?"

Fair enough my friend, fair enough.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Songs for Christ Our Life

I came across this precious gem in a Goodwill somewhere, and after finding almost zero information about it online, I thought I would share it here with you kindly folks. The description on the back of the album starts out, "To the teacher, Songs for Christ Our Life is an album primarily intended for use in second-grade classes, either in parochial schools or in CCD schools of religion, where Christ Our Life is the primary text." I guess that makes me the reason there are no absolutes. Oh wait....It continues, "But its use is not limited to those applications - the songs are adaptable for use in any religion program for small children, pre-school through Grade Three....although assigned to specific lessons in the textbook [these songs] are ideal for use in family gatherings and listening situations." I guess that just makes me a weirdo. But I couldn't help myself. Yes, this album is songs to go along with a textbook. Awesome. And they're super religious, written by some Christian follower and musician named (no joke) 'Lou Fortunate.' Published in 1971 by William H. Sadlier, Inc, this album is not only intense, filled with children singing, but also quite prolific; I count no less than 30 tracks. Wowzah! Some of the best titles include, "Hurray for God," "Let's Do Something Special," A Time For Loving," and "Yes, I Shall Arise." Creepy. The music is filled with piano and guitar and basic band room instruments, and every once in a while a synth and drum kit pops in. It's actually strangely reminiscent of both South America and that chick from Hook with her warbly little-girl voice. All in all...

I deem it: "Pedophiliciously and religiously delicious."