Archive for the D Category

Dead/Alive

Posted in D with tags , , , , on January 11, 2009 by jharoldson13

James says:

Ever wonder how some of today’s biggest directors got their starts?  Horror movies, that’s how.  Sam Raimi did it by making “The Evil Dead” series (which incidentally gave the world Bruce Campbell) and Peter Jackson did it by creating “Dead/Alive.”  The movie takes place in New Zealand in 1950s, which came as a surprise to me because I didn’t know the country even existed back thenThis is the poster with its forshadowing..  You learn something new every day.  Anyways, it tells the story of Lionel, who is the physical manifestation of the term “mama’s boy” and his romance with the charmingly-Spanish Paquita.  After Paquita’s grandmother reads her fortune and tells her some omens to look for when finding the man of her dreams, Lionel strolls into her life and fits the bill.  The two of them go to the zoo on an adorable date, which comes to a gruesome, unadorable end when Lionel’s mother, who has been following them, gets bitten by the Sumatran Rat Monkey.

The beginning of the movie told us that the Rat Monkey is very, very bad, and that getting bitten will lead to awful things.  Sure enough, Lionel’s mother soon starts rotting and oozing all sorts of things, and eventually she gets hit by a trolley.  Oh well.  After the funeral, Lionel has to dig up his mother and bring her back home because he knows she’s not dead, and this leads to my favorite scene in the movie.  While digging up the grave, Lionel gets accosted by some New Zealand punks (another thing whose existence shocked me) and one of them starts to pee on her grave.  Looks like someone needs to drink more water!  Sure enough, a rotted hand bursts through the ground, grabbing the guy’s no-no and dragging him down to the dirt.  Then some blood sprays everywhere and he gets launched through the air.  Awesome.  Next we see Lionel’s mom rampaging, turning a few of the other bikers into zombies, who proceed to surround Lionel.  Just then, we see Father McGruder standing atop a nearby tomb, smoking jacket blowing majestically in the wind as he announces, “The Devil is amongst us!  Stay back, boy!  This calls for divine intervention!”  He then leaps into a karate kick and starts beating the shit out of the zombies.  To add even more awesome to the scene, he shouts “I kick ass for the Lord!” moments before getting killed.

As the body count rises and Lionel has to hide more and more zombies in his basement, his relationship with Paquita is strained, and the two break up.  Then Lionel’s evil Uncle Les blackmails him into giving up his house, and throws a totally awesome 50s party.  Except for them it was just a regular party without a trace of college “post-irony.”  Mistakes are made, and the zombies all recieve a ridiculous dose of animal stimulant, and hilarity ensues.  Lionel and Paquita must band together to defeat the zombie hordes and save New Zealand!

Yes, this movie is ridiculous and corny and completely over the top.  But in case you haven’t noticed yet, I love that.  At no point does this film ever become serious, which is one of its many, many saving graces.  From start to finish it has a sense of humor about itself, and it even has a lawnmower.  Mmm…that’s a scene for the ages.  If you’re into goofy, low-budget horror movies that have since become cult classics, or are evenA little late for him to SAVE FACE! Get it? mildly interesting in seeing what Peter Jackson was doing before he was winning Academy Awards (for other examples of people who inexplicably won real honors, see the Three-Six Mafia’s pre-“Hustle and Flow” career, starting with the song “Slob on My Knob”) then this may be the movie for you.  I’ve always had a big soft spot for it, so you know it’s at least worth checking out.

Grade: 83

The Dark Knight

Posted in D with tags , , , , , on September 1, 2008 by itlacksoomph

JOE VS JAMES

Joe says:

I didn’t think I’d be seeing this movie at all because I thought I was immune to the hype. Oh sure, hype and I go way back, but this time I wasn’t really buying it. When a friend asked if I wanted to see The Dark Knight, however, I did what I normally did when friends ask me to do things: I caved in like a candidate for senator. Alright, fine, I don’t fold like that often, but let’s face it, I’ve got nothing to do on weekends anymore.

I’ll start by saying I am not, not have I ever, been a big fan of Batman. Furthermore, I was one of the few young males who never fell in with comic books — aside from the occasional animation of Star Trek episodes and Ren & Stimpy, I basically never had any. Still, like I said, nothing to do, so it was basically a why-the-hell-not proposition.

From the first scene of the movie, you knew it’d be gruesome, vile, disgusting, edgy, and therefore entertaining. Generally speaking, my tastes are a little more refined — not quite Frasier Crane imported sherry refined, but moreso than the average twenty-something. Still, a little blood and guts never hurt anyone.

Long story short, the Joker (played by Heath Ledger, who WILL win the Academy Award) is back in business as el jefe de crime in Gotham city, he does a lot of bad shit to good and bad people, and Batman has to fight him. As we climbed up the mountain to the climax, Batman’s ex-squeeze gets picked off, the inspector fakes his death, and the district attorney, Harvey Dent, gets half his face blown off. I know, a normal day, right? I glossed over a whole bunch of crap but frankly I wasn’t paying attention to the plot so much as I was the clock. I don’t care what anyone says, no matter how good a movie is, two and a half hours never really flies by.

Batman “wins” at the end of the day, sort of. Some people were pissed off at the lack of a happy ending — at least the person I was with had those sentiments. It was kinda lame, but for all I know, it was supposed to be lame because that’s the way it’s supposed to happen in the comics. Like I would know. In any case, Batman’s “the hero we need, not the one we deserve” stuff as he’s getting run out of town on a rail at the conclusion, despite having single-handledly shut down the Joker, was at least different from the generic kumbaya-yay-we-did-it-uptempo-fade-to-black ending you get in most movies.

More on Heath Ledger, though. Granted, I’m not a huge fan of his movies, particularly one with cowboys mounting horses amongst other things (although I did like The Patriot — I mean, MEL GIBSON!) but I’d probably not be going out on a limb by saying his last major film was his best. He presented his character in the creepiest way possible, but there was also a definite tinge of humor. He brought his character to life much moreso than anyone else. Yeah yeah, Michael Caine, Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman…I know. Ledger just happened to be better.

Was it good? Yes. Surprisingly good? Yeah, even for me. Would I see it again? No, but that’s just me. I imagine Batman fans would wet themselves in glee at the chance to see it again. Though not a fan of the genre, it was legitimately the best new movie made in a while. If I had to pick between this and the 297th parody “….. Movie” (which come out about every 3 months now and probably use different versions of the same script), I think I’d take this.

Before I stop writing, however, there is one last statement I have to make:

Gotham is a total shithole. A few bunker busters would solve all of their problems.

And I wish I came up with the pencil trick first.

Well, that was three statements. Now four. Crap.

Grade: 80

(better known as 8 out of 10 or 4 out of 5 stars)

James says:

And at last we come to the sequel to one of my all-time favorite movies. How could it possibly live up to the impossibly high standards set by the public? How could it ever satisfy everyone with all the hype it had generated? How could Christian Bale possibly get any handsomer (I call no homo on that)? Fear not, all you unwashed masses, because this movie does it all.

Let’s begin with what everyone else has already analyzed to death: Heath Ledger’s swan song performance of the Joker. Since this review is coming a bit late, my guess is that if you’re reading this, you’ve either already seen the movie or at least read about it, so you know that Ledger’s final role was the definition of perfection. Not to sound like too much of a douche, but the last time a movie scared me was when I watched “Sex and the City.” I could practically feel those old cows breathing down the back of my neck. Anyways, the Joker scared the living shit out of me. He was a character with no motivation other than the spread of chaos, as evidenced by his burning all of the money he had earned from the mobsters. And the way he kept changing the story of how he got his scars? Brilliant to the core.

The rest of the cast is excellent, but are still outdone by Ledger. Michael Caine delivers my favorite line in the movie while trying to explain the Joker’s lack of a motive to Batman, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” As the Joker begins to destroy everything that Batman has done for Gotham, Harvey Dent enters the scene and becomes Gotham’s White Knight, able to strike at crime from the front. Bruce Wayne realizes that since justice now has a face, his time as Batman could be drawing to a close. Doing everything he can to set up Dent with Gordon, creating a powerhouse team of legal eagles, he begins trying to re-woo Rachel Dawes, now played by Maggie Gyllenhall. Now, I can finally like the fucking character, because she no longer sucks. Rachel is now a real person with real emotions, who decides to stop waiting for Bruce to end his one-man war on crime, and instead starts dating Harvey Dent.

Their relationship eventually comes to a head when Harvey proposes, but after that, things get a little buck wild, and through a series of nasty things happening, we are treated to the birth of Two-Face. I’m leaving a ton of good shit out, but I’m also tired of writing to a bunch of people who are probably not going to see this movie based solely on my review. If you’ve waited this long, you either hate fun or think Superman is cooler than Batman. And if you think that, you’re a moron.

Grade: 99

Average Grade: 89

PS: James did’t put a single picture in his review. Lame-sauce.

The Darjeeling Limited/Hotel Chevalier

Posted in D with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2008 by theroboticdan

Dan says:

Hotel Chevalier is the bonus short that serves as a prelude to the Darjeeling Ltd. It focuses on an extremely awkward and sexualdarjeeling.jpg encounter between two ex-lovers. You can watch the Darjeeling Limited without having seen Hotel Chevalier, but why wouldn’t you want to? Its a prequel of sorts, and even if you’re not into the artsy fun little connections it has to the film, remember you’re going to see Natalie Portman almost completely naked. Its win-win-really.

Wes Anderson is admittedly an acquired taste. It may take repeated viewings of his previous films to understand what is so great about his current films. His characters live in a world of ridiculous pastels, like its constantly Easter or a sidewalk chalk competition. Everyone has their own style, sweatbands, eyeliner, sunglasses, cigarettes, all things accessory. The camera will pan from a half mile away and focus on a rooftop conversation. These are things you come to expect, and Darjeeling Limited fits that bill.

Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman play three brothers with strange noses, on a whirlwind tour of India, attempting to reconnect after the death of their father has torn them apart. Where ever they go they seem to breed trouble, they destroy relationships, let loose snakes, and almost miss their train about twelve times. They’re the equivalent of the indie three stooges.

Perhaps one of the most interesting themes is that the three brothers wear their problems as accessories. The eldest has just recently been in a motorcycle accident and spends the majority of the film with his head wrapped in a gauze, hiding most of his face. At one point he loses an expensive shoe, and spends the rest of the film with his shoes mismatched. His inability to heal, dress, and fix his family makes him the struggling brother. The middle brother wears his late father’s prescription sunglasses everywhere he goes, giving him a tendency to not be able to let go of the past and move on indarjeeling2.jpg his life, to things like his newly pregnant wife. The youngest brother has long hair and a moustache, almost as if he is trying to hide who he is and separate himself from his family. There are also a series of ugly matching numbered suitcases that serve as an interesting touch, the brothers cart this physical and emotional baggage everywhere they go and its significance grows more clear as the film progresses.

Finding the film’s thematic parallels becomes a film major fun time game. You’ll notice that they never show their father’s funeral, but they will place a flashback to the day before right in the middle of an Indian funeral. You’ll realize more and more that the brothers were very much products of their eccentric parents, as the parallels between their mom’s dialogue and the oldest brother’s dialogue become clear. And even when they’re not rushing to get on a train, it seems they find a way to rush around barely meeting deadlines when they try to make their father’s funeral in New York.

One gets the feeling that India was made solely for Wes Anderson to do a quirky little film about it. The colors, the unusual people, the trinkets all fit Anderson’s world to a perfect T. He takes you on a delicious little character filled train ride, and as long as you can get over the expected stylistic choices that the director can’t resist you’ll enjoy an odd little film that brings you places you’ve never seen before. And isn’t that why you watch movies anyway?

Grade: 87

Drumline

Posted in D with tags , , , , on February 23, 2008 by serranja

Jason says:

This is the best film about college marching bands battling for supremacy with Nick Cannon that I’ve ever seen.  It’s also the only one. (duh).  What we’ve got isdrumline2.jpg Cannon venturing out from the Nickelodeon umbrella as the talented but conceited drummer who goes to college on a scholarship to play for a band led by the guy from 7-up commercials (Orlando Jones).  It’s goofy, and only has one white person in it.  But it’s actually fun, in a messed up, nothing else on tv but I need to watch something kinda way.

Don’t get me wrong: This isn’t a great movie.  It’s not even a particularly good movie.  We’ve seen everything in it a million times before.  It follows the classic sports movie formula, even though band-ing isn’t really a sport.  The acting is spotty, and I can’t stand Cannon for more than seven seconds at a time.  Plus Jones has his serious face on the entire time, which is a departure from every other bad movie he’s ever been in (and he’s only been in bad movies, except for a brief part in Office Space), and so it’s not fun to watch him.  There’s also an awkward romantic subplot that disappears for a while before mysteriously reappearing.

The clichés come at you rapid fire, but for some reason, I didn’t mind.  There’s the reigning champs, full of arrogance and trying to steal Cannon from his team.  There’s the friend who struggles getting on the team and the captain who seems like a douche until that magical point halfway through when he becomes really cool and suddenly everybody gets along.  And there’s the struggle between old-school and new-school.

But the music is cool in a hip-hop drumming kinda way, and I certainly can’t drum like any of the characters, so I can’t judge that.  The band plays the Jackson 5’s “I want you back”, easily one of my favorite 70s songs.  And Zoe Saldana is hot, so that’s a plus.  All in all, Drumline isn’t good, but it’s not bad.  It’s unremarkable but watchable.  That’s an ok thing, right?
Grade: 70

Dan in Real Life

Posted in D with tags , , , on February 8, 2008 by itlacksoomph

Joe says:

I wasn’t even INTERESTED in seeing this movie; I had to go for a class. Sure, I could’ve seen anything for that paper, but I was at the mall at noon, and that was the only thing starting right then.

Dan (Steve Carell, who normally I find to be very funny) was the protagonist – a newspaper columnist who writes advice for family life issues despite his household being a train wreck in slow motion. The wife is dead and the daughters are (mostly) moody teenagers. Cue the obvious irony.

For some reason completely unknown to me, they all go up the east coast to the grandparents’ house. The entire living family seems to have assembled at thisdaninreallife.gif clusterfu—I mean, family reunion, but on the way there, Dan meets a woman, Marie (Juliette Binoche) in a book store and there is instant chemistry. They have to part, but they soon meet up again – at the house. Marie is his brother Mitch’s (Dane Cook) new girlfriend, unbeknownst to Dan before. The balance of the movie isn’t even a competition for her; it’s more just Dan slowly breaking down watching his brother’s relationship with his crush bloom and there’s not a damn thing he can do about it.

I was bothered by this movie, and by more than the moderately-creative forbidden love story that couldn’t be resolved without a battle royale climax. I sat through this film wondering WHO THE HELL ACTUALLY HAS A FAMILY LIKE THIS? They all gather at the big house, do aerobics, have talent shows, play touch football, and have crossword puzzle competitions for what I can only assume was a period of longer than a week? What out-of-touch idiot thought this would be a realistic view on the American family? Of all the things that left a bad taste in my mouth about this movie, it was them. Who the hell are these people, and why do they think this is normal?

The daughters were mostly annoying as well. One of them basically spends the whole movie trying to jump some 16-year-old guy’s bones or however the hell old he was, and when daddy said no, she whined and pouted and kicked and screamed yada yada yada. OK, we get the point; he’s your quasi-boyfriend and that’s adorable, but shut the hell up.

Dan is a pretty bad father, which is evident throughout the first 90% of the movie, and it bothered me mildly about how long it took him to realize it. It was almost hard to watch some of these scenes where he’s totally bombing with his daughters, because it’s all just arguing.

The climax and resolution of the love triangle were unsatisfying because they were fairly inconclusive. In fact, the whole plot was, too. There was a lot of boring fluff and pointless interaction in between events that actually moved the story forward. We don’t know how things actually end up, but Dan and Mitch hate each other and Marie flees, but Dan goes to find her, while Every Family USA pretty much just watches and hopes that it doesn’t interfere with their afternoon board game tournament of champions. Not really a happy ending.

It was half good and half bad – meh, if you will. I can tell that someone actually gave a damn somewhere along the line, the acting was decent, and parts were mildly amusing. The characters are mostly cloying and unlikable and a sizable majority of the plot was lame. Its overall message of “love conquers all” is cute but didn’t really do anything for me. Don’t be fooled into thinking that because Steve Carell is in it that it’s a comedy; it’s a romanticomedrama (if no one else has come up with this word, I am hereby copyrighting it as my own personal intellectual property). There’s nothing special or particularly memorable about the movie other than how far removed from mainstream America the family is.

In other news, Dane Cook was surprisingly decent.

Added: Now the commercials for the DVD/Blu-ray release of this movie are trying very hard to portray it as a comedy. Most of it really wasn’t funny at all, and a lot of the scenes being used weren’t humorous in their original contexts. For example, when Mitch assaults Dan in the bowling alley, that WASN’T supposed to bring out laughter…he was pissed off that his brother stole his girlfriend and it was highly emotional. And the irritating “you’re a murderer of love!” screeching wasn’t comical, even if it was intended to be. For their false advertising in trying to pass off a romanticomedrama as a Steve Carell schtickfest, I am deducting 5 points from my original review score of 50.

Grade: 45

Dark City

Posted in D with tags , , , , , , on February 8, 2008 by jharoldson13

James says:

Ok, wow. This movie has been underrated for far too long! It all begins when John Murdoch wakes up in a hotel room with no memoriesdarkcity.jpg and one dead hooker. Turns out that he’s wanted for murder, even though he doesn’t remember killing anyone. He then meets Keifer Sutherland, who plays a crippled doctor working for a group known as The Strangers, a race of weird pale people who control the city Murdoch lives in and seem to have eerie psychic powers. Pretty soon, Murdoch starts to recover his childhood memories, growing up in an idyllic place known as “Shell Beach.” And also he has the same powers as The Strangers, including the ability to alter the physical aspects of the city at will. The movie then becomes a chase, as Murdoch struggles to reach Shell Beach and find his estranged wife, who has had her memories of him removed, and also dethrone The Strangers if he can. It all leads up to a ridiculously cool psychic battle between Murdoch and the leader of The Strangers, and the revelation of what they are, and what the city itself is.

This movie is crazy. I can’t stress this enough. It’s a really, really good movie, but it will make your brain hurt a lot the first time you see it as you furrow your brow in a vain attempt to understand. Once you start to make sense out of what the fuck is going on, however, it becomes a very satisfying flick. Sure, some of the special effects are a bit dated (this movie is now ten years old, happy birthday!) but honestly, who gives a fuck? That’s not what makes this movie awesome. It’s the combination of top-notch acting from the entire cast and a really great story that make this movie as good as it is. The one thing I will warn you of…don’t watch this movie with a girl who doesn’t want to watch this movie. She will hate you forever. Anyone else, though, will probably like it a lot.

Grade: 89