Tuesday, June 30, 2009

THE HURT LOCKER - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


I am going to do my best to keep this review spoiler-free.


I like Kathryn Bigelow. I have always thought thather work had a seriously polished air about it. Her most notable works are POINT BREAK andSTRANGE DAYS. THE HURT LOCKER is a completedeparture from that type of film. THE HURTLOCKER "feels" like a low-budget, independentfilm, a quality that works in the film's favor becauseit is more of a study of the reality of war than acrafted effects extravaganza. The lingering,sun-scorched shots underscore thehopeless feelings that the soldiers have.


Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) is an explosives expert who is flanked by the stoic Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and the unstable Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty). When James first arrives at Camp Victory and asks for help taking down a protective barrier on his barrack window so that he can see the sun, it is made apparent through the death metal and cigarette smoke in the air that James isn't really afraid of anything.

The rest of the film proceeds to emphasise James' (at times) reckless lack of fear. In his few seconds on film, David Morse as Colonel Reed marvels so much at James' attitude that it is unclear whether Reed wants to punch James out or buy him a drink.

James is seemingly reckless but extremely precise. His castration of lethal phallic explosives is fascinating to watch. On the surface he has no fear, but the camera does catch him as he buckles under the stress of war, bombs, and three hundred and sixty degrees of death.

The tension in this film is ratcheted up and sustained to the point of a total frazzling of the nerves. Every element in this film--bombs, interpersonal relationships and the environment(s)--contributes to the varying degrees of tension.

This is a film about war and the adrenaline addiction that goes with it. It nails the ambiguous notes of the Iraq war deftly, for example, it doesn't give you one obvious, crazy-mad-bomber-on-the-loose. The bomber could be anyone. In fact, one scene shows American bomb-making equipment in the hands of the enemy. The moral ambiguity of this war is presented with the face of Staff Sergeant William James, and that face is very near to cracking.

There are shades of APOCALYPSE NOW and PLATOON in this film, but they aren't overbearing. THE HURT LOCKER stands on its own. The simplistic technique lends to its authentic feeling. Cameos by Guy Pierce, Ralph Fiennes, and David Morse remind the viewer that this is indeed a Hollywood film. Such reminders are a relief because the story itself is so devastating. If you need a break from giant robots, bad comedy, or any of the other current ilk, this is the one to see.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

THE FIFTH ELEMENT AND OTHER MEDIOCRE HAPPENINGS


My entire week has been all about trying to find something to present on the Mediasaurs front page that would be interesting. It is rather easy to find a piece of information about a stupid movie and present it in the forums. I had that experience with SATAN HATES YOU. But the truth of the matter is that mediocrity abounds, and it has for some time now. People are remaking the same old stuff. SATAN HATES YOU has so many references to ROSEMARY'S BABY in its trailer that you don't need to have seen the flick to get the message: the past is referenced to bring about the future. But seriously, a lot of these remakes and homages are better left undeveloped.

So I hunted online for an upcoming film worthy of attention. I was surprised to find that Wednesday clocked the Jack Black flick, YEAR ONE, at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes! This was a movie of such obvious failings that I had dismissed it completely. But the initial RT rating made me think for a hot minute that perhaps I should give it a chance. However the fall of this film from favor with the critics was fast and dramatic--re-dismissed. And the truth of the matter is that now I have this niggling in the back of my brain to watch CAVEMAN again.

I watched the preview for the Bullock/ Reynolds romantic dys-comedy THE PROPOSAL again and pondered Hollywood's love-affair with mediocrity. THE PROPOSAL looks like nothing more than a hunchbacked retread of GREEN CARD starring Gerard Depardieu.

In my introspection, I considered the fact that maybe I needed to look outside of the film medium and turn my attention to TV. A specific person in my universe had been hyping the HBO show, TRUE BLOOD . I watched season one and was dys-impressed, but in desperation I gave it another shot a few nights ago. I was right the first time around. TRUE BLOOD simply bites whatever dust Anne Rice left behind and throws Paquin's breasts into the mix. I really don't think that I am going to make it through season 2. That show sucks. Pun intended. I need to attack this one in a separate post.

So, last night in a fit of frustration, I sat down with three of my favorite people and watched THE FIFTH ELEMENT. Well, when I saw this film first-run in 1997, I hated it. I was coming off of a serious BLADE RUNNER bender and couldn't take the film unseriously enough. I still can't. I even posted about my dislike for it on my FACEBOOK and caught all sorts of grief from people who think differently.

I guess that THE FIFTH ELEMENT didn't take itself seriously at all, and this is what makes it sort of work. The nods to STAR WARS, BLADE RUNNER, SCARFACE and FRIDAY are whimsical. The effects are decent, and the story has its fingers in all religions/sci-fi lore/legends of all time. For some strange reason after more than a decade, it kind of stands. In 11 years no one is going to care about THE PROPOSAL or YEAR ONE. THE FIFTH ELEMENT is greater thanks to superior source material. I don't know what they need to do in Hollywood, but they aren't doing it.

More of my writings can be found here. You can contact me by email at admin@mediasaurs.com

Friday, June 19, 2009

THE HANGOVER - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


THE HANGOVER was not what I expected. I thought this was going to be a way over-the-top laugh-till-it-hurts comedy but it wasn’t. This is a high class film with subtle humor. None of its ridiculous plot points are overlooked or forgotten. This movie fully explores its characters and has them evolve.


THE HANGOVER starts as the basic bachelor party experience in Las Vegas of three best friends and soon to be brother in-law (played by comedian Zach Gilafanakis). As our heroes drink to a toast atop a roof we time lapse over the Vegas Strip and then smash cut to the next morning where it all goes wrong.


Ed Helms’ (Andy from THE OFFICE) character Stu is the first to awaken in a drunken haze to find their suite is completely trashed including a baby in the closet and a tiger in the bathroom. The friends soon realize that the groom to be, Doug (Justin Bartha of NATIONAL TREASURE), is missing from his room and is nowhere to be found. When Phil (Bradley Cooper) finds a bracelet on his wrist from the hospital the night before it acts as their first clue. The groom needs to be found, and the bracelet is the catalyst for the crazy adventure of finding Doug and getting to his wedding on time. Their adventure spans over two days. In this time the events of the night before are revealed. Including such gems such as Stu getting married (even though he was planning on proposing to his abusive girlfriend back home), trouble with the cops resulting in a taser scene funnier than the infamous “Don’t taze me bro” viral video. There is also a surprise and hilarious encounter with Mike Tyson. Included in this package is trouble with gangsters, stealing a cop car and card counting.


The acting is great all around. The cinematography matches the acting head-on. The time-lapse poker scene which this movie boasts is one of the best time-lapse sequences I’ve ever seen.


If you are just looking for big laughs THE HANGOVER is a must see for the end credits which will have you almost pissing your pants. THE HANGOVER is really not going to be what you expect. In the end, this is really a surprisingly sophisticated film.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TRANSFORMERS 2 REVIEW AT EMPIRE



June 15, 2009


Tully Gibney has seen THE HANGOVER and his review will be up here shortly.


It has been a whirlwind of end of schoolyear days around here and the site hasn't been updated to the degree that it usually is. For this I apologize. I do happen to have a LAND OF THE LOST chip in my brain from when I was a child, and I am about to have it reformatted Will Ferrell style. I will post that review in the next day or two.Until that point, it would serve you well to read the TRANSFORMERS 2 review over at EMPIRE.




It is looking like the movie will deliver on the fronts that we all need it to.
More of my writings can be found here. Contact me at admin@mediasaurs.com


Sunday, June 7, 2009

BLACK DEVIL DOLL - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW



This film is every bit as much of a piece of trash as it purports itself to be. This is a Blaxploitation film that salutes all of the prior greats of that genre cross-faded with a heavy dose of Troma. I have to tell you that 98% of the fun of this film was seeing it at a packed movie house in downtown San Francisco. The energy was in the air, and the director, writer, and actors were in the audience. The groans, laughs and perpetual, "what the hell?!!?" comments fueled the experience.


I mentioned Troma films, and the similarities between BLACK DEVIL DOLL and anything Troma has produced are pronounced. Troma films are all characterized by extreme camp, bad FX., boobs, and blood. Black Devil Doll ups the ante in all departments. It isn't great filmmaking, but for a low-budget romp on the crass side, this movie beats the hell out of anything that Troma has ever produced.


I am not holding back spoilers on this one. But I personally have read too many limp-wristed reviews of this film, and it is time somebody brought the news.


Here is what you need to know: This movie was made for $5,000. The brothers Shawn and Jonathan Lewis have succeeded in creating a buzz that brings their low-budget film to a impressive level of pop-culture consciousness. The film sets out to be profanely unconventional, displaying a disrespect for mainstream film so extreme that it opens with a cartoon in which the doll kills and sodomizes the MPAA as payback for the film's X rating. The Lewis Brothers have
managed to translate revulsion, negative press, and a general soft-porn notoriety into what is turning out to be some relative success with this film.

BDD starts with Mubia (director John Lewis), a Black radical who is about to be executed for raping and killing fifteen white women, being walked to the electric chair. His execution sequence is the setup for the entire film.


In the next scene Heather (Heather Murphy) is playing with a ouija board while her breasts are ogled by the camera. A Danny O'Day ventriliquist dummy is conveniently sitting next to her on the couch. At the stroke of midnight, a power from beyond turns the dummy into Mubia, an afroed, foul-mouthed, malt-liquor-drinking, misogynist puppet.


The comments and quips that come out of Mubia's mouth are definitely hilarious. He mentions being sodomized by a pitchfork in hell while a demon spoke latin to him, but explains he is now free to live again in this puppet body. All of his dialogue is as vulgar and crude as possible and delivered with a jive cookie monster growl.


After that comes the honeymoon part of the film. Heather's character falls head over heels in love with the puppet, and at first, the puppet seems to be the romantic sort. There is a picnic with a bucket of Oakland Fried Chicken. There is an afternoon at a park with slides and swings. Oh, and there is a LOT of absurd puppet sex. The puppet is always clothed. Heather is always naked in the sex scenes. But there is something oddly convincing about the puppet/human copulation-focused string of sex scenes that dominate the film.


If this isn't ridiculous enough, White-T, played by Martin Boone, observes this puppet sex through the window of Heather's house and realizes that he has officially lost his girlfriend. White-T is the sterotypical horrible white rapper, and there is no question that the Lewis brothers have this character marked for death later in the film. From here the film degenerates even further.


Mubia eventually tires of monogamy and demands that Heather invite her friends over so that he can mix it up a bit. When Natasha, Candi, Buffy, and Bambi arrive at Heather's house, there is an impromptu bump and grind car wash in the driveway that completely lesbianizes and dismantles the car wash scene in COOL HAND LUKE. The difference is that Mubia is in the window masturbating as he watches these women spraying and sudsing each other. When his ejaculate sprays the window, it is official that this film has stablized in NC-17 territory.


The girls enter the house and amateurishly deliver their lines, groping each other as they discuss their various breast sizes. Next up is a face-to-crotch showdown for the ladies while they play Twister. Twister and the car wash are nothing more than leering camera work to really familiarize the audience with the bodies of the women. These scenes are masturbatory, silly, and there to convey the puppet's growing lust.


Heather soon leaves, and the girls go to different parts of the house. The rest of the film follows Mubia as he proceeds to stalk, rape, and kill all of them. Roofies and rape for one, bathtub electrocution and oral rape for the next, baseball bat to the head and rape for the third, but before the fourth can be dispatched, White-T shows up. The White-T character is so uncomfortably complete with the concept of "wigga" that it is a relief when Mubia strangles him while referencing 8 SECONDS. White-T's corpse is then sodomized and forced into a closet.


The final girl, Natasha (played by Natasha Talonz), slips on her way out of the shower and bashes her head on the toilet. Mubia uses this opportunity to forcefully perform analingus on her. When Natasha comes to, she is then chased naked through the house, manages to hide in a room, and lock the door. Mubia fires a stream of diarrhea at the door and melts an opening for him to get to Natasha. After looking at Mubia's puppet-prick, she goes headlong into
an over-the-top sex scene with Mubia that contains among other things, Mubia drinking her urine. Mubia then slashes her throat.


Heather returns, finds all of her friends dead, and shoots the puppet perhaps 50 times with a never-ending stream of bullets from what seems to be a bottomless clip. She then suddenly gives birth, Monty Python/X-Tro style in the kitchen with a splat. At the end of the film, she laments her life, her half-puppet mulatto baby, and blows her brains out.


There is not much more really to be said about this film. The effects are surprisingly adequate. The references to other films are convoluted yet in place. Nods to SUPERFLY, DOLEMITE, and SWEET SWEETBACKS BADASS SONG are all in place. Any number of slasher films are represented too. The Leprechaun series is saluted along with a surprising homage to the original 1984 movie BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL.


Understandably people trying to break into Hollywood have to do their dirt. Actors have movies that they are ashamed of. Directors have projects that they wish would disappear. BLACK DEVIL DOLL is nothing to be proud of. Outside of some of the special effects and the employment of buxom women willing to be naked and leered at by a camera, two high school students with a camcorder and an apple computer could have pulled this off. The film is clever, but never rises above the level of a strange skin show with absurd body functions.
However parts of this movie are extremely funny. Every time the doll is about to have an orgasm, he has a vision of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and stock '60s race riot footage. At one point, George Bush's face is a part of the vision, with glowing demonic eyes. To the Lewis Brothers' credit, this movie also pokes fun at itself. This is a film that has obviously been made for a rather limited audience.


With heavy DVD sales looming and foreign markets locked, the Lewis Brothers are very close to the mainstream. What they will do with their feet in the door is what should be watched. At the very least, it is obvious they had a lot of fun making this film.

TERMINATOR: SALVATION - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


The TERMINATOR: SALVATION blitz is over, and I have found someone willing to go through the wreckage and tell us what went wrong. His views on the subject are spoiler-heavy and on-point. You need to know that this is part of an email conversation that was so good that I have to present it to the masses. Randall came off with so much fury and accuracy that I felt it was worthy of the Mediasaurs' front page.

TERMINATOR: SALVATION a concise email disembowelment by Randall Audrain

Well, I saw Terminator, and I swear on my life it was even worse than I expected. But before I rip into it, I will say a few things I liked about it. I thought Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese was excellent. The special effects were incredible (even the CGI Arnold was pretty damn good), but that’s just about all the pluses.As for what I didn’t like… where do I even begin?

I guess for starters, the script was absolutely awful. I mean, it was mind-numbingly bad, with plot holes galore. I guess that’s what happens when you get the guys who wrote Catwoman to takeover the writing for a big time franchise like Terminator. Sure there was a nod to GN’R’s “You Could Be Mine” that was kind of fun. But the fact that they seriously tried to incorporate the lines “I’ll be back” and “Come with me if you want to live” doesn’t even get a nostalgic nod from me. The dialogue was corny as hell. I think everyone in the theater rolled their eyes a few times.

The score was forgettable to say the least. McG is all style and no substance. He’s even worse than Michael Bay. There was no character development, and I had zero sentimental attachment to any of the characters. Lord knows there sure as heck wasn’t a single real emotional moment in the whole movie (like when Arnold terminated himself at the end of T2). I could go on for days about different aspects that I didn’t like, but I think I’ve made my point. --RA

Like I said, Randall put it down. I was pretty sketchy on TERMINATOR: SALVATION, but after that review, I am throwing this film into the pile with classics like AVP and X3.

In other news, I finally took down Kevin Bacon's DEATH SENTENCE. There is one remarkable money shot in the film where Bacon leaps from a falling car in a parkade. Other than that the film begs you to think the following: What if Travis Bickle loved his family and one of them was smoked in a gang initiation? I am not joking. The homage to TAXI DRIVER is so deep in this one, it is right down to a scene where Bacon shoots a man's hand off and takes a bullet graze to the neck. Bacon is even sporting a broken mohawk at this point. Check all of the hot-linked words in this paragraph and you can put together what I am saying via Youtube. The difference between the two films is that at the end of DEATH SENTENCE Bacon is not hailed as a hero. Next up for me? THE INTERNATIONAL.

More of my writings can be found here. Contact me at admin@mediasaurs.com

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

DRAG ME TO HELL - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


There is no mistake. These two posters are similar for a reason. Why? The Raimi Bros. have come back to school us all.


Once every great while, the beasts of old come back and terrorize civilization. With Lovecraftian precision, they do what so many others have attemped. But these beasts do it better, and they do it right. I am talking about Sam and Ivan Raimi and their return to horror roots with the film, DRAG ME TO HELL.


Initially I was put off by the PG-13 rating which I took as a sign of sellout. Sam Raimi with his brother Ivan in tow began their careers with a flawless twist on the horror genre. But more recently they have been pumping out commercially glossy popcorn action films. Most of these have been good. Some have had glimmers of the brothers' past horror mastery. But none have gone whole-hog and delivered the old horror goods. So who would expect the Raimis to be able to deliver anything close to the EVIL DEAD series or the Liam Neeson showstopper, DARKMAN? It seemed that their untarnished level of horror, with wisecracks and orange blood, was forever cast aside in their climb to the top.


DRAG ME TO HELL is a lesson to everyone who is into horror film. It is a lesson to the hacks cranking out PG-13 thrillers like THE UNINVITED and THE HAUNTING IN CONNETICUT that a PG-13 movie can reach out and deliver tension, splatter, and jumps while keeping the audience cerebrally involved. DRAG ME TO HELL is also a counter to the recent slew of R-RATED torture-porn movies like HOSTEL and the SAW series. It shows that good horror films are about having fun and not about psychological abuse of the audience. Lastly, DRAG ME TO HELL shows horror film makers and fans that a good story can be delivered, and that audiences need not leave the theater making excuses for plot holes.


DRAG ME TO HELL stars Alison Lohman as Christine Brown, a young woman trying to make a difference at her bank. When Christine turns Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) down for a loan she needs to save her house, the movie begins to lift like the bed in the Exorcist and doesn't drop until the last frame.


Mrs. Ganush utters a curse, and the entity that is released is so vicious, that all forms of splatter are soon explored. Popping eyeballs, ridiculous blood spray, and all manners of drool are masterfully presented. Regarding censorship, Sam Raimi seemingly shies away from nothing to earn the PG-13 rating. This movie feels like an old school R. Furthermore, Sam's tongue is jammed through his cheek continually on this one.


The audience is taken through a relentless barrage of loud noises, unfair camera angles, and things leaping out of the dark.


It works, works, works. There isn't a thing wrong with this film. It has the polish; it has the models and the CG. All of the actors deliver. It has the quirky humor, and it even has "the classic," Sam Raimi's 1973 Oldsmobile Delta Royale. Raimi has been putting that car in his movies for his entire career. Ben Parker even drove it in SPIDERMAN.


This film demonstrates, right down to the movie poster, that Sam Raimi is still on the same page he was with THE EVIL DEAD. He brings all of the classic visceral trimmings and all of the quirky humor. Basically, he has come down from the mountain to give us all a lesson on how horror films should be done. He showed us how 30 years ago, and this film is a perfectly crafted reminder before he goes back to make SPIDERMAN 4.