Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Things You've Really Got to Get Around to Doing, Bill

1. Exercise more at all.
2. Drink less more.
3. Write every day.
4. No, seriously, write every day.
5. Why are you typing up stupid lists when you should be writing
6. Stop dicking around on the internet so much.
7. Wear suits all the time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Things That Are Funnier Than $#* My Dad Says

  • Community, Thursdays at 8 on NBC
  • Boston Legal reruns
  • Raw Nerve, the show where Shatner talks to celebrities about tragedy and alcoholism;
  • Aftermath, the show where Shatner talks to serial killers
  • That Sarah McLachlan commercial with the really sad animals
  • Chemotherapy
  • Pregnant widows
  • Quadruple amputees
  • Starving children in third world countries
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
  • The Holocaust
  • Two and a Half Men (I know, right?)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Harry Brown

It seems as if every member of the cast and crew of this film set out to make Harry Brown as despicable an experience as possible. The characters are reprehensible, the colors and lighting are sickly, the dialogue is profane, the violence is-- technical term here-- squicky. Michael Caine goes Charles Bronson on a bunch of teenaged punks and druggies terrorizing his rundown English neighborhood. His wife and child are dead; his best friend is killed. He is a man with nothing left to lose.

The film has a lot in common with Garth Ennis' Punisher MAX comic book run, I would say; an old man accepts violence as an answer to violence, and sets about punishing the guilty. The filmmakers ensure that the audience thoroughly despises Caine's opponents, until we at home are actively supporting the elderly explosion of murder and mayhem that occurs in the back half of the movie.

Many will compare this to Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino, and while the trappings are the same, the films are tonal opposites. At its heart, Gran Torino was an anti-violence film, a cathartic purging of Eastwood's Dirty Harry mentality. Harry Brown remains dirty, advocating bloodshed in response to bloodshed, glorifying vigilante violence, and making the audience complicit therein. But hey, at least Michael Caine can walk through that underpass again.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Woods

I gave this two stars. The first star is because Netflix won't let me give a movie anything lower than that-- and the second star is for the bit where Bruce Campbell buries an ax in an old lady.

Unless your religion compels you to see anything with Bruce Campbell in it, no matter how fleeting (he appears for five, maybe ten minutes total), avoid this movie.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Ian A.: I really like the laid-back absurdity of Louie

Bill: I still can't tell if I like that show.

Some episodes will be great, or parts of episodes will be great, and others put me off.

The tone is so befuddling.

Ian A.: it's still finding its voice and its legs, yeah, but I think it's more hit than miss

Bill: Oh, I think the tone is exactly what CK wants; it's just so outside the rhythms of every other TV show ever.

Even stuff like Buffy and MASH, which would turn from comedy to drama on a dime, felt different.

Ian A.: he is in total control of the thing, writing, directing, starring, so it probably is his pure vision on screen

Bill: Louie is stone-faced black humor, with bits of outright comedy, outright tragedy, skin-crawlingly awkward moments, etc. It's both more realistic and natural than any other sitcom, and also more absurd than any of them.

Ian A.: exactly

Bill: All at the same time, and sometimes different times, and it's just... so weird.

And the narratives, which aren't narratives at all, just bits. And sometimes the bits connect, and other times they don't.

And where Two and a Half Men or something would have a coda where they show that mother and son really do love each other, or a punchline where he gets beaten up by the bully's parents, Louie keeps going past that, not giving us what we expect...

And I didn't like those episodes, they just really made me feel uncomfortable. Which is the point.

Ian A.: it's more honest than any other comedy, in that it's not all about setting up punchlines and fabricating outlandish situations

Bill: My favorite moment is still the bit from the pilot where his skeeved-out date flees into a waiting helicopter and disappears

Ian A.: haha, yes

Bill: It helps that CK's worldview hews very close to mine.

It's, like, Vonnegut. A tragicomedian who loves humanity but despises society.

Ian A.: precisely

Monday, August 16, 2010

Coen Bros porn oeuvre

In chronological order of release:

Jizz Simple
Miller's Tossing
Barton Fuck
The Cumsucker Proxy
The Big Leboinkski
O Boner, Where Art Thou?
Unswallowable Cruelty
The Ladyfillers
Two Girls, No Country for Old Men
Burn After Peeing
A Serious Wang

Some of these might actually exist, but I'm not going looking.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Merry Gentleman

If you cut all the awkward pauses out of this movie, it would only be half an hour long. However, if you keep telling yourself Michael Keaton will interrupt each pause by saying "I'm Batman," it's the funniest comedy of all time.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Two Nightmares

I tried mucking with the fonts and styles and format of this page. Everything looks ugly, and I don't know enough HTML to make it prettier. So let's at least experiment with dropping the orange.

So I just watched A Nightmare on Elm Street and the ten-year-follow-up, New Nightmare, both by Wes Craven, for the first time. Dang, that first one's deeply ingrained in the pop-pulp consciousness, isn't it? I'd never seen it before, but somehow, nothing seemed unfamiliar-- the cut, bleeding body of teenaged Tina being drug up onto the ceiling, the faces stretching out of a wall, the Raimi-inspired geysers of blood (then again, did Raimi not use the blood geysers until Evil Dead 2, which came out after this? Craven and Raimi had such a back-and-forth during this horror era that I can't remember), etc. The imagery lingers still; we all know who Freddy Kreuger is, even if we haven't seen the films. The imagery, however, doesn't interest me as much as the ideas. The core concept-- that our dreams are when we are safe, no matter what happens in them, and what happens when that changes-- is a solid one, but there's some decent stuff in there about the human experience, as well.

It seems safe to say Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer was heavily inspired by Craven's first Nightmare, even if we forget about Whedon's own Nightmare-riff in the first season of the Buffy TV series. Whedon portrayed high school as hell, but Craven beat him to it by showing high school as a nightmare, and protagonist Nancy's nightmares are mostly tied to the horrors of being a teenager-- remember, Craven originally intended Freddy to be an invention of Nancy's mind, not an actual supernatural serial killer. Nancy's fears come to fruition through the loss of her friends, and her parents' unwavering disbelief in whatever she tells them, even when faced with the 'truth.' Teenagers often stuggle with their parents, and with the notion of their own mortality; I'd say the fear of death begins to emerge in the teenage years. If not a fear, then a grudging respect, an acknowledgement of its existence, even as teenagers try to act immortal. Nancy doesn't so much defeat Freddy as she accepts him, yet turns her back on him-- because she's grown and matured past the point where she needs him, where he derives his power.

Craven's creation grew without him, however, and the studio pumped out five more in rapid succession. On the series' tenth anniversary, Craven and the original Nancy, Heather Langenkamp, return, and New Nightmare focuses on distinctly adult fears. Craven throws amusing metafictional twists in-- this time, Freddy invades the "real world," tormenting the creators of his films. Rather than a silly romp where Freddy tries to kill everybody on-set, however, it shoots to be more ambitious than that. Langenkamp plays herself, and Freddy-- and Craven, whose script within the movie is also the script for the movie itself-- attacks her by playing to the fears of a wife and mother and actress: the loss of her husband, the taking of her child, a fannish stalker, and the haunting presence of her career, always drawing her back to the Nightmare series. Within the movie, Craven describes this new iteration of Freddy as a manifestation of the loss of innocence; how great is that? Such a loss occurs in the teenaged years, as showcased in the first film, but it doesn't end there, and kids don't just wake up as adults one day. The movie also likens horror film mythology to the grim and grisly fairy tales of yore, which is a neat comparison. Yes, the themes and ideas within the movie are great; the execution is less so at times, and the movie develops extremely slowly, lurching into plodding and repetitious at a few points.

The first one's wacky horror fun, a clear 80s classic; the, er, seventh one's a mediation on horror films and the adult experience. I'd say both are worth one's time.

And hey, who knew that Johnny Depp kid would make something of himself?
Sometimes I cross my 7s
and sometimes I do not
but they are all my children
and I love them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bill's favorite films of 2009 (the list so far)

Still many more films to see. But so far, here's what I liked the most. Alphabetical order:

(500) Days of Summer
Black Dynamite
Crank 2
Whatever Works

My expectations! They are high!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Words I use far too often in my writing

1. However
2. This
3. Is

Example: "This is, however, the way I write."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Film flam

I only want to do stuff-- like write these capsule film review things-- when I'm supposed to be doing something else, like, you know, getting a Master's Degree. Screw that. Movies!:

88 Minutes: I get that mysteries and thrillers need some red herrings in there, but this movie is nothing but red herrings, to ridiculous, plot-devouring lengths. Other ridiculous lengths? Al Pacino's hair. Good gravy, it's a terrifying bouffant, and probably got paid 20 million for this. The hair, not Pacino.

It's a low-key con man movie with John C. Reilly, before he did nothing but absurd comedies. It's alright. Moving on.

District 9:
So this movie cost like a tenth of Avatar or something, but the effects work is phenomenal anyway, with real alien aliens and crazy violence. I wish it had stuck with the documentary style throughout, but I can see why that would have been difficult to maintain. Mostly, though, I didn't like it-- 85% of the dialogue is just the man guy screaming "Fuck!," after all, and it doesn't so much end as slap on a "To Be Continued." There's not a lot of story here, but the violence is well done, and the apartheid theme is very apparent. Give Blomkamp the Halo movie now.

Everything Is Illuminated:
Slow going, mostly in Russian, but just funny and moving enough.

Frank Langella really doesn't look or sound like Nixon, but here, he is Nixon, somehow.

Ghost Town: Ricky Gervais stars in a romantic comedy in which he can talk to ghosts, and it really goes through the regular screenplay motions, and relies too much on some of that awkward humor Gervais likes so much, but it still turned me into a blubbering wreck by the end and I don't know why. So I ended up liking it a lot. That was odd.

Good Dick:
This, however, was shit. Jason Ritter plays an idiot, and Marianna Palka-- who wrote, directed, and stars-- plays some damaged porn addict he tries to woo. The characters' interaction doesn't feel real, or make much sense at all, and it's one of those films where you can't root for anybody because you want everybody to get hit by a bus at some point. Sure, in indie movies, everyone's a fuck-up-- bleh.

Human Nature:
Maybe Charlie Kaufman's worst movie? I can see what he was trying to do, but the script could use another pass. Still-- Dinklage!

Let the Right One In:
I'd rather this than Twilight. What appears to be sweet puppy love in this is actually deeply disturbing when you put any thought into it at all, and I like that that's the point. It's tops as far as Swedish vampire flicks go.

Man Bites Dog:
Nothing is more disturbing than this, however, the blackest of black comedies, a faux documentary about a serial killer where the main actor's family, playing his family, had no idea it was a killer picture, and showcasing just how completely insane this killer guy really is, following him around on his murder sprees, watching him give friendly advice, mixing drinks called "Dead Baby Boys," raping, killing, and, as the movie progresses, dragging the film crew further and further into his dark vortex. There are a few laughs, but mostly, it's satire that stabs instead of tickles.

Terminator Salvation:
Well, it was better than Terminator 3. McG was clearly trying to make this Children of Men, only with killer robots. The story feels completely empty, though, and the set pieces aren't particularly clever, so it's all just sort of there.

I bawled like a baby at about three separate points in this movie. All of the elements feel completely incongruous-- floating houses, lost explorers, boy scouts, talking dogs, rare ostrich creatures-- but it all comes together in a beautiful way. Just change the name of the Best Animated Feature Oscar to the "Pixar Award," already.

Vantage Point:
Listen, if you're going to base your movie around a gimmick-- like showing a crazy incident from multiple perspectives-- don't throw the gimmick away once you get to the third act. That feels pretty lazy.

Wall Street:
So... greed is... bad?

Whatever Works: Maybe Woody Allen's best film in a decade or more. Sure, it's an old script, but it's because of Larry David that the whole thing comes together. He plays the "Woody Allen" role here, but where Woody's characters are usually nebbishy, passive, easily walked over, David is callous, direct, forceful, though he still ends up letting things happen, rather than express any true sense of control. He somehow falls into marriage with young runaway Evan Rachel Wood, and as her family comes to claim her, they too fall under New York's bizarre sway, and everyone is sort of transformed by the end-- finding whatever works and sticking to it. Meanwhile, it's goddamn hilarious.

World's Greatest Dad:
Who knew Bobcat Goldthwait had it in him? He wrote and directed this, and did a pretty fine job. Robin Williams plays the failed writer father of a kid who dies by autoerotic asphyxiation; Williams fakes a suicide note, and accidentally creates a nationwide movement worshipping his son as anything but what he truly was. Williams goes along with it in a bid for success, but-- well, naturally it all falls apart, though said destruction appears triumphant in the end, with a fantastic usage of "Under Pressure" winkingly telegraphed.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine:
Well, it was better than X-Men 3? I guess? I don't know why they keep shoehorning 50 new mutants into every movie, or why sense is the first thing thrown out the window, really... Bleh.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Six Word Reviews

Back to my old ways already.

(500) Days of Summer: Unapologetically clever, bittersweet, and heartbreakingly true.

2001: A Space Odyssey: I'm sorry, I fell asleep. Repeatedly.

Being John Malkovich: Malkovich Malkovich. Malkovich? Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich!

Bonnie and Clyde (1967): So much better than Public Enemies.

The Brothers Bloom: Life is but a long con.

Dial M for Murder:
Palpable narrative tension is Hitchcock's trademark.

Dog Day Afternoon:
Never knew this was a comedy.

What was the point of this?

Is Anybody There?:
Let's care more about old folks.

The Maiden Heist: Walken, Freeman, Macy (nude). Lame movie.

The Mutant Chronicles: Surprisingly not a pile of shit!

My Favorite Year: Peter O'Toole yay, everything else, nayyyyy.

Network: This gets more relevant every year.

Public Enemies: Precious hours you won't get back.

Revolver: You're not that clever, Guy Ritchie.

Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother:
More like Gene Wilder's lamer movie.

Spies Like Us: This movie is no Three Amigos.

Strange Brew: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern drank my beer.

State of Play: Almost as good as BBC's original.

Sunshine Cleaning:
Needs more cleaning, less aimless angst.

This Hoffman guy is going places.

The TV Set:
Showbiz is an ouroborous of turds.

The Zero Effect:
Bill Pullman? Best sociopathic detective ever.