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Showing posts from October, 2009

Daddy’s a Bad Liar!

Movie Title: The Stepfather (2009)
Spoilers: No

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Nelson McCormick’s The Stepfather stars Dylan Walsh as “David Harris” and Sela Ward as “Susan Harding” in this psycho step-dad thriller. Penn Badgley is Michael Harding, Susan’s previously delinquent son, who returns from boarding school to find his mother engaged to a “dream guy” who appears too good to be true.

Ex-husband “Jay” and Susan are recently divorced. This has put a strain on every member of the family, which includes a younger son “Sean Harding” (Braeden Lemasters) and “Beth Harding” (Skyler Samuels). And now here mom is getting married again. How is her oldest going to handle this? Is she moving too fast? Her sister “Jackie” (Paige Turco) and a rather large network of neighbors and friends are at her side, and they love Harris.

But as seen from the trailer (which shares WAY too much of the movie), Harris is a real bad guy, a psychotic killer who can have toast and coffee as the rotten bodies of his former family lie around th…

It’s About Corn

Movie Title: The Informant! (2009)
Spoilers: No

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Is it worth your time to see The Informant? Or, put another way, is seeing a detailed and accurate re-creation of the 1980s and 90s valuable to you? Is it more valuable than hearing business conversations between employees you are not among and don’t work with, conversations that are about as interesting as accounts payable lectures or the implementation of insurance policies?

Based on a true story, Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, who was vice-president of Archer Daniels Midland from 1989 to 1995, an agricultural conglomerate specializing in corn products. Mark was brought up on racketeering charges and ended up serving nearly nine years in federal prison after serving as an informant for the F.B.I. in one of the bigger corporate price-fixing cases of the 1990s.

The movie is not challenged, unlike Whitacre, the runny clump of candle wax who is the main character, a clandestine individual with sociopathic tendencies. Directed…

The Best Seat in the House?

I want to introduce you to my friend Terri. She is a person of simplicity, and yet her depth of character has you looking down and not seeing bottom. Being a complicated person is not what I am talking about. Any chick – any dude, for that matter – can be complicated, conflicted, unpredictable, with “issues.” That’s not what I’m talking about at all. I’m talking about a person who is enough of an individual to have a personality you can nail down. You can predict them, and yet they can teach and surprise you in unforeseen ways. Such a friend is Terri.

Terri is about my age. She doesn't have a lot of money. She doesn't own a car. She lives in a small apartment in an obscure city in the mid-west. By society's standards, she is nothing. By my standards, she is nothing if not an amazing person. She has a big brain and she never hems herself in by having less than an open mind. She’s made her share of mistakes, but the world would be a better place with more people who had …

...A Thousand Paranormal Words

Movie Title: Paranormal Activity (2009)
Spoilers: No

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There is a term for low budget movies that cost little to make, and against all odds, blow up into huge gross-ers. “Sleepers” is the term. An example: the 1999 Blair Witch Project. Opinions differ on the quality of the film, but it cost a mere $35,000 to produce and grossed (worldwide) more than 248 million.

Next in line for consideration: Paranormal Activity. It is for sure less sophisticated than Blair Witch, but it’s sad to consider that a chunk of the viewers lost out on the effects because they were teenyboppers and wanted a cheap date thrill instead of a story with a meaningful plot. But for most of us with brains, Blair Witch was scary as hell, and so is Paranormal Activity—much scarier even. Best part of all, age isn’t going to be a factor here.

Ten minutes in and you’re still swearing that this can’t be scary. Wait till you hit thirty-five minutes and see if that conviction hasn’t lessened a bit. It will weaken the…

Bite Your Mom. Then Go Play.

Movie Title: Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
Spoilers: No

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From the outset, let’s establish two things; first, though it happens to focus on one particular kid, Where the Wild Things Are is not a kid’s movie. Monsters eating people and leaving around their bones and ripping arms off is not young school kid material. Even without bloodshed, dismemberment is a disturbing thing; and second, let’s not give in to the desire to do what white, libertarian, art-geek jerk-offs do and say that everything is good if it’s done in the name of “creativity” and “symbolism” or “to be child-like.”

Meet Max (Max Records). Like most kids his age, he has his set of social glitches, though something tells me this kid’s got a few extra issues on the backburner. Being at odds with his older sister and his mother, the body of the movie begins. Max runs away after throwing a tantrum in front of mom (Catherine Keener) and her boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo). He bites her and runs out. He should have remembe…

Surrender, if Necessary

Movie Title: Couples Retreat (2009)
Spoilers: No

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Watching Couples Retreat was like trying to keep eye contact while listening to some uninteresting blabbermouth at work carry on about something you don’t care to hear. You keep eye contact out of respect, but then you start fighting that progressively worsening urge to look away, yawn, and lean back in your chair to look up at those suddenly interesting cracks in the ceiling. You finally succumb to the urges and it is at last apparent that you don’t care.

Maybe you were interested, but that was before the near-monologue became a pointless rant. The details were someone else’s problems; you couldn’t connect, and it ran too long; bottom line: you lost interest. You tried to care – really, you did – but some things are out of your control. Couples Retreat gave me no choice but not to like it.

Vince Vaughn, that guy who always looks like the beer-drinking, dart-playing buddy you’ve known for a long time, plays “Dave.” He is m…

The System Must Pay!

Movie Title: Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
Spoilers: No

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L. Gary Gray’s Law Abiding Citizen was a fun film to watch and to review. Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is a father and husband, a family man in every sense of the word. When violent thugs mercilessly take the lives of his wife and daughter, he finds himself waiting in the long line of the justice system to see justice served. His disappointment in the legal system is what sets the film’s tagline: “The system must pay!”

The movie follows Shelton in his own vigilante pursuit of justice on a citywide scale. How many lives will be lost, how much damage must be done before the greater good is served? In opposition to Shelton’s justice is that of Nick Rice, the city of Philadelphia’s chief prosecutor (Jamie Foxx). You have two geniuses clashing minds and a string of terrorist-style murders in a tale of bloodshed, justice, and morality.

Law Abiding Citizen is deeply flawed. The plot runs south of the border of believable on not a…

Aliens. Adventure. Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Movie Title: I’ll Believe You (2007, DVD release: November 2009)
Spoilers: No

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Nighttime can mean different things to different people. The night hours are those forsaken hours when the world rests while a select few of us have the privilege of working. The normal people are asleep, the restaurants closed, and the clamorous sounds of traffic and big business have been brought to a welcomed halt. But nighttime has the queer distinction of being the time when the flying saucer people come out.

If you’re up at the wee hours of the morning, you can catch a broadcast of Coast-to-Coast AM, the nationwide radio show that for years has featured a myriad of mentally insane guests, ranging from your ordinary quack promoting “energized water” to the standard psychotic who believes that a piece of tinfoil placed squarely between your eyes will unlock the ability to see auras.

The show’s most popular hosts, George Noory and Art Bell, do what all good mystics will endeavor to do when confronted wi…

A Smoky Hotel Hell

Two weeks ago was a turning point for me, as it was the end of a living situation nightmare that made the whole month of September an exceedingly miserable time.

As I write, I'm sitting in a pearl white recliner at home in San Antonio, that place that has the sometimes taken-for-granted benefit of a city-wide smoking ban in all businesses, something the Dallas/Ft. Worth area needs to get and enforce. I'm presently sucking down a 44 oz sweet tea and getting caught up on some writing as the fourth heap of clothes dries.

Why all these clothes? Because I had to wash every garment and blanket I own to get the smoke smell out that was put there by gaunt, leather-faced, saggy-forearmed, red-nosed, denture-wearing, baggy-eyed, dirty, unkempt, white-trash pieces of shit who made it a practice to smoke INSIDE their apartments instead of stepping outside, like a normal person getting their tobacco fix.

I never found out who they are, but I couldn't have done anything about it if I had. …

Flawdorum

Movie Title: Pandorum (2009)
Spoilers: No

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So I get to watch Pandorum, a film a trusted colleague had “high hopes for,” one I was told, “showed much promise.” I have two reasons to want to like it. The first is that it was talked up. The second is the alluring premise of being lost in space while an entire city-ship is reaping the fruits of insanity brought on by space travel. The title “Pandorum” is intended as a term for “space madness.”

But first, let’s lay the foundation: The setting is in the future where Earth’s population is such that it cannot continue to thrive. The planet’s resources have been exhausted. Wars have taken their toll. One massive vessel, the Elysium, has been launched to a far away planet, the only known planet in existence that can take the place of earth, with rich resources to sustain an industrious society.

It’s a long way there. The crew has been put in suspended animation. They begin to wake up. That’s where things take off and get creepy. One…

The Cure for Zombie Apocalypse-itus

Movie Review: Zombieland (2009)
Spoilers: No

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Why zombie apocalypse films have thrived for as long as they have could be called a mystery to some. I say “some” because I don’t call it a mystery. I have it nailed down to the steadfast conviction that deserted towns (ripe for the trashing) and de-humanized, futureless humans with blood and guts running out of their mouths (justifiable for killing) are way too much of a temptation to resist.

No respectable psycho with any testosterone left in him can resist the primal urge to see shit knocked over, or to see heads split open with mallets and aluminum baseball bats (doesn't sound very eloquent, I know, but it's the truth). And garden tools are great weapons too. Seeing a tool Martha Stewart would pick up being used to spill blood like a butter knife through a ripe tomato is a beautiful thing when looked at with the right glasses on.

Chainsaws…well, hell, nearly every weapon an audience is used to seeing on the big screen is…

2009 Has a Nights in Rodanthe!

Movie Title: Love Happens (2009)
Spoilers: No

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I’ll tell you the short story of how I once spoiled the career of a scriptwriter. It happened when he approached me and asked me to look over a manuscript before sending it off to a group of fellow writers. I looked it over. Everything was fine right up to the part where the bad guy got introduced.

He was supposed to be a mean bad guy, more villainous and more contemptuous than your normal Columbian drug-lord. That’s why this fiendish thug had to be extra wicked. How about make him a sick baby-killer rapist? That works…and then some! Mind you, it wasn’t enough to find just a healthy baby to violate and kill. The bad guy had to be a sick baby-killer rapist.

This otherwise talented writer took my words of wisdom well, even after admitting that his future as a “bright lights big city” Hollywood writer was probably dead before it began. His demise rested in the fact that he was a sucker for the big melodrama wrecking ball, a thing so many write…

If the Occult had a Teenaged Daughter

Movie Title: Jennifer's Body (2009)
Spoilers: No

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There is a fundamental rule in writing that we adults take for granted. It was taught to us in elementary school. You’ve probably forgotten it by now, but you’ve heard it. The rule says, never start a story with “once upon a time” and never finish it with “and they lived happily ever after.” It became a rule because children have storybooks read to them that begin and end that way. An end had to come of our expectations for more of the same infantile content. We had to graduate to reading rational narratives of the adult world.

Jennifer’s Body, starring Megan Fox as Jennifer Check and Amanda Seyfried as Needy Lesnicky, is a film with a story that retreats into the level of fantasy akin to something you would find in EMO or Goth themes. Not exactly children’s viewing, with it’s plenty of sex and gore, but it does have the same defiance of grim reality that a child’s book has. It defies reality. It also defies expectations as a ho…

Partly Cloudy in Not So Great Film Land

Movie Title: Surrogates (2009)
Spoilers: No

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There was a day in 1987 that I will never forget. I was in 8th grade, heading into geography class. It promised to be just another day of not listening and getting punched in the shoulder by a bully twice my size. His name was David. He walked up like he was going to unload on me as usual. Then he stopped about 5 feet in front of me and looked down at a shelf. On that shelf was an issue of Omni magazine. It had a partially human face covered with electronic circuit boards and wires with one yellow robot eye. It said something like: “The year 2000 approaches.”

He didn’t hit me. I was so surprised. He just stood there and picked up the magazine in a very mellow mood. We were now both staring at it. He said to me: “Like I’m going to be part f*cking machine in the f*cking year 2000! Ha..ha..ha..ha! Yeah, right!” That exceedingly dumb look…I will never forget it. He just laughed, put the magazine down, and walked away. I laughed to reassure him o…