Monday, February 1, 2016

Stephen King's IT (1990) - Part 2

Welcome back to the review of Stephen King's IT, the 1990 TV movie adaptation that made every fan of the original King novel want to throw their TV into an active volcano. I covered the first part of this a few days ago, and now I'm back for the second part. Make sure to read the first part first!

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring: John Ritter, Tim Curry, Richard Thomas

Co-written with Tony.

It does have to be said that the child actors in this movie are pretty damn good, especially considering it was a 1990s TV movie made from a horror novel. That doesn't usually lend itself to good child actors, but we did get some very decent scenes with those kids in the first part of this whole thing, especially when they had to interact with Tim Curry. Curry is also fantastic and looks like he was having a lot of fun. Or at least like he was on some good drugs before shooting this, which is how I would have gotten through it all, too.

Why am I going so easy on the movie now? Well, because this is the last of anything good I'll have to say about this piece of shit. After the first part, the director probably said, yeah, I've done enough of anything resembling quality from 20 yards away by a half blind guy. It's easy for me to believe that's what happens – that movie directors consciously decide to make bad movies. That sure does make reviewing easier than actually considering peoples' motivations and what they were trying to do with a piece of art!

So, basically, all the main “heroes” gather under one roof in their old hot spot Derry, Maine. Bill meets up with Mike Hanlon, and the two embark on what I can only describe as a rejected Full House opening credits scene when they find Bill's old bike. For some reason, Mike has kept that bike all these years – for 30 fucking years he kept a 12-year-old boy's bike.

Nothing weird about that!

But you have to admit. These scenes of them fixing Bill's bike and riding around on it set to puke-worthy pop rock garbage – they're pretty unbearable to watch. I feel like this is the kind of scene that a guy writes at the very end of his rope, after his bosses have shoved him down to the bottom of the barrel in terms of projects to work on. I can't imagine how many people you'd have had to piss off.

I'm trying to think of a nice way to say 'I want to stab this scene with a pair of rusty scissors and then bury it in the Mojave desert' but...nah, that works.

Meanwhile, Richie here hangs out at a library, fretting all the time about how he should just run for the hills and go home. This character in the book was quite well rounded and could be strong when he needed to be. So I guess that's why he's a total pussy bitch coward in this movie who can't go a scene without whining about everything.

Stop whining, your ancestors had WAY more blood on their faces than this and they were fine!

He's accosted for a looooong stretch of time by Tim Curry, who makes a bunch of balloons explode blood all over him and then Curry sits on a banister and screams nonsense for a while. It's extremely entertaining, at least until Richie starts screaming over HIM in a more annoying voice at the library attendant. It's less a scary scene and more of one that makes me feel bad for the poor girl playing the librarian. I hope someone gave her a shot of Jack Daniels after that idiot screamed in her face all day.

Just another day at the library...

Then they all meet up at a dinky looking Chinese restaurant and they all have the happiest reunion a shitty ass script like this one can produce. I love when one of them, Eddie I think, sees Mike and goes “is that you, Mike?” Yeah, Mike, at this reunion of all our childhood friends that I knew everyone who would be there, is that you, my one black friend? How many other black friends did I used to have, anyway? I just can't keep track.

The ensuing dinner table conversation that happens after this is frankly psychedelic in how bizarrely awful it is. First you get a long one-shot camera take where the camera just spins around them in circles as they talk. It's absolutely baffling as to how anyone thought that was a good idea. What, did you lose a bet? Did you make a dare that you could definitely work your patented “drunk on a merry go round” camerawork style into a movie somehow, and us, the viewers of Stephen King's IT, lost out big time on that?


Then if you can get past THAT and listen to what they're saying in this scene, it's even more batshit crazy. First they're all friendly and happy, just chatting about old times. Okay, fine. Then everyone starts panicking and shouting for no reason about how they're going to die, with seemingly no transition. Then, a beat later, they're all just hanging around drunk, talking about old times again. What the hell is wrong with you people? I can see why no one else wants to hang around these idiots – no one can keep up with their conversations. It's like a roller coaster when you're high.

Oh, but they do get some fortune cookies with bugs and a human eye in them! Man, I love Chinese restaurants.

I do love different cultures!

Oh, and Bev also kisses like, half of the group on the mouths, just as a friendly introduction. But don't worry, they all really hang out with her for her personality and brains. Yeah. That's it...

Most of the rest of this is a seemingly endless slog, much of it taken up by the characters all competing for the dubious honor of most annoying in the entire film. Who do YOU think is more annoying? Richie, who constantly has a look on his face like he wants to take a shit, and who is always blathering on about how scared he is?


Or Eddie, whose voice gets higher and higher pitched as the film goes on, as if he is trying to turn into a human dog whistle?


There is a scene where the bully Henry Bowers breaks out from the mental asylum he was in all these years. He's helped out by IT, which takes the form of the security guard's worst fear...a bull dog in a clown outfit eating him alive. Hey now, don't make fun of him. That's an extremely common fear to have.

Seven of my friends are deathly afraid of this.

Then he goes and stabs Mike in the library. In the book this was a pretty suspenseful scene, but in the movie it's over in a few seconds and barely has any weight to it. I dunno, maybe the director was just running out of time and money by this point, but I've had more impactful moments in my life at the bank depositing a check.

So Mike's out, which leaves the others like retarded babes in the woods, all of them completely unsure of what to do. This leaves us much more time to develop the remaining characters, like Ben and Bev, who have an extremely contrived and cliche romance scene together. Their dialogue is so bad that even people who eat up airport romance novels would roll their eyes. This is just the worst kind of dated cheesy garbage. It's as painful a scene as any I've ever sat through on this blog. Just so fucking lame and trite.

Lifetime movies are like David Lynch compared to this.

After approximately seven more hours of bitching and whining about how they want to go home – and no, I'm definitely not exaggerating there about that length of time! – they finally decide to go back in the sewers and face IT once and for all! As they get to the place they need to go, Eddie stops them all to confess that he's been a virgin his whole life because he never loved anyone but them!


Awesome. So...he's three-fourths gay, then? Since, you know, three of the others he's in love with here are guys. Not that there's anything wrong with that, though.

But seriously, why the hell is he talking about this now? My guess is, probably because his therapist refused to see him anymore because he was that annoying. I guess IT agreed with me, because it kills him in the very next scene!

Actually, the acting is better than I gave it credit for, because no one would be able to easily pretend to be scared of that.

Oh yeah, and it's also a giant awful-looking spider thing now, which is apparently its final form in the movie. After a three hour movie, I too enjoy seeing that the big payoff is something I can kill in my kitchen by stepping on it. So this is satisfying to me.

Something really pisses everyone off, either Eddie dying or the fact that the spider looks so shitty. Either way, it was enough for them to now go gallivanting into the sewer, tip it over like a dumb old cow, and beat it to death with their bare hands, ripping its heart out. You know, they do say to handle things in the most mature way possible, so I'm cool with this.

Cool, they're like kids bored in a small town and wanting to go tip cows. Awesome.

Then we find out that Bill's wife, who had been kidnapped by IT, is now catatonic with fear. Then there's a scene where he puts her on a bike with him and rides her down a crowded street with no regard for traffic. It could have gotten them both killed and could have injured God knows how many other people, but somehow in the magically idiotic world of IT, this just wakes her up.

I know a lot of people talk about how scary this movie was when they were kids. I've had multiple friends tell me how scared they are of clowns because they watched this at age 7 or some other ridiculous age. But honestly, just try and watch this shit now, when you're older. It really is just so toothless, idiotic and silly, on every single front. While the kids are good actors and Tim Curry is a lot of fun as the clown, mostly everything else is just total shit. It's really, really not scary at all, with all the scares coming off as funny when they're not just sad.

The drama is so bad it makes me want to turn the movie off. The characters, who in the book were so great, have all been turned into awful, shitty whiners and cowards. Like they didn't just not capture the spirits of the novel's characters - they actively ruined them all. The story from the book isn't done justice here, mostly because it was so large and expansive in the book that condensing it down for a movie is very hard to do.

Maybe a remake would do it more justice. Maybe if made by someone who was genuinely interested in changing up the story to adapt it better to screen, rather than just trying to stick so faithfully to the book, IT would be a better film. Maybe this is just a sad relic from a time gone by, and we can ignore it now and focus on the great source material.

But frankly, it's more fun to just straight up bash a movie and not put any thought into a review. Fuck Stephen King's IT!

Images copyright of their original owners, we own none of them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Stephen King's IT (1990) - Part 1

Hey, you! Stop right there! Don't click away from this page! Because this...this will be a review you want to read. A review fit for the kings and other important people. If you don't believe me, just keep reading. You won't be disappointed.

Stephen King's It was a 1990 TV movie that aired in two parts, mostly because the original novel it was based on was thick enough to break a person's leg if you dropped it on them. Which, I'm told, was the main reason so many known mafia associates were flocking to bookstores in the 80s – to get that fucking book and kill people with it. You might not find any sources for that, but I did say it, and I'm on the Internet. So it must be true.

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring: John Ritter, Tim Curry, Richard Thomas

Co-written with Tony.

But now I'm just rambling – which is, strangely enough, exactly what the movie does. So really, it's okay if I just keep going on and on without ever actually telling a coherent story. I'm also going to split the review into two parts, just like the TV movie was split into two parts when it originally aired. Isn't that how these movie reviews have always worked? I write them solely based on what lazy jokes I can throw in just to parody the films in a weak manner. It's just my style, man.

Stephen King's IT was a movie I had not seen in full since I was 14. I'm in my 20s now, but this movie, I saw in middle school immediately after I had finished the book. In a way, I think this was the first major disappointment of my life in terms of movies. This was the threshold I crossed, guys. It was my coming of age.

We start this crap fest off with Bill Denbrough, a writer who has a very hot wife who keeps pressuring him to go places with her, but Bill is too busy writing in his bedroom. This scene is great because all it's missing is for Bill to muse to himself, “Man, I wish I was as good a writer as Stephen King.”

Then they have dinner and he says he doesn't want to go to London with her. This is immediately followed by him getting a call from his old friend Mike, who tells him in an ominous way that “it's happening again,” which prompts him to immediately start packing his bags to leave for his hometown, Derry.

"What do you mean you want donations because I went to college there?!"

OK, that was a lot of information. Let's recap exactly what just happened: Man tells his wife he doesn't want to spend time with her, sort of blowing her off in general. Then the next second, he gets a phone call from a man he admits he hasn't seen in 30 years, and he's rushing out the door.

I'm sorry, what's that sound? Yes, I do believe it's divorce papers shuffling about!

Then we get a long rambling flashback that shows Bill and his brother Georgie as little kids. Bill is sick in bed while Georgie is suiting up to go play outside with a paper boat. Oh the good old days when kids could go outside and do this. Nowadays, you get shot by the police if you do something like this.

Tsk tsk, what a young hoodlum.

Anyway, Georgie meets Pennywise the Clown, who hangs out in the sewer. If this is all sounding a little too much like Sesame Street on really bad acid, I'd forgive you. As Georgie is apparently a complete idiot, he stays there and talks to the clown for several minutes. Well, I'm sold: he deserves whatever happens to him now.

It's just one of those sewer clowns. You know, the ones that were popular in the 50s...

What follows are some truly strange scenes showing Bill going into his little brother's room and finding a bleeding book on the ground – I dunno, something about this scene just doesn't work when you set it in broad daylight with bright pastel colors. It just doesn't come off as scary.

Get that fucking ketchup off the book, you slobs.

His parents also scold him for coming in there and tell him angrily never to enter his brother's room again. Because, apparently, this is how people act in the bizarre, lopsided world of Stephen King's IT! Yes, how dare you mourn your brother? Only WE, the PARENTS, can have THAT privilege, silly knave boy!

Then we flash back to present day Bill, who looks dazed, like someone just spiked his orange juice. What's that? You forgot we were even in a fucking flashback? Me too, don't worry. The way this first part of the movie is told is just so bad, pacing-wise. You get a few minutes of the characters in their adult lives, then a 15-minute flashback of them as kids. I get what they were going for here, for clarity and conciseness sake, but it's sloppy as fuck and doesn't end up very engaging when that formula is repeated five times in a row.

One of the others is Ben Hanscom, played here by the late John Ritter. Well, he wasn't the late John Ritter when he was making this movie. I mean, it's not like they took his corpse and just painted open eyes over his closed ones and used a shitty voice-over or something. That's crazy that you would think that's what I meant.

I just had to clarify that.

Anyway, Ben is an insane man who tells his dates how fat he used to be as a kid, which I guess is a real aphrodisiac for some of these women. I wonder if he seeks them out based on the "I used to be a fat kid" fetish? It's also especially weird because it isn't like he's that skinny now. He just has money, and used that as a way to not feel fat anymore.

In his flashback, we find out that he was immediately targeted as a kid by the 17-year-old bullies who have been held back apparently most of their whole lives in the same sixth-grade class. They're super realistic bullies who like to do normal bully things, like holding knives to kids' stomachs and literally threatening to cut them wide open.

Oh, kids will be kids.

In the book, this was a legit plot thread and came off as scary. Here it comes off as hacky and goofy, without any kind of sense to it. But don't worry, there's all kinds of other terrible things going on, too!

Like, really, do we need a subplot about the woman in the group, Bev, dealing with an abusive husband? It's as contrived and shitty as any abusive spouse plot from this time period. I know it's a realistic thing that happens to people, but the way it's done here is so bad. Most old movies like this never really had nuance or subtlety to these plots, and didn't present them as a way to get to know a character. Instead, most of them are just really hacky ways to give women something to do. “Yeah, being abused is a problem women can have.” Go fuck yourself, movie.

But don't worry, this movie doesn't let you forget that above all else, it's a cartoon made for children who ride the short bus. Like look at how she “escapes” him finally: she throws a makeup container at his head, he falls on his ass and she runs out the door. He just screams at her to come back, because yeah, I'm sure she's gonna do that now.

"I'm really commanding a lot of respect right now!"

Then we get a flashback sequence, where her father smacks her around a bit, too. She runs away from him as well, and he shouts at her to come back, too, and doesn't ever actually chase her. Are all the men in this chick's life just vampires who can't venture outside or else they'll burst into flames? Jesus Christ. I don't know why she even puts up with the abuse. If she steps outside the door for a second, they won't be able to follow – it's foolproof. These guys aren't anything to be afraid of, they're total wimps.

So I know everyone who saw this movie when they were younger than 10 is officially Afraid of Clowns (TM) for life. But honestly, there's nothing to be afraid of, and I'll prove that to you. I guess we'll start at the beginning, in which the movie decided it really had to show us the essential “little boy in the showers alone” scene. Yes, I can see why this had to be in the fucking movie...

It's for artistic integrity, we swear! Then again, it's not the worst child sex-related thing related to Stephen King's IT...

Then the shower heads start moving around following him, but that frankly isn't that weird. This will be in our Jetsons-style future in a few years, anyway. But then the clown shows up, and while Tim Curry IS having a lot of fun here as the clown, it just isn't that scary. He pops up out of a Bugs Bunny-style hole in the ground and just kind of hams it up. It's literally like a cartoon. There's no way an adult could find this nonsense scary.

Those are actually Tim Curry's real teeth, by the way.

BUT... I guess it could be scary if you want to imagine that it's actually Jared Fogle dressed up in clown makeup. There you go. I made IT scary again for you. I am a fucking genius.

Just in case you forgot what he looked like.

But the characters never thought it was passe or old hat. Take a look at Stan, the one guy in the group they haven't bothered to show as an adult until now. Why IS that, you might be wondering? Well, it's because when Mike Hanlon decides to give him a call, his immediate response is to go upstairs and kill himself in the tub. His wife comes up and finds him in the most drawn out and ridiculous way ever, dropping the beer she's holding and letting out a scream more befitting of a terrible and cliché horror movie than anything else.


Oh, wait.

Come back here for the second part of this in a few days! It gets so much worse!

Images copyright of their original owners, we own none of them.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (2013)

The first Haunting in Connecticut movie was passable for an idiotic movie about ghosts. But then they decided to go and make a sequel, called The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia. Literally any other movie could have been fine with that subtitle, but did you have to keep the Connecticut part? Why was this a sequel to Haunting in Connecticut? Was someone asleep when that title was green-lit? I was so fascinated by the insane brain mash of the title that I just had to check this movie out. That turned out to be a bad idea, because the lack of ideas in the title is reflected in the rest of the movie.

Director: Tom Elkins
Starring: Abigail Spencer, Chad Michael Murray

Co-written with Michelle.

If you haven't seen the first movie, don't worry – just watch The Conjuring, and you'll know everything you need to know.

We start this one off with a woman sitting on a bed with a blank look on her face, popping back prescription pills like they're fucking candy. So, the audience for the movie.

Funny - that's how most look after FINISHING one of these films, not at the start!

This is actually our main character, though, and the movie decided to go instant cliché route by having her be some kind of pill addict, and so that's the reason nobody believes her! Plus, as an added lazy contrivance, it gives them plenty of hack-ass dialogue they can throw in about how she needs to get her shit straight! So they don't even have to try to make a likable or interesting character. This is all they need – the pill addiction. Fucking brilliant, I say.

She and her daughter, a blonde doll of a child with zero personality of her own, are going to move to some cabin out in the woods, or rather, a picturesque place only ever used for greeting cards and commercials that want to look all fake-folksy. Her husband is of course a Southern redneck cop, which means he looks like a magazine cover model who's never stepped outside in his life.

That little girl just realized what movie she's in. Poor thing.

Seriously, why do characters in these movies all look like they just came off a production line, airbrushed and blow-dried to perfection? That guy is supposed to be a police officer. But he looks like he spent his whole life to now locked in a room and never seeing the outside world, bred like some kind of show dog. I hate to break it to you, movie, but real rednecks look more like this very topical reference:


Am I trending yet? Sweet.

The story is full of cliché garbage, like the little girl and the mother constantly seeing ghosts that make the screen go all flickery and spastic, flashing to sepia tone or black and white for a few seconds. Because you know, it's only scary if the directing style reminds you of a bug light losing its power. Oh, and they all constantly pretend nothing is going on – they're just seeing things. At least, they do at first, until the police officer boyfriend finds a bunch of old coins buried in the ground that really prove it!


Yeah, apparently the whole thing is about them uncovering this historical mystery at the house they're at. The little girl keeps seeing the ghost of this old man named Mr. Gordy, who she seems afraid of. Logically, this means they don't fucking do a goddamned thing to take her away from there. Instead they just try to solve the mystery, even printing out a bunch of pictures and getting her to point out the one who she recognizes. Brace yourselves, the asshole detectives are on the case!

But hey, it's cool, they buy her a dog. So now everything's peachy.

The rest of the first act is taken up entirely by scenes of the mom and her redheaded hot sister, or whoever that's supposed to be, arguing about their past and whether or not the mom is abusing the pills like THEIR mom did before them. Since these characters are about as well written as a child's kindergarten doodles of characters from a bad TV show, these scenes are, how to put it delicately, completely ineffectual drivel.


Things get more serious, though, when the little girl falls into a hole in the ground that looks to be part of some underground network of caves. Police Officer GQ Cover saves her, pretty easily actually, and with no danger. Ohh yeah, horror movies, keep bringing the fear and tension! Then we get a scene where they all loudly debate whether or not the ghost is real, because that's a conversation people apparently have in the warped backwards reality of Haunting in Connecticut 2. Sure, go ahead and talk about that instead of moving the obviously in-danger young girl to some place where she's safe. Or doing anything else that makes sense or is actually interesting.

And make sure to talk about it with her right there in the room, because that's the ticket to making everything better. Just start saving up for her therapy bills right now.

Yeah, seems safe enough, let's stick around this wonderful place longer! After all, in this housing market, how can you tell when you'd get an opportunity like this again?

It turns out, I guess, that the whole thing is happening because Mr. Gordy's grandfather was this guy called the Station Master who used to help slaves, and as the characters veeeeeeerrrryyyyyy sloooooooowwwwlllyyyyyy find out, he actually kidnapped some of them and used them as human taxidermy experiments. This was apparently based on a real story, but here it's really not given any weight or importance, instead used as a hollow vehicle for more dumb schizo camera cuts.

Almost nothing of worth happens at all in the long, boring “final battle climax” scene that happens over the next 25 minutes of the movie. I would have said the scene where the aunt lady gets supernaturally stuffed...

Don't worry, she's inexplicably fine after this! Not a scratch on her!

...but she doesn't even die from that. Because this is a cushy world where no bad things happen, and not a horror movie or anything ghoulish or nasty like that.

The movie goes through an extremely shitty final battle sequence full of the movie's most schizo freak out camerawork yet, because we really need to see more of that, right? It's just so fucking trite, really. It's poised as this big battle between good and evil, something out of a children's storybook. Which makes sense, because the whole movie is about as childish a horror movie as any I've ever seen. Just go back and play with your coloring books and action figures, Haunting in Connecticut 2.

Then we get a ridiculous happy ending where everyone is alive without a scratch on them, frolicking in the beautiful picturesque scenery of the lakeside log cabin in bright daylight, like something the Teletubbies would find a bit too kitsch. Could you possibly wimp out any more, movie? We do get a scene of Mr. Gordy again, who it turns out was a good ghost, pushing the little girl on her bike! I'm so glad she's okay at least. And that now she knows the truth that there was nothing worse that ever happened to the slaves, before or after the historical events talked about in this movie.

Just wait until history class in a few years!

If AIDS cells could make a movie, this would be it. What hack work this is. There was nothing good or even tolerable about this movie, and it managed to be worse than most other movies exactly like this (The Conjuring, Dead Silence, any other James Wan-related movie) just out of sheer incompetency and ineptitude at telling a story. There's just so little self awareness about this, so little risk taken or interesting choices done with this story. Even if you like generic horror, it's rote, seen-it-before trash, charmless, gutless and witless. Fuck this movie.

Welcome to 2016, guys!

Images copyright of their original owners, we own none of them.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

By this point, you've read enough about, and hidden from enough spoilers about, the new Star Wars movie, that I barely need to make an introduction. For a bit of background shading on my own history of Star Wars - because, really, this is one of those cultural touchstones that everyone's personal experience colors a bit - I grew up around the time the prequels were coming out, and by extension, I fondly remember watching old VHS rental and borrowed copies of the originals on my parents' living room TV and just letting the day bleed away as I marathoned the whole trilogy. That was a part of my childhood, which I lovingly returned the favor to by never watching them again for about 15 years. Which, eh, sounds kind of cold when I put it that way.

But I did see the original trilogy again recently, and I liked it. They're simple, fun, fast, unpretentious adventure films. I didn't really expect much out of The Force Awakens except a safe nostalgia cash-in, but I gotta say I was pleasantly surprised. I actually really enjoyed this movie.


Not to say that was a great feat of storytelling from director J.J. Abrams. He obviously intended to recreate the exact feel, style, temperament and storytelling devices that the original Star Wars used. This was a labor of love for him, though like I've been saying for months: Abrams couldn't mess this up. We were bound to get something like this, something so imitative and throwback-y, because if Abrams messed with the formula too much, he would be the most hated man in the world.

What surprised me was how well done it was for all of that. This was a seriously enjoyable, fun ride that didn't feel at all like 2.5 hours had gone by when I finally walked out of the theater at the end credits. Far from just using the surface aesthetics and some similar locations and plot devices, Abrams kept to the tenets of what George Lucas and company did back in 1977 on a deeper level. He made a fast, fun adventure, sometimes light on explanation and which worked on its simple emotional pull and explosive action scenes. That could be done at any time, but the feel is genuinely the same, which I don't think was as easy. It's got the same rugged, sort of dirty feel to a lot of it, and the same sense of wonder, yearning and adventure. It would have been easy to throw together a plastic commercial vehicle, but you can tell Abrams loved Star Wars and wanted to make something good.

For the first time in decades, you like these new Star Wars characters. Daisy Ridley as desert scavenger chick Rey is feisty and charming, and John Boyega will win your heart instantly as the bumbling, sometimes cowardly, but ultimately good hearted Finn. Both of these characters have distinct personalities and you want to see them evolve and change, like the characters from the originals. Perhaps the old Star Wars films felt a bit dirtier and grittier, a bit less cutesy with the characters' dialogue, but it's a minor nitpick and I found myself really enjoying these characters anyway.

The way you're drawn into the characters through simple, quick exposition in the middle of great action scenes is so basic, but it works. The fact that this seems so fresh to me now says a lot for the quality of other recent action films. And as an added bonus, we finally have new, cool characters and we don't know what will happen to them later. That's sad that I'm that excited about that. But fucking seriously. With all the Marvel movies being based on existing comic book stories, and films like the Hunger Games trilogy being set in stone from the novels, it's refreshing to have a new set of characters to follow. This is especially better than any prequel about an existing pop culture character. Can you get any shittier and less interesting than that? I don't think so.

The fact that Rey and Finn spend so much time in hushed awe of Luke Skywalker, speaking of him like he's a myth, and Han Solo, is telling - this is the first Star Wars film in so many years, and by having dialogue like that, the movie is letting us know that they have the spirit of the originals in mind and are taking them seriously - reverently, even. The fact that the movie does feel like the old ones affirms that.

Kylo Ren's tantrums and slavish worship of his grandfather Darth Vader, as well, could be seen as a look at the dangers of idolatry. He's a total entitled little douche, and he desperately wants to be as cool as Darth Vader, to claim some throne ages old that he never got to see. Sorta like fans get angry at Star Wars and other science fiction worlds, as some sort of futile way to attempt a power grab in their own lives. It's all rather symbolic. All of this stuff is obviously looking too far into things, but it's fun to think about anyway.

It was so good to see Han Solo and Chewbacca again, too. And Leia. And C-3PO. Carrie Fisher isn't given many good lines or room to stretch her acting chops, but watching Harrison Ford play Han again is like magic, and Chewbacca is also extremely enjoyable to watch.

Plot-wise, it's pretty similar to the 1977 original - an evil empire is searching for a droid, which falls into the hand of an unsuspecting chosen one on a desert planet. The settings are obviously retro homages to the ones from the original, right down to the Tatooine-like desert planet and the mechanical hell of a new Death Star. If that bothers you, well, I guess it bothers you.  People will raise problems and nitpick this, for sure. The plot is pretty convenient in a lot of places just to move it along, the story isn't particularly fresh or deep, and there are some points where it glazes over things or blatantly panders to the audience who loved the original.

But honestly, none of that mattered to me when I was watching this. For one, pandering to fans who loved the original is basically what we wanted. Let's not kid ourselves. If this had been anything like the prequels, or changed in some shitty way, we would have hated it. And all the conveniences and parts where things are explained too fast or not well enough - all that stuff was basically how the originals handled it, so it's not like I can come down on this one too hard for it. The originals were never exactly masters of elucidation.

(I know some people wanted the Extended Universe, but ssshhhhhhh.)

And really, the point of the movie was to get you caught up in the sweeping adventure and thrill of it all. That's what a movie like this is supposed to do. It was masterfully crafted in that way. I was entertained, and I didn't think about any of the movie's flaws or minor problems until after I had left the theater. That's the difference between a good movie and a bad one - suspension of disbelief. In a bad movie, you're taken out of the story by the plotholes. In a good movie, you don't notice any flaws until afterwards when you're actually thinking about it and dissecting it.

Originality is overrated. People who want every idea to be new and different are crazy. There's something to be said when there IS a great, fresh new idea for a story that nobody else has told before. But we've been making movies for 100 years, and telling stories to each other long before that. If your whole opinion of a movie is based on how original it is, you're not going to be easily satisfied and I think it's just needless nitpicking. I think there is room for a good story even if it's been done before. Execution matters. Spirit and attitude matter. Good, well written characters matter. The message matters. There's so much more to a movie than whether or not it's been "done before."

The Force Awakens works because it's a heartfelt, exciting action movie. The characters are wonderful and the world is expansive and engaging. I loved it and I want to see more films in this world again, which is as ringing an endorsement as there's likely to be.

Now, time for some spoilers!




SPOILERS

  • So Han Solo died, I guess. It was a good scene. His showdown with Kylo Ren is pretty chilling even though you know it won't end well - or, because of that, rather. There's so much being communicated in their eyes as they stare each other down, so much rage and love unsaid - it's a quite masterful display of acting, especially for a sci fi action movie like this. I hope future films have Ren expounding on this plot, maybe feeling a bit bad, or even just going even darker and telling us why he hated Han so much.
  • At the same time though, Harrison Ford has wanted them to kill Han Solo off ever since Empire Strikes Back in the early 80s. I'm glad he finally got his wish. I can picture how that conversation went with the producers. "PLEASE, KILL ME!" he pleaded. And they just sighed, threw up their hands, and said okay, we'll do it.
  • That whole Death Star/Starkiller or whatever it was called at the climax was kind of lame. How many times are they going to try to make a Death Star? At some point, it gets redundant and even crazy. "I'm sure it'll work THIS time, even though it has never worked before!"
  • The plotline about this map that leads to Luke at the first Jedi temple better be explained more later. It's kind of weird to have a map leading there that apparently no one can understand just because one piece is missing. Are they all just new to this part of the galaxy?
  • At the end, there is a moment when R2D2 finally wakes up and C3PO slaps him on the head. I wanted him to just go back to sleep. That woulda been funny.
  • Not much explanation for who the First Order is, or what they're trying to do aside from Kylo Ren and this Snoke character wanting that lightsaber. There should have probably been a bit more explanation of those things, even just a few lines.
  • The plot arc as a whole would have been better if it was more about Finn and Han and Chewie saving Rey from the First Order. They tried to shove in a lot of crap at the end about this giant Death Star thing blowing up a planet full of people we never see. It feels like they tried to do a bit much. A smaller scope would have served the movie better.
  • How cool is Finn's character arc? A Stormtrooper who grows a conscience and deflects from the First Order? Bad fucking ass. Rey, too, is immensely captivating. She's such a strong, cool character that you forget she's basically a very young woman who still has these hang-ups and wants to get home and wait for whoever abandoned her on that shithole desert planet. That's a simple arc but a powerful one.
  • It was bizarre how Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) survived. That ship crash landed on that planet and sank into the sand. Then later, you just see him flying around in another X-wing. It's like what happened is too horrible to describe and he never wants to speak of it again. It's OK man. We're here for you.
  • I can't believe "TRAITOR!!!" has become a meme. That wasn't what I expected.
  • The final shot was very good. Brief, but it would have ruined the whole thing if they changed even a second of it.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Room (2003)

This movie has been talked about over and over. It's the Troll 2 of our generation. Something in us is just fascinated by bad, bad movies, and not the kind that ends up boring. No – we like the fucking weird, whacked out bizarre crap that we can't stop talking about. The stuff that has the worst possible, most ridiculous scenes, characters and dialogue. The Room is exactly that, the pinnacle of that.

Director: Tommy Wiseau
Starring: Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero

Co-written with Michelle.

If you really don't know, this is a writer-director-actor project by Tommy Wiseau, a fantastic bizarre alien from unknown origins. It's about him playing this guy Johnny, a super great dude who has a vague job that is never explained, and his fiance Lisa, who cheats on him with his best friend Mark. If you don't get that, well, don't worry. There are enough sex scenes in this thing to replace all the porn in your backlog for the next two months.

Oh yeah, his man tits sure turn me on.

These sex scenes are, if you never heard, all filmed to the soundtrack of terrible, terrible fucking emo rock songs from the early '00s when this was filmed. Even 14-year-olds going through break ups would hear these songs and say, wow, those songs are fucking terrible. I also love how overly long these scenes are, as it's a great way to develop character. Oh wait, I mean show off Tommy's ass:

I'm sorry, I'm just so sorry...

After that sex scene which was longer than most actual sex scenes in real life, we get Lisa talking to her mother, Claudette. Lisa, despite acting like she liked Johnny before and having passionate sex with him, now says she doesn't love him and she wants to break up with him. Her mom is a pastiche of 1960s sexist cliches, spouting off about how Lisa can't provide for herself and needs Johnny's income to survive. I get the idea this woman has had about five past husbands, all of them having died mysteriously.

Oh, and there's one scene where she casually admits she has breast cancer and is dying. This is never brought up again, and nobody ever seems to care. It's literally never even mentioned again after this one scene. It's so backwards and wrongheaded, I'm tempted to think it's actually a brilliant commentary on something. But then again, that's what I say every time I see unspeakable and callous cruelty, so what do I know?


Johnny himself is a marvel, a man who can seemingly barely keep his fucking eyes open, while at the same time being able to hold down a job that keeps him busy all day, multiple friends who all love and revere him, and of course somehow he got Lisa, who was apparently a great person who would wait around for him all day and fuck him as soon as he got home, until recently when she decided she didn't love him for no reason. Phew. I need to take a breath. Most of the time, Tommy Wiseau looks like he is about to fall asleep on camera.


There's also Denny, a mysterious man child, anywhere from 19 to 35, who constantly appears in the doorway like a phantom. In his first scene, he enters their apartment without knocking or asking, says he wants to hang out, and they immediately go upstairs to fuck. He follows them, because what ARE social cues anyway? Are they ancient relics from a distant past? I guess it's pretty rude for them to go upstairs and have sex the second he comes over, but can you blame them for being in the mood? Look at that face:


And after they go upstairs, this happens, because we didn't have enough reasons to fear this character yet:

What the hell? Isn't this the kind of behavior and look of a man about to commit a murder-suicide? "He was a quiet man, so normal..."

Denny is the human mystery. He is the missing link. He is the reason mankind can't make sense of anything at all and can't find a true link with God. And he's here, in this movie. He is the one who holds all the secrets of the universe, and they can be found in his dead eyes as he stares at the moon each night with emptiness and nothing in his soul. He will be here long after the rest of us are gone. Denny is the alpha and the omega.

The movie is full of characters just appearing at random in rooms after previously not being there. The dialogue is all written as if spoken by a space alien who originally learned Cantonese and is now being forced at gunpoint to read an English sentence. The scenes just repeat and repeat, like some kind of horrible Ouroboros nightmare: Lisa has sex with Johnny or Mark, and then bitches to her mom about how she doesn't love Johnny. But she can't call it off because she doesn't want to be mean. So she'll just keep cheating on him instead, y'know, like a nice person. That one sequence happens like, six times within the first hour of the movie. It's like the characters are stuck in an endless loop. They might be in Hell.

Oh, and there's one scene where Denny has a run in with an extremely tall, menacing drug dealer who shoves a gun in his face. Johnny and Mark immediately rush out from nowhere, I guess having been hiding and waiting for the best moment to intervene, and carry off the drug dealer with no resistance from him. He is never seen again. Johnny claims they took him to the police, but how do we know that? I think this deserves more scrutiny. But not too much. Only as much as Johnny and Mark would allow without taking me “to the police” too. Cough. Hack. Wheeze.

Look for a body washed up on the riverbank in a poor area of town...uh, I mean, DON'T do that...

Meanwhile, Denny, Lisa and Claudette have perhaps the least convincing and least helpful intervention ever, as they basically just stand around pulling on each other's clothing, crying and shouting at one another.


Let's instead talk about how all the characters constantly hold footballs for no reason. Mark is the kind of guy who sits on the rooftop of his building to think, with a football in his lap. I guess that's what gets his brain going. Footballs in general are treated like sacred objects in this film. They are everywhere, and the characters play football apropos of nothing multiple times. It's like Tommy Wiseau really just wanted to include every American stereotype, the most hollow markers of what it means to be a man in this country.

Except Denny. He will never be a man. Because, frankly, he is more than a man. He is a god in human form.

There's also a scene later where, at a birthday party for Johnny, Lisa reveals she's pregnant, and then secretly confides to her friends that she was making it up for fun. Wow. That's an unabashedly shitty, awful thing to do. But she still doesn't break up with him, because again, she doesn't want to be mean to him! Wow. It's like Tommy Wiseau is just painting her out to be the perfect, unrealistically awful girlfriend, almost like he wants to tell this story about her to make a hamfisted point.

The ending involves him finding out that Lisa and Mark were fucking behind his back, and going on a tantrum and destroying everything in his house. Then he just straight up shoots himself in the head. Wow, is he really putting himself at the center of this thing, like some kind of forlorn, Greek tragic hero? He's saying he's completely blameless in this, an innocent victim, preyed upon by people out to do him harm for no reason other than their own malice! They're practically Disney villain-esque!

Favorite part about this scene is how Lisa asks if he is dead. Uh, I dunno. Check his pulse.
Hey, don't you know that's how you get corpse AIDS? Get your mouth off his filthy head.

It's so completely crazy and one sided. There's no reason for these characters to act the way they do. It's like Tommy is this unreliable narrator, just telling you he's the greatest guy ever and his evil witch of a girlfriend cheated on him, and aren't women just the WORST? It's totally ludicrous. That along with the horrible acting, the writing, the random scenes that come out of nowhere like hurled balls of flaming garbage and then evaporate into nothing - it's all just so fucking insane.

And yet, the film comes off as surprisingly genuine.

Yeah. I mean, it's still hilarious to watch, don't get me wrong. But there's a lot of heart and passion in The Room. This movie has soul and feeling to it that many others do not. It was all 100% Tommy Wiseau, with everything that happens reflecting his own warped, but strangely endearing, worldview. He lives in such a simplistic world. Everything is black and white – he did nothing wrong at all and is trying to be the best man he can be. But everyone turns against him, for no reason – it's kind of a weird, Kafkaesque world where nothing makes sense and so the sadness and misery the main character experiences are that much more affecting. Or, well, they would be if this was a different movie, let's not get any illusions here. But you can see the intent! That's important to me.

There's just such a bizarre, unique, unfiltered, raw passion to The Room. It was a labor of love for Wiseau. He told this fucked up, weird, badly told story the way he wanted. That's kinda cool to me – it's respectable. He just went for what he wanted to do and didn't compromise at all. That's a fuck of a lot better than watching films controlled by corporate whore studios and measured for maximum ratings with focus groups and box office sales in mind. The Room is a piece of art, if you allow that art and things you can laugh at are not mutually exclusive.

There's an integrity to this, no matter how goofy it gets, that lends itself to a raw, weird passion. You don't get that all the time with big studio movies, with their super-controlled and calculated ideas. This is a rare moment of complete honesty. It's unabashed, wild honesty – Wiseau's account of what happened is childish, biased and completely human. It's what you'd hear if your best friend called you up right after a difficult break up. He's telling you his side of the story, as dumb and over-dramatic as it is. Every interaction and every reaction to things is so earnestly childish, colored with the naivete of a foreign child seeing America for the first time after hearing about it all his life. Every scene shows how Tommy sees America and the world. There's no filter and it's fascinating.

You know, maybe I was too quick to judge The Room. Maybe using movies like this for cheap mockery and memes was the wrong approach. Maybe despite the ridiculous qualities this movie has, it can also show us something interesting. It can show us interesting things about people and how we make art, and how this one warped view of reality created a whole world around itself, which became The Room. Maybe there's more to most movies than a funnily-delivered line of dialogue, or a goofy accent.

I think The Room is pretty great. You should give it a shot and enjoy it for all the ludicrousness, but also the passion and the individuality behind it, the bizarre accident of birth that created this whole mess.

Happy New Year.

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