Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Review: "Superbad"

** While this review contains no spoilers, it will be much better recieved if you have seen the movie.**

"Superbad" had a lot going for it in my book. It's about high school, it's from the camp of Judd Apatow, and it's got Michael Cena, one of the best parts of "Arrested Development." I'm not sure what I was expecting from this movie, but it didn't quite give me all that I wanted.

First off, it was confusing to me what decade the movie took place in. By the title, soundtrack and even some of the wardrobe it seems like the 70's- So much so, that I am willing to bet that at least one iteration of the script was based in the 70's, before the studio decided it would reach a broader audience if it were contemporary. The only real giveaway that it was set today is the use of cell phones.

Secondly, there were a few elements of the story that either didn't add up or had no payoff. Case in point: In the beginning of the film, there is a sort of bully set up for Seth (Jonah Hill), but as quickly as he is introduced, he's gone. The only slight payoff to the character comes late in the third act, most defnitely as an afterthought.
There are a few parts of the movie that seem to be set-pieces (think the "period" scene) that really didn't end up being as funny as I had hoped. Also, neither of the film's protagonist are portrayed as being stupid, so when Seth empties beer into laundry detergent bottles to bring them to a party, I couldn't help but lean to my buddy and wonder, "Now why would he do something so dumb?." Petty as they may be, these are the things that crept into my head on the ride home after the movie.

Having said all that, the movie was damn funny. More than that, it had a really nice character arc for the two main characters. For anyone who has ever awkwardly broached the topic of going to different colleges with your best friend, you'll immediately identify with the emotional heart of the film.

Overall, I did like the movie. Much like "The 40 Year Old Virgin", I think this one will get better with each subsequent viewing. While the term "Instant Classic" seems to be bandied about a little too loosely these days, this film may have potential- but I believe any movie should be out for at least 5 years before the word "classic" is ever applied to it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

DVD Review: "Vacancy"

I'm a fan of horror films. I will admittedly watch pretty much anything that comes out that looks remotely scary. When I saw the previews for "Vacancy" I was defnitely intrigued. Then the reviews started coming in and they were actually good reviews, considering the treatment horror movies usually get by critics. Now, it's out on DVD, and I was expecting a pretty damn scary thriller- I never quite saw this one as a "horror" movie. What I got left much to be desired.

It starts with a hackneyed plot about two unhappily married people (Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale) whose car breaks down and they end up at a creepy motel. Both characters are utter cardboard, with just plain awful dialogue. These early dialogue-heavy scenes sound like they were written by a college freshman- they give no depth or reality to the characters or their situation at all. Tack on an overly emotional back-story, and an unbelievably contrived ending and you've got "Vacancy."

I really can't stand when I 'm watching a movie and I can picture in my head it being pitched as two other movies put together. "Vacancy" seems like some writer thought, "It'll be like Psycho meets Hostel" Problem is, they've been done before, better, and so has just about everything in this movie. Sure, there were a few moments of intensity, but none that weren't given away in the trailer. Also, there are no real peripheral characters - just the couple and the bad guys. That doesn't leave much room for suspense.

Overall, this movie just didn't do it for me. It seemed like a paycheck movie for both Wilson and Beckinsale. Though, I guess it's worth a rental, if you put no credence into other people's reviews, like me.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Bonus- The director of this movie's name is Nimrod Antal... Nimrod.

Friday, August 10, 2007

5 movies that are grossly overrated

While I won't call this the "top 5" most overrated movies, these movies are certainly in the running. There are films that, for some reason, are just given a pass and what's more- they've gone on to become classics! Well, listed here are, in no particular order, 5 movies that need to be re-evaluated by society at-large because they are given just too much damn credit. Bear with me, this may be a rant...

1.) Scarface- Okay, now I know it's "cool" to like scarface. Every rapper has the posters, shirts, video games, etc. What I'm talking about is the film. As a film it is just not that good. As a matter of fact, I doubt all of the people wearing the shirts and hanging the posters have ever even sat through the entire film. They've heard "Say hello to my little friend" and "Cock-a-roach" enough times that they assume the movie is awesome. Ultimately it's the character of Tony Montana that is memorable, the rest of the film is downright forgettable.

2.) Ferris Bueller's Day Off- I'll admit it, I hate this movie. Comedy Central and TBS have both played it over and over until even the sight of it annoys me. It's just this generation's fascination with 80's nostalgia that has made this a "classic." Here is what I see when I look at this movie- Matthew Broderick is a jerk, his buddy with the Red Wings jersey is a crybaby and Jeffrey Jones (the Principal) is a pedophile. And the worst part of it all is that horrible sing-along at the end. Awful. Just awful.

3.) Boondock Saints- You know what, Troy Duffy? I saw Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance and whole host of other terrific indie crime films in the 90's. I'm guessing you did too, becuse you stole the best parts out of all of them and made a piecemeal, horseshit excuse for a film. If anyone is so inclined and would like to see a good film involving Mr. Duffy, rent "Overnight."

4.) Anchorman- This is another victim of the current "Random = Funny" phenomenon that has saturated the comedy marketplace, especially in anything involving Will Ferrell. A perfect example is the line- "San Diego. I believe it means Whale's Vagina." Is that funny? Really? And if so, can you tell me why, without using the words "random" or "out of nowhere"? I don't think you can. I don't want to have to force myself to laugh at a comedy because everyone else is. It just shouldn't be that hard.

5.) The Shawshank Redemption- That's right, I said it. "The Shawshank Redemption" is not nearly as good as it gets credit for being. It's a pretty good movie. Hell- it's a great movie! But ask 25 people on the street what there favorite movie is and I bet 15 of them give this as their answer. It's just too easy. Not to mention the script has voiceover throughout the entire story- come on, that's just cheating. It's number 2 on the top 250 list on IMDB, way ahead of films like "The Maltese Falcon", "Citizen Kane" and "The Third Man". Now that's just bush. It's bush-league.

Honorable Mention

The Usual Suspects-
I included this one because anyone who tells you it's really good has probably only seen it one time. If you watch it a second time, knowing the big surprise ending, it simply isn't that entertaining.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

DVD Review: "Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People's Temple"

Before viewing this film, I had a very limited idea of who Jim Jones was and what the People's Temple was all about. Like many people my age, my knowledge of this topic was limited to the off-hand way people, often in political banter, refer to people of opposing views as "Kool-Aid drinkers." I knew that Jim Jones was a cult leader, and he had something to do with a group of people who'd killed themselves by drinking poison kool-aid, but that's about it. What I wanted to know was who were the members of this cult, and what could make them all commit suicide at the whim of one man?

"Jonestown" was an intriguing look into the rise of the People's Temple leader Jim Jones from a radical preacher who extolled the virtues of racial harmony, to his descent into the depraved, paranoid megalomaniac he was when he died. Interviews with former People's Temple members, some of whom escaped from Jonestown on that final day, were particularly interesting because they allowed us to see how one might become interested in what the People's Temple had to offer. Racial harmony, acceptance, love... these are things everybody wants, and that is what Jim Jones promised them. Also, newly released footage of a U.S. Congressman's contentious visit to Jonestown was utterly surrealistic and terrifying. While watching this film, it's hard for it not to draw comparisons it to other similar groups such as David Koresh and his Branch Dividians, and the Heaven's Gate cult, though the People's Temple went as far as to abandon the United States for Guyana (the location of Jonestown) to maintain their privacy.

This film is part of the PBS "American Experience", a series of films that, thus far, have not let me down. They are always engaging and well-made, and this film is no exception. The footage from the last day at Jonestown, especially the audio of Jones's last "sermon", was a haunting experience that no viewer will not soon forget. I recommend it highly and I defy you to find any action movie out there today that has as much suspense and drama as just the last 30 minutes of this film.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Monday, August 6, 2007

Classic Movie Review: "Mr. Boogedy"

This week I decided to go really old school and review a long lost piece of my childhood nostalgia. I'm doing this in an effort to ward off such abominations as "Drake & Josh", "That's so Raven" and "The Suite life of Zach & Cody" from ruining the minds of my neices and nephew. I've made each night that I babysit them "Movie Night" I've shown them gems such as "Labyrinth", "Monster Squad", and "Adventures in babysitting", all to their genuine delight. They're simply not used to decent children's entertainment because of the shit that saturates today's market. So, after digging up my ancient, taped-from-tv copy of "Mr. Boogedy" I decided to give it a viewing, just to make sure it was okay for them. I mean, have you looked at the picture on the cover of this film? Mr. Boogedy is a pretty goddamn scary guy for a kid's movie.

Moving on, the basic storyline is about a man (Richard Masur) who moves his family into a home in a small New England town, not knowing that he got such a good deal on the house because of it's ancient, haunted history. They're met in their new home by the town's chief historian (John Astin), who warns them to vacate the house. The father of the family, who runs a practical joke store "Gags-r-us", simply does not take these warnings (or anything in his entire life, apparently) seriously. Needless to say, Mr. Boogedy does indeed haunt them in the house, and Disney, family friendly, pseudo-horror ensues.

This movie has 2 genuinely creepy aspects. One, the fact that Mr. Boogedy looks like a mix between Freddy Kreuger and and Slimer from "Ghostbusters". Seriously, look at him...
I mean, Jesus Christ. That's enough to make any kid drop a boogedy in his undies. It's surprising that for a Disney movie they would come up with such a truly scary villain.

The second creepy aspect of this film is the way they describe the genesis of Mr. Boogedy. He was a man who lived in the time of the Pilgrims, and enjoyed scaring children in his village and committing other devious deeds. What got to me about this is that it is told in a sort of tableau style stage-play, somewhat reminiscent of German expressionist films like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". Now, maybe that's looking a bit into it, but that's what it looks like. Anyway, He sells his soul to the devil to get the woman he wants and ends up becoming Mr. Boogedy. Keep in mind, this was a Sunday Night Diney TV movie, so the story is not exactly of the highest caliber.

Surprisingly, this film has a somewhat large fan base. In the age of DVD that we live in it's surprising that this hasn't been released yet, when every other piece of garbage that has ever been produced seems to be available. In my opinion, the greatest strength of this movie is the nostalgia factor for people who remember it from their childhood. Let's face it, there is a huge market for 80's kitsch, and this movie fits nicely into that category. And it scores bonus 1980's points because the older son in this film is none other than David Faustino, "Married...with children's" Bud Bundy.

So, will this movie make into one of my "Movie Nights" when I babysit? Sure. Anything is better than sitting through another episode of "Hannah Montana". Will my neices and nephew, or any kids today like "Mr. Boogedy"? I'm not so sure. The viewing experience is definitely enhanced by having actually lived through the eighties, a time when there was no CGI and we happily accepted shit special effects. All the same, it's a quirky, spooky movie that should at the very least be replayed each year near Halloween.

My score: 3.5 out of 5
True Score: 2 out of 5

The decline of clever Church marquees

I've always gotten a good chuckle out of the semi-clever sayings that Churches tack up on their marquees for passers by. Some of my favorites have been, "Come on in, it's heir conditioned!" Get it... air/heir conditioned. Okay, how about "CHCH- What's missing? UR!" You have to admit, that's clever. So, anyway I was driving by a local Presbyterean Church the other day and on their marquee it says, "When God gives you lemons, just make Grace juice." I don't know who they have coming up with these things in the Presyterean circuit, but Shel Silverstein they are not. Grace juice? I don't know... the lack of coherence in that Church advertisement just really pissed me off. Come up with something better... Gracerade, maybe, like Gatorade? Needless to say, if this trend keeps up I'll no longer be glancing toward Church as I drive right past it. After all, if their not going to put in the effort, why should I?


That post right below this one has been resolved, at least for the moment. The NY Mayor's office has decline to enact the proposed restrictions. Kudos to anyone who signed the petition. If you wish, you can read more at

Thursday, August 2, 2007

For the love of independent film, sign the petition!

Indie Filmmakers Mount Protest Over New Filming Law in NY

Independent filmmakers, civil libertarians, independent film journalists and tourists are joining to oppose proposed regulations drafted by the New York Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting that would require a permit and proof of liability insurance for any type of filming or photography involving two or more people at a single site for 30 minutes or more. The rules would also apply to five or more people using a tripod for more than 10 minutes. The proposed regulations have inspired a rap protest video from a comedy group called Olde English, which contains the lyrics: "Make no mistake these rules are heartless/Everyone knows they just target artists/ The video bloggaz at protest marches/And kidz making vids for the YouTube contests/It's garbage! Let's tell the people in power/We wanna film for more than half an hour!" The bloggers have also found support from the conservative New York Sun, which wrote in an editorial, "It would be a sad day if New York became a place where a family has to get a permit before making a home video." The new rules have also provoked an online petition campaign at
Sign the petition!


For a long time I blamed the shit condition of the 18-25 year old demographic on MTV. And, to be sure, they are partly to blame. Shows such as The Real World, The Osbournes, Jackass, Next, Parental Control, Wild'n Out, Date my Mom, Room Raiders, Etc. have all added to the obnoxious, self-obsessed way of life for people of that age group. (*Editor's Note- I just had my 26Th Birthday, officially removing me from that demographic, so now I can criticise, thank you.)
However, One station has, of late, pulled ahead far and away as the winner in the "degeneration of American society" Olympics. That Winner(?) is - VH1. With their evening line-up (and subsequent, constant re-running) of their "Celeb-reality" shows, they have pulled the American viewing public, not only away from worthwhile pursuits, but also away from decent television shows! An America where "Arrested Development" is relegated to cult-hit status, while "Flavor of Love" is a breakaway hit, is an America I can say I am ashamed of.

And the worst part of it all is that these so-called "reality" shows have a trickle-down effect on the viewers. In my estimation, it has now become more important to young Americans to be famous, than to be anything else in the world. Reality shows have, in their mind, moved them one step closer to being famous, because so many of the "stars" of these shows are famous for doing absolutely nothing. There is actually a really interesting book about this phenomenon call "Fame Junkies" by Jake Halpern.

Furthermore, the producers in television now see reality TV as a way to subvert union disputes with TV writers, because if the writers threaten a strike, the producers will just drum up another reality show with some nobody C-list celebrity. Just another way for Screenwriters to be shat upon in this industry. Don't worry, guys, this fad's gotta dry up soon, right?... guys?

The Surreal Life, Hogan knows best, I Love New York, Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, Breaking Bonaduce and all of these other shows are the psychological cancer of this generation. And let's not forget the other accomplices: A&E (Gotti Boys, Family Jewels, Dog the bounty hunter) and E!(Playboy bunny show, simple life, etc.) The sixties had drugs, and we have reality shows. I just hope that our flashbacks don't involve hearing Flava Flav say"Yeeeaaaahhhh booooyyyy" over and over again. The horror... the horror...

All in all, reality TV is a hemorrhoid on the ass of television, but we all knew that already. After all, isn't that what we're all about? Taking part willingly in things that are bad for us?

Well, gotta go. "On the Lot" is coming on.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

DVD Review "Hot Fuzz"

I'm a fan of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I like them, I like their style of comedy and believe their previous film, "Sean of the Dead", is destined to be a classic. So, I was more than thrilled to see their new film, "Hot Fuzz", was set to lampoon action movies much the same way Shaun had done to horror films.

When I sat down to watch the film, I was in the mood to laugh, much like audiences in comedy clubs: they might laugh at un-funny jokes because of their frame of mind. When I finally got to watch the film, though, it left something to be desired.

This story of this movie is purposely contrived to be just like every other cop/buddy/action film ever made. London supercop, Nick Angel (Pegg), is reassigned to a rural do-nothing town. After a few days patrolling with his new partner (Frost), he comes to realize that all may not be as it seems. He goes on to uncover the town's dark secret, and so on and so on...

If you're a fan of this production team, this movie is tailor made for you. If you're not a fan, or more likely, if you've never even heard of them, you may be in for a bumpy ride. I'm not totally sure that everyone who will see this will realize that it's a straight up comedy. If viewed through a serious action-fan's eye, it may look a bit ludicrous. Director Edgar Wright's now trademark "Boom-Boom-Boom" style of editing (especially in segue scenes- think the quickly edited drug taking parts in "Requiem for a dream") has become something of a gimmick. Where in his previous film it had been a neat addition to the frenetic pace, here it's overused to the point of annoyance. Also, this film seemed to blur the lines between spoofing the action genre and returning back to horror- The masked antagonist in the film was actually pretty damn scary.

Now, let me interject here and congratulate the team behind this film for not phoning in any of the death scenes. This film surpassed my expectations, certainly, in that department. I mean really gory stuff! This, in conjunction with the cultish, rural village setting also made me feel as if the directors were watching a lot of 1970's giallo films while writing this film. All of this, of course, leads to the film as a whole being a bit less accesible to a mainstream audience.

After all of the seemingly negative things I've said about the film, I actually liked it! It was made for people with a prior knowledge of action/thriller/horror films, to be sure, but if you don't know shit about movies (like the film's protagonist, the aptly named "Nick Angel") there is still some stuff you're likely to chuckle about. Notice I said chuckle, not laugh. This one doesn't have quite the belly laughs that "Shaun of the dead" had, but certainly enough to warrant a rental, for most people. All in all I would say, it was decent, and I am still definitely looking forward to this actor/director team's next project.

3 out of 5

*Note: There is an really awesome special feature on George Romero's "Land of the Dead" DVD documenting Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's meeting with Romero, and their eventual cameo appearance in that film. Definitely worth watching, if you get the chance.