Friday, May 3, 2013

New Post.

This is strictly for backup purposes. Pay no mind.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Underrated: The Blair Witch Project

You know, in the years since it came out, The Blair Witch Project has been the subject of a rather strong backlash....
See, back in 1999, it was friggin' HUGE there for a couple of months, despite its humble origins. Largely due to clever viral marketing and strong word of mouth, The Blair Witch Project surprisingly turned into a runaway hit, and the studio behind its distribution did everything in its power to milk that cash cow for every penny possible until it was utterly spent.

(And it succeeded.)

However, by the time the release had finished making, oh, about 1441321874656143045783 billion dollars, people turned on it. In most circles nowadays, I see The Blair Witch Project, at the very least, dismissed, and at the very worst, blasted without mercy...sometimes with what comes across as downright malice. The detractors say that it had no plot; they say its actors were bad and characters obnoxious; they insist that the film is boring, repetitive, and even responsible for motion sickness....You know -- they basically can't STAND the friggin' thing.

And, honestly, I can't, per se, argue with many of their points. After all, The Blair Witch Project is no doubt an unusual specimen -- more of an experiment than a conventional motion picture, really. From its almost total lack of pre-written dialogue, to its decidedly amateurish style of camerawork, this movie abandons most conventions of "normal" filmmaking. It is intrinsically different, bravely throwing out of the window just about everything that we think a movie should be from the get-go. It's to be expected that such a gamble simply won't click with many viewers, and some folks will even be so annoyed as to suggest that the result is not a "real movie."

Well, technically, I'll concede that such critics may, on the surface, have a point. The Blair Witch Project doesn't come across like (and wasn't made like) nearly any other movie one could find, and few parts of the standard skillset to make a motion picture ever come into play with it. Yet, that's precisely why I consider the whole thing such a remarkable triumph of creativity.

(Yeah. They creeped people out with a bunch of sticks. --Hell of a lot harder to do than it is with vampire fangs or buckets of zombie blood. with it.)

Look, you can talk until you're blue in the face about how The Blair Witch Project is a cheap piece of crap, but at the end of the day, nothing is going to change the fact that, during the magical summer of 1999, millions of people saw this movie, and a good portion of them (in the beginning, anyway) ACTUALLY BELIEVED that it was for real. Try to deny this assertion 500 million times if you wish, but I know that you are wrong because...well...I REMEMBER what went down.

It was a juggernaut, and never before had I witnessed an independent motion picture of its ilk create a phenomenon quite like that. HOW did such a cheap-as-heck, micro-budget little flick along these strange lines get anywhere at all?

Well, I'll tell you why: because it was an ingenious concept that just happened to find a core crew of incredibly talented individuals who were uniquely capable of making it all work in JUUUST the right, very specific, and ONLY way that it could have.

Listen: even once the film had received a wide theatrical release and the truth about it was well-documented, lots and lots of viewers still had the pants scared straight off of them by experience, convinced that the college kids depicted therein HAD to be dead. Hell, it took an appearance on the friggin' Jay Leno Show by those three actors to conclusively shut down such speculation...and the fact that any movie could so deftly dupe the supposedly media-savvy modern American public really boggled my mind at the time. Looking back, I'll admit that such baffling hype was ultimately what made me finally decide to go check the dang movie out for myself.

And, when I saw The Blair Witch Project for the first time, it was at a major chain movie theater, AFTER the film had achieved its massive mainstream success. The Blair Witch Project was still at the height of its fame, hovering in the number one position at the box office for what seemed like an eternity, having been fully vetted by the media. When I walked into that theater, I KNEW that it was fake, and I KNEW exactly how the story was going to play out, OK??? I KNEW that it was not real when I saw it. I can't stress this enough.

Yet, that did not stop me from basically having a panic attack right there in the theater. I mean, I had already been told by friends exactly what was going to happen in the film, but nothing they'd said had actually prepared me. The Blair Witch Project scared the hell out of me in a very deep and new kind of way, blowing my mind in the process. In particular, I remember that, no matter how many times I saw it, there was always a certain point towards the end (when our heroes are entering the abandoned house) that caused my heart to start racing, thumping harder and harder, as I desperately fought off dizziness and prayed to God that I wouldn't totally lose it and make a public scene. No movie had ever done anything like that to me before, and it was both frightening and exhilarating. I certainly knew better, but that didn't make any difference; it was like a challenge for me to make it through this particular experience.


And I treated it like one. This may sound weird, but I wanted to "beat" The Blair Witch Project by getting all the way through it without being stricken with that sudden burst of straight-out panic. It was like I needed to prove something to myself, and I ended up seeing the film a grand total of eleven times that summer. It still occupies the top spot on my coveted list of Movies That Drew Saw In A Theater The Most Times.

So, more than ten years after its release, I decided to pick up a DVD of The Blair Witch Project to give it another look, and I'm devoting my super special Halloween post to it.


The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Netflix description:
Brash student filmmakers Heather (Heather Donahue), Josh (Joshua Leonard) and Mike (Michael Williams) march into the woods near Burkittsville, Md., to make a documentary about the legendary Blair Witch, who's credited with a string of heinous murders dating back 200 years. But the trio loses their way and soon find themselves surrounded by a malignant terror. This shot-on-a-shoestring-budget indie sensation earned instant cult status.

In case you live under a rock, here's the concept of The Blair Witch Project: Three student filmmakers disappear into the woods near a small town while making a documentary about a local ghost legend. They are never seen again, but a year later, their footage is found. Their footage IS the movie. Got it?

Much (in fact, most) of The Blair Witch Project is actually VHS-grade camcorder material, shot by our main heroine, Heather (Heather Donahue). She's excited about getting to direct her first student film, and wants to document the experience with these little "behind-the-scenes" video diaries. Also, since she's the one holding the camera and doing most of the talking, we get to know her best. Heather's a little bit bossy, but by no means a bitch (at least, in my opinion). She isn't afraid to party, seems fairly intelligent, and jokes around with the other guys. Frankly, I always admired her.

And speaking of the other two guys -- there's Mike (Michael Williams), and Josh (Joshua Leonard). Mike is their sound guy, and a bit of a fraidy cat, while Josh is the camera operator (that is, of the "REAL" camera intended for the documentary the trio is shooting), and comes across as a simple stoner. Get used to these kids, as they're the ONLY people we hear from for 75 percent of the movie. Once they hike out into the woods to visit some sites relevant to their documentary, it's all them, man!

But first, the kids interview people around the tiny Maryland town of Burkitssville (formerly Blair) about the legend of the Blair Witch for us to get some backstory. See, it seems that there are long-running rumors about the woods surrounding the community being haunted, and everyone in town knows at least a little something about this myth. Folks over the years have described strange noises, creepy visions, and a variety of difficult-to-explain events having occurred out in this vast woodland, even if few of the stories have any credibility. Heather, as part of her documentary, relates to us a couple of incidents involving bizarre murders to have taken place near Burkittsville which some suspect were related to the alleged haunting of the area -- for example, the case of a man who killed eight children in his cabin back in the 50s, claiming that the Blair Witch made him do it. It's extremely important to pay attention to these scenes, as the information they provide will explain just about everything that transpires later.

So, yeah -- Heather, Mike, and Josh head out into the wilderness, planning to be out there for no more than a couple of days, TOPS. They've got a map of the area, and instructions on how to reach their destinations. In and out, baby. A real piece of cake!



Nah. Actually, things go awry for these kids pretty quick. In the beginning, the trio simply gets a little lost...but as their journey takes them deeper into the woods, stranger and stranger things happen. They hear the sounds of trees being knocked over in the middle of the night; they come across bundles of sticks arranged to look like murder victims lying around; they eventually get attacked one early morning by forces unseen....The gang is soon desperate to get out of that forest, and as fast as possible.

But they CAN'T.

See, after having walked ALL day in one direction along the side of a creek at one point, our heroes wind up back at the EXACT SAME SPOT where they started. It becomes obvious at this juncture that something far worse than mere harassment by creative rednecks is going on.

This is where the true paranoia begins, and really, the true FEAR. See, The Blair Witch Project relies entirely on an emotion that few movies are able to properly convey: the fear of things we cannot see. Heather, Mike, and Josh don't actually SEE their tormentors until, really, the moment of their death...and we the audience never see their tormentors at all. These three are just running around lost in the woods, terrified of what will happen next because they don't even necessarily know what's after them. It's like when you're a kid and afraid of the dark -- you haven't seen anything, you haven't actually heard anything, and you can't really even define what it is that's so terrifying to you....You just know it's there, and THAT is all you need to be kept awake all friggin' night.

Yes, as an audience, we never get to view the source of the horror in The Blair Witch Project. Everything is implied to us, but never displayed. The ending of the movie, to me, was its most brilliant moment, as the filmmakers here stuck to their decision to NOT show us anything, even at the point when it would have been the most tempting.

Here's a comparison: You ever see Paranormal Activity??? --It's that haunting movie that everyone rates against The Blair Witch Project uses the same concept. Well, I really liked Paranormal Activity ALMOST the whole way through. However, the film almost completely blew my goodwill in, literally, its final three seconds. Yeah -- Paranormal Activity is the only movie I ever saw that was good until the VERY LAST couple of seconds. Way to screw it up, guys!

And, you wanna know how??? Well, it's like this: the very last shot of that particular motion picture is of its heroine lunging at the camera with a mutated face, making a typical Hollywood monster shrieking noise. Up until that point, I thought the movie was great -- mysterious, spooky, keeping us guessing -- but then, at the final moment, they just couldn't resist breaking out the stupid makeup and sound effects. God, that pissed me off.


Well, The Blair Witch Project never makes that mistake. It sticks to its premise of forcing us to imagine what the hell is going on. No silly last minute monster shots or gore orgies -- it has RESTRAINT from start to finish. It's a slow, rolling boil; tension builds, and drama deepens. It's all a mind game from start to finish, and a masterful one at that.

Also, the fact that it's so darn simple has always been inspiring to me. Imagine -- making a movie with almost no resources whatsoever, but ending up with a massive box office success, simply because you were able to come up with a concept that was clever enough. Only Kevin Smith's Clerks has ever managed to be so damn cheap while reeling audiences in due to nothing more than a novel concept or smart writing. That's awesome!

And, yeah, I know that The Blair Witch Project was by no means the first movie to use the "discovered amateur footage" angle (Cannibal Holocaust comes to mind as a much earlier example), but it's the first one to actually do it RIGHT. People bought this stuff, hook, line, and sinker while it went on to become one of the most successful horror releases of all-time...without using any special effects. Sorry, but that's impressive.

And, do you know who I think deserves the most credit? --Its actors. Anyone who claims they weren't good is full of crap, and the proof of that is in the fact that the movie caught on so well. If these kids had been bad, people would never have found the film so believable. I've always felt that Heather Donahue, in particular, deserved far more accolades than she ever received for this excellent performance. SHE is the center of The Blair Witch Project; SHE makes it work. Frankly, I think the only reason she wasn't considered for any serious awards for this one was because it was a micro budget horror flick (in other words, snobbery). I SO hoped to see her in a million other movies after The Blair Witch Project took off.

Heather, you ROCK!

(...And yet, you wound up doing Streak 'N Shake commercials...Damnit.)

Even if one doesn't find The Blair Witch Project to be his or her cup of tea, I simply cannot understand how they would fail to be impressed by the fact that a couple of enterprising young filmmakers were able to use little more than a cheap handheld camera to make something that actually went on to scare millions of people. It relies on the most basic kind of terror of all -- that which exists only in our minds and can't even be described -- while hitting a grand slam in the process.

Compare it to other motion pictures of its ilk, but none of them are quite what The Blair Witch Project was. This one never needed special effects, makeup, or even a friggin' soundtrack; all it needed was an IDEA.

And it's still better than your favorite horror movie.

Go figure.

5 out of 5.


Friday, October 28, 2011


Hey, hey, hey!
SO...who's been absent from his blogging duties for the past several weeks???

(By the way, fun fact: the other guy in this pic with me is the frontman of the band, Marcy Playground.)

Yeah, I know. I've been neglecting my blog once again (and during the most important time of the year, no less). That is fundamentally unacceptable, and you have my sincere apologies.

HOWEVER, I have a good reason.

You see, I...I...umm...I....


Oh, yes -- I remember my excuse now: You see, friends, I haven't been blogging for the past couple of weeks because, well....

Yeah. I just plum forgot! So, CLEARLY, you can understand that my absence has, in no way, been my own personal fault. I accept your forgiveness and apologies for having so unfairly judged me as being just plain lazy.

ANYway, I just wanted to let everyone know that I'm now back in action, and anxious to post a review of a film that I have always found to be absolutely brilliant. While there may have been a backlash against it in the years since its initial success, I say that's bullcrap. Indeed, the movie I have in mind was a game-changing inspiration for me; it was genius...and I don't care what anyone else says.

I'm talking about The Blair Witch Project.

Sorry, but the hype was justified. I stand firmly behind that assertion, and can't wait to give this film the review that it deserves.

I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Classic Monster Madness

Well, I've been spending most of this Shocktoberween watching TONS of classic horror films....
All the greats here, folks: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, The Mummy. Yup -- all of 'em.

(Thank you, Universal, for some of the greatest memories Hollywood ever created.)

Indeed, I am a lifelong fan of the classics. There's a poetry to the old horror flicks that cannot be found in modern motion pictures. As Bela Lugosi said in Ed Wood, these films were mythic; even the crappiest throwaway monster pictures of the 1930s and 40s had an artistic vision and sort of grand cinematic flair that is only recreated in modern films by the very greatest of directors. Ah, how I wish I could travel through time and walk into a packed theater in 1931 to check out Dracula in all its strange glory. What a thrilling experience that must have been for folks back in the day.

(That would be AWESOME.)

I tell you, it's been one heck of a week. I LITERALLY watched every single classic Frankenstein movie on Sunday, in order of their original release. That's eight films in all. Hey, what can I say? One thing led to another, and I just kept streaming them as the day went on. I REGRET NOTHING!!!

And I gotta thank You Tube for making that adventure possible. See, it's perhaps a little known fact that, like, ALL of the classic horror flicks are actually available, in their entirety, on the good old You Tubes. You can watch 'em for hours and hours!

The copyright situation here is a bit murky. I mean, one would THINK that if it were a violation for someone to post these films on the site, they'd be removed pretty darn quick (YouTube is surprisingly efficient about finding stuff that doesn't belong there and taking it down, in general). Yet, there they are.

On the other hand, though, if movies like Frankenstein and The Wolfman, etc. are actually PUBLIC DOMAIN, then why the heck don't they appear on the compilation disks I like to pick up for five bucks each year around this time??? You know -- if enterprising distributors of non copyrighted material from decades gone by are selling stuff like Maniac and The Last Man on Earth on a single disk for a couple of dollars, they'd be crazy not to throw together a release with the true heavy hitters! The fact that they fail to suggests to me that doing so would not be legal.

(The kind of awesome public domain collections you can scoop up this time of year.)

So...IS it legal for, say, The Creature from the Black Lagoon to be on YouTube, then??? I have no idea, and frankly, don't really care. Hey, that's someone else's issue to deal with, anyway. The POINT is's there now, and you can watch it.

Check out this guy, in particular. He's got TONS of great old movies posted in playlist format, so you can view them without having to get up to click the next segment every ten minutes. That's where I watched all the Frankenstein flicks. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Seriously, people -- I cannot stress this enough....

And, as long as I'm talking Frankenstein, here's a very quick report on what I learned about all of that lovable character's classic films in recent days. Let's take a look at each one.

Frankenstein (1931)

The first one, and my second favorite. You really can't argue with this icon of horror cinema on any level. Lavish and creepy sets, combined with an inspired performance from Colin Clive, make this motion picture one of the best EVER.

5 out of 5.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

While not as culturally significant as the first Frankenstein picture, Bride of Frankenstein is actually my personal favorite. It's beautiful in just about every way; performances are top notch; and I find the relationship that the monster establishes with a blind monk about halfway through to be deeply moving. This one is the most tragic story in the entire series.

5 out of 5.

(Is it weird that I find her kind of hot???)

Son of Frankenstein (1939)

This one brings some really interesting ideas to the table. I liked the characters, in particular. For example, it's the first time we're introduced to Igor, even though most people think that Igor was Doctor Frankenstein's assistant in ALL of the films (nope -- that's incorrect). An extra special treat is the fact that he's played by the brilliant Bela Lugosi.

4 out of 5.

Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)

The last truly good classic Frankenstein picture. This one is where the series started to run off the tracks, although it manages to finish off fairly strong. The fact that Boris Karloff is no longer playing the monster perhaps hurts the overall experience, although the presence of Lugosi's Igor once again kind of compensates for that. I enjoy this movie, but it's probably where Universal should have stopped trying to milk the series.

3 out of 5.

And the rest....

Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) are all pretty weak. The character of the monster is a rather empty caricature in these flicks, and in fact, barely appears AT ALL in some of them. I rate each one a 2 out of 5. Meh, blegh, and blah.

So, there you have it. All of the Frankenstein movies that I watched IN ONE DAY this week. I'm kinda proud of myself for pulling that off, to be honest.

(I thought I told you to shut up.)

ANYway, just thought I'd give you a quick recap of what I've been doing this fine week in Shocktoberween (how annoying is it that I keep saying that???). I'll be back in the coming days with a review of a much more recent horror film. In the meantime, have yerself a fine weekend, and go check out some classic cinema while you're at it.

Peace out.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Secrets Of The GOP Presidential Candidates

I'll admit it right now: I'm a junkie for politics....
And I don't even necessarily care all that much who wins, either. To me, it's all about the entertainment.

Politics is like a soap opera for people too intelligent to enjoy soap operas. I think the personalities are fascinating; the strategy that goes into a campaign offers endless possibilities for discussion; the motivation of the voters never fails to be a mystery....I love, love, LOVE the whole dang thing.

So, needless to say, the Republican race for the presidency right now is my own personal Hog Heaven. This is one interesting cast of characters, folks. I mean, sure -- almost none of them are electable (well, against the incredibly weak Barack Obama, I suppose a horse in a hoop skirt might actually stand a chance); but, STILL, I like 'em!

Each GOP candidate has his or her own interesting quirks. And get this -- I have personally employed my own journalistic powers of investigation to dig up their deepest, darkest secrets.

Yes, ALL political figures have something to hide, and I assure you, the dirt I've been able to find regarding each of these Republicans is 100 percent true. I spent hundreds of hours getting to the bottom of each candidate's past, and am very proud of what I've discovered.

So, without further ado, let's learn the GOP presidential hopefuls' most embarrassing personal stories.

Michele Bachmann:

She's actually an undercover liberal comedian who is faking her entire campaign and persona as part of an Andy Kaufman-like prank. Her plan??? -- To release a documentary when all is said and done, called How I Derped the Herps: The Michele Bachmann Tea Party Experience.

She's hoping to screen it at Sundance in 2013.

(Coming to an art house theater near you!)

Newt Gingrich:

Has a third nipple; suffers from a crippling fear of bread products; is addicted to snorting ibuprofen.

Rick Perry:

Is actually actor Eric Estrada, in a disguise and using an assumed name; doesn't quite know where any of this is going, and is frankly getting kind of scared of the whole fiasco.

(What Rick Perry might look like.)

Jon Huntsman:

Doesn't really want to be president; is only running because he was looking for an excuse to drive around New Hampshire during the fall.

Rick Santorum:

Dropped out of college to pursue a career as a roadie for Bachman Turner Overdrive; once ran over a street mime (on purpose); still collects Pogs.

Mitt Romney:

Once toured the semi-professional bare fisted fighting circuit with an orangutan sidekick; isn't sure which state he's from, and is too embarrassed to ask anyone.

(Mitt Romney and his sidekick, Clyde, circa 1982)

Ron Paul:

Isn't really a member of Congress. He told one little white lie about that in a single radio interview six years ago, and no reporters ever bothered to fact check it.

Herman Cain:

Was actually fired from his job as CEO of Godfathers Pizza, after the colossal failure of his "Net Pizza" idea -- a Netflix-like rental service that delivered pizzas to customers via the US Post Office.

(This damn near bankrupted the company.)

And finally....

Gary Johnson:

Has no idea what's going on at all right now, man. Seriously -- he is SO HIGH, it's crazy. Wow , dude. Pffft. Tee-hee. Running for PRESIDENT?!? Bwah ha ha ha ha ha!!!'

So there you have it, folks -- the secrets about our GOP candidates that I've been able to uncover. As a professional and award-winning reporter, I can (once again) assure you that I've obtained this information through completely reliable sources. Read into it however you like.

I, for one, have decided to throw my support behind Huntsman, although I don't know why.


Hey, here's a zombie movie!

Zombie Women of Satan (2009)

Netflix description:
After her sister is kidnapped by a bizarre cult, rock singer Skye Brannigan (Victoria Hopkins) sets out to find her. The members of freaky burlesque troupe Flesharama become involved in the hunt, and soon they're all attacked by a flock of gorgeous zombie women. Led by Satan and their insane creators, the Zander family, the zombies won't stop the carnage until their lust for blood and guts is fully satisfied in this gory horror flick.

So, Zombie Women of Satan is an extremely profane celebration of sex, violence, and gore, coming to us from our friends across the Atlantic, in the United Kingdom.

Yeah, this movie is REAL English....Or, now that I think about it, it may have actually been Scottish. Meh, I can't really tell, to be honest. Point is, it's ONE of those things, OK?

Anyway, Zombie Women of Satan is about a traveling burlesque group that finds itself trapped in a remote country compound owned by a mad scientist who experiments in the dark art of reanimating the dead (or, in this case, the near-dead). HIS name is Doctor Henry Zander, and for totally understandable reasons, he's solely interested in working on lingerie-clad young women.

As it happens, while our friends the burlesque group are visiting the good doctor's compound, his test subjects get loose, and thus ensues a battle for survival that includes more nudity, blood, and poop jokes than anything I've seen in at least five years.

Sounds GREAT, right???

Well...not really. I mean, Zombie Women of Satan COMES CLOSE to being a fun ride on multiple occasions, but its fatal flaw seems to be that every friggin' joke just drags on and on (and on) for far too long.

For example, one of our "heroes" is Pervo the Clown -- a sex-obsessed, leather pants and pasty-wearing member of said burlesque troupe. He spends 100 percent of his time in search of all things orgasmic, at one point even sneaking off into the woods to (ahem) "service himself" in the middle of a zombie assault. Well, sure -- that could be kind of funny; but the problem is that such antics from Pervo are repeated EVERY FIVE MINUTES. I mean, he doesn't just masturbate in that manner once, but TWICE...and his other jokes are all driven into the ground in a similar fashion. It gets old, and downright groan-inducing, pretty darn fast.

(What Pervo the Clown might look like.)

Same goes for just about everything else that Zombie Women of Satan brings to the table. It has, at its core, a fairly likable and chuckle-worthy soul; but the film just plain relies too heavily on the same handful of gags, over and over AND OVER again. Scenes that WOULD have been funny drag on for ten minutes, instead of two, making them difficult to endure. An unacceptably large amount of this experience is blatant filler.

And that's a shame, since I actually found myself wanting to give Zombie Women of Satan a pass by the time the end credits rolled. It's just so joyously scatological that, in spite of myself, I had to grin at several scenes, and the production values here are amazingly high, given what what we're dealing with. Seriously -- the picture itself looks damn good, and I marvel at the fact that the filmmakers were able to get so many naked women to be in this thing. How'd they pull THAT off? Who BANKROLLED this movie???

Look, if you're a fan of the walking dead (as we all know I am), then at least streaming Zombie Women of Satan might be worth your while, as it's far better than I could possibly have expected. However, fundamentally, this film is still pretty bad, even if it makes me sad to admit that.

Only watch if you're a zombie freak who's in the mood for something fun, yet extremely immature and lazily-written.

2 out of 5.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Who'da Thunk It???

You ever heard of Bobcat Goldthwait?
He's a stand up comedian who became fairly famous here in the US back in the 1980s.

Mostly known for his bizarre, high-pitched voice and manic persona (--Well, that, and once setting fire to Jay Leno's couch), Bobcat Goldthwait was a true "badboy" comic back in his prime. Like Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks, he had some raunchy, rather dark, material, and was precisely the kind of stand-up one might expect to die of an overdose at a young age.

Not to mention, he played Zed in Police Academy.

(What Zed might look like.)

Anyway, I always thought old Bobcat was pretty funny, but I never would have suspected that he's actually become a FILMMAKER in recent years. Yup. Seems that, since the mid 2000s, he's been writing and directing movies, and I watched a couple of them this weekend (most are available for streaming on Netflix). Folks, I gotta tell ya -- this Bobcat Goldthwait character is one HELLUVA story teller.


Both of the Bobcat movies I screened in recent days were downright brilliant, and I very much look forward to his next effort, God Bless America, which was at the Toronto Film Festival this month. My GOD, it looks friggin' hilarious!!!

(I absolutely want to see this flick RIGHT NOW).

But let's get down to serious business here. I've got two quick reviews for you today -- both in regards to Bobcat Goldthwait films, and BOTH good.

Enjoy the show.

World's Greatest Dad (2009)

Netflix description:
After his son (Daryl Sabara) dies in an awkward freak accident, high school poetry teacher Lance (Robin Williams) ghostwrites a suicide note to spare the family embarrassment. But when the note becomes an unexpected hit, Lance sees a chance to resurrect his writing career. In a bid for literary fame, Lance writes his son's journal and passes it off as his own. Writer-director Bob Goldthwait's comedy debuted at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

This one is, without a doubt, among the the funniest, darkest, films I have seen in the past few years. Let's establish that right now.

For me, it's a buyer.

OK so, World's Greatest Dad stars Robin Williams as Lance, an average single father with a long-held and very deep wish to become a writer. He may or may not actually be "good" (that doesn't matter); the point here is that Lance really, REALLY WANTS to get published, and has failed on every single attempt.

Well, Lance has a 15 year old son, and frankly, the kid's a little douchebag. Named Kyle, Lance's spawn has a variety of personal problems -- among them the fact that he's obsessed with German poop porn, and blatantly insults his dad right to the poor sap's very face. Not even I was that bad at his age!

(GodDAMN, was I ugly.)

Long story short, Kyle dies one night in an auto-erotic asphyxiation incident, and Lance, fearing embarrassment, covers it up to make the whole thing look like a suicide.

Lance writes an eloquent suicide note for his son, and everything seems to die down...until, that is, the kid's school newspaper obtains and prints said letter. Almost immediately, Kyle becomes the local teenage hero. ALL of the students suddenly start claiming to have known him, and he's remembered as some kind of sensitive genius (HA!). Our pal Lance just roles with it all at first, but when someone asks him for another of Kyle's writing samples, he makes one up himself, and once again, it becomes a huge hit with one and all.

A whirlwind of tears and platitudes then ensue, ultimately leading to the offering of a book deal to Lance and a talk show appearance. WILL this poor man crack under such guilt-ridden pressure and just admit that his son did NOT, in fact, commit suicide???

(By the way, Krist Novelselic, the bassist for my all-time favorite band, Nirvana, has a 10 second cameo in this movie. No point to mentioning that, really -- I just wanted to bring it up since I'm so proud of myself for having caught it on my own.)

Folks, World's Greatest Dad is funny, irreverent, daring, thought-provoking, and in the end, deeply heartfelt. What begins with a somewhat vulgar premise winds up causing us to cry and smile a little (well, maybe a lot, actually). I was blown away by this movie. It now ranks as among the few I have seen which made me wish I had pursued my own dream of becoming a filmmaker.

The clever writing and oddball direction here truly surprised me. And Robin Williams (for as annoying as he can be on many occasions), proves once again that he really is, at the end of the day, an incredibly talented actor. What a sensitive, relatable, performance! Robin, this is yet another occasion in which you probably deserved an Oscar.

We SYMPATHIZE with Lance, even though what he's doing is fundamentally wrong. I applaud any actor who can lead a film and make us feel that way for such a character, and I also salute Bobcat Goldthwait for making me laugh, cry, and (yes) puke a little.

Short review, to be sure...but I'm telling you: World's Greatest Dad is an EXCELLENT friggin' film. I watched it three times this weekend, and found it to be a true feel-good experience.

Check it out.

5 out of 5.

OK, one down, and one more to go....

NUMBER TWO, please step forward!

Sleeping Dogs Lie (2006)

Netflix description:
All hell breaks loose when a woman reveals a secret to her fiancé in comedian-director Bob Goldthwait's edgy romantic comedy. Encouraged by her mother and co-worker, Amy (Melinda Page Hamilton) tells her husband-to-be about a rather shocking past sexual encounter. But her confession threatens to destroy the relationship, and what unfolds is a story of integrity, family ties, bravery and forgiveness. Bryce Johnson and Colby French co-star.

This one is another great film from Bobcat...although its very premise may turn some folks off from the get-go, and I can't necessarily fault them for it.

Look, I'll give you a small spoiler (you find this information out with the movie's first line of dialogue, anyway): this here is the story of a woman who once blew a dog, OK??? There. I said it.

I know, I know -- that's a pretty darn messed up thing to have done, but stick with me for a minute....

The chick's name is Amy, and she's a truly SWEET person, despite what I just wrote. Hard to believe, but I assure you, Amy is perfect in just about every other way. It's just that her one flaw happens to be that she engaged in a single act of bestiality while in college. Hey, give her a break; it happens!

Anyway, Amy is set to marry a dude named John, and she sort of agonizes over whether or not to share this bizarre secret with him. I mean, it's a good question -- is ABSOLUTE honesty necessary for a strong marriage? OR, should we sometimes keep certain details to ourselves, for the sake of others??

What do YOU think???

Hey, I can't defend Amy's initial act, or the fact that the first 20 minutes of Sleeping Dogs Lie are, admittedly, pretty damn sick; but by the end of this motion picture, I found myself laughing and crying almost as much as I did with World's Greatest Dad. This is high quality, very witty, stuff right here!

You know, it speaks to the abilities of Bobcat Goldthwait as a filmmaker that he could have made something like Sleeping Dogs Lie in the first place, and pulled any kind of emotional reaction out of us at all. I HONESTLY loved and forgave Amy by the end of the movie.

Half of the credit, of course, for that should go to star Melinda Paige Hamilton (yet another amazing performer) for crafting a wonderful character in spite of all mistakes she may have made; but the rest of the praise for Sleeping Dogs Lie should be sent straight (once again) in the direction of Bobcat Goldthwait hisself.

What a guy!

If you can get past the shear grossness of this picture's concept, I also recommend it.

4 out of 5.

So, there you go, friends -- two great movies, from one ingenious man. Watch either, and keep your eyes pealed for God Bless America, due out soon.

See you in a few days!


Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Versus Movie

In the film world, it is common knowledge that the book is, like, ALWAYS better than the movie....
Take any Hollywood adaptation of a successful novel -- the film version will universally leave so much out that fans of the source material will cringe, roll their eyes, and even call for blood upon seeing it. You name the title, and the film adaptation will be a disappointment compared to the book.

(The movie version of this one STILL drives me friggin' crazy.)

Admittedly, it all makes sense, of course -- your average decent novel will have, like, 500 pages, 40,000 characters, and (oh, I dunno) 91514143154545746 words, so....mmmyeah, a 90 minute motion picture adaptation just HAS to leave some stuff out. It has no choice; things must be cut and plot points streamlined in order to get that bad boy to the big screen in anything approaching a reasonable length of time. I think we all understand that....

But, what about the RARE cases in which the movie is actually BETTER THAN THE BOOK???

Believe me, it DOES occasionally happen, and I can think of three examples off the top of my head right now. First is The English Patient (1996); second is Silk (2007); and THIRD is the flick I wish to specifically examine today: American Psycho (2000).

Now, I reviewed American Psycho the film last year, not even knowing at the time that it was based off a novel, and it totally blew my mind. Although my official analysis of the picture back then was a bit rushed, I still stand behind it, and regard this 2000 release as a masterpiece.

See, bottom line is that American Psycho rules. GOT IT???

Since that initial screening, I've literally watched the film AT LEAST 100 times (yeah, maybe not so healthy, I know), and I can't stop wrapping my diseased little mind around its intricacies. So much to say here; so many subtleties....American Psycho is simply a PERFECT motion picture, friends. I am certain of that.

Therefore, I think it's only natural that I felt compelled to check out the novel upon which it was based. This sucker was written by Brad Easton Ellis, and published back in 1991. Apparently, it generated some controversy at the time, due to the depictions of extreme violence against women that it contains (which, by the way, failed to impress me, but we'll get to that later). Heck, even feminist icon Gloria Steinem campaigned against the book, attempting unsuccessfully to prevent its release.

(FUN FACT: Christian Bale, who eventually starred in the film adaptation of American Psycho, is, ironically, the god son OF Gloria Steinem. Seriously.)

ANYway, as indicated, American Psycho the book was a disappointment for me. First of all, it's grossly different from the movie adaptation in that THE FILM is far more humorous, concise, and comprehensible. I mean, REALLY -- I'm not sure I would have even understood much of the action in American Psycho the novel if I hadn't been provided with some kind of objective framework by the motion picture to begin with. It's just all so rambling -- flow of consciousness kind of stuff that drops important information matter-of-factly, while dwelling on the sorts of trivial crap that automatically causes me to skip entire pages. Had I not seen the movie first, I suspect that American Psycho the novel would have left me entirely clueless as to what was going on at certain points, simply because I lacked the ability to pay attention to the paragraphs upon paragraphs of yammering about workout regimens and bottled water and silk neckties and candy corn and good veal and my ass, and yada yada yada...courtesy of our narrator....

What I'm saying is that the ridiculous amount of banal DETAIL provided in the novel renders it almost unreadable. I mean, in American Psycho THE MOVIE, our (anti)hero Pat Bateman will occasionally go off on tangents about things like fashion and yuppy restaurants, etc.; but IN THE BOOK, these diatribes DRAG ON AND ON FOR PAGES AND PAGES, and I absolutely could not handle them. Look, just one paragraph about Armani suits every couple of chapters might be acceptable and get its point across; but in this particular book, we're given such nonsense EVERY OTHER FRIGGIN' PAGE!

It drove me nuts.

American Psycho the novel is a giant mess, with a solid story buried somewhere at its core, and I applaud the film version's director, Mary Harron, for turning this jumbled heap into a compelling and downright BRILLIANT production. Mary, you deserve to rank right up there with Spielberg and Scorsese as the greatest filmmakers in Hollywood today. I couldn't possibly tip my hat to you enough for transforming an almost unbearable novel into a motion picture that inspired, intrigued, and enthralled me dozens of times.

I barely managed to finish American Psycho the book. Even the MURDER bits were inserted in a totally random fashion, with little framing to make them stand out as important to the point. Who knows how many people Pat Bateman kills in the novel? -- The dang thing slips these details in so haphazardly amidst other BS that they're easy to miss.

The FILM, however...well, I don't need to tell you folks again how much I enjoy it....

So, AGAIN -- Mary Harron, you rock. You took source material that pretty much made no sense at all, cut to its heart, made it funny and compelling, and unleashed upon the world a motion picture that would rank as a classic for millions upon millions. YOU, ma'am, are a genius who ranks among the very few filmmakers to produce a movie adaptation that is actually BETTER than than the book upon which it is based.

Good show!

AND, TO DRIVE THE POINT HOME ON THIS, HERE'S A RE-POST OF MY ORIGINAL REVIEW OF AMERICAN PSYCHO THE FILM (written quite drunkenly on the night of February 16th, 2010):

American Psycho (2000)

Netflix description:
With a chiseled chin and an iron physique, Patrick Bateman's looks make him the ideal yuppie -- and the ideal serial killer. That's the joke behind American Psycho, which follows a killer at large during the 1980s junk-bond boom. Bateman (Christian Bale) takes pathological pride in everything from his business card to his Huey Lewis CD collection, all the while plotting his next victim's vivisection

Since everyone's already seen it, I won't waste your time with an in-depth review, but I WILL say that American Psycho is one of the most awesome movies ever. Hilarious and disturbing, this film features what is one of Christian Bale's best performances (really second only to The Machinist) as yuppie Patrick Bateman. He's an ultra-cool Wall Street investor business guy with one problem: he has a lust for blood...lots of it.

Patrick murderizes several people in a typically cold businessman way -- very efficient, very calm. Eventually, his murder spree gets a little out of hand. CAN Patrick stop this madness? WILL Patrick be caught by the nosy detective investigating the disappearance of one of his associates?? IS any of this actually happening???

That last question is really the only original thing I have to add to the pubic discourse about American Psycho. Is it possible that the whole story was really just in our (anti-) hero's head? I figure that's one of two possible explanations for what happens in the end. Either A, Patrick is fantasizing all of this; or B, the world of 1980s business yuppies was so impersonal that no one could tell each other apart (this would validate my own plan for infiltrating the world of high finance). Any thoughts?

Either way, American Psycho blew my friggin' mind, and I must admit that I'm ashamed for having not seen it until this week. Anyone else in that same boat is urged to give this bad boy a rental (or, really, a straight-up purchase) right away.

5 out of 5.

--SO, there, friends....

My previously posted review still stands. In fact, I'd actually like to give American Psycho an even HIGHER rating than 5 out of 5, if I were to review it again. This film has grown on me more and more with each obsessive viewing since that fateful day in February of 2010; I now consider it one of the best motion pictures ever made. Brilliant on every level, and worthy of infinite screenings, I place American Psycho among my top five favorite films of all-time.

So, the point is that it is one of the very few movie adaptations of a book that surpasses its source material in quality. Anyone else have any similar suggestions? Anyone wanna argue with me here??? I'd love some feedback.....

But, HEY -- why not make this post a two-fer, with a yet another review of a different murder flick??? Guess what -- this one occupies the opposite end of the quality spectrum as American Psycho.


--Well, too bad, cuz here it comes, anyway....

Santa's Slay (2005)

Netflix description:

Jolly old Saint Nick (Bill Goldberg) isn't making a gift list this year -- he's making a hit list, checking it twice and unleashing his inner demon for an unforgettably terrifying Christmas. A bet that Santa lost to an angel 1,000 years ago has expired, and now he's hell-bent on spreading some holiday fear. As the big day approaches, only young Nicholas Yuleson (Douglas Smith) and his grandfather (Robert Culp) can stop him.

All right -- real quick, friends.....

This movie SHOULD have been about one million times better. I mean, what a boring, stupid, waste of time.

C'mon -- Santa goes nuts and kills people? --In terms of premise, that's HILARIOUS! WHY, oh why, didn't this movie work out???

I dunno. I guess it's the silly B-list celebrity cameos that somehow take the magic out of this whole experience within the first ten minutes, believe it or not. Let's see -- we've got Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan, and Rebecca Gayheart, all showing up in the opening scene, for God's sake. Seeing that just KILLED my enthusiasm, and made me suspect that Santa's Slay was going to be a watered down, slap-sticky and tongue-in-cheek PARODY of campy filmmaking, instead of the balls-to-the-wall, unabashed gorefest for which I'd been hoping. And I was right.

This film SHOULD have been about Santa Claus going absolutely crazy and murderizing tons of people in horrifying ways. Instead, it's a stupid, supernatural-oriented kind of comedic butt-slapper.

Fiddlesticks, I say!

(And, wasn't this pun-inspired title already pitched in Ernest Saves Christmas???)

Yeah, Santa's Slay was just plain boring. Instead of providing us with blood-splattering and reindeer torture, it gives us a dumb story about Santa trying to be evil after finally welching on a bet he'd lost to Satan (or something), like, a thousand years earlier. It's more comedy than anything else, and I was thoroughly disappointed.

No depravity to speak of; little bloodshed; and few genuine laughs. Santa's Slay is a massive missed opportunity. Bill Goldberg, as our title character, is semi-inspired at times (kinda reminded me of Geoffery Rush); but his efforts don't come even remotely close to making this a worthwhile experience. In the end, Santa's Slay is just ultra low-level slapstick, and not worthy of so much as a passing glance. Sorry....

If you wanna see a good Christmas, Santa-oriented murder movie, then I suggest Silent Night, Deadly Night. As for THIS one, however, I say BAH HUMBUG!

1 out of 5.