Monday, April 30, 2007

Things That Should Embarrass Me, Yet Don't

I've spent some space on this blog talking about guilty pleasures, things (like poorly-made foreign films with the words "Zombie" or "Cannibal" in the titles) which no one should like, but do. For some reason, this idea popped into my head the other day, and I got to thinking about things that I like, yet, based upon everything else I enjoy, should really dislike. Maybe it's due to some bad brain chemistry or really poor taste on my part, but there are some things I should be embarrassed to admit enjoying, but, well, life's too short to worry about how terrible my taste is.

That being said, my most embarrassing guilty pleasures:

-The entire filmography of Hugh Grant
So I like Hugh Grant. What're you gonna do about it?

-30 Seconds to Mars, A Beautiful Lie
The wussiest of Wuss Rock. The band's lead singer/songwriter is Jared Leto, for Christ's sake; don't get much wussier than that. Yet I find myself listening to this album over and over again, its catchy wussiness somehow mesmerizing me into repeat listening. The Girl even used to make fun of me for listening to this...until she began requesting that I dial it up on the iPod whilst we were in the car. I think I may have something with it being infectious...

-Grey's Anatomy
I've somehow managed to watch every episode of Grey's Anatomy. I really don't even enjoy the show that much, but, for some reason, I tune in every week. This one really may be attributable to mental illness.

-American Idol finalists
I have not watched an episode of American Idol in five years, right about the time The Girl decided the show wasn't worth dedicating 15 hours a week to watching it. (And do we really need Idol on a near-nightly basis? Remember what happened to Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? Yeah, me neither.) In fact, anyone who watches the show (or any reality TV, for that matter) should be forced to watch it, Clockwork Orange-style, in a never-ending loop for eternity. However, I do sure enjoy the hell out of the respective discographies of Kelly Clarkson and Chris Daughtry. Maybe my Hell punishment will be to listen to Clay Aiken and Justin Guarini records for the rest of time. That would be bad.

-Last Action Hero
For most people, watching a movie a dozen or so times is an honor they reserve for only their most favorite of films. The same is true for me. Yet, I have seen the complete trainwreck that is Last Action Hero at least that many times. And what is there to like about a movie with a horribly rewritten screenplay, full of awful one-liners; a movie with a grim and depressing second half; a movie that was grossly over-budget and grossly under-produced; a movie that saw its opening weekend gross get doubled (and keep getting doubled every subsequent weekend) by Jurassic Park, which opened the weekend before? Well, it entertains me (and possibly only me). That's what's to like about this disaster of a movie.

-And, of course, there's this.

Let the ridicule begin. But only if you don't have any glass houses for me to throw shit at.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I One-Up Tarantino

In my review of Death Proof, I claimed that there is a good movie to be made from the idea of a serial killer who murders his victims via vehicular homicide. And then, the other day, during a conversion with a friend about Jim Caviezel (yeah, I know: Who talks about him?), I realized that I had seen a better movie made from this idea.

Of course, I'm talking about Highwaymen, starring Caviezel, Rhona Mitra, Frankie Faison, and Colm Feore. Basically, it's the story of Caviezel, driving around the country in a beat-up Hemi 'Cuda, trailing serial killer Feore, who runs down his victims with an old-school El Dorado.

Now, I'm not accusing Tarantino of plagiarism (even if his entire career has been based on how creatively he can rip off other movies), but Highwaymen pretty much shares its plot with Death Proof. Not saying he's seen the movie, or that it's of enough pop-cultural significance to even cross his radar (the movie went direct to video, a year before Caviezel played Jesus), but, there you have it.

What's sad is that Tarantino tries to be brilliant, and come up with something clever, but, the fact is that Highwaymen, which is really not that good a movie, is approximately 10 million times better than Death Proof. It's better written, has a better developed plot, and has better action scenes (rather than just a single, 45 minute one). It's even a nice antithesis to Tarantino's penchant for stunt casting, by having the prolific and highly-recognizable Colm Feore (one of "Those Guys," who're literally in every movie, yet no one knows their names) as the killer; one starts to tire of the "clever" casting of Michael Parks after a while.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend running right out and renting Highwaymen (good luck finding it), because, well, other than getting to see Rhona Mitra topless, it's not that great.'s better than Death Proof. And that's all that counts.

Check it out.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Best Fuzz Movie Ever

While there haven't been many movies with the word "fuzz" in the title, they've usually turned out to be a lousy lot. The only ones I can think of are an early starring role for Burt Reynolds and an American action vehicle for Terence Hill. And now, we have Hot Fuzz, the best movie ever made with "fuzz" in the title.

If you know anything about this movie, I won't bore you with the specifics. But, I will say this is probably the funniest movie you will see all year. And yes, it is dumb, in the tradition of the action movies it parodies. (There are some very gratuitous visual references to Bad Boys 2 and Point Break that are very well played.) It's also a showcase for long-forgotten British actors; I found myself saying, "So that's what happened to The Equalizer, and there's Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark." It's also more gory than one would expect from an action movie. But it's still hilarious.

It's only real weakness? It's about 20 minutes too long, as the protracted conclusion goes on forever. Other than that, another win for Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.

On a tangential note, while I was looking up showtimes for Hot Fuzz, I noticed that some theatres are listing separate showtimes for the two movies that make up Grindhouse. Which I find to be somewhat unnecessary, since there's absolutely no reason to see Death Proof. In fact, if you're paying to just see Death Proof, well, you really are dumb enough to be robbed of seeing a double feature.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Good News For Virtuous Pagans

Every Pope wants to make their mark during their papacy. And Pope Benedict XVI has made his mark in a big way in just a short time.

Limbo is a concept that's been around for ages. It's typically been considered the place where unbaptized children go when they die. Infants are too young to commit sin, but have not been cleansed of original sin through baptism, and, therefore, aren't worthy of hanging with Jesus. But, rather than have them end up in Hell, the Catholics came up with Limbo, which has none of the punishments of Hell, but is away from God. It's a traditional Christian concept that has never been properly indoctrinated into Christian theology.

And appears it never will be. A treatise commissioned by the Pope has basically opened the way for the abolition of Limbo. While the Pope has not officially spoken on the matter, he often spoke on the subject back when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, and it's basically a matter of time before the Pope kiboshes the whole thing. So, welcome to Heaven, all you babies.

On a related note, this also allows a loophole into Heaven through which Homer, Virgil, and all the other residents of the First Ring of Hell can pass. Welcome to Christian Heaven, you glorious pagan bastards! It's been 2000 years, but you've earned it. And you didn't even have to believe in Jesus. Bravo!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Fuck Is Wrong With This Girl?

For those of you who don't watch Heroes, Hayden Panettiere plays Claire, the indestructible cheerleader on the show. Until being on this show, she was a fairly unknown commodity, her only notable credit being (ironically) a cheerleader in Bring It On 2. She was a fresh face, the Next Hot, Young Thing, for those who had become disenchanted with previous incarnations like Lindsay and Britney. And, seeing as how the show is a hit, she's been getting a lot of exposure. The world was her oyster.

And then that picture came out last week of her licking another girl's tit. And now, this incredibly phallic picture of her licking the Stanley Cup.

You need only look at the career/life trajectory of the previous Next Hot, Young Things to see exactly where this is going. As soon as she's old enough to buy her own cigarettes, it's all over but the crying.

Oh well; she's not the first or last fish who's jumped into the fire.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Spree Killing At Its Finest

If you've been living off the planet for the past 12 hours, you might have missed the news that there was a shooting spree at Virginia Tech University that left 33 dead and another 26 injured. The shooting finally stopped when the gunman, trapped inside by police, killed himself. Even though the deathtoll may possibly rise, if those injured die later, it already stands as the worst shooting spree in U.S. history.

The only question I have about this whole thing (other than "How do you do all that with a couple of handguns?") is: How does a guy shoot two people, disappear for two hours, and then reappear elsewhere on campus to shoot nearly 60 more? It's not as though the guy shot the first two, and then took a leisurely drive to Roanoke to resume his spree; he shot the two, and then spent the next two hours going a couple hundred yards across campus (peep this map to get an idea of the distance), with police looking for him the whole time. (This impressive bit of policing reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Willy and Santa's Little Helper gets stuck in the ventilation duct, and when Chief Wiggum arrives to find his men shooting hoops, his response is, "That's some nice work, boys." Just about the same deal in here.) And what's up with notifying everyone of the first shooting via a school-wide e-mail? 'Cuz that's the best way to let everyone know a killer's on the loose.

All the fuckups aside, this incident does seem to bear some interesting poisonous fruit. Mark my words: When the '08 presidential candidates begin campaigning, the number one item on their agenda is going to be gun control reform, seeing as how the Brady Bill and the Assault Rifle Ban both went the way of the dodo before all of this happened. I think it will be an especially hot talking point in the state elections in Virginia, which has some seriously lax gun laws (no licensing, the ability to purchase multiple firearms, and a NICS-type background check).

We'll see how it all plays out in the coming days; we'll get firearms banned out of this country yet.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Feds Gone Wild!

I used to think it was a pretty sweet deal to be Girls Gone Wild! creator Joe Francis: going to exotic spring break locations and filming 1000s of female co-eds flashing whathaveyou, and then selling said films for hundreds of millions of dollars. This guy has figured out the cushiest way to make money.

But he's fallen into some troubles in the past few years. In addition to some minor assorted maladies, he was just forced to settle a multi-million child pornography judgment in Florida, he's currently in jail on a contempt charge stemming from that same case, and he's still under indictment in California on a whole list of charges that could land him 40 years in prison. (And he's been romantically linked to Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.) Life can't get much shittier.

And then the Feds busted him for about $40 million in income tax evasion.

If this is the good life, I'll take a pass, thank you.


A while back, I lamented the fact that the second season of Twin Peaks, one of the more addictive shows of the past 20 years, was caught up in copyright Hell, and was not coming out on video anytime soon.

Turns out, I spoke about four months too soon, because now it's on video. And I couldn't be happier. Now, I can finally, again, watch those 22 incredibly disappointing episodes where ABC wrecked the series by revealing the killer seven episodes into the season.

Way to make us sit through 2/3s of a season of anticlimax, you silly motherfuckers! I can't wait to pick it up.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut Has Joined The Choir Invisible

When someone's around for a long time, you kinda take for granted that, some day, they won't be there anymore.

And that's the stance I had taken with Kurt Vonnegut. I'd read all of his books, and kinda forgot about him, as he's not really a prolific writer. (He hasn't written a novel in about 10 years.)

And then, he died, from complications from an accident earlier in the year. It's a bit of a bummer, since his hometown of Indianapolis just declared 2007 "the Year of Vonnegut." (Some year.)

I'm sure he's in Heaven right now, living out the plot of God Bless You, Dr. Kervorkian, interviewing various dead celebrities. Might be time to bust out the Complete Works of Vonnegut again.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times

Saw Grindhouse the other day. Thought I'd talk about the two films that make up this odd double bill before talking about the thing as a whole.

Up first is Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror, a whale of a Zombie cum Disaster Movie. What it lacks in story (which is grade-z all the way), it makes up for with exploding everything. (Speaking of explosions, it's good to see that Rodriguez adheres to the theory put forth in Contamination: that the human body is merely an exploding bag of blood.) And the cast of mostly late '80s/early '90s character actors (who knew Jeff Fahey was still in the business?) appear to be having a good time. Movie even has the common decency to be funny, and has a spot-on Carpenter-esque music score. It's a dumb, yet highly-entertaining good time.

And then we come to Death Proof.

I'll start out by saying that, while I'm not as obsessive about his stuff as some fans, I consider myself a Quentin Tarantino fan, and have seen all of his movies (Reservoir Dogs included) in the theatre. That being said, it's been 10 years since he's committed anything watchable to film. And Death Proof is no exception.

The idea of a psychotic stuntman who commits vehicular homicide is actually a pretty good premise. I could see how you could make an entertaining 90 minute feature out of that. But Tarantino goes another direction. Kurt Russell, who plays the aforementioned stuntman, has possibly 15 minutes of screentime, tops.

The rest has been filled with scene after scene after scene after scene after scene (and onto infinity) of inanely witty dialogue. (Actually, saying "scene after scene" is a bit of a misnomer, because it's actually just a couple of scenes that go on for about half an hour apiece. Someone I saw the movie with thought maybe they'd forgotten to edit the movie. I wondered if they'd slowed the projector down to four frames per second.) And the dialogue can only be called witty if you think the stuff written in bathroom stalls is a little too highbrow. It's hard to believe this dialogue was written by the same guy that wrote Pulp Fiction. (Maybe Roger Avery is a better writer than previously thought.))

The awful writing isn't the film's only flaw. It's full of material "sourced" from other movies (even his own); it's got more stolen material than a Carlos Mencia standup routine. (But that's Tarantino's trademark: being a clever plagiarist.) And, much like I didn't realize that I could be bored by a lightsaber fight until I saw Revenge of the Sith, I didn't realize a could be bored by a car chase until I saw this movie. And that's not a good thing for a pseudo-Car Chase Movie.

I hate to say, "I told you so," but I did kinda predict that Death Proof would be unwatchable. And it pays off in full. Really, a completely awful movie; the worst I've seen this year.

And now, the thing as a whole.

The idea behind this whole venture was to replicate the "grindhouse" experience: two low-budget, grade-z exploitation movies shown as a double bill. And while Planet Terror and Death Proof get the tone and material right, they are big budget movies with high-priced stars. There's something false about trying to pass off these extremely costly and well-produced movies (particularly Planet Terror) as cheapo exploitation movies. It's like comparing Saving Private Ryan to that war movie you and your buddies made in the backyard with a video camera: same material, $50 million difference in budget.

The films incorporate little tricks to make these silk purses appear to be sows' ears. The clicks and pops on the soundtrack, the excessive film grain, the overexposed and skipped film frames (a trick Rodriguez uses with some artistic flair) are all clever ideas, but they kinda disappear after a while. And the "missing reel" gag gets old after approximately one use. (Again, a trick well utilized by Rodriguez, who segues from a sex scene to the beginning of the Apocalypse. Oh, and doggie style is an impossible position with a peg leg like that.) It's a nice try, but the movies are more blockbuster than bargain basement. (To see a recent movie that does it right, check out Jim Van Bebber's Deadbeat at Dawn.)

It's not all a waste, however. I liked the retro film snippets that connect the films, and some of the fake trailers have a nice period feel. (As someone who's seen a lot of trailers for these kinds of movies, I think Edgar Wright's trailer for Don't! just about nails it.)

All in all, I'd call it a failed experiment: the parts are mostly better than the whole. (It also doesn't help that the better of the two movies comes first.) Maybe if Tarantino had made a movie that wasn't a complete piece of shit, this would have worked out better. In fact, it can work out better for you. And here's how you do it: Find a theater that's playing both Grindhouse and The Host, the Korean monster movie. Go to a Grindhouse showing that starts about two hours before a Host showing, and watch it all the way through Planet Terror and the trailers in the middle. And then leave, and go see The Host. What you'll end up with is a great Monster Movie double feature in the same amount of time.

And you won't have missed a thing by walking out of Grindhouse. Trust me on that one.