Sunday, May 31, 2015
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Mad Max movies, but am not exactly a rabid fan. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve even seen them since high school. If I did watch them in the last 20 years or so, I must have been drinking because I don’t remember much about them. I vaguely recall some of the characters and maybe a scene or two, but plot-wise I just remember that there were a lot of car chases and fights over gas. I should probably watch them again. The point is, I didn’t go see Fury Road because it was a Mad Max movie, I went to see it because the trailer looked cool. If the movie perverted the franchise in any way and my review fails to reflect that, blame it on Guinness.
After some opening narration and lizard eating, Mad Max gets captured by a tribe of people with highly impractical but extremely cool-looking dieselpunk technology. He tries and fails to escape, but the focus shifts pretty quickly to Imperator Furiosa, who’s got a mechanical arm and is about to leave town on a mission in a post-apocalyptic war truck. As I watched Furiosa’s introduction, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. It took me a few minutes to figure it out, but once I recognized that Furiossa was being played by Charlize Theron, the problem was obvious. “Oh my God!” I said, clearly startling my fellow movie-goers, “IMPERATOR FURIOSA DOESN’T HAVE A PENIS!”
I got kicked out of the theater. I spent the next two hours wandering around an abandoned garden gnome factory trying to work out what the filmmakers were thinking. They had clearly implied that Imperator Furiosa was kind of a badass who could drive a big truck and shoot guns, and probably fight off armies of radioactive kangaroos if necessary, but it was also abundantly clear that Furiosa was a girl. I was stumped at first, but the radioactive kangaroo thing reminded me of Tank Girl and then I remembered that I’d actually seen a ton of movies with badass women who could actually do stuff. In addition to Lori Petty in Tank Girl…
...Sorry, I was just thinking about Lori Petty in Tank Girl…
...Oh, right. Review. Badass women. There was Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku in Buffy, Jennifer Lawrence in Hunger Games, Michelle Rodriguez in...well, pretty much any movie with Michelle Rodriguez. Actually, women who kick ass are pretty common in fiction. Now that I think about it, there are even quite a few badass non-fictional women who drive trucks and shoot guns and fight radioactive kangaroos . I wasn’t sure why I got so weirded out, and suddenly really wanted to see the rest of Fury Road. I crafted a clever disguise out of some old Twix wrappers and spirit gum and was able to purchase a ticket for the next showing and make my way to the auditorium without being recognized by the theater’s elite staff of highly trained teenagers. Or maybe they just didn’t care. Actually, that’s probably it.
After leaving town, Furiosa, despite her schlonglessness, abandons her mission because she’s secretly smuggling some women out of town. Before being smuggled, the women were unwilling concubines of the tribe’s creepy leader guy. Once creepy leader guy realizes what’s going on, he and his army load up into their mechanically implausible (but really awesome-looking) vehicles and go after her. Since one of the war boys (weird bald white guys who are just every damn where) was in the middle of getting a blood transfusion from Mad Max (for some reason I apparently missed) when the call to arms came, Max ends up chained to a pole on the front of one of the warbuggies. He spends most of the first chase scene there, but eventually manages to get free and enter into a sort-of alliance with Furiosa. The rest of the movie is essentially an ongoing (but not continuous) chase scene with lots of action, crazy cars and weapons, and even a little plot and character development. I’ve heard a few people complain about Max taking orders from Furiosa, but since he’s the one joining her gang and she’s the one who knows what’s going on, it makes sense for her to be in charge even though he has a weiner and she doesn’t. Besides, there are a lot of scenes in the movie where Furiosa does what Max says, so it’s not like he’s her buttmonkey or anything. Once the inevitable competitive pissing has run its course, it’s almost like having enough mutual respect to acknowledge one another’s strengths allows Max and Furiosa to accomplish some pretty impressive (and violent and bloody and often really cool) things. Weird, huh?
I enjoyed Fury Road, but it wasn’t quite everything I’d hoped for. For one thing, Tom Hardy talks weird and it’s sometime a little off-putting. More importantly, the movie is only “one big chase scene” in the sense that the bad guys are always somewhere close behind. There are a lot more breaks in the action that I anticipated. I expected the movie to be one big chase scene in the same way Shoot ‘Em Up is one big gun fight, but it isn’t. Even though it’s not quite non-stop action, there’s still plenty of Big Damn Action. It’s also well worth seeing on the big screen just for the visuals. All the characters, equipment, and sets walk a fine line between awesomely badass and bafflingly weird, so even when your attention wanders there’s still a lot of cool stuff to look at. As long as you can get over that “major character with no dong” hurdle, you’ll probably enjoy the movie.
Monday, May 11, 2015
In Horns, Daniel Radcliffe plays murder suspect Ignacious (“Ig”) Perrish. In addition to being suspected by everyone in town of murdering his girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple), he’s lost his job, is constantly hounded by reporters, and is just generally having a shitty time. To make matters worse, the crime lab that held all the evidence that would have exonerated him just burned down and there’s a rumor that a new witness for the prosecution has come forward. As if that weren’t enough, he wakes up one morning with devil horns sprouting out of his head.
Since nearly everyone in town already thinks Ig’s a murderer, you’d expect them to consider the horns proof of guilt and burn him at the stake or something, but that’s not what happens. Most people notice the horns, but aren’t weirded out by them. People comment on them like they would a new haircut. Instead of treating Ig like a monster, people start telling him their deepest, darkest secrets, and in some cases acting on impulses they’ve kept buried for a long time. Ig also finds that he can make some people do things just by giving them commands. He decides to use his newfound powers to find Merrin’s killer.
At first Ig takes everything in stride despite the fact that many of his closest friends and family members have, under the influence of the horns, admitted that they think he’s a murderer or a disappointment or just an all around terrible human being. When his almost Dude-like ability to abide doesn’t get him anywhere towards solving the murder, Ig embraces the dark side. He gets himself a pitchfork, makes friends with the snakes that have been following him around for most of the movie, and starts using his abilities more aggressively. It kind of works out for him, but calling it a happy ending is definitely stretch.
Horns takes a few scenes to establish everything and get moving, but once Ig sprouts the horns things get hilarious fast when Ig starts interacting with small-town weirdos saying and doing things without any filters. This part of the movie had sort of a Drowning Mona vibe: really funny, but kind of dark and horrible and wrong if you actually think about it. The modern-day scenes are broken up by flashback sequences that cover the time from Ig and Merrin’s first meeting as children up until the murder. These scenes aren’t as funny or dark, but have a Stand By Me feel that works to keep things from getting too wacky. Once Ig embraces his inner devil, the tone of the movie does a 180. There’s still some humor, but it’s mostly a revenge story from there on out. This kind of tone shift would probably make a lot of movies seem schizophrenic, but here it seems completely natural.
I don’t really have any complaints about Horns. I expected that the biggest hurdle would be not thinking of Radcliffe as Harry Potter, but except for some unavoidable Parseltongue thoughts when he started befriending snakes, that wasn’t really a problem. The fact that Radcliffe can pull off a competent American accent probably helped a lot. The lack of explanation for Ig’s magical powers is the sort of thing that would have annoyed me in a lot of movies, but in this case I was fine with it, probably because the film doesn’t even try to explain the weird stuff. The movies that usually piss me off are the ones that try to pretend to have a coherent mythology/cosmology when it’s abundantly clear that they don’t. In the world of Horns, some days you just wake up with horns that give you magical powers that help you solve your girlfriend’s brutal murder. If you’re ok with that, you’ll probably enjoy this movie.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Once the film makers have established the existence of people who can technically be described as characters, blond girl goes out with a guy who seems paranoid and he chloroforms her after they have sex. Turns out this isn’t because he failed date rape class, but because he has to tie her in a wheelchair so he can show her a woman walking toward them really slowly.This is the It That Follows. It’s been following him, but now it’s going to follow her because the It is a symptom of some kind of supernatural herpes he gave her.
What It does is follow, really slowly. If it catches you, it kills you (by dry humping you while leaking water from the crotch), but it’s easy to outrun because it just walks toward you. So it’s kind of like Jason, but without the hockey mask or the machete or the ability to teleport to a spot right in front of you so it can kill you. It can change its appearance, but since only the person it’s following can see it and it never speaks, that’s really not really relevant in any discernable way. If blond girl screws somebody else, It will start following them, but if It kills that person it will return to following her. If It kills her, it will go back to following her date, and so on until it works its way back to patient zero for the dumbest STD epidemic ever.
Most of the rest of the movie consists of the group of unengaging characters moving from place to place to avoid the It That Follows. As you may have already guessed, a monster that can be easily avoided by moving away at a brisk pace does not lead to edge-of-your-seat suspense. Since there’s no mythology behind the monster for the characters to discover, most of the movie consists of the characters going somewhere, maybe experiencing a cheap jump scare, noticing the monster, and going somewhere else. At some point the cool guy across the street joins them and blond girl passes the It to him (which doesn’t make friend zone guy very happy), but the It kills him.
After cool guy dies, friend zone guy tells blond girl that he really wants to help her. With his penis. She turns him down (almost certainly not for the first time) and seems resigned to eventually being killed by the It, but then he has a brilliant plan. The brilliant plan involves luring It into a pool and electrocuting it, which makes sense because….reasons? It doesn’t work, but some bullets to the head might have (even though a bullet to the head failed to take the thing out before). In any case, there’s a shitload of blood in the pool when they’re done.
In the next scene blond girl finally bangs friend zone guy, but it’s unclear whether she’s passing the It to him or if they think the It is dead. I kind of hope she was supposed to be passing It to him, because otherwise this movie is pretty much a fairy tale for the Elliot Rodgers crowd. The next scene shows friend zone guy driving slowly past some hookers, so maybe we’re supposed to assume that he passed the It to them. I don’t really know, and can’t say that I care.
In conclusion, It Follows is a horror movie with exactly none of the things that make for a good horror movie. I’m not going to give this one a star rating because even zero seems like too much. This doesn’t feel like a movie made by people really bad ideas executing them poorly at every turn. It’s more like a movie made by aliens who have seen a horror movie but don’t quite understand how the human brain processes fiction. Even if I could get the money and time I spent on this movie back, it wouldn’t be enough.
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Friday, May 1, 2015
While I agree with a lot of Sanders' policies and ideas, I don't want him to win because of some misguided belief that electing just the right Chosen One will significantly change the country. Congress, much of the judicial system, and other institutions of power are wholly owned subsidiaries of corporate America, so despite what some Nader voters and Hopium addicts may think, the guy in the Oval Office isn't really going to change things in any major way. If you're a business tycoon who's afraid that a Sanders presidency will usher in Scandinavian dystopia of Democratic Socialism, don't worry about it. If you don't believe me, take a look at the Obama administration. It's mostly been a continuation of the same policies as every administration of the last 35 years. The most radical legislation (aside from a few inevitable social policies that would have at most been delayed a few years under a Republican administration) has been an incredibly corporate-friendly health care bill. Your ability to continue increasing your fortune through dangerously unregulated industry, outsourcing, legalized tax avoidance, and a government-subsidized labor force will not be significantly impacted if you buy this election for Senator Sanders.
So what's the point of spending millions to elect Sanders if it won't make a difference? I think there's one effect a Sanders presidency with a clear receipt of purchase will have: It will push Congress to do something to overturn the Citizens United decision. Those in power often reverse their stances when the policies that were designed for their own benefit are suddenly used to the benefit of others. A perfect example happened this morning, when police organizations and Law & Order types called for a special prosecutor in the Freddie Gray case, despite having insisted that it was unnecessary in dozens of cases when the regular prosecutor had strong police ties. A Sanders election that clearly could not have happened without Citizens United will force our "elected" leaders to face the possibility that unlimited money from the "wrong" millionaires and billionaires could potentially lead to the election of other politicians whose policies actually reflect the will of the people. Too much of that could lead to government accountability and transparency, which I think we can all agree is the antithesis of the current American system.