Saturday, April 05, 2014

CWE: "The Evil Dead" (1981)

Summary: A group of college students spends the weekend at a cabin in the woods, where they awaken something evil.

  • Honestly did not know that there was a "the" in the title. Huh.
  • Pretty sure that I saw "Army of Darkness" (which will be coming up, alphabetical order be damned) first, which clues you in real fast as to who the hero of the story is. I read somewhere that it was deliberately set up that the hero wasn't the main, "sexy" lead guy, but the dorky brother instead. Since Bruce Campbell is the most famous of the group, though... and I can't seem to find that quote now...
  • Did not know that this is rated NC-17. The gore is pretty over the top. And the vines in the woods are quite awful.
  • I usually watch this DVD with Bruce Campbell's commentary, so it's weird with it off.
  • This is all kinda Ash's fault, isn't it? He's the one who started playing the tape.
  • Here is my confession: Despite owning all three of these movies -- and a few other in the genre -- I really don't like horror movies. I have no stomach for gore and violence. Honestly, with this series, the blood is so fake and so over the top that it doesn't bother me.
  • And Ash just stands there with the axe.
  • So, one way to look at this is as a guy who goes to spend the weekend with his friends but has a mental breakdown, believes that they've all been possessed, then murders them one by one.
  • Chainsaw!
  • Your pants are a little short there, Ash. Oh 1980.
  • A lot of nice POV camera work in this. 
  • Maybe you want to bury the bodies a little deeper next time, Ash.
  • Boomstick!
  • It really does quickly become "let's do awful things to Bruce," doesn't it?
  • Morning!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

CWE: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004)

Summary: After Joel and Clementine break up, she has the memories of their relationship removed from his brain. So Joel decides to erase her too -- until he changes his mind.

  • I think this is the only Jim Carrey movie that I own. For reasons having to do with the fact that I'm not much of a fan.
  • However, speaking of Jim Carrey, I was reminded at trivia this week about the 1985 movie "Once Bitten," which I loved when I was much younger. I had no idea that he was in it. He's also in "Peggy Sue Got Married"? Crazy.
  • I very much like Charlie Kaufman's writing.
  • I'm far too easily distracted. Oh wait, I'm supposed to be watching a movie!
  • I love the way things bleed into each other in this movie. Doors open into different locations, dialogue skips and repeats, people and places appear where they should not, then disappear. Nothing happens chronologically.
  • The employees of Lacuna are painfully unprofessional.
  • Snow always seems so out of place on a beach.
  • I feel like this movie puts a lot of the blame for the relationship problems that Clem and Joel have on Joel -- but it's painfully clear that Clem's behavior is an issue. She's "impulsive," but it seriously looks like possibly bipolar disorder. She stays out all night, possibly cheats on him, and drives drunk, damaging his car. Joel might be overly cautious/too afraid of most things, but Clementine hurts him badly.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

CWE: "Empire of the Sun" (1987)

Summary: Jamie is a schoolboy living in China with his parents as World War II begins. After being separated from his family, he is taken to live in an internment camp run by the Japanese until the end of the war. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by J.G. Ballard.

  • Next up in Carolyn's collection of prison camp movies!
  • I've read -- and loved -- the book this is based on. I read the sequel too -- "The Kindness of Women" -- which is more problematic.
  • I've seen the movie probably a dozen times. I'm not entirely sure what it is about films set in prison/internment camps during World War II was attracts me so much. I guess the idea of the individual spirit refusing to give up, surviving despite the odds, and how the situation changes each person (or doesn't). Maybe that explains my love of post-apocalyptic stories too. Stories of people thrown into extreme situations and how it changes them fascinate me.
  • Oh, Christian Bale. So very, very young. He was 13 when the movie came out.  Huh -- Christian Bale and I are almost exactly the same age.
  • The shots of these privileged English people dressed up in (literally) ridiculous clothing driving through the streets of Shanghai are excellent.
  • Why would you let your kid wonder off like that if you knew that a military encampment was so close?
  • Back to the house, which is now trashed/looted.
  • After a brief pause to go to the grocery store, we're back with Jim being found by some Americans (and getting the nickname "Jim").
  • Poor Jim. No one will accept his surrender, the Americans can't get anyone to buy him...
  • We're an hour in before Jim gets captured.
  • Jim is quite the determined kid, isn't he? He is not being left behind. He's not stupid, either. And despite growing up in extreme privilege, he seems very adaptable and able to do what he needs to do to survive.
  • We're in "sometime later" land, as Jim is a bit older, a bit thinner, has lost the schoolboy hair, and speaks some Japanese. And is quite a bit wilier. Actually, it's 1945 so maybe a couple of years later...
  • ... and everyone knows Jim. He is a very polite boy.
  • I always forget that Ben Stiller is in this movie.
  • Mrs. Victor is not a fan of Jim.
  • Privacy, Jim. Really.
  • Jim is welcomed amongst the Americans after taking a brave/stupidly reckless trip outside the wire.
  • Oh, Frank. Always getting pushed aside for Jim.
  • This time, Jim apologizing and prostrating himself doesn't do any good. And he's not big enough or strong enough to protect Basie's stuff. So out of the American dorm he goes.
  • Oh, Jim. Who has never been to England. Who has spent at least 1/3 of his life in the camp. Who doesn't remember what his parents look like. Who doesn't know how he's supposed to feel about anything. Forced to grow up far, far too quickly but who is still a little boy.
  • In the end, Basie takes Dainty when he escapes -- not Jim or Frank.
  • In the end, the very young pilot who saved Jim's life gets sent off, but the plane won't start.
  • They walk who knows how far, but in the end, Jim ends up back at the camp with the young pilot.
  • Until the kid gets shot. Oh, Jim is so very damaged by this point.
  • And I tear up at the end when Jamie is finally reunited with his parents. A kid so different that they don't recognize him at first.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

CWE: "The Dwelling Place" (1994)

Summary: After their parents die, leaving them with nothing, a young woman (Cissie) takes her siblings to live in a cave. A local carpenter loves Cissie but won't marry her. Things get more complicated when Cissie is raped by the son of the local aristocratic family at his sister's urging.

Not sure that I have a lot to say about this one. I liked it the way that I like most Catherine Cookson stories, all of which are extremely problematic. Of course, in this one, Cissie ends up with Clive, the guy who rapes her which ... no, thank you. We get the excuse that he's not really such a terrible guy, that his sister pushed him into it and after leaving and becoming his own person, Clive is trying to make amends. But yeah, I can't say that I'm a big fan of any story that ends with the leave female character falling in love with her rapist.

Stumbled on this when looking up some plot points:


OK, I think I'm stopping at about the 1/2 point of part 2 ...

CWE: "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" (2008)

Skipped: "Doctor Who" (which, really should have come earlier in this list...), "Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist" season 1.

Summary: Dr. Horrible battles Capt. Hammer for the love of Penny, and to prove himself worthy of joining the Evil League of Evil. Much singing ensues.

  • "George R. R. Martin, Joss Whedon, and Steven Moffat walk into a bar and everyone you've ever loved dies." 
  • Although a different background and creative process, I mentally associate this project with the "Veronica Mars" Kickstarter. Maybe because I bought this DVD (and the soundtrack) to help support the creators and encourage more. And, of course, the ongoing discussion about whether or not a new type of funding/production/release will fundamentally change the way movies are made. (Hint: Probably not). 
  • I really love the Bad Horse Chorus.
  • "You look horribly familiar."
  • "Brand New Day" is my favorite of the songs, I think.
  • By act 3 we more or less forget the blog stuff, yeah?
  • I also love that Bad Horse is an actual horse.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Veronica Mars" (2014)

Here's your spoiler warning!

I intend to talk about the movie fully, what I liked and didn't, in detail. I'm not sure that I know anyone else personally who was a backer or as excited for the movie as I was ... or who even intends to see it (except, maybe, in passing). So I'm not concerned that I'm ruining it for anyone. And if you're concerned, just don't read.

So, "Veronica Mars." As I said, I was/am a Kickstarter backer. I loved the TV show and still feel like the first season is one of the best seasons of TV for any show ever. I watched 2 and 3, although season 3 only once until a few weeks ago when Mark got to it in his coverage. Then I found a used copy online for $15 so that I could follow along.

(Quick note about Mark Watches -- I love the site because it fulfills one of my favorite things: hearing what other people think about entertainment that I love. I enjoy listening to DVD commentary, reading episodic reviews/recaps -- even years after the show -- and just generally getting other people's take on things. I've thought a bit about the why, although not very deeply. Still, I think it's a combination of enjoying other people's enjoyment, seeing my thoughts/ideas reflected and confirmed, and having themes/ideas/allusions/etc that I never noticed pointed out. I've read great recaps of shows that I've liked but not loved, and had that writing pull things out that made me love it. Mark did that a lot for me here; as I said, I loved season 1, but Mark's enthusiasm for 2 and 3 made me appreciate them a lot more.)

I was very excited for the movie and couldn't stop smiling through most of it, just because I loved these characters and was so happy to see so many familiar faces together again on screen. The movie itself was fine and entertaining ... but not amazing. It was a nice little mystery, at least until the killer was revealed. And then I was a little annoyed.

Look, I'll give in and put the name of the killer and why it annoyed me in rot13:

Jr'ir arire zrg be frra Pboo orsber. Fher, ur fhccbfrqyl jrag gb uvtu fpubby jvgu gurz naq jnfa'g ernyyl va gur pbby pebjq gura, naq jr boivbhfyl qvqa'g zrrg rirel fghqrag jub jrag gb gung fpubby. Ohg ernyyl? Gur bar arj thl vf gur xvyyre. Fgvyy, V thrff gung Yhxr jnf npghnyyl gur xvyyre, frag gurer rffragvnyyl ba Pboo'f beqref. Ohg Pboo vf gur bar jub frgf vg nyy hc, fubbgf Tvn naq gevrf gb xvyy Irebavpn. Gur onq thl vf gur bar aba-GI fubj punenpgre (lrf, gurer ner bar be gjb bguref, ohg ur'f gur boivbhf fhfcrpg). "Irebavpn Znef" nf n fubj jnf bsgra nobhg ybbxvat orlbaq jung jnf boivbhf naq svaqvat gur gehgu haqrearngu. Naq nf fbzrbar jub'f lbh xabj, npghnyyl jngpurq n zheqre zlfgrel orsber, V fhfcrpgrq uvz sebz gur fgneg.

In that sense, it felt ... not quite inferior to the show or not in its spirit, but didn't live up to the twists and turns that I expected. Sure, some of those were there, but ... eh.

My disappointment in this respect doesn't ruin my affection for the show or the movie, however. It was great to see everyone and as long-time Logan apologist, I was really, really glad to see him with his life more or less together in a way that still feels true to his character. I wish that I hadn't been spoiled for his new career -- I wasn't actively trying to avoid knowing anything going in, but this one snuck up on me and I wish it had been a surprise.

I have a deep love for broken characters, and Logan has always been one of the most screwed up. His growth and development over the first season of the show is one of my favorite character storylines in anything ever (even if I still love Wesley's more) as he starts as the obligatory psychotic jackass before being revealed as an overprivileged teen struggling to deal with the combination of physical and emotional abuse and basically every person he loves at all either dying or betraying him in some horrible way. I've always believed that his love for Veronica snapped into place when she tears up his check in "Kanes and Abel’s," suggesting that she's one of the very few people he knows who can't easily be bought off.

I'm not sure that I'm completely on board with the return of the Logan-Veronica-Piz love triangle, although I do appreciate several aspects on it:

1. The script clarifies that Piz and Veronica have only been together for a year (I actually went back to check this). If they'd been together for the past 9/10 years (since they started seeing each other in college), then their breakup would have seemed very off to me.

2. Piz breaks up with Veronica before she goes back to Logan. First, glad to see Piz stand up for himself and call time on the relationship. He's always been more in love with her than she with him and I think he's always known that, to be honest. I'm glad to see him accept that he'll never be her first priority -- and that he deserves to be. You could argue that Logan's life/freedom is more important than Veronica meeting her bf's parents, and while that may be strictly true, it's still indicative of the fact that Veronica cares about Piz a lot, but she's really not invested in the relationship.

3. And second, I'm glad that Piz and Veronica broke up before Veronica slept with Logan. Because I have very little love/patience/sympathy for cheaters.

I've read some reviews that suggest that the chemistry between Veronica and Logan is not as strong as it used to be, and that does seem true to an extent. Keeping in mind that it's been 9 years and both have grown up a lot since then, it doesn't seem completely unrealistic, however. I have to wonder if it's an actor/distance thing. I expect that, if we're given the chance to see Jason and Kristen together more, we'd see the chemistry get stronger again.

As to the long-term potential for them as a couple, I see a much stronger chance that the two of them having an actual successful relationship this time. Assuming that Logan stays in the Navy, I think the distance might be a good thing. Logan has historically struggled with the need to protect Veronica to an extreme degree, so not being there all the time might help (of course, it could also ramp up his fear and paranoia). And assuming that Veronica can control her jealousy and fear of betrayal w/r/t Logan, the distance could give her the freedom to do what she needs/wants to do without feeling smothered.

Some random thoughts:

  • How did Logan get Veronica's cell phone number? Obviously not an impossible thing to do, but it's not like any of her friends would have offered it up.
  • Wow, Jason Dohring looks thin in this. I expect he's just leaner/more in shape, but when he's wearing the hat in the sheriff's office, he looks almost ill.
  • Kristen Bell looks great, of course, but so clearly just had her baby.
  • Ryan Hansen somehow looks like no time has passed at all.
  • I've seen photos of Francis Capra recently and he seemed to have changed the most since the show. But when he showed up on screen, he looked exactly the same. Maybe it's a movie/in character kinda thing. I was startled, though, because I didn't expect it.
  • Had to check that the TAL offices were in New York and not Chicago. Since it's a WBEZ show, I had assumed they were located there and I was so confused.
  • While sure, Veronica blows off the job offer before it actually happens, if she really wanted to take it and go back, why couldn't she just tell them that her father was in a serious car accident? Would they really check to see that she was supposed to be there on Monday and the accident wasn't until later that week? Obviously, she's already decided that she's not going back, but it seemed like an easy out if she needed it.
  • What is it about the Lamb family that produces such awful people?
  • Poor Deputy Sacks.
I do feel like I need (and want) to watch the movie again, which I probably will later this weekend. And now I want to watch the first season again too.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

CWE: "Donnie Darko" (2001)

Skipped: "Dollhouse" season 1

Summary: A young man wakes up after a night of sleepwalking to discover that an airplane engine has fallen through the roof of his family's house and would have killed him had he been in bed. He is plagued by visions of a man in a rabbit costume who tells him that the world is going to end in 28 days, 06 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds, and manipulates him into committing a series of criminal acts.

  • I think this is the theatrical version, not the director's cut. I'm not sure if I've seen the director's cut...actually, maybe that was what we saw in the theater the one time.
  • This is, unquestionably, one of my favorite movies ever. I first saw it randomly on TV; well, not exactly randomly. I had just seen "Secretary" and fallen in love with it, and was actively looking for other movies with Maggie Gyllenhaal. I saw that she was in this and found it on TV (I think) and was immediately caught up in it.
  • One thing that I love most of all is the issue of mental illness and exactly what's wrong with Donnie -- if anything actually is. Well, obviously something's wrong, but the question of whether what Donnie is experiencing is actually part of his illness or if it's something supernatural (or both) is up for debate for most of the movie. And, really, even after the movie ends. So much is up for interpretation.
  • OK, I probably shouldn't have read the FAQ on IMDB, which gives a lot of "answers" to the questions in the movie. Lots of discussion about beings from the future. I prefer the openness.
  • Seth Rogan is in this movie? I need to keep an eye out for him. OH -- actually, I looked up and there he is, in Donnie's class.
  • "Wake up, Donnie."
  • There is the question of how Donnie does what he does -- he shouldn't be able to break the water main or put the axe in the head of the dog statue. I remember hearing something -- probably in the commentary -- that Donnie is essentially a superhero. It goes with the "beings from the future" idea, that they've given him special powers in order to end the tangent universe and allow the primary universe to survive.
  • I have such weird mixed feelings about so many actors in this movie. Jenna Malone has never been one of my favorites. And before "Battlestar Galactica," I was not a Mary McDonnell fan. But Patrick Swayze! Beth Grant!
  • And now we start talking about time travel.
  • Oh, "Attitudinal Beliefs"
  • Hee, the original "Evil Dead." That'll be coming too, soon.
  • Sparkle Motion!
  • "Sometimes, I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion."
  • "How did you feel being denied these Hungry, Hungry Hippos?"
  • "Hey, have you guys seen Frank?" "Frank was here. Went to get beer" (but they have a keg!)
  • Oh, it's Seth Rogan who (kinda) kills Gretchen. (He throws her near the street where she's later hit by Frank's car.)
  • Bye, Frank.
  • Here comes the engine, back through time.
  • Bye Donnie.
  • It's a sad ending, but ... I like to think that Donnie made a decision, knowing that he had to be there, had to die to set reality back on the right path, and in the end, he was OK about it.

Monday, March 03, 2014

CWE: "Dogma" (1999)

Summary: Two renegade angels try to re-enter heaven, an act that would unravel the universe. An abortion clinic worker and others try to stop them and save the world.

  • It's been a really long time since I've watched this one, which seems a bit odd because I really liked it.
  • I bought JP a Buddy Christ figurine years ago.
  • I really like Matt Damon in this. Loki is an ass, though.
  • Hee ... "Grant Hicks"
  • So many familiar faces in the background.
  • "Let's do the next best thing." "What's that?" "Kill people." [woman spits] "Oh, not you."
  • I genuinely don't know how to express my affection for Jason Lee at this stage in his career. I'm not sure that I have a good reason for it either.
  • Yay for Alan Rickman! If I remember rightly, he hurt his back badly on this movie. He's so snarky.
  • And Jay & Silent Bob show up to pummel the Stygian Triplets.
  •  Hee! Chris Rock falls out of the sky.
  • I like how Bethany hides her coat when Rufus asks to borrow Silent Bob's.
  • Dwight Ewell! I forgot that he was in this one, which is kinda silly because (much like "Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back") everyone is in this one.
  • Ah, the boardroom full of stuntmen.
  • Poop monster! The animation was pretty good, but the practical effects ... really are not. Let's keep it all off screen! Man, all the fight scenes are off screen...
  • Here's the thing: I think Kevin Smith is an interesting writer. I don't think he's a particularly good director, although he's serviceable (most of his movies include a really good scene or two, though). However, I also think that Smith is typically the best director for what he writes.
  • I feel like I've had a very different experience with religion than the characters in this movie.
  • Not liking the repeated "Is Jay gay?" jokes.
  • Not loving the slo-mo throwing of the train, either. Although Silent Bob to the rescue!
  • Hmm. Don't so much buy the breakdown in the water.
  • I keep alternately getting distracted or just watching the movie.
  • Why would you ask people to leave the hospital due to the apocalypse?
  • And Ben Affleck explodes.
  • God beeps your nose.