Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Teeth (Mitchell Lichtenstein, 2007)

Watch out anonymous commenter, I'm about to get into "pretentious Women's Studies grad student" mode again

Maybe if the term "feminist horror film" hadn't been thrown around so many times in regard to Teeth, I could have enjoyed it more. I did a paper for a senior seminar about feminist avengers in 70s European/Japanese exploitation films, so I was expecting Teeth to be a modern update of what is a classic exploitation framework. Teenage Dawn, star of her high school's abstinence movement, realizes one day that she has teeth in her vagina. She doesn't actually find this out until over halfway through the movie; the first half is a really expanded set-up. We see Dawn preach, get a preachy boyfriend, we meet her slacker stepbrother and sick mother, and we finally get to the point where Dawn and boyfriend Tobey's hormones get the better of them, and they decide to have sex. Dawn decides, halfway through the act, that she wants to go back on it, but Tobey, totally against everything we've seen about his character so far, ignores her, hits her head on a rock, and rapes her. This does not go well for Tobey, and is the point at which the movie turns for me. The first half of the movie is almost Cronenberg-esque body horror; the audience knows what's wrong with Dawn far before she does, and we are all waiting tensely for her to discover it. After her encounter with Tobey, the film mostly depends on weak humor and shot after gratuitous shot of cut off penises. What would have really shocked me would have been some sort of revelation of Dawn's affliction, but that, of course, didn't happen.

And that's partly Lichtenstein's point, it seems. Near the beginning of the film, Dawn's biology class is allowed to study a diagram of an erect penis, but their textbooks have giant stickers over the vaginal diagrams. (In fact, the scene where Dawn soaks away the sticker and discovers the vagina for the first time is my favorite of the film.) We're not allowed to see, or even to talk about or acknowledge, the vagina in our culture, and here, Lichtenstein (half-heartedly) takes on one of our deepest fears, that of female sexual power and violence. But isn't it a little presumptous for Lichtenstein to write and direct a film about a girl's relationship with her vagina (would I, for instance, write a similar script about a penis)? And why does he have to fall back onto gross-out sight gags and weird humor? It's as if the second half of Teeth can't decide whether it wants to be a drama, a comedy, or a horror film, so it tries to do everything.

Not to say I didn't like the movie -- it's a great premise, and even when it falls short, it's way more thoughtful than most movies released in any given year. Plus, Jess Weixler as Dawn is a great breakthrough performance, and I really expect and look forward to seeing more from her in the future. But all these little cracks in the movie add up by the end, and when Dawn finally realizes that she can use her vagina as an avenging weapon, it made me more uneasy about its implications than want to cheer out loud.


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Stills from new Gaspar Noe film

So, I am a full two months late to this scoop, but after talking with Adam about how great I Stand Alone (and Gaspar Noe in general) is, I decided to do a little research into when in the hell his next full-length film is coming out. It's been six years since Irreversible, and I've been holding my breath waiting since I saw both his movies in 2005. Well, I unearthed this Quiet Earth post, which has both a rough synopsis for Enter the Void and some amazing stills. I hope it's well worth the wait (IMDB has its release date as sometime in 2009, which means at least 5-6 more months of waiting), but knowing Noe, it will be.

ETA: Apparently, there are rumors that Daft Punk will be doing the music for the film; I enjoyed, yet was incredibly disturbed by, Thomas Bangalter's score for Irreversible, and I'm excited by the prospect of this being an ongoing collaboration with these two forces.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

New Choke trailer!

Man, I love red-band trailers. Especially this one: Clark Gregg's Chuck Palahniuk adaptation, Choke, has a new, restricted trailer here. I was a bit worried from the looks of the first trailer that they had sanitized the book to make it your run of the mill indie comedy, but this one has a lot more that reminds me of the novel. It looks dirty and hilarious, and although there's still no real mention of the weird second half plot of the book, I'm not worried, because of how hard that would be to show in a 2 minute trailer. And I, of course, love Sam Rockwell so much, and he looks just perfect as Victor Mancini. I can't wait for Choke's late-September limited release.

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Celebrating Meet Dave's bomb

It may be kicking a man while he's down, but since it's Eddie Murphy, I think it's pretty well deserved. Best Week Ever's blog has a list of 50 movies that grossed more than Meet Dave's paltry $5.3 million opening weekend. A few hilarious picks, and almost all are shocking: remember Baby Geniuses?! If this means that the Brett Ratner, PG-rated Beverly Hills Cop 4 is cancelled, then I couldn't be happier.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Food for thought

The Nines was one of my favorites from 2007 (that I didn't actually see until this year), but was almost completely ignored, not only by major theater chains, but independents and even the indie film fan mobs (the most disappointing part of all). Now, over a year and a half since The Nines's first Sundance buzz, writer/director John August has written a post-mortem on his blog, which not only touches on the failures of his film (commercially, because he rightfully stands by its artistic merits), but of the "independent" film market in the US, and Sundance in general. He basically puts into well-written words, from an experienced perspective, what I've been fearing was the case with the American independent film market. He's overall pessimistic, and even ends the article with the question of if anyone should even bother making indie films.

This might be the time to start a new film movement; films like Little Miss Sunshine and Juno aren't representative of true independent film, nor are ones like There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men (both of which I loved). There are two schools of so-called indie films; the cuddly, vaguely sarcastic but with a heart family comedies, or the films made by established directors that have a built-in audience. None of those four films are actually independents, having been financed by major studios (although the "independent" wings, whatever that means). Before I start ranting, I just think that a very clever, well-acted, intriguing movie like The Nines should have some sort of audience, but like every other movement, American independent film is being bought out by major studios and theater chains. There's got to be something to be done. (Note: I know this comes dangerously close to the "selling out" debate, which I refuse to participate in, because it's silly, but it's interesting to hear a director with a minor amount of clout spea his mind so freely about such a hot topic.)

And thanks to Ode to Azia for the tip that there are storyboards available for Alejandro Jodorowsky's King Shot here. The site's in Italian, but the drawings are amazingly cool -- OtA says the film is supposed to be in the same style as Sin City (score!), with enough sex and violence to garner it an NC-17 rating. Otherwise, I have no idea what the movie's about; this is the synopsis from IMDB at the moment: Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold.. Hrm. But Jodorowsky, Asia Argento (one of my favorites), Udo Kier, Marilyn Manson, and those creepy yet intriguing storyboards? SOLD.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Suburban Nightmare (Jon Keeyes, 2004)

There's a really interesting premise buried somewhere in Suburban Nightmare: a couple who loves to murder (and eat!) people are also having marriage problems. Plus, the movie is more or less in real time, which is a device I usually love in movies. But almost everything else about the movie is wrong, unfortunately.

First of all, and this isn't the filmmakers' or the movie's fault, I was lead to believe it was a typical gory horror movie (see those flesh masks on the cover? Yeah, the couple never wears them). But beyond that, the script, while it has its moments, is almost uniformly bad & boring; the actors are bad; the plot twists are visable from a mile away; and everything is just so darn melodramatic as to just be annoying.

Not to mention the myriad of unanswered questions at the end - why do they kill people? Why haven't they gotten caught (there's a brief reference to having moved across the country, but that's it)? What's the deal with their daughter (it's kind of discussed at the end, but before that)? Why the hell do they eat people? The juxtaposition of horrific subject matter and the mundanities of everyday married life is a clever one, if done well. It wasn't here. If a more talented writer and crew could get their hands on this material, we could have had a winner; as it stands, this movie leaves me wanting much more than it delivered.


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Friday, July 04, 2008

Sherlock Holmes movie in the works

If you know anything about me, you should know that this news made me inexplicably happy. Written by the guy behind the hilarious-looking Tropic Thunder, check. Judd Apatow producing, check (I guess, although I haven't been impressed with him lately it does mean this movie will get made stat). Sacha Baron Cohen as Sherlock Holmes, check. Will Ferrell as Watson, check. Oh dear. I wish they would start filming this tomorrow.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

A few short ones

The Promotion is in limited release right now -- I was lucky enough to catch it, and can't recommend enough that you do the same. Seann William Scott plays Doug Stauber, an all-around nice, normal guy who is an assistant manager at a Chicago grocery store. He works hard, busts his ass, and has a wife with whom he's hoping to buy a house and start a real life with. Doug is finally in line for a promotion to manager at a store that's opening up across town. Enter Richard Wellner (John C. Reilly), a manager from a Canadian sister store who is up for the job as well. Richard is a good guy as well, with a kid and a wife and a troubled Canadian past. Both men need this job in order for their lives to get out of their respective ruts, so, they begin competing more and more ruthlessly. This film, more than probably any other I've ever seen, shows what happens when good people do bad things. There are moral consequences, but they're both hilarious and not overdone. Doug and Richard are completely people we all know; their flaws are both very funny and very sad. The second half of the film, especially the scene where Richard tapdances to unliscensed 80s rock on a motivational tape. You have to see it to understand. Do see it. Extra fun fact: the movie was filmed very near the apartment in Chicago where i lived for 6 months!


Beware: Children at Play would have been just another mediocre-to-bad-yet-enjoyable Troma film if not for its plot. It's probably the only B-horror movie of all time to have a main plot point be based on the plot of a classic of English-language literature. Yes, this film is about a gang on children who are kidnapped (sort of) from a small Bible-thumping town and are taking revenge on the adults, but these kids are also abducted and kept in line through the Beowulf myth. Seriously. The main evil child, Glenn Randall, has fashioned himself as Grendel to a group of outcasts who have turned into cannibals. Is this all too ridiculous to believe? It almost is, but the incredible weirdness of the plot makes it a little smarter than your average bad movie, and more worth checking out.


A feminist classic? Maybe. Interesting to watch? Definitely, up to a point. I'll explain the film like this: once, a friend compared herself and I to Czech and French New Waves. She has adventures, can talk/write at length about almost anything, and has a sometimes bizarre or surreal sense of humor. I like to brood, smoke, and talk about how bad I feel. She's the Czech New Wave, and I'm the French. Czech filmmaker Vera Chytilova's movie doesn't make much sense, but it's not supposed to. Two girls named Marie (although I could have sworn one was named Julie?) decide to be bad, because society is bad. So they go on dates with old men, march around looking for attention, and finally trash a banquet hall (with a food fight that made me a little squeamish). They're both incredibly gorgeous (with amazing clothes, if that matters to anyone but me), and Chytilova's direction can be really remarkable, especially when she experiments with colors. But other times, I got the feeling it was surreal to be surreal, with no real point or redeeming value. This is grating. The film should be seen by those who are interested in the progression of global feminism in film, but don't expect, uh, a plot. Or characters. Or any traditional moviemaking techniques.


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Wednesday, July 02, 2008


At last, Fritz Lang's original full-length edit of Metropolis, one of the best films ever made, has been found in Argentina, of all places! According to AICN, this print runs 210 minutes, while the longest print seen so far runs 118 minutes. That's over an hour and a half more footage! Apparently, the extra time really helps the film run a lot smoother and makes everything make that much more sense. I can't wait to see it, as I'm hoping there will be a DVD release or, even better, a theatrical run ASAP!

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