I Came, I Saw, I Conquered: Part 6 — Saw VI (2009)

“What the fuck am I supposed to learn from this?! Huh? What?!

What am I supposed to learn from this?!”

–Simone, Saw VI

Oh Jigsaw, you knew I couldn’t stay away forever…

So here we are after a summer’s absence. I figured with my blog’s one year mark approaching, Halloween’s as good a time as any to shake off the cobwebs and get back to work. After all, if it’s Halloween, it must be Saw. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Retrospectives, Reviews

Clarence Clemons, 1942-2011

I meant to get this up sooner, but it took a little time to put together. When Clarence Clemons suffered a stroke on June 12, I was certain—as was the rest of the world, I suspect—that he would up and about and performing in no time at all. So when Clemons passed away on June 18, I didn’t want to believe it. For four decades, Clemons and his tenor saxophone were the backbone of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under News, Recommendations

“You may think they’re dumb an’ lonely, but you’re wrong…” — Winnebago Man (2009)

In the beginning, God—or Vin Di Bona, really—created America’s Funniest Home Videos. And Vin said, “Let there be videos of cats falling off tables and toddlers hitting their parents in the groin.” And there were videos, and there was Bob Saget, and it was good.

But as time went by, the world changed. For starters, Bob Saget hasn’t hosted AFV in years. But also, the simple fact is that we don’t need John Fugelsang or whoever to provide us with homegrown samples of the common man’s embarrassment. Now we have it piped into our homes through our TVs, DVRs, phones, computers, and just about anything else with a wi-fi connection. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Paws of Fury — Kung-Fu Panda 2 (2011)

When the original Kung-Fu Panda hit theaters in 2008, it boldly defied the expectations of critics and fans long jaded by the antics of DreamWorks Animation’s other rotund franchise star (you know, the hippo from Madagascar…). With some lovely animation and sweeping action, Kung-Fu Panda was one of those rare kids movies that didn’t rely on fart jokes, pop culture references, and Eddie Murphy’s patented brand of equine jive talk. It was clever and funny and didn’t burn itself out on the cuteness of its own gimmick. In short, it was rather good.

And Shrekless though it may be, Kung-Fu Panda was still a box office smash, and ever so sequel-friendly. So it should be no surprise that Kung-Fu Panda 2 has arrived—seriously, no one should ever be shocked when successful movies get sequels… Terms of Endearment had a sequel, for pity’s sake. The real surprise is that Kung-Fu Panda 2 not only recaptures the fun of the first film, but also manages to surpass it here and there. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

The Hammer Didn’t Hurt Us – Thor (2011)

For the past two years, I’ve been dreading Thor’s arrival on the big screen. Unlike the other Marvel and DC superheroes, Thor can’t coast on the well-traveled formula of:

A.)  Ordinary man experiences tragedy (dead parents, dead uncle, dead planet, etc.)

B.)   Man gains superpowers (optional… financial wealth is an acceptable backup)

C.)   Man dons suit, fights crime (and sets up sequel)

Nay, Thor is a different beast entirely. And ever since the success of Iron Man back in 2008—and its set-up of the entire Avengers movie saga—fans and filmmakers alike have been pondering how to sell the concept of a hammer-wielding Norse god who travels from the mystical realm of Asgard to protect us feeble mortals here on Earth (aka Midgard). Let’s be real here: this could have gotten really ugly, really fast. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

I Came, I Saw, I Conquered: Part 5 — Saw V (2008)

“Who is Hoffman, again?”

–Elysse, after reading my Saw IV review

At this point, you can basically divide a Saw movie up into three plotlines. There’s the traps plot, where some poor schmuck has to endure a circus of mutilation on the path to self-discovery. Then there’s the police plot, where John/Amanda/Hoffman play mind games with the latest Keystone Kop assigned to the Jigsaw murders. And finally, there are the flashbacks, in which the filmmakers fill in the plot holes from the previous films, often creating some new holes in the process (isn’t that always the way?). As this franchise progresses, the walls between these three camps grow higher and higher, until only a critic with Mongol-like tenacity can possibly hope to scale them. Which brings us to Saw V… Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Retrospectives, Reviews

After 15 Years, the Franchise Isn’t Hoarse Yet… — Scream 4 (2011)

There’s something oddly reassuring about the existence of Wes Craven’s Scream 4. After all, we live in an age where every notable horror movie is guaranteed a remake. It would be the height of naiveté to think that, as Scream 4 was gearing up, some development exec at Dimension Films wasn’t pondering if they could get away with erasing that pesky #4 and starting from scratch.

But while Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Craven’s own Freddy Krueger got fresh new starts (or rotten ones, to be honest), Ghostface and the movie-loving killers that embody him have been allowed to continue what they started back in 1996. And unlike most long-gestating sequels—that other folly of the 2000s—Scream 4 is surprisingly enjoyable. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

The Incident at Tower 37

Today is the online premiere of The Incident at Tower 37, an award-winning short film written and directed by Bit Films founder Chris Perry.

Set at a water processing plant in some barren dystopian future, Tower 37 is a wordless, poignant examination of the ideas of water usage and ownership, and the high price of taking natural resources for granted. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under News, Recommendations

Michael Gough, 1916-2011

Michael Gough, a veteran actor of stage and screen, passed away today at the age of 94. While Gough appeared in over a hundred films during his sixty-five year career, he is best remembered for his performance as Alfred Pennyworth, Batman’s faithful butler, in the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batman series, starting with Batman in 1989, and continuing with Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), and Batman & Robin (1997). The litany of flaws with Batman & Robin is lengthy and notorious, but Michael Gough’s dignified performance as Alfred is not one of them. Through all four films, he brought a quiet dignity to the role that elevated every scene he was in. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under News

The Good, the Bad and the Chameleon – Rango (2011)

Animated films, especially in the digital age, thrive on the ability to merge classic narrative threads with visually captivating characters and worlds. How to Train Your Dragon is a simple boy-and-his-dog story inflated to an epic scale, while A Bug’s Life is Seven Samurai miniaturized. And with the release of Rango, director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean) and writer John Logan (The Aviator)—backed the animators at Industrial Light & Magic—have set their sights on the spaghetti western.

But Rango isn’t just a straight-up homage, a la Kung-Fu Panda for example. On top of the formulaic “stranger rides into town” plot at the film’s heart, there are elements of the Muppets, Chinatown, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and even The Hills Have Eyes. Needless to say, there’s a solid level of oddness going on here, and Verbinski wisely heads it all up with Johnny Depp, an actor who knows how to handle oddness. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews