Saturday, August 24, 2013

Our Lips Are Sealed

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)
Director: Jonathan Levine
Rating: R

I first heard about this movie after reading another review of it over on Twins Of Evil. I was intrigued. I had not heard of any of the actors involved, nor had I heard of the director (who has since directed 50/50 and Warm Bodies). The movie had not been released in theaters in the US, and has never been made available for Region 1 DVD. Having hunted down a copy of it and watching it, I can't understand why it wasn't released in the States. 

It's your average slasher movie. Teenagers travel out to the country, they party, they get wasted, they get picked off one by one as the night wears on into daylight. 

That's right, some of the slasher killings happen during broad daylight. Which doesn't happen often in these kind of movies. There's no flinching away from the violence, but I can honestly say that I've seen far worse. 

So why wasn't is given a release date until just recently? 

Well, the Weinstein Company sold it to another production company that went bankrupt. Stuff happened. It got picked up by a UK home entertainment label and released on DVD and BluRay, but we poor suckers here in the US got zilch. Until now, when the guys at Dimension Films decided to help those who haven't seen Mandy Lane to get their chance at it.

That's right. Mandy Lane has a new 2013 release date for VOD and a theatrical run. October, 2013 for a limited release in theaters, and September, 2013 on VOD. 

But why should you care at all about a movie that was stuck in limbo for seven years? Is it worth it?

I actually think it is. Mandy Lane starts off with an accident that alters a friendship between Mandy (Amber Heard) and Emmet (Michael Welch—the guy who played Mike Newton in the Twilight movies—no, don't run away!). Emmet obviously likes Mandy in ways she doesn't reciprocate. The timeline skips ahead nine months and Mandy has moved on to newer, more popular friends. And, yes, all the boys do love Mandy Lane. She's pretty, she's quiet, she's never been on a date with anyone. So, like every other gross-out teen comedy movie, the main guys in the movie all swear they're going to totally bang Mandy Lane if she joins them on the weekend trip to one a ranch house. 

Their conversation makes me uncomfortable and the look Amber Heard gives them all, a little shy and friendly, kind of breaks my heart. She just wants some friends who won't treat her like an object. 

And yet, she's surrounding herself with these superficial, mean people who are treating her like an object. As the narrative goes on, you wonder exactly what Anson Mount's character (Garth) does later on in the movie: Why do you hang out with these people?

She's mum about it. She just quietly listens to her "friends" say stupid things to each other, smoke dope, drink too much, and snort prescription drugs. They're all pretty flawed people. 

Bird (Edwin Hodge) manages to catch a moment alone with Mandy where he warns her that "they're all trying to get with you." He is less gross about his interest in her. He asks to hold her hand. They walk together for a little ways, and he asks if he can kiss her. Mandy offers up her cheek with a smile, and Bird just kisses her cheek. It's actually a sweet moment. Before anything else can happen, they're interrupted by Garth, the ranch hand, who offers to drive them the rest of the way.  

The other characters aren't that important. Just Garth, because Mandy is intrigued by him. She's dared to go ask him to join them all in the main house for drinks and ends up talking to him some more. 

Two people go missing during the night. Then another. There's gunfire and one of the girls gives Mandy some kind of pill that makes her drowsy. Morning comes, the last two teens are offed in broad daylight, and we learn the twist. Then there is a twist on the twist. 

The film is very pretty to look at. The soundtrack is very pretty to listen to. It's a teen slasher movie that's pretty. The effects are practical and pretty spectacular. But do you know what sold me on it? 

The opening title card. Have a look:

The splatter is animated. It looked like the cover of a horror novel I might pick up at the used bookstore. So I kept watching. 

And I ended up liking it. It had its fair share of clich├ęs, but I was so taken with Amber Heard's quiet performance and curious about where this was all going that I went with it. For my memory, I'm hard pressed to think of a more recent horror movie where the filmography was so appealing to look at. 

Give it a shot on VOD in September, or go see it in theaters in October. 

Check out the trailer:

Friday, July 12, 2013

Just Forget This One

Dead Like Me: Life After Death (2009)
Director: Stephen Herek
Rated: R

Dead Like Me was a great Showtime series created by Bryan Fuller, creator of the new NBC series (which got picked up for a second season) Hannibal, the fantastic and woefully short-lived ABC series Pushing Daisies, and the even shorter lived Wonderfalls on FOX. Wonderfalls only lasted a couple of episodes, but the full series is available on DVD, and it's pretty good. Overall, Bryan Fuller's creations are unique and really fulfilling to watch. 

So, how could a straight-to-DVD movie about Reapers go wrong?

By having one of the worst stories ever, by ignoring two seasons worth of character development, by retconning established canon, by having a flimsy plot, and by focusing on George's family yet again. Overall, it's like watching someone's bad fanfiction put to film. 

The one beef I had with the TV series was the constant focus on George Lass's family. I was far more interested in how she coped with taking people's souls and seeing so much death on a daily basis. But the show insisted on going back and revisiting her family as her parents' marriage fell apart and her sister refused to accept George's untimely death. At first, it was a nice way to show how George was moving on and becoming a better Reaper, but the show continued to refocus on this family learning to accept their loss—to the point where it became a little repetitive. I mean, I understand how it was important to show how a family moves on, but they devoted a lot of screen time to them that just made me feel a little impatient.

But that's my gripe about the show. This blog entry is about the "movie."

It starts off poorly with a terrible motion comic recounting the story about the toad and the frog that George relates in the first episode, and moves on to a sudden change of venue. Der Waffle Haus, the daily meeting location of the main Reapers, has burnt down off screen. We also discover that Rube has received his lights and moved on. Off screen. The team is sent to a posh restaurant to meet up with their new head Reaper, Cameron, and find out that he's obscenely rich and prefers the hands-off approach to leading them in their daily assignments. Which he gives them digitally instead of through the old Post-It note method. 

Everything falls apart once this change in leadership happens. Roxy saves the life of her reap—something that is not supposed to be done because (as it is explained in the first episode of the series) once a person's number is up, their soul is liable to rot within their body if it is not reaped when it's supposed to be reaped. This is something that Roxy would never do in the show's canon. She becomes enamored with the attention she receives for saving the man's life, and it feels nothing like the Roxy we know. 

Daisy, played by a different actress than the one in the show, has lost all two seasons of her character development. We're back to watching the Daisy of the first few episodes of her introduction. She is selfish, opportunistic, loud, careless, and doesn't take her work seriously. She feels like a totally different character and it's insulting to watch after seeing Daisy's character as a broken, thoughtful, and (eventually) caring individual who sees George as something of a little sister. Daisy in the movie makes her reap on time, but shirks the responsibility of leading him to his lights in favor of selfish reasons. The result is the creation of a ghost—something that never happened in the show.

Mason's problem is that he allows himself to be recorded getting shot by a robber on a convenience store surveillance camera. In the incident, he gets right back up and ends up robbing the cash register (I don't remember exactly what happened, but I refuse to watch this movie again, so that's that). This does slightly reminded me of the episode where he spent the entire time telling a group of goth people about how he was a Reaper ("Rites of Passage"), or when he confessed the same to a hot record store employee ("Rest In Peace"). But, once again, this means that Mason's character development has just vanished.

I've seen reviews of this that claim that everyone is back to their old ways, but that seems like something that would only have worked if this movie happened before the second season. 

George gets fired from her job at Happy Time by Delores and throws herself into her reaping. We see that her mother, Joy, is now a grief counseling guru (disregarding her growing reputation as someone who is the best ever at organizing stuff) and her sister, Reggie, is in a secret relationship with the high school football star. The same high school football star that George has to reap. 

As with almost every reap in this movie, something goes wrong and George is forced to hang out at the hospital and try to reap this kid every once in a while. She ends up revealing herself to her sister to stop her from committing suicide and there is a lot of retconning nonsense that goes on in this A plot. 

In the B plot, Roxy and the others grow wise to Cameron's manipulations and try to kill him for good. In a sequence that goes on for far too long, they end up cutting him into little pieces (we don't see this happen, but it's implied when Mason goes and gets a chainsaw) and burning it all into a pile of ash that they shoot out into space along with the ashes of Delores's cat. And that's the end of that conflict. It would have been more satisfying if they had found a way to contact the higher ups about the problem and we could have seen how things are handled by upper management. 

Those questions we all had of where the lists come from, and what happened Betty when she jumped into that one guy's version of the afterlife ("Reaping Havoc") are all left unanswered. I wanted to know these things. I wanted to know what the "lights" were like for an evil person. I wanted to know why George could reap gravelings. I wanted to know if that meant she could reap other Reapers. I wanted to know who upper management was. I wanted to see more reaping divisions. In the show, Mason talks about how easy the plague division has it, but I want to know more. Is their quota as high as external influence? Or are they forced to stay on this plane of existence for even longer? 

None of my questions or your questions from the series are answered. 

Add to that the fact that canon was mostly ignored and you've got a terrible addition to the Dead Like Me universe. 

Sure, the sets are great and the dialogue is fine (except Daisy). But overall, this is one to avoid. All it did was make me disappointed in the worst way. I regret watching it. Skip this one, folks, even if you're a fan of Dead Like Me.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Narration Noir

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Director: Shane Black
Rated: R

I love those old movies that have the main character doing voice overs on top of the whole thing. I love Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. I love murder mysteries and characters that are much stronger than people think.

Ergo, I love this movie.

The cast and characters are terrific. Our main characters are Harry Lockhart, Perry Van Shrike (given the nickname Gay Perry—because he's gay) and Harmony Faith Lane. Just look at those names and tell me you don't think this movie's already awesome. I triple dog dare you.

It even starts out with an adorable scene starring Indio Downey, Robert Downey Jr's son, as a young Harry Lockhart. He's performing as "Harold the Great" to the crowd at the fair with Harmony Faith Lane as his assistant. It's going all normal until Harmony starts screaming like... Well, like the chainsaw is actually cutting her in half. Freaked out, Harry starts working on the padlock that closes the box. When Harmony's father get's up to the stage and the box is opened, we all find out that Harmony just had her legs safely tucked up as high as they would go. And what does this precocious and undeniably adorable little girl have to say about this to her freaked out dad and magician best friend?

"I'm going to be an actress."

Dad raises his hand to backhand her and the credits start with some gorgeous jazzy music by John Ottman. He also did the music for The Usual Suspects, another one of my all-time favorite crime mystery movies.

In all honestly, I consider the opening credits to be one of the other highlights of this movie. They remind me of some old Saul Bass title sequences.

As soon as the credits finish we're introduced to adult Harry. In Los Angeles. He tells us he'll be our narrator for the duration of the movie. It's Christmas time* and he's at a party where he doesn't know a single person other than his agent, Dabney Shaw (played by the hi-larious Larry Miller). He barely knows Dabney in the first place. Why?

Because the entire reason Harry is in LA with Dabney Shaw as his agent was due to a stroke of luck (sort of). He was originally robbing a closed toy store with a friend whilst on the phone with his neice, Chloe, who was trying to describe a Cyberman doll she wanted for Christmas. Which makes me wonder, to this day, if Harry has a sister (or brother) still back in Indiana... But that's not really important. What's important is the alarm hack slips and he and his partner in crime go running.

In escaping the police, Harry quite literally bursts into an audition for some sort of cop drama. He gets wound up during his cold read, delivers an outstanding performance, and gets flown to LA to get detective lessons from "Gay Perry."

Cut back to the party.

"Uh, I'm retired. I invented dice when I was a kid."

I'm jumping the gun here, but Harmony is at the same party.

She finds out that the host of the party has a collection of all the Johnny Gossamer pulp novels she used to read as a kid.

And Harry is introduced to Perry after getting his ass kicked by a sleazy guy all in the name of Harmony's honor (it just so happens that Harry didn't recognize her). I love how this short conversation between Harry and Perry sets the tone between them for the rest of the movie. Meaning, Perry sounds smart and witty and Harry sounds like an idiot in comparison. 

"One of these days I'm gonna learn how to fight."

Perry helps patch up our hapless hero in the kitchen of the main house and explains the reason why there's a party at Harlan Dexter's home in the first place. We soon learn that, in no uncertain terms, Perry is Awesome®.

After leaving the party and getting a lead from Perry on where Harmony might be, Harry comes across a club. He immediately runs into this chick named Flicka who plays a vital role in a tiny scene later on. She, like every other LA girl, asks Harry what he does.

"I'm a private detective."

Flicka politely leaves him and Harry scans the crowd for that more-than-familiar dark blonde "gal." Yes, he calls her a "gal," and I find that incredibly endearing. The way he speaks, in general, is adorable. For example:

"Wow, I feel sore. I mean physically, not like a guy who's angry in a movie in the 1950's."

Harry finds Harmony at the bar and, after some humorous back-and-forth that's interrupted by Harmony's "scary friend," Harmony pulls some impressive faces and tells Harry who she is and how she totally remembers him.

Herp derp.

Those are the three main characters right there. The important ones. And Flicka.

Here's the thing: if they re-released this movie this year, Shane Black and Warner Brothers would make a mint. Robert Downey Jr is such a huge star right now, and all of us who love this movie would definitely go see it in the theater. 

Everything in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang just gels. The snappy dialogue, the glittering visuals, the characters that these actors play... I already have this soft-spot for Val Kilmer (I loved Willow) but his no-nonsense, hard ass, snarky Gay Perry is probably the best thing he's ever done. It's also refreshing to have a gay character who is not made up entirely of stereotypes (though he does end up perpetuating a couple, his character is not one-dimensional). Perry is a badass. He is the smartest character in the movie, and at the end of it all you want to see more of him. Especially after the scene where he confronts Harmony's father.

"Yeah, that's right. Big tough guy."

The story is not so much about the mystery of the murder as it is about Harry Lockhart's journey through the detective story. It's about him finishing something. He mentions to Harmony how he cuts out before the finish to avoid conflict, and this is his journey to see the conflict through to the bitter end. 

This is about Harry leaving his comfort zone. 

The DVD is great. Though it lacks any behind the scenes stuff, there's a hilarious (and long) gag reel and a commentary track with Robert, Val, and Shane. I wish every movie made came with these two special features. When Tropic Thunder came with the same kind of extras (including Robert taking his line "man, I don't drop character 'til I done the DVD commentary" literally), I immediately bought a copy just for the extras. Really, it's these extras that make me buy the DVD—if a movie I watched comes out on DVD, but doesn't have special features, I will end up not buying the DVD. Because, to me, it isn't worth it. 

The point of this post is this: buy the DVD. See the movie. It's charming and smart and worth multiple watches. There are things you'll notice on repeated viewings. Take a shot with it. It's one of my top five all-time favorite movies. 

Maybe even number one. 

But that's another post entirely.

*As this movie is set during Christmas (something Shane Black seems to like doing), it gets added to that list of movies that I watch every year. So: Rudolph, Die Hard, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Thy Fearful Symmetry

Burning Bright (2010)
Director: Carlos Brooks
Rated: PG13

I dug up this film while going through Garret Dillahunt's IMDb page—trying to find at least one movie he'd been in where he wasn't a bad guy. The man is typecast, I swear. I found this recent (sort of) title and, having never heard of it (despite its original premise), decided to check it out.

It's about a young woman and her autistic brother trapped in a boarded-up house with a Bengal tiger during a hurricane.

Trust me, it's actually pretty good.

The film opens with a cameo by Meat Loaf. He's not in the credits, but it's kind of hard to miss the guy when you're from my generation. Dillahunt's character, Johnny, is trying to buy a Bengal tiger for his safari venture and Meat Loaf is warning the man about the danger of the specific tiger he's got in the cage. It's attacked people before.

There are two things going on here. Johnny has spent, like, all of the family's money (he's the stepfather—the mother committed suicide) on this safari thing and has basically wasted it all. Our protagonist, Kelly (Briana Evigan), needs to send her brother to a hospital for his special needs, however, and they can't afford it. She has a scholarship for college, but must start within the next semester because she has cited family issues to defer twice beforehand. Which means she is putting off college to take care of her little brother. She confronts her stepfather and they argue.

The second plot point is the coming hurricane. The house is boarded up tight and Kelly falls asleep. She wakes during the storm, finds a note from Johnny saying that he went to the store, and then sees a huge Bengal tiger cross the hallway. Did I mention that he's been starved for a while now?

She can't leave the house because it's all boarded up from outside. She can't get through to emergency services on her cell phone because the call volume is so high during the hurricane. Spoiler, Johnny is the one who let the tiger loose in the house. He has hunkered down in a bar for the duration of the storm—possibly with the intention of collecting the insurance money in the event of the kids' deaths.

Pictured: an utter douchebag

And he would have gotten away with it had Kelly been less resourseful. There is a brilliantly filmed moment where she's hiding from the tiger in the laundry chute—her bare feet sliding and gripping the metal as the animal prowls below, peeking up the laundry chute when he hears her.

It's not a masterpiece of a movie. It drags here and there and the plot is a little questionable (did Meat Loaf just advertise "man-eating tiger" on CraigsList or something?). But it is a bit of a unique twist on the old "killer in the house" trope. Because of the hurricane, Kelly can't simply grab her brother and run outside. She can't get through to the authorities because emergency services is too clogged up. Dialogue kind of suffers, though, in place of these riveting moments with the tiger. The tiger, himself, is cleverly filmed. This is not a computer generated animal. This tiger is real and very menacing. Remember the scene with the tiger in Gladiator and how that was so cool? Okay, maybe not, but my point is that the filming technique in Burning Bright is something worth seeing.

Now, is this movie worth buying? Well, the DVD comes with special features, so it is. In my mind, a DVD has infinite re-watchability if it includes something like a behind the scenes documentary or a commentary track. So, check it out. The set-pieces with the tiger alone are very much worth seeing. And it's a clever take on the "killer in my house" trope since Kelly can't leave due to the hurricane. Even if she managed to get outside the house, where the hell is she going to go to get out of the storm?

Nowhere, that's where. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

That French Horror Film That I Will Never Watch Again

Martyrs (2008)
Director: Pascal Laugier
Rated: R

Let me begin this review with a little story. Back in 2008, I watched this French movie called High Tension and I decided that I rather liked the French horror genre. So I followed that up with Frontier(s), which had waaay more gore in it than I'm used to. That was sort of the signal to "stop," but I didn't pay it any attention. I was enjoying a new side of foreign film and thought the premise for Martyrs sounded interesting. So I checked it out.

I will never, ever, watch this movie again.

Once was enough.

The comparison of violence I witnessed in the last, oh, half hour of Martyrs to the entirety of High Tension is ridiculous. Martyrs put me through the emotional wringer and left me feeling limp and sick to my stomach. I cried for, like, a solid hour after watching this movie. Messy crying, too—none of that delicate "oh, let me dab at my eyes with this tissue" crap.

It is a beautifully shot movie. It is extremely well-acted. The special effects are so good that one scene in particular just had me gaping in terror instead of wondering how they did it. You know that moment when an awesome stunt happens and you wonder to yourself "how did they do that? How much corn syrup did they end up using?" That never happened while I was watching Martyrs. I was just sucked in. The story had a hold on me and I believed what I was seeing.

And I never want to see it again.

Here's the IMDb summary:
A young woman's quest for revenge against the people who kidnapped and tormented her as a child leads her and a friend, who is also a victim of child abuse, on a terrifying journey into a living hell of depravity.
"Tormented" is such a light word for them to use. No, she was tortured. But don't go comparing this in your head to Hostel or Saw. Those movies seem to celebrate their violence. Martyrs is shocking when the violence happens. It's not there to be celebrated, it's there to be a part of the story that's being told of this girl and her need for revenge and her only friend's difficulty coping with it. There was no letting up in it at all. There are no moments of tension-breaking humor and no cutaways to secondary characters on a second plot point. I wouldn't necessarily call it "meaningless," because there is a point to it—a story is being told about some terrible people who do terrible things for a specific reason to these girls.

Here is what one YouTube reviewer had to say about it:

I am only including a video for this particular movie because of how difficult it is to explain how good Martyrs is and how much I can't make myself watch it again. SlimmBob here does a pretty good job of letting you know the main story without spoiling plot points and showing just how emotionally drained it can make you.

Here's what I wrote for in November of 2009:
One for the strong of will…
...not the faint of heart or mind.
Not to give any plot points away, Martyrs is—succinctly—good. It's one of those films that you watch with your hands cupped over your mouth, tears pouring down your face... At no time did I ever lean back in my seat with relief. Not even at the end. In fact, I started at the credits dumbly until they finished.
It is a powerful film. The narrative unfolds slowly and halfway through it one is left wondering where this could possibly be going and how on earth can it get any worse than it already has? Then it does. The main character is plunged into a situation that I will not delve deeper into to save those who may watch. As a warning, you may only want to watch it once (as I did). While the characters resonate deeply with me and I am invested in both of their stories, I don't think I can watch this happen again. But I do recommend it for it's dramatic narrative. As far as story-telling goes, Martyrs weaves one hell of a tale that leaves the viewer thinking about the outcome for hours after you have turned the DVD player off.
As an avid horror film watcher, I am a poor gauge to measure how "gory" something is (after seeing so many I've gotten rather desensitized to the imagery and this, frankly, worries me). I'll put it this way: emotionally, by the end of it all, I felt like curling into a dark corner and crying for a while (and I did end up bawling for a some time). And yes, it is violent. The images in the last twenty to fifteen minutes were hard for me to watch, but I was just too transfixed (in the "Oh God, Oh God, Oh God" sense of the word) to turn away.
There is talk about remaking Martyrs for the American audience with the producers of Twilight, and to that I say: "Pppffffttt. That'll never happen."

And I hope it doesn't. Because a version of this movie that's palatable to America's current audience would be impossible to watch. They'd change the things that made the French version so chilling just to keep from offending anyone. They'd dumb it down. In fact, the guy they want to direct it, Daniel Stamm, said this:
"[The original film] is very nihilistic. The American approach [that I'm looking at] would go through all that darkness but then give a glimmer of hope. You don't have to shoot yourself when it's over."
That whole "there is no hope" thing was kind of part of the whole movie, so... No. Just, "no."

Plus, I'd have to watch it again.

And I won't do that.

I can't make myself recommend this one to everyone. It was an excellent example of filmmaking, but it was just so... If your curiosity has been piqued but you can't make yourself watch something that will either make you feel utterly depressed or sick, then go read Critical Dave's review of it (it's full of spoilers). If you can handle it? Do a little research on it first and watch it.

Here is the trailer:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Not Your Average Slasher Movie

Tucker & Dale Vs Evil (2010)
Director: Eli Craig
Rated: R

I recently came across this movie after browsing through the horror tag over on Trailer Addict, and I couldn't be happier for finding it. The premise of the movie is a flip on the tired old "college kids being hunted in the woods" one that we have seen over and over. Instead, the unfortunate hillbillies are mistaken for murderous kidnappers and are attacked by the college kids.

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are a pair of best friends set out to a cabin in the woods of West Virginia to fix it up as a vacation home and do a little fishing. Early on in the movie you get the feeling that these two have known each other since they were little kids (which is proven in a line of dialogue later on), and they are a pair of really likable guys. 

In parallel, we have the stereotypical college kids heading out to the backwoods to party. The usual horror tropes follow: the kids are nearly in a car accident as Tucker is pulling out in the road, the kids are off-put by Tucker's appearance at a gas station, and Dale accidentally scares the crap out of the kids by trying to flirt with Allison (Katrina Bowden) whilst inexplicably holding a scythe (he was given advice from Tucker to "smile and laugh" and the payoff is both hilarious and slightly sad). 

Let's be honest here. He's adorable.

So, plot things happen, Allison cracks her head on a rock while getting ready to go skinny dipping, Dale (who is night fishing with Tucker and trying not to peep at Allison while she takes her shirt off) jumps in and saves her from drowning, and her friends see this:

"We got your friend!"

They assume that Dale is trying to eat her face. Because they're kind of dimwitted. They run off, leaving Tucker and Dale to return to the cabin with Allison. They bandage her head, dress her in some less revealing clothes, and Dale makes her breakfast. Twice. 

Meanwhile, back with the college kids, they are all assuming the worst has happened to Allison. Chad, the "leader" of the group, vows revenge. One character, Chuck, decides to go back to the car to drive into town and get help. Upon finding Tucker's cabin, everyone assumes the worst. Everyone except Mitch (whose name I only know because it's on his shirt), who keeps interjecting with actual logic. Such as: "perhaps they took Allison to the hospital," and "it's just a cabin, it doesn't mean they're psycho killers." Mitch is therefore the only smart one of the bunch. But he's still nervous about just going in there alone.

To be fair, this place does remind me a lot of the cabin in Evil Dead.

Meanerwhile, after some awkward explanations, Allison and Dale end up playing a trivia game together while Tucker does some yard work. All while this is going on, Mitch is approaching the cabin to talk with either Tucker or Dale, and Tucker is using a chainsaw to break up a tree stump. Which has a bee's nest inside it. This leads to Tucker fleeing the immediate area all while swinging the chainsaw around like Leatherface and causes Mitch (and the others) to run in a panic.

This is when the insane accidental deaths start happening.

Back with the trivia game, we're given a little more insight into Dale. It's revealed that he is incredibly good at retaining information but never made it past the third grade. He considers himself stupid because of that fact. Allison tells him: "there's a difference between education and intellect." 

In general, Dale has very low self-esteem. We see Tucker often try and boost the guy's mood and point out the positives in Dale's personality, but it's hard to just suddenly gain self-worth when it's so easy to think negatively about oneself. It also doesn't help when Tucker loses his temper with Dale and blames him for some things. 

Allison then proceeds to nail the premise of the movie on the proverbial head when she says that: "so many of the major problems and conflicts in the world are caused by a lack of communication."

Such as: "we've got your friend."

Tucker returns, covered in bee stings, and tells Allison that he saw one of her friends while he was outside. Allison suggests she go find them herself, but Dale is rightfully concerned about her leaving considering she hit her head hard enough to knock herself out for quite a while. Instead, he and Tucker head out.

Then the group of college kids find Mitch and assume that Tucker and Dale killed him. 

There's a nice touch here where one character is starting to call someone on her cell phone, but Chad breaks it in a fit, claiming that it'll never work out in the woods. She could have gotten a through to someone if the idiot hadn't destroyed her phone—which is a nice turn on the "phones don't work out here" trope so often used in horror movies. 

Chad is starting to show signs of being, well, a little unhinged. It does not help whatsoever that he and the other college kids overhear an out-of-context conversation between Tucker and Dale. It really doesn't help when Dale decides it would be a good idea to leave them all a note to let them know that Allison is safe. 

It really, really doesn't help that Dale wrote the note with a freaking axe.

So things get worse. College kids die like they're competing for Darwin awards. Allison gets knocked unconscious again, Chuck finds a cop who was established earlier on in the movie, and shenanigans ensue.

Stupid: diving headfirst into a wood chipper. 

The movie just keeps escalating from here on out, and I won't give away anymore spoilers because it's worth watching. Alan Tudyk is perfect, Tyler Labine is a big ole softy, and Katrina Bowden is blissfully normal (especially in comparison to the other two girls who are pretty much just caricatures).

Essentially, Tucker & Dale Vs Evil is a spoof movie for the "creepy/murderous hillbillies" horror genre. I would have liked to have a better idea of who each of the college kids were, considering I didn't know half of their names. That, however, is the only complaint I have for the movie on a whole. Well, that, and one continuity issue regarding fingers that bothered me. I do recommend it, though. 
Watch it for Tucker and Dale.

All in all, Tucker & Dale Vs Evil is a fun movie to watch. Go buy it, rent it, or whatever it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Infinite Loops

Triangle 2009
Dir: Christopher Smith
Rated: R

I had a migraine by the time the end credits of this particular movie started. Because I felt like I'd been brained with the Confuse-O-Stick® and left to deal with what everything might mean in the consequences of the actions Jess (Melissa George) perpetrates. So this one's going to be shorter than usual. It starts off in a confusing place. I'd be more detailed about it all, but I'm still trying to patch the ragged quilt of plot together. It's not out of sequence in the way that Pulp Fiction was—where everything comes full circle and makes sense at the end. Everything does come full circle, but it still makes no sense.

Long story short, Jess is taking a boat trip with her friend Greg on a Saturday morning. She's preparing to leave and presumably takes her autistic son, Tommy, to school so he can be looked after while she's gone. But when she arrives at the dock, Greg can tell something is off with her because Jess looks incredibly confused. His other friends (Sally, Downey, Heather, and deckhand Victor) can't ignore her odd behavior and the girls rudely whisper like high school gossip hounds on the stern of the boat. At this point, even though I'm confused by Jess, I already really don't like Sally. I might have liked Heather if she'd spent more time in the movie. But that's giving away a plot point.

This is kind of like how I ended up looking by the end of this movie... Tired and confused.

They sail out until the wind just up and dies on them, and like in any good "scary" movie our heroes are headed right for a huge storm while stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Sure, they try calling the coast guard, but see it's an electrical storm so the radio is all messed up. Greg does get a hold of someone for a second who sounds distressed, but the storm capsizes the boat and Heather is missing when they all climb on the wreck and try to think about what to do next.

My question is: What was the point of Heather in the first place? I felt no emotional connection to her at all. She's a stranger to me and to Jess and Sally's frantic shrieking about her just makes me feel less. Because I do not like Sally. Sally needs to shut the hell up.

So they finally see this cruise ship heading toward them and climb on board when they see someone peek over the side on the upper deck. Jess keeps mentioning that she can't shake the feeling that she's been there before and everyone else doesn't believe her. She hears things in stereo at one point, finds her car keys on the floor, and they all split up once they reach the dining hall to see if they can find anyone to help them.

Since when is splitting up ever a good idea in these kind of movies?

Jess ends up on her own after a bit of an argument with Greg and, thanks to a mirror with "GO TO THE THEATER" written on it in blood, Jess eventually makes her way there. But not before an injured Victor tries to strangle her and she accidentally kills him when she shoves him away from her. Jess then runs to the theater and finds Sally and Downey screaming over Greg's body—saying she shot him and generally shrieking a lot. Both get shot by a masked figure and Jess runs.

She eventually fights the figure off and it warns her, muffled through the Scarecrow mask, that she needs to kill everyone to leave. Jess isn't having any of this nonsense and, after wresting the shotgun away, shoots this person and then watches as he/she falls overboard.

Then Jess sees the boat. The capsized boat she'd just been trapped on a few hours earlier. This means it was her that they'd all seen lean over the railing.

And so the infinite loop begins. Jess has to dodge her duplicate and find a way off the damn cruise ship. It just so happens that Scarecrow up there was right. Jess does have to kill all of these people to get back home to her son. So she dons the boiler suit, puts on the mask, and picks up the shotgun.

There are some really disturbing visuals of the piled-up bodies of Sally copies that just make me feel even more confused than I already was. Eventually, Jess reaches the point in the time loop where her "first" encounter with herself occurred. She lands in the ocean and wakes up on the beach back home.

I am still really confused.

Jess gets back home and, disturbingly, she overhears herself screaming at Tommy. Apparently she either blocked this from her memory or it's just another plot hole. In any case, Jess sneaks into her house and kills herself. In front of her son who, naturally, freaks out.

Is it considered "suicide" if you stuff your own body in the trunk and happen to be alive to do that?

Whatever. At this point I was glaring at the screen.

So after Mommy Dearest whacks herself and stashes the dead body in the trunk of the car, she proceeds to drive Tommy to school like nothing happened. She's telling him things will "be different" when a seagull rams into her windshield. Add this to the list of traumatic things Tommy's had to deal with in his morning. Jess gets out of the car to toss the gull over an embankment and we see a huge pile of seagulls much like the multiple Sally pile-up. My head really hurts at this point.

It gets worse. I'm just going to spoil the ending because I'm still a little mad at myself for watching this.

Because Tommy is upset about the bird blood still on the windshield, Jess is distracted and ends up steering into oncoming traffic. She is thrown from the car, but Tommy and her dead body are still in the wreckage. Strangely, she ends up standing near a taxi driver (who says nothing can be done for them) and asks him to drive her to the harbor.

Then the movie pretty much starts over.

Remember how I said Jess was a little out of it when she met Greg at the dock? Now we know it's because she's dealing with the whole "I killed my son" thing.

Rotten Tomatoes critics gave it 81% on the tomato-meter (out of 37 critics, 30 gave it a "fresh" and 7 said it was "rotten"). I happen to fall in the other 45% of the audience that did not like this movie. I will admit the acting from Melissa was (as always) great. Perhaps it was just that the story idea was too much for my tiny brain to wrap around—the idea of filling up a cruise ship with dead bodies until one different fractal finally lets her get home when she can save Tommy from herself. Granted, it's a new twist on the whole "stalker killer" trope, but I didn't like these characters.

I get tired thinking about Triangle. On a scale of "NO" to "AWESOME" I give it a half-hearted "Meh."