I WAS A TEENAGE NAZI-FUCKER (spoilers)
THE READER is the story of Michael Berg, a rich and successful German lawyer who is tormented that he cannot be emotionally open with the beautiful women he has sex with because when he was a kid he got sick and puked and a lady took him home and later he went to thank her but he accidentally saw her bush so he started to spy on her and then he helped her shovel coal and she gave him a bath but he got a boner so she got naked and they started to have sex every day and she liked him to read books to her but then she abandoned him and later when he was a law student he saw her in a war crimes trial and it turned out she had been a Nazi concentration camp guard who locked 300 people in a church and let them burn to death because she didn’t want them to escape and she took the blame for writing the report on it but he realized she didn’t know how to read but he was too afraid to speak up about it and she got a life sentence which made him feel guilty so decades later he started to send her tapes of himself reading books and she used those to learn how to read and then they were gonna let her out early anyway and he was gonna help her get a job but she hung herself so he took his daughter to her grave and started to tell her about it. the end. Best picture nominee, too. (read the rest of this shit…)
The third and final episode of the original Shaft trilogy is a little less classy without the direction of Gordon Parks, but it’s a hell of a fun sequel. After you’ve done one chapter that’s a good variation on the first one, might as well get crazy and fly off to another continent for part 3. You know Shaft has really earned his black James Bond stripes when he gets to go on an international adventure.
Early in the movie Shaft comes home to his building and somebody tells him some Africans are looking for him. He sees a guy in an African robe and ducks out of the elevator and seems proud of himself as he goes unmolested into his apartment. He hits his punching bag once and struts in but before he can relax the door is kicked down and there’s that huge African dude ready to beat his ass. (read the rest of this shit…)
APPALOOSA does have a little post 9-11 political relevance, but for the most part it’s a straight ahead western. I’ve talked to some people who thought it was too slow or needed more gunfights, so if that’s what you’re looking for, beware. It’s a character piece about two gunmen who’ve gotten real good at dealing with assholes and cleaning up small towns overrun with bandits and bullies.
If the cast was just nobodies it might not work, instead we got Ed Harris (also director) as Virgil Cole, Viggo Mortensen (not director) as trusty sidekick Everett Hitch. Virgil has aspirations to become a legitimate lawman, Hitch has an 8-gauge shotgun. They come into the town of Appaloosa to work for the elected officials who’ve been shoved aside by Jeremy Irons, a tyrant whose big shot status comes from claims he’s friends with Chester A. Arthur (come on, everybody uses that one). Him and his gang run the town, everybody’s afraid of them, the usual. So our boys become marshals and to everybody’s shock they have the balls to start arresting people, and the shit and fan quickly become intimates. (read the rest of this shit…)
After seeing Paul Not Thomas Anderson’s remake of DEATH RACE 2000 and finding it surprisingly enjoyable, I decided to finally go back and see that Kurt Russell movie he made more than ten years ago that I wanted to see but didn’t because everyone said was garbage. And maybe the lowered expectations helped, but I thought SOLDIER was a good one.
The movie begins in the ’90s with a group of babies being taken out of a hospital into military custody (wonder if the parents noticed?) where they will be raised to be super soldiers. The opening is a montage of these soldiers from infancy to their 40s, being indoctrinated, training and participating in various intergalactic conflicts. I was impressed that I could immediately tell which kid was supposed to be Kurt Russell. I thought they did an amazing job of finding a kid who looked like him, but then I found out they just cast his son, which is kind of cheating. Anyway this character’s name is Todd, but don’t worry, if you forget that it’s tattooed on his face, they all have their names and numbers tattooed on their faces. (I honestly think it would be cool if the movie was called TODD.) (read the rest of this shit…)
I stand writing this on a foggy street Monday night, wondering if Bush already left the White House forever, or if he’s staying the night. I heard he already had all his shit moved out – I usually stay up all night the night before moving, still packing. I guess he was in a hurry.
Not too long ago it was hard to picture this day. Remember, some people even worried there would be a terrorist attack and they’d declare martial law and the Bush reign of terra would continue. Ha ha, now we can save our paranoia for other things. God damn, I should’ve sold all those political expose books I got for Christmases. Nobody’s gonna take that shit off my hands now. I’d feel like an asshole even bringing them into Half Price Books. No more Bush documentaries either. We’re moving on.
The grocery store is draped with American flags – I don’t remember the inauguration being an event to celebrate at home before, but this year everybody’s taking the day off and getting up early. A local bakery is distributing cookies emblazoned with portraits of the Obamas, including the silhouette of a dog with a question mark over it. I drank the Obama Jones Soda but I’m not comfortable with the idea of crunching on the first family. (read the rest of this shit…)
Wrestling is so weird. It’s boxing, circus sideshow, cheesy stage play and soap opera all in one. The big time wrestling leagues try to drown the show in pyrotechnics and flashy computer animation on giant screens but alot of the appeal is still very old fashioned. It’s the circus. I went to a match one time and saw Andre the Giant. It wasn’t so much like seeing a star as like seeing a Greek god. Or maybe a sasquatch. There was a reason they called him “The 8th Wonder of the World.” These guys are not human, they’re super heroes.
Or it seems that way when you see them up close. But actually they are human. Greek gods might be able to toss lightning around all day without spraining anything, but not humans. God or evolution did not equip humans to break metal chairs over their heads every night, or break tables with their ribs. Wrestlers make their living by not following the proper care and maintenance instructions for the human body, and they always pay the price. (read the rest of this shit…)
MAX PAYNE is the story of the conveniently named Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg), a burnt out shell of a man working as “a glorified file clerk” in the dark caverns of the cold case department of the such and such police department. (IMDb says New York, I thought it was supposed to be one of those New York-like nameless Every-Cities, but whatever.) But actually he doesn’t work, he just spends his days gloomily trying to find out who killed his wife and baby an unspecified time period ago. (Long enough ago that his wife’s co-workers don’t recognize him.)
Everybody describes Max as this scary guy – they think he never sleeps, and at one point a guy compares interaction to him with kids holding their breath as they walk past a graveyard. But Wahlberg is in his regular grimacing badass mode. He’s cool but the way they talk about him he should be a walking mess of a man, not just a sculpted tough guy who doesn’t smile. Oh well. (read the rest of this shit…)
I believe there are different levels of slasher movies. There are the masterpiece ones like HALLOWEEN and TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE – ingenious, masterful works of art that happen to be about weirdos on murder sprees. Below that there are the perennial favorites, not necessarily on the same level but that I like to dig out every few years: FRIDAY THE 13TH sequels, SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, THE PROWLER, BLACK CHRISTMAS, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, THE BURNING, SLEEPAWAY CAMP, that kind of stuff. The best in that category are the ones that really master the mechanics of the form. They have great chase scenes, new and innovative forms of fake violence, spooky atmosphere and imagery. And then they usually have an unexpectedly weird touch or two, a few clever surprises, and maybe some laughs (usually unintentional, which is kind of better because I don’t like alot of clownin around in my horror).
Since almost all of the best are made in the ’70s and ’80s I have to admit that part of the appeal is a certain vibe, a nostalgia for that time period and a reaction to whatever modern form of slickness has developed in horror movies since. So I think for me and even moreso for alot of my horror purist buddies the old ones can get away with a level of crappiness that the new ones can’t. I got buddies who will go on and on about hating the characters in some modern horror movie and not believe me when I try to tell them that almost all of their favorite slasher movies from the ’80s were inhabited by characters who were just as obnoxious, but with different clothes and hair. (read the rest of this shit…)
In these trying times it’s hard to have any faith in a lowbrow movie delivering on a good high concept or even a classic standby. There’s just too many ways to fuck it up. You see all the wonderful explosions in the trailer for THE MARINE and you know it’s a pro-wrestler playing a soldier saving his fiancee or somebody from kidnappers, that seems like it should be easy to pull off. And then they fill the movie with lame comic relief and have the wrestler spend most of the movie walking around a field trying to track the bad guys before his brief stints of PG-13 revenge. It’s just boring.
Or more often they go in the other direction, they force in way too much. Like CRANK – I should be able to totally get behind a movie where Jason Statham has been pumped full of a drug that will cause his heart to explode if he does not keep his pulse rate constantly up, and therefore he has to get into all kinds of action and craziness. I know some people like that one but I guess I’m picky, I just can’t stand when they take an exciting premise like that and then seem to worry that unless they throw in ten thousand random quick cuts and split screens and CGI zooms and switches to black and white and video and shit that maybe somebody will get bored. Similar deal with DOOMSDAY which has just about everything you could want in a derivative sci-fi action yarn and then ruins every single one of them with terrible camerawork and editing. For me all that hyperactive shit and lack of thought put into visuals just ruins these movies. (read the rest of this shit…)
The first Shaft sequel has a very similar feel to the original, except that it turns more action packed in the last act. Once again it’s more of a straight detective story than the crazy blaxploitation movie Shaft’s reputation might imply. It all begins with a distressed phone call from an old friend. Next thing Shaft knows his buddy is dead and he’s caught protecting a lady in the middle of a fight to find 200 grand gone missing from a numbers racket.
Of course, Shaft is still a bad mother et al and, proving that he really is the black James Bond, he really starts to show his skills as a womanizer in this one. When he gets that call for example it just so happens that he’s in bed with that guy’s sister! At first that seems like a hell of a coincidence, but then when you consider Shaft’s lifestyle you realize that the chances of it happening are actually pretty high. In fact, here’s an even better example of how much Shaft gets around: In the theme song for this one there’s kind of a “shut yo mouth” moment where you hear a woman say, “He’s trouble, he’s been to my house!” Can you believe that? Even within his own theme song you can find at least one backup singer whose heart he’s broken. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a gal on percussion who just didn’t want to say anything. (read the rest of this shit…)