Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happy 3rd Birthday Ivanlandia!

It was three years ago today
When Emperor Ivan of Ivanlandia decided to stay…

Mighty & Glorious™

Random—but very relevant—Birthday-day quote of the week:
“All news is in one way or another a lie, a hype, a scam, and a distraction from the warm human faces and the gnarly nature of the now moment.”
From Rudy Rucker

Thanks to all our readers, commenters and most especially all those willing to risk public censure by “following” The United Provinces of Ivanlandia:
(but especially you)
(yeah, you)

Let us wrap up the flicks viewed in the first one-twelfth of 2012 (wow, what a macho bunch of movies!):

Heaven Knows Mr. Allison (1957; John Huston) In a recent post, I called this film “the best movie I know with the word ‘heaven’ in the title.”
Well, I was certainly wrong—this is NOT better than Leave Her to Heaven!
Actually, excepting about 15 minutes of Robert Mitchum’s marine scurrying about the jungles and beaches of a Jap-infested island, this movie is pretty bad; completely clunky propaganda—a recruiting film for the USMC and the Holy Roman Church.
But I can see why people of my mom’s generation think Heaven Knows Mr. Allison is great.

Terry Jones: The Hidden History of Rome (2002; TV) Jeez, what happened to the “little guy” in Ancient Rome is exactly what’s happening to the US of today!
Yipes, we’re goners.

Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom (2010; TV) Wow! These creatures are practically primeval!
And the dude who is living with them—keeping a bunch of “tame” wolverines in his home—
is gonna end up like “Grizzly Man,” all gobbled up by his “tamed” critters! You’ll see…

Bronson (2008; Nicholas Winding Refn) Holy shit, this is a new Ivanlandia fave!
Like an Alejandro Jodoworsky movie on PCP, it’s intense, brutal art about a man whose life is an ultraviolent performance art piece—and he’s “on” 24-7.
At the end, he’s his own Oscar. Really.

Christ on a crutch, Tom Hardy is a scary and fearless performer.
BEST “drop-in” music I’ve heard in a flick in ages, too, used to perfection, from Wagner’s “Gotterdamerung,” to early 1980s synth-pop.

Fookin’ brillo—jess waytch it, ya cunt!
Refn! Refn! Refn!
Gonna watch Refn’s Valhalla Rising again soon—like Bronson, it’s available via Nflix Streaming.

BTW, Bronson would be a good triple-feature with Andrew Dominik's Chopper and John Hillcoat's Ghosts of the Civil Dead.

A Colt Is My Passport (1967; Takashi Nomura) Despite the exquisite B&W cinematography, A Colt Is My Passport is only recommended for fans of 1960s Japanese gangster/assassin/yakuza flicks.
Chipmunk-cheeked Joe Shisido plays his usual cool and awesome self as a hitman on the run; and
the movie is fast-paced and quite excellent for the first 20 minutes; then it gets bogged down in a meandering, existential “doomed romance.”
The flick does pick up towards the end, though.

Drive, He Said (1970; Jack Nicholson) Finally available on DVD after being “missing” for decades! Jack Nicholson’s first directorial effort could almost be part of a weird experimental youth culture madness trilogy with The Trip (written by Nicholson) and Head (produced and co-written by Nicholson).
Drive, He Said will be the subject of its own Ivanlandia post soon….

A Safe Place (1971; Henry Jaglom) Kooky! Quirky! Whimsical! Boring.
And eventually, selfishly self-pitying and self-indulgent: A snooze.
As usual Tuesday Weld gives 110%, but to what end when so much of the story is given over to her incomprehensible romance with a square, wet blanket of a fellow.
He must have a ginormous shlong because there’s no other reason she could be going out with him.
It’s really too bad Jack Nicholson and Weld didn’t have more scenes together, because there are genuine sparks flying—or else in them Weld has a good actor to play against.

A Huey P. Newton Story (2001; Spike Lee) The first 45 minutes are perfect: exciting, intriguing, challenging—yes, a filmed theater piece, but one gussied-up with lots of projections and superimposed visuals creating an almost experimental energy—cemented by the intense performance given by Lee regular Roger Guenveur Smith (who also wrote the show). But after a certain point, there’s just too much damn padding!
Needs a trim…and I really liked the beginning, too…

Star Wars Uncut: Director’s Cut (2011~1977/1997; George Lucas & a million other people)
Whew! An amazing meta-textual post-modern recreation/refraction that if anything, increases the joy.
A wonderful experience, and subject of a future Ivanlandia post…But view it HERE first.

11 Harrowhouse (1974; Aram Avakian) This offbeat and languidly-paced caper/thriller is best for fans of Charles Grodin’s supercool detachment (the actor also wrote the script). His narration is beyond snide, but the movie is well-supported by James Mason as a sympathetic jewel man.

Director Avakian really only made three films: this one, 1973’s Cops and Robbers (written by Donald Westlake) and End of the Road (1970), adapted from John Barth’s novel by Terry Southern.
Avakian’s films were always well-written (look who worked on them!) and ambitious, but never pretentious—with game casts doing top work.
His flicks have a kind of “shaggy dog” feel to them, with thoughtful paces—like other 1970s-ish directors Frank Perry, Hal Ashby or John Cassavettes.

Never successful enough to flame out spectacularly,
Avakian left directing for teaching, and returned to editing films (where he had been before directing). I wish he’d made more films.

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973; Sam Peckinpah) Netflix is showing the pan-&-scan truncated “studio cut”—yes, the “director’s cut” is better, but even in a bastardized state, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid is still an incredible film, a goddamn poem, man.

Hellboy-Animated: Blood & Iron (2007; Victor Cook, Tad Stones) I’m a big fan of the comic book, but neither Guillermo del Toro’s films or these animated versions have really captured my imagination the way Mike Mignola’s printed work does. I love his style!
However, I strongly recommend the Mignola-art directed animated short The Amazing Screw-On Head: magnificent stuff!

Went the Day Well? (1942; Alberto Cavalcanti) Referenced often in the last few weeks over at the excellent and highly recommended Rupert Pupkin Speaks! site, Went the Day Well? is a proto-The Eagle Has Landed/Red Dawn
but made during the war, with no way of knowing how things will turn.

As such, this is incredible and often moving agitprop, equal in excitement and political mindfuck to The Battle of Algiers.
Went the Day Well? can be weirdly brutal quite often, with sudden—almost surreal—violence leaping out. And the film is to be commended for its willingness to kill everybody. Watching this, you get the feeling that no one is safe.
Some of the characters are such “continental boobs” that you start feeling the flick is a mad prayer for the end of Edwardian England, but then you see they are portrayed as idiots to make their sacrifices so much more harrowing.
It seems a new print of Went the Day Well? is making the rounds in Los Angeles, but for the rest of us, the film is available on-line HERE.

The Set-Up (1949; Robert Wise) Robert Ryan is perfect (as usual) as a beautiful loser with big dreams doomed to fail. Director Wise guides this movie in real time covering a gamut of sleaze as Ryan’s boxer is betrayed by his manager—the flick is almost impeccable, with incredible B&W cinematography, and extras cast right out of a Bruegel painting.

Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964; Stanley Kubrick) Every single frame is classic.

Red Tails (2012; Anthony Hemingway—and George Lucas) Subject of a future Ivanlandia post, this gung-ho flick is the most spectacular USAF advertisement specifically aimed at the black community. I had fun watching it, and am glad I caught it on a big screen in a theater.

The Dead Zone (1983; David Cronenberg) Haven’t seen this since it was first released, and… Gosh, the movie just seems so…tepid.

And just to keep everything organized,
here’s the list of the other films screened by The National Film Board of Ivanlandia during the month of January 2012:
(BTW, rather than go through the hassle of hyperlinking every gee-dee movie, if one movie is hyperlinked, but the movies under it aren’t—they are all reviewed during the same post.)

The Wild Bunch (1969; Sam Peckinpah)
Dr. No (1962; Terence Young—and Albert R. Broccoli & Harry Saltzman)
Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings (2011; Declan O’Brien)
The Swarm (1978; Irwin Allen)
Drive (2011; Nicholas Winding Refn)
Trespass (1992; Walter Hill)
White Hunter Black Heart (1990; Clint Eastwood)
MST3K: The Beatniks (1992)
The Big Boss (1971; Wei Lo)
Perversion Story (a.k.a. One on Top of the Other) (1969; Lucio Fulci)
Bored to Death Season One (2009; created by Jonathan Ames)
Detective Story (2007; Takeshi Miike)
Punishment Park (1971; Peter Watkins)
Melvin Goes to Dinner (2003; Bob Odenkirk)
Breaking Bad Season Four (2011; created by Vince Gilligan)
Mars (2010; Geoff Marslett)
Machine Gun McCain (1969; Giuliano Montaldo)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reed ’Em & Weep: The Worst of 2011

Not Contrarianism, But Genuine Dislike:
(if I hated ’em, you should, too)
In a list, the worst:
American: The Bill Hicks Story
Battle: Los Angeles
The Resident
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

These are the worst because they represented such colossal wastes of potential—on paper, I could see these movies working (maybe)—
Or else were hyped way out of proportion to their actual values—
Or else it was a case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” where I just can’t see what everyone else is marveling over (that, or maybe it’s the blows to the head I’ve taken over the years…).
Or else they were just BAD—I mean of absolutely no redeeming Ivanlandic value: boring, stupid and without entertainment value. These films made me angry because they were a complete waste of my time.

With The Worst, I tried to stick to those flicks released in or near 2011—no need to pick on Mr. No Legs again—and I didn’t include those unmentionable movies that I turned off after 15 or 20 minutes: that just doesn’t seem fair—who knows, it could have turned out great!

[There are flicks I no love that I despised while watching until about an hour in (and now I see how awesome that first hour is, knowing that the movie pays off), for example, Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street.
Until about, say, the 65 minute mark, I hated this movie—then something clicked, and I LOVED it:
Everything started making perfect sense, and the performances, especially those from the godlike Edward G. Robinson and eternal sneering badboy Dan Duryea, became brilliant.
That said, there is no reason I can think of to go and have a second screening of Your Highness….]

But enough yapping about perfect examples of cinematic magnificence, onto the crap!

The Resident (2011)—Hammer Films’ “big comeback” is worse than the company’s zero-budget dreck from their early-1970s low point, like The Satanic Rites of Dracula.
Review HERE

Inception (2010)—Maybe if I’d seen this over-hype postmodern tribute to Philip K. Dick in a theater, I might have been impressed, but the dialog was flat-out exposition, and it’s impossible for me to see Leo DeCraprio as anything but a petulant and constipated pinch-face.
Review HERE

Rubber (2010)—A smarmy waste of potential that has utter contempt for the genre and for its audience. Awful, just awful.
Review HERE

Somewhere (2010)—THIS won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival? WTF?!?
Sofia Coppola better get back to adapting contemporary novels—writing about “what she knows” ain’t cutting it anymore. Somewhere was nowhere.
I love what Carson Reeves writes on Somewhere at his awesome website Script Shadow:
“When you’re asking people to pay ten bucks for your movie, a cohesive storyline is required. Or a goal. Or a purpose. Or a point. Somewhere is a film that feels cobbled together from random dailies and rehearsal takes.”

American: The Bill Hicks Story (2009)—I’m a big fan of the late comedian, and am already familiar with his life and routines—there was very little new this documentary had to offer me—and the cutesy animated bits were actually quite distracting.

Meanwhile, I was surprised at how little of Hicks’ stand-up was actually presented. I got the feeling that the legal or financial rights to a lot of footage was unavailable, like his performance on the late-1980s Impact Video Magazine.

And how was this documentary for someone unfamiliar with Hicks and his work? Well, the Missus of Ivanlandia had only heard a handful of the comedian’s routines before seeing his, and she, too, was very disappointed.

Another reason to include this mediocre movie on the worst list is because its existence will prevent a better, more comprehensive documentary on Hicks from being made for a long, long time.

Monsters (2010)
Skyline (2010)
Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
Wonderful effects ruined by cruddy scripts—
I most certainly love alien invasions, spaceships, monsters, mass destruction and colossal loss of human life in my movies, but these flicks made me gnash my teeth in frustration:
Their scripts were all willfully stupid, with unrealistic dialog that was beyond cliché, and without fail the characters were so unlikeable (or underwritten), I was constantly praying for their deaths.

Yes, the effects are stunning—but their exquisite quality and detail only further points out how little the filmmakers cared about the scripts of their movies,
and that’s why I would like to take all the effects-heavy moments (about 30 minutes from each flick, I guess), then edit/intercut them together; except start one of the films completely out of sequence—keep the films’ original music and sound effects, but lose all but the most rudimentary dialog. Trim it to 75 minutes (not including any credits), then have American-International release it and title it “Invaders From the Fifth Dimension”—

Lemme tell ya, as incomprehensible and post-modern as that mish-mosh I’ve conjured up might be, it would be a lot more fun than Monsters, Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles as they are now.

Dogtooth (2009)
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)
And these two are The WORSTEST of 2011!

Everywhere else in the blogosphere and beyond, these two movies were loved more than a drowning man loves oxygen, and for the life of me, I cannot see why. Did I see the same movies those other critics did? Do I not get it because I didn’t take enough “film theory” classes in college? Or is it because I haven’t sublimated my own personality to jibe with whatever “zeitgeist” is happening?

I’d heard and read good things about Dogpoop and Uncle BoreMe, and on renting them, I wanted to like them—I want to like every movie I rent! I do not get joy out of seeing a bad movie.

But these movies? Oy.
Dogtooth’s idea-free imitation of David Lynch was 25 years too late to be relevant; and Uncle Boonme was molasses-paced quasi-beatific religious hokum

Whatever subject matter contained in either film could have been presented more effectively in a 10-minute short—self-conscious and pretentious ambiguity (which both flicks WALLOW in) is more welcome in a short film: in a feature-length pic, it’s cruel and unusual punishment.

Here’s what I wrote about Dogtooth in February 2011:
I fucking HATED Dogtooth. Art school wankery, through and through.
Antonioni-Lynch mashup cheered on only because the young leads are
easy on the eyes.
Had they been fat grotesques, that beautiful reality would crush the
pretentions of this Greek snoozefest.

C’mon, guys! Ted Post did this back in 1973 with The Baby, AND he hit
plenty more relevant socio-economic points while he did it.

Art movies that are enigmatic on purpose are, in my opinion, LAZY.
Jeez, man, either go the distance and be like Stan Brakhage (a GOD, I
might add), or at least be willing to focus and tell a story.

And ambiguity is delightful at times… but almost throughout all of
Dogtooth, I felt a smugness emanating from the film. I really cannot
put my finger on it. It was like they were screeching nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-NYAH!
I mean, I really this flick is a con, an example of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Of course, maybe the joke’s on me: Dogtooth get’s 93% from the Rotten Tomato-meter!

And more recently, here’s what the magnificent Phantom of Pulp wrote about Uncle BonghitMe at his very recommended site:
It's on top of my Worst of 2011 list because it was an interminable bore. It got praised by professional critics and ended up on some 'Best' lists. Well, it ended up right here on a different list. Seriously, if this film had been in English instead of Thai, it would have been crucified for the steaming turd it is.

Mr. Phantom, I couldn’t agree more!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Punishment Park" and Friends; Or: What I’ve Been Watching Lately

MST3K: The Beatniks (1992) Joel and the bots rip apart Paul Frees’ awful The Beatniks, turning it into something better than it was.
Seen via Netflix Streaming.

The Big Boss (1971; Wei Lo); YES, but only the scenes of Bruce Lee exhibiting his mad martial arts skillz. The rest? FF through.
Seen via Netflix Streaming.

Perversion Story (a.k.a. One on Top of the Other) (1969; Lucio Fulci) MAYBE
Lucio Fulci is an acquired taste, one that requires viewers to willingly put logic on hold and leap into Fulci’s patented fever dreams. And honestly, his films tend to be really depressing, too.
Loved this flick’s split-screen work, though.

Bored to Death Season One (2009) Well it was certainly amusing enough, but after watching the first four episodes, I didn’t feel the need to watch further. And I cannot stand sitcoms where the protagonists have no visible means of support.

Detective Story (2007; Takeshi Miike); NO! Miike enters the Post-Modern Serial Killer Genre Movie Sweepstakes (see Seven and Silence of the Lambs)….and loses.

Punishment Park (1971; Peter Watkins) YES!
In light of the massive militarization of local police departments; the civil- and human-rights abuses of Guantanamo Bay; the PATRIOT Act; the demonization of the Left; the scapegoating of those who disagree politically; the narrowing of the American mind; the extreme polarization of political discourse; and all the other myriad abuses of power done in the name of “National Security,” the fact is, as far as I’m concerned,
Punishment Park makes more sense than ever.

Directed by Peter Watkins (his best film, IMHO), this agitprop fake documentary follows a group of convicted political dissidents as they try and cross 50 miles of desert while being chased by cops and troopers.
Brutal and intense, Punishment Park is the epitome of “Savage Cinema” (and would make a great double-feature with the similarly-themed Battle Royale).

Melvin Goes to Dinner (2003; Bob Odenkirk) Maybe—for Bob Odenkirk fans only, I’d say.
Seen via Netflix Streaming.

Breaking Bad Season Four (2011) YES!

Mars (2010; Geoff Marslett) NO: The animation was interesting, but I couldn’t finish watching Mars—the humor was dreadful, below sophomoric: hipster, snark-cool lameness. Ugh.
Seen via Netflix Streaming.

Machine Gun McCain (1969; Giuliano Montaldo) This flick is almost awful, but saved by energetic perfs by John Cassavettes, Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands, as well as some decent violence and mayhem.
But this flick’s ultimate saving grace is the copious location shooting in Las Vegas and San Francisco: this movie was a wonderful travelogue of two cities that have been changed so much that their 1969 versions wouldn’t recognize the 2012 versions.
Seen via Netflix Streaming.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Miss Foreign Affairs Presents: The 36+ Movies of December 2011!

Films are mostly in the order that I saw them…

Teorema (1968); NO—If you told me Pasolini made this film with the sole purpose of getting star Terence Stamp in the sack, I’d believe you. Tame and meandering, the flick is a bit of a snooze, mainly because it’s so quaint.

The Message (1976); NO, but a fascinating film for trying to portray the rise of the Prophet Muhammed
(peace and blessing of God be upon him)
by the strict guidelines of Islam. That is, without showing him at all!
And if you’re not completely narrow-minded, you watch the film and realize, “Oh wow, just like Christians and Jews have their boring holiday movie epics, the Muslims have theirs, too.”
See? We can all get along!
A much better flick is director (and former Sam Peckinpah protégé) Mustapha Akkad’s later film Lion of the Desert—worth catching not only for its incredible battle scenes and one of Oliver Reed’s more subtler performances, but for its definite skew towards revolutionary Third World politics: Throw the Imperialist Colonizers into the sea! Lion of the Desert would be a good double feature with Gillo Pontecorvo’s Burn!

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941); YES—American Dadaism, at its finest, courtesy of W.C. Fields! Genius, sheer GENIUS, I tell you!

Mail Order Wife (2005); YES—from Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko, the team that also unleashed The Last Exorcism and The Virginity Hit. These guys are taking the fake documentary sub-genre (I don’t like the term “mockumentary”) and going someplace unique with it. I’ve enjoyed all three of their films, and really like the mindgames they spring. Full disclosure: I’m in the Gurland-produced/Botko-cinematographed documentary on Al Goldstein, Screwed (1997).

Red Angel (1966); YES— Reviewed HERE

Secret Honor (1984); YES—Nixon Agonistes!

Tyson (2009); YES—Iron Mike does have a soul!

I Worked for Stalin (1990); NO—bitter old commies lying about each other.

Mock Up on Mu (2009); NO—try as he might, collagist/filmmaker Craig Baldwin has not impressed me since the incredible and third-eye-opening Tribulation 99; but keep trying!

The Crawling Eye (1958); YES—Reviewed HERE

Path to War (2003); YES; I’m working my way through all of John Frankenheimer’s films, and this docudrama about LBJ going into Vietnam is pretty good, considering that it looks like Frankenheimer wasn’t given much of a budget. I loved Gary Sinise’s cameo/return as George Wallace, though.

Drunken Wutang (1984); YES; so this is the madness that inspired the band? Now I get it.

Michael Palin: Around the World in 80 Days (1989); YES; the nicest man in the world takes a trip around the place he's the nicest.

Manon (1949); YES—because even when I don’t like a Henri-Georges Clouzot film, like Diabolique, it is always worth watching, and I liked Manon: it’s a high-energy l’amour fou death-trip from the get-go, about an amoral sexpot and a hot-headed, love-stricken ex-Resistance fighter—I often wondered while watching the movie whether director Clouzot is actually laughing at these doomed lovebirds? (Or at least snickering?) Which also wouldn’t surprise me since some of Clouzot’s other flicks (like Le Corbeau or The Wages of Fear) are not exactly upbeat
No wonder Hitchcock was a fan!
And Manon is a flick that could NOT have been made in the US at the time: the lead’s stint in a bordello would not have been allowed.

The Brood (1979); YES—Reviewed HERE

The Beatniks (1960); NO—what the hell was Paul Frees thinking?!? Inept garbage written and directed by the God of the Voice-Overs—so bad it has to be seen to be believed…but you’ll be sorry—just like me. And the title is a lie—there are NO beatniks in this flick.

The Cell (2000); NO, although I did like the art direction and Vinnie DeeOh’s perf.

Rubber’s Lover (1996); NO, HELL NO: Annoying Tetsuo/cyberpunk noise. Maybe I missed something in the translation...

8 Mile (2002); YES—a hip-hop Rocky with Eminem playing himself: go Rabbit!

A Place in the Sun (1951); YES, yes, a thousand times YES! (And so, my George Stevens kick begins…)

Come Drink With Me (1966); YES, good old school Run Run Shaw sword fu—lots of fun.

Cube (1997); YES—although it honestly feels like a longer, missing episode of The Outer Limits, not that that’s a bad thing! And Nicole DeBoer is SO cute!

Breaking Bad: Season One (2008); YES—this show is the closest thing to a Donald Westlake novel on television; the show’s set-up (milquetoast genius chemistry teacher uses his mad skills to become a meth kingpin) is the missing third part to the themes started in his novels The Axemade into a great film by Costa-Gavras in 2005—and The Hook. I’m only halfway through the second season as I write this, and the terms “Westlakian” or “Westlake-like” (“Westlike”?) keep coming to mind. Great stuff.

Stake Land (2010); NO—Reviewed HERE

Bad Biology (2008); YES; Frank Henenlotter ALWAYS delivers.

Alternative Three (1977); YES—excellent combo of a fake documentary and Gerry Anderson’s UFO—perfect double-feature with Craig Baldwin’s Tribulation 99, or Apollo 18; watch it HERE

Futurama: Volume 6 (2011) YES

Fight for Your Life (1977); YES—especially for unrepentant exploitation/grindhouse/white trash insanity.

Breaking Bad: Season Two (2009); YES

The Diary of Anne Frank (1959); NO—George Stevens makes an Otto Preminger film, and not one of the good ones.

Exodus (2007); YES—Definitely NOT the Otto Preminger flick
If William “women are an alien species” Burroughs and Roman Polanski were hired to rewrite an Ed McBain book and set it in Shanghai, this would be it.

Shane (1952); YES—’cause it’s a CLASSIC! Seen before, but watched and enjoyed again as part of my George Stevens kick…I may skip Giant, though…

These Are the Damned (1960); YES—at first the flick seems all over the place, but then it comes together in a heartbreaking way, and I swear, I keep thinking about this movie long after I’ve seen it. This is the type of morally questioning/thought-provoking science fiction that’s so hard to come by—really worth a look—
Oliver Reed is deliciously feral as a vicious Teddy Boy with very incestuous feelings for his trampy sis—
Great soundtrack, too! One of the best seen in 2011!

The D.I. (1957); YES; Jack Webb’s love-letter to the USMC is bonkers—the right-wing flipside to Full Metal Jacket, but just as intense and mindbending—like an Earthbound, contemporary version of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers—it’s also incredibly funny with that psychotic rat-a-tat dialog Webb is known for. The D.I. is a must-see, and like Full Metal Jacket, incredibly quotable: “If brains were dynamite, you couldn't blow your nose!”

Apollo 18 (2011); YESwhat’s with all the hating? Sure, if I had had to pay real money to see it, I would’ve been annoyed by the film’s slow middle—but as a renter, this flick is great fun—like an Outer Limits episode, or a weird spin-off TV movie from a Gerry Anderson TV show.
I make no apologies for my enjoyment of genre flicks that use the “found footage/fake documentary” trick—
I even consider it a horror subgenre unto itself—and as the contemporary equivalent of the
epistolary horror story,
the diary or letters of a doomed man being swallowed by supernatural forces.
As such, I enjoyed Apollo 18’s combination of surveillance footage, electronic monitors, 16mm, 8mm and stock footage—all of it documenting a mission that was “doomed” from the get-go.
It doesn’t always make sense, but the flick is tense and weird on a low-budget, and I think its monsters were great:
And I don’t care if this is a spoiler, because it was my knowing that these unfortunate astronauts were going to run into MOON-CRAB-SPIDERS that made me want to see Apollo 18 even more.
Nasty silicon-based life forms that look like rocks when standing still—but when disturbed, they’re wretched and evil MOON-CRAB-SPIDERS that move really fast! Fun stuff all around.
(Hey, maybe the MOON-CRAB-SPIDERS are the watchdogs of the Selenites from The First Men in the Moon?)

Super (2010); YES—Excellent! Superheroes are psychopaths.
This is the movie that both Kick-Ass and Watchmen wanted to be, and then goes beyond that.
In this case, a man interprets his psychotic breakdown as a religious experience that tells him to be a superhero.
A moving modern fairy tale that effectively mixes gore, sick humor and pathos—there’s a happy ending, but you have to earn it.
While I didn’t love director James Gunn’s previous flick Slither, it has a HUGE cult following, and Super deserves the same. Gunn keeps getting better with each film, and it’s fun as a movie fan to find someone whose work is routinely interesting, growing and changing.
This film is also the first time I have ever really liked the actors Riann Wilson or Ellen Page: I thought they did great jobs playing flawed, weird kind-of real people.
Yeah, this is one of my favorites of the year.

Cobra (1986); NO—Stallone can’t write or act comedy, he shouldn’t even try.

Breaking Bad: Season Three (2010); YES; the first season was Westlakeian like The Ax; the second season was Westakeian like Dortmunder; the third season is starting to get like Richard Stark’s Parker—and I think that is great. Go Team Heisenberg!

Shorts—they’re shorts, so just fuckin’ watch them, okay?

Rosa (sexy cyber-killers in action)

Separation (kinky latex weirdness)