Thursday, April 28, 2011

Netflix Stream This:

Hot Tub Time Machine
      Although no excuse could possibly cover for your ignorance, if you haven't seen Hot Tub Time Machine, you have an extremely easy choice of plans for tonight. Since it is 2010's best film that could be considered a straight comedy, it is essential viewing for any human being that enjoys laughter, alcohol, hot tubs and severed limbs. Infinitely better than that other movie about getting drunk and wondering, "What the hell just happened?" (The Hangover, starring Bradley "Douche" Cooper and the formerly-funny-now-just-fucking-annoying Zach Galinifuckface), Hot Tub (as it will be referred to from here on out) turns a potential one-hit-wonder joke into a wonderful laugh riot.
      "Hutchdawg, how could you say that Hot Tub is infinitely better movie than The Hangover? The Hangover was so hilarious, they all got drunk and took roofies and one got lost. Then Mike Tyson showed up and some naked Chinese dude without a visible cock." It's easy to determine how much better Hot Tub is than the other, way-more-shitty film. Let's compare actors first: The main star of Hot Tub is the classic and hilarious John Cusack. One could say he's a film icon. The Hangover's main star is Bradley Cooper. An icon to any fan of shitty cinema, he has starred in such classics as All About Steve and 2010's The A-Team. Let's move onto the more minor characters. Both movies star vets of The Daily Show: Rob Corddry and Ed Helms. Both are funny, but only one utters the classic line, "Shotgun to the dick." The third, goofy characters of each film, Craig Robinson and Zach G. (too lazy to type his full last name), add some much needed comic relief to each film. At least Craig does: he has made me laugh in great entertainment such as Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, and one of television's best comedies, Eastbound and Down, and he continues that trend here. Zach G. bores me to death in HBO's Bored to Death.
      So it's quite clear that Hot Tub's cast is far funnier and far superior acting talents. And the plot is clearly better too: I mean, I wish that guy in The Hangover had died when they find him on the roof. That way I wouldn't have to witness him speaking. As you can see from the movie poster above, Hot Tub's plot has a simple equation: energy drink + alcohol + squirrel divided by a hot tub = travelling back in time. It has The Hangover's debauchery with time-travel humor that fits right beside the Back to the Future films. But the thing that truly sets Hot Tub apart from other films in the same genre is its ever-present feeling of sadness for time that has passed. It's that feeling of nostalgia that we all, as humans, experience at one point or another in our lives. Although the plot revolves travelling back in time through a hot tub portal, it's more realistic in its depiction of past elation and regret. We all remember previous days and years, and I think that all of us can relate to going back to experience the amazing times and try and change things that didn't go our way. It's human nature, as is loving 2010's best comedy, Hot Tub Time Machine.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What You'll Want to be Watching:

                                    Hobo With a Shotgun
     I've always been a fan of the darker side of cinema. Watching any film that is considered exploitation or ultra-graphic horror has always tickled my fancy--it's just fun to see films that don't reach the mainstream due to their horrendously violent or extremely politically-incorrect content. A tamed-down version of exploitation reached theaters and our homes in 2007 in the form of a double-billed feature film, Grindhouse. And I loved that too. Grindhouse, as you may know, is two separate films: Planet Terror, which was directed by Robert Rodriguez, is about an eclectic group of people who are trying to survive an outbreak of zombie-esque creatures. Death Proof, directed by Quentin Tarantino, is about an insane stunt man who murders young women in horrific car accidents with his stunt car. 
     Hobo with a Shotgun is related to Grindhouse in a very unique way: in between the two films of Grindhouse, there are a few fake movie trailers designed to shock and humor the audience before the next film begins. Some famous directors partook in this 3 minute exercise in fun. Edgar Wright, Eli Roth and Rob Zombie all made short, shocking previews that were hilarious and/or violent. When Grindhouse was released internationally, the film producers decided to hold a contest to see what talent could come up with the best short trailer. And the best short trailer was a hilariously violent send-up of exploitation cinema about a homeless man who takes vengeance on the criminals he sees on a daily basis.
     2011's Hobo with a Shotgun is a full movie version of the previously mentioned trailer with better actors, more money and a hell of a lot more blood and gore. It stars Rutger Hauer as a tired homeless man looking for a fresh start in a new city. Unfortunately, this new place isn't pristine and the people are not polite: crime is running rampant, and the city's underworld is run by a man known only as "The Drake" and his two psychotic asshole sons. When the Hobo decides that he is tired of seeing every city he enters succumb to the scum-sucking bottom feeders, he takes matters into his own hands with a double-barreled shotgun. If you're still reading, then you must be interested. As you should be: Hobo looks like an absolute fucking blast, filled with brutal be-headings, blood drenched corpses and bouncing breasts. Here's the kicker: get some friends together, open up some beers and all you have to do is click your remote. Hobo with a Shotgun is available on Time Warner Movies on Demand for the (low, if you split it with some friends) price of $9.99. I know I'll be tuning in. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Netflix Stream This:

     You see that movie poster to the left? It's a bit misleading. When I came across Teeth (heh) on my Netflix Watch Instantly page, I knew that I should make a post about it (and not solely to make the previous joke). I knew because Teeth bites you and doesn't let go. It's a coming-of-age story for the horror-humor generation: Dawn is a girl that is just starting to experience her budding sexuality. She tries to suppress this urge by being an active member in a chastity group. Unfortunately, life at home isn't quite as easy: her step-brother, Brad, is vulgar and weird, and he seems to have an unhealthy attraction to Dawn. When Dawn is the victim of a sexual assault, she realizes that she's not like other girls; she has a set of teeth growing inside of her twat that likes to bite unwanted objects. She then experiences the ups and downs of having a set of deadly beef-drape dentures. (The ups and downs being, mostly, severed penises.)
     What sicko could dream up this sort of thing? Well, it's actually based upon real mythology: the vagina dentata myth. Numerous cultures have different tales and stories about women with toothed pink tacos. It's usually used as a cautionary tale warning the dangers involved with sleeping with strange women and to prevent the crime of rape. According to the always-useful Wikipedia, 

"The vagina dentata appears in the myths of several cultures. Erich Neumann relays one such myth in which 'a fish inhabits the vagina of the Terrible Mother; the hero is the man who overcomes the Terrible Mother, breaks the teeth out of her vagina, and so makes her into a woman.' The legend also appears in the mythology of the Chaco and Guiana tribes. In some versions, the hero leaves one tooth. An Ainu language tale containing this element was published as "The Island of Women" by Basil Hall Chamberlain, where it was described as a well known Japanese tale by E. B. Tylor. In his book, The Wimp Factor, Stephen J. Ducat expresses the view that these myths express the threat sexual intercourse poses for men who, although entering triumphantly, always leave diminished."

     Not that Teeth plays the myth in a serious tone. Unlike other older cautionary tales about strange and lustful women, such as Basic Instinct or Fatal Attraction, this film plays the poon pearlies angle to comedic gold. Also filled with horror and women's empowerment, Teeth is truly about a young lady coming to grips with womanhood--even if that womanhood involves a muff that munches.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It Just Missed My Heart: A Review of Hanna

     Recently, I saw last year's film Never Let Me Go, about children growing up and slowly realizing that their life is much different from other youngsters. They were brought up for a specific purpose, to benefit mankind in a very controversial way. Never Let Me Go is a slow-moving, beautifully-filmed coming-of-age story. Why this mention of 2010's art-house film about children born with a predetermined path? Well, 2011's Hanna, at it's core, is also a movie about a child who was born because of controversial government-decided reasons. It's also beautifully-filmed. But it sure isn't slow-moving: from it's opening bow-and-arrow killing to all of the violent outbursts throughout the film, Hanna (with its pounding music and quick camera work) is always in a state of urgency that many action thrillers can only aspire to duplicate. Unfortunately, with its toned-down PG-13 rating, all of this urgency doesn't add up to much more than an emotionless girl on a tame killing spree for reasons that don't really matter.
    When you first see Hanna, its quite easy to determine that she is a quick and efficient killing machine. Hunting a deer in the woods with a bow, she is one among the snow and birch trees. As she's gutting her kill, we meet her father as he sneaks up behind her and utters the words (words Hanna hears plenty of), "You're dead." Soon enough, assumptions can be made: Hanna and her dad, Erik, live deep in the forest and fend for themselves (kind of a ruthless Alone in the Wilderness). Her pops has (for reasons not yet apparent) taught her how to kill in just about any way imaginable, with both weapons and hand-to-hand. When these reasons do become apparent, Hanna will have to go on the fight of her life. Erik is an agent of some sort, apparently with skills so fucking great that a few certain CIA members (one in particular, portrayed by Cate Blanchett in a nothing-but-villainous role) are getting their panties in a bunch to try and find him and the girl. Erik eventually realizes that the time has come to release his creation into the real world.
    This release is where some of the excitement and some of the problems lie: the opening of the film, before Hanna's dad sicks her onto the CIA agents, is a lot like the Grimm fairy tales that Hanna reads by the light of the fire late at night. She and her father are alone in the woods, in a simple home built by bare hands, hunting for their meals. The training montages are typical but exciting, and the cinematography is beautiful. Once Hanna experiences the real world, techno music kicks in and we are bombarded with the technology and industrialization that one would encounter when first witnessing the hi-tech environment. I get it: we're supposed to feel bombarded with these sounds and images, because it causes us to relate to Hanna on a much higher level, since she is experiencing it for the first time. But I couldn't help but wish that film was more like the beginning: quiet and thoughtful. The excitement builds and builds, but when it explodes we're left with tame PG-13 killings, and most of the violence takes place off screen (a problem that Sucker Punch dealt with too). Many critics have been mentioning 2010's Kick-Ass in their reviews for Hanna, due to the fact that both films have young teenage girls disposing of people without emotion: The difference is that Kick-Ass was funny, fun, vulgar and extremely violent, where Hanna is just pretty to look at (the movie not that character, you pedophiles).
     Hanna is a good movie. It's just easier to focus on the negatives when I feel that it had so much more potential, like a teenage version of Kill Bill. A lot of the film deals with Hanna's experiences with normal, everyday life that she has never had to chance to encounter. For instance, she meets up with a family and gains her first looks at friendship and romance. That's all well and good, but the movie sets us up for explosions of revenge and violence, and they are just too few and far between. And when they do come, the audience (at least myself) is so desensitized due to viewing films like the Bourne franchise and Kick-Ass that nothing really got my blood pumping. The excitement didn't match the expectations.     (B-)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

[Insert Groundhog Day Reference Here]: A Review of Source Code

     It's a fact to state that a large number of human beings wish that they had the power to go back to certain time or day in their lives and relive that time or day to fix mistakes that shaped them forever, usually for the worse. I know that it's why I love 1993's classic comedy Groundhog Day (starring--obviously--Bill Murray): don't we all wish that we could live the same day over and over (maybe not for eternity), fixing every mistake, saving lives, gaining and gorging our minds with any conceivable form or knowledge, whether that be mastering the piano or knowing all of the classic works of literature by heart? Source Code, the new film by geek wonder-boy Duncan Jones, who previously directed 2009's wonderful Moon (and who is also the son of David Bowie), transforms the Groundhog Day formula from reliving one full day over and over again to reliving the last 8 minutes of a man's life aboard a Chicago commuter train about to get annihilated by a terrorist attack. It's a smart and effective sci-fi thriller, and although it doesn't quite reach the greatness of the previously mentioned Moon, it's still one of the best films so far in 2011.
     It's impossible to talk about the plot of Source Code without giving away information that would be better left not knowing going into the theater. Similar to last year's best film Inception, the joy is in the journey of discovery. I also avoided the movie's trailers and went in solely on the cred of Duncan's first film. So go ahead and read on if you don't care or have seen the film. If not, so long, and I'll see you in another life, brother.
     A man, played in typical charming and likable fashion by usually poor-choice-of-movie-picker Jake Gyllenhaal, wakes up on a train. He doesn't know how he got on this particular train, or even how he is in America. You see, his name is Colter Stevens, and he is an Army Helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. He's talking to a woman that he's never met (played by Michelle Monaghan, who doesn't do too much more than seem like an honest and likable young woman) but seems to know him. Colter feels sick and goes to the bathroom, only to discover the face in the mirror is not his, but another random man. The viewer, like Colter, becomes confused and disoriented--which is where the fun starts in this whole thing. After 8 minutes the train blows up. In typical sci-fi fashion, a flood of pictures, sounds, and speed-of-light images quickly stream across the screen. Colter then wakes up in some sort of pod that is clearly malfunctioning, speaking into a video monitor to some sort of army scientist.
    Here's where things get crazy and preposterous. However, events unfold so quickly and are so thrilling that you don't really give a shit how the science of the whole thing works: Colter quickly realizes that he is in some sort of experiment to do with the terrorist attack. One of the victim's brains was harvested from the wreckage, and the memory of the last 8 minutes of his life has been implanted onto some sort of source code, allowing Colter to wire in and experience the events like he is actually there. So he goes back. And back. And back again to the final 8 minutes of this man's life, trying to determine where the bomb is and who the bomber is, due to the fact that military intelligence believes that the bomber left the train and is going to strike again. Since Colter is gaining knowledge and remembering all of the past tries, he eventually falls for Monaghan's character, as any hot-blooded throbbing-cocked American man would.
     Eventually, once we learn where Colter actually is during these 8-minute trips, a more human touch enters the film. Is it possible that Colter can alter the fate of the train's passengers, even though they are already dead? Can Colter save the girl who he has fallen in love with? If he stops the explosion, do these people actually live forever in an alternate reality? And if so, where does Colter fit into all of this, since he essentially took over another man's body over and over for the final 8 minutes? It's better not to think about the logistics of all of the quantum mechanics and paradoxes and to just focus on the ever-growing danger of possibly not being able to save people who you have grown to love.     (A-)