Sunday, August 31, 2008

Babylon A.D.

Adapted from the novel Babylon Babies by Maurice G. Dantec, Babylon A.D. stars Vin Diesel as Toorop, a mercinary hired to escort mysterious Aurora (Melanie Thierry) from Russia into New York City. Accompanying them is Sister Rebecca, played by the ever-wonderful Michelle Yeoh, a peaceful nun of the Noelite religion.
After that, I can't really tell you what the movie is about because 20th Century Fox cut the hell out of it. It's a jumble of action scenes and Vin Diesel grunts after about halfway through. In France, the film is at least ten minutes longer, though I've heard rumours of a two hour and ten minute version. Director and adapter Mathieu Kassovitz has stated publicly that Fox wrested control of the film from him and cut out the moral implications of the violence and you feel it, especially at the end. It's a mess. Absolutely hacked to pieces.
I've never read the book and I understand that Kassovitz took his own liberties with the film, including adding more of Sister Rebecca in order to have Michelle Yeoh in the film longer. To be honest, that was a brilliant move as she's the heart of the picture, especially in the Fox cut. I wish he'd gone with his original casting choice for Toorop, the brilliant Vincent Cassel, but I think that I'll reserve my judgments on Diesel's performance (and Melanie Thierry's) for when I see the cut that Kassovitz intended.
Fox has a long history of interferring with their directors. Alien3 is possibly the best example of their butting in. The workprint version of Alien3, included with the Quadrilogy, is much better than the theatrical. I only ever watch the workprint version, which wasn't ever completed because David Fincher was removed before he could oversee the final touches needed.
If you're only looking for action, cool set design, great cinematography and okay music, then go see this flick. If you were hoping for the story that comes with the name Babylon Babies, then don't bother until Mathieu Kassovitz's version is released.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Less Than Zero

Less Than Zero is a highly regarded "let's feel bad for the rich kids" drug film from 1987 starring Robert Downey Jr., Jami Gertz, Andrew McCarthy, and James Spader. It's based on a book by Bret Easton Ellis and from what I gather, the movie was vastly different from the book. Isn't that always the way? The movie is about three friends and their personal journies into adulthood when one of them is on a downward spiral of drug use and prostitution.
I haven't read the book, but in the film, there's nothing remotely likeable about the characters so, really, you don't care about them when their lives start falling apart and you feel no sympathy for the one who's trying to keep them together and alive. While there are some good films out there about the poor little rich kid, there's nothing about the characters to like so it feels like a marathon session of whinging and the throwing away of all opportunities.
I liked the lighting and the colour scheme, but they weren't very careful about framing out shadows and crew members. Bad camera work.
McCarthy and Gertz easily gave the worst performances of their careers. Stiff, nervous, and over the top. I have to imagine that Jami Gertz did a lot of stage work before this film and that would explain why she was shouting most of her lines. That and she was good in The Lost Boys and the Gilda Radner movie.
I'll be honest, I only watched this because I hadn't seen it before and it starred Downey and Spader. Like anyone who grew up with certain 80s films, I do have a soft soft for a few members of the Brat Pack, but I never considered Downey one of Them. He's got a magic about him that he's managed to maintain through all of his legal and moral troubles. He's survived himself so far and I really, sincerely hope he continues to do so. He's amazingly talented and in spite of poor direction, stiff co-stars, and a poor script, he is amazing in this film.
James Spader is almost always good and is even better when he plays smarmy, as he does here. He was relaxed and natural.
Overall: I'm glad I watched it, but I was kind of bored. You want to see a powerful film about addiction in all of its forms, watch Requiem for a Dream. Ellen Burstyn alone was heart-wrenchingly good.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Confidence boosters.

Anyone who reads my blog may remember that I've been receiving rejection after rejection for my short film, Without / Within, as well as for my short stories. I just keep submitting (there will be a new round of submissions for Without / Within once I figure out what's wrong with my DVD burner...) and trying because, well, it'd be silly not to. In fact, today I submitted a spec script for CSI (don't judge me) to the WILDsound spec script competition and tomorrow I'll be mailing off a feature film script called Chancetown to the New York City Horror Film Festival.
Yesterday, I received a letter from my good friend and mentor, Steve Marshall, who had only just gotten a chance to watch Without / Within. I've known Steve since I was 13. The way I remember it, Rich Reinhardt gave me his Prodigy email (it was fifteen years ago, for Pete's sakes) and we've kept in touch ever since. Of course, I didn't know who Rich Reinhardt was then or else I would have bugged him, too. Anyway, Steve's advice and support have been invaluable to me so when I got his letter, wherein he told me that he loved my movie and was very proud of me, I felt like I was soaring.
Tonight, I received a phone call from another friend, one with whom I don't speak nearly enough and see even less, and she kept complimenting me, my creativity, and bullheadedness...just because. She put it much more politely than that because she's nicer than I am, but that's what it boils down to and I was soaring again.
Right now, after submitting two projects to contests and festivals, finishing another short story, and receiving such support and encouragement from those two and the rest of my friends and family, I think I could take on another year's worth of rejections. Maybe even two!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Mirrors is a remake of a Korean film called Into the Mirror. This version was directed by Frenchman Alexandre Aja and written by Aja and GrĂ©gory Levasseur who have been working together from the beginning. It's the story of a disgraced NYPD detective named Ben Carson who takes a job as a security guard for a burned out department store after the previous night watchman disappeared. When strange things are witnessed via the mirrors, Ben goes on a frantic search for a way to stop the things within the mirrors before they reach and destroy his estranged family.
I make it sound better than it actually was. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was laughable, poorly written, and poorly directed / performed. I was very disappointed because I have a thing about mirrors (thanks Poltergeist III) and I liked Aja's previous work: Haute Tension and the The Hills Have Eyes remake. I didn't want to take their script for P2 to heart, but maybe I should have. Both scripts were disjointed and flat and problems with motivation were laced throughout each movie.
Kiefer Sutherland's usually a pretty good actor, but he was very close to stepping into the cheese zone established by the Elder Sutherland, Donald, in his later career. Everyone else was...a bit much.
The score was good, but a little overwrought for this particular flick. The special effects were mostly good, but I think that they could have accomplished a lot more practically than they chose to. Digital effects are still digital effects and have that sheen of unreality. Sometimes you can't avoid it, but the fewer digital effects there are, the more effectively they can be used and the more time can be spent on them which is key.
Overall: very disappointing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Signal, Nacht der Lebenden Loser (Night of the Living Dorks), The Church, Fly Me to the Moon 3D

The Signal is a three-part anthology written and directed by David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry (not in that order, however.) It's about the fictional city Terminus and how its inhabitants go murderously crazy after seeing and hearing a mysterious signal. Stephen King's far superiour novel, Cell, was released a year before this saw its first festival screening.

As far as acting, special effects, and production values go, this was an ace production from start to finish. As far as the this case, they really should have made it one cohesive project. The segment that really brought down the tone was the middle, and more comedic, one. It was awkward and slightly annoying.

The title card and chapter breaks belong more to a 70s exploitation flick than a new millenium science fiction drama about our dependence on a signal, be it how many bars our cell phones have to the news being beamed into our living rooms. It could have worked, but it didn't. The cards' tone differed too much from the main film.

Overall: if the writing had been better, I probably wouldn't have started nodding off about halfway through. Good production value can't always make up for that and it doesn't here.


Nacht der Lebenden Loser (Night of the Living Dorks) is a German mash-up of Romero flicks and 80s American sex comedies. Three outcast teenage boys are accidentally turned into zombies when they die in a car accident. Everything's surprisingly great until they realize that they want to eat their friends, then it becomes a race against time to find a cure.

Okay, so I describe it a little better than the movie actually is, but it's fun, funny, and it looks like everyone was having a good time making it.

Overall: I recommend it!


The Church (a.k.a. Demoni 3) was written by Dario Argento (translated by Nick Alexander who frequently worked with Dario up until Alexander's death in 2004) and directed by Michele Soavi. It's about a Church that was built over a mass grave and becomes a portal to Hell.

This flick is right up my alley. It's got demons and an evil church, some pretty good special effects (the goat demon animatronics were good -- the teeth needed work, though), and Asia Argento, albeit a 14 year old Asia. However, it suffers from the Scott syndrome*: the movie is only an hour and 45 minutes, but it feels like almost three.

On top of the slowness of the film, some of the acting is made worse by the terrible voice-dubs of the Italian actors. Blue Underground made an absolutely excellent disc for Argento's Stendhal Syndrome with multiple audio tracks so I trust they either couldn't find or couldn't secure any sort of "original" soundtrack for it. The sound mix is good in spite of the poor voice actors.

Other than the aforementioned issues, and some plot leaps typical of 70s and 80s Italian horror cinema, this was a good movie with some pretty strong direction, great cinematography, and a story that pretty much always has me interested from the word go.

* What I mean by "Scott syndrome" is that Ridley and Tony Scott both have films in their repertoire that are only an hour and a half, but oh my God feel like forever. That's nothing against the actual flick. Legend is a great movie, but holy crap, it's looooooong. The Hunger? Beautiful, but it shaves a couple of years off my life.


Fly Me to the Moon -- 3D -- It's about the first flies on the moon. I watched it because, well, someone had to. When it comes to our one digital auditorium, unless we absolutely don't have time, everything gets previewed. Everything, including this painful mess that young kids might like, but adults are going to hate. I looked at my watch four times and the movie itself is only an hour and twenty-two minutes.

Now, when I said painful earlier, I meant painful. The quality of the 3D shifts from excellent to "OH GOD, MY EYES! MY EYES, THEY BLEEEEEEEED! AAHHHH!" This is the first flick with the Real-D system that has made my eyes hurt more than once during the course of watching the movie. Today, my poor eyeballs are a little sore.

The space stuff was awesome. Anything without the flies and maggots was great. I wish that Pixar had taken on this flick, rewritten it to exclude the insects, and made an animated version of the lunar landing. THESE PEOPLE TRIED TO MAKE MAGGOTS CUTE!!! THEY WERE DISTURBING!!! THEY GAVE THEM BABY TEETH AND THEY LOOKED LIKE REJECTS FROM THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE...AND THEY WERE MAGGOTS!!

Just a bad, bad flick featuring the voices of Christopher Lloyd as Grampa McFly (I'm not kidding...) and Tim Curry as Yegor and some other people, but these were the two voices I recognized right away (Curry took me all of two words, Lloyd took me about a minute.) I spent my childhood watching Clue, man. I love Clue. This fly movie? Not so much...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

He'll probably be the Zen Room! (with a little bit of the Thunder)

NOTE: Please don't yell at me about Tropic Thunder's "retard" debacle. While I understand where the advocates are coming from, this is a satire about shallow actors one of whom, the action star, was hoping to be taken seriously as an actor and get one of those little golden statues by playing a mentally handicapped character. Flagrant use of the word "retard" illustrates the shallowness. They don't refer to each other as "retard," either.

Think of it this way: a white character is playing a black character, a crazy-ass Scientologist is playing a foul-mouthed Jewish studio head, one character starts detoxing and about to go into the motherlode, the head of the Flaming Dragon heroin syndicate is a child, and Stiller's character is attacked by yet another child.

This isn't a message movie.

Anyway, I was going to post about Tropic Thunder and how funny it is (it really is) and how awesome Robert Downey Jr. is (he really is) and how miscast yet strangely perfect Ben Stiller was (he really was), but I've decided to divert your attention instead to a problem that has been plaguing Hollywood for a long time now.


We're so inundated with remakes (and 'American versions') that even I can hardly keep count -- Death Race, Mirrors, and Quarantine are but three coming out before the end of the year, not to mention Friday the 13, A Nightmare on Elm Street, My Bloody Valentine (this time in 3D!), The Birds, Sisters, A Tale of Two Sisters, Bangkok Dangerous, and so many more...too many more. However, I think Hollywood has finally reached its breaking point.

MTV has announced that it plans on remaking The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Say what you will about the quality of the original film, it's a landmark piece that has opened the minds of the world's youth and kept small art house theatres in business when they would otherwise be trounced by the big chains. Like some of us here on planet earth, it was made out of passion and fire, a need to do something different and freaky and fun! And it's been bringing that light to millions of people every Friday and Saturday night since 1975.

Rumours have abounded for years about remakes, but this is the first one I've taken even somewhat seriously and that's because of MTV's involvement. Where MTV was once groundbreaking and provocative, and actually showed music videos (you know, MTV stands for MUSIC TELEVISION), it's now just a tired relic full of 'reality' shows. As it's drained the life out of so many teens, I'm afraid they'll drain any spark of life from Rocky Horror.

Thanks to Wil Wheaton's post, where he shared his first time with Rocky Horror, I bear a link to a petition that may not put a stop to the madness, let's be reasonable here, but may get the attention of some of the Viacom bigwigs.

I was twelve or thirteen when I finally saw Rocky Horror. I'd wanted to for a while. I'd first heard of it when I was much younger; my mom had a copy of the movie soundtrack on vinyl (I still have it, though I doubt it's playable now) and I loved the cover. As I grew up and became familiar with Tim Curry through Clue, Annie, and Legend, and Susan Sarandon through Thelma & Louise, I found out that they were both in this one flick. And with big, thick, blood red lips the video box, how could one go wrong?

I rented the 15th anniversary edition of the video from the store where I'd work years later and popped it into my VCR. From the opening chords of "Science Fiction Double Feature" I was hooked and when it was over, I rewound it and immediately watched it again. For years afterward, I would have my own Rocky Horror night, popping it in the VCR and dancing and singing along. Magenta was my favourite character, but I memorized everyone's lines.

Fast forward a few years, and I'm 21 or 22. I track down a cast an hour north of me, call up some friends, and the lot of us went to see the shadow cast Interchangeable Parts at the Beach Theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida. My sister, who isn't my sister but might as well be and HATES Rocky Horror, came with us, mostly because she loves me, but I think she wanted to see what kind of de-flowering I'd have to go through. You see, you're a virgin in Rocky Horror if you've never seen the show in the theatre. It doesn't matter how many times you watch it on tape or disc. I knew that going in and still allowed my deflowering in spite of the fact that I really like wearing clothes.

That night, all of the female virgins had to take off their shirts and run up and down the aisles screaming "I LOVE CHEESE!"

Did I mention that I really like wearing clothes? No? Well, I do. I don't like buying clothes and, really, the most thought I put into my ensemble for the day is saved for my t-shirt choice of "Zombies? Or Stevie Nicks?" But wearing them? Much love. For me to disrobe, even the tiniest bit, is usually unthinkable. Usually.

They let me keep my unbuttoned button-up shirt on, but it flapped mightily as I ran up and down the aisle, bare-chested save for a lacey bra, screaming the phrase that will be forever burned into my memory...and I wouldn't give it up for anything. Later that night, as I recited every bit of dialogue in time with the movie and even better than their Frank, the director of the shadow cast asked me to join up. I had to decline, though...the theatre was an hour away and I didn't have a car. I still don't. These boots were made for walkin', after all.

I highly doubt that a remake would have the same kind of magic that even the 33 year old original still holds, the kind of magic that makes people do things they wouldn't normally do, say things they wouldn't normally say, and have the kind of fun they wouldn't normally have. I just hope it's not too late.

edit to add: I had a problem posting this last night and I didn't realize until just now that the links I'd put in didn't I've redone them.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pineapple Express

Pineapple Express was directed by David Gordon Green from a script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. It's about two stoners (Rogen and James Franco) who are on the run from a murderous drug supplier and his strange crew, which includes Rosie Perez as a crooked cop.
I can hear you all now... "Lori?" you ask. "Why in the world did you want to see this? It's a stoner action movie..."
To which I reply, "Exactly."
C'mon! A stoner action flick?! How in the world is that possible?!! I don't know, but it works. I don't smoke, drink, or do any drugs (I know...a sober writer...crazytalk) so some of the humour goes over my head instead of to it, and there are a few awkward moments and jokes that fall flat, but overall it was actually pretty funny. I can't explain it, but I will say that it was the red band trailer that made me want to see it. The red band for Step Brothers? Not so much. And I haven't watched the red band for Tropic Thunder yet because I already know that I'm going to watch it.
Though some of the jokes are predictable, it's often the delivery that makes them funny and all credit for that has to go to James Franco and Seth Rogen. Cheech and Chong they're not, but they're close enough to watch for almost two hours, with trailers, and not really think about how really freakin' funny Up in Smoke is and how no one can top that, though this is a valiant effort.
I do have to say two things: First of all, the relationship between Rogen and Amber Heard would have been better in the film if it had been developed into a plot point that meant something. It was useless.
Secondly, Rogen himself doesn't seem to be much of a leading man. I haven't seen Superbad or Knocked Up or whatever else, but he seems to be the type of actor who just keeps playing the same role. I look to The Green Hornet and Zack and Miri Make a Porno for confirmation when Kevin Smith dishes up the latter later this year. Plus, and this is weird, his voice is alternately awesome and irritating. That's just a me-thing.
Overall: yes it was predictable, but I enjoyed it immensely and it's not my normal cup o' tea. For those of you who want to blaze up something illicit during the flick, do those of us who don't indulge a favour and either do it before coming to the theatre or wait for DVD.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

The third film in the Mummy series starring Brendan Fraser as adventurer Rick O'Connel was directed by Rob Cohen, taking the helm from Stephen Sommers. In this film, where Maria Bello assumes the role of Evelyn O'Connel from Rachel Weitz, their now-college age son (eh?!) has dropped out of school to look for priceless artifacts. In his adventures, he discovered the location, and eventually the door, into the tomb of the dragon emperor of the title, Emperor Han (played by Jet Li,) and his terra cotta warriors.
You see, the ruthless emperor realized, some two or three thousand years previous, that one lifetime wasn't enough for all the dastardly things he wished to do so he forced a powerful witch named Zi Yuen, played by Michelle Yeoh, to find a way to make him immortal. The orders he gave his general were that no man should touch her because he wanted her himself. Of course, that didn't happen; the general and the witch fell in love. Once the witch made Han immortal, he sentenced them both to death, but Zi Yuen had enough time to curse the Emperor and his army to eternity as terra cotta statues and herself became immortal to guard his tomb that no one could revive him.
Of course, we wouldn't have a movie if someone didn't revive him. That leads to the inevitable fight between human and mystically powered undead blah blah blah. Look, I'm just going to blurt it out: wham-bam thank you ma'am action flicks like this bore me. I'm a martial arts action kind of gal and while this had some martial arts in it, it was still lots of guns and explosions and boringness. If it weren't for the fact that I was still doing my job while watching this flick, and I didn't want to miss a second of the wonderful Michelle Yeoh, I probably would have accidentally fallen asleep. If it didn't have Michelle Yeoh in it, I would have gone home once the main work of a typical Thursday night was done considering I haven't been feeling well of late, but I've seen everything that I can get my hands on that she's in for longer than a minute, even Easy Money (man, that was a bad flick), I certainly wasn't going to miss even this one.
If the film had been just about Emperor Han, Zi Yuen, and General Ming, I think I would have liked it. Bad one-liners, bad bad bad bad bad acting from Fraser, Bello and the dude playing their kid, Luke Ford, and a bad script do not a good movie make. Or even a partially enjoyable one because the fight we Hong Kong action fans have been waiting for, Jet Li vs. Michelle Yeoh, was terribly shot and not long enough. There wasn't enough tension. I think even Butterfly & Sword was more satisfying...
I'm not a big fan of Jet Li. I prefer Jackie Chan when it comes to male Hong Kong action stars (no, I didn't see The Forbidden Kingdom.) I admired his work in Unleashed (a.k.a. Danny the Dog) and Fearless. It's not his fighting, he's an incredible fighter, it's...I guess it's a lack of charisma. I've been using that word a lot of late, but it holds true here. Still, he could have been given a lot more to do; instead, he gets to stand around and look menacing and have a really short fight with Michelle Yeoh and still manage to lose to Brendan Fraser. Yeah, sure. Right.
The direction was fast paced, even including some slam zooms reminiscent of some Hong Kong action flicks, but boring. I've read that Rob Cohen had always wanted to make a martial arts flick so I wish he had made one instead of taking something hackneyed and cheesy, like The Mummy, and turning it into a martial arts movie.
I haven't seen the second Mummy movie, nor have I seen the Scorpion King and whatever else they've done as part of these movies. I saw the first flick, and it was alright, but Rachel Weitz elevated the standing of the film by simply being in it. The fact that she didn't want to come back, and was replaced by brunette Maria Bello with a bad British accent, hurt the new Mummy intensely. Perhaps they should have taken a hint when she said she didn't want to come back because of the script.
Overall: it was bad, boring, and didn't use Michelle Yeoh and Jet Li to their full potential.