Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Recap: The Cap'n Presents His Favorite Films of the Year!

And here we are, finally to it! I'll keep the intro short, cut to the chase, and so on. As with before, if there's a review, I'll link to it so you can read that.

Before I begin, I forgot to mention two movies which I neither hated nor considered to be "Honorable Mentions": The Invention of Lying and Watchmen. Neither of them really did anything for me, but to be honest I didn't care enough about them to knock them down a peg two days ago. So there you have it.

Without exception, you should see all 14 of these movies as soon as possible.

In no particular order, and absolutely not numbered, My Favorite Films of 2009:

Moon - I've been counting down the days until I can watch Moon again on Blu-Ray. Only a few weeks left, and it can't come soon enough. Duncan Jones, Sam Rockwell, and Kevin Spacey did something very special with this film, one that ought to owe heavily from Silent Running and 2001, but manages to live and breathe all its own. The theatre we saw Moon in had horrible sound, and frequently cut out during important conversations, but I still think the world of this movie, the first of two great science fiction films on this list.

Inglourious Basterds - Somebody's going to have to explain to me why you didn't like this movie. There's so much animosity out there for Inglourious Basterds, and if it's just because Quentin Tarantino promised a "men on a mission" movie and then gave you a film with greater scope and considerably more depth, then boo hoo. If Christoph Waltz isn't nominated for Best Supporting Actor come Oscar time, I'll be shocked. Mélanie Laurent should also be considered, although I fear she won't in favor of better known Americans.

No part of this film was boring to me. No beat went too long, no flourish was unnecessary. Quentin Tarantino took all of his favorite film fetishes and put them to service a narrative that sweeps over you and I, for one, was enthralled from the opening moments. Each game of "cat and mouse", where it's clear that nothing good can come from what's happening on screen, had my rapt attention. There's no way this movie is two and-a-half hours. I don't believe it.

On a total side note: if there's nothing else you watch Inglourious Basterds for, see it for Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt)'s stunningly awful Italian accent. It's hilarious.

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans - I completely and totally understand why critics are crazy for this movie. The trailers sell you a film that doesn't exist; a complete trainwreck from beginning to end, capped off by Nicolas Cage's batshit Mega Acting. And yes, those are all scenes in The Bad Lieutenant: Unfortunately Long Subtitle That's Totally Appropriate, but Werner Herzog's mad genius constructs a bafflingly wonderful film out of such disparate elements. What you see SHOULD NOT work, but I'll be damned, it does.

Because it's not easy to see, I'll have to recommend you buy or rent it when it arrives on dvd. You'll hear no derision from the Cap'n for doing so.

The Men Who Stare at Goats - Not at all what I was expecting. That's the long and the short of my reaction to Grant Heslov's The Men Who Stare at Goats. You go in expecting something goofy that maybe goes nowhere, but come out on the other side quite pleased at the film. Ewan McGregor is a wonderful comic foil for George Clooney, who in turn gets to pal around with Jeff Bridges' "The Dude" and Kevin Spacey. The secret to this movie, one I continually forget to mention, is that Jedi powers are attainable only with a mustache. Watch The Men Who Stare at Goats and disagree.

Up - If the first fifteen minutes, which set up the story of Carl and Ellie Fredrickson, doesn't tug at your heartstrings, I can't help you. You might even be more of a heartless robot than the Cap'n is, because Up had me from minute one. To its credit, the film quickly turns from tearjerker to adventure and whisks you along for the ride. I have the distinct impression that Coraline will probably take the Best Animated Film award from Up because it's not Pixar, but I cannot agree with that decision. Between Up, Wall-E, and Ratatouille, Pixar is on such a roll that I just don't think that Coraline, as good as it is, is the better film.

Drag Me to Hell - Sam Raimi made me eat crow, and I've never been happier to do it. I hate, HATE Ghost House movies like The Grudge and Boogeyman, and I loathe PG13 horror films that rely on cheap shocks in lieu of good, lasting chills. It turns out that so does Sam Raimi, because he took Ghost House and PG13 horror back to school to show us how it's done. Drag Me to Hell is funny, it's scary, it's cleverly manipulative in scares, and Alison Lohman brings a sense of sympathy that Bruce Campbell could not have (no slight on Bruce, but at this point we revel in Raimi torturing him). The running gags involving horrible liquids going into Lohman's mouth, or the gypsy woman ripping her hair out, to the twisted seance or the anvil!

Folks, you just don't know what you missed by skipping this. I nearly skipped it, and the Cap'n is sure glad he didn't. This is the kind of horror that gets an audience behind it, one that doles out the guffaws and the screams in equal measure.

Thirst - It wasn't until I watched Lady Vengeance several weeks later that Chan-wook Park's Thirst really made sense. I thought the jump from Oldboy to Thirst was a bit odd, even if I really enjoyed Thirst, but all of the black comedy that Park's vampire film carries is evident in Lady Vengeance: the music choices, the bizarre dream sequences, the nochalant approach to violence. I realize that people are pretty "vampired" out right now, but just as seriously as I advocated Let the Right One In, so too must I insist you watch Thirst. It's funnier, for what that's worth.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil - Both hilarious and pathetic. Hilarious, because Anvil has the worst luck in the history of metal bands: This is Spinal Tap couldn't make up half of the shitty things that Anvil have to put up with while on tour. Pathetic, because Lipps and Robb Reiner really want the band to work out. They never got there, when so many others did, and the sense of hope tainted by disappointment really moves Anvil: The Story of Anvil from Behind the Music to something greater.

District 9 - I'm still in awe of how well put together the Johannesburg of District 9 is. Of how the film is not afraid to let characters behave selfishly and betray others for their own benefit. I'm intrigued at the ways the story can continue, and how well Neill Blomkamp toys with your expectations about the "found footage", or the documentary that frames the entire narrative. Like Moon, District 9 is science fiction that's willing to be more than silly "kid's" stuff, one where the violence is disturbing rather than merely gratuitous, and that invites you to go back and follow the details from opening to closing. Bravo.

The Hangover - The sense of impending doom from Bradley Cooper's "we fucked up." at the opening promises you a dangerous experience, and with the three man squad of Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis, I'm ready to travel down that road again with them any time. There's no real redeeming message about film here, just a ride of pure fun with some true howlers of plot twists.

Observe and Report
- After my review, which I feel people took as negative, I stepped back to think about Observe and Report. Normally, something I feel so conflicted about would make it to the "Honorable Mentions" category, but for Observe and Report to affect me the way it did, there's something greater at work in the mind of Jody Hill. I'll be revisiting this film again soon...

Tyson - Mike Tyson, in this documentary, is more than simply the beating machine or the washed up tabloid punchline; he is, at times, an awkward philosopher of his own life. There are very few things he won't talk about, and the portrait he paints is seldom flattering or self serving. Nevertheless, Tyson is the kind of documentary you put on and can't pull your eyes away for one moment, even if you know the "greatest hits".

Zombieland - Like The Hangover, Zombieland makes no pretenses about being "high art". It is a film of pure, unadulterated fun, a zombie film that realizes the survivors of any apocalypse are likely to be just as bent and out of shape as their undead counterparts. Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg are a team that could carry another Zombieland or a dozen other kinds of movies. I love the way Zombieland's opening credits spoof Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead titles, while all the time reminding you that this is a horror-comedy. Sure, it may lack much in the way of deep social commentary, but dammit: Zombieland is fun!

and a special "Finally!" exception for Trick R Treat, my new favorite Halloween movie! - I realize that Trick R Treat was made in 2007, and that it's been traveling around as a "Roadshow" attraction since then, but when the Blu Ray finally arrived in time for Halloween, I understood what the hoopla was about. It is a criminal shame to withhold this film from audiences, when Michael Dougherty so clearly gets and loves what's scary about Halloween and horror films. Plus, it's a great anthology film, something we get so few of any more. I really hope that the success of the dvd and Blu Ray sales (which sold out widely on the day of release) push Warner Brothers to green light another Trick R Treat anthology, but at the very least I now have one movie that's guaranteed for every Horror Fest from here on out.

I wish I'd seen's for 2009: Big Fan, The Road, Up in the Air, The Hurt Locker, A Serious Man, Where the Wild Things Are, Antichrist, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Best Worst Movie, and The Informant!

2009 Recap: Honorable Mentions

Welcome to part one of today's Blogorium madness! In this half of the Year End Recap, I'd like to spend a little time with movies the Cap'n saw this year that, while pretty to very good, didn't make the list of "Favorites". There's nothing about these movies that should prevent you from seeing them, and I recommend them highly. Unlike my favorite films, I'm not going to insist you see them as soon as possible, but I think most readers here will enjoy the "Honorable Mention"s of 2009.

Whenever possible, I'll try to link to the original review and keep my thoughts to a minimum. There's a lot of writing left to do, you see. In no particular order, the movies that weren't my favorite but are still pretty nifty:

I Love You, Man - Still a fun movie to watch, and probably as good as the "Bromantic Comedy" subgenre is going to get. Anchored firmly by Paul Rudd and Jason Segel with some clever supporting roles for Jon Favreau, Jaime Presley, J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Jane Curtain, Rob Huebel, Andy Samberg, Jo Lo Truglio, Thomas Lennon and Lou Ferrigno of all people, it's a consistently funny comedy that just missed the cut. Still, if you like Role Models and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You, Man is right up your alley.

Star Trek - It only really didn't make it to "favorites" because upon reflection, I honestly can't find a plot to attach the film to. As I've said before, it's a testament to JJ Abrams and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, along with the cast and some great visual effects that for Star Trek's two hour running time you hardly notice. There's not a lot about the film that's hard to like, but I wish that it held up better when put to closer scrutiny. Still, it's not "your father's Star Trek", to be sure, but my dad still liked it. So did I. I just didn't love it.

Coraline - While Coraline has as good a chance as any at dislodging Pixar's Up for Best Animated Film (something I'll get to during the "Favorites"), I think that perhaps my polite admiration for the film is tempered in some way by knowing the story so well. I read Coraline two or three times after its publishing, and as a result, the movie lacked tension to me. It's a completely personal issue, I admit; Henry Selick's animation surpasses The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, and the film has no shortage of amazing sights, but as much as I appreciate Coraline, I just didn't love it. Which is a pity, because I suspect many of you will.

Funny People - I thought long and hard about where Funny People fit in the "Best Of", because I do sincerely recommend you check it out, provided you understand that it's not necessarily a comedy. Perhaps the biggest reason I left Funny People out of my "Favorites" is the length: Apatow's film covers a lot of ground and a lot of characters, and the shifts are a bit awkward, especially when moving back and forth between George (Adam Sandler) and Ira (Seth Rogen). I will note that I watched the theatrical cut and not the extended version, but even at its shortened length I felt Funny People had a bit too much padding. Still, I highly recommend the movie as a character study, and length aside, it's easily the best Judd Apatow movie yet.

Sherlock Holmes - Blame it on all the negative reviews I read after watching the film, which rightly point out things I overlooked because of how charming and fast paced Sherlock Holmes is. It's still a fun movie, and I'll gladly pick it up on Blu-Ray, but it's just shy of my top films.

Crank: High Voltage - I watched Crank: High Voltage again on Blu-Ray, and while the film is still insanely offensive and cartoonish in every regard, it just couldn't match the energy of opening "Bad Movie Weekend" at the premiere. There's nothing wrong with Crank: High Voltage - okay, that depends on your definition of the word "wrong" - but I fear that it may never be as fun as it was in The Carousel.

Public Enemies - I found Michael Mann's Public Enemies to be an exceptionally well made film. It's interesting, and the two-and-a-half hour run time never drags. The digital photography can be a little iffy: it alternates between "ye gods! look at that detail" to "yeesh! that digital grain is unbearable" and even into "should a period film look this contemporary?", but that's Mann's technique of choice and he gets better with it film by film. There's nothing wrong with the cast (more on that in a second), and the true story of Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) chasing John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) is frequently riveting. At times it reminded me of Ridley Scott's American Gangster. My favorite scene has to be the moment - probably fictionalized- where Dillinger walks into the Federal Task Force office, totally unnoticed by ancillary agents, and looks around at their evidence boards.

Yet, Public Enemies left me feeling detached. It's not that I didn't enjoy the movie, because I thought there was nothing particularly "off" about it; it's just that I didn't really invest in any of the characters or feel much when Dillinger's men are killed off. Sure, it's a technically fine film, and well acted, but the end result was rather cold. I was never engaged in the story, which is a crippling problem for the Cap'n.

One thing that is likely to come out of Public Enemies is yet another excellent "Movie Game" film. Like Mann's earlier Heat, Public Enemies is filled with recognizable names in smaller roles. For example, in addition to Depp and Bale, you have Marion Cotillard (La vie en Rose), Stephen Lang (Avatar), Jason Clarke (Brotherhood, Death Race), David Wenham (The Two Towers, 300), Stephen Dorff, Channing Tatum (Fighting), Rory Cochrane (Dazed and Confused, A Scanner Darkly), Emilie De Ravin (Lost, Brick), Giovanni Ribisi, Billy Crudup, Shawn Hatosy, Stephen Graham (Snatch), Lili Taylor, and Leelee Sobieski. There are a lot of ways to use Public Enemies in the "Movie Game".

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - After watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets again, I appreciated Half Blood Prince more for its willingness to move away from a "kid's movie", but again I must stress that it doesn't do the title of the film justice, nor does it properly convey the gravity of what's to come in The Deathly Hallows.

Extract - Mike Judge fans are going to enjoy Extract, with reservations. That's my suspicion. Extract is the King of the Hill of Judge's movies: the comedy is mostly understated, and only on rare occasions does the film reach the cartoonish levels peppered through Office Space and abundantly featured in Idiocracy. That said, there's a lot to like about Extract, and a whallop of an ending that reminds you who the director is. Ben Affleck is allowed to be funny again, which should be mandated for his roles from here on out, unless he plans to direct movies as good as Gone Baby Gone in the future.

Jason Bateman is saddled mostly with the "straight man" role, but then again most of the comedians you're expecting to go wild and crazy don't. Like I said, understated. Kristen Wiig, J.K. Simmons, Clifton Collins Jr., and Mila Kunis are all pretty reserved. Only Dustin Milligan's idiot gigolo Brad, Gene Simmons dirtbag attorney Joe Adler, and David Koechner's neighbor from hell Nathan get to cut loose. Extract is a fun movie, but it's not going to be the kind of film you drag people over to watch, like Office Space or Idiocracy.

World's Greatest Dad - Bobcat Goldthwait's World's Greatest Dad, which is not exactly Heathers but does have a character named Heather, is an odd movie. I was expecting it to be much darker than it was, but the movie is kind of uplifting. Well, as uplifting as a movie about a father who fakes his son's suicide after he chokes to death masturbating can be.

The film, which is about Lance Clayton (Robin Williams), an unpublished writer who teaches a barely attended poetry class and has the worst son ever (Daryl Sabara of Spy Kids), is similar to Heathers in that after Kyle dies, a faked suicide note and "secret" journal (both written by Lance) make the little sociopath a school hero. It's never as outlandish as "I Love My Dead Gay Son!", but this kind of movie has to work pretty hard to distance itself from Heathers. World's Greatest Dad doesn't necessarily, but it's still an entertaining film, if you define entertainment by listening to a little shithead talking about felching and anal sex before accidentally strangling himself tugging it to pictures of his dad's girlfriend's underwear.

And yet, I tell you the film is kind of sweet, in ways I couldn't begin to explain without spoiling the film. For some of you, this is right up your alley, but for most it's probably best to move on to the "Favorites" list...

The Girlfriend Experience - I don't have much to add to my review here. I wish I'd seen Soderbergh's The Informant! now, but it'll be out on dvd before too long. While interesting, and certainly worth watching, The Girlfriend Experience isn't quite in the realm of "Best Movies I Saw This Year".

Whatever Works - It's not as good as Match Point, but it's better than Cassandra's Dream. The teaming of Woody Allen and Larry David isn't quite what some people expected, but I liked it.

Stay Tuned for the thrilling conclusion, which will probably be as long, but I'll try to keep things brief!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

By the way...

Speaking of "So You Won't Have To"'s, regular reader Nathan stepped up to the trough and ingested Terminator: Salvation, which will be the Blogorium's first post of 2010. He also wins the extra copy of Blood Car sitting in The Apartment That Dripped Blood, so congratulations!

It also means that I won't have to watch Terminator: Salvation, which is extra awesome. Heh heh.

Meanwhile, the Cap'n will be back tomorrow with my Favorites of 2009 and the Honorable Mentions. Until then...

2009 Recap Presents: Five Movies I Hope I Never See Again

After giving you fine readers some ideas of how to recap your decade last night, I thought I'd turn to the dark side for tonight's installment of the Cap'n's 2009 Recap. Try as I might to find something else, the greatest offenders this year tend to coincide with So You Won't Have To's, so I'm going to provide links to those reviews and spend as little time beating these dead horses as possible.

The good stuff comes tomorrow, and probably in two parts: My Favorite Movies of 2009 and the Honorable Mentions. But first, we must reflect back, lest we forget. So I present to you Five Movies I Hope I Never See Again, in order of heinousness.

5. My Bloody Valentine 3-D - Talk about a movie that killed the 3-D experience for Summer Fest. Had it not been for Friday the 13th Part III, the gimmick portion of our July marathon could have belly flopped.

Nothing about My Bloody Valentine 3-D works: not the gore, not the nudity, not the story - which painfully tries to out-think the original film - and certainly not the acting. The film might have been salvaged by the use of that extra dimension, but instead only seemed interested in making forests appear to have more depth. I regret subjecting unknowing viewers to this stinker, and now I'm strongly reconsidering the new "3-D" movement.

4. Righteous Kill - This is the kind of movie that's such a waste of time I had to remind myself I watched it. Pacino and DeNiro are parodies of themselves, the story "twist" is laughable, and I'm still chuckling about how ridiculous that 50 Cent dummy looks when thrown out of a window. I'd tell you more, but honestly I only remember that I won't watch it again.

3. s. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale - I watched it so that you wouldn't have to, although I suspect few people really harbored any interest in a sequel to Donnie Darko that had nothing to do with its creator Richard Kelly. Truth be told, had the second trailer not duped me with pretty imagery, I too would have taken a pass. But instead, I watched it, and even pretty pictures can only get you so far when the story is garbage. The geniuses behind s. Darko seemed to think that killing your main character in the middle of the film, only to bring her back and invalidate everything that happened between, was a good idea. No, it was a waste of my time, a movie filled with cheap carbon copies of characters from Donnie Darko and undercooked science fiction elements they hoped would pass off as "deep". Avoid at all costs, even if that pan boosted blogorium readers for two weeks.

2. The Limits of Control - I can put up with movies that are self indulgent. I can put up with movies that don't go anywhere, or that are essentially exercises in repetition. But something about The Limits of Control got under my skin and the subsequent scratch of that itch drew blood. I do not simply dislike The Limits of Control, I hate The Limits of Control. I hate that a director who I enjoy so much made such an obvious, stupid, boring film. I hate the half baked attempts at intertextuality, the insipid conversations, and the ham-handed insertion of "meaning" into the last act of the film.

I hate the way that the film doesn't end, so much as the camera runs out of film and stops, a final "fuck you. this movie doesn't have to have an ending, suckers!" I hate that I wasted two hours watching The Limits of Control, and that it felt like four hours. I hate this film.

1. Friday the 13th Shit Coffin - Speaking of hate... I was so angry at Friday the 13th the remake that I couldn't be bothered to give it a full review. It still doesn't seem worth my time to waste energy on this Shit Coffin of cinema. To make it perfectly clear to any of its defenders that the remake fundamentally misses the point of the first four Friday the 13th films (which Platinum Dunes claims it's based on), the Cap'n watched all four films at various points over the year, and Shit Coffin manages to capture none of the fun, the suspense, the violence, and the atmosphere of any of them.

Instead, the movie arbitrarily lifts scenes, drops them in willy-nilly, and relies on a "rawkin" soundtrack and this month's dispensable CW stars to stand around waiting for Derek Mears to kill them. The tunnels are stupid, the dismissal of the summer camp is stupid. The POT FARM is stupid! And even if you don't agree that Jason might be growing the pot, you can't argue that he doesn't kill everybody who gets near the farm. On top of that, the reveal of his hockey mask is so inane, so arbitrary, that I felt ripped off even after checking it out from work. I am much more likely to watch Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 than I am to waste another minute on Platinum Dunes' future mangling of Freddy and Jason.

Dishonorable Mention: Street Fighter - The Legend of Chun-Li, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, and on a technicality - My Name is Bruce.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Speaking of Lists...

I've noticed that just about everyone and their sister is compiling lists of "Best Films of the Decade", since 2009 closes out the first ten years of the new millennium. The Cap'n thought this seemed a bit foolhardy at first, but in the spirit of keeping up with the Joneses, I started making a list of movies I thought were very good, great, had some personal impact on me, or were simply films I've seen repeatedly since their release in 2000.

After filling up the back of two envelopes with just what I had in the Apartment That Dripped Blood, I decided it was in fact a foolhardy notion. Considering how many of these lists are already out there, it seemed best to just abandon the idea altogether. But then again, I had those envelopes, so why not salvage something out of them?

What I came up with are ten movies that I'm pretty sure aren't on any other "Decade's Best" list, but that should be considered anyway. All of them are included strictly for personal reasons, but if you haven't seen any of them, I recommend you check each out.

In no particular order, my top ten films from 2000-2009 No One Else Is Going to Mention are:

Lost in La Mancha - A thoroughly captivating documentary about the making and unmaking of Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. At times painful to watch, as nature and bond companies slowly destroy Gilliam's dream of making his re-imagining of Cervantes a reality. After La Mancha collapsed, Gilliam made the heavily re-edited Brothers Grimm, the darkly inaccessible Tideland, and despite the death of Heath Ledger, he completed The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which is opening soon.

(Other documentaries worth checking out: Dark Days, The Kid Stays in the Picture, Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, The King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters, and Hell's Highway.)

Spider - Lost in the shuffled between eXistenZ and the career resurgence of A History of Violence and Eastern Promises is a great little character study from David Cronenberg. Ralph Fiennes is a muttering, shuffling ball of schizophrenia in the story of a man trying to recreate a murder from his past. The only problem is keeping straight what's real and what's conflated, a challenge for Fiennes and for the audience, but one worth taking on.

(Other brain benders worth pursuing: The Prestige, Birth, The Chumscrubber, and INLAND EMPIRE.)

In Bruges - Still a criminally underseen film from 2008, In Bruges manages to switch from an amusing - if vulgar - comedy to a much more emotionally resonant film, due in no small part to the pairing of Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell. Ralph Fiennes also appears as a force of nature crime boss, and when his orders aren't adhered to, Bruges lights up with profanity and gunfire. Also the sort of film where every incidental detail has some bearing on the plot, which is not spoiling anything.

(Other crime movies you might dig: Sexy Beast, The Departed, Collateral, and Snatch.)

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - Shane Black's return to Hollywood after a self imposed sabbatical brought about one of the purest and most enjoyable neo-noir detective films in the last ten years. Too bad nobody saw it. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer are at the top of their game in this twist on detective films, one that is as frequently hilarious as it is randomly violent. Few films can make not one but two great jokes out of losing a finger, and that's but one of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang's many charms.

(Other neo-noirs worth pursuing: Brick, The Ice Harvest, The Lookout, and The Man Who Wasn't There.)

May - Lucky McKee's debut film was so far beneath my radar that until a chance encounter with the dvd in Hollywood video, I didn't even know May existed. I suspect it remains that way for many of you, but Angela Bettis' May is one of the great characters of the last decade, in a film which is disturbing, sad, and darkly funny in equal measures. Some people take issue with the last few moments of the film, but I can't imagine this fractured fairy tale ending any other way.

(Other under-the-radar horror films worth your time: Roman, Bubba Ho-Tep, Black Sheep, Slither, and Fido.)

This Film is Not Yet Rated - Kirby Dick's expose on the practices of the MPAA's arbitrary rules for how a movie earns its ratings had an impact beyond informing the viewer of a hidden Hollywood practice: the MPAA subsequently took strides to be more transparent in their ratings systems, and loosened the criteria for appealing NC-17's. Like Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, This Film is Not Yet Rated actually translated into a change in the way businesses operate. Plus, it's a great documentary.

(Other, additional, documentaries in need of seeking out: In the Realms of the Unreal, Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth, Not Quite Hollywood, and Stephen Toblowski's Birthday Party.)

O Brother Where Art Thou - The Coen Brothers movie I saw four times in theatres. I dragged everyone I knew to see this film, in Cary and in Greensboro, and I can't tell you how many times I've watched it since. O Brother is a joyous film, one that weds Preston Sturges to The Odyssey in a sensible and entertaining way, one with music that outlasts the "bluegrass revival" fad that sprung up in its wake. I'm convinced that without this combination of George Clooney and The Coens, we might not have the goofy, affable alternative to his otherwise serious and politically conscious films.

(Other films that owe their existence to O Brother Where Art Thou: Leatherheads, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Burn After Reading, and Intolerable Cruelty)

Ginger Snaps and Ginger Snaps: Unleashed - A one-two punch of revisionist werewolf lore that films like Twilight could learn a thing or two from. The premise of Ginger Snaps, that lycanthropy could parallel the beginning of menstrual cycles, could have fallen flat on its face, were it not for the utterly believable bond between Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins as sisters Ginger and Brigitte. In the rare instance of a sequel as good, if not better, than the original, Unleashed shifts the metaphor from puberty to drug addiction, leaving Brigitte's transformation - punctuated by ghostly visits from Ginger - to the realm of a lucid nightmare. The final moments of the film (which situate Ginger Snaps: The Beginning firmly in the realm of fairy tale) take Unleashed beyond mere sequel and into the canon of great horror films.

(Other trope-shifting horror films you ought to seek out: Martyrs, The Orphanage, Let the Right One In, and The Mist.)

Primer - Made for next to nothing, Primer is a well thought out science fiction film about the paradoxes of time travel, constructed in such a way that the audience is constantly one step behind the narrative. What makes primer so special is how conceivably realistic the film is, even when the apparent hazards of time travel manifest themselves towards the end. It spawned a series of other imitators, but for my money Primer is still the king of the mountain.

(Other science fiction films you may have missed: Timecrimes, Serenity, A Scanner Darkly, and Moon.)

Blood Car - I include this because sometimes a film so embodies pure anarchy that it must be included on a "Best Of" list. Blood Car has something to offend everyone - vegetarians? check. people who love animals? check. fans of My Girl? check. people squeamish around blood? check. people who consider themselves to like children, the disabled, the elderly, are prudish about sex, who think gas prices are too high? something to offend everybody. And Blood Car does it gleefully. A genuine example of "cult" movie, one so difficult to find that people are clamoring to review Terminator: Salvation for an extra copy I have. Not since early John Waters have I had so much fun having my senses assaulted.

(Other movies like this: There aren't any. Just rent Blood Car.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Several Notes, some even worthy.

Programming Note: As I intend to actually have a "Best Of" before 2010 begins (uncommon for the Cap'n, I admit), I'm going to avoid writing full reviews of Inglourious Basterds, Up, Extract, Public Enemies, World's Greatest Dad, and anything else I might see before Friday (all hope is not lost for Up in the Air and The Road) and simply let you guess where they'll land.

I sincerely doubt they'll be numbered, because it's going to be tricky choosing which is "better" when the field includes films as diverse as Drag Me to Hell, Moon, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Thirst, Anvil: The Story of Anvil, The Hangover, Trick R Treat, Coraline, Tyson, District 9, Zombieland, and *blog spoiler* Inglourious Basterds.

(Yes, it's true: I don't understand how you could not enjoy the latter film, even if you were expecting all Basterds all the time, but we'll get to that later this week.)

And what am I to do with Crank: High Voltage? What indeed, dead readers?


Housecleaning Note:

Okay, I'm really at a loss to who this "Grampa J" is, or what @Josh@TheMovies is all about. Clearly I've noticed the resemblance between the blogorium, and poor writing and lackluster criticism aside, this yokel is treading in my territory.

It's one thing to parody the Cap'n, but to sell yourself with a pilfered photo and no indication of who you actually are is bordering on slanderous. I wouldn't mind if he weren't such an awful writer, but take a gander as this passage from his review called @ Sherlock Holmes:

"Anyway, after they go and save the girl at the beginning the evil guy gets hung and comes back to life! I won't spoil anything for you but I have to hand it to the director that this was a really clever Idea. Just too bad there had to be so much bad stuff along the way. There were explosions too, which was weird becuase horror movies usually don't have stuff blowing up in them."

I mean, you're kidding me, right? I wrote that? Seriously? Without getting into the nitty gritty details, like the fact that "Grampa J" claims to be fairly new to movie going in general - so how could he possibly know what horror movies do and don't have explosions - or the lazy punctuation, capitalization, and spelling, didn't I already review Sherlock Holmes? Oh right, I did. On Friday. It's funny how he started by reviewing a movie I famously stated I would never see, then posts a contrary and poorly thought out counter-review to my existing Holmes write-up...

Folks, I've played my share of gags on you before, but this is not one of them. This cat is horning in on the one thing I take pride on, and while I'm quite fond of my moniker (Cap'n Howdy), surely you can tell what's my writing and what isn't. If this is one of you, please step forward and we can proceed peacefully. Otherwise, look forward to savage commenting on every single ensuing post, "Grampa J".


On a final note, this video of Star Trek: The Next Generation is quite amusing to me. The re-dubbed soundtrack takes pains to match the lip movements of cast members, so the end result is a nearly incomprehensible conversation of non sequiturs.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Last Trailer Sunday of 2009

Some of my favorite trailers from the year nearly behind us:


Observe and Report

A Serious Man


Star Trek

The Informant


Sherlock Holmes

The Hangover


District 9


I Love You Man

The Girlfriend Experience

Whatever Works

Trick R Treat

Inglourious Basterds


and looking forward:

Tron Legacy

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Blogorium Review: The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

I know. I know. You aren't going to believe me. I wouldn't believe me either, because I stubbornly refused to believe the positive reviews of The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. When it made Roger Ebert's Top Ten Movies of 2009, I still thought there had to be an angle. Surely a movie with such an awe-inspiring sense of "BAD MOVIE NIGHT CANDIDATE" couldn't really be worth paying good money for.

(and yes, the on-screen title is actually THE Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans)

Even the descriptions of scenes, of Cage's verbal tics, or of adopting this bizarre Edward G. Robinson impersonation (which seems to disappear and reappear from scene to scene) had me wondering what kind of epic disaster this film was.

So Adam and I went to see Werner Herzog and Nicolas Cage ham it up. Because that's what you have to expect from watching this:

*WARNING* I say in all fairness that it may be impossible to adequately explain away what you just saw, or to describe The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans in any way that doesn't sound like the stupidest thing you've ever heard of, but I'm going to try.

Folks, let me tell you: the trailer does not misrepresent a single moment in the film. Everything you see in that ad happens, and much stranger. Cage alternates between bizarre and unhinged. There is a lucky crack pipe. There are iguanas (oh, and I'll get to that in a second). And yet it is wildly misleading.

I should never doubt Werner Herzog, especially when his comedy is being presented as a "gritty drama" by whoever markets this film. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is by intention a comedy from beginning to end, and anyone who thinks they're going to come in and laugh AT this movie is in for a pretty big shock. It's too weird to laugh AT. You can laugh WITH the film, since that's the design of the movie, but the moments in the trailer that look like "so bad it's good" actually fit into a much stranger narrative.

In the interest of keeping this short, I'm going to list a few things you haven't seen - many of which will convince you I'm selling you a false bill of goods - but that set the tone of this film:

- On two occasions during the film, Herzog deliberately switches to extreme close-ups shot with a hand held digital camera. The first is an alligator hanging out by the side of the road. The second is a prolonged sequence with the iguanas seen in the trailer, made all the funnier by the curious look on Cage's face as he periodically watches them.

- I swear to you that this isn't as stupid as it sounds: the soul IS dancing. Break dancing, to be specific. What you're missing is the context of what character Cage is referring to and everything leading up to this moment. I dare not say more.

- Because this is mostly being advertised as Nicolas Cage (with Eva Mendes), you should know there's some fine supporting work being done by Jennifer Coolidge, Brad Dourif, Tom Bowers, Shawn Hatosy, Farizua Balk, Irma P. Hall, Val Kilmer, and yes, Alvin "Xzibit" Joiner.

As to the "remake" aspect of the film, it's better that you don't even think about it. Put Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant out of your mind going into this. Don't let the wieldy title dissuade you either; it's surprisingly appropriate, considering how important New Orleans is to the story.

Cage is to be commended for using all of the tics and eccentricities he's been derided for over the past few years (of which this blog is no exception) and pointing them towards the story. Every bad habit people chuckle over is used to advance the strange trajectory of Terence McDonagh, who may be more of a Good Lieutenant than you'd ever guess, so in that respect the ads misrepresent what's really going on in this movie.

Look, I'm not going to presume that anyone believes me. There will be no "retraction" review tomorrow, as there was for a far more infamous film one year ago. I honestly found The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans to be an excellent film, and you might be surprised to see where it ends up in the "Best of" list next week.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Blogorium Review: Sherlock Holmes

I'm afraid I don't have much to say about Sherlock Holmes. I really enjoyed the movie, which is breezy, frequently amusing (and laugh out loud so) with a compelling story. It's quite well acted, perhaps no more evident than the leading duo of Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, which is to say nothing untoward about Rachel McAdams or Mark Strong.

To what will be many a person's surprise, Jude Law's Watson steals the movie out from right under Downey's Holmes. Mark Strong's Lord Blackwood is a credible and interesting villain, and *SEMI SPOILER* perhaps not the only one - there's certainly a good set up for the next Sherlock Holmes film, which I have no doubt there will be when word of mouth gets out about this film.

If you enjoyed Iron Man or Star Trek, or comparably entertaining films that don't necessarily assume you're checking your brain at the door, I have no doubt you'll take quite a shining to Sherlock Holmes. Guy Ritchie did quite a bang up job of paying credence to the existing Holmes canon while simultaneously moving their namesake in new and interesting directions. Don't misunderstand me: Sherlock Holmes' deductive skills are evident from beginning to end, and the central mystery of the film - Lord Blackwood's seemingly impossible return from the grave - are handled in clever ways. All of the clues are available, if doled out carefully, so that when Holmes and Blackwood meet again at the end the speech is logical and makes sense.

Again, I'm at a bit of a loss of how to continue talking about the film. I dare not reveal much more of the movie, as the trailers wonderfully represent what you're in for, but with a great deal extra. It is very much an 1890s "buddy cop" film, but one executed so well that you don't really mind. Where it needs to be faithful, it is; where it chooses to deviate, it does so cleverly. You'll have fun, and you won't feel insulted for having seen it. Not too shabby, considering some of the movies the Cap'n sat through this year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Guest Blogger: Douglas Fir

Greetings, human meat-bags. The Cap'n abandoned his shift again, so while he's bleeding in the dungeon passed out from "egg nog", your beloved overlord and Tree-rific Overlord will be handling the Holiday duties! When I'm done with you worthless hairy flesh-pods, you'll be PINE-ing for more!

Ha! Get it! Because I'm a tree! Even the idiots can understand now, which I presume makes up 99% of you so-called "readers". Truly, just a little OAK on my part. Please, we both know you're being read this gagorium entry by some speech mechanism, which provides you with the requisite farts and toodles to keep you from being distracted. That, of course, MAPLE or may not be part of my insidious plan to lull you into stupor, so that my plans of coniferous world domination may again take SEED!

Much like my last visit to this backwater corner of the internets, I Douglas Fir will provide you with the week's "top" movies, but re-titled in a manner that the most snail brained of you can grasp the meaning. Failing that (and I won't), I will provide a quality Tree related pun, because it's what you deserve.

To prevent any further BIRCH-ing and moaning, here are the "top" films rotting your jello brains:

1. U Can has Blue Kitteh for $500 million Dollars.
2. Bestiality, Disney Style!
3. My White Mother Says to Play Football.
4. For Richer, For Poorer 2: Even Less Funny
5. I wish that DOGWOOD steal her away from Sparklevision!
6. Yes We Afrikaans!
7. I Always Get SYCAMORE Jim Carrey Kid's Movies.
8. Planes, Planes, and Automoplanes.
9. Sissy Fight.
10. Old Dogs.

To be fair, when the fact that a film like Old Dogs exists, there's not much sense in obfuscating it. Uh oh, I used a word that confuses and angers you! Best to cower under your pillows for the impending arrival of Santa Fir! And I swear, if you leave those fires burning again this year, I will so press charges!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Festivus Gift to All of You!

The History of Festivus

Also, The Star Wars Holiday Special!

Happy Life Day! You're Welcome!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blogorium Review: District 9

I'm done taking my pot shots at Avatar. There's no sense in it, when I've already seen two science fiction films that in any other year would take the "best" list. It's only appropriate that District 9's Blu-Ray opens with a trailer for Moon, another movie destined to be one of my favorite films of 2009. But we'll get to Moon again next week. For now, I want to talk about the newest arrival of GREAT MOVIES, the Peter Jackson production of Neill Blomkamp's District 9.

The story concerns a spaceship that, for lack of a better term, stalls out over Johannesburg, South Africa. After rescuing the ailing passengers, the aliens - nicknamed "Prawns" because of their physical resemblance - are herded into a walled-off slum called District 9. The Multi-Nations Unit (MNU) confiscates their weaponry and technology, and a functional second class develops over the next twenty years. Anyone familiar with South African politics in the 1980s is going to notice some parallels here.

Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is a weasley MNU representative who enters District 9 with orders to con the Prawns into willingly evicting themselves, in order to be shipped to another ghetto outside of Johannesburg. To say that he meets resistance is an understatement, but it's nothing compared to an accidental exposure to alien liquid when Wikus interrupts Prawn Christopher Johnson (Jason Cope)'s plans to escape Earth.

By now you've seen the ads and some of you are probably still thinking that the film is another in the line of "Found Footage" movies, like Diary of the Dead or Cloverfield. To be sure, District 9 begins that way, with pieced together "documentary" footage punctuated by talking head interviews. For the first twenty minutes or so, it really seems like that's how the film is going to play out, but something weird happens. The subjective "documentary" camera turns into the objective third-person camera a few too many times, and almost imperceptibly, District 9 switches from "found footage" to narrative.

One of the many things I appreciated about District 9, which incidentally is also a variation on the "stranger who infiltrates us and then becomes us" that so many take Avatar to task for, is that Wikus never behaves altruistically. As late as the third act, when he has the chance to really help Christopher Johnson out, a change in plans causes him to nearly ruin the entire effort to restart the Prawn ship, just because Wikus is too selfish to put his own interests aside. Admittedly, if I was (SPOILER) turning into an alien and they only hope I had was suddenly pushed back three years, I might behave selfishly too, but it was refreshing that even as Wikus develops as a character, he never simply devolves into the "good guy" type.

I'm quite impressed that Blomkamp made District 9 on a 30 million dollar budget (compared to Terminator: Salvation's 200 million, for example), because with the exception of one or two shots, the Prawn look pretty convincing in the film. The ship always looks real, both the always hovering mother ship and the smaller escape vessel you see later in the film. Wikus' transformation is handled (mostly? totally?) practically, which really adds to the audience's ability to believe this change is happening - and painful. It may be as disgusting and painful of a slow transformation as I've seen since David Cronenberg's The Fly.

Speaking of disgusting, I might warn some sensitive viewers away from this excellent movie, if only because District 9 is an exceedingly violent film. It's not just the alien weaponry, which among other things causes people to explode (and frequently splatter against the camera), but also the tenor of sequences involving the Nigerians who exploit Prawns and try to steal their "power". You see, only Prawns can use their weaponry, so the Nigerian gang boss has been killing them and eating their limbs in an attempt to usurp their abilities. When he meets Wikus, with his alien hand and ability to fire the guns, he immediately plans to do the same to him.

I'll spare you any more spoilers or information. There are no less than a dozen reviews that focus on the relationship between District 9 and Apartheid, so forgive me if I leave that well dry. Needless to say, the parallels are there, as well as a number of other interesting comments about how information is perceived and delivered, and how that deviates from reality. Additionally, the acting is uniformly great and really helps sell the reality of District 9's world. It certainly doesn't hurt that Blomkamp adapted District 9 from his short film, Alive in Joburg:

Blomkamp's feature version is as assured and well put together as Duncan Jones' Moon, and it's going to be tough going deciding which of them I'm more likely to watch first. At any rate, we're lucky to have such a good year for science fiction, horror, comedy, and drama. The consistency of really good to great movies may seem like less than 2008, but I'd argue that the tops of this year are every bit as good as the top movies of last year. More on that next week.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mostly Harmless, and Largely Inconsequential (until the end. I mean, seriously, what the hell????)

Watching I Heart Huckabees again for the first time in... oh, it's been at least three years, I was very surprised to see Jonah Hill, Isla Fisher, and Richard Jenkins in the film. I don't think that in 2004, when I first saw Huckabees, that I knew who Jonah Hill and Isla Fisher were, so that makes a little more sense. I can understand not remembering Richard Jenkins, as I'd also forgotten Tippi Hedren and Talia Shire were in the film, but it's nutty how a jump in visibility will ripple backwards into films I thought I knew pretty well.

Still, the movie holds up quite well, and the rest of the cast (which I did recall) are all very good. That's about the level of insight you're getting here, gang. Mostly I thought I'd throw out that first paragraph and move on. Dig?


A number of you have been telling me that Avatar is... something or other. It turns to white noise when you start talking, so I'm not really sure what you said. If I had to guess, you secretly hated it but have agreed to take on "paid sponsor" positions in order to get yourself a piece of that action.

No matter what any link at the bottom of this entry might tell you, I assure you the Cap'n definitely did not and will not see Avatar. I like my eyes just the way they are, and I'll take my movies antiquated, thanks. There's a better chance of me seeing Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel than the blue cat thingy.


This Vincent Price Christmas Special, from last week's SNL, makes me laugh and cringe. Enjoy


Finally, what the hell is this? Seriously. Can somebody explain this to me, because I'm at a loss.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dan O'Bannon - RIP Trailer Sunday

The name might not ring a bell, but his work as a writer ought to. These are the films the late Dan O'Bannon brought us:

Dark Star


Dead & Buried

Heavy Metal

Blue Thunder

Return of the Living Dead


Invaders from Mars (1986)

Total Recall



* I apologize for throwing in this last one, but the trailer makes some pretty unsubstantiated claims, and it is technically O'Bannon's last screenplay turned film.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blogorium Review: The Hangover

The Hangover won't cure diseases, or bolster world peace. It's not likely to make many "top" lists, when "serious" and the "meaningful" films are to be had, but so what? The Hangover is a comedy that sets out to entertain, offend, and periodically shock you. And that it does very well, in addition to being quite funny.

Forgive me if the Cap'n is late to the party. It is a well known fact that as much as I'd like to get out and see films during their actual release, I rarely do. To remedy this, I do attempt whenever possible to watch them on the fancy tv with the fancy picture and sound hookups. I even leave my phone on for that "authentic" movie theatre atmosphere. Normally speaking, it makes up for not seeing it with others in a darkened auditorium*, but I do feel I cheated myself out by not seeing The Hangover with others.

If anyone at this point doesn't already know the plot of The Hangover, I will detail it in brief: Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married, but before he does so his friends are taking him to Vegas for a blow out bachelor party. The friends in question are school teacher Phil (Bradley Cooper), dentist Stu (Ed Helms) and soon-to-be brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Rather than seeing the bachelor party, the audience is introduced to the aftermath, as the very hung over and completely confused Stu, Phil, and Alan try to retrace their party trajectory. See, they lost Doug, and he's getting married very soon.

Along the way, they run into escort / stripper Jade (Heather Graham), who Stu married at some point, a very naked Ken Jeong, another Doug (Mike Epps), and Mike Tyson. What any of these people may have to do with a stolen police car, a tiger, a baby, and roofies is up for you to figure out. Also, Stu seems to be missing a tooth. These, and other debaucheries come to light over the 108 minute unrated cut of The Hangover.

Early reviews indicated that the film was lacking on consistent laughs - a point I disagree with - but compensated for very big gags strategically placed throughout the film. While most of the reveals as to how or why such strange things happened during the bachelor party are the source of the biggest laughs, I'm going to side with a more consistent comic approach to the film, largely from character moments. Director Todd Phillips (Old School) hit the jackpot with the combination of Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis. You could not put three more different people together, but they have a chemistry that sells the rampant absurdity of the story.

Cooper manages to make Phil, a complete asshole who starts the film stealing money from field trip funds, a reasonably likable dude by the end of the film. Ed Helms begins The Hangover as a henpecked loser dominated by Melissa (Rachael Harris), and grows out of that "type" in a believable way. You can actually buy his final scene with Heather Graham as something that could happen between those characters.

Galifianakis runs away with the movie, partially because Alan is a walking non sequitur. Half of what Alan says doesn't make sense, and the way he makes connections or expresses whatever dementia going on inside that brain carries the humor past big joke set pieces. I was personally fond of the way that the film addresses some of his off hand comments but not others (like why he's not allowed near schools or Chuck E Cheeses). There's also a ridiculous payoff for a Rain Man joke earlier in the film that works because Galifianakis sells it so well.

In the interest of keeping this review short, I won't mention all of the great supporting parts from Jeffrey Tambor, Rob Riggle, Matt Walsh, Bryan Callen, Mike Epps, and particularly Mike Tyson, who has a much better scene that just the Phil Collins moment in the trailer. I'm not at all surprised that a sequel is in the works for The Hangover, because the combination of Cooper, Helms, Galifianakis (and, to a lesser extent without spoiling anything Bartha**), is too good to pass up revisiting. I wouldn't mind seeing more of Heather Graham in a sequel, as he character is criminally underused in the film, aside from a third-act con game in the casino.

There is one complaint I must register with The Hangover, and it is a matter of personal disagreement. The Dan Band, who Phillips also used in Old School, show up near the very end of the film, and are featured in such a way that it nearly derailed my enjoyment of the entire film. I just don't like that group, and having them singing a lounge version of 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" isn't going to change that. Otherwise, the music alternates between bachelor party appropriate and inspired (like the use of Danzig's "Thirteen" to open the film).

If you're like the Cap'n and somehow slow to pick up on the universally positive buzz for The Hangover, now's as good a time as any to catch yourself up. I doubt you'll regret it, unless you offend easily or really like babies.

* Please don't fail to note that I've been sharing excerpts of a paper I wrote extolling the virtues of seeing films theatrically. The irony is not lost on me, I assure you.
** It was not until writing this that I checked IMDB to figure out why Justin Bartha looked so familiar. Turns out he was the "nerdy" character in National Treasure. His part in The Hangover is enough of a departure that I never made the connection.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fool Disclosure

It's finally winter here in Blogorium central; a polite but persistent snow fall fell for most of the day and well into the night, blanketing the streets and buildings with nary a Mr. Plow truck in sight. This would be as good a time as any for your Cap'n to stay in and watch movies, but as I must always buck the trends you expect of me, I'm going to go for a walk in just a bit here, over to Major Tom's Festivus get together.

(This is probably for the best, because blogspot is being awfully naughty and not auto-saving this, so who knows if this entry will be up when I leave)

Nevertheless, I do have quite a bit to watch here at HQ: there's The Hangover, Public Enemies, and the latest Netflix arrival, Bobcat Goldthwait's World's Greatest Dad, a black comedy that reunites him with Robin Williams (who has a cameo in Shakes the Clown). As I put Inglorious Basterds on a familial Festivus list, that's going to have to wait at least another week. While I'm out of town next week, the Cap'n is planning on seeing Sherlock Holmes and Up in the Air.

Quite a busy schedule, I admit. But that's what I will be doing. What I have been doing, aside from finishing Eoin Colfer's ...And Another Thing* and Harlan Ellison's Watching, is watching Slacker and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets again, both with supplements on.

I will say that as much as Slacker grates on my nerves, with its endlessly freshmen-level philosophy rants, the Richard Linklater commentary track is much more interesting. The reason I decided to put it on in the first place is due to how much I enjoyed his track on Dazed and Confused, a film (that I have stated many times) still holds up every time I revisit it.

Sure enough, Linklater brings a mix of technical, historical, and anecdotal information to the table, and manages to contextualize most of the rambling monologues in a way that's more entertaining than the film itself. I'm still on the fence about Me and Orson Welles, but if nothing else, I consistently enjoy Linklater the speaker, even if his films don't always work for me.


The first thing that stood out while watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in light of everything that followed is how much of a "children's movie" it is. Perhaps it's merely that Chris Columbus trades in those sorts of films, or that the expectations were that only children would be interested in the second Harry Potter film, but it's filled with "aw wow!" moments that compound and get a little worn by the twenty minute mark.

If you're thinking "well, of course they do! it's a children's movie!", then you've a) fallen into the trap I laid out in the paragraph above, or b) are perhaps unaware that so-called "children's movies" can actually be entertaining to people who lost their baby teeth long ago. Pixar has consistently been proving that for years, but if I need to provide more examples: Labyrinth, Gremlins, Fantasia, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Time Bandits, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and even Kung Fu Panda. Not to mention the four Harry Potter films that follow Chamber of Secrets, which are also presumably "children's movies", but challenge the audience with less simplistic characters and better than "gee whiz" effects for their own sake.

Still, I have to give Chamber of Secrets some credit: I hated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Philosopher's Stone, and had I not given the second film a chance to win me back over, it is very unlikely that review of Half Blood Prince would ever have come to pass. It is a better movie than the first one, if for nothing else than introducing the plot point that Harry might be a spiritual heir to Voldemort and not the Chosen One. Moral ambiguity usually helps in tempering "children's" entertainment.


Apparently the Federal Trade Commission wants bloggers to make it abundantly clear when / if we're reviewing or advocating something that was given to us, so as not to muddy the waters about endorsements. In the interest of full disclosure, Nobody Gives The Cap'n Movies/Books/Music/Etc to Review. I'm not saying that wouldn't be nice, but the reality is that I either buy or rent the movies in question. The only films provided to me come from Netflix, a service I pay for, so no one is buying my opinion.

Now if you want to buy my opinion, I'm not going to turn down free movies. I'll just be telling everybody that you gave them to me. But that's fair, right?

* A pretty good book, particularly if you've been longing for something since Mostly Harmless. It periodically has flashes of Douglas Adams but suffers the most from the fact that Eoin Colfer is not Douglas Adams. That being said, the story is entertaining: it involves Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged, Thor, and a colony planet for wealthy Earthlings modeled after Innisfree as realized in The Quiet Man. Don't go in expecting a purely Hitch-Hiker's experience, but there is some fun to be had from Colfer's book and seeing everyone again, plus a rather amusing Blade Runner reference.