Preamble shamelessly copied from last week's post:
Welcome back to another edition of the Blogorium's Retro Review. Today we're going to continue looking back at a series of reviews written for defunct online magazine You're All Doomed. Previously we took a look at reviews from 2005 and at the output of guest blogger Professor Murder. Turning the wayback machine a little further, let's take a look at a few more movies from 2004.
Once again, a bit of a disclaimer: these reviews represent a proto-Cap'n Howdy and accordingly they don't look like what I write today. They're shorter, tend to make logical leaps and assume the audience will simply follow, and sometimes contain erroneous information because I was more interested in getting reactions out unspoiled rather than fact checking and researching before and during the writing process. I am, however, leaving them untouched in order to represent the original material.
Shaun of the Dead: A Romantic Comedy. With Zombies (if you will)
4.5 stars out of 5
Shaun of the Dead is nearly perfect entertainment. Unless of course, you have a weak stomach or hate zombies. Then it's just very good. As I write this, it becomes very difficult to explain why SotD is so wonderful. Is it that every character is three dimensional? Is it the nods to Romero's "Dead" films? Is it the presence of the star of "Black Books"?
Why don't the ads do this movie justice?
This is a question I do feel I can address. See, the ads I saw on tv flew in the face of every great thing I'd heard about it. The jokes looked obvious and stupid, the "scares" were neither frightening nor interesting. Even the celebrity blurbs sounded cheesy (I'm sorry Peter Jackson, really I am, but Cabin Fever was not the best horror movie of 2003 or any other year.) So I went in with a grain of salt, expecting to be sadly disappointed in another over-hyped "indie gem." Imagine my shock when in the first five minutes I was laughing. Not chuckles, but outright laughter, which led to sustained belly aching laughs as things really got rolling. Even the scenes they show you on tv, like when Shaun and Ed are singing and the zombie joins in, are funny. Seriously. Yes, taken out of context, they look terrible. When you realize that Shaun and Ed are very drunk and may well be the only people in London that DON'T know the dead have risen... I don't know. It's hard to explain.
Needless to say, just go see it. I've already told everyone I know that it's fucking hilarious and they'll love it. And if you have an aversion to gore or "horror" movies, then you'll be just fine until they lock themselves in the pub. Really. The title of this review doesn't lie. If you do like zombies, then you ought've seen it already, so get out there and watch it!
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
5 stars (out of 5)
Charlie Kaufman. Michel Gondry. Kate Winslet as good as she's been since Heavenly Creatures. Jim Carrey as good as he's ever been. Elijah Wood, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Ruffalo, David Cross. A true joy from beginning to end. Heart breaking and true. As good as they come, folks. Get it while it's fresh.
Coffee and Cigarettes
3.5 (out of 5)
It isn't difficult to digest this movie. In fact, the title alone tells you everything that can be expected. Jim Jarmusch takes small groups of people (for most of the vingettes, two) and provides them cigarettes and, well, coffee. However, let me clarify something here. This isn't improvised, or at least, most of the conversations aren't. Too many little phrases and moments echo each other to be an accident (in particular, keep an eye out for musicians who double as doctors, nikolai tesla, and the shady nature of celebrity.) While Coffee and Cigarettes is slight, the segments are never too long to grate, and the really good ones make up for the lesser bits.
-Cate Blanchett is a standout playing herself and her cousin, as are Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan in the same beat.
-The White Stripes discuss Jack's Tesla coil while Cinque Lee looks on (Lee, having appeared in an earlier segment with his sister Joie and Steve Buscemi)
-Iggy Pop and Tom Waits test each other and discover the diner's jukebox doesn't play either one of them.
-Bill Rice and Taylor Mead muse about the late seventies and champagne
and, in what's probably the most heard about segment, The Rza and The Gza offer Bill Murray helpful tips of losing that smokers cough (they also refer to him exclusively as "Bill Murray".)
See what I mean? There's really not a lot after the movie ends, but it's a pleasant hour and a half, and even if the Tom Waits / Iggy Pop scene goes on for far too long, and Roberto Benigni is almost impossible to understand in his scene with Steven Wright, well, it's entertaining enough. Jarmusch fans should enjoy it well enough, and most other people weren't planning on seeing it anyhow.
I Heart Huckabees
I Heart Huckabees may be as difficult a review as I've ever had to write. This is the type of film best experienced, not unlike Being John Malkovich, Bubba Ho-Tep, or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. If any of those movies turned you off when you read it, I Heart Huckabees probably isn't for you. There's no exaggerating on their part when Fox Searchlight calls it "[an] existentialist comedy", because it's both a parody and the essence of existentialism on celluloid. The film wanders around and throws high concept after high concept at the audience with little concern to explain or wait for you to catch up. The cast is uniformly great, including surprisingly good turns from Mark Wahlberg and Jason Schwartzmann, both actors who've had their share of ups and downs in hollywood. Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin are endearing and baffling at the same time, and Jude Law is more than capable of taking the villain character and twisting him around. I'd be remiss to ignore Naomi Watts, who arguably has the most character arc in the movie, and she's totally believable all the way along.
That being said, no less than four people walked out of the movie when I went to see it, and a great deal more complained about it afterwards. This is a movie that isn't in the mood to wait for you, and a lot of people didn't understand why I was laughing so frequently and heartily. This is that type of movie, the sort that does horribly in theaters, but a small, devoted base keeps it alive on video and dvd. I hope. See it, but be warned, you may not like what you see.
The Day Before Tomorrow
I had such high hopes for this movie. Much like Eight Legged Freaks, I expected to be able to turn my brain off and enjoy some harmless carnage for two hours, then get up and forget about it by the time I got to the car. But then, I forgot, this IS Roland Emmerich we're talking about. Big hearted sap sentimentalist appeal to your inner tree hugger Roland Emmerich. Don't get me wrong, it's fine to express yourself in film, whether you're attacking foreign policy under the guise of alien invasion (Indepence Day) or attracting crass commercial endorsements while destroying New York (Godzilla) or even pillaging William Wallace and placing him front and center in the Revolutionary War (The Patriot). And don't even get me started on Stargate. However, these were all handled with the assistance of Dean Devlin (yep, the asian guy in Real Genius. Seriously, check it out) so I assumed he had a hand in this.
Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy Disaster flicks as much as any filmgoer, maybe more (I do own The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno own VHS, Laserdisc, and DVD) and The Day After Tomorrow delivers on the gratuitous destruction. By the end of the movie, most of America is covered in ice, and millions are implied dead. Plus we see the destruction of Los Angeles and New York City firsthand, and let me tell you, it is grand. Not since George Lucas got off his fat ass to make the prequels has one film abused computers so. Tornadoes, walls of water (remember the OTHER ending to the Abyss? Ever wondered what'd happen if they didn't buy Ed Harris' plea?) rain and snowstorms out the wazoo, characters introduced only to be killed within ten minutes (check out the mostly pointless scene in Tokyo) and hail. Oh, and for no good reason, wolves.
HOWEVER, the carnage is sullied by the persistent eco-friendly message spewed at every opportunity by Dennis Quaid and Ian Holm, plus a cop out ending and unnecessary jabs at the Bush Administration (see: Vice President that clearly is the decision maker, idiot president that dies instead of being evacuated, etc) When President Cheney gives his final address on The Weather Channel, he tells the survivors of the world that they must make radical changes about the way they think in order to move on as a society (not unlike Bill Pullman's address in Independence Day) when shortly before he was belittling the efforts and warnings of the tree hugging climatologists. The movie even goes so far as to recommend ways to curb the impending doom before it happens.
Thankfully, this makes up the beginning and the end, chiefly, and the global destruction is worth the price of being lectured. Plus Jake Gyllenhall found himself a movie to be in that makes money (wise move, guy, those Donnie fans won't be paying the bills forever). If you dig death on a worldwide scale, some mildly interesting action scenes, and more (implied) corpses than a romero flick, check this movie out, but bring some earplugs, and plan to leave 15 minutes early.
Team America: World Police
AMERICA! FUCK YEAH!!
Team America offends the left and the right, and has been held up by both sides as a paragon of their beliefs. The National Review hails it for it's conservative sense of humour and merciless assault on the media elite, and Leftists use it to explain how America is perceived in the world.
Of course, they're both right. And wrong. Team America is an assault on all sides from the middle, people tired of being told they either side with George W. Bush or Michael Moore. (Personally, I think they're both full of shit.) It's also a crude, bombastic send up of overblown Hollywood Action movies, even lifting direct scenes and lines of dialogue from such hits as Top Gun and Armageddon. With puppets. There's even a clever Star Wars joke about halfway through the movie. The violence at first is ridiculous, but by the end of the film, Team America dispatches the Film Actors Guild in so many disgusting and violent ways that you forget you're watching puppets. Okay, you don't, but the novelty that it's one elaborate puppet show becomes irrelevant about halfway in.
The two best things Team America has going for it are Kim Jong IL as the film's chief villain (packing one hell of a surprise in the final moments) and the ridiculous, over the top songs, designed to copy and rip apart THE BIG SONG of action extravaganzas (one song in particular compares the loss of a girlfriend to how much Pearl Harbor sucked) and executed in a variety of outlandish ways. I'll even let Trey and Matt slide for reusing the Montage song from South Park.
I can't give it perfect marks, because it does miss the mark on some jokes, and like any action movie, things can drag a bit. But what works will leave your ass rolling in the aisles.
Fahrenheit 9/11 / Celsius 41.11
3 stars (combined)
I'm gonna do this quickly, because I'm so fucking sick of these movies:
Both movies alter the same facts to make different points. Both pretend to hold reverence for their subjects and yet rip them new assholes mercilessly. Both don't care about the truth if it gets in the way of their narrative. Fahrenheit is at least a palatable movie, Celsius doesn't want to be a movie, but rather an attack piece. Moore likes to think he's making high art, and he's not, but whatever. Seriously, Celsius is funnier, if only because they try even less to disguise the attack on John Kerry (which is funny, since the cover promises to correct Moore's mistakes) At the end of it, neither one of them has a point, and Fahrenheit only wins out because it's ballsier in scope. Fuck politics, fuck attack ads, fuck these "movies".