Archive for September, 2007

KIFF: Ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod

September 20, 2007

Don't let the film festival part fool you

This weekend I was lucky/nerdy enough to attend the Kansas International Film Festival. What’s that, you say? You didn’t realize Kansas had a film festival? Why, neither did I until I saw a rather silly but endearing TV ad for it. I was like, “Huh, I wasn’t aware Kansas City had any sort of film culture worth mentioning.” My interest was piqued for a few seconds, but it was quickly distracted by watching a bunch of catty women fighting over a bloated 80s hair metal rock star on VH1. Weeks pass and I say to myself, “Hey, wasn’t there going to be some kind of film festival?” So I google it and lo, information that would change my life appears on the screen. Guy Maddin is going to be a guest of honor.

YES. THAT Guy Maddin!

Needless to say that by itself sold me. I made plans to attend to see his new film he was shopping around the festival circuit, Brand Upon the Brain. I had no idea what it was supposed to be about. Who cared? Guy Maddin!

So that Thursday before the festival, like always, the local paper’s “Enjoy” section came out with an entire section on the film festival and what was going on with it. Of course it listed Guy Maddin (why wouldn’t it? It’s Guy Maddin!), but along with him was 24‘s Louis Lombardi and Troma auteur Lloyd Kaufman. Needless to say I squealed and looked for someone to high-five, but no one was around. Now I HAD to go to this festival and meet these people. But did I have… the right stuff?

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(grumplet) Pathfinder – Why Can’t Karl Urban Get Better Jobs?

September 9, 2007

Most of you won’t remember Pathfinder. It was released quickly and silently into theaters in the spring amid much more publicized movies such as 300 and Grindhouse. It got lost in the shuffle and made its way humbly to DVD about a month ago. But really, Pathfinder deserved that.

See, it’s such a straight-to-DVD movie. Nothing about it is all that professional. The biggest names in it are Karl Urban (Xena, Lord of the Rings) and Clancy Brown (LOST, Carnivale, almost every animated Superman property since the mid 90s): two names that no one but the nerdiest, most genre-hungry among us would recognize. That’s because 90% of the other actors in this film are unknown Native Americans or nameless stuntmen. Still a smidgen more star power than 300, though. Seriously, who had heard of Gerard Butler or that Brazilian guy from LOST before then?

If there’s a reason I keep bringing up 300, it’s because these movies share a similar thread. The story of Pathfinder is that a Viking ship crashed upon the rocks of a North American shore and some kindly natives take in the only surviving crewman, a young boy they name Ghost (because of his skin lol). He grows up into Karl Urban who gets lots of loving shots of himself shirtless and travels with his tribe to visit a shaman who has the title “Pathfinder” (what this entails I have no idea) and he macks on a hot young dish named Moon Bloodgood. Of course, this was not meant to last as yet more Vikings arrive and generally kill everyone Ghost loves, including his adoptive mother. Enraged, he teams back up with the nearby surviving village and attempts to get the rest of the natives to safety while taking sweet, sweet revenge on the Vikings.

Obviously the similarities between this and 300 are that they are both action movies set in olden times and featuring lots of machismo and scantily-clad men. Unfortunately, while 300 takes this too far, Pathfinder doesn’t take it far enough. While Pathfinder SHOULD be a blood-soaked rip-roaring thrill ride, it unfortunately seems to think it can ascend towards legitimacy by building character and plot. This is impossible since the artistry behind this movie is only a notch above made-for-TV and the actors are largely just pulled from a stable of actors that only get roles when someone wants to do a Native American movie. I mean, I’m glad they’re getting work, but they’re all amateurs. Watching them during the interminable first act is dreadful and is not helped at all by an awkward, bland script. Throw in a tacked-on romance plot and blehhhh. An example of this awesome writing:

Pathfinder: You have become the Pathfinder for the Dragon People. Good!
Ghost: I’m dying.
Pathfinder: Don’t complain to me about it!

Though the blood flies quite well during the action, it’s all fairly rudimentary and unimaginative, doing nothing to earn its “UNRATED” tagline (seriously, all directors have to do to get an unrated DVD is to… NOT RATE IT). Seriously, although I rip on 300 for using its slow-mo/fast-forward trick ad nauseam, at least it gave it a unique gimmick. There’s nothing unique here at all, and it’s all the worse knowing that they probably made this movie with $5, spit and a prayer.

Karl Urban is okay and of course Clancy Brown does menace to a T, but aside from that, there’s not a whole lot to recommend about this movie. The titular Pathfinder is your general wise old shaman with some bits of winking sarcasm thrown in, but it doesn’t do much to endear him. Instead it makes his silly dream visitations to Ghost interminable. And for being only around 90 minutes, the movie seems to last forever. This shouldn’t happen! And don’t get me started on the myriad of plot holes and historical inaccuracies in the film. Why is Ghost SHAKING HANDS? Isn’t that a European custom that doesn’t get started for hundreds of more years?!?!!?

All in all, unless you’ve got a fetish for Native Americans, Vikings or shirtless Karl Urban, don’t bother watching this heap. And even if you do, please reconsider!

Grump Alert: Film Walrus Guide

September 5, 2007

Hello, all! While rest assured I am working as fast as I safely can to provide you with the next installment in our Up, Up and Straight Up My Ass series of superhero movie adaptation grumps, it doesn’t mean I’m too busy to alert you guys to a prime opportunity to immerse yourself further into the heady depths of film!

You might have noticed the link over to the side that takes you to Film Walrus and wondered what the hell that was and then forgotten entirely about it. Shame on you! Film Walrus, apart from being a beloved friend and contributor, is an exciting up-and-coming film blog several times more literate and legitimate than our Youtube-filled “fuck”-fests. In fact, he’s the reason I proposed this entire venture to Magus at all! Consider him our older brother, or if you’re a weeaboo, our sempai. n__n;;

Anyways, long story short, he’s written up a new article that introduces him to newbies and guides them towards his interests and particularly interesting past articles. If you haven’t checked out Film Walrus by now, you definitely should. You can learn a whole lot about movies by reading his stuff and even find some movies you might like that you would have never found out about otherwise. Have fun browsing! And don’t miss the awesome article on Give Me My Wilted Spinach Leaf Back.

Lowest Common Disturbia

September 3, 2007

Disturbia goes beyond unsubtle, it’s fucking clumsy. Characters trip over lawn gnomes, stumble into hidden rooms, bump into windows and hide in closets for 3 weeks all to keep the stupid story moving. It’s the most dishonest, artificial studio garbage product I’ve seen all year, and I’ve seen Transformers, a movie where a giant robot frozen in Antarctica accidentally “burns” an interstellar map into an old guy’s bifocals that end up on eBay. Transformers at least had the excuse to be a movie about giant transforming toys. Disturbia has no such luxury. Both movies star the contemptible Shia LeBeouf, who’s just begging to be strangled the moment he shows up onscreen in full fishing gear with his hokum soon-to-be-tragically-killed father. More of an expert bullshitter than actor, he comes off as a creep, a sarcastic snake oil salesman, whenever he says anything that’s supposed to be in earnest. I don’t believe a goddamn thing that comes out of the guy’s mouth, unless it has something to do with Decepticons. Obviously, the writers deserve as much disdain for writing something even Nickelodeon would scoff, I’ve seen episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark better than this. One thing the writers do get correct though is teens are dumb, and they are absolutely in need of getting cut to ribbons by insane men.

Not that that happens. Squeaky clean Disturbia cops out at least 27 times per minute. The scariest thing that happens in this half-cocked Hitchcock rip-off is not when Shia discovers his next-door neighbor may be a serial killer, or when his friend may be a new victim, but when he monologues to the gorgeous new girl on the block in excruciating detail how he’s been watching her and memorizing her daily routine. To cap it off with the right amount of romance sleaze he throws in some asshole line about how her eyes “watch the world” or some crap, I dunno, I was swallowing my own tongue at that point. So what else does she do but fall for him. More date movie than triller I assume Disturbia’s filmmmakers, when not busy fingerbanging each other, assumed guys would be too busy fingerbanging their dates to notice the movie they paid $22 ($36-43 with snacks) for was a heaping shitload of fuck.

FUCK!

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(grumplet) Arcade Action – Crank

September 1, 2007

PERFECTION

Crank is brilliant as it is stupid. Jason Statham, the bald-headed paradigm of badass masculinity, wreaks havoc on Los Angeles enacting every destructive impulse to ever rivet a gamer’s Mountain Dew-addled brain. The movie plays out like a video game would, opening with Atari bleeps and bloops and an 8-bit title, laying out its premise immediately: a mobster poisoned Jason so he goes out for revenge. He phones his laidback doctor who instructs him to stay alive by keeping his adrenaline up. In video game terms that means racking up points or collecting power-ups, which Jason effectively does. A mix of Time Crisis and Grand Theft Auto, stealing a cop’s motorcycle, breaking into a hospital for epinephrine and having public sex in Chinatown awards Jason with more adrenaline, and thus more time. One can imagine a little HEALTH guage filling with each thrust and each kill, as a timer rapidly counts down. 

It’s bloody outrageous but oddly existential. Haven’t you ever wondered what you would do your last day alive? Jason has a tough time accepting his fate so he does what he can with his remaining life – mess everything up. He seizes the day! And several grams of coke as well. Drugs are consumed like air and water, or 1-Up mushrooms, so to speak, so that he may keep going. Hallucinations inevitably occur and, according to his warped state of mind, only the searing flesh of his hand in a waffle iron can snap him out of it. A peculiar episode happens late in the movie where he hears the voices of several characters from the movie, including his own, out of the mouth of an Asian businessman. Upon hearing his own voice come he asks “Who the hell are you?” Deep, man. It amuses me that Crank may harbor a rich philosophy.

Jason harbors a sweet girlfriend played by everygirl Amy Smart, who hiccups through his confession that he’s a mob hitman and not, as he led her to believe, the beefiest video game programmer alive. (Though I do know a pretty beefy L.A. video game programmer. Joe! Yo Joe! This is a shout out! A shout out to YOOUU!! We should get drinks when I come over there! Get drinks and watch Crank and play video games!! WOOO!) Jason’s and Amy’s relationship is thankfully kept out of the limelight, though I suppose there is a hint he’ll gain an heir when,  post public coitus, she loses her birth control pills in the middle of an escape.

The action and chases are done pretty well with some decent gore and the cheapest green screen effects you’re likely to see this side of Superman. Cheesy and tongue-in-cheek, Crank plays more like a spoof than a full-on action movie with most of the tight 80+ minutes dedicated to Jason and his co-stars screaming some truly filthy dialogue at each other, full of “faggots”, “cocksuckers” and “motherfuckers.” Plus, Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite shows up as a gay sidekick whose brutal murder and subsequent corpse defiling almost makes up for… no, no, nevermind. No amount of defilement could quite make up for Napoleon Dynamite.

Back to Jason, his aerodynamic brow furrowed, heavy jaw half-clenched, he plows through the movie with a ferocious presence I can’t help but admire (and maybe, secretly desire. But don’t tell anybody). Since The Rock is stuck in Disney football movies and Vin Diesel’s off playing D&D the world should be thankful Jason Statham is around. Reputable thespians with whispy facial hair like Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey may take on the big superhero roles today but Jason Statham, a black belt Olympic diver, is a true swashbuckler who does his own stuntwork and knows real martial arts. With WAR out now and several more in the pipeline on his IMDB page it looks like he won’t burn out anytime soon.