Friday, October 31, 2014

Scream (1996)

“You sick fucks. You've seen one too many movies!”
“Now Sid, don't you blame the movies. Movies don't create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!”

            In 1996 I was nine years old. For some reason I remember sitting in class in fourth grade and we were talking about movies (maybe that is why I remember it!). I think we were taking a pole or something because the teacher was writing movies on the blackboard (yes I said blackboard!). Some kids mentioned having watched the movie Scream. Clear as day I remember thinking how on earth have these kids watched Scream it’s a horror movie it’s scary and it’s rated R, they must have older brothers or sisters. I swear to God that is what I thought at nine years old! Almost twenty years later I have finally watched Scream. When I was nine I probably would have shit myself but watching it at twenty-six I was laughing and also dying from boredom.
            Is it even worth writing a bit of the plot out? I really do not want to because it was painful to sit through all the corny-ness. Alright well if you never saw the movie it is about this serial killer who has been killing high school students (Drew Barrymore is the first victim). The killer runs around with a mask that looks like the painting The Scream by Edvard Munch. He then starts terrorizing a girl named Sidney (Neve Campbell) when she is left alone while her father is away for work.
            Soon her best friend is killed at a party and the party gets a little crazy when the killer shows up. Sidney is the hero though so she does not die.
            Yeah bad summary but seriously I found the movie a bit boring and I would not like to remember it. I do understand that Scream in no way takes itself seriously that was obvious early on but I could not get into it. I do appreciate it for not taking itself too seriously, it is different and the story is not too bad. The movie references were fun to hear the characters spout off and some of the “rules” of horror movies.  The characters were really corny. I will say I am actually kind of happy that I finally sat through this. I was always curious to see what Scream was all about. Watch Scream for a laugh and also to see a movie that is considered a classic modern movie.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Silent Sundays: Phantom of the Opera (1929)

“If I am the Phantom it is because Man’s hatred has made so.”

            Halloween is this Friday. For this edition of Silent Sundays I wanted to watch a good old silent “horror” film. I could not really think of one that I have not seen. Then I thought to myself, silly any of Lon Chaney’s films are basically “horror” since he was known for playing scary characters and wearing awesome makeup. I realized I had his version of The Phantom of the Opera saved. PERFECT! So in honor of Halloween for this edition of Silent Sunday I present a review of the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera.
            It is the late 1800s/early 1900s of Paris. The famous Paris Opera House has just been sold to new managers. They are warned that many people working in the theater believe there is a phantom, a ghost that haunts the old medieval cellars the theater rests above. The new managers think nothing of the stories they just brush them off. There is a performance that night. The managers go to Box 5 and ask a maid who the person in the box is. The maid says she does not know who he is she has never seen his face. He wears a cape and a mask.
            Backstage after the show the dancers get nervous. They say they saw the Phantom come up from the cellar again. One of the older stagehands tells the girls and another man that he had once seen the Phantom with his own eyes. He was a hideous creature with no nose and beady black eyes.
            The following day the mother of the Prima Ballerina Carlotta receives a letter signed by the Phantom. It states that Carlotta must not sing a number that night instead a young girl named Christine Daaé is to sing it. If Christine does not sing something bad will happen to Carlotta. The mother is furious that this supposed phantom is making this kind of demand. But on the day of the show Carlotta becomes sick and Christine sings the number.
            Christine is seeing Raoul, a captain in the French army. He wants to marry her but she never wants to leave the Opera. She tells him to forget about her. Raoul walks out of the room and from somewhere in the walls of her room Christine hears a melodic voice. The voice tells her that he has placed everything at her feet and that she will be worshipped by all of Paris but only if she listens to him. Christine obliges the voice saying she will do whatever he wants her to do.
            The Phantom writes another letter to Carlotta’s mother. Again it says that Carlotta better claim she is ill or misfortune will befall her. He has even sent one to the managers that if they do not comply with his demands a curse will come upon their performance of Faust. Carlotta’s mother makes her go on stage that night. The Phantom keeps his promise. As Carlotta sings the lights in the giant chandelier over the audience begins to flicker and it eventually falls on the audience as well the stage.
            After the performance Christine goes to her dressing room. She hears the voice of her master speaking to her. The voice tells her to walk into her mirror which is shown to be a trapped door. Christine has walked into one of the many cellars under the Opera. The Phantom (Lon Chaney) comes up behind her. When he comes into her sight, Christine is both disgusted and horrified by what is front of her. Even though she is frightened Christine follows the Phantom. He brings her down underground water channels to the cellar where he has made his home.
            In the morning Christine wakes up in her room in the furnished cellar and finds a note from the Phantom. He wrote to her that as long as she does not tough his mask no harm will come to her. Stupid girl and her curiosity get the better of her. Christine sneaks up behind the Phantom and pulls his mask off. He looks exactly as the stagehand described him with no nose, beady eyes and wrinkled deformed skin. Despite what she has done, the Phantom lets Christine go back to the Opera on the condition that she never see Raoul again.
            Every year the Opera holds a large costume ball. The Phantom boldly comes to the party dressed in a red cape, a large black hat, a skeleton face for a mask. Raoul takes Christine to the roof to speak to her alone. The Phantom follows them and looks over them from atop a statue. Christine tells Raoul she has seen the Phantom and needs his (Raoul’s) help in getting away. She begs him to take her to England to be as far away from Paris and the Phantom as possible.
            A police officer named Ledoux has been looking for the Phantom after a description for a man came to his office. The man’s is Erik. He had once been a composer and a musician and was sent to Devil’s Island after the Second Revolution and was considered insane. Ledoux has been following the Phantom for some time. He was in the room the night Christine went through the mirror. He meets up with Raoul to look for Christine. He tells the captain that the Phantom had been brought down to the cellars during the Revolution and tortured.
            The Phantom takes Christine back to his cellar. Ledoux and Raoul find her but the Phantom traps them in a basement. The Phantom somehow gets Christine to pull a lever which floods the basement the two men are in with water from the underground channels. Christine can hear the men’s cries and she tells the Phantom she will do whatever he wants if he will let them go. The Phantom opens the basement door and the men are saved.
            A crowd is heard in the distance coming for the Phantom. The Phantom grabs Christine and takes her to the surface. He tries to get them both away in a carriage but the carriage falls over and Christine is thrown out. The crowd catches up to the Phantom and they chase him to the edge of the Seine. They beat him and throw him into the river.
            The Phantom of the Opera I found to be a bit boring. I thought it was a little long but that tends to be my though most of the time with silent films lately. The only really interesting part of this film was the ball scene because the film was in color. The coloring in that scene actually made the Phantom look a little scarier because you can see the shadows and his clothing clearer. Also the scene was just really cool. Lon Chaney was an absolute creepy bugger and he was totally brilliant. I like how Chaney was usually the bad guy in his films but everyone back then loved him. He was genius. You feel for his characters no matter how bad or evil he was supposed to be. The Phantom of the Opera was a perfect silent film to watch for Halloween.

            Happy Halloween to all my followers and to those who are casually reading this post. Stay safe either trick or treating (Wait, how old are you reading this? If you are not under the age of twelve and you are trick or treating, go get your head examined!) or going out partying your asses off at a bar or house. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Are You Here (2013)

“That's the thing about friendship - it's a lot rarer than love; there's nothing in it for anybody.”

            I always tend to watch movies just for a specific actor or actress. Most of the time I have no clue whatsoever what the movie is about I just want to see it for that person on the screen I happen to adore. Sometimes I have been surprised by how good the movie is and wind up really liking it. Other times the movie has been super boring but the actor or actress was really good. And at other times the movie on the whole was shite and the actor or actress was not that great (I am looking at you god awful TV movie Certain Prey and Tatiana Maslany who is normally awesome but was only alright and really awkward). With Are You Here? I had to watch it for Amy Poehler who is one of my all time favorite people in this world and I also like Zach Galafinakis. This movie happened to me the second of the three types of feelings I am left with when I watch a movie for an actor or actress I like.
            The story starts off with this guy named Steve (Owen Wilson). He is shown going on dates with several women and not really being able to pay for dinner or even being with a prostitute. He works as a weatherman at a local news station. Steve usually arrives for his job high but manages to pull off doing his job without making a fool of himself. He has a friend named Ben (Galafinakis). Ben has some mental issues and comes off as eccentric. He lives alone in a trailer that Steve helps to pay for.
            One day Ben comes by the news studio to tell Steve his dad died. They drive out to Amish country in Pennsylvania to the town they grew up together in. Ben’s dad owned a very successful grocery store in town and had hundreds of acres of farm land. At the reading of the will Ben gets all the money and the land while his sister Terry (Poehler) is left with only $100,000 and a couple hundred thousand more in bonds. Terry is pissed off big time because Ben is such a screw up with crazy ideas. She thinks Ben will burn the away the money on some insane idea and run the grocery store into the ground. Terry in general has a stick up her ass with life: she and husband (played by the eternally handsome and wonderful Joel Gretsch) have not been successful with starting a family and she hates her father’s much younger wife Angela. Angela is left nothing because she did not want the father to leave her anything.
            With his father’s death Ben starts to fly off the handle and his mental issues get out of control. He gets arrested and he finally sees this as a sign to give in and start taking medication. Once he starts the medication, Ben becomes a different but better person. Terry likes seeing him take more responsibility and acting like an adult. The only person who does not like Ben’s change is Steve. Steve had come to depend on his friend depending on him. He never saw anything wrong with Ben and let him be who he wanted even if it was not good for him.
            I am going to end my summary here. The story kind of bored me and could have been over with much sooner. Some of it is a bit predictable too. 
            Despite the not-too-great story the cast was really good. I said at the beginning Amy Poehler is an actress and personality I idolize and have for years. I did not know what the story was about I figured it was a comedy and she would be hysterical with Zach Galafinakis. I was very pleasantly surprised that Terry this was a dramatic movie and Poehler did a fantastic job playing a serious character. I am so used to her playing these crazy silly characters to see her play a serious one was fantastic she really does have a great range you do not see very often. Galafinakis, it is the same as with Poehler, I am so used to seeing him funny not serious. He also did a great job with the drama. Owen Wilson I do not like as an actor. There is something about him that annoys me and his character was a piece of crap. Jenna Fischer gets her name on the poster but she was barely in the movie. She was in it for a total of like five minutes toward the end. I also adore Fischer to no end as an actress so it was great to see her in something. Joel Gretsch is one of my TV crushes. He is not in a lot of things but whenever I see him on a show as a bit character I go a little silly. My love for Gretsch started when he was on the criminally underrated awesome show The 4400 when he played Tom Baldwin. Peter Bogdanovich makes an appearance as a judge. That to me was funny for some reason.

            Are You Here? was a bit boring. The characters were good except for Steve. I can kind of relate to the character of Ben to a certain extent. I suffer from depression, anxiety, and ADHD and for a while I was very leery about going on medication I felt ten times better. I saw all the things I was doing that were not good and changed them. Now I feel a lot better and more stable. Sometimes it takes something bad happening to make the light bulb in your head go off to snap you into getting some help. I liked that aspect of Are You Here? with the character of Ben. Other than Ben’s story and Amy Poehler, Joel Gretsch, and Jenna Fischer I was not impressed with the movie. Damn these kinds of movies with crappy stories but great actors. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Silent Sundays: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1925)

“Do your stuff Wizzy.”

            We all have seen the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. If you have not seen that film then you have had a very sheltered life. The film is a classic in every single way. When I was little I watched it over and over again. It holds a special place in my heart and always will. You may know the story as told in the movie but did you know that it was originally a book? The Wizard of Oz is just one book of several written by L. Frank Baum in the mid 1800s that take place in the Land of Oz. I read The Wizard of Oz some time ago. It is much different than the film. In the book Dorothy was a little twelve year old girl who wore silver shoes. All the characters she meets- the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and the Lion- are not similar the people she knows back in Kansas. I loved the book it was such a good story.
            Before the 1939 version there were two other films of The Wizard of Oz and both were silent. One was made in 1910 and in 1925. The version I watched for this edition of Silent Sundays is the 1925 one titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
            An old toymaker is approached by his small granddaughter asking him to read her a story. She brings him the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The story begins with the Land of Oz having awaked to the news that their princess and future queen has been taken from the kingdom. The kingdom is currently ruled by the evil Prime Minister Kruel and his right hand man Wikked. There is a prince named Kynd and he wants Kruel to launch a search for the missing princess. Kruel brings in the Wizard who is really just a medicine-show man who is just a fake. Kruel has the Wizard distract the audience while he comes up with a plan to find their proof of the princess’s right to the throne.
            Back to the granddaughter and the grandfather, the girl tells her grandfather to get to the story of Dorothy, Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodsman. This is where the story is kind of familiar to us. I say kind of because this is where the film completely strays from the book. Dorothy does live with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry but Uncle Henry is a big fat abuser who runs around the farm all angry. There are two farmhands that are in love with Dorothy, one is a skinny happy guy and the other is big and meaty. The skinny one wants to go up and talk to Dorothy but he is shy. He misses his chance with the big guy gets to her first.
            Sometime later Dorothy tells Aunt Em that Uncle Henry has always been mean to her and she does not know why it is as if she was not part of the family. Aunt Em reveals that Dorothy was brought to their house when she was just a baby along with a note telling them not to look at the rest of it until Dorothy turned eighteen. Well, Dorothy is not eighteen and she can see the letter that was sent with her.
            In Oz Kruel sends some men to Kansas to retrieve the letter of proof that Dorothy is the rightful queen. Just as Uncle Henry was about to get the letter out a box he dug in the backyard they hear and see a plane land in their field and the group of men storm out. They tell Henry that if he gives them the letter they can be rich. Henry does not give them the letter. The leader of the group sees Dorothy tell the skinny guy that when she finds out what is in the letter he will be the first one she tells what is said. The bigger guy is pissed and upset. The leader goes to the big guy and says that he can give him all the wealth he could want as well as the girl.
            Other things that got ridiculously drawn out happen and then a storm comes bring a tornado. The tornado brings the house along with Dorothy, the lead bad guy, Uncle Henry, the skinny guy, and the big guy to the Land of Oz. Kruel wants them all arrested so they do not come into the kingdom. Dorothy reads the letter before anyone can take it out of her hand and it reveals that she is Queen of Oz upon turning eighteen.
            There is some kind of weird chase going on for a bit. The Wizard comes out of the city and tells Kruel that the people Dorothy was with have been disguised as things around them. The skinny guy becomes the Scarecrow and the big guy becomes the Tin Woodsman.
            The rest of the film is just ridiculously drawn out and, I have to admit, I lost interest and my attention wandered so bad. There was another chase scene that dragged out and was totally unnecessary and not funny. I did manage to pay attention to the last few minutes, though. Dorothy winds up with Prince Kynd and the whole story was the dream of the little girl who had the story read to her.

            The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was interesting. I was not too crazy about but I do appreciate the different take on the story. Its major, major downfall for me was that it was too long. I know it is only seventy-one minutes but dear God there were so many scenes that could have been much shorter! I hate it so much when silent films have long dragged out scenes (DO NOT even get me started on D.W. Griffith films they make me so mad). As much as I found The Wonderful Wizard of Oz boring I will say to give it a try because it is such a different take on the book and the 1939 film we are all used to.