Every Single Article Written by Russell - All 140
The camera focuses in on a car parked in an upper middle class suburban neighborhood. The door is open, the vehicle empty. The car radio, tuned into to a local news channel, announces that a respected businessman has just killed his business partners and his estranged wife. A man rushes out of a residence, two young girls in tow, and they all bundle into the car and hit the road. They drive through miles of wintery terrain until the skid off the highway; then they climb out of the vehicle and wander through the wilderness until they find a cabin. The man drags the two kids into the cabin and sets a fire. After emotionally breaking down and sobbing, he removes a pistol from his jacket and approaches his daughter. He tells her to look away. Before he can pull the trigger, however, a gangly monster composed of emaciated limbs and hair grabs him and drags him away screaming. Cue opening credits. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it kinda is. And my description is utterly inadequate to describe the awesomeness of the first ten minutes of Mama. It’s just a shame that the rest of the movie doesn’t live up to that promise.
For the first time in a decade, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in a leading role. And not only is he acting again, he’s starring in the sort of big, dumb, violent actioner that made him a household name as opposed to a horseshit like Batman and Robin or End of Days. The Last Stand, helmed by Korean director Jee-woon Kim, serves as Schwarzenegger’s carefully tailored comeback vehicle—a film that’s designed to remind us all why Schwarzenegger was able to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the first place. The movie itself mostly works, but unfortunately, it also reminded me that the Austrian action hero’s glory days are behind him.
This is it. The wide release of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty unofficially marks the end of Hollywood’s prestige season. Now it’s back to bland horror remakes and inert action movies until the studios cycle back around to the big tentpole flicks of the summer. However, Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow’s interpretation of the manhunt for Osama bin Laden, is a fine film for 2012 to go out on. It’s not the best movie of the year, but it’s another fine historical procedural in the vein of Argo.
By June 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the midst of an affair with his sixth cousin, Margaret Suckley. Also in June 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, in an effort to convince the United States to enter World War II, traveled to Roosevelt’s estate in Hyde Park, New York. Other than the fact that both events were happening at the same time, what does the King of England visiting America have to do with the President fucking his cousin? Absolutely nothing. Which begs the question: Why was Hyde Park on Hudson made in the first place?
In 2001, author David Wong (whose real name is Jason Pargin) began writing an untitled web serial about two slackers who begin to see terrifying things after downing an alien drug known only as “soy sauce.” Since parts of the serial novel were autobiographical, Pargin changed the name of his protagonist to David Wong and the name of the best friend to John Cheese. The story was dark, twisted, frightening, and extremely funny. Reading it is like reading the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft crossed with Kevin Smith’s Clerks, but better. The online serial became a cult hit and was eventually edited into a 400 page novel and published under the title John Dies at the End. Wong followed that book up with a sequel this past year titled This Book Is Full of Spiders. Why am I giving all of this history on the books, you’re asking? Because you should read the books and skip the movie.
If you’re reading this and you haven’t seen Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, I highly recommend that you see it now. Don’t even bother to finish reading this review. Just grab your wallet and head for the nearest cinema. You’ll either thank me or curse me later, but I can guarantee that you won’t forget the experience of seeing this movie in theaters. Equal parts Blaxploitation flick and Spaghetti Western, Django Unchained is perhaps the most unique “Western” to ever come out of Hollywood. It’s exceedingly clever, excessively violent, and brimming with wild, creative energy. It’s vintage Tarantino. And it’s also the best thing the man has directed since 1994’s Pulp Fiction.
There’s one moment in This Is 40 that perfectly encapsulates Judd Apatow’s brand of comedy. A married couple (played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) lock themselves in their bedroom. Mann offers to give Rudd, who is dressed in an awkward cycling outfit, a quick blow job. He consents and they start going to town. However, not ten seconds pass before their two daughters are banging on the bedroom door, screaming at each other and their parents. The girls, of course, have no idea what their parents are doing. Rudd and Mann try to ignore the children, but pretty soon they’re both screaming back at the daughters as shrilly as their daughters are screaming at them. The scene still amounts to a prolonged dick joke, but there’s an additional awkwardness. This Is 40 represents a continuation of Apatow’s effort to either elevate the dick joke (the bread and butter of all R-rated comedies) or abandon it altogether.
A man drives a white van to the top of a parking deck. He casually parks, deposits a quarter in the parking meter, and pulls out a rifle. He positions himself on a ledge overlooking a nearby park and methodically picks off a handful of people. Then he climbs back into his van and drives away during the ensuing panic. Local police scour the scene, uncover a mountain of forensic evidence, and soon arrest James Barr, a former Army sniper once accused of murdering four military contractors in Iraq. Do the authorities have their guy? Of course not. This is Hollywood after all, and no crime is solved in a Hollywood movie until a renegade with a chiseled jaw has beaten the hell out of at least half a dozen guys and tore ass through a major metropolitan area in an American muscle car. That renegade here is Jack Reacher played by Tom Cruise.
A couple of years ago when Peter Jackson announced that Guillermo del Toro would be grabbing the reigns of The Lord of the Rings franchise, I was excited. I wanted to see Middle Earth through the lens of del Toro’s camera. Jackson deserves credit for crafting an ambitious, epic set of movies; however, unlike a lot of movie goers, I felt underwhelmed. Compared with Jackson’s earlier efforts, The Lord of the Rings trilogy came across as visually bland and devoid of character. I found the films to be bleak and filled to the brim with self indulgent shots of faceless CGI armies slamming into each other. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, on the other hand, is a smaller, more intimate story, and Guillermo del Toro generally excels at breathing life into those types of stories. Unfortunately, Jackson ended up back in the director’s chair, and his adaptation of The Hobbit is more of the same. For better or worse, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey turned out to be exactly what I expected it to be.
I walked into a showing of The Collection operating under the impression that it was going to be an original horror movie. And yes, I understand the trailer looks like a horribly derivative Saw knock-off starring The Gimp from Pulp Fiction, but I only mean “original” in the sense that I thought this was the first entry in a new franchise. As it turns out, The Collection is a sequel to the 2009 torture porn flick The Collector, which somehow flew under my radar. Writer/director Marcus Dunstan penned both movies in addition to Saw V, Saw VI, and Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. So just to get it all straight: The Collection is a sequel to a derivative knock-off of a bloated, decade old torture porn franchise. That sounds somehow incestuous and wrong. Even for Hollywood.