A World of Beautiful Insanity Awaits

But then I remembered that this existed. Some COMEDY GENIUS set a bunch of scenes from the original Star Trek to White Rabbit and it’s the best thing you’ll see today.

There’s a new trailer for Alice Through the Looking Glass! 

Yes, it features Pink singing the immortal White Rabbit for some reason. She doesn’t improve on the original and her voice is nicely comparable to Grace Slick’s, but there are some intriguing techno flourishes. I’m digging it, I admit. I do like Pink so perhaps I’m biased.

Looks WAY fun. I loved the first one. And hearing Alan Rickman’s voice brought on an unexpected bout of melancholy.

But then I remembered that this existed. Some COMEDY GENIUS set a bunch of scenes from the original Star Trek to White Rabbit and it’s the best thing you’ll see today.

My favorite is the scenes where they’re just standing around like ‘Is it working yet? do you feel anything?’

Have a great day!

Bruges is Totally Not a Shithole Entry: In Bruges (2008)

It’s a hard movie to pin down – it worked hard to earn its R rating, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it, either. I’m an atheist, but I still appreciated its message of hope in the face of sorrow, of changing your ways, forgiveness, et cetera.

I can definitely recommend it as a great film, but I would say it’s probably not to everyone’s tastes. But all you can do is try!

In Bruges Poster.jpg
Atmospheric!

*THIS ENTRY WILL NOT CONTAIN SPOILERS*

I will now be absolutely 100% honest and say that it took me so long to see In Bruges because I am not a fan of Colin Ferrell. I don’t know what it is about him, but when I find out he’s in a movie my interest plummets. Which is unfair, because he’s a decent actor and I really found myself liking his character in this film.

In Bruges was nominated for a wagonload of awards after its release in 2008, including both its leads, Ferrell and Brendon Gleeson, being nominated for Golden Globes. Ferrell won, and he did earn it, I have to say.

In Bruges is a few different things:

In Bruges is about two hitmen laying low in an otherwise quiet and beautiful city at the behest of their boss after a  job goes bad. Ken, played by a calm, avuncular Gleeson, is enchanted by the history and architecture and begins sightseeing tout suite. Open-mouthed and bright-eyed, he is overjoyed by the chance to spend sometime in such an old, unpretentious city. Ray, played to the douche-hilt by Ferrell, refers to Bruges loudly and often as a “shithole” and bitches nonstop about their location.

One of the most important qualities a hunter must possess is patience, and I am going to extrapolate that Ken must be the greatest hitman in the history of murder due to the unending patience he has when dealing with Ray. My GOD, does that man know how to FUSS. It’s also a fascinating character study to consider how patiently Ken puts up with such a difficult person, considering he could just off the guy and the world would be the better for it.

A Sample of Ray’s Good Attitude

Ray really is his own worst enemy, as he can barely stay still five minutes without getting into some kind of trouble. He gets into an altercation with a nice American family by making fun of their “robust” build; he whines nonstop about their location and how bored he is; he begs Ken to let them go out and explore the city when they are supposed to wait at the hotel for their boss to call.

It’s all but impossible to avoid spoilers, but I want to say that the main theme of In Bruges is purgatory, or the place where you wait for judgment. AND THAT IS ALL I SHALL SAY. You’re smart, you can probably guess the rest!

Central to the plot is a little person, alternately referred to as a dwarf, a midget, Jimmy, and “that fuck who didn’t wave at me because he was on horse tranquilizers.” He plays a crucial role in a main character’s road to redemption.

It’s a hard movie to pin down – it worked hard to earn its R rating, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it, either. I’m an atheist, but I still appreciated its message of hope in the face of sorrow, of changing your ways, forgiveness, et cetera.

I can definitely recommend it as a great film, but I would say it’s probably not to everyone’s tastes. But all you can do is try!

In Bruges is currently available on Netflix Instant Watch.

EDIT: God I am dumb. I did this whole entry and meant to link to my friend Stephen’s blog entry about Bruges! He’s living in Germany and visiting as much of Europe as he can, and his blog is a great read for any travel buffs. Please jump over to his entry on Bruges!

In Bruges 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

New Cult Classics: Dredd (2012)

I’m not familiar with Dredd from the comics, so I am not interested in seeing his emotional development and/or formative events in his life that made him who he is. I want to see him use a huge gun and chew scenery and spout badass lines and blow some shit up real good, and by the beard of Zeus this movie DELIVERED.

Shit.

Blew!

UP!!!!

Hey Mister Frowny Face!
“They say that Judge Dredd is a baaaaad mother-SHUTYOMOUTH!”

I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but I really didn’t hate the ’95 version of Judge Dredd with Sylvester Stallone and Armand Assante. Probably because I was completely unfamilar with the source material and was having an Armand Assante fascination at the time. Maybe a second viewing would change my mind!

My sources inform me that the 2012 version is MUCH closer to the source material. I have to say I thought it was  a pretty awesome movie with some great performances from some pretty heavily talented actors. It felt like the original Robocop to me, and that’s staying something.  (I haven’t seen the newest Robocop, so I don’t know how Robocoppy it is).

Hats off to Karl Urban for turning in a solid performance without ever even showing his eyes. Apparently he wanted to stay true to the source material and stipulated in his contract that the character would NEVER show his face, as in the comics. There’s a moment in the very beginning when he is suiting up and his face is in shadow, which was a brilliant decision: he’s a faceless man-shape, he could be anyone. As Bane from the most recent Dark Knight movie says, the world didn’t care who he was before he put on the mask. So it is with Dredd; we don’t care who he is when he’s not Judge Dredd – and kudos to the filmmakers for not making another origin story. It was also a smart filmmaking choice from another perspective: Dredd, being the title character, should be the protagonist, but he isn’t really, which I will explain below.

After a beginning  voiceover where the rules of Mega-City 1 are established, we’re introduced to Dredd right off the bat – some bad guys in a stolen car are causing some mayhem, and Dredd on a giant motorcycle rides them down and establishes ‘justice’ in the MC-1 style – blowing their faces out the back of their heads with his Lawgiver handheld armory. Urban did his own driving stunts, so that’s another point in his favor. After dispensing some justice and ordering meatwagons to clean up all that spattered justice, he heads back to headquarters.

NEEEEEEERRRRRRMMMMM!!!!!!

Anderson, whose first name is never given (another shrewd choice) and who Dredd only refers to as “Rookie” is a new recruit that Dredd is taking out for her final assessment. She failed certain parts of the first test, but since she has psychic abilities (she’s a mutant) it’s thought she might succeed in other areas. Her character arc is central to the storyline, but since her name isn’t on the poster in a huge badass font, we’re not sure if she’s going to make it or not. We’ve seen how ugly MC-1 is, and now this adorable fluffy-haired kitten is heading out into the thick of it – and that’s the other shrewd filmmaking choice.  Having the tough hombre break in the new meat is certainly not the most original plot device, (My first thought is Hellboy, and there are totally others) but I’d rather see something familiar that works than something new that doesn’t.

I’m not familiar with Dredd from the comics, so I am not interested in seeing his emotional development and/or formative events in his life that made him who he is. I want to see him use a huge gun and chew scenery and spout badass lines and blow some shit up real good, and by the beard of Zeus this movie DELIVERED.

Shit.

Blew!

UP!!!! 

Lena Headey, best known as Cersei Lannister from HBO’s Game of Thrones, puts in an awesome performance as Madaleine “MaMa” Madrigal, a former whore turned clan leader. MaMa runs the most badass crew in the city in the high-rise of Peachtrees, and her interests include skinning people who piss her off, doing the mind-altering drug Slo-mo, dispensing Slo-Mo, and chewing off her former pimp’s genitals. With a wicked facial scar and some majorly punkish hair, she looks like she woke up from the world’s shittiest and most violent nap. She’s one of my all-time favorite villains.

Not pictured: Any f*cks given

 

Headey had this to say about her character: “I think of [Ma-Ma] like an old great white shark who is just waiting for someone bigger and stronger to show up and kill her … she’s ready for it. In fact, she can’t wait for it to happen … She’s an addict, so she’s dead in that way, but that last knock just hasn’t come.” That’s a hell of a character perspective. I love it.

An actor who was cast but cruelly underused was the awesome Wood Harris, who played the legendary Avon Barksdale on The Wire. Ma-Ma’s second in command, he plays the basic gang psycho, and in a few scenes he doesn’t even have any lines. On the one hand, plum role in a big-budget movie with a lot of facetime, on the other, he doesn’t get a whole lot to do. However, as a great actor with a commanding presence he plays the part of the menacing heavy VERY well.

Domhnall Gleeson (Got his first name right on the first try!)  is almost unrecognizable as a sort of…albinoish guy who had his eyes ripped out by Ma-Ma and replaced with digital implants, and acts as the clan’s tech expert. 

In my first viewing I mistook him for a mutant. I think he’s actually just a ginger with robot eyes. 

Clan Techie is not a criminal, but rather someone who Ma-Ma found to  be of use to her, and so she uses him. Cruelly. He lives in fear of her, as do all the people of Peachtrees, and acts as an unwilling participant in her war on Dredd and Anderson.

I like characters like this. He’s a walking example of the ‘People aren’t against you, they’re for themselves” idea. He has no personal problem with Dredd, and is just trying to stay alive, which Anderson understands.

 

The last thing I have to say about Dredd is the absolutely awesome way they showed the effects of Slo-Mo. A drug that slows your perception down until every second seems interminable, every color and light as vibrant as a disco party at Liberace’s house. It’s gorgeous.

Woooooooooooo!!!!!!

There are some scenes of graphic violence that happen during Slo-Mo sequences, and the carnage is elevated to beauty by the effects. It’s probably one of my favorite drug effects in a movie, and I can’t imagine what it must have been like in 3-D, which is how the film was originally released.

 

If you’re a fan of 80’s-style dystopian violence, Dredd might be your new favorite movie.

Dredd is available on Instant Watch.

Cronenbergian Grossaliciousness Entry: The Fly

The Fly is named on many ‘Best Of’ science fiction and horror lists, and there was some buzz (HA!) that Goldblum would be nominated for an Oscar–alas. They could have used his ‘barfing on donuts’ footage! Oscar magic, right there.

Let’s get it out there: The Fly, David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake, is gross. But then, you knew that, both from pop culture legends about it’s grossness and also because David Cronenberg couldn’t knit a sweater without incorporating the most sordid and hideous elements of The Body Grotesque. His entire body of work (HA!) has been informed by this theme, that no social or psychological horror is as horrific as that of the biological processes of the body.

Yes, have some.

One thing that isn’t made enough of in discussion of the film is the pure genius it took to take Jeff Goldblum and make him unattractive.

Because towards the end, Ye Gods.

Nasty.

Between the suppurating pustules, nodules, weird bristles, slime, hair loss, tumors, nightmarish eating habits (like a real fly, he barfs a powerful digestive enzyme on his food before consuming it)  and general overall grossness of his physiological changes, he has gone from a delicious muffin to a nightmarish morsel of roadkill.

If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the story in a nutshell: Seth Brundle (Goldblum) is a shut-in mad scientist working on a device that can teleport matter, Wonka-style, by breaking the object down to the elements of its DNA and then reassembling it on the other side of the room. He can do inanimate objects, but anything alive gets–well, turned inside out. He meets science journalist Veronica (Geena Davis) and takes her back to his big weird loft in order to impress her. They begin a relationship (despite Veronica’s boss and ex-lover, a childish, pedantic man with the bizarre name of Stathis Borans throwing fits at her constantly) and it is after some hot sexy time that Brundle realizes  what’s missing from his science stuff: the computer doesn’t understand flesh.

After reprogramming it, he successfully teleports his test baboon and the two are thrilled. Then, after a lover’s spat where she leaves, he gets drunk and decides to teleport himself, just To Show Her. Unfortunately, a fly gets into the telepod with him.

At first, he feels great. He feels purified, remade, and performs startling feats of gymnastic strength and rocks Veronica’s world All Night Long, over and over again until she’s plumb worn out. When she can’t keep up with the New Improved Brundle, he tries to force her to teleport, insisting she’ll be New and Improved too, and thus able to keep up with him sexually. Distressed by his New Improved Manic state, she leaves again, and things go downhill for Brundle from there.

Oh that's Nasty.

Various cinematic pundits point to this transformation as symbolic of a few different things: the horrors of drug addiction, as in how Brundle tries to force Veronica to experience teleportation herself, insisting it’s the ultimate rush and then dumping her when she ‘can’t keep up’;  the aging process and mortality (hairs in weird places! Pustules where there were no pustules before!) ;  and the withering  ignobility of dealing with a terminal disease. Some specifically cite AIDS as an inspiration, but that read seems a little too specific–after all, the interpretation lies in the interpreter, and if one thing doesn’t mean different things to different viewers then it’s not a symbol, it’s an explicit sign.

Another interpretation could be about the changes people undergo in relationships; stay with someone long enough and you won’t be the same people you were at the beginning. In Brundlefly’s case, that is quite literally the truth, as his bathroom cabinet collection of lost body parts illustrates.

Yeah, his dick fell off. Cronenberg may be a genius, but he still managed to work a dick joke in, even if you blink and miss it.

Things don’t go too great for Veronica either–a nightmare sequence at an abortion clinic was the only thing about the movie I clearly remembered from the first time I saw it, in 1993 or so. Let’s just say Cronenberg’s grasp of body horror isn’t just limited to male functions.

'Be Grossed Out. Be Very Grossed Out.'

Since Brundlefly’s gradual loss of humanity is the heart of the story, Davis acts as a compassionate observer to his gruesome transformation. Even at his most loathsome, we are able to see Brundlefly at least a little bit as he once was, and not as the walking, oozing cold sore he is, completely due to her willingness to see and interact with him. One of the most horrific moments for me is when she visits Brunflefly at about stage 2 of his change, pictured above, and still will not only see him as someone worth saving, but will embrace him as someone who is terrified at what’s happening to him.

That basic element of human compassion takes a film that could have just been about the grossout and elevates it to a beautiful examination of the gradual disintegration of their relationship. Although in Brundlefly’s case, he’s less disintegrating than integrating an external part into himself–the fly and its strange, primal view of the world.

The Fly is named on many ‘Best Of’ science fiction and horror lists, and there was some buzz (HA!) that Goldblum would be nominated for an Oscar–alas. They could have used his ‘barfing on donuts’ footage! Oscar magic, right there.

The Fly is available on Instant Watch. I have to say if you’re going to watch it you ought to know what you’re getting into–and for heaven’s sake, don’t eat while you’re watching it!

In a Nutshell Entry: Bubbles from ‘The Wire’

Sometimes in media, one component stands out from the whole and is deserving of its own little examination, for many reasons. It might act as a microcosm for what the whole is about, or it might stand in stark contrast to the rest of the whole–‘In a Nutshell’ entries explore some fascinating component of particular interest without losing focus, or in the case of something that’s really good overall, doing a disservice to the rest of the whole. It’s also a way to introduce a possibly unfamiliar audience to some small piece of an otherwise unwieldy and daunting subject; it’s a ‘way in,’ if you will.

In a Nutshell: ‘Bubbles’ from The Wire

In acclaimed HBO series ‘The Wire,’ which I’m viewing for the first time on DVD, there is a small galaxy of amazing characters. The show has a metric shitload of other great reasons to watch, but for me one very special reason is mumbling heroin addict/police informant Bubbles, so called for the spit bubbles he blows when he slams junk.

Take a moment to verbally express your disbelief and possible disgust; I’ll wait. Bubbles is worth it.

The Unlikeliest of Heroes

As a homeless addict, Bubbles exists at the lowest caste of the Baltimore Street world. Gangbangers and slangers largely ignore him, and so he is able to move freely through their world, collecting bits of information and storing them in an almost photographic memory. His assistance on various operations–everything from helping identify members of the gangs and their hierarchy, to actually wearing a wire, to making phony buys–is pivotal; without him the detectives would be utterly and totally shit out of luck.

According to David Simon, show creator and a former police reporter for the Baltimore Sun, Bubbles was based on real life informant ‘Possum,’ who had a gift for names and faces and was a police informant for over 20 years–think on that a moment. People are proud these days if their careers last over 15, and that’s usually not in a field where you can be shot for looking the wrong way at someone’s shoes. Simon wanted to do a feature story on Possum, but when he went to the man’s apartment for a last interview, Possum had died from complications with HIV. And now, the legacy of an HIV-infected junkie has informed a character within one of the most memorable television shows of our time. Funny old world, that.

Although there are roughly eight billion great moments and characters in The Wire, Andre Royo’s portrayal of a charming  junkie steals nearly every scene he’s in. I would personally like to recommend to filmmakers that he act in more stuff.

In a scene in the second season, McNulty (Dominic West, one of the main characters), who has been busted down to Marine Patrol, reveals how little he gives a shit about his new position by his utter refusal to learn how to tie a simple knot. Each time he docks his patrol boat, he wraps the rope clumsily around the pylons before abandoning the whole thing, probably hoping the boat will just drift out to sea and he can finally be fired and drink himself to death as he secretly wishes. The camera pulls back to reveal a visiting Bubbles, who has tied a perfect maritime-regulation knot, and calls McNulty out on his half-assed attempt. Bubbles the heroin addict chides McNulty the self-destructive drunk police officer on his knot-tying. That’s the perfect summation of the character–drugs don’t waste people, they waste lives, time, potential, jobs, relationships, but the user is still alive. With his charm, intelligence, and ability to ‘talk a cat off a fishcart,’ Bubbles is a walking reminder of how easy it is to just give up, and certainly how hard it is to get it all back–but also that there’s always hope. Which is possibly the cruelest truth of all, sometimes.

There are countless moments like that with Bubbles throughout the series. He’s at heart a good person and definitely cares for others, but at the bottom of everything is his addiction, driving him along like a dog being used by a  bad master. Occasionally he climbs out from under it, and does well for a stretch, but being homeless isn’t exactly ideal for kicking an addiction and cleaning one’s life up. He’s paid about 30 dollars a day to be an informant, but cheerfully and unself-consciously asks Detective Kima Greggs to keep his money for him; the reason is obvious: if he didn’t, he’d just spend the whole nut, overdose, and kill himself.

Watch this moment from the first season, where Bubbles goes ‘fishing,’ and see if you aren’t a little charmed by his audacity and caginess.

We only just finished the 3rd season, so at the time of this entry I’m still not sure what the future holds for Bubbles.  I’d sure like to see him get out of the game and clean himself up, since the show has a high bodycount when it comes to dead dreams.