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Saw Godzilla. Had a blast, or to be more accurate, several dozen and not a few of them nuclear. A slow burn that builds towards an explosive CGI Daikaiju Ju-Jitsu rumble across the last hour. Godzilla strikes just the right balance between Pacific Rim and Cloverfield. Where as Pacific Rim crackled with the raw imagination of a little kid drawing big robots versus super-dinosaurs and Cloverfield inadvertently tapped into this post - 9/11 zeitgeist of dread and narcissism, Godzilla comes off dark but not so dark that you don't cheer the titular star.

Like the best of its genre, it evokes the atavistic horror of our distant rodent sized ancestors as they quaked in the shadows of giant monsters. It also provides the vicarious thrill of humanity's wide screen battle against the apocalypse without and our hubris within.

Yeah, but fuck all that - it's big monsters, big explosions and a big fight at the finish. If you're looking for something deeper then just Google directions to your local art cineplex and rock the shit out of some Miramax goodness. If you want to see radioactive monsters going full WCW and Walter White realizing he's not the danger after all, then Godzilla's got you covered.

Plus, the Squid in me took an especial delight in seeing the new USS Saratoga spearheading mankind's battle with 'strange monsters'.

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Romero is bleeding but not so as you'd notice.

Here's some fun trivia to start the review with. Did you know that if you remake a George Romero cult classic that you have to, and this is by law now, start the film with a Johnny Cash song? Preferably something from the Man-in-Black's Grammy award winning 'American IV' album apparently.

So as Zack Snyder's 2004 turbo boosted reimagining of Dawn of the Dead begins with the apocalyptically appropiate - The Man Comes Around, so follows Breck Eisner's Crazies with the upbeat (if not ominous) We'll Meet Again. What's interesting to me is that Snyder's DotD remake used the first track on American IV while Eisner chooses the last track of the album for his opener. An alpha and omega if you will, one that is a telling sign that the Turbo-Zombie might possibly have come to some form of cultural full circle in the shifting landscape of the American Psyche.

Police Chief Bullock David (Timothy Olyphant) Dutton presides over Pearce County, an idyllic small town in Iowa. One like most of the small towns you'll find in Middle America, Hollywood in fact. Where the entire police force can pause in their duties to watch a local high school baseball game and whose female population doesn't go below an '8' on the Maxim Magazine scale.

But when the locals suddenly become babbling, gun wielding maniacs (crazies... if you will) it can only mean one thing... the townsfolk have been watching Glenn Beck! That and the fact that Uncle Sam lost a plane full of dangerous zombie making chemicals somewhere in the town's water supply. 28 Minutes Later... and the shit hits the fan. The titular Crazies are appearing in greater numbers and doing all manner of things Crazy (and none of that OCD shit either, people... I mean real whoop-diddly-doo ultra-vi batshit insane). Soon the military arrives in all their gas-masked and jack booted glory, heralded by by a series of satellite camera shots that zoom out of the town intermittently that makes you wonder why it's taken this long to get the ball rolling on that whole retrival of the zombie making chemicals from the middle of Iowa thing. Well within a few short scenes the army (or so I presume) is put to work quarantining the townsfolk in a suddenly assembled chain linked camp, executing resisters without a second thought and doing everything short of gang raping puppies to let you know just how outta control big gum'nit is!

But of course this being the same Big Brother that botched 9/11, Katrina, Cloverfield and incalcuable zombie invasions... the center cannot hold and things fall apart.

Now Chief Dutton, along with his totally hot but sternly practical wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) and with the aid of his delightfully earnest deputy Russell (Joe Anderson) Clank, have to totally Escape From New York Iowa!

To be fair I enjoyed what the movie was trying to do, which quite simply was attempting recapture the formula behind the DotD remake's success. Simply take a vintage Romero thriller, remix it within the context of a modern setting while adding a liberal dose of hyper-shocks and boo moments to give it some 'oomph'. The effect, if done right, should be akin to a carnival ride where they've combined their haunted house with the roller-coaster ride. At times The Crazies does just that. I jumped a number of times, even while laughing giddily at the obviously stupid horror-movie shit the protagonists were engaged in. After all, if I'm to be honest, this was exactly why I bought my ticket in the first place.

A part of me also enjoyed how the protagonists struggle between the Apollian abuse of State Power as well as the Dionysian feral anarchy of a population overcome with the homocidal equivalent of Turrets Syndrome. It's a theme common in a lot of survival horror movies and this one is no exception.

Which is its biggest problem. It's trying too hard to be Snyder's DotD and not Eisner's (much less Romero's) The Crazies. Don't get me wrong. I really dug some of the shots Eisner makes... in one harrowing scene Judy is strapped to a gurney and we see her screaming face reflected in the twin gas mask lens of the medic pushing her. There's a few more... but you know, spoilers and all that. It's just that there's nothing here you haven't probably seen before, whether you're a casual player of Left for Dead 2 or have caught any given turbo-zombie flick in the last ten years. Which no doubt will be the reason behind both its box office charm and post credit shrugs.

To be honest movies like this aren't meant to be graded in stars but rather in bowls (and by 'bowls' I think most of you know what I mean). I'd say two should do the trick with the recommendation of a third for hardcore chronics.

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Not content to flirt with the kitsch machismo of 70's Blaxploitation cinema, Black Dynamite plays like a midnight movie booty call that knows just how to ride the fine line between spoof and farce - smooooth. Seriously, I walked into the theater expecting I'm Gonna Get You, Sucka '09 and got something much, much better instead. Registering somewhere on the old Zeitgeistometer around Death Proof and the Beastie Boys Sabotage video, Dynamite comes to the party dressed Grindhouse Chic and Retrosexual sensible. And unlike the other Gore Du Jours, with their self-referential smirks delivered on the nose to a presumably in-the-know audience, Dynamite simply winks confidentally at itself in the mirror of its inspirations before proceeding to delivering a swift eighty something minute kung-fu ass whooping to the funny bone.

A lot of fun, highly recommended to Trash Cinema Fans.

Alright, long day tomorrow, one that'll end with the family and I back in Lauderdale. Need to shut down and get some sleep.
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In defense of Zack Snyder's Watchmen I have heard it said that the director was attempting to deconstruct the narrative and visual tropes of the traditional superhero movie, presumably in a manner similar to how Alan Moore's Watchmen deconstructed the superhero comic books of the time (if not comic books in general). I believe Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds operates on a similar premise, a war movie that is also about how war movies affect we the audience on both a cultural and psychological level.

Within the simple premise of an all american jewish commando team raising hell and hunting nazis behind enemy lines is a sort of mirror Tarantion holds up to the audience. If we look deep enough what we see is a statement about the power of cinema to satiate collective revenge fantasies in the audience that behold them (especially during a time of war). However art's power to fascinate us often lies in its ability to exaggerate that which it represents, as such the director's mirror here is of the fun house variety and the charm of the Basterds is in watching the dance of the distortions unfold. Invoking the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone and facist-kitsch era David Bowie at times, a self-referential ouroboros emerges when two seperate (but complimenting) plots to kill Hitler in a french cinema during the premiere of a Gobel's produced propaganda war film (think a Third Reich treatment of Sgt. Yorke).

However I can see where this cinematic (and at times lovingly meticulous) taking apart of the metaphorical watch might pose a problem for the audience (along with the few critics I've read online so far). Watching the coming attractions for the Basterds and one can justifiably expect a 21st century update of The Dirty Dozen (a traditional action flick punched up with the staccato dialouge we've come to expect from Tarantio). When Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) drawls - "Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps... and I want my scalps!" - I can see how some in the audience might make a similar demand by the film's end.

While on the other hand I've heard a few people take offense to the films conclusion. Some believing that it cheapens (if not insults) the historical backdrop it represents, others finding the film's penultimate act in the before mentioned cinema far too over the top for common sense to absorb properly, a gesture so grandiose that it distracts the audience from the carefully constructed spell that preceded it.

I disagree.

The conclusion is in a way the magician revealing how the trick works. The artist points to the reflection embeded within his art and if you can look past the blood and flames that glitter across the surface, you will see how the war movie acts as a sublimation of the visceral desires inherent in the masses into socially acceptable and often feel good myths. A hyperbolic pop culture greek chorus that simultaneously awakens and placates the dionysian shadow trembling in the still post 9/11 America... and yet for all it's grand intentions is not afraid to laugh at itself.

The last line of the movie is something like Lt. Raine smiling: "This just might be my masterpiece". I don't know if that's the director's final wink at us or not, Mssr. Tarantino's way of sneaking himself into the film as he's done in past efforts of his (if he's in this one I didn't see him). While I must respectfully disagree with the good lt., if that is the case, (being not a critic but a fan I would have to give that paticular honor Reservoir Dogs while I understand most folks can present a tempting arguement for the same to be said of Pulp Fiction), I will applaud both the ambition and the result of the Basterds.

A taut and terse thrill ride, providing equal doses guilty pleasure and thoughtful reflection.

jack_babalon: (Default)
It is 1986 and my father has just bought home that weeks latest comics. Amongst them is the eagerly awaited Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons interpretation of the superhero archetype, the Watchmen. This is one year after the end of the Silver Age of comics, heralded by the death of its first champion, the Barry Allen incarnation of the Flash in 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths. It is the dawn of what some will later label as the Dark Age of Comics - which included such note worthy events as the radical reimagining of Bat Man as sparked by Miller's ground breaking work on The Dark Knight Returns, the rise of The Punisher from B List Spider-Man bad guy to four color cultural poster boy of Reaganomic vigilante values and John Byrne has begun his reboot of the continuity behind Superman - creating a severely depowered interpretation of the Man of Steel while stripping the Kryptonian franchise of much of its more fantastic excesses (bye-bye Krypto, Fortress of Solitude and robot doubles). All around the comic book multiverses, the heroes are becoming grimmer, darker, morally ambivalent masked men, all in the name of 'realism' (as if by becoming realistic they could also become that much more possible in our own world)... but none will define this new pop culture zeitgeist more so than Moore and Gibbons doomsday epic of the day the superheroes could not, would not save the world. Read more... )
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So for some ungodly reason I found myself recently watching the latest Rambo movie (episode IV: A New Hope).

This was basically a Red-State porn flick for people with a .50 caliber machine gun fetish and an unwavering believe that the United States can win Vietnam retroactively. In the latest chapter of the Stallone franchise, we find America's favorite Buddhist (no shit folks, John Rambo is a Buddhist... one who apparently follows the esoteric teachings of Uncle Samuvavara - Buddhist saint of explosive arrows and headbands) living the quiet life of a humble fisherman in sunny Burma (living on a steady diet of fish, rice, botox and weight-gain protein shakes) until a series of convoluted circumstances and kidnapped missionaries require him to murder roughly a few hundred people or so.

I was a little disappointed though in this sequel (and not for all the obvious reasons). See I figured that since the film before this one had the Stallone-Bo teaming up with the freedom loving Mujahedeen against the crumbling forces of the Soviet Union down in Afghanistan (you guys remember Afghanistan don't you?) that maybe this film would have him going back to Kabul and be like "...'Ey Yo, I didn't know when I was trainin' you guys to kill commies that you'd turn around and bite America in the ass some fifteen years later!". Oh John Rambo did they not teach you about 'Blowback' in Special Op's class? Ah, don't sweat your little headband over it... they never taught the CIA that paticular concept either when they were down there in the Go-Go Reagan 80's.

Anyway posted below is a little 'Rambo Math'... in case you wanted to divine the secret Gematria of Stallone's 26 year shooting spree across the psychic landscape of the American Dream (note - a sixpack and a copy of Crowley's 777 will come in handy). Interesting fun fact - the combined number of sex scenes in all four movies: Zero. Combined homocides: 438. Which says a lot about American Values in and of itself.

Rambo Math! )

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