Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Beginners' Guide to Horror as Written by a Beginner

Image via Villains Wiki
Well, it's Halloween. You know what that means: time for people to pretend they care about horror movies for one month!

And it's really a shame that this obsession will go on for only a month: Horror movies do not get all of the respect they deserve (I blame found footage). Sure, horror is starting to get attention on TV ("The Walking Dead," "Hannibal," "Bates Motel," fifty new witch shows all premiering on Lifetime), but cinema is really where the genre began, and where it is at its best.

Unfortunately, horror has been one of my pop culture blind spots for years. I have been lucky enough to take a class about the genre and explore it more on my own and have a newfound appreciation for it. Maybe it's my fault for thinking that "Saw V" represented every horror movie ever.

What I am trying to say is that I am a relatively new horror fan. Unfortunately, I cannot dig up any obscure examples to show how savvy I am, as I've only seen one movie made by George A. Romero. However, I can be your Introductory Horror Spirit Guide, and lay out the basics. In my opinion, these are ten essential horror movies to kick off your love of horror movies with. Let me remind you that you can watch horror movies after Halloween ends:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Great Lou Reed Musical Moments in Movies

On Sunday, rock 'n roll pioneer Lou Reed passed away. It's a testament to the genius of Lou Reed's vision that a kid growing up in the 2000s could listen to "The Velvet Underground & Nico" for the first time and feel the same way somebody did when they first heard it in 1967.

I am proud to say that I still have a Velvet Underground poster hanging in my room, and that every time I give any album from either The Velvet Underground or just Lou Reed another listen, I hear something new every single time.

Besides being a multi-talented musician, Reed was an artist in many other forms. He made a few short films himself. He never got into feature acting, which is a shame, because I think he could have played a great, enigmatic villain or basically anybody who transfixes you with so few words.

Yet, one way Reed will live on is through the many movies that used the music that him and the greatest rock band ever created. Here I have just compiled a few of my favorites:

Friday, October 25, 2013

Top 5: Ridley Scott Movies

"Okay, Russell just don't sing anymore."
Ridley Scott has had one of the longest, most successful, and diverse careers of any modern director. He can hop between genres and themes with absolutely no problem. He takes his time between films so every time one comes out, it feels like an event, even if it turns out to be terrible (I'm looking at you, "Robin Hood"). 

"The Counselor," directed by Scott and penned by Cormac McCarthy, comes out today. Reviews have been mixed so far, but I still look forward to seeing it. Basically, I will see any movie that has a third act filled with monologues as well as Javier Bardem dressed like Hunter S. Thompson.

After the jump, check out my five favorite Ridley Scott movies:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Analog This: Homeland- Run Dana Run

This is a recap of episode four of season three of "Homeland." The episode is "Game On." 

I have no idea what's keeping "Homeland" together right now. Each story seems to constitute its own separate show. It's about time some character came in, "Lost" style, and declared that everybody needs to go back. I'm pretty sure Matthew Fox is actually looking for work.

The one common factor keeping everyone together this season is a feeling of imprisonment. Tonight's episode is called "Game On" but it feels more like a groan than a game changer. This is the episode where everyone tries to run away. Some found great success (Carrie), while others found themselves walking into yet another trap (Dana).

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Movie Review: Carrie (2013)

Poor Carrie White. 37 years later, and she still can't catch a break. The latest update of "Carrie" is not a total facelift, but it does take the White family and places them in the present day. If you've already seen the original, you might be interested to see how much more the White family feels out of place in 2013 than 1976.

Even for newbies, I believe the story of "Carrie" is well known enough at this point that I shouldn't use too much time to lay it all out. Carrie (Chloe Moretz) is still a misfit, and her mother Margaret (Julianne Moore) is still a religious fanatic. Carrie still gets bullied, gets covered in pig guts, and then gets sweet, sweet revenge.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Top 10: Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Favorite Movies

Also, footballs should not be thrown on roofs.
Movies get a lot wrong. And when I say a lot I mean a lot

Jumping off of my piece from the other day, what you make of those mistakes is up to you. I try to avoid them because while they are probably better to know, they can also ruin the movie. However, they can also be hilarious depending on how wrong they are. I decided to do some research on IMDB, and I compiled ten of my favorite mistakes, and another list of five "mistakes." Did I just ruin your favorite movie for you? Well good, it's ruined for me, too. Let's bond over sadness. 

Read the list below: 

Trailer Park: The Grand Budapest Hotel

A.K.A. The Hipster "Hangover"
It was only a matter of time before Wes Anderson made a film where every single character has a mustache.

This is about the millionth time I will say this, but Wes Anderson is one of modern cinema's best directors. Today, the first trailer was released for his upcoming film "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

While every Wes Anderson film basically has the same aesthetic (yellow font, colorful walls, etc.), you can always expect a different story. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" looks like some kind of murder mystery. Indeed, there's a girl in it named Agatha, who is possibly an allusion to Agatha Christie, who much more educated people tell me was once a famous crime writer.

The only thing that could possibly worry me about "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is that it already seems to combine a lot of Anderson's other films ("The Darjeeling Limited," "The Royal Tenenbaums"), and Ed Norton already seems like he's playing a pretty similar character to the one in "Moonrise Kingdom." However, these are just assumptions. One trailer cannot tell me so much. For now, I will just assume that Willem Dafoe will once again have an awesome accent like in "The Life Aquatic."

But just look at the rest of that cast. Ralph Fiennes is not one normally known for comedy (although he is hilarious in "In Bruges"), but he already had me cracking up in this trailer. The cast is one of the most important parts of a Wes Anderson joint (characters are so important), and Fiennes seems like a perfect fit for Anderson's weird little world.

Wes Anderson has been on a roll lately: his last two films were "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Moonrise Kingdom." I have faith he can win me over once again with "The Grand Budapest Hotel." March 2014 can't come soon enough. Watch the trailer below:

Can Gene Hackman please come out of retirement just to star in one more Wes Anderson film? 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Can't We All Just Get Along: Truth in Film

Can't We All Just Get Along is a segment in which I take a hot button issue in the entertainment world and try my best to see both sides through, and then try even harder to pick a side. 

In the past, an acclaimed box office hit had at least a few months of a grace period before the backlash set in. Now, all it takes is a few hours.

When somebody wants to pick a film apart but doesn't have any actual problems with its writing, directing, acting, editing, etc., then the next logical step is to attack its plausibility. Over the past two weeks, the two biggest hits at the box office, "Gravity" and "Captain Phillips," have come under fire mainly from people who don't work in or write about film.

This whole kerkuffle began the same day that "Gravity" was crowned box office king. Astrophysicist and generally awesome human being Neil deGrasse Tyson sent out a series of Tweets criticizing the scientific accuracy of "Gravity." His comments came under fire because how dare he know real science. And where was he when "Jimmy Neutron" came out? Somebody needed to tell the world that human children can't actually breath in space without a suit.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Analog This: Homeland- Tower (Of David) Heist

This is a recap of episode three of season three of "Homeland." The episode is "Tower Of David." 

Most chatter about "Homeland" nowadays is marked by debate on whether or not the show is good anymore. Rarely have I seen a show fluctuate between great, okay, and horrible so often, and sometimes just within the span of a single episode.

"Tower Of David" is not the best episode in the short history of "Homeland," but it is definitely one of the most different hours that the show has done. This was the least politically driven episode in a while. To prove how far away it would be going from Washington politics, the episode opened with a sunny beach that might as well have been stolen "Lost" B-Roll. After a bunch of men spoke Spanish (with no subtitles to be found), a bloody and dying Nicholas Brody pops back up. America's favorite sleeper cell agent is finally back!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Movie Review: Captain Phillips

People praise Paul Greengrass for his sharp action directing and quick cuts. What he rarely gets credit for is that he is the rare action director who realizes that there is no way to be prepared for tragedy. This is why "Captain Phillips" doesn't start on a boat.

It's just another day, and just another mission for Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), who's preparing for umpteenth mission as captain at sea. He drives with his wife (Catherine Keener) to the airport and talk about anything but his trip. They talk about their children and lament about how lazy good for nothing punk kids are today.

The trip seems simple enough, like something he's been doing for years. The ship he's commanding is meant to bring supplies around the horn of Africa, which, if you didn't already know this, is not the friendliest place in the world. Nonetheless, a job is a job and Captain Phillips is the definition of salt of the earth. However, what Phillips is about to find out is that this isn't like any other job he's had. Captain Phillips is about to get his mojo back.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Kumar Pallana: A Life In Quotes

Yesterday, Kumar Pallana, perhaps my favorite accidental actor in Hollywood died at the age of 94.

Pallana was discovered by Wes Anderson and the Wilson brothers at the coffee shop in Dallas which he owned. They then gave him a small role in "Bottle Rocket." Then he just kept popping up again and again until he became just as memorable a part of Anderson's world as colorful wallpaper and Kinks songs.

I don't know why Pallana was always so funny to me. Maybe because he would just pop up, say one barely audible line, and then disappear. Or maybe its because in "Rushmore" you can spot him in the background of one shot playing with a giant necklace, and he never says a word at all.

I remember him best as Pagoda in "The Royal Tenenbaums," who was apparently an assassin in Calcutta at one point in time. In honor of Kumar Pallana, I have decided to compile all of my favorite lines of his from "The Royal Tenenbaums":

"The black man ask her to be his wife."

"There he is."

"There he goes."

"You son of a bitch!"

"Oh shit man!"

Here's the obituary from his hometown paper.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ten Years and Counting: How Kill Bill Changed My Life

It all started with a shelf at Barnes & Noble. I had just turned twelve and had gift card money to spend. And when I had a Barnes & Noble gift card, I was a man on a mission.

I was browsing around the DVD section. I wasn't normally one to take risks in life and buy something before I had seen it, but something told me I needed something new. Also, "Return of the King" wasn't out yet. I stumbled upon a copy of "Kill Bill: Volume 1." I heard it was good, the commercials were really cool, and Uma Thurman looked irresistibly sexy in her yellow jumpsuit. So I decided why not. That night, I popped it into the DVD player (remember those things?), and was never the same again.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Spoiler Review: Gravity

Spoiler Review is a new series where I will review movies that require many spoilers in order to review them properly. This is my review of "Gravity." This goes without saying: SPOILER ALERT.

Every time a movie comes out that uses 3D really well, like really really well, I never hesitate to call it the second coming of cinema. "Avatar." "Hugo." "Life of Pi." Yes, I do strongly regret giving "Avatar" that much credit.

I don't want to say "Gravity" has changed the game. It's just responded to the tools of our time so well and it has done what many others only wished they could accomplish. More importantly, if you ever doubted that the wonder of the movies has been stolen by TV, then look at "Gravity," and you'll understand that it never went anywhere.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Movie Review: Gravity

"In space, no one can hear you scream."

This is now the famous tagline from "Alien," and the basis for "Gravity." "Gravity" hasn't been advertised as a horror film, but it captures the fear of being alone in space better than most others that have tried way too hard to do so.

"Gravity" marks the long awaited return of Alfonso Cuaron who last directed "Children of Men," which is still one of my favorite films of all time. Like "Children of Men," there is no indication of when the camera starts and stops rolling. Cuaron is one for relentless action. Immersive might not even be a strong enough word to describe "Gravity." I get the feeling that Cuaron just wanted us to float in space with him forever. There were multiple times where I felt short of breath. Apparently, you don't need any dimensions beyond 3D to get all your senses this invested in a movie.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Analog This: A Helpful Guide of Whether or Not You Should Keep Watching Homeland

I more Skyping with terrorists.
Spoilers for the season three premiere of "Homeland" to come. Assume there will be spoilers for old episodes of "Homeland," too.

A funny thing happened as "Homeland" was on its way to becoming TV's best drama: it decided to go completely downhill. But "Homeland" wants you to know that they're trying really hard to make a comeback. They let us know by devoting the entire "Previously on..." segment of the season three opener to what was essentially a highlight reel of the entire series.

I get it, "Homeland." There was like two or three really awesome parts of last season. But Dana and her stupid boyfriend still murdered someone (before he got blown up) and Nicholas Brody Skyped with a terrorist on a Blackberry while standing next to the vice president. So I guess you could say things weren't going too well for them.

So, should you keep watching, or not? The season three premiere showed some promise, but also some drawbacks. Here, I will present some highlights from the premiere, and its up to you to decide whether or not you should keep up with "Homeland."

Chris Brody: He's really tall now. And still has nothing valuable to add. I just want someone to give him a show where he reviews HD TVs.

Dana Brody: In retrospect, making Dana a murderer last season was pretty dumb. During the long gap in "Homeland" time, Dana attempted suicide. This is a more grounded, dark, and interesting territory for the character, and a good chance for actress Morgan Sayler to show off more of her acting potential. I just hope they don't make much out of her sending the nude selfie. Like, that her potential new boyfriend is a Senator's son and it causes another political scandal. It just seems too obvious.

Jess Brody: Sorry fans, but there was no Jess Brody nudity this time around. Just some deep and dark insight into her past and her family's history with suicide and depression. Oh great, more interesting character insight. I blame the Puritans.

Jess' Mom: Here's a new character. Already not a big fan of her. She just seems to be there to tell Jess that she's parenting all wrong. She reminds me of Claudette from "The Room." That's not a good thing.

Carrie's Mental State: Carrie is still torn up about last year's events at Langley. She blames herself, and I'm not sure if she really does or if that's a way to make her cover story more convincing. Either way, she's trying alternative medicines, but it doesn't seem to be helping so far. She's on trial for treason. I need to start the Carrie cry count, because this episode was a doozy.

Where in the World is Nicholas Brody?: Not sure. Surprisingly, he wasn't in this episode at all. Maybe he's with Saul Goodman in Nebraska. Or somebody sent him to Belize. Guys, I miss "Breaking Bad."

Better Call Saul (Berenson): It's really hard to complain about Mandy Patinkin. He's like Jewish Santa Claus. He's facing a lot more pressures now. As de facto head of Homeland Security, he has to deal with the possibility of a revoked charter, more terrorists, and the Nicholas Brody/Carrie bomb. Plus, Saul has personal issues to deal with. He's the most sane character on the show, so I really hope he doesn't fall into the vortex of insanity.

New Problems, New Possibilities: Maybe I'm alone here, but the most interesting conflicts on this show are the internal issues being dealt with at Langley. It feels more relevant given how, you know, we don't have a functioning government right now. "Homeland" has some great characters, and I think it would be even better if we got to see them evolve this year. Instead of just chasing terrorists, which we've seen before, I'd love to see some personal struggles. How does someone keep an entire government agency, and themselves, together? But it's a fine line to walk because...

...I don't want a courtroom drama: "Homeland" runs into the possibility of slipping into implausibility and simply being a show about chasing terrorists. This was a problem it faced last year, which is why it nearly slipped into complete "24" territory. However, I also don't want to see it become just a courtroom drama. Too much of old white people (because, American politics) arguing over abstract political issues could get dull. So if "Homeland" is to get back on its feet, it needs to balance internal and external threats. Oh, and bring Nicholas Brody back.