Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Podcast Episode #8: Sequels! Sequels! Sequels!

The wait is over! After an agonizingly lengthy delay, the latest episode of MovieSucktastic is finally up and ready for your easy listening pleasure!

Seasonal constraints and other complications can throw a monkey wrench in some of the best laid plans, and your humble hosts Joey and Scott are no different. But now that we've finally gotten over our mutual hurdles, things are moving along quite swimmingly, thank you very much. We've cleaned the dust off of the MovieSucktastic Microphone and gotten down to business, bringing our own special blend of film theory and criticism to your sensitive little earbuds.

What do Joey and Scott have lined up for your amusement and mirth this episode? We start off with a recap of the recent top ten box office champs, followed by our additions to the Finger List, each of us choosing which film we would rather cut off our little finger rather than watch in a theater. Find out which one of us would rather horribly mutilate ourselves rather than watch Did You Hear About the Morgans?

After that, we launch right into our overview of the currently slated barrage of sequels heading to your local overpriced theaters in 2010. Hollywood has been slowly turning up the output knob on the Sequel Machine (Patent Pending) over the past decade, with 2010 topping all expectations. Its looking more and more likely that, between sequels and remakes, your odds of seeing anything even remotely original in the theaters this year have diminished greatly. And yes, that includes Avatar.

On top of all of this, we also announce the winner of our Facebook Page contest! Tune in and find out which one of our first 100 Facebook Fans won an autographed copy of co-host Scott's latest book on cult and horror cinema, Monster Rally. Better yet, join our Facebook Fan Page before it hits 200 and you might win our next drawing yourself!

So go to MovieSucktastic.com and either listen to and/or download episode #8 directly from the website, or follow our links to iTunes, Podcast Alley and Podcast.com. And don't forget to email us and let us know what you think of us, the show, or a bad movie you've recently seen. You've heard us, now let us hear you!

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Movie Review: Do You Like Hitchcock?

It took me five years to build up the courage, but I finally took the dive into Dario Argento’s stab (pun sadly intended) at an homage to Alfred Hitchcock, his 2005 thriller Do You Like Hitchcock? (DYLH).

The answer to the film’s questioning title is, of course, an unhesitant Yes. Alfred Hitchcock’s films stand to this day as a testament to his talents, and remain some of the top examples of the perfection of the filmmaking craft. He didn’t earn the moniker “The Master of Suspense” for nothing, don’t you know? What you should ask yourself before treading into this film isn't whether or not you are a fan of Hitchcock’s work. The question you should be answering is “Do you like Argento?”

DYLH starts in 1990 when a young boy bicycling through the woods happens upon and spies on two heavyset women dressed like French peasants as they cackle hysterically while sacrificing a live chicken. The
 boy is then spotted and chased away by the women before the film switches to modern day. This inexplicable opening is unforgettable not only because it is never fully explained, but because it is the last remotely interesting thing that takes place in the film. By the time the now grownup geeky film student Giulio kinda-sorta solves the murder of the woman across the street, you will be fondly recalling the chicken-killing scene with a deep and unsettling longing for that kind of creative storytelling.

The post-chicken remainder of the film revolves around annoying peeping-tom Giulio and his attempts to solve his neighbor’s murder. Most of this involves painfully extended scenes of Giulio spying on women, sporadically interrupted by inane snippets of dialogue and the occasional discovery of extremely lame clues, with the emphasis firmly on “lame.” Argento’s screenplays usually eschew logic and common sense, and DYLH finds him at the top of his illogical game, with the reason behind the real killer’s eventual unmasking acting as the cherry on top of this WTF sundae. Honorable mention goes to the unintentionally comical chase scene in which an eighty-seven pound bookworm with a broken leg and stalled scooter is relentlessly pursued through a torrential downpour by a bald linebacker who needs to stop and catch his breath every ten or twelve steps.

Like most of the films from the second half of his career, the world within DYLH is populated solely by the Beautiful and the Ugly. There are no average people walking the almost barren streets of Argento’s Italy, only potential underwear models and comically hideous freaks. That the film’s chicken-chested voyeuristic hero falls into the latter category is possibly the only real mystery of the film. This bizarre ‘Beauties vs. Beasts’ world view is quickly becoming as much a trademark as his fondness for extreme close-ups and showing the unknown killer’s hands and feet whenever possible.

I’m tempted to declare the tragic display of Argento’s supposed homage to Hitchcock as the real victim of the film. Argento goes out of his way to squeeze as many Hitchcock classics into the plot as possible; Strangers on a Train and Dial M for Murder are both mentioned by name, while Rear Window, Psycho and Vertigo make painful cameos. He then proceeds to toss around these hastily assembled masterpieces with all the grace and subtlety of a crack head trying to nonchalantly hide his stash while a State Trooper patiently taps on the windshield. For what was supposedly meant to be an homage, Argento only succeeds in doing to Hitchcock's memory what he previously had done to his daughter, Asia Argento, in The Stendhal Syndrome. And that's being nice about it.

But alas, the true tragedy occurs at the end, when Argento tries to inject a deeper meaning by showing Giulio and his binoculars being discovered and casually dismissed by his new semi-nude neighbor, and quickly intercutting a series of flashbacks to all of his previous peeping activities within the film. It’s a sloppy last-minute attempt to make the film a message about voyeurism, when the whole sordid affair amounts to nothing more than a filmmaker tragic stab at mimicking greatness.

A final warning; the film’s official summary promises a surprising twist at the end of the film. It’s a lie, unless the complete lack on anything even remotely resembling a twist was the intended twist. But I have a feeling that would be giving Argento far more credit than he deserves. DYLH is as boring, predictable, and ludicrous as they come.

Do I like Argento? Nah.

Don't believe that it is as bad as I make it out to be? Don't take my word for it. Watch the entire film for free below.

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District 9 vs. Avatar

District 9Image via Wikipedia
At the risk of boring with yet another Avatar themed blog post, attention and kudos must be granted in equally sizable amounts to Tiffany Vogt, columnist for Airlock Alpha, for her recent article "Avatar vs. District 9 – In a deeply divisive race, an argument as to why “District 9” deserves the Oscar for Best Picture more than “Avatar” (part 1)." Tiffany takes a comparison made in recent Moviesucktastic podcasts and guides her readers through the argument with great precision and attention to detail:

Posing this very controversial argument, I want to share why “District 9” is more Oscar-worthy than the mega-hit “Avatar.” Surely, the virtually unknown sci-fi film that was one of the few films to cross over the $200 million mark this past summer deserves a little attention – and as the Producers Guild’s nomination for Best Picture has proven, it is a worthy contender to watch out for during this award season.

Check out her full article over at The TV Watchtower and hear yet another rational voice speak out against the blind idolatry that Avatar has been inspiring in so many delusional souls.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Avatar Revisited: Opening Pandora's Box

Rita, il mio Avatar preferito!!!
I've been talking about James Cameron's Avatar quite a bit recently.

Not completely by choice, mind you. MovieSucktastic co-host Joey and I did indeed see Avatar opening weekend, 3D and all, mainly so we could review it and get it out of the way. Our Podcast and Blog reviews were rather tepid and dispassionate: the story was bland and uninspiring, and while the effects were great, they didn't push the envelope of 3D or CGI as far as the hype implied. Not completely bad, but nothing mind-blowing, with a few good moments and enough eye-candy to make it worth watching. I filed my unimpressed opinion and moved on.

The all sorts of Hell broke loose.

People from far and wide reacted to my review as if I had individually emailed them and called them slack-jawed morons for even seeing the film, let alone enjoying it. Insults and personal attacks poured in as a flood of emails came to the defense of Avatar and its now billion-dollar box-office take. How dare I attack a genius like James Cameron. You critics hate anything that people like. Why don't you go back to painting ceilings. You're an idiot. The title of your podcast sucks. Why don't you try something creative yourself instead of picking on other people? You're just a Hipster Wannabe who needs to hate anything popular. Why must you destroy all that is good and decent in the world? God hates you.

Needless to say, I was mildly surprised. I went back and double-checked my review, just in case I had written a scathingly negative review and forgotten. Nope. In fact, I've read Three-Star reviews of Avatar more negative and critical than my piece. Yet, here was a veritable mob of angry villagers ready to burn me at the stake for breaking from the herd. They backed me into a figurative corner, forcing me to either defend myself or succumb to their frenzied blows.

So, unfortunately, I've had to push back a little. I don't mean this in an aggressive or combative way, of course. But what it all comes down to, is that I have been forced to reevaluate my stance on Avatar.

There is no denying that Avatar is now a runaway hit. You can't take that away from the film, nor would I want to. I said from the beginning that the film successfully achieved all that it wanted to, and it ultimately succeeds at what it is, a hollow but dazzlingly brilliant special effects display. Everyone loves fireworks. Doesn't make them bad. But as the mantra at MovieSucktastic asserts, just because you like a film, it doesn't mean it isn't bad. I like Twinkies, but that doesn't make them a culinary masterpiece. But according to these vocal and rather inhospitable attackers, the pleasure they derived from the film means it must be great. It simply must be.

Delusional or not, there are simply way too many people singing praises and making excuses for this nearly half-billion-dollar remake of Ferngully out some apparently psychotic need to relive the magic of seeing Star Wars for the first time as children. And maybe that's all this is: a bunch of world-weary adults squeezed so tightly by an overwhelmingly depressing series of political and economic disasters that they have clung to this overpriced epic in some drastic attempt to retreat emotionally to a simpler, more innocent time in their lives. A time when movies were still a magical gateway to a fantastic world of fantasy and adventure.

But here's the rub: you can do that without lowering your standards, and standards have indeed lowered. It hasn't even been a year since people were going out of their way to dump on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen for being a lengthy exercise in shallow screen-writing punctuated with chases, explosions, and over the top special effects. Michael Bay was criticized by all for being an over-hyped hack who was all visuals and no storytelling, despite the film's generous take at the box-office. But now here we are, with a director and film guilty of the exact same thing, and people are screaming for a sweep at the Oscars.

And here's the big run: it isn't the hardcore science fiction fans doing the chest-thumping. I recently voiced my general displeasure with Avatar while acting as a guest speaker at a recent science fiction group gathering, and while not all agreed with my criticisms, these die-hard fans merely engaged in a spirited yet friendly debate on the subject. No, the angry fans declaring the unquestionable brilliance of this film seem to be the casual film viewers, ordinary people who are not usually obsessive with their tastes in film, but have chosen this of all movies to claim as their own shining example of the pinnacle of film-making.

Is this what we can expect now? People spending all year bitching and whining about Hollywood cranking out expensive but poorly written special effects displays, only to inexplicably drop to their knees in awe at the first mega-budget cross between Dances with Wolves and Shrek that comes out in 3D? I was originally noncommittal in my reception Avatar, not willing to declare disapproval, but merely to state my lack of awe. But, as I say, I have been backed into a corner, and told that my disapproval is tantamount to heresy. I am to recant my disbelief, or face the Cameron Inquisition. So be it.

Avatar sucked.

Believe it. Or not.
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Welcome to Blu-Ray Hell: 1/12 Releases

For those of you eager to see what cinematic travesties the studios would like you to experience in all of their wonderful widescreen high definition glory, you need look no further than the following January 12 releases:

Cliffhanger (1993), Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow - The big-budget action-adventure box-office failure that Stallone will never live down, featuring John Lithgow as the bad guy sporting a greasy hairpiece that he will never live down. Then again, it isn't half as bad as Oscar. While everyone has their own favorite Cliffhanger moment, mine would have to be the Stallone Impale-Bad-Guy-On-Stalactite-Weightlifting-Move. Extra points for still managing to squeeze numerous bare-armed flexing moments into a film in a frigid arctic setting.

Last Action Hero (1993), Arnold Schwarzenegger, F. Murray Abraham - The big-budget action-adventure box-office failure that Schwarzenegger never truly got enough flack for, although it is easy to see how it could be eclipsed by Cliffhanger, which was released in the same year. Then again, it isn't half as bad as Junior. There's nothing better than an action film that spends most of its time reminding its audience how stupid action films are, and by association, they are.

Fame (2009), Kay Panabaker - Not as much a remake of the original 1980 film of the same name as it is a bizarre attempt at making a slightly more adult High School Musical. For those who like to see Academy Award winning musicals updated to include self-conscious references to YouTube and Reality Talent Television Shows, this is your dream come true. This also happens to be the "Extended Dance Edition", so this should hopefully hold you over until the 3D Step Up sequel comes out in the theaters this year. And no, I'm not kidding about that. Now if we can only get a modernized update of A Chorus Line with Simon Cowell as the producer. Oh, and in 3D.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bad Movie Alert: Daybreakers

That's right, folks! January is upon us, which means it is time to dig your heels in and brace yourself for the inevitable onslaught of movies too bad to release in more prosperous months, yet too expensive to banish to direct-to-video.

With New Years well behind us, we find ourselves looking to the future. What does it hold in store for us? The answer, of course, is a futuristic society almost entirely made up of vampires.

By the looks of it, Daybreakers is more likely a cross between Matrix: Revolutions and 28 Weeks Later, with the unfortunate difference is that unlike the aforementioned shitty sequels, it doesn't have an entertaining origin film to leech sympathy from. The suck from this is all original, folks.

Not much to say about Daybreakers, which takes place in futuristic world where everyone dresses like it is 1957. Populated entirely by vampires feeding on a rapidly dwindling supply of human blood, a ragtag group of human revolutionaries takes on the bloodsucking power structure armed with crossbows, UV lamps, and a cure for vampirism that nobody seems to want. Insert Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe, combine liberally with some poorly conceived metaphors, then serve cold.

Considering all of the shots of CEO/Politician looking vampires, the film is definitely going for the big "Thinking Man's Cinema" with the major theme being the corporate power structure literally feeding off of the human lower class, with strong undertones of the corporate power structure blindly bleeding dry natural resources with nothing but profit as the motive. These are definitely topics that resonate during these strenuous economic times, but this odd Dark City meets Underworld hybrid might be pushing the limit with how far you can take such strong subject matter without appearing too needy.

Blade took on the same themes, and in some ways is the true inspiration for Daybreakers in a sort of "What If Blade Didn't Win At The End" pseudo-sequel. But Blade kept it simple. Yes, the vampire were in control and fed off of humans like cattle, but the filmmakers knew that people weren't lining up for an advanced civics seminar: they just wanted to watch Wesley Snipes kick some vampire ass.

But it looks like Daybreakers has gotten the equation backwards. Much like the Matrix sequels, which foolishly cranked up the theological philosophy more than the wicked slow-motion gunfights, Daybreakers is investing way too much in the belief the moviegoers settling in for some human vs. vampires wars really are willing to trade decent action sequences for cool set design and deep philosophical pondering. And every shot I see in the trailer of a dozen crossbow-carrying humans facing off against vampire swat teams makes me think that a good portion of the film is going to be an internal struggle between style and substance, and one that the audience will invariably lose.

Then again, Underworld and Blade both managed to spawn a couple of horrendous sequels as well. So you never know.

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Pocahontas/Avatar Trailer

Because we just can't get enough of the humorous comparisons of Avatar to the countless other films that offered the exact same storyline, here is a trailer that fully demonstrates the Avatar/Pocahontas connection.

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Original Pocahontas... er, I mean... Avatar Outline.

Looks like your friends at MovieSucktastic aren't the only ones who felt Avatar was a little less than original or inspiring. We've come across what looks like the original plot outline for Avatar... sort of.

Not sure who to give credit to for this one. If you know who is to blame, let us know.

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