Saturday, June 30, 2012

Jason watches BRAVE in 3-D

First, like nearly all Pixar films, it included a bonus short. The short was LA LUNA, which I had actually seen at SFIFF and loved (when it was 2-D. It neither gains nor loses anything in 3-D.) It's the story of a young apprentice learning the ropes and helping out the two men who are caretakers of the moon. And it's (in keeping with the feature) a story of finding your own way in life. And, as an aside, it's dialogue free. For all the attention THE ARTIST and HUGO got last year for popularizing silent films, I think Pixar has been heavily influenced by silent films at least ever since WALL-E (which is silent for nearly all of the first 40 minutes or so.) Heck, my favorite thing about UP was that the destination was pulled right out of THE LOST WORLD (1925.)

Okay, now for the actual feature. BRAVE has made some headlines for being the first Pixar feature (co-)directed by a woman and featuring a female protagonist. There's also been some critical reaction that while it's pretty good it's not really up to Pixar's normal (pre-CARS II) standards. And...I can see some of that, although I can't quite put my finger on it. I think it lacks..."epicness." The TOY STORY movies, although really about a roomful of toys, brought us to the level of toys so that leaving the house becomes an epic journey. Similarly with A BUG'S LIFE becoming epic on a bug's scale. In FINDING NEMO, a fish swims around the world to find his son--epic. And my favorite--WALL-E--took us into space--magnificently epic (even if in all those movies there was a human scale story at its heart.) The only Pixar feature I felt missed that epicness (admittedly, while stupid CARS II did have an epic scale) was RATATOUILLE, and that compensated just through sheer beauty (Paris certainly helps with that.) And BRAVE also has plenty of beauty, courtesy of Scotland. But the previews are misleadingly epic. Based on the intentionally vague previews you'd think this is a story of a head-strong brave young princess who charges into battle and saves her kingdom (after first putting it in peril through a spell that "changes her fate.") In fact, it's the story of a girl who fights with her mother, and through shenanigans related to a spell (that I can't describe because it's way too much of a spoiler) they both learn to treat each other better. A nice, human-scale story. Even a beautiful and touching one at times. But not epic, and I was at least implicitly promised epic. So go in expecting beauty and a surprisingly human-scale story--but not epicness--and you'll probably like it just fine.

Total Running Time: 100 minutes
My Total Minutes: 288,694

Thursday, June 28, 2012


The third in my trilogy of disappointment. I wanted to like it, there were even individual scenes I liked, but it didn't hold together for me. And this is the most disappointing, since I paid more than $1 for it. In fact, I even paid extra for 3-D.

So let's start there. The 3-D is competent, maybe even technically impressive, but of course violates Jason's Rule of 3-D in spades (reminder: Jason's rule--inspired by CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS--states that 3-D is most effective in putting depth into the screen. When it's used to throw stuff out of the screen, the illusion breaks and it's revealed to be nothing more than gimmicky bullshit.)

As for the story...well, it's a neat conceit that's revealed in the title, so I can't complain about that. Abraham Lincoln as a child witnesses his mother's murder. His father insists that he not seek revenge, but as soon as he's dead Abraham (Benjamin Walker) breaks that promise, only to find his mother's killer is in fact a vampire. He's narrowly rescued by Henry (Rufus Sewell) who tells him about vampires and trains him to kill them. Abraham chooses as his weapon a silvered axe. Then it goes off on weird tangents about how the South is controlled by vampires, how slavery is secretly a source of easy food for them, and how they have designs on taking over the whole of the new world and forming a nation of their own (also, they can walk in the daylight. Apparently sunscreen of that time was awesome.) Henry sends Abraham to Springfield to do his work, with the admonishment to stay quiet and have no friends or family. So Abraham meets Mary Todd,  kills a few vampires, and then gets into politics, all breaking Henry's rules. Then they completely skip over his political career (barely glossing over his debates with Stephen Douglas, even though their rivalry is built up quite a bit over the first half) and next thing you know it's the middle of the Civil War, and the vampires are about to attack Gettysburg. And then it just devolves into nonsense.

There were scenes I liked, but this film can be dropped on the rare (but not rare enough) pile of movies where the poster is more interesting than the actual film.

Running Time: 105 minutes
My Total Minutes: 288,594

Jason watches CHERNOBYL DIARIES at the Cinedome Newark

A few years back, Oren Peli made a big splash on the horror scene with his minimal-budget PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. I was one of the few audiences that got to see his original version (different ending) in its shortened festival run, and I loved it. But that's another story, now Peli's back and missing on all cylinders in his new effort.

I thought PARANORMAL ACTIVITY worked mostly because it built up the tension slowly, starting with the assumption there was nothing there and going a good 30 minutes before the first "scare" (a door moving slightly even though the windows were closed so no wind. Oh yeah, in the original version nothing happened the first night, including keys getting moved.) It turns out, as evidenced by CHERNOBYL DIARIES, you also have to care about the characters (even if, in the case of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, "caring" means you hate one character from the start.) When a bunch of kids go on an "extreme tourism" trip to the town just outside the defunct Chernobyl reactor, I just don't care. And now, the half hour before the first slightly scary thing happens is just tedious as hell. And when the monsters (mutated fish, wolves, bears, and ultimately humans) show up, I still don't care.

I wanted to like this, but I just didn't (part 2 of 3.)

Running Time: 86 minutes
My Total Minutes: 288,489

Jason watches THE RAVEN at the Cinedome 7 Newark

Here begins a trilogy of movies I really wanted to like, but fell short.

But first, let me reiterate the good news for East/South-ish Bay cinephiles on a budget. The Cinedome 7 Newark is a discount theater. $2 normally. $1 on Tuesdays (when I went to see THE RAVEN as the first half of a double feature), and if you bring 3 or more people in a group, 75¢ per person on Family Mondays. BUT THAT'S NOT ALL!! They're so out of date, they still show on film! (At least, every time I've been there it's been film. The website does say they're equipped for digital, but I haven't seen it.) And I've never seen more than two previews before a movie. It's really a very sweet deal. The only reason you haven't heard more about it (unless you read my blog) is because Cinemark (who owns the theater) wants you to spend your money at their fancy new state-of-the-art (i.e., all digital) multiplex at Pacific Commons, Fremont (oddly, they've even started advertising that at their Union Landing theater in Union City.) I don't really want to criticize their business practices, I just want you all to know about the Cinedome Newark while it still exists (which I'm afraid won't be much longer if more people don't start showing up. Even on $1 Tuesdays the place is practically empty.)

Oh, anyway, as for THE RAVEN, a killer is doing his thing in Baltimore, inspired by the writing of Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack, whose face isn't round enough for the role.) It sets up a battle of Logic (the killer) vs. Passion (Poe.) Unfortunately, the film lacks both.

Running Time: 110 minutes
My Total Minutes: 288,403

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Yeah, I'm hitting that Cinedome Newark as hard as I can, catching up on the movies I was kinda moderately interested in but never got around to.

Ewan MacGregor plays Dr. Alfred Jones, a British fish expert who is contacted by Harriet (don't make me remember her last name, but she's played by Emily Blunt) on behalf of a Yemeni Sheikh (Amr Waked) who is a fan of fly fishing and wants to bring the sport to Yemen. This plan, of course, is completely bonkers, but in looking for a positive story coming out of the Middle East, the highest levels of the British government back the plan and pretty much force him to lead it. The thing is, the Sheikh is actually a charismatic (and rich) enough guy to convince him it actually can be done. Along the way, Dr. Jones and Harriet fall in love, even though he's got a wife who's off fixing some financial crisis in Geneva and she's got a boyfriend who is MIA in Afghanistan. Actually, the romance part is easily the weakest part (rivaled only by the subplot of Yemeni radicals who try to sabotage the project because they believe it's an unholy project to westernize Yemen.) The insanity of bringing salmon to Yemen is a lot more fun. And surprisingly the charisma of the Sheikh--and his ability to show Dr. Jones that even a non-religious man can still be a man of faith--is probably the strongest part.

Running Time: 112 minutes
My Total Minutes: 288,293

Jason watches MIRROR MIRROR

The Cinedome 7 Newark is quickly becoming my favorite theater, at least for general non art-house releases. $2 per movie is the regular, non-discount price ($1 on Tuesdays, $0.75 if you bring at least three people on a Monday.) They only play one or two trailers before the feature. And because it's so behind the times they actually still play film (according to Cinemark's website, they are equipped for digital cinema, but based on a sample size of three films I've seen there, they've all been film so far.) I just have a bad feeling that it won't last long, so please all my Southeast Bay Area friends, try to make a point of giving them your business.

Anyway, I gave them my business for two more movies today, starting with this years first re-imagining of the Snow White story, Tarsem Singh's MIRROR MIRROR. Julia Roberts is the vain queen whose excesses have driven the kingdom into ruin. She also introduces the movie, giving the backstory and insisting that this is her story, quickly letting the audience know this will be a different kind of story. Snow White is played by a pair of giant eyebrows attached to a girl named Lily Collins. I'm sorry, that was really mean, but I found her eyebrows distracting. Normally I'd let something like that go, but if the whole point of the story is she's the most beautiful in the land, I feel justified in judging her looks.

But in terms of looks, the real star is the art design--gorgeous, excessive, and a little silly in typical Tarsem Singh fashion (self plug: I'll be co-hosting his IMMORTALS at Bad Movie Night August 26th.) Beyond that,  it's pretty silly. As much as it promises a different kind of story, and takes some steps towards a more powerful Snow White character, it's really a standard fairy tale story. But what it lacks in really re-envisioning the genre, it makes up in a sense of silly fun. Of course, if you don't embrace the silliness, it can be tedious and groan-inducing. It's the sort of movie where Nathan Lane (who plays the queens right-hand man) actually gives the proceedings a bit of class. Just a one point he's turned into a cockroach. But the silliness is delivered with a bit of a smirk and wink to the audience, and if you accept it it's fun.  And honestly, I like the dwarfs in this one better than the Disney version.

Running Time: 106 minutes
My Total Minutes: 188,181

Jason watches JOHN CARTER

Good news, everybody! The Cinedome 7 in Newark is actually a second run discount theater now. $2 movies most days, $1 on Tuesdays, and if you bring 3 or more people, it's $0.75 each for "Family Mondays." You probably haven't heard much about this because the parent company, Cinemark, doesn't want to steal focus from their brand new state-of-the-art (i.e., all digital) Century at Pacific Commons in Fremont.

Bad news (of course) is that John Carter pretty much sucked. I think I have a new favorite laughably bad scene in a movie. John Carter (who can leap easily 10 times as far as he could on Earth...due to Mars having only 64% 38% of Earth's gravity?) leaps into battle against a CGI horde of giant, green, tusked, four-armed martians, aided only by his intensely loyal, super-fast, slobbering, martian, monster dog. This could be silly popcorn adventure fun, and I could enjoy it. But it cuts between the martian battle and flashback scenes of him returning from the Civil War to find his home burnt and the bodies of his wife and child inside. This is silly popcorn fun with pretensions of serious drama, and it just doesn't fly.

That, and it throws way too much mythology and what passes for plot at you. Also, while it's correct that Mars has two moons, they wouldn't be as huge in the Martian sky as they appear in the movie. But whatever.

[Correction: An earlier version said Mars had 64% of Earth's gravity. In fact, the correct number is 38%. I blame my carelessness of looking up the mass of Mars (instead of the surface gravity) and Google for prominently displaying an incorrect result among many correct ones]

Running Time: 132 minutes
My Total Minutes: 288,075

Monday, June 11, 2012

Jason goes to Bad Movie Night and watches ALIEN and ALIENS

Wait a minute, those are good movies! And wait another minute, Bad Movie Night is just one movie, not two!

Well, once a year we do a special birthday night for our hosts, Sherilyn and Rhiannon, who both celebrate birthdays in mid-June. And last night, as part of alien invasion month (and to mock the opening of PROMETHEUS,) we did the classics ALIEN and ALIENS.

Now it can be a problem to make fun of good movies. Luckily, there are many, many long, slow scenes in ALIEN that give you plenty of opportunity to complain about how boring it is. But mostly I was banking on making lots of jokes about "molecular acid." That's right, there's one line in ALIEN where they mention that the alien's blood eats through everything so fast that it's like its made out of..."molecular acid." I've always laughed at that, and I was looking forward to a long 4+ hours of making molecular acid jokes. Sigh....

Fortunately, the nice lady named Rose who was sitting near me made a comment that the chest-burster scene is supposed to be a homophobic nightmare. Now I had thought it was just a scary scene, and maybe a bit about a male fear of pregnancy, but not particularly homophobic. But the chestburster alien is vaguely penis-shaped, and the theory is homophobes are afraid of taking a cock up the ass so far it bursts out of the chest. I...don't really buy that. I think homophobes have enough fear of a cock up the ass without thinking about it coming out their front. And homophobes are generally familiar with the size of a human penis, and know it can't really do that. But then the conversation turned to that guy who died from having sex with a horse, and how you should only be the top when fucking a horse. And then someone made a "pussy" joke about Jonesy the cat, and so we started talking about sex with cats. Anyway, I'd just like to publicly thank Rose for helping me hate that movie.

ALIENS, by the way, is the complete opposite, a testosterone celebration of the phallic might of military power. Guns go bang--a lot! Whatever.

Total Running Time: 270 minutes, because for some reason we had to go with the extended director's cuts of both.
My Total Minutes: 287,943

Jason goes to Midnites For Maniacs Killer Summer 5-film all day fest

Yeah, they call it Midnites For Maniacs even when it starts at 2:30 pm. And at five films, it's more like a Marathon for Maniacs (starting with a Matinee for Maniacs.)

And I'll tell you, I don't know the last time I saw five films in one day. "But Jason," I can hear you saying, "you often go to film festivals and see five or more films in a day!" Wrong! I often go to film festivals and see five or more movies in a day, but they're rarely all on film, much less beautiful 35 mm prints. That's quite a rarity. And before I dive into the reviews, I'd like to thank Jesse Hawthorne Ficks and the Castro Theatre for making that possible. And especially Jesse for his informative introductions and proselytism for overlooked and/or under-appreciated films.

Okay, onto the films:

We started the day with ONE CRAZY SUMMER (1986): John Cusack romances Demi Moore on Nantucket while trying to save her house from evil rich people. Savage Steve Holland direct, teaming up again with Cusack (and Curtis Armstrong) for a follow-up to BETTER OFF DEAD. Plus he throws in some Bobcat Goldthwait going crazy as usual (I especially love the Godzilla scene) and animation featuring nasty, evil bunnies. And then he ramps the absurdity up about as high as it can go.

Next up was WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (2001): Confession time (since Midnites for Maniacs is a no-judgement zone, and such confessions are welcome), I had never seen this movie before. I maintain I was waiting to see it in the best way possible, and last Saturday at the Castro was the best way possible. In any case, it's a lovingly absurd homage to so many summer camp comedy cliches, especially summer love. The absurdity is ramped up by cramming all of those cliches and assorted wacky hi-jinks into the final day of camp. Plus you get to see Amy Poehler before she was a star, Janeane Garofalo as the camp director, David Hyde Pierce as an astrophysicist, Christopher Meloni as a demented Vietnam Vet/camp cook/fridge humper, and Paul Rudd as a giant asshole. And that's just about half of the movie. With it going every which way, it feels a bit like a sketch show instead of a linear narrative, and with so many threads some of them are bound to disappoint. But enough of them work that overall it's a pretty fun experience.

Next we stayed at summer camp but took a severe turn of genre with FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980): This, of course, is the classic that started the slasher genre. Except that it's not a slasher flick, it's a stalker flick (the series veered off into slasher territory in later episodes.) And it's not that original, it's a low-budget knock-off of John Carpenter's low-budget stalker horror classic HALLOWEEN. I had seen it years ago, on VHS of course. And it's remarkable how much I had forgotten about it. I had forgotten how well it used P.O.V. shots (always from the killer's P.O.V., until we're down to one survivor and you start seeing some shots from her P.O.V.) I had forgotten Kevin Bacon was in it, suffering pretty much the best kill in the flick (I was right, however, that this wasn't his screen debut. He had a small role in ANIMAL HOUSE first.) Of course, I did (and will always) remember the great final shock scene. Still one of my favorite horror movie scenes of all time.

Speaking of favorites, next up was Peter Jackson's DEAD ALIVE (1992): Now I don't actually like designating anything as my favorite movie (or favorite anything, for that matter.) I think declaring a favorite calcifies a part of my personality that I would prefer remain fluid. But with that said, if I had to declare a favorite film of all time, DEAD ALIVE (aka BRAINDEAD) might just be it. It is, definitely, the movie I have obsessed over the most, and the movie that is most responsible for me becoming a big film geek. Another confession--I did not grow up watching horror films. I came to them in college when friend played a VHS of DEAD ALIVE in the lounge. I became obsessed, always wanting to rent it and watch it again (in fact, at one point I rented it and played it on a continuous loop for 24 hours in the lounge.) Later I learned that the original title was BRAINDEAD and there was a version of the movie with 7 extra minutes that was released in New Zealand and Europe but never in America. In searching for that, I found the whole world of online bootleg video stores that were all over the place in the mid-90's. Places like Gorehound Video or Blackest Heart Media running what was an arguably legitimate business providing unreleased versions of movies for collectors. These mostly went out of business when these uncut versions became available on special edition or import DVDs (once every collector got a region free player) but back in the day that's really how I built up my horror/cult movie collection. And at every one of these sites, in my first order I would test their quality by buying a copy of BRAINDEAD. So at one point I had at least a half dozen VHS bootleg copies of the movie (I've since passed these all out to friends, so don't bother asking me for one.) I also learned about a ton of other cult horror movies, including a little sickie film called CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Then shortly after I moved to the SF Bay Area, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST made a nationwide tour for its 20th anniversary, and played at a theater in the city called The Roxie. That was my first time seeing it on the big screen, and my first time at The Roxie. I figured I needed to pay attention to what plays at a theater cool enough to play CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, and the next February there was something there called SF Indiefest--my first film festival! That was 2002, and I've seen every Indiefest film since then, as well as becoming something of a fixture at many Bay Area film festivals. But it all started with DEAD ALIVE.

I suppose I should say a few things about the actual film now. But what's to say--zombies, lawnmower, comedy. It's as if Monty Python made a horror film. And it's got a beautiful love story at its core--a love based on the two unbreakable pillars of superstition and fighting the undead. It's also the only one of the films I had seen before on the big screen. In fact, I had seen the DEAD ALIVE unrated cut at least three times at midnight movies in San Diego, Santa Cruz, and San Jose, probably more. And I saw the BRAINDEAD cut back at the Roxie in SF Indiefest in 2003 (to my knowledge, one of only two times that version ever played in the United States.) So let me end with just a few notes about the differences between  the DEAD ALIVE and BRAINDEAD cuts, and which one is my favorite. See, even though BRAINDEAD is seven minutes longer, fans are mistaken when they claim it's the "Director's Cut." What happened is when the distribution rights were negotiated, there was already a movie on the market called BRAIN DEAD (two words, not one, and starring the Bills Pullman and Paxton) and so to avoid confusion (and possible litigation) they decided to rename Peter Jackson's opus. Well, that gave Peter Jackson a few extra weeks to go back into the editing booth and make some changes, cutting out some scenes for pacing, and more importantly tweaking the color timing a bit to bring up the greens a bit more. If you see the BRAINDEAD cut, it's tinted kind of red, like it came from a slightly faded film print (incidentally, this color was one thing that kept me buying more and more versions of BRAINDEAD bootlegs hoping to find one that magically had the same colors as DEAD ALIVE.) So the U.S. unrated version of DEAD ALIVE is really the "Director's Cut." In any case, I actually like the scenes that are in the BRAINDEAD version (especially the final disposition of the priest zombie, nurse zombie, and greaser zombie's legs) but I prefer the colors of DEAD ALIVE. So my favorite cut would be one that only exists in my mind--BRAINDEAD scenes but with DEAD ALIVE color. In any case, I think we can all agree that the heavily edited R-rated version is crap.

Wow, um...sorry for rambling there. Anyway, we ended the night with a film I had never seen, THE BURNING (1981): This was a low budget camp stalker flick, i.e., a knock-off of FRIDAY THE 13TH (which remember, was itself a knock-off of HALLOWEEN.) Now I know that Midnites For Maniacs is a judgement free zone, but unfortunately this blog is not, and I'm sorry but I just couldn't get into THE BURNING. I did like the opening bit, when a bunch of campers pull a prank on the groundskeeper Cropsey that ends up with him burnt over his entire body. And I liked seeing Jason Alexander with hair. And of course Tom Savini's special effects are good. But after a strong opening it just took too long to get going and when it did not enough of the campers died. Too many damn survivors, including too many of the kids I didn't like. Oh, well. And in the spirit of no judgement, I'm happy for everyone who stuck through it and actually liked THE BURNING (like my friend Phil. Thanks for the ride home, Phil!)

And that was it. Next Midnites for Maniacs is just three movies, a BFF Triple Feature of CLUELESS, MEAN GIRLS, and HEAVENLY CREATURES on July 6th.

Total Running Time: 473 minutes
My Total Minutes: 287,672

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Jason watches PROMETHEUS in 3-D

And overall, I liked it. It's not exactly an ALIEN prequel. It takes place in the ALIEN universe, and does give some background about the "Space Jockey" ruins they find in that movie. Not the exact Space Jockey guy, but his race and how they're related to the origins of mankind. Oops, I've already gone to far.

Okay, first the stuff I liked. The look, the atmosphere--I think Ridley Scott is incapable of making a movie that isn't at least visually engaging. And I liked Michael Fassbender, and particularly his biggest laugh line in the movie (I think it's in the trailers, so you probably know what I mean.) And I liked (and this surprised me that I liked it) that they specifically avoided using the Xenomorph Aliens from the original series. They do use variants on them. And I kinda liked the mysteries of human origins the movie sets up.

Now the stuff that didn't work for me. First and foremost, some (most) of the characters are pretty shallow, annoying, and stupid. Insisting on not taking weapons because it's a scientific expedition was just too obvious. The guy laughing at his scheme of sneaking a smoke inside his spacesuit was kinda dumb. And, as much as I hate to say this, I couldn't care less for Charlize Theron's character or her secret agenda.

And most importantly, the thing I'm on the fence about--the ending. I'll try to keep it relatively spoiler-free, but proceed at your own risk. The ending...isn't really an ending at all. The mysteries raised in the movie aren't answered, and in the end the survivor(s) go off to search more for the answers. It's not an ending, but a setup for a sequel. And I'm just not sure if I want that sequel.

On a final note, the 3-D was unnecessary, but also mostly unoffensive. It mostly avoids violating Jason's Rule of 3-D by not throwing too much stuff out of the screen at the audience. But it also doesn't really use the depth into the screen. I'm pretty sure I would've gotten the same experience in 2-D.

As an aside, the 3-D trailer for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN looked annoying as hell. The movie might be great, but at least in the trailer the 3-D is used pretty much solely for the gimmicky effect of throwing stuff out of the screen and making the audience flinch. In over 2 hours, PROMETHEUS violated Jason's rule maybe a couple of times (and that was with bits of silica flying around in a storm). In about a minute, the trailer for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN violated Jason's Rule about 5 times.

Running Time: 124 minutes
My Total Minutes: 287,199

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jason goes to Bad Movie Night and watches SKYLINE

Ugh...alien invasion month has officially kicked off at BMN, and we started with SKYLINE. As far as I can tell, the title is a slang term for cocaine. And clearly everyone involved has snorted a few "sky lines" when they decided to make this.

Anyway, a small group of L.A. douchebags are hanging out together when giant monster vaginas from space attack. That's pretty much it. And the only remotely interesting scene is the one that sets up the sequel, which is unfortunately happening.

Running Time: 94 minutes
My Total Minutes: 287,075

Monday, June 4, 2012

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for Charlie Chaplin Days

Last weekend was Charlie Chaplin Days in Niles. He only worked here for about 3 months back in 1915, and made 5 short films here. But we still celebrate his impact nearly 100 years later. During the day, we showed all the films he made here in Niles, but I was working in the gift shop, giving tours, or helping out with the carnival games we set up outside. But at night, I was really there as an audience member to watch the movies.

GENTLEMEN OF NERVE (1914): Chaplin at Keystone, in his first year on film. Charlie and friends at the auto races. Especially Charlie and Mabel Normand, the great comedian who was sometimes known as the female Charlie Chaplin. Rather broad slapstick, but a lot of fun.

WORK (1915): This is Chaplin at Essanay, but after he worked in Niles and got permission to finish up his contract back in L.A. He's the put upon assistant to a handyman hired to fix up a house. The hi-jinks start with his struggle just to get there (Charlie is the "horse" pulling a cart with his boss and all their equipment) and just gets hi-jinksier (higher-jinks?) when they get there and start destroying the house. [Note: this review copied from my review of Chaplin Days in 2010, but still just as appropriate.]

Then after a brief intermission, we were ready for the main event.

THE KID (1921): It's a Chaplin film, but more importantly it's the film that made Jackie Coogan the first child star. And he's adorable as the orphan who ends up being raised by Chaplin's Tramp. They manage to stay one step ahead of the law (Jackie breaks windows while Chaplin makes a living repairing them) and one step ahead of child protective services. But the heart of the movie is how Jackie wants to stay with his adoptive Tramp father and how Chaplin will do anything to keep him. It's just simply one of the most adorable films I've ever seen.

Oh yeah, and then on Sunday I was back to work all day again, culminating in the Pie Fight of the Century hosted by the Midnight Patrol Tent of the Sons of the Desert (the Laurel and Hardy Film Appreciation Society.) That was tons of good, messy fun.

Total Running Time: 125 minutes
My Total Minutes: 286,981

Jason watches THE LOVED ONES

So I...kinda...saw this at the SF International Film Festival a couple of years ago, but, Ain't It Cool News, and Joshua Grannell (Peaches Christ, but as Joshua, not as Peaches) put on a special midnight screening of it at the Metreon last Friday. Here's what I said back in 2010:

Then there was one final SFIFF movie that night--up to the Castro for THE LOVED ONES. Now I could mention how exceedingly drunk I was. I could also mention that I was surviving on about 2 hours sleep and had been watching movies pretty continuously for over 12 hours at this point. But instead, I like to think I AM LEGEND [note: I hosted that at Bad Movie Night the same night] was so awful it put me into a mini-coma for about 80 minutes during this movie. Great ending, though!
Uhhhh...yeah. I guess I really didn't see it back in 2010. At least I didn't give any spoilers away. BTW, beware of spoilers in the following review:

Anyway, it's a beautifully sick and hilarious Australian horror flick about the prom. Specifically, about a girl who asks a boy to the prom and when he says no she has her daddy (I loved the relationship between daddy and his little Princess!) kidnap him and bring him back to their house where they have their own home prom and torture the hell out of him. Just beautiful and over-the-top (the wisp of smoke from the drill in the trepanning scene was perfect) and gets sicker and more twisted as it goes along. And, of course, it's a great reversal of gender roles in classic horror tropes--but I'll leave that to people who care more about intellectual explication of films instead of drilling holes in heads to pour boiling water in and cook the brain. Oh, and the ending that I mentioned was's even better when you know what led up to it (and also kind of bittersweet, because I really identified with daddy's little Princess more than anyone else in the film.)

Running Time: 84 minutes...but I've decided to remove it from my records from 2010, since I really didn't see it back then.
My Total Minutes: still 286,856

Jason rewatches THE COLOR WHEEL

I saw this back at Indiefest, so let's look back at what I said at the time:

And then I ended the night with THE COLOR WHEEL. I hate saddling a film with the label "mumblecore," particularly if I don't know whether the filmmaker embraces the term or not (personally, I think it is poorly defined and too often used dismissively.) I will say that it's black and white, shot on 16 mm, and mostly features the two main characters talking to each other--take from that what you will. Colin (director/co-writer Alex Ross Perry) is going on a road trip with his sister JR (Caren Altman) to help her move stuff out of her professor/ex-lover's apartment. They joke with each other with a significant amount of hostility, and they run into some pretty strange characters (the Christian hotel clerk was particularly creepy), have a lot of awkward times, and...well I won't spoil it beyond saying the ending is pretty controversial.
 I think this is the type of movie where you have to decide quickly if you care about the characters, because if you don't care about them the movie would just be tedious. And I have a feeling that it might come down to just my mood at the exact moment I start watching. Luckily, I was in the mood to enjoy the company of these characters. I loved the playful, natural, affectionate hostility between JR and Colin. Perhaps because I have a lot of siblings (I'm one of six kids) that I found their relationship accurate and endearing. Everyone with a sibling knows exactly how to push his or her buttons, everyone with a sibling knows their buttons will get pushed, and we all know how to avoid falling for the button-pushing. Most importantly, we all know that as hostile as we can get with each other, family counts on family, even when some family members can't really be counted on (disclaimer: this comment is in reaction to the movie, not to my family, every member of which is absolutely perfect.)

Yeah, I'll still stand by this review. And obviously I liked it enough to see it again. Plus Alex Ross Perry was there with his writing partner/co-star Caren Altman, and they introduced the movie. Unfortunately, there wasn't a big enough crowd at the late show I saw for them to return for a Q&A. Instead they went to karaoke, and I would've joined them (not to sing, but to drink, talk, and hang out) but I had another movie to run off to (of course.)

Now I just want to add one thing I noticed the second time around and this will get a little spoiler-y. So stop reading if you haven't seen the movie and care about spoilers. There's a scene early on when they're talking about how Colin went on a trip with their parents and JR wasn't invited (this is actually a recurring theme--at one point she wasn't invited to their aunt's funeral because they thought she would be too much of a downer.) Clearly Colin wants her to know that he's their parent's favorite child. And she complains that she should be the favorite, and as she's listing the reasons she includes something along the lines of "I was their only child." And of course Colin calls bullshit on that, you don't get to always be the only child just because you once were. Clearly the simple interpretation is that she was the only child for just a couple of years until Colin was born. But I thought of a different interpretation this time--what if she is their only biological child, and Colin was actually adopted? Well, that would make the ending incest scene a little less creepy, but it would make all the times when Colin is their favorite child sting so much more.

Running Time: 83 minutes
My Total Minutes: 286,856

Jason watches MEN IN BLACK III

Yeah, that was actually pretty fun. I liked the first MEN IN BLACK, didn't care for the MEN IN BLACK II. But they're back on solid footing here, and I'm kind of a sucker for time travel stories. Plus Josh Brolin is great as a young Tommy Lee Jones.

That is all.

Running Time: 106 minutes
My Total Minutes: 286,773

Jason watches KEYHOLE

It's a Guy Maddin movie, that pretty much says it all.

Allegedly this is Guy Maddin attempting to be a little more accessible and less experimental (or what he calls "cinematic rehab.") As far as being accessible, it isn't...and that's not what I want from Guy Maddin anyway. What I want is a hypnotic, dream-like hybrid of a gangster flick and a ghost story. And that's what you get here. Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric) is an old-school film noir gang leader who has his gang holed up in an abandoned house (as an aside, his gang includes Kevin McDonald, who ends up spending most of the movie doing a ghost doggy-style. Since he previously directed Mark McKinney in THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD, I know have a fantasy of Guy Maddin directing a Kids in the Hall reunion.) Anyway, he's really there with a psychic and a guy tied to a chair (spoiler alert: he turns out to be Ulysses' long-lost son Manners) and he's trying to find the ghost of his wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini), who is shacked up in their marriage bedroom with her new ghost lover.

And if that all sounds like it makes really doesn't. But it's Guy Maddin, and I love it.

Running Time: 93 minutes
My Total Minutes: 286,667

Jason watches IDENTITY CARD

This is a film I missed at Cinequest, but I got a second chance at the Roxie's program of New Czech Cinema. Set in communist Czechoslavakia of...actually, I don't know what year. The Roxie's program claims it's the 80's, Cinequest claims it was 1974, and I don't recall any specific year called out in the film. In any case, the main characters are self-proclaimed hippies, so they're behind the times no matter what. Anyway, "hippy" to them means they grow their hair long and get together to drink and smoke. Rather than politically active, they're mostly pranksters who have their whole life ahead of them. And when they turn 15, they are all issued the titular identity cards in a ceremony that's supposed to represent a coming-of-age in their Communist paradise. In reality, it's how they enter a system where their rebellious pranks (e.g., shaking the police chief's hand so hard they crush it at the identity card ceremony) are no longer tolerated. Not that they don't keep trying. It's just that their pranks have more and more blowback, as their opportunities for University, etc. are closed and it gets harder and harder to avoid military service. It doesn't exactly go anywhere as a story, but it's an entertaining and nostalgic look at the commonalities of rebellious youth in a time and place that usually isn't a source of nostalgia.

Running Time: 129 minutes
My Total Minutes: 286,574