After last week’s light DVD load, this week things are beginning to return back to normal. There’s only one major Hollywood release (American Reunion), but there are a few other flicks that star the likes of Robert De Niro, Christian Bale, and Matt Damon that you probably didn’t see in their theatrical runs. There’s also David Arquette, Michael K. Williams, the Upright Citizens Brigade, a couple of films with ‘Ice’ in their titles, an overweight Norwegian gentleman, some rappers in peril, and even some vampires. One of these flicks is even a musical!
The Flowers Of War
On The Ice
I Kissed A Vampire
The Flirting Club
You’re Nobody Till Somebody Kills You
The only way to find out which flick is the musical is to keep reading on the next page. If you hate musicals and therefore don’t have a song in your heart, click here for this week’s Netflix instant streaming movie suggestions.
My wife and I have seen all three previous American Pie films in the theater. It’s not that we are (or were) rabid fans, it’s just what people did back then. You heard good things about a movie, so you went to see it. You liked it, so you saw the sequel. You figured the third one couldn’t be that good, but you saw it anyway, because why the hell not? When the trailer for American Reunion came out, I asked my wife if she wanted to see it. She replied, “Well, we’ve seen all the others, right?” The point is, for whatever goddamn reason, if you’re part of our generation these movies are an official part of our pop-culture. Always excepting the straight-to-video ‘American Pie presents…’ films, these flicks are what we get for being born when we were born. I knew I would ‘want’ to see this film, just as I know I’ll want to see any other canonical sequels that they cook up. It’s like a sickness; quality doesn’t factor in to the decision. Therefore, I was glad that Vince’s review gave this film a decent ‘B-‘. If I’m gonna see it, at least it won’t totally suck. Of course, he spends the whole review condemning our generation for the very same nostalgia that compels me to see this film, but there you go. At least now my wife and I have the good sense to have waited for the DVD.
Speaking of American Pie films, this movie’s director co-directed the original flick in that series. That’s neither here nor there, but it seemed strange to let it go unmentioned. This is the one where Robert De Niro and Paul Dano play an estranged father and son. They cross paths when De Niro checks into the homeless shelter at which Dano volunteers. De Niro looks like he’s trying for a change, and that’s commendable, but Dano looks like he’s playing the same role he plays in every film: the guy I want to punch. I have to admit, it worked fine for There Will Be Blood, but beyond that, I don’t think his participation ever helps make a movie better. Did you see that movie Gigantic, in which Dano is a mattress salesman trying to adopt a Chinese baby? He starts dating Zooey Deschanel and she plays a character named Happy Lolly. F*cking terrible. Or that awful The Extra Man, where Dano plays a modern-day dude who dreams of being the protagonist of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel while sharing an apartment with Kevin Kline whose character is a professional escort? Beyond f*cking terrible. You know, for as much as I hate Paul Dano, I sure do see a lot of movies that he’s in.
Christian Bale plays an American committed to protecting a group of Chinese women and schoolgirls during the 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanking. When Vince wrote about this movie back in November, he observed that for a film starring Christian Bale and directed by Zhang Yimou (Hero, House Of Flying Daggers, Curse Of The Golden Flower), this film sure wasn’t getting much press. Just so, when I saw that this was hitting DVD, I didn’t even know that it had been released to theaters. Needless to say, it’s probably not very good, although it did set box-office records in China. At any rate, it’s on DVD now, and Bale should provide an entertaining performance, even if the film as a whole sucks. He’s like the anti-Paul Dano in that way.
Wondering why there’s a movie coming out on DVD starring Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, and Matthew Broderick and you’ve never heard of it? Well, it was shot in 2005, but writer/director Kenneth Lonergan just couldn’t figure out how to edit it. He spent years trying to meet a contractually obligated run time of 150 minutes, and he simply couldn’t do it. Lonergan spent so long editing -years even- that eventually everybody started suing each other. Fox Searchlight sued one of the producers, who in turn sued both Fox Searchlight and Lonergan. This was three years ago, by the way. Eventually, the dust settled, and Lonergan gave up final cut and let a couple of ringers take a crack at it: Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese. The final result, the film’s 150-minute cut, played in only 14 theaters. A lot of bitching and fighting (the process took so long that two of Margaret’s producers ended up dying before the film came out), and Fox Searchlight decided to bury it anyhow. It’s a shame, too, because the movie’s supposed to be pretty great. What’s more, the DVD/Blu-ray Combo pack includes Lonergan’s director’s cut, and early reviews say it is even better than the theatrical version. As for the actual film, it’s about a young woman witnessing a bus accident, and the mystery of whether or not it was actually an accident at all. All that being said, the trailer’s kind of underwhelming –could’ve used a better editor, I guess.
David Arquette plays a recovering alcoholic limo driver who used to be a composer of film scores, and now is looking to get back into that business. Bijou Phillips plays the female lead, and if you don’t know who she is, well, all you really need to know is that she’s Mrs. Danny Masterson. As for the film, the title, box-art and synopsis all look perfectly generic, but there might be hints of an interesting story found in the trailer. This flick was originally titled The Land Of The Astronauts, and, like so many other films, they should’ve kept the strange but intriguing title but they dropped it for something bland and forgettable. It’s a shame, though, about the cast. Arquette’s not exactly anyone’s idea of a compelling leading man, and to be honest, I’ve found Bijou Phillips to be off-putting ever since I saw entirely too much of her in Bully. Lastly, they cast the landlady from Kingpin as Arquette’s landlady. She’s even badgering him for the rent. When I saw that, all I could think about was this.
I’m so conflicted about this movie. On the one hand, it’s from the Upright Citizens Brigade, and their show on Comedy Central is probably the best sketch comedy show in television history. It was sublime. Not only is the movie written and directed by one of the original four UCB founders (Matt Besser), but it has all three other UCB originals in the cast (Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh –as Adolf Hitler Jr.). Add to that other welcome faces like Casey Wilson and it should result in an awesome flick. On paper it sounds like an obvious winner. Unfortunately, there’s the trailer. If this didn’t have the UCB brand upon it, there’s no way I would ever see this. The film is a parody of C-Tates-esque dance movies that seems like it was stretched from a five-minute short into a feature length mistake. (Feel free to keep using ‘C-Tates-esque’, by the way; I want it to catch on.) This looks so uncomfortably bad that when Amy Poehler showed up in the trailer, I was surprised to see her and I thought “Oh no, Amy. You’re better than this,” even though I knew she was involved because she’s on the box cover. It was so amateurish and unfunny that within seconds I truly forgot she was involved. Anyhow, I hope it’s good, because I will certainly see it. Like I said, I’m so conflicted about this movie. I’m going to share a couple of my favorite UCB clips beneath the trailer for this, so if nothing else, the Upright Citizens Brigade will provide a few laughs for us toady. There sure aren’t any in the Freak Dance trailer.
Here’s that documentary about dudes trying to become professional mixed martial arts fighters. Vince made fun of the poster a while ago, but the movie looks like it could be entertaining. Personally, I can’t imagine feeling compelled to step into some sweaty arena somewhere in Louisiana just to prove my manhood by pummeling some other dude. It’s not that I am afraid I would lose (I almost certainly would lose), it’s just that I feel like I’m a better man for making money without risking my health or more importantly, my good looks. As for the primal urge to fight, I will admit that I’ve been known to get a bit aggressive with my fists after I’ve had a couple of daiquiris, but who doesn’t? I guess that’s why I’m interested in seeing this film; it explores a part of the MMA world that you don’t get to see on pay-per-view. I’m less interested in seeing this week’s other new doc, All In: The Poker Movie, because the only thing more boring than watching professional poker is watching a documentary about professional poker players. It was a toss-up over which film got the featured spot in this week’s column. Literally, I tossed a coin. Poker lost and the lesson there is that you shouldn’t gamble to make your living. Try to beat someone into submission instead.
Billy Zane, Martin Landau, Danny Glover, and Michael Rooker all collect paychecks for this absolutely atrocious looking thriller. Some old dude plays a Hollywood screenwriter who gets mixed up in a murder investigation. Is there a conspiracy? Is he crazy? Is he the murderer? Were they all just characters in his screenplay? Was he the man and the horse the whole time? Was it his evil twin brother he never even knew he had? Does Martin Landau smell as moth-bally as he looks? Does Billy Zane constantly reference his time shooting Titanic? Does Danny Glover take any role he’s offered these days? Does Michael Rooker walk up behind other dudes and give them impromptu and totally awkward back rubs? I don’t know. I just don’t know. What I do know is that the studio behind this film is either so ashamed of it -or just generally inept- that I had to search for the box art, and the ‘official’ synopsis is for an entirely different movie. For real, I was all set to see Henry from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Roger Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon in a modern day re-telling of Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island, because that’s what they said this was. Instead I got this sh*t.
When making a low-budget thriller, the key is originality. For example, if your grand idea is ‘ a Hollywood screenwriter gets mixed up in a murder investigation’, pack your things and go home. Your movie sucks. On the other hand, if you have a unique geographical setting and a culture that most people aren’t familiar with, you can take a fairly standard plot like ‘two friends kill a third friend and try to cover it up as an accident’ and still come up with something that seems original and looks worth watching. This is the case with On The Ice. The setting is the Alaskan wilderness, and the culture is that of the Iñupiat people. I’m guessing that mean Eskimo. I won’t pretend to claim that I’ve checked, but that’s my guess. If that’s offensive, I apologize. The Eskimos have over 4,000 different words for snow, but do they have even a single word for forgiveness? I hope that they do; after all, they obviously have at least one word…for murder.
Speaking of ice, this The Fast and The Furious knockoff is far more moronic than the oxy-moronic title indicates. Here’s the official synopsis, in its entirety:
Four friends get mixed up in a diamond heist gone bad and now have the Mob and cops on your tail. They soon find out that trust, allegiance and love don t mean a thing when there s money on the line.
I checked that synopsis on several movie websites and it is always written that way. In other words, it wasn’t a transcription error or anything like that. That really is how the filmmakers wanted that to be written. If you don’t see any problems with it, he should go back to fresh men Year english c lass. You can be smartest guy in room, but it don t mean a thing when she Seems ill litter It.
Based on the ‘popular’ iTunes web-series (I had no idea such things existed. I have a feeling I’m not missing anything.), this is a PG-rated musical about teenage vampires. It’s Twilight meets High School Musical! Having just written that sentence, I’m suddenly full of self-loathing. More so than usual, even. I’d punch myself in the nuts, but to be honest, it’s starting to feel good when I do that.
While preparing this column each week, I occasionally come across something so utterly bizarre that I can’t wait to share it with all of you. Sometimes it’s an astonishingly amateurish film like The Amazing Bulk. Sometimes it’s a this-can’t-be-real-can-it? flick like Normandy. Other times, it’s just foreign and weird, but so foreign and so weird that it looks really entertaining. Fatso is one of those awesomely bizarre foreign films. This Norwegian gem is about a fat guy with unfortunate hair and worse teeth trying to lose his virginity. I think. It’s hard to tell with a trailer so delightfully bizarre. If it seems familiar, it may be because Vince actually covered this flick almost four years ago. This is the one with the ejaculating rhino cartoon (see the second clip below). So I guess I didn’t discover jack sh*t, unless you’ve never heard of I Kissed A Vampire before, in which case, I did discover jack sh*t, and exactly jack sh*t. What the hell is jack sh*t, anyway?
Here we have a study in contrasts. First, we have the wordy and overly-complex synopsis:
In a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by feuding warlords, a group of desperate soldiers hatch a plan to steal a Warlord’s treasure and start a new life. When they are faced with the threat of horrific death at the hands of the Warlord’s executioners, the men escape into a desolate and forbidden land known only as The Shadowlands. Now the men must flee from the Warlord’s vicious assassins while defending themselves from the terrifying creatures that inhabit the land.
Secondly, we have the trailer. It’s 84 seconds of awfulness. It’s so devoid of detail that there’s no way to know what the hell is going on. People talk, but the sound mix on the trailer has cut the dialogue out. Then all of a sudden, one dude says, “The Warlord is dead! You’re free men!” which I think is spoiling the ending of the movie. That’s the entirety of the trailer dialogue, by the way. Somehow, the more I watch this trailer, the less sense it all makes. I can only imagine what watching the movie would be like.
If you look at the box cover, the black text above the red title reads, “A revolution in film making! Cast entirely by online votes!” That means, just to be clear, that anyone who wanted to upload an audition did so, and the online community voted. It wasn’t as if they had professional actors come in and then held an online vote to cast the various roles. No, everyone in this film is a complete amateur with the only qualification being that they could upload a video. So, yup, it’s gonna be like that. If you haven’t already skipped on down to this week’s next new DVD, this flick is about a ‘loser virgin’ who has only one month to meet a ‘real girl’ or he has to marry ‘Laura The Human Pig’. If you’re -inexplicably- still reading this paragraph, some of the so-called positive review quotes include “A male Bridget Jones meets American Pie” and “Look Out Russell Brand!” If you’ve made it this far, feel free to watch the trailer. It’s somehow worse than you could imagine.
This lame attempt at grindhouse film making claims to be an homage to the action films of the early 1980s. That’s the first thing it says in the official synopsis. Personally, I don’t see it. Sure the voice-over says it’s set in 1984, and there’s a guy with a shirt that says something about Reagan, but that doesn’t make it an homage. It just makes things confusing. The whole film looks terrible, but I wanted to point out the professional hitman character. He’s a big black dude with a really awful afro wig. What the hell is that about? Am I missing something? Why do these amateur straight-to-DVD flicks always have somebody wearing a completely unconvincing wig? If anything, I would say this is trying to be an ‘homage’ to 1970s grindhouse flicks. What’s more, they don’t even seem to be going for humor; they are playing it straight. Early 1980s action films are things like First Blood and Missing In Action, not flicks like this. Oh well, at least it isn’t that other Cherrybomb. Nobody wants to see Ron Weasley trying to be a serious actor.
There are a few awful horror flicks getting released this week. Besides this one there’s FELL: Relationships Can Bring You Down (so can awful titles with stupid subtitles), and Freakshow Apocalypse: The Unholy Sideshow (what did I just say about awful titles?), but f*ck those movies because You’re Nobody Till Somebody Kills You gets the full coverage this week. As far as horror movies go, this one has a hint of originality because the obligatory serial killer is targeting successful hip-hop artists instead of hunting down assh*les in the goddamn woods. The police are in a race against time to catch the killer before he slaughters his next famous victim. I could make a point about how history has shown us that cops aren’t too worried about catching anybody killing rap stars, but I won’t. What I will say is that, despite this looking as amateurish as anything else this week, it co-stars Michael K. Williams. I’m not saying that as an endorsement, I’m just pointing out that he needs to start showing some discernment in picking roles. Also, it should really be You’re Nobody ‘til Somebody Kills You. Fellas, you nailed the ‘You’re’ which nobody was expecting you to get right, so why spoil it with an unintentional reference to farming? Oh well, at least the dude who uploaded the trailer to YouTube fixed it for them.
For once, the Netflix instant streaming options might actually be as appealing as the DVD releases. For this week’s DVDs, there’s only one that’s also streaming, but it’s the one you hoped for: Fatso (awesomely pictured above). What’s more, a whole bunch of flicks we’ve covered in the past are now also available via streaming: Immortals, American Animal, The Yankles, The Shock Labyrinth, Pastorela, Cowboys & Indians, The Odds, and Pimp. Some of those actually look worthwhile, and the price can’t be beat. With all that cinematic tastiness on tap, I’m sure my usual suggestions aren’t needed, but here they are anyway:
The Good Heart
In my write-up of Being Flynn I mentioned a couple Paul Dano movies I had seen and explained why they were awful. Well, here’s another one. Good god almighty, why have I seen so many f*cking Paul Dano movies? In this one Dano plays a homeless young man taken in by a crusty old bartender played by Brian Cox. If you watch this movie and you don’t guess the twist ending, you are a moron. Here’s a hint: the title isn’t a metaphor. Also, if you watch this at all, you are still a moron.
If you’re a Christian Bale fan, but worry that The Flowers Of War might be a little too subtitley, check out this gritty flick from 2005. Bale plays a bad dude, at least that’s what I infer from the box cover. I haven’t seen this, and it’s probably not that great (despite Bale’s undoubtedly intense performance), but at least IMDb assures me that there are ‘only a few words’ of Korean dialogue. It’s amazing the informational gems that site provides. One of the Harsh Times plot keywords is ‘Watching A Movie’. That’s really helpful.
You Can Count On Me
The critical favor for this flick from writer/director Kenneth Lonergan is pretty much the only reason Margaret got made. Nominated for two Oscars, this film is about the relationship between two adult siblings who have shared a special bond ever since their parents were killed in a car accident. (Notice a pattern with this Lonergan guy?) If you are (rightfully) wary about Margaret’s obnoxiously long running times, take comfort that this film is only 111 minutes. As for nonsensical and useless IMDb plot keywords, this film gets ‘Pancake’. Intriguing, no?
Martin And Orloff
Freak Dance may not be worth your time, but this previous UCB feature-length film has its charms. Upright Citizens Brigade originals Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh star as a suicidal man and his insane psychiatrist. I admit that doesn’t sound like much, but they get a lot of mileage out of the premise. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you probably shouldn’t watch this movie if you don’t find the word ‘c*nt’ funny. Plus, it’s directed by Judy Blume’s son. For real, he was even the inspiration for the Fudge character in Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing and its sequels. You can look it up.