Tuesday, July 31, 2012

La Règle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game) (1939)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from netflix.

Setting the standard for future upper/lower class satire, Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game places a group of well-to-do French aristocrats and their bickering servants in an isolated chateau for a weekend party. Various romantic entanglements and misunderstandings occur, centered around married Austrian expat Christine (Nora Gregor) and the various men who love her. On the lower floors a new domestic hire attempts to seduce the wife of the mansion's head groundskeeper, who is armed and ready to kill anyone laying hands on his wife.

Despite my love for art history and film coming together, I somehow knew very little about Jean Renoir (painter Pierre Auguste's son, hello) or his career. I know The Rules of the Game is considered a masterpiece by many, and I thought the Upstairs/Downstairs premise sounded promising, but somewhere in the mix I lost interest, and in the end I'm not much of a champion of the film. Though I appreciate snarky social commentary as much as the next person, I didn't find these characters or stories compelling enough to care much about what was being said, and the film as a whole felt uneven. There are some very funny moments and a number of overly-dramatic ones (the over-acting is pretty intense) but most of it falls in the middle, and I found myself less than engaged during several scenes. Christine's flighty romantic nature and her philandering husband's inability to commit aren't strong grounds for a compelling story, you know? The subplot with the servants was more interesting (plus there's a gun!) but it's less of a focus. I understand the points being made about how rich people suck (duh) and the working class is kind of silly (I guess?) but I would have appreciated a more interesting script.

Not that everything in this film is bad, obviously. As I said there are moments I really enjoyed, especially those involving the flirty maid (Paulette Dubost) and her attempts to piss off her overbearing husband. The chase through the party is especially funny. The whole proceedings are shot beautifully, and I know Renoir's use of deep focus is considered pioneering for the time. There are several scenes wherein the forground action is as important as the background, and he gives us fascinating moments with large groups and impressive rooms. I may not have been particularly engaged by the story or dialogue, but I was happy to just look at this movie. I also liked Renoir's appearance as Christine's doughy best friend Octave, whose comment of "I'm not the marrying kind" and general familiarity with her made me think this was 1930s code for "gay" but it turned out he just liked to fool around with ladies. Wishful thinking on my part, I guess.

I know this is a highly-regarded classic, considered one of the best films ever made, etc, and maybe it's my low-brow tastes talking but it just didn't do it for me. Mostly it just reminded me that rich white people are usually boring, but if that's the focus of your movie I need it to be somewhat interesting, somehow.


Pair This Movie With: Obviously a lot of people have drawn from Renoir's approach, I'm most familiar with Julian Fellowes' versions in Downton Abbey and Gosford Park.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Seen: On vhs on my tv, from my personal collection.

Adapted from the play of the same name and regarded as the film that brought Katharine Hepburn back into the spotlight, The Philadelphia Story has long been one of my favorite classic films. Hepburn stars as privileged socialite Tracy Lord, who is set to marry up-and-coming businessman George Kittredge (John Howard). Her ex-husband CK Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) invades her wedding party with two reporters- Macaulay Connor (James Stewart) and Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey)- posing as friends of her brother. Tracy's wayward father has been romancing a New York dancer and to keep that story under wraps, the gruesome editor of Spy Magazine wants all the details of her big day published. The days leading up to the wedding itself are rife with romantic intrigue and family squabbles as Tracy begins to doubt the decisions that led her to this point.

Riddled with sharp-tongued dialogue, memorable performances, and a strong dose of social satire, The Philadelphia Story is always fun to revisit even if the actual story is pretty simple. It helps that three of my favorite classic actors are pitted against each other in an enticing love triangle, trading insults and compliments equally while dressed to the nines. If I had to choose I'd say Jimmy Stewart is the standout, but then I do favor the man. His character is abrasive, pretentious, and a bit droll, and I love every minute of it. He's also got one of my favorite drunk scenes, bellowing "CK DEXTER HAVEN!" with that adorable drawl, it's just great. The unsung hero of the piece is actually Ruth Hussey, who is fabulous as put-upon photographer Liz. She's witty and sarcastic in the best way, and her character is probably the most sympathetic since she's the most realistic. She's got financial and personal problems but she's never self-pitying, rolling with the punches as the big personalities fight it out around her.

Of course, this is Katharine Hepburn's show, what with the play being written for her and everything, and she doesn't disappoint (has she ever?). Her Tracy Lord is fierce and dominant, with enviable posture and a heart hardened to the men who've disappointed her. She is not without a sense of humor, and hilariously throws Mike and Liz off guard with her over-the-top performance when they first arrive. Several of those close to her give speeches about how cold and "goddess-like" she is, which makes her feel distant and unloved, and actually I get a little frustrated with how Taming of the Shrew-y this gets at a few parts. I like Tracy's character a lot and am generally on her side, she's got high standards and there's nothing wrong with that since she should expect the best for herself and others. She's derided by her father and mother for not being more forgiving of his infidelity, which is bullshit, and it's weird that people seem to blame her coldness for their own weaknesses? Cary Grant thinks she's a jerk for not being nicer to him about his drinking, or something. I understand that alcoholism is a disease and people need love and support and whatnot, but he didn't seem like he was trying to get better so I'm pretty sure she was in the right.

Anyway, I do really love The Philadelphia Story. It's funny and wicked entertaining, and features cool people and fancy outfits galore. I have a few reservations with how Tracy's character is treated, but on the whole she's so strong and admirable that I can look past them.


Pair This Movie With: I usually want more Jimmy Stewart romance after this one, maybe The Shop Around the Corner or You Can't Take It With You.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Alex Makes Art #89

Oh hey there! How's it going? I hope you're ready for some art that isn't movie-related, for once! I did change the title of this feature so that I could branch out a bit more, after all. Anyway I've been pretty damn productive this week, I think, with two finished pieces and another one 2/3's of the way done. The last one's a commission though and I think it might be a secret so I won't show it just yet, I have to check with the customer. Now go forth for some art, already! I was in a grayscale mood, as you'll see.

So first things first: I was pretty depressed on Friday for reasons that probably affected many others similarly, and I dove into drawing with the hope it would cheer me up. I screwed up my ink painting of rapper Azealia Banks and that made me even sadder, but I managed to turn it into a digital painting that I like. It's available as a print. I hope you know who she is, if not look at this.

Secondly, anyone who follows me on twitter is probably well aware that I have been OBSESSING over Twin Peaks in recent weeks. I'm watching the show for the first time (currently I'm about halfway through the second season) and it's just great. My favorite, favorite part is the friendship that develops between Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman, these guys are the cutest! I started doodling a silly image of them hanging out drinking coffee, as they do, and then it just evolved over the day into the digital illustration here. It's also available as a small print.

And yes, for those who may be thinking it, they are totally holding hands under the table. Cooper<3Truman4ever

I've got loads of other cool stuff in my shop, check it out! I've even got a deal for 2 original movie posters for only $25, my goodness! And I'm up for commissions, email alex.kittle @ gmail.com.

Ok byyyye, have a nice weekend everybody!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Seen: At the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square, a midnight showing.

Let me start right off with two things: 1) I don't want to talk about Aurora, please don't mention it, and 2) I'm not an intense Nolan fanperson, so please no whining about my criticisms. Also spoilers ahead. So, set 8 years after the events of the last film, The Dark Knight Rises proposes a Gotham that's practically crime-free after Harvey Dent's faked martyrdom ushered in new laws against organized crime. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, but is eventually coaxed out of hiding by problems at Wayne Enterprises and the appearance of a snarky thief (Anne Hathaway) who's taken records of his fingerprints for nefarious purposes. Eventually it comes to light that mysterious criminal powerhouse Bane (Tom Hardy) is amassing a ragtag army in the sewers, with plans to bring Gotham's elite to its knees.

Whew, where to start with this one? Whenever friends have been asking me I thought, I've generally responded with "I liked it, but I want to see it again. There were a lot of little things that bothered me but I think as a whole it was pretty good." I haven't had the chance to rewatch it yet but more and more of those "little things" have been coming to light since last Friday as I reflect more on the film's plot. Specifically, that most of it doesn't make any goddamn sense. It starts off mostly ok, and there is a very exciting climactic-type scene when Bane takes over the city. Explosions galore AND class commentary! I liked it! But then... there's still like an entire hour left. And Batman has to be shipped off to some isolated prison in Asia(?) and we've gotta watch everything being shitty and nonsensical for a long time and then he's gotta get rid of a nuclear bomb or whatever. Eh. It's not that the movie falls apart, it just stretches its logic too thin and it's harder to overlook the parts that don't fit together. I can deal with a lot of wackiness in my movies, but Nolan seems to be trying to create a more realistic world here so it was off-putting when so many things didn't make sense.

Luckily there are enough cool parts and characters that I could deal with most of the narrative drawbacks. The opening action scene with the plane is ridiculously rad, and I loved the football stadium scene. Batman and Bane's fights were appropriately brutal, and the motorcycle chase after the stock exchange is thrilling. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a welcome addition to the cast, though his character is sort of one-note, and Marion Cotillard brings the sexiness. Her reveal at the end wasn't a huge surprise to me (the second she started making out with a miserable, penniless Bruce Wayne I knew she was some sort of manipulative villain-type) but it was still pretty cool, especially since it totally changes how we view Bane as a character. I also really liked how dark the film is overall, particularly how the villain's big world-ending threat that would usually be narrowly avoided in another superhero movie, actually comes to pass. Gotham gets super fucked up in The Dark Knight Rises and it's pretty awesome, especially since the entire premise is basically about the 99% being pushed too far. Bane's whole anarchic thesis made a certain kind of sense, and the city probably would have done ok if not for the hordes of killer criminals patrolling the streets.

The biggest issue I had coming into this film was of course, Catwoman. Nolan is not known for creating strong female characters and I am really not a fan of Anne Hathaway, and had trouble seeing her in the role. Luckily, she did an ok job. I basically feel that she was wholly competent but didn't bring anything distinctive to the part, and while I don't necessarily have complaints about her performance I do think there are other actresses that could have done a better job (HELLO, ZOE SALDANA, LET'S DO THIS). As a character I liked her a lot though, she's got her own thing going on and doesn't rely on Batman for her story to progress. Plus I liked how her goggles were also cat ears? BUT can we please desist with the stiletto heels, my goodness. Some dude even cracks a joke about it in the film. Sigh. Anyway I just wish she was in it more. Her character kind of disappears for long spurts. Also I was way disappointed with the romantic angle, for most of the story it was so nice to see a male/female duo that weren't romantically/sexually involved, but that stupid, cop-out ending ruined it all. It didn't help that for some reason I was convinced she was dating the blonde lady (Juno Temple!) who lived with her. Took me by surprise when she started making out with Batman, I can tell you.

Final word: I must give an enthusiastic shout-out to Cillian Murphy, whose cameo as the Scarecrow is hands-down my favorite part of the film. It's the most comic-booky moment, and I love it! More of that please!

3.5/5 (ruminating on this one has me lowering my score from 4 to 3.5)

Pair This Movie With: The ending obviously had me thinking of the old Batman: The Movie ("Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb!"), but I was also in the mood to revisit Batman Returns for more Catwoman action.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979)

Seen: On my tv, streamed from netflix instant.

This movie has been on my radar for a while but for some reason it took me forever to actually sit down and watch it. After several friends talked it up recently (including Ryan at the Matinee) I was finally motivated. And I've been on a serious Ramones kick ever since! Brought to us by Roger Corman, Rock 'n' Roll High School follows the students of Vince Lombardi High as they rise up against the tyrannical new principal Miss Togar (Mary Woronov). Ramones fanatic Riff Randall (PJ Soles) leads her peers in a rock and roll revolution, while her best friend, science genius Kate (Dey Young), navigates the troubled waters of first love with socially awkward football quarterback Tom (Vincent Van Patten).

With a plot as thin as tissue paper and a lot of bad acting, Rock 'n' Roll High School fights to reach its 90 minute runtime but has so much fun getting there that you'd barely notice. Packed with wacky musical scenes featuring rockin' Ramones tunes, likable castmembers, and a lot of ridiculous jokes, the film easily entertains despite its narrative lack. I was never into The Ramones much before (my teenage punk phase consisted most strongly of The Clash and The Dead Kennedys) but now I totally get it. I felt like rockin' out all day after watching this movie, especially once the band is introduced, singing "I Just Wanna Have Something to Do" to the fans waiting in line for tickets. The scene is equally supercool and supergoofy, capturing the essence of their music and image I think.

One thing that immediately appealed to me about this movie is the cast, my goodness it's good! Mary Woronov, be still my heart, is so great as the stern disciplinarian who experiments on mice to determine the effects of rock music on the brain. And The Real Don Steele, my imaginary best friend, is his wonderful chatty self as a radio DJ who hosts the Ramones concert. Corman stalwart Dick Miller gets a cameo with the best line "These Ramones are ugly, UGLY people" (which was basically my main thought every time the band was on screen, my goodness, get a toothbrush Joey). Clint Howard is hilarious as an entrepreneurial student who hooks up his cohorts with fake ids and first dates. And Paul Bartel is there as a square music teacher who tries to defend his students! Aaaaand PJ Soles, possibly the most adorable person in the world. The best thing about her is that her character is weirdly progressive for a teen sex comedy-type movie. She's the main female character and she has no romantic subplot at all. Sure she's got a crush on The Ramones but that's about it- she's just a hip lady who wants to rock out and write songs. And I loved that!


Pair This Movie With: Any other movie that makes you want to rock out. Some of mine are The Runaways, Empire Records, and Almost Famous.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Trois couleurs: Bleu (Three Colors: Blue) (1993)

Seen: On our projector set-up, streamed from Miles's computer.

When Julie (Juliette Binoche) loses her husband and young daughter in a vicious car crash, everything changes. Her husband was a famous French composer whose commissioned symphony for a national celebration is left unfinished. Julie sells most of her assets and leaves her large, empty chateau for a small apartment in Paris where she hopes to cut herself off from all reminders of her former life. She lives quietly but is consistently haunted by her past through strains of her late husband's music, and his former assistant who wants to find her.

I had never seen any of Kieslowski's much-lauded Three Colors trilogy, and honestly knew very little about it except that it's something I should see, so it seemed finally time to give the first film a go. With a slow, contemplative pace and a mesmerizing performance from Binoche, Blue shows more than it tells. The majority of the film is a study of one woman's pain, as she silently grieves the loss of her family and gradually comes to understand the freedom (however unwanted) it's given her. There is a lot of empty space, but the gorgeous camerawork and palpable feeling of Binoche keep the sparse narrative afloat through the middle stretch. As Julie's past forces its way back into her life, the story takes on elements of mystery and romance, and the action is propelled forward. It's an interesting blend of plot points and genre tropes in a film that maintains a focus on one character's mourning.

I liked this film but found it a little lacking as a whole. The mix of minimalist character study and sudden mystery/grungy late additions to the story was a bit jarring, though the tone remained understated. Binoche is marvelous and the visuals are breathtaking, and the theme of emotional liberty is handled deftly, I just could have done with a more focused plot.


Pair This Movie With: Well I suppose the next film in the trilogy makes the most sense, though I know they're not narratively linked. Otherwise maybe something lighter to lift the sadness this film emits, one of your favorite feel-good movies.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Alex Makes Art #88

Hey dudes, things have been going ok lately! I have made several pieces recently that I'm proud of (plus a few less-than-impressive works, it happens) and I'm happy to be moving at a brisker pace than usual. When school starts up again (I'm in grad school, for those who don't know), I can't expect to have a lot of time for blogging or art-making, especially with my work schedule. Anyway I'll keep chugging along this summer! Today I have a poster design for one of my most-watched films, 1986's Little Shop of Horrors. The show is one of my all-time favorite stage musicals and the film adaptation is very dear to me, I am rarely not in the mood to bop along to its rockin' tunes. Plus: Rick Moranis!! I worked all night on this poster design and I think it looks rad. Mad props to Nick Jobe for purchasing it immediately after I listed it, first time that's happened!

It's available for sale at my etsy shop. I've also got some more shirt designs in my redbubble shop!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Polyester (1981)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from netflix.

Ok so full disclosure here: Even though I consider myself a person who really likes John Waters, I haven't actually seen any of his earlier "trash" films, the ones that earned him his reputation for weird, trashy indie comedies that usually featured Divine. The earliest film of his that I'd seen was Hairspray. I know, I know, but to be fair it's mostly because I'm super squeamish and the things I've heard about Pink Flamingos gross me out. Polyester sounded like something I should try though. It stars Divine as Francine Fishpaw, a mild-mannered housewife whose life goes off the rails when she catches her asshole husband cheating, her party-loving daughter gets pregnant, and her foot fetishist son is arrested for attacking women on the street. She sinks into an alcoholic depression and searches for a way to get her family back on track.

With varying levels of domestic parody and a heavy dose of melodrama, Polyester is funny and weird in that distinctive John Waters way. Divine's self-aware, exaggerated performance is gripping- a comedic distortion of the 50s housewife archetype. She is surrounded by various non-actors and Waters mainstays, collectively amping up the camp factor to its breaking point. The seedy underbelly of suburbia is met with the invention of ODORAMA, which is basically just what it sounds like. Viewers were meant to unleash special scratch-and-sniff cards at certain points in the film, taking advantage of Francine's strong sense of smell used throughout the story. It's a goofy gimmick made goofier on home video when you can't even participate, but I can imagine it would have been really fun in a theater environment.

Though I thought the dialogue and performances were hilarious, the pacing in this movie is god-awful. That might be intentional, as Waters fiddles around with audience expectations of normality in filmmaking, but I have a hard time dealing with bad pacing in anything. It dragged and meandered and generally took a while to get where it wanted to go, but I liked enough of it to mostly forgive that. Plus it's got a theme song, one of my favorite things! Written by goddess Debbie Harry and sung by someone from Grease 2!


Pair This Movie With: I was definitely in the mood to watch Serial Mom, since that is another Waters depiction of a suburban housewife struggling to maintain a certain standard of domestic excellence. But it's got way more homicide (though Polyester has some too).

PS A nice bit of trivia is that my favorite song by The Avalanches totally samples dialogue from this film, so now I have context when I listen to it!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) at 366 Weird Movies

Seen: At the Kendall Square Landmark Cinema in Cambridge.

This had been one of my most-anticipated for 2012, and I'm happy to say it didn't disappoint. While the story wasn't what I expected (the summaries and trailer are kind of misleading), it was still fantastic. The visuals are gorgeous, the premise original and topical, and the performances are excellent. I absolutely loved Quvenzhané Wallis in the lead role of Hushpuppy, and at times I was reminded of Tideland in the director's ability to so intimately place the viewer within the eyes of a curious little girl. For my full review of Beasts of the Southern Wild, please head over to 366 Weird Movies!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Marty (1955)

Seen: On our projector set-up, streamed from Miles's computer.

Ernest Borgnine's passing reminded me that I had never seen Marty, the romantic drama for which he won a Best Actor Oscar. Adapted from the made-for-tv film, it follows the title character through one eventful weekend. He is a 34-year-old butcher with a lot of siblings, all of whom are now married, while he lives as a bachelor with his mother. Marty has gone out every Saturday night for years hoping to meet a nice girl, but this weekend he's realized he may never meet anyone, and should just stop trying. His equally miserable friend Angie (Joe Mantell) convinces him to go out to a dance hall, where he befriends Clara (Betsy Blair), a quiet schoolteacher who's been abandoned by her date. Meanwhile, Marty's mother (Esther Minciotti) must convince her sister to move out of her son's house, where she is interfering in his new married life.

A simple, quiet film that focuses intently on character and minute details of daily life, Marty is a singularly beautiful experience that manages to be equally depressing and heartwarming. What strikes me is its almost extreme normalcy: these people are totally regular people, no glamor, no special talents, no crazy schemes. They have open, honest conversations about their hopes and experiences. I think it's one of the most straightforward films I've seen, and I really liked that about it. There aren't many "big" moments in the story, just a series of small, intimate scenes and conversations that are lent weight by the underlying sadness of these characters and the strengths of the actors' performances. Borgnine embodies the title character so effortlessly, a depressed working man with big hands and a bigger heart, watching everyone around him move on with their romantic lives and clinging to the possibility of buying ownership of the butcher shop as a step toward self-empowerment. Betsy Blair is also excellent as Clara, a shy and self-effacing woman whose intelligence and progressive nature have likely turned away potential suitors (some characters would have you believe it's her looks- the amount of times the word "dog" was used made me want to punch someone- but she is just a pretty lady with an unfortunate haircut!). She just seems so relieved to have found a respectful, decent human being in Marty- it's a testament to how awful so many people are. Marty and Clara have so many cute, unsure interactions, it's great.

The subplot about Marty's mother and aunt is actually pretty interesting, taking characters that could easily be turned into stereotypes for the sake of comedy and instead making them sympathetic, if still kinda funny. Aunt Catherine is a whiny, crotchety grandmother (though she's only in her 50's) with aches and pains and a lot to say about how her daughter-in-law runs her own household. It is clear she is reacting against her own sense of futility and uselessness, seeing herself replaced in her son's life by his wife, and she warns her more sensible sister (Marty's mother) about the perils of seeing your children off and married. The societal role of an aging, widowed woman is an interesting theme to explore, especially for 1955, and it's handled pretty well. The older ladies believe their lives should revolve around their children, while young upstart Clara thinks they should be able to distance themselves from their married children's private lives, and perhaps get a hobby. Makes sense to me, but I know it seems a drastic change to Marty's mother and aunt, both widowed immigrants who've seen enough loss in their lives.

Marty is just a lovely film, through and through, tinged with sadness but never resorting to melodrama. Its characters are fleshed-out and relatable, and there are plenty of bright, funny moments that keep things light. I loved the dialogue's directness, and of course the performances from everyone involved.


Pair This Movie With: At different points I was reminded of two of my favorite classic films, The Apartment and The Shop Around the Corner. Both are sort of sad romances about regular people, plus Betsy Blair's voice sounds just like Margaret Sullavan's!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

MegaForce (1982)

Seen: On our projector set-up, streamed from Miles's computer.

When my boyfriend and I first read about this movie and watched the trailer, we wondered how we'd lived so many years without knowing about it. I mean on paper it is a perfect film. It's directed by action stuntmaster Hal Needham, is an 80's movie set in the future, features flying motorcycles, and stars the adorably ridiculous Barry Bostwick. Plus: shiny silver jumpsuits for EVERYBODY! What could be better? The plot is sort of loose... something to do with a terrorist group threatening these made-up countries, so the international secret army known as MEGAFORCE is called in to help. And then... explosions! This movie was the inspiration for Team America, so think about that.

"Wacky" barely begins to describe this awesome flick. The story doesn't make any sense so we're left to focus on these great character stereotypes and legitimately impressive action sequences. And the FASHION! There are so many gold and silver jumpsuits and big hairstyles and weird helmets and headbands and oh dear, it's great. Barry Bostwick is completely out of place in this movie, he's too jolly and dweeby, but bless him, he doesn't try and be a badass. He's the head of a powerful, technologically-advanced secret super force and he's goofy as hell, laying on the cheese. He falls in love with a lady (Persis Khambatta) because she's good at skydiving (though she's not capable enough to join them on their mission, I guess?) and the only way either of them can show their feelings is by kissing their thumbs and giving each other a thumbs up. This is the future of romance. AND I LOVE IT.

The best parts of MegaForce, besides the supercute interactions between Barry Bostwick and Michael Beck, are of course the stupendous action scenes. This is the area Needham can handle, since it's clear the script and the actors got away from him. There are some pretty cool vehicle designs on display, including these wild armored cares that can rotate themselves. There's a neat little countdown sequence wherein the Force destroys an enemy base in exactly 4 minutes, but the highlight is the crazy large-scale battle at the end. Everyone's shooting at everyone else! Tanks vs airplanes! And the money shot, a flying motorcycle! There you have it folks, the most fun movie ever made. I had a MEGA good time.

As a movie: 2/5
As entertainment: 4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: Well this was our follow-up to Magic Mike, and both had themes of male bonding, funny outfits, and Southern characters named Dallas so it worked out. Or for more Hal Needham stunt awesomeness there's Hooper.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Alex Makes Art #87

Oh boy, did you know that Brave is a cool movie? Because it is! I walked out knowing I had to do some cool artwork for Merida and her amazing head of hair, possibly incorporating some type of Celtic patterning. I also wanted her to look badass, so hopefully showing her wielding a sword and standing in front of two large bears has accomplished that. I gave each figure their own pattern, and included a Celtic knot in the title. I'm like, 1/8th Scottish soooooo I know all about this stuff, you guys. No big deal. Anyway here's this poster or whatever. I'm pretty proud of it. It's for sale.

For other entries in my now long-running art series go here. I hope to start on a commission project this week, but I'll be keeping it secret since I know they're going to be gifts. Remember if you have anything you'd like me to make- a portrait, a poster design, a hand-drawn ink painting, etc- let me know at alex.kittle @ gmail.com. I believe my prices are reasonable, and I work fast once I have a set idea.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Magic Mike (2012)

Seen: At the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square.

Oh hey I kept hearing that there is a movie about male strippers? And it's all for the ladies? Where do I sign up? Admittedly I'm not really attracted to most of the dudes in this movie but I'm always cool with people dancing and having a fun time. Loosely inspired by his own experiences before he took up acting, Magic Mike stars Channing Tatum as an ambitious, hardworking stripper/construction worker who saves his money and dreams of starting a custom-made furniture business. He meets 19-year-old, good-looking idiot Adam and lands him a job as a new dancer at the club run by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), where Mike is the star. Adam easily slips into a life of sex, drugs, and general debauchery, to the dismay of his older sister Brooke (Cody Horn), who expects Mike to be a better influence on him.

The weird thing about male stripping is, everyone thinks it's funny. Seeing men dance around in tear-away clothing and acting "sexy" is out of bounds for "normal" male behavior, so it automatically turns into a joke. Female strippers aren't usually funny, and certainly the mere concept of female stripping isn't considered humorous. It's probably either sexy or sad, depending on the scenario. When Channing Tatum and his buddies get up on that stage in their themed outfits, dancing their little hearts out and giving crotch-happy lap dances, it IS kinda funny. But I think that's mostly because the costumes and themes are so over the top. The ladies in the audience (both the one onscreen and in the real-life theater) are giggling like crazy. Is this because we're uncomfortable with all that sexual energy being directed at us, since usually it's the other way around? Is a woman getting a lapdance from a scantily-clad guy actually funny? Or is it just unfamiliar and therefore evokes nervous, confused laughter? These are actual questions I've been thinking about. We as a society need to get over this weird gendered view of sexuality and just fucking deal with it. It's not that sexy dancing/stripping can't be fun and at times funny, but I felt like the audience was laughing way too much at something that I KNOW would not evoke laughter if it was women on that stage.

Anyway. Magic Mike. It's a pretty good movie. It starts off as more of a fun comedy but gradually sinks into a heavier drama as drug problems predictably enter the picture. I'd say the mood of the film as a whole is fairly light, though, and it could have been a straight-up comedy if Soderbergh hadn't been going for realness. Channing Tatum is strong in the lead, doing a likable-charming thing while also pulling out some really awesome dance moves. Seriously, the dude can dance! I haven't seen Step Up so this was news to me. Matthew McConaughey was solid in his role as well, sort of ditzy and funny and never having to wear a shirt. Perfect. Alex Pettyfer is the most attractive dude in the group but his character is such a little dipshit I was constantly conflicted in my attraction to him. And I know nobody likes Cody Horn as the main love interest, and yeah she's pretty bland. She only has one facial expression. But it could have been worse, at least her character was ok.

There were a lot of butts in this movie, and that's always cool. But I feel like Soderbergh wimped out by not having any full-frontal nudity? We saw several boobs, though. So I guess there's something for everybody.


Pair This Movie With: I've heard different people throwing around The Full Monty in conjunction with this movie, and I'm cool that what pairing.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Seen: In 2D at the Boston Common AMC/Loews.

You guys my comic book nerdiness mostly applies to X-Men, Tank Girl, and Farel Dalrymple but I do have a fondness for Spider-Man. He's cute, intelligent, and he's got jokes- what's not to like? Also... limber. I know a reboot so soon after the most recent film is a dirty, money-grubbing move, but I can't pretend like I'm actually surprised or like it actually makes a difference. This time around Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a smart high schooler who pines after brilliant student Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and also tries to solve the mystery of why his parents left him when he was a little kid and then died. He seeks out Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a former colleague of his father and a researcher at Oscorp, and accidentally comes upon a horde of radioactive spiders and one bite gives him awesome super powers, you know how it is. Things proceed from there into Action-Town.

Drawing from some different sources in the comics but maintaining most of the recognizable points of his origin story, the film tries to distance itself from Raimi's trilogy while still appeasing fans of the character. I'm sure diehard comic fans will find an endless array of things to gripe about but honestly I haven't read Spidey comics in years and for the most part I never expect source accuracy in film adaptations of these things. So enough of that. As a film I mostly dug The Amazing Spider-Man. Surprise! I had my doubts about Marc Webb's limited experience, especially after my issues with his debut, but the promise of a strong central cast (especially compared to the stars of earlier films) and one of my favorite villains were enough to get me excited.

Turns out my doubts about direction were well-founded, mostly because Webb isn't strong with the action scenes. The POV shots of him web-slinging just looked stupid (tip: if you want awesome Spidey POV and have the means, check out the ride at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. It's a little dizzying but fun!), and I felt the battle sequences lacking. Maybe it's the fact that a giant lizard man doesn't actually translate well to the big screen (much to my dismay), but also I just think the way the action was shot was less compelling than it could have been. And The Lizard was basically a let-down as a character anyway, despite being played by the remarkable Rhys Ifans, who could only do so much. I know this is going to sound dumb as a critique of a big-budget action movie, but he doesn't have the nuance I wanted from the character.

Ok but I liked basically everything else about this movie! Andrew Garfield is such a fucking cutie, I can't even take it, and I think he's much more believable as the character than Tobey Maguire ever was. He's vulnerable and sort of angsty (hey, he's a teenager), but you root for him. Garfield is well-suited to Webb's more serious take on the story- there's less wisecracking Spidey and more hard-staring Spidey. I love Emma Stone in general and she's great as Gwen Stacy, a superhero girlfriend who manages to never get kidnapped and hung from a tall building or whatever! Good for her! Stone is funny and wonderfully subtle, and I liked that Gwen and Peter's relationship is shown as a team. This movie takes its time establishing relationships and building to its inevitable climax, and I thought that was great. At times it felt more like a movie about Peter Parker than about Spider-man, showcasing Webb's strength with realistic human interaction and dialogue. I kind of wish we could take all the good things about this movie and splice in some big fight scenes from Sam Raimi. Wouldn't that be rad?

So yeah I know a lot of people are unhappy with this film but hey, I was entertained and I really loved the new cast. It didn't do anything groundbreaking or risky, but I can't expect much. Maybe one day we'll get an awesome version with the new Ultimate Spider-Man.


Pair This Movie With: Well for my guest episode on the Matineecast (go listen!) I went with Danny Deckchair since it's my favorite Rhys Ifans. Plus both films involve a dude given the means to be who he wants to be without naysayers holding him back.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Totally Goth Double Feature: Underworld (2003) and Underworld: Evolution (2006)

Seen: Both on dvd on our projector set-up, borrowed from a friend.

Even though it's a fairly popular action-fantasy series with a kickass female lead, somehow I never got around to checking out the Underworld films. Luckily a friend of mine has the first two on dvd so I treated myself to a double feature last week on our big screen. I was expecting something like Blade but with more white people, and that's pretty much what I got. Everything looks kind of like an Evanescence music video. Plus it's got traces of Romeo and Juliet, I guess? I hate that play so I don't want to compare them, but it's always described as "Romeo and Juliet with vampires and werewolves". Anyway, let's get into this.

Underworld introduces a universe wherein vampires and lycans (werewolves) have been warring for centuries, centering on a dark, ambiguously European city (Budapest) with a lot of British people. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a specialized killer, part of a force that seeks to eradicate the entire lycan population one by one. She abducts a human, Michael (Scott Speedman), because the lycan force led by Lucian (Michael Sheen) wants him for some reason. She tries to solve the riddle of his tactical importance while also navigating possible treacheries afoot in her own coven, where she's learned not to trust their temporary leader, Kraven (Shane Brolly).

Sure, it's trying too hard to be dark and slick and cool, but on the whole I quite liked Underworld. I thought I was sick of vampires and werewolves but the film manages to bring some new ideas to the table (well new to me anyway, I recognize it's almost 10 years old). I like that it really wasn't much of a romance despite the Romeo and Juliet comparisons, it was really more focused on the mythology surrounding these two groups of people and their age-old conflict. And action scenes starring Kate Beckinsale's tightly corseted body, obviously! The camera loves her, what can anybody do. I actually generally think her character was pretty cool, and depicted well. She's cold and ruthless, but sympathetic for her determination and desire to find the truth. She's good at killing, and she likes it because it's the only thing she knows how to do, but she doesn't want to kill needlessly.

The best part, besides Bill Nighy, is that Scott Speedman's super lycan/vampire form looks like Nightcrawler! All I want is X-Men in my movies, guys, you've found me out. The second best thing is that every other scene features a dude ripping his own shirt off because he has to transform into a wolfman or whatever. I want a video compilation of this happening. Get to it youtube, I have already done a search for this and yielded nothing.

Afterthought: Are there no female lycans? Is this a gentleman's club?


The sequel picks up immediately after the end of the first film, with Selene and Michael on the run after killing vampire leader Victor and generally upsetting the balance of things. Marcus (Tony Curran), the first vampire, is awakened and turned into a hybrid like Michael, only with wings and a vendetta against seemingly everyone. He wants to free his long-imprisoned brother, the first lycan, and it turns out Selene is the only one who can lead him to his cell. Problems, problems, problems. Also, we see sunlight for the first time, briefly. Just to remind you it exists in this world.

So this movie is pretty ok too only there's too much flashbacky stuff. The story is more concerned with all this heavy stuff that happened centuries ago than it is with its central characters as introduced in the first film. I think the history is interesting- and it's great for more Bill Nighy screen time- but it's a strange shift in focus and leaves less time for Selene and Michael to finally start banging (don't worry, though, they totally do). There's lots of bloody action, middling CGI, and a road trip. Selene gets to be a total badass while Michael is knocked out for a while, and the ending manages to be kind of sweet.

I don't have much interest in the follow-ups, though, I feel like two films is the right amount for this story. Unless the sequels are really good, somehow?



Monday, July 9, 2012

Guest Appearance on the Matineecast

Oh hey, no review today since I've been slow as fuck with my writing lately, BUT if you enjoy listening to people talk about movies you should check out the latest episode of the Matineecast. This most excellent podcast features discussions about new releases as well as other film topics, as hosted weekly by the endearing Ryan McNeil from The Matinee, with only a small trace of a Canadian accent! I was his guest for the Amazing Spider-Man episode, where I attempted to be mildly intelligent and some version of entertaining and most importantly, not long-winded like usual. I also get to talk about my love for Kung-Pow: Enter the Fist, Haywire, and Danny Deckchair, and my issues with (500) Days of Summer. So that's fun! Go listen!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Brave (2012)

Seen: In 3D at the Harvard Square AMC/Loews in Cambridge. Just as it's closing.

I've been pretty goddamn excited for Brave for quite a while now, ever since I read about its first incarnation ("The Bear and the Bow") as the first Pixar film to be directed by a woman and of course the first to feature a female lead character. After the weird and still basically unexplained departure/firing/replacing of director Brenda Chapman halfway through production, I was still interested but less thrilled. Luckily the movie came out ok. The story centers on Merida, a plucky princess living in the Scottish highlands, who would rather shoot arrows all day and ride into the sunset than sit around with her strict mother learning ladyskills like sewing and corset-wearing. When a trio of hapless lords and their wed-able sons come calling for her hand in marriage, Merida works to change the fate her family has laid out for her. But things don't exactly go as planned.

I know that for various reasons this film has been getting negative, or at the very least mediocre, responses, and that's really too bad. I definitely understand viewers' problems with the plot- it's unfocused and at times uninspired. The story drags at points and the stakes didn't feel very high. BUT. Brave's strength resides in its attention to character, and especially in those characters' relationships. In my experience it's not particularly common for a family-type film to give so much attention to a mother-daughter relationship, and to do it so incredibly well, and for because of this I am grateful for Brave. Once I realized that their interactions with and understanding of each other would be the main focus, I stopped caring about the actual story, to be honest. I mean think about it, Ratatouille is one of my most-watched Pixar films, and the plot of that movie makes no fucking sense, so I can handle a somewhat middling narrative if everything else is great. And it is.

The animation is superb, of course, and I want to have a party in Merida's hair. I loved the sprawling Scottish countryside and various perfectly-paced visual wonders, including her target-shooting spree through the forest and her mischievous brothers' elaborate pranks. Kelly MacDonald and Billy Connolly lead a strong vocal cast with coveted Scottish accents, and there's a nice dose of fantasy and legend. The music is a little cheesy but it's no worse than Randy Newman's Toy Story songs, and while some of the humor can be sort of crude, this is a kids' movie and some lowbrow slapstick should be expected. I'm just glad there's finally a female lead in a Pixar movie, I mean jeez. It took them long enough but at least they did it right. Merida is a well-rounded, likable, and extremely strong lady who is believable for all her hormonal teenage flaws and rebellious actions. She's funny, clever, and independent, and makes for a compelling lead character as we watch her grow into a more responsible, compassionate young woman through her experiences with her mother. I just hope her Barbie doll comes with bow and arrows and a sword.

This movie made me cry, no big deal, and it's really good. If you give me shit about it sucking I'm going to assume you hate strong ladies and/or moms, which is too bad for you.


Pair This Movie With: The premise put me in mind of Beauty and the Beast, what with the whole changing-an-animal-person-back-into-a-human thing. For another strong depiction of a mother-daughter relationship I thought of Whip It, which similarly has a teenage girl trying to be a badass at the expense of her mother's hopes for her. Finally for more Celtic-inspired animation there's the beautiful Secret of Kells.

My original poster design for this film is for sale.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Alex Makes Art #86

Hi there! How's it going? Well, I hope. Art time! This week I saw Brave (review pending) and afterwards I was really in the mood for a Miyazaki film- something about seeing more animated strong female characters, I guess- and so put on Howl's Moving Castle, one of my favorites. I've been meaning to do more anime-inspired art so I put together a poster design that sort of mirrors my Princess Mononoke poster. I chose to highlight the moment at the end when Sophie gives Howl back his heart, since I liked the line "A heart is a heavy burden". I think it came out nicely, and it's for sale in my shop.

I'm also working on a piece for Katara, my favorite character in the series Avatar: The Last Airbender. I know I'm way behind the times but I just finished the show last week and knew I had to make something inspired by it. Here's the pen sketch of the character, I hope to have a digitally-colored version finished over the weekend.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

Seen: On my tv, streamed from netflix instant.

After being honored at her high school reunion, Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) faints on stage and finds herself transported back in time to her teenage years. Questioning what is real and imagined, she nevertheless sees it as an opportunity to make some new memories and also bone a dude she always wanted to bone. She's only ever been with her high school boyfriend, Charlie (Nicolas Cage), whom she married shortly after graduating, but his infidelity in their later years has her questioning her life's decisions. If waking up as a teenager means she can completely change her future, it would also mean she loses her kids and any happiness she did have with Charlie.

Peggy Sue Got Married is an example of a movie with a lot of good ideas but also a lot of problems. It's got a strong premise, as a middle-aged woman regrets her younger self's choices and takes advantage of getting a second chance through inexplicable time travel. She tries to utilize her knowledge of the future, offering invention ideas to a sciencey friend and trying to warn Charlie that his planned singing career won't take off. She spends time with Michael Fitzsimmons, a beat poet-type student who had always been her "what-if". Turns out he's a good lay but not really relationship material. Too much of a hippie. But now she knows, and in a sense is free to reconsider her future with Charlie. Seeing him as a teenager again, before he fucked up their marriage, reminds her why she loves him, and she wonders if they can still be together even after she's lost faith in him.

The thing is, there are a lot of weird subplots going on in this film and none of them are given enough focus to drive the narrative forward. One moment Peggy Sue is pining over Michael Fitzsimmons, the next she's convincing her friend Richard that tennis shoes will be a big deal in the future. One night she's going on a date with Charlie, the next she's trying out weird secret old man society tactics to travel back to her own time. I read about some of the cut sequences that involve Peggy using her knowledge to try to change things more, and to try to improve her own future with inventions and such. These plots would have been more interesting to me than the romantic thread that winds throughout, since I didn't care about the Michael Fitzsimmons thing and it seemed a cop-out to have her still wind up with Charlie (though I knew that's how it would end because she kept mentioning how she missed her kids).

Its script is scattered, obviously, but luckily I like Kathleen Turner enough for her to make the film worth watching. And Nic Cage has got this crazy, nasally voice thing that is strange enough to be utterly captivating. Plus his hair! There are a lot of cool smaller appearances from people who became more famous later, like Jim Carrey, Catherine Hicks, Joan Allen, and Helen Hunt. And Sofia Coppola gets a scene, and damn I always forget that she used to be a shitty child actress in her dad's films, poor thing. Not her calling, clearly.

Basically this movie is ok. I just wish it had been more about Peggy Sue changing her future instead of making it almost the same as it was. But I guess that would take the romance out of it, god forbid.


Pair This Movie With: I think Back to the Future makes the most sense, for more time travel/50s nostalgia from the 1980s.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tuff Turf (1985)

Seen: On my laptop, streamed from netflix instant.

So here's how my Wednesday night went. I got out of work unexpectedly early, came home and took an impromptu nap. I woke up to get ready for my friend's birthday dinner, and on a whim put on She's All That when I noticed it was netflix instant. That movie might be the worst movie ever made, so when I got home from the dinner and wasn't tired at all, I put it back on while I made some art, half-paying attention to it (hence no review today). AND THEN. I was still awake, still in the mood for terrible romantic comedies, and came across Tuff Turf. The title and 1985 timestamp were enough, but then I caught a glimpse of the poster, I mean how the fuck could I say no to that? Thus began a live-tweet odyssey for the ages.

Let's get into it. James Spader plays Morgan, a privileged teen from Connecticut who just can't seem to do anything right, unlike his perfect older brother who's studying to be a lawyer. Morgan wears a leather jacket, he rides a bicycle, he's a NATURAL REBEL. His family moves to California because his dad loses his job or something and he enrolls in public school for the first time, and immediately gets on the bad side of local thug Nick (Paul Mones) and his gang. He also falls for Nick's girlfriend Frankie (Kim Richards), she of the impossibly long hair. They hang out with Robert Downey, Jr and his band, make fun of rich country club people, and dance a lot. James Spader gets beat up in every other scene. It gets super serious about two-thirds of the way in, but don't worry! They get right back to the dancing after maybe a murder is committed? I can't make this shit up.

This movie has no right to be as good as it is, and simultaneously every right to be as awful as it is, if that makes sense. It's a beautiful, terrible paradox. It's part upbeat teen love story, part Rebel Without a Cause (but somehow with more melodrama), part gritty urban action movie, part class satire, and part rock and roll fantasy. None of these elements really fit together, creating a wildly uneven and unsure final product, but damn it all I enjoyed myself immensely. Between the hilarious hairstyles, random dance breaks, unexpected acts of violence against bikes, and unflappable charisma of the Downey/Spader duo, there's a lot to like in Tuff Turf. It's the kind of movie that definitely isn't as cool as it thinks it is, but that makes it all the more adorable.

AND YET at the same time it's actually kind of a good movie anyway? The cast is really good and I loved the music and I sort of cared about the romance and I actually thought the scene where the kids sneak into the country club and pose as snooty rich people is really funny? Oh no, do I like Tuff Turf unironically?! Yup, probably. I mean come on, it's got a baby-faced Robert Downey, Jr drumming shirtless. AND there's a big showdown in an abandoned warehouse that involves James Spader swinging down from a ledge Tarzan-style into the bad guy. Who then tries to beat him up with a conveniently-placed wooden plank with a rusty nail on the end. And apparently Spader wields an axe at some point? I don't actually remember this happening but check out that screencap above, he looks pretty beastly. I guess I'll just have to watch it again!

Tuff Turf. It's a time capsule, it's a love story, it's a surprise. It's got fast cars and jerkwad teenagers and a little of bit of the ol' ultraviolence (helloooo, shirtless towel beating in the locker room). Also a really poorly placed sex-scene (with boobs!). It doesn't get much better than this.

As a movie: 3/5
As entertainment: 4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: Sometimes the tone made me think of Streets of Fire, a movie that's all-around good.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Born in Flames (1983)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from netflix.

Let's list a few things I like: strong women, lo-fi rock music, feminisms, dystopian science-fiction, the 1980's, lady directors, independent film. Now let's find a movie that combines all of those things! No, it's not Tank Girl (though that comes close), it's Born in Flames! Lizzie Borden's documentary-style feminist sci-fi film had been on my list for a while, and while it wasn't what I expected I still enjoyed it. Set in a not-so-distant future after a socialist revolution that restructured American government, the story follows Adelaide Norris (Jean Satterfield), a young social activist, as she attempts to unite various feminist factions for her cause. Her own group, the Women's Army, is primarily composed of lesbians and women of color who feel the revolution left them out. A shady government organization keeps tabs on Adelaide's movements as she starts to arm her group, while two feminist radio dj's (Honey and Adele Bertei) provide ongoing commentary and exposition.

Filmed in a gritty, low-fi style with a intimate hand-held camerawork and a cast of non-actors, Born in Flames is distinctive in its vision while remaining tied to its early-80s production time in some ways. The plot is scattershot, at times confusing for the wealth of characters and noncohesive narrative, but the ideas are so strong that it holds together. I loved the rhetoric posed by the competing dj's and female journalists (a group that includes Kathryn Bigelow in a rare acting role!) and the concept of a national revolution that is considered successful despite its inability to address certain issues. Those who participated in the revolution and are well-placed in the "party" believe that any problems and inequalities that still exist need to be put on the backburner while the country adjusts itself. Younger rebels like Adelaide aren't convinced that problems facing women, non-white people, and the poor will be given attention if the government ignores them now. The film presents numerous social issues in all their complexities and ambiguities, but doesn't resort to preachiness.

Borden doesn't pretend she has all the answers here. She presents multiple sides of these arguments and focuses on the notion of unity through common cause, but it's unclear whether the more violent means that the Women's Army resorts to are considered positive action. This is radical feminism distilled into an episodic low-budget indie that keeps viewers' interest through a charismatic cast, thoughtful dialogue, and a kickass soundtrack of lady rockers. The Red Crayola's titular "Born in Flames" is used frequently, and sets the tone perfectly. I can't stop listening to it, just like I can't stop thinking about this film. The sexual, economic, and racial issues raised by the characters are still decidedly relevant today, and will likely continue to resound for the foreseeable future.

I'll admit that I was hoping it would be more sci-fi-y, though, just because it's rare for a female-centric science-fiction film.


Pair This Movie With: I guess another violent sci-fi dystopia would be good, like Death Race 2000 or Strange Days. I don't know of many other lady-centric ones, but Strange Days has the Bigelow connection!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Seen: In 2D at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square.

I knew it would be stupid, but I want to support Timur Bekmambetov because I love the Night Watch/Day Watch films and I think he's a cool director. BUT FOR SOME REASON he's just hanging out in America making dumb action films instead of finishing the trilogy in Russia. It really gets my goat. Anyway. Based on the book of the same name, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is exactly what its title suggests. As a boy our 16th president (Benjamin Walker) witnesses the death of his mother by a bloodsucking vampire, and vows revenge. He's trained by mysterious vampire hunter Henry (Dominic Cooper), studying law by day and eradicating evil by night. He rises to the presidency, hoping to strike down slavery, and when the Civil War begins he finds he must contend with hordes of Southern vampires fighting for the Confederacy.

Ok the thing about this movie is that it's super dumb, obviously, and it looks like shit, and the screenplay is weak, but I can't pretend I didn't have a good time. I laughed a good amount, though I'm not always sure if I was laughing with the film or at it, and the action sequences are pretty badass when the low-quality CGI isn't too distracting. A tall dude in a nice coat swinging around a huge ax and bloodily beheading vampires- I'm pretty easy to please. Plus the cast is fantastic, and more people I dug kept popping up. Jimmi Simpson! Anthony Mackie! Mary Elizabeth Winstead! Rufus Sewell! And even a tiny appearance from Alan Tudyck as Stephen Douglas, how nice. There are various semi-historical figures and occurrences peppered throughout to give audiences a wink of recognition, and while it's not as clever as it could be, it's appropriately silly and decidedly low-brow. If only it didn't look so bad, and if only the script was stronger. Oh well.


Pair This Movie With: Oh I don't know, maybe another movie with historically inaccurate shenanigans, like Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.