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Wow! (minor spoilers)
I was hooked from beginning to end. Great horror comes from disturbing imagery and organic shocks that are created not to make you jump, but to make you go "What the f*ck did I just see?" All the other commentators gave short summaries of what the film is about, so I won't rehash what has already been said. I was telling other people about this movie days after I had seen it just because it still haunted me. I even had a bad dream after seeing it, and I am a true horror fan, not easily spooked by tripe like "The Grudge" or even "Silent Hill". What gave me the bad dreams was the unease I felt about what I would do if I were in that cell with those guys. What would my personal horror be? my subconscious took me there, and it was not pleasant. That my friends is what a good horror flick does to you! The best part of this movie is that it is subtle. It's not about Bogeymen that jump out at you,alien invasions, or tons of gore. It's the opposite. The horror you create in your own mind. The irony for the four characters is that the horror comes not from an external force that asserts it's power over them. Simply, the men ask for the one thing they desire, and they get it...but not in the way they imagined. So on the one hand, they get what they wish for from an occult book, but may ultimately wish they hadn't. Sometimes being locked in a jail cell is the best place to be!
The Wicker Man (2006)
Neil Labute should have his member slathered in honey and laced with bees (Spolier Alert)....
Everyone else who has commented negatively about this film have done excellent analysis as to why this film is so bloody awful. I wasn't going to comment, but the film just bugs me so much, and the writer/director in particular. So I must toss in my hat to join the naysayers.
I saw the original "Wicker Man" and really loved the cornucopia of music, sensuality, paganism in a modern world, and the clash of theological beliefs. This said, I am not part of the crowd that thinks remakes of great movies shouldn't be done. For example, I liked the original 1950's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", but equally enjoyed the 1978 remake. Both films can stand on their own. Another example is "The Thing". The original, as campy as it looks compared to today's standards, has a lot to be proud of in the 1982 remake with Kurt Russell (my all time favorite horror movie). So that small minority of people who like "The Wicker Man" re-make can not accuse me of dissing this piece of crap just because it's a re-make.
This film solidified for me Neil LaBute's sexism and misogynistic tendencies. It also made me wonder how executives, wanting to make a serious thriller, would green light a product that is so anti-female. There are too many scenes of Cage hitting women just because he's frustrated with them thwarting his investigation of a missing girl. would he react like this off the island in other cases where suspects aren't forthcoming? The original created a society in which men and women are equal participants in a Goddess based religion. The threat to the main character came from everyone, male and female. There was no sexual hierarchy.
The metaphor of bees, drones etc was a bit heavy handed and convenient ("The drone must die!"), especially when Cage's character has bee allergies. I kept wondering why the men on the island didn't fight back and use mere physicality to stop these women from treating them like grunts. These were not women with special supernatural powers, and half of them seemed to be pregnant, the other half old and fat, and the rest girls and thin blonde waifs, so if the men really wanted to escape they could do what most men do when they hate women. Physically dominate them. There didn't seem to be any guns or weapons beyond cutting tools to hold them if they were unhappy. But if they were content being drones, why make them unable to speak? They could be used as a threat to Cage because they will defend the community. They are drones because Neil LaBute seems to believe that a society ran by women would leave men castrated. (That movie was made already. "The Stepford Wives" anyone?) Classic symptoms from men who are afraid of what may happen if women got their sh*t together and were truly equal citizens.
The problem with the man-hating female society is that it makes uninteresting movie viewing and creates unintentional humor when Cage starts knocking women out. I belief LaBute should've left the society an egalitarian one, kept the sexuality and uninhibited lasciviousness, and pushed buttons of discomfort in regards to the children on that island. No one likes pedophiles or children to be sexually exploited. So how would a cop react if he saw lewd acts performed by adults with children around? There would be a logical mental leap that these children are abused, thus, an urgency created to save the missing child and get help for all the children. LaBute has said he created the fiancé and daughter story thread to give Cage's character an incentive to search. I don't think you need that. Any child abused will make an adult react to save them. The irony of course would be that the child Cage "saves" ultimately brings him death.
The dialogue was contrived and campy. The whole third act was hilarious. The audience I saw it with guffawed (and later booed at the end). I just thought the movie started off wrong when the letter arrived written in the fancy handwriting and all the flashbacks cutting into to show how wounded Cage is. We don't need that. Just show him arriving on the island for an investigation of a missing child. Most of us in America have seen "Law & Order" and other cop procedurals. We come into the movie as if we are Cage's partner solving a mystery.
So much potential...wasted. Neil LaBute, stick to talking head pictures for people who enjoy your male angst-ridden plays and flicks of that sort. Stay with your own company of men. Leave the thrillers for people who understand thrillers. Here is your jar of honey. I'll watch that.
World Premiere Screening
Despite the fact that the message boards for this movie are all negative from people WHO HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE, I have decided that the Wayans' brothers have found a successful formula to make money. I cringed when I saw the trailer for "White Chicks" awhile back, and thought there was no way that thing would make money. I rented "White Chicks" and the movie was funny, as in stupid funny. There are scenes in there that are so outrageous that I had to replay them because they were funny in the aforementioned "stupid funny" way.
"Little Man" follows the same formula. After spoofing "hood" movies years ago, these guys take a silly premise, and surround their cartoon world with non-expensive white actors with talent, plenty of potty humor and attractive women to keep the interest of the 18-24 year-old males who enjoy this stuff.
The graphics are not great. Transposing Marlon's head onto a little person is not seamless, but fifteen minutes into the story, you accept how it looks. Their homage to "Baby Buggy Bunny" is pretty much scene by scene, but they always add a little sentimental note by having the titular bad guy (Marlon, aka Little Man)) go through a true character arc. He is a little one note with his exaggerated facial expressions, but this is a Bugs bunny world.
There are surprise cameos by well known comedic actors who also do these types of movie, but don't receive the same harsh criticisms the Wayan's get. One never hears of non-white people bagging on Adam Sandler et al, because they don't like the plot of a film, but nearly all films made by black actors are techno-lynched without being viewed. And the votes are skewered beyond belief. But I digress.
"Little Man" is a movie you see for the same reason one goes to see silly comedies. Cheap laughs, silly sight gags, and free air conditioning. I give it a 7-10 because I know it will get slammed on here, but the fact is, they will make a lot of money off the DVD. "White Chicks" made ahem....$117 million. Prepare to see more from the Wayans with that kinda dough rolling in.
The Gospel (2005)
R. Kelley shoulda played the lead....
at least he could bring some realism to a story about a secular singer returning to the flock. Chppy editing, story lines left in limbo. I wish I could cut Nona Gaye and Idris out and put them in a different movie.
I commend them for getting the picture done, but it still kinda....sucked.
"The Preacher's Wife" would be a good example for Rob Hardy in terms of knowing how to use music as part of the storyline and not just random numbers popping up for no reason. T
The songs lose their power by having way to many song moments. Boris K. tried but you can't buy him being a singer.
This sucked. I only watched it because "pusher" was entertaining. The only good thing about this is that filmmakers can see how a hand-held camera, and available lighting can make a film cheap and fast. Bummer.
I was amused to see how white racism is universal. As a black person from the U.S., it was interesting to hear Danish Muslims referred to as "niggers" when they looked like white folks to me. I guess all non-whites are "niggers" when you feel threatened by immigrants. Sad.
I'm not sure i would watch any of the directors other work based on this. Like I said before "Pusher" was engaging, and you were sucked into that world. Here, you just didn't care.
The Fog (2005)
John Carpenter should be spanked...
...for allowing his classic to be butchered. This movie was so awful that it actually became funny. My co-workers and I sat through this making comments like we were Mystery Science Theater 3000. So I suppose if you watch it as if it were a comedy, and you are drunk...it would be entertaining. What a waste of money. John, I'm ashamed that you would allow this crap to come out. Boo!!!!!!
And what a waste of Selma Blair. She shoulda been the lead character, and not that whiny blonde. And do all women sleep in slinky underwear? (and in front of their kids too?) The writer did a bang up job of switching the main character in the middle of the flick. hmm, I thought the smallville guy was our view into the world? And what the hell is up with that ending?
The Devil's Rejects (2005)
I saw the free screening too....
...and felt that the guy who had a problem with the movie, (although he liked the first movie) hadn't really seen a lot of depraved films. (by the way, I was the woman in the back cheering "Cannibal Holocaust", because that sh#t is wrong--lol).
Personally I think House of 1000 Corpse sucked, because it was too cartoonish, and Rob Z. admitted as much. In fact, House of 1000 C's only got interesting for me when they found all those bodies in the basement, and that demon-looking thing tied to a post. Now that should've been the movie! I really didn't like the characters reprising their roles in Devil's Rejects because they left a sour taste in my mouth from the first movie. However, unlike the victims in the 1st movie (who you don't care about), the victims in this version are so sympathetic, that you really want the Firefly family to be killed (especially Baby. I really wanted her to suffer. Strangely, I wanted Captain Spalding to repent. He seemed like he could redeem himself...but alas, sniff... it wasn't meant to be).
I told my husband (who saw it with me) that I wasn't really invested in this movie as I wanted to be, but as I thought about it later, I realized, this is actually a good movie. And that friggin' SOUNDTRACK! I have to buy that music. The 70's feel of the photography mixed with a killer soundtrack of Lynard Skynard, the Altman Brothers, et al. I'm a black woman, and that music gave a wonderful southern subtext to the action on the screen. In fact, it really made me afraid of Texas backwater rednecks. I would not want to meet those folks at a one pump gas station in the middle of nowhere. (This coming from someone who lives in the heart of South Central!) I would advise people to see this movie with an open mind. As Rob Z. said, he views it as his version of Bonnie and Clyde rather than The Texas chainsaw massacre.
SPOILER ALERT************ The scene where the woman escapes from the motel and you think she will survive, but then she gets hit by a semi-truck-- that has got to be the most realistic human road kill I have ever seen. In fact, I'm on my way now to Dark Delicacies Bookstore in Burbank. They are giving away limited supplies of free Devil's Rejects posters. God I hope it's the one with the mashed body bits on the highway. I should be ashamed of myself!LOL
Hustle & Flow (2005)
Saw it at the Los Angeles Film festival as well....
...and I enjoyed it. What saves the film from being just another badly made 'hood flick, is Terrence Howard. I am so glad Craig cast an actor and not a rapper to play the lead. Terrence brings depth of character, pathos, and sympathy to a low brow pimp with low quality product to hustle.
This movie could've turned out bad with clichéd acting and over the top performances (there were moments where I felt his strip club whore was too much), but what makes you stick with the story, is that you really feel sorry for these people and you want them to succeed. The producer Stephanie Allain was at the L.A. premiere, and said that the character wanting to have a dream of better things was the universal theme that struck her. Craig (the director) also said that the story used bits and pieces of his own life and people he has met in Memphis to craft a story that really does happen to a lot of black people trying to get into the rap game. True, the hook of the story, a pimp wanting to be a rapper, sounds really funny. Lord knows if Mike Epps or Brian Hooks (or God forbid, Snoop) had been cast in the lead, this movie would've turned booty real quick. But once again, Terrence Howard makes this story come alive. I enjoy rap, but don't find crunk and a lot of lyrics enjoyable, but I must admit, in the context of the world it comes from and the hopes that these characters have, I was one of many people (the black ones in particular) who found myself swaying and singing the lyrics to "Whoop that Trick" et al.
As for the person on this board who commented that he too was at the Los Angeles Film Festival and found the white characters "acting black" tiresome, it must be said that in the south, black speech patterns and culture get picked up by whites. Living in close proximity creates that, and I didn't feel that the white characters were playing black. There was one comment in the movie where DJ Qualls arrives and Terrenc Howards character pulls Anthony Anderson aside and and questions the white boy's skills as a beat junkie, but that was the only time his color was brought up. But it was natural, no different than guys from Metallica questioning the skills of a black dude auditioning for a guitar gig. The subtext was simply "Does this dude even listen to crunk music?" Once his skills are proved, there is no question of race anymore.
The film should do well. I will see it again with my mother. Yes my mother. She loves Terrence Howard as much as I do, and I feel the movie should have a wide audience, young and old (with parental supervision). I enjoy watching Terrence Howard work, he makes you feel everything he feels on screen, and if this thing doesn't make him blow up, I don't know what will. He is the movie. See it for yourself and decide for yourself. Cuz it's hard out here for a pimp, ya'all.
Ps. For those feminists who get their panties all twisted because of any images of female exploitation, I must comment that all the women in this film (as broke down and trashy as they are) have dreams too, and Terrence's character realizes that they deserve better and strives to help them by helping himself. There is no such thing as a good pimp (like there is no such thing as a good slave master) but what redeems Terrence is that his pimp transforms his life and all those around him for the better.
I read the script before the movie came out. I found it to be very tight, yet had clichés that bugged me, but there were a lot of touching moments. Then I saw the film.
If this film is not a catalyst for thought provoking conversations, then we have really, truly, lost our humanity. This is truly adult entertainment, and I am very impressed with all the actors involved, especially Ludicrous. I really respected what he brought to the screen, so maybe people shouldn't be so hard on Hip Hop artists turning to acting. Terrence Howard was riveting, as was the actor who played Daniel Perez with such compassion. It was nice to see Thandie Newton acting in a relationship with a black character. I never see her paired up with black male actors in screen "relationships". Ryan Phillipe and Matt Dillon were great..like I said, all the actors brought their "A" game to the table. The only bad part of the film is Sandra Bullock's character. She has a "Driving Miss Daisy" moment with her character where she tells the Mexican housekeeper that she's her "only Friend" when all through the movie she talks to the woman and treats her like sh*t, and there is no reaction from the housekeeper, not even a reaction shot! That rang very false and is one of the weakest links in the script and movie.
Paul Haggis and Don Cheadle (one of the producers of the film!) should be very proud of the work. I was. It gives me hope. And the next time someone cuts me off in L.A. traffic again, I won't be so quick to judge. We all have bad days.
House of D (2004)
Should've been a movie of the week on TV
I went in wanting to like it, but y'know a movie is in trouble when it tries too hard to be sentimental. During a screening here in L.A., I began fidgeting in my seat fifteen minutes into it thinking, "Okay, already, something has got to HAPPEN." I found myself looking at background extras to see how many black people with afros I'd see to remind the audience that this was the '70's. I love coming of age stories where I see characters showing me their world with fresh eyes, and sadly, I didn't care in this one.
Tea Leoni always annoys me in any movie she's in. Every scene with her dragged the story, and there's only so many forced "funny antics" I can watch with Robin Williams and the lead kid until I'm ready to walk out. I only stayed to see how bad it got. Of course, there were some scenes where I felt an emotional pull. This was toward the end where Erykah Badu the "Rapunzel with an afro"--to quote DD--tells the boy to run away from his problems. But the build up to that moment was too long, and by then you already knew his life turns out fine. Too bad. As soon as it was over, and DD stepped on stage for a Q&A, I turned to my partner and said, "This is not going to make money. It would better be marketed for television where a huge audience would watch it to get away from Reality TV".
It helps to be DD and have friends to connect you with folks to get this made. I'm sure there's some poor schmuck out there with a better story who will never get a chance to get a movie made. Too bad. DD told the audience that he lost funding several times, up until the moment it came to do principal photography. But believe me, he had it easier than most. At least he got in a room with someone to convince them to fund this poor thing.