Monthly Archives: May 2010

Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (pt 3)

:catch Part 1 here and Part 2 here:

Now, about the third film.  Yes, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning is set in the 19th century.  Yes, that sounds very silly.  How in the hell have two girls dealing with werewolves in the modern era  suddenly found themselves stuck in the mid-1800’s fighting werewolves at a Canadian trade post?  The answer: there isn’t really one.  Toward the latter third of the film there are allusions to reincarnation and curses passed through families, but the film doesn’t force this idea and there aren’t any time travel shenanigans.  It just is.

So I’ll say this: if you had never seen the first two films and watched this one, it could stand on its own – which is respectable. Continue reading

Lost Gem: Ginger Snaps Unleashed (part 2)

:you can read part 1 here:

Trying to compare Ginger Snaps to Ginger Snaps Unleashed (released in the U.S. as Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed) is like trying to decide between Alien or Aliens: they are both good, but different. Ginger Snaps Unleashed picks up where the first left off. And no, there are no silly gimmicks, there really is continuity between the two (even the same actresses return). Continue reading

Lost Gem: Ginger Snaps (part 1)

Teenage girls battling werewolves.  Nope, it’s not Twilight: it’s another horror gem like The Descent and Carriers.

Katharine Isabelle as Ginger (left) and Emily Perkins as Brigitte (right)

While I was working at a video store, Ginger Snaps was just another straight to DVD horror film: attractive girl, catchy title, some ominous background music, BOOM, you have a cover just like all the other straight to DVD features (right next to Lord of the G-Strings and Santa’s Slay).  But as I’ve been working on my dissertation detailing “unsafe” horrors, Ginger Snaps came up enough times to merit a screening. Results?  The best werewolf film since Landis’ An American Werewolf in London. Continue reading

Robin Hood

It has been a decade since Russell Crow and director Ridley Scott teamed up for the Spartacus remake, Gladiator and with Crowe’s star status cemented, the two have come together to again mix legend and history in Robin Hood.

In this origin story of the hood Robin, we see the English laying seige to a French castle in 1199.  This is the last stop on their way home after a Crusade that has left some, like Robin Longstride (Russel Crowe), feeling they did the Devil’s work, not God’s.  When King Richard the Lionheart is killed in battle, Longstride and Company take the news to England under the guise of Knights.  When Longstride goes to return a sword to the family of Loxley (whose namesake he has stolen), he assumes Loxley’s position as husband to Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett) to keep the land from tax collectors (before Robert Loxley left for the Crusade, he failed to have children, and women aren’t allowed to own land at the time).  Cue combative, but gradual romantic interest.

Meanwhile, King John accepts the advice of Godfrey (Mark Strong) who is plotting to divide England in order to weaken the country before a French invasion.  During this time Godfrey is also trying to track down Longstride, who could reveal him as an agent for the French.

The last major foray into Nottingham Forest was helmed by American Kevin Kostner.  It was a fun adventure flick with few British accents and lots of pretty people.  With Ridley Scott, however, no one comes out clean – literally.  Scott’s attention to the messiness of Middle Age living (and Crusade conquering) makes you want to wipe your hands clean of the mud and blood.

This is why a Ridley Scott film differs from other action films of late: you get to experience realistic events without an overabundance of CGI (that you can see, anyway).  The battles are cringe worthy, prompting one to wonder, “How many stuntmen were killed to make this?”  So in this regard, Scott knows how to make a good old fashion action movie.

However, the plot is an over stuffed burrito exploding in the microwave.  Throw in how Robin Hood has something to do with the Magna Carta and you’ll be poking your neighbor asking for a guide-book.


And again with the women needing saving (see Iron Man 2 review): Marion goes off to battle in her father’s armor, but when she confronts Godfrey (who killed her father), she has to be saved by Longstride.

Dear Hollywood: quit giving token empowerment to women.  If you’re going to make female characters badasses, then let them do the cool thing at the end before pulling the rug out from under them so the man can make the touchdown instead.


Largely, the film’s plot is what hurts it the most.  It tries to go back and forth between the conflict on the Royal front and the life Longstride is building with bumbling difficulty.  Further, the only person I was excited to see in the film was William Hurt, who continues to pop up in random supporting roles (A History of Violence, Mr. Brooks) and God love him for it.  Blanchette and Crowe are okay, but Hurt and Mark Strong are the interesting ones (Hurt for his acting, Strong for his hawk head/mean look).

The film is one of those “eh” film experiences; it could have been worse, but it’s not great.  For me, the Disney version of Robin Hood remains great and even Kevin Costner’s version might still be better than Scott’s.

My rental suggestions aside, if you’re trying to select a film to see at the cinema I would direct you to the metal of arms of Tony Stark or even Neil Marshall’s Centurion before telling you to see Robin Hood.  Just because it stars Russell Crowe and is directed by a Brit don’t make it awesome.


For the love of God do not take this film as history lesson.

Three You Missed: Robert Downey Jr. and others

Given this weekend’s U.S. release of Iron Man 2 I wanted to bring to attention another Robert Downey Jr. film you’ll love and two others.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

Continue reading

Lady Gaga vs. M.I.A.

M.I.A. of “Paper Planes” fame isn’t a fan of Lady Gaga to say the least.  So after Gaga’s “Telephone” mini-movie/music video received so much attention, it seemed fortuitous (though I wouldn’t say planned given the time it takes to make even a short film) that M.I.A. had a mini-movie/music video of her own released a few months after Lady Gaga’s, titled “Born Free.”  For this piece, I’d like you watch the two back to back.

Here’s Lady Gaga’s “Telephone”

Continue reading

“Illegal” Machete Trailer Released!

Over at Ain’t It Cool News, Harry Knowles is saying that Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo stopped by to give him an “illegal” trailer for the upcoming release of once-Grindhouse trailer, now full length feature, Machete.

Evidently the plot of the film is in line with the current anti-immigration fervor in Arizona, so given the political resonance, the trailer is a message for Arizona.

Here was the fake trailer put together for Grindhouse:

Soon after Grindhouse, Rodriguez began making a full movie from the Machete trailer.  It will be released September 3, 2010.

The cast for the film is ridiculous: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Tom Savini, and Lindsay Lohan make up this Mexploitation of awesomeness.

Four Lions: Terrorist Comedy Genre Finally Arrives

Americans love them some 9/11.  Whether being used as a way to frame the world (“Everything changed after 9/11”), a  way to rally patriotism (the eloquent, “NINE ELEVEN!”), or a way for gas bags in suits to get elected, 9/11 is America’s catch phrase (I myself prefer to call it the September 11th attacks to free 9 and 11 from each other every now and again).

Hopefully the U.K. terrorist comedy Four Lions represents a gradual shift in rhetoric.  The film follows four Muslims in the U.K. trying to prove themselves as bad ass terrorists, talking up the exploits of the mujahideen and Al-Qaeda like kids idolizing the gangsta life of Fifty Cent.  The crew is made up of:

Omar: the brains

Barry: the white convert who is the most radical

Waj: the simpleton

Faisal: so stupid he’s funny

When Omar and Waj leave for a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, Barry recruits youngster Hassan after he pulls a faux-suicide bombing stunt at a university discussion of Islam.  Meanwhile, Omar and Waj return early from their training after royally screwing up, but to avoid embarrassment, Omar is forced to put their talk of suicide attacks into action.

The complexities with this film are vast.  Frequently the group talks about “Western consumerist decadence” and going “jihad on their asses” yet Omar lives a nice middle class life.  As he sits at a laptop reviewing the footage of a terrorist video the group’s been making, his wife Sophia and their son talk to him casually about his plans for martyrdom.  The physical space of the house and natural lighting present this place as idyllic and inviting, the same “decadence” he decries.  Further, when Omar’s orthodox Muslim brother visits, he refuses to look at Sophia.  Omar and Sophia make fun of him, with Sophia running him out of the house with a squirt gun.

The juxtaposition between Omar’s home life and his terrorist plans is stark.  You don’t get the sense from any of the “Lions” that they know exactly why they’re planning to blow themselves up.  We never see them harmed by racial profiling or any other events to be called a motive.  Omar’s contemptuous attitude toward his brother’s strict adherence to Islam and the Barry failing to recall the last time he went to the mosque make these guys Muslims in name only (like many Catholics).  In the end, the characters themselves don’t seem to know why they’re doing this.

The film’s genius or failure lies in this confusion.  Four Lions could be about a bunch of Muslims who have no identities other than terrorists.  But really it just reminded me of a bunch of high school kids playing with explosives who slowly realize the seriousness of their shenanigans.

The thing that cripples the film is its inability to transition between the serious and the comedic.  The film is hilarious, but sporadically in a way that drags.  And when someone dies, you’re not really sure if you’re supposed to laugh or be shocked.  The film’s conclusion just left you thinking, “Well that was stupid,”  since we don’t really know their motivation.  Hence, the sense of drama and poignancy we’re supposed to feel by the end is lost.

If Four Lions had kept to the comedic track and treated all events with the absurdity they deserved, instead of abrupt calls for depth, the comparisons to This is Spinal Tap would be more apt.  Though a film like Shaun of the Dead was able to jump from funny, to scary, to downright tear inducing sadness, such shifts are not an easy task and Four Lions just couldn’t do it.

The character motivations and the abrupt transitions in tone hurt the film, but the great acting from the cast and the subject matter make it at least noteworthy.  Four Lions is interesting, but not to the point of greatness.