Sunday, October 31, 2010
Imagine a greatest hits album of Halloween songs, and I'm talking about the ones like "Monster Mash" and "One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater." Now imagine a cover album of that greatest hits album, and all of the bands on it (doing the covers) are your favorite bands. 'Trick 'r Treat' is that cover album (the cover album doesn't actually exist, sorry), displaying homages to old horror classics left and right, using the day of Halloween as the backdrop for the stories being told.
The nostalgia I got from watching this movie made me think of how, as a child, I was confused when horror movies were released at a time of the year that wasn't close to Halloween. I thought Halloween was the epitome of horror, and there was no point to watching a scary movie if it wasn't October. Of course I grew up and realized that horror movies weren't strictly made for the sake of being "Halloween movies" (except for 'Saw' and the actual 'Halloween' films) but I still get irritated when Michael Bay releases some of his "horror films" in the springtime. It's just not good business strategy. All of that aside, I found 'Trick 'r Treat' exciting, as it was actually a scary movie about Halloween, and it was well-done too.
The film itself follows a non-linear plot very much like how 'Pulp Fiction' did, in a sense that certain characters are alive at the end of the film, although they died in an earlier scene. However, while 'Pulp Fiction' avoided showing the same sequence twice (for the most part), 'Trick 'r Treat' does repeat sequences, although they're from different perspectives, which makes it somewhat enjoyable since it enforces different reactions (over the same scene) from the audience. And another thing, while 'Pulp Fiction' had a more solid story with less characters involved, 'Trick 'r Treat' acts like a series of short stories (like tracks on that greatest hits album) that are all connected in some way, moving from one homage to another each time.
In the end we have zombies, slashers, werewolves, vampires, demons, and children eating poisoned candy all in one awesome tribute to a holiday that, like Christmas and many other holidays, is losing its traditional values. Most of the incidents in the film actually revolve around the idea that people have forgotten the true meaning of Halloween, and for their insolence they are punished. While it isn't really the "scariest" movie I've ever seen, and the acting isn't always that great (who says it wasn't intended?), it's just as (if not more) enjoyable of a Halloween movie as, well, the original 'Halloween.' The story sticks to the fundamentals of good horror, which means the subject itself creeps you out more than it makes you jump out of your seat, and that's why I say this is a must-see for everyone, especially if it is that time of the year.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
I remember at a young age I didn't want to watch any of the original 'Nightmare' films because the idea of Freddy Krueger gave me actual nightmares, or at least the thought of him just gave me the worst creeps possible. As I grew up, though, he became somewhat of a joke. I can remember seeing at least three of the original 'Nightmare' installments when I was at that young age, but I had pretty much subconsciously avoided watching any of the movies until news of this remake emerged. Then I figured I'd go ahead and watch the original one so I could compare the two. After seeing that one at my age now, it's completely different. Yeah it was still kinda scary, but it all seemed a bit cheesy. However, the character of Freddy Krueger became an icon for a reason, and it's not because of the sequels. This guy with the burned face and the "claws" was just as unique of a character as, say, Hannibal Lector. You just can't forget him. But with this remake, his character (as it is portrayed in the film) is as forgettable as the Tooth Fairy in 'Darkness Falls.'
I thought the first trailer actually looked pretty sick, and I was a little hyped despite everyone's (including my own) rant that "these remakes gotta stop!" When I saw that Michael Bay was involved I began to doubt it, but it still had that 'Clash of the Titans' hype, because Samuel Bayer was directing it, and he directed music videos for Nirvana, Green Day, and My Chemical Romance. I just knew it was gonna be awesome. I just knew it. But boy I was wrong. My first mistake was ignoring Michael Bay, who had too much control over a film that should've been left in the hands of Bayer, and I blame Michael for my final verdict on this film.
My biggest problem with Bay is that his obsession with making implausible subjects realistic is getting annoying. I admit I kinda liked the 'Chainsaw' remakes. I liked that Bay was all about the gore. The "family" was messed up in an exploitative way, and I liked that, but the victims were too stereotypical. Bay's reluctance to give his film's most important characters "cardboard" personalities only reveals that Bay has the widely-popular, misconceived idea of what a horror movie really is (or what any type of real movie is).
This idea started as a cheap way to gain audiences, but basically filmmakers ripoff the concept of what made films like 'Psycho' and 'The Shining' (and many others before and after) so popular: making the "killer" the most interesting person in the movie. Over the years writers, directors and producers of horror movies have paid less and less attention to the [victim] characters, so at this point they're as typical as cars; they're just the background of the same painting that gets torn apart every time. There is no feelings of sympathy for the paintings when there are more than one of same type. This concept has developed into a warped, cliché assembly line of the same stupid, stereotypical victims getting ripped apart (sometimes the way they're ripped apart is advertised as something "new," what we call a "gimmick" film), and the only thing that ever changes is the killer.
In this case, those victims are in the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' painting, and there is nothing new about it. The same thing happens, nothing has changed, except that with Bay's obsession with realism, we learn more about the history of Freddy Krueger that we felt more comfortable simply assuming in the past films. We know Krueger has the burned face, and the old version is just funny now because I know that's not what a burn victim looks like. He just looked scary because of those eyes and that smile, and that dastardly vile tongue. In this round they go all out into making actor Jackie Earle Haley look like an actual burn victim, and they succeeded, and I think that may have been the only cool thing about this movie. After a while, though, it did start to look silly, and my attitude towards him changed. He didn't have the eyes and he couldn't smile or stick his tongue out because his mouth was so small. He didn't even have the menacingly eerie voice either, it honestly sounded like Rorschach, or even worse, Batman.
I also gotta give some props to the script. The scripts for all of Bay's other horror movies were pretty bad, but this may have been the worst one yet (I don't pay much attention so I'm only assuming). The stereotypical high school students were bad enough, but the dialogue was just too typical. Every once in a while the characters would come across something interesting to talk about (like for instance they compare Krueger to the Pied Piper at one point), but since they obviously didn't have any emotions (besides fear) or logic or reasoning (and didn't live in a realistic world when the story was trying to be realistic), they never went far with anything, since all they could say were phrases I felt like I've heard so so so many times already.
I liked Samuel Bayer's direction, as he is pretty skilled, but like I said earlier, Michael Bay ruined it with his "genius" skills. I'm not going to necessarily beg you not to watch this, as it has its entertaining moments and it would be okay as a movie to have playing in the background during a Halloween party, but I don't recommend it as a must-see. This is nothing new or revolutionary about it. It's just like every other bad horror movie made today (not that they're all bad), it's just that it's an unnecessary remake that makes it even worse. Yeah, it is a waste of time to watch it, but if you're up for wasting time...
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Let it be known, I’m Still Here was indeed a hoax. Joaquin Phoenix, the actor who played Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, announced about a year ago that he was retiring from his movie career to pursue another one in hip-hop, a move that hit the media world like a gutterball with the bumpers up. Luckily, we were all in on the joke, whether we knew it or not. It was all a performance for a mockumentary about his pseudo-retirement, although it would be advertised as an actual documentary. Of course people doubted the legitimacy of the announcement from the start, and it was only natural. People have doubted the existence of gods from the beginning, and in this movie its is shown how celebrities, like Phoenix, are idolized in America (typically) in the same sense as mythological gods were in Ancient Greece, among many other places. The rumors of it being a “hoax” were from the very beginning a part of this film, whether we knew it or not; our natural reactions to Phoenix’s announcement played perfectly into the story that was being told in this mockumentary. So a lot of people should complain for not getting a paycheck. But of course there are those that just didn’t care, and they even play into the story as well.
In this story, Joaquin embarks on philosophical and psychological journey to become a famous musician. In fact, he just wants to be famous. He says it himself. He doesn’t want to be mediocre; he, like everyone else, wants to be great. He begins to write his music with the help of another “mediocre” musician, and it is then that the exploitation begins to shine like a limelight on not only celebrity life but the audience as well. While we’ve been keeping up (at least I have) with the rare news about Joaquin’s post-retirement hip-hop career, we’ve been laughing at his infamous interview on Letterman, waiting for something new from this former actor that we could now ridicule. But why do we want to ridicule him? Do we all subconsciously wish for this all to be a hoax?
Whether we do or not, the idea of this being a hoax plays a part into the entire message of the film, which is by far the best response to anyone who has ever (sarcastically) said, “celebrity life must be sooo hard.” Phoenix’s aspirations to rap coincide with his character’s flaw: the inability to realize how high in society he really was, as well as having a hypocritically misconceived perception on the hip-hop industry. Most (but not all) rappers come from lower-class lifestyles, and on occasion from higher class lifestyles as well, but Joaquin’s conditioned mindset is that he is a normal person striving for greatness by imitating the struggles of lower-class life, although he thinks he’s being artistic the whole time because he wants to “leave a mark” in history. But maybe that’s another message of the movie, that the entire idea of the three “classes” is a idealistic concept that only separates the rich from the poor, when everyone is actually in the middle; it is only when we try to act like we belong to a class that we begin to lose our minds as well as our perception of reality, as it is demonstrated by Phoenix’s character. So basically, he’s tired of supposedly doing little to nothing to live life like a god, and when he falls out of the clouds (figuratively speaking) he starts to lose touch with reality while questioning the value of his existence in such a cruel world.
Although it is a hoax, the movie still made me feel ashamed of myself at times. Why? Because I, like most people I’m sure, expected this movie to be somewhat funny, and although it was at times (in a very dark sense), it wasn’t enough to make me consider it a comedy of any type. However, it was enough to make me realize just how serious Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck (the director, Phoenix’s brother-in-law) were about this movie’s message. It was a joke, a hoax, advertised as a documentary. Maybe it really was a documentary. Maybe this is an entirely new type of storytelling only possible through film, and we just can’t realize it because we’re so pissed we had to see some guy’s dick twice. Phoenix also smokes pot, snorts cocaine, plays with hookers, pisses off P. Diddy and Ben Stiller (Stiller was in on the “joke”), and gets used as a toilet (via his face), showing a somewhat exaggerated point of view of the psychological impact of celebrity status, exploiting the relationship between American audiences and their celebrity idols, showing that inevitably gods do not care for normal people, and cannot realize that they are not normal themselves because of their need for selfishness to justify their own existence. It is the driving force of art, of life itself, to justify and find some meaning out of our own existence, and that when we try to look too hard we may sometimes find nothing at all but a crystal-clear reflection of ourselves, which is basically where Phoenix ends up in the story.
While I’m Still Here will more than likely go unappreciated because the majority of audiences expecting and still believing this to be an unfunny joke, trust me when I say that it is not a joke at all. It is very serious, and if you fail to see that, then you have failed to see your own reflection as Joaquin sees his in this movie. When the story reaches its pivotal point, the interview with David Letterman, it is then that we can see the truth of this movie. While we have been laughing this whole time with Letterman, we can finally see our own cruel judgmental nature in his ignorant attitude towards Joaquin, now that we see the story from a completely different angle. That is the whole point of the movie, to point out how we view celebrities.
Casey Affleck did an excellent job in piecing this story together, although I wasn’t really ever thrilled by seeing other cameras in the shots or of them mentioning the documentary. Honestly, I feel the movie would’ve been more captivating if it were treated like an actual movie in the sense Cold Souls featured Paul Giamatti playing himself and the same for Jaun Claude Van Damme in JCVD, but of course you have to respect Affleck and Phoenix’s aspiration to make something somewhat original, as that is also a point of the film’s story. It would’ve been somewhat more difficult to get “real” reactions from the world if word had gotten out that this was indeed a hoax, but I still think it’s a missed opportunity/possibility. Either way, Phoenix’s acting (let’s just hope it really is acting) is beyond superb, although I doubt he’ll get a much-deserved best acting nomination at many (if any) award ceremonies. I’m Still Here is a genuine gem that’s surprisingly not getting the attention it deserves, but at least Affleck came out and clarified that it’s not real, so just keep that in mind. It’s a hoax, but it’s real life.
And here is the infamous Letterman interview that is a part of the film, but hopefully you've already seen it, otherwise you're missing out on the "joke."