Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Video of the Day

I'm going to go ahead and say he didn't flop on this one (wait until the end).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Top 20 Horror Films of the Past 20 Years: Part 2

For Part 1 of the list, click here.

10. The Orphanage (2007)

The Orphanage has at least once scene that blew my mind in the same way my mind was blown when Jim kissed Pam for the first time on The Office in the season 2 finale (I know that’s “girly” and not at all scary, but I stand by the comparison). The reveal instantly caused me to recap the movie in my mind just to wrap my head around it and it was amazing. The very end is a bit silly, but everything leading up to that point is perfection. The kid’s mask is the stuff of nightmares and it doesn’t help that kids are kind of creepy (hence the whole “crazy kid” genre). It seems the key to a great ghost story is to keep it low key and let it build. No need for cheap scares, just let the suspense build. It’s so simple, but gets screwed up time and time again.

9. Hatchet (2006)

The only thing that really needs to be said about Hatchet is that it’s one hell of a good time. It’s pretty much the standard slasher formula, but done with such love and glee that it’s infectious to watch. Best of all, it has Kenny from The Cosby Show in it and he’s hilarious. I’m endlessly impressed how good the gore effects are (and there are lots) given its 1.5 million dollar budget. Also, there is a great Hofstra bashing moment that certain BU students may appreciate more than the general populace. Interesting note: Hatchet was the last film shot in New Orleans before Katrina hit.

8. Dog Soldiers (2002)

Neil Marshall is a man to watch. He’s got another film coming up on this list, and Doomsday is balls out fun. Dog Soldiers is basically a group of soldiers versus and family of werewolves in a house in the middle of nowhere. It’s both funny and smart, a combination not particularly well represented in the horror-comedy genre (OK, comedy may be pushing it, but I think it’s funny). It’s remarkable that this is Marshall’s first film.

7. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

What more do you need from a film other than Bruce Campbell playing (the real) Elvis as an old man in a nursing home in Texas fighting a mummy with JFK, who has been dyed black (played by the venerable Ossie Davis)? If that description doesn’t make you run to put it in your Netflix queue, then I’m not sure what interest you have in reading this post. Even though the premise is pretty ridiculous (ridiculously AWESOME!!! High five!!!), the acting is amazing (with one LA critic calling for Campbell to be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar) and the score is simply amazing (oddly, no Elvis music). As Campbell has been known to say, “Hail to the King, baby!”

6. The Descent (2005)

Marshall’s other film on the list. The Descent is beyond intense before the monsters even show up. It helps that imagining oneself trapped in a cave system is probably about the most frightening thing that could happen. Add to the dark and isolation the narrow passageways to get from chamber to chamber and the possibility of falling into a crevice and you’ve pretty much nailed all of the most common fears. When I saw The Descent for the first time, I left the theater think it was decent (that type of play on words will win me a Pulitzer some day…), but the film grew on me the more I thought about it. Now, I can’t even remember what bothered me in the first place. It’s just a great horror film.

5. The Mist (2007)

I can’t believe I missed The Mist (confound my wordplay!) in theaters. When I finally caught up with it, I saw one of the best monster movies I’ve ever seen. I’m not really sure what kept me away. Perhaps that Frank Darabont directs and I’m sort of ho-hum about The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. Whatever the case, I was wrong. Tom Jane is, as usual, badass and Marcia Gay Harden is one of the most hateful characters I’ve ever seen. Hers is the type of performance you hate because she’s so good at making you hate her character. Check the black and white version out, which is what Darabont wanted initially. It gives it the classic B-movie feel it needs.

4. 28 Days Later (2002)

28 Days Later is filling in for Sunshine, as well. Sunshine has horror elements, but I didn’t feel right including it no matter how much I love it (which is a lot). Setting aside the fact that 28 Days Later brought forth the fast zombie phenomenon that I loathe, it’s a terrific movie. Shot on DV, it proves that, with a little effort, you can make anything look good (take note, mumblecore enthusiasts). At first, I didn’t care for the last third, but after repeat viewings, I can’t imagine anything else. There is no place safe left. Even those who swore to protect will turn on you when times get tough. It’s also nice to hear some great music in a horror movie (something Danny Boyle excels at).

3. Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Sam Raimi, why would you ever make a non-horror film when you do them so well? Right now, this is in my top three for 2009 and is number one for best time had in the theater, and I saw it with about 14 other people. Drag Me to Hell is gooey and hilarious and should probably be rated R. Everyone talks about how they saw the “twist” coming a mile away. No kidding! The movie isn’t about the twist; it’s about the arduous and chaotic journey to the inevitable. The only thing missing is the Bruce Campbell cameo (and I know just where he should have been inserted). Even the Classic makes its appearance. An instant modern horror classic.

2. Let the Right One In (2008)

My favorite film of 2008. I saw it at the Sydney Film Festival expecting nothing but a silly adolescent vampire movie (their description was not very good). Instead, I got one of the best vampire movies ever. I love everything about the film. The photography is gorgeous, the acting is impeccable (where did they find these kids?), and the suspense is palpable. Sadly, the DVD release screwed up the subtitles, so the film lost some of its nuance in transition, but it’s still great. Let the Right One In builds deliberately to a heartwarming, yet bittersweet conclusion when viewed in contrast with the beginning of the film. For anyone who sees the planned remake without seeing this, they deserve the fate of seeing an inferior product, or worse.

1. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

I somehow knew it would come down to you, Shaun. The world’s first rom-com-zom should also go down as the last, because it is perfect. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost are tremendous together and have yet to misstep (probably why the third in the “Cornetto Trilogy” is so slow in coming). And I always fall a little bit in love with Kate Ashfield whenever I watch this movie. Heartfelt, hilarious, and gory, a perfect combination. For anyone who wants to learn how to parody, look no further than Shaun of the Dead. A million references, but it has it’s own story. Viewers are rewarded for knowledge of the genre. George Romero gave it his seal of approval by casting Pegg and Wright as zombies in Land of the Dead, so you should, too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Video of the Day

Animals are nearly almost always funny. It's a cliche, but it doesn't make it less true.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Art of the Crotch Shot

I don't think it's a stretch to say that seeing guys getting hit in the crotch is, like farts, always funny. However, not all crotch shots are created equal. The following is a series of videos dissecting what I think makes for a groin-grabbingly good time and, what doesn't.

First of all, whenever you see someone set up in the absolute perfect spot to be hit in the crotch AND a camera is running, odds are, the crotch shot will underwhelm. It looks completely set up and odds are, someone is wearing a cup. The one exception is the brilliant pool trick.

Of course, there are other scenarios where the crotch shot loses it's impact. Take anytime there is a skateboarder/rollerblader trying to ride a rail or just trying to balance on anything narrow at all. It's just expected that something will go wrong.

The same goes for anyone playing with nunchucks.

You'd think they'd learn to wear a cup at this point. Finally, whenever an adult decides to randomly punch another in the crotch on purpose. All this does is prove that the assaulting party is, pardon the pun, a dick.

Yes, it's clear that the best crotch shots are the surprising ones. The ones that, even though you know you are watching a video of someone getting hit in the groin, you are still surprised at HOW they get hit. This is typically because no element of the assault is in control. There are too many circumstances out of his control.

Of course, it helps if kids are involved because they have no idea what they are doing at any time. And the more fun someone is having, the greater the comedy.

Here is a complilation video. Test out my theories for which hits are the best. The best part of crotch shots, though, is that they are nearly always funny, even the low quality ones.

Video of the Day

I love seeing the prey stand up for itself. How many Lion King jokes can you think of???

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Top 20 Horror Films of the Past 20 Years: Part 1

Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman recently posted his Top 20 Horror Films of the Past 20 Years. There has already been much outcry against his opinions and his definitions of horror, to which he has responded (interestingly, I agree more with the reasons he left movies off the list than with the movies that actually made the list), but I figured I’d pile on anyway. For every happy surprise (Drag Me to Hell!), there was a questionable counter (Planet Terror?). While I don’t disagree with the quality of all of his selections, though there are some that don’t fit the horror mold (The Silence of the Lambs), that are more interesting than good (Alien 3), or I just think are bad movies (Audition). Instead of breaking down my reasons for disliking his selections/reasoning, I’m offering my own list. I definitely recommend checking out Gleiberman’s list, though, because who doesn’t like bitching about another’s opinion. As always, feel free to mock me in the comments or inquire about any of my choices/rejections.

20. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
One of the early adopters of the mockumentary for horror purposes, Behind the Mask knows its slasher history and knows it well. A fun look behind the scenes of what it takes to be an aspiring Freddie/Jason/Michael Myers with a little bit of genre analysis thrown in. Nathan Baesel is fantastic as the would-be killer and Home Alone’s Angela “you’re what the French call ‘les incompetent’” Goethals plays the documentarian. Plus, the ubiquitous Robert Englund has a cameo. It could stand a bit more gore to fit in with its forefathers, but a solid genre entry in its own right.

19. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
From Englund to Englund, this time in his iconic form. Freddy vs. Jason has no right to be as entertaining as it is, but it doesn’t take itself seriously and delivers on amazing, outlandish kills. If you like either franchise, you have to love this film. Speaking as someone who generally hates sequels and remakes, I would give just about anything to see Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash as long as Raimi directed and Campbell returned (but then, that’s a given).

18. 1408 (2007)
Who said that Frank Darabont is the only person that should adapt Stephen King anymore? 1408 pushes its PG-13 rating with an endless stream of creepy ghosts and startling imagery. As a skeptic who is fascinated by ghosts, this film has an immediate connection with me. The scene when John Cusack’s character is confronted with his dead daughter tears me apart. I really can’t think of anything worse happening to someone. Even with an iffy ending, 1408 is top-notch through and through.

17. Tremors (1990)
Just about the only good film Ron Underwood made (depending where you fall on City Slickers), Tremors is one of the great horror comedies of all-time. Who doesn’t love crazy monster movies? Aside from the great chemistry between Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon, we get Michael Gross as an overly prepared gun-nut. It’s not surprising he returned for all of the sequels, I’d watch Gross’ Burt Gummer character even if monsters weren’t attacking his desert community.

16. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
I was pretty late to the game with Blair Witch. I remember being told how great it was in high school, but decided to wait 7 or 8 years to finally catch up with it, for some reason. Ultimately, this was for the best, since I missed the hype and the backlash and could judge it on its own. Much like Cloverfield, I’m glad I missed the shakiness in the theater, but I wish I had been on the bandwagon earlier on. It really blew me away in just about every respect. I even recommend checking out the much-maligned sequel, which is a lot better than it gets credit for and takes an admiringly different approach to the material. Also, keep your eyes open for the Australian film Lake Mungo that, if there is any higher power, will receive similar word of mouth and promotion.

15. Army of Darkness (1993)
I still wish that they went with the original title, The Medieval Dead and kept the bleaker ending, but what are you going to do? I think it’s physically impossible for Bruce Campbell not to be badass and here, he’s at his baddest-assest. While not exactly… scary… Army of Darkness retains all that makes the other Evil Dead movies so great: the style, the campiness, and the quotability. While still my least favorite of the series, Army of Darkness is a classic of the genre in its own right (and the only one that can be shown on TV without severe editing). Interesting note: Embeth Davidtz starred in this and Schindler’s List in the same year. How’s that for diversifying one’s portfolio?

14. Bug (2006)
After years of mediocre films, William Friedkin returns to form with Bug, a truly great psychological horror film, emphasis on the psychological. In a cast of great performances and Harry Connick Jr. playing against type, Michael Shannon steals the movie entirely, which isn’t surprising since he played the same role in the stage production. The film really shines in the second half when the characters really start to go batshit. It’s intense and darkly humorous, a perfect combination.

13. Scream (1996)
I’ve written about Scream in this space before. It’s pretty much the perfect combination of parody and horror. It helps to have one of the slasher genre gods behind the camera. Much like Behind the Mask, Scream knows its horror history and takes its jabs at both it and the horror community. And who could ever forget Rose McGowan’s entrance to the garage? Never fails to bring out the inner adolescent in me. A side note: I was terrified by the ghost-face mask from about ’96-’99, possibly later.

12. Dead/Alive aka Braindead (1992)
Probably the only film on the list that I will never make anyone watch. While the gore is over-the-top in a cartoon-y way, there are still many moments that might cause retching in the stomachs of the weak. It still astounds me that Peter Jackson was given the Lord of the Rings franchise with this, Bad Taste, and Meet the Feebles on his resume. If you can stomach it, Dead/Alive is simply hilariously disgusting, with perhaps one of the craziest climaxes in cinema history.

11. The Frighteners (1996)
Peter Jackson again. Oddly, this film will always be associated with Christmas for me since that’s when I saw it for the first time. The Frighteners contains another cloaked terror that traumatized me in my mid-teens (what was it with 1996 and cloaks?). This is starkly different from Dead/Alive, but no less fun. I love Michael J. Fox’ ghostly compatriots and, well, all of the ghosts. In fact, the only problem with the film is that it looks distinctly like New Zealand instead of anywhere in America, where it’s set (San Francisco, I think, but that could just be the hills).

Video of the Day

More science. This is absolutely mind-blowing. If you've ever pondered the expanse of the universe, this video is for you.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Video of the Day

Who doesn't love a good practical joke where someone gets hurt???

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Video of the Day

The Aussies have tougher mascots than we do. Probably why it's the mascot for the Manly team.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Video of the Day

This is the sort of thing nightmares are made of. If Spike Jonze would have submitted something like this, I could see why the studio would balk.

The Monster's Choice, music by Lightning Bolt from E. Casey on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

Steve Bartman

I suppose it's a little odd to write a post about an incident that happened 6 years ago, but I randomly had a thought about the Steve Bartman playoff incident that never struck me before.
Now, I've always felt bad for the guy. He just did what any other fan would do in his situation. You see a foul ball coming your way, your instinct is to try to catch it. People go lifetimes without ever catching one (well... not me... I got one and gave it to a little kid, so not only am I lucky, but insanely generous because I really did need a baseball), so I'm willing to excuse his inattention to the circumstances. Clearly, other people are reaching for the ball in pictures. It was just his bad luck to be the one right by the field. Most importantly, the Cubs still had to execute to get the final outs, which they failed to do.

Anyway, the random thought I had is in regards to his headphones, which essentially became the signifier of Steve Bartman after the play. I've seen many people wear headphones at baseball games and in all instances I'm aware of, they are listening to the radio feed of the game. This way they get all of the extra information and play-by-play. Makes sense to me. So, assuming that he was listening to the play-by-play, Bartman was hearing the color commentary of him getting in the way of Moises Alou! This strikes me as an incredibly surreal situation.

There's no way the broadcasters could have seen this scenario play out in time for Bartman to get away, but surely there had to be a point when the announcers saw the fan interference coming and announced it, to Bartman, as he went for the ball. We know he heard about it from the fans surrounding him, but how many of us get play-by-play of our biggest screw-ups in life?

In my search for images for this post, I found this video, and it makes me feel even worse for the guy.

Video of the Day

Some more cute animals. Can they never not entertain???

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Video of the Day

Keith will probably dig this. I just like the sincerity and thought put into the answer.