Monday, February 28, 2011

Kiss Me Deadly

Today we discover a great whatsit in Kiss Me Deadly!

This movie had a great use of light and shadow, look at that first shot! And also, a crazy lady opening the infamous 'great whatsit'.

I know what you're thinking. "Another noir Josh? Aren't you tired of these old black and white whodunits yet?" NEVER! I'm actually going to do a list of my favorites sometime in the near future, because this is a movie blog, and what's a movie blog with out lists in intervals of 10?

Anyways, back to the review. Kiss Me Deadly is about womanizing detective Mike Hammer(Ralph Meeker) trying to uncover a woman's murder and a mysterious "whatsit" that everyone is trying to get their hands on.

Let's go to the Noir Stats:
Light and Shadowness: 8/10
Bleakdepressibility: 9/10
Batmanitude: 6/10
Dialogue: 7/10
Creepiness: 5/10
Cthulhuocity: (:€/10

Ok, so it doesn't distinctly have the great tentacled Lord Cthulhu, but his has a creepy box with tentacles that has Something in it, so there's no saying it's not the dark tentacled lord either. But in all seriousness, it is quite creepy.

If you read any other review of this movie(or the back of the box even, thanks alot DVD case) it will tell you how it ends, which I never like to hear. So let me just say, it doesn't end well. In fact, it probably has the bleakest ending of any noir ever, tilting dreadfully over the edge of the supernatural. And that's really how any good noir should end, but this isn't a good noir, it's a great one.

It's dark, it's bleak, it's downcast, and downright disturbing. Everything about this from the tone to the story to the lighting to the characters screams noir. Not even the main hero, Mike Hammer, is a beacon of light; he's just a thug who can't remember what right is anymore. He does his job, and does what's necessary to get the job done. Oh and did I mention he's batman?

Let me lay it down for you:
Women flock to him
He can't be killed,
He's a loner and tragedy follows him everywhere,
What he does to thugs is so extreme and badass to show on screen. All you'll ever see is thugs cower away in fear. He is totally batman.
All the supporting characters are interesting and full of individuality. The villain's are menacing, the friends are jovial, the thugs are hard, and the dames are beautiful.

Let's get back to the dark creepiness. The first sign is the opening credits, which are going the wrong way, and feature a woman whimpering hysterically in the background. These are the most disturbing opening credits you'll ever see:

After that, it just gets weirder. There's the oddly calm voice of the villain, the female victims of the crazy ward, the horrified screams of Thugs after Mike gets done with them, and the strange whisperings from a box not to be opened.

The pacing is good and provides some great tension. The dialogue is top notch and thoroughly enjoyable; each character has their own distinct voice and the main characters have some great monologues.

For Noir fanatics, this is a must, but it's just a great creepy, actiony old movie for anyone. I highly recommend it. A top notch 12 out of 13.

"Kiss me, Mike. I want you to kiss me. Kiss me. The liar's kiss that says I love you, and means something else. You're good at those kisses, Mike. Kiss me."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dear Wendy

Get your guns ready because today we're looking at Dear Wendy!
Who is this badass ginger? Remember that little kid with the big ears from Major Payne?

Dear Wendy is a strange movie with a different take on the "coming of age" and "forbidden love" story ideas. It's odd and can be silly at times, but has a lot of interesting ideas and a violent ending. You should go check it out now and save the review for later if you don't want to be spoiled at all. By spoilers that is.

Dick Dandelion(Jaime Bell), is a young man living in a coal mining town, Electric Park. He feels weak, a loser until he finds a small toy gun and starts carrying it around. Only until he becomes friends with another outsider does he realize the gun is real and they both start to go Gun Crazy.

Well not really. Dick forms a group of misfit gun enthusiasts called "The Dandies" that enjoy carrying around guns but are complete pacifists. And it really does wonders for them, giving them a boost of confidence. Dick doesn't feel weak, the cripple becomes a ladies magnet, and the quirky shy flat-chested girl grows boobs(Yes she does. And it's Kim Pine from Scott Pilgrim and she does show them. Why I have no idea.)

Throughout the movie, Dick is narrating the events that have unfolded as a love letter to "Wendy", an unknown love interest. You never see her and you keep wondering who she is until half way through the movie he names his gun. I was completely taken by surprise. It finally dawned on me that there was no woman love interest; this was a movie about a man and his love affair with his gun. And it really is a love affair, all the elements are there: That high when you first fall in love, ecstasy, jealousy, anger and betrayal, and a tragic but fitting ending.

As the group of misfits gets more involved with their respective pieces, their organization gets more and more...cooky. But since it's from their vantage point and it leads you along slowly, it all makes sense. Up until a new character comes in and shows their organization from an outsider's perspective.

It's a strange movie, and it can get pretty silly at times, but the trip you take with the main character is thouroughly enjoyable. And boy, is it a trip. The only part about this movie that really irks me is the bloody and tragic ending. The sheriff finds out they're carrying guns and wants to take them away. It just escalates so quickly and seems so avoidable. Sure it's illegal, but is there a reason the police need to take their guns away by force? Is this really how they would handle a situation of a minor holding a weapon who shows no aggression whatsoever? But maybe that's the point. What I do love about the ending is Dick getting flashes of the future of the consequences of his actions.

It's a strange movie with some different takes on the generic movie formulas, some great acting, and some really interesting ideas on guns and manliness. The soundtrack is very reminiscent of the 60's and 70's free love/stick it to the man movements. If you're into guns or just like cool but odd movies I'd recommend picking it up. Dear Wendy get's a 35 out of 47 in my book.

Let me in

This week, we prove high school kids are scarier than vampires with Let me in!

The first sketch is actually of the actress from the original swedish film because I couldn't find any good creepy sketch of Chloe Moretz. Also, a doodle of her in barefoot. I like the feet the best.

Let Me In is based on the swedish film Let the Right One In, which I didn't see so I can't really compare how the remake lives up. I'd be curious though.

The story: Young boy Owen(Kodi Smit-McPhee) is being tormented at school by bullies when a young girl, Abby(Chloe Moretz) moves into his apartment complex. The two become close friends until Own finds out a dark secret about Abby. SPOILER ALRERT: She's a vampire. AWESOME ALERT: She's not a Twilight vampire.

This is a horror movie, so let's look at the horror stats:

monsterness: pretty much

bloodocity: lots

violentiness: kinda

creeptasticality: IT'S OVER 9000!!

metaphoritude: a buttload

I liked this movie, but I didn't nessesarily ENJOY it. It's a great film, but long, subtle, and painful. Not something I could watch over and over again, but good enough to recommend to any hardcore horror enthusiasts.

First off, it's a vampire movie, and a good one at that. It's not one of these new-fangled whosi-whatsits vampire movies where they try to redefine what necessitates being a vampire, it's classic Dracula fair. Drinks blood, sunlight can kill them, sleeps in a box, can't come into a building without being invited. No word on holy water and crosses though, which is pretty realistic since no one in the movie was overly religious or superstitious. The film makers showed interesting takes on the lore, like the idea of inviting a vampire in. It's not the same, "invisible wall" you'd see in Buffy. Also, what happens to someone when they turn into a vampire and no one in the movie notices until it's too late? Watch the movie! That's what!

The movie takes place in the 80's, so if you're a fan of "I love the 80's strikes back" and so forth, you'll adore this film. "OH THEY'RE PLAYING THAT ONE SONG AND HES GOT A RUBIX CUBE AND I HAD ALL OF THOSE THINGS." That's you in your head with your loud head voice when you recognize all the throwback 80's props. I actually remember the candy, "Now and Later", and I will never ever think of it the same way again.

Technically speaking, the cinematography was beautiful. They took their time with their shots, and it wasn't filled with generic "focus on the character doing something all the time." Quite artsy. It was so still and out of focus sometimes it added to the overall creepiness of the picture. All the acting was first rate. Chloe Moretz is looking to be one of the most badass little girls of the decade. The Natalie Portman of her time perhaps?

And what's the moral of the story? High school kids are scarier than vampires!

It's such an odd feeling, I know I should be scared of her s a vampire, but everytime she's out on the prowl, poised for attack, I knew all she could do was bite and kill people. On the other hand, Owen has to deal with bullies. These are real people, and they look so menacing and downright evil. They get that look in their eyes, and you know they're capable of anything! I think perhaps it would have been a scarier film if it was just made up of high school torment.

It's so weird how real world occurrences were more jarring, frigtening, and overall disturbing than the vampire scenes. Maybe its because they took a more subtle and disturbing road with the real world stuff than with the vampire stuff. Whenever Abby would get really hungry, the camera would pan away and they'd show her computer generated silohette ripping a guy to shreds. But when one of the main characters gets in a car accident, you're IN the car, tumbling around! When Owen gets pushed under the water, you're right there with him. There are a couple scenes where we get to hear Abby's real voice and see her real face, but they're few and far between, which saddens my horror heart.

Maybe its because after all the horror movies, we've become to comfortable with blood and gore. It carries no meaning to us if they throw red corn syrup around, but the real events still do. Maybe it has to do with suspension of disbelief. We secretly know vampires aren't real, so they're automatically not that scary, but getting into a car accident or getting roughed up by a bully are completly plausible to us. For many reasons, it's not that unbelievable that Owen would want to shun the real world and go steady with his new vampiric friend.

The story was well told, very suspenseful, and had a number of gripping twists and turns. There were points were completely painful and points that were so so satisfying. Overall, I'd give it a 93 out of 117. A damn good movie. Maybe not the most fun, but damn good nonetheless.

Monday, February 14, 2011

10 lessons about relationships from Movies

So maybe it's Valentine's Day for you, maybe it's Single Awareness Day, I say screw the holidays and watch movies!

In honor of this semi-glorious greeting card day, I'm doing a list of some of my favorite movies about relationships and the lessons they teach us. NOTE: These are not nessesarily romantic comedies, or even movies mainly ABOUT relationships; if that was the case, all that would teach us is that people can fall in love within hours, always date the person who's the exactly opposite of you as long as their hot, and two people will always get back together in a monogamous relationship with no repercussions.

Yeah. Sure. As if. Spoilers probably. In no specific order:


The story: Boy falls in love with teacher and does ridiculous illegal things to get her affection.

The Lesson: You can't always get what you want, but if you try real hard, you get what you need.

This is a Wes Anderson movie, with Jason Schwartzman as the lead, and Bill Murry as his older friend, so already you should see this movie. Max Fischer fancies himself a renaissance man of Rushmore academy by joining ever club concievable, but in reality, he has horrible grades. After reading a quote from a library book, he falls in madly love with a teacher, Miss Cross and goes about saving classes and building an aquarium for her. He tries to get her throughout the entire movie and acts like a real jerk when he doesn't.

He eventually gets kicked out of school and meets a bright student, miss Margaret Yang, in his new public school who really has the hots for him. He dislikes her because she's actually a good student with decent grades, but in the end he finds out she's just as messed up as he is, finally letting go of his crush on Miss Cross. Sure he didn't get the prize he was looking for, but he found someone even better, the person he needed.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

The story: Boy falls in love with a girl but then has to beat the girl's seven evil ex's to win her affection.

The Lesson: Breaking up is haaaard.

At the beginning of the movie, Scott is "dating" a high schooler, Knives Chang. But as soon as he sees Ramona roller-skate through his dreams, he...well just starts dating Ramona. It's not after goading from his roommate does he do the right thing and break it off with the quickest, worst way possible.

Guys, gals, I know its tough. I feel you. You do really like this person and you don't want to hurt them, and you really wish you were still dating them if it wasn't for reasons X, Y and Z, and they deserve better and you want to leave them better than you found them sure sure, but be an adult about it. Don't be a Scott Pilgrim.

Forgetting Sarah Marshal

The story: Boy gets dumped by girl, boy tries to get over girl by going on vacation, boy meets same girl at vacation spot with other boy she's dating.

The lesson: Getting dumped sucks.

This is the movie I most recognized with when I had my bad break up. And it really does a great job of showing it: He goes through fits, he cries, he sees her everywhere, oh and now he gets to see some guy make out with her, isn't that fun? NO IT'S NOT I'LL STAB THEM BOTH IN THE EYE WITH MY-all I'm saying is that being dumped and breaking up sucks, and there's nothing you can do about it. It's just going to hurt for awhile and you just have to let it run it's course.

Also, Aldous Snow is a total dick.

Art School Confidential

The story: Boy goes to art school to become an aspiring artist but everyone there is crazy.


Ok, maybe that's not the best lesson, but it's true. They're crazy. They have knives. I've seen them. It's a universal truth that, as the great Voltaire says, "All men are dumb, all women are crazy." ESPECIALLY artists. Trust me. I am an artist, we are all batshit crazy, that's our job.

Anyways, in the movie, Jerome is a virgin and wants to pop his cherry, so his friend tries to find the perfect artsy girl for him. Three crazy art broads later, Jerome is still a virgin. Honestly, I think I've met all three of these girls. So yeah, just be careful out there.

500 Days of Summer

The story: boy mets girl, girl dumps boy, boy tries to get girl back.

The lesson(s): Don't look for the girl of your dreams and things may not always be working out like you think they are.

Tom was expecting to fall in love. He had an idea in his head of what the relationship would be and what she would be like. She would be quirky, and love all the same things he does. Then Summer comes along and fills that quota and he absolutely knows she's the girl for him. But sometimes, its just not that person. Don't visualize your expectations onto someone else. And just because you think the relationship is going well, doesn't make it so. Learn how to read your significant other better so you're not taken by surprise when she suddenly wants to break up.

Sweeney Todd

The story: Boy loses girl, boy goes insane, boy meets new girl, boy and girl kill people and turn them into pies, everyone dies at the end.

The lesson: A relationship cannot be built upon lies.

Mrs. Lovett really wants her relationship to work out with the butcher barber extraordinaire, Todd, so she keeps a couple of things form him about his former wife. Well, that hurts her and her relationship in the end. Very much. Literally. So yes, if you're just starting a relationship, be upfront about things in the beginning, even if it risks the relationship. It'll be better to get it out of the way now than to have it explode in your face later.

The Prestige

The story: boy and another boy are magicians, one boy is married but then that doesn't work out and other boy gets a new girl and then the first boy gets an assistant girl and aaaaaaaah crap. Whatever.It's about magicians and it's directed by Chris Nolan and contains David Bowie and has wolverine battling batman so just go see it.

The lesson: Try juggling two and you'll lose both.

One of the magicians meets a girl and they get married and have a daughter, but then he gets a new assistant and they fall in love. Granted, it's Scarlet Johannson as an assistant, but still, it doesn't end well for either of his lady friends. So if you're in a commited relationship, stay committed. Or else: David Bowie.

The Mask

The story: Boy gets magical mask so he can become a crazy cartoon hero guy and woo a girl.

The lesson: The nice girl isn't always the nice girl.

Oh, you didn't expect to see this in here, did you? I love this movie for this message, and I really wish they'd have it more often. Stanley Ipkiss really really REALLY wants to go after the incredibly hot blonde that sings at the lounge, but his brain is telling him he should probably just go with down-to-earth Peggy because she's a real normal woman and not some snooty floozy. But what happens when shit hits the fan? The nice common girl sells him out and he ends up with the hot blonde! WHAT?

Has anyone else noticed that trend in movies lately? Well not just lately, I guess it's an ongoing theme to subliminally keep common folk in line. Have you seen this before? The main guy is obsessed with the really really hot girl but friends with the still-hot-but-she's-wearing-glasses-so-it-doesn't-count girl, and in the end he finds out the hot girl isn't real and the real girl has been in front of him this whole time.

Ugh man, stop stereotyping people. See, don't put expectations on people. Just because a girl or guy looks nice, doesn't make it so, and visa versa for the exceedingly hot people. And why can't we get some more movies where there are two very reasonable choices?

The Mummy Returns

The story: Boy and girl have to stop an evil mummy from controlling the world.

The lesson: You have to be selfless for the relationship to work.

Wah? The mummy returns? Really? Have I gone mad? Well it's quite possible. But this has the quintessential selfless relationship scene so cheesy it works. Rick and Evy are the good couple and the mummy and his resurrected bride are the evil couple. And wouldn't you know it? Both Rick and the mummy are dangling over the pit of hell while the temple is crumbling to pieces. What does the good couple do? Well, they both think only of each other's safety, so Evy rushes to help Rick up, while Rick tells her to just go. What does the evil couple do? The Mummy screams for his bride to come help him up, while she runs away screaming that she can't.

Well obviously with their team work the good couple survives. The mummy, resigned to his fate, lets go and tumbles down while his bride accidentally trips and falls into a pit of scorpions. Should have gone to couples counseling. But it just proves that both parties have to be think only of each other for the partnership to fully work.

Streets of Fire

The story: Girl gets kidnapped, Boy has to rush in and save her.

The lesson: sometimes, even if you love each other, it just doesn't work out.

Streets of Fire is a great classic 80's movie, and if you haven't seen it you should definately go check it out. It's a rock and roll fable. There's rock ballads, and fighting and even has William Defoe as a leather wearing bad guy. But here's the thing, I'm going to spoil the ending for you: The guy doesn't get the girl in the end. Sure they love each other and they'd do anything for each other and they're both hot so the laws of the movie gods say they should stay together, but she's a rock star and he's a tough guy. They just don't fit. And truth be told, that's just the way ti goes sometimes. Two people could be really perfect for each other, but they just don't Gel.

I hope you enjoyed this random list of movies. Do you agree with the lessons? What are your guys' favorite movies with relationships and what lessons can you learn from them?

Friday, February 4, 2011


This week we take a detour(giggle!) with the movie Detour!

I actually stopped the DVD in the middle of the movie so I could draw his face. Just look't that face! Now that's a hardened face.

Detour is a movie about Al Roberts(Tom Neal) trying to get to his honey in L.A. when he gets picked up by a man and accidentally kills him! Things get real heated when a prissy dame named Vera(Ann Savage) discovers his fiendish deed and tries to take him for all he's worth!

This is honestly one of my new favorite noirs. There aren't a lot of twists and turns and new characters, it's very intimate, very crowding. Most of the story is narrated by the main character, and it couldn't have been done better. Most movies with narration feel unneeded. They start off, "Hey, this is me. My name is john everyman. This is the story of how I did stuff." Detour, on the other hand, actually feels like he's thinking to himself. It uses the narration to add character instead of exposition.

I love ow they use the camera work and lighting to signify that it's all in his head. All of a sudden everyone goes quiet, the lights dim eerily, and the camera slowly pans in to Neal's distraught face.

The dialogue's so sharp you can cut a ripe mellon with it!

"There's a folding bed. you know how to use it?"

"I invented it."

Al and Vera, the main characters have such distinctive talking styles and they have so much fun hating each other you can't help but enjoy it.

The story is a tension filled progression into madness, like all great noir stories. The road to a good noir downfall is paved with characters trying to cover up their own messes in exceedingly ridiculous ways, and Detour is no different. You feel for Al as he digs himself further and further into a grave and get surprised at every turn as fate knocks him down again.

This has a great classic noir message: Fate will screw you over whenever it feels like it, and there's nothing you can do about it. The last images of Al walking down the side of the road mournfully, all his mistakes weighing him down, cements fate's cruel humor on life.

Man I loved this movie. I could easily watch it four more times. The dialogue is great, the story is sad, the cinematography is top notch, I'd give this a 35 out of 37. A must for noir enthusiasts. See you next time movie watcher people!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Scarlet Street

This week I review an old noir called Scarlet Street, because you know nothing interesting came out last week. And here's a sketch of two of the main actors, Edward G. Robinson and Dan Duryea. I went a little more cartoony this time.

This is a movie starring Edward G. Robinson and directed by Fritz Lang. Hold on a second while I have a noir geek out moment.


For those of you who don't understand why I'm freaking out about this, Edward G. Robinson (who was also in The Stranger) is a great character actor. I've seen him in a couple of noirs and one radio show(SUSPENSE!) and I think he's a fantastic actor. And then there's Fritz Lang. Sci-Fi buffs should know him from his silent masterpiece Metropolis, but noir buffs should know him from M: one of the greatest noir films made and viewed as the first real noir before noir was noir(It's a german film from the 1930's about the criminal organization trying to find a child murder and stars peter lorre. If you're into Noir, you should check it out).

The story involves a meager cashier named Chris Cross(Edward G Robinson), who happens to paint in his free time, and falls for a lay-about girl named Kitty(Joan Bennett), who herself is in love with no-good talkative thug Johnny(Dan Duryea). Things start to heat up when Chris spends more and more time with Kitty and Johnny tries to get Kitty to take poor meager Chris for all he's worth.

I have a real love hate relationship with this movie. I love the dialogue but I hate the pacing. I love the characters but I hate their personalities. I love the story but I hate how it unfolds.

The biggest problem I have with the story is that it involves painting and artists and as an artist it struk a real chorde. I suppose this should make it a good movie, but I just can't see any artist doing the things Chris does.

See Chris is actually a great painter, but Kitty wants to get money for Johnny, so he sells the paintings and tells an art critic SHE'S the artist, so she just goes along with it and steal's Chris's hard work. Then Chris finds out and beats the unholy crap out of her and...oh no wait he's completely ok with it and lets her sign her name.


WHAT?! Who would do that?! I just...I don't even...ugh. I was really hoping this would cause a change in him from meager Chris to badass gangster Edward G. Robinson, but no, not really.

Robinson does a great job with his part. You can really feel how small and meager and subordinate he is. Most movies have a character like this so they can have a dramatic change throughout the movie and really overcome their shortcomings, but in this case Chris is a pretty static character. Even when things get REALLY rough, he's still that meager bank clerk. I suppose this is the meaning of the story, that people can't really change who they are.

The rest of the cast members do a stand up job with their respective roles with Dan Duryea standing out. You really do hate the guy. The problem I see is that they add too many characters to the story and it just clutters it up and slows it down.

The cinematography and writing really shine through. The copy I had was pretty damn grainy, which actually helped make the shadows all the more menacing. The dialogue is top notch and pure noir wisecracking. "What's going on, Lazy Legs?" What I couldn't stand was the pacing, everything just dragged on forever. I found myself being entertained by the characters talking while simultaneously wondering when the scene was going to end.

The ending was not what I was expecting, which is both good and bad. Characters got their comeuppance and it actually makes sense for the characters and the world they inhabit, and even had a nice little ironic twist. The problem was that it dragged on too long. The movie had about 6 endings.

Overall I enjoyed Scarlet Street, it had great acting, sharp dialogue, an interesting story and masterful cinematography, it just dragged on for far too long. I'd give it a nice 34 out of 48. Recommended for the noir buffs out there but I don't know if I'd watch it again.