Most everyone below the age of 80 has made friends online. And going beyond friends many have started, sometimes disastrous- sometimes sublime, romantic relationships at social networking sites. The nature of such relationships is subtly different from relationships begun in person. But really, despite the dreams of middle aged, recently divorced types everywhere, mostly you just meet friends.
I have made some close friends online, people I consider very good friends in fact. All of these people I have, eventually, met in person at some point and that is the trick. How many of the people you have as “online friends” do you ever actually meet?
I digress, but not too far from the point; Catfish is the point. Catfish is a new film by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman and I might be the first to really get at the nature of internet relationships. It is a film that you think is about one thing, then another and then you realize what it is really about. Honestly I am not sure I would have gone to see it had I known more about it and that would have been my loss. I am at pains to not divulge anything about the movie here (critics have been more ham-fisted but then, about half of them didn’t seem to GET the film even if they liked it).
Catfish is a documentary but the sort of personal documentary that we might now associate with “reality” television. It does a much those monstrosities never do. It is humane, sensitive and actually real. The ultimate aim of the film is to inform and to make the think, not play gotcha and make the audience feel superior to the film’s subjects. It is a film with empathy. I am not going to say anything else and you should not read anything more about this movie before you go to see it. But GO to see it.
Great documentaries are rare these days. They often are extended, ego-driven opinion pieces that conveniently ignore uncomfortable information (can you say “Michael Moore”). They tend to be grandiose in scale but overly simplistically in dealing with the broad issues they approach. The best documentaries deal with broad issues by focusing in on small ones. They get at the macro by looking at the micro. Films like My Brother’s Keeper and Grizzly Man do this and both are great films. Catfish is different but it is in the same class. It looks more low-budget and that seems to confuse some critics and viewers but the camera work is not at issue (and considering how it is shot the camera work is quite good). Please note, me saying you are “as good” as either of these documentaries is about as high praise as I can give.
Just go see it and at the point where you start to roll your eyes in the movie, trust me, it turns into something more. You should be thinking about your life and your relationships the entire time you are in the theater. I saw it with my 13 year old son and I hope he took a lesson or two from the film. There are several valuable ones there about judging people, about the internet and more.
is, in fact, not a movie by M. Night Shyamalan
. He wrote the story but not the screenplay. He co-produced but did not direct. Yet there were reports of audiences BOOING when his name was mentioned in the previews. I have never heard anyone boo when names like Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay or, God help us all, Chris Columbus’ names are mentioned.
I assume this has to do with making three really good movies to start his career and then making a series of, if not horrible, certainly disappointing films to follow. I have seen all of them except The Last Airbender
and the only one that really made me want to poke out my eyes was The Village
(and I admit my reaction was overboard).
BUT as I noted, this ISN’T really an M. Night Shyamalan movie.
What it is, is a passable horror/suspense movie. It is moderately well written—don’t get me wrong it is not brilliant—and it moves along and never bores. It has a sort of theme; you have to ask for forgiveness to get it. But it never gets deep or preachy. This is a good thing in a horror movie. And this may not be a horror movie REALLY. If you want to split hairs it is more of a suspense movie. You wait for things to happen.
There are stereotypes. There are eye rolling lines. There are even a few “oh lord why would they do that moments” (but surprisingly few of these). The director has an annoying tick wherein he seems to think making the screen go solid black for extended periods is SPPPPOOOOKY (it isn’t). The film might have benefited from a more low budget approach. The “big”, clean and clear way the film is shot doesn’t lend itself to the overall mood of the picture. Instead of making the screen go black, why not go for just really low light a la Rec
And just once, just ONCE, in a movie like this I would like to see some underling who is sent to the basement to check on something say…”Nah. I don’t think so. NOT going into the basement. I’m out. I quit, check you on the flip side.”
is JUST good. It isn’t special but it is a professional product. They tried to make a watchable movie. Many horror films don’t. Yhey cynically remake Friday the 13th , which wasn't particularly good to begin. Go to see Devil
at a matinee for $5 or a third run theater in a couple of weeks. Maybe that is what movies from Night Chronicles
--a production "entity" that will produce a series of supernatural thrillers--are about? Maybe they will make some quality medium budget horror movies that are not just the normal, awful slasher movie fare? I hope so anyway!
I got to Machete
It was over a week after it came out that I finally made it to the theater. I thought I might be disappointed. I wasn’t. Frequently, I go on about how when you go to see certain movies you should expect what you get. When a movie gives you MORE than that is when it gets above just “good.” It doesn’t mean it is groundbreaking. It doesn’t mean it is a classic but it does mean SOMETHING.
Machete goes beyond what you expect and, in one way at least, breaks ground. Machete is the first Mexploitation film. Now, I have never been a big fan of the term “blaxploitation.” The term was a take on the older “exploitation” term but it implies exploitation of black actors. Gordon Parks
and Melvin Van Peebles
were not exploiting anyone in my book. Machete
’s plot is like any good exploitation film (or Kung Fu movie). Friends/family are killed, necessitating vengeance.
One thing that Robert Rodriguez
does is edit out one normal part of such a movie, a part where the protagonist “trains” or recovers. That is always boring and Rodriguez dispenses with that in its entirety.
Good movies are made by the little things. And one of the little things that stand out is a brief scene wherein henchmen discuss why it is they work for their evil boss. After all he is an asshole! Funny and surprisingly subtle for a movie called “Machete.”
Another “little thing"? You know the now obligatory action movie scene where someone jumps out a window with a rope, fire hose, whatever and then swings into another window? Imagine, instead of using rope the protagonist uses someone’s intestines.
Numerous small cameo roles (Tom Savini, for instance) also add where, in other films, they might distract. Actors who come off in small roles better than you might expect include Steven Segal (whose last scene is pretty hilarious). Don Johnson as a vigilante immigrant hunter also chews up the scenery with gusto.
It is silly. It self consciously uses ever cliché from every exploitation movie of every variety ever made. Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino have been trying for some time to update these movies and this may be the most successful attempt.
The blaxploitation films were all about the oppression of the man and often painted ludicrous pictures of conspiracy theories. Rodriguez does the same in this movie, drug dealers, vigilantes and Texas politicians are all in bed together. Some villains escape from death so they can be killed more ironically later.
It all moves along nicely, even if you cringe a little at some brief Danny Trejo love scenes (poor, poor Jessica Alba) but those are brief and Trejo seems a little stiff and embarrassed in them. But they HAVE to be in the movie. Those scenes are ALWAYS in these movies.
Whenever it starts to slow a little, there is a gun battle, explosions or choppings. The film certainly has the requisite number of machete beheadings and de-limbings for a film under this moniker. Characters appear and are dispatched.
And it ends on an almost Grapes of Wrath note with Trejo in the Tom Joad role….ok..ALMOST ends that way. Tom Joad didn’t have a chopper.
The problem with Resident Evil: Afterlife isn’t that it is bad. If you go to see a Resident Evil movie and walk out whining about how it is BAD then you need punched right in the mouth. It is a RESIDENT EVIL movie. It is supposed to be bad. The problem with “Afterlife” is that it isn’t bad enough. The plot doesn’t exist but it isn’t ludicrous. I want convoluted. I want complete nonsense. Twists and turns and characters who appear in the same scene wearing different clothes and with different haircuts. I want to walk out asking myself; "What the fuck was THAT". The acting alsoisn't nearly bad enough Everyone is at least competent and possessed of the ability to deliver hackneyed pointless dialog with some level of enthusiasm and a straight face. When I go to see Resident EVIL I want BAD ACTING. I mean Lorenzo Lamas bad. I want the cast of the O.C. bad. There is one exception to the tolerable acting in this film, the main bad guy (whose name I couldn’t even find on IMDB). Usually you have to watch a youtube video made by an 11 year old to see acting like this tuna tosses out. He wears sunglasses a lot. I figure this is because the director thought he would look more ominous and less like a constipated underwear model. He is fantastic, His clipped, mannered speaking voice with hints of accents from around the globe makes Al Pacino in Scarface sound like an actual Cuban. He makes David Boreanz in Buffy the Vampire Slayer sound Irish. I imagine he came by these vocalizations after a conversation with the director that went something like this-- “Hey, do you think you could, I don’t know, try to sound like Hugo Weaving from the Matrix?” says the director. “unnn uhhh…Keanu Reeves?” says stone-faced actor. “No, HUGI WEAVING…the guy who says ‘Mr. Anderson’” all the time. The agent.” “My agent? Huh? He is in Bermuda…” says stone-faced actor. “No the computer guys who kill everyone, the guys in suits” “My agent has nice suits….” The result , at least in the first scene, is like a drunk frat boy imitating Hugo Weaving. Now I am unfairly impinging this gentleman’s intelligence. I mean you can be smart and a bad actor. This guy might be Dolph Lundgren (Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering). ANYWAY. Back to why this movie isn’t bad enough. When you go to see a bad monster movie with zombies you expect fights, and lots of them. with zombies. There just are not nearly enough zombie-fights. Likewise, there are not nearly enough heads exploding or being lopped off. At least they do not add dialog, plot or any stupid ass love story. Then there are the zombies themselves. Zombies are inherently scary enough. You do not need to “jazz them up” by having some sort of squid come out of their mouth. Just let them bite and tear people apart like they did in Zombieland, EVERY Romero zombie flick or Shaun of the Dead. Umbrella Corporation is also lame. Kill them off for God’s sake. Fight zombies, not guys with too much mouse. The one thing that is bad enough is the 3D. It lives up to my expectation of badness, lameness, sheer cheapness and amateurishness. I expected better when the ads harp on “Real 3D”. Mercifully they were lying. The 3D is bad enough for a Resident Evil movie. So do not go to see this movie expecting it to be hilariously bad and violent. It is just sort of ho-hum. And MILLA JOVOVICH IS IN IT. She is awesome no matter what. I love her and it isn’t just because she is pretty. Lots of pretty women annoy me. Have you ever heard her music? Her first album, The Divine Comedy, is genius (I am not being sarcastic). Initially do you know why I bought it? Because I read all the reviews that said “I took this review so I could make fun of her and I am mad because it is awesome.” That is sort of like what I wanted from Resident Evil: Afterlife except that I hoped for awful and wound up with mediocre.
I am usually not really sure what the world needs but one thing it could certainly use are more movies like, Get Low
It isn't just a great cast , subtle, clever writing or the beautiful, unselfconscious cinematography. I just think we could use more movies about redemption, about forgiveness and about responsibility. These are the themes the movie is ultimately about. It focuses on them and refuses to be drawn into side tracks. It doesn't talk about race. It doesn't get into rural poverty. It is about what it is about.
The basic plot centers on an old hermit (Robert Duvall) who comes to town to pay for a funeral he wishes to hold while he is still alive. There is a reason beyond the surface reason for this and, gradually, so does everyone else.
Saying the lead actors put in superlative performances is redundant. When was the last time you saw Duvall or Sissy Spacek phone one in? Bill Murray who does sometimes phone them in (in my opinion anyway) is subtle and doesn't chew on ANY scenery. It is like watching him in his better roles through the years.
I saw this film in a theater were the average age was 100. And that was skewed down by the fact I had my 13 year old son with me. When the movie ended he turned to me and said "That was a good movie." He is a big fan of Transformers too but he, and I suspect many other kids, would be just as likely to find the appeal in well made, funny, touching films like Get Low