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Where The Wild, Sad, Hopeful Things Are October 16, 2009

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Where The Wild Things Are

Where The Wild Things Are is not for kids. It’s an adult adaptation made for people who read the book, cherish it and grew up.

It’s not a fun, whimsical adventure on an island full of furry creatures, but a supremely powerful art film whose resonance is entirely dependent on your own childhood experiences. That’s the biggest “X” factor for this film. What you bring into Where The Wild Things Are will determine what you get out of it, and unlike many other instances where this happens, you can’t really control this one.

It’s a movie made for people who grew up with the book and not something I’d immediately recommend to children. You have to grow up to appreciate what director Spike Jonze created. But if you had a troubled childhood, if you ever felt like a loner and nobody understood you, Where The Wild Things Are has the potential to really speak to you.

It did for me.

It’s often a sad movie, but a lovely and inspired one.


American Movie — Could This Have Been Me? August 7, 2009

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Rarely do you watch a story and think to yourself, “if things had gone a tad different, that could have been me.”

I found myself deeply sympathizing with the focus of American Movie, a 1999 documentary chronicling the creation of a homegrown horror movie called Coven by would-be Milwaukee suburban filmmaker Mark Borchardt. Even though Borchardt is a consummate drunk whose life priorities are a sloppy mess, the PRB-fueled man with a camera has such passion to make the movie of his dreams.

Man, I can relate. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wanted to sit down and write a movie script, whether something as banal as Puppet Master or Hellraiser sequels (my very own, “man, I know I can do better than that moments” that I’ve never executed on) or executing on a short story based on pages and pages of scribbled notes during boring college courses. Like most, however, I’ve never followed through.

Borchardt followed through, usually to a fault. In spite of the notable consequences — rising debt, ignored personal relationships, questionable parenting — it was motivation I can’t help but respect. It’s what makes American Movie such a touching two hour drama, what stirred me to feel as though, in a different world, I could have been Borchardt.

Ironically, my tastes do not linger long past Borchardt’s own. Borchardt loves violent movies with a fervor he can’t explain to anyone, even the people (mostly his family), financing his endeavors. I’m cut from the same cloth, a person with a self-admittedly peculiar interest in, well, seeing death portrayed on film. The reasons I enjoy constant absorption of such macabre content is a discussion left for another day.

Even though I’m not Borchardt, at least the PBR part can become our common bond. And death. And film. And hope.

(These are cross-posts from my Tumblr blog, which I mainly use for my own personal writing.)

‘Quantum of Solace’ — ‘Casino Royale’ It Is Not November 21, 2008

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http://www.edopter.com/images_user/ideas/200807/bUnJHD“Casino Royale” is an excellent film. I haven’t seen much James Bond outside of Pierce Brosnan (of which only “GoldenEye” is worth remembering), but “Casino Royale” was something different. It was just a damn good movie, and Daniel Craig proved Bond didn’t have to be just a sarcastic womanizer.

Unfortunately, “Quantum of Solace” is not nearly as interesting as Craig’s debut role as 007. It’s not his fault; he doesn’t have much to work with in the sequel. “Quantum” feels very much like the action-oriented second-part in a trilogy that was started with “Casino Royale,” but as someone who rarely pays for a movie in theater (thanks, Netflix!), I expect something a little more ambitious. “Quantum” struck me as a made-for-TV Bond flick on the big screen.

It didn’t help that you needed an intimate knowledge of the events and characters in “Casino Royale,” a movie I saw over a year ago, to have any pay-off with the subplots in “Quantum.” That’s partially my fault, I suppose, but when Bond movies have always been self-contained adventures, it wouldn’t have hurt to have “Quantum” provide a little context for the reader. Not to say “Quantum”‘s plot isn’t likely to seem convoluted even with context.

But still, Craig embodies the role of Bond and all he needs is a killer script the next time out. It’s just too bad we have to wait a few years before we, hopefully, see another glimpse at the greatness in “Casino Royale.”

Oh, and fire whoever thought Jack White was a good pick for the theme song — and I like Jack White. Seriously, yikes.

‘Funny Games’ Makes Me Wonder Why I Like Horror October 20, 2008

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When some other friends came to visit over the summer,  one asked me a question that I haven’t been able to satisfyingly answer to myself — why do you like to be scared?

Not sure. Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush. Or perhaps it’s a way of laughing and coping with a fear of death. There could be all sorts of reasons I’m not even consciously aware of. But it’s when I enjoy watching movies like “Funny Games” that make coming to any sort of reasonably rationale conclusion even more difficult.

“Funny Games” is a remake of a German horror film I haven’t seen. Like “Them,” which I talked about not too long ago, it’s about a home invasion. But whereas “Them” relished in mystery and dark shadows, everything that happens in “Funny Games” is out in the open, in your face. “Funny Games” chronicles two guys (kids? teens?) that torment a mother (Naomi Watts), father (Tim Roth) and their son over the course of 12 hours.


There is no humor. You never laugh. There is, briefly, a glimmer of hope for the ending before the next plot twist squashes it. People die and the tormentors take great joy in it. I later discovered the plot twists that perplexed me along the way were the director’s way of commenting on society’s obsession with violence in the media — i.e. why is the news always so depressing?! — but it never came through that way to me.

Instead, “Funny Games” came across as a torture film, but not in the same sense as “Hostel,” which hopes to horrify you with realistic-looking special effects. All of that happens off-camera in “Funny Games.” It’s actually the on-screen delight of the main villains that makes “Funny Games” so terrifying. These people, if you can even call them that, feed off the emotional destruction of others. You want to run through the TV and kill them yourself.

But you can’t. And maybe that’s part of the reason horror movies are so entertaining to me, even ones like “Funny Games,” which I’d be hard pressed to say I “enjoyed.” They get a reaction out of me. I get emotional to the point that I want to write something down and express it here. Horror makes me feel alive.

‘Them,’ Reinforcing The Belief That Foreign Horror Is Currently King October 9, 2008

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https://i2.wp.com/www.toxicshock.tv/news/wp-content/uploads/them_ver2_poster.jpgI have a hard time thinking of something scarier than home invasion.

The idea of someone invading my house or apartment disturbs me in a seriously profound way. A home invasion takes something you otherwise consider sacred and safe — your home — and transforms it into a potential death trap. Do you know how you’d escape your own place?

Last night, Katie and I took in a viewing of “Them,” a French horror film that was the inspiration for “The Strangers,” a horror movie starring Liv Tyler that was released earlier this year. I haven’t seen “The Strangers” yet. I’ve heard it’s a good movie. But I’d be hard pressed to believe it could be freakier than the material it took inspiration from.

Without moving into spoiler territory, the basic premise is a home invasion in the countryside by invaders unknown. You don’t know who they are or what they want. The concept of most horror movies is intended violence prefaced with a derived specific personal joy. That doesn’t exist in “Them.” There is no reason for why this is happening. In fact, it’s not a spoiler to say you never discover that reason by the end of the movie. Not in any clear fashion, anyway.

That’s the scariest part of the movie.

You can check out “Them” on American DVD. “The Strangers” comes out on DVD soon, too. If it’s on par with “The Strangers,” that’d be fantastic, but “Them” backs up my personal belief that the horror pendulum shifted to foreign cinema a few years ago and has yet to be reigned in.

The tragedy of Clive Barker’s ‘Midnight Meat Train’ October 5, 2008

Posted by patrick.klepek in clive barker, hellraiser, horror, movies.
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“Hellraiser” is my favorite horror movie of all time.

Produced on a shoe-string budget and defying traditional genre conventions, it’s a movie that still holds up today. The special effects are a little goofy but add to the charm. “Hellraiser” is what introduced me to author Clive Barker, a man whose literary talents I’ve enjoyed ever since. It’s no surprise, then, that I’m always anxious for the next adaptation of his works.

He’s sadly removed himself from directing his own material anymore, but nonetheless remains involved in them. He worked very closely on the latest, “Midnight Meat Train.” A photographer accidentally stumbles upon the trail of a late-night serial killer who transports the bodies of the deceased through New York’s underground metro. He becomes obsessed with exposing the killer for who he is. From there…it gets pretty weird.

“Midnight Meat Train” is far from a perfect work. It adds superfluous details to the short story for the sake of stretching the run time to over an hour. The movie suffers because of that, but Katie still enjoyed herself, despite having not read the short story, so perhaps I’m just too close to the material.

But the story moves as a brisk pace, paints a wonderfully intimidating and mysterious villain and brilliantly makes the viewer look in one direction…until the ending cold clocks you and forces you to look the other.

The movie’s distributor, Lionsgate, tried to bury the release of “Midnight Meat Train” in its theatrical run. I never had a chance to see it on a big screen. That’s too bad; horror movies are made for that. But thankfully, Lionsgate at least partnered with Comcast and is offering “Midnight Meat Train” for free — even in high-definition. If you’re a horror buff, it’s worth checking out. It’s not the greatest horror movie ever made, but it’s a damn good one.

movies at a glance: Tropic Thunder August 23, 2008

Posted by patrick.klepek in Comic Con 08, lolz, movies, photos.
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For the first Friday that kt has had off in a while — her new job is working out wonderfully, by the way — we decided to play a few hours of LEGO Indiana Jones (we finished playing through all the stages for Raiders of the Lost Ark) and take in a latenight showing of Tropic Thunder.

To be honest, I was slightly disappointed. It wasn’t the movie’s fault. I decided to see Tropic Thunder after the waves of praise came billowing from Facebook, Twitter and friends. Tropic Thunder was really funny, but not the joke-a-second I was expecting. That said, Robert Downey Jr. nailed his character in this. You couldn’t even tell it was him for most of the movie! You could have told me it was a different entirely and I would have believed you.

Seeing the movie made me want to pop in Zoolander

Slowly but surely, kt and I are catching up on movies. All that’s left is to catch a showing of Step Brothers sometime soon, and we’ll be pretty much caught up. Of course, we still haven’t seen There Will Be Blood — all the milkshake jokes have gone over my head — but it’s in our Netflix queue…

movies at a glance: “The Incredible Hulk” June 18, 2008

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The Incredible Hulk: I should probably preface this with the idea that I actually did enjoy Ang Lee‘s Hulk from a years back. Without any real knowledge of Hulk as a character, I thought it worked brilliantly (barring the mutant dogs) until the bizarre ending sequence. But I knew that serious encapsulation of the character could never last.

People want to see “Hulk smash!”And I don’t blame them; The Incredible Hulk is spectacularly enjoyable as a monster fest. The story is shallow and Edward Norton seems bored through most of the flick (hardcore fans seem to be describing his perfmance as “weighted,” but I didn’t see it), but the “Hulk smash!” factor is through the roof, and it’s worthwhile for that alone. It’s truly a movie that benefits from seeing it on the big screen and watching the downtown destruction ensue.

Just check your brain at the door.

i heart wall-e May 16, 2008

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zOHmahgawd Friday the 13th Part 6 Rules March 9, 2008

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kt and I still have another 30 minutes to go with Friday the 13th: Part VI, but based on time we spent with the film last night, it is easily, easily the best installment in the franchise since the original. And it’s probably better than that.

Alice Cooper did the friggin’ soundtrack and title song: “He’s Back (Man Behind The Mask)”