Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top Fifty Films of the Decade.

Making a list of your favorite 50 films of the decade is incredibly annoying. It takes too long, and you inevitably reach a point where a third of the list is entirely interchangeable with other films. But I did it. Mostly because I was almost done by the time I realized I should have stopped at the top 25. Keep in mind that I was thirteen when the decade started, hadn't yet kissed a girl and spent more than half of the decade focused on that goal. It took that long to realize that movies are more interesting than women, and at that point I was too far behind to see every good film this decade. As a result, a lot of good films are not on this list because I didn't see them or didn't have the time to watch them again, but also because a lot of movies that you think are good most certainly aren't. So here is my list of my favorite films of the decade, which is a balance of quality and personal bias, because the best of the decade would have been about 50% different, but not nearly as fun. There's probably about fifteen films on this list that I could have swapped out with other things I omitted, but I consider the top thirty or so to be quite accurate. I also must apologize in advance for not being as humorous as usual, I'm much more on my game when I despise something.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Recycled Piece of Cinema.

Tony Stark goes back in time to flirt with Jude Law and kill zombies.

Dear Guy Ritchie,

I thought your endless string of crap was over. I thought you had redeemed yourself for the train wreck that was Revolver. That maybe you had finally made a movie that wasn't a complete piece of trash.

You failed. Not that Sherlock Holmes deserves to be thrown out entirely, but you made the most promising trailer of the year out of a film that is essentially a well-polished piece of trash that we've all seen a thousand times. Don't get me wrong; I expected some recycling. But the dialogue is cliched and tired, the plot is tedious, and I half expected Robert Downey Jr. to put on a metallic suit and fly to Iraq. We might as well just accept that Tony Stark was Sherlock Holmes in a previous life. Robert Downey Jr.'s "unique spin" on Sherlock Holmes is certainly unique to the character, but it's not a unique character; we all saw Iron Man last year and it was a hell of a lot better than Sherlock Holmes.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar: Somehow Didn't Suck.

Ewan McGregor dies, so his crippled twin brother (Sam Worthington) shows up.

Dear James Cameron,

Somehow, Avatar wasn't the giant turd everyone thought it was going to be. It was actually quite exceptional, even with your obligatory James Cameron dialogue.

Avatar was supposed to be worthless aside from the special effects. I was shocked to find myself actually intrigued by the inner workings of your childhood wet dream; you like giant chicks, eh? Oh, and those blue ones too; not just Sigourney Weaver. Seriously, Sigourney Weaver is huge.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Necessary Interjection: If You Release Crap, at Least Make Original Crap.

"If you don't protect that quarterback, you better start pushin' drugs, boy."

I haven't written any letters lately. I apologize. However, there has been an underwhelming amount of film that has required my attention lately. Now don't get me wrong. There have been some bad films released. Unfortunately, most of them were so obviously bad that I could in no way justify spending money just to infuriate myself. So, if you saw 2012, Precious, Old Dogs, Boondock Saints II, Twilight, or The Blind Side, it's your fault not mine; you should have known better. Let's face it, you've seen all these movies before in some form or another. I, for one, do not wish to pay money to see them again.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Fake Kind, or Jovovich Goes PG-13.

Dear film studios,

Please stop making fictional films and advertising them as based on real events. I understand that if people think something is based on a true story--especially one involving aliens or ghosts--they are more likely to see it, but you're constructing a false reality that gullible human beings are going to accept as fact. It's not this film in particular that worries me, but I'm starting to wonder where you're going to draw the line. You have the money and the influence to completely rewrite history, and a large majority of Americans are too dumb to even consider you might be lying to them.

Now, I realize I just described the government, but c'mon! You're better than them, aren't you? You're just a couple of guys looking to make a quick buck. Wait...are you the government?

But anyway, The Fourth Kind was hyped pretty well. People thought it was real; a lot still do. A quick google search will debunk that claim. If Dr. Abigail Tyler actually exists, she needs to show up on a talk show and show us some ID.

I do like the marketing campaign, and the hype surrounding the film; but it would have been nice to have some honesty--maybe after the credits? I'm not that big of a fan of after-the-credits content, but I like to imagine Ashton Kutcher showing up after the film and letting everyone know that they got Punk'd.

Anyways, forget marketing. Forget the lying scum that is Hollywood. Forget what happened that weekend your uncle babysat you...

The Fourth Kind was entertaining. Granted, I just saw The Box so I probably would have thought I Know Who Killed Me was entertaining too; but The Fourth Kind kept me intrigued. It certainly had its problems: The sheriff character was absolutely ridiculous, the broken fourth wall was a contrived cheap shot, and the dialogue was nothing to be proud of. However, the combination of "archive" footage and dramatization intertwined nicely to create a pseudo-documentary atmosphere that kept the film at a nice pace. I think enjoyment of the film hinges on whether you approve or disapprove of this stylistic choice.

This film will likely be panned by many for the wholehearted assertion that it is based on true events, when it is in fact complete fiction. But if one were to assess the film on its own merits, I can't see any reason to drastically raise or lower it above or below any other film of its kind. Due to the timeliness of its release, it will likely be compared to Paranormal Activity which everyone (except my sister apparently) knew was fake from the get-go. The "documentary" footage of Paranormal Activity was still unsettling to many, so there's no real reason to discredit The Fourth Kind just because it's claim of a realistic portrayal is a hoax.

Anyway, I was entertained. I don't really care about this one. Say what you want, masses. The only real purposes of this film are to entertain and to stimulate the viewer's thoughts on whether aliens exist or not. It's not that stimulating. Especially without Milla Jovovich's industry standard full frontal shot.

P.S. Maybe we should question Roman Polanski on the whereabouts of Tyler's daughter.

P.P.S. Yes, I used both the "forgettable" and "worth seeing" tags. Aren't most movies both those things?

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Box, or Surprise! No time travel!

Dear Richard Kelly,

I cannot believe it. You made a movie without bringing up time travel. But after seeing The Box, and wishing Cameron Diaz had been locked in one, I really wish I could go back in time two hours and kill my past self before he had to watch it. Actually, I wouldn't because I'm a pimp. And pimps don't kill themselves.

Damn, Southland Tales was good! But, Richard... The Box was most certainly not. I mean, it was funny for the first forty-five minutes or so. Every time Cameron Diaz mysteriously lost her accent, I smiled. Every time a random character stared sadistically at James Marsden for no real reason, I chuckled. But when the film brought the big guns and let James Marsden's mind wander towards philosophy, there were tears streaming down my face due to my exorbitant laughter. This comic gem really knows how to get the laughs. Oh wait, all of that was unintentional. The audience was supposed to take this film seriously. I think that may be the best joke of all.

Here is some actual dialogue from the movie: (a rough, yet accurate, quotation)

Cameron Diaz: So, someone we don't know will die?
James Marsden (gazes dreamily at the ceiling): What does it really mean? To know someone?
He stares intensely at Cameron, who obviously cannot pull off her 35 year old character.
James Marsden: Do you know me?
Cameron Diaz: (without hesitation): Better than you know yourself.
James Marsden: Do you know...Walter? (their son).
Cameron Diaz: (slowly and softly, feeling a tingling in her--I mean, the--box): Better than I know you.

But seriously, all screen directions aside, that is the actual dialogue. This is straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel! After the couple pressed the button, they should have time-traveled forty years into the future where an elderly James Marsden reads the story of "The Box" to an elderly Cameron Diaz; in hopes that she would remember their time together... even if just for a moment...

Wipes tear from his eye. Wait, what are we talking about? Oh yeah, let's summarize The Box, Richard. Make sure I've got everything straight:

So there's this couple who, according to Cameron Diaz's accent, is sometimes Southern and sometimes not. They're in a hard spot financially, because James Marsden won't quit his dead end job at NASA and Cameron Diaz didn't win enough money in her lawsuit against the doctor who X-rayed her toes off. As a result, they only have one convertible, and they might have to--heaven forbid--take their son out of private school.

Then, Harvey Dent comes to their house with a proposition: Press this button and two things will happen. First, someone in the world, whom you don't know, will die. Second, I will give you one million free (take that, government!). Cameron Diaz then makes the obvious choice and presses the button. She gets a million dollars. Win.

But then, Harvey Dent starts following the couple around; seemingly because they are inquiring to others about his identity, but really because he was planning on doing so all along. Some people get nose bleeds, some other bullshit happens, and then James Marsden meets the man who last received the box. Turns out, this man has killed his wife in order to save his daughter. Wait, could this be a clue to what is going to happen at the end of the film?!?!?!?! Yes, that much punctuation was necessary. So, blah, blah, blah, it turns out that Harvey Dent was sent by God (or aliens, take your pick) to test the human race. Needless to say, we're failing miserably. James Marsden shoots Cameron Diaz (thank God) in order to save his son's sight and hearing. James Marsden goes to jail and Harvey Dent continues to be disgusted with humanity.

Now, Richard. Don't be offended, but the reason I refer to large portions of the plot as "bullshit" is that these scenes have no real bearing on the plot at all. You used the library scene because you wanted the film to be creepy, and also because if the film didn't have time travel, it at least needed portals. The kidnapping of the son is a tense moment, but also goes nowhere. Every time there is an opportunity for something interesting to happen, the characters black out and end up back at their house.

Let's not even talk about the movie for a moment. Let's talk about the box. Would you press the button? The obvious choice is "yes." First of all, in a logical world, if a dude showed up and told you that a simple box could kill someone, you'd laugh in his face. If he offered you a million dollars, you'd laugh in his face, press the button, and take his money. And if it turned out that it did actually kill someone, no all-knowing omnipotent being could really blame you for thinking it was a joke.

But let's say that you did believe that the box would kill someone. Two-face didn't tell you that you would actually cause the death. He just said that when you press the button someone would die. The world is a big place. I'm pretty sure that every time I touch anything someone in the world dies. So why shouldn't I get a million dollars for it?

And just so you know, the box in the movie didn't kill anyone either. According to the movie's logic, James Marsden would have shot Cameron Diaz even if the new couple hadn't pressed the button. What would have happened if the new couple hadn't pressed the button? I bet you don't even know, do you? Would Two-face show up and tell James Marsden to calm his ass down? It's still all bullshit, Richard.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Twilight, or The Looming Threat of the Sequel is Upon Us.

I've been debating with myself for a while now whether to start writing posts about films that aren't currently in theaters, and I really wanted to post an update about the Tooth Fairy trailer but I resisted the urge. But tonight at the bar, when someone mentioned that their Twilight: New Moon tickets had arrived in the mail today, I knew it was time to start revisiting the films of years gone by. In this case, a film of only one year gone by (I'm easing into it).

So, in a desperate attempt to avoid Saw VI, I watched Twilight and it inspired me to write an epic short story on film adaptations. I'm hoping to sell the rights to Paramount.

Hold on, Spider Monkey...


In 2008, the book Twilight was a living entity. Unfortunately, one night in a Border's bookstore, a DVD copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire snuck into the "teen angst" section and bit a copy of Twilight. As a result, Twilight was transformed, like the majority of the Harry Potter films, into a vampire.

When books become vampires, they don't thirst for blood. They thirst for box office earnings. And like most vampires, they are nearly unstoppable; no matter how hard us humans try to resist handing over our money. These newly formed creatures bear the same plot elements as their living book counterparts, but they possess super powers! Humans do not have to read them in order to learn what they are about. Instead, they possess the ability to travel incredible speeds of up to twenty-four frames a second and display themselves in full color while humans sit passively in seats...unable to resist...

However, being an empty shell of something alive has its low points. And in the case of adaptations like Twilight, the major downfall is simply that an empty shell of a film isn't very entertaining. These vampiric film adaptions have no heart, no soul. They are little more than stylish, animalistic, box-office killing machines, forced to suffer with their own monotony for all eternity...

The End.

I particularly like the ambiguous ending. But, I digress.

Twilight has terrible pacing, little character development, questionable character motivations, redundant and simple dialogue, and way too many time-wasting obligatory scenes that serve only to remain faithful to the book. There is more baseball in this movie than there is character development. Of course, the baseball scene is not an example of the previously mentioned because, after all, about fifty percent of the film's character development comes from the baseball scene.

So here is my call to filmmakers: Go ahead. Adapt the next best-selling book series into a film. But when you do, take the general idea of the book and throw the rest of the source material away. What drives me insane, is that the themes, characters, and rules of the diagetic world within Twilight (among other adaptations) could actually make a good movie; but not if you try to fit the entire book into two hours.
The problem with most book to film adaptations, is that the filmmakers tend to get so intent on making the book into a movie that they forget to add the content. So change it up! Make Edward gay for all I care. Or straight, I can't really tell which he is in the film. The point is, it is very unlikely that Hollywood is even capable of making a quality novel to film adaptation anymore and I'd appreciate it if you just took things in a new direction. Otherwise, we're just going to keep getting underdeveloped CGI-fests like Twilight, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings.

That's right. I said Lord of the Rings.

P.S. I've been waiting months for a chance to sneak the phrase "I digress" into one of these posts.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Where the Sleeping Theatre Goers Are, or Spike Jonze's New Music Video.

Dear Spike Jonze,

If I wanted to watch eight children argue, I would take up babysitting. Where the Wild Things Are will forever be my ultimate reminder why I do not.

Certainly you've captured the elaborate capacity of childhood imagination and accompanied it with a phenomenal soundtrack, but that, sadly, is about all the film has going for it. Perhaps you should have made a music video instead. Any relevant or entertaining content is so thinly disbursed between random fits of brattiness and fort building/dirt throwing/pile making/[insert random childhood action here], that I would classify Wild Things (Not to be confused with the Neve Campbell film) as surrealism if the events had any driving force behind them whatsoever. But nope; It's just some kids playing. Oh, and some of them happen to be giant furry things.

At least the climactic metaphor (Max's "birth" from KW) actually made sense and gave the film some semblance of closure, but every other action Max and the nonhuman characters partake in seems like an exercise in time wasting. Thank the heavens this was just over an hour and a half; any longer and I would have taken a nap. There's more indie music/random event combos in this than there were in Juno.

What bothers me the most is that the first fifteen minutes of Wild Things are great. Kid feels neglected, throws a hissy-fit and runs away: a fine articulation of childhood frustration. When Max arrives at the island, the frustration wanders off and is replaced with a mess of childhood imagination tied together by thinly veiled tidbits of Max's actual life. The problem with this, is that all the characters on the island are Max; in that they are figments of his imagination, and therefore cannot possess any capacity for thought or emotion beyond his own. As a result, all events on the island are shaped by a grade-school auteur, and the characters can do little more than behave like whiny children.

I held out with the hope that once Max returned home the film would dazzle me at the end (with at least a fuzzy moment to make me feel good), but no such luck. Max's final scene at home is shorter than the end credits. Apparently, when a child runs away he should be rewarded with cake.

P.S. KW is a total pothead.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Couple's Retreat: Vince Vaughn's Mid-Life Crisis.

Dear Vince Vaughn,

It's time someone said it: You might not have it anymore. It's okay! You had a streak for a while (Old School, Wedding Crashers, Dodgeball), but as of late, you've made mostly failures. In fact, I think you've been replaced by the Apatow kids. Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Segal, and Paul Rudd have been picking up your slack.

So what is it, man? Are you starting to feel your age? The last two films that I consider "Vince Vaughn" films--that weren't related to Christmas--have been wishy-washy romantic comedies that couldn't decide whether to focus on the romance or the comedy. That's right, you remember The Break-Up. So what is it? Did you look back on your career and all of a sudden decide that it needed more dramatic weight? Wasn't the Psycho remake enough dramatic weight for one career?!

Now I'm not saying your attempts at combining believable drama and comedy are a bad idea. And though your execution is way off mark, I'm grateful that it isn't in another time zone like Funny People was.

In Couples Retreat, your characters are at the same time stereotypes and caricatures. Jason Bateman is so over-the-top enthusiastic and task-orientated that I wanted to slap him; Jon Favreau is your standard washed-up high school jock whose only goal appears to be partying with the twenty-somethings that for some reason find him attractive (not possible); Faizon Love is the standard overweight black friend; Kristen Bell is the puppy dog trying to please Jason Bateman; and Kristen Davis reprises her Sex and the City role.

Only you--Vince Vaughn, in case you forgot who you were during your mid-life crisis--and Malin Akerman have characters with any semblance of depth; a couple with a self-described "average" marriage and a lot of little relationship problems that you two didn't realize needed fixing. These characters are really the only two that are suited for the drama you attempted to squeeze into Couples Retreat, and that is why it feels so out of place.

Couples Retreat is, always was, and will forever be established as a comedy. Jon Favreau wouldn't be caught masturbating in any other genre. And while the film is funny, the attempts to include realistic dialogue regarding the characters' love lives weigh the humor down instead of enhancing it. You can't have a nearly naked yoga instructor comically dry-hump the female characters, and follow it with a scene of the ladies lecturing Charlotte--I'm sorry; I mean Lucy--about how inappropriate it was. They were all there getting dry humped themselves! Is one dry hump worse than another? What a lazy segue into "serious relationship talk" time!

This is how the film went:

1) Sctanley with a "c" humorously berates everyone.
2) Serious relationship talk time.
3) Faizon Love isn't wearing underwear.
4) Serious relationship talk time.
5) Vince Vaughn fends off sharks with witty banter.
6) Serious relationship talk time.
7) Jon Favreau and Charlotte try to get happy endings from their respective masseuses.
8) Serious relationship talk time.
9) All relationships are suddenly in epic turmoil!
10) Guitar Hero
11) Sexy Fun Time beach party
12) All relationship problems are resolved.

The thesis of your film is that Guitar Hero and beach parties solve all relationship problems.

There was one point in your film (I think that's all) where you combined comedy and drama perfectly. It comes when your character lectures Jon Favreau about Applebee's. Not only was it one of the funniest speeches in the film, it highlighted a greater dramatic issue (No one wants to spend their life going to Applebee's alone) without the characters trying to describe their painfully simple emotions to us in too many stupid words. You can sneak poignant thoughts into comedy without being so serious about it! Subtlety is largely underrated and underused these days.

The fact is, your tendency to juxtapose drama and comedy instead of combining the two throws the film off kilter. You can make references and thoughts about real-life relationships with your comedy, instead of forcing the audience to watch comedians attempting to emote. If you want everyone to sit down and talk about their feelings, write a drama. Don't sandwich it between a naked guy and Jean Reno. The beauty of films like Dodgeball and Old School is that they focus solely on comedy; romance is an afterthought, if even a thought at all. If you wanted to write a real romantic comedy on a tropical island, you should have had Jason Segel write your script. Do better next time.

P.S. I'm still convinced that once Kristen Bell found out that this wasn't Forgetting Sarah Marshall 2, it was too late for her to drop out.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Invention of Lying, or If You Didn't Find It Funny You Should Stop Reading This Blog.

Dear Ricky Gervais,

Let me start by saying that I'm fairly upset that I don't have any angry letters to write this weekend. Well, so far; I haven't seen Whip It. I have high hopes that it's terrible. But between Zombieland and The Invention Of Lying, I have to say I'm quite pleased. Unfortunately, due to the strength of this weekend, I'm worried that people are going to miss out one of the few original comedies in a long time.

Every once in a while, someone writes a comedy that is actually unique (Pleasantville, Adaptation, Enchanted) and The Invention of Lying certainly fits into that category. Alternate universes really are a nifty trick, and it's unfortunate that they're usually wasted on the fantasy genre. Lord of the Rings would have been much more interesting if all the characters constantly told the truth. Imagine...

Frodo: Gandelf, your size and your beard are intimidating.
Gandelf: I'm sick of bending over to look at you. You're so tiny and worthless.
Sam: Why are we going to Mordor, Frodo? Wouldn't you rather be in bed; gently caressing each other?

No, never mind. That's pretty much how it went anyway.

But, I digress.

While the concept of Invention of Lying is original, it's also incredibly simple. By changing one aspect of the world, you've opened up unlimited opportunities for original comedy and social satire: The extra awkward first date; the coke-addict traffic cop; the most disgusting ice cream flavors you can think of; etc. etc. Honestly, the concept alone probably would have been enough to sustain a pretty decent comedy. But you take it a step further.

When Mark creates the concept of an afterlife (in a world without religion) to ease his dying mother's fears, the plot evolves into something far greater. The film becomes more than a simple gag, and as Mark's status as prophet continues to climb, the film's hilarity and social relevance follow suit. Initially, my reaction to this plot point (one of the main focuses of the film, actually) was to insinuate that the film was calling religion out as false. Thankfully, you flesh out the concept and manage to handle one of the touchiest topics possible with an impressive amount of respect.

The religion in the film is created to bring the people hope. It is not created out of hostility or for personal gain, but is inherently good; which reflects your intent to be more than a cheap crack at religion (if it was a cheap crack, you can tell me). Religion couldn't exist in the world of the film before Mark because it couldn't be proven. The film's universe has no capacity for abstraction, which is also highlighted by Anna's refusal to pursue a relationship with Mark. In Anna's mind, the rational reasons for marriage are to create offspring with desirable traits. Mark, being short and fat, lacks the physical features that would be genetically-inclined to create successful children. She likes him, but she has no means to weigh the value of her emotions, therefore she focuses on features linked to success.

Unfortunately, the setup of society's superficial tendency is one of the film's weaker points. Surely, Mark gets made fun of by many people, but the audience is never driven to believe that all people are treated a certain way based upon their looks. Then, suddenly towards the end, it is revealed that everyone hates fatties. Don't they have computer geeks who grow up to be millionaires in this world?

If the plot and romance had progressed more fluidly, I'd be comparing Invention of Lying to Groundhog Day right now. But you're severely outmatched in the romance department, because after all the amazing religious humor, Jennifer Garner really seemed like an afterthought. Your return to the romance narrative is actually one of the most awkward transitions in the film, maybe one of the most awkward transitions I've seen in a while. Had the romance and religion been entwined and contrasted better, Invention of Lying would be on its way to becoming a classic.

Instead it's just the funniest movie of the year, which is no small feat either. Well, actually...have there been any funny movies in 2009? There really have only been a couple, but don't let that take away from the fact that Invention of Lying is one of the funniest films I've seen in a long time.

P.S. Thank you for celebrity cameos.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Paranormal Activity, or An Epic Analogy of All Male Female Relationships.

Dear reader,

Honestly, Paranormal Activity is funnier than it is frightening, which works well to relieve tension, and to keep the film interesting during the scenes that aren't meant to scare the audience. The scares it does deliver, however, are mostly genuine; you aren't going to be forced to leap from your seat because of some cheap jump cut spliced together with a loud noise. The parts meant to disturb you are due to the film's images, not its editing techniques.

But all in all, it's not really going to be that frightening unless you're one of those people who goes into the theater knowing that you're going to be terrified for the rest of the night. Those of you who dare the film to scare you will grunt and shrug: "That wasn't scary, bro. I'm from Detroit." You know who you are.

You're not going to scream and pee your pants, but Paranormal Activity is still worth your time. It's engaging and suspenseful and definitely worth sticking around for the big finish at the end.

But that's not a letter to the filmmaker! I broke my own format! Formats are meant to be broken, children. Instead I decided to write a letter to the main character, Micah. After all, he is the cinematographer for most of the thing, right? Spoilers follow the cut, but let's be honest: Spoilers rarely ever spoil anything. You all will figure out what's going to happen before it happens anyway.

Dear Micah,

When your girlfriend tells you one day that she has been haunted by something since she was a little girl, you should dump her. Odds are that she's not really haunted, and this is your first sign that she's crazy. Okay, in your case, she actually had something haunting her, but is that really a better alternative? It can't turn out well either way.

But your story offers a striking tale of warning to anyone who decides to persue a relationship: Don't. It's a simple analogy. Boy and Girl fall in love and everything is dandy. Suddenly, a problem arises. Boy wants to solve the problem by filming it and picking it apart, but Girl just wants to ignore it in hopes that it will go away. But inevitably, they start trying to fix their problem; kill their demons if you will. This, of course, makes things worse and things spin wilder and wilder out of control until Girl turns into a demon and kills Boy.

Sigh...they all end the same.

P.S. When someone tells you not to use a Ouija board, do not use a Ouija board.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jennifer's Body: Attack of the Pretentious Giant-Thumbed Monster.

Dear Diablo Cody,

You seriously have an Oscar? I mean, I had my issues with Juno (most of which can be summed up by the abridged version of the script), but it was still entertaining. Yet, when the trailer for Juno 2: Jennifer's Body was released, I knew I was in for 2 hours of torture (and not the good kind that horror movies tend to include). In the back of my mind, I thought it could be mildly amusing but obviously I gave you too much credit.

Five minutes into Jennifer's Body the person next to me leaned over and said, "I hate this movie." Something about a bunch of kids walking around saying stupid words you've designed to sound hip just doesn't fly anymore. Your teenage girl language passed in Juno because it was the entire theme of the movie and it was actually funny. In Jennifer's Body, your writing reminds me of the retarded kid on the football team; it's trying so hard to do well, but it is fundamentally incapable of generating anything but a few chuckles, which the audience immediately feels guilty for emitting.

I have this picture in my head of your writing process; let me know if I have it right: You sit at your typewriter (because you're obviously too pretentious for computers), and outline the plot for whatever quirky movie you're writing. Next, you go back through and look for opportunities to insert dialogue that is so painfully quirky and hip that it sticks out like an awkward boner (except awkward boners are usually funny). Finally, you throw in a couple of puns and the absolute worst plot tie-ins of all time and you send your script off with a note attached: "Hey, I'm Diablo Cody. I have tattoos and used to be a stripper. This script is obviously offbeat, quirky and hip because I wear leopard-print clothing." Works every time.

For a horror movie, the basic premise of Jennifer's Body isn't that bad. Girl likes indie band fronted by Adam Brody. Adam Brody sacrifices girl to Satan. Girl becomes infused with a demon and has to feed on human flesh to survive. Whatever. It's a horror movie, I don't care. But your inciting incident is a fire that starts for no apparent reason. Hey, it's a good thing all the important characters were essentially the only people to survive the fire that started without any explanation! Wait, was the band like, so "salty" that their music started the fire? Stupidest damn fire I've ever seen. What astonishes me is that you actually managed to explain most of the weird stuff that happened in the film (sometimes well, sometimes poorly), yet the event most important to the plot is the most mysterious thing in the entire movie.

You explained Jennifer's affliction well. You explained why that stupid band got famous. But the never ending hole to nowhere? You just thought that was a cool idea, right? You don't think that if scientists were trying to figure out where it led, they would maybe put, I don't know, tracking devices in there? Maybe the mystery was better than the truth (it certainly would have been to the audience), and the didn't want to discover that it led to some stupid stream by the mental hospital. Also, most people won't complain, but what's with the random lesbian moment? Wait, I can answer that. You figured the only way to get people into the theater was to put Megan Fox in some sexy little boy shorts and have her kiss a girl. Some of us are above the age of fifteen. Besides, girls are gross. Five minutes of Sexploitation just detracts from the plot. And don't even try to argue it's a throwback to some other horror movie. You are not Quentin Tarantino.

There were some good moments. Thank God for Adam Brody and J.K. Simmons. The sacrifice scene was done so well that I thought I was watching a different movie. Of course, spontaneously bursting into song always has been my thing. And it's only worth mentioning because you tried so hard, but there were occasional one liners that were genuinely funny. "Haha box cutter," I thought then resumed frowning. But most of the dialogue blew, your characters swear way too much (it's not funny, it's cheap), and most of Jennifer's Body simply annoyed the piss out of me. Especially Megan Fox. She couldn't act her way out of a box made by a mime and she has gigantic thumbs. That's right Megan Fox; you have giant thumbs and I hope you never forget it.

Anyways, Brook...I mean Diablo (good pen name. It's much quirkier and it's the shizz). Do us all a favor and go back to stripping. Wait, I just google imaged you. Just retire. And maybe hook Megan Fox up with your old contacts at the Vu.

P.S. The Low Shoulder sign at the end? Really? Worst thing I've ever seen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Patrick Swayze: Off to Tame the Road House in the Sky.

Dear Patrick Swayze,

No matter what Kanye says, to me your death is the most upsetting of the year. You may not be as big a star as Michael Jackson, and of course your battle with cancer was well publicized so I knew the end was imminent, but you've given the world more than most celebrities ever will. Let's recognize your accomplishments.

-It was you who taught Ferris Bueller's sister to dance with passion. And I always believed you warned her never to get that nose job in the first place.
-It was you and Demi Moore who somehow made pottery sexy. Wait, pottery was always sexy. But you made it sexier; all the while prepping Whoopi Goldberg to win an Oscar. We all know who that Oscar really belongs to, Swayze.
-It was you who taught Keanu Reeves that when the man you're after turns out to be your friend, the only acceptable solution is to yell and shoot into the air.
-Seriously, Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar.
-It was you who taught me that I am simply a product of fear. And that I had so much more gusta that I could musta.
-You played the best Pecos Bill I've ever seen, and you ripped out a man's throat. In one career.

Seriously, Swayze. You've graced us with some classics. Michael Jackson may have written some songs or whatever, but who really listens to Michael Jackson? You were in Road House. Was Michael Jackson in Roadhouse? No, he was in Miss Castaway, which...No, wait a minute. I'd probably watch that. But that's not the point, Patrick! The point is: ROAD HOUSE! It's Dawson Leery's favorite movie! That's how you know it's good. David Carradine died this year as well, but most people only know him as that guy from Kill Bill anyway. I love David Carradine, but mean so much more. By the way, David Carradine wanted to be at your funeral, but obviously he couldn't make it. It's too bad. He was really dying to come.

I know not everyone is as big a Swayze fan as I am. And I know a lot of people find my David Carradine joke distasteful. (Chill out, people.) But in all seriousness--and I know there was a lot of fake seriousness earlier--it really was disappointing to hear that you passed. I think I always thought of you as immortal, untouchable. As if you didn't really have cancer, but cancer had Patrick Swayze. In the end it got you, and that makes me sad. But I know you're up there, smiling down on us, just daring Keanu to try and shoot you now.

P.S. Now who am I going to confuse with Kurt Russel?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Inglourious Basterds, or Tarantino's Ego 2: I Know A Lot About Nazis.

Dear Quentin Tarantino,

Do you think you're audience is stupid? Wait, I suppose you're right; most of your audience is probably stupid. But plenty of us are not, and your inability to let any subtle point stay subtle in Inglourious Basterds was borderline insulting to me. You point arrows to notable Germans to alert us to their importance. You find it necessary to spontaneously insert a split-second sex scene to provide background information that could have easily been inferred. And finally (for the purpose of this letter I won't list everything), you have Samuel L. Jackson explain to us why film burns. Of course film burns. I get the feeling that you simply wanted to point out your epic, unrivaled knowledge of cinema history...which you do constantly.

You are the worst name-dropper of all time. Over and over again, you have your characters tell us about German cinema in speeches that are sometimes so long that all I saw was you fellating yourself onscreen. " God! Quentin you are so knowledgeable!" It's the same thing you did with grindhouse films in Deathproof: Blatant after blatant reference like you're trying to impress a professor or something. It's unnecessary and pretentious. Just stick to subtle references, those don't make me want to hit you.

Now, Inglourious Basterds isnt a bad film, no matter how much the misspelling of the title makes me want to say it is. It is entertaining and at times, fantastic. But your lack of any emotional levity is simply tiresome. Everything is a joke, and the problem is that you've given us the same jokes repeatedly four films in a row. Okay, I'm sure many people find your little idiosyncrasies hilarious, but your capacity to completely ruin scenes with cheap jokes or stupid camera work astonishes me. IF I WANTED TO WATCH A B-MOVIE I'D WATCH A B-MOVIE! Grow up and make something worthy of the budget you are given.

For example, your opening scene: Jews under the floor boards. The excellent (he really was excellent) Christoph Waltz slowly berating the dairy farmer for information he already knows. It was a great start. Then Christoph Waltz pulls out the biggest pipe I have ever seen. The theater laughs, I groan, and the scene is ruined. Why can't you take anything seriously? Why can't a girl sit nervously in a room with the man who killed her entire family without you focusing the camera on strudel? I hate strudel! Strudel ruins scenes Tarantino. Your new nickname is "Strudel."

Your characters are nothing but stock caricatures of whatever you need them to be and none of them have more depth than a glass of water. The most diverse character in the entire film is the dairy farmer in the beginning and he's in the film for ten minutes. It is pathetic, easy filmmaking.

You did save the day with the fantastic scene in the basement bar. If this scene didn't exist, I wouldn't have thought twice about giving your film a 1/10 on IMDB (the worst insult, like, ever!) Holy Hell, this scene was fantastic! You capitalized perfectly on your "knowledge" (someone probably told you) of culture and of the various accents in your film. You did manage to throw in your interpretation of "King Kong" in there, but it was semi-plot relevant so I forgive you.

A lot of other people might be pissed at you too. I think most people are expecting an action film. I hate mindless action, but that's what you're good at! You're like Michael Bay with dialogue other than grunting. Unfortunately, the Basterds appearances are so rare that I occasionally forgot why the movie was named after them. . Much of the film moves at a slower pace than I expected, and it actually drags in spots. Now Im not saying its boring (occasionally its boring), but someone needs to get some balls and tell you to stop it with the drawn out speeches and scenarios. In a perfect world, you would have made this movie: 2 hours of Brad Pitt and friends killing people; of course taunting and giving their little speeches along the way. It would have been more fun that way. Then, you give the other half of the script (Shosanna s story) to a writer/director who has the capacity to produce substance and you have two good movies! What you have here is much more of a wishy washy, I enjoyed it--but there were some terrible problems-- sort of meh, it was good, but not amazing film. I wanted more. C'mon, Tarantino. It's time for something new.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

(500) Days of Summer, or I'll Never Understand Why She Left Me.

Dear Scott Neustadter,

Are you over her yet?

You've managed to do what every dumped male writer has dreamed of doing: You've written the story of the crazy bitch who broke your heart... and published it! Now everyone will know how cold-hearted and evil she truly is! I can hear your deep bellowing laughs of justice now.

Unfortunately, it's quite obvious that you never took the time to fully understand Summer's real-life counterpart, because the film never develops her character beyond the empty shell-of-a-human-being she obviously had to be to dump a catch like you. You appreciated her beauty, you liked the same things she liked, but you never got to know the girl the way you thought you did. Rookie mistake, buddy. And this is the major problem with your screenplay.

The story starts off strong: guy meets girl, decides she's the love of his life even though she has no idea yet, and attempts to impress her with his karaoke skills. Every epic love story starts this way, sometimes with minor changes, but the karaoke is always essential. So begins a barrage of cute scenes in which the main characters fall deeper and deeper into the treacherous fury of love. They play house in IKEA, tell each other pseudo-important tales of their hopes and dreams, and at one point Tom even prances happily through the streets accompanied by an animated bird (Did this happen in real life too, or did you make it up?). These scenes worked well; props to you! Everyone likes funny and adorable, even bitter, self-important film enthusiasts like myself.

Then, without warning (aside from the post-modern time jumping that has already alluded to this event), Summer dumps you. I'm just going to refer to the main character as "you" from now on, since we all know who Tom really is. Maybe this is how it ended in real life --I suppose that's some kind of an excuse--but it does not work in the film.

You never show the conflict. Your relationship never deteriorates, it just suddenly ends. Even if you found no evidence of your relationship slipping away, there had to be something somewhere that made Summer think, "This just isn't working." And you needed to put that in the script. Maybe she was upset that you got in that bar fight (You macho man, you.), but that wasn't enough. She just disappears for a while leaving us to deal with your moping.

But hey, it's not all bad. Walking into the theater, I was all ready to hate 500 Days of Summer, and I like, totally didn't! I was so worried that this was going to be fantastically quirky and chock full of indie culture that after I saw the trailer, I immediately picked up my hamburger phone, dialed a friend and said, "This "Summer" movie looks like it's going to be totally hip and trendy!"

Thankfully, Summer didn't turn out to be an older, she-wolf version of Juno. The cultural references were relatively tame. Yeah, the Smith's played nonstop, but I didn't have a problem with it. The Bergman parody was even impressive until you showed the chess board, causing the seventeen-year-old film buffs behind me to point out the Seventh Seal reference to their girlfriends. I shook my head at them, but then was equally disappointed that the cliche of Death and chess boards still goes over some people's heads.

So Scott, despite my complaints, I think you turned out something that's definitely worth seeing. It may not be the greatest movie of the Summer ( points for the pun?), but it is certainly a whole lot better than the last screenplay I wrote after being dumped; which was essentially 90 pages of binge drinking and chain smoking loosely tied around a narrative of woman-hating.

This is slightly more mature than that.

P.S. I can't decide if the "Autumn" joke was funny or pathetic. I'll let it slide.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

In Regards to "Funny People."

Dear Judd Apatow,

If you ever attempt to write another film that is both funny and dramatic, my only request is that you don't fill it with penis jokes. Now, Ive enjoyed a good penis joke in my day. In fact, I enjoyed some of the penis jokes in Funny People. I did not, however, enjoy the fact that the entire movie felt like a never ending string of unfunny penis jokes. Its a crutch, Apatow. What were you thinking? Be creative. Write more original content! There was some here, but it was lost in a sea of cock and balls.

More importantly, take a class on narrative structure. Or have someone who knows something about it give you some pointers. You've somehow managed to take three perfectly fine script ideas and mash them together into one nonsensical film that has little to no regard for what has come before. Okay, so Adam Sandler is dying and he hires Seth Rogen to write some jokes for him. Perfectly fine setup. Its funny, I like it. Then you suddenly jump into a ridiculous montage of celebrity cameos that are amusing but completely irrelevant to the plot. The second act plays out like The Aristocrats: a collection of comics telling different jokes about the same thing, dropping the narrative almost entirely for a solid thirty minutes. Then, just as we think Adam Sandler is finally coming to his senses and becoming a better person...


You fucking cure him and you send him on a comic jaunt to his ex-wife's house, where of course her ridiculous Australian husband shows up and hilarity (a term use I use loosely and, in fact, sarcastically) ensues. The third act shows complete disregard for any dramatic standard you had set up, and comicly? It made me miss the penis jokes. What you've somehow done, is given us a portrait of a dying, lonely man finding redemption and then realizing hes too good for redemption, because hes seen Cats on Broadway.

You try to save it in the end. They always try to save it in the end. Ooh... they're friends again. Who didn't see that cop-out ending coming after the horrendous third act? Honestly, I'm surprised it wasn't all a dream!

You didn't have the balls to kill Adam Sandler and you couldn't muster up the maturity to write a script with any depth or originality. If you had, you could have made this mess of a film something worth watching.