Mini Classic Film Reviews: Airplane!…

Full Title: Airplane!
Director(s): Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker
Year: 1980
Comments: One of the zaniest, silliest, and most definitely funniest films I have ever seen. This flick is filled with memorable scenes, one liners, and all sorts of other hiarious treats. Alas, the spoof genre it helped launch did not spawn nearly as many classics as this gem.
Grade: A

<img alt=""

Full Title: Scary Movie
Director: Keenan Ivory Wayans
Year: 2000
Comments: Following the tradition of Airplane! (1980) Scary Movie does a good job of poking fun at the ridiculocity of various teen slasher flicks and it is very funny, but isn’t original nor memorable enough to be as revered as the former.
Grade: C+

<img alt=""

Full Title: Mallrats
Director: Kevin Smith
Year: 1995
Comments: Smith’s sophomore effort continues this Mini Classic Film Reviews’ trend of absurd comedies, but with this movie as with most of Smith’s work there is far more brains squeezed into the equation. Smith writes fabulous dialouge with as much wit as toilet humor. This isn’t Smith’s best, but as far as comedies go, it is one of my favorites.
Grade: A-

Classic Film Review: Welcome to the Dollhouse

Full Title: Welcome to the Dollhouse
Director: Todd Solondz
Year: 1996
Being a huge fan of Todd Solondz’s later film Happiness (1998) I had high expectations for this flick and fortunately they were more than satisfied. WTD follows the life of a bespectacled, nerdy, awkward, and lonely Junior Highschooler named Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo), who is the victim of excessive abuse from her peers, parents (verbal, neglect), and teachers. As usual, Solondz presents this over the top mess with dark, acerbic humor and quirky, colorful characters. Yes, for some the humor might be totally lost as I warn you now, this is not for the weak at heart. It is quite disturbing and may be extremely heart wrenching for those who actually suffered from bullying, sexual harassment, abduction, amongst other torturous activity. With that being said, this film is not a drama in the traditional sense; Solondz himself labels his movies as “sad comedies.” Haha, I couldn’t agree more! For me though, I didn’t find this as funny as say Happiness, which leaves me in stitches despite or because of the lurid subject matter of that film. Perhaps, it is because this is my first viewing, after all it took me at least three times around to really get past the fucked up nature of Solondz’s movies to truly appreciate the comedy of Happiness. So, who knows maybe after a couple more screenings (which I guarantee will happen) I’ll crack up at WTD. All in all, this is a great film that is rich, unique, and always keeps you curious what will happen next. I don’t like this as much as Happiness because it focuses more on one character than several characters, but that isn’t much of a flaw. Overall, this is a “no bullshit” film, so to speak; it sticks with it’s harsh, black comedy style and never lets up like most other movies with the same subject matter would. These characters are far more realistic and are not simply cliched two dimensional specimens. The main character Dawn, the victim, exploits people, makes fun of others and is incredibly self-centered. Yet, we sympathize with her because, well, everyone fucking hates her and torments the poor girl to no end. Solondz never dresses up this horrible situation, but rather provides merciless satire and a really fascinating storyline. KLYAM RECOMMENDED? You know it.

: A/A-, highly recommend!

This musical number from the film and Dawn’s reaction to the performance (great acting by Heather lol) clearly demonstrates the off kilter, quirky nature of the movie.

Mini Classic Film Review: E.T.

This is somewhat of a new segment in that I will be writing a brief blurb on films I have already seen before after I view them. Does that make any sense? Probably not… Ok, so I typically write up proper film reviews of movies I have never seen before up until that point. Since, I love film and film analysis, I will be posting these ditties everytime I watch a movie (or as much as I possibly can, if I’m not too busy with something else), unless it’s a new film to me, then I will do a normal review. Also, I will probably discuss more than one motion picture per post. Got It? Great, now to this classic.

Full Title: E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial
Director: Steven Spielberg
Year: 1982
Comments: This is easly the greatest and most emotional “Children’s” film in existence. Spielberg creates a magical, touching, and extremely timeless masterpiece without inundating us with over the top special effects. The famous shot of E.T. and Elliot silhouetted against the moon is without a doubt one of the most lasting cinematic images in film history and definitely one of my favorites at that.
Grade: A+

Classic Film Review: Slacker

Full Title: Slacker
Director: Richard Linklater
Year: 1991
Fun Facts: “The average movie has 500-1,000 cuts in it. This movie only has 163. And almost a third of them come from the last five minutes during the super 8 film scene.” and “Was the movie that directly inspired Kevin Smith to become a filmmaker; inspired the movie Clerks. (1994).”-
I’m not one to jump on this or that marketing ruse, but in this rare instance, the so called “Generation X” phenomenon of the early 90s seems pretty damn accurate in Slacker, the 1991 debut of the gifted writer/director, Richard Linklater. From start to finish, this entire flick is simply scene after scene of random, anti-climatic, yet infinitely fascinating (at least to me) conversations from lazy, twenty-something layabouts in the city of Austin, Texas (Linklater’s hometown). To most folks this film is probably tedious or simply too boring. There are no sequences of action or really drama of any kind. The film basically offers the viewer a slice of everyay Austin life for these quirky, colorful characters. The scenes have no connection to one another (in the narrative sense) and no character appears more than once, at least to my memory. In many ways each scene is its own short film that one could view on its own or as a collective with the other scenes. All of these little stories are tied together under the overall theme of apathy and reluctance to get one’s shit straight, so to speak. Because this film is unorthodox in this manner, it will surely turn off most viewers. For dialouge based film junkies like me, I find it to be a unique and intriguing movie. Characters that stand out to me specifically include an aging, kind hearted anarchist that sports a framed phot of Leon Czolgosz on his wall, a enthusiastic Kennedy Assasination theorist, a fierce “anti-artist,” amongst other characters. Honestly, I can’t say much bad about this film; it is what it is and for me, I seriously do not find it even a tad bit boring, but then again, I suppose Linklater could have thrown in a thing or two to grab everyone’s attention. On the other hand, his laidback filmmaking (in this picture) and/or storytelling stands as an astonishing reflection of the lifestyles of the people he is depicting.

Grade: A-

Film Review: Toy Story 3

Full Title
: Toy Story 3
Director: Lee Unkrich
Year: 2010
Running Time: 103 minutes
Being a huge fan of the Toy Story saga, I highly anticipated this third installment like so many other young people that grew up with the first two films. Looking back and to this day, the original Toy Story (1995) is one of the few “kids,” CGI films that I enjoyed. I don’t know what it is, maybe because it was the first of its kind or perhaps because I was so young when I saw it in theaters. I don’t know, but I have always held a place for it in my heart. Up until a few weeks ago, I actually had not seen it in nearly ten years and yet I still knew most of the lines! Then, of course, it was followed by Toy Story 2 (1999), which I also saw in theaters and liked. On the other hand, it was ok in comparison to its predescessor and lacked that inital, special touch. So, going into this new movie, I had big expectations and hoped it would be at least as good as the sophomore effort, but probably not on par with the original film. Fortunately, my expectations were satisfied and then some! Which, by the way, is a rare feat; I often walk away feeling disapointed, to different degrees. Ok, now about this “feature presentation.” In Toy Story 3 the owner of the toys, the young boy Andy is becoming a man as he heads off to college, having long abandoned his action figures and playmates alike. As he cleans out this old “junk” he comes across his old heroes, Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), he decides to take Woody with him, but leaves Buzz with the other toys. His mother mistakes a bag filled with the toys (intended for the attic) for a trash bag. Feeling unwanted, they escape and crawl into a box that is to be sent to the Sunnyside Daycare, believing they will be appreciated and loved by new children. Woody follows the others, trying to convince them otherwise. SORTA SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! Upon their arrival at the Daycare they are greeted by another toy, Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty), whom on the surface appears to be a warm, welcoming host, but beneath he is a cruel, sadistic, monster. As it turns out, he runs Sunnyside as a prison and the toys become his inmates. Now, it is up to Woody and the gang to defeat the evil Lotso and return to their beloved owner, Andy. I must say Lotso is a great villain, one of the best I have seen in a while and perhaps the best I have ever seen in a children’s movie. He is truly filled with hatred and bitterness beyond repair. Which causes the viewer in some ways to simultaneously fear and pity him. Well maybe not fear… fear for the characters, ok just a little bit of fear. Ahh, being scared by a teddy bear (with a cane at that!), a new low for me. In any case, there is certainly a dark and often emotional tone to the film that is executed near perfectly. It’s darker than the previous two TS, but not murky enough to frighten kids and push them away, and there’s plenty of humor/fun for the whole family to enjoy. Sometimes the jokes are a bit too Pixar for my taste, such as the exchanges between Ken and Barbie, which make me smirk, but are not exactly the strengths of an otherwise unique film. The story culiminates in a fantastic and beautifully chaotic climax, which with no hyberbole, I can safely say keeps you on the edge of your seat and feeling earnestly concerned for the well being of the characters. Overall, this is a great film and perhaps the best all summer, but it is not without its flaws. It drags toward the end, such as the scene between Andy and Bonnie, which could benefit from some trimming. Also, I know this is a kids movie lol, but seriously, Andy would not care as much about these toys! For example, his reaction at the beginning was very genuine; he didn’t really care about them. Him tagging Woody along because he means something to him, I can somewhat buy, but claiming that all of them mean something to him is a stretch, for me at least. As I said, it drags, but all in all, the ending works well. So, is it better than the first film? No, but few are. With that being said, Toy Story 3 does what very few films can: make an honorable and wonderful trilogy. In this instance, it is even more notable because in most trilogies, the third feature is the weakest, clearly this is not the case. I might not love this film as much as the first, but it is undeniably well crafted and will most likely be revered in years to come.

Grade: A-, initially after viewing this I was feeling between a B+ and A- (which some folks thought was too harsh lol), but through the process of film analysis, I eventually leaned toward its well deserved A-.

Classic Film Review: The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Full Title: The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Director: Jeff Feuerzeig
Year: 2005
Before I go any further, I must warn you if you are planning on watching this documentary, then you will be possessed by the Devil… Did you hear me?! I said the DEVIL. SAYTUNNN!!! Now, if you think I should be locked up in the looney bin before I harm others and myself, then you are probably right, but this is not about me (The Devil and Chris DeCarlo will hit theaters in years to come) this is about the one and only Daniel Johnston. In this gentle, affectionate, film we see how Dan is an enthusiastic, earnest, artist, in spite or because of his various mental and/or social problems. Initially, he is simply a slacker, eshewing work and school for his art, much to the chagrin of his family; his parents in particular are objects of his animostity. Alas, as he grows older his mental capacity deteriates (hence his obsession with the Devil) and he is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder causing him to be in and out of mental institutions and a serious threat to himself and those around him. I’ll stop here before I give away anything else, unless of course you know Dan’s bio… What I really like about this documentary is the fact that it stays personal via old home movies, tape recorded interviews, animation (coming straight outta Dan’s drawings, literally!), and of course interviews with his family, friends, and collaborators. The doc never strays off into a Michael Moore performance art sorta thang or a hidden agenda drenched picture. The agenda is clear: Daniel Johnston, love him or hate him, was and still is an incredible, gifted man with more passion in his art than most other artists one cares to name. Overall, this is a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from sad, humorous, fascinating, disturbing, entertaining, and ultimately touching- fans and non-fans unlike should see one of the finest documentaries of the last ten years.

P.S. excuse the “rollercoaster of emotions” cliche, but since Dan worked at an amusement park, I think it fits.

Grade: A-

Film Review: Inception

Full Title: Inception
Director: Christopher Nolan
Year: 2010
Let me begin by stating that Hollywood, the mass media, and the film viewing community as a whole seriously needs to stop hyping films up as the next big thing or the “greatest film since…” I walked into this movie expecting to see something on par with the likes of Nolan’s previous work, The Dark Knight (2008), which I had a massive hard-on for, but alas, like many overrated pictures these days, it did not come close to delivering the wonderful package I anticipated. Seriously, nearly everyone on IMDb and several other patrons had built this up as one of the greatest movies of all time and blah blah blah. Well, for me the first half of this film was decent and had an interesting premise: A man can create dreams in other people’s minds and interact in them. I really dug those first few times they illustrated how the dream process worked i.e. when Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) shows Ariadne (Ellen Page) the tricks of the trade. Overall, the acting is pretty good and the plot holds my attention for the first half. Once they start the actual “job,” the inception, I’m totally severed from the story. I simply felt bored and lost all concern for the characters. SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
The movie became too confusing with dreams within dreams within dreams within his dream within her dream to the point of extreme ridiculocity. And my friends and I noticed various similarities between this and Shutter Island (2010), DiCaprio’s previous film. Mainly because of the whole alternate reality/dream like world and the attempt to be with one’s deceased wife again and take care of their children. We questioned whether it was pure coincidence or directly capitalizing on the success of Shuter; I think a little bit of both. All in all, I felt really dissapointed about this flick and at the same time I acknowledge it’s not my cup of tea and perhaps I didn’t fully understand it.

Grade: B

Classic Film Reviw: Gummo

Full Title: Gummo
Director: Harmony Korine (first timer)
Year: 1997
Grade: A
Comments: Chilling. Distubring. Haunting. These are some of the words that best describe Korine’s cult masterpiece. In more simple terms, however, FUCKED UP! describes it more accurately. Truly fucked up. Not strange. Not weird. Not bizarre. FUCKED UP. To be blunt, if you were trying to be polite and didn’t want to curse, so instead you replaced it with “screwed up,” I do not think you would be getting the picture across or doing the film justice for that matter. So, why is it so FUCKED UP? now, that I have mentioned it 500 times. Well, Korine does not present us with a story or a plot in any linear or normal sense. But, rather he takes us on a journey to a town “we would never want to call home,” as the tagline states (I may be paraphrasing) through documentary style, vivid, eerie shots of peculiar (to say the least) images and characters living their day to day lives. The characters are residents of a small, tornado struck town in Ohio, and their activities include killing (sometimes beating) cats and selling their remains, burglarizing, wrestling with chairs, amongst other antisocial behavior. And yes, that was not a joke about the chair wrestling! It is humorous in its odd nature, but at its heart, highly disturbng and really sad. These characters are bored and simply have nothing else to do, but wait to die or be the subject matter of a Steve Albini creation. Korine said he wanted to make a completely different kind of film, with shots coming from any (or every) direction and he did just that, so kudos to him. Gummo may not be the kind of movie you sit back and stuff popcorn down your throat and play over and over again for the giggles, but rather a totally unique experience worth at least one voyeursistic endeavour for those that can handle a completely (for the final time!) FUCKED UP film and want to challenge their psyche to something new; it’s nothing like I have ever seen before.

Here’s the trailer-

Fun Fact!: It was this trailer that specifically got me into Madonna’s “Like A Prayer,” as it is the only song by her that I like.


Film Review: Avatar

Full Title: Avatar
Director: James Cameron
Year: 2009
Grade: B+

If you are thinking of seeing this in any other venue then IMAX, then you need your head examined and then chopped off and kicked down the street like a soccer ball a la George Bush Sr. for you Bill Hicks fans :) But, seriously, it’s worth shelling out the extra smackers to experience this 3D Sci Fi mega blockbuster in an IMAX theater. The sound is simply exquiste. Of course your 3D glasses make the film all the more epic and exciting i.e. people running past you, objects thrown in your direction, and my personal favorite, being chased by an enormous, ferocious animal about to tear you to shreds as you pathetically attempt to foil his monstruous ability to jostle you to and fro. Now, I must admit, I am biased here, in the sense that I am not the biggest fan of Sci Fi, War, Action, or any sort of “epic” film, for the most part. Perhaps if this was an off colour comedy with some young, chic, unconventionally beautiful actress and her hipster, male co star with a soundtrack dominated by my low fi favorites I would probably rate it higher than this even if it was of lesser quality. So, keep that in mind while I disect the film for the remainder of the review. To begin, of course it was visually goregous and the action was entertaining. The story was sound and actually unexpected, at least for me. Briefly, the plot concerns a young jarhead marine named Jake Sully, who is sent on a mission in which he becomes part of an entirely foreign world called Pandora, literally becoming like this new species: blue, tail, etc. As his tenure on the planet continues he questions the military’s motives for his mission and their future plans with the planet. Soon, he finds himself at home and decides to follow a new path. SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

I must say that I really dig the way Jake joins his new blue comrades and does the right thing by helping them fight off their oppressors/occupiers: the American Military. Kinda subversive for such a mainstream film! It would be like an American soldier in Vitenam, who is sent on a mission to be a Viet Cong informant and then he “betrays” the yankies for his new KONG brothers. That would be cool sorta ahah.

Overall: Once again, I don’t typically get boners over these kinds of films, but it was a decent flick, certainly worth seeing at least once. All in all, overrated, with that being said, the story was solid, the acting was nothing special, but worked just fine, and well you know in terms of visual/special effects and what have you, it was top notch.

P.S. Jay Reatard- Turning Blue should have appeared on the soundtrack. What did they expcect Disco? Boring fucks…


Film Review: Bruno!

It is clear that Bruno is queer and here- to stay. What is there to say? The word I hear the most that describes how audiences have reacted to the film is…. speechless.   When the film ended, it was quiet in the theater and there was this general feeling of WTF?! DANGER: If you are easily grossed out or offended then Sacha Baron Cohen’s new flick, Bruno, is not for you!!! I can’t stress that enough.  I will save you and your loved ones the time, money, and embarrassment if that happens to be the case. Especially DO NOT see the film with your parents, unless they are really hip, open minded, and not easily shocked or offended.  And even if said possible viewers (such as Borat fans; the film makes Borat look like Disney On Ice) meet all those requirements, chances are they will not enjoy the film since everyone I know that has seen it, either disdains it or thought it was “just ok, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, unless they like sick movies,” except for me.  Here’s why…

Well, firstly I love over-the-top-, shocking, satirical mockumentaries. I love over-the-top-/absurd humor period.  Being a massive fan of classic exercises in bad taste such as Pink Flamingos and Hated, I found the film quite amusing and even for me a little shocking (but not offensive).  Whether it was trying to seduce Ron Paul into a Sex video, trading an African, excuse me African American (you’ll have to see the film to get that!) baby for a fancy, U2 Product Red ipod, engaging in various, highly sadomasochistic bondage with significant others, or learning how to defend one’s self from an oncoming homosexual racing at you with two dildos,  Bruno had me cracking up or trying to look away from start to finish- nearly.

  Grade: B

Chris DeCarlo