Hey folks, Harry here... Massawyrm is a bit of a 'tard. I love him, but he really is. But he's an enthusiastic heartfelt 'tard. And... he's not afraid of dropping his drawers, shitting on your carpet while doing armpit fart renditions of the 1812 Overture to prove it. Today - he sends love letters to everything that played BNAT 7 except KING KONG and DESCENT. 'Tard. Sigh.
Hola all. Massawyrm here. Well, another BNAT has come and gone and now that I’ve gotten some sleep, dropped everyone off at the airport and finally had the chance to relax with a cigarette to digest the emotions of the weekend, I can finally sit down to review exactly what I saw. And it was a wild weekend indeed. Easily the second best BNAT of all time, BNAT 7 was an interesting mix of emotions and surprises – that oddly enough had quite a lot of parallels to my personal favorite, BNAT 5. There was a Peter Jackson film in the number 2 spot, a special Mel Gibson clip, a Chan-wook Park film, a French action film and an emotional, controversial final film that just blew me the hell away. All in all, it hit almost all of the right notes with me.
So here goes.
You know. Every room has its asshole. That one guy that just doesn’t get what everyone else does, just doesn’t see the movie they see. That one freaking pain in the ass that just can’t feel the love and forgive the mistakes like everyone else does. Unfortunately that guy wasn’t sitting next to me this year – instead, I was that asshole. I did not love Kong. And while this might seem like a crime of high treason here at Ain’t it Cool, being the resident pariah around here has its perks. Like being able to write a negative review of King Kong without anyone bitching about me more than they already do.
Now I certainly didn’t hate King Kong, but I don’t love it. It’s good, but heavily flawed. And I strongly feel it’s going to find its place in history next to Titanic, because frankly, that’s the film it is most akin to. It is a technical marvel full of achievements worthy of making it an historic piece of filmmaking. It is an emotional love story that is going to play to a large, but specific crowd. And it is going to make an Assload of money, driven by that specific crowd who will pay to see it time and time again. I do not doubt for one second that when the dust clears, Kong will be the second highest grossing film of all time. But like Titanic, it is a flawed film which will manage to have its flaws inflated by reactionary haters who will feel they have to scream against the booming voice of overwhelming approval. And as the lovers scream back the sides will get more and more decisive. Then, as the film fades from peoples memories (as it has already occured with several BNATers – they remembered watching, they remembered it was awesome, but salient details eluded in a way that didn’t occur with other films) they will hear the flaws, acknowledge them, and the flaws will become what they remember. I like Titanic. It was a good film. So’s this. But it lost me.
And the point it lost me was during a Skull Island sequence in which our heroes get chased by a stampede of Brontosaurus’s (Brontosaurai?) Up until this point, I was really into the film. Sure, it was moving slow as molasses – but I knew Kong was coming and that the setup would pay off in a big way. But then this stampede sequence occurs and what I saw not only took me out of the film, but turned me off to it so much that I could never get back into it. What I saw was several actors running in place in front of a green screen while digital footage played behind them. Now the CG in this film is incredible. Kong looks fucking amazing – the single most real CG character yet to be put on screen. The Dinosaurs looked 7 different kinds of awesome. Skull Island – just gorgeous. What looked fake? The actors. For some reason, the digital effects merging the Actors with the CG was so off, so garbled, so obviously intentionally blurred, that I never saw Ann Darrow in Kong’s hand, never saw Adrian Brody running from a dinosaur Stampede, never saw crew members being torn apart by bugs. I saw actors being inserted into a CG movie. And I didn’t care or worry about them at all. Not once after the stampede.
I’m a huge Jackson fan. I love every little bit of his other work. But this, let’s call this what it is. It’s his fetish film. Fetish films are a big thing right now, and people either love them or hate them. Tarantino had Kill Bill, Gibson had Passion of the Christ and hell, Rob Zombie is forging an entire career as a director making his own little fetish films. These are directors so in love with what they’re making, that they go beyond the realm of dream projects and become something so decisively what it is that you almost have to love the material going in to really appreciate the film. And I never LOVED the original Kong. Sure, I liked it, but not to the level that Harry, Quint or Moriarty do. And certainly not to the level that Jackson does. So for me, the idea of taking a 100 Minute movie and turning it into a 187 minute movie just didn’t work.
That extra 87 minutes? Entirely fetish. It’s the legendary long lost sailors getting torn apart by spiders sequence that film students have dedicated entire careers to locating. It’s scenes of Ann Darrow actually trying to make Kong happy when he looks depressed. It’s CG dinosaur fight after CG dinosaur fight on Skull Island. It’s a plane sequence atop the Empire State building that goes on several minutes too long. It’s character arcs that are fully realized before the end of the second act – characters that never show up again. And if you’re the type of person that could watch the original Kong for hours and hours and wish there were tons of additional, new scenes, then this film is most definitely for you. But me, I was bored for the last half of it. Once I ceased to feel the characters were in any real danger, I couldn’t get back into it. Kong was just an effect at that point. One I couldn’t really care about, no matter how hard I tried. And believe me, I tried.
But there’s nothing wrong with fetish films, except that they rarely play to audiences that don’t already love the material. Fortunately, Kong is one of those classic many, many people love. This film is going to succeed and make a lot of people happy. So did Titanic. I congratulate Jackson on the dozen or so Academy Awards he’s going to win, because, he is going to win them. I just hope his next film kicks my ass like his last nine did. Some will argue that this is his finest film and most deserving of praise – and many will name it as the best of the year and one of their favorites of all time. I, unfortunately, will not be among them.
But I believe I was the only person out of over 200 that didn’t like it. So take that for what it is.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
God I love Chan-wook Park. The man just makes some of the very best revenge films the world has ever seen. And what I love so much about them is that they are not just about “getting” revenge, but rather about what Revenge is at its core. The first two thirds of this play out exactly like Parks other films, and while I enjoyed it, I began to get this creeping feeling in the back of my brain that this was simply what Park does – that we had seen his full range laid out in his previous work and that this was going to be the beginning of a long series of retreads. And then the third act came and blew my ass out of the back of my seat. What Park does with the characters, what he does with the plot of the film – well, it becomes something entirely different. It becomes an amazing examination into the minds of those that want revenge and are ultimately given the choice of getting whatever revenge they desire or getting justice. It becomes an emotional vice grip that keeps squeezing and squeezing until you’re ready to burst.
Park doesn’t make typical revenge films. He doesn’t adhere to the formula so many of us have come to know and love – introduce a character, watch him lose everything that means anything to him and then watch him beat ass until he finds the guy responsible. No. Park makes films detailing the long, eloquent, deliberate cold blooded revenge Count of Monte Cristo style. When Shakespeare wrote that Revenge is a dish best served cold, he wasn’t just saying some cold assed shit to scare a mother fucker. He was talking about this kind of revenge. (American producers and directors would be wise to take note before they EVER include that line in a movie again.) And it’s very affecting. Park slowly peels the onion of the human psyche and forces us to confront the very nature of what revenge is and just how it can change a person.
Lady Vengeance does this in a way we’ve yet to see, offering up one hell of a moral dilemma that’s going to hit people where they live. It’s bloody, Macabre and one of the finest films of the year. Currently I’m torn on this one. While not as “cool” as Oldboy, I find this film superior in mood, theme and overall dissection. I also feel the ending is far more satisfying. Which is better? I’m still not sure. But when all is said and done, it’s playing on the same level as Oldboy. Highly Recommended.
District B13/District 13/Banlieue 13
Holy crapping on a couch, Batman. This film was fucking awesome. Another in a long series of French produced/Luc Besson written action films, District B13 is certainly among the cream of the crop. Lacking much of a plot to speak of, District B13 is a series of bad assed fight scenes that stem from the new desire to see wireless kung fu – to see fight scenes that look like they actually are humanly possible, if even by those that are simply nearly super-human. The fight scenes are explosive, the soundtrack thumping and the characters just plain bad ass. There’s nothing to digest with this one, little to really talk about. It’s just, good old fashion action movie fun.
A cop and a crook (wrongfully imprisoned) have to break into a walled off district on the bad side of Paris in order to recapture a neutron bomb from a crimelord with which our crook has a long history. Much assbeating ensues. That’s it. But it’s tremendously satisfying. For anyone who loved Nid De Guepes (The Nest) or any of it’s current French ilk, District 13 really delivers on the testosterone driven, ramped up action thrills. Highly recommended for Martial Arts or Action movie fans.
There is only one movie I actually hated at BNAT this year, only one that left a truly bad taste in my mouth. That movie was The Descent. Many old school fans of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 may remember the classic episode in which Crow, Tom and Joel were subjected to the B Movie Classic “Lost Continent.” That episode became an instant classic with the utterance and repetition of one line. “Rock Climbing, Joel. Rock Climbing.” Well that line came back to haunt me while watching the British entry to this years BNAT, The Descent. “Rock Climbing, Massa. Rock Climbing.”
In what could easily win the “Lifetime/Oxygen Horror Movie of the Year Award”, if there even is such a thing, The Descent is the story of a pack of dull women who decide they want to spend the weekend spelunking. What follows is a series of boring conversations, rock climbing, as the women crawl deeper and deeper into a cave, rock climbing, accidentally get trapped by a cave in, rock climbing, and bitch at one another. A lot. Rock climbing. But wait, there’s more. They discover they’re not alone. Then there’s more rock climbing. Then “the monsters” (and I use that term very loosely) begin to pick them off one by one. Along with more rock climbing.
Unfortunately, when this film isn’t showing climbing, it’s busy committing what I call the “Sins of Jeepers Creepers” by showing us everything we ever need to know about the “monsters” long before they should. Your average movie goer will have this monster figured out long before a single drop of blood is shed, and then it becomes a series of boring women getting eaten, interspersed with more rock climbing.
But what are these monsters? What terror awaits the women of the Lifetime network as they delve deeper and deeper into the bowels of this god forsaken rock? The fucking Batboy (tm). That’s right. Anyone familiar with the World Weekly News knows about this vicious beast. The Batboy (tm). Apparently, there’s more than one, and they’ve stolen a box of Marilyn Manson’s make up and creepy contacts. That’s it. Okay, one could make an argument that they’re the lower budget cousins of Gollum, but Batboy is more appropriate. That’s the level of cheese this movie delivers.
Oh, but what about the scares? They’re all cheap. Every last one of them. I hear tell that many of the Bnaters who are claustrophobic got freaked out. Cool. Not being claustrophobic myself, the scenes in the caves just bored me. “Wow, they’re crawling belly first through another tunnel. Amazing.” But the scares had people jumping out of their seats. Why? Well, because the film is so damned quiet, what with all the rock climbing, only to get tremendously loud as the Batboys (tm) jump out of the dark to scream “BOO!” in their batlike language. Of course people jumped. Of course they screamed. It’s an old trick, a cheap trick, and a trick that is accompanied by not one moment of actual mood.
This is your bargain basement horror film that succeeds only in being as cheap and utterly unoriginal as most of the other direct to video horror films out there. There’s no great kills, no great twists and absolutely nothing worth mentioning. Except Rock Climbing. Lots of Rock Climbing.
V For Vendetta
V For Vendetta was not just the single greatest film experience I had at BNAT. Rather, it is the Single Greatest Film I’ve seen all year. It is an utterly perfect, flawless film, ripe for debate and ready to be argued. It is a comic book adaptation of material now 23 years old, and yet, it could not have been made at a better, more relevant, more appropriate time. This is a film about revolution, a film about police states and terrorism. It is a film about what happens when people are afraid and let those that offer safety at the expense of freedom reign. It is a film about one man pushed over the edge, completely destroyed and ready to get revenge. But more important than revenge, this man wants revolution. This man wants not to cut the chains of slavery off of himself, but rather off of his people. And this man, this V, is a terrorist.
And that’s gonna piss a lot of people off. And it should. V For Vendetta is far from your run of the mill sci-fi. It is an important work of fiction that has more truth to it than is comfortable to most. In this country we have this conceit about terrorism in which we like to forget that we invented the ideals of modern “terrorism”. Despite being taught all about it in grade school, we forget that we won our independence through it. Sure, some will immediately fire back “The Boston Tea Party was not an act of terrorism, it was an act of vandalism.” And they’d be right. Of course those people don’t like to talk about our tactics during the revolutionary war in which brave British soldiers wore bright red coats, marched into fields and lined up to fight a “civilized” war. And those men were cut down by American men, hiding in the trees wearing street clothes that were indistinguishable from any other citizen. The Brits called us cowards. Uncivilized. But for over two hundred years we have operated under aegis of the motto “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Now the tables are turned. We call men cowards for dressing in street clothes and taking shots at an occupying army. What was once our proud methods of liberation, what was once our revolution against not only tyranny, but outdated methods of warfare, has now become our burden. And now we as a people have fallen into desperate times, times when instead of standing up, we chose the path of least resistance. We chose safety over freedom. And we’re paying for that mistake. And deep down, many of us are waiting for a V.
But V isn’t some action film glorifying a terrorist waging war against a “Right Wing” regime. It is a film about ideas, about the monstrosity on both sides, about discussing what exactly terrorism is while similarly showing the loss of freedom through control by the media. And while the Wachowskis have made a few changes to the original story, they haven’t changed it very much. The theme still remains, only having been slightly tweaked here and there to update the material and enhance its relevance.
This film is extraordinarily powerful. It is a genre fisted gutpunch that uses Science Fiction in the way it was originally intended – as an allegory for high-minded ideals. And while it is busy dissecting terrorism, it is also careful to illustrate the importance of simply showing up over the power of violence. Ultimately V For Vendetta is not a piece glorifying terrorism, but rather one that demands a catalyst to encourage the people.
Hugo Weaving owns this film. His ability to showcase the soul of V, despite the fact that he is a singularly expressionless character is amazing (insert Paul Walker joke here.) This is the single greatest masked character on film since Darth Vader, and while that seems like a bold statement, Hugo Weaving is there to back it up every step of the way. Natalie Portman gives her best, perfectly layered performance since The Professional (Leon), and Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry and John Hurt all deliver with the oomph we’ve come to expect from this trio of masters.
I cannot fully express the love I have for this film. It is strong, brash, unflinching science fiction that goes for the throat and never lets go. And it’s going to get attacked – in a big way. Fox News, particularly Bill “then I’m gonna massage your pussy with a falafel” O’Reilly (who gets beat up pretty bad in this), are gonna jump on this like nobodies business. They’re gonna highlight the terrorist hero, preach about a pro-gay message, roll out stories about sex change operations and just go all sorts of nutso on this. And God, I cannot wait for it. If Warner Brothers has someone with a big old hairy pair of balls sitting on high, they’d hold a screening just for O’Reilly and Fox news, then blatantly refuse to ask for an embargo. This is a film that will live and breathe controversy. The worst thing that could happen to it is that news stations decide not to talk about it. Because anyone who slams this, anyone who calls it un-American and a defense of terrorism, will lose all credibility with anyone that watches this. And to their credit, these holier-than-thou chuckleheads can’t resist talking about a movie like this. They can’t stop themselves. This is everything they find unholy, everything they stand against. And it’s so fucking cool, it’s going to make scads of money if WB advertises it right. The Re-Re right won’t be able to contain themselves. Terrorism, homosexuality, violence, attacks on the media – all rolled up in a nice little package and delivered through Satan’s medium “film”. They’re gonna shit themselves as their brains leak out their ears.
I loved this film. With all my heart I loved this film. As it came to it’s resounding end and unveiled its final shots, tears actually began to stream down my face. Now I don’t cry often – hardly at all. Not even when Kong died. But this – this made me weep. The climax is so perfect, the final shots so beautiful, that I couldn’t contain myself. I was weeping for the film and weeping for my dream, my dream of what this country was and could be again. That’s exactly what this film is about. The dream of freedom and those that would fight and die for it. When this film ends, it proves not to be about terrorism at all. It proves to be about patriotism. It proves to be about what you are willing to do to your very soul for the sake of your country. Sure the hero is a terrorist – he’s also the single greatest patriot put to film in decades.
V For Vendetta is an instant classic – a work of true genius. And the only thing that pisses me off about it is that I have to wait another three months to see it again. I hope Warner Brothers is taking this time to print up Guy Faulks masks to hand out at every press screening of this film. There’s nothing that makes me smile more than the idea of seeing five hundred people walk out of this film wearing the masks. You want Press Warners? You want to hype this? Do that. And watch Fox simply shit themselves.
Well, it was another great weekend, and I’m beat. Time to catch up on some more sleep.
Until next time, friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. I know I will.
Kick My Balls, They're Tempered In Steel Like Raza And His Men!