Movie News

TIFF '12! Marcus Dives Into Rob Zombie's LORDS OF SALEM!

Published at: Sept. 15, 2012, 6:10 a.m. CST by Nordling

Nordling here.

When it comes to Rob Zombie, I'm still ambivalent about his work.  I know he's divisive among horror fans.  For many, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES is pretty terrific, and for others it's definitely a take-it-or-leave-it kind of movie.  I'll admit myself that when I first saw it it was at BNAT, right after a pretty brilliant horror movie called MAY by Lucky McKee, and I don't think I was able to give the movie a fair shake.  But there's something jagged and cutting about that movie - I still think the cinematography is stunning.  Then came THE DEVIL'S REJECTS which most horror fans went over the moon for, and when I saw it I felt stabbed in the gut.  It's a raw, visceral movie, and to date, Zombie's most accomplished work.

Then came the HALLOWEEN movies - and Zombie lost a lot of cred with horror fans by going after such a sacred cow.  Carpenter's original is a masterpiece of streamlined filmmaking efficiency, and Zombie's movie... isn't.  Giving Michael Myers such an odd backstory didn't help matters, either.  HALLOWEEN 2, while not much better, does have some interesting things going on under the surface - not enough to put that movie in the black column but enough to show that Zombie still had things to say about the horror genre.

So when Marcus emailed me about his attending the Toronto International Film Festival and had reviews of some movies, I asked him to submit a longform review of LORDS OF SALEM, Zombie's return to original horror.  Mostly I was just curious for myself about the movie - and I'm not ready to dismiss Zombie as a filmmaker yet.  There are shots in his movies that still disturb and terrify even now, and I think he still has an interesting and unique perspective.  But I'll let Marcus tell us what he thought, and I asked him to be as spoiler-free as possible.  Still, those wanting to go in blind might want to skip it:

Hello everyone,
 
It’s that time of year again.  When the beginning of September roles around one thing is guaranteed here in Toronto.  It’s time for TIFF.  My favorite part of TIFF has always been Midnight Madness.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Midnight Madness at TIFF, the programme lasts the stretch of the film festival and over those 10 days, 10 films play each night at midnight.  They range anywhere from Sci-Fi to Horror , Dark Comedy and everything between.  As Colin Geddes the programmer says they’re “the coolest, edgiest, sexiest and most badass films of the entire Festival.”  This year’s lineup was fantastic and included films such as “Dredd 3D”, “Seven Psychopath’s”, and “John Dies At The End”.  However, the most anticipated of all the MM films this year for myself was Rob Zombie’s newest film “The Lords Of Salem”.
 
Coming into the screening of Lords, I was cautiously optimistic.  “House of 1000 Corpses” was good and I absolutely love “The Devil’s Rejects”.  In fact, it’s probably one of my favorite Horror films of all time.  Rob showed great improvement between the two films and everything about the direction proved it.  And then came “Halloween”.  I know everyone has mixed reactions from both “Halloween” and “Halloween 2”.  I personally thought “Halloween” was decent, I could tolerate it (obviously I still hold the original in way higher esteem).  But “Halloween 2” I couldn’t stand.  In fact I think I’ve only seen it once and never bothered to watch it again.  So coming into the film I had faith that maybe coming back to his own, original content would perhaps generate a better end product.  
 
The result of “The Lords of Salem” was something I never expected.  Looking at his past films, Lords is completely different and depending on how you go into the film may determine how much you like it.  This isn’t a typical Rob Zombie film.  The themes are similar, but the tone is completely different.  
 
I’m not going to dig too much into the story because I don’t want to spoil it for any of you.  The main plot of the film is based around a coven of witches who were all burned to death hundreds of years ago during the Salem Witch Trials (If I recall correctly, I believe Rob mentioned during the Q&A that it didn’t take place exactly during the witch trials, but around the same time).  Before being burned to death, the coven of six put a curse upon Reverend Hawthorne, the man responsible, and pretty much curse his bloodline saying that one day his ancestors will give birth to the spawn of Satan.  Flash-forward a few hundred years and we’re introduced to Heidi played by, you guessed it, Rob’s wife Sheri Moon Zombie.  Much of the cast from previous Zombie flicks are back, as you’d expect. To my surprise, I actually found the acting much better than previous films.  Especially with Mrs. Zombie.  I was kind of getting sick with her from the previous films but after viewing, I couldn’t see anybody else playing this role.  Also loved her dreads in this film (the crowd seemed to be surprised when it was revealed that it was a wig during the Q&A afterwords because they looked so real).  Heidi is a DJ at a local radio station and in her late 30’s early 40’s.  She lives on her own in an apartment with her dog and her seemingly nice landlord, played by Dee Wallace.  One night during a show, Heidi receives a mysterious wooden box containing a vinyl record addressed from someone simply called “The Lords”.  The thing that stands out to Heidi, who uses a radio name and not her actual name, is that the box is addressed to her real name… Heidi Hawthorne.  She finds it a bit odd because she didn’t think anybody knew her real name, but shrugs it off because anyone can find anything nowadays with the internet.  She plays the record at home and suddenly a bunch of crazy flashbacks happen.  The record seems to only affect her and not her co-host Whitey, played by Jeff Daniel Phillips.  The next night Whitey, plays the record on air and all the women who are listening seem to get possessed by the witches and come back to help Heidi fulfill the curse.  Heidi returns home to find that the room down the hall from her, which apparently has been vacant for quite some time, finally got rented out.  As Heidi is opening her own door, the door down the hall slowly opens and a mysterious dark figure is standing in the hallway.  As Heidi tries to introduce herself, the door shuts.  When she asks the landlord about it the next day, she has no idea what Heidi’s talking about and reveals that the room is still vacant.   
 
This is when I was expecting a brutal, relentless Rob Zombie like in “Devil’s Rejects” but what we got was something completely different.  “The Lords of Salem” is like an art house film.  It progresses slowly and has a suspenseful build up, very reminiscent of “The Shining” and doesn’t focus on cheap pop up scares.  There are a few but it doesn’t rely heavily on it.  Much like “The Shining”, I noticed a lot of one-point perspective shots.  Especially while tracking down the “long” hallway towards the “empty” room, which is host to the creepy new guest.  During the Q&A after the film, Cinematographer Brandon Trost said one of the hardest parts about making the film was making that hallway look so long and big because what they really worked with on such a small budget was really tiny.  The cinematography was amazing.  It looked beautiful, even with all the wreckage happening.  My favorite shot of the film was one that reminded me of the shot from Gladiator when Maximus walked in to the Coliseum for the first time.  A very low angle shot with a wide-lense allowing the frame to be encompassed by the rich background, although I won’t say what that background is but you’ll know which shot I’m talking about.  One of the big problems I had was with one of the special effects, which you could call one of the characters.  I found it really cheesy and it really took me out of the moment, especially after having such a beautiful shot before it.  
 
If you go into this film expecting the atmosphere of a slasher film, you will hate “The Lords of Salem”.  You will hate the story, which truthfully isn’t the most original idea.  It’s predictable and not much happens.  I didn’t enjoy it at first because I wasn’t expecting it. Having had time to think about it and write this review it’s grown on me.  If you appreciate film’s like Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining , Suspiria, etc, then you will absolutely love this film.  If you’re not a horror fan, which if you’re not why are you seeing a Rob Zombie film, then you may not like it.  It’s a different step for Rob Zombie, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s more mature both technically and thematically.  
 
It’ll be interesting to see how other people review it.  The crowd at the show was principally Rob Zombie fans.  It was a great atmosphere to watch the film and the reception I saw after the film and on Twitter was mostly positive.  However, my one friend hated the film.  He complained that it was too slow and the plot was one that had been done before (Hocus Pocus maybe?).  So take what you can out of this review and go into this film with an open mind and you will enjoy it.  And don’t forget to come to TIFF one year for a Midnight Madness film!  I guarantee you will love the atmosphere and the city.  Until next time!
 
Marcus.
 

Thanks Marcus, it sounds fascinating and I'll be on the lookout for it on release.  A Rob Zombie arthouse movie?  Intriguing.

Nordling, out.  Follow me on Twitter!

Readers Talkback

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  • Stop reading after that. Zombie is a hack. White Zombie is the best thing he's ever done.

  • I love Ti West. He's the saviour of horror presently.

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 7:37 a.m. CST

    I didn't hate the Halloween remake.

    by lochkray

    I thought it was okay. Unnecessary, but okay. The sequel was one of the worst (major release) horror movies I've ever seen. Just stupid and nonsensical, with occasional cruelty. But if this is a -different- kind of Rob Zombie movie, more cerebral than visceral, then they really screwed up on that poster. People are going to be ticked. Maybe they should lighten it the poster a bit, and play down Zombie's name as well, in the advertising. Maybe use his birth name. Robert Undeadenberg. Might change expectations a bit.

  • Fucking Rob Zombie apologists. HE'S A TALENTLESS MORON, ADMIT IT.

  • I didn't even totally hate his Halloween and it showed some genuine skill developing, but the try-hard, air-headed exploitation of Devils Rejects would make me question immediately the taste of anyone who loves it and claims to have good taste in movies, let alone the horror genre.

  • Isn't that kinda weird?

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 8:45 a.m. CST

    rob zombie...

    by IamHERE

    I really liked house of 1000 corpses because it was like 2 movies. first you have this typical batshit, necrophiliac family that harkens back to the 70s and 80s type movie. Then the last 15 minutes goes over the edge and introduces this surreal monster lair underground with zombies, undead henchmen in gas masks and finally Dr. Satan himself, one badass ghoul. I really loved the sequel but was kinda saddened there was no follow up with everything that was introduced in the ending of 1000. I really enjoyed the first Halloween he did. The kid they got to be young Michael Myers did an excellent job and actually cheered when he went at the kid and beat him to death. Also the freaky incest scene of him molesting his sister when she thinks it was her boyfriend was creepy cool. It fleshed the character out a little bit while keep honest with the original. I hated Halloween II with a passion. SO in my opinion has more hits than misses and will give this a shot.

  • stop it.

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 8:54 a.m. CST

    Zombie Should Have Known That They Didn't Burn Witches In Salem...

    by Graphix67

    ... Burning at the stake was a European thing. In Salem, they hung the accused victims. (Except for one man who was crushed to death under a pile of rocks.)

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 9:04 a.m. CST

    Nordling

    by oaser

    Thanks for getting some information on this because I'm crazy interested to see the movie, but I haven't seen anything about it. I actually was in Salem last Veteran's Day weekend and I ran into Zombie right in the Salem common area. He was decent enough to take a picture with my wife, even though Sherri was with him (and she's pretty friggin' hot in person). It was then I found out he was filming a movie about Salem. I think Zombie, as a director, has a real critical eye for filming. Before anyone dumps on that statement, watch the behind the scenes stuff on his movies. He actually thinks about the filmmaking process beyond getting behind a camera and yelling action. I can't wait for this movie.

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 9:46 a.m. CST

    The one thing I really do like about Zombie's movies:

    by lochkray

    He uses great character actors. Older ones, too. Kind of what Tarrintino has done - albeit less effectively. There's so many talented work-horse actors out there that don't get the opportunity to be front and center in films enough. Wish more directors would do that.

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 10:41 a.m. CST

    Sorry, had to stop reading after

    by angry kitty

    The main character is "played by, you guessed it, Rob’s wife Sheri Moon Zombie"

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 11:15 a.m. CST

    shitty musician, worse filmmaker

    by mattythelionheart

    who the fuck would pay to see his average looking wife act, when you could watch one of his dumb videos and get the same effect?

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 12:06 p.m. CST

    I loved The Devil's Rejects

    by Darth Thoth

    This was a fascinating review of Lords of Salem. I can't wait to see it now!

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 12:11 p.m. CST

    So....Rob remade "Hocus Pocus" mixed with "Rosemary's Baby?

    by Chris

  • does she cut him off of sex if he doesnt?

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 12:38 p.m. CST

    I'm not going to dig too much into the story...

    by CountOrlok

    ...followed by a near complete synopsis.

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 12:47 p.m. CST

    Halloween theatrical cut and Halloween 2 directors cut is the way to go

    by JackSlater4

  • This Fucktard makes Brett Ratner look like David Fincher he sucks so bad...

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 12:57 p.m. CST

    and i got tickets for Manson and Zombie on Halloween night!

    by JackSlater4

  • Using a Rob Zombie movie scale is her ass shot House of 1000 Corpses great, Halloween borderline great, Devils Rejects good, or Halloween 2 nonexistent? I have high hopes for her ass shot in this movie if the cinematography is as good as they say.

  • Using a Rob Zombie movie scale is her ass shot House of 1000 Corpses great, Halloween borderline great, Devils Rejects good, or Halloween 2 nonexistent? I have high hopes for her ass shot in this movie if the cinematography is as good as they say.

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 1:04 p.m. CST

    Love all of the "I stopped reading after..." comments

    by Chrononaut

    Your opinion isn't the same as mine!! Waaahhhh!!!

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 1:05 p.m. CST

    by Chrononaut

    Bunch of clueless fuckwits on here as usual. You know, it's okay to read things that don't completely reinforce your narrow worldview. I read positive reviews of movies I don't like and negative reviews of movies I do like. It helps to have a more informed opinion. I'm willing to bet the people who keep insisting that Rob Zombie is a shitty filmmaker have only seen bits and pieces of his movies. I'm not saying you have to like his films, obviously, but to deny that he has any skill as a director is just ignorant. There are directors I don't like but I can still admit they have their own unique and valid style. I know I'm in the wrong place if I'm looking for intelligent and reasoned film discussion beyond "ROB ZOMBIE SUCKS U KNOW THAT ISNT EVEN HIS REAL NAME LOLZ!!!!!!!!" Anyway, I'm intrigued by this project and the reviews I've read. Zombie is branching out and Lords sounds like a real change of pace. Hopefully some people who didn't enjoy his previous work will give this a chance. His hockey movie about the '70s Broad Street Bullies should be interesting too since it will be his first truly non-horror outing. Looking forward to seeing what he can do outside the genre.

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 1:20 p.m. CST

    RE: marlboroliteman

    by Marcus

    There definitely is a Sheri Moon Zombie ass shot. Still no frontal. Actually during the Q&A the final question of the night was "How come we only get ass shots and still no frontal shots of Sheri?".

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 2:09 p.m. CST

    Rob Zombo

    by ghoulstock

    Rob Zombie has talent as a director. Unfortunately, he has almost zero talent as a screenwriter, and therein lies the problem. If he would just start working with other people's scripts, he might actually pull off something great. Also he should really stop casting his wife, especially in a lead role. There's no way in hell she can carry a film. And she's annoying as hell. I'll still end up watching this though...through the good folks at Redbox.

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 2:15 p.m. CST

    Did anybody ever see El Superbeasto?

    by Chocolate_Giddyup

    I'm interested to know everyone's take (fans and non-fans alike) on that one. Does nobody recognize it because it's animated or because they think it sucks?

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 3:05 p.m. CST

    ghoulstock...

    by Red Ned Lynch

    ...you are correct. I actually feel sorry for Zombie, because his love of the genre is so obvious and deep. The Halloween Horrors maze he did at Universal Studios a few years back was great. But damn, the boy's got no sense of story structure, characterization or narrative flow. And there's a limit to how many times you can watch one of his movies and shrug at the end hoping the few little good bits you saw might one day blossom into a coherent vision.

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 3:06 p.m. CST

    The biggest problem with Zombie's Halloween

    by murray_hamilton

    is that he claims to be a huge fan of Carpenter's original, yet completely misses the point of what makes the original so special. Subtlety.

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 3:16 p.m. CST

    ghost of murrayhamilton...

    by Red Ned Lynch

    ...also correct. It's fun agreeing with people. Watch Zombie's Halloween and the terrible Black Christmas remake. Watch them both make the same horrible mistakes, adding the sort of generic back stories to their killers that we've seen in a hundred lesser slasher movies (and these sort of generic back stories were part of the reason those movies were the lesser slashers) and pretend it is their original reimagining of the source material. No guys, you just took the first act of the original Boogeyman or Christmas Evil and tacked it on a remake of a much better film.

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 3:17 p.m. CST

    This was the last film Richard Lynch appeared in...

    by Red Ned Lynch

    ...before his death. Hope he at least gets to go out in style.

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 3:23 p.m. CST

    El Superbeasto wasnt awful nor was the comic

    by JackSlater4

    It is goofy and I would have enjoyed more at age 14. The Devils Rejects comic is awesome though

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 4:16 p.m. CST

    Zombie and his shitbag movies can go to fuckin hell

    by plisskenman

    won't pay another dime to see his red neck turd celluloid creation

  • I didn't get Devil's Rejects either. But I'm looking forward to LORDS OF SALEM

  • Sept. 15, 2012, 10:21 p.m. CST

    Has Zombie gotten over his redneck, white trash universe yet?

    by Rob0729

    Other than his insistence to put his talentless wife in every project, his redneck universe that he sets all his movies in is probably the most annoying thing about him. It made sense in House of 1,000 Corpses and Devil's Rejects, but it made absolutely no sense in the Halloween movies (although little made sense in those two pieces of crap). All it does is show his limitations as a filmmaker. I didn't hate House of a 1,000 Corpses or Devil Rejects, but I found them overrated. The Halloween movies were awful and would have been ten times better if he created his own franchise rather than to force fit his vision into the Halloween franchise. I may catch this one on cable, but Zombie hasn't shown me enough to make me want to spend money to watch his movies.

  • Sept. 16, 2012, 1:05 a.m. CST

    Fucking wretched!

    by Kabukiman

    I'll say no more, because I would have to think about the movie again...

  • Sept. 16, 2012, 4:34 a.m. CST

    Don't know why but...

    by Darkness

    I seem to have a soft spot for Rob Zombie. Hated "House of 1000 Corpses", was a piece confused mess of a film. Good to see Sid Haig though - the freaky fucker he is. "The Devil's Rejects" was pretty much the same but a tad better, and the "Halloween" flicks had a real strong interesting take on them, without for once being in the rectum of Bay's Platinum Dunes. Definately give this a shot, for the mere fact of the B-movie actors he likes to enlist: Dee Wallace, Michael Berryman, Udo Kier, Lisa Marie, Meg Foster, to name a few.

  • Sept. 16, 2012, 4:52 a.m. CST

    Rob Zombie is better than Tarantino

    by gunnarcannibal

    Sorry, but if your wrote a talkback then you have given him the credibility he deserves. Love, hate, who cares, as long as people are talking about it...Devil's Rejects is the movie Tarantino doesn't have the balls to make and who even musters the effort to be aware of the boring movies the Spy Kids dude makes? Zombie will always do whatever the fuck he wants without any concern about how you fucking talentless jerk off geeks take it. You have proven again and again that you don't know anything about film, just about being forever in a state of arrested development.

  • Sept. 16, 2012, 5:02 a.m. CST

    You all masturbate to horrible things and hate your life...

    by gunnarcannibal

    and you know that you your just goo...so you are angry, but you'll just die and that will be that...Can't wait for this movie.

  • Sept. 16, 2012, 5:42 a.m. CST

    I love Zombie's Halloween

    by DrFever

    In general I don't care for horror movies. I find most to be blood and guts for the sake of blood of guts. Rob's Halloween all had reason for me. I bought it. It made sense. Loved it.

  • Sept. 16, 2012, 9:10 a.m. CST

    Zombie better than Tarantino?!?

    by Rob0729

    I am in the camp that everything Tatantino has done since Pulp Fiction has been overrated, but Zombie can't hold a candle to him. Just because Zombie is willing to be make his movies more fucked up, blood filled, exploitive, etc. doesn't make him a better filmmaker.

  • Sept. 16, 2012, 10:56 a.m. CST

    I love the Devils Rejects, but it owes a debt to Tarantino

    by JackSlater4

    It can thank True Romance and Natural Born Killers and From Dusk Till Dawn. I remember Tarantino saying it was one of his favorite movies that year and I feel like Rob Zombie could eventually reach that level, when he is much older and slows down on his music career and puts all his focus on filmaking.

  • There's definitely creepy hicks in New England though, Stephen King would agree.

  • Sept. 16, 2012, 11:29 a.m. CST

    My tuppence

    by Neil Harrison

    Hated his debut. Loved Devil's Rejects. Thought Halloween was 'meh.' Loved the director's cut of Halloween II. I'll definetly give this a chance...

  • Sept. 16, 2012, 1:35 p.m. CST

    Robert Rodriguez went to shit when he got obsessed with Rose McGowan

    by DougMcKenzie

    Take a hint Zombie, keep your crap acting wife away and hire some proper talent. You will honestly be surprised at how much it improves your movies and street cred, dude.

  • Sept. 16, 2012, 1:59 p.m. CST

    vinyl record

    by JamesT

    Evidently the lords went old school instead of burning a CD. I guess it's more impressive actually creating an LP than just burning a disc.

  • Sept. 16, 2012, 5:36 p.m. CST

    Rob Zombie can do no wrong

    by TheJudger

    No seriously. I love the mans work. I was a pre emtive hater of the first halloween (how dare they remake it) until I saw it on opening day. I believed in every film before that (Anticipated the fuck out of HOTC- AKA AS Legend of the 13 Graves when it was a madonna/zombie project- rememeber that kurt loader interview like it was yesterday), and after halloween 2. I'll never doubt the man again. He might not be everyones cup of joe, but i got a lot of respect for him. The man invites you to watch, but doesnt care if your down or not, he's not forcing you to come to his party, so stop bitching about the noise it makes, unless you live near his house, you know the whole tree falls in the woods motto. if the tree fell and you heard it and you didn't like it. Dont blame him, blame yourself. atleast he has a vision. Just about everyone else spinning horror yarns right now is slacking, and cookie cutting.

  • Sept. 16, 2012, 7:05 p.m. CST

    re:"shitty musician, worse filmmaker"

    by grendel69

    Amen, brother. Zombie is a terrible musician. The only reason why he's allowed to direct is he has a name and (stupid) fanbase. He doesnt have a ounce of talent behind the camera. He writes 12 year old juvenile dialogue, and its impossible for his carnival freaks and redneck trash characters to speak or communicate without sounding like a idiots. His dialogue is hysterically bad. I speak Scorsese, so profanity doesnt bother me, but his characters are too stupid to communicate. Zombie relys on shaky cam because the man has no idea how to mount tension with film. He sucks.

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 4:34 a.m. CST

    I have enjoyed all of Rob Zombie's movies.

    by albert comin

    As a musician, his career never never caugh my attention. his movies have. For me he's a filmmaker. I have enjoyed all his movies, "Halloween" remakes included. His weill never suplanted or replace the great Carpenter's original, nor i think there is any intetion of Zombie to do so. In fact, i think the deviation of mood and tone of his Halloween movies is deliberate so. You can't mess with perfection, so why even try? But there is a feeling of personal touch to his reamkes that seem so absent in all other recent remakes of classic horror. "The Fog", anybody? I'm quite curious to Zombie's next movie. His is a career i'm quite interested to follow. He's good at making movies, he's an interesting and smart fellow, he has geek interests, and he truly loves the horror genre. Making horror movies is not just a quick meal for him, it's a job of passion.

  • Except that you are wrong.

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 4:43 a.m. CST

    @Mr iamlopanureggshen69

    by albert comin

    I agree.

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 11:11 a.m. CST

    devils rejects is flawless

    by jah_kingdom

    Everything else has been a letdown. 1st hour of halloween was promising but went downhill

  • ...I mean sure, nepotism is alive and well in Hollywood and has certainly cost the film industry the discovery of real talent, but you can't begrudge someone like Zombie using the same lead when other, more accomplished filmmakers (Tarantino, Smith, Rodriguez, Linklater, etc) sometimes use the same leads, casts AND crews all the way down to PAs and grips!

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 2:48 p.m. CST

    ...and that's all aside from the fact that she's fucking him.

    by REMcycle

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 3:25 a.m. CST

    I like Rob Zombie´s films

    by CuervoJones

    The guy knows about horror movies. And he does what he wants. I gotta respect that.