Monday, November 19, 2007


About two years ago a close friend tricked me into seeing a scary movie. I hate seeing any kind of scary movie, so the trick was actually necessary to get me to the theater (my friend also paid for my ticket). I sat there ready to be the one wimp in the audience who screamed, jumped, and clung to her friend because I was sure everyone else was not such a coward as I was. Then Cursed began.
Let me set it up for you. Christina Ricci portrays a young woman who has become a caretaker for her younger brother after both of their parents died, and is dealing with a boyfriend who is being cold and distant at this time. One night they are involved in a car crash and attacked by some animal. After this attack they both figure they are fine and just try to move on with their lives. However, in the days that follow both of them start experiencing strange things that they can’t explain. The brother, after doing some research, realizes that a werewolf attacked them and the only way to save them is to kill the werewolf that infected them.
Actually, now that I have written that out the movie doesn’t even sound that scary. However, I have heard that Wes Craven is good at scaring people and, as he was the director of this movie, I thought I had just cause to be nervous. Yet soon after the film started my friend and I both realized that the scary thing about this movie was the fact that they actually thought it would be scary. It was funny in a very bad kind of way, but not scary. Sure there were parts that made you jump, but it did not scare you. They even had the typical scary movie things going, e.g. ominous music that crescendos at the point you are supposed to get scared, but I think they left out the part that was supposed to scare you.
One really scary thing was the horrible plot of the movie. I was scared that this script actually got optioned. I still have nightmares sometimes thinking that if they made that into a movie what is going to come next? Joshua Jackson, who plays the distant boyfriend, is described as having been a ladies man, until very recently. He shows up here and there in the movie but just gets through the scene other than acting in it. The plot was so contrived that it was ridiculous. Of course the werewolf is going to be someone who the brother and sister trusted and would never suspect in a million years. I mean that was just ridiculous and I actually felt insulted that there was NO ORIGINALITY in the plot. They must have thought that I was like a lot of moviegoers who doesn’t really think about what they are watching. Guess what? THEY WERE WRONG!!!!!!
One thing that usually angers me about going to see bad movies is the fact that I actually spent money to see it. However, in this case that did not happen, but I still ended up liking some bad movies that I paid to see more than this one.
Normally at this point in my review I would try to sum things up and give you my rating in a clever way. This movie does not deserve it. -16. Shame on Wes Craven! Yeah, that’s right you don’t even deserve a proper conclusion.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Boondock Saints

This review is fairly spoiler-ish, so be warned.

We live in a day and age that doesn’t deal very well with moral absolutes. In general, we are just concerned with ourselves, and all the things we have to do in order to preserve ourselves. This attitude means we don’t step on anyone’s toes, and don’t impede anyone else’s freedom, which is a good thing. However, some people are very irresponsible with that freedom, and choose to impede other people’s freedoms even though they themselves are not being bothered. The attitude of “none of my business” fosters that, unfortunately, and allows it to continue unchecked. So where do you draw the line between letting other people go on their own way and stepping in to say “that’s wrong”?

Boondock Saints deals with that question by presenting a fantastic situation, and carrying one viewpoint to an extreme. However, it pulls off a neat trick in that even carried to that extreme, it doesn’t seem wrong or off-the-mark.

The story involves two Irish twin brothers in South Boston, who through not-so-simple twists of fate, end up becoming symbols of justice and near-superheroes. Connor and Murphy MacManus (Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) seem like something out of a comic book at the start of the film; dressed in identical blue jeans, black pea coats and sunglasses, praying side-by-side in Catholic mass. A little girl in their pew can’t help but stare at them. Then, despite the fact that the priest is speaking, they go up to the altar to kiss the feet of the statue of Jesus, as though they were clergy instead of lay persons. With the help of a package boy for the Italian mafia (David Della Rocco, whose character is actually named Rocco) who’s tired of being a peon for evil men, they embark on a crusade to rid Boston of its criminal element. They begin killing mobsters, assassins, and criminal lowlifes. More than that, they bring religion and faith into the equation, by proclaiming themselves to be the holy hammer of God.

At first glance, these guys seem like psychotic and dangerous freaks. The only thing worse than a psycho is a psycho who believes he has God on his side. However, a public outcry for the Saints to be apprehended and the killings to stop is nonexistent, since they are only preying on predators of the innocent. From a certain perspective, they are making the world safe for good, upstanding citizens. The fact of the matter, though, is that the “good upstanding citizen” group does not seem to include them. They live in illegal Irish housing in the worst part of town, work in a meat packing plant, drink, smoke, swear like sailors, and get in fights at the drop of a hat. But those superficial things don’t have any bearing on what makes a person truly good, as the Saints certainly are. “Unsavory” and “unholy” are definitely not the same thing. This is one of the major themes of the movie for me.

The Saints’ activities have not escaped the notice of the law, and they are being tracked by FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe). But even he gets frustrated with how working within the confines of the police system entails wading through miles of red tape and a slow crawl towards justice. He realizes that the Saints are hunting the bad guys, too, and decides to help their cause. On an unrelated note, Smecker is gay, but seems to reject everything about being gay except having sex with men.

About half-way through the film, we are introduced to Il Duce (Billy Connolly), a very efficient and brutal assassin. After initially hunting down the Saints to kill them, Il Duce joins their cause, and indeed becomes a Saint. The fact that there are always three Saints (first the brothers and Rocco, and then the brothers and Il Duce) is very significant. The obvious reference is the Trinity, being the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The invocation of the Trinity is the final part of the prayer the brothers say before killing someone. Continuing the Trinity theme, Il Duce can be seen as the Father (he is actually the originator of the prayer the Saints commonly recite), Rocco as the Son (his entire purpose in the film is to die), and the brothers as the Holy Spirit (they carry their philosophy and belief system into action).

Besides the numerous philosophical questions and issues the movie raises, it’s also a competent action film. It’s low budget, granted, but director Troy Duffy makes the most of what he’s got. The pacing is a little off, and the visual style is a little over-the-top in places, but the writing is top-notch, and Willem Dafoe brings oceans of depth and skill to his part. Boondock Saints is a dual-purpose movie, much like The Matrix and Jurassic Park, and it’s quickly becoming a cult classic.

Iconic Lines:
“The laws of God are higher than the laws of man.”
“Shut your fat mouth! I can’t buy a pack of smokes without running into 9 guys you f***ed!”
“What a fag.”

22 Rating: 14

Particle Man

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Warriors

There are cult movies, and then there are cult movies. Films that have been included as part of the cultural zeitgeist, and have stayed there. One such film is Walter Hill's 1979 classic The Warriors. The Warriors, which was (very loosely) adapted from a novel by Sol Yurick, is the story of The Warriors (of course), a gang from Coney Island. In the opening moments of the film, we see discussions among The Warriors of a summit they are attending at midnight, a summit called by Cyrus, the charismatic leader of the Grammercy Riffs. Interspersed with those scenes are other scenes of wonderfully colorful gangs going to the summit. Gangs dressed like mimes, pimps, etc. Each gang sends 9 unarmed representatives to Central Park. There, Cyrus delivers a speech about how there are SO MANY gang members, and so few police, and how they could own the city if they were to unite. However, Cyrus is shot by Luther (David Patrick Kelly, probably best known as T-Bird from The Crow), leader of the Rogues. Luther blames it on The Warriors, when he notices that one of them saw him commit the act, leaving The Warriors to try and make it all the way home to Coney Island.....with every gang in New York City looking for them.
I mentioned The Crow earlier, which is not just significant as a film that features David Patrick Kelly as a scenery-chewing heavy, but another film I love for some of the same reasons that I love The Warriors. For one thing, there are a lot of very competent performances from very obscure actors. The biggest "stars" in the film are probably Kelly and James Remar (Who? Yeah, exactly....). The fact that the performances make an impression is significant because they do so against such a strange, surreal version of New York, much like The Crow does with its ultraviolent, almost gothic Detroit. It should seem ridiculous that there is a gang that dresses up as baseball players with quasi KISS makeup, says nothing, and whales on people with baseball bats, but it works here. The film also has going for it a good length, good pacing, and great cinematography by Andrew Laszlo (Shogun, Newsies, First Blood).
As great as The Warriors is, it has several drawbacks. One is that the film flirts with violence against women a little too closely, though it doesn't cross that line. Another is is that it might seem aged to some, something that the "Directors Cut" DVD doesn't help. Though there are some good added scenes, there are ill-advised framing sequences made to look like comic-book panels to help the (very dumb, apparently) viewer understand the comic-book feel that the movie is supposed to have. Ummm, thanks. I really didn't get that from the KISS/baseball gang, or any of the other flamboyant gangs in the film, for that matter. I saw this on the big screen at midnight at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline a few months ago, and they projected the DVD, instead of showing an actual film print of it. Booooooooo.
All the above bitching aside, The Warriors is a really fun film. The strange feel of the film has kept it from aging too much, and I'm sure it feels very much the same way now that it did back in 1979. I give the Warriors a 16 out of 22 on the 22 scale.

Memorable Lines:

Mercy: "Yeah, that's right, Warriors. Just keep walkin'. Real tough muthas, ain't ya? You guys don't show me much. Why don't you dickheads just walk all the way back home, huh?"

Ajax: "I'll shove that bat up your @$$ and turn you into a popsicle."

Sully, Leader of The Orphans: "You see what you get, Warriors? You see what you get when you mess with the Orphans?"

Luther: "Waaaarrrrrriiiorsss, come out to pla-ay!"