“The Walking Dead” premiered in October of last year with one of the best pilot episodes ever filmed for basic cable. It then proceeded to get absolutely, off-the-rails stupid with subplots involving gangsters protecting the elderly, a handless Michael Rooker and a psychic hillbilly. The season finale was the pinnacle of dumb; beginning with a hilariously half-assed statement against using fossil fuels, it concluded with the main character’s escape of the self-destructing Center for Disease Control with a grenade stashed in some chick’s purse for the previous three episodes.
Needless to say, I didn’t have high hopes for the second season, but after I saw that the semi-lucid schizophrenics who wrote season one had been fired and that 7.4 million people had watched the premier, I decided to give “The Walking Dead” another go.
The movie “Drive” takes the deadest sub-genre in the entire world (heist movies) and twists every cliché and expectation associated with those films to make what may be the freshest, most exciting film of the year. It achieves this with exactly two car chases, several long periods of total silence and a plot that hibernates until roughly the 45-minute mark. You are probably thinking, “Well, that sounds really terrible!” and with any other less competently made film it would be. But with “Drive,” every decision is clearly deliberate; every minor detail contributes to the film’s overall style. It is nothing short of perfection through subtlety.
The casting is excellent, featuring TV favorites Bryan Cranston and Christina Hendricks, as well as the great Ron Perlman who finally gets some screen time not covered in monster make-up. But by far the best member of the cast is Ryan Gosling. This is a sentence I never thought I would conceive in my life. See, most people, myself included, best remember him as the dude in “The Notebook,” a film that everyone who’s ever been in a relationship has been forced to sit through at least once. But, in what is becoming a more common occurrence, my expectations were wrong.
Gosling plays the best maladjusted, socially-awkward loner since Travis Bickle graced the big screen. His smiles are inappropriately timed, his emotional responses are just a little off and he almost never blinks. You can tell that beneath his unassuming exterior there lies an ability for serious violence. “Drive” is one of those rare films where the hero actually feels more dangerous than the villains, a fact that owes entirely to Gosling’s masterful performance.
If I had to compare “Drive” to another movie, I would say it most resembles one of my all time favorite films, “Blade Runner.” Both have deeply flawed protagonists, slow plots filled with ambiguity, distinctive visual styles, excellent synth soundtracks and deceptive marketing campaigns portraying them as action films when they, in actuality, are something much more. This is basically the highest compliment I can give. Seriously, go see “Drive” now.
There exists a dark side to the seemingly innocuous movies we all loved as kids. It’s a jarring, offsetting revelation that one never expects (sort of like finding out the guy who wrote “Dilbert" is an ass who hates women and pretends to be his own biggest fan). So kick back, relax and prepare to have your childhood ruined because here are some classics that are downright sinister.
Willy Wonka and the Seven Deadly Sins.
Ok, so there’s this antisocial psychopath whose disgust with the wrong-doings of society leads him to maim and murder individuals according to their vices. Seriously, the film is just plain sadistic: the fat kid gets drowned in a river of chocolate, the greedy rich girl gets incinerated after trying to get a golden egg and the annoying gum-chewer’s body is permanently deformed into a blueberry. To top it all off, Wonka, the evil bastard that he is, orders his team of midgets to sing songs mocking the kids’ fates. And let’s not even get started on the tunnel from Hell...
The Lion Führer
“The Lion King” is essentially “Richard III” with cats: an ugly, unpopular schemer offs his brother to become king and then gets himself killed by pissing off everyone. But, there is also another, darker side. You see, at one point in the film, there is an impromptu Nazi rally featuring marching hyenas. Meanwhile, Lion Hitler is atop a giant podium going on about how they have to be prepared (for the final solution probably). It only lasts a couple seconds, but its such a bizarre scene that it stays with you well after the film has ended. It’s equivalent to having the Exxon Valdez spill kill half the cast of “The Little Mermaid”. Or featuring a song about wanting to rape and murder someone in a movie about talking statues who hang with a guy that looks like Sloth from “the Goonies”. Oh wait, that actually happened.
If you had told me at the start of 2011 that one of my favorite movies I’d see that year would be called “Hobo with a Shotgun”, I almost certainly would have agreed with you. Low budget, independent genre films are often maligned by critics and ignored by the public as a whole. But in film’s figurative cellar, or literal bargain bin, there are live, off beat masterpieces that put the CGI-heavy Hollywood Summer Blockbusters to shame.
Sure “The Toxic Avenger”, “Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky” and “Evil Dead II” may have lacked funding, big name stars and any semblance of good taste, but these films exist as modern day cult-classics for a reason: they are simply fun to watch. Their humor, over-the-top violence and, frankly, bizarre plots are a breath of fresh air after the seemingly endless amounts of horror remakes and sequels, flat romantic comedies and movies with talking dogs. Sometimes you just need mutant twins or a head-exploding psychic to break the mold.
In addition, the corniness and mediocre acting add a level of charm that is completely absent from the majority of features dumped into theaters each month. Take for example, the aptly named “Bad Taste”. Shot by some guy and his buddies over the course of a few weekends with homemade props and latex masks, it tells the timeless story of mankind’s last stand against an intergalactic fast-food cartel set on serving humans for dinner. The movie hasn’t particularly aged and probably still looked like crap in 1987, but its ingenuity and creativity in the face of economic adversity make the film stand out. Plus it’s really stupid and funny.
It all boils down to a matter of preference. Sometimes you want “Citizen Kane”. Yet, other times you’d rather watch a zombie fight a tiger shark.
“Cyberbully," or “CyberBu//y” if you go by the cool Internety spelling on the poster, is set out to “delete digital drama” but just ended up flat-out confusing me. Due to its sheer ridiculousness, “Cyberbully” rises above its peers like the Hindenburg, then crashes just as spectacularly. It is an honest-to-god dumpster fire of a movie.
The plot is fairly simple: Taylor, our protagonist, gets a laptop for her birthday and immediately registers a profile on Cliquesters, which is described by one character as a “more raw” facebook (I swear to God). Basically, the site is identical to facebook in every way except for a few additional pointless graphics and everything typed in Courier New, the edgiest font.
The action kicks off when Taylor’s younger brother hacks her account and posts “I’m a bad girl someone should spank me." Honestly it seems pretty tame to me, seeing as every account I’ve seen hacked ended up with statuses that read like a cross between a Dear Penthouse letter and “American Psycho." Apparently it’s enough for the sociopaths on Cliquesters who rapidly descend on Taylor’s page and call her a “smelly skank." Things only get worse when one of Taylor’s friends registers an account pretending to be a boy who slept with her and got “the clap”, which is something I am absolutely positive no one under sixty actually says.
Things finally come to a head with a shockingly bad suicide attempt and then the movie just kind of meanders for like thirty minutes before a vaguely happy ending. Therein lies the biggest problem: we really don’t care what happens to Taylor. Throughout the film, she is shown to be thoroughly unlikeable. She treats her genuinely caring mother like crap, neglects her friends (though they sort of suck too) and tells the abused gay student who tries to share his bullying experiences that because he actually is gay, the insults directed his way apply. “Cyberbully” attempts to capitalize on the recent string of facebook abuse incidents but ends up being so sensationalist that a good point is ultimately lost, and that is the biggest tragedy of all.
For all the cool, useful things on YouTube, there exists 10 times as much stupid crap. Where else would you find a mash-up of anime and Creedence Clearwater Revival? Or a Creed tribute to some video game from when I was six? Or whatever the hell this is? But the absolute bottom-of-the-barrel insults to humanity itself are fan films. Basically, strip everything good and effective from some popular movie/game/TV program, add fat guys and shoot eight minutes with a camcorder, and you’ve got yourself a show. For example:
From the Film: “Titanic”
Where most people would have seen gently sliding down the broken half of the ship into the ocean as the best option, this man instead sees an opportunity to go base jumping. I’ve always wondered what was going through this guy’s head. Maybe he thought if he got in the water really fast it wouldn’t feel as cold (true). Maybe he was wasted and thought doing a 200-foot swan dive off the stern of sinking ship would look cool as hell (also true). Whatever his logic, things took a turn for the Greg Louganis real quick. Seriously though, if James Cameron hadn't intended this to be funny he wouldn’t have added a “donk” noise.
Disney’s latest crash-grab “Mars Needs Moms” has bombed so phenomenally it would make J. Robert Oppenhemier proud. It had the 12th worst opening ever for a film playing in 3,000-plus theaters and currently is on track to lose roughly $100 million. My question: Why the hell is anyone surprised?
We all know “Jersey Shore” is an objectively great show that provides a level of pure train-wreck entertainment not seen since that guy on “Survivor” killed a pig than face-planted into a bonfire. But is it the real deal? As a long time Jersey resident and shore enthusiast, I have taken it upon myself to evaluate the validity of MTV’s most popular program.
I recently saw the “True Grit” remake, and my first thought was, “Hey, that was pretty decent”. Then I found out it was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including a best lead performance for Jeff Bridges. Really? At the very most, you can only understand about 60 percent of what the hell he’s saying during the movie. I didn’t see “Pootie Tang” sweep during award season. But instead of complaining, for once I’m going to take a positive approach and talk about some great movies nobody liked.