my Movie
DVRfest 2009 (11.06.09 - 11.08.09, 10 movies)
Date Viewed Movie Director Notes
11.06.09 Balls of FuryRobert Ben GarantOops! Where did this come from!? DVRfest already? Damn. Well, to be perfectly honest I am not what you would call 100% prepared for my own festival this year. Lots of stuff is going on and this has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle. Oh well. Part of the fun of having it be a one-person film festival is that I DO WHAT I WANT! So, this year to celebrate another successfull year of recording every film I saw, I'm doing something similar to last year: not so much an exploration of films I haven't seen but a catching up of films that I missed. Also there's a few netflix movies strewn in this year so again it's not 100% "pure" DVR goodness. To make up for that however, this will be DVRfest's first year in HD! Huzzah!

So anyway, "Opening Night Film" ended up being Balls of Fury because 1) it's the only comedy on my program this year, 2) it's the only one Molly was remotely interested in seeing, and 3) it's one of two that have been sitting on my DVR forever (which, constant reader will remember, was the original impetus for DVRfest 5 years ago (!!!)). I had heard it was bad, but the cast is pretty decent and I liked Night at the Museum so I thought maybe everyone was wrong and a true The State/Reno 911! afficionado like myself would appreciate the embedded humor.

Eh, not so much.

The story is a rip-off of Enter the Dragons, except instead of kung fu it's ping pong (except in two scenes, then it really is kung fu for some reason) and instead of being good it's the opposite of that.

I think most of the problem... well ok there are a lot of problems. I don't understand who thought a lot of the jokes or gags in this movie were funny in any way at all. Then there's a decent amount of material that would probably be at least passable in the hands of a funnier leading man (it's pretty sad that I thought this guy was better in Good Luck Chuck... guess I'll have to see Fanboys now to tell for sure whether he sucks or not), then there were a few things that probably would've been funny with that actor if he was directed better (George Lopez, I'm looking at you). Finally finally finally, there were like 4 times in the movie that I laughed. I will now recount them for the official record:

-after Randy gets stung by all the bees, there's like a 5-second scene of him crying in bed.

-Not anything specifically but just in general I find the idea that Terry Crews actually being a credible comedic actor pretty funny. He and Tiny Lister should really play brothers some time. That would be great, since I think they're both genuinely funny.

-The screaming courtesans of pleasure made me crack up even though I don't feel good about it.

-...I'll have to get back to you.

Anyway, a shame really. Maggie Q is hot and her pelvis dragon tattoo needs much closer inspection. Seeing her have to kiss Randy was pretty gross though, and I usually stick up for fat guys.

On to the next, which was supposed to be a midnight movie but I fell asleep so will now be a noon matinee! Here's a hint: it involves humans again even though they are not in the title.
11.07.09 Aliens vs Predator - RequiemColin Strausse, Greg StrausseThis film exemplifies one of the main reasons why I think film criticism is dying if not dead: people will watch movies no matter how bad people say they are. In my defense, it's alien and predator... come on.

I can't remember if it was a direct follow-up of the last AvP film, but this one starts with the chest of a predator giving way to an alien. The ship crash lands in rural Colorado, a distress beacon is received by another predator in their alien city, and a disappointing movie ensues. I think a lot of people take just how cool both the alien and predator mythos for granted these days. Maybe Alien: Resurrection is still too close to people's minds or the extreme let down of the first AvP film has sealed both creatures' fates as relics of the past but that's a shame. a real shame. Moments and glimpses in this film reminded me of just how cool both species can be. It's just a shame that fox seems to deliberately make the opposite of what fans of both franchises want.

It's easy to say that humans shouldn't be in this movie. It's harder (and much more expensive) to say what a movie without humans would be like. Still, any chance would be better regarded than this, which is humans running around getting in the way of the real story: a predator hunting aliens.

That said, there were severl elements here that I did like. I loved how the predator starts using the humans as bait at some point, even though I don't really understand why since this is a cleaning mission and not hunting for sport the predator couldn't have called up a buddy or two. Alien squad tactics are cool, Predator squad tactics would've been cooler.

I also enjoy the amount of TV actors in this. I feel like this is a pretty grand tradition of the B-movie and am glad to see that it's still alive and well. What's more, I actually like most of the people working here. The dude from Rescue Me, the dude from The Job, the girl from 24, Sam from True Blood; it's like an on-hiatus pro-bowl. The acting isn't great but it's not too bad either and hey... it's Aliens vs Predator, not Hamlet vs Macbeth.

The movie is too dark. I literally can't see much on the screen. I'd like a good look at the big baddie here but... I'm willing to live without it. Whenever aliens come out of the dark they look weird anyway.

I really liked Predator's new toys, although I wish he got to use his whip for more than 4 seconds. Maybe he should put a wii wrist-band on it so he doesn't drop it with the slightest breeze. It looked pretty badass.

All in all it's a predictably disappointing film. I still hold out the tiniest sliver of hope that someday someone crazy will green-light a radically different kind of film (more horror than action) and we can see these two species really grow and clash. Until then... I'll always have the five or so films that I already enjoy.

From here, we go from one of worst reviewed films of recent years to one of the best.
11.07.09 Frost/NixonRon HowardA british guy interviews Nixon and is triumphant when he gets him to admit that he sucks.

Not to take anything away from Ron Howard who did a very good job with this (my fear was that it'd be two people in a room talking for two hours. It kinda way but not in the way that a lot of filmed plays really bore me. There was only one full-out speech and that took me out of it but oh well, could've been a lot worse), but I think this is a movie completely sitting on actors' shoulders. Were it not for Frank Langella (playing a bit more Anthony Hopkins' Nixon than real Nixon to me) and Sam Rockwell and Oliver Platt and Michael Sheen... it wouldn't have been much. I realize you can say that about every play ever made so to say it about a movie based on a play is pretty weak but... whatever. Let's put Pauly Shore in here and see what the critics say.

Anyway, it was ok. Interesting enough story for someone who wasn't alive when it happened. I feel like Stone's Nixon gives a much better portrait, but watching this as a follow-up to that film would be pretty nice.

Ok, what's next...
11.07.09 AppaloosaEd HarrisTwo dudes roll into a town and enforce the law a bit, then typical westerny stuff happens.

It's kinda bad like everyone says. For me things were going swimmingly until Renee Zellwegger showed up with her face. I don't know what happened since Jerry Maguire but something about her nowadays... I really don't like. Maybe it's this assumption that she's hot even though her face is like a squished bloated prune sometimes. How can it be squished AND bloated you ask? Just look at her face and you'll find out. So I didn't really like her being in this movie, although her part is pretty interesting for the genre. I guess it's the most interesting part of the movie but that's a shame. It's a shame how every western story lately has to seem like it's lifted from a video game which was in turn lifted from an older, better movie. Are there really no more stories of The West to tell?

In any case, the scenery was pretty. I enjoyed the HD aspects of watching it. I just wish it was better, you know?

It seems like I'm screaming through these movies. Up next? midget nazis!!!
11.07.09 ValkyrieBryan SingerTom Cruise and several british actors play hitler-hating nazis that plot to end the war via assassination. They don't. SPOILERS!

I remember how excited I was for Apt Pupil. After The Usual Suspects, Bryan Singer was close to the top of my list of favsy directors. Couple him with a Stephen King novella from the same collection as Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption? Can't go wrong! oops. It's kind of the same thing here except the part where I thought it would be good.

This was just a weird choice all around. I'm not sure what anybody saw in this. I guess it's interesting to see just how close these guys came to changing history, but... in the end you know they fail, and they're trying less than a year before Hitler kills himself anyway. It's not like it's 1936 or anything... Sure they didn't know how the next year would shake out, but my highschool education leads me to believe that the tide had already turned by the time these events take place.

Oh well. enough arguing with the movie. It was just shy of alright. I'm not sure why I needed to know this story though. Personally, I enjoyed an HBO movie that Branagh did much more called Conspiracy about the conference where the nazis decide to burninate the jews. It was just a small movie but presented a much more interesting take on the nazi mindset than this did... and with less epic music, Bleh. Bryan Singer, stay away from nazis.

Speaking of that... this next one has Indian people in it!
11.07.09 Slumdog MillionaireDanny BoyleI guess this was a big deal last year, right? I'm not sure I see it. Yes, the framing device is pretty cool, and the colorful pallette looked great in HD... but overall it left me a bit bored. I liked how the title was on the kid's shirt, but all the childhood stuff made me glad I was white and comfortable to be honest. I didn't get the exuberant boisterous energy so much as the abhorrent squalor and devestating poverty. Passing it off as something I should be excited about seemed a bit exploitative to me, although I'm probably taking everything too seriously right now. Next year if I have more time to plan this out, I'll have to throw in some movies that might surprise me rather than the stuff I know is bad but want to see anyway and the stuff I heard was good but wasn't excited to see when it came out.

In any case, I.... yeah, not sure why so many people went crazy for this one. I thought it was just ok.

Oh yeah, and what was up with the bathtub full of money. Did he just want it to get bloody and be a pain in the ass for the dudes who have to clean it? Nice shades, bro.

Up next... in what will be the last movie of the night... is something involving.... a hotel..... and dogs!
11.07.09 Hotel for DogsThor FreudenthalHot on the heels of Beverly Hills Chihuaha comes this comic tale of a hotel - get this - FOR DOGS!

I actually enjoyed this more than BHC. It being a Nickelodeon film, it's a bit more honest in its demographic. Plus there's no completely fake Mexico to deal with, just a completely fake NYC. But still, my love for dogs and rube goldberg devices carried me through the typical children's movie plot and character. There sure does seem to be a lot of purebred strays in new york though... probably due to the fancy-pants community they have there, all making salsa and playing Monopoly whilst smoking pipes or cigarettes through plastic mouthpieces and commenting on modern art.

Anyway, I wouldn't recommend anyone turned off by the title sseeing this movie. It kind of worked for me though as a last-movie-of-the-evening in that it's kind of fantasy and filled with cute doggies.

So, last day of the fest. In fact only two movies to go (unless I dig something up for a "closing night film" which I currently don't have planned... look, I'm just like FantasticFest!). This next one involves racism!
11.08.09 Gran TorinoClint EastwoodAn old racist bastard befriends his vietnamese neighbors despite his constant listing of slurs and epithets. It's funny how Clint Eastwood can do it here and it's a social statement but when William Sanderson does it in Fight For Your Life it's offensive and demeaning.

In any case, I found this alternatingly hilarious and decent. The whole teaching-someone-to-be-a-man thing is very macho and Pelecanos-esque and I liked that aspect, but Eastwood's gruff persona was very funny, probably unintentionally so. I also appreciate that he finally unlocked the secret language of the white man for everybody to know. Now when other ethnicities enter old-school barber shops, we won't be able to tell if they're one of the good ones or not.

I also like how all of his sons and grandkids were unapologetic douches and how the movie pays no sympathy toward any of them even at the end.

so... up next may be the last movie of the fest. I dunno. We'll see how I feel afterward. It's got gays!
11.08.09 MilkGus Van SantA gay dude fights for his rights to party. Then dies. SPOILER!!!

An ok biopic... certainly a good performance from Sean Penn (duh). I still don't exactly see the point of most of these kinds of movies though. My guess is for people who don't already know the story who want to learn more about it - sort of one long high-budget dramatization without the dry documentary voice-over - but in that case, why does nearly every one of them spoil the ending right up front? If someone knew then alright but for people who didn't know (like me), why ruin it? I spent the whole movie wondering how and when he'd get it rather than, you know, what was going on. Kind of a weird thing to do that I think happens quite frequently in this genre.

So another biopic. Longtime readers are probably asking "why do you even watch these any more?" Good question.

This can't be the end of the fest. Sure I've caught up on a lot of big movies that passed me by, but there needs to be something a bit more interesting than the usual oscar fodder. So let's end this weekend with something a bit more my style and a bit less... tolerant.
11.08.09 White DogSamuel FullerDriving through the hollywood hills late one night, an actress accidentally hits a dog. She takes him to a vet who patches him up, puts posters up around the neighborhood, and falls in love with him when he protects her from a rapist. ("This is the same rapist I popped last year! Come on, buddy...") Since no one's claimed him, she takes him on as her own, not realizing that the calm protective animal hates black people. That's right. HATES BLACK PEOPLE.

This is the story of White Dog, a very late entry in Sam Fuller's ouevre and probably his most controversial. It's a good thing that Criterion has such a hard on for the guy because this would probably be pretty hard to see were it not for their release. Actually, were it not for their release of The Naked Kiss, I probably never would've become such a fan (although I like Pickup on South Street and Underworld USA more, but whatever). His films were as direct as his personality. No frills, no tweaks or masturbation. Just straight-forward story.

This one is a bit of a mix because his style and the story are so serious but that weird b-movie insanity creeps in along the edges whenever it can. Burl Ives is insane in this movie. Aside from his amazing opening speech (completely shut down by Kristy McNichol ("I really do need help")) and his general frantic energy through the whole movie, there's a dinner scene where Paul Winfield inexplicably has Romanian caviar where Ives is all like "sour cream! I love it..." followed by McNichols: "Fattening though" and they have this super quick conversation about how his diet allows it before a cop comes to the door and changes the mood of the evening. I've never seen anyone eat sour cream like cottage cheese. It's pretty weird. I'm kind of not opposed to it though.

Dick Miller and Paul Bartel also both make appearances. So at certain times I think "so I'm watching a movie about a racist dog, this is so Corman, right?" but others, when the Ennio Morricone music kicks in and Bruce Surtees is filming this white german shephard running at the camera with its tongue hanging out its mouth, it's much more of a "real movie" vibe and the two competing sensibilities sometimes clash but often times work very well together. Paul Winfield baring his black chest to the dog as a final test is pretty hilarious, but the scene where the grandfather with his kids shows up to reclaim his dog ("Best of the lot!") is genuinely chilling. It makes for a pretty awesome effect.

This is a much more fitting "Closing Night Film" i must say. The first movie of the weekend that I really liked a lot.

So that wraps up another year. Stat dump! 9 in the past week, 13 in the past month, 126 in the past year (ouch), 1876 movies seen 2051 times total. With seeing the new Universal Soldier, I have now seen almost a hundred years of film (Safety Last in 1923 - 2010). It's actually kinda cool to think that this is the fifth one. How long did Bogdanovich do his? 17 years? I'm about a third of the way there! Here's hoping the next third is just as easy and rewarding as the first. Who knows, maybe one year I'll actually invite people over.