Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Twilight New Moon - what I learned from the trailers...

Wuvable wittle vampire...

...and a chest-waxing werewolf...

...fight over the little boy from Panic Room.

And dreamcatchers are cool again?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pirate Radio

Thanks to the kind people at WXRT Chicago, I was able to see Pirate Radio before its release today. That means my review will actually be of some use! And the best part of all, Pirate Radio is an amazing movie.

Many radio stations are awarding points to their listeners for doing certain things, like listening online, or clicking on articles. I saw the promotion to win these passes, along with Q and A with their resident film critic, "The Regular Guy". So of course I put all my points towards this contest. And I won, perhaps because most XRT listeners would rather win concert passes or T-shirts. I, however, am a movie freak and would have loved to meet The Regular Guy. Turns out, The Regular Guy isn’t real; he’s just the voice character of one of the DJs. So, I didn’t meet him, I just got to watch one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.

Pirate Radio takes place in England in the 1960’s, when radio stations were prohibited from playing rock and roll. Several stations began broadcasting their rock from boats out at sea. The practice was not illegal at the time, but parliament wanted to put an end to it. This is the story of one of those ships, Radio Rock. A young boy named Carl is sent to live on the boat with his godfather Quentin. His mother apparently had enough of his antics. The plot follows his observations on the ship, but it’s not all about Carl. Quentin, played by Bill Nighy, manages the radio station. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays The Count, a wild DJ from America. The previews make it seem like PSH is the main character, but we actually get to know several other DJs very well. All the DJs are played by funny men; Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, and pretty much every other English actor you’ve seen in a movie. Even Kenneth Branagh is in it. I think the only one missing here is Simon Pegg. These DJs live on the boat and are forced to interact with each other every minute of the day. With not much else to do, they talk and play games. The characters are so off-the-wall crazy, throwing them into one small room breeds hilarious dialogue and sure-to-be classic scenes. The humor is pretty silly, similar to Shaun of the Dead. Certain scenes were so silly they actually reminded me of old Beatles movies and even Monty Python. Even the clothes the DJ’s wear are crazy. The costumes are vibrant and colorful and really take you back to that era.

Pirate Radio was written and directed by Richard Curtis, the man responsible for Love Actually - another favorite of mine. One great thing about Love Actually is the great music. A lot of thought went into the soundtrack. Pirate Radio is no different; this movie is all about the music so it had to be good. There is one classic song after another and they are all timed intelligently to the pace of the film. We hear The Who, The Stones, The Kinks, Hendrix - the list goes on and on. This movie is filled with so many classic tunes, they will probably need to release the soundtrack as a boxed set.

The entire movie is hilarious and so much fun, but I have to say my favorite part was the ending. It will completely take you off guard. There are no twists or anything like that, but the end is totally unexpected and perfectly filmed. You would almost think someone else took over directing. I won’t say any more than that. But, again, the music is perfect and even features one of my all-time-favorite songs. It’s not the most widely-known classic rock song, but if you do know it, you will surely be moved as I was.

I loved Pirate Radio - it’s definitely a must see. Every single minute is hilarious. I don’t remember a joke that I didn’t scream out in laughter for. And I have to recommend seeing the movie in theaters while you can. Even your living room surround sound will not do the amazing soundtrack justice.

Thanks much to XRT and the Lake Theater in Oak Park. I really enjoyed your free refills on popcorn and soda!

4 Pirates

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Haunting of Molly Hartley

What haunts Molly Hartley? Aside from the haunting sound of her agent never calling again, I really couldn’t tell you.

Horror movie reviews aren’t my usual forte. I rarely watch them anymore. They are too violent and disturbing lately. I can handle blood and guts, but I think today’s horror directors have lost the campiness that made my generation’s horror movies so great. Horror movies should be scary, but they should be fun too. And there isn’t anything fun about torture porn.

But my wife and I have a tradition, every Halloween we watch a scary movie. We try to rent something that is really scary or really cheesy. This year, it was Drag me to Hell, something I hoped would be a little of both. But, of course, I wait until the last minute to rent it, and both Redboxes near me were out. Yes, I’ve heard of Blockbuster. Believe it or not, it’s an hour away. Okay maybe not an hour, but when you have the only baby in the world that doesn’t like car rides sitting in the back seat, it might as well be an hour. Plus he doesn’t care much for scary movies.

Not only was Drag Me to Hell sold out, every scary movie that looked remotely good was out too. You would think it was Halloween or something. I even considered this inevitable waste of one dollar:

"But I don’t want to be an airman!
I want to be alone with my Fallout Boy records!"

So I drove home, hoping we’d find something on Starz or in my personal library of classics. If all else failed, we could suffer through Ghost Adventures Live. That Zak is a walking bicep in big pants. “Whoa did you dudes hear that? It was a ghost!” No, I’m pretty sure that was your bag of douche overflowing into your big pants. Seriously MC Hammer called and said you have big pants.

Anyway, we found a movie via On Demand: The Haunting of Molly Hartley. It sounded familiar. I liked The Exorcism of Emily Rose and loved The Haunting in Connecticut, so this similarly-titled flick was a sure winner.

Let’s first discuss that title: The Haunting of Molly Hartley. So this is a movie about a chick named Molly who is either being haunted or is haunting, depending on how you read that. Turns out, it’s neither.

As you know I’m against spoiling movies, but in this case, I’m really saving you. Molly is a girl on the verge of her 18th birthday. She’s almost cute but looks kind of stoned. She lives alone with her dad and her mom is M.I.A. It doesn’t take long to figure out that her mom is somehow involved in Molly’s troubled past. At school Molly meets a guy who is a little too well-endowed in the eyebrow area. Side note: Two girls from 90210 and Chace Crawford (who doesn’t know how to spell his own name) from Gossip Girl appear in this movie. What does that tell you?

No caption required.

Anyway, this dude is kind of into Molly so she gets all girly and excited. So while all this teen drama goes on, Molly has creepy dreams about her mom. The only scares we get are the kind of jump-out-from-behind-a-corner crap we’d expect from Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark. None of it’s scary, and none of it’s really happening. It’s all in her head. And it happens over and over again. There’s no buildup, there’s no tension… there’s just hello I’m here! Molly’s mom just keeps showing up and being creepy. Not scary-creepy, just annoying-creepy. Mom even joins Facebook and leaves Molly comments like, “How do I use this?” and “What cocktail are you? I am a cosmo. LOL!” That doesn’t happen. Really in Molly’s dreams, her mom keeps trying to stab her. Turns out Molly’s mom actually did this when Molly was younger and was sent to a psychiatric hospital. Molly lives in fear of her return. Then, one random day, she returns (!) and tries to stab her again, but Molly throws her off a balcony.

"You're cursed, Molly! Cursed with split ends!"

Molly’s guidance counselor comes into the picture at some point too, I don’t remember when, probably around the time I got up to read a book. The counselor and Chace-with-two-C’s throw Molly a birthday party and the truth is revealed. Molly actually died during birth, but the counselor came along and offered her parents a deal. She could bring Molly back to life, but when she turned 18 she would become a demon spawn. Why not, right? Her parents make the deal but then her mom changes her mind and tries to kill her off. So now that it’s her birthday, the counselor and boyfriend throw her a party with a bunch of demons. Molly tries to stab herself, but that doesn’t work because now she’s immortal (?) Suddenly the scene just ends and we apparently flash forward to graduation day. Molly is apparently rich and all around popular and awesome. Fade out, the end. We are left to assume that she just accepts her destiny as an evil demon. But when did she decide that? Why did she decide that? Was Chace really a demon? How long has he been a demon? Was he even 18? How did she get all that money? Does she do evil things or does she just look fancy? And she’s immortal? So when does the devil get to reclaim her soul if she can never die? And if she got to live forever why would her mom try to kill her all these years thus sending her directly to hell? And finally, where was this so called haunting?

Basically this movie has no redeeming qualities whatever. It’s not scary, it’s not funny, it’s not exciting, it’s not original, it’s not interesting, it’s not eventful, it’s not thought-provoking, and worst of all, it doesn’t have an ending. They skipped the ending and went straight to the beginning of the sequel. If you ask me, the concept of girl-becoming-demon is kind of interesting. Why not cut half the slow-paced teen drama, and have Molly become a demon somewhere in the middle. Let’s see her powers! Then somebody, maybe her dad, should try to fight her, but of course she defeats him because he caused this whole demon birthday thing. And actually that’s the new title; Demon Birthday. The bible-beater chick should jump in too and try to defeat her. I didn’t mention her before because she’s a freak, sorry. I don’t know if Molly wins or loses in the end, but my point is that the writers really missed the boat here. The movie sets itself up for a pretty cool story, but then fails to deliver.

Avoid this festering blob at all costs. As we learned, it is probably not the movie you thought your heard of before, and more likely some kind of direct-to-video release, made by someone at the WB. No offense to the WB though – I miss you Dawson!

1 demon birthday cake


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