Thursday, March 17, 2011

Terrifying Family Films - Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! What a perfect day to share one of my favorite childhood movies; a film that also scared the shamrocks out of me. Darby O’Gill and the Little People is a classic Disney film, known for its innovative special effects. I don’t quite remember what the movie is all about; just that an old man catches the king of leprechauns. I also vaguely remember Sean Connery singing. I think my mom rewound the tape to watch this scene a few times.

Nice right? That song will be in your head all day. What I remember most, though, is the wailing banshee and the Grim Reaper’s death wagon. What kind of F-ed up Disney movie has a Grim Reaper? Just looking for media gave me the creeps.

I couldn’t find an actual clip of the death wagon flying in, or its headless driver, but here’s some of the freakiest Darby O’Gill scenes set to some pleasant celtic music. The banshee looks like a dementor on acid.

Way to give me nightmares Disney. No wonder I feel the need to drink beer on St. Patrick's Day.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I'm Still Here

Wascally wascals Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck have played a joke on America. Only the joke isn’t funny and short of some publicity on Letterman and Access Hollywood, did anyone really care?

I’m Still Here is a mockumentary filmed by Affleck and Phoenix. According to the film, Phoenix decides to retire from acting and break into the rap game. On the road to rap stardom he completely falls apart; his breakdown accompanied by drugs and prostitutes. Surprise! It’s fake. Hilarious, right? Not really. The concept is clever; I’ll give them that. The resulting film is just hard to watch. It’s slow-moving, hard to follow, and at times, really gross. This movie reminded me a lot of Pauly Shore is Dead. Interesting concept, but in the end, nobody wants to watch.

Some critics believed the hype; this was the real Phoenix having a breakdown. Even one critic, whom I hold in high regard, seemed to believe it. In his review he says the film is pointless; watching Phoenix spiral out of control is pathetic. I agree that it is pointless, but that’s how you know it’s fake. Who would make a movie showing their buddy falling apart and doing drugs? It would be pointless and cruel. Also, wouldn’t there be legal ramifications if Phoenix really took that many drugs on screen? Phoenix does an insane amount of drugs on screen. What celebrity would really do that unless they were on Dr. Drew? Affleck is married to Joaquin’s sister, Summer. What decent human being would film their brother-in-law in such conditions, knowing that the family would see? What would be the point? This film only makes sense as a hoax; it only works as a celebrity spoof. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me.

There are moments where it seemed as though 12 year old boys got hold of the camera. It bounces around the room, in and out of focus, while the little boys giggle. You can’t even tell what the actors are saying half the time. And let me tell you, there are just way too many poop, vomit, and full frontal shots for my taste.

The one outstanding scene, which required some terrific acting on Phoenix’s part, is when he appears on Letterman to promote his new rap gig. Unfortunately, everyone already saw this part. I would have really liked to see the green room footage, or maybe something backstage with Letterman. They could have staged a fight or something; just something additional to what everyone saw already.

It takes a lot of talent to play yourself, and it takes a lot of guts to portray yourself in a negative way. So I admire Phoenix for that. I admire both Phoenix and Affleck for trying something different. The concept is a pretty good one, but I think it takes a dark turn. I would have enjoyed a movie about Phoenix becoming a rapper. That has comedy written all over it. Film the crowd reacting to the outfits and hilariously bad raps; leave the nudity and drugs out of it. The secret to a good lie is to not overdo it.

2 weird beards

Monday, March 7, 2011


Don’t let the big orange Nickelodeon logo fool you. Rango is a cartoon about little animals but it's not a cartoon for kids; at least not little ones. Cartoons seem to be getting very serious lately. Toy Story 3 definitely had its share of adult themes. Rango does too, but even more so. It’s also violent, dark, scary, and really noisy. I saw more than a few kids covering their ears. Not to mention, some of the cuddly little animals drink and smoke and curse. I loved it, but I’m not little. That reminds me, I need to get back to the gym.

Rango is somebody’s pet chameleon. He’s a privileged, self-proclaimed thespian, but he longs for something more. After a fateful accident, Rango finds himself in an old west town with some rather disgusting, but intricately rendered animals. Rango must prove himself to the town and answer life’s biggest question, “Who am I?”

The story is a pretty good one. It’s well-written and funny, but it’s also full of pretty standard old west archetypes. This movie is a clear descendent of Blazing Saddles and The Andy Griffith show. Rango, and more than a few of his quirks, is homage to Barney Fife. Another interesting comparison I couldn’t help but draw was to the movie Chinatown. Rango’s new home, aptly named Dirt, is suffering through a drought. Rango must figure out who or what is to blame.

What’s most amazing about this movie is the character design. The creatures of Dirt look like nothing I’ve ever seen before. They are so ugly, but you know, in a cute way. They are pretty gross sometimes but so detailed they’re almost beautiful. Although, the guy with the arrow in his eye was pretty gnarly. These are exactly the kind of rodents you’d assume you may find in a town called Dirt.

As much as I loved this movie I just can’t recommend it for families. The reactions from some of the little kids I saw were pretty telling. There are plenty of hilarious sight gags and slapstick jokes that got the little ones laughing. But there are lots of adult jokes and some inappropriate behavior. One has to take into account though that Dirt is an authentic old west town. Characters drink and smoke cigars. Characters point guns and characters get shot. There are a couple scenes that I believe would be absolutely traumatic for a kid. One of the main villains is a giant rattlesnake. I thought the snake from The Jungle Book was freaky, but this guy puts him to shame. He’s a pretty scary dude, and his “rattle” is actually a revolver-like cannon. Another scary scene, one I absolutely loved for its creativity, was when a posse of bat-riding rodents chase Rango and his gang. I mean… what’s more terrifying than bats? Well, rodents riding bats and shooting guns.

The great references and metaphors would also be lost on kids. There are so many cool themes and nods to spaghetti westerns to appreciate. And because Johnny Depp is the star, there’s even a hidden Hunter S. Thompson caricature. Look for it. Unless your kids know who Hunter S. Thompson is, this movie isn’t really for them.

4.5 filthy animals


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