This week I find myself captivated by a Japanese genre from the 60s, a sitcom set in the 70s and a podcast that spans all decades to bring listeners a variety of must-see films. That’s right, this week I’m obsessed with tokusatsu, That 70s Show and the Pure Cinema Podcast! Continue reading My Favorite Things This Week: Tokusatsu, That 70s Show & Pure Cinema
I thought about several different openings for this post. First, I wanted to say how I had failed in my quest to watch a horror movie every day of October because I didn’t watch anything yesterday. Then, I thought about opening with my thoughts on the original American Psycho. I liked the movie, but I didn’t become obsessed with it like so many others I know and have talked to. I also haven’t read the book, though I hope to eventually. Lastly, I thought about starting off with the most annoying plot hole/failure, but I think I’ll get to that.
The idea behind American Psycho II: All American Girl is that Mila Kunis’ babysitter was about to be killed by Patrick Bateman when the kid got free and murdered him. From there she wanted to be a killer killer, kind of like Cassie Hack from Hack/Slash. Cut to Mila in current times where she’s going to school and taking classes from William Shatner who has a coveted TA spot that seemingly leads directly to a place at FBI school. To get there, she winds up killing her fellow competitors and things seemingly go downhill from there. I think in this case, the connection to the original movie was cleverly done, probably did a lot more harm to the movie than just having it called something completely different and not mentioning Bateman. That movie’s fans are intense, so a straight-to-DVD sequel with the girl from That 70s Show and Captain Kirk probably wasn’t going to do a lot for them. Those two names were enough to get a horror geek like me interested, but the alienation factor was probably pretty huge.
One of the film’s problems is that Kunis’ voiceover and character are a bit much. Part of the original’s charm is that Christian Bale as Bateman was equal parts fascinating and charming in a weird way that you just had to see what he’d do next. Kunis has some of that, but she comes off as a little silly. She does a good job with the material, but it’s so super focused and cut and dry that it probably wouldn’t survive a lot of psychological scrutiny.
But, this is a horror movie right? Yes. Sort of. Kunis is definitely a killer, but the flick is pretty light on gore, which is another disappointment. I didn’t expect a splatterfest, but a little extra would have been nice. As it is, there’s a lot of kills happening off screen. Speaking of the kills, they’re related to the film’s biggest lapse in logic. Not the actual kills themselves, but the fact that no one on a college campus seems to notice that people are missing. Anyone who’s been to college knows that it’s like one big huge pulsing series of connections between people. Someone not showing up where they’re supposed to be raises questions and possibly suspicions among friends, classmates, hallmates and study buddies. This movie asks you to believe that someone hanged themselves and no one noticed for a couple days (also, apparently, that no one in this school has roommates, which is nonsense). Same goes for another person who got iced even earlier in the movie and didn’t seem to raise any suspicion.
At the end of the day, American Psycho 2 is a pretty goofy movie that winds up having a somewhat clever plan. But that makes it an interesting mystery, not really a great horror movie, even though she’s clearly off her rocker. There are interesting elements in there to be sure and maybe a few things I didn’t catch up on the first time around, but there’s also hundreds of better horror flicks out there to watch. Hopefully, I’ll be watching one of those soon!
I really had high hopes for Extract. Not only was it written and directed by Mike Judge (who did the brilliant Office Space and Idiocracy), but it also stars some of my favorite actors and actresses: Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck, Mila Kunis, J.K. Simmons, Kristen Wiig and David Koechner. So, it’s all the more disappointing that this movie turned out to be an incredibly dull and annoying affair that didn’t end soon enough (which is saying something for a 90 minute movie). Let’s see if I can relate the plot to you (it’s mighty complicated), Bateman owns an extract plant, but wants to sell it. He’s married to Wiig, who doesn’t have sex with him because she wears sweatpants. Meanwhile, Kunis plays a conwoman who reads in the paper that an employ at the extract plant got hurt and could be worth millions if he sued, so she becomes a temp for Bateman’s company. Bateman thinks she’s cute so he gets stoned with his friend Affleck who convinces him its a good idea to hire a gigolo to sleep with Wiig so he can cheat on her with Kunis (she flirted pretty heavily with him to get the injured employee’s contact info). Oh, also, before the accident, Bateman was in talks to sell the company, somehow the employees get word of this and freak out. As you can tell, there’s a lot going on and none of it really feels real or solid, mostly because a lot of it could have been figured out with a few simple conversations. I kept thinking that the idiot gigolo wasn’t really even sleeping with Wiig, but it turns out he was. And even though I liked all of the above-mentioned actors in their roles, except for Koechner who plays the most annoying neighbor on the history of the planet, I still could not get into it. One of Bateman’s employees, a redheaded woman, is also incredibly annoying. Usually in a movie like this, those characters get their due, but in this case, not so much. I will say that I liked Wiig actually playing a normal person. I’m a fan of hers, but I’m getting a little sick of most of her recurring characters on SNL (I hate hate HATE Gilly). I also got a kick out of the little bits of music/rock talk. The movie starts with Kunis flirting with two Guitar Center employees (one played by Hal Sparks) who go on and on about fusion (a combination of rock and jazz guitar playing). There’s also a later conversation about the different sub categories of heavy metal that I got a chuckle out of. But, overall, liking a few music jokes that last roughly 5 minutes (maybe) and some actors doesn’t make this a movie worth watching. I found myself constantly getting up and walking around because I just didn’t care (Bateman’s situation seems a little too close to his role in Juno actually and Em kept referring to Envy, a terrible movie I disliked so much I don’t even remember) and both of us were thankful by the time it was over. Em even said we should move on to Season Two of Doctor Who as a palette cleanser, so we are. We’re 20 minutes into the Christmas episode and it’s FAR better than this movie. Hopefully Judge’s next one will fix this. Everyone makes a few crappy movies, it’s inevitable.
Back in college, I was a big fan of listening to director’s commentaries. I had only recently been introduced to the world of DVDs with their tons and tons of extra features. The commentaries became a favorite because I could listen to them while working on a paper or while making the drive from home to school on my portable DVD player. After that I kind of fell off the wagon, but a couple weeks ago I hopped back on with a triple feature of commentaries all related to Judd Apatow. Superbad (2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and Knocked Up (2007) were all on the docket and they were all hilarious.
In college, my favorite commentaries were for Kevin Smith movies where he would cram as many people involved in the movie as possible to sit around and offer their two cents. That’s why I like the Superbad one so much. I can’t seem to find a full list online anymore, but I know it included Jonah Hill, director Greg Mottola and Producer Apatow in New York (along with Apatow’s oldest daughter Maude who wasn’t listening in on headphones, but was still in the room which meant Hill couldn’t swear) while the rest were in California. “The rest” included Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and co-writer Evan Goldberg. As someone interested in the creation of films, I found this commentary very interesting, though I got a lot of the same information from the podcast Rogen and Goldberg did for Creative Screenwriting Magazine (which you can listen to here or download from iTunes). You of course get all kinds of behind the scenes information, great stories and shout outs to people and things you might have missed. It’s especially fun listening to Hill try and not curse like a sailor. He does slip a few times and gets admonished by Apatow. There’s also a part where Apatow leaves with his daughter and Hill starts yelling at him about being professional. I’m guessing it’s another big gag, but it still left me feeling confused and awkward. Good stuff.
The Forgetting Sarah Marshall commentary was another big group affair with director Nick Stoller, writer and star Jason Segel, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, executive producer Rodney Rothman, producer Shauna Robertosn and Jack McBrayer live from New York. Apatow wasn’t on the commentary, but his company did make the movie, so it still counts. Seeing as how FSM was my favorite comedy of 2008, it’s probably not a big surprise how much I liked the commentary. I like when the people who worked on a movie together seem like they really like each other. Kind of like in the Ocean’s 11 movies. It really seems like those guys have a great time together, which makes the movie even more fun to watch. Like with Superbad, there’s lots of interesting tidbits, with Segel commenting on how specific scenes were taken from his life and how the Dracula musical was something he actually wrote seriously. Sure, a lot of this information can now be read on IMDb, but I’d always rather hear it from the horse’s mouth than just read something on a forum that hundreds of thousands of people can and do contribute to. I guess it’s the reporter in me.
The Knocked Up commentary was a much different animal as it only had three people involved: writer and director Apatow, star Seth Rogen and…Bill Hader? Sure Hader has a bit part in the movie, but he’s basically there to do impressions, toss out mini-factoids and ask questions. Hader explains how he met the Knocked Up gang (the friends in the movie are friends in real life and often hang out together) and also explains that he worked in the same building they shoot his scenes as a film editor. He apparently used to be a librarian on The Surreal Life and a PA on The Scorpion King and a documentary about Star Wars. Like with the others you get plenty of information about the origins of the story, what events were taken from real life, specifics about some of the actors (Ken Jeong was an actual doctor before his turn as the doctor and his eventual role on the excellent Community) and that sort of thing. I especially liked hearing about him working with his wife Leslie Mann and their two daughters. I think she’s hilarious and am really looking forward to seeing Funny People, which will hopefully be coming in my queue this week.