Archive for August, 2007

Many, Many Movies

Look out, citizens! Here arrives now the movie reviews I promised several days ago, of the various short films I saw last Friday. By this point I’ve probably forgotten everything important about all of them, so it may be best to run on the assumption that everything I am about to say is entirely inaccurate. Also run on the assumption that this will interest absolutely no one but myself.

First up, the films of Matthew Kennedy and Conor Sweeney!

I list it like this because, even though the two are evidently partners, the Winnipeg Film Group listed the event solely as being the works of Kennedy. That’s the kind of shit that can end friendships right there.

Anyway! I actually quit my job when I did to go to the screening, because I thought it looked cool. I wanted to tell Kennedy this when he was hanging around after the show, but I didn’t want to brag. Still, it sounds pretty hardcore, right? “I quit my job to come to your show”.

But I digress. The theatre was pretty sparsely populated; most of the people there were people who were in the films. And of those who DID show up, some didn’t want to be there; a group of older women came in thinking it was another movie and left around the time a man has sex with his brother’s wife’s brother (who is dressed as “Sexybot 3000”). The life of a struggling filmmaker is, as I’ve mentioned before, utterly devoid of glamour. It must be fairly disheartening to have a show like this and have so few people show up.

But I digress again. Without further adieu, the actual films:

A Romantic Comedy: A fake trailer, also referred to as “I Love You: The Movie”. It begins as a parody of a fairly generic romantic comedy, and for a minute I was slightly disappointed as the parody itself seemed formulaic. However, things take a bizarre and thrilling turn as it is revealed the female lead is actually Joseph Mengele after extensive reconstructive surgery, and the whole thing veers into the realm of spy thriller.

I liked this one a lot. Things get so weird so fast that you really have no choice but to laugh and go along with it. Then the whole thing gets even stranger when it becomes a romantic comedy trailer again at the end. The idea that “love conquers all” to the point where the male lead is willing to shrug off dating Joseph Mengele is one of the greatest things I’ve seen, especially since we’ve grown to accept shit of this magnitude from movie studios by now.

TL;DR: A little slow to start, but becomes a fantastic parody in the stretch.

Yogen Frooze: The tale of a man who loves frozen yogurt and loves to steal, but must come to terms with the fact he is lactose intolerant. Maybe the best short of the show; certainly among the top two. This is also the short that features “Sexybot 3000”, and therefore caused three old ladies to flee the theater in indignity.

Frooze had a really neat style, which features choppy edits and heavy use of voice overs. The cinematography and audio work really do a lot to help capture a man’s fall into despair, while the dialogue makes the entire journey hilarious. Consider, for example, the main character detailing a list of things he’s stolen. Easily the best part is when he tries get around his problem with a brand of soy ice cream called “So Good”, only to groan out “Not…. So Good!”. The delivery there is fantastic.

TL;DR: One of the most hilarious short films I’ve ever seen, with a distinctive style to boot.

Ena Lake Blues: Ena Lake Blues starts as a parody of old, silent comedies. Like “A Romantic Comedy”, it suffers in that the early parts of the parody come off as fairly stale. Unfortunately, these stale parts last much longer.

The movie gets much better when it becomes a bizarre silent slasher film, filled with debauchery. There’s a great sequence where one of the characters starts drinking, accompanied by a title card giving a dictionary definition of alcohol. This quickly escalates to the character doing every hard drug you can think of, each accompanied by the same type of deadpan, matter-of-fact title card. The expressions, and the fact that it just keeps going long past a regular man would have died, is hilarious. The entire second half of the film is pretty great, and does a lot to make up for the first half.

TL;DR: Uneven but ultimately satisfying, like some kind of bizarre tilted cake.

The Truth About Sasquatch: A man falls in love with Sasquatch, seeks psychiatric help, and discovers the true meaning of Christmas.

Sounds great, no? Unfortunately, the synopsis is better than the film itself. The movie has a lot of great gags, but they’re evened out by equal amounts of nothing. The story is meandering, scenes drag on too long (such as the opening sequence, or the “breakdown” scene), and the movie inexplicably switches main characters halfway through.

Like most of the films, it’s fairly random. Where it’s different from the others is that it has no real internal logic; when “Ena Lake Blues” becomes a slasher film it’s still parodying silent comedies, and “Yogen Frooze” has a coherent subject matter despite it’s strangeness, but “Sasquatch” never really seems to go anywhere or do anything. Something like this can sometimes work, if the jokes are consistently hilarious, but here the hit/miss ratio is too big.

TL;DR: This film is like most Family Guy episodes in that it’s a bunch of jokes stitched together without any regard for plot or internal logic. If you’re a fan of Family Guy, you’ll probably like “Sasquatch”. If not, you probably won’t.

Street Racer: Teenage angst. High school drama. Foot races as the foundation of social standing. This is the world of… “Street Racer”.

Street Racer is easily the most restrained of any of the films shown. Though still in many ways a parody , it’s unique in being played in a dry, tongue-in-cheek manner. It’s also the longest of any of the films, clocking in at around 30 minutes (compared to 2-10 minutes for the rest).

I really liked Street Racer. It’s up there with “Yogen Frooze” contending for “Best of Show”, though it’s entirely different in tone. You actually give a damn about the characters and what happens to them, and there’s just the right balance of humour and drama for what it is. The script could have stood a little rewriting; though many lines were intentionally corny, there were a few that came across as unintentionally so. Other than that, I can’t really think of anything wrong with it.

But then, I’m a sucker for a good race scene. And these were good race scenes; besides the story, “Street Racer” was also excellent on a technical level. Nice cinematography and tight editing, much better than what you’d normally expect from a student project.

TL;DR: Shockingly poignant compared to the rest of the films, with a perfect blend of comedy. Watch it.

*****

After the Matt Kennedy films rolled, I went out and bought another ticket, this time for Creature from the Black Lagoon. But before it rolled, we were treated to a 13 minutes short by another film group member, which was the most awesome thing I’ve seen in quite some time.

Red Men Rising: Toxic waste causes communist zombies to rise from the grave and attempt revolution. Led by Zombie Trotsky, they devour the rich and then redistribute their goods to the poor.

Traditional weapons prove useless against those “Commie Bastards”.

Zombie Trotsky fights Zombie Stalin.

THE ZOMBIES’ ACTIONS PROVE SO POPULAR THAT THE (LIVING) COMMUNIST PARTY IS SWEPT INTO POWER.

“What happens when they run out of rich people to eat?”. Good question, Living Communist, good question.

I can’t describe how incredible that movie was. One million stars.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes I am terribly embarrassed by my own writing style. Just ignore the first few paragraphs, please.

August 31, 2007 at 4:47 am Leave a comment

Creature from the Black Lagoon!

Last night was a movie marathon for me. The Winnipeg Film Group runs a great theater downtown, and I ended up seeing a bunch of stuff there. The highlight of the evening, though?


Creature from the Black Lagoon
In Startling 3-D Vision!

Yes.

The movie opens with a narrator explaining how God created the heavens and Earth out of nothingness. Mere seconds later, it goes on to explain how life evolved on Earth over a course of billions of years. The narration clearly isn’t up to date with current science, as we now know evolution is a lie and the Earth is a mere 4000 years old. Luckily, this is the last we’ll hear from him.

At this point, something explodes and the remnants fly towards us; stuff flies towards the screen a lot in the movie, in an effort to justify the use of 3D. You could probably fashion a pretty good drinking game around this principle.

An interesting side-note: a notice on the side of our 3D Glasses tells us to hold onto them after the movie, as “Deep Vision 3D TV” will be coming soon. Personally, I can’t wait.

Now, we are introduced to our main characters!

Dr. Carl Maia: The first ten minutes of the film focus on Carl, leading us to believe he will be the protagonist right up until he disappears into the background for the rest of the movie. Carl is allegedly an archaeologist, though his credentials are suspect; when he finds the fossilized “Black Lagoon” hand that starts our adventure, his excavation method involves hitting it a few times with a pick-axe and then ripping it out of the ground. Later on, when the rest of the characters come back to find the rest of the creature’s fossil, they can’t because there’s nowhere marking the find. Great going, Carl.

Dr. David Reed: Our male lead and hero. For the record, “Dave” is the worst hero name ever; it sounds like he should be a middle-manager or fodder to be killed by the monster, not it’s greatest threat. Dave is a Marine Biologist, but keeps going into long rants about space and the wonders it holds. You can tell that Dave probably tried to major in Astronomy but flunked out, and now he’s stuck trawling lagoons for old fish. He lets his boss walk all over him and he’s too much of a loser to propose to his longtime girlfriend. It kinda sucks to be Dave.

Kay Lawrence: Dave’s girlfriend, she claims to be a scientist of some kind but is never seen doing anything useful. The Creature from the Black Lagoon is in love with her because… well, fuck, it’s a monster movie, and the monster has to be in love with the female lead. There’s really no explanation beyond that. Dave’s boss is in love with her, too, but Dave won’t say anything about it. Goddamnit, Dave.
Kay is also supposed to bring “sex appeal” to the movie, but being the 50’s she’s limited to swimming around in a one-piece suit. Drinking games could be built around “whenever Kay shrieks in fear” and “the blatant misogyny surrounding Kay”.

Mark Williams: Dave’s boss and all-around dick, obsessed with fame and fortune. Mark wants to kill the creature and bring it back with them because he’s convinced it’s the only way people will believe their story. This is ignoring the fact that they have a fossilized “Lagoon Creature” hand that is all the proof you need. Mark is pretty much an idiot, and you know he’s going to get himself killed by the end of the movie.

The Creature: The Creature is actually a very crappy monster. It’s first few appearances are as an ominous hand, reaching, slowly reaching, and then!… nothing. After about three times this would get a little lame, except each time it’s in 3D and reaching directly towards the audience so it’s thrilling. That’s exactly how 3D works.
The Creature spends most of the movie hiding in reeds and trying to avoid capture. At least when King Kong did this, he interspersed it with fighting T-Rexes and Bi-Planes. Not so for our cowardly Creature; he really doesn’t do much at all.

Our scientist heroes spend most of the film trying to capture or kill the Creature because hey, why not. Mark even rigs up a speargun to kill it with. Dave suggests they study it in their natural habitat but nobody listens to him. You’ve got to be more assertive, Dave.

After escaping Mad Mark and his Sparkling Speargun, the Creature storms the scientists’ boat and kills a deckhand because hey, who needs that shit. If they’re going to be speargunning him, he might as well fight back. Around this time the Captain suggests they spread a drug called Rotanol in the water that paralyzes fish, possibly to capture the monster but mainly because fish are delicious. The Captain even mentions how he’s used this in the past to catch fish for dinner. The fact that he regularly eats drugged-fish should tell you everything you need to know about him.

So, they spread the Rotanol in the water. When it doesn’t work, they go out and do it again. From a narrative perspective, this makes no sense. Why have them do it twice? It serves no purpose but to fill up screen time. Anyway, the drug works and the Creature trips out. During this time he tries to kidnap Kay and ends up killing a guy, but he can hardly be blamed. I mean, if someone spiked your morning coffee with LSD, you couldn’t be held responsible for your actions.

It’s during this time we learn the Creature has a signature move, the Head-Snap. Whenever he attacks someone, he grabs their face and just twists. It’s pretty great.

Also, if you were playing the misogyny drinking game, take three shots; Kay shrieks, is kidnapped, and in trying to escape falls down for no good reason at all. Apparently women are too fragile to even run away properly.

After this they capture the creature and put it in a bamboo cage, from which it will certainly never escape. At this point Mark is all for booking it back home, but Dave wants to stay and finish their scientific research first. For the first time in the movie Mark agrees with him, and they go off to take underwater pictures. While they’re away the Creature escapes and fucks up another guy’s face. Way to go, Dave.

After all this shit our heroes decide to leave, Creature or No Creature. They take the boat out of the lagoon, only to find their way blocked by a tree; the Creature, in what can only be described as a stupid-ass move, has blocked their way. Dave goes to under to try and tie a rope around the tree so they can move it; Mark wants to go down to have one more shot at the Creature, and Dave responds by knocking him the fuck out. Dave is pretty much sure to lose his job over that one, but at this point all he wants is his motherfucking boat out of the motherfucking lagoon. And who can blame him?

Mark recovers, goes down anyway, and manages to keep the Creature from fucking up Dave hardcore. This is followed by a kicking underwater fight where the Creature rips off Mark’s breathing tube and drowns him. Huh. Who could have called that one? Despite having five minutes of fight-time in which to secure the rope around tree, Dave drops the ball and returns to the boat empty-handed. Way to let your boss die in vain, Dave.

At this point Dave hits on a perfect plan- since the last time they used Rotanol resulted in a death and a kidnapping, they should use it again! He even rigs up a Rotanol Gun so they can spray the drug directly into the Creature’s gills. It works! The Creature is driven off and Dave gets the rope around the tree! Everyone is saved!

Except now the drugged-out Creature storms the boat again and kidnaps Kay. Whoops.

The Creature’s utter disinterest in Kay becomes apparent when, after kidnapping her, he just sort of leaves her on a rock and wanders away. It’s like he knows he’s done what the plot called for, and now he’ll have no more of it. Dave appears to “rescue” Kay, and we’re reminded that it’s 3D by the fact a bat flies directly at the screen for no apparent reason. Kay, though previously unconscious, is suddenly able to stand at escape with the mere presence of a man. Take a shot, everyone.

The Creature, tired of people barging into it’s home and trying to kill it, goes to fuck Dave up. Dave responds by stabbing the Creature in the heart, which is a pretty rude thing for a house guest to do. Then some of the other crew-mates show up to shoot the Creature with rifles a few times, just for good measure.

The Creature staggers away, wounded and dying. The ship’s captain raises his rifle for one last shot, a mercy killing, but Dave says no and won’t let anyone shoot the Creature anymore. It staggers away to die a slow, agonizing death because Dave won’t let anyone put it out of it’s misery. Dave is a real douchebag.

The Creature falls into the lagoon, dies, and it’s corpse drifts away… in 3D! Credits roll! Thanks for coming, everyone!

Soon to come: Reviews of all the other movies I’ve seen in the last two days, including “The Truth About Sasquatch” and “Red Men Rising”. Be there!

August 26, 2007 at 1:34 am Leave a comment

Angry, Angry Blog

Goddamnit.

Longtime readers will be familiar with my old and nigh-epic feud with UBC. Let it be said that we have had… trouble, in the past. And the present. And most likely in the future, as well.

My latest fight with UBC is over scholarships. Awhile ago they sent me an application for a rather large scholarship and told me to fill it out. I did, and now I’m waiting for a response.

And waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

It’s been weeks since I sent it off, and there’s only a week left before school actually starts, and I still don’t know if I’m getting the money. I’ve been holding off finalizing my student loan until I hear back from UBC, but now I’ve reached a point where that’s ceasing to become an option. If I don’t hear back from them soon, I’m going to have to get the student loan regardless (yay debt).

I’ve called them to try to get it resolved, of course, only to get locked in phone tag. It wasn’t until just this morning that I finally managed to get a call from them. The first thing I asked is when I would hear whether I got the scholarship or not.

“We still haven’t decided on the applications. We don’t do that until the end of August.”

Huh. So after that, I’ll probably find out pretty soon, right?

“People are usually notified in October. Maybe November.”

What the hell? I have to wait until November to find if I’m actually going to have enough money for school?

“We only contact people who won scholarships. If you don’t hear anything by the end of November try calling back in.”

….

Basically what all this means is that I’m going to have to finalize my student loan whether I need it or not. And I won’t even KNOW if I need it or not until November. I am potentially assuming thousands of dollars of unnecessary debt because UBC’s administration cannot do their job in a timely manner.

I’m having a lot of fun. I really am.

Editor’s Note: My experiences with UBC administration tend not to be so bad now, in that I just tend to ignore what they do. It’s a much better system.

August 23, 2007 at 7:22 pm Leave a comment

Animal Man VS The Punisher

Huh. Sorry I’ve been neglecting this place. I’ve been busy all week with “cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape cut cut tape tape”….

Eh hem.

Yeah. The machine to splice my film together went missing, and so I had to tape the whole thing together by hand, and then go back and poke out the sprocket holes by hand. It was ridiculously tedious and ate up a lot of me week. I fully expected to miss some of the sprocket holes, resulting in the thing flying of the reel and catching on fire, but it turned out surprisingly well. The showing was on Sunday and my film kicked ass.

Also eating up my week, though not to anywhere near the same extent, was the Forum Tournament. By opponent in the first round, the person who organized the tournament, failed to get an entry in, and so I won by default.

I’m also winning this round by default on account of no one hearing from my opponent for the last two weeks.

It’s a funny world:

Click to Enlarge

Finally, I’m down to just three days of work left. I really can’t wait to be out of there. Now that things are winding down, I should be able to post here more.

August 21, 2007 at 1:19 pm Leave a comment

The News in Briefs

Shit, guys. I know it was a long entry and everything, but when you suggest that Wile E. Coyote is the son of god you’d think you’d get more of a response than that. I’m not saying I’m disappointed with you, I’m just saying you all suck beyond all measure.

In other news, work sucks. That’s nothing new, of course, but this part of it is; my throat has been destroyed. After months of talking on the phone non-stop my throat is sore basically all the time, and my voice keeps going out when I’m on calls. If I wasn’t down to having only two weeks left, I’d probably quit. Not much longer now, though.

My film is supposed to be finished this weekend, but right now it’s sitting in a bunch of pieces on my floor. In order to get it done in time I need the splicer to get it put together, but apparently someone borrowed that and didn’t give it back. I’m kind of in panic mode by now.

My forum battle against Shadowcat is scheduled for tonight; it was scheduled for a week ago, but kept getting delayed for a bunch of reasons. I’ll let you know how it goes. Next round I “fight” The Punisher, but since the person doing that dropped out I basically have an instant win there.

And away I go.

August 13, 2007 at 12:21 pm Leave a comment

More Fun With Animal Man

Considering “Animal Man” is going to be the theme of this blog for some time, it’s probably a good idea to explain what makes the Animal Man comics so good. And what better way than with an example, featuring the fantastic fifth issue?

The first four issues of Animal Man were fairly bland. He fights evil, works for and then against an animal-testing lab, and learns the true meaning of Christmas (well, perhaps not the last one). It’s good, but nothing to write home about. It’s not until the fifth issue that writer Grant Morrison really gets into the swing of things, with a story quite unlike anything we’ve grown to expect from comics.

In the fifth issue, we learn that Wile E. Coyote is Jesus.

The story opens with a trucker giving a hitchhiker a lift across the desert. They’re talking, laughing, having a grand old time, right up until the trucker accidentally hits a coyote on the highway, reducing it to a fine paste.

As the truck drives off we see the coyote heal itself, and the narration describes the excruciating pain of his ordeal. Flash forward to a year down the road, at the home of Buddy Baker (aka Animal Man), where he’s throwing out all the meat in the freezer and declaring that from now on they’re vegetarians. Buddy suddenly gets an inkling that something is wrong in the world, and flies off to save the day.

Back in the desert, the invincible Coyote is still being killed and reborn in incredibly painful ways. The trucker from the start of the story has had a series of tragedies in his life, and blames the strange regenerating animal he hit all those months ago. Convinced that it’s the devil, he resolves to kill it with a silver bullet.

All these things come to a head as Animal Man arrives on the scene just after the coyote has been shot. The coyote, dying, hands Animal Man an aging piece of parchment containing the story of his life. It explains how the coyote came from a dimension of cartoon violence, whose denizens were forced to kill and die a thousand times over for the entertainment of their god. The coyote sought out God and begged him to end the madness; the god agreed, but with a catch. He would end the suffering of all the other cartoon creatures only if the Coyote agreed to be sent to another, far more terrible dimension, where he would experience pain and suffering beyond anything he had ever imagined.

That dimension was, of course, Animal Man’s world- the “real” world.

And so the coyote was lived and died and lived again in the real world, knowing incredible pain but nonetheless glad to have been able to end the suffering of his people. His story ends with his hope that one day he might go back and unseat the tyrant god, and usher in a better world.

The story ends, and we see Animal Man looking at the parchment. From this angle, we can see that it’s written in a strange, incomprehensible script. “I can’t read it”, says Animal Man, and the coyote passes away in his arms, it’s story forever unknown.

The “camera” pans out as the panels get farther and farther away from the action. The coyote bleeds white, which is filled in with red thanks to a giant brush held by and unseen hand. Across this sad, sad scene a caption appears:

“That’s all, folks!”

*****

Issue 5 is really one of the best Animal Man stories, and sets the tone for the rest of Morrison’s run. It deals with questions of reality with just a touch of animal rights commentary tossed in. It also features Morrison’s ability to make us love a character right before he does terrible, terrible things to them. There’s a dark sense of humour there, capping off a tragic death scene with the end line of so many children’s cartoons.

The set-up here is something that’s going to become pretty standard for issues of Animal Man; our hero confronts the bizarre, the inexplicable and the horrifying, and finds himself unable to do anything about it. Indeed, this issue heavily foreshadows the journey Animal Man is about to go on himself, suffering for the entertainment of others, discovering the dark secret behind the universe, and eventual meeting his ‘creator’.

All said, “Wile E. Coyote as Christ Figure” has to be the second greatest use of such imagery in something comic book related. The third best is the time Spider-Man was crucified on front of the elevated train in Spider-Man 2. The absolute best?


Prez Rickard
America’s First Teen President

But that’s a story for another day.

August 9, 2007 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

Animal Man VS Shadowcat

Remember where I said I was wasting my time doing comics for a forum tournament?

Here’s a battle against Shadowcat. The weekly theme was “Skrulls”. Don’t ask questions about the costume.

Click to Enlarge

Bonus Comic!

My life is pretty much a long, pathetic joke.

August 7, 2007 at 7:26 pm 1 comment


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