Friday, January 22, 2010

More best of 2009 from The Nick Williams

Continuing my top ten celebration of 2009 comes the wrath of THE NICK WILLIAMS, L'Enfant Terrible of the blog Celluloid Psychosis. When Nick isn't watching Jamie Gillis administer enemas to street hookers or Dolph Lungren stomp on Asian people, he can be found writing his own disturbing brand of fiction. Here is his list of movies for the year.

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2009:

10. FANTASTIC MR. FOX – I’m not a huge Wes Anderson follower. BOTTLE ROCKET is his only film I’ve ever completely watched, along with pieces of others here and there. Nothing against him, I just haven’t been inspired enough to peruse his oeuvre. But this foray into stop-motion animation may fuel my motivation to do so, as I found it full of wit and dynamism. I was captivated by the adeptly directed visuals, which, like most stop-motion animation (and what I’ve always loved about it), were so rife with finely rendered, extremely organic texture. The story is a boisterous fairy tale with adventure and some light comedy that had me chuckling in spots. It also has some dark tinges around its edges with some slight violence and a clever pseudo-profanity, which seemed to anger parents seeking fluffy entertainment for their offspring but were shocked and appalled by something with substance.

9. BLACK DYNAMITE – Damn the studio for burying this kick-ass parody/homage of blaxploitation film. This deserved a lot more exposure than just a handful of cities, especially considering it was picked up for relatively cheap. Not only is it a hilarious spoof but also a wild action flick. It’s also a huge treat for anybody (like me) who is a fan of the grindhouse genre this is sending up. The filmmakers clearly have some affection for it, with ingeniously utilizing not only blaxploitation’s plot conventions, but it’s technical ones as well, such as shoddy editing and effects. There are also more Rudy Ray Moore references than you count on one hand. It’s a great love letter to exploitation filmmaking, way better than Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF anyway.



8. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE – Yet another film that sparked controversy amongst familial moviegoers – I think the problem parents have with movies like these is that they speak to their children rather than speak down to them. They obviously want entertainment that keeps kids docile are frustrated by anything that helps nurture a sense of intellect or identity (WALL-E was another one of these films, but got away with it by being veiled as a cutesy sci-fi flick). But I digress...while I can’t say the book is as deeply ingrained in my persona nor was I as enthralled by the movie as Andy, I do have fond memories of reading (or being read) the story as a youngin and found this adaptation to be a sincere, imaginative, heartwarming fantasy.

7. PONTYPOOL – A wholly unique and extremely intelligent take on the zombie flick that takes a springboard from Burroughs-esque themes such as the deconstruction of language and communication and the manipulation of information. Director Bruce McDonald – usually an arty filmmaker making his horror debut – puts a fresh spin on the genre by applying his sophisticated sensibilities. I was totally sucked in by the careful buildup of suspense and mystery by restraint from showing much of the horror on screen and lead Stephen McHattie’s charismatic performance.

6. LIFE IS HOT IN CRACKTOWN - Buddy Giovanazzo’s adaptation of his own short story collection is a grimy, squalid portrayal of impoverished urban life. He takes a surgical eye to a few distinct lowly characters and the paths they take, never flinching from their flaws or the misguided choices they make, but also never making any kind of moral judgment. As foul as the material is though, there’s also many moments where it has a sympathetic, even optimistic outlook about its protagonists predicaments, something which its detractors ignored and the book was short on.

5. MARTYRS – Utterly fierce and bleak, the latest in the rash of brutal French horror goes right for the throat from frame one and tightens its grip throughout the duration. But unlike most of its contemporaries it has more than just sheer cruelty and mindless torture going for it, with some thought-provoking philosophical subtext beating beneath its mutilated veneer, which I think makes it the best of this nationality’s genre output so far.

4. DISTRICT 9 – This is the kind of movie that more summer blockbusters should aspire to – a purely fun, bombastic actioner with a lot of spectacle to offer but also isn’t afraid to appeal to the audience’s brains.

3. ANTICHRIST – Beautiful, grisly, disturbing, strange, stirring, shocking, Lars von Trier’s “horror” drama is a surreal, immersing masterpiece. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s performances transcend emotional boundaries. Even if you hate the film itself, you have to appreciate it for having such a bold and original vision.

2. WALTZ WITH BASHIR – This animated documentary recounting the Israeli filmmaker’s own experiences during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon during the 80’s is visually breathtaking and moving to the core, a film driven by an agenda not of politics but of a personal quest for redemption.

1. WATCHMEN – “It’s boring.” “It’s too long.” “It’s too weird.” “It’s confusing.” All these and similar comments were directed at Zack Snyder’s epic adaptation of the classic groundbreaking graphic novel. But people had also thought the same things about seminal films like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, BLADE RUNNER, and even the big daddy of them all, CITIZEN KANE. Not to say this one is as great as those, nor might it ever share the same exalted status as them, it’s just something to think about. I personally though found every frame of WATCHMEN to be a wondrous, mystical, masterful work of art. I would say it by far has to be the greatest superhero movie ever.

WATCHMEN fan edited music video (possible spoilers)


5. MURDER COLLECTION VOLUME 1 – I have to say I hate doing this. Low-budget filmmaker Fred Vogel and his Toe Tag Pictures crew had created some truly noteworthy works of underground cinema with the AUGUST UNDERGROUND trilogy and REDSIN TOWER. But this compilation of faux snuff shorts is nothing but a simplified rehash and a complete devolution.

4. THE STEPFATHER – An overpolished, dull, vapid thriller of a remake, with about the only redeemable aspect being effortful performance, which is still weighed down by the effortless material.

3. DRAG ME TO HELL – How anybody can like this movie as much as virtually everybody does is beyond me. Just the typical irritating PG-13 bullshit that happens to have a recognizable name attached.

2. TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN – People loved the first movie and hated this one. I hated the first one and hate this one even more. But the ironic thing is everything that was wrong with this one was wrong the first, just more severe. So much mindless action that it becomes pure tedium.

1. FRIDAY THE 13TH – Lower than fecal matter. Filmmaking at its absolute nadir. That’s all I need to say .

Monday, January 11, 2010

Rick Martin best of 2009

Rick Martin is a friend of mine from way the hell back. Some may remember hims from his VHS release of the Japanese cult TV favorite ULTRAMAN and the traveling he did in the Japanese Kaiju convention circuit. He also has written for the various Dayton newspapers and is in the process of putting together to proper details to re-open the local movie theater The Page Manor. It was with Rick that I started the now annual HORRORAMA movie marathon for charity.

Best and Worst Movies I’ve seen from 2009 By Rick Martin

Last year was an extremely lean year for movie watching on my part. My Mom’s health situation, lack of funds and starting a new company have sapped by movie watching time. The following is a list of my favorite and least favorite of the movies which I saw from 2009.

Best of 09 (in no particular order)

The Red Baron – a new German film about the famous World War I flying ace who scored 80 confirmed victories. I was at the United States premier of this amazing film and had the chance to interview the director and the producer. Unfortunately, this amazing anti-war film has yet to find a US distributor and the UK DVD is cut and improperly framed.

Ponyo – Miyazaki’s newest film and a masterpiece of animation. It should be up for an Oscar for Best Animated Film if Disney would allow it!

Watchmen – one of the most challenging superhero comics from the 1980s perfectly captured on film.

It’s Complicated – a nice little comedy about sex after 50. Steve Martin is brilliant in this.

Inglourious Basterds Tarantino’s fantasy take on World War II while flawed is still a must see.

Zombieland – not as smart as Shaun of the Dead but a horror/comedy thrill ride.

Paranormal Activity – one of the most frightening films of the last few years and a triumph of low budget film making. At the screening I was at, a girl in back started bawling her eyes out in fear during the last five minutes.

Sukiyaki Western DjangoTakashii Mike’s take on the Italian Western – my god, the humanity!

Where the Wild Things Are – one of my favorite children’s books come to life.

Avatar in 3D – not the most original story but one of the most amazing spectacle movies ever – for nearly three hours I felt that I was in the movie not just watching it on a screen.

Let the Right One In – a poetic vampire film from Scandinavia.


Star Trek – Perfectly cast with top flight actors and impressively directed but with a forgettable soundtrack, retarded script and an unnecessary need to set the film in an alternate universe. Star Trek it is not – Tard Trek is more like it!

And with that he was gone into the night...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mike Ritchie Makes his Top 10

Mike "Motherfuckin" Ritchie has been a friend of mine for years and years. Out of my friends he is probably the one who is most mainstream movie acclimated. He is fond of telling the rest of us that he doesn't really care about directors and such as long as the movie entertained him. His gig is music. Metal music to be exact. Now try telling him that you don't care about Ozzy as long as his songs are good! Mike used to write for some local papers covering music so he's no stranger to putting his opinions to words. I have not changed anything, nor will I . Here is Mike Ritchie’s Best/Worst of 2009 List.

Since I couldn’t decide which ones I liked over others 3-10 are in no particular order.


1. Star Trek 2009 Remake/Reboot/Reimagining- in a year of mostly crappy remakes of all genres Hollywood actually got this one right. With dazzling special effects, a story that went in a few new directions (Spock/Uhora romance) while staying true to the original while tossing in a few nods and winks for the die hard fans (how Kirk cheated, outsmarting the attack simulation) to appreciate. While rumors of Shatner's cameo turned out false viewers were treated to Leonard Nemoy's presence. Went to see this with mom for Mothers Day and I really didn’t want it to end. It was one of the movies that made 2 hours feel like 30 minutes.

2. The Wrestler- A movie given limited release in 08, going national in 09. This was the movie that brought Mickey Rourke back to the mainstream and single-handedly revived/rejuvenated his career. Rourke stars as Randy the Ram an 80’s Wrestling Star who is down on his luck and is struggling through life working on the indy scene doing extreme/hardcore matches trying to survive while keeping his name and reputation alive. Now in a trailer forced to work odd jobs while trying to court a local stripper and rekindle his relationship with his estranged daughter, while he tries to make himself a better person he succumbs to temptation but decides to risk his health and life doing what he loves to do. Several known wrestlers makes appearances such as Ernest Miller while lesser known legit indy workers Necro Butcher are featured. The movie also gives a look into the smaller, far less glamorous side or underbelly of the business. The viewer also gets some ’insider’ insight into the behind the scenes workings of the business.

3. My Bloody Valentine 2009-Remake/Reboot/Reimagining- Again this is another exception to the years bad remakes. The original early 80’s slasher never got the recognition it’s multi sequel contemporaries shared but none the less it was a solid gory horror movie with a good plot and a loyal cult following. This years recreation stays true to the original story of a miner that goes on a killing rampage pick axing everyone that gets in his way. The use of 3d is used very well, putting the gore right in your face. Also the 10 minute full female frontal scene is worth the viewing by itself.

4. Taken-Seeing Liam Neeson playing a one man army, beat’em/shoot’em role is something I’d expect from Steven Segal, hopefully Neeson didn’t rely on his stunt double a little too much. After Neeson’s daughter is kidnapped he uses all of his ’special skills’ to track down the bad guys through Albania uncovering a global prostitution ring. I’ve mostly seen Neeson in drama but he pulls off the unstoppable badass role quite well.

5. Pontypool-A straight to DVD Canadian release about a radio DJ and his assistants who cover a zombie plague outbreak from their studio. If there was such a thing as an intelligent zombie movie this would be it. PontyPool could very well be the horror equivalent to Talk Radio. The ’infection’ is transmitted by certain spoken ’trigger’ words and their meaning causing the infected to talk in gibberish and degenerate to ravage, violent spasms and convulsions. The ’cure’ is to change the meanings of these words into something different by repetition.

6. Flight 666-My musical contribution to the list this year is awarded to one of my favs Iron Maiden. This is their world tour documentary showing how they recreated their legendary 80’s World Slavery Tour christened The Somewhere Back in Time Tour, throwing in one or two early 90’s songs for good measure. I was fortune to see this show live in Cleveland last year and it was incredible. This tour was a massive undertaking, bringing all their stage gear/props in one huge plain ’Ed Force One’, with a caption who just happened to be Bruce Dickenson.

7. District 9- At first the previews made this look more like an action movie but upon viewing I was pleasantly surprised it was filmed more as an action documentary about a reporter interviewing aliens that are being forced to live in a third world like ghetto slum while secretly waiting to return to their hovering mother ship. The reporter accidentally exposed himself to a liquid that would’ve been the aliens escape fuel. He slowly starts turning into one of them and must try and survive as a fugitive, which drives him to form an alliance with the aliens to help them escape in exchange for a cure.

8. Hills Run Red-A straight to DVD release about a group of college film nerds that are obsessed with finding the long misses roles of film left from a cult movie that were supposedly lost and never finished. After finding the daughter of the director and finding various shooting locations they realize the movie is ’still in production’ and their the ending cast. A smart, very gory, good movie.

9. A Haunting in Connecticut- Virginia Madeson stars in this dark, spooky movie about a family with a terminally ill son who move into a house that was formally a funeral home. The son starts to experience weird phenomena while plagued by nightmares and strange visions. After researching the houses history he discovers the former residents practiced black magic, and necromancy. The most gruesome discovery unfolds when he discovers the victims bodies are all still in the house and burns it down.

10. Avatar-I just saw this a few days ago with Mom. I didn’t have a strong desire to see it but heard it got great reviews for its effects mastery. Clocking in at almost 3 hours I was hesitant given my checkered history of seeing long movies in the theater. However after watching it, it didn’t feel like 3 hours at all. Avatar is a special effects masterpiece filled with technical wizardry and visually stunning scenery. Shown in 3d everything jumps out at you from the beauty of the rain forests to the fire canons during the final battle. Though there are some blatant messages about the eco system, Native American land and War the movie can easily be enjoyed as a spectacular sci-fi/action/adventure fantasy.

Guilty Pleasure-Drag Me to Hell- Most of my friends hated this movie and some didn’t even finish it. Personally I was entertained by it, whether it was it’s over the top (intentionally) cheesy effects, (we’d had debates over this) to it’s Evil Dead style horror humor (the goats possession/guy dancing in the air during the séance scene or the gypsies corpse falling on the girl spilling post mortem debris in her mouth, or the car garage scene). I even got a laugh from the handkerchief of death making several appearances. I was told there were blatant undertones about women working in the corporate world but I either didn’t notice them or didn’t care. Like I said, the movie entertained me and above all isn’t that what a movies supposed to do?



Worst of 2009

1. Friday the 13th- 2009 Remake/Reboot/Reimagining/Reefer Smoking Writing- The original Friday the 13th was an early 80’s, low budget, claustrophobic pioneer of the slasher era and is considering one of the great horror classics of its time. It’s 2009 version….wasn’t, isn’t and never will be. I agree with a friends comment that the movie actually made you feel dumber after watching it. The movie tries to be modern and hip to the current generation and falls short on almost everything. It’s few positives includes several naked boobs, half of which I’m sure weren’t real and a new version of Jason that was faster and smarter which I admit to liking. The film showcases a bunch of dumb kids going to a friends lake house while looking for a reported ’stash’ of living greenery. While some murders are kinda creative most aren’t. Most of the cast are portrayed as drunk, pot smoking morons that you really don’t care about and want to see savagely murdered. One of the ‘it’s so stupid it’s funny’ scenes comes when the token black guy goes looking for the very not funny comic relief guy and literary grabs a frying pan to protect himself. The plot as a whole is weak and unimaginative as several plot elements and characters are taken from the first 4 Friday movies. There’s a blatant wink wink nod to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies and the ending scene where the two survivors dump Jason's body, fully wrapped, into the lake followed by his mask then literally a few seconds later Jason leaps out, unwrapped and masked is just ludicrous (even by Friday the 13th standards) and brain numbing. It’s as if the writers just said hey lets take the Friday script and dumb it down to unprecedented depths and give Jason a pot farm.

2. Watchmen-I was told by friends before seeing this that I wouldn’t like it, and they were right. I went in pretty much blind as I have before, only being told it was 3 hours long and about superhero’s, so I thought okay, can’t be that bad right? WRONG! First I will say that I’m the only person who didn’t like it and have been subsequently punished for. My first issue is that it was marketed as a dialogue driven superhero movie. What’s wrong with that sentence? Most of the characters are fairly unlikable even if made to be so. This was overly long (I don‘t really buy that the story needed 3 hours to be told), painfully boring. I tried to follow the action and characters but by mid movie I just didn’t care. I will say that seeing Matt Frewer in a major theatrical movie was cool. The only other thing that kept my eyes open or my mind invested was Roarshack. His character was interesting and watching the shapes change on his mask was literary the only thing keeping me from la la land. I will also say that listening to people giggle and snicker whenever Dr. Manhattan was in ’full view’ was funny. I did however snap back into half-consciousness during the jail break scene which was a minor positive. I saw several groups of people walk out around and after the 2 hour mark and was envious. If I’d had the choice this definitely would’ve been a walk out movie for me. This movie did something no movie should ever do to the viewer, made me very time conscious. I was visibly bored several times checking the time 2 or 3 times. Though this movie will end up high on most of my friends best of lists I could not in good conscious agree.

3. GI. Joe The Rise of Cobra-I grew up watching the cartoon series and saw the original animated movie and to say this movie was an extreme disappointment would be a major understatement. Whoever wrote this either didn’t watch the original series or didn’t care. Of the major characters showcased they only got the Baroness, Snake Eyes, and Storm Shadow right. Zartan, Dr. Mindbender (though I like the actors who played them) weren’t even close to their original look and they didn’t even try for a realistic Cobra Commander with a terrible looking mask and generic/lame deep bad guy voice. Destro didn’t get his chrome mask until the very end and that even looked bad. Ripcord as the comic relief was terribly unfunny. One of the most unintentionally funny sequences was watching the Joes jump around town in special super body suits. Three fourths through I was routing for the Joes to die.

4. Transformers 2- Wow, I thought the first wasn’t that great but they seemed to have trumped themselves with this mass of special effects and stupidity. The writers must’ve been on something when they wrote this. From dogs humping to mom getting high on campus, to cussing jive talking racist robots to the annoying ’your about to see something top secret, don’t tell my mother guy’ from the first one. Shia Lebeof who most of my friends use for verbal target practice tries to be funny but comes across fairly annoying and I’m sure will do the same again in the next movie. Megan Fox who doesn’t do much for me anyway showcases her anatomical talents.

5. Jennifer’s Body- At first I thought this was a straight up horror movie, damn was I wrong. I assuming it was ‘supposed to be’ a hip black horror comedy but came off more like the unfunny gory version of Clueless. Megan Fox-another bad movie she’s in, go figure- stars as Jennifer, miss high school popularity that takes her friend to a bar to see some Indy band who we later find out try to sacrifice Jennifer to earn fame and money from Satan. Only prob is, one (or more) people have already been in Jennifer’s body. So the pact goes awry and Jennifer lives partially absorbing some of the ceremonial demonic super powers but can only keep her youthful, beautiful, bubbly appearance by savagely killing her classmates, drinking their blood/flesh or she starts looking like what she’d look like if she had died in The Ring.

Dishonorable Mention:

Paranormal Activity: Talk about a movie being marketed on misguided hype! The so called live theater audience reactions filmed are pretty comical after watching it making me think what the hell did they jump at? I wish to God I had a fast forward button handy during this one. Shaking chandeliers to mysterious foot prints in baby powder to bathroom lights going off and on prepared me for the ‘really’ scary scenes of the wife getting out of bed starring at the husband for hours and being dragged of the bed and pulled down the hallway by invisible wires, er I mean the mean spirit of a tortured girl. I actually busted out laughing when that happened. The one good thing I will say was that the woman was very attractive. But it doesn’t make up for this Blair Witch wannabe

NOTE FROM EDITOR: it should be mentioned that I simply never bothered to see Transformers, G.I. Joe or Jeniffer's Body so that is why none of them made my worst list. I knew better.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 Draws to a close, My Top 10

Last year on my original Exploitation Nation Blog (still nested on the set of bogs if anyone is interested to go read them) I did an experiment where I had my immediate circle of friends that I hang out with nearly every weekend give me their top ten picks of the year as well. I posted them as I got them in. I'm going to do that again this year. Naturally I will be starting today with my own list. So here goes the top 10 films of 2009 by Andy Copp

Actually, this year was a fantastic year for movies and picking just ten was damn near impossible. I had it nailed down then at the last minute I saw one more movie that I felt had to be put into the list and that shuffled things around again. I still need to see THE HURT LOCKER and MOON both of which I missed on their theatrical runs (MOON barely played Dayton, and I just missed THE HURT LOCKER even though it was from one of my favorite filmmakers, which is inexcusable). So I am doing eleven movies. Sue me. It is my blog and I do what I want when I want... So here we go!

11) DEADGIRL - This independently produced sleeper horror film is dividing fans much like the film MARTYRS. For some reason lots of horror fans are just seeing it as a male masturbatory rape fantasy, while many others are seeing a brilliant study of male pack behavior, sexual politics, and high school peer pressure all wrapped up in a very disturbing, pitch fucking black zombie film. Either way people are having a hard time with a movie that deals with teen boys who are keeping a zombie girl as a rape toy, only to start pimping her out to others. Ugly, unpleasant, filthy, smart, sad, and at times really beautiful, this is what independent horror should be aspiring to. When most independent zombie films play for laughs, this plays for keeps.

10) PONTYPOOL - Canadian director Bruce McDonald makes my list two years in a row, last year with the experimental THE TRACY FRAGMENTS, and this year with his witty and savage zombie film that almost has no zombies. PONTYPOOL is actually more of an intellectual exercise in semantics about language and separation between people when it breaks down. Yet also succeeds in being a damn scary and tense movie all the way through. The tension continues to get ratcheted up, wisely never really showing the menace until almost having to, and then just briefly. Almost unbearably tense, with just enough humor to get you through, and a humanistic message in the tail.

9) FANTASTIC MR. FOX -Wes Anderson’s incredibly dry humor take Roald Dahl’s children’s book perplexed parents and families who went to see this old school stop motion animated flick. But I’m sure it delighted his fans. For me personally it was the first time I had encountered his work and I had loads of fun with it. The laughs are not roll on the ground funny, but sort of a sideways look at life, and by having them be animals it is even more interesting and bizarre. The characters are all really well developed, yet contain distinctive elements of their animal personalities beyond just being say, the cute opossum, or what have you. There is a rather high level of violence for an animated ‘kids” movie and the Foxes do indeed do what they are known for, which is kill chickens, which is never glossed over. Which, I am sure, is another reason parents stayed away in droves. The stop motion is totally old school, done by hand, using puppets with real fur, which gives it a beautiful, very real look to it that is very fresh in this slick computer age. The entire film feels so real you want to reach up and touch it.

8) AVATAR - No one is as shocked as I am about this. The trailers for AVATAR tried to sell it on the special effects and hardware involved. The “wow” factor for the wii generation was supposed to pull you into the theater, but in fact had the opposite effect on me and turned me off completely. Had I not started hearing these rabidly negative reviews bitching about the film’s “Socialist-Liberal” (yes, that is how I have read it described) agenda and pro ecology rants I would have never bothered to see it. The story arc is too familiar, but what does with that familiar story arc is quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The creation of a whole world that we have never experienced is so nuanced and complete that it is consistently breathtaking. Yet, all this special effects muscle is being used to put across a deeply felt message about how we treat the world (maybe the universe?) and that just because we can go into an indigenous area to take what we want doesn’t mean we should. That the eco-system is really the life-line of any planet and greed will destroy that, until quite possibly the planet is forced to fight back itself. The clear jabs at America’s out of control sense of manifest destiny that has overlapped into the constant “War on Terror” are loud and clear and well represented here. Next to the original James Cameron THE TERMINATOR which is a sentimental favorite, I think this may be Cameron’s best film.

7) DISTRICT 9 - The Summer Blockbuster comes of age with the incredible, smart Sci-Fi thriller that takes on racism, apartheid, and other racially motivated marginalization by way of replacing minorities with aliens. A simple tactic really, but the brilliant directing and flawless effects couple with the ability to imbue the alien characters with actual performances makes this simply, amazing. This takes what could have easily been tired cliches (the “handheld” story telling device, the old one man becomes part of the “other side” and helps to fight for them) and really redeems them. But at the end it is those rich characters, especially the lead, that are steeped in shades of grey, that makes this so stimulating.

6) OBSERVE AND REPORT- The bravest comedy in years. Advertised as a frolicking Seth Rogan feel good yuck fest in a mall ala Paul Blart Mall Cop. What you get, is Taxi Driver for the consumer generation. A movie that invites you to laugh at things totally fucked up in our culture but then turns you around and shows you just how fucked up those things are and implicates you for laughing. Is mental illness funny? Is racism funny? Is drug abuse funny? Is broken home life and destruction of the family unit funny? Nope. But you will laugh and maybe not feel so good about yourself for doing so. And maybe think about the things you laughed at. This is also one of the most well directed movies to come from mainstream Hollywood in a longtime, especially with the use of music. Just brilliant. The reference to OLDBOY was a nice touch too.

5) MARTYRS - For some reason MARTYRS has become the most attacked horror film in recent years. The people who hate it, hate it with a passion, like the movie was made purposefully to hurt them on some personal level. The movie is roundly considered to have gone way too far, to have pushed to envelope and is just “torture porn” (the stupidest fucking term in the history of journalism). What it IS, is among the most uncompromising, relentless, terrifying, brutal, and SMART horror films in recent memory. While it is not as good as ANTICHRIST, it is still one of the most impressive horror features in many a moon and I think a turning point in the genre. Yes, it is too much for most audiences. But those audiences do not have to watch it. This isn’t TWILIGHT for god’s sake. This is for that segment of horror fans who can take it, and demand entertainment that is deeper in meaning than the average Hollywood cesspool. That’s where audiences get lost, is that by the midpoint the movie makes a HUGE demand on the audience to stick with it. The film is challenging you to stay on board at that point. Making a commentary on the "torture" films surrounding it. Saying "Hey if you like this kind of stuff, then HERE IT IS!" Then if you CAN stay on board, the story goes places new and strange. But I think most audiences tune out, get offended and can’t handle what they are experiencing. And the movie IS forcing them to experience it. It is commenting on the wave of “torture” films more than participating in them.

4) WATCHMEN - If there ever was a movie that has people gunning for it before release this was it. This was NEVER going to satisfy the comics fan base unless it was a seven episode mini-series on HBO and even then I doubt any director could deliver anything that fans would agree worked. What Zack Snyder DID deliver was an amazingly faithful adaptation that shocked audiences that were unfamiliar and expecting BATMAN, pissed off conservatives who couldn’t handle sex in superhero stories or the political content, and angered comic nerds because the final third of the movie was different than the totally unfilmable comic. What the movie delivers is dead on characters, with great performances (Rorschach, The Comedian, Nite Owl and Dr, Manhattan are all perfect, The Jupiter Women are both very good, though Sally Jupiter’s old age make up is regrettably a little off). Fans complained that the action scenes were out of place, but for fucks sake it IS a comic book movie after all, there needs to be action. For a three hour super hero movie to not have any would be absurd. The movie builds a world unlike any other comic movie ever made, with an unique point of view. It is faithful to the source material to a fault. There is not much more one can ask than that.

3) LIFE IS HOT IN CRACKTOWN- The most unjustly maligned movie of the year. Not because it got bad reviews. But because it was just simply ignored. By festivals, by critics, by audiences at large, and a distributor that just didn’t have the power to push it out there enough. Buddy Giovanazzo’s dream project based on his incredible book of short stories is probably even more powerful that expected as he managed to do something the book didn’t really do. Find the heart and soul of even the most despicable characters in the work. The book is about the horrors of street life and drugs. The movie is about the humanity of the people who live the lives involved in those horrors. Where this could have been two hours of living, breathing hell, it instead manages to be filled with a bleak hope as we watch people with pride, dreams, goals and self worth. We watch them love, live, party, work and struggle to get by. There is violence, some of it brutal, ugly and extreme. The gang rape that opens the movie has a LOT to do with why the movie was passed on by film festivals the world over, though so totally important to the tone of the film. Without it those characters would be completely off balance. The performances here are without peer and deserve Oscar nods especially Kerry Washington as the proud transsexual struggling with her heroin habit. It is sad that the movie PRECIOUS (while not a bad film at all), which shares a good deal of themes with this movie, managed such a good deal of steam (thanks to big name support of Oprah and Tyler Perry), while this was ignored. Buddy G should have said this was a true story.

2) ANTICHRIST - Lars Von Trier lives to be controversial it seems. But I don’t give a shit about all of that. I’ve only seen a few of his movies and don’t care about the controversy he drums up. I saw this without hardly any knowledge of the controversy surrounding him and this film. So what I got to see was basically just a pure movie as it was intended, not colored with the hoopla and craziness. What I got was the most powerful horror film in years and one of the most moving and disturbing treatises on how humans deal with grief, how women have been treated throughout centuries, how sexuality has been repressed and abused, and just how far humanity will go to control one another to avoid their own accountability. A bleak, dark, uncompromising, powerful, assault, filled with meaning and imagery that is impossible to forget. This movie is not for the weak of heart and especially the weak of mind. Which is why so many critics hate it. They want to join the club and be part of something, the elitist group that feel the are smarter than this smart-alec art filmmaker who has dared to cross boundaries that good taste has dictated. They don’t seem to understand that conservatism has no place in art or horror. They didn't take the time to see the layers to the film and the true brilliance of everything on screen.

1) WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE - I can almost safely say that there has been no other movie in recent years at which at no point did I stop and think about the craft of which the movie was made. Where I was simply drawn into the movie so utterly and completely to the point that I was struck with awe and lost, that my film geek side was put to rest and the little kid inside of me that loved movies so much was woke up so completely that I was taken into the movie and lost. No real world, just the one in the movie. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE did this for me. Granted I was predisposed to loving it. The book meant soooo much to me as a kid that it is pretty much a genetic code to who I am today. My Mom read it to me daily until I was able to read it myself. So when the Wild Things showed up the first time in the movie I literally wept. Seriously, full on tears of joy at seeing something so powerful from my childhood born into reality so perfectly. By the time Max leaves them at the end and they all howl together saying good bye I was full on bawling like a baby, not wanting to leave them either. I’d been happy to spend the rest of my days in that theater, sleeping in a pile with them. None of this touches on the multiple layers of meaning and depth the movie has. I want to see it again so badly, but at the same time I am almost afraid to because I don’t want to taint that perfect experience of seeing it the first time. (Besides the guy snoring in front of us in the theater. Asshead.)

The worst movies of the year was actually a damn sight harder this time around to come up with as I didn't feel that I went to that many truly awful movies. I saw a few that I was ambivalent about like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, or ones that I liked but did not love like INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (I still don't see the brilliance that everyone else sees. Cut it by 20 minutes and loose the custie touches and make Eli Roth's character never speak and it might come a lot closer). But truly bad films? Well the following were in the shitpile...

FRIDAY THE 13th (remake) - It is almost a cheat to put this on the worst list as I in no way expected it to be good. Directed by shit-hack extraordinaire Marcus Nispel whose bowel movements are even an artistic embarrassment and probably more entertaining than his films. To call him a hack is insulting to true hacks who are trying to just earn a living. At least it had righteous titties, and a funny unintentional subplot that inadvertently makes Jason Vorhees look like he’s a pissed off pot farmer.

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE - As if Brett Ratner hadn’t fucked up the X-MEN franchise enough 20th Century Fox had to really rape and plunder it with this spin-off series launch pad. The problem here is the same thing that killed BLADE TRINITY. (Well, besides a director infatuated with his hunky stars abs.) The focus is not to make a good or coherent film, but to stuff as many franchisable characters into the flick as possible as to spin it off in the future to other money making series. So what you have is a movie that makes no god damn sense unless you read the comic books to understand who the hell everyone is. Then it pisses those fans off because it is completely unfaithful to those characters. The first five minutes are pretty good, and then it goes to hell in a hand basket as it clearly is being directed by committee. With some of the worst CGI special effects in a modern big studio release film ever. I Like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, he's great. He deserves a much, much better movie than this.

DRAG ME TO HELL - I refuse to be all fan geek and fall all over myself because Sam Raimi came back to the genre and made a horror movie. He really didn’t. This is still a slapstick comedy in a horror movie’s clothes, and this time most of the comedy is so goofy that is just makes your head hurt. To me this kind of horror/comedy stuff was dead in 1988. It also doesn’t help much that every single minority character in the movie is either so disgusting that you can’t look at the screen (drooling , spitting, snotting, etc) or lying, cheating, thieving, conniving scumbags out to make a buck while the white-bread heroes are just trying to outsmart them. Seems to me that someone's hometown aw shucks point of view has been mightily curtailed from directing $200 million dollar movies. I mean there is actually a scene where an anvil appears out of nowhere to be dropped on someone!?!?! Did Chuck Jones actually ghost direct this? I CAN however respect the last ten seconds, however predictible they may be.

H2: HALLOWEEN 2 - Rob Zombie what the hell are you thinking? Have you just gotten to the point that you have isolated yourself in your own little castle of money and horror goodies that you have no idea what you are putting out anymore? When you put out something that doesn’t work (say the HALLOWEEN remake?) you blame the studios, yet you claim totally autonomy on this sequel (that you claim you never wanted to make in the first place) and this is what we get? Get a good co-writer and take a workshop on writing characters and dialogue and come back and talk to us dude.

MY NAME IS BRUCE -Seems I’m shitting on the Sacred cows here, so I might as well continue. Bruce Campbell, fan boy icon. Shitty director. Seemingly has become a self absorbed assface. Or that is what he wants everyone to believe he has become and plays in the movies. But the shitty director part is still true, hence this damn near unwatchable and completely unfunny mess.

One great thing about this year at the movies was that I got to go to the drive in a LOT. The Dixie-Twin drive in for reason's I don't understand changed their policy this past summer from playing basically family friendly films to almost all horror/exploitation/sci-fi. Every horror film that came out during the warm months played there and we went there to see them all. This was as close to the glory days of From Dusk Till Dawn Trash nights as one could get anymore. So just the experience of being in your car watching horror on the outdoor screen made a turd like HALLOWEEN 2 that much more fun and passable. Hell, even something I wouldn't have bothered to see like SORORITY ROW got me to pay to see it because it was at the drive in. Best of all they had a retro-weekend where they showed & JOHN CARPENTER'S VAMPIRES, & KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE on one screen with GHOST & ROADHOUSE on the other (as a tribute to the fallen Patrick Swayze) with proceeds going to the local cancer charity. Pretty dope. The double feature of ORPHAN and THE COLLECTOR was like I had time warped into 1983 as both films were a total throwback to old school horror and seeing them at the drive in was perfect. I will be patronizing the Dixie Twin this upcoming year as along as the keep this kind of programming going. I was told they hope to do some more retro stuff this upcoming year.

So that's my year in review, we'll see what my friends have coming up. But I get the feeling that WATCHMEN is going to be an interesting bone(r) of contention...

Article © Andrew Copp