Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assisstant

“This has to be one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me. You know how there’s a multitude of online sweepstakes out there, where you fill out a webform and then promptly forget about it cause no one ever wins? Well I actually won the grand prize in one of those. I remember entering, but I cant remember how I even came across it. Most likely linked off IMDB news or something. Anyways, I got a private screening of Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant for “”200 of my closest friends”” with an appearance by Chris Massoglia, who plays Darren (the vampire’s asst).

The past week has been such a blur. I got the call last Wed at work. At first I thought it was the landlord calling to yell at me like they had the day before. Needless to say, I was pretty shocked once I found out what the call was actually about. At first I was told this would be happening at the end of the month/early next month. Okay, I can work on getting 200 people in a couple weeks. Then I find out late Thur that is happening in 6 days. Enter panic mode.

Ultimately I managed 20 guests, which actually worked out quite well. Some of my usual gang was there as well as some peeps I hadn’t seen in a while. And since we were a small group, we scored VIP concessions–meaning we could have as much free food as we wanted. Once we were there I was kinda in person wrangling/running around mode, so I couldnt quite take full advantage of that. But I know some of the others had fun trying to see how much candy and popcorn they could carry. One of many reasons why this was one of my most surreal days _ever_.

And having the auditorium to ourselves was prolly the most fun part. Its something I’d always wanted to do. I seriously have been wanting to own a theater someday so I can do things like that. It was great knowing we could relax and have fun (for some reason everyone found the term Vampinese hiliarous each time it was said), like it was a movie night home at the Hellmouth, but with a bigger screen and better accomodations over all.

Meeting Chris was really cool. Although, this is one of those situations where I really wish I was a better conversationalist. He signed two posters for me (there were two different styles) and posters for the majority of my friends there. Also managed to grab a picture with him. He’s such a sweet kid, I just kinda wish that portion of the evening hadnt been so rushed.

As far as the movie itself, it was such campy goodness. The intro gave me a total Lemony Snicket vibe (between the music and the opening sequence). And overall it felt like A Series of Unfortunate Events crossed with the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, without Joss Whedon’s killer dialogue. It had a bizarre mix of cheese and darkness that worked surprisingly well.

Such a fun cast (John C Riley, Willem Dafoe, Salma Hayek, Patrick Fugit, Michael Cerveris etc), even if some of the bigger names only appeared briefly. John C Riley is one of my favorite actors because of his range. He’s done award winning films like Magnolia and Chicago, but also mixes in some Will Ferrell flicks. From the trailer I was a bit worried about him in this one, but it turns out it was just that the dialogue was cut strangely in the preview. While he wouldnt have been my first choice actor to play a vamp, he pulled it off rather nicely–dark but just approachable enough to make him a likeable character.

I also found the choice of freaks to be quite interesting, but Im not entirely sure what I make of that. They were definitely creative and different, but few of them could not have existed without some computer graphic help, which just sorta pushed the boundaries of belivability a touch too far.

Also worth mentioning, as someone who is an avid vampire fan, Im always curious about the mythology and rules surrounding vamps in a different ficticious universe. This one definitely gets points in that area. Some creative new stuff while still remaining true to a lot of the core vamp lore. Im just not so sure about the superspit thing.

Very fun movie, though I think the whole experience was definitely a postive factor. I would’ve definitely enjoyed it either way, but I might not have been gushing quite so much otherwise. But I really hope the next set of books gets movie-fied as well. And since I just finished Chuck Palahniuk’s Pygmy, I guess tomorrow’s a good day to head over to Borders to pick up the first book or two in the series.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n (its really a solid 3, but it gets bonus points because the whole experience was awesome)”

In the Heat of the Night (AFI #75)

“Tonight prolly wasn’t a good night to watch one of these. Waaay too much going on in my head for me to focus. Silly things like waiting for the DWTS results show (go team Chito!) and excitement for tomorrow (oh yeah, haven’t mentioned it here yet, but I won a private screening of Vampire’s Assistant). I just could not get into it at all. I really did consider skipping the flick and getting in a few more eps of Sarah Connor Chronicles, but last week I was really antsy and it didnt hold my attention enough.

Anyways, didnt really care too much for this one. Besides those previously mentioned outside influences, the movie just felt too slow. I get that the racial issues are the main point of it, but it was the murder mystery that I was more interested. But that point kinda took a backseat to the prejudice thing, so it appeared as though there wasn’t much happening. Also having just seen Chinatown this weekend, its gonna be tough to find another whodunnit that measures up.

I did really like Sidney Poitier. He’s one of those actors that I’ve heard raves about but never really saw. After a quick IMDB-ing, the only thing I’ve seen him in is Sneakers.

Getting distracted now cause I hear Shark Tank in the background as Im waiting for DWTS, so I’ll wrap this up, even though it’ll be short.

The other point I want to make is that one thing I find really cool about this project is the classic quotes. I keep catching things I’ve heard before somewhere in pop culture that I can now place. This time it was “”They call me Mister Tibbs””. Not a quote I would have thought about, but upon hearing it I knew it was special. And there was this lead in, where I just knew he was gonna say something awesome, without any clue what it was. Sorry, Im not making sense. Im rushing. Guess that’s my cue to stop.”

Saving Private Ryan (AFI #71)

“I had seen this one once before, and both times I just thought it was absolutely amazing. Im usually turned off by war movies (I kinad liked Jarhead and I _love_ the first half of Full Metal Jacket) but this one is just fantastic. Im also one of many people who wants to call Shennannigans! on the 1999 Academy Awards for giving best picture to Shakespeare In Love instead of Saving Privmate Ryan.

One of the common complaints about it is that its too \m/ gory, but I can’t imagine the film having as much of an impact without it. That opening battle scene is just unbelivable. Normally I get bored during long drawn out epic scenes like that, but this one had me on the edge of my seat, heart pounding in my ears. And also, I think God invented surround sound specifically for this movie. I was actually getting a bit scared and jumpy. I kept looking over at the door to see if someone was there, but it was just the left rear speaker.

Interesting antecdote about my surround sound. When I got it last year, the first movie I used it on was Tropic Thunder. I thought it was the most awesome shit ever. My cat, on the other hand, was totally freaking out over it. She’s gotten used to it by now.

This movie has such a great cast too, and I just got attached to all of the characters. Tom Hanks, Barry Pepper, Ed Burns, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Matt Damon, and a brief appearance by Nathan Fillion (For the record, Adam Baldwin was in Full Metal Jacket. Something must just draw the Firefly boys to war flicks).

I’d thought I’d just start this one and maybe save the last hour for tomorrow. Didnt figure I’d last thru three hours, but I was just hooked and they flew by. So intense and just so so good.

One last thing. I’ve mentioned before that I like reading IMDB trivia and FAQ after watching something. Here’s a tidbit I grabbed from the trivia page that I found amusing that I would like to share with the class:
All the principal actors underwent several days of grueling army training – except for Matt Damon, who was spared so that the other actors would resent him, and would convey that resentment in their performances.

Law Abiding Citizen

“I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I wont argue that it was a quality movie, but it was very much a Dawn movie. It was dark and suspenseful and intruging, though I woulda upped the action just a bit.

One thing that made it fun is I love rooting for the bad guy. No I dont root for him as a rule (ie I still pick John McClain over Hans Gruber, as awesome as he may be), but I like when your leading charcter is an antihero. It was murkier than a Dr Horrible situation (where the main guy is clearly the “”bad guy”” but in the context of the story, he’s the hero you support) but I love that. The whole time I was behind Gerard Butler’s character, wanting him to get his revenge and get his statement made. Although, Jamie Foxx wasnt as evil as the trailer made him out to be. And there was a point where I was a bit torn about who I wanted to win and how.

Side note cause I get distracted by shiny things. This “”light rain”” that I see falling outside my window is starting to look like heavy slushy snow. Sorta like God dumped out a pina colada Slurpee over Boston. Guess I made it home just in time. Lately I’ve taken to going to the theater in flip flops, so I can take ’em off and put my feet up on the bar or empty seat in front of me. Walking, er wildly running, back home I realized the flip flops weren’t such the best idea today. Sorry, back to the movie.

Loved Gerard Butler, even if his American accent was a bit dodgy. And given how his previous and recently release morally gray action film, Gamer, turned out I did kinda have zero hopes for Citizen, which prolly helped me like it so much. I’d been kinda scared for Jamie Foxx career wise cause from the outside this movie looks waaay beneath an Oscar winner. But he totally owned the role and I think his reputation should still be in tact. Huh. Just noticed Oscar nominee Viola Davis was in this too (and the lightbulb goes on in my head). Also really liked Leslie Bibb. She’s also had some questionable career choices, but I loved her strong, smart character.

Definitely recommend it if this type of movie is your thing. It aint gonna win any awards or nothing, but it at least earns high marks from me.

Law Abiding Citizen – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Bringing Up Baby (AFI #88)

“Im really cranking them out this weekend, aren’t I? This gives me hope that I’ll meet my end of the year arbitrary goal for finishing this thing.

Watched Bringing Up Baby this morning. Whenever I hear the title, it reminds me of Father of the Bride (the 1991 version with Steve Martin), which is one of my ultimate favorite movies ever. I can’t even begin to count how many times I watched that when I was little. Anne says that she met her fiancee Brian at a showing of Bringing Up Baby. They were the only two people in the theater, and they kept hearing each other laugh at all the same places.

To be honest, I didnt really care too much for it. I like farces (case in point, nothing is likely to ever top A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forvm as my favorite musical), but I dont like it when they get so awkward that you feel the characters’ embarassment to the point that its painful. And this one got ridiculously complicated and way too far fetched (leopards? seriously??). I was with it for the first half, and I thought things were pretty outta control then. But it got even more insane and just lost me.

I do love Cary Grant, but I love him as the suave leading man (like in Philadelphia Story…thats on the list for later). This time he was more Clark Kent than Superman, and while I normally like loveable and bumbling dorks, it just didnt suit him. Katherine Hepburn annoyed me at first. I think it was mostly the way she was talking non-stop, and everything she said was wrong and Grant couldnt get a word in to correct her. She did grow on me eventually.

Overall the movie was cute, but not really my style.”

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (AFI #33)

“I was incredibly distracted during this viewing, which prolly didnt do the movie justice. First, about 15 minutes in a fire alarm goes off in the apartment building. After a few minutes I decided to bag the cat and head downstairs. Not too long after the firemen gave the all clear. Buuut they didnt have access to turn off the alarm. So for a good hour of the movie, it was blaring really \m/ loud.

Then maybe 20 min after I’d settled back in to watch the film after coming back in, I get an email from the person who I was supposta adopt a second cat from. After she’d blown me off a few times and pushed back the kitty drop off, leaving me with back to back weekends home like a lame ass cause I’d cleared them, she decides that she’d rather give the cat somewhere she’d be an “”only child””. That got me pissed off because I’d already gotten in a bit deep with the cat prep. So I spent most of the rest of the movie seething, trying to figure out how best to respond to get the point across that Im upset without being rude about it. Now Im thinking I’ll wait til next month and go thru a shelter.

Anyways, just giving ya’ll my excuses for why this review might not be too comprehensive. Onward.

I thought it was a really good character piece. There’s something that always grabs me about characters with mental illness. They just have a special place in my heart I guess. (yeah yeah save your comparison comments) And I loved each one of them including Christopher Lloyd in his cinematical debut and an unrecognizable (at least I didnt realize it was him) Danny Devito. Nicholson was good too, but I much prefered him in this morning’s Chinatown.

My one disappointment was that I’d heard Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched was supposed to be one of the greatest villains of all time. While she played the role perfectly, I was mildly unimpressed with the character. Maybe growing up in Catholic school kinda desensitized me to the reserved strict type.

I did kinda lose interest for a bit towards the end of the second hour (running time is about 2:10 until the credits) I attribute that mostly to the previously mentioned distractions.

Also worth pointing out, for those of you who want to add to your movie trivia, this is the second of 3 movies to ever get a “”grand slam”” at the Oscars–best picture, best director, best actor and actress, best screenplay. The other two being It Happened One Night and Silence of the Lambs. Both of them are on the AFI list so I’ll get to ’em sometime soon.

That concludes today’s actual movie watching. I’ll prolly get in another disc or so of the Sarah Connor Chronicles before bed. Tomorrow’s plan includes Law Abiding Citizen (most likely) and another AFI Amazon rental.”

Where the Wild Things Are

“I’ll start off with the obligatory disclaimer that I dont recall ever reading the book (if I did read it, I dont remember). So I dont know how the movie follows or measures up to it. With that out of the way, I found the movie really boring. It had a really promising start. The low close up camera angles and Max’s imaginary antics brought you right into a kid’s world. But then, soon after he got to the island of the Wild Things, there wasn’t much happening. I’d dropped by phone about half way thru and spent the rest of the movie obsessing over picking it up. Thats how much the movie held my interest.

There were some redeeming qualities. My favorite wild thing was Alexander, voiced by Paul Dano. I definitely perked up a bit everytime he was around. And the wild things themselves were really well done. The costumes were built by The Jim Henson Company and were a combination of animatrionics and computer animation. I also loved the kid, Max Records. He was equal parts adorable and tough and gave a really heartwarming performance. Loved Catherine Keener as always, but she didnt particularly feature much.

Other than that, there’s really not much else to say. It was a lot of Max and the Things running around playing. Minimal conflict. Plot didnt seem to be headed in any particular direction. It was just flat.

Well this gives me a chance to introduce my movie rating system. I’ll just be using it on theater movies (so none of the AFI ones). The scale is up to 4 rock hands (\m/). A lot of times I’ll rate stuff on places like Flixter that have a 5 scale. That fifth point is reserved for _really_ awesome stuff like Aladdin. And as a rule, I need to have seen something at least twice in order to award it a fifth point. Also remember, this is entirely my opinion. I dont claim to be any real expert, just someone who enjoys movies. That said…

Where the Wild Things Are – \m/ \n

Chinatown (AFI #21)

“I actually started watching this one last night, but fell asleep at around the 45 minute mark. Thats not a reflection of the movie at all. I was really getting into it, but sometimes a long work week just catches up with you. My kitty, Lestat, spent about 45 minutes climbing on me and pawing and mewing to wake me up so I’d feed her.

This was also an experiment in Amazon’s online movie rental service. I dont typically like watching stuff on my computer, but I got used to it last spring watching DWTS online. Overall, its pretty good deal. $3 and you get 1-3 days (depending on the movie) to stream it online or download it. That’s def gonna save me some $$ when Im trying to acquire all the AFI films.

Anyways, this is one that’s been on my list of “”movies I really need to see”” for a while. Mostly cause I keep coming across references to it. Sadly, coming across references also means that I sorta knew one of the big twists at the end, but I dont think it really impacted the film other than decreasing some of the shock value.

This was a very well written mystery story, although the placing was just a tad slow for me. The story was very streamlined, without a lot of distractions. And I absolutely loved Jack Nicholson’s character, private investigator JJ Gittes. Its always a sign of a good movie and a good character when you watch something like this and wish you had their profession. He was slick and cool and smart and crude. And Nicholson just owned it. I’ve had mixed feelings about him in general. Granted, I haven’t really seen too much of his classic work (that’ll change over the next couple months) so my usual thought about him is “”that crazy guy at the Lakers games””. Keep in mind, Im a die-hard San Antonio Spurs fan, and there’s been some bitter rivalry there. That aside, The Departed taught me what a \m/ badass he can be, and Chinatown helped prove where that reputation came from.

Another thing I have to admit is that I didnt quite “”get”” some of the details and motivations and such. However, I am in the habit of reading IMDB trivia and FAQ’s immediately after seeing something and that actually cleared up a lot of that confusion. Some of that stuff’s pretty intense.

Also wanted to comment on the 1930’s style. From my limited viewing of 1930’s movie, it looks like they nailed it completely (Chinatown was made in ’74). I got a total His Girl Friday vibe (okay so that was released in 1940, but early 1940) right away. And while older movies dont usually do it for me, something about that totally sucked me into this one.

That’s 2 movies down, 98 to go and lovin’ it so far.”

Toy Story (AFI #99)

“Tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night. ..(points if you get the reference)

Hey howdy hey everybody (however many body’s there may be tonight)! We’ve finally reached the kick off day for Expletive Dleted! As you prolly know, I’ve been reviewing movies on for some time now and Im amping it up a notch this fall. Besides blogging about flicks in the theater, Im also gonna blog my way thru AFI’s 100 Years 100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition. And I got this shiny new blog and a Twitter account to go with it. So without further ado, here we goooo

I’d originally intended to kick off the project/experiment/time-killer with a movie I haven’t seen before. Buuuut tonight’s the last night of the Toy Story 3-D double feature special engagement thing, and I prolly wont get to see any of the other AFI movies on the big screen anytime soon. So I figured it was apropos enough.

I love Toy Story. It’s still easily my favorite Pixar movie. I know I did see it in the theater back in the day. I can’t remember the exact experience, but I do remember what a big deal it was that it was a computer animated movie. I’d grown up watching classic Disney animated films (hey I was a prime target for the second golden age of Disney in the early 90’s) and the idea of computer animated just boggled my mind. Little did I know that within two years I’d be sick of the whole computer animated fad and I’d be aching for a classic hand drawn animated feature (thankfully we now got Princess and the Frog looming on the horizon). Anyways, Im guessing that animation breakthrough is the reason why Toy Story made it onto the AFI list.

I was sitting in the front row (well the front row of the back section) and as soon as it started, I instantly became five years old again, or actually I guess I was prolly about 10 when I first saw it. I’d just forgotten how incredible this movie is. The dialogue is so clever and the concept is brilliant. The animation is gorgeous and I love their attention to detail. There were so many subtle jokes here and there (such as the For Sale sign on Andy’s house from Virtual Realty) that I’d never noticed before.

And I just loved listening to Tom Hanks’ voice. Its so easy for actors to just phone in a vocal performance, but Hanks really gives it his all. He really makes an animated toy character real and believable.

Im not convinced that the 3D-ness really added that much to the overall experience. It was exciting for the first five or ten minutes, then I sorta didnt notice it anymore. By the third hour of the evening, it was actually starting to get a bit headachingly irritating.

I did kinda lose a lot of the excitement by the time we got to the second half of the double feature. Toy Story 2 just doesnt measure up to its predecessor. And by this point, it was already getting kinda late. But seeing them back to back was interesting because again there were some many little subtleties that I wouldnt have picked up otherwise.

So it was a wonderful start to what’s gonna be an interesting movie season for me. Let’s just hope they’re all this fun!”