Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Carrie Remake

I'm not exactly making a bold, controversial claim when I say 'remakes are terrible', am I?  That's because everybody seems to agree with me:  remakes are terrible.  The only problem is that Hollywood keeps making them, and that is, of course, because people buy tickets to them, because we as a culture have become a cancerous diseased mass that would rather eat recycled forty-year-old rot than actually take a chance on something new and bold.  So who is to blame for the "Carrie" remake?  Is it the director who knowingly surrendered her artistic integrity to put together a purposefully mediocre product?  Is it the producer who calculated how much money he would make?  Is it Stephen King?  No.  Its you, America.  You're to blame.  Me, you, everybody.  This is the movie we've have chosen, we've voted with our ticket purchase, this is the movie we deserve.  So let us sick back, stuff our faces with popcorn, and ignore the collapse of our economy and our world empire and watch a shitty remake.  Enjoy your cultural cancer.

The first question you might be asking is:  'was 'Carrie Remake' any good?'  Well, you mostly answered the question already just by using the word "remake", which curses this movie to join a league of hundreds of horror remakes, nearly all of which are awful and forgettable.  The more important question is:  'why did Blue Highwind go to see this movie when he knew it was going to be awful and forgettable?'  The answer to that question is:  there is no other horror movie playing right now.  Its Halloween, I want to go out and  see a nice bloody horror movie.  But I don't get a nice bloody movie, I get a crappy remake of a Brian De Palma movie made almost forty years ago, and no other choice.  Even the usual October suspects of Paranormal Activity and Resident Evil are mission in action.  And those franchises view sucking as a matter of principal.  So there's no other choice:  "Carrie Remake" or no Halloween.

My main recommendation to a potential audience of "Carrie Remake" is to see the original.  The 1976 movie, not this cinematic regurgitation.  This ticket is unnecessary.  This is exactly the kind of movie made to be as unoffensive and mildly entertaining as possible, so in many ways, its the worst kind of movie you can find.  Utterly and horribly manufactured, with any points of controversy and real fear smoothed out.  Because you don't need to be scared at a horror movie any more, you just need to gawk at CG effects and cheesy X-Men telekinesis poses.  So if you want a movie made for the express purpose of mediocrity that will in no way enrich your life, go see "Carrie Remake".

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Blue is the Warmest Color

"Blue is the Warmest Color" was this years' winner of the Palme d'Or, the highest award given out at the Cannes Film Festival.  That on its own steeps "Blue" into high reputation of artistic integrity and international prestige, since Cannes is regarded as the very height of world auteur art cinema.  Which of course, to us in America, doesn't mean a great deal since I'm guessing a lot of us just came home from seeing "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa".  Cannes proudly presents itself apart from all commercial filmmaking business, which of course is all part of its own brand, from which it makes a great deal of money from audiences who just cannot enjoy watching a movie where a man in old age make-up abuses a child and assaults strangers for the perverted audience's amusement.  Naturally this Blue here has rather aggressively avoided Cannes and pretentious arthouse filmmaking, because frankly I'm just as stupid and lowbrow as the rest of my country.  But I'm also loud and idiotic enough to demand that I have a voice in all ranks of movie-making, no matter how foreign and no matter how predisposed I am to hate it.  I like to make a big deal about the Oscars every year, and compared to Cannes, the Academy Awards is a Jackass convention.  So maybe I should pay attention to the Palme d'Or winner every year, maybe I should broaden my horizons, try something well outside my comfort level.

Or maybe I'm watching this movie because LESBIANS.  And I'm obnoxious enough to be completely shameless when I admit my motive here.  LESBIANS.  FRENCH LESBIANS.  One who is underage in the movie.  The IFC Center in Manhattan has been all too willing to sells tons of tickets while winking quite grandly about the power of art, variety and deeper meaning in the movie experience, and also this is NC-17 so these chicks are going to fuck like crazy.  This is as close as we're going to get to a modern "Last Tango in Paris", though tragically America has progressed to the point that nobody is going to protest this movie, and even more tragically, Marlon Brando isn't going to sodomize anybody with butter.  We've all long passed the point where movies can seriously be labeled as "obscenity", especially when tonight I'm sure Cinemax is going to air many more lesbian sex scenes to a far broader audience.  And I'm disappointed, I've completely missed the era when a movie could really be subversive.  Do I need to project Japanese tentacle porn in order to piss off conservative housewives?  Even they won't care anymore.

I guess my real point is, despite the vast titillation aspect that surrounds "Blue is a Warmest Color", I am completely out of this movie's loop.  I was generally unimpressed with just about everything that happened here.  Its a very long, very boring, very dry movie.  It has a lot of things to say about growing up, finding your sexuality, the lifeblood of a relationship, which is all drained forward for three hours, with the highlights of course being the sex scenes.  Its not pornography, the movie clearly is carrying itself with a seriousness and meaning that supersedes just trying to please the male eye, or even the female eye, but its just not very good.  There's definitely a marketable sensationalism that can be found by promoting a French lesbian independent sex movie, but as for the audience's side:  you're going to be stuck in a theater for three hours, and you're going to check your watch.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Escape Plan

So "Machete Kills" was cheesy action movies done terribly.  Let's see if "Escape Plan", a sincere film harking back to cheesy action movies of the past can do better.

The last few years really haven't been lacking in feature film homages to 1980s action craze.  Between "The Expendables", "Bullet to the Head", "The Last Stand", and this, if you want an Eighties-style action movie, you are not lacking in opportunities.  Just avoid "Die Hard 5" unless you like being miserable.  I don't know if this is made from legitimate love of the classic genre of old, or perhaps out of Hollywood's new-found fascination in Old People.  Lately there's been an entire genre in Old People Movies, bringing back the actors of a generation ago and seeing if they can continue to do the old genre work.  Now we have "Last Vegas", "RED", "Stand-Up Guys", "Parental Guidance", and the upcoming "Grudge Match".  Hollywood seems to understand it has an aging audience and is adapting its whole selection to play to the over-fifty crowd.

Or maybe its just because that other than Jason Statham, the world is simply lacking in true action stars like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The whole point of "Escape Plan" is to bring together these two titans in a way that "The Expendables" franchise has only ever danced around.  After their individual movies from earlier this year tanked, maybe their combined star power could actually make a dent in the box office?  Its certainly enough of a spectacle for me to want to watch, even though they don't ever get a chance to fight.  This is more a very non-clever prison escape movie where the main method of fleeing is punching people and shooting dudes.

Luckily however, "Escape Plan", despite not being very well-made or well-written, it actually is a pretty fun movie.  Schwarzenegger is really shooting up his A-game on his charm, bringing all he can to elevate mediocre material, and Stallone is still Stallone.  The tongue is well in cheek, but the overall experience is still solid enough.  You know what you're paying for, and its not bad stuff.

Machete Kills

There's a thin line between "homage" and "parody".  Robert Rodriquez, never a director known for subtlety, was actually able to walk down that line rather well in the original "Machete".  That was a movie that was never made to be serious, clearly, it starred a sixty-year-old background actor from every Mexican crime movie made in the last twenty years, Danny Trejo, who appears to be physically incapable of making a face other than pure anger.  But it was clever, it was fun, and while jumping out of the rails at nearly every second, it still was reasonably grounded within its own stylized reality.  Machete is the world's first Mexican superhero, battling Conservative reactionary anti-immigration forces with a long pointy piece of metal.  Even people unaware of "Machete"'s roots in terrible politically-conscious 70s B-movies could appreciate it as a fun movie playing up a silly concept.

The original "Machete" ended promising two sequels:  "Machete Kills" and "Machete Kills Again".  At the time, riding on the Mexican high of Danny Trejo kicking Stephen Seagal's ass, I was down for it.  Having actually seen "Machete Kills", its obvious to me that Machete was a gag with a limited lifespan, and now the joke is already old.  "Machete Kills" is a movie full of several dozen ridiculous concepts that sound hilarious on paper, but actually aren't that great in execution.  Like, an avenging bordello madam that fights with Fembot weapons.  Just writing that sentence brought a smile to my face.  Then you cast the actress, you film it, then stuff it in an movie featuring President Charlie Sheen, a maniac Mexican Bond Villain, Mel Gibson trying to start a space empire, and Lady Gaga, then suddenly its not very funny anymore.  Its just confusing and stupid.

"Machete Kills" is a movie with atrocious writing, bad acting, confusing structure, and special effects so bad that Robert Rodriguez probably should have hid behind the "Alan Smithee" pseudonym.  But then its defense is "yeah, I'm trying to be a terrible movie, laugh at me".  Sorry no.  There's being fun and goofy and roping the audience along for the ride, and then there's going out of your way to be purposefully awful.  I can't laugh at bad special effects or bad dialog when I know they were made that way on purpose.  Or that the director obviously knows how to do a better movie and just isn't trying.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pokemon X

"Pokemon X and Y" are the newest installments, the latest and greatest recreations of the Pokemon franchise, Japan's most popular cultural export.  This is actually the fourth mainline Pokemon game that's been released in the lifetime of this blog, coming after "Pokemon Black and White", "Black and White 2", and the remakes of "Gold and Silver".  And even though I've played pretty much all of those games, I actually never felt it was necessary to do a proper review of them.  Ultimately for five generations now Pokemon has been exactly the same, merely increasing the cast and producing new regions for the player to explore, rather than creating any real solid innovation.  I played "Black" last year, and it was fun, just as all twenty or so previous games have been fun, in exactly the same way.  However, "X" gets the special honor of having a post written about it.  Because finally, after so many years, Pokemon finally feels like its moving forward.

The core plot and mechanics are all essentially the same, its still a rigid turn-based RPG featuring a massive monster collection theme as you go ahead to become the greatest Pokemon master of them all by beating every trainer in your region.  The only changes to the battle mechanics are shallow tweeks of moves and elements, with the overall balance of power slightly reconfigured thanks to the addition of new Pokemon and the new Fairy type.  Really the expansions are mainly superficial:  the game is now finally in full 3D, with all 700 (God knows how many) Pokemon now moving in real time animations and full depth.  The online features are far more extensive, allowing you with extreme ease to trade, fight, or simply communicate with friends or anonymous South Koreans from all over the globe almost immediately.  Even better, most of the petty annoyances that have weakened this series have been ironed out, making for a much faster, prettier, and exciting Pokemon game then we've ever seen before.

Right now, within two minutes of booting my brand new 2DS* I could be in the midst of an epic Pokemon duel with a random Japanese stranger.  Actually, let me try it out right now and see how it goes.  Wait a second.  Yup, got my ass kicked.  And now some passerbyer person named Gabe wants to trade.  And I can't believe this, but I just got a Hydreigon for a Skarmory.  Let me thank him by giving him some boost Capture power.  See how Pokemon has evolved?  Do you see how much fun this game is?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

An Open Letter to Ted Cruz

[This is an actual email I've sent to Senator Ted Cruz.]

Dear Ted Cruz:

My name is Eric Fuchs, and I am a voter.  You do not represent me, as I do not live in the state of Texas, but as a United States Senator, and an officer of the federal government, you ultimately are accountable to every citizen.  You may think you represent only the right-wing spectrum of this country, and you may consider all those who do not attend your rallies to be enemies, but for better or for worse, you are in my government.  And you have taken responsibility for the welfare of not only myself but hundreds of millions of other Americans, most of whom - if given the chance - would vote you very swiftly out of office.  But that is not the system we live in.

The government shutdown was not solely your responsibility, and frankly, more blame belongs on the shoulders of the House of Representatives than yourself personally.  But nobody in this country has benefited as greatly as you have from this government shut down.  It was your grandstanding in the Senate in a confusing twenty-one hour pseudo-filibuster that really galvanized your party to shut down the government in an ultimately failed attempted to defund the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  And at no point have you ever stated that you are not responsible for the government shut down, or have you stated regret for that government shut down, or have you done or said anything that has allayed this crisis.  You've gone out in front and owned this crisis.  Though I'm sure you can find plenty of blame to go around in your party, so don't panic when you read the next paragraph.

Standard & Poor's has estimated that the cost of this government shut down for the sixteen days it has lasted has cost the entire American economy some $24 billion dollars.  We, the American voters, did not want to spend $24 billion on a government shut down, we grew tired of these endless idiotic Washington battles back in 2011.  But you did it anyway, without our consent.  We are helpless before non-functional government, which you are all too proud to stand up in front of and celebrate.  In a parliamentary system you would be looking for a new job now.  Either way, the latest estimates for the population of the United States is some 313.9 million people.  $24 billion divided up amongst 313.9 million adds up to about $76.45, rounding down to the nearest cent.  This means that thanks to the government shut down, which has made you a household name now, you personally owe me and the rest of the American people seventy-six dollars and forty six cents.

I can accept cash or check.

Thank you, Eric Fuchs

Sunday, October 13, 2013


One of the points that are rarely made about modern filmmaking is that thanks to advanced computer technology, Hollywood finally has the opportunities to create movies unlike anything we've ever seen before.  In today's world the real landmarks of major special effects films seem to have mostly passed.  Something as dull as forgettable as "Elysium" or even that crappy remake of "Total Recall" would have blown the minds of the entire world if it were made just in 1999, let alone 1989 or in the silent era.  Special effects have spoiled us, to the point that a major CG blockbuster is as exhausted as a romantic comedy or a crime thriller.  We've seen the superheros kick ass before in ridiculous stunts, we've seen the landmarks explode, we've seen the massive space battles.  The tools are there to make simply incredible stuff, and yet most directors are perfectly fine releasing "Transformers".  So you forget between the mediocrity of one failed summer adventure after another that CG effects really are the tools of wonder.  And if used smartly to make something new, they can make movies that really do suck you right in.

One problem I have lately is after four years of doing this blog* I don't really watch the same way as everybody else does.  Once upon a time when I saw a movie it was just a movie, I let myself go, I could simply let the director and actors tell me a story.  Now my movie watching experience is more of a dialog.  When I'm seeing a movie, my brain is already mapping out things that worked and things that didn't work, and often talking right back to the director.  "Really, we're gonna open with a killer doll, James Wan?"  "Oh, the doll lets the evil come into the ghost hunters' house, not bad, James Wan, nicely developed."  And if the movie is really really bad and very boring, like "Elysium", I'm already writing the review I'm going to post here while watching the movie.  However, "Gravity" was not a dialog.  I was as silent and non-judgmental as I've been for a movie in years.

"Gravity" is - in a word - fantastic.  There is no doubt in my mind that this was one of the best movies of the entire year, or any year.  This is a simple, yet brilliant movie.  Director Alfonso Cuaron has, for the very first time in filmmaking history, really recreated the freakish environment of outer space and ironically for the film's title, zero gravity.  With that he's gone and made a survival disaster movie with lost astronauts jumping from station to station trying to get back home - in what is truly the most isolated and dangerous location human beings have ever experienced.  And he does with this a clever touch, not merely making a thrill ride but also a quiet contemplative poem about the sublimity of outer space and mankind's own connection to our planet.  This is as good as movie making gets.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pokemon: the Origin

"Pokemon X and Y" is coming out in just a few days, so I guess its time to a Pokemon post, or PokePost, if you will.

The Pokemon anime has been airing now since 1997, which is pretty much a decade and a half, and over 800 episodes.  Which is funny because the anime is - and always has been - absolute junk.  I suppose out of 800 episodes, some of the crap will eventually stick to the wall and you'll get a few emotional episodes, so its not all terrible.  Sabrina was creepy, I think every kid on Earth was upset when Ash let Butterfree go, and I think Misty and Ash's budding infatuation was the first romance I ever actually enjoyed.  But in a decade and a half of existence, "Pokemon" has done nothing but recycle plots, shoot exactly at kid-friendly non-threatening mediocrity, and callously abandon characters and Pokemon creatures just to fill up game-related fanservice.  So anybody who watched Pokemon after, say, the Johto seasons, has said to themselves "I do not care about the quality of my entertainment, I want nothing more than a repeating cycle every two or three years where nothing is lost, nothing is accomplished, and nothing changes."*  Which is fine, the consumer wants it and anime studio is willing to make money off of it, but maybe we could shoot for something a little more substantial?

"Pokemon: the Origin" is a two hour (four episode) animated special aired in Japan just last week, as part of the hype build-up for "Pokemon X and Y".  If this were just ten years ago, "Pokemon: the Origin" would have been a complete mystery to everybody in this hemisphere until Cartoon Network finally released it maybe three or four years ago.  But thanks to the modern marvel known as the Internet, this show was immediately streamed and just as quickly fansubbed over in English for the entire planet to enjoy.  Now you can find all four of these episodes on probably fifty different websites with just two clicks on Google.  The future rules, doesn't it?  Anyway, "Pokemon: the Origin" is a direct adaptation of the events of the original games, "Pokemon Red and Green" (later updated for export as "Pokemon Red and Blue"), starring not Ash Ketchum, but Red, a young Pallet Town trainer who actually goes out to be the very best that no one ever was.  Not with a Pikachu, but with a Charmander.

And let me say right now:  "Pokemon: the Origin" rocks.  This is the kind of anime we should have had years ago, frankly.  This is what an animated Pokemon show was meant to be.

Friday, October 4, 2013


Not one single Rush song in the entire movie!  False advertising!

"Rush" is the new film by Ron Howard detailing the Formula 1 racing rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt, the two best racers of the mid-1970s.  Its a classic sports battle:  the goof-off natural talent facing the straight-lace serious tech junkie.  Brains vs. Brawn.  Jocks vs. Nerds.  Plucky British hotspur vs. strict Germanic perfection.  You can see an entire universe of world-views on the stake, even down to this being a battle between McLaren and Farrari for the racing championship.  This is extremely interesting to me because my part of the world is basically entirely blocked out of the world Formula 1 sport* thanks to the absolute domination of NASCAR.  I've never heard of any of these racers before, and thus unlike pretty much the rest of Western Civilization, didn't know where the story was going.

If anything, "Rush" might have ignited some interest in Formula 1 racing.  Car racing in America is a huge desert, dominated by turning left 2,000 times in endless repetitive boredom.  I think all NASCAR fans secretly just want to see all of the racers die horribly, because there simply cannot be a better reason for the fascination in something so criminally boring.  If you've ever gotten bored at the fifth inning of a Mets game, try enduring a NASCAR race. Ron Howard, however, makes the racing look exciting and interesting, with actual stakes and right turns.  I'm going to have to burn this movie out of my brain before I decide I'm James Hunt the Second and kill myself by weaving through the lanes on the Garden State Parkway.

But I must regrettably point out that "Rush" is far from a great movie.  Ron Howard builds a fairly paint-by-number biopic here, basically glossing his way through the story.with barely enough focus on anything.  This is essentially the biography of two people, even if focused on just the most exciting years of their lives, but there's still a lot of ground to cover and I feel like "Rush" goes over it too quickly.  The women in these riders' lives are major figures in the story, but minor figures in the film, which is a pandemic problem with every person in this movie who isn't Hunt or Lauda.  The director here knows how to make a competent movie that will please any crowd, but I really think we fell short of the ultimate mark.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hang Congress

Just imagine it.  Capitol Hill decorated with a forest of gallows, with an entire crop of swinging legislative fruit dancing in the breeze.  Hundreds of incompetent politicians, all rotting in the sun.  The price for their political grandstanding, putting the entire nation's economy at risk, being a simple severe and resounding punishment.  It would be a sight that history would not quickly forget.  Every congress from here on out will remember their example.  The future Senator who thinks he can be the next Ted Cruz, making a grandstand argument for no comprehensible reason when the clock is ticking for major decisions, with remember the current Ted Cruz.  He will hang from the highest gallow, finally getting the attention that he so desperately wanted.  Maybe his corpse can cameo on "Duck Dynasty", he loved that show.

Okay, we don't need to be quite so dramatic to solve the current government shut down problems.  Perhaps we don't need to storm Washington D.C. and tear down our dysfunctional system in a violent people's putsch, things aren't that bad.  But let's not fool ourselves into thinking that the American political system has been working lately.  This shutdown is bad, its embarrassing, and a lot of people are going to lose quite a bit of money over it, but its not devastating, not yet.  Everybody is exhausted from these pathetic political battles that seem to crop every six months, but at worst its a pesky annoyance.  However, at a symbolic level, the sight of national parks closing, the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument sealing their doors, its a goddamn disgrace.  500 people cannot do their jobs, and even then the problem comes from a faction of one of the parties, and America closes.  How exactly is this is a system that is working?

In the short term, there's an easy solution that grows out of this:  the Republicans lose.  They turned their budget concerns over into yet another battle over the Affordable Care Act - a battle they've lost on every level already, and will not win again - and its obviously who to blame over this.  You can say "oh, the Democrats aren't compromising" but compromising on what?  To not implement a law that was passed three years ago?  That the Supreme Court upheld?  That the Republicans got their asses kicked over in the last election?*  Eventually they'll have to give up on this fight, or else further build the hatred of the entire nation.  The end game has already been seen, a surrender now will only help.  But once this show has ended, do we have to go through it again?  Can we fix it so this kind of bullshit doesn't occur in the future?