Archive for Movie Reviews

Cabin in the Fucking Awesome

 

I’m going to start this review with some well earned hyperbole. Creators Joss Weadon (Buffy, Firefly, the Avengers) and Drew Goddard (Lost, Cloverfield) have redefined the horror genre with this completely surprising thrill-ride.
It’s almost impossible to write a review of The Cabin in the Woods, a Lament Configuration of a film, without dropping some MASSIVE spoilers.
But I ain’t gonna do it. I’m not that kind of reviewer. I want you to go into this film semi-cold and come out thankful that you only knew half the story going in.
It’s going to be that much sweeter. Trust me.
Although, as I saw at the screening. This is a polarizing film. You will love it or hate it. No in-between. If you sit back and enjoy the ride, you will love it.
I’ll do what I can without giving away too much. Trust me. You’ll hate me for it.
A group of cliches, Jock (Chris Helmsworth AKA Thor), Virgin (Kristen Connelly), Bookworm (Jesse Williams), ummmm Slutty girl (Anna Hutchinson) and Stoner (Fran Krantz with the BEST bong EVER. No. Really. That shit needs to be made now..) pile into an RV to spend the weekend at Jock’s cousin’s cabin. In the cough….EVIL DEAD…cough…woods.
None of them know, as seen in the trailers, that they are being held captive for some sinister reason by men in bad ties.
And that’s all I’m saying.
Weadon and Goddard have completely turned the horror genre on it’s head in Cabin. In fact, I’m going to venture to say you’ve seen the end of horror films as we know it. Every film from Hellraiser to It to the Others and pretty much every horror film in between gets a nod.  Nothing will ever be the same for slasher films after Cabin. I found myself (as my annoyed guest can attest) saying “What the fuck is going on?!” about 15 times during the two hour film. By the time the awesome cameo pops up towards the end, you will have no clue what the fuck is coming next. On that note, you’ll have to see this twice just to get all the references.

Cabin never takes it self seriously and is a welcome addition to the self referential genre of horror that goes all the way back to April Fools Day in the 80s and the first Scream film of the 90s.

It’s extremely well made, the creatures (ooop sorry!) look amazing and humor makes an apprearance in all the right places.

Love or hate Cabin in the Woods, you will be talking about it for a long time. Unless the world ends first..wait. Did just write that???

Roll Trailer!

Always bet on Black

At the beginning of the week, we asked friends, followers and “LIKErs” to come up with the top ten Best of Black Cinema. This is the result. Let’s get down baby….

10. Do the Right Thing (1989 dir. Spike Lee). Lets face it. This is the movie that white America fears. Lee uses a microcosm of BK as a metaphor for our national racism. You can never stop watching this movie. And if you’ve never seen it, shame the fuck on you…
Mookie rules!

9. Glory (1989. dir. Ed Zwick) Believe it or not, finding a film that focuses on black history is not as easy as you’d think. For every one Glory or Red Tails, there’s a bunch of Driving Miss Daisys (Bagger Vance anyone?) which makes this film all the more important. Zwick does not shy away from the racism inflicted on black troops, a new concept during the Civil War, as well as the privations of war in general. Oh yeah, it’s got Denzel so yeah. There’s that! This is a must see. And if you don’t drop a tear at the end, you’re a cold mutha fukka…

8. Remember the Titans (2000. dir Boaz Yakin) say what you want about Disney, but this movie had to be made and they have a knack for making good sports films. Titans stars Denzel (who pretty much pwns our list) as head coach Herman Boone who takes over a Virginia high school football team its first year after desegregation. You can feel the hate for Coach Boone in this story.

7. In the Heat of the Night (1967. dir Norman Jewison) Because of this scene (check Sidney’s shrug at the end):

6. Shaft (1971. dir Gordon Parks) While director Marvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song may have opened the door to black cimema, Shaft’s director and Life Magazine photojournalist Gordon Parks opened the door for black photographers everywhere. This is his first film and it was a HUGE hit. Parks broke boundaries in both the photographic and cinematic arts. Without Shaft, Parks’ name could have faded into history. Incidentally, Shaft was created by a white dude who has since been honored by the NAACP for the creation of the first real black private eye. Shaft started as a book series by author Ernest Tidyman. Check it here.

5. Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip (1982) This live concert film by one of America’s greatest comedians launched a thousand funny careers from Eddie (watch the clip and think of Eddie’s red jump suit in Delirious) to Chris. Pryor never did find a niche in films, although Blue Collar is one of his best, but when you watch him on stage on the big screen you’re watching an American genius at work.

4. Wild Style (1984. dir. Charles Herndon) We’re always surprised at the yung’uns who have never seen THE movie about the birth of hip-hop and street art. Before Beat Street and Breakin’, Wild Style featured legends like Grand Master Flash, Coldcrush Brothers etc.. WS should be shown in every music history class. It’s a little hammy on the drama, but it’s THE film to check out if you’re interested in the beginning of the hip-hop nation.
(one of the greatest rap b-ball battles ever)

Fuck it. We’ll give Wild Style another shout. SO much love here:

3. Killer of Sheep (1979. dir Charles Burnett) Burnett is the James Baldwin of filmmaking. This is one of the most important black films ever made. It’s focus the black Los Angeles ghetto of Watts in the mid-1970s. Not to be missed if you’ve never seen it.

2. Boyz in the Hood (1991. dir John Singleton) NWA. South Central LA. Cube. Gangs. It’s all here. Boyz ripped open the reality of what was going on in S.Cen and exposed it to the nation. Truly one of the most important films about a community ever made. It’s STILL hard to watch. Classic.

1. Malcolm X (1994. dir Spike Lee) No matter what you think of this film in terms of historical accuracy, you cannot not help being blown away by the performance of Denzel Washington as the polarizing black leader. If anything, this film and the controversy surrounding it will have you picking up Malcolm X’s autobiography and getting the real deal. It’s sad that there are no other definitive films about other black leaders…

And just because. A relevant message from Chuck D and friends. 🙂

Help the BROS!


photo by Daniel Bedell.

The Baltimore Rock Opera Society is one institution that we at Gutter would gladly cross the river STYX like a Bat out of Hell on a Crazy Train to defend. Srsly though. If you’ve never been to a BROS concert, or witnessed the madcap antics at Artscape, then your miserable hipster life is meaningless.
Got this from BROS HQ. Help a BROS out, son!:

“Attention brethren! Baltimore Rock Opera Society is gearing up to produce it’s most bowel-releasingest rock theater production to date, and we need your help! BROS is searching far and wide to recruit creative types to lend a hand in all aspects of ValHELLA, a Norse mythology-inspired ragnarokoperetta. Say what? ValHELLA tells the story of three demigod brothers and their role in ragnarok, the downfall of the gods that created the world we live in today–all in 90 minutes. That’s right, BROS is finally packing the epic into a sittable time frame. If you want to be a part of it, the following departments want to hear from you:

Prop building
Animation & Special Effects
Set building
Costumes
Backstage crew
Front of house crew

If any of this describes what you’re into, or even if you can help in a way we haven’t thought of yet, please contact Mungo at johnny@baltimorerockopera.org and let him know what you’re interested in doing. All work will be done on a volunteer basis, but you’ll be able to share plenty of Natty Boh and receive our eternal gratitude.
More info at
http://baltimorerockopera.org/

I want to see a parody of Mission Impossible with Ralph Wiggum… Mission Unpossible

I don’t hate Tom Cruise. I like him a lot. I think the whole Scientology, jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, Matt Lauer argument didn’t do him an favors as far as his image goes, but I’m supremely capable of divorcing that persona from what I see on the screen. Plus, I don’t really like Matt Lauer at all.

He makes awesome movies. And Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is yet another on the long list of fun and exciting action romps that he has been delivering for a very long time.

I had to count on my fingers. This is the fourth Mission Impossible film. The first one had the big finale on the train with Jean Reno. The second was the John Woo movie with all the extraneous doves. In the third he was married and trying to save his wife. And, now this is the one where IMF is disavowed and they have to go about exonerating the team while saving the world.

I have to say, this may very well be the best of that set. I never left any of the others saying, “Oh, I have to get that when it comes out on DVD.” I definitely said that about Ghost Protocol. You can’t really say that “It’s the biggest Mission Impossible yet!” They’ve all been pretty huge. I think this one is probably the smartest. It’s smarter because it seems more self-aware and not every maneuver Ethan tries to make seems so impossibly easy.

Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) is a no-goodnik that wants to drag the world into nuclear war to sort of clean the slate. He thinks we’re too far off course and society needs a reset button. He steals some Russian launch codes and the missile launching briefcase thing. In the process , he destroys the Kremlin and frames it on the IMF. Ha… Impossible Mission Force. That’s pretty ridiculous in and of itself.

Ethan and his team, Benji (the returning Simon Pegg), Jane (Paula Patton), and Brandt (Jeremy Renner), are left out in the wind having been disavowed. It’s up to them to stop Hendricks before he can use the codes to launch an apparently Russian nuclear attack on the US in response to the Kremlin’s destruction.

The adventure takes them from Russia to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and then on to India. This sort of action never really happens in Towson. That would be the perfect plan. “Rendezvous in Whitemarsh, Maryland to exchange the stolen nuclear launch codes.” Who would suspect that? “No. That can’t be right. All they have is an IKEA. That’s not nearly exciting enough for such a grand plan.”

The charm of this movie is that it knows what it is and where it has been. All along the way it takes self-referencial jabs that are more wit than gimmick. Ethan trips and fumbles. He’s not as precise and perfect as he was in the other movies. A lot of that charm is likely due to first-time live-action director, Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, The Incredibles.)

Some of the smartest movies in recent history have come out of the world of Pixar. It’s no surprise that putting one of Pixar’s chief architects at the helm of this movie (or any movie) that the results would show marked improvement and turn out splendidly. The “comic relief” pulled in largely by Pegg’s Benji (excited to be out and about in the world and not stuck in mission control), never seemed forced. It was organic. Obvious, but carefully placed and dolloped in the proper proportions.

Brad Bird? He makes cartoons. How could he handle the action?

HELLO? All you have to do is watch The Incredibles (which I may just do) to know that he can manage an action movie. MI:GP was appropriately cool. It neared the top, but by comparison, never went over the top. It was exciting and remained believable-ish.

We have two big action movies to choose from this Holiday season. There’s MI:GP and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. I’d obviously see both and already have; however, if you’re not as aggressive in your movie going as I am, I give it to MI:GP.

Sherlock is fun and some would probably say that it has “eye-popping action.” But, it’s really just more of the same. It’s Downey Jr. and Law fencing with their sharp wits. The carefully arranged scheme of dominos that serve to provide all the clues to topple the bad guy.  How impressive is that when a writer can plant all the evidence he needs to solve the case? I don’t mean to down on it. It’s a ride. There are some new wrinkles and surprises. Sherlock takes his lumps this time around. It’s not as easy. It’s also not as new.

I guess, MI:GP just seems to be more of an improvement upon what we’ve seen before. It shed of the old standbys and gags from the earlier movies. It even takes a poke at them, which is very funny. I think this is just one more example in a long list—maybe even near the lop of that list—of why Tom Cruise is awesome.

It’s time to light…the lights

Our muppetlicious reviewer, A Womanly Muppet, gladly took up the challenge to take on our long lost furry friends.
Here’s what she had to say!

Ask yourself … Would you rather spend Thanksgiving with your family? Answering questions about whether or why you have that girlfriend/kid/job and why you don’t call more often? Or would you rather spend it with your long-lost childhood friends? Laughing, singing, dancing, remembering how awesome it is being a kid. Exactly! So ditch that turkey and get yourself to the nearest big screen this holiday weekend to see the new Muppet movie. You will leave the theater humming the new songs, Ma Nah Ma Nah-ing at the most inopportune (and in-appropriate) times, integrate “Maniacal laugh! Maniacal laugh!” into your daily vocabulary and run home to preorder the soundtrack from iTunes, so that the sing-along fest can go on forever.
Eh … okay, so maybe that’s just me. Yeah, I am a Muppet fan. But really, if you grew up watching The Muppet Show in its original run in the late- seventies and early-eighties or later in syndication, how could you not be?

Sadly, we’ve all waited a long time for this movie. Just like we, the Muppets seemed to stumble through their early adolescence and the past 20 years were filled with awkwardness and embarrassment. We could only imagine the unimaginative studio pitches of the 1990s Muppet movies (“Picture this: Kermit the Frog as … Bob Cratchit!” and “Pirate Muppets!”). We were shocked when catching a few moments of Muppets Tonight (which aired from 1996 – 1998), and seeing Statler and Waldorf in a retirement home. In 1999 we didn’t even bother going to the theater to see Muppets in Space. And we missed the 2005 Muppet variation on the Wizard of Oz completely, only to learn about its existence years later, while flipping channels. We did not linger long … The Muppets had lost its main audience. And frankly, this Muppet fan had lost hope that one of the best shows on earth could be resurrected again. They had changed and morphed so much that we did notrecognize the friends we found in them anymore.

Cue Jason Segal (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, How I Met Your Mother) and Nicholas Stoller (Get Him To The Greek, Yes Men). And a Disney studio that for once called off its research and marketing department and let the creatives make the movie they wanted, focus groups and merchandise revenue be damned (although Segal did admit in an interview that at an earlier meeting a Disney exec did ask which part of the script would make a good theme-park ride).
The movie introduces us to Walter (Peter Linz, voice), who really is just the personification of every Muppet-fan. Walter grew up in a human family watching The Muppet Show with his human brother and best bud Gary (Segal) and dreaming of going to Hollywood to see the Muppet Studios. Tagging along on the anniversary trip of Gary and Mary (Amy Adams), Walter finally fulfills his dream to tour the Muppet studio, only to find it in shambles and in danger of destruction by the villain of the movie, Tex Richman (Chris Cooper). Of course, the only way to save the studio is to assemble the gang once more and to put on a show.
From the very beginning, the movie captures you with all that was awesome about The Muppet Show and the early Muppet movies. It’s cheery, colorful, up-beat and feel-good, but all the smiley faces and sweetness is cut with pokes, gags and muppety silliness , preventing it from feeling insincere or gimmicky (with one exception, more on that later). It is pretty clear who Segal, and Stoller had in mind for an audience when they wrote this movie. This is a Muppet movie made by fans, for fans old and … new. The original Muppet fans get to hear the music from their youth … albeit Muppified. Prepare to hear Nirvana like you never heard it before and see and hear Segal rock out to an eighties rock-ballads, including eighties rock-balled-hand-gestures. The pint to Fozzie-sized Muppet fans, are catered with what is without a doubt the best version of Cee Lo Green’s famous tune (don’t worry, it’s a PG-rated movie).

The only time a musical number fell flat was during the rap-number, performed by Chris Cooper, the villain of the movie. Where every other song-and-dance number had the audience cracking up and tapping along, when this song started it became quiet as the unimaginative and uninspiring performance painfully moved along. You could almost hear the echo of the Disney research and marketing department execs. It’s a sorry excuse for rap and I am sure Segal and Stoller could’ve called upon a number of rap artists and producers, many of an age which makes them bound to be Muppet fans, to assist him with this number and give it some street-cred. But that is but a minor WTF?!-moment in an otherwise amazing, funny, heartfelt and Muppety movie, where the Muppets take center stage and do what they do best: put on a show! Waka Waka Waka!!!!
Oh….and yes, you can go see this movie with your kids. Even if they suffered through a Muppet-deprived childhood – unless you are as awesome a parent as my brother who bought the entire Muppet Show series on DVD for his kids – and don’t know any of the characters, they will love the movie. But take them the second time. The first time, rally up your best and most Muppety friends, don the pink and pearls in honor of Miss Piggy (or put on that Animal t-shirt) go see The Muppets. You’ll exit the theater singing the new tunes as you all remember those awesome nights your feet started wiggling when it was time to play the music and light the lights.

http://disney.go.com/muppets/

Reflecting on J. Edgar… it’s quite delicious.

I didn’t know a lot about J. Edgar Hoover apart from the top-line stuff. I knew he was instrumental in forming the FBI as we know it today. He was involved with the gang busting of the 1930s. He kept secret files, one of which detailed Eleanor Roosevelt’s alleged lesbian affairs. The FBI Headquarters is named after him. And, well… there’s that whole dressing up in women’s clothing thing.

I’m a fan of historical bio-pics. Particularly those that are packing the one-two punch of Leonardo DiCaprio as the star and Clint Eastwood at the helm. When I saw the first trailers for J. Edgar, I—probably like many of you—said, “I’m definitely seeing that.” When the fine folks here at guttermagazine.com asked me if I wanted to review J. Edgar, I said “Absolutely. Sign me up. It’s at Landmark? Oh snap! Even better.”

Does it feel like I’m setting you up for disappointment? Like I’m about to tell you it was a horrible mess? Let me tamp that down. No, it wasn’t a horrible mess. I left the theater with an uneasy feeling, but after gnawing on it for a few days, I have to say it’s rather exceptional. Though, you have to be willing to chew on it. Roll it around a bit. It asks that of us. It’s not straight forward. It isn’t the ultimate G-Man versus Al Capone. It’s not some heroic telling of how Lindbergh baby kidnapping was solved, though Hoover probably would have wished it so. There’s a lot more going on than just that, which is at once quite surprising and if you’re able to stick with it, it’s quite satisfying.

Hoover was a jerk. They make no attempts to steer away from that. He doesn’t grow into being a jerk as he assumes power. He’s pretty much a pill the whole way through. The movie bounces from the 60’s Kennedy era to the 20’s and 30’s during Hoover’s rise to power. The action of the bureau (sussing out communist and anarchists, the Lindberg kidnapping, Dilinger, etc.) is being told to a string of agents taking dictation from Hoover. They are periodically replaced as they do something that irritates the FBI Director. To the side of all of that is his relationship with Associate Director, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer).

Hoover inherited a couple traits from his mother (Judi Dench), chiefly paranoia and perception. She doted on her son, buying him suits and a rather elegant ring. She was concerned with the way things looked. Even to the extent of hiding away her husband, Hoover’s father, in the basement so that none would get a glimpse his unsightly senility. She too was a driver of Hoover’s obsession with rooting out communists and anarchist in America, the crusade that laid the foundation for his rise.

Hoover was obsessed with how the bureau was perceived. Much of the film is a crafted to fit they way he wanted events to have unfolded. We see it through his influence of popular culture, having involvement in the portrayal of FBI Agents in everything from TV to movies to comic books. He was particularly concerned with the look of his agents, wanting them to dress well, be clean shaven and physically fit.

And both paranoia and perception kept him at a constant arm’s length from Tolson. The movie wasn’t subtle about suggesting the romantic relationship. It was obviously more. It never got actually physical, letting Hoover’s fears keep from letting it go that far, trapping Tolson in limbo. He obviously loves the man and you see Hoover has the same feelings around the edges of the persona he tries so hard to create and fortify over the years. Very few people know what’s on the other side and Tolson is one of them.

What you find in this movie is a character this is too complex to present in a manner that might have been easier to consume. It required the time to chew and digest… sorry if this metaphor I’m caught in is a bit too much. This movie isn’t just one bite. It’s several courses and it’s not until you’re done the whole thing that you realize that all of the flavors go together and they do so wonderfully.

We’re creeping into Oscar season. This is the time of year all the contenders start hitting the screens. This is sure to make the list of the 10 nominated films. Guaranteed. I’m certain you’ll also see Eastwood and Dicaprio also get their nods. And though his performance in The Social Network was much stronger, you may even see Armie Hammer’s name up there. He was good and maybe even better than that if the make-up to age him didn’t look like a mask Patrick Swayze might wear to rob a bank. Good lord. They flawlessly duplicated him in Social Network. They aged Dicaprio without making him look cartoonish. What went wrong with his face?

See J. Edgar. I’m not so foolish to think I actually sway opinions one way or the other with these things, but I can at least affirm your initial reaction. Go. Enjoy. Spend some time with it after you leave the theater.

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