Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

Every Time a Bell Rings, an Unnecessary Sequel Gets Made

Posted by CinemaPsycho on November 20, 2013

Wow. Just when I thought I had run out of interesting things to write about, they announced a sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life.

Yes, really. Some production company really intends to make a sequel to Frank Capra’s 1946 holiday classic. Not a remake, not a musical version, not a samurai Western. A sequel. Apparently it’s going to be about the grandson of Jimmy Stewart’s character or some such nonsense. Yeah, OK.

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How incredibly boneheaded and just plain wrong is this idea? Let me count the ways. It’s a Wonderful Life is, of course, one of the most beloved classic films in the history of cinema. You don’t need me to explain that, I’m sure. Jimmy Stewart’s performance as George Bailey is iconic. It’s one of the very few films that pretty much everyone on Earth knows, even if they’ve never actually sat down and watched it. Ironically, the movie was a huge flop upon its initial release, but over the years it’s become a “holiday classic” due mostly to annual television airings (NBC has had the rights to it for years now).Nearly 70 years later, it’s one of those films that just lives on and on and on…Does anyone honestly think that any sequel can possibly live up to that? Or that any actor can possibly step into Jimmy Stewart’s shoes? Or that, in these cynical times, Hollywood can approach the original film’s sincerely hopeful message? This is a fool’s errand on every possible level. This just shouldn’t be attempted, for many of the same reasons one shouldn’t attempt sequels to classics like Gone With the Wind or Casablanca. These are different times, with different sensibilities. One would have equal luck making sequels to Harold Lloyd’s silent films. Wait, don’t give them any ideas…

I think it’s telling that it’s not one of the major studios who is behind this project, but a production company which has inherited the rights to the project. They claim to have a great script which is in the tradition of the original and blah blah blah. But you know they wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t think they could make a buck. Come on, what could this possibly be like? What caliber of talent will actually want to take this on? Let’s face it, there really is no equivalent to the spirited optimism of Capra in our A-list directors these days. Maybe Spielberg in his younger years, but surely he wouldn’t be foolish enough to go anywhere near this. Dare we imagine “Michael Bay’s It’s a Wonderful Life?” No, they’ll most likely get some hack or a novice with nothing to lose. And what kind of cast will be interested? I shudder to think. They’ll be lucky to get Paul Walker as George Bailey III.

Does this really need to happen? Can’t they just leave certain movies alone? Once the half-century mark has gone by, and all of the major original cast members have long since passed away, a sequel really shouldn’t be considered. Just stop this. This is the kind of disaster that can be avoided. Film investors, don’t put money in this future train wreck. You will lose your shirts. Oh, and for those of you who say, “well, at least we’ll finally get the answers to all those unanswered questions…”, shut up. We never needed to know what happened after the movie ended. The ending is the ending. That’s it. Just stop it.

The good news is that apparently Paramount owns the rights to the original film and could potentially stop this sequel from getting made. Do the right thing, Paramount. The world doesn’t need this sequel. Stop this madness now.

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Insidious Chapter 2: The Sequel That Proves the Original’s Ending Makes Sense

Posted by CinemaPsycho on September 15, 2013

Insidious_Chapter_2_Trailer_Quad_1_6_4_13.jpgSo, now that Insidious: Chapter 2 has come out and basically proved that my so-called “theory” about the original’s ending making perfect sense was accurate, do I intend to gloat? Nah, of course not. I’m a little bit more mature than that. I will say that if you were paying attention at all, it should have been perfectly clear. I don’t intend to explain the ending of the first film all over again, so go back and re-read that original post if you must (you can find it under May 2011). Given that the entirety of Chapter 2 hinges on that ending, well, it’s pretty clear what the filmmakers’ intentions were. I don’t claim any special insight – I was simply paying attention to the movie. It’s only a “twist ending” until you think about it for a minute.

While it didn’t freak me out the way the original movie did, I liked Chapter 2 quite a bit. Unlike a lot of sequels, which are content to simply regurgitate the original film’s contents over and over again, this sequel feels like the logical next step. It picks up where the ending of the first left off, and answers the simple question what would happen next? Director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell are obviously aware that there is a built-in audience for this sequel, so they have allowed themselves to get as weird and wacky as possible within the framework of the possession plot. There are flashbacks to Josh’s childhood in 1986 (again, because he was the target all along), dream sequences, and of course trips of The Further, and some of it approaches David Lynch in style (without quite reaching his typical obliqueness). The wild climax cuts back and forth between the “real world” and the “Further World” without managing to lose us completely. There are several nice touches, including the casting of House of the Devil’s Jocelin Donahue as the young Barbara Hershey (which seems somehow dead-on perfect), some great comic relief moments with the two paranormal researchers (one of whom is played by Whannell), plus a couple of choice horror movie references (keep your eyes on those TV screens). Chapter 2 makes a great companion piece to the original Insidious, and I’d actually like to watch the two films back to back sometime.

Sadly, I wasn’t as big a fan of Wan’s The Conjuring, though everyone else on the planet seems to have fallen for its hokum. It’s not a horribly bad film, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth, like I’d just had it washed out with soap by a particularly angry nun. I did like the 70’s atmosphere, but I found the whole thing rather silly frankly, and even the teenage girls in the audience didn’t seem particularly freaked out. “There’s something behind the door!” “No, there isn’t!” Really? Come on. Pulling someone’s foot as they sleep isn’t my idea of scary. Apparently I’m in the minority on that.

Apparently it also doesn’t seem to bother anybody else that the film was sold as a “true story” that isn’t the least bit true. Look it up. None of it really happened. Never mind that the film was meant to scare us based on its sense of reality and authenticity – “this actually happened – and it could happen to you!” That’s the line the film is selling. But a simple Google search will tell you otherwise. The Warrens are scam artists, not the demon-busters the movie portrays them as. And everyone’s buying it, including the filmmakers. Fine, whatever. Believe in nonsense if you want to. But I paid to see a horror movie, and that’s not what I got. Does anyone remember those little animated digests churches used to leave in random places that warned people to behave themselves or they would “Burn in the Everlasting Fires of Hell”? That’s what The Conjuring reminded me of. And that’s not what horror movies are meant to be. Hey, if people want to make Christian propaganda, that’s fine with me. I have no problem with that. Just call it what it is so I don’t have to sit through it. If I want to be preached to, I’ll go to Sunday school, not a movie theater. Again, that’s not the movie I paid to see. Horror films should challenge our preconceptions of the world, not reinforce them. Look, The Exorcist is one of my favorite movies, but even that film doesn’t preach to you (clumsily) and admonish you for being human and capable of rational thought. It simply tells a story and lets you believe what you want to believe. The Conjuring raps you on the knuckles with a ruler for not believing what it believes. Too bad for them that I don’t have to pay to see the sequels.

Strangely enough, my favorite horror film of the year seems to be the least popular – Adam Wingard’s You’re Next. Lionsgate gave this indie “mumblecore” film a wide release, but only after keeping it on the shelf for 2 years and letting all the buzz it had built up slip away. Then they put out vague ads that told people nothing about what it was actually about, and somehow expected a mass audience to show up. Yeah, they dropped the ball big time. But at least the film is out there, and it’s a blast of nasty, twisted, violent fun. In other words, it’s a horror movie. Remember them? Yeah, I don’t even want to tell you anything about the plot, the characters, any of that. I don’t want to spoil anything. Just trust me. If you’re a horror fan, and you miss the days when an R rating meant something, just go. While you still can. I have a feeling we’re not going to see a film like this in theaters (at least not in wide release) for quite some time. There are practically no horror films coming out in October in wide release (except the Carrie remake), which astounds me. So if you want it, you have to go now.

That about covers it from here. Talk to you guys later. And as always, thanks for reading.

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All Hail the Rise of Porn Pop!!

Posted by CinemaPsycho on August 27, 2013

Well, I’m going to keep this one relatively short, as I think it should be obvious and doesn’t take much explanation. But after the uproar over the other night’s “MTV Video Music Awards” (which I only saw parts of, but as far as I could tell featured neither music nor videos), I’ve decided to make a declaration. You know how Nikki Finke labeled modern horror movies “torture porn” and that somehow caught on with the internet population (most of whom don’t even know where it came from)? I’m hoping this will have a similar effect (though I’m not delusional enough to actually think it will). Since I know people today love to put labels on things, I’ve got a label for you. Maybe this one will stick.

I hereby label all of today’s shitty, disposable, superficial pop music porn pop.

Why, you ask? Well, I considered “whore pop”, but I decided that didn’t quite do it. Seriously, if you actually saw any of those performances the other night, you really shouldn’t have to ask. If the head of Vivid wasn’t on the phone with Miley Cyrus’ agent Monday morning, it’s probably because he couldn’t get through. And I’ll be totally honest, I don’t even find Miley Cyrus the least bit attractive (does anyone?). I think it’s the redneck thing. Doesn’t do it for me. But man, the clips I’ve seen give Lexi Belle a run for her money. This is what today’s kids are watching and listening to now? Okayyyy… don’t ask me why 12-year-olds are getting pregnant. Just saying. I’m no prude, but Jesus fuckin’ Christ. Teen Mom, Snooki, yeah, whatever. I was recently in a hospital waiting room where The Talk was on, which I never watch, and Ozzy’s wife actually said that “Snooki is a role model for young girls”. REALLY? Snooki is a role model for young girls? Why??? For what possible reason? She’s a dumb slut. I’M a better role model for young girls than she is. What is going on in this world?

But the real reason I call it “porn pop” is because the music itself and the videos that accompany it are basically like porn. Except that porn, of course, actually delivers what it promises. I’m not here to criticize porn – I think it is what it is, and you either like it or you don’t. It’s something to get off to, and that’s all it is meant to be. Music, however, is a different thing. Music should express something, whether it be emotional, artistic, intellectual. An idea. This garbage expresses nothing. It’s all about the superficial – it’s about looks and money and fucking. In other words, it’s porn. It says nothing beyond “looking good is all that matters, and you look good and I look good, so let’s fuck”. That’s all it is. It means nothing. It’s porn pop.

Is that what we want our kids growing up listening to? Hell, is that what we want to listen to? Apparently, lots of people do. Because, let’s face it, a lot of people are fucking idiots. I just don’t know when the idiots took over.

And no, it’s not just the female pop stars I’m talking about either. The male pop stars are just as bad. Who is Justin Bieber, really, but James Deen in training (the male porn star, not James Dean the actor)? Is there really any difference? Aren’t they basically of equal worth, when it comes right down to it? They’re both basically media personalities who don’t really do anything all that special. One Direction? Yeah, I could round up a bunch of decent-looking guys and give them singing lessons and make billions too. It was a scam back when they called it New Kids on the Block. Did we learn nothing from Milli Vanilli?

Honestly, I’m just waiting for these people to have hardcore sex on stage and get it over with. I know there are rules against that sort of thing, but I’m sure someday they’ll find a way around that. Whatever happened to talent?? When did that become a foreign concept? I know there are plenty of great bands out there who actually play instruments, but somehow the mainstream media has lost sight of that. And most people are only aware of what the media pushes on them, sadly. I don’t think I’m the one who is out of touch – I listen to lots of great bands who actually have talent and something to say. But their music isn’t played on the radio, TV, the media in general. The new Bowie album has been ignored, the new Iggy and the Stooges album has been ignored. Never mind that they are legends. And their albums are excellent. I don’t understand it. I’m really looking forward to the Nine Inch Nails album, the new Pearl Jam album. There are lots of great new bands coming up all the time that I love. There is always great music out there. It’s just that most people don’t hear it. I remember a time when that wasn’t true, when quality and talent mattered and you could turn on MTV or rock radio and hear some good music, even great music. I don’t know why that isn’t true any more. Rock radio is stuck in the past, and MTV is a reality show nightmare. When did crap become king? I know there has always been crappy pop music, but when did it become the end-all be-all?

I just hope Madonna is happy with all of this. This is the world she created, after all. I never understood the fascination with her in the first place – I get the image part, but the music was very average pop of the time. It used to be that you had to back up your image with actual music that kicked ass. Apparently that’s no longer the case. I find that very sad. Tell me, how many people are still listening to the Bay City Rollers? How about Shaun Cassidy? Or even David Cassidy? Yep, exactly. Trends pass, but real music lasts. Years from now, when today’s pop fans are embarrassed by their past musical taste, I will be here to laugh at your sorry asses. No, you know what? I’m not even going to wait that long. I’m laughing now.

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Fear Is the New Fear: A Help Line Tries to Legitimize Ignorance Towards Horror Films

Posted by CinemaPsycho on August 5, 2013

Lately I’ve been wondering if I might have a touch of Asperger’s. Seriously. I’m not saying that as a joke (I’m not a morning radio DJ); it’s something I’ve been seriously considering. The things that people say and do (and think and believe) baffle me that much. I don’t know that I actually have it, but it would explain a lot. Recently Diane Kruger’s character on The Bridge has become my fictional hero (if you haven’t seen the show, check it out sometime; it’s excellent). If you know the show you probably get what I mean. Or maybe not. Anyway, I think it’s safe to say that as I get older I find society to be more and more bizarre; hence my last couple of blog posts. I just don’t get you guys sometimes. The fascination with the Royal Baby, for instance. Hey, rich British people can procreate! That’s great for them. Can you get to the actual news now? Or, sports. A bunch of millionaires playing children’s games. That’s what you’re rooting for. None of them are from your cities. You do know that, right? You’re all against immigration, unless they can throw a ball. Then let ’em in! Do you see now why I think I have Asperger’s?

All of this is a bizarre introduction to the real subject, but maybe it will help you understand my point of view on it. I happened to see a TV commercial the other night that completely blew my mind. I wasn’t planning to write about it at first, but the more I think about it, the more I think I have to say something. I don’t know who the ad agency was who created this, or even the name of the company that commissioned it. But it really made me think that we are moving backwards intellectually, and that scares me far more than the horror movies the people behind it are so afraid of.

It was basically an ad for a “family help line”, I guess for people who don’t know how to deal with their own kids and need advice. I don’t know any people like that, but I suppose they are out there. So they had different actors playing parents calling in with different problems. I really wasn’t paying attention to most of them and don’t remember them that well. But this one guy was apparently supposed to be calling from his teenage son’s room. On the wall was a laughable recreation of a horror movie poster, with a vague-looking zombie on it and the word “ZOMBIE” in big white letters above it (not like the infamous poster for Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, which freaked me out as a kid; this was far more generic). This was hysterically funny to me because no movie poster would ever look like that. It was absolutely ridiculous. So the “father” is talking on the phone to the help line and he says, “My kid is watching movies that are DARK and ANGRY.”

I was stunned by this at first. Dark and angry? What?? Then I remembered the poster on the wall. He’s talking about… horror movies. You know, the movies that millions of people around the world watch. They’re equating watching horror movies to having emotional problems.

My first reaction was, are they fucking serious? Then my second reaction was… Yes. They are.

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I know that there have always been people who are ignorant towards horror films, and films in general. I’m well aware of that. But for some ad agency to actually create a commercial that attempts to legitimize those ridiculous and unfounded fears… that boggles my mind. I don’t know if this “help line” is sponsored by some sort of religious organization, or a nefarious right-wing group, or something else. I don’t even want to speculate on that. I will say that whoever is behind this is completely misguided and out of their fucking gourds.

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I shouldn’t have to explain this, but millions of people watch horror films. Teenagers and adults. Very few of them turn into violent criminals. If the kid’s jerking off to the gore scenes, then you have a problem. Hang up the damn phone and be glad he’s not getting the girl next door pregnant, buddy. Watching George Romero movies doesn’t make your kid the next school shooter. Maybe it means… he likes zombie movies? Like a lot of other people? He watches The Walking Dead? He has a curiosity about things that are outside the mainstream, perhaps? He wants to explore the world of entertainment beyond Two and a Half Men reruns? Is that not OK now? As far as the absurd “dark and angry” comment goes – a lot of movies are “dark and angry” if you think about it for more than two seconds. All the President’s Men is “dark and angry”. Double Indemnity is “dark and angry”. Born on the Fourth of July is “dark and angry”. And there are reasons for that. Do we have to shield our children from those films too? Let’s protect them from truth and reality while we’re at it.

Let me let you in on a little secret – I wasn’t allowed to watch horror films as a teenager, and I still had problems. Maybe I could have used some good old-fashioned cathartic fictional bloodshed as a release. At the very least, the subversive humor of directors like Romero or Stuart Gordon might have helped me get through it all with my sanity intact. But I was allowed to watch Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson movies and the like, where I learned that violence solves everything and whoever has the biggest gun wins. How fucked up is that? Talk about dark and angry…

Here’s what the anti-horror, anti-Hollywood people don’t understand and probably never will. Art should challenge the status quo, not reinforce it. Art should provoke and ask questions. Art should make us think, not put us into a stupor. We don’t need to be “saved” from independent thought. We don’t need to be “saved” from fictional horror. If you want to be concerned about something, be concerned about the real horrors that happen in our world every single day. Is there a “help line” for that? 1-800-REALITY? If so, it’s probably busy from people calling it every minute of every day. Be concerned about murder and rape and child abuse, not what fucking MOVIES people are watching.

Because monster movies are fine, but it’s other human beings that scare the hell out of me. If these assholes want to be afraid of something, they should look in the mirror, not the movie screen.

Posted in Psycho Therapy | 4 Comments »

Bobcat Goldthwait Shoots Pop Culture in the Face in God Bless America

Posted by CinemaPsycho on July 8, 2013

“Why do we bother having a civilization when no one is interested in being civilized?”

So, remember all the stuff I was saying about pop culture and the media in my last post? Turns out writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait already said it in 2011’s God Bless America. And he said it a hell of a lot more effectively.

I don’t really do reviews any more, and I’m not really doing one now. But I finally got around to watching this on Netflix, and I have to say, God Bless America pretty much encapsulates everything I was saying – and much more – in one 104-minute primal scream. I don’t know what Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic has to say about this film, and I really don’t care. I think it’s a film that has something to say that people desperately need to hear. It may not be the Network of our times, but Goldthwait is definitely mad as hell and he’s not going to take it any more. Neither should you.

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Granted, subtlety is not this film’s strong suit. And I’m OK with that. Frankly, I think subtlety is hugely overrated. Sometimes what people need is for someone to just hold up a mirror to society and just fucking show you the problem. Sometimes that’s the only way they can see it. God Bless America does exactly that – it captures a country overrun by what Joel McHale calls the “douche tribe”, in which reality TV, morning DJs and hate news affect the population’s behavior, conversation and thought. It’s a sad excuse for a culture in which everyone has an opinion but no one has an original idea in their heads.

In other words, it’s exactly what I was talking about in my last post. It’s the reality I see in 2013 America. It’s a society controlled by Media Think rather than logic, reason and education. And that scares me far more than any horror movie.

Now, God Bless America is a dark, twisted black comedy, and the characters in it behave accordingly. The main characters, middle-aged divorced Dad Frank (Joel Murray) and disillusioned teen Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) decide that the answer is to kill those who are part of the problem. Is violence the answer in real life? Of course not. Goldthwait assumes that you’re smart enough to know that. If you’re not, then you’re an idiot. The movie is a fantasy, just like all movies are fantasies on some level. It’s not a guide on how to live your life.

So what is the answer? I don’t know. I’m not the person people come to for answers. But if I had to take a stab at it, I would say, stop watching reality TV. Stop watching and emulating the worst of human behavior. Take responsibility for what you watch and listen to. Hold yourself to a higher standard than the bottom of the barrel. Who knows, maybe the people around you will take a lesson from you. But even if they don’t, that’s not your responsibility. You are your responsibility.

Here’s what I have never understood – who cares what a bunch of douches on morning radio think? What qualifies them to have an opinion on anything? Who are they? Why does anyone listen? What makes anyone think the assholes on Fox News are experts on anything?? What are their qualifications? Why do you listen? What do they know? WHO CARES WHAT THEY THINK? Facts are what matter. When did we lose sight of that?? When did stupidity become not only acceptable, but encouraged? And when did we start repeating what idiots say as if they know something we don’t??

I have to disagree with one point Goldthwait makes in the film, in which he puts down Green Day and exalts Alice Cooper. Yes, Cooper was great in the 70’s, I’ll grant you that. But now he’s a Republican who plays golf and hasn’t made a decent record in decades. If anyone’s part of the problem, it’s him. Whether or not you like their music (and I do), at least Green Day are relevant and writing songs about the world we live in now. And at least they fucking play their instruments, so of all the current musical artists to take shots at, they seem like an odd target. No way do I buy that a 16-year-old girl listens to Alice Cooper anyway, any more than I bought that Juno listens to Mott the Hoople (ironic, given that Goldthwait also takes shots at Juno and Diablo Cody in the same scene). That’s a Rob Zombie fantasy, not real life.

Other than that though, I think God Bless America is dead-on and a modern classic. Whatever you wind up thinking of it, it’s a film that needs and deserves to be seen just so the subject matter can be thought about and discussed at the very least. Yes, other movies have tackled reality TV, singing competitions, etc. But other than maybe Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, which was more of a far-flung conjecture about where our society may be headed, I can’t think of any movie that’s nailed our culture to the wall with such accuracy. It’s angry and bitter and cynical, and it’s also exactly right. And that’s just fucking sad.

God Bless America is currently available on Netflix streaming and DVD.

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