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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Troll 2: 1990

Release date: 1990 (initial release)
Director: Claudio Fragasso
MPAA rating: PG-13
Prequel: Troll
Sequel: Troll 3
Cast: Michael Stephenson, George Hardy, Connie Young, Jason F. Wright

   There really is no way to tell someone who doesn't know about "Troll 2" what the movie is about. Of course I can tell you that Joshua goes with his family on a vacation to Nilbog, a farming community that is somehow completely devoid of farmland and populated by Goblins (not trolls, but goblins) disguised as humans who, throughout the movie, plot to eat the family by first turning them into vegetation, because these are vegan goblins, and Joshua, is the only one who can save them because he's the only one who knows that the humans are goblins because his Grandfather tells him from beyond the grave. I could tell you this, but that surprisingly would not be doing the film justice.     

   Troll 2 has been claimed, not to be the worst movie of all time, but the best worst movie of all time. Because of this, fans have branched into two categories; those who like the camp value of the film, and those that loathe it. Naturally, Troll 2 became an ever-expanding cult phenomenon among movie lovers alike. There are several reasons why this movie doesn't work, and is flawed beyond belief. You might even think that the film wasn't finished because of how many terrible choices the director made in the making of his film. But, the idea that the viewers of this film had yet to grasp during "Troll 2"'s release in 1990, was that the film was meant to appeal to a different kind of audience. The audience that took films like this seriously. 

   The problem with this, of course, is that this is simply not a good movie. And I feel really bad for director Claudio Fragasso when I listen to interviews that reveal that he intended to make a good movie and thinks he actually did. I don't think that he's crazy for thinking that antagonizing vegans is simply the work of powerful cinema, and I also don't think that he is willing to change himself for today's type of audience. When I look at Fragasso, I see a man who has a very specific taste. I see someone who might be a bit too stubborn to realize what a terrible thing he's created, and I also see someone who never intended to create a cult film sensation like Troll 2. It's sad that Claudio will never really get the attention he believes he deserves. I also find it sad that his enthusiasm exceeds his talent. But, Fragasso understands that attention is simply attention and that you have to enjoy a movie how you want to enjoy it.

   In order to really understand a movie that is so bad, yet so loved, you need to watch the documentary, "Best Worst Movie." This time, Michael Stephenson who played young protagonist Joshua from, "Troll 2" becomes the director of the re-telling of the cult phenomenon in his 2009 documentary, "Best Worst Movie." I won't review it, although it is a very good film, and it shows the way Stephenson redeems himself as a man of film-making. Instead of reviewing it, I'm using it as a different perspective of "Troll 2" in order to not simply say, "This is the worst  movie that I have ever seen!" By watching this film I feel obligated to say a few things. First, one of the reasons why the acting in this film was...not as great as it could have been, was because the writing was translated from Italian to English (in a manner of speaking), so the actors struggled tremendously in trying to decipher what they were supposed to be saying in the film. This language barrier was the cause of maybe 50% of the mishaps in the film, not to mention one or two actors being downright insane during shooting.

   I can't talk about every problem the film had, because this review would last a few more pages than I'd like it to be, but I will tell you my main problem with it. The music is probably the worst I have ever heard. If you watch this movie you might think that the acting was the worst aspect, or the editing, or just the amount of plot holes, but no. The main problem was the music, and I'll tell you why. For the most part of the movie, there is no real problem with the score, until you get to any one of the "action sequences." Now think back to any horror film you've seen and try to remember how the score sounded. It might send shivers down your spine, or retain some of that creepy ambiance, as a good score should. But if you were to just listen to this song, would you ever think that this would be attached to a horror film? 

   No, it takes you out of the film! And you may be wondering why I'm even trying to understand a movie like "Troll 2", but after learning about this director it doesn't seem like he would haphazardly throw this song together and put it into a movie that he wanted to scare an audience with. He genuinely wanted to make a movie, but this score could simply be Claudio's way of "Americanizing" his film. (This better explained in the documentary). I'm almost certain that if you were to put some kind of an effective score in the film, it might work to its advantage...but that's just me being optimistic.  

    In the documentary of the film, Claudio Fragasso talks about the "themes" placed throughout "Troll 2." These included "hunger," "life," "death," and "family." I suppose that these appear in the movie, yet, they play no part in the movie, nor are they even addressed to give the appearance of a "theme." What Claudio believes to be a motif in his film, comes off as a confusing misguided mess. You could give the excuse that because Claudio doesn't direct Americans well, he didn't get his point across, and so the final product didn't translate correctly for other Americans. This is probably true, but the writing in the movie turns it into such a disastrous train-wreak, that I can't tell anything apart from the confusing dialogue, the terrible acting, and every conceivable image in the film. It's like a code that, when deciphered, never really meant anything to begin with. When you realize this, you can either never look back at the film again, or you accept it for what you think it is. Then you begin to like it, and you begin to notice this special quality in the film. And that's when you realize, this movie was like no other film you had ever seen. 

   If you don't really look into why Claudio Fragasso thinks he can make movies, you might enjoy this film. It is hysterical! "Troll 2" is an example of a movie that was made by aliens and sent to earth to see if we could respond. If that were to happen, just take a copy of "Plan 9 From Outer Space" as a retort, and send it to them. I enjoyed this film, and you might enjoy it too. But I suggest that you look at "Best Worst Movie" afterwards. It put the actors places into perspective for me, and I truly believe that these two movies were made to be watched together. But is "Troll 2" the worst movie ever made? Well, let me put it this way; I have not yet witnessed a movie worse than "Troll 2," and I've seen "Plan 9 From Outer Space," and "Santa Clause Conquers The Martians." ...I'm going to let that sink in for awhile...


Troll 2 Trailer:
Best Worst Movie Trailer:
      Next Review: Kangaroo Jack 2003

Friday, January 11, 2013

2001: A Space Odyssey: 1968

Release date: April 6, 1968 (USA)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Sequel: 2010: The Year We Make Contact
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke
Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth, John Alcott

        Hello, I’m Tristan. The guy who has written practically every other review on this website is Albert. I’m going to be trying to churn out at least a review a month. Of course, keep in mind that every one of my reviews is basically a more refined way of expressing and organizing my sloppy opinions on films. If you were wondering, yes there will be spoilers, as I will be reviewing the movie as a whole. Being a large Stanley Kubrick fan, I thought for my first review, I’d do one of his films. Most of this review will be @#!*% -kissing, because I personally love Kubrick. Oh, and yes, there will be profanity.

SO, according to IMDB, 2001: A Space Odyssey is, “an adventure sci-fi where humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial, object buried beneath the lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.” While I applaud someone for trying to write a prompt explanation of this movie, no one could describe this movie and do it justice. Visually, it’s an amazing piece of cinematography, and its pacing is plotted out immaculately. It moves so slowly, but it manages to keep my interest. That’s a miracle for me because I have an intensely low attention-span, and I use my laptop during the 20 seconds it takes for my computer to start. Personally I love this movie because it’s very beautifully structured aesthetically, it’s pacing is great, the sound engineering is fantastic, and the plot is just awesome.
Visually, it’s amazing. A lot of the story is told visually with very light dialogue. As with all of Kubrick’s films there are a lot of shots that use the one-point perspective which has everything draw your eyes directly to the centre. The composition of each shot is done beautifully. What I really love is how long a camera holds a shot. It’s smooth and streamlined and helps the movie keep its flow. Most modern movies tend to do several jump-cuts between every line spoken by every character, which can be slightly disorienting. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with jump-cuts, but the way this movie is shot feels much more natural.
One of the most powerful things in this movie is the ability to tell a story almost purely though its visuals. What stitches it together, of course, is the dialogue. This movie utilizes dialogue as a very powerful tool. Without the fluff of unnecessary dialogue, this movie presents a very large contrast between its talking scenes and its silent scenes, allowing the dialogue to have a heavier impact on the viewer. 
In the sets, you can see the influences from its time, yet somehow it still works. It has its charm in its own right. A futuristic looking set from the late 60’s that DOESN’T look cheesy. IT’S REALLY COOL WHEN PEOPLE WALK AROUND THE SETS AND THE GRAVITY SHIFTS. INCEPTION DID THAT, AND I KNOW YOU ALL LOVE IT.
Its pacing is beautiful. It takes its time with telling its story, allowing you to immerse yourself and to let everything around you sink in. Its execution isn’t gratuitous or pretentious, and it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be super artistic, avant-garde @#!*% . 
Now I’m going to talk about the sound engineering. Like many of the things in this movie, it is STUNNING. When people speak, it is silent, giving an added feeling of reality and also giving more importance to what the person is saying. The soundtrack’s really frikkin’ delicious too. Classical music and ominous choirs. It’s just so great. You’d be lying if you said that the choir wasn’t at least, slightly unnerving. Eugh. I get all tense listening to that. When the music is playing, it’s practically nothing but music, and when the people are talking, it’s practically nothing but talking. The combination of the well-thought-out visuals and carefully pieced sound engineering makes this movie a perfectionist’s perfect concoction of PERFECTNESS. Don’t think I’m saying this movie is perfect; nothing’s perfect. What I’m saying is that everything in this movie is just so planned-out and perfected, it’s really something to admire, and it shows. All of that work adds to the allure of the film. 
Now the plot. All of these beautiful elements that comprise this move  I actually don’t wanna get into this on account of my laziness, but I’ll do what I can without getting sick of writing it. A lot of the story is left to interpretation too, which is cool. I like that the plot is not only about the black monolith, but also the people sent out on the Jupiter mission, where both of those plots tie in at the end. In the beginning HAL actually starts out kinda adorable, but in the end it’s like OH @#!*% . His calmness turns and becomes sinister, and the DEATH SCENE. THAT @#!*% ’S SCARY. Watching HAL be killed by taking out the modules piece by piece is just so unsettling to a point where it kind of feels uncomfortable to watch. They’ve put so much humanity into him, to the point where I’m actually calling it him. I didn’t hesitate to think that it’s just a computer, and I didn’t actually realize that until I started writing, “they’ve put so much humanity into him.” Then he starts singing. HE STARTS SINGING. It’s sad and scary and AGHHH. HAL JUST WANTED TO COMPLETE HIS MISSION, AND YOU TOOK THAT AWAY FROM HIIIIMMMMMMM. Alien reminisces these ideas through its androids. The plot is also split up into three acts which is reinforced by the fact that the movie has an intermission. I don’t actually feel like explaining these acts. So I’ll have Albert explain it to you:

-  Okay, so “2001: A Space Odyssey” is comprised into four acts, each symbolizing the evolutionary chain of man. The first act is the dawn of man, where we see how our earliest forms of mankind have learned to make tools, and by extension, weapons (an archetypal creation of man that will continue to define us). And we enter a passage through time and space with Kubrick’s choice of transitioning mankind’s weapon into a space vessel. In act two we have our second encounter with the monolith re-discovered by man millions of years later. The crew hears of rumors about the monolith on the planet causing epidemics. We fast forward 18 months later into act 3 where “Discovery One” sets off for Jupiter. Our spacecraft is being piloted and protected by the H.A.L 9000 computer. When word breaks loose of H.A.L’s crew jeopardizing the mission due to certain dangers, it attempts to dispose of each crew member. In the final act our main character, Bowman, has an existential journey through space and time triggered by the monolith orbiting around Jupiter at the time that Discovery One had landed. He speeds past his life looking at himself decades at a time. Finally at his death bed he transforms finally into The Star Child, which holds its place in the next evolutionary chain of mankind. 


Thus concludes my review. Overall, it's one of my favorite movies, and while nothing can be perfect, it's almost as close to perfect as you can get. For it's time and genre, it's stunning, and it's a master piece. Though it's not my favorite, for an overall rating, I give it:


Next Review: Donnie Darko

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012: 2009

Release date: November 13, 2009 (USA)
Director: Roland Emmerich
MPAA rating: PG-13
Running time: 158 minutes
Budget: 200 million USD

   Hello, ladies and gentlemen! I hope that you've had yourselves a wonderful D-Day! For those of you who have been living under a rock, or you simply choose not to care (which is fine), the Mayan calendar predicted that on the twenty first of December of this year, the world would come to a crashing halt and everything would blow up in our faces. Apparently director Roland Emmerich did those of use, who were not informed of this catastrophe, a favor by making a movie three years in advance to warn us of what would happen. In this review of "2012," we will attempt to uncover what it was about this disaster movie, that made the movie, the disaster.

   This film is very reminiscent of an earlier film of his released in 2004, "The Day After Tomorrow." I saw this film in the fifth grade as the first (technical) horror film. At the time, I was freaked out by this film. I liked the effects and the suspense, but if you put a gun to my face I couldn't remember a single thing from that movie besides the effects. And that's generally how Rolland's films go. You remember how pretty it looked, but if you waited a few months you couldn't remember the plot if you were staring at it...because it would be hidden by all of the atomic-breathing monsters, and tornadoes, and saber-toothed cats, and alien mother-ships, and explosions, and, in this case, John Cusack.

   But I am writing about "2012" and not "The Day After Tomorrow". And although both are equal train wrecks, one is easier to look at than the other. This film is the one that is easier to look at...but it's still a train wreck. "2012" follows Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) who plans to outrun the collapse of modern civilization that is doomsday with his divorced wife Kate Curtis (Amanda Peet), her boyfriend, Gordan Silberman (Thomas McCarthy), and his two kids, Noah and Lilly (Liam James) and (Morgan Lily). When I say "outrun" I mean that in the most literal sense possible because wherever Jackson and company flee to, volcanoes and meteorites and earthquakes and tidal waves are sure to follow very close behind. You may think that this provides more tension when transitioning towards each location. This is not true. Okay, so maybe through the first scene when Jackson and company pile in the car to escape the chaos by throwing themselves directly at the chaos and pandemonium, there may have been a little tension. But this feeling is quickly squandered because the actors in the car have, for some reason, been told to make jokes. I'm going to write this again: An action sequence that shows millions (scratch that) BILLIONS of innocent people experiencing horrible deaths is being dashed away because someone wants to make a joke about how freeways can inconvenience you from time to time.

   But it's not the comedy that really upsets me. It's the fact that everyone that the movie thinks we care about become invincible. And no matter how hard you pray, these people will not die! And I didn't think that at a certain point in any movie I would be rooting for the earth to open up and swallow all of the main characters. And there are really only two sides to this. On one side we have the characters that annoy you, and this includes the two children (maybe even John Cusack), who either cry and scream too much and try too hard to give off the vibe that they hate their biological father. On the other side there are the characters that you virtually have no sympathy for. And this is mainly due to how the actors "act" around the destruction. The problem is that they do not act! Because of this nothing feels real! It may look cool but now all you can think about is how little investment there appears to be on screen with the characters in the film and the destruction going on around them.

   I'm not going to pretend to know about anything that goes into the science of these types of films. What I mean, is that I'm not going to try to talk about how scientifically incorrect Rolland's films may be, because that's not what I like about this or any of Rolland's films. And yes, you read correctly there is something I like about his films, and that is the visuals. I'm not going to lie, I was impressed by the C.G in this film. You might even say that I was blown away. In fact, all of Rolland's films look good to some extent (starting with "10000 B.C" and ending at "2012". And for this reason, if you haven't already, watch the movie. It'll be bad, I know. Not the worst, just very bad. But if you don't listen to explanation or dialog, and only look at the ultra high octane destruction, you might have a little fun. "2012" is unfortunately what you would expect from any Rolland film but with a fresh coat of paint to admire. 

Happy New Years friends, we had a good one.            


Watch the Trailer Here:
Next Review: Troll 2 1990