Monthly Archives: October 2012

Star Wars Episode VII: A New(er) Hope

I am severely unfamiliar with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but I’ll reference it like an a-hole anyway:

DON’T PANIC

By now, everyone knows about Disney’s purchase of LucasFilm Ltd. for around $4 billion yesterday, and from what I can gather, the majority of the internet is either still reeling from a collective ‘WTF, bro???’ or it’s busying worrying about more important things like elections and hurricanes and stuff. Well, I voted early and live in Wisconsin, so my schedule’s wide open!

In all seriousness, I’ve received texts from at least 5 different friends over the last 24 hours asking about my thoughts on the acquisition: Are you mad? How’s that massive erection going? First and foremost, when Star Wars dictates an uptick in one’s social life, it’s time to maybe rethink some lifestyle choices. The short answer to all those texts, in my apparently very qualified opinion, is that this is good news. It might even be really great news. With nothing but a minted children’s show, another series in development hell, and ill-advised 3D conversions, how is Disney’s move not a modest upgrade at the very least?

Episode VII. It feels weird and refreshing at the same time, like one of those “full body” massages you can only get in sketchy Chinese parlors. I’m saying this with the protection of The Douchey Airbag of Hindsight, but Episodes I-III never seemed like the obvious direction to take in 1995. You automatically lose drama points from square one if your audience already knows Protagonist #2 gets really evil and really flammable at the end. Never mind that moving ahead in time was far more interesting to little snot-noised Davy. We learned a lot about that Prequel stuff decades before it even hit theaters. Go back to Luke’s first sit down with Obi-Wan in Episode IV or Ben’s bullshit backpedaling in Episode VI:

Luke: You fought in the Clone Wars?
Obi-Wan:
 Yes. I was once a Jedi Knight, the same as your father.
Luke: I wish I’d known him.
Obi-Wan: He was the best star pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior. I understand you’ve become quite a good pilot yourself.
[pauses]
And he was a good friend

and

Luke: How did my father die?
Obi-Wan: A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights. He betrayed and murdered your father.

later…

Luke: You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father.
Obi-Wan: Your father… was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader.

and

Obi-Wan: Anakin was a good friend. When I first met him, your father was already a great pilot, but I was amazed how strongly the Force was with him. I took it upon myself to train him as a Jedi. I thought I could instruct him just as well as Yoda. I was wrong.

Out of just that, what would we really miss out on if Episodes I-III never happened? So there’s no fight with Darth Maul or Captain Typho’s eye patch, but the essentials are there. And they’re all we ever needed. *Douchey Airbag of Hindsight deploys*

There’s also a lot of concern over The Mouse House making Star Wars more of a jokey, kid-friendly franchise, to which I respond: Holiday SpecialBut couldn’t Disney bring back the Gungans?! They could cast Dane Cook as Jim Jam Binks if they really wanted. But they probably won’t. More to the point, Disney has plenty of experience with successful live-action already. In the last two decades: Remember the Titans, The Mighty Ducks, Angels in the Outfield, Newsies, The Princess Diaries,  National Treasure, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc. Considering Pirates of the Caribbean ALONE, a fantasy franchise with dark elements and lighthearted humor is 100% old hat for Disney.

So where should/would/could Disney go with this? Yesterday, HuffPo’s Mike Ryan broke down 3 possible routes, all of which involve the inevitable hurtle of casting actors who have aged horribly. I agree with him, but I’ll go a step further and add a snarky qualifier to each:

1. The Easy Option 

Let’s call this Operation: Dump Truck o’ Ca$h, because that’s approximately what it would take to get Grandpa Ford to come back as Han Solo. I’m being serious. Ford’s enthusiasm for the Indiana Jones character is well-documented, but he’s almost equally famous for being not so gung-ho about a certain smuggler. This goes beyond his suggestion that Han Solo get killed off in Jedi, too. The man oozes with obligation in every goddamn nerd interview he agrees to goddamn do, goddammit.

But, for the sake of hypotheticals, say he agrees to it. Say Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher do, too (and for much less). Now you’re stuck with crafting a trilogy (as was tentatively announced) around three old people. Good luck.

2. The Easier Option

Recast the shit out of it. Place your bets now; everybody’s doing it. Ryan Gosling as Luke! Emma Stone as Princess Leia! ROBERT DOWNEY, JR. FOR ALL THE PARTS LOLZ!!!! Please just stop. You’re starting to foam.

This is even easier than Operation: Dump Truck o’ Ca$h because you’re no longer saddled with actors in high-leverage negotiating positions — actors who, again, are also pretty old. Profitability aside, there is a glaring, blasphemous downside to this option. It would piss off a lot of people. I’m not even including the hardcore geeks. People look at Carrie Fisher and say ‘That’s Princess Leia!’ They hear James Earl Jones and think ‘That’s Darth Vader!’ This shit is instantly recognizable and when you mess with that, you’re going to mess with a lot of people.

Now could Disney recast such iconic characters? Of course. Back me up here, Mr. Connery. On the other hand, should they? No.

3. The Best Option

English professors always liked to scold our classes for writing midterm papers that straddled opposing arguments. And part of that is because moderation tends not to end in a fist fight. “The Best Option” is one of moderation:

  • Episode VII takes place a reasonable distance into the future (similar to a timeline from Operation: Dump Truck o’ Ca$h).
  • Disney actually gets creative and establishes new, interesting characters. Right away, that avoids the temptation to do stupid shit like that one time Anakin built C-3PO.
  • Disney retains Hamill, Fisher, and Ford as characters and acknowledges that they are very much the old guard. Then they promptly stick them IN THE BACKGROUND of the story.
    • From a marketing standpoint, Disney can’t lose here. Audiences aren’t nervous if that teaser trailer hits and Holy cow, Luke Skywalker! is going through half their minds. More importantly, Disney avoids Option #2’s blasphemy and establishes continuity to a new movie trilogy. They also reduce the awkwardness of a saggy Princess Leia getting too much screen time.
    • Oh and as insurance, Disney wouldn’t be shooting itself in the foot should Han Solo pass away mid-nap on some blustery February day in 2016. Disney doesn’t want another Tom Hagen on its hands, let alone another Matrix Revolutions.

Beyond this though, what’s the point in guessing plot scenarios? Yesterday, the official Star Wars YouTube channel released a video where George Lucas confirmed long-time rumors that he does in fact have “story treatments of [Episodes] VII, VIII, and IX.” That’s great, Georgie. Shred all of it. Yes, it’s probably best to name check Lucas as a “creative consultant” (they are), but Disney has a completely blank slate with a billion dollars worth of brand recognition. Why risk screwing that up?

The image above is foremost a visual non sequitur (and probably more than appropriate for this blog), but I also included it to remind us that unless you’re a fly on the wall at Disney/LucasFilm, you don’t know anything. To put it another way, millions of pages were suddenly silenced because they bothered to consider the future Star Wars stuff. This includes Han and Leia’s wedding; Luke’s resurrection of the Jedi Academy; the formation of the New Republic. I always liked The Thrawn Trilogy, essentially the space fantasy equivalent of Mao Zedong’s “passive defense” strategy in late 40’s China, only Space Mao doesn’t win. But as of Tuesday, October 30, 2012, all that stuff is officially published fan fiction, and authors like Timothy Zahn just look like overzealous a-holes. Instead of drafting your spec script that like might totally get accepted by Kathleen Kennedy, chill the fuck out and enjoy a Yuuzhan Vong novel while it still makes sense.

Since I’ve been working on this whole “optimism” fad lately, I’ll end on a positive note. As cute as it is to throw The Ears on Emperor Palpatine and quip about the Mouse House being stationed on Coruscant, it’s not like Jedi Master Donald Duck is going to spearhead the rebuilding of a galactic democracy. After all, Mickey Mouse didn’t toss Stan The Man out on his ass when Disney bought Marvel Comics three years ago. Instead, they stepped back, recognized talent and passion when they saw it, and let this happen. Don’t panic. In fact, relax a little. The days of Clone Wars cartoons and 3D post-conversions might be at an end.

Without any irony, if I may: I have a good feeling about this.

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My Buddy is a Cage – ‘National Treasure: Book of Secrets’ (2007)

Quick question: On average, what’s your run-of-the-mill secret lever maker earn in a year? I’ve yet to meet one with the profession, but the United States is COVERED in hidden doors and concealed switches. Someone’s making bank and I want in.

* * *

How did we come to this, Benjamin Franklin Gates? How did we come to this? I can tolerate one hidden treasure trove and ignore the pervading absurdity of the first National Treasure, but even this title… I’m already skeptical. We begin with a flashback, this time to the Civil War. Another of Ben’s genius ancestors, Alexander Hamilton Gates (or something) decodes a cypher leading to a lost Indian city of gold. Tragically/obviously, Rutherford B. Gates is killed upon realizing he’s helped a Pro-Confederate Secret Society. But you’ll die a traitor!

I still don’t know how finding the Goldfingered version of Atlantis clears Ben’s great grandfather of anything, but one convoluted clue leads to another and sure enough, Ben, Riley & Co. need to get ahold of this book of secrets. The President’s Book is allegedly an actual thing, but I am officially disputing both its name as well as any and all of its purported secrets. If you’re interested though, it appears Yahoo! Voices has gotten away with murder on this one, so you’d better screenshot that ish before the FBI takes it down.

What worked in the original National Treasure was the script’s attention to details, the fact that as ludicrous as this trail of clues was, everything was hidden in obscurity, in artifacts and historical bits most of us had never heard of anyway. It was interesting and admittedly, kinda cool. It’s also artistically subtle by comparison now. Book of Secrets just lobs ideas in the general vicinity of shit even a Thai fisherman would know about — Mount Rushmore, the Statue(s) of Liberty, the Oval Office — and the way to get to the Book of Secrets hidden in the secret hole inside the secret drawer is always needlessly elaborate. Break into the Resolute Desk. Kidnap the President. Hydro-locate an ancient Indian city of gold. Distribute your weight on a constantly-shifting Mayan platform. All in a day’s work, really.

I remain a sucker for this as a continuing franchise. Hypocrite! I know. Book of Secrets does toss in some cute nods to the original. After JohnQuincyAdams Gates gets capped, Jon Turteltaub picks up the threads from last time. Ben has a profession that doesn’t involve stealing priceless artifacts; Abigail Chase, Ph.D, has upgraded to dating always hilarious White House aide, Ty Burrell; Best of all, comedic geek relief Riley Poole wrote a book off of Ben’s coat tails, and its cover bears more than a winking resemblance to The Da Vinci Code. But the little things so rarely elevate the terrible, and this is no exception. Of course kidnapping President Bruce Greenwood looks easy when 75% of the Secret Service is legally blind. And until now, I really thought better of Helen Mirren, here as Ben’s professor mother and Jon Voigt’s peppy ex-wife.

Apart from the return of Disney’s suspiciously polished live-action look, Nicolas Cage makes a triumphant escape from his cocoon of repression, sprouting wings and corkscrewing directly into the nearest light fixture. When Ben has to cause a distraction at Buckingham Palace with Diane Kruger, now his ex-girlfriend, think of “light fixture” as “basic human reaction.”

You don’t need to know Latin to understand how many deuses ex machina they cram onto the end of this beast. There’s the delusional sham of a Voigt/Mirren subplot where Ben’s parents get back together after 32 years of separation. Cage and Diane Kruger shack up again. Even baddie Ed Harris — just Sean Bean with more bullets and less hair — suddenly drops his revenge scenario on the Gates legacy. The unifying powers of American history, everyone!

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Weekly Post-mortem 10/21 – 10/27

DISCLAIMER: The following week has been severely tainted by bouts of childhood nostalgia. You’ve all been officially warned, god dammit.

10/22/12 Argo (2012)

10/23/12 National Treasure (2004) 

10/25/12 Goosebumps Double Feature: The Haunted Mask (1995)

Televised mini-movies count too, alright?! Halloween is swiftly eclipsing Christmas as THE nostalgic season for pop culture. I mean how in the hell else do you explain watching this? I enjoy pretending I’m still in eighth grade and not 24 years old. To a lesser degree though, the combination of crappy slasher films and postseason baseball — namely Joe Buck’s soothing matter-of-fact vocals — crystallize into a perfect autumnal boner.

Hooooo what a rush on this one, and from the very first introduction by literary dungeon mole R.L. Stine. The Legend! The acting, fashion, effects, etc. are all (expectedly) dated. What holds up is how twisted this concept is for a children’s television show. Kathryn Long is nothing special as Carly Beth, but her masked persona goes to plenty of messed up places: threatening neighborhood MILFs, stealing toddlers’ candy, and choking bestie Sabrina. By the time Carly Beth realizes that mask probably ain’t coming off, she even brandishes a kitchen knife to encourage the loosening. Goosebumps tended to skirt away from effects-heavy storytelling when it could, but Haunted Mask‘s cheesy execution of floating the other masks through the night air is awkwardly eerie, a low budget iteration of Nosferatu’s arms or Freddy’s stretching. Long story short, appreciate your mother’s love and wear her hand-stitched duck costume, children. Otherwise… allegory!

The Haunted Mask II (1996)

And now to undo everything with a sequel. It would be completely ridiculous to recall the details of Stine’s sequel or the original in the young adult horror series, but did we really need this? Then again, the question of necessity likely wooshes over the head of the guy responsible for Monster Blood IV. This is just an educated guess, but I’m thinking the series got an uptick in its production budget for its second season. The film stock looks better, the effects aren’t as sucky, and the acting is less wooden — slightly. Its story however, which ports bully Steve in as the main character, is a rehash of everything we just watched, with the added detriment that we know all the rules and tricks to facial-hijacking now.

Carly Beth now operates as a wizened “last girl” of sorts, and I appreciated the half-assed mythology Mask II attempts to draw from. Where it falls flat is when the original mask takes control of mad scientist-Novelty Shop owner, running around town (often in full daylight) with a ridiculous hiss and sporting what looks to be the worst Darth Maul costume on the planet. The effort is akin to ‘big man’ 7-foot pro wrestlers attempting to break type and cutting terrible promos. In other words, he’s the ‘Kane’ of the children’s horror genre. (Ironically, Kane’s in-ring character became infinitely less compelling when he ditched the masked silence for a microphone.) Viewer beware, there’s… really not much there.

10/27/12 Hocus Pocus (1993)

Memory is most certainly selective, no more so than in Disney’s Hocus Pocus, released to theaters in July of 1993, for some reason. This does not hold up in the least bit. The lone exceptions here are Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and King of the Hill’s Kathy Najimy, so obviously having a blast as a trio of Salem witches intent on reclaiming their youth through the souls of children. Tonally, Hocus Pocus is all over the place, especially at the onset of a very, very successful string of Disney releases in the 90’s. Darting from black humor to slap stick to cheese to just plain blackness makes for an enervating 100 minutes. Dare I say you’d be better off with Ernest Scared Stupid? You’d be better off.

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My Buddy is a Cage – ‘National Treasure’ (2004)

Lo! How quickly the sands of Father Time’s hourglass seem to slip by us, gently tumbling from one end to the other. Alas, centuries of history have passed us by in a blink of thine eye! One tearful, lonely eye! This isn’t some terrible introduction to Jon Turtletaub’s National Treasure. I am referring to the last time I got around to doing one of these; since nobody’s really keeping track, it’s been weeks. Weeks, I tell thee!

Along with The Weather Man, this shares the distinction of my having already seen it in theaters. Then again on a bus ride. And also on TV. And maybe it’s the infinite cynicism this blog seems to channel, but I really expected to tear a Disney live action film apart (one starring ham sandwich Nic Cage, no less). Alas, I am unable. National Treasure is absolutely ridiculous and absolutely entertaining. Lo!

Cage stars as Benjamin Gates, part-time historian full-time conspiracy theorist. Having seen this four times now, I don’t actually believe Gates has any profession outside of treasure hunter… Hey, history is cool, though. It isn’t difficult to tell this was greenlit during the rise of Da Vinci Code fiction, and the attention to details is everywhere. Did you know the Centennial Bell replaced the Liberty Bell in Philly? What’s the clock of Independence Hall  read on the back of the 100 dollar bill? That Ben Franklin first suggested Daylight Savings Time??? The tidbits are as fascinating as they are trivial. Less captivating is the fabled Knights Templar treasure, passed down over hundreds of years to the Founding Fathers, who promptly hid mounds of riches for Nicolas Cage to one day discover and donate to the Smithsonian. No worries if any of that was hard to swallow because every character is here to remind you of The Treasure. We’ve found the Treasure. It’s a capital T Treasure, too. One of those ill-defined, ubiquitous Treasures. I’d have preferred Michael Caine as Cage’s estranged father over Jon Voigt, and yes, complete with an inexplicable Cockney accent. TREASAH.

Cage’s acting is a moderate blah, with all the panache and zest of tap water. Gates’ only interesting character trait, his appearance, was likely added by the Elvis-obsessed Cage himself, given his pompadour, groomed sideburns and and open-collared shirts. Gates’ personality is part cardboard, part history lecture. When Ben Gates and geeky comic relief Riley Poole first gaze upon the Declaration of Independence (read: secret TREASAH map), the script affords Cage no chance to be anything other than a breathy enthusiast, mumbling lines that might as well be textbook quotes.

If National Treasure undeniably succeeds at one thing it’s in Disney’s engineering to mass appeal. The slick photography, by-the-numbers editing, even Cage and his inevitable wooing of Diane Kruger’s Dr. Abigail Chase, it’s all here. If Michael Bay were in contractual obligation to the Mouse House, he’d probably make something akin to this — a Mission: Impossible meets mid-life crisis Indy.

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So far, the year’s most Oscar-baity of all Oscar-baity films. So far: ‘Argo,’ reviewed

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October 24, 2012 · 8:13 pm

Shane Black: World’s biggest Batman fan?

Thinking of blockbuster runs in terms of win-loss columns is not the best analytical approach, especially with this past summer’s jam-packed release schedule.

But if forced at alien gunpoint to weigh in, The Avengers won.

In case you missed the weekend’s erm, trailer to the trailer, a new Tony Snark adventure is slated for release next year (appropriately titled Iron Man 3). Ah what the hell. Let’s all spoil the movie for ourselves right now!


A few things:

— That looks pretty good, no? Gone are the punk rock attitude and cheap gloss from Iron Man 2. No more awkward Don Cheadle retcon. No more Mickey Rourke accent. NO MORE ELECTRO WHIP. This latest (but hardly the last) entry seems to be going for a more operatic feel, an Iron Man that’s grander in scope. Listen to that classically-influenced score or simply witness the immense destruction of Tony’s batch pad.

— Look at Tony, too. He’s getting his ass kicked. Seriously kicked.

And that seems familiar…


Oh. Right.

— But surely Dark Knight Rises doesn’t own a monopoly on putting a protagonist through El Wringer. Superman II did it. X2 did it. And despite the similarities, I’m enjoying the polished, serious feel of Iron Man 3. This is an Iron Man movie, right? I only ask because I didn’t hear any snarky comebacks. Where are the quips and snappy insults? Where’s the real RDJ?

— Go to any film blog. Seriously, go now. I can wait. Here’s one example to speed things up. Among the hundreds of reactions you can read, you’re likely to find at least one commonality: dark. Iron Man is dark. This features a more dark Tony Stark. Shane Black is making a much darker sequel. Pepper Potts likes her coffee dark. This is a new development. Marvel executives never seemed concerned with how edgy or realistic or dark their recent movies were. Baddies like Iron Monger and Whiplash were many things but never “real world villains” … right?

Look, Shane Black and Drew Pearce were hired to write this thing back in March 2011, so there’s virtually no chance anyone’s copying Batman here. However as I’ve written before, the shadow of Marvel’s recent success will tower over all subsequent releases from here on out. All of them, and I find their apparent creative direction a bit peculiar. The announcement of Guardians of the Galaxy was both refreshing and a risky studio move, and Iron Man 3 seems to be departing from the very elements that made it so profitable in the first place. The $600 million kind of profitable. As the adage goes, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Joss Whedon’s superpowered ensemble made over a billion clams worldwide. Compared to other superhero fare, it was lighthearted and offered plenty of laughs to boot, and Marvel’s first post-Avengers release is shaping up to have exactly none of that. Granted we’ve been shown 120 seconds of a two hour movie, but so far the only thing Avengers and Numero Tres here have in common is them ‘splosions.

If only for the sake of argument, one teeny tiny last observation. Now, I’m probably just nitpicking here and this is purely coincidence, but I did catch a very familiar soundbite *puts on CSI hat*

‘I swear I’ve heard THIS sound before… Any thoughts, detective?’

‘Just one. Take a look at this.’

‘Well it looks like Batman… has a new Bat-fan.’ YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAH

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Weekly Post-mortem 10/14 – 10/20

10/15/12 Sinister (2012)

True crime writer Ethan Hawke runs around his suburban Pennsylvania home, in fear of a series of super 8 film canisters.

Now when written down, that’s a really stupid premise. Believe it or not, director Scott Derrickson and his co-writer C. Robert Cargill essentially establish that exact plot, and because of it Sinister is a pretty great film. It offers very little in true scares — and you’ll likely only jump at its loud, cheap thrills — but a creepy atmosphere and an appreciation for the medium are ingenious injections into American commercial horror, maligned (rightfully) for years because of reboots and remakes.

Cargill and Derrickson are seriously crushing on celluloid, and Hawke’s investigation of a mysterious demon’s haunting presence could be classified as a found footage film, only unlike one we’ve seen before. Sinister is a juxtaposition of formats, mixing digital and analog film — Derrickson actually shot the found footage segments on real super 8 stock — and Hawke has to use iChat and web browser to figure out how to edit the material, even shoddily pasting frames together.

The dialogue slacks around the dinner table, but Hawke’s methodical detective work is intriguing and the demon Bagul is slowly revealed to great effect. Sinister questions the heights its fictional crime author (and horror cinema) aspire to and whether or not those consequences are worth the costs.

10/17/12 Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

More of the same with better production value and a weaker story. So weak, in fact, that I was pretty bored with the back half of Part 2 — mind you, that “back half” includes most of the kills. This time, the iconic Jason Voorhees is the one doing the slaughtering, but he’s not all that recognizable, hiding his inexplicably deformed face throughout much of Part 2’s run time. In fact, Jason sports a cloth over his face, and as you can see, it’s not exactly a hockey mask.

Part 2 does an adequate job with its killer’s psychology, including an excellent fake-out between Jason and the film’s last girl, Ginny. Unfortunately Sean S. Cunningham and Steve Miner milk too much from cursory textbook lines, with Ginny awkwardly diagnosing Voorhees in retroactive fashion. Groan.

10/18/12 Bowling For Columbine (2002)

Say what you will about Michael Moore, but the man is undeniably good at two things: making an argument and then getting a reaction out of you. He’s the leftist iteration of a Sean Hannity type, appropriately slobbish and scruffy. Bowling for Columbine, which put Moore’s polarizing style on the map, is an unflinching indictment of American values and how they’re to blame. Err, well the film starts out with that idea at least. A quick Wikipedia perusal yields several fact-checks on Moore’s misdirections. The Michigan bank didn’t actually give him a gun the same day he signed up for a checking account. His convenient and brief “History of America” cartoon paints a flawed portrait of the country’s violent past as much as it apes South Park’s animation style. And Moore’s ambush of Mr. NRA himself, Charlton Heston, feels unfair. By the time Moore is trumpeting Canada’s greatness, I was left wondering how he’d gotten so far off topic. There is a definite passion to Moore’s film; it’s a shame he loses direction in all the frothy zeal.

At the same time, Moore is very successful at asking one question: Why is America so different? He never provides a compelling reason, but it’s a very important subject, and one to which I have yet to see a convincing answer. Moore’s inclusion of Heston also touches on something else, too. Was the NRA violating any laws in holding its meetings so close to the Columbine shootings? No. By the same token, it isn’t illegal to chain smoke outside of a cancer ward either. Just like it’s not illegal for the Westboro Baptist Church to hold up “God Hates Fags” signs outside of soldiers’ funerals. I don’t think the NRA is on the same level as the WBC, but there’s something behind the firearms associations’ history of refusing to comment on any American shootings that doesn’t sit well with me. Just as Heston’s “from my cold dead hands” testament reads more like ‘just because I can.’ And in the interest of maintaining our decency, just because I can isn’t good enough.

South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut (1999)

Can fart jokes be genius? South Park co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone beat their critics to the punch here, going so far as making a not-so-veiled plot of the anticipated parental backlash. The biggest surprise is that thirteen years later, American attitudes toward censorship haven’t changed at all. Parker and Stone aren’t so much suggesting we go easy on all explicit content, but rather that we question what it is we’re censoring and why. Also fart jokes.

10/20/12 Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Hilarious, sharp, filled with in-references and featuring some great zombie effects to boot. What’s not to love? Edgar Wright’s exaggerated cuts mimic Requiem for a Dream’s own style just on.. well, speed. Shaun of the Dead is over-the-top and mundane all at once. The fate of the world feels like it hangs in the balance of just another shitty run-of-the-mill pub.

Pulse (2001)

But for one truly terrifying ghostPulse isn’t a traditional horror movie. It definitely feels unpleasant to watch, like standing around in sweaty workout clothes for two hours, and its hypothesis, that technology ironically drives people apart instead of connect them, isn’t a novel one, but director Kiyoshi Kurosawa does plenty to sustain hopeless loneliness in this J-horror entry.

People join ghosts in the digital ether when they encounter a suicide played over and over via internet connection. It’s an extremely strange conceit, and lead slacker Haruhiko Kato’s life choices sometimes border on hyperbolic. But hey, if everyone you knew transformed into a computer ghost after being instructed to blow their own brains out, you’d probably behave a little weird, too.

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