Saturday, September 26, 2009

Opening This Week: September 20th-26th (Surrogates find Fame in Hell...and...Pandorum?)

Here's what is happening in theaters this week:


'Fame': A modern remake of an urban musical that appeals to the 'High School Musical' generation. Critics are recognizing the flaws of this film within the character development, which they claim seems choppy and somewhat unfulfilled.

'Surrogates'-A robotic thriller starring Bruce Willis and based upon a graphic novel: quite a trend in modern cinema next to computer animation. Directed by the fellow that brought the world 'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,' this film is being critiqued on its action sequences and hollow acting performances. Too short on suspense? Feel free to share your thoughts on this film if you have seen it this week.

'Pandorum'-A deep space horror film with Dennis Quaid and produced by the folks that delivered the 'Resident Evil' films. Not to judge prematurely, but this movie looks like a rehash of the same confusing plot twists and cheap thrills that those films consisted of.

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
'I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell'- The overall consensus: Critics hope they play this film at cinemas in hell.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MovieGhoul Trailer Spotlight-'The Men Who Stare At Goats'

As if the stellar cast were not enough to hike up the appeal for this film (Kevin Spacey, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, and George Clooney), the satirical premise of this film looks fairly promising. It takes one quote to efficiently elaborate on this notion:

"We're Jedi. We don't fight with our guns. We fight with our minds."

'The Men Who Stare At Goats' hits theaters on November 6th. Check out the trailer above.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Coen Classics: Cold Blooded Murder and Satirical Prose in 'Fargo'

In 2007's 'No Country for Old Men,' the Coen brothers established an elaborated plot involving a sadistic Javier Bardem tracking down Josh Brolin across the southern countryside. In 'Burn After Reading,' a comedic cluster of characters intertwine as a result of the misplacement of valuable CIA documentation. 'The Big Lebowski' portrays a comedic case of mistaken identity with the 'Dude.' And finally, in 1996's 'Fargo,' a man in Minnesota plots to stage a kidnapping for his wife so he can receive the ransom money from her rich father.

So what do all of these movies share in common? Of course, they are all touched with the same 'Coen Movie Magic.' But thematically, what is one thing that they all consist of?

When you watch a Coen brothers film, oftentimes you'll find that the two expert filmmakers like the realistic twist of deviously leaving a plotline unresolved. Not to spoil the ending of these movies, Coen endings are somewhat formulaic: a steadily growing climax topped with a conclusive reflection by one of the main characters. Those of you who have seen these three films, or any other Coen brothers film for that matter, think back to all those endings and try to give one example of a plotline that does not follow this curriculum. The meat of the story trails a plethora of sequential events, and then the narrative simply surveys them in one form or another. While this could be seen as repetitive, the Coen brothers manage to keep it fresh throughout each one of their projects with this same tone but applying it to very intriguing characters.

This definitely applies to 'Fargo.' Viewing 'Fargo' was a milestone in observance after subsequently seeing the other Coen films I listed above over the course of about a couple of years. What sets 'Fargo' apart's setting: a snowy wilderness that the Coen brothers could most relate to. They seem to like vacated spaces in their films as well, and that also has a profound impact on the narrative tone in 'No Country for Old Men.' I would have to say that 'Fargo' fits snugly in the Coen brothers library of classics, transitioning their intricate and spontaneous narrative style to a loosely-based true story. The best thing about 'Fargo,' atop everything else, was the satirical touch that the characters' Alaskan drawl brought to the scenarios of the film (Alaskan drawls in Minnesota? I might be missing something). Everyone sounded like a disinterested Sarah Palin in the midst of a cop drama, spewing 'Yeah's and 'Oh's in every convenient nuance. Subtle, but satisfyingly comedic.

One other touch that the Coen brothers keep unique to their style is spontaneous violence. This makes their films dangerously unpredictable in plotline, leading up to a twist so that there is no indication of preceding action. In plain English, this is enthrallingly realistic and comedic at the same time. Underlying visual cues, no---or very little---soundtrack in tense situations. Who could predict that Peter Stormare would come charging at Steve Buscemi with a large axe at 'Fargo's climax? That is how pro the Coen brothers are in masking epic and radical plot developments.

All in all, 'Fargo' is the pinnacle of Coen Charm. Excellent dialogue capped with edgy performances by William H. Macy and Buscemi, emphasized with isolating wintery wilderness. 'Fargo' makes for an unadulterated 'Home Alone' sequel: the infamous Coen take on domestic mishaps. Some filmmakers build on expectation as an establishment for movie appeal. The Coen brothers have this appeal for the sheer unpredictability of their films. The question for other movies is always "What did I come away with?"

Alternatively, the question for Coen movies: "What didn't I know I would come away with?"


Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Dark and Original 'Sin'

In the film 'Schindler's List,' Liam Neeson plays an upper-class factory owner that initially and unwillingly buys out the freedom for several Jewish refugees in Germany during World War II. What does this have to do with Frank Miller's 'Sin City,' you ask? In 'Schindler's List,' a small girl embodies Schindler's reluctant redemption as well as the fate of victims from the Holocaust later on in the plotline. The director sets her apart from the other Jews in the film by gracing her shoes with the only profound color, other than the default tone of black and white: red.

This same visual effect is implemented in the stylized violence of 'Sin City,' helmed sadistically by Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, and Quentin Tarantino: the Graphic Trio. This screened comic book follows the misadventures of several parallel characters in a town that is a good dozen times more rife with crime and corruption than Gotham City. Bruce Willis plays a cop with no regard for the rules---yes, it's that cliche---who saves a girl from being raped by a lowlife and later goes on a crusade to prove himself to...well...the world? By killing people? Essentially, that's what's going on in the other plot-lines with Mickey Rourke and Clive Owen as well, who square off against Elijah Wood and Benicio del Toro respectively. The film starts and progresses violently, and that could be an understatement. By the end of the film, you'll start to see things tie together nicely and conclude with a mildly surprising twist. Anything else revealed and the point of viewing the film would be wasted.

Not that there is much psychological method to sitting through this film in the first place. Besides having some very psychotic and intensified performances from Del Toro and Owen, 'Sin City' is best enjoyed by turning off your analytical brain and soaking in the elaborate visual effects and stylized innuendo. 'Sin City' is, at heart, a gothic noir fable that Frank Miller obviously had fun to write and film---because that is what he does best. To a lesser extent, consider his recent directorial project 'The Spirit' (though I would honestly rather not). Miller's expertise is the aforementioned genre, and when that crosses your mind during 'Sin City,' it actually is not that bad of a movie; obviously when being compared to something like 'The Spirit'. The story was coherent, the visuals were exuberant but enjoyable, the dialogue...well...the same cannot be said for the dialogue, and it should be left at that. The cinematography is deliciously satisfying to the eye and the violence, while comedic at times, ends up to be quite enthralling by film's end.

It's not a sin to not watch 'Sin City.' It's safe to say that if you have not seen it, you're still missing out. To some extent.

'Sin City'- 1/2

Friday, September 18, 2009

Zombies and Film: Why Ghoulish Cinema Works

With the impending release of the graphically comedic 'Zombieland' in October, one should think that the time is right for a little reflection on how the undead make (at most times) good cinema. What is it about shambling hordes of brain-consuming creatures that brings us mortals to the movie theaters, at least when a zombie film releases? Is it the numerously creative ways to dispatch these horrid fiends in several scenarios? Is it the coy and camping sensation of surviving wave after wave of undead horror? Or is it watching main characters steadily being picked off one by one and predicting the last one standing?

If it weren't for zombies, some really great films would not exist.

Take 'Shaun of the Dead.' Great film. Dark humor with twists and satirical tones. But notice one of the catchphrases on either the DVD slipcase or the actual movie poster itself: "A romantic comedy...with zombies." Could it possibly be that any boring subject, any droll moment, can be supplemented with zombies to make it infinitely more interesting? That film proves it. 'Pride and Prejudice with Zombies' is another example, this time in the form of a bestselling novel: 'A classic that someone will finally want to read." Because of zombies.

Let's face it, zombies are fun because they are out of place in key genres, and that is why filmmakers and novelists utilize their presence. Nothing is more satirical than making up with your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend amidst a swarming horde of angry undead. Nothing brings out the underlying anarchic tones of human nature more than the brutality of the message carried out through the raging infected in '28 Days Later.' Some critics dismiss the use of zombies in films as excuses for petty violence, and in some ways that is the case. If you find yourself sitting through the glorious slow-mo gore in Zack Snyder's 2004 rendition of 'Dawn of the Dead', then you may find that to be the truth. However, there is emotion and there is purpose in the isolated confines of New York City during 'I Am Legend.' Will Smith had a great role in that film, and the book was even better in the way that it dealt with the psychotic tolls of being burdened with the address of 'Last Man on Earth'.

Some of you could say those bald things were zombies or vampires; honestly I have no idea what you want to classify them as, I think they might be a hybrid or something.


The irrationality of zombies, while they are indeed mindless, work for the integrity of the film's message if they serve a heavy purpose for the plot besides being dismembered here and there and everywhere (in slow-mo!).

It's hard to ignore the presence of zombies in today's pop culture. Thanks to Max Brooks' bestselling Zombie Guides and narratives, the undead can walk beyond the borders of the screen and into the imagination---if you want them there. The release of Valve's 'Left 4 Dead 2' allows for a cinematic experience while helping a friend take out a horde of infected. But movies combine the intense, purposeful narratives of novels with the visual fun of dismemberment you can get from a video game. What you get as a result has the potential to be a really good film.

In a way, there's George A. Romero to thank for his slew of zombie films. His projects make it evident that zombies have come a looooong way: from cheap and low-budget pulpy fiction to relatively gory, but hopefully motivated, violent narratives. While some think zombies are mindless ghouls in movies without brains, that's why MovieGhoul is here. To prove them wrong. To prove that zombie cinema can still be good cinema. And to prove that zombies can analyze film too.

So there. Time for some more movies...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Opening This Week: September 14th-18th (Cloudy With a Chance of Informant Love)

Here's some of the latest in theaters this week:
Jennifer's Body
'Jennifer's Body': Despite the fact that this film was written by academy award-winning story writer Diablo Codie ('Juno'), Megan Fox stars in what critics are claiming to be a film that tries but miserably fails to be either funny or scary.

The Informant!
'The Informant!': Matt Damon plays a conspicuous inside agent within a corporate operation that charismatically satirizes degrees of authority. From the people that developed some of the 'Oceans 11' films, 'The Informant!' is garnering generally positive reviews from critics this weekend.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs': An animated feature that follows the life and times of a comedic scientist (voiced by Bill Hader, I believe) that develops a way to change the climate so it could precipitate miscellaneous foods. Is this a worthy animated addition to this year's growing list of cartoon sagas? Judge this one for yourself.
Love Happens
'Love Happens'-Another romantic comedy...this time starring Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston. I think by this time, so far ahead in the history of the genre of romantic comedies, we can assume that love does indeed happen. Is the clarification really necessary?

Monday, September 14, 2009

MovieGhoul Trailer Spotlight: Zombieland

For those of you familiar with Left 4 Dead, or any Zombie movie/game altogether, you'll probably be interested in 'Zombieland'. Starring Woody Harrelson and Abigail Breslin, 'Zombieland' hits theaters in October. MovieGhoul can't wait for braaaaaaaaains. Check out the trailer above.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fond Memories from the Grave: Resurrecting 'Fight Club' (1999)

A couple of months ago, when I saw the film 'Fight Club' for the first time, I posted a short and minuscule blurb about the movie on a certain site by the name of Rotten Tomatoes:

"Thoroughly enjoyable. A nitty, gritty narrative that takes on themes of objective consumerism, complete with violence and psychotic twists and turns. Great acting from both Norton and Pitt. Simply a must-see."

As a consensus, yes, that works perfectly and efficiently by summing up the acting and the tone. But now a couple of months later I realized that, in retrospect, this film deserved a lot more. For anyone who has had the chance to sit through 'Fight Club', I'm sure you would want to have the chance to break the first rule established by Tyler Durden and talk about how the film altered your perspective on...well...let's just say 'several things.'

'Fight Club', directed by David Fincher, is a 1999 adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel by the same name which traverses through the misadventures of a low-cut, blue collar insomniac played brilliantly by Edward Norton ('American History X', and more recently, 'The Incredible Hulk'). On an airplane, he meets a devious soap-bar salesman by the name of Tyler Durden (notoriously played by Brad Pitt) who instructs our narrator on the values of objective detachment and spontaneous opportunity. Together they form the underground street-brawling society known as Fight Club, a gathering that demonstrates the brutal barbarism of human nature under the office jackets and prosthetic dignity of societal consumerism.

'Fight Club' is not about one man's ascension through society by fighting his way up to the top. It was not about chintzy comebacks and underdog fables. Rather, the message of 'Fight Club' is quite universal. Palahniuk, indirectly through Fincher, tells a story of duality and mental imprisonment that resonates outward to the viewer and breaks the confinement of the movie screen. It sums up inner resentment, emotional suppression, and human struggle. By the time the credits roll, your brain will probably feel like it had endured through a strenuous psychological brawl. Norton's character meets and falls in love with a woman named Marla (played by Helena Bonham-Carter), and he aptly quotes to her at the film's resounding climax: "You met me at a very strange time in my life."

Indeed. 'Fight Club' is rife with perfected dark humor and memorable dialogue. The acting is simply intense, and the message will persist within your thoughts for days afterward.

I think that does this film justice.

'Fight Club'-

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nazi Zombies?: 'Basterds' accumulates box office profit, wave after wave

Last week, Quentin Tarantino's bloody Nazi-scalpin' escapade still finished second in the box office behind 'Final Destination 3.' I think this film deserves recognition from critics as one of the most violent comedic blends of the summer. Plus, this film mixes with MovieGhoul to make Nazi Zombies. Good stuff, yes?

MovieGhoul has not seen this movie, but anyone who has can comment or post in the forums. Check out the trailer for 'Inglorious Basterds' above.

Bits O' Brains: How You Can MovieGhoul Too

Having trouble expressing how awesome a movie is? Flustered by how pointless the film you just finished watching was? Ready for me to stop asking you rhetorical questions?

MovieGhoul can be an outlet for not only my thoughts on film and moviemaking, but yours as well. And that's why you can join the zombie horde and shamble along to the forums with movie reviews and/or suggestions.

But enough about what zombies can do to help the movie-going community. Now let's talk about how you, yes---YOU, can tell if film flesh is fresh...or miserably and hopelessly rotten. Is the flick you saw today, yesterday, last week, or years ago (if you can remember) measurably good or bad? Here's how you can decide.

What did you take away from the movie altogether? Were you feeling dazed or mildly introspective after being blown away by the Joker's antics after seeing 'The Dark Knight'? Were you hopelessly tangled in a web of useless plot after sitting through the emotionally-discharged 'Spider-Man 3?' Measure the amount of care you had for the message from the film, or consider what the director was trying to accomplish by making the movie. Of course, after you spend some time not thinking about the film, and then it comes back to you...there may be a change in how you feel about what it was trying to say. Looking back is a huge factor in how you remember the motion picture and what you think about when you recall images and flashes from the acting and the plot. Consider this when you write a review, and look back at that moment when you left
the theater or got up from the couch to move on with your daily routine.

What was the acting like? One bad example would be Anakin Skywalker's miserably monotonous portrayal in 'Star Wars: Episode II' (I feel some nerd spittle coming on...). If it weren't for the torturous love sequences and droll moments of the two actors just looking at each other, that movie would have been some decent flesh; but for some reason, George Lucas found the need to exacerbate the viewer's suffering by leaving those sequences within the film and let them drag on with all intention to make one person suicidal in less than 130 minutes.
So yes, there is a bad example---and a good example? Well, pretty much all the actors in 'The Lord of the Rings' series. I mean, Peter Jackson only had to precariously snap his fingers and he would get buckets of tears from any of those professionals. Sam cried for Frodo, Bilbo cried because he was old, Aragorn cried because---he wanted to cry. I can only make a generalization as it has been...oh, say...six years since the last film released. But even I can recall that one fact. That's how pro that acting team was. And that's all you would have to remember.

Consider the story. Did it make sense? Or, more sensibly, did you grasp what was going on as events unfolded on-screen? Think about the tone of the movie. Was it like 'Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgendy'? In which case, the tone stayed the same throughout by keeping the laughs in step with the story. Or was it like 'Paul Blart', which was funny---but kept switching from a drama to a comedy inconsistently throughout different twelve minute periods (figuratively, of course). Write in your review about how the story evolved and the setting changed in comparison to some other element of the plot. Did you like the story's outcome and it's development? Remember, be sparing with your zombie-heads. Do with them what your grandma said not to do with your birthday profits. Don't spend them all in one place.

Hopefully this gave you enough juicy brains to write your own reviews or comments. Make that movie you just finished watching well worth your valuable time. Spread the word about fresh flesh, or otherwise, and make your undead groans heard.

Your brains are valuable to us.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Day of '9'

It's no coincidence that '9' releases on 9-9-09. In fact, I would not be surprised if this film was intended to be released for just the occasion. It looks like directors Timur Bekmambetov (say that five times fast) and Shane Acker have another 'Wanted' on their hands, except it's with puppets and a world of mechanical uglies instead of normal civilization...and it's produced by Tim Burton. Interesting take on the apocalypse, you three. Now let's see how it does in the box office.

Heh, sock puppets fighting scissor monsters. This movie was bound to release at some time or another...Watch the trailer for '9' above.

The MovieGhoul has not seen this film, but if you have, go ahead and leave reviews, comments, or zombie-head ratings.

Monday, September 7, 2009

MovieGhoul hits YouTube!

The trailer so nice I posted it twice...but now it's on YouTube! If you like the blog, send the video out to friends or contacts.

MovieGhoul gets a Trailer!

Check out the new awesome trailer for MovieGhoul! Special thanks to Kkcomics for editing and providing conceptual support.

MovieGhoul does not own any of the rights or trademarks to the movie clips mentioned or sound clips played. The song is Blue Wrath from the film 'Shaun of the Dead.' Dancing ghoul clips from Fallout 3.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

MovieGhoul Forums Are Up and Running!

Who is the most psychotic movie villain of all time? Which summer film do you think should get the most recognition? Whose performances do you feel the most intrigued by?

Express your opinions on film with the new MovieGhoul Blog forums. Any contributions, suggestions, or constructive criticisms would be much appreciated for the future of the site and my writing style. Input would simply be awesome.

A Ghoulish Look Back at 2009 Summer Blockbusters: 'Star Trek' and 'X-Men Origins'

'Star Trek' 1/2

I don't know if you have seen, but if you YouTube "Worst Fight Scene Ever," you'll probably encounter the cheesy scruffle between Captain James T. Kirk and some lizard monster (Tell me what its called, Trekkies). When you see this new film, it won't take you long to realize that Star Trek has come a long way. A looooooooong way. And really, that's what makes you appreciate J.J. Abram's film. Not only was it fun, action-packed, enthrallingly good and pulpy science-fiction, it also rejuvenated the spirit of a spanning, enduring cultural phenomenon. It was well-acted--Bana played an excellent pissed-off Romulan adversary--and the story actually made some amount of sense. It still had its cheesy moments, like that whole future Spock thing (don't worry...left it vague enough to not be a spoiler...he's even in the tv spots), but overall Star Trek left me wishing for more spacefaring adventure in another feature length episode. I'm sure they're working on it.

'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'-

>Snikt<. Ooo, shiny. Shiny indeed. At least, in terms of big-budget action sequences and overall loudness.

While it's certainly not as fun as last year's Marvel summer blockbuster Iron Man, Wolverine still qualifies as an entertaining action film. Origin mythos, in order to be fully true to such a classification, need more character development: something that gave way to action sequences and was somewhat lacking in this film when compared to other members of the genre, such as Batman Begins. They also tend to focus on one character...and, well...there were enough supporting roles to make several more such standalone origin films as this one.

That being said, Wolverine still had a viable plotline and while there certainly was not room for the necessary amount of character development, one could still feel for Logan's character as he struggled through the throes of his vengeful past. The film did its job of connecting things correctly to 2000's 'X-men' and its respectful sequels. Deadpool, according to some rumors, might be getting a spin-off film which I think is well-deserved as he was one of the more complex of the other supporting characters. Overall, Wolverine exposed the other side of Marvel Entertainment--in contrast to the good-natured, verbal spars of Tony Stark, Wolverine proved to be a darker, more dramatic thriller--perhaps a demonstration of the versatile nature within Marvel's universe.

Have you seen these movies? Give them a zombie-head rating in the comments below this post.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Deadly Nostalgia in 'Zodiac' (2007)

About as psychotic as 'Silence of the Lambs', but you get that sinking feeling and your stomach does somersaults when you fit yourself into Jake Gylenhaal's predicaments, especially during the gut-wrenching basement scene. That in itself is the most enticing aspect of 'Zodiac': that the story was just as real, just as psychotic when it happened---and the film captures that time period perfectly. David Fincher does a marvelous job of keeping the film both character-driven and wrought with breathtaking suspense throughout. If you have not yet viewed 'Zodiac', it would be time well spent, though it may be an extended period of time due to its length, to get down and find some way to sit through this masterpiece.


Have you seen this movie? Comment and give it a zombie-head rating.

Fond Memories from the Grave: A Look at My Review of Batman Begins (2005)

I was expecting something campy. To be honest, I was skeptical of another Batman film after the fatal flop that was 'Batman and Robin.' No, Christopher Nolan's enthralling vision of a poverty-stricken Gotham City combined the best elements of 1989's 'Batman' with the realism of a modern day metropolis, signifying the well-deserved reestablishment of a franchise that had apparently fallen off the wayside. 'Batman Begins' testifies to the foundations of humanity that lies within the basis of all comic book heroes, with focus on thematic elements of fear and mental uncertainty which instigated the emergence of Batman as a figment of Bruce Wayne. Batman Begins is arguably the most psychotic and moralistic addition to the filmography of the Caped Crusader.

'Batman Begins'-1/2

Have you seen this movie? Comment and give it a zombie-head rating.

A Ray of Light from 'Little Miss Sunshine'

'Little Miss Sunshine' succeeds where hundreds of other comedies and sap stories fall flat. This film tells the inspiring story of a thin ray of optimism in an ocean of dysfunctional disposition without the cliche of predictibility, and this is captured perfectly by the filmmakers, the script, and the performances of Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, and Greg Kinnear. 'Little Miss Sunshine' is an extended and soberly realistic take of something like 'The Simpsons': it is plot-driven, but also largely character-based. It's fun to note that the opening title stands out glaringly against Steve Carell's sunken complexion at the start of the film. This movie is ironic, satirical, and rife with lovable humor. Experience 'Little Miss Sunshine', if you have not already.

'Little Miss Sunshine'-1/2

Have you seen this movie? Comment and give it a zombie-head rating.