Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Horns: The Movie Review

12 Oct

I don’t know how many people have heard of the movie Horns. I personally haven’t seen any trailers or advertising for it and only knew of it thanks to a random mention of it online. Even then, the only things revealed about the movie were that it starred Daniel Radcliffe and that he has horns. I didn’t even know when the movie came out so it wasn’t on my radar. Until yesterday when an opportunity to see Horns came my way and I thought “What the Hell?”. It was definitely an advantage not knowing anything about the movie. So in order to try and preserve the unexpected surprises in Horns I’ll avoid major spoilers.

Obviously we all watched the star of Horns, Daniel Radcliffe grow up playing Harry Potter. I’m not a fan of the money printing establishment collectively known as Harry Potter. I’ll spare that ranting diatribe for another time, suffice it to say that whole franchise can go stuff their wand up their chamber of secrets. The reason I don’t like Harry Potter has nothing to do with the casting of the movies, indeed the performances were the main reason I paid to see all eight movies in theaters. But it seems clear to me that Radcliffe is doing whatever he can to distance himself from Harry Potter (who can blame him?). He stripped down in the play Equus, and got all Victorian-gothic for The Woman in Black, which is worth watching. He’s also done a guest spot on The Simpsons. I realize that a man in his 30’s who knows this much about Radcliffe’s career may arouse some suspicions. Let me just say that I watched all this stuff, for science.

Anyway it’s refreshing to see Daniel in a different type of role. In Horns he’s all grown up, playing a character called “Ig” who curses, smokes cigarettes, swills liquor, has a one night stand, and desecrates a religious statue, and that’s just in the first 20 minutes. I’m so used to seeing Daniel play Mr. Perfect, I really enjoyed seeing him play someone who’s flawed, confused, and tormented. It must be said however that there are a few instances where he struggles with the American accent and sounds robotic. Other than that it is a great performance. The rest of the cast isn’t as recognizable which is a good thing since you see everybody as the character they’re playing, not as some famous person. There’s two cameos that are exempt; one is David Morse, you won’t recognize the name but you will recognize the face. He’s that man that’s been in a ton of movies and hasn’t aged in like 25 years, how’s he do that? The second is Heather Graham she has some crazy and cliché dialog but she delivers it with such enthusiasm its hilarious.

Horns

 

In fact it’s surprising how funny Horns is, it isn’t strictly a comedy but there are a lot of black comedy moments in it. Clearly a movie called “Horns” is going to have references to religion and particularly Hell, but this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and get all artsy fartsy with subtlety. The devilish images are up front and so obvious as to be funny. Some of the humor comes from just seeing how casually people react to Danielle / “Ig” having devil horns. There’s also a reverse catholic confession thing going on, where people unknowingly tell Daniel their inner secrets whether he wants to hear them or not. The main story of Horns is an interesting spin on a familiar trope and has a crime-drama / mystery-thriller format. So if you don’t have a dark since of humor like me there’s still a lot going on if you don’t get the jokes.

Now it’s time to do what the internet is great at, nit-picking imperfections. Some of the writing almost does what it tries to do. For example a woman talks about sleeping with her golf instructor and calls her lover’s black cock “my 5-iron”. That joke works much better with “9-iron”. This is a small example, but bigger pieces of the movie come so close to hitting their mark and miss at the last moment, it’s hard to describe without spoiling it. The movie uses too many songs that were made iconic by other movies. The moment is lost as the background music starts and you instantly are thinking about Fight Club or Austin Powers or whatever. Maybe I’m getting too old, or have seen too many movies, probably both. But Horns should play more obscure songs the audience hasn’t heard in a popular movie before. I also saw one of the final plot twists about an hour before the movie revealed it. Lastly I hate it when movies use narration to tell the audience what is clearly visible on the screen. Don’t tell me what I’m seeing or what I just saw. Narrators should stop being Captain Obvious and tell the audience what they can’t figure out for themselves.

In conclusion, for me Horns was an unexpected surprise. It was wonderfully twisted and original and the type of movie best enjoyed around this time of the year. I hope Daniel Radcliffe continues to do projects like this. This movie isn’t meant to be taken too seriously so don’t over think it and try to avoid learning too much about it. I hope reading this review doesn’t negate that last suggestion. I tried to only divulge little things.

P.S. Many times I was tempted to write wickedly awful puns in this post; The (blank) was sinful, So and so was devilish, It was a hell of a good movie. But I stopped at two, because it was too easy, and besides lazier people than I need those types of remarks for their tweets and rotten tomato comments.

 

Carl Wells

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Optimistic Autumn Movie Predictions

25 Aug

A very brief list of Fantasy and Sci-fi movies that won’t totally suck this fall.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – When Peter Jackson portrays Middle-earth he is basking in his element and in my stupid opinion he has done no wrong in that realm. Despite the flaws in all these films they’re all better than the books. There isn’t a lot of material in Middle Earth left to film; Lord of the Rings is done, The Hobbit is just one book geared more toward children, and The Silmarillion will be forever utterly unfilmable. So The Desolation of Smaug is the second to last movie that will ever be set in PJ’s Middle-earth, so enjoy it while you can. Things to look forward to include more giant spiders, giant wolves, shockingly beautiful New Zealand landscapes, and of course the dragon (finally). So far the best looking dragon I’ve ever seen was in the last Harry Potter movie but I’m sure Smaug will put it to shame, plus he’ll speak, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. I really hate that actor, he is just terrible, at least his character dies (and by proxy him) in this movie, I like that. Things not to look forward to, this movie will probably suffer the most from inserted material just to fill time. Also we’ve probably seen the last of Gollum unless they force that character in somehow. I plan on being there for the whole high frame rate, 3D, saturated experience.

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Been looking forward to this but am preparing for disappointment. This was actually my favorite book in the series, where basically this year’s Hunger Games has an all star reunion cast. My criticisms with the first movie were that the characters outside Katniss’s immediate circle were hokey, flat, and underdeveloped, except Donald Sutherland who’s always awesome. The movie’s pacing seemed very rushed even though it was 142 minutes long. By trying to get so much of the book in they didn’t give each moment enough time for it to do its job. Finally, more Woody Harrelson, always more Woody Harrelson especially when he’s playing a drunken has-been. I’m afraid that changing directors for the sequel under a tight deadline will only make these problems worse. My hope is that they actually leave more of the book out like shitty animal mutations in order to give what’s left time to build meaning. Include more drunken Haymitch. Please get the fire as fashion to not look like something Elton John would wear. There will be a lot of dumb crap, that comes with any Y.A. science fiction. Just be happy it isn’t another soul numbing Twilight.

Ender’s Game – I already like that this movie is not a sequel and doesn’t feel like it has to be in 3D. That tells me that they’re confident in their visual effects and story that they don’t need gimmicky 3D. But judging from the trailers they’ve already changed one huge point in the book. Not giving anything away, in the book the story is told from a child’s point of view. The adults in charge put children into a situation they are unaware of and the kids only discover the consequences of their actions when it is far too late to change. The reader discovers the cold truth of what’s happened when the child does. I think the movie is taking this moment away. In the trailer adults are discussing “Should we tell him the truth.” If the movie spills the beans to the audience before the kids suspect anything it’s lost the element of surprise. On the other hand it is possible to build suspense that way. Alfred Hitchcock said that if a hidden bomb just explodes in a room of people you get the shock value but it’s a fleeting moment. To build suspense you show the audience the bomb will go off in 5 minutes. That way everything those characters say and do in 5 minutes has an increased importance that builds suspense and holds it. I hope Ender’s Game uses that strategy.

Gravity – I know hardly anything about this movie and am already sure it will be awesome. The trailer I saw a while ago in theaters was like Apollo 13 x WTF! George Clooney has played an astronaut before so he’ll feel right at home. Before I go any further I have to express my feelings on Sandra Bullock. Remember that movie she did (purposely not looking up the title) where she had to marry Ryan Reynolds or she’d be deported? I feel like we should kind of do that to her in real life. Let’s just as a society make Sandra Bullock gently go away. But I am willing to put that aside if Sandra isn’t a romantic interest. Because Gravity looks chilling, lonely, and visually larger-than-life. Best of all it might be the most realistic portrayal of space travel in the last 10 to 15 years. Notice how as the shuttle is obliterated you hear only radio transmissions? That’s what I’m talking about, any other movie would have “Crorsh” sounds. A Sci-fi movie that mainly uses accurate science is damn impossible to find in the 21st century so Gravity can shut up and take my money.

Well that’s some of what I look forward to in theaters this fall. There will be a poorly written companion to this of what to avoid this fall coming soon.

Carl Wells

The New Gods

2 Apr

During some of my eternal putzing around on the internet and the youchube, I began putting a few pieces of an idea together. It’s an all-encompassing idea that establishes the foundation of zeitgeist of a new era, that or just a really good topic for drunken evenings at the bar. Here is the premise: Let’s say that entrainment and/or pop culture has been the comparable to religion, or at the least a way to learn how to live a moral and hip life, for the current and past few generations. So, going forward for the next two-thousand years or so, who will be the gods of this new religion? And instead of breaking it down in to a simple Judeo-Christian trinity plus the devil way, let’s kick it Hellenistic style and bust out some pop culture equivalents to Greek gods. The arbitrary set of rules state that each possible god has to perfectly embody a trait of the current zeitgeist and be universally recognized. So, as much as I’d like to put Bukowski down as a Dionysus-esque type of god, there is no way that my parents’ neighbor or eighth grade geography teacher would know who he was, so that’s a no go. Other than that the rules are pretty loosey-goosey, fictional character, twitter handle or iconic pair of kicks anything is game.

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Aphrodite: Kim Kardashian

I may have already lost you, but here’s the rational why KimmyK should be the goddess of love, sex and beauty:  It’s pretty well established that she has nothing going for her other than her beauty and her booty, and while she isn’t the first person to be famous for being famous, or becoming famous because of an heir and a sextape, she’s done it the best. Turning an hourglass figure and dark eyes into a string of hulking athletes, fame and fortune for her whole family and a special place in every male’s, adolescent or otherwise, fantasies. All while staying out of prison. The only trouble she’s really drummed up is over her sham marriage, which is exactly the kind of thing you’d want a modern goddess of love, sex and beauty to be a part of. With her marriage to Kris Humphries she re-defined marriage as nothing more than a currency for fame, something to be exploited for personal gain, and simultaneously squashed virtually every claim that marriage is a sacred institution. That is the work of pop god if I’ve ever seen it. All of that, plus think of the tragic ending to this story when she’s hospitalized for nearly working out to death trying to regain her pre-pregnancy body.

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Ares: Dick Cheney

Let me explain why this isn’t as obvious as it may first appear. Yes, Dick Cheney was a horrible war criminal, and yes, Ares is the god of war, but that’s not why this association works. I would suggest in my novice, unclassically-trained, rudimentary understanding of Greek culture that war held a very similar place in the hearts of Athenians, as capitalism holds for present day pop culture enthusiasts. Where as we know it’s important, we have a rudimentary knowledge of how it works and it’s very easy to blame a whole lot of things we don’t understand on it and have a fair chance of placing the blame in the right vicinity. So, that being said, while it is convenient that Cheney is a warmonger, I’m putting him here for his brilliant execution of turning the humble position of Haliburton CEO to the vice president of the USA, and the president of handing out defense contracts to former employers. That is a move that would bring a tear of joy to Ayn Rand’s super-human eye. Let’s face it, when corporations are buying positions a elevated as the VEEP the whole political system has become nothing more than another American pastime to allow people root for their favorite team.

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Dionysus: Harry Potter

As I’ve stated before, I haven’t read nor will ever read a syllable of a Harry Potter book, but the amount content and the massive cult following it has already evokes a religious-like devotion. But, the reason Harry Potter gets put on the list is because of the explanation I get about why the books are so popular; “It makes you feel like a kid again. All the magic and wizards, it’s so much fun.” The residual effects of a generation of latchkey kids are at the heart of the popularity of Harry Potter. That longing for a perpetual childhood and life free of responsibilities fits nicely with the Dionysian ecstasy of wine. There are college students that do more than just break a sweat while pretending to play Quidditch with brooms between their legs. They play a fictional game on college clubs while their parents pay for them to learn adult independence. The line between irony and earnestness has vanished under the pursuit of the Golden Snitch. So, get drunk on whatever fictional booze appears in these children books, change your name to Hagrid or Hermione and get Harry Potter face tattoos cause childhood is never ending.

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Hades: Bill O’Reilly

So for this one I am going to go slightly Judeo-Christian angle. If entertainment has become the new religion, then the most blasphemous form of entertainment has to be the O’Reilly Factor. My stomach just turns thinking about someone asking me, “Oh did you see that segment on the O’Reilly Factor. . .” in reference to anything, I can’t imagine the shock I’d go into if I found out someone relied on that show for their pop culture news. Bill O’Reilly gets the same reaction out of people that devil-worship did in the eighties. If I was a teenager forming a hardcore death metal band, I wouldn’t call myself a devil worshiper, I’d just get a membership to The O’Reilly Factor fan club. And while nobody wants anything to do with Hades’ domain, there are still plenty of people in the underworld, just like the millions of people enabling O’Reilly to bully his way to 1% status. In fact, any Fox News programing and the culture section of People Magazine have to be the ouija board and Satanic bible to the culture makers at Pitchfork and The AV Club. Don’t be surprised when offensive music really becomes offensive again by simply idolizing the seediest aspects of the conservative middle-America.

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Hera: Jennifer Aniston

Here she is; Jennifer Aniston: the woman that really got into the wrong business. Poor, sweet Jennifer would have been an amazing mom. All of her son’s friends would have a crush on her, and all of her daughter’s friends would want her glamorous life, married to an executive or a partner at a law firm. Or at least I’d like to think that since she’s awful at being a movie star. At this point, the only reason she’s still in movies is so the tabloids have an excuse to talk about her. Nobody cares about a Jennifer Aniston movie, but everyone cares about Jen’s personal life. That is the kind of charisma that makes bake sales profitable, the kind that drives next door neighbors to go to the gym to keep spouses interested, that fuels accessions up the corporate ladder. The kind of charisma that makes little girls feel alright when they realize that they’ll never be Audrey Hepburn, but instead she’s a lonely tabloid star that everyone feels bad for. All that heaped on top of the box office success of Mr. & Mrs. Smith makes her the tragic choice for the goddess of marriage, women and child birth.

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Hermes: Internet

According to LexisNexis, Hermes was the messenger of the gods, god of commerce, thieves, travelers, sports, athletes, border crossings and was guide to the Underworld. So, basically everything the internet is used for. Twitter was the Martin Luther and 95 Theses equivalent of gaining access to celebrities, or the priests and priestesses of pop culture as religion. Now fans could have direct access to their idols’ lives. The internet opened up insane amounts of devotion that isn’t just reserved for tweens. The level of pop culture following, consumption, commentary and regurgitation online is insane. There is more written about an episode of Girls or The Walking Dead each week than is was ever written about the death of Alexander the Great, which is both amazing and depressing at the same time. Amazing since this is most certainly the most documented era ever. Depressing because even consuming at a below average rate means that there is so little time to spend in personal creative endeavors, meaning there will be a disconnect between the experiences of people creating the content and the people consuming the content. So, it’s also fitting that Hermes was the guide leading lost souls to the Underworld.

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Poseiden: Steve Jobs

If Steve Jobs isn’t already on the path to being elevated to a deity, then the PR firm he’s got working for his estate is failing at their job. So, it’s an easy call to put him on this list somewhere, but he is one of the main reasons why pop culture and entertainment have taken such religious-esque space in today’s world. His impact on present day pop culture is the size of an ocean surrounding a peninsula. With his Think Different campaign he appealed to the artistic part of everyone’s soul and told the world that all you really need to be an artist is a MacBook or an iPod. This opened the flood gates on amateur produced content. Some of the content, in conjunction with the internet, turned out pretty good, thus prompting more people to buy iPhones and iPads under the guise of giving themselves the power to make the next Avatar, or write the next Hunger Games or produce the next Postal Service album. Rightly so or not, Apple products have built an empire appealing to the creative side everyone thinks they have, the same aspect of our humanity that allows people bow down at the alter of pop culture. Everyone became a more committed member of the church of pop culture thanks to Steve Jobs.

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Zeus: Kanye West

When news broke that the new Kanye West album was going to be titled “I am a God” I mis-read the tweet I and thought it said “I am God” which was shocking, but much more fitting for Yeezy. That is a title for the follow-up to a perfect ten album. Kanye makes amazing content and he’s self absorbed in his own greatness. Sure, he’s a douche bag that makes horrible choices while in the public eye, but that is only a byproduct of what truly makes him best embodiment of the pop culture as religion idea. Here is a guy that has no shame jamming out to his own album, which means that not only does he think that his music is the best things he’s made, he literally thinks that it’s the best thing ever made, and he has the creative chops to back it up. This is the kind of pop culture deity that embodies all of the self-absorption that everyone wants, but in the name of humility holds back. We all, simply because it’s all we’ve ever experienced, feel that we are the center of the universe, but we also know it isn’t true. This is the dichotomy that makes society hum along, and Kanye doesn’t live or create music under the same pretense. He steps outside others peoples tastes and makes things that will appeal to him, which brings a freshness and enthusiasm and passion to all of his work. He doesn’t let his rise up the social ladder degrade the quality. He can rap more about cars and high fashion because the content is just the medium for the universal aspects of his art.  Turns out his album isn’t called “I am God” or “I am a God,” but that’s ok because he already lives and creates like he is, and that is why he should be the head of all of the pop culture gods..

IT IS NEVER JUST LIKE THE BOOK, GET OVER IT!

6 Mar
We’ve all heard it, we’ve all said it, “The book was better.” I used to think this was a valid movie criticism, and just accepted that since I had never read the book, that person was better and smarter than me. Now, I have heard it so many times it sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher speaking “I didn’t like it. The book wonk wahwan wahwan wonk wahwan.” An early recognition in the fallacy of criticizing a movie based on its differentiations from the book occurred after seeing the first Harry Potter movie. The instant the credits rolled the person I saw it with said “The book was much more detailed.”
It was a three-hour kids movie! How much more God Damn detail do you want!?
The problem has gotten worse, since Hollywood has run so low on ideas they’ll make any crappy comic book into a crappy comic book movie. Now people who liked the comic say the movie sucked because it didn’t follow the comic. Television shows are now stemming from comic books and novels so people can play source material vs. television too. (Going off on a tangent, coining the term Graphic Novel to try to make comics seem like acceptable literature for an adult to read isn’t fooling me. You can’t call something a novel if it has a ratio of one drawing for every four words. It is a COMIC book, it differs from a REAL book in that I might respect someone for reading a real book.)
comic book
NERD ALERT: I love Lord of the Rings! After seeing the The Fellowship of the Ring, I was hooked and needed to know the ending. I had an epiphany… I can read the books!  I got The Hobbit and LOTR on paperback and for the first time read a book before seeing the movie. There were parts that I loved and parts that were, eh, alright. When the other sequels came out I didn’t miss any of the stuff that was cut or changed from the text. To this day I consider LOTR the best movie trilogy ever. Most people who read the books don’t criticize the film versions based solely on their differences from the text. Which is not what to expect from the cult like obsession Tolkien fans are known for. This makes LOTR an anomaly and a testimony to how great the films are .
With Game of Thrones starting again at the end of the month I’m already hearing the complaints. The best example being that a friend of mine watched the show when it started and convinced me and a few others to check it out. We all were on the King’s Road band wagon pretty quick, so naturally, we read all the books too. Then season two varied even more from the books than season one. By the third episode my friend was so upset with the changes he stopped watching the show altogether. I find it funny, because of the show he read the books and because of the books now he’s missing some good tv. Spoiler Alert: season three is going to be different too, get over it.
Brace
A few years ago I decided to start reading a lot more. One of the reasons is I wanted to understand why people always cited the differences in the book as their only reason to not like a movie. I’ve come to believe it is because of 2 major factors; First it is easier and more fun to knock something down than to build it up. And if I’ve read the book and you haven’t, I know more and can form a better argument as to why it sucked than you can as to why it was good. Second is that most people don’t recognize how very different the printed medium is from a screen medium. They utilize completely different standards to tell a good story. I’m not going into how, just trust me, print and screen are so different that you can’t expect a movie to be successful based on the storytelling abilities of a book. It would be like expecting someone who’d baked the best made-from-scratch bread ever also being able to use the same grains and yeast to brew a great beer.
Judge tv shows and movies as compared against other tv and movies. Because if you want to see the story with all the details told in the exact same way and nothing cut out, stay home and reread the book.