Tag Archives: matts rants

Mangle Awards Are Here!

Well, it’s Award Season – Golden Globes, Academy Awards, BAFTA, SAG Awards, the Razzies – you name it, people are giving out awards.  But we here at the Movie Mangle would like to do something less traditional.  Like many average Joe’s, I haven’t seen all (or most) of the nominated movies this year.  So while I will be losing the Academy Awards bingo, I want to bestow my OWN awards for the movies that impacted me last year (not the tooth that impacted me last year – that jerk gets NO award!).  Ladies and gents, I present to you… the Mangle Awards!

MANGLE AWARDS2

 

#1 WORST MOVIE WITH BEST POTENTIAL: “Escape From Tomorrow”

Mangle Award: Worst Best!

Mangle Award: Worst Best!

You’ve probably heard of this one – a filmmaker wrote a “script,” had his actors memorize and rehearse, then snuck his whole sound and film team in to shoot it all in Disney World.  Theoretically, this could be really cool.  (In fact, a short film titled “Missing In The Mansion” did the same thing and was very fun!)  But no.

It starts off fine, a story about a 40-something father of two who gets fired on the morning that he brings his family to Disneyland, then following his point of view as he does creepy things like stalking some underage French girls around the park.  The whole point of the movie is to subvert the idea of Disney perfection and showing the juxtaposition between the seeming innocence of Disney and the realities of how adults think and behave.

But then it goes off the rails.  The main character starts seeing trippy, LSD-like things happen around him and there’s some stupidity about a “cat flu” going around, so the movie becomes surreal, but then tries to hold on to some kind of reality and never achieves the kind of connection that even a David Lynch movie has.  A waste of time.

 

#2 BEST TRANSFORMERS MOVIE: “Pacific Rim”

Mangle Award: Best Transformers!

Mangle Award: Best Transformers!

If only Guillermo del Toro had been brought on for the first TRANSFORMERS movie, I might still be watching its‘ copious sequels.  But instead, we wait a decade or so to watch PACIFIC RIM – or, as I’m sure it was pitched – “Transformers meets Godzilla.”

I’ve heard a lot of people whine about how the effects were great but they were disappointed in the lack of characters and development.  I disagree.  In fact, I went in expecting ROCK ‘EM SOCK ‘EM MONSTERS AND ROBOTS and instead found some pretty solid emotional and character grounding….. plus some pretty spectacular rock ‘em sock ‘em monsters and robots!  PACIFIC RIM made a monster movie better than past GODZILLA’S and CLOVERFIELD and beat TRANSFORMERS in the giant robot department.  Personally, I can’t wait for the sequel.

 

#3 BEST DOCUMENTARY DIRECTED BY DAVE GROHL:  “Sound City”

Mangle Award: Best Daveumentary!

Mangle Award: Best Daveumentary!

I love music documentaries, especially when they involve “behind-the-scenes” of an album.  Of the handful of music docs I saw last year, my two faves were “A BAND CALLED DEATH” (You should definitely check that one out, btw) and “SOUND CITY.”  The latter is Nirvana and Foo Fighters member Dave Grohl’s directorial debut.

Sound City was a recording studio in the Valley that had incredible acoustics, an incomparable soundboard, and history of recording some of the biggest records and bands of the past few decades:  Nirvana, Fleetwood Mac, Nine Inch Nails, Rick Springfield, etc.  Alas, it went out of business.  But before it did, Dave Grohl bought the fabled soundboard, installed it in his own state-of-the-art home studio, and made this killer documentary.  And THEN, he invited some of the more prestigious people who ever recorded at Sound City and had them come record some tracks at his studio.

Seriously, this is worth watching for a thirty-second Paul McCartney moment alone.
**bonus awesome: Sound City is available right now on Amazon Instant Video, FREE to Prime members… just sayin***<Click here to watch Sound City for FREE on Amazon>

 

#4 BEST UNDER THE RADAR SURPRISE: “Trance”

Mangle Award: Best Rad Surprise!

Mangle Award: Best Rad Surprise!

I vaguely remember the previews for this one.  Vaguely.  But an acquaintance from work (at Stan’s Donuts N’ Firearms) had a digital copy that he was selling for the low low price of “stop blackmailing my wife” so I checked it out.  And it’s GREAT!

Danny Boyle directs this thriller about an art heist and the hypnotist (James McAvoy) hired to figure out what happened to it.  Smart, tight, and featuring an equally smart and tight (and naked!) Rosario Dawson, this is one of the handful of psychological thrillers that does a really good job of keeping the ending a surprise.  With great performances and a fun twisty story, I recommend TRANCE to everybody.  (I have a digital copy if you want to borrow it.  Plus some nice blackmail material if you wish to peruse.)

 

#5 BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT SINCE INDIANA JONES 4: “Man Of Steel”

Mangle Award: Biggest Disappointment!

Mangle Award: Biggest Disappointment!

This movie was so bad it made me angry.

It’s a lot of non-linear storytelling that doesn’t reveal anything so much as simply stop the narrative dead several times.  Characters make ridiculous decisions that as an audience member I cannot relate to (See: Clark’s father’s death), they have blase reactions to monumental happenings (see: Clark’s MOM’s reaction to aliens wrecking her home), and we’re supposed to simply understand who people are by them TELLING us their caricature type (see: Lois’s first scene) so that we don’t have to see people interact and learn about them.  Hence, we don’t care.  At all.

And good thing, too!  Because once we’re halfway through the movie, everything and everyone in Metropolis and Smallville is completely destroyed with no thought to life or property.  BUT Superman cares for us humans SO MUCH!!!  (When and where does he do this?  Oh, right: never.  He just says it  but then lets people die and destroys buildings thoughtlessly.)

This is where I point out that the only person who has ever made a good Superman movie was Richard Donner.  In the exact same scenario (Zod and alien supercohorts attack and destroy Metropolis), Superman reveals his WEAKNESS: caring so much for people’s lives that he spends most of his time PROTECTING them rather than FIGHTING the enemy.  (And yes, that was Richard Donner’s movie – I don’t care who’s name is on the credit card in Superman 2.)  We get to see Clark slowly grow up and deal with his problems and see his connection to his parents in realtime and feel for him in the first SUPERMAN movie.  Here, the same beats are played out, but even though the CGI is great and could pull us into more character development, it’s simply a sight gag in Hack Snyder’s hands.

Oh, and Superman needs to have a love affair with Lois.  Right.  So add that checkmark and make sure that they kiss at the end of the movie.  Why?  Because “Superman loves Lois Lane.”  Says so in the comics.  Check.  Got it.  Ignore the fact that they have, oh, ZERO chemistry or moments of intimacy in the movie.

MAN OF STEEL had some great design elements and could have been a really good ten minute film.

I wish it had been.

 

#6 BEST ANNIVERSARY RE-RELEASE: “The Wizard Of Oz in 3D IMAX”

Mangle Awards: Best Anniversary!

Mangle Awards: Best Anniversary!

  1. I used to watch “The Wizard of Oz” annually when it came on TV.  It was the first videotape I ever rented (shut up, I’m old).  It’s one of the best movies of all time.
  2. When I first moved to Hollywood, it was playing at the famed Mann Chinese Theater.  This was perfect.  My first cinmea experience in Los Angeles would be one of the most classic, magical movies of all time in one of the most magical, historic movie theaters.. ON HOLLYWOOD BLVD!
  3. So, when it left and I wound up seeing MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 there instead, it was a letdown.
  4. BUT!  When it was re-released in IMAX 3D for it’s 75th Anniversary, you can bet I didn’t miss it this time.

And it was fantastic.  I’m not a fan of 3D most of the time and I find it to be a money-grab more often than not, but the depth and clarity of the picture (you could see the SEAMS in the clothing and baldcaps!) for this was incredible.  And the movie itself?

Come on, I’m not even going to review it.  If you’re not a fan of The Wizard of Oz…. something’s wrong.

And there you have it!   Matt’s Mangle Awards for 2013.  Let me know if I missed any great or unique movies by commenting below and I’ll see you at the Oscar Bingo game!

-Matt

PS. As always, if you like what you see we really appreciate your positive reinforcement. Please share your thoughts and send to a friend.  Cheers!

Top 6 Halloween Movies of All Time ~Matt’s Rants

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYBODY!

In honor of the Fall (my favorite time of year), let’s look at my Top 6 Halloween Movies that can get you into the nostalgic Halloween spirit or simply scare the bejeezus out of you. If you like any of these movies, click on the image to watch it on Amazon streaming video – Trick or treat!

it's the great pumpkin, charlie brown

#1: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Yes, yes, fine, fine, it’s not really a “movie” and it’s certainly not terrifying, but THE GREAT PUMPKIN is not only an enduring classic with a story and characters that stand the test of time, but the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack conjures the feel of a chilly autumn afternoon jumping into a pile of raked leaves, going for a haunted hayride and drinking hot apple cider, and seeing your neighborhood transform into a spooky, jack o’lantern-lit netherworld. I got a rock.

Classic psychological thriller The Haunting

#2: The Haunting

I watched Robert Wise’s 1963 B&W classic THE HAUNTING when I was in high school and I didn’t sleep that night. As the years progressed, far more terrifying things have kept me awake at night (relationships, election results, money issues and someone playing Rebecca Black’s “Friday” over and over in my courtyard), but THE HAUNTING remains the finest ghost movie I have ever seen. A psychologist studies Hill House (a supposedly haunted, but definitely ill-fated house with a rich history of insanity, murder and death) by gathering a group of like-minded people who’ve had some previous experience with the supernatural and spending a few night there, taking notes and experimenting. The cinematography and art direction of Hill House alone are enough to induce nightmares, but the terrific cast and great script are what really make it work. No special effects or CGI here, THE HAUNTING is a masterful study in psychological fear, use of sound and cinematography, and is a Halloween night staple.

The scary never stops in The Eye

#3: The Eye

On the other end of the spectrum is THE EYE (the 2002 Pang Brothers original, not the Jessica Alba remake). While you’ll probably have to read the subtitles, THE EYE is one of the scarier movies you’ll see. A young blind woman has surgery to finally give her sight and the results are miraculous – not only can she see everything perfectly for the first time in her life, but she can also see ghosts. Lots of them. And they’re drawn to her. And it’s terrifying. THE EYE is deeply unsettling with fantastic effects used so subtly that the tension mounts and continues throughout the film and doesn’t stop….. well, until about a week later, if you’re anything like me.

Descend into horror in The Descent

#4: The Descent

What 2005’s THE DESCENT lacks in ghosts, it more than makes up for in claustrophobia. A group of female friends (some with some tragic shared history) go spelunking and find themselves trapped with…. something. The Us Against The Monsters aspect of THE DESCENT is fine and creates some great moments, but the secrets, lies and claustrophobic imminent danger of the main storyline are what truly makes it scary. I forced a friend of mine to watch this one and even though he watched it on his computer on a plane surrounded by people, he still doesn’t forgive me for putting him through it.

Haunted Hotel Room #1408

#5: 1408

Stephen King has had a lot of movies made of his books and about half of them are good. On the one hand you have THE SHINING, CARRIE, and SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION…. but on the other you have SLEEPWALKERS, SILVER BULLET, and MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE. But one of the more recent entries, 1408, is one of my favorites. I love haunted house movies, but a haunted HOTEL ROOM? That’s new. And scary. The great thing about the hauntings in 1408 is it’s less about the history of the place and the ghosts and more about the psychological aspects of staying in the room. Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel in New York City has had many many murders and suicides. In fact, no one has lasted longer than an hour without checking out of the hotel, going insane, or killing themselves. But when Mike Enslin (a ghost hunter who
has come to not believe in anything, much less ghosts) checks in to review it for his new book, it’s not the creepy unknown that’s scary – it’s his own horrifying past and fears. Loaded with CGI but used to terrifying effect, 1408 is one of the best SK adaptations out there and is super-fun Halloween viewing.

Halloween comes alive in Trick R'Treat

Halloween comes alive in Trick R’Treat

#6: Trick R’Treat

And finally, TRICK R’ TREAT. I was considering HALLOWEEN or WAIT UNTIL DARK or the ORPHANAGE, but while those are great horror films, TRICK R’ TREAT is one of those halloween movies that really captures the spirit of Halloween. A collection of short stories all tied together on the same Halloween night, TRICK R’ TREAT tells the stories of a high school principal (Dylan Baker) who may be a serial killer, a hot co-ed (Anna Paquin) dressed as Red Riding Hood out with her friends who vow to find her someone to take her virginity, a prank goes horribly wrong, and a former bus driver (Brian Cox) is visited by a very special trick or treater. Not a truly scary horror film, this movie does an amazing job of capturing the mood of Halloween – in the same way that THE GREAT PUMPKIN makes me nostalgic for the wind rustling though the dead leaves as dusk falls, so TRICK R’ TREAT brings a more mature and more threatening mood to the night.

So pour some apple cider, break open the candy corn, snuggle up in a warm blanket and enjoy some great creepy movies this Halloween! But be sure to leave a bucket of candy on your front porch! You wouldn’t want the trick or treaters to miss out… and make you pay for it later that night…

What do you think, did I leave out any of your favorite Halloween movies?

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Epic stories should NEVER rise from the dead ~Matt’s Rants

matt's rants epic stories

Sequels to epic stories? Yes please don’t!

An article recently found its way onto the internet’s official gossip-and-misinformation site Facebook.  It claimed that JK Rowling had officially announced that she was going to write an eighth volume in the epic Harry Potter series.  People went crazy, naturally, and there was all kinds of speculation and fan fainting, I’m sure.  Nobody checked to see that the date of the original article was April 1, 2013 – and I’m not sure that Snopes is the right place to debunk that kind of misinformation.  I imagine that after finding out that there will be, in fact, NO more Harry Potter books ever, legions of momentarily excited fans went into a deep depression without realizing that the promise of never writing about that character again is the greatest gift JK Rowling could ever give the world.

There are a number of tales universal in their popularity and reach that can be called “classic” or “timeless,” the more modern of which include the STAR WARS saga, the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, and the Harry Potter stories.  Not only do these epic stories deal with characters and places that are not “modern,” and are therefore timeless, but they are well-told tales that employ the monomyth – also known as the Hero’s Journey – to great effect. Each features an untested hero who must move out of his comfort zone into a new “world,” stock characters who fulfill the roles of guide, sidekick, shapeshifter, love interest, guardians, and of course, the Shadow or main opponent.  Each of these beloved stories has a definitive beginning, middle and end.  Some go longer than the three-act structure to achieve this, but all have satisfying conclusions.

monomyth

The Hero’s Journey by ~Dunlavey: http://dunlavey.deviantart.com

This satisfying conclusion is where things begin to get problematic.  Popularity is profit and many people make and made lots of money on quality storytelling with satisfying conclusions.  But businesses are not content with the amount of money they make from a project until they have found every possible way to squeeze it to death.  This is not a creative decision, it is a financial one.  Epic stories such as The Dark Tower, Game of Thrones (if that blasted George RR Martin will ever give his hungering fans another book), and Star Wars are seen by these businesses as little more than cash cows, and it’s when these guys get their hands on our precious tales that the march toward death for creativity begins its steady drumbeat.

The Harry Potter story (SPOILERS approaching, kids) ends perfectly: the seven-volume-long story of a boy whose life-long destiny and battle with the single greatest force of evil ever to exist (for Voldemort was essentially the sometimes-physical embodiment of pure evil) concludes with a well-thought-out and deserved finale based on character and well-paced plot.  Our hero, after years of fighting, has vanquished the greatest enemy in the world.  In a coda, we see that he has grown up to have children and that he is now living a normal life.  He has fulfilled his destiny.  End of story.

harry potter

It’s perfect.  And so obviously, people want more.  Because perfection isn’t enough.  You want to experience that perfection again and again in exactly the same way.  In a perfect world, we could erase the memory of reading or watching these stories so that we could go through that experience of discovery and excitement again.  What is NOT possible is to continue a story that has ended.

Now, of course, it IS possible.  Anything is possible.  But it’s a mistake.  It’s the storytelling equivalent of drinking just enough alcohol to feel fantastic and then doing one more shot of vodka – it doesn’t increase your pleasure, it starts to make things much worse.  Once Cinderella has married the Prince, we’re done.  The sequel is exactly five words: She lived happily ever after.  Because there is no more story.  Can you invent something?  Sure.  But it’s not going to work.  It’s going to be something else.  And there is a difference between a cinematic sequel and the kind of story continuation I’m talking about: without sequels, there would be no STAR WARS, LOTR or Harry Potter.  The sequels were necessary to complete the epic stories.  But you know when the story is done.  You can feel it.  When Luke Skywalker has made amends with his father and saved his soul, the story is done.  When The One Ring has been destroyed, the story is done – it is so thoroughly done, in fact, that the hero of the story decides to die since he knows that the purpose of his life has been achieved and there is nothing left.

This isn’t real life, kids.  It’s story.  And the best stories have a concrete and satisfying and very FINAL finale.

johnny depp

There is the argument that people love the “world” and just want to hear more stories that take place in it.  Well, okay, I can buy that.  I am of the opinion that what makes a story is actually the characters and their choices – put the exact story and characters of STAR WARS in the Old West and change the requisite words and it’s still just as quality a story.  I respect the desire to want to experience more of a certain world…. however it is rare that a world is created on it’s own.  The world itself is not interesting if uninteresting characters do nothing inside of it.  A story about Luke Skywalker having a drink alone in Mos Eisley then taking a nap is just boring as one about me doing the same thing in Los Angeles.  And it’s certainly possible to create new interesting characters who live in the same universe as your original hero, but it’s rare that you would achieve the same affection for that character.

So what would the next Harry Potter book be about?  It couldn’t be about the day to day work that he does as a magical police officer taking care of evil talismans or enchanted people – the guy has exorcised the greatest evil in the world… where’s the suspense and mystery now?  To be anything close to as satisfying as the original series, it would have to involve Harry (and not his kids, because those are new characters we don’t yet care about) being somehow drawn into another life-or-death-the-world-hangs-in-the-balance scenario.  And doing that does two things: it negates or cheapens the original story while simultaneously pandering to its audience by saying, “oh, no, we were kidding about that last thing being the most worst thing in the world – this NEW thing we’re telling you about is REALLY the even BIGGER obstacle and the stakes have never been higher!”

too many sequels

Bologna.

You had my attention and my devoted belief in your world and its rules for as long as it took to effectively end your story.  To now go back and change those rules so that you can sell me more products makes me feel like I’m getting used and it makes me feel disrespected.  It’s one of the (many, many) reasons that the STAR WARS prequels are abominations and that no matter how good or bad the Disney sequels are, they will never have any affiliation to the epic stories of original trilogy for me…. the story I loved began, it told an amazing tale, and it ended.  Everything else is non-canonical fan fiction, I don’t care how “official” it is.

We all want to re-experience our favorite things for the first time.  Or we want to see or hear or read a story about our favorite character in their world doing something new that mirrors the thing that they did before.  But you can feel when something has ended.  You instinctively know when a story has come to a close.  And when you decide, whether it be for profit or nostalgia or for whatever reason, to push the story past its logical boundaries, unstable and often negative results occur.  I cite INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL and all of the STAR WARS prequels as examples.  Those stories were over.  Indiana Jones LITERALLY rode off into the sunset.  It was perfect.  But then he came back.  And it was nothing that we had said we wanted.

You have to admit, the king of epic stories is sometimes an epic disappointment

You have to admit, the king of epic stories is sometimes an epic disappointment

Did you know there’s a novel called AS TIME GOES BY which is a sequel to CASABLANCA?  Who exactly wants a sequel to CASABLANCA?  Who wants a sequel to THE WIZARD OF OZ?  Nobody.  What we WANT is to experience CASABLANCA and THE WIZARD OF OZ for the first time and a sequel is the closest we can get.

Okay, I will step back for a moment and say that if the STAR WARS prequels had actually been fantastic, I probably would not be writing this.  If KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL had been half as good as I’d hoped, I probably would not be writing this.  And I’m sure there are aberrant examples people can cite to contradict everything I’ve said, but they would be rare.  Also note that I am talking about a certain type of story – a larger-than-life hero’s journey in a heightened world with clearly drawn character types.  (I also just realized that Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy fits perfectly as another example).

emma watson

Emma Watson – a grand example of why ending the Harry Potter series was a good thing

Look at the fundamental things you love about these kinds of epic stories and look for other stories of that type to fuel the desire to revisit them.  RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is my favorite movie of all time, but the true continuation of that story and genre wasn’t KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, it was THE RUNDOWN.

Fans of the Harry Potter series may have been devastated to find that the possibility of another book was a hoax, but there is hope: there WILL be another story that will give you the characters, world and excitement that you experienced through those seven novels.  I know it for certain.  It won’t be a story about a boy wizard in a magic world, but it will be a story that affects you in a similar way – a spiritual sequel, if you will.  After all, the story of Harry Potter, the special boy who must defeat the darkest evil in the world and save all of wizardkind is the spiritual sequel to a story about another special boy who defeated the darkest evil in the world and saved an entire galaxy far, far away.

-Matt