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“A Few Christmas Favorites”

Christmas is my second favorite holiday only behind Halloween and certain things get me in the mood for the holiday more than others. These range from various television shows and films. This is a countdown of my ten favorite Christmas shows and movies. Enjoy.

1. A Christmas Story: It’s probably extremely cliche to say that A Christmas story is my favorite thing involving the holiday. For me it just perfectly captures the spirit of Christmas and what it’s like to be a kid in that time of year.

2. The Office Christmas Episodes: Being a superfan of the show probably has a lot to do with my love for these episodes. My favorite of all the episodes is probably A Benihana Christmas or Christmas Party. I have always adored the characters on this show and the writers always seem to knock it out of the park in these episodes. My favorite moment form these episodes is probably the Jim and Pam gift exchange in Christmas Party.

3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: I’ve been watching this since birth probably. My family makes it a standard every year. We watch it in early December and on Christmas day and it always brings a smile to my face. It’s the funniest of all the Christmas films on this list.

4. Nightmare Before Christmas:This is undoubtedly my favorite childhood film. I’ve watched it countless times and it’s perfect. Jack Skellington is my hero.

5. It’s a Wonderful Life: Another standard answer. I only watched this for the first time in my life last year and fell in love with it. Frank Capra was really good at creating sentimentality in his films and this is maybe the best example.

6. The Simpsons Christmas Episodes: Another series that I just enjoy tremendously. I make it a goal every year to watch these episodes on the first night it snows. I’ve done this since I was ten and I don’t plan on changing that any time soon.

7. Black Christmas: The morbid horror fan in me loves this Christmas movie. Horror and Christmas have been tapped into recently with poor results, but this 1970’s classic directed by Bob Clark the same director who made A Christmas Story is wonderful. Arguably one of the first slasher films and one of the finest pieces of genre cinema I’ve ever encountered.

8. Die Hard: Another unconventional pick for a favorite Christmas film but it gets me in the mood. What is more Christmas like than Bruce Willis killing terrorists? The answer is nothing.

9. Stop Motion Classics: These include Rudolph and Santa Claus. I try to watch them every year when they air on CBS and ABC Family. They embody the Christmas spirit perfectly.

10. Community Christmas Specials: A Relatively new show but I love their takes on Christmas. Last night’s ode to stop motion was a stroke of genius and I loved every second of it. The first episode about Christmas in Season One is also spectacular and was the episode that got me interested in the show in the first place.

Early Merry Christmas to all of you!!!!!

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“Update”

New Posts coming soon. 🙂

United 93

 

United 93: Recommended by Jeevo
Directed by: Paul Greengrass

On September 11, 2001, I was nine years old and sitting in a fourth grade English class. The class went on like normal until I heard our Principal announced over the intercom to not turn on the televisions. I suppose this was to not frighten or disturb us. I knew something wasn’t right though because students were being checked out of school left and right, including myself. It wasn’t too much longer until I learned that the World Trade Center had been attacked. The day is one of the more memorable days of my life and I’ll never forget every moment of that day. It’s kind of a surreal experience to go back and watch something about September 11, because it still seems very surreal to me that something like that happened in my lifetime. It’s a painful memory and one that I don’t think about too often. United 93 brought that day back to life for me and it was a very difficult experience.

I’ve watched a lot of hard to sit through films in my lifetime, but United 93 is probably the hardest time I’ve had watching anything in my life. Paul Greengrass did a remarkable job at showing us a tale of both horror and heroism. What is truly frightening about United 93 is that it’s true. Everything here happened and Greengrass shot it with a level of maturity and respect that makes the viewer both think about that situation and remember that day. I cried multiple times in this film. It’s very rare for me to do that. I could probably count on one hand the times that has happened to me during a film, but United 93 hits like nothing else in cinema.

I think that this is an extremely important film. Whatever your beliefs are about the events that transpired after 9/11 this is something that everyone should see. It’s very difficult to put into words how powerful United 93 is. It has a documentary type feel to it, and will affect anyone who watches. The way Greengrass handles the situation is very good. To make a film about this subject had to have been a daunting task to relive that every day in the making of this picture and I commend Greengrass and his crew for making this picture. It’s a time capsule film for a day in history that no one will ever forget.

As both an American viewer and a lover of films I found this rough to watch. It’s not something I’ll ever revisit, even though it’s a remarkable film. I just don’t want to live in that moment ever again in my lifetime. It’s something that I think people need to watch, but it’s something that I don’t think anyone will watch more than once. United 93 is among the best of the films I’ve watched from the last decade. This movie deserves every bit of praise it has ever been given, and deserves to be counted among the most important pieces of cinema ever made.

:fresh:

Some stray notes on United 93
The final sequences are both powerful and emotionally wrecking.
The acting here is superb, I don’t think there were many notable actors here, but every single person did a terrific job.
The usage of real footage is really well placed.
I’m glad that the ending of the film didn’t waver and go into what Bush did afterwards, everything here is about that day and nothing more and I thought that was a good move by Greengrass.
I felt Greengrass tried to humanize the terrorists in certain points and I liked that aspect. As despicable as this action was he never treated them as caricatures.

 

David Jones/RD

The Walking Dead

 

Watch this show people. It’s great. I’m going to go back and write about the entire first season at the end of the year but this is just a sort of recommendation. Watch it.

“Dance Party USA”

 

 

 

Dance Party USA: Directed by Aaron Katz
Recommended by Chip

*minor spoilers*

Dance Party USA is about two teens (Gus and Jessica) who find each other at a party. Gus confides in Jessica about a past moment in his life and a friendship is formed. Based on this simple premise of plot I would think that I would like this film a lot. It seems to be up my alley and something I would be interested in. However, something isn’t right about Dance Party USA and two days after viewing it, I’m still having issues pin pointing the problem I had with Dace Party. The characters of Gus and Bill though are probably the reason why I don’t like this story. Normally I try to look past character flaws in script writing but their characters for me felt entirely one dimensional only talking about sex. I think the words fuck, tits, bitch and shit were used more in their conversations than anything. Their one dimensional characters are probably the main reason why I found it hard to connect with this film.

To me the female characters were entirely unused here. Jessica is a character that seems shy and introverted and we never get to know anything about her at all. The extent of her scenes are mostly listening to Gus pour out his story or her listening to someone else. Christie is also underused she has only a couple lines of dialogue and then she’s gone but her scene with Jessica was more interesting than anything that Gus and Bill had to say. Maybe it’s the fact that Katz is a relatively inexperienced screenwriter but he really developed a one dimensional script with only one true scene.

The scene I’m speaking of is Gus’ confession of near rape at a party. It’s really the only time I felt any sort of pulse in these characters, and it seemingly came out of nowhere. Gus explains that he comes upon a fourteen year old girl that is about to get raped and he basically saves her. However, Gus’ hormones get the best of him and he nearly rapes her himself and she wakes up just as he is about to do this. This entire scene is only told through dialogue and it’s relatively well done. Katz created a picture with words here and the actors were good, which was something that was inconsistent throughout. If only Dance Party USA had been as good throughout as that one scene then maybe I wouldn’t be here sitting explaining why I didn’t fall for this movie.

The mumblecore genre is still something that I’m hit and miss with. Some films that are on the fringe of the genre have blown me away and others have not. It seems that for me to truly get excited for a mumblecore film then I have to have a connection with the characters which is something that did not happen in Dance Party. It’s such an intimate genre that everything hinges upon a connection and that in and of itself is hit and miss for most viewers in every movie. Dance Party USA is an example of a movie that missed with me. I was hoping for it to blow me away but it never quite happened. I think Katz has the potential to put something out really great because there are sparks of a good director here every now and then. Dance Party USA is an inconsistent film that never quite reaches the level of emotional impact it wants to.

Grade: 4/10

Some Stray Notes
The Girl who plays Jessica looks like one of my high school classmates
Jessica still listens to records, yay!!!
Gus and Bill are assholes
All these guys talk about is sex, no depth at all to these characters
The kiss at the end is kind of sweet

“A Few Short Reviews”

 

Suspiria- For me Suspiria is a culmination of everything I love about horror. The dazzling colors, Wonderful female lead, eerie soundtrack, I could keep going on and on but the point is that this is a perfect film for me. Every time I watch this film it seems to get better and hits me with even more intensity than the last time. It’s Argento’s true masterpiece and the finest movie that horror has to offer.

Suspiria is about a young girl who goes to a ballet academy who finds that nothing is quite what it seems. The overall feel of Suspiria is one of complete madness. The dream-like murders that take place throughout are brilliantly done with popping colors and interesting outcomes. The true marvel of Suspiria is the world you end up in. It’s very hard to explain without having seen the film but it’s one of true beauty and horror. The different reds, blues, greens, and yellows Argento uses throughout make you feel like you are in a stained glass painting where the only outcome is death.

It’s hard for me to write about Suspiria because I could go on and on about the things I love here. Suspiria always connects with me and I could honestly watch it at any time. It might even be my death film. What I mean by that is the film I would watch if I had only enough time to watch one more thing in my entire life. It’s that marvelous. Argento earned my trust for anything he ever makes again with Suspiria.

 

The House of the Devil:  oh how I love thee. My favorite horror film since Ginger Snaps. So lurvely this one is. The film is a throw back of sorts to the late seventies and early eighties horror films that are similar to this one. I also tend to lend towards the more satanic/evil/gothic horror films and The House of the Devil warms my demented soul. The House of the Devil takes cues from films like The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby and even Suspiria to create an extremely scary film about a satanic cult.

What I truly love though is the moody quality about the film. Nothing happens throughout the majority of the run time. We just have build up and somewhat odd characters talking with our heroine after she arrives at the house for babysitting. The feeling of complete dread is something that I think is lacking in most of today’s horror films but it’s here and in full force. It’s very much like a Polanski film in the sense that nothing here quite seems right. Everything is slightly eerie or wrong. What Ti West does though is create an extremely unique film while also paying homage to his influences.

A lot of discussion has went into the final few minutes of this film. Some feel that the final moments of the film are unfulfilling to the rest of the film. While I feel like it could have been done better, (See Rouge about this, she posted once about the ending and had some excellent ideas) I still think it’s a very good ending. I think it’s good that an ending can cause much debate. If the ending was standard then I think House would be far less interesting. The ending of her shooting herself in the head and being impregnated by some sort of demon is different and I can totally respect that.

Everyone should see The House of the Devil. This is my third time watching it and it gets better everytime. I really think it’s among the best examples of horror of the past decade along with Ginger Snaps, Trouble Every Day, and The Devil’s Rejects.

 

The Hitcher: I might have a new favorite first time viewing for this thread. Although technically you could categorize The Hitcher as an action film or thriller I think it fits nicely into the horror genre. The premise of a hitchhiker stalking a young man is not a relatively genius premise but I think it’s pulled off wonderfully here. Rutger Hauer may be the main reason why I love this film so much. His character is perfect, he barely has any lines of dialogue, and we never really get to know him but his portrayal of John Ryder is spectacular.

Another thing that immediately comes off as great here are the stunts. The Hitcher, along with maybe The Road Warrior and Vanishing Point, has some of the best sequences of stunt driving ever. My mind was blown by some of the things that these people did in this film.

The Hitcher is marvelously entertaining. There isn’t a dull moment in the entire run time and everything comes off as extremely exciting. If I were to make a list of my favorite films from the eighties this would certainly make the list. I love when a movie completely surprises me and The Hitcher certainly did.

 

 

The Exorcist

 

When I was younger I always had an interest in The Exorcist. When I was five or six my parents told me never to watch the film because it would scare me more than anything. When they told me this I agreed and said I wouldn’t, but from that day forward I became interested in the subject of The Exorcist. I slowly became more aware of some of the things that happened during the film after catching a few minutes of it on tv when I was eight or nine and it messed with me for sure, but it only wet my appetite to see more of the film. I never wanted to upset my parents by watching The Exorcist but I eventually did and I’ve even brought them around into thinking it isn’t “The Devil’s Movie” anymore.

I’m sure everyone knows the story of Regan McNeil a young girl who becomes possessed by a demon named Pazuzu. So I’m not going to go into the plot at all. What I will talk about though is why I love this movie. I adore The Exorcist, because as someone who is very interested in why religion permeates through our lives, I’m very interested in it’s take on the greater good versus evil in all of religion. In reading many interviews and making of programs on The Exorcist, The Director Billy Friedking and writer William Blattey often talk about The Exorcist not being a horror film for them and much more of a struggle of faith. What they mean by this is that the main idea that a standard audience would get from this film is the story of Regan. However, I think the story of Father Karras is much more telling here. Karras’ story is a struggle of faith. He’s often the first character to say that religion is not going to be the answer to Chris McNeil’s problem of Regan. I’m not going to spoil anything in regards to Karras’ moments with Regan but I will say that his seemingly struggle of faith does come into play here a lot.

The Exorcist is one of the finer religious films ever made in my opinion. I also think that The Exorcist, along with The Last Temptation of Christ have been wrongfully accused of being evil and or blasphemous. I honestly find them to be extremely powerful tales of the human faith in religion. Reverend Billy Graham once said that this film was nothing but evil and I disagree wholeheartedly, He couldn’t look past the possession aspects of the filmmaking to see anything deeper. I know that many of you on this forum are not religious in any way shape or form but I am to an extent. I am struggling with my own faith in Christianity every day and I have no idea how it will end up but a film like The Exorcist connects with me because of my own struggles.

I didn’t really talk much about how good or bad this movie was but I don’t really care. I think anyone can figure out that I am a fan of The Exorcist by this write up. Everything analytical has already been said about the film so I decided to talk a bit about some of the religious context and some of my own struggles in relation to this movie. The Exorcist is one of the greatest films of all time for me. Not just in horror but in the art of cinema in general. It’s always connected with me and I always think it will.

“Let Me In”

Being a huge fan of Let the Right One In, I was a bit skeptical of an American remake of the film. After seeing some of the reviews and publicity that Let Me In was getting I started to get excited. Just about everything about Let Me In is great. The film does take quite a bit from the original but it’s not really a shot for shot remake. There are bits added in here and there that distinguish this one from it’s predecessor. It’s two different takes on the same story this one is a bit more Americanized in the way it’s presented but that isn’t really a bad thing.

One of the best aspects here is the way in which Let Me In is presented. It’s really beautifully shot and all the artistic decisions with lighting and setting created some wonderful looking images. The snow covered fields, the dreary school house and a run down hospital are all some examples of scenery used here and they all work tremendously to create a tone that is perfect for this film.

As far as horror goes I don’t think I’ll see a better film this year in that genre. The only possible candidates to top this are maybe The Loved Ones and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil which both look fantastic. Everything is right about Let Me In. It’s exactly the type of take I would want to see an American director do with this material. Chloe Morentz and Kodi Smit-McPhee were perfect in their roles here. They display a level of emotional complexity that is a joy to watch and a level of chemistry that actors three times their age would love to achieve.

There is a crossing of two stories here as well. There are similarities to Romeo and Juliet given throughout and the film and I thought it was a very nice touch. It’s a similarly tragic relationship that is driven home by a wonderful screenplay and a director who isn’t afraid to take chances. It’s extremely saddening to know that their relationship will never really work. Abby (Morentz) is stuck in her situation as a vampire and Owen (Smit-McPhee) is in a world that seemingly hates him. His only true friend has to stay away and that is heartbreaking. Let Me In is a tragic horror film that is among the finest of the genre I’ve seen in a very long time.

Dexter 5.1

My Bad

*Spoilers*

Last season of Dexter was pretty hit and miss for the audience and fans of the show. Some saw it as a step towards something greater with the inclusion of John Lithgow as the Trinity Killer, and others thought it was more pandering by a show that was losing steam since the third season. I personally saw the last season of Dexter as a vast improvement over the very middle of the road Season three. The inclusion of Lithgow as the Trinity Killer had some of the finest moments the show had to offer, and the climax was unforgettable.

The climax I speak of was the murder of Rita, Dexter’s Wife and one of few people that actually mean something to him. “My Bad” picks up where “The Getaway” left off with Dexter looking over Rita’s murdered body and carrying his son Harrison out of the house. Dexter is very much catatonic. As someone who shows as little emotion as possible this is a problem for him. He feels Rita’s loss in his soul but he doesn’t know how to show it. As we all know Dexter lives in his own head, he often talks in this episode about showing emotion for Rita and he can’t. He doesn’t feel like he can. Dexter is broken worse than he ever has been.

Meanwhile Quinn has turned into a white version of Doakes. He’s suspicious of Dexter in the murder of Rita and is even trying to start his own investigation into Dexter. This could become a problem for the season with many fans feeling as though this could be a re-hash of sorts. I think Quinn is a different enough character though that he could be something entirely different.

Dexter decides that he must leave Miami forever. The only way his family can live in peace is if he leaves and never returns. During his journey he comes upon a supply shop for boats. He meets a man in the bathroom and after he says something unruly about Dexter’s wife, he murders him. Dexter finally has a release of some sorts. He killed a possibly innocent person just to feel. He screams in the bathroom and shakes. Harry says it’s the first human thing Dexter has done in the past week.

Dexter returns to Miami realizing that it wouldn’t be smart for him to leave. He decides he’s going to be a better man and a better killer. At this point it looks like Dexter is going to bury himself in his Dark Passenger. The season preview at the end of the episode contained a lot of foreshadowing as to what he is doing this year and it looks like he’ll be spending more time in a plastic sheet filled room than on the trails of a new nemesis. I think this is all good news for Dexter fans. When the show became stagnant last year it was looked upon as maybe a hitch in the world of Dexter. With the murder of Rita and a sort of reset for Dexter though it could mean we are looking at another quality season in the mind of Miami’s favorite Serial killer.

As a sort of fanboy for Dexter I think the show is definitely heading in the right direction. Seasons one and two were perfect while three and four had moments of brilliance mixed with mediocrity. With the changes taking place in Dexter’s life this year from the death of Rita, the FBI being interested in him and Quinn pursuing his every move we could see a return to form. This first episode was definitely fantastic. It showed the more emotional side of Dexter and showed the audience where exactly the show was headed, and it looks like a lot of murder and investigation. His time with Trinity is looking to be Dexter’s main downfall and we’ll see further into the season if his excursions with him will lead to more than just the death of his wife.

A

Also I’ll have my write up on the latest episode of The Big C very soon. I might do a double write up on the next one. Six Feet Under will be continuing on Wednesday.

RD-David Jones

“3/4 Year Report in Film 2010”

3/4 year report

To be very honest I haven’t had much of an opportunity to see everything I want to this year, but the year is still young and I think I could reach my goal of around one hundred films from this year before my final year report comes out. The year is still young and films like True Grit, Black Swan, Deathly Hallows, Somewhere, Never Let Me Go, Enter the Void and The Social Network have yet to be seen and those all could become favorites of mine by the end of the year. My biggest frustration is my lack of foreign film on this list. I once again have had a hard time obtaining a lot of foreign films and many of which I’ll have to wait until 2011 to view. However, I’ve watched fifty one films from this year so far and I’ve ranked each one. I’m going to write a little bit about my top ten here and then list the remaining films. I’m not going to do any performance based write ups yet because I still think the year is too young. Well Here is the list.

1. The Exploding Girl- This is my number one of the year so far mostly because it emotionally wrecked me. I am dealing with my own ideas of romance right now and this is another in a long line of young adults with problems movies that has affected me. The acting and directing is minimalistic and lovely throughout. I think it will be tough to top this film for my favorite of the year, but time will tell.

2. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World- Being a huge Fanboy of the the SP franchise I was expecting greatness here and that is exactly what I received. Edgar Wright did a wonderful job of capturing the tone of the comics while introducing it to the film medium. Every actor did a fantastic job with their character especially Culkin, Cera and Schwartzmen. I liked a few of the little changes he made to.

3. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?- Werner Herzog is becoming one of my favorite directors and this could be my favorite from him so far. Most of the people I’ve talked to so far about this film have found it to be underwhelming but I found it to be a breath of fresh air. Michael Shannon gives a wonderful performance here as usual. Swords.

4. Heathen Child- Technically this is a music video but I’m counting it any way as a short film. This video is a mixture of eerie sequences of a girl in a bathtub and religious figures. It works well with the overall song and some of the artistic flourishes here make for a wonderful video. It gave me chills the first time I watched it.

5. Mother- Joon-Ho Bong came into my world with the film Memories of Murder and this film is just as good. Mother is one of the finest films about murder made in the last decade or so and is a fantastic addition to his filmography. Beautifully photographed and wonderfully written.

6. Wild Grass- Another Foreign film here. Alan Reisnas is one of the French New Wave directors from the Left Bank and he is still producing wonderful films. Wild Grass was a wonderful theatrical experience and one of the best films of the year. I think it will stay in my memory for a long time.

7. The Ghost Writer- Roman Polanski went through quite a lot this year and still put out a fantastic film. He even made Ewan Mcgregor tolerable. Some of the images here are fantastic and the mystery unfolds with great skill. Wonderfully written and directed.

8. Toy Story 3- I was a big fan of the Toy Story Franchise as a kid and this film did not disappoint me in any way. Pixar is about as consistent as anything in the world right now.

9. The American- Wonderfully shot and directed. Audiences seem to hate this film but I adored it. Well acted and great to look.

10. Solitary Man- This film is an ensemble drama which focuses on the mid life crises of a man. What really brings this film together though is the great performance from Michael Douglas. Jenna Fischer, Imogen Poots and Susan Sarandon are also great here.

11. Winter’s Bone- Directed by Debra Granik

12. Inception- Directed by Christopher Nolan

13. The Runaways- Floria Sigismondi

14. Batman: Under the Red Hood- Brandon Vietti

15. The Last Exorcism- Daniel Stamm

16. Greenberg- Noah Baumbach

17. Youth in Revolt- Miguel Arteta

18. The Killer Inside Me- Michael Winterbottom

19. Get Him to the Greek- Nicholas Stoller

20. The Other Guys- Adam McKay

21. The Greatest- Shana Feste

22. Shutter Island- Martin Scorsese

23. Chloe- Atom Egoyan

24. Red Riding Trilogy- Various

25. The Crazies- Breck Eisner

26. REC 2- Paco Plaza

27. Iron Man 2- Jon Favreau

28. From Paris with Love- Pierre Morel

29. Daybreakers- Spierig Brothers

30. Piranha 3D- Alexandre Aja

31. Kick-Ass- Mathew Vaughn

32. Date Night- Shawn Levy

33. Alice in Wonderland- Tim Burton

34. Leap Year- Anand Tucker

35. The Book of Eli- Hughes Brothers

36. After.Life- Agnieszka Wojitowicz-Vosloo

37. Hot Tub Time Machine- Steve Pink

38. Peacock- Michael Lander

39. A Nightmare on Elm Street- Samuel Bayer

40. Robin Hood- Ridley Scott

41. MacGruber- Jorma Taccone

42. Devil- John Erick Dowdle

43. Grown Ups- Dennis Dugan

44. The Wolfman- Joe Johnston

45. Edge of Darkness- Martin Campbell

46. The Green Zone- Paul Greengrass

47. Clash of the Titans- Some guy

48. Survival of the Dead- George A. Romero

49. The Bounty Hunter- Not Worth my time to look up

50. Cop Out- Kevin Smith

51. Remember Me- ugh

RD- DAVID JONES