Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Princess and The Frog


Try and remember the last great Disney animated film that didn’t begin with that jumping Pixar lamp. This will probably vary depending on your tastes. For me, it was Lilo and Stitch, although I would consider Hercules, Mulan and Tarzan acceptable answers as well. This is not to say there’s anything technically or story-deficient in anything post, say, 2000 in non-Pixar Disney animated films. They just seem to be going through the motions, perhaps hitting a few clever notes but not getting into really solid territory.

The Princess and the Frog is probably not the greatest Disney film ever. But it’s good, exceeding expectations and harkening back to the better days of the Disney Renaissance (having the directors of The Little Mermaid doesn’t hurt that fact.)

There’re a lot of headier issues we could delve into here about representations of race and class in the context of 1920’s New Orleans (and what racism is acknowledged and how much is not.) Especially in terms of swarthy Lothario Prince Naveen’s fictional nation with European trappings yet just brown-enough skin to keep any Middle-American concern for interracial relationships somewhat at ease. But I haven’t invested the level of engagement to get to that point with the text yet, and we can definitely discuss this over in the comments.

That being said, I think, overall, there’s a good balance between trying to represent the particularities of New Orleans culture and the 1920s without going too deeply into stereotype or heavily covering up the issues of the time.

The story is, for delving into the rather limited Frog Princess story, rather deep, and there’s a lot of good characterization and flow. The overall messages of the movie, about self-determination and hard work, are definitely a step above waiting for an arriving prince, or even the non-descript “wanting more” of the Disney Renaissance princesses. The music also is probably the strongest since Beauty and the Beast and ties in very well with enforcing the messages of the movie while being good songs in their own right.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Disney villains. As appropriate to melodrama, the richest and most nuanced characters are at times the more villainous ones. So, while at times a bit creepy, and overly theatrical, Disney villains get a chance to be the decadent and dark id to the Disney superego. And Doctor Facilier, the voodoo houngan who curses Naveen and desires a social status denied to him due to his heritage, could easily make #10 of my personal top Disney villains list. Being voiced by the rumbly baritone Keith David (perhaps best known as Goliath on Gargoyles, or for his part in They Live,) definitely helps.

The Princess and the Frog is, in my opinion, definitely the best animated non-Pixar Disney movies of the past decade (unless you include Enchanted, at which point it’s a strong #2,) and possibly the best since The Lion King. It’s a pretty strong movie with a great narrative thread. You shouldn’t be troubled taking your kids to the movie, and it has a strong appeal for all ages.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

The second film in the Twilight series, appropriately enough titled The Twilight Saga: New Moon, came out over Thanksgiving. For those of you for whom this is news, allow me to welcome you to back from the rock you’ve been under.


Before getting too deep into this, I’m going to say that I have not read the books, nor do I have any intention of ever reading them.

I addressed the primary issue I have with the Twilight mythos in my article about vampire movies. I find that the kinds of vampires present in Twilight seem too awesome for their own good: beautiful pallid immortal superhuman creatures that glitter in the sunlight and blessed with a collection of powers and a weakness to being ripped apart and set on fire (a weakness which most of us non-immortal non-superhumans have as well.) It sort of ends of playing out like somebody’s game of Vampire: The Masquerade gone horribly awry.

I would try to avoid putting spoilers here, but, really, I doubt I could even if I tried. The story, excised of it’s supernatural elements, is all very much a staple of melodrama: Edward and his love Bella are torn apart, there is some romantic tension between Bella and her friend Jacob (played by Taylor “Sharkboy” Lautner,) circumstances and misunderstandings lead to a potential catastrophe that has to be solved by Edward and Bella reuniting, and then Bella then has to choose between Edward and Jacob. Adding in some scenes with werewolves, vampires, and many shots of shirtless men, this takes about two hours to unfold.

The movie was professionally made, and not lacking in technical execution, although I think Twilight was made better, at the very least it captured the kind of fervent young obsessive attractions that make up most high school romances. Sure, there’s a lot of topless male parading going on is this movie (especially from “Sharkboy”) but it didn’t seem to capture the same kind of madness Twilight did. As someone who hasn’t read the books, I’m still curious just exactly what is coming from this series: I feel as though I’ve watched two movies that seem to be setting up for something later on, and in the interim I find it very hard to actually care about any of the characters or wait long enough for this set-up to pay off into something.

I would probably wait to rent this movie, although I imagine the target demographic wouldn’t mind the chiseled male forms projected to the size they are on a big screen. I don’t think you actually need to see the first movie to make sense of this one (it does make reference to events from the first, naturally, but nothing so complex that you couldn't figure it out without having seen it.)

I’ll be giving the film a proper review in a week on 11 Word Movie Reviews.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I just saw a movie the other day that I did not, by any stretch of the imagination, expect to like. But it would be more than a worthy addition to my list of vampire movies that don't suck.

Vampire in Brooklyn should be an awful movie. It has 11% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 4.3 on IMDB. It has Eddie Murphy in it, a man whose movies are alternatively comedic masterpieces or soul-crushingly dreadful. It's directed by the similarly hit-and-miss Wes Craven (who, despite being the horror director who gave the world Scream trilogy and the Nightmare on Elm Street series also gave us Cursed and the original iterations of The Hills Have Eyes and Last House on the Left.) It's a horror-romance-comedy about a Carribean vampire who is hunting for one woman to keep his race alive. It has Murphy inhabiting multiple rolls (the vampire, a preacher, and an Italian mafioso.)

This isn't a masterpiece, but it's a good vampire movie. I really enjoyed it, and I think you should give it a chance. It's currently on HBO, and is on demand, and I bet any reputable DVD rental source should have a copy sitting somewhere. It isn't as awful to watch, as say, Norbit, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, or any other number of bad Eddie Murphy movies that one can immediately think of offhand...


Happy Halloween everybody, goblins and ghouls, courtesy of Son of Double Feature!

In my previous post, I mentioned F.W. Murnau's classic 1922 film Nosferatu. While doing some research on a new spec screenplay (I might post details after I get a draft together and register it with the WGA) I found out that Nosferatu is in the public domain in the United States.

I found this through And now, without further adieu, Nosferatu!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Top 11 Vampire Movies That Don’t Suck

In honor of the re-appropriated pagan fertility festival-turned-candy frenzy known as Halloween, and the 13 days of Halloween reviews going on at 11 Word Movie Reviews, I have decided to put together a list of my favorite 11 vampire movies.

I’m going to immediately note that Twilight isn’t on this list. Although Stephanie Meyer’s Romeo and Juliet with sparkly bloodsucking undead is very popular with the kids right now, it’s literally defanged a lot of the menace of the vampire in fiction. Where once the horror of a creature that infects its victims with an uncontrollable lust that consumes its life and destroys those around it, has been thoroughly sanitized and presented as benign or (overly) sympathetic. This is not to say Twilight isn’t a fine dark fantasy romantic melodrama, but the vampiric Cullen clan could have easily been mutants or demons than the walking dead, and a lot of the flavor and weaknesses of the vampire have been tweaked or outright forgotten, so I don’t think of it as a particularly good example of vampire movies.

But the Twilight brood isn’t the only example of watered-down vampires, be they cereal mascots:

Vegetarian duck vampires:

Count Duckula actually has very little to do with this article. I just like him.

And, of course, we can’t forget when Leslie Nielsen was Dracula: Dead and Loving It:

The vampire story, overall, is so ingrained in the contemporary mindset, most films (and TV series) are variations on the theme, or mocked for comedy (like the example above, and some below.) A lot of the rankings here have to do with technical quality and personal preference than anything else.

Here are 11 good movies that capture the terror (and perhaps, the comedic neuroses) that come from being one of the children of the night:

11. Interview with the Vampire

Interview was the pendulum swing that sent popular culture to the romantic vampire. With famously handsome actors like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise it’s of little surprise this happened. It’s actually a very engaging movie, and brought about the big resurgence of vampire fiction in the early 90’s (which more than a few of my friends were into.)

10. Once Bitten

Jim Carrey became an A-list star after Ace Ventura, but few remember his pre-In Living Color career. Mostly with good reason. (That’s unkind, I actually really like Earth Girls are Easy.) Once Bitten in hindsight feels like someone desperately trying to paddle after the Teen Wolf wave, in which teenaged Carrey is threatened with vampirism by a seductive (what we would call now) cougar. It’s not so much wacky as it is a teen-friendly pseudo-comedy about vampires.

9. 30 Days of Night

I believe the in 30 Second Reenacted by Bunnies did this far better than I could ever hope to.

8. Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht

An adaptation of F.W. Murnau’s classic, Klaus Kinski gives an amazing performance as the titular bloodsucker. Werner Herzog is one of the bolder German directors out there, and he manages to find quite a lot of thematic material to work with here.

7. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust


Dark, visceral, fun. ‘Nuff said.

6. Blackula

I have a soft spot in my heart for exploitation movies. So in the little Venn diagram of my fascination with horror and my love of exploitation movies (amongst many other topics,) Blackula falls square in the middle. It has action, adventure, romance, and black vampires! Ok, really, all it has is black vampires. But still, I like it.

5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon is my hero.

That is all.

4. Nosferatu

If we’re going to talk about German Expressionism, this is one of the movies I’d actually want to discuss. F.W. Murnau is one of the best directors to come out of the movement and this is my favorite. Nosferatu is so dark and moody and complex that it really manages to hit all the emotional notes while trying really hard not to pay the Bram Stoker estate anything.

3. Dracula (1992)

Not a lot of people have affection for the Coppola version. I’ve expressed how awesome I think Gary Oldman is before, and will leave it at that. And, barring Keanu Reeve’s kind of minimalist accent, the movie is quite strong and a very faithful adaptation. It’s got great production values, good script, and a lot of amazing performances.

2. Shadow of the Vampire

Take the concept “What if Max Schrek, who played Nosferatu in the Murnau movie, really was a vampire?” and bring in some of the finest American actors of our time (and Willem Dafoe, sorry Willem,) and what do you get? Simply put, a great movie.

1. Dracula (1933)

Okay, honestly, did you expect anything else but this? It’s the quintessential vampire movie. Bela Lugosi’s best performance, and it’s nothing short of inspired. It’s probably the reason we as a culture on occasion go batty for vampires.

So, if you’re going to catch The Vampire’s Assistant, watch True Blood or Vampire Diaries, or catch the Twilight sequel New Moon, here are 11 vampire movies that are pretty choice...

But you don’t have to take MY word for it. DA DUN DUN!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fever Night

Fever Night
(aka A Band of Satanic Outsiders)

Initial Disclaimer: This movie was produced by some fellow UCSB alumni, and very good friends of mine. I’m going to try my best to be objective and think of this outside of my prior relationship to the filmmakers, but, just in case I ever smack of favoritism, keep that in mind.

Initial Tangent: Support local and indie filmmakers! See small unknown movies, even if they aren’t by your friends.

I’ve reviewed some questionable horror films on this blog in the past. Fever Night (Schrader and Harris, 2009) is definitely not questionable in terms of scope, ambition, or general production skill. The story deals with three friends getting lost in the woods and their encounters with strange and disturbing forces of darkness. It evokes the same ‘70’s B-Movie exploitation aesthetic tapped in Grindhouse, up to and including the 1970s Warner Bros logo. But, like the aforementioned Tarentino-Rodriguez collab, it brings a lot more to the table to literate film afficionados.

Although to anyone thinking about it, the choices of locations, amount of actors, and general production aesthetic scream low budget, it definitely doesn’t seem like it was shot on the cheap. The visuals were crisp and very aesthetically pleasing (or displeasing as was required,) the soundtrack was great, and the cast generally gave great performances.

The script for me is a mixed bag. The dialogue and characterization are great, and there are some very interesting payoffs and structuring devices used. However, I feel parts of it for me got lost, possibly in editing; I was at times genuinely confused about just what I was seeing and what was supposed to be going on. However, it was not the bad kind of confused that makes me want to stop watching the movie, but definitely kept me intrigued for more. I’m still not entirely sure what happened in parts of the movie, but it kept my interest and kept me emotionally involved, if confused.

So, if Fever Night is playing in a theater near you, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it, especially if you’re a big exploitation horror buff. It’s a loving tribute, and you can definitely sense the affection towards the source influences. Overall, I’d give it a B.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Alternate Take on Jennifer’s Body

NOTE: Before settling on my more conventional review of Jennifer’s Body, I played around with writing a review “in the style of” a Diablo Cody character. The (somehow vaguely infuriating) results are here for your (and my) enjoyment.

I don’t pony up the big bucks to go to theaters too often, Kemosabi, but Jennifer’s Body got me try-curious. Would it be another Juno, or “d’you-know this is a good movie?” So, I blindfolded myself and took the Pepsi Challenge. I wasn’t totally electroshocked but at the same time it wasn’t totally awful-waffle.

Megan Fox is a Succubus, and she doesn’t just play one on TV. She’s kind of a Monstrous Feminine wearing a Libby suit going through the local Sausage Fest for breakfast without a side of syrup for dipping. She’s supposed to be a total Betty, and more than a few bro-hams will slime me for saying it, but “I don’t know.”

The story hits a lot of the notes of some old horror subgenre classics, like The Rape-Revenge Fantasy Waltz, The Body Horror Shuffle, and goes through the Demonic Possession Minuet in 55 seconds flat, played through the Alp Horn of semi-Sapphic post-feminism. RICOLA!

Bitch still got less characters than a monologue, and I ain’t got time for that jibber-jabba. Although she’s put the majority of the lines into the tiny thumbs of Megan Fox, it still managed to totally Outbreak in the whole movie.

The bar for me was pretty low if this were a pole vault, or high for a limbo, but Jennifer’s Body more or less cleared it either way. Hey Mikey, I liked it, but overall it wasn’t much hotter than Nick Lachey’s old band. You can Wikipedia that shit.

Sorry, gotta go, my hamburger phone is ringing. I’m Audi, 5000.

Jennifer’s Body

My feelings on Juno are well documented. Very much so. And my complaints, I feel, still stand. Juno is extremely lacking in individual characterization. Although I have no problem with stylized dialogue (c.f. Billy Wilder, or Quentin Tarentino,) Juno suffers from having characters with extremely idiosyncratic diction and a very particular rhythm performing in such a way that is frustratingly similar by multiple actors. Jennifer’s Body is Diablo Cody’s follow-up to Juno, a pseudo-horror film-cum-comedy about a succubus (played by Megan Fox) who feasts on the boys in a small town in Michigan.



No, my favorite irate space monster and movie review device. I actually liked Jennifer’s Body. It’s actually one of the first American horror movies I’ve liked in a long time.



Allow me to clarify:

Jennifer’s Body has its pro’s and it has it’s cons. First the pro’s:

#1) Genre awareness

I like a movie that knows what came before it, and Jennifer’s Body knows it’s stuff. It comes off as a sort of post-Feminist exploration of the possession/body horror/rape-revenge subgenres of thrillers with heavy dashes of Sapphic homoeroticism thrown in for good measure. It’s probably not for everyone (this blogger at Fangoria didn’t seem to get it,) but I like the attempts to play with these tropes in a new light. The comedy elements fell flat for me, and most of the times I laughed were usually more “laughing at” the movie than “laughing with” it.

#2) Story Structure

When I was trying to think of nice things to say about Diablo Cody as a writer, I came up with this: she has an impeccable sense of story structure and how to go through the beats of a story. She’s very good at dedicating the amount of time she needs to for information and to build suspense and tension and to release it, with some interesting twists along the way. As a storyteller, I can respect her knack for this.

#3) Women Filmmakers!

I am a big proponent of seeing women and people of color in production positions in film and TV, and Jennifer’s Body is written and directed and edited by women filmmakers. So, that’s a plus in my book.

#4) Characterization improvement

The Juno-speak (or more accurately it seems based on interviews I’ve seen with Diablo Cody, Cody-speak) is limited here. Jennifer is the one character who spews bizarre nonsensical catch-phrase-y desperate attempts at wit as though she’s getting paid per attempt, although one peripheral Asian girl character also comes close. Although a few other characters throw out little bits of this every now and again, thankfully it’s few and far between.

But it ties into my first con…

#1) Limited Characterization

When people aren’t speaking some variant Juno-speak, they tend to be incredibly flat lines. This isn’t as bad as many of the actors are able to add some nuance to what might otherwise be a rather uninteresting character (J.K. Simmons immediately comes to mind in his role as the one-handed teacher.) And I must reiterate that I’m happy that not everyone talks like they’re these incredibly verbose and speaking their own unique little vernacular, but at the same time, I felt those other characters could have used some subtle tweaks here and there.

#2) The Ending

Without spoiling anything, the movie’s ending is completely unnecessary and unsatisfying. I would have been just as fine with it ending about five-ish minutes early.

An 11 Word Movie Review is in the pipeline for this. Needless to say, it will score higher than Juno, but not by much. It was fun, a good potentially-cult movie, and possibly worth seeing, although I give it a lukewarm recommendation at best.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Top 5 Non-Iconic Musical Moments

Since Al Jolson mumbled “Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” screen sound has been as crucial a part of the filmgoing experience as anything else. This includes things like voice, like, and music. There are plenty of examples of crucial, iconic, moments from movies where music plays a substantial role. But, today, I’ll be looking at five of my favorite examples of briefly featured music from movies that, although not crucial to the story, and not the part of the movie that everyone else typically remembers.

As a disclaimer, and for reiteration, this isn’t including a lot of musical pieces that are big parts of the overall push of the film and generally aren’t story-relevant. So, although I might have a secret warm spot in my heart for Part of Your World:

Or Enid Coleslaw dancing to Jaan Pehechaan Ho at the beginning of Ghost World:

And I might have been extremely tempted to put Jessica Rabbit singing “Why Don’t You Do Right?” on the list:

But they aren’t on the list. They’re great songs, outright awesome musical moments, but this isn’t as much about awesome musical moments as it is about random background music that sticks out to me and makes me say to myself, “Hey, I like that song” and severely tempts me to make a trip to the iTunes store.

If I couldn’t find the relevant clip in question, I would try to find the music video, and, barring that, the last resort will be whatever usable clips I can find.


This is not really about movies, but about the video game Portal. Portal is an awesome 3D platforming puzzle game done by Valve Labs (best known for coming up with shooters like Team Fortress 2 and the Half-Life series.) The theme of Portal, Still Alive, was written by singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton, who is well known amongst a small fanbase for heartfelt love songs and emotional explorations amongst objects and characters that we don’t commonly give such thoughts (some of my favorites include Skullcrusher Mountain, Code Monkey, and Tom Cruise Crazy.) There is a proportional relationship between how nerdy you are and how much you like these songs; for the record, I like his songs a lot. Still Alive is a song about how the main character failed to kill crazy sarcastic killer robot GLADOS.

It’s not really about movies, unless I argue Portal is a rather cinematic video game, which is kind of a stretch. But it’s pretty much my favorite song out of a video game. And it’s a great song, so enjoy getting it stuck in your head.


Song: Blue Monday
Artist: Flunk
Film: Nancy Drew
Commentary: Those of us who grew up either late Gen-X or early Gen-Y will probably remember a considerably different version of Blue Monday

And people who are considerably more music aware and/or older will remember the original version done by New Order:

Nancy Drew is one of those movies that I didn’t want to like as much as I did, and if you claim I liked it I will start shouting louder than some of those people at town hall meetings (this dose of scathing political satire has been brought to you thanks to Son of Double Feature.) But it’s a pretty cute, funny, movie, and this song more or less blindsided me.

They also had a great cover of Kids in America by The Donnas, and Dare by Gorillaz amongst the musical awesomeness. Apparently the music supervisor and I have some common ground musically.


Song: First We Take Manhattan
Artist: Leonard Cohen
Film: Watchmen
I ended up hearing this song at the theater during the credits for Watchmen and downloaded it immediately that night. The fact that they couldn’t find some place to cram a snippet of this movie into the movie proper is a shame. But I left the theater, and I left it dancing. Leonard Cohen, of course, is an excellent songwriter, and this is one of my favorite songs he did, if only for, “I don’t like your fashion business, mister.”


Song: The Imperial March
Artist: John Williams
Film(s): the Star Wars series
Commentary: If you’re like me, this song begins running through your head when dreaded authority figures are striding through the hall. With the exception of the overture, this is probably the most recognized piece of music from the movies, and with good reason. It’s loud, it’s big, it’s in your face, like the Empire itself, it dominates. And it’s probably the best music a cape-swooshing villain could hope to follow him.


Song: Every Me and Every You
Artist: Placebo
Film: Cruel Intentions
Commentary: I previously mentioned the most iconic part of Cruel Intentions. (I am not up to it, so please insert your own relevant lesbian joke here.) All Sapphic makeout sessions notwithstanding, I remember watching this movie, and after Ryan Phillipe’s character (Sebastian) drives off humiliating his psychiatrist’s daughter, this song is pumping as he drives his awesome car down the freeway. It is extremely mid-90s jangly vaguely alterna-pop in that at times magical period after Nirvana but before Limp Bizkit. The video is also pretty standard fare (cut between movie clips and live performance.)

And…the number one 1 choice…

Song: Partyman
Artist: Prince and the New Power Revolution
Film: Batman (1988)
Commentary: There are probably more iconic scenes out of Tim Burton’s Expressionistic foray into Gotham City. “Where does he get all those wonderful toys.” The parade scene. Batman and Joker’s final confrontation on the clock tower. But my favorite scene has, and always will be, the one where the Joker defaces all the paintings. And this song is probably the perfect accompaniment to that scene. And he indeed rocks a party like no other can.

But what are some of your favorite non-iconic musical moments? Comment and let me know!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009



Ponyo (Miyazaki, 2008) is the latest (and most likely final) offering by Hayao Miyazkai, whose previous works include Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and, of cource, Porco Rosso. The dub and distribution of Ponyo, as for all recent Miyazaki work, is being handled by the Walt Disney Corporation.

Starting off with the negative: my first and major complaint with Ponyo lies in the story. In terms of narrative, it is rather lacking, the conflict completely peters out in the third act, and some of the characters are more loose sketches than fully fleshed-out well-rounded characters.

But, films aren’t (as much as I loathe to admit it) just about narrative. In terms of almost every other technical and emotional element, Ponyo really shines.


No surprise given Miyazaki, but Ponyo is breathtakingly beautiful, especially in the backgrounds. The animation is generally breathtaking, and the story, despite the flaws I addressed above, is very emotionally engaging and poignant.


Should you see Ponyo? Are you under the age of 7? If so, I commend your grasp of advanced vocabulary and reading comprehension for having read this article. Tip of the hat, young geniuses. You’ll probably like it, and see some striking maturity and raw emotions that are often ignored by contemporary “family films.” Are you a parent? You should enjoy this film quite possibly as much as your kids do, although they might deal with it in different ways than you do. Disaffected, pretentious, childless hipster? You mean you haven’t seen it yet? No, in all seriousness, and without hyperbole, this is fun for the whole family.


Overall, it’s on the borderline of a B+ and an A-. However, the emotional artistry of the film pushes it over to an A-.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Happy Birthday!



Thank you very much, Morbo.


Morbo means he loves you.

I love you too, you space monster, you.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Expanded 11 Word Review: End of Evangelion


I wouldn’t call myself a full-blown anime fanatic by any stretch of the term. Like almost every nerd in the mid-90s, I went through an anime phase, and I have fond memories of a lot of the horribly butchered dubs that were in syndication in my Junior High days (Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon, I’m looking at you... I’ll prove my nerd cred by namechecking the Samurai Pizza Cats.) I’m also a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki, as I mentioned in my Porco Rosso review. But I would say my interest in most anime now is casual at best. If I find a series or a film I like, I don’t bias the medium one way or another. But I also wouldn’t get into something just because of its country of origin, and the style isn’t as offensive to me as some more old school animation fans.

I ended up watching Neon Genesis Evangelion this summer more or less by accident. I’m a huge fan of FLCL, another extremely out there anime, which was produced by the same studio (Gainax,) and I had heard that a lot of the show was sort of in reference to this one. So, finally, on a whim, I started watching. After watching the 26 episode series, I ended up watching the theatrically released film End of Evangelion that was released shortly after the show’s run. The show plays heavily and subverts the conventions of the “Giant Mecha” subgenre of brave pilots controlling giant robots and using them to fight other robots.

The show (and film) focus especially on Shinji Ikari, a neurotic teenage pilot of one of the EVA units, and his battles with the monstrous robotic Angels who threaten the earth, as well as his relationships with his fellow (female) Eva pilots, his (almost all female) superiors, and his strained relationship with his father and commanding officer Gendo Ikari. This film deals with the climax of an apocalyptic “Third Impact,” and the struggles of Shinji’s inner turmoil to make sense of his life.

This leads into one problem. The first issue I could see with this movie is it’s basically incomprehensible. Taken in context with the final two episodes of the series (which are folded into the second half of the film,) and with my own understanding of Judaic-Christian imagery and Lacanian psychoanalysis, it still took me two viewings to get a basic understanding. The plot almost defies summary, and I would be hard pressed to actually recommend this movie to someone not already familiar with the show. A lot of the issues of Third Impact it has to do with Self-Other binary issues and a sort of anxiety about reintegration with the self and a focus on suffering that seems almost masoochistic in nature (whether people would prefer to exist without pain and boundaries or not.)

As confusing as this might seem based on the last paragraph, I really enjoyed this movie. It’s erratic and nonsensical in a lot of ways, but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s really profound in a lot of the issues it explores, psychoanalyzing Shinji (and a lot of the side characters) and exploring and deconstructing their motivations in a way that’s extremely Neo-Freudian.

I have to admit part of the reason I like this movie is how it basically falls into place into a manner that I can pick apart as a film scholar. It seems like a really rich text for analysis almost on purpose (as a matter of fact, as of the writing of this article, I’m preparing a paper for submission analyzing the film’s depiction of the feminine and motherhood as a method for individualization.)

The ending sequences also has some interesting uses of animation to explore some very heady issues about how people relate with themselves and with others.

Even if the story is confusing, the action is straightforward and really exciting. I really liked it, and I’d recommend if you’re open to the idea of having a Japanese anime mess with your head, and not be afraid of not getting all of it, you check this out. I give it an A- in my 11 Word Review.

It is (at least for now) available both dubbed and subtitled on Youtube, so check it out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Derek Domike and The Half-Blood Prince

Six Harry Potter movies have been released over the past 8 years, with two more currently in production (representing the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.) The franchise is incredibly prolific in both its print and film forms, making author JK Rowling the wealthiest woman in the United Kingdom.

As a somewhat scrawny (although I, like star Daniel Radcliffe, have been bulking up a bit) brown-haired Caucasian male with glasses, I was a lightning bolt scar away from “The Boy Who Lived,” at least at first glance to people who don’t really look closely at me. I don’t particularly welcome the comparison, but it has been made (multiple times, to my chagrin.) This made me exploring the Bildungroman of the novels something of a painful chore. So, in a way, this one is a little personal for me.

For the next six days at 11 Word Movie Reviews I’ll be posting reviews of all the Harry Potter movies. My thoughts, overall of the franchise, are they are generally solidly made and dependable, if occasionally unremarkable. I always enjoy watching the Potter films, even though I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the franchise in general. But as, I guess, a casual outsider, this might give me a chance to be slightly less biased than reviewing say, The Dark Knight. (If you didn’t catch how ridiculously in love I was/am with this movie, here you go.)


Overall, Half-Blood Prince did not disappoint, but it did not necessary surprise either. My brothers, having read the books, told me about parts that were shortened or excised, and that they felt were suggested at to fans in a manner almost akin to “you should be familiar with this.” Having not read the books, I really didn’t notice this, and the story should make sense, although the movie does seem to presuppose you’ve seen the other five parts (which, in all likelihood, one has.) The movie flowed pretty well, it dragged a bit in the second act, and it is pretty long. But, with the prices of the multiplex the way they are, I find less and less reason to complain to a movie for at least keeping me entertained for the time allotted.

The special effects were good, and a general kudos to the screenwriters for their adaptation (trimming a rather sizeable book into this was likely a challenge.) Everything, overall, was about par if not slightly better than average, and looking back on it, I didn’t really have any complaints. If you’re a fan, you’ve already seen it, and if you generally dislike the franchise, I doubt this movie will change your mind. But I generally find them solid (if not spectacular) pieces of filmmaking and thoroughly enjoyable.

What stood out for me was the acting, especially amongst the younger cast. Over these six films we’ve seen a lot of growth and improvement in the craft of Daniel Radcliffe (Harry,) Rupert Grint (Ron,) and Emma Watson (Hermione,) although overall I don’t think anyone will keep them in mind when Oscar season comes around. Tom Felton (playing Potter’s rival Draco Malfoy) is given a lot of storytime this time around and he seems to shine in it. The adult cast, including a lot of luminaries of British filmmaking, does a great job as well. I particularly enjoyed the over-the-top manner of the villainous Death Eaters.

(I have decidedly mixed feelings about Potter fandom as well.)

The grade I give this movie, alongside the rest of the franchise, will be shown soon.

In conclusion, here’s how I would rank the films in terms of quality:
Order of the Phoenix
Prisoner of Azkaban
Half-Blood Prince
Goblet of Fire
Sorcerer’s Stone
Chamber of Secrets

If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend it, especially for Potter fans, but I would definitely recommend you go rent the series up to this point and catch up and watch it as well. It’s definitely not a disappointment, and worth the price of admission. They also definitely are, in the most hopelessly cliché way imaginable, fun for the whole family.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

RIP John Hughes

A more fitting tribute to the king of 80's teen flicks might be forthcoming. But, in the event that doesn't happen:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Based on a 1945 and 1946 collaboration between the two strange bedfellows if there ever were any, Walt Disney...


...and Salvador Dalí...


Destino was shelved after 1946 due to financial concerns and put on indefinite hiatus. In 1999, the project was revitalized, and based on Dalí's (and John Hench's) storyboard, the project was subsequently animated. Done by Disney Studio France, it was produced by Baker Bloodworth and directed by Dominique Monfrey. Nominated for a 2003 Best Animated Short Academy Award, and show in museums from the LA County Museum of Art, NYMOMA, and Melbourne Australia. It is currently projected to have a DVD release sometime next year.

I try to avoid going too much into my "animation as a legitimate medium of expression" argument, because it's either a very easy or very difficult argument depending on who I'm talking to. But, in short, like any form of expression, from writing, to painting, to photography, to film and video, and to animation (which carries such a strong "immature/for children," bias that people seem blinded to their potential aesthetic and thematic capabilities,) there should be no stigma to a medium for artistic expression.

I saw it just recently, and wanted to share it with everyone. It's like a moving Dalí painting, and has some parts reminiscent of some of Dalí's short works (the ants seem straight out of Un Chien Andalou, for example.) This allows some interesting juxtapositions and metamorphoses of forms, and playing with time in a really intriguing way. It's like a cross between an experimental Dalí film and a Dalí painting, and I really don't have any more glowing review of it than that.

Here is Destino. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

11 Word Review Expanded: Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey


Before he was saving Sandra Bullock from The Bus That Wouldn’t Slow Down, monotoning his way through being The One in the Matrix Series, or even misplacing his mind in A Scanner Darkly, Keanu Reaves was Ted “Theodore” Logan.

The first Bill and Ted movie (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) is a pretty humorous endeavor in its own right: two young men who, in 100 years, will likely seem like the crystallization of the “slacker” stereotype (played by Reaves and Alex Winter,) travel through history to ensure that they pass their history report and, subsequently, preserve a utopia future timeline where their garage band music is the blueprint for an entire perfect civilization. It's good, in a very silly sort of way.

When doing a sequel, it’s often tempting to just repeat the formula but just up the stakes or do more on a larger scale, but this movie doesn’t just. It takes a ridiculous concept and pushes it even further. In Bogus Journey, Bill and Ted are killed by evil robot versions of themselves, escape from Death, go to Hell, defeat and then master the Grim Reaper, travel to Heaven to get genius Martian scientists Station to build good robot versions of themselves, then return to Earth to defeat the evil robot Bill and Ted and the film’s nominal villain Chuck De Nomolos.

Read that sentence again. Soak it in. This just isn’t a film with increased stakes, it’s one playing in a super-absurd kind of world. And the thing is, each of these events logically progresses from the last, and each of these sequences is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Picking up from the last lines of Excellent Adventure (their time-traveling mentor Rufus [George Carlin] saying to the audience after witnessing a disastrous Wyld Stallyns practice session, “They get better. I promise,”) Bill and Ted are entered into the San Dimas Battle of the Bands. The movie really ends up being how Bill and Ted’s band manages to become the greatest in the world. And, including Martians, Death, and Medieval Princess girlfriends as the rest of the band, and some time travel, it’s really hard not to be.

Rather than just summarize the movie and give a lengthy version of “Oh my god, how awesome is that,” here are my three favorite parts of the movie (in no particular order.)

1) Twister With Death

Ingmar Bergman is probably rolling over in his grave, and was probably livid when this came out, but that’s why I find this hilarious. Having two idiots play and proceed to beat Death in a series of boardgames (Battleship, Clue, and Twister amongst them.) Also, the sublimated rage with which Death says, “You have sunk my battleship” is awesome. Death is actually probably my favorite character. Also note the mix of seriousness and humor that makes this work.

2) Heaven

Notable primarily that the meaning of life is revealed to be from Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”

3) The Ending

The magazine and newspaper montage here is probably the pinnacle of how ridiculous this idea is, but also how strangely compelling. I mean, this was literally right at the end of the Cold War, when Western Culture (like rock and roll and blue jeans) had been instrumental in finally making conditions in the Eastern Bloc seem so abysmal by comparison. Maybe…rock and roll really could bring us all together?

Also: “Death Wins Indie 500” with the subtitle, “I didn’t know I could run that fast.” C’mon. That’s just hilarious.

This is definitely an example of, while not necessarily a great movie, or even an excellently made one, but it is a very funny movie that does what it does well. The actual plot is pretty much useless; it’s primarily an excuse for the series of ridiculous events to take place. And part of what makes this compelling is the movie’s own internal logic. Of course the way to defeat evil robot versions of yourself are good robot versions of yourself. And of course Death would be proud enough to go through the entire Milton Bradley gaming library. Most sequels can only hope to be just as good as the previous film, but I think Bogus Journey exceeds its predecessor in every way.

The Bill and Ted series also spawned a briefly lived cartoon series, which, although inferior to the Back to the Future cartoon that ran around the same time, isn’t bad (and is available on Youtube.) However, if you have the time, and haven’t seen it before, or haven’t seen it in a long time, go watch Bogus Journey on hulu. You’re in for a treat.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Ghostbusters 3 Hypothetical Casting


This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Ghostbusters, a movie which I may have mentioned I liked previously. Furthermore, writers Gene Stupinsky and Lee Eisenberg, best known currently for The (American version of the) Office, and soon for the hilarious looking Harold Ramis-directed Year One (I know cardinal sin #1 is to judge a movie by it’s trailer, but by God it’s an appealing trailer.) Dan Aykroyd has stated in interviews that he wants the likes of Alyssa Milano to play part of a generation of “younger Ghostbusters” who almost literally receive the franchise off the backs of Ramis, Ayrkoyd, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson.

So sorta like this. Sorta.

The script isn’t even finished yet, although they’re pushing for a 2012 release. With that in mind, here is what I thought of when I contemplated a hypothetical casting of Ghostbusters 3. I broke the four main parts into the main sort of archetypes they filled, starting with...

“The Heart” (Dan Aykroyd/Ray Stantz): Kenan Thompson

People slightly younger than me and slightly older than me may not as fondly remember Nickelodeon’s sketch comedy program All That (if this were a broader blog, I’d probably end up rambling on about it, and other parts of the SNICK lineup ad nauseum.) These same people may also remember the Good Burger movie (which unfortunately let the plague known as Brian Robbins [Norbit] loose on Hollywood.) These people should hopefully not remember some other Kenan vehicles (the Geneva-convention-breaking The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Fat Albert in particular.) Most should now know him as the only black guy currently on SNL.

A lot of Kenan’s characters and routine on SNL have some edge and bite to them, much like Aykroyd’s (Fred Garvin: Male Prostitute immediately springs to mind for the latter.) But under that vitrol, Kenan and Aykroyd both possess an overabundance of heart, and the Ray Stantz character embodied that enthusiasm and optimism and wide-eyed wonder that would actually try to reason with a genocidal Sumerian god by posing as a representative of the “city, county, and state of New York.” Looking at some of Kenan’s past work, I think he could play that kind of character very well.

“The Mouth” (Bill Murray/Peter Venkmann): Paul Rudd

Type-casting, I know.

But somebody needs to provide the mouthy dry humor and withering “you got to be kidding me” sort of deliveries that Murray filled the first two movies with, and if I trust anybody to be dry and mouthy and hilarious, it’s Paul Rudd. This is perhaps the most direct translation from one to the other.

“The Brain” (Harold Ramis/Egon Spengler): Ellen Page

My thoughts on Juno are not a factor here. The core of this choice is deadpan. Ellen Paige is capable of delivering that kind of delivery, and she’s more high profile and slightly younger than my original choice for the role (Thora Birch.) And she’s a girl. Yay for diversity.

“The Punch-Clock Schmoe” (Ernie Hudson/Winston Zeddemore): Seth Rogen

C’mon, Seth Rogan is nothing if not perpetually laid back and laconic. Winston Zeddemore was a guy who was interested in getting paid and the fact that ghosts existed and were in need of busting was of secondary importance. I could similarly see Rogen being the kind of guy who could approach ghostbusting with a blasé attitude. He’d be the “blue collar” or “relatable” one.

Also, I know this isn’t my usual gig. Scott over at He Shot Cyrus does these considerably more often, and his are usually much more spot on and funny. Check ‘em out!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Expanded 11 Word Review: A Scanner Darkly

I have written an 11 Word Review a day (or the equivalent) since when I began the site in September of last year. That is approaching 300 reviews, or 3300 words. I have written considerably less reviews here, some of which have already been touched on by 11 Word Reviews. But today is the first of a series where I go on, in considerably more than 11 words, about a movie of my choice. Consider it a chance to say, in more than 11 words, what I think of some of my favorites (and least favorites, and some mediocre) movies.


I reviewed A Scanner Darkly (Linklater, 2006) on September 18th of last year. The movie is one of a series of filmic adaptations of stories by one of my favorite science fiction authors, Philip K Dick, (the others being such stories as Total Recall, Minority Report, and Blade Runner.) Dick’s stories are primarily interested in issues of perception and reality (and challenging those ideas,) which fits it in ideally with issues of Postmodernism, and this one is supposedly autobiographical to an extent, dealing with Dick’s own problems with drug use.

The film is a pretty faithful animated adaptation of the book, which is about Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves,) an Orange County undercover narcotics officer strung out on futuristic brain-altering drug Substance D and trying to investigate his drugged-out circle of friends (Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder.) On the way, Arctor’s does manage to solve the case, despite having a complete chemical-based psychotic break along the way.

First, let’s talk about the use of animation in this movie, similar to another Linklater movie Waking Life, which uses rotoscoping to animate on and around live action performances. This method starts out being jarring, but I was surprised at how quickly I got acclimated to it. The real use of this is to help make some of the more sci-fi elements of the movie (like the license plates on the car, and the blending scramble suits,) from being too jarring and bizarre.

The overall structure of the story has some weird disjointed moments, but these feel intentional and are definitely not disorienting, which is a difficult thing to pull off.

In terms of performances, there is one standout guy, Robert Downey Jr. Although he is one of the best actors in general (cf. Chaplin, Hearts and Souls, Tropic Thunder, Zodiac, and Iron Man as standout examples of his work.) I’d make a joke here about Downey having a lot of research about addiction, but I already did for the 11 Word Review. But he really does. While Woody Harrelson and Keanu Reeves are at best being stoners, and Freck (Rory Cochrane) is on some mix of meth and heroin. I can’t exactly tell just what Downey is trying to be on, and therein lies the charm.

(Also, in case you miss the joke: 6+3=9, but 6x3=18. Just say no, kids.)

Overall, this is a very cerebral movie to be sure. There’s a lot going on to make you think, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. You are able to build empathetic relationships to Arctor, but unfortunately, the overall isolation and anxiety of this film makes most of the characters, although fascinating to watch, unrelatable. This makes the ending and resolution of the movie somewhat unsatisfying for me. Maybe I just have a lack of tolerance for drug users. However, it is a fun movie up to the turn in the third act, and even though the resolution isn’t satisfying, I can hardly think of a better one.

I give it a B+. I’d recommend you check it out if you like science fiction/Philip K Dick, Postmodernism, or if you’re looking for something a little new and novel in your filmgoing experience.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

"The right reading for this is the one I'm giving."


Orson Welles is generally regarded as one the greatest monolithic figures in cinema. From the sheer cinematic brilliance of Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, his performances in Kane, The Third Man, and one of my favorites A Touch of Evil.


He was even Unicron in the 1984 Transformers: The Movie, at a time when he himself had grown especially planet-sized.

He's the inspiration for a White Stripes song.

However, Welles (perhaps in no small part for deciding to seemingly target media magnate and all around captain of industry William Randolph Hearst for his masterpiece Citizen Kane, or his general bristly personality and enormous ego,) ended up slowly sliding into less and less prestigious work, symbolically culminating in his voice-over work.

Which, you may or may not be aware, was routinely lambasted by voice actor and Welles impersonator Maurice LaMarche on some of the shows he frequented in the 90s.

Whenever I'm feeling down, I like to listen to these outtakes and get a good laugh in.

And, although Welles' career foundered after an initial burst of brilliance, he is widely remembered despite that for those particular works than his latter decline. Either way, kind of uplifting.



Monday, April 20, 2009

Top 5 Walt Disney Psychedelic Movie Moments

psy·che·del·ic adj
weird, distorted, wildly colorful, or otherwise resembling images or sounds experienced by somebody under the influence of a psychedelic drug

Although a union-busting, possibly racist and anti-Semitic, Commie-hating, just right-of-center corporate jerk, Walt Disney definitely knew how to drop random surreal dream sequences into his movies. As much a product of the 20th century (and Modernism) as Disney is, it’s not surprising to see those touches of more avant-garde influence touching on the overall studio oeuvre (cf. Fantastia.) Here are five of my favorite moments, plus one bonus mention.

Honorable Mention
“Hellfire,” The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Barring the frantic, more Warner Brothers inspired, antics of the “A Friend Like Me” sequence in Aladdin, this is about as trippy as it gets for more contemporary (at least post 70s) Disney, although it’s decidedly more of a “bad trip.” Especially notice what the robes turn into at 3:25.

5. “Heffalumps and Woozles,” The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

I’ve wanted to argue it’s a metaphor for Communist paranoia (“because they come in every shape and size!”) but, any way you slice it, Pooh’s honey-based paranoia is palpable here in the rapacious Heffalumps and Woozles. Although it seems like a half-watered down version of the “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence, this is definitely noteworthy.

4. Donald going insane, Der Furher’s Face

Trapped in a Fascist nightmare world, Donald Duck eventually goes insane before waking up (and overjoyed, of course, to see that he isn’t trapped in “Naziland,” but is in fact in the good old USA.) Now overlooked because of the at times callow racial stereotyping (and the “Donald Duck as Hitler” image from this sequence,) this is definitely one of the better examples of this trend.

It is also definitely a “bad trip.”

3. Ending Overture Sequence Alice in Wonderland

Picking one “bizarre surreal moment” in Alice in Wonderland is definitely fun. This basically recaps the entire movie at high speed.

2. “Pink Elephants on Parade,” Dumbo

Although Dumbo is supposed to be drunk here, I suppose we should count ourselves lucky that none of us have accidentally drank whatever he did.

“What’ll I do?! What’ll I say?!” Yeah. Another bad trip.

1. “You Belong to my Heart,” The Three Caballeros

After watching Disney’s “good neighbor” propaganda films (Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros) back-to-back with my girlfriend, we (she getting her masters in psychology, and me being somewhat psychoanalytically focused anyway,) came to the conclusion this is the climax of Donald Duck’s psychosexual crisis since, lacking genitals, he can’t actually consummate his desires for the myriad Latin girls he spends the movie chasing.

Language actually begins breaking down here describing just what is going on, other than women’s faces exploding from flowers, dancing cacti, and turns of events best seen to be believed.

In short, don’t drink the Kool-Ade at the Disney animation studios, unless you’re prepared to see some of this.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy April Fools Day!

I was going to come up with some kind of elaborate blog-related prank, but I settled on this instead.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Summer Film Preview

Starting around memorial day (although moving ahead earlier and earlier in the year,) the summer filmgoing season is where Hollywood tries to cram all its earnings into a three month period (although by August they’re usually just dumping whatever they couldn’t get in earlier.)

While doing my brackets for the Large Association of Movie Blog’s March to Box Office Madness, I got to take my first real look at some of these titles. Some were surprising, some were awful, some were actually intriguing. Some...

Safe Money

In this category we have sequels and franchise films: Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince, G.I. Joe, Star Trek, Angels and Demons, X-Men Wolverine, Terminator Salvation, Transformers 2, and to a lesser extent Crank 2 and the new Fast and Furious. Many people will see these primarily because they have seen the ones before and people like safe movies (or, rather, known quantities.)

Also, a good bet will be the family film sequels: Night at the Museum 2, Ice Age 3. Pixar will also have Up coming out this summer, which looks fun, and Disney might also get a chance to recoup from the Jonas Brother’s 3D movie with The Hannah Montana Movie (unless the tweens have turned on her already too. Fickle, fickle, tweens.)

Imagine That is a curious case, because Eddie Murphy makes two kinds of movies: good movies, and abysmally awful movies. I am optimistic this might actually be the former.

And, of course, there’s a stream of comedies, either of the “sweet romantic” variety (The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, The Proposal, When in Rome, and The Ugly Truth) or the raucuous Judd Apatow variety (Funny People, Observe and Report, Land of the Lost, The Hangover, When in Rome, Adventureland, Year One, and Bruno) (I seriously believe Seth Rogan doesn’t sleep or he has a twin running around Hollywood.)
And 17 Again, which falls right in the middle (safe but not saccharine):

It’ll do alright.

Weird Release Dates

State of Play

The Soloist

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Of those three, The Soloist looks most intriguing, but all seem more a fall release. I’m curious to their strategy of releasing them in the summer.

Things I’m Actually Curious to See

Well, more like, “thing.”

This is the only trailer I’ve seen (besides Up) where I said to myself, “I want to see that.”

What in the name of all that is good and holy?


Not to say it’s bad. It has the potential really go wrong, but the trailer’s sheer ridiculousness made me laugh so hard that it might actually work.

Not to be confused with…

Dear God, Why?

Dragon-Ball Evolution

To quote Rainier Wolfcastle: “My eyes! The goggles! They do nothing!”

After watching this trailer, I want to start a rumor. Next year 20th is doing an adaptation of Neon Genesis Evangelion starring Hillary Duff and a CGI robot monkey. Pass it on.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Faith and Boggorah, top of the mornin’ ta yae, boyo, kiss the Blarney Stone, merrily we go along... It’s that time of year again where everybody wears green or gets pinched, the beer is green, and everybody is a little bit Irish. As someone of actual honest-to-god Irish heritage (although not evident in my name, like many modern Caucasian Americans, I got a solid streak [a little over a third] giving me a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism.)

Were this a serious blog, I might discuss “real” Irish-ness, through something like The Secret of Roan Innish. But I won’t. See it. It’s good. But I won’t.

If there is a more Irish symbol than the Leprechaun in the American popular consciousness, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine it. They fight, defending their pots of gold, and people are always after their lucky charms. But this Leprechaun…

Leprechaun (Mark Jones, 1993) is part of a series of horror films going spanning a decade. From Leprechaun’s 2 and 3, to Leprechaun 4: In Space (set in, as Wikipedia will tell us, in Space, with a hyperlink to Space, as in “the boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction”) and taking a turn in 2000 with Leprechaun: In the Hood and 2003 with Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood (and, unfortunately, not followed by Leprechaun: Back 3 tha Hood (In Space). This sequel, unfortunately, writes itself.)

I will admit that, until deciding to write this, I have never seen Leprechaun. I saw a clip of it on TV at one point in my early childhood and, traumatized, refused to watch the rest of it (I had similarly feelings towards The Goonies, primarily because I stopped watching after Chunk, tied to his chair, first met Sloth. I ended up turning off the TV, wondering what that strangely deformed man did to that little boy until years later. I believe I squealed and hid under my bed.) But, Leprechaun is most noteworthy for having a young Jennifer Aniston, and little-person and nerd hero Warwick Davis as the titular Leprechaun.

Warwick Davis’ other credits include Marvin the Paranoid Android in the unfortunate film version of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (where, as the character tends to do, he stole the show,) Labyrinth, Return of the Jedi, the Harry Potter Franchise, and Willow, the latter is the primary reason I don’t try to sneak under George Lucas’ bed every night with a garrote wire. Thus, as you can see, he is a friend of nerds.

Look how hard they try to hide the little guy. I can only imagine the disdain of those who paid to actually see this in theaters. But, even then, you knew what you were in for.

I’m going to try my damndest to take this seriously and not damn this movie immediately. My thoughts, more or less as they happen, here we go…

20 seconds in and we get a rather interestingly lit shot of the Leprechaun limping down a flight of stairs. Warwick Davis certainly is taking this seriously, to his credit, he does get top billing appropriately. The production values are pretty standard early 90s. We learn immediately that those who try to steal the leprechauns gold are doomed to death.

Beginning with a woman with a pretty lame Irish brogue and the drunken Mr. Daniel O’Grady provide charmingly accented exposition and the chauffer with an American accent. And then gold! Leprechauns’ gold. Based on what we know, and the lightning, this is not going to end well.

Say what you will, this is actually very professionally edited. The camera isn’t awful and direction isn’t enough to make me gag. We have our first death within the first six minutes, when, posing as a child, the leprechaun bursts out of the suitcase (posing as a suffocating child) and knocks the lady down a flight of stairs.

It turns out the lady is his wife, although I realize this wasn’t well-established. But we do set up some good facts about the leprechaun’s limitations: it’s afraid of four leaf clovers but can only be temporarily stopped by bullets. Putting a clover on the crate, however, seems enough to hold it in a crate.

Now (pre-nose job) Jennifer Aniston is in a jeep with her “hick father” in North Dakota when she’d rather spend the summer in LA. I am aware Jennifer Aniston’s character has a name (Tori,) but I’m just going to call her by name. They happen to stay in the house where the Leprechaun’s being kept. Wait. What were a pair of stereotypically Irish people doing in North Dakota? Where did he find the leprechaun? Is it an American leprechaun? Have leprechauns followed the Irish diaspora? How in the world is any of this plausible? There’s also a tarantula. North Dakota is known for its massive tarantula populations. They also call this the “O’Grady Place,” which doesn’t answer the question at all.

Everything starts falling together: there’s a theme about Jennifer Aniston being materialistic, and she has a love subplot with a Joey Lawrence lookalike who is very much a salt-of-the-earth blue collar guy. For convenience, instead of calling him by his character’s name (Nathan,) I’ll call him “Joey Lawrence lookalike.”


Joey Lawrence lookalike convinces Jennifer Aniston to stay, although, even after rewatching it I’m not entirely sure how.

I’m trying to pick out just who the leprechaun is going to kill. My money’s on the painter (Ozzy) they just introduced and the dad. The skeptical little kid hanging out with the painter, Jennifer Aniston, and Joey Lawrence lookalike may all very well live.

There’s some more awkward flirting between Jennifer Aniston and Joey Lawrence lookalike.

Of course the leprechaun gets out, and he still wants his pot o’gold. He tricks the dumb painter guy into knocking off the four-leaf clover using the same “fake voice” trick. I wonder if this is the only gag in the Leprechaun’s playbook: hiding in something, using a different voice, then bursting out and killing someone.

The lighting is generally awful when they try to light the leprechaun. This is probably to conceal the makeup work, which seems passable at best. Best line in the movie: “There’s a leprechaun in the basement! Oh there’s a leprechaun in the basement!”

Another leprechaun rule: uncontrollable compulsion to polish shoes. Nathan grabs a ridiculously thin twin to defend himself from the leprechaun when investigating. “It was just a rat.” Lame, but could be worse. This would be my general review of the film, I suppose.

About twenty minutes in, and near the end of the first act, begin greatly regretting decision to watch movie.

Ozzy, however, is the best part of the movie, he has the best lines: “Hey, hey look up in the sky!... It’s a magic rainbow! Leprechauns and rainbows! It’s a sign! … No, no, no, no, we gotta go, gotta go see what’s at the end … C’mon, go with me, we gotta get to the end of the rainbow! There’s always a pot of gold!”

Half an hour in: leprechaun follows people on truck on tricycle in high speed. This shot somehow comforts me for a while.

Ozzy and the little kid find the leprechaun’s gold. The Leprechaun attacks Jennifer Aniston for some reason. Ozzy and his little brother get the gold appraised, and the appraiser keeps a coin. The Leprechaun somehow leaps out of a safe to attack him. This strategy seems to work for the little guy, so I can see why he keeps using it. He then kills on him by jumping on him with a pogo stick singing a version of “This Old Man.” I now somehow simultaneously hate and love this movie. He later attacks a state trooper by first ripping into his face then snapping his neck. If he can do this, why does he rely on his “hide in container and surprise people” strategy?

Over halfway through, not writing so much as being kind of bored. The film’s trying really hard to remind us of the leprechaun’s OCD urge to polish shoes, so that’ll definitely be relevant later. He hates Lucky Charms (easy joke.) He also uses a bear trap on Joey Lawrence lookalike, but he survives (everyone in this movie survives.) Somebody needs to light this movie better.

They call the police, but the police don’t believe it. Duh.

Leprechaun bleeds green blood. They think they killed him with a shotgun, but the Leprechaun jumps out of the hood of the car and then punches through the car windshield. Again, I must question the leprechaun’s tactics. It seems like he could easily force his way to his gold, if he didn’t have to rely on this ridiculous method.

Later, when Jennifer Aniston finds the gold as part of a plan to appease the Leprechaun, he teleports out of nowhere to claim it. Again, if he can do this, why in the world does he rely on the same “hide in OBJECT X and ambush them“ tactic? He’s upset because he has all but one coin, the one Ozzy accidentally swallowed earlier. I suppose he couldn’t just cut his losses and let them keep one gold coin. But meh.

“High diddly dee, a Leprechaun is me!” This is part of the way I can simultaneously love and hate this movie.

They pull the shoe trick, distracting him with polishing shoes.

I sincerely wish I’d watch this movie on fast forward. Cool shot of Jennifer Aniston walking down a hallway in the hospital.

After watching him chase Jennifer Aniston in a wheelchair I have a thought: for a guy with limitless magical powers, the Leprechaun’s primary tricks are using unusual vehicles and jumping out of tiny spaces. That is, of course, when he isn’t using superhuman strength and teleportation.

Suddenly, it’s just Jennifer Aniston running around being chased by the Leprechaun, appropriate for the “final girl” (per Carol Clover.)

Think they kill it, of course, Leprechaun comes back for one last scare. They think they kill it again, but of course not.

As to my predictions: The dad doesn’t die, but is hurt, but then again everyone is to a minor degree, but there are very few actual fatalities (by my count 3, 2 in the beginning, the sherrif’s deputy. For shame Leprechaun. That is not a respectable kill total.)

I was going to propose a Leprechaun-Chucky crossover but the end result would be so one-sided (say what you will about Chucky the Killer Doll, but at least he’s creative.)

Overall, the script is a solid C from director Jones. It’s got a couple of good lines, like “I traded me soul for me gold, you’ll trade ye life!” It’s definitely self-aware of what it is, but doesn’t cross the line into enjoyable self-parody (like it’s closest competitor, the Child’s Play/…Of Chucky series.) Direction closer to a C+, but still not exactly great.

I’d give this movie a C. It’s not great, but I really can’t say I hated it. That’s not true. But there are parts I definitely didn’t really really hate, and I was generally more bored than angry, and I’ll admit, I laughed a few times. You are not missing out for missing it.

So, this is Son of Double Feature, wishing you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and High Diddly Dee, a Leprechaun is me!