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Friday, March 30, 2007

The Autopsy Report: Serial Killers 

“Serial killers appeal to people because they’re self-contained evil units and are easily adaptable to a mono-drama. I think people are unconsciously attracted to their sexual power. Serial killers are sexual fiends who can have anybody they want. The way they have them is to possess them for brief moments, sexually abuse them, torture them and kill them. The idea of conscienceless sexuality appeals to the nihilism in people. That’s what I think serial killers are, and why they have become so popular in the culture these days.”

-- James Ellroy

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The Lookout 

There are two movies at war in The Lookout. The first is a methodical look at the life of a young man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) managing a handful of mental disabilities after a serious car crash. The second is about that same sweet-natured guy taken advantage of by a group of hoodlums who know he works at a bank. They want access to the vault, and they first seduce and then coerce him into playing lookout while they do the job. The first story dominates the first half, the second the last half. Both are equally well-told, but fans of one may be distracted or bored by the other.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

The Autopsy Report: Torture Porn 

PopSyndicate has a new horror site up, and as part of its launch I've signed on to do a weekly column analyzing trends in the horror genre in a variety of mediums. Blah blah, fancy schmancy.

The first is called "torture porn," and examines the almost complete domination of the horror genre by torture films. Why it works, why it doesn't, and where it comes from...


"Torture porn." It's a phrase I've used from time to time to reference the rise of movies (the Saw series, the Hostel series, Turistas, Chaos, and so on) featuring extended and messy deaths and punishments for its sweaty, attractive stars. You might guess that turn of phrase means I'm not much of a fan, and you'd be right. But for better or worse, torture porn is the face of modern horror movies. God help us, let's take a look.

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Colour Me Kubrick: A True...ish Story 

When some people want to get a free drink or maybe a one-night stand, they say they’re with the band. Alan Conway goes one further by claiming he is the band. In this case, Conway claims to be Stanley Kubrick. Just dropping that name is enough to excite anyone he’s around, and for one brief evening and maybe the cost of a bottle of cheap vodka,

As cons go, it’s a pretty good one. Just about everyone in the western hemisphere knows three or more movies Kubrick’s done, even if they don’t know the man himself. Likewise, nobody outside film buff circles could tell you what he looks like. Kubrick is famous without being ubiquitous. His work is artistic but still accessible. The mere claim turns Conway’s shabby clothing and strange mannerisms into artistic eccentricity. You can get away with a lot if you give someone a whiff of celebrity. By the time they’re pounding on the wrong door or calling the wrong number looking for you, you’re on to the next target of opportunity.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

I Think I Love My Wife, Premonition 

I Think I Love My Wife:

Chris Rock has mellowed with age.

This was the thought that returned to me again and again while watching I Think I Love My Wife. It’s not just that he and Louis C.K. have adapted their movie from the French New Wave film Chloe in the Afternoon. It was the way every scene that seemed to be going for the jugular instead veered off and just clipped a vein. Here and there you think Rock’s Richard Cooper is going to veer into dangerous territory, that maybe he’ll do something to make himself a touch less likable. Maybe instead of just thinking about bad decisions he’ll actually make some, and then I Think I Love My Wife will have its teeth in you.

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Premonition:

There’s a disorientation to Premonition. Not the one victimizing Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock), a woman forced to live the week of her husband’s sudden death out of sequence. The disorientation is a lack of center to the film, a lack of thematic direction, a problem exacerbated by indistinct direction from Mennan Yapo. The performances are serviceable, but the material never lets the actors do much beyond reacting to the unlikely and the improbable. And no, I’m not talking about the fantasy elements of the story. I’m talking about the plot holes and shifting motivations.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Interview: Julian McMahon 

Jim Hansen is the prototypical middle-class American male. He’s a husband and father, good to his wife and daughters. He’s good at his job, but it’s nothing special; he sells cars. He is to all appearances blameless and completely free of guile.

So what’s the interest? Jim is played by Julian McMahon, known to some as Dr. Doom, or the even more notorious Dr. Christian Troy on FX’s Nip/Tuck. That’s what makes Jim so interesting in an otherwise deeply uneven movie; what, exactly, would compel an actor known for outlandish roles to play someone so seemingly mundane?

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Friday, March 09, 2007

300 

300 is operatic. Everything about it is grand and ambitious, from the costuming to the music to the acting. It cares more about the telling of the story than the story itself. 300 is not content to be a note-for-note cover song of the original material, like Sin City was. Instead, it takes Frank Miller’s Technicolor rendition of the Spartan stand at Thermopylae and makes the story its own, while remaining true to the themes of the original material. By doing so, 300 becomes that rarest of adaptations: One superior to its source.

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