Better Drugs and Bigger Parties: The Dirt (2019, directed by Jeff Tremaine)


If you want to experience the sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle, you could start a band, play some clubs, get signed to a record deal, go on tour, and eventually burn yourself out.  Of course, if that’s too much trouble or if you’re already older than 30, I guess you can just watch The Dirt on Netflix.

The Dirt is the latest band biopic.  This time the band is Mötley Crüe  and the film has all the usual VH1 Behind the Music style anecdotes.  Watch Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth) nearly die of a heroin overdose!  Ponder how Tommy Lee (Chase “Machine Gun” Kelly) could have been stupid enough to cheat on Heather Locklear (Rebekah Graf)!  Listen as Mick Mars (Iwan Rhoen) refuses to tell how old he is!  Gasp as Vince Neil (Daniel Webber, giving the movie’s best performance) deals with tragedy after tragedy!  When you’re not watching Tommy Lee go down on a groupie or Nikki learning how to shoot dope, you can watch as Ozzy Osbourne (Tony Cavalero) snorts a line of ants and slurps up his own urine.  The movie is based on Mötley Crüe’s autobiography and the actors playing the members of the band take turns breaking the fourth wall and telling their story.  Nikki Sixx says, “We were a gang of fucking idiots!” and the movie seems to agree.  Nikki has always had a reputation for being the smartest member of Mötley Crüe.  Of course, when your main competition is Tommy Lee, that’s not too high of a bar to clear.

Especially when compared to other band biopics like Straight Outta Compton and Bohemian Rhapsody, The Dirt is shallow and overly episodic.  Nikki says that Mötley Crüe’s main concern was finding “better drugs and bigger parties,” and The Dirt is the same way.  It never digs too deep into the band’s music or the reasons why, for a period of time in the 80s, they were so popular.  The story is told by the members of the band so it often switches between being honest about the band’s history and making excuses for some of the members’s worst behavior, like when Tommy punches his first fiancee.  Fans of Mötley Crüe might enjoy seeing all of the stories about the band brought to life.  Meanwhile, those who didn’t care about Mötley Crüe before watching The Dirt will probably care even less after spending nearly two hours watching them act like self-destructive fools.  One thing that the movie gets undeniably correct: After all these years, Dr. Feelgood still rocks.

 

Film Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (dir by Burr Steers)


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I had high hopes for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the just-released film which, like the novel upon which it is based, attempts to combine Jane Austen and The Walking Dead.  The source material was good.  The cast — with Lilly James as Elizabeth Bennet, Jack Huston as Wickham, and Matt Smith as Parson Collins — was impressive.  The trailers looked great, promising a combination of zombies, ornate costumes, and a very British sense of humor.  Sadly, however, the ultimate film is a bit of disappointment.

Actually, it’s more than just a bit of a disappointment.  It is a HUGE disappointment.  To have so much promise and then to turn out so bland — well, it’s enough to make you wonder if maybe zombies have become so common place in popular culture that they’re no longer as interesting as they once were.  Don’t get me wrong, as a symbol of the impossibility of escaping death, zombies are great nightmare fuel.  But, when you see them in a relatively bloodless PG-13 film like this, you realize that it takes more than just a few random zombies to make an effective horror film.

Plotwise, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is exactly what it says it is.  It tells the same basic story as Pride and Prejudice, with the exception being that England is now under siege from zombies, the Bennet sisters have now been trained in how to kill zombies, Mr. Darcy (played by Sam Riley) is now Col. Darcy and he’s an expert at tracking down zombies and killing them, and Wickham is now more than just a cad, he’s a cad who wants to help the undead overthrow the living.  As I typed all that out, I realized I was probably making the film sound a lot more fun than it actually is.  And really, the movie should be fun but it’s not.

Director Burr Steers never manages to capture the proper tone for telling this story.  The satire is never as sharp as it needs to be.  The scenes that are meant to pay homage to Austen try a bit too hard to capture Austen’s style without contributing any of her insight and the romance between Elizabeth and Darcy is sabotaged by the fact that Sam Riley and Lilly James had absolutely no chemistry together.  The scenes with the zombies are bland, largely because this is a PG-13 rated film and bloodless zombies aren’t particularly scary.  A typical episode of The Walking Dead is more graphic than anything you’ll see in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Which is not to say that there aren’t a few moments when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies kind of works.  It has moments but they’re isolated and they never really come together to build any sort of narrative momentum for the film as a whole.  Sam Riley is a bit of a dud as Darcy but Lilly James, Jack Huston, and especially Matt Smith all give good performance.  (Smith, in particular, is so good as Collins that I would like to see him play the role in an actual adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.)  Early on in the film, there’s a fun scene where the Bennet sisters destroy a horde of zombies and it actually strikes the right balance between comedy and horror.  Before that, we get the traditional scene that we get in all Austen adaptations, of the Bennet sisters preparing for a ball and, in between lacing up corsets and discussing whether they will all be able find husbands, they also carefully conceal the daggers and knives that they will be carrying just in case they happen to run into any of the undead.  It’s one of the few scenes that suggests what Pride and Prejudice and Zombies could have been if it had only found a consistent tone.

For that matter, I also liked the animated opening credits, which wittily explained how the zombies first appeared in England and, not surprisingly, suggested that it was all the fault of the French.  And the film also had a fairly effective scene that shows up in the middle of the end credits and suggested what would might happen if Pride and Prejudice and Zombies 2 is ever put into production.

But ultimately, even those moments that worked only left me frustrated that the rest of the film did not.  For all of its potential, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies disappoints.

Horror Trailer: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


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It looks like they’ve actually gone ahead and made the damn thing. I remember writing about news of the Seth Grahame-Smith horror mash-up novel being green-lit for the big-screen all the way back in 2010. Yet, nothing much ever came of it. Directors were hired and the cast was set, but each passing year something would derail the project and things would go back to square one.

Now, over five years since that initial announcement back in 2011 we finally have proof that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has actually completed filming and will soon be up on the big-screen this February 16, 2016.

So, was Noah good or not?


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Was Noah a good movie or not?

That’s a question that was first asked way back in March.  At the time, the answer depended on who you asked.  For instance, Noah is one of Arleigh’s favorite films of the year.  My reaction, however, was far more mixed.  Noah was one of those movies that I thought I would review as soon as I watched it but that proved to be a lot more difficult than I expected.  As I found myself wondering what I should say in my review, it became very apparent to me that I wasn’t sure whether I liked the film or not.

By the time that I finally decided that I was, overall, disappointed by Darren Aronofsky’s controversial and spiritual-but-not-quite-biblical version of the Deluge, over a month had passed and we had all moved on to different movies.

And so that review remained unwritten.  And, at first, I thought it wouldn’t matter.  As much as I try to review every single movie that I see, I know that the world is not going to end if I miss a film or two.  After all, I’ve never specifically written down just how much I hated the latest Transformers movie and the world has yet to plunge into the sun…

And yet, for all of its flaws and the fact that it left me feeling underwhelmed, Noah has stuck in my mind in a way that many of the films that I saw this year have not.  It would be a struggle for me to remember much of anything about Dracula Untold but Noah Noah has stayed with me.

Thinking back, it’s easy for me to say what did not work about Noah.

As opposed to Aronofsky’s best films (Requiem for A Dream, The Wrestler, and my beloved Black Swan), Noah felt oddly paced with certain scenes ending too quickly while other scenes seemed to drag on forever.

The film’s environmental message was delivered with such a heavy hand that it ultimately did not make much of a difference whether you agreed or not.  For a film that went out of its way to establish itself as not being a traditional biblical film, Noah was certainly preachy.

While the film deserves credit for not flinching in its portrait of a surly and self-righteous Noah, it still doesn’t change the fact that the movie was essentially 138 minutes spent with a very unlikable character.

Anthony Hopkins gave perhaps the worst performance of his career as Methuselah.  In the role of Tubal-Cain, Ray Winstone was such a one-dimensional villain that I half expected him to invent trains just so he could tie Emma Watson to the tracks.

And, of course, there were the Watchers — fallen angels who had been turned into sentient piles of stone by a vengeful God.  I know that some people loved the Watchers but to me, they looked ludicrous…

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And yet, that’s the reason why we love Darren Aronofsky, isn’t it?

Obviously, it was a risk to portray the fallen angels as being a bunch of talking rocks.  It was also a risk to take a character who is mentioned only once in the book of Genesis — in this case, Tubal-Cain — and then use that character as a representation of everything that’s wrong with the human race.  It was a risk to make a “biblical” film that openly questioned both the existence and wisdom of God.  We expect and demand that directors take risks but, at the same time, we also want to ridicule and judge when those risks don’t work out.  That’s the issue that we, as film lovers, often face.  Do we celebrate and perhaps excuse a director for his intentions or do we solely judge him based on the results?

And the thing with Noah is that, as much as the movie did not work for me, it also did work for me.  For all of those flaws that I listed above, Noah is full of images that are so beautiful and so memorable that I can still visualize them as if I saw them yesterday:

Noah and his sons walk across a gray and blasted landscape, stopping just long enough to stare at a foreboding city in the distance.

Noah walks through a decadent settlement and briefly, this somber film is so full of bright colors and flamboyant characters that the viewer is almost as overwhelmed as Noah.

That Ark, looking small and isolated, floating across an endless blue ocean.

And finally, Noah talking about the horrors of humanity and briefly, we see that the shadows that he’s visualizing are dressed in modern clothing.

For all of my issues with Noah, it’s such a visually impressive film and takes so many risks that I can’t help but respect it.  I don’t consider it to be a great film but, after all this time, I can say that it’s a film that only a true artist could make.

And, considering the current state of American film, that’s one of the best compliments that one can give.

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Scenes I Love: Noah


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One of the best films (at least in this blogger’s honest opinion) of the year also happens to be one of it’s most controversial. It’s Darren Aronofsky’s follow-up to his equally critically-acclaimed and just as controversial Black Swan. I am speaking of his Biblical epic Noah and the story of the Flood.

It’s a film that doesn’t feel religious yet full of spirituality. It’s a film that dares to take a look at text seen as hallowed by billions in a way that doesn’t take a stand on the debate of science versus religion (though some feel that Aronofsky’s atheist background paints the film on the side of science). Noah has a scene in the beginning of it’s third act (one that some have called the dealbreaker for how they thought of the film in the end) that best exemplifies the conjoining of science and religion. It’s the best retelling of the Creation Story that I’ve heard and/or seen.

Courtesy of Protozoa Pictures…The Creation scene from Noah.

Super Bowl Trailer: Noah


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Noah is Darren Aronofsky’s follow-up to his critically-acclaimed film Black Swan (which was reviewed by Lisa Marie Bowman herself) and he looks to tell the tale of Noah’s Ark from the Book of Genesis.

When news first came out that Aronofsky would follow-up Black Swan with a biblical epic that retold the Flood and Noah’s role in saving those not corrupted according to Heaven was a sort of headscratcher. The teasers and trailers that has come out about the film hasn’t really fired up the masses. Some think it as another sword-and-sandals epic that’s late to that particular subgenre’s resurgence. Some think too much fantasy elements has been added.

One thing I’m sure of is that Aronofsky will not make an uninteresting film.

Noah is set for a March 28, 2014 release date.