Monday, April 25, 2011

What's My Favorite Scary Movie?

Um...not Scream 4, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it anyway. If you've been listening to Extra Hot Great (which...why wouldn't you??), you heard me opine a little bit on Ghostface's return to Westboro. Then my pal Jason went and unloaded a whole bunch of knowledge on the movie -- most of it dealing with who did and who didn't survive.

By the by -- NOTHING BUT SPOILERS in this post so GO AWAY if you don't want to know who the killers were, who bit the dust, et cetera.

Anyway, I needed to get more out about the movie, so I fired off an email to Jason immediately. What follows here is pretty much the sum total of my feelings about the movie -- 80% positive, and for a Part 4 in a horror franchise, that's pretty damned good.


Joe: Okay, first of all, I want validation about me getting the killers half right! And about how much better the reboot/sequel conceit worked in this movie than Scream 3's "trilogy" conceit did. They really did a great job of making us think we were watching a reboot, with reboot rules, then turning the tables at the last second and BAM! "Don't fuck with the original." As soon as I saw Sydney and Jill (Emma Roberts) in the same frame together, I immediately thought "Ain't no TWO final girls." Only one could survive. From then on it was just the question: are we dealing with a reboot or a sequel?

Also, Mary McDonnell's unfortunate upper lip situation! I was kind of waiting all weekend to talk about this...

Jason: Ack, sorry. I felt the need to sit on my opinion and stew for a couple days. It keeps swinging all over the place, and then I remember they all survived and I just don't care about anything anymore. But yes, like I said in my blog post, it really did feel as if they had a purpose here, a clever way to go about playing with the reboot thing, where the trilogy thing felt haphazard. Completely agree, and it worked really well. Even if they got distracted some here and there.

After the movie, the boyfriend would not stop talking about poor Mary McDonnell's face. I love her too much to speak upon it! I won't do it!

And I know this will piss you off but I don't remember us talking about what the outcome would be, and you half-guessing it. SUE ME. I assume you guessed about Emma Roberts then? It really was an entirely satisfying choice, in that it made sense and was funny at the same time.

Joe: We didn't talk about it before, but I mentioned it in the email I sent you Friday night. The email you clearly TOTALLY DIDN'T READ. Anyway, yes, my guess fairly early on was that it was Emma Roberts and her boyfriend, doing a Bonnie & Clyde thing, with her main motivation being hating Sydney for the exact reasons the movie used. So: half right. But the more important half! And I heroically ignored the Marley Shelton/Hayden Panettiere red herrings.

If I had one major drawback (other than Kevin Williamson over-indulging himself with Jill's final speech, which went on WAAAAY too long on the subject of Celebrity in Modern Times and How Things Are Today), it would be in the style of deaths, though weirdly I'm the opposite of you. This series was never Final Destination, and I always thought the value of the kills came in not the creativity but the brutality (contrasting so well with the comedy). Some creativity often crept in (Tatum and the garage door!), but Drew Barrymore's death, Jada Pinkett's, SMG's -- those were just brutal more than anything else. This movie kind of backed off of that in a few areas (Anthony Anderson and Adam Brody, primarily), but not enough to make me dissatisfied. I mean, she shot out her BF's crotch!

Still needed more Gale -- I thought we got the right amount of Sid in order to make us credibly think they would kill her off. Got the right amount of Dewey (not much). Wish Allison Brie could've stuck around longer (a shadow-Tatum is still valuable!). Wish I understood just what they were going for with Hayden P (too distracted by that haircut!). But mostly had a great time with it.

Jason: I read your first email, but you made it sound like it was something we'd talked about before. And I always forget every conversation I ever have because my brain is riddled with holes. RIDDLED.

Hayden was obviously directed to act like a complete lunatic for half the time as a red herring, I found it distracting. I did like her breathless ranting list of every reboot moment though. She sold me there. But as soon as she went outside it was like a sledgehammer, what was coming. And I loved the scene between Marley Shelton and Sid, I thought it was wonderful the way it was shot and edited, so creepy and weird. The shadows. Ugh, shivers.

I thought Anthony Anderson's death was pretty brutal. The way it just went on and on and on. It didn't need that lame punchline at the end though. And I agree with you that Scream was never Final Destination - what is? - with its kills, but the murders always took on a more epic feel because of the way they're expertly staged. You didn't get much of a sense of place here, or the cat and mouse routine. SMG's death (in Scream 2) was great because of how tough she was fighting back and how long she eluded the killer for. There was a sense of that with Hayden slowly going to the closet, and that death scene of the friend next door was Scream-worthy. But the Allison Brie death, for example, was all kinds of shoddy and could've been much better. I liked her character too and she did the dumbest things and then stab, dead, blah.

The movies always need more Gale. Even if now I'm always looking for the people standing on either side of CC's head and gripping her by each cheek and pulling backwards.

Joe: I feel like I need to find photos of Courteney Cox from like 3 years ago and email them to everyone, because she looks SO MUCH BETTER now.

I hear you on the Allison Brie death scene, and I did like Hayden P in that one small moment in the closet. But I was never able to wrap my head around these three Heathers being all into horror and genre movies. Because, yeah, THAT'S what happens. At least Emma Roberts looked properly haggard.

The Marley shadow scene was hilarious but I couldn't take it seriously, because they were slamming down on the pedal so hard for her as a red herring.

Your memory of SMG's death scene makes me want to see Scream 2 again immediately. It's the one I've gone the longest since seeing it last, and I really loved it. My first Olyphant!

Oh! Can somebody tell me why Adam Brody did this movie? The most thankless role for a good actor I've seen in a while.

Jason: I def. agree that CC looks better than she did a couple of years ago, it has calmed down some, but the problem is it's settled down into a different face. She doesn't look like herself anymore. I hate Hollywood.

The least Adam Brody could've done was wear some eyeliner for a minute.

Joe: Could not agree more.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Week in TV

RuPaul's Drag Race
Leave it to "Drag Race" to perfect even the reality-show clip show. I've very much enjoyed this season (she won't win, but I'll be cheering for Manila until she goes down in a hail of Imelda Marcos shoes), but I can't tell you how delightful it was to see Jujubee and Raven (and, okay, Tyra) join Ru to talk about the season's best moments. And some of those judge outtakes were giddily wonderful.

Cougar Town
Yes, it's back! The special Monday night episode was such a fantastic return, and a reminder that -- along with Parks and Recreation -- Cougar Town is the best comedy on TV when it comes to flat-out laughs combined with honestly earned emotional payoffs. Christa Miller was so brilliant this week -- she's come a long way from the series premiere.

Game of Thrones
We'll be covering Game of Thrones on the upcoming Extra Hot Great, so I'm going to just briefly say: it was fine. I was frankly expecting (dreading?) that I would be totally sucked in and forced to keep coming back for more, but ... none of the characters really gave me a whole lot to latch onto. Also: doesn't it seem like every show/book/movie like this has to include some incest? That development was pretty predictable.

30 Rock
The Jenna plot was kind of a loser, and the Pete plot was one good joke stretched out over 30 minutes, but Liz and Kenneth searching for Tracy was not only the best use of Kenneth in two seasons but also paid off with a scene that hammered home just how much fun it must be to write dialogue for Tracy Jordan. I'll be laughing at that Temple Grandin hug-machine joke for a long time.

Parks and Recreation
I've had a really weird week, so the emotional state I was in on Friday probably played a big part in my decidedly emotional reaction to this episode, but even so: this was kind of a fantastic episode, right? Beyond the fact that I love April and Andy (who wouldn't?), the episode was packed with great recurring characters (Jean Ralphio! Plus I was honestly touched to see April's gay ex-boyfriends show up for her big day), had some truly sweet moments (April/Ron dancing and April/Leslie especially), and the B-plot of Donna helping Ann navigate the singles world was very solid. There is no show that beats Parks and Rec when it comes to pairing comedy and characters who you honestly care about.

The Real World
I realize that I'm one of, like, six people still watching this show. But I feel obligated to mention how much this season especially makes me feel creeped out. Which I guess should be no surprise considering they apparently set up casting calls at parole hearings and gay-for-pay porn sets. I'm not sure this show has ever gotten trashier than Adam, the straight-outta-juvie wall-punching sociopath, and Nany, the enabling, defiant doormat. And this show has featured TONYA.

I don't have enough to say about last Friday's "Fringe" to fill up a proper blog post, but I do want to talk about it a bit. I have really enjoyed the "Bellivia" arc, but once this episode went animated, I totally lost interest. I like that the show is confident enough to experiment like this, but there's an investment I have in the real characters on the show that gets lost in translation when everything goes A Scanner Darkly.

Friday Night Lights
Oh, the final season. I'm not sure I can do this, but I guess there's no choice. I just went and bought the whole final season on DVD, but I'm going to try to ration myself to one episode a week and see how long that lasts. (I'm not giving myself very long.) So Landry saying goodbye to Grandma Saracen was the sweet/saddest thing I have ever seen, Billy Riggins on Coach's staff is pretty perfect, and most important of all: Hellooooo, secretly soulful new East Dillon wide receiver Hastings? Yes, this will do:

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's a New Lyric Quiz!

I went and put together 30 songs lyrics (all tied up under a secret theme that you should try to guess!) for Roommate Mark's latest Friday Lyrics Quiz. I'll get you started with a few sample lyrics, but go on over to The Critical Condition to read the rest and make your guesses!

1. “Even your emotions had an echo”

2. “Don’t try to find me, please don’t you dare”

3. “Look at this face, I know the years are showing”

4. “I’m taking it back to the old school, ’cause I’m an old fool who’s so cool”

Guess these and 26 more at The Critical Condition!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Quick Movie Reviews

I updated the sidebar last night, but if you want to talk about either Hanna or Insidious -- two excellent options if you're going out to the movies this weekend -- have at it here:

You have to be willing to let it do its thing, but I felt some serious gut-level terror watching this thing. It breaks a few cardinal rules here and there (we see something just a few more times than we should see that something), and the actors have to walk a very thin tightrope, so the performances occasionally wobble. It all seems so silly in retrospect -- like as soon as the spell is broken, you see it for the goofy shit it really was. But I really liked the way the movie doubled down once Barbara Hershey showed up.

My pal Jason at My New Plaid Pants is an asshole. He went and got his review of Hanna up first and pretty much said every single thing I was going to say about it. Except for how he still bizarrely hates Atonement, which is strange because that movie is awesome. Anyway, this is the best mainstream movie I've seen thus far this year, and I would be SHOCKED if anything released this summer tops it. Who knew Joe Wright was such a referential director? I spotted nods to Tarantino, Haneke, Fassbinder, Tykwer, and that was just on first pass. It's funny, because watching the trailer, my biggest worry was that there'd be a flashy beginning, a flashy end, and then boring middle part where Hanna lies low with a regular family. But thanks to Olivia Williams and especially young Jessica Barden, those scenes were my favorites of the movie. Well, maybe tied for favorite with everything Tom Hollander does in his sinister sportswear. Again, click on Jason's review for everything I might have had to say about Hanna before he got to it first. Particularly the stuff about Saoirse Ronan, who reminded me that I pretty much always loved her, even if I didn't know it.