Category Archives: T

True Grit (2010)

True Grit (2010): United States – directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains some violence, including a graphic moment, some language, intense thematic material

True Grit begins in a West that’s on the verge of not being so wild, and climaxes in something much less visceral, almost spiritual.  One might not be able to ever peg down a genre that the Coen Brothers can claim, but it sure is easy to tell if a film belongs to them or not.  True Grit most certainly does.

The material sounds dirty and dark, a remake (or adaptation) of the same source material used by the 1969 film that guilted the Academy into finally giving John Wayne an Oscar.  One might expect this 2010 update to be more in line with No Country for Old Men than Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? [review here], but the opposite is actually true.  True Grit is funny, downright enjoyable, and chock full of the same bizarre characters that makes Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? so memorable.  While perhaps lacking in some of the depth and darkness that characterizes their best films, it is more audience friendly and easier to enjoy.

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Tangled

Tangled (2010): United States – directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains some action

The story might be familiar, but there’s never been a fairy tale told quite like this before.  In a fashion reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino and Pulp Fiction [review here], directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard have taken bits and pieces of a wide assortment of popular media and assembled them into something contemporary and exciting. Granted, some of the tinkering smacks of Disney’s familiar marketing team, but the results are still fabulously entertaining.

The film opens with some back story, as it’s described how a king and queen have a princess with the help of a magical flower.  The flower blossomed from a spot of ground where a drop of sunlight had alit centuries ago.  The flower holds magical properties, as Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) well knows.  She’s used it for years to maintain her youth.

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Two Thousand Maniacs!

Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964): United States – directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis

Not rated by the MPAA – contains ridiculous violence and blood

Note: As I will be out of the country for a period of time, I have decided to inflict upon anyone who reads these reviews a sampling of my earlier work.  These will be shorter, less formal, poorly written, and generally crappy.  They will lack stills and links, and I will apologize in advance for their poor quality.  They have received minor edits to (very slightly) improve readability.  Enjoy.

(review originally published 12/14/08)

This is one of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s gore flicks, along with classics(?) like Blood Feast and A Taste of Blood. It’s much the same as Blood Feast: a terrible plot tied together with an awful script, some very poor acting, continuity problems, and a bunch of excuses to chop women up. Therefore, it’s a classic.

This one involves a town in the south that got mutilated and destroyed by Yankee soldiers, and now, 100 years later, people in the town lure some northerners to participate in their centennial celebration, which pretty much involves a horse race (quartering someone), a barrel role, with extra nails, and a drop-the-stone-on-the-person game.

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Tokyo Zombie

Tokyo Zombie (2005): Japan – directed by Sakichi Satô

Not rated by the MPAA – contains violence, some gore

Note: As I will be out of the country for a period of time, I have decided to inflict upon anyone who reads these reviews a sampling of my earlier work.  These will be shorter, less formal, poorly written, and generally crappy.  They will lack stills and links, and I will apologize in advance for their poor quality.  They have received minor edits to (very slightly) improve readability.  Enjoy.

(review originally published 10/19/08)

Yes, it is as awesome as it sounds.

The funniest zombie movie since Shaun of the Dead, made in Japan and only a year after Shaun, Tokyo Zombie is a film you can’t miss.

The film revolves around a young Japanese guy who works in a fire extinguisher plant with an older, bald guy. All they do is practice jujitsu. One day, zombies start coming out of a mountain of trash called Black Fuji and they have to fight them off. That’s about all of the plot that’s worth explaining, because the film is chock full of fantastically hilarious scenes and general Japanese weirdness that truly make the movie great. It blends the absurd and absurdly violent and the overly sappy and saccharine in a way that only Japanese and Hong Kong films (think The Killer) dare to do.

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The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974): United States – directed by Tobe Hooper

Rated R by the MPAA – contains terror, violence, some language, disturbing content

There have been a few horror movies that have caused a paradigm shift in popular culture’s consumption and attitudes toward horror films.  There were the early monster horror films, primarily courtesy of Universal, in the early 1930’s.  There was science fiction horror in the 1950’s.  Then, in 1960 there was Psycho, and a few other of Alfred Hitchcock’s self-proclaimed “healthy” horror shakeups.  In 1968 Night of the Living Dead [review here] terrified a new generation of youngsters hoping for a sci-fi monster movie.  In 1974 the genre became even more adult with the appearance of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

No film had yet had such an impact on the national psyche.  This was before Cannibal Holocaust caused people to believe the primary cast had been murdered during filming.  This was before The Blair Witch Project had audiences thinking it really was footage found in the woods.  This was a story so terrifying that it absolutely had to be based on a true story (even if it was a loose composite, in reality).  This was a story told in a way that would scar generations of movie-goers, and one that will continue to have an impact despite a low body count and a shocking lack of blood.

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The Town

The Town (2010): United States – directed by Ben Affleck

Rated R by the MPAA – contains language, violence, sexual content, very brief nudity, drug content

There has been a shortage of car chases in adult cinema recently; The Town intends to eradicate this problem.  But to sell the film short as nothing more than an action/crime caper would be a shame, because it will disappoint the audience looking only for chases and fail to reveal some of the deeper themes of the film.

Ben Affleck has done an admirable job reshaping his career.  From his start as a pretty boy to his role as Jennifer Lopez’s stripper pole in Gigli, Affleck certainly seemed deserving of his South Park nickname: Ben Assfleck.  But then he stepped behind the camera for Gone Baby Gone, proving that he had the filmmaking chops necessary to craft a dramatic, gritty film.  More importantly, he kept himself behind the camera, forcing critics to reevaluate his supposed ego.  With The Town he remains behind the camera, but has adequately improved his acting chops so his turn as a star isn’t disappointing.

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Thirteen Days

Thirteen Days (2000): United States – directed by Roger Donaldson

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains language and some intense war room scenarios

It is a pity that Thirteen Days is not a better film, for the subject matter is exceedingly fascinating.  It is based on the true story of how the White House had to deal with a threat closer and more dangerous than any they had experienced before, but some of the technical aspects of the production bog down the story and prevent the film from having the power that it should.  Some of the intensity of the situation and the enormous impact the players’ decisions had is worthy of a better treatment than afforded here.

Kenny O’Donnell (Kevin Costner) is the President’s top aide in 1962.  John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) is in the White House, and Kenny and his brother Bobby (Steven Culp) are his most trusted advisers.  It is the height of the Cold War, and direct conflict with Russia is a constant worry.  Then a U2 pilot makes a run of the recently Communist Cuba and discovers something frightening: missile silos that ought not be there.

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Tales From the Script

Tales from the Script (2009): United States – directed by Peter Hanson

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some strong language

Tales from the Script sounds like a great idea for a documentary: get a number of famous and unknown screenwriters to give interviews on a variety of subjects ranging from the joys of seeing their imagination come to life to the drudgery and despair of having extra writers hired to replace you.  And the film is interesting, in a way, at least for someone with an interest in the creative and business process each Hollywood film undergoes.  But it is also rather sterile, with little B-roll, and poorly constructed; without having access to a number of its famed writers I imagine it would have made a great extra on a DVD.

The film is broken into a number of chapters, and in each one a number of screenwriters weigh in on a particular aspect of the filmmaking process from a writer’s point of view.  Some of the sections are rather ambiguous, and certain snippets do not seem to make particular sense within their section.  Nearly 50 writers make up the interviews, and the diversity brings a certain level of freshness that otherwise would have been lost among the dullness of talking heads.

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Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 (2010): United States – directed by Lee Unkrich

Rated G by the MPAA – contains some action

Pixar hasn’t fooled around much with sequels, outside of Toy Story 2 [review here].  And why should they, with so many unique and original ideas?  But there was a story lingering after the second Toy Story movie, one aimed at those who were children when Toy Story [review here] was first released.  As the audience grew, so did Andy (John Morris).

In Toy Story 3 Andy is about to head off to college.  He is now a young man, responsible and caring, even if his younger sister still bugs him and his mom embarrasses him at times.  He’s faced with a difficult decision; does he pack up and store all the toys he used to enjoy, or take them off to college with him?  Or does he merely throw them all away?

Thanks to a misunderstanding the toys get mixed up, with the majority of them being donated to a daycare center.  Here they are warmly greeted,  especially Barbie (Jodi Benson), by Ken (Michael Keaton) and the leader of the Sunnyside Daycare toys, Lotso (Ned Beatty).  But not everything is as hunky dory as it seems and the toys are soon relegated to the preschoolers, where they are  constantly drooled on and torn apart.  All of them except Woody (Tom Hanks), who ended up in Andy’s college packing.

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Troll 2

Troll 2 (1990): Italy – directed by Claudio Fragasso

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains some stupid sexual references, sex accompanied by popcorn, violent green goo, utter stupidity, piss-poor dialogue, bad writing, bad directing, bad acting, and goblins

Troll 2 is a truly incomprehensible motion picture.  It is so bad that it shines with a special glow, the aura that only comes from having a director who is convinced he is making a masterpiece.  Ed Wood had this special quality.  Uwe Boll does, too, to some extent.  And Claudio Fragasso, according to Best Worst Movie [review here], certainly believed he was making a truly great picture.

In the annals of bad films, a few stand above the rest.  Plan 9 From Outer Space was the favorite for quite some time, though it is not even Ed Wood’s worst film.  Manos: The Hands of Fate has been considered truly terrible, and it is.  And now The Room is making the rounds, and is perhaps on its way to being considered the worst film ever.  But I don’t believe another film has been as adored and as inexplicable as Troll 2.

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