Wednesday, December 26, 2012


End of the year lists are stupid and pointless.

That said, here's one from me!

(note: everyone is saying ZERO DARK THIRTY is the bees knees, and I am dying to see it, but since it's not out here until January, I can't include it on my list, O CRUEL WORLD)

THE AVENGERS is probably the worst thing Joss Whedon has ever written. But since Joss Whedon is an amazing writer, that's not such a bad thing. The plot to this film is damn simplistic and paper-thin, but Whedon gets the most out the big ensemble cast, and creates damn entertaining action scenes. Whedon also managed to do something no other filmmaker has managed to do: make THE HULK interesting.

This movie came out back at the beginning of the year, so you might have forgotten it. Let me refresh your memory: The movie is about how there is no God, and Liam Neeson fights fucking wolves. THE GREY is a dark, existential look at what it takes to survive, unless you look at it from the point of view of the wolves, then it's about a bunch of fun wolf buddies who keep running into stupid, delicious humans.

Found footage movies are a dime a dozen, but CHRONICLE takes a novel concept: the found footage super hero film. There are more exciting action scenes in this very small budget flick than in 90 % of the big-budget bore fests that came out this year. Dane DeHaan gives a real breakout performance, perfectly conveying what it would be like if a socially unstable teen was suddenly presented with super powers. The last twenty minutes of this film are incredibly intense and awesome.


Christopher Nolan ends his Batman trilogy with a bang. This is the weakest of the three films, and frankly there's just too much stuff crammed into the plot. That said, the movie is an incredible spectacle and a fitting end to the franchise. Tom Hardy's bizarre, brutal performance as Bane is quite a thing to behold, and Anne Hathaway has the most fun I've seen anyone have on screen all year with her kick-ass interpretation of Catwoman. Also, Michael Caine cries a lot, and it's sad.

Director Rian Johnson's debut feature was the awesome BRICK, a pulpy noir set in a modern day high school. It established him as someone to watch, and he makes good on his early promise here with LOOPER, a film that borrows from literally every other time travel science fiction film ever made and yet still manages to be fiercely original. Also, it's always nice when Bruce Willis wakes up from his walking coma to turn in a good performance every ten years.

Paul Thomas Anderson's polarizing film is an examination of both Scientology and mental illness (WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE LOL DON'T SUE ME TOM CRUISE). A lot of critics and film goers were startled at the film, simply because it's so intense and features the most unlikeable protagonist in film history. If you can get past how bat-shit insane Joaquin Phoenix's performance is, you'll be rewarded with a remarkable and original film. And you'll also be treated to seeing Amy Adams give one of the most uncomfortable handjobs in the history of the universe.

Hot damn, what a fun movie. A love letter to horror movie fans, CABIN IN THE WOODS takes every horror cliche in the book and embraces them lovingly, and once again, (co)writer Joss Whedon gets to kill off everyone.

In my book, Wes Anderson has never made a bad film, but MOONRISE KINGDOM may be one of his best. An incredibly charming love story about two young misfits, and hey, what do you know, there's Bruce Willis again! TWO non-sleepwalking performances in one year? Someone must have been slipping him caffeine pills. Like all Wes Anderson movies, MOONRISE KINGDOM is quirky and full of aesthetically pleasing character wardrobes, but there's an incredible heart to this film, and by the end, I was weeping at how touching it all was.

Quentin Tarantino was all but written-off (by me) after the shitty DEATH PROOF, but he bounced back remarkably with INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, and here, with DJANGO UNCHAINED, he's pulled off one of the best films of his career. DJANGO is a blood-soaked, brutal, disturbing, hilarious masterpiece, with everyone giving knock-out performances. Christoph Waltz, so good in BASTERDS, is delightful here, and Leonardo DiCaprio has never played such a slimy, evil character before--and he's so damn good at it. Also, Samuel L. Jackson gives probably the best performance of his career, after coasting on fumes for the last two decades as an almost self-parody. Tarantino himself also returns to acting for a cameo, and man did he get fucking fat in the last few years.

Much like DJANGO UNCHAINED, LINCOLN deals with the horrible institution of slavery, but with less gore and anachronistic music. Daniel Day-Lewis once again vanishes into a performance, breathing life into Abraham Lincoln. Steven Spielberg has never been more reserved in his directing, and it works wonders. What could have been a stuffy biopic is a fast-paced, inspiring and even funny look at all the hurdles Honest Abe had to jump through to finally abolish slavery. Also, he hunts vampires or something.

And just to be thorough  here are my runner-up films that were very good but didn't make the top ten: SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED   BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, KILLING THEM SOFTLY, THE INNKEEPERS, KILLER JOE, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, SKYFALL, ARGO.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Directed by Steven C. Miller

Here's a concept for you: guy dressed as Santa Claus, around Christmas time, killing people. You hear that and think "You'd have to be an idiot to fuck that up!"

And yet, for five films, the filmmakers of the original Silent Night, Deadly Night series did just that. The first film is regarded as something of a "classic," but I think that has more to do with nostalgia and also people remembering something the movie is not. And aside from the infamous and memorable "GARBAGE DAY!!!" sequence from Part 2 (CLICK HERE TO SEE IT!!), the original franchise is a tiny, uncooked Christmas goose, not worthy of even Bob Cratchit and his poor family.

Here is one franchise that was read for a reboot/remake/whatever. So how did they do? Well, it's not a total catastrophe! That's something!

For one thing, the film looks pretty professional, and director Steven C. Miller must have been watching a ton of J.J. Abrams stuff before he sat down in the director's chair, because there are lens flares all over this thing.

SILENT NIGHT takes place in a town where apparently everyone is a fucking jerk-off. There are creepy, pervert priests; there are disgruntled Santa's who make kids cry; there are pornographers and cocaine addicts; and there is lazy town sherif, played by lazy actor Malcolm McDowell.

Jamie King stars as Aubrey, a deputy getting over the loss of her husband. She's nervous on the job, which is bad timing, because some crazy man in a Santa Claus suit is killing people in town. He appears to be killing "naughty" people, like a really bratty little girl, and people committing adultery and so on. However, the filmmakers seem to abandon this plot point, because soon our killer Santa is killing everyone in sight, naughty or nice.

The movie is kind of a mess. There's a strange plot-line that appears in the middle of the film about man in the past who ALSO dressed as Santa and killed a bunch of people with a flame thrower. Then there's Aubrey's uncertainty with her job. At one point she's even visited by what I can only assume is the ghost of her dead husband, dressed in a Santa suit. It's weird. Most likely there were half a dozen different drafts of the screenplay, and they just did a little pick-n-choose and hoped they all stuck.

Malcolm McDowell ponders: "What the fuck happened to my career?"
The movie does have its saving graces. The gore-factor is top notch, and I appreciate that they used a lot of practical effects rather than just CGI blood and gore. The Santa costume, with its clear mask, is actually pretty creepy looking. And the film doesn't pull punches; people die in nasty ways.

But there's no heart or soul at play here. If a filmmaker with passion had tackled this film, even with its messy screenplay, we could've ended up with something near-perfect. But Steven C. Miller seems to just be going through the motions, moving from point A to point B in dull procession.

Characters come and go, popping up from time to time to make the audience say "Oh yeah, that guy..."; the ending "plot-twist" is pointless; the town looks like an obvious studio backlot. And then there's that whole "naughty or nice" angle. Early in the film, there are several scenes where killer Santa will dispatch some rude asshole, and spare some "innocent" person nearby. Okay, that's fine. But then they forget all about that, and soon Santa is going after the Mayor, who seemed like a nice guy, and the cute police station dispatch girl, who also seems pretty nice. What's your deal, Santa? Make up your goddamn mind. 

Also, Jamie King is a cute actress and she's clearly trying, but she gives a pretty bad performance here, and is incapable of carrying a film. At one point she comes across the corpse of someone very very close to her and her "horrified" reaction is laughable.

But, any film that features a scene like this can't be all bad:

SILENT NIGHT is a not an awful film. It has its moments, and its certainly more enjoyable than any of the films from the original franchise (GARBAGE DAY!! scene excluded, of course). You could do a lot worse when it comes to Killer Santa movies. However, with such a seemingly good concept, it still baffles me that no one has managed to get it right yet.


         TWO NOGS out of FOUR

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Directed by Jeannot Szwarc

Mmm, McDonald's! I could really go for some Big Mac's and fries and nuggets! Also, some Coke! Delicious, delicious Coke!

Speaking of Coke, the producers of the 1985 flop SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE were probably snorting a tone of cocaine when they came up with this holiday "classic."

Basically it broke down to this: the producers of the box office smash SUPERMAN thought they could translate that same success onto another character, one in the public domain that they didn't have to pay rights to. And Santa Claus is sort of like Superman, in that they both fly, and that they both can see through women's clothes with X-Ray Vision.

"I wish they had just let us freeze to death."
Unfortunately, Santa didn't quite adapt as well to the Hero treatment, and what resulted was a fever dream of bright colors, possible musical numbers that never start but seem like they should, blatant product placement (by McDonald's, Coke, and, of all things, Pabst Blue Ribbon), and John Lithgow chewing so much scenery he must have dislocated his jaw.

SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE decides to give Santa (the Big Lebowski himself, David Huddleston) a backstory. It seems before he became the jolly old elf the world knows and fears  loves, he was a simple toymaker living in some undisclosed century. He and his wife and his two reindeer would ride around in the snow and give wooden toys to kids. How charming!

Well not so fast, because in the first fifteen minutes of this film, Santa, his wife, and his two reindeer freeze to death. Merry Christmas!

I'm gonna burn this mother fucker down!!!!

Riding back home, they get caught in a blizzard and all die. But wait! Luckily for them, they happen to die at the spot where a magical Christmas tree appears, and out of this glowing magic tree come elves!

The elves bring them all back to life, and the head elf announces himself by saying "I am the one called Dooley!" All the elves introduce themselves that way; it's a weird elf thing, I guess. Also, one of the elves is named Patch, and played by lovable drunk Dudley Moore, who does NOT look good with lipstick.

The elves make Santa a job offer: they'll make toys, and he'll deliver them to all the boys and girls of the world, in ONE NIGHT! How can this be? I don't know, there's some bullshit prophecy at play and Santa is the chosen one, and he can control time, or something. It's all very weird. Also, the elves dance.

As the centuries tick on, Santa entrusts the elf Patch with coming up with bigger, better ways to make toys, so Patch pulls a Henry Ford and constructs an assembly line. Unfortunately, it produces really shoddy toys that fall apart, which gives Santa a bad name. So, uh, I guess in the universe this film takes place in everyone is aware that Santa Claus is real? I mean, kids get into fist-fights over the subject, and say things like "My dad says he's all washed up!" which implies parents are sitting around discussing the productive merits of Santa Claus.

Santa promptly fires Patch, and Patch heads to New York City (for reasons unknown), and he also brings with him the magical gold dust that makes the reindeer fly. Also, I am making none of this up--this is exactly what happens.

Anyway, Santa befriends a little street urchin named Joe. Joe is always dirty, wears a leather jacket, has no family, and he really wants to eat some fucking McDonald's. In one scene, he stares through a window and longingly watches as families shove fist-fulls of fries into their faces. Joe has a friend name Cornelia, whom he refers to as "Corny."

Corny, like Joe, has no parents. But unlike Joe, she lives in a big mansion, which is owned by her cartoonishly evil uncle, B.Z., played by John Lithgow with such gleeful over-the-top-ness that you can't help become enchanted as Lithgow glowers and snarls and cackles and chomps on cigars.

Lithgow is a big-shot toymaker. So, wait--everyone is aware of Santa Claus, yet there is still a need for toymakers? Whatever. Anyway, Lithgow has just gotten in trouble with Congress because his toys catch fire, and he sells teddy bears stuffed with nails and glass (????). He needs some good P.R., and he gets it in the form of Patch, who shows up and offers to help B.Z. create something AWESOME for Christmas. Their awesome idea? Lollipops that make people FLY!!

"I want you to get nude with me in a bathtub, and then I'll cut you femoral artery." 
This is bad news for Santa. Kids love these magic lollipops so much that Santa sinks into a Sylvia Plath-like depression, where he mopes around and probably contemplates sticking his head into the gingerbread man oven.

Meanwhile, Lithgow wants to keep the success going by launching CHRISTMAS 2, and selling magic candy canes this time. There's a catch: these candy canes can explode and KILL PEOPLE. Street urchin McDonald's loving Joe overhears this, and ends up held captive by Lithgow and co., until he is rescued by Patch.

Then it's time for a "thrilling" chase across the skies as Santa and Corny and Patch and Joe ride in their respective flying sleighs and try to avoid exploding.

Did I mention this movie is fucking insane?

There's a weird charm to SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE. It's just so weird and off the walls that you can't help but sitting through it. It has a real train wreck effect--there's something more productive you could be doing with your time, but it's much more fun to watch the carnage.

It's so god damn magical!
Also, the film has such wonderfully tone-deaf dialog exchanges such as this:

SANTA: Next Christmas, you and I will have a date!
JOE: Really?
SANTA: Santa Claus never lies, Joe!

It's worth mentioning for a film called SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE, Santa Claus is barely featured. He takes a back-seat to Patch, but I guess PATCH: THE DRUNK ELF wouldn't be as good as a title (wait, yes it would...).

The film also features a rather horrifying comeuppance for Lithgow's character: in an effort to avoid being arrested, Lithgow eats a whole bundle of the magic candy canes, and ends up flying up into the cold, dead wasteland of space, where he will likely suffocate to death, after his eyeballs explode out of his head.

Merry Christmas!

SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE is a bad, bad movie, but it's so bad you have to see it; also, it gets major points for being a Christmas movie and not once mentioning or even hinting at Christ or Christianity--and therefor I give the film

Four out of Four Lithgows:

Obligatory Krampus Post

KRAMPUS is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish bad children during the Yule season, in contrast with Santa Claus, who rewards the nice ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair.

Krampus is represented as a beast-like creature, generally demonic in appearance. The creature has roots in Germanic folklore. Traditionally young men dress up as the Krampus in Austria, southern Bavaria, South Tyrol, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia during the first week of December, particularly on the evening of December 5th, and roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells. Krampus is featured on holiday greeing cars called Krampuskarten.

Friday, December 7, 2012

An Open Letter to Dan Aykroyd

Dear Dan Aykroyd,

How are you? Are you ready for Christmas? Boy, I'm sure not! It's funny how the holidays sneak up on us, isn't it?

Anyway, please give up on trying to make GHOSTBUSTERS 3.

You seem like a pretty nice guy. I really enjoy that special you did on UFO's. I watch it on Netflix Instant when I'm bored. Not that I think it's well made--it isn't, it looks like crap (not your fault); and not that I believe in any of the stuff in it (I certainly think it's possible there is other life in the galaxy, but I doubt the existence of UFO's).

ALMOST as good as Nirvana: Unplugged
The reason I enjoy the UFO special so much is that you seem like a real interesting, intelligent guy. Your ideas may be a little kooky, but you have real conviction about them, and seem pretty knowledgeable. You also look really cool smoking cigarettes, which you do throughout the special.

I've never tried your Crystal Skull vodka, because it costs like 99 dollars and I don't have that kind of cash to spend on booze, but I really like the skull-bottle it comes in, and hope to someday own one and fill it with M&M's or jellybeans or something.

Indiana Jones and the Pricey Booze
Over the last decade or so, there's been much talk about a GHOSTBUSTERS 3, mostly from you. You've been saying for years you have a really good idea for one, and you're really excited to do it. And while the rest of the 'Busters seem game, Bill Murray is constantly the thorn in your side, saying "NO THANKS" repeatedly, occasionally changing his mind to say yes, then going right back to saying NO again. 

You've gone on record several times saying that you'd actually go right ahead and make GHOSTBUSTERS 3 without Bill Murray. This is a terrible, terrible idea. Part of what makes the Ghostbusters films successful is the dynamic of all of you guys, but let's be honest here, the real star of those films is Bill Murray. No offense to, say, Ernie Hudson, but if they announced a GHOSTBUSTERS 3 with Bill Murray but without Ernie Hudson, I don't think anyone would really give a shit. Dr. Peter Venkman is one of the all-time great film characters. He's a charming smart-ass that audiences love to watch. He can do truly mean things (like in part 1, where he frequently shocks that poor grad student) and still be likable. In short, he's the best thing about the movies.

Now, I've heard that Bill Murray can be a real pain in the ass. However, I don't think he keeps turning you down to be mean; rather, I think he keeps turning you down because GHOSTBUSTERS 3 is a terrible fucking idea.

Is it possible to make a good GHOSTBUSTERS 3? Sure, anything is possible. But it really feels like that ship has sailed. While it would be funny at first to see you guys all fat and old running around busting ghosts, you kind of already did that gag in Part 2.

Also, let's get into some of the potential plot lines that have been mentioned over the years. Bill Murray said several times that he would only come back if his character got to be a ghost--meaning, Peter Venkman has to die. You said you'd be fine with that. What are you, CRAZY??? Peter Venkman dying in a Ghostbusters film would be devastating  I don't care how tastefully or comically it would be handled. No one wants to see Bill Murray as a crappy CGI ghost, unless it's in a remake of GHOST DAD, with Bill Murray as the Ghost Dad.

Another potential plot point that's been tossed around is that the film would be about the old Ghostbusters training new, young Ghostbusters to take over. Ugh. No. I can just see it now, actors like Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen and, I dunno, Paul Rudd maybe, up there on the screen, learning the ropes. Nothing against those actors (who DOESN'T love Paul Rudd??), but this is stupid. People like Ghostbusters BECAUSE of the Ghostbusters--the original guys.

You know, THESE GUYS
We don't want to see new guys taking over; that's like when fat, bloated, plastic surgery scarred Axl Rose goes on stage with a bunch of random dudes and claims to be Guns-N-Roses; or when Billy Corgan gets a whole new band and still calls them The Smashing Pumpkins. It's not the same. People don't want that. They want what they grew up loving, not a facsimile.

Recently you talked about not only making a part three, but a part 4 & 5 as well. Holy SHIT, stop it! Put down that expensive crystal skull filled with vodka and realize that it's time to throw in the towel. If you really think you have a good enough script for GHOSTBUSTERS 3, take it to Dark Horse comics or something and get them to adapt it into a graphic novel. That way, the artist can draw you guys all a little younger and thinner, and you can probably get Bill Murray to sign off on his likeness a little easier than his actual performance.

I wish you only the best, Mr. Aykroyd. I hope you have a really nice Christmas and New Years. And I hope to god your New Year's resolution for 2013 is to never, ever bring up GHOSTBUSTERS 3 again.

Chris Evangelista

art by Brandon Bird