December 2007

This Week in Foreign Film

by Alan Rapp on December 31, 2007

in Film News & Trailers

TV writer/director Andrew Piddington brings to life a dramatization of the death of John Lennon through the eyes of his killer Mark David Chapman (Jonas Bell).  Sofia Dubrawsky, Krisha Fairchild, Robert C. Kirk, and Thomas A. McMahon also star.  Check out the official site.  The film opens exclusively in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.  Larger trailer available in the Full Diagnosis.

The Killing of John Lennon
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This Week in Independent Film

by Alan Rapp on December 31, 2007

in Film News & Trailers

Frank Langella stars as a reclusive writer who is convinced by a young graduate student (Lauren Ambrose) to end his seclusion and resurrect his career.  Karl Bury, Anitha Gandhi, Jessica Hecht, Adrian Lester, and Lili Taylor also star.  Check out the official site.  The film opens wide on Friday.  Larger trailer available in the Full Diagnosis.

Starting Out in the Evening
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This Week – Year in Review

by Alan Rapp on December 31, 2007

in Uncategorized

2007, the year that was.  As we bring you more of the features and reviews you’ve come to crave from you RazorFine pals, this week we’ll also take a gander back at the year which was 2007.  Tomorrow you’ll get your regular dose of DVD news and notes.  Once again comics, thanks to the holiday shipping schedule, are pushed back (come back on Thursday for our comic and anime madness!), but don’t worry becuase on Wednesday we’ll be bringing you our lists of the worst films from 2007!  And on Friday we’ll give you our lists for our favorite films of 2007!  Thanks for ending the year, and beginning the new one, with us!  Check inside the Full Diagnois for end of the year links.

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Alan’s Top 25 Films of 2007

Ian’s Top 10 Films of 2007

December’s Top 5 Films of 2007

Alan Bashes the Worst Films of 2007

Ian Bemoans the Worst Films of 2007

December Belittles the Worst Films of the 2007

In Memoriam

3rd Annual Razorblade Awards

Fresh Ink – Best Graphic Novels of 2007

Marvel Comics Top Heroes and Villains of 2007

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Behold the Devil

by Alan Rapp on December 28, 2007

in Comics

Whether you’ve never picked up a Grendel comic, or you’ve stashed away countless issues of Matt Wagner’s creation, this series is for you.  Wagner returns to his creation for the first time in ten years to give us a never-told tale of the first Grendel, Hunter Rose.  Take a peek inside the Full Diagnosis as we review the first two issues of the eight-issue mini-series Grendel: Behold the Devil.

Grendel: Behold the Devil #1 & 2
Custom Rating

What’s interesting about this first issue, aside from the fact it’s the first Grendel issue Matt Wagner has penned himself in a decade, are the alternative perspectives and looks back mixed in with the linear never-before-told tale of Hunter Rose.

We begin with an excerpt from “Devil by the Deed” which in one page introduces both the character of Hunter Rose, the accomplished novelist, and his alter-ego Grendel, a costumed assassin and crime boss.  These carefully chosen words contrast sharply with the next six bloody pages which follow showing us the outcome of Grendel’s latest killing spree.  From here we move through the perspectives of Grendel/Hunter Rose, Detective Lucas Ottoman and Detective Elizabeth Sparks as the story continues on many separate points.

This first issue easily sets up the world and is a good primer for those unfamiliar with the characters.  And although filled with blood there’s no killing here, as the reader arrives seconds too late and is only allowed to glimpse the aftermath of Hunter Rose’s work.

By the end of the issue we also see Rose’s growing paranoia and learn that something yet unseen is waiting for Grendel in the shadows, and is hunting the hunter.

 

 

The second issue gives us more blood, more sex, and, in the issue’s final frame, the first shot of who is hunting Hunter Rose, the creature who is destined to end Grendel’s life – Argent the Wolf.

Wagner’s b&w art (with splashes of red) is classic and brilliant.  There’s a grace to the character that Wagner brings to the surface (and seriously, how totally freakin’ awesome is it to see a comic character that doesn’t look his steroid enlarged pecks are about to burst through his spandex top?).  It’s great to see him writing and drawing this character again.

Once again the story includes perspectives and insights from other sources including interviews, excerpts from “Devil by the Deed” and more.  We also see the effect of the uneasiness and feeling of being watched slowly begin to crack the emotionless exterior of Grendel.  And by the time Argent shows up we’re more than ready to plunk down another $3.50 for the next issue.

After two issues I’m hooked.  New and old fans of Grendel should pick up this series and enjoy a great storyteller slowly unfold a new exciting tale featuring his prized creation.

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Comic Rack

by Alan Rapp on December 28, 2007

in Comics

Hmm, we’re about to talk about comics so it must be Wednesday Friday?  (Hey, blame Santa not me!!)  Welcome to the RazorFine Comic Rack boys and girls.  Pull up a bean bag and take a seat at feet of the master as we look at the new comics set to hit comic shops and bookstores today from DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, WildStorm, Vertigo, Dynamite Entertainment, IDW Publishing, and Image Comics.

This week includes Amazing Spider-Man, The Authority: Prime, Batman, Green Lantern, Invincible Presents: Atom Eve, Jack of Fables, Sorrow, Thor, Usagi Yojimbo, and the first issue of Pax Romana.  Also don’t forget the truckload of new graphic novels including Daredevil: Battlin’ Jack Murdock, Fantastic Five: The Final Doom, The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive – Full Throttle, Superman: Kryptonite, Uncanny X-Men: Extremists, Will Eisner’s The Spirit Archives Vol. 23,, and much, much more.

Enjoy issue #53

[click to continue…]

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Empty ‘Orphanage’

by Ian T. McFarland on December 28, 2007

in Movie Reviews 

For having so much buzz behind it, Spain’s entry for best foreign language film for the 2008 Oscar is pretty dissapointing.  A fun idea with some fun moments, The Orphanage is a fun movie movie at best and an uninteresting one at worst.  Read on for more. . .

The Orphanage
2 Stars

You’re child has just disappeared.  Desperate to find him, you spend nine months trying every conventional route to finding him – police, flyers, the whole drill until finally, some paranormal expert dude tells you there’s something vaguely weird with your house.  What do you do?  Well, if The Orphanage is any indicator, you wallow around for a while and do random shit until you somehow wander upon what you were looking for.

And, for better or worse, that’s about all there is to The Orphanage.  After giving it a second’s thought, it’s probably for worse.

Considering Guillermo del Toro produced this first-time film for many of the filmmakers involved – like the screenwriter and the director – The Orphanage is a surprisingly un-edgy film.  The supposed horror film certainly has its share of tense moments, like when our main character attempts to infiltrate the world of the spirits occupying her home; but they’re more apprehensive than they are scary, and the scenes aren’t ever close to being pant-piss-worthy scary.

The biggest reason for the downfall of the film could likely lie in its lead actress, Belén Rueda.  She comes off as likable when she’s playing opposite her son Simón; but in any other scene, there’s nothing in her performance that draws you in, that makes you want her to have a happy ending.  In a role that’s full of emotion, you never feel convinced of her suffering.  One can’t help but think that if the role were in the hands of a stronger actress, the movie might be easier to get invested in.

What we get instead is a passable genre film that is able to keep your attention proficiently enough, but not one that can justify doing so.

As it is, The Orphanage is a surprisingly flat experience.  The buzz is electric for this foreign language film candidate; it’s too bad the film can’t be too.

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Third Annual Razorblade Awards

by Alan Rapp on December 27, 2007

in Uncategorized

Yes that’s right, the end of the year is upon us.  Starting next week we’ll take a look back at the year that was 2007.  We’ll examine the best of the best and the worst of the worst.  To kick things off we’ll start with our Third Annual Razorblade Awards for the most memorable (and truly awful) performances and moments in film we were subjected to this past year.  The Razorblade recognizes the only thing which could stop this awfulness – letting audiences slit their wrists.  Previous winners includ Paul Walker, The Dukes of Hazard, A Sound of Thunder, Tideland, Hilary and Haylie Duff, and Underworld Evolution.  (check out the 2005 and 2006 winners).

As for this year’s winners go ahead and take a peek in the Full Diagnosis, you know you want to.

3rd Annual Razorblade Awards
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Glitter Award for film
The Condemned

Ed Wood Award for direction
Christopher Cain for September Dawn

Sam J. Jones Award for Acting
TIE: Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy, and Eddie Murphy for Norbit

Elizabeth Berkley Award for Acting
Lindsay Lohan for I Know Who Killed Me

Louis Gossett Jr. Award (AKA the Aces: Iron Eagle III Award) for previous Oscar winners
TIE: Nicolas Cage for Ghost Rider and Cuba Gooding Jr. for Daddy Day Camp

Halle Berry Award (AKA the Catwoman Award) for previous Oscar winners
Diane Keaton for Because I Said So

Macaulay Culkin Award for child acting
AnnaSophia Robb for The Reaping

Plan 9 From Outer Space Award for unintentional comedy
The Reaping

Pauly Shore Award for humorless comedy
TIE: The Ex and Norbit

Rambo III Award for screenplay
September Dawn

Land of the Lost Award for special effects
Blood and Chocolate

M. Night Shyamalan Award for plot twist
Next

Wild Wild West Award for movie adapted from television
Transformers

Congo Award for movie adapted from a book
Blood and Chocolate from the Annette Curtis Klause novel

Double Dragon Award for movie adapted from a video game
Hitman

Mr. Deeds Award for film remake
The Invasion, remake of Body Snatchers, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Superman III Award for sequel
Daddy Day Camp sequel to 2003’s Daddy Day Care

Mandy Moore2 Award (AKA the Because I Said So / License to Wed Award) for two or more entries in one calendar year
Mandy Moore for Because I Said So and License to Wed

Color of Night Award for gratuitous nudity
American Pie Presents: Beta House

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle Award for gratuitous butt shots
American Pie Presents: Beta House

Arnold Schwarzenegger Award for gratuitous violence
The Condemned

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Beta House

by Alan Rapp on December 26, 2007

in DVD Reviews 

American Pie Presents Beta House is uncompromising, unapologetic, softcore porn.  Skinamax is gonna love this film.  Sure it makes as much sense as Carrot Top fan sites, but you’re not watching a flick like this for the story.  It lacks the heart of the original film (of whom only Eugene Levy appears), but it hits the sleaze factor the target audience will be hoping for, and then some.  I can’t really recommend it, but if you’ve got beer, buds, no babes, and nothing to do late one night there’s worse ways you could spend your time.

American Pie Presents: Beta House
2 Stars

The stars of the film

Here’s where I normally discuss the plot with you, such as it is.  The film follows Erik Stifler (John White) to college with his best bud Cooze (Jake Siegel) where they will meet new friends and pledge his cousin’s (Steve Talley) fraternity, the Beta House.  The film returns many of the characters from American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile but since plot is not the primary storytelling device those who didn’t see the previous film (like me) shouldn’t feel like they’ve missed much.

There are also love stories between Erik and the cute Ashley (Meghan Heffern) and Cooze and a Southern belle with a embarrassing secret (Sarah Powers), and the ongoing battle between the Betas and the Geek house, but that’s just window dressing for nudity, semen and vomit jokes, and general mayhem.

This DVD is what it is.  It’s an exploitative romp through fraternity life filled with sex, nudity, projectile vomiting, semen and ejaculation jokes, strippers, toga parties, and a Russian roulette scene where a bullet in the head might be preferable.  When it tries to play safe and have Erik straddle the line between sensitive and fun-loving it struggles mightily, but when the film throws in the towel, and all reason, and just goes for broke it provides many memorable, if not necessarily good, moments.

You’ll dislike at least as much as you’ll enjoy, but for fans of this type of humor the film delivers what you are expecting (including testicles hooked-up to a car battery, hot chicks dressed up as school girls, an orgy of binge drinking and projectile vomiting, hot chicks dressed up as school girls, a toga party, multiple trips to a strip club, and hot chicks dressed up as school girls), but not much more.  Oh, and did I mention there’s a frat party with all the hot chicks dressed in skimpy school girl costumes?  Yeah, it’s exactly what you’d expect.

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Death Has Never Been So Charming

by Ian T. McFarland on December 25, 2007

in Movie Reviews 

Not even taking Christmas off from serving the fine readers of Razorfine, we’ve got a look at the new Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman picture today.  Spending the last days of their lives traveling around the world, The Bucket List is a movie that is sweet when not saccharine, and one that’s probably worth your time.

The Bucket List
3 & 1/2 Stars

There is a seeming tug-of-war of ways to take The Bucket List.  It can be a sweet glimpse on the twilight of life and what it can be; but it can also be another onslaught of filmmaking that takes itself to seriously.  Either way to look at the film can work, but even when you’re forced to make a compromise between the two, it’s hard to deny that it’s still a sweet movie that works better than it should.

 

In the movie, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play two dying men sharing a hospital room.  When they find out that neither have more than a year to live, they make a pact to finish off their ‘Bucket Lists,’ a run-down of everything that you want to have done in your life.  Using Nicholson’s character’s fortune, they globe trot to natural and man-made wonders and, without realizing it, learn something about life.  Aww.

It’s a script packed with tender, emotional moments; full enough that it almost feels exploitative.  But though those warm fuzzies could have accidentally sailed the movie off into being too saccharine and preachy, they’re presented fully enough that it’s just grounded enough to hold up.

You might expect any movie starring heavyweights like Nicholson and Freeman to bursting from the seams with some of the best acting around; but just as the film’s approach to the topic of death, the film’s acting is pretty light.  The stars put on their sentimental faces and give us light-hearted turns.  It works for the picture; but it’s no where near filling the potential of these two stars.  Surprisingly, they may both be shown up by Sean Hayes, as Nicholson’s personal assistant.  He’s sarcastic, suave and unappreciated, and does everything to make the supporting role noticed.  None of the three deserve nominations, but they all do what’s right for the picture.

Still, as happy and content as everyone is in the movie, you can’t help but hate it just a little.  Director Rob Reiner continues his streak of achingly mediocre work, over-directing this movie’s likability to as extreme a point as is possible.  The hopeful, happy tone he applies to the film will work for the pedestrian film-goer, and it won’t totally flop on the more experienced cineaste; but it’s still really easy to hate.  It’s just so damn . . . likable.  Reiner also needs to take some blame for some truly awful uses of CG.  He tries to make the picture more grandiose with the use of flat graphics – like an almost 2-D rendering of the Taj Mahal – when he can just settle for some trickier camera angles or better photography.  In what is little more than a personal drama, these CG shots are almost too fake to stomach today; so just imagine how doomed this movie is at the test of time because of something as unnecessary as a few special effects that it doesn’t need.

I wish I could slam the movie sometimes, and it’s certainly a flawed; but thanks to some likable performances and a cute premise, the sentimental side comes out on top.

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Meet the Savages

by Alan Rapp on December 25, 2007

in Movie Reviews 

Written and directed by Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills) The Savages tells the tale of a dysfunctional family brought back together to deal with illness and the hovering specter of death.  With a bittersweet tone, finding humor in human frailty and the stark drama, it’s a film definitely worth you time.

The Savages
4 Stars

“People are dying Wendy, right inside that beautiful building right now.  It’s a fucking horror show and all this wellness propaganda and the landscaping is just there to obscure the miserable fact that people die, and death is gaseous, and gruesome, and it’s filled with shit and piss and rotten stink.”

Jon Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a college professor and writer of scholarly work in Buffalo.  Wendy Savage (Laura Linney) works temp jobs and is a struggling playwright in New York City.  The pair are brought back together to deal with their estranged father’s (Philip Bosco) increasing dementia and failing health.

This is a film about the tough choices and circumstances families go through with the ailing of their parents.  It doesn’t shy away from the pain and guilt inherent in the tough but necessary choices so many families are put through dealing with parents who can no longer take care of themselves.

There are no simplistic Holiday sappy moments here.  These people aren’t going to live happily ever after, but they will struggle and survive, learning about life and themselves in the process.  It’s not always pleasant, sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes funny, but there are many memorable moments throughout the film’s near two-hour running time.

In terms of performance it is really a three man piece.  Linney, Hoffman and Bosco do well in their roles as family members who care but don’t quite know how to take care of themselves, let alone each other.  Each one is terrific in their own way.  Hoffman’s Jon is a man who wants to control a life out of control and is forced to deal with his long standing issues with his father and the forced deportation of his longtime girlfriend (Cara Seymour).  Linney is just right as a woman who has gotten so good at lying and rationalizing that it’s become second nature to herself, her family, and the married man (Peter Friedman) she is having an affair with.  And Bosco balances the anger and sadness of a man slowly losing control of his own mind.

The naming of the Savages, although perhaps a little too clever, works well as these children (Jon and Wendy) living out their own dreams and lives are forced to return and deal with harsh reality.  It’s not a perfect movie and does contain a couple of almost-too-cute-for-film moments (including the aftermath of Hoffman’s tennis injury), but its got a good bruised heart which it’s willing to share.

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