Review: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

So, I just watched Tucker and Dale vs. Evil- a deconstructionist horror/comedy in the same vein as The Cabin in the Woods. This is not to say that it’s as good as Cabin, which I’d argue is actually a masterpiece, but it tries to cover some similar territory. The basic premise is that two scruffy but likeable hillbillies are being terrorized by a typical bunch of college kids who think the hillbillies are psycho killers due to a series of misunderstandings. It’s meant to be a tongue-in-cheek reversal of the typical college kids are hunted by crazy rednecks movie, and is played more for laughs than horror.

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It’s a cute movie, with a nice premise, but if I had to use a word to describe it, I’d use the word “timid”.  I know that’s an odd word to describe a horror movie, so let me explain by giving an example of an early scene in the film. (minor spoiler, but it won’t ruin much)

There’s a scene early on where Dale and Earl are driving along in their truck and drinking beer. They spot a cop behind them with its lights on, and Earl (who is driving) fumbles his beer, trying to figure out where to stash it and spills it all over himself. Dale, being the nice guy he is, leans over from the passenger seat to try and clean it up, but his shirt collar gets stuck on Earl’s belt, and so his head is stuck bobbing in Earl’s lap as Earl pulls over for the cop.

What we have here is the classic awkward humor shot of the cop walking up to find one redneck who looks like he’s getting oral sex from his buddy. A nice uncomfortable situation for everyone involved, and some nice squirming humor for the audience, right?

Nope.

As they pull over, Dale unbuttons/rips open his shirt and sits up, bare-chested. The cop never sees the implied oral sex, and while there are suggested gay humor overtones to their conversation, it doesn’t actually amount to anything. No squirming humor, just a mildly amusing situation.

And the whole movie is like this.

They spend the whole film almost doing something neat with a character or situation, but almost always pull away at the last moment to give us something cute instead of actually pushing it to make us laugh or squirm. This is especially weird since there’s a scene of a classic horror movie massacre (historical flashback) that’s quite gory and almost over the top, but it’s one of the only things in the movie that is. The two rednecks aren’t quite rednecks, the college kids aren’t quite college self-absorbed or jerks, and the whole thing feels like a collection of neat ideas that they just didn’t take to the next level.

I guess that’s why I’m writing this. The whole film to me felt like a missed opportunity. If they’d just been more over-the-top with it and pushed things a bit more, it could have been a great film, but as it is, it’s just a cute one.

I rated it 3/5 on Netflix, and I’d say that’s just the right rating for it. If you’re in the mood, it’s a fun watch, but don’t expect it to quite live up to its premise.

The Friend Zone

One topic which has been ripping its way across Social Media recently is the issue of “The Friend Zone”, which is a hard concept to explain because there are are so many definitions of it out there. The one which is making the rounds on social media, however, looks like this:

  1. Person A likes Person B.
  2. Person B thinks Person A is a nice person, but not relationship material for them.
  3. Person A does lots of nice things for Person B to try and get them into a relationship.
  4. Person A eventually gets frustrated when Person B still isn’t interested, despite their efforts.
  5. Person A declares that Person B has “friend zoned” them and blames them for Person A not getting what they want.

(If you want a slightly more colourful version, check out Chuck Wendig’s blog entry here.)

I have to say I’m torn on the whole Friend-Zone issue. People and relationships are complicated things, and simple absolute terms rarely apply across all situations. Yeah, being nice to someone because you want something from them (money, help, or sex) is a selfish and prickish thing to do, and if you use the whole “friend-zone” thing as an excuse to blame them for not doing what you want you’re definitely a jerk. On the other hand, people often (but not always) do know (consciously or unconsciously) of another’s intentions and then string them along to get what THEY want by giving hints but never promising anything.

So that’s (one) of the issues with the whole “friend-zone” thing- sometimes the person complaining really was a jerk, sometimes they were a victim, and sometimes both people were jerks. (And note, women do this crap all the time too, even if men all-too-often are the ones you hear complaining about it, so it’s mostly a male thing.)

Rob

 

Disney’s Frozen – “Let It Go” in 25 Languages

There’s something quite beautiful about hearing this song so smoothly done in 25 languages. I think it speaks to the idea that we’re all one world sharing this planet together, and despite our differences we all appreciate the beautify of song. (Ore no Utau, Kike!)

It’s also the ultimate musical cover challenge to do it right!

Of course, I still find it amusing that this, the anthem (and best song) of a Disney movie is exemplifying the Ayn Randian dream of “Screw you all! I’m taking my talents and toys and going somewhere where I’m appreciated!” Which makes this profanity laden parody version actually a more honest emotional translation of the song in some ways…

Becoming a better writer through purging “thought” verbs.

Chuck Palahniuck (writer of Fight Club, the book) had this great advice up on Lit Reactor that I thought I’d share. His argument is an old one (“show, don’t tell”) that every writer learns towards the beginning of their career, but he explains it very well in a way I haven’t seen before. The whole article is worth a read, but this first excerpt has the core of his argument.

In six seconds, you’ll hate me.

But in six months, you’ll be a better writer.

From this point forward – at least for the next half year – you may not use “thought” verbs.  These include:  Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use.

The list should also include:  Loves and Hates.

And it should include:  Is and Has, but we’ll get to those, later.

Until some time around Christmas, you can’t write:  Kenny wondered if Monica didn’t like him going out at night…”

Instead, you’ll have to Un-pack that to something like:  “The mornings after Kenny had stayed out, beyond the last bus, until he’d had to bum a ride or pay for a cab and got home to find Monica faking sleep, faking because she never slept that quiet, those mornings, she’d only put her own cup of coffee in the microwave.  Never his.”

Instead of characters knowing anything, you must now present the details that allow the reader to know them.  Instead of a character wanting something, you must now describe the thing so that the reader wants it.

Instead of saying:  “Adam knew Gwen liked him.”

You’ll have to say:  “Between classes, Gwen was always leaned on his locker when he’d go to open it.  She’d roll her eyes and shove off with one foot, leaving a black-heel mark on the painted metal, but she also left the smell of her perfume.  The combination lock would still be warm from her ass.  And the next break, Gwen would be leaned there, again.”

In short, no more short-cuts.  Only specific sensory detail: action, smell, taste, sound, and feeling.

Typically, writers use these “thought” verbs at the beginning of a paragraph  (In this form, you can call them “Thesis Statements” and I’ll rail against those, later)  In a way, they state the intention of the paragraph.  And what follows, illustrates them.

via Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs | LitReactor.

A Short Film Festival

I’ve been going through (very) short films this week for school, and I thought I’d share a few of the best ones I’ve found. My requirement was that they each be around 5 minutes or less. Enjoy! :-)

The Black Hole- a nearly perfect short film.

Kung Fooled- Perception is Everything!

2+2=5 – Power is Knowledge

Mama – The short that inspired the horror movie of the same name.

Review- Dredd

While some of my closest friends are Judge Dredd aficionados, I am merely a casual fan of Dredd and his world. As such, I wasn’t really hung up on accuracy or continuity when I saw Stallone’s Judge Dredd film, or the current film Dredd. As a result, I didn’t hate Stallone’s take on it as much as they did, but I didn’t especially like it either, as it was an over broad and not especially well written film.

In fact, about the only baggage I had going into watching Dredd this weekend was that I watched The Raid earlier this year, which is a film with a very similar premise. I admit, like many people, I viewed Dredd through the eyes of it being a Raid knock-off, which might be part of the reason I took so long to watch the film, despite being curious about it. (As it turns out, Dredd went into production before The Raid did, and came out after it because of bad luck, so the films are the result of parallel development rather than one film copying another.)

In any case, despite its over-the-top violence and occasional flaws, I really enjoyed Dredd. It’s a solid and entertaining film that didn’t get as much attention as it deserved, and it will be a shame if it doesn’t get a sequel. (Which it likely won’t, due to poor box-office.) Yes, it could have upped the dark-humor quotient a little more, but I thought overall it was pretty balanced and well thought-out. About the only thing that bugged me was that it really made the judges look massively outnumbered and almost impotent in the face of trying to control Megacity One’s crime. Maybe that’s accurate for the comic, I’m not sure.

Also, I don’t think Karl Urban has the chin for Dredd. But he does have the attitude and his voice does convey menace pretty well…

But I’d have to say I enjoyed it, and give it a thumbs up. :-)

Rob

P.S. 138 is the number, in case you were wondering.

Basic Minimum Income

I admit, I find the idea of Basic Minimum Income fascinating, and I think that one day we’ll have to start shifting to some form of this for the simple reason that we will simply not have enough jobs for the majority of people to work. We’re already getting into a situation where almost all manufacturing jobs are gone, and the remaining ones will be done by robots, and the majority of jobs will be service industry ones that can’t support a family, so what do we do?

Basic Income is one definite solution, although I’m more in favor of a Negative Income Tax scheme, where you’re guaranteed a certain amount of money per year (say CAN$20,000) and any other money do you make is taken off that basic amount. If you make more, you get to keep it all (well, except taxes), and if you make less the government closes the gap between you and the minimum standard.

I guess the only issue is one of what society will look like if people work because they want to, not have to. Humans are lazy creatures by nature, and there’s no doubt many would simply take the money and spend their lives online playing MMOs and having cybersex. (Of course, these people probably won’t breed much…) I think we’d need a social movement to go with this shift, one which idealizes people who work hard and try to achieve something more in their lives. If we strongly encourage hard work and success as a social value, that might help to balance out at least some of the natural tendency of people to slack-off. Also, this system was tried in Manitoba, Canada as a test project back in the 1970′s called “Mincome” at the time, and there was only a very slight drop off in the number of people working during the 5 year period it was implemented.

The results showed a modest impact on labor markets, with working hours dropping one percent for men, three percent for wives, and five percent for unmarried women. (Mincome entry from Wikipedia.)

So, maybe I should have more faith in humanity?

Of course, this “minimum” should be barely above the poverty level anyways, which encourages people to get out there and work for something more to have a better life than just the very basics.

I’m not sure if this is just Communism 2.0 (which is how many will portray it), or a perfect balance between Communism and Capitalism (both of which are ultimately failures, only Communism died faster) but it might be worth a try. Luckily, it’s not an idea which is going away anytime soon, and sooner or later we’ll see someone try it in earnest and we’ll be able to judge the results.

Rob

Movie Review- Singham

Friday night is movie night in my household, I collapse onto the couch, pick a movie from Netflix and go to it.

This week, I decided to go for something a little out of the ordinary and this poster caught my eye…

http://media.apunkachoice.com/image/nw/ej/main/main_image-79362.jpg

Now, the fact that it’s a clear ripoff of Iron Man’s aesthetic aside, it is a pretty impressive poster and so I read a few glowing reviews and decided it was time to finally face my destiny. You see, to my eternal shame, I’ve never actually watched a whole Bollywood movie, just seen pieces of them here and there. So, I decided to settle in and see if this movie earned it’s cool poster.

Short answer- it did.

The basis of the film is super simple- Singham (the guy you see in the poster) is a modern Hercules (or rather Rama) who works as a much beloved policeman in a small rural village where nobody ever actually goes to jail because of his wise guidance and judgment. Unfortunately, he runs afoul of an urban gangster from the nearby big city of Goa and the gangster uses his corrupt influences to get Singham transferred to the big city where the gangster is the one who has all the power and is determined to destroy our hero. Of course, things don’t quite go as the gangster planned.

For my first Bollywood film, I think this was a good choice. The plot was dead simple, the music was catchy (this is Bollywood, of course there are song and dance numbers!) and it was just plain fun to watch. My only issues were that it’s actually a bit long (it drags in a few spots) and the ending is really odd and brutal by North American standards, it’s not a Hollywood ending, and was a little unsettling in some ways. (Ethically and morally, but it’s good to see non-Hollywood endings from time to time and different perspectives.)

If you’re still on the fence, just watch this clip, and you can decide whether this is your kind of film:

Ironically, I had seen this clip months ago, but didn’t realize it was from this movie until I got to this part.

Singham!

Rob

Feeling Social Again

Hi All,

It seems that when I updated WordPress at the end of December, there was a glitch and the tiny little “allow comments” checkbox under each post was now unchecked by default instead of checked, so my last few posts couldn’t have comments. I’ve re-installed WordPress and got back and rechecked those previous posts, so the issue seems to have been fixed. Sorry about any inconvenience!

Thanks to Jack Ward for pointing it out, or I might have just assumed I freaked everyone out with that Opilions post and everyone was too creeped out to comment!

Rob