Movie #6: Rubber (2011)

First, let me air out the laundry. Rubber is the worst movie that I have ever watched taking everything in to consideration. I have no doubts and I don’t envision a change of heart any time soon. Previously the title of worst movie was held by Dragonball: Evolution, but Rubber is considerably the more rotten of the two. It’s not because I don’t get what they’re going for with this film. I get it, and I don’t like it.

Visionary filmmaker my ass. 

I feel that it’s safe to say that the title of “visionary filmmaker” was a self-appointed one by Quentin Dupieux, who sometimes calls himself “Mr. Oizo” in an effort to be the most ostentatious asshole on the planet. His name can only be all over this trash in big bold letters for his own vanity, because “Quentin Dupieux” certainly doesn’t sell tickets. The only other possibility is that he is a possessive child who likes to write his name on his toys.

Rubber is a film that makes another banal attempt of mocking the monstrosity that is Hollywood. It’s a film with a mantra of “No reason.” In a fourth wall breaking opening monologue, the film’s lead actor rams the “No Reason” doctrine down your throat out of your digestive system and back again. In the monologue, the lead actor reaches Insane Clown Posse levels of philosophizing by asking speculative questions like, “Why is E.T. brown?” and “Why is Kennedy assassinated in the film JFK?” and only offers the answer of “No Reason.” He even asks why characters don’t go to the bathroom in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, when they actually do reference having to go in the beginning of the film. Rubber starts with a major oversight and only continues in mediocrity throughout.

Magnets, how do they work?

Rubber includes a chorus, much like a Classical Greek drama. They comment on the goings on throughout the film and have all sorts of meta conversations about the tire having sex and how one shouldn’t pirate movies. In the case of Rubber, the chorus is distracting and unfunny. The chorus is like a laugh track in a comedy. I don’t need to be reminded to laugh if something is funny. I just do. The chorus eventually dies because a stereotypical ’80s nerd kills them with poisoned meat. Cue laugh the laugh track.

The dialogue was written by someone who has never had a human conversation before. Instead of showing emotions through a multitude of established visual devices, the filmmaker has actors say “I’m mad” or even “I’m very mad” if they have passed the point of just being regular mad. The writing in this film will have your eyes looking like slot machines because they will be rolling in the back of their sockets so much. The worst line in the film? When attempting to find the tire, one character asks “Is it black?” – I’m sure the writer is still laughing about this one to himself.

Rubber is the type of movie that reminds you that you need to floss, and when you do, you find that your flossing was more enriching and entertaining.

The thing is, I get what the filmmaker is attempting to do. It doesn’t escape me. A humanized tire? Yeah, I can suspend my belief there. A film critical of Hollywood? I like The Player. What the filmmaker is going for, I totally get it. The thing is, it’s a lazy attempt, and poorly executed. The most bleak part of it all, is that the director can hide behind his adolescent nihilism as an excuse for his disastrous creation and just say “No Reason.” If you want to see this philosophy in full effect, watch American Beauty of A Clockwork Orange. Those are true efforts in the genre, and explore the philosophy thoroughly. This is arthouse filth and only those devoid of real world experience who are seeking to be different will admit to enjoying it. The director can blame his existence or society all he wants for this garbage, when in the end he is solely at fault.

Near the end, when the tire is reincarnated as a tricycle, Rubber reaches a point of immaturity that makes you ask yourself, “Can this movie get any more juvenile?” The answer is yes. The tricycle and all of its tire buddies roll up to the Hollywood sign and just sit there. “Look everyone, I am mocking Hollywood,” – Quentin Dupieux.

I am Quentin Dupieux and I just learned metaphors.

A turd in a box with a bow on it isn’t a present. It’s a turd in a confined space. Rubber is a turd in a confined space. Even in an infinite number of timelines, with an infinite number of possibilities, I can’t imagine ever liking Rubber. It’s the Superman 64 of movies. If Hell exists, it’s watching Rubber on repeat for eternity. No, Hell is watching Rubber once. Watching Rubber for eternity is worse than eternal damnation.

What could have made Rubber niche and interesting is making a horror film about a tire. The premise alone gives so much room for quirkiness and spoofery. Instead, the director is too interested in reminding people just how clever he is by cutting to all things uninteresting throughout the film. Rubber is the obese, pimply fedora wearing neckbeard of movies. The only fitting end to this saga is for the director to make his eventual exit in a massive tire fire.

I give it no severed LEGO arms out of five. It’s that awful.

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Movie #5: Cronos (1993)

Cronos, the first full-length feature film by Guillermo del Toro from 1993 is the fifth film in my 31 Movies, 31 Days challenge. I’m back outside of the United States with a second Mexican-inspired horror film in a row.

It's time for Cronos.

It’s time for Cronos.

Cronos was the highest budgeted Mexican film at the time, at an estimated $1.5 million in total, and went about $500,000 over budget, a sum that was covered personally by del Toro, bringing the total cost to somewhere around $2 million. The budding Mexican director was worth the risk, and has gone on to make two of my most adored films in Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim.

Perhaps the best choice by del Toro was to scrap the idea of Ron Perlman be a Spanish speaking Mexican and instead be an expatriated American who is waiting for his uncle’s death and his chance at a nosejob. Perlman is impressive in the role, and its really no wonder he has made a great career for himself. Also, I couldn’t stop thinking that he looks remarkably like a Will Ferrell doppelganger in Cronos.

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

I also enjoyed the performance by lead-man and del Toro darling Federico Luppi. He went through so many transformations in the film, and was able to bring the humanity out in each one of them. It’s not every day you’re asked to go from an old antique shop owner to a vampiric zombie, but he was up to the task. From start to finish I enjoyed every bit of his screen-time. One scene especially threw me for a loop:

I won’t spoil the scene, but it’s one of the stronger ones I have seen in some time.

Cronos is unique, clever, and somewhat high-brow in comparison to most horror films. It brings a bit of gore and surreality without being too over the top. The Cronos device is a clever one, almost reminiscent of the puzzle box from Hellraiser, but distinctive in its own right. (They certainly must have been desirable, as all of the Cronos Device props were stolen after filming).

Vampire zombies are not a trope you see often in film, surprisingly, but this makes you want more. It’s no wonder that American studios tried to get the rights to make a Hollywood version of the film given the property. del Toro denied them the rights, and while I feel that Hollywood may have made a mess of it, it would have been interesting to see what they would have turned out.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Cronos from beginning to end. I felt like it lulled just before the conclusion, but really picked up at the final two encounters between protagonist and antagonists. Between the room of hanging antique angelic sculptures and a rooftop fight scene, I thought Cronos was beautifully shot, and I am somewhat surprised it didn’t catch on more in the States. Even now, with a Criterion release, it’s not a film I hear about. Cronos is definitely worth a watch, and for me, a rewatch in the future. I give it 4 severed LEGO arms out of 5.

Who knew that LEGO arms had bones?

Who knew that LEGO arms had bones?

Movie #4: Planet Terror (2007)

The fourth film in my 31 Movies in 31 Days challenge is Planet Terror, part one of the Grindhouse feature from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. This will be the first film in the challenge that I have watched before and also the first based in the states. It’s also features the most gore of the films I have watched so far.

Planet Terror is the rare example of America being more weird than Japan.

Planet Terror is the rare example of America being more weird than Japan.

Planet Terror, also known as the film that spawned a thousand Machetes, was a film that I watched at release in theaters. The first of the two Grindhouse films release generated a lot of excitement among my friends both leading up to and after the release. We were left quoting it over and over again. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard: “Best in Texas” and “I’m gonna eat your brains and gain your knowledge.” Planet Terror was one of the best movie-going experiences I have ever had, with the numerous fake trailers and the gritty, self-aware presentation. While Planet Terror is a good standalone film, seeing it makes me wish I could watch Grindhouse in theaters again.

Wendy Peffercorn just sits there lotioning and oiling and shooting people with needles

At the time, Robert Rodriguez was a name that generated considerable excitement, especially considering he was fresh off the heels of Sin City, one of the coolest films ever made. Sadly, I think this is the last good film that Robert Rodriguez has made. His name being attached to a film makes me question my anticipation anymore. Since Planet Terror was released, we’ve seen a slew of Machete films, a poor Sin City Sequel, and what I assume is a Jonny Quest that is going to feature Danny Trejo as Hadji. He’s gone down hill and has started making poor niche films, and something needs to change.

You’re looking at your new Hadji. Jonny Quest will be played by Rebel Rodriguez.

It’s disjointed at times, and filled with continuity errors (only some of which are deliberate), but that’s not what you’re thinking when you’re having a watch. You’re thinking about what over-the top gimmick is coming next. Planet Terror still holds up though. Every character, no matter how insignificant to the story, seemingly has an exhaustive backstory, and buckets of charm. You want to know more about them and hear their next witticism. It’s a trait not many films have. Not only are the characters multi-dimensional, but the action gives a considerable amount of fan-service too, making you not want to look down at your popcorn when you eat it.

It’s a film that’s worth watching. It’s also a sad reminder that some filmmakers lose their luster after a while. For all that it lacks, it is not a film that will leave you wanting. In my opinion, it’s Rodriguez’s second best, only to Sin City. I give it 4.2 LEGO arms out of 5.

A solid severed LEGO arm score.

I’m gonna eat your brains and gain your knowledge.

Movie #3: The Omen (1976)

For my third film in the 2015 edition of 31 Movies in 31 Days is The Omen from 1976. It’s also the third film I’ve watched in a row set outside of the United States and the second to be remade thirty years later.

The Czech poster for The Omen with their alternate title “Satan is Coming”

There probably isn’t much to say about The Omen that hasn’t been said before. It’s brilliant. The score is masterful and terrifying all on its own. The acting is quality all around. It’s directed masterfully. It’s one of the best horror films I have ever seen.

Perhaps my favorite part of it all was that there’s always this lingering doubt among the characters that Damien was in fact the Devil. This keeps the film very grounded in reality, and makes the actions of those within the film conceivable. Once they display without a doubt in their minds that Damien is evil, that’s when they die. (The priest, the mother, the photographer, and the ambassador all did this). It does make for an interesting thought if you assume that all of the characters have gone mad (including the nanny), and Damien is in fact just a regular child.

Just a regular kid who likes bikes and dogs.

The Omen featured two excellent supporting performances from two actors that I’ve admired in other roles. The first, Patrick Troughton, best known as the Second Doctor in Doctor Who, was terrifying and ominous. Despite him being possibly my favorite classic Doctor, it took me a while to recognize him, as his appearance and performance was vastly different compared to what I know him from. The second was David Warner, from TRON, Batman: The Animated SeriesTMNT II: Secret of the Ooze, and several others. (He’s also appeared in Doctor Who, though his appearance was in the newer series.) His role was a bigger one than I expected, and he owns every bit of screen time he is present for. It’s hard to say of the two, which death was more gruesome, but neither were as shocking as the death of the original nanny.

MS Paint depiction of how it went down

My MS Paint depiction of how it went down

The film also featured one of the coolest shots I have seen in a while. In the beginning, in the nursery, the doctor, future ambassador, and nurse holding the newborn are all looking at the baby through reflective glass, and all of their faces are visible in a triangle. Man. What a cool shot. Here, look at it!

Look at how amazing this is.

My only regret with The Omen is that I didn’t see it when I was younger and more apt to be afraid. Still, it’s nice to know that there are classics all around that I haven’t made it around to watching. I enjoyed it thoroughly from beginning to end and am still running it over in my mind today. From Billie Whitelaw‘s Nurse Ratched-esque performance to legendary Gregory Peck‘s emergence from retirement, to Richard Donner convincing me yet again that Superman II should never have been taken away from him, The Omen will go down as one of my favorite horror films. I give it 4.8 severed lego arms out of 5.

That's pretty close to perfect.

That’s pretty close to perfect.

Movie #2: The Man from Planet X (1951)

The Man From Planet X is an early alien invasion film, created just a few years after the Roswell phenomenon. It was released in 1951, just months prior to the higher budgeted hit The Day the Earth Stood Still. The film was shot over a mere 6 days.

The WEIRDEST… Creature Human Eyes Have Ever Seen!

The Man From Planet X veers away from the flying saucer trope that we see over and over again in the 1950s and actually presents a pretty cool ship design which you can see in the picture above. It looks like a juicer on top of a lead shot, and is a refreshing change of pace, albeit a small one.

The movie is set in a remote and foggy Scottish island, but shot completely in California. The Scottish actors featured here are some of the most trusting you will see in any film, happy to let the American protagonist run the town after a series of disappearances. The constable even gives his bike and pistol to John Lawrence, the boringly named American lead man. Several sets are obviously painted backdrops, and many were reused from earlier films, which was pretty common for low budget movies like this one. At one point our characters are in a harbor sending signals to stock footage of a ship, and behind them is a painting of the Scottish village done by some Southern Californian 5th grade class. Really, the only reason that I can think of that they used Scotland as a setting for this film is so they could use the castle dungeon and that is a stretch.

I couldn’t find an explanation for this, so I am guessing it’s an early cosplayer.

The acting is pretty ho-hum for the most part. The still-active William Schallert produces the only speaking role worth remembering. As Dr. Mears, he lurks around in the shadows, tortures the alien for information, and tries to use alien technology for his own gain. The movie needed more characters like this, who weren’t flat and had different motives. Russian actor Pat Goldin portrayed The Man from Planet X, our film’s alien, who can only communicate with various pitches and signs. (Apparently in the film, they were able to communicate with Geometry?) Goldin does a great job of miming and bringing life to the alien with the thousand yard blank stare and no movable facial expressions.

Seriously, it can’t be easy to produce a decent performance when wearing that.

All-in-all, it’s an entertaining early invasion film that could have been so much more with just a little effort. Give up on the Scotland bit and put the alien in an American town. It was just a taste of what was to come over the next decade. The ending was poignant, and (64 year old spoiler incoming) points to the Roswell incidents, which is what it should have focused on more. The female lead is in the arms of the male lead looking out at the Scottish (Californian) expanse. The following exchange takes place:

Enid: Is it true that no one will ever know what happened here?

John: Knowledge would only bring more fear in a world already filled with it.

Enid: Can such a thing be kept a secret?

John: No. No, but it can be reduced to gossip.

How awesome would it have been as an American tale of deception and cover-ups? That early on too, it would have been something else. What we were left with was still worth having a watch, especially if you are a fan of early sci-fi films. I give The Man from Planet X a score of 2.5 out of 5 severed LEGO arms.

Halfway there

Halfway there

Movie #1: The Fly (1958)

Back on the writing horse! For movie #1 of the 2015 Marathon of 31 Movies in 31 Days is The Fly from 1958. This film, starring movie legend Vincent Price was actually based on a short story from Playboy Magazine written by George Langelaand. First of, you really don’t see anything being adapted from Playboy stories anymore. I feel like in the ’60s there were all sorts of original works adapted for television and film by Shel Silverstein and Kurt Vonnegut and Ian Fleming. Maybe there’s some quality content in Playboy magazine. Who knows?

Pictured: A Very Misleading Movie Poster

The Fly features a great slowly progressing, non-linear storyline. It’s not a storytelling style that is in vogue today, and honestly, I have to be on my toes if I am watching a film like this. For all of the suspense that builds while you are waiting for the reveal, a part of me, in the back of my mind, was just ready for some action to happen already. Really, there wasn’t much action at all to my surprise, but some quality storytelling and suspense. In my opinion the reveal was worth the wait.

The effects were presented splendidly and even today don’t look hamfisted or cheesy, which is an impressive trait considering there are several movies from even the early 2000s that look dated. The Fly wasn’t terrifying to me, but it was a bit unsettling. The lighting was also great and the laboratory setup was quite impressive, especially given they only spend about $28,000 on it using mostly army surplus goods.

Science

For the many superlatives I can think up for The Fly, I was disappointed that we didn’t see more from Vincent Price. He played a very regular businessman, and we didn’t see the range of his talent. It’s a real shame.

Pictured: Not enough of this.

One thing The Fly helps me appreciate more is the story of Baxter Stockman from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The cartoon series was loaded with 50s sci-fi, horror, and B-Movie references, and Stockman’s backstory was an homage to this film. Unfortunately, now Tyler Perry is playing Stockman. I didn’t think I could hate the new iteration of the franchise more, but I do now.

A better performance by Baxter Stockman than what Tyler Perrry will give.

Overall, I would denote The Fly a classic. I wasn’t enamored by it, but I enjoyed it and recommend watching it. You can see how this film was inspiration to others. I look forward to watching the ’80s remake, since I only can remember vague gruesome images from my childhood. I’ll try to watch the sequels as well if I can find them somewhere.

I give it 4 severed LEGO arms out of 5.

Two minifigs worth of severed arms.

Two minifigs worth of severed arms.

Trying it again this year!

Last year I made it to #8 on my list. Pretty embarrassing. I did watch a film every day over the course of October, which was a big ask, but I failed to blog about them all.

legoarm

I give myself one severed LEGO arm.

So, for anyone reading, I hope to write about all 31 movies I watch this year. Tonight I hope to watch The Fly (1958) with Vincent Price. I’ve embedded a link to the trailer below. Can’t wait!!