Film Threat Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

2010
Rated R
95 minutes

**

If you are a film fan who was born in the seventies, the last couple of years have been rough. Hollywood has basically been reinventing your childhood with systematic remakes of everything they can think of. Well, they finally got to Freddy.

Now I’m not saying that the original “A Nightmare On Elm Street” was cinematic genius, but they definitely had something there. Those movies were scary for their day. Practical effects made all that viscera look so, well, real. A young Johnny Depp getting sucked into his own water bed and being reduced to a blood geyser… that image will stick with you forever. Robert Englund, with his sly grin and vaudeville-esque puns, made Freddy not only scary but also fun. Repetitive as they may have become, those movies were fun. They were so bad that they were good.

Unfortunately, in 2010, some people would rather rehash an old idea than try to come up with a new way to get kids into movie theatres. So we have the “re-imagining” of “A Nightmare On Elm Street”. “Re-imagining” is a made-up word that means, “Sanctioned rip-off”. It also seems to mean stripping every fiber of creativity from an idea. And that’s exactly what they’ve done here. There are a lot of problems with “Nightmare” 2010, not the least of which is that it’s entirely unremarkable. There are plot holes, poor line delivery, poor lines, and lots of lazy C.G. Frankly, I’m having a hard time remembering any of it because it’s all so bad that it’s actually bad.

If you’re just joining us, “A Nightmare On Elm Street” tells the tale of a supernatural perv named Freddy Krueger who can kill people in their dreams. When he starts stalking a group of teenagers who all live on the titular Elm Street, they must learn the truth about Freddy and his connection to their past in order to finally get a good night’s sleep. Jackie Earl Haley (“Little Children,” “Watchmen”) is gravelly-voiced and weird looking enough to play Freddy in an alternate universe. But in this universe, he’s a mediocre hybrid of Rorschach and Englund’s Freddy. Though it’s not his fault, really. Englund is a tough act to follow, and they don’t give Haley any classic Freddy one-liners until very late in the film. It’s a very noticeable shift in tone, as if they started out trying to make a serious movie and then changed their minds. Before that, he’s just Growly Razorhands. He looks like Freddy but only from a distance. It almost feels like a fan film, or, at best, a Sy-Fy Original Movie. Haley, talented as he is, just can’t nail the role. No one can, because it already belongs to Englund. And therein lies the biggest problem of all. When watching this film, you can never stop thinking about the original movies. When Rob Zombie re-made “Halloween”, he at least managed to make you forget about his source material for a minute. But “Nightmare” director Samuel Bayer hasn’t struck out on his own at all. He’s just made a bad copy.

There are no Johnny Depps in this cast either. There aren’t even any Heather Langenkamps. There are just a bunch of young actors who can scream, bleed, run and die. Not that Gallner, Mara, Cassidy and Dekker have anything to work with. The script is a huge mess. It’s hard to sell lines like “[My therapist] thinks that all my problems come from my past” and “I didn’t kill her. I loved her, man!” The characters have no character to speak of. They let their Joy Division t-shirts, bohemian berets and guyliner do the talking. One boy wears a crucifix because “You’ve gotta believe in something, right?” He’ll never be an effective missionary with that attitude.

This is a town populated by reactionary parents who are terrible, terrible liars. As soon as their children start asking questions, they literally shift their eyes and try to change the subject. One girl asks why she doesn’t remember having gone to preschool with the other kids who are being stalked by Freddy. “Who can remember being five years old?” her mother counters. Uh… everybody? That’s when you usually start to remember stuff. Stuff like having gone to a super creepy preschool on the other side of town and playing hide-and-go-seek in a kiddie porn dungeon with a weird gardener named Freddy. Fortunately, they don’t have to remember. This preschool is still standing 13-years later, abandoned but completely untouched, enabling the kids to conveniently re-discover their past. Pretty much nothing in this movie makes sense. And because there aren’t any compelling characters to distract you from the plot holes, they’re all you can think about as you wait for the running time to tick down.

Of course, they left the film open-ended, so we will have lots more time to ponder these thematic enigmas in the next 10 movies. Freddy can never really die, even if Hollywood beats him like a dead horse.

Originally published on FilmThreat.com (now defunct). 

Hotter With a Beard: Axl Rose Edition

Even in his heyday, I never really got the Axl-Rose-as-a-sex-symbol thing. He was too skinny, and biker shorts have never really been a turn on for me. And then during his “come back” things seemed to get worse. No man’s face should ever meet a botox needle and no white man should ever don cornrows. Well, I guess Axl got (a small) clue because these days, he’s looking alright. Not GREAT, mind you. But certainly better than he’s ever looked before.

He could probably stand to work out and buy some normal pants (and Jesus H. Jones cut that hair already!!) but I dig where he’s going with this.

Film Threat Review: Saint John of Las Vegas

2010
Rated R
85 minutes

**

The “flashback” narrative has become quite popular. A film opens with a scene in which things are bad, desperate or cliff-hangery and then a title card shoots the audience into the past to show us how things got to be so dire. At one time, it was an innovative way to tell a story. But these days, many directors use it just to be cool. They don’t even think about whether or not it’s a fitting way to tell their story. Is Steve Buscemi’s “Saint John” really at his wits end when he enters a Las Vegas gas station and decides to buy $1000 in instant lottery tickets? Sure, his face is pretty worse-for-wear, but, once we learn more about his character, it’s evident that this behavior is not at all out of the ordinary for him. A wide variety of events in his past could have brought him to this same scenario. Besides, $1000 may be a lot of money for a workingman, but blowing it isn’t a life-or-death situation by any means. With the temporal-shift title card, you know director Hue Rhodes is going to work his way back to this pretty ho-hum scene. It kind of renders the whole movie hollow before it even kicks off.

A voiceover tells us that John used to be lucky. And then one day, his luck ran out and he lost everything, thus, ending with a depressing career at an Albuquerque-based auto insurance company. His only thrills are his daily lotto ticket habit and leering at his happy-face obsessed cubical mate (Sarah Silverman). Maybe it’s Buscemi’s performance, but watching the current incarnation of Saint John makes the idea that he used to live a life of glitz and glamour in Vegas pretty hard to swallow. Maybe he did. Or maybe he just prefers to remember things that way.

When John petitions his egomaniacal boss (Peter Dinklage) for a raise, he instead gets assigned to a new department. A co-worker by the name of Virgil (Romany Malco) runs the fraud division and needs a partner to help him investigate a suspicious accident in the desert. John is hesitant at first because a) there’s no promise of increased pay and b) the assignment is dangerously close to Las Vegas, a city that he believes will send him back into his gambling dark place. But eventually John concedes because he wants to impress the boss and his cube-mate crush. So off he goes with a quiet, stern, dick of a mentor toward a city he fears to clinch a job he isn’t sure he even wants.

The film is based on a short story, and it seems likely that it worked much better in that format. Maybe the references to “Dante’s Inferno” would have seemed more fleshed out, and not just a way to name-check classic literature. Sure, there’s the Vegas-as-hell comparison, but not only is it cliché, it doesn’t even seem accurate in terms of our protagonist. All of John’s pain is self-inflicted and one gets the impression that he could ruin his life just as easily in any city. The man would find a way to gamble in a monastery.

And then there’s the quirk. Along the way, John and Virgil encounter a number of wacky characters that read like ideas scrawled onto a diner napkin at three in the morning: wheelchair lap dance, nudist rednecks, kinky co-worker with happy-face obsession, carnie geek stuck in faulty pyrotechnics suit. It would be much easier to accept these characters in short paragraphs. Spending a whole vignette with them is too much.

It’s hard to say what, if anything, could have saved this movie. The talented cast does all they can with the weak material. The desert is inherently a vast wasteland; one that we’ve seen in a million other movies, so the cinematography isn’t enough either. Despite an attempt at a twist, the whole story just peters out. The ending is neither happy nor sad. It’s just a man getting on with his life. Even with the presence of wheelchair-bound strippers, it’s a little too hyper-realistic to be interesting.

Originally published on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

Book Review: Classic Southern Desserts

Having spent my formative years in the south, I may be a little biased. But I firmly believe that nobody knows how to make a smashing dessert like the folks from below the Mason Dixon line. Southern Living’s “Classic Southern Desserts: All-Time Favorite Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Puddings, Cobblers, Ice Cream & More” assembles the greatest hits of those buttery confections in one convenient volume. With over 200 recipes, the gang’s all here. They even throw in an entire section dedicated to cheesecake.

You’re gonna want to bake everything in this book. Some of the recipes sound harder to pull off than others but, if the pictures are any indication, they would doubtless be worth the effort. There are also plenty that sound quick and easy. They aren’t too proud to encourage pre-made pie crust and other store-bought short cuts. A proper southerner understands that a good homemade dessert is a good homemade dessert. Who cares if it didn’t take all day to make?

Each section introduction gives some history behind the genre and highlights a few standouts. The descriptive paragraph for each recipe oozes with imagery, making each and every entry sound like the greatest dessert of all time. Where applicable, they also tell the stories behind the recipes so you can feel like you are reenacting history in your kitchen.

Each recipe is also helpfully labeled to identify certain categories of desserts such as “holiday favorite”, “sweets to share” and “kids love it”.

Here are a few titles that caught my eye and will be realized on my counter top ASAP:

*Praline Bundt Cake (with sugared pecans!)
*Baby Sweet Potato Cakes with Pecans and Sticky Caramel Sauce
*Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches with Rum-Raisin Filling
*S’more Puffs
*Grapefruit Tart
*Caramel-Applesauce Cobbler with Bourbon-Pecan Ice Cream
*Sweet Potato Cobbler
*Bananas Foster Upside-Down Cake
*Key Lime Frozen Yogurt

Now try to tell me your kitchen isn’t calling to you.

Southern Living’s “Classic Southern Desserts: All-Time Favorite Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Puddings, Cobblers, Ice Cream & More” is now available in hardcover.

NFT Radar: Pillagers Pub

It’s true; they were a little overused for a while. But pirate themes will always be cool. And the Pillager’s Pub banks on that. A little bribery in the form of Build-Your-Own Bloody Marys doesn’t hurt. Starting at noon on Saturdays and Sundays, they start you with a large glass full of vodka and then send you to the buffet where you can customize the hell out of your Bloody. Choose from several bases, loads of hot sauces and a bevy of pickled vegetables. If you’re feeling more like a flagon of ale, their house brands, Three Skull and Baron, offer a lovely selection. Because pirates need to eat, they offer a delightful menu of bar grub, including creative uses for tater tots (Tachos!). During daylight hours, they also have a kids menu to keep the shorter members of the crew happy while the big pirates carouse. Take the party home with you by purchasing a (pretty tough looking) growler full of one of their signature beers. Regular members of the crew can utilize punch cards, which result in treasures like t-shirts, pints glasses and free growlers. With incentives like this, how can you not choose a pirate’s life?


8551 Greenwood Ave N 98103
206-706-2779
www.pillagerspub.com

X-posted from Not For Tourists.

NFT Radar: Birth and Beyond

I generally dread the idea of even entering a maternity shop. Frumpy clothes! Smug sales people! Other pregnant ladies! But there are some things every pregnant lady needs and finding them on the internet isn’t always possible. For those things, Birth and Beyond is the answer. Granted, it’s located in the stroller-mom heavy Madison neighborhood. But when you need nursing bras, you need nursing bras. Who the hell knows what size you are anymore? They do! They carry the big cup sizes in case nature has been a little extra kind to you. They also have a nice selection of cute nursing apparel that’s cut to accentuate your changing womanly features instead of making you look like a marshmallow in casual wear. The staff is very knowledgeable and accommodating (Need to change or feed your baby on the fly? There’s a place for that). New to this mommy business and need some tips? Check out their class schedule for an affordable way to bone up on your skills. Of course like with every maternity shop, you can also easily spend a million dollars on baby shit you don’t need. But it’s absolutely worth the visit for the things do you need.


2719 E Madison St 98112
206-324-4831
www.birthandbeyond.com

X-posted from Not For Tourists.

Book Review: Cooking Through the Seasons

In the film “Food, Inc”, Robert Kenner asserts that one way we, as a country, can make positive changes in the corrupt food industry, is to “vote” by shopping a certain way. Buy organic, locally-grown ingredients and, most importantly, buy in season. Don’t encourage the production of genetically modified food or food imported cheaply from other countries by demanding foods that are hard to come by. Americans have become accustomed to having whatever they want when they want it, behaving not unlike spoiled children. Shopping in season is not only good for the farmer and local economy, it also makes it a lot more fun to anticipate a seasonal food. Books like Cooking Light’s “Cooking Through the Seasons; an everyday guide to enjoying the freshest food”, employs that philosophy, and has assembled a collection of recipes to help celebrate the seasons.

While the concept is terrific, in terms of being a functional cookbook, there are a few problems. For one thing, it’s not terribly well organized. The book is logically broken up into sections by season, starting with spring. But if you want to know what to cook with the ingredients you already have, or if you’re looking for, say, a good soup to make for dinner, you pretty much have to read the whole seasonal section to find it. It also doesn’t feel very comprehensive, having only a few recipes per dish per season. It’s really more of a series of suggested menus than a complete guide to seasonal cooking. However, there are certainly some inspired gems. The photography is also quite lovely, making every dish look like a winner. And that is quite a feat considering the calorie-counting implications of Cooking Light.

The book is broken up thus: There are four sections, naturally. Each individual season has a summation page (“The [season] Kitchen”) followed by an “In-Season Chart”, “Flavor Companions”, “Best Ways to Cook” and then the recipes. The “In-Season Chart” is the most helpful of the book’s features. It lists which fruits and veggies to look for at the store and it’s a great way to make a shopping list based on what your personal flavor preferences are.

The “Flavor Companions” section expounds on your shopping list by suggesting accompaniments for the seasonal produce such as cheeses, herbs and sauces. This is also very helpful, especially if you plan to cook seasonally beyond the recipes in the book and maybe even make up some of your own dishes.

The “Best Ways to Cook” section is another con to the book, unless you are really new to cooking. It reads like a beginners’ guide, explaining basic cooking techniques like boiling and grilling. There are a few helpful tips in there, but anyone who cooks their own meals on a regular basis will probably skim through these sections.

Another small criticism of the book is that it’s not particularly vegetarian-friendly. These days, there are so many dietary restrictions around that it seems like it would be in the best interest of new cookbooks to cater to a wide variety of needs besides just the traditional American diet.

That said, this is definitely a terrific book for getting started in the practice of seasonal cooking; a practice which every American should seriously consider taking up.

Cooking Light’s “Cooking Through the Seasons; an everyday guide to enjoying the freshest food” is now available for purchase in hardcover.