Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Queue Extra: Halloween Edition

All this talk of Shaun of the Dead (see most recent post for Hot Fuzz) and it being Halloween today prompted me to think about my best and worst scary/creepy/horror movies. So here goes:


  1. Shaun of the Dead. Do you need me to go on and on about how much I love this movie again? I didn't think so. If you haven't seen it, you shouldn't read this blog because you obviously just don't "get" me.
  2. Friday the 13th. Don't judge me. Have you watched the original lately? When you're sitting all alone in a dark house and even your cat won't come keep you company? Trust me. It's still scary as hell.
  3. Silence of the Lambs. Is there ever going to be a better thriller? I really don't think so. This movie is best-in-class. And even though I know it by heart, I still get freaked out during the "crawling through the blackened basement" scene. And Grant still likes to say "it rubs the lotion on itself" whenever he sees me breaking out the Lubriderm.
  4. Creepshow. Sure, it's hokey and campy but that's what makes it so great.


  1. The Shining. Don't hate me. Everyone else in the known world seems to think this is horrifying. But I just don't get it. I was bored stiff. If you ever catch me folding laundry while watching a movie, you know we're in trouble. I did whites and colors during The Shining if that tells you anything.
  2. Silent Night, Deadly Night. This is one of those awful B-movies you rent during a teenage slumber party. As you might be able to imagine from the clever title, Santa is the killer. Shocker! I don't really remember all the details, but it was sufficiently scary in a "Christmas is now ruined for me" kind of way.
  3. Child's Play. Chucky freaks me the hell out. There, I admit it. I am scared of a little doll.
  4. The Exorcist. Most people wax horrific about how much this movie terrified them but it was a yawn-fest for me. I need something made of tougher stuff than a run-of-the-mill possession by the devil. And the effects are so out-of-date they're laughable. I've seen scarier stuff in the back of my refrigerator.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Week 21: Hot Fuzz

Possibly the world’s worst movie title? Mmmm….could be. Did I love it anyway? But of course. Deep down in my heart, I know that I am destined to befriend a group of dry, witty Brits. I will become the fish in their inner circle of chips. It is just meant to be. So if you belong to a group of dry, witty Brits and you live in the vicinity of Columbus, Ohio, look me up, chaps. I have pints and pints of beer waiting for you. And over those pints of beer, we will discuss a deep and enduring love for films like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

I don’t need to go on here about how utterly perfect Shaun of the Dead is. It is simply brilliant. A perfect deadpan comedy…about zombies. Brilliant. If you haven’t seen it yet, do humanity a favor and go rent it right this minute. Or just turn on Comedy Central where it replays approximately 38 times each day. It will change your life.

Hot Fuzz stars the same bumbling hero/sidekick duo from Shaun. Only this time they are cops in a rural English town that bills itself as the Best Village in England. Naturally, our heroes uncover a much darker secret lurking behind the village’s cheery exterior and a hilarious bloodspree ensues. Simon Pegg, who stars and wrote the film, clearly hasn’t gotten over his adolescent love of horror and action movies and god bless him for it. It’s over-the-top mayhem made high-brow, and I loved it. Nothing beats seeing an old English granny pull out a semi-automatic machine gun and level a street.

Hot Fuzz started off rather slow, I must admit, but it picked up nicely about twenty minutes in and never looked back. I could have done without quite so much focus on the culminating fight/gun battles, but maybe that’s just me. The goofy gore was great though. And Nick Frost as the dim-witted sidekick, Danny Butterman, is so hilariously stupid that he steals the show. He plays the perfect oaf and he even bears a loveable resemblance to “Sloth” from the Goonies.

Fuzz isn’t the cinematic perfection that Shaun is, but it’s still pretty terrific. Next up on the Queue…yet another disc from our shoot-em-up friends at Deadwood. Hmmm…I wonder if they will curse needlessly and without any provocation every ten seconds? I’m on the edge of my seat…

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Week 21: City of God

I’ll be honest that I thought City of God was yet another one of my depressing foreign-language documentaries and it was practically the last thing I wanted to see in my mailbox on Friday afternoon after a hectic workweek. I was in the mood for lighter fare, like – say – a madcap Will Ferrell movie involving a cologne called Sex Panther. But alas, City of God it was. Grant, make mine a double, we're in for it tonight.

But about ten minutes into this movie, we were both hooked. I’m here to testify that this is one amazing movie. Seriously now. I am not being one-bit sarcastic. It's just phenomenal.

It’s a story about the rise and fall of a vicious gang in the notorious Rio slum known as the City of God. It's told through the perspective of one boy, Rocket, who’s trying to avoid the pitfalls of hoodlum life. Rocket weaves us through the lives of the hyper-colorful characters who populate the slum.

And even though the move is filled with intense brutality and violence often involving small children who have assumed the roles of vicious gang leaders, the storytelling aspect of the movie fills it with a big entertainment value and even a fair amount of humor and humanity.

I have been bugging everyone in my office to put this movie at the top of their Netflix queues. And now I'm bugging you. Did you hear me? Right now. Do it. What are you still sitting here for? If you won’t do it for me, do it for God. Or his city. Whatev.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Week 20: Breach

A Letter to Sean Penn:
Dear Sean, how are you? Are you still all stressed out about the Iraq war? I know, buddy, it sucks, right? But I think you should consider focusing on something closer to home. Like, say, your career. Because I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your title of “HIS GENERATION’S GREATEST ACTOR” has recently been stripped. Yes, I am sorry, but it is true. Chris Cooper just won it from you.

Now, now, un-furrow that ridiculously furrowed brow, Mr. Penn. Don’t put that cigarette out on my arm. And please do not strike out at me in a fit of violent rage a la your paparazzi attack of 1985. You are a good actor. Nay – great. Even though your legions of adoring critics seem to have forgotten that you are also the actor who starred as the baked surfer in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. And that you played a retarded person, badly, in I Am Sam. Notice I didn’t even mention that piece of crap with Michael Douglas, the Game. Hey, stop wincing Sean, it wasn’t that bad. What? You’re not wincing? That’s just how your face is. Oh.

I digress. You really did some great acting in some great films. But let’s be honest here. Chris Cooper is just astonishingly good. Have you seen Breach, Sean? Go rent it right now. He will knock your socks off. His portrayal of CIA spy Robert Hanssen is so beautifully tormented that you will actually find yourself feeling sympathy for our country’s most devastating spy.

I fell hard for the talents of Chris Cooper in Adaptation. God, he was brilliant. My sister-in-law Erin just reminded me that he outshined the put-on-your-sunglasses-shiny Meryl Streep in that film.

And remember him in American Beauty? In my humble opinion, his subtle acting stole the show from Kevin Spacey’s prissy performance. I even love him in the Bourne series, even though his role is boxy and trite. Still, he is so powerful on screen that he commands your attention in a way that is completely relatable. And for that we award him the title of HIS GENERATION’S GREATEST ACTOR.

Also…he was never married to Madonna.

So, there you have it, Sean. Again, I’m sorry to bring you this news, but it was necessary. If it helps you get through it, there is still a crisis in Darfur. And Pakistan has really been acting out for attention lately, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.

Later, Sean,
The Motley Queue

Monday, October 15, 2007

Week 20: Little Children

This was an interesting movie for me to watch because I recently (and unwittingly) read the book on which Little Children was based. I didn’t even put it together that this movie of the same title was based on the Tom Perrotta book until we started watching it.

The movie is a very faithful adaptation of the book, even including a narrator to share the characters’ innermost thoughts, much of which seemed lifted word-for-word from Perrotta’s dialogue (he was a screenwriter on this film, so it’s no surprise). This is one of the cases in which both book and movie are really good and neither in a strikingly better way than the other.

A few subtle changes from the book:
1. They changed the main character Todd to Brad in the movie. Why? I have no idea. Maybe the director went to elementary school with a real jerk named Todd and couldn't get it out of his head. Oh wait, according to IMDB, the director’s name is Todd so maybe that’s why he changed it. False alarm.

2. The character of the child molester, Ronnie McGorvey, is portrayed as a mean-spirited, foul-tempered glutton in the book. In the movie, his portrayal by Jackie Earle Haley, is much more subtle, refined and dimensional. Haley (who was Oscar-nominated for this performance) is so tortuously thin that you can read every measure of internal strife and emotion across the strained sinews of his face. He is completely believable and even sympathetic as a child predator.

Tom Perrotta, who also wrote Election, seems to have a knack for showing us detritus of suburban lives, with a special penchant for exposing our base desires for sexual misconduct. Remember the teachers lusting for their students in Election? In Little Children, all the characters are lusting for what they don’t have, most comically in the character Richard’s lust for his online paramour, Slutty Kay. I’ll let you watch what happens when he gets a present in the mail from Slutty Kay, and trust me; it’s worth renting for that humiliating scene alone.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Week 19: Rocky Balboa

Well, well, well. It's finally happened. After a year of keeping our Netflix account password secret from Grant, he finally cracked the code. And this is the result. Rocky Balboa. You have to be freaking kidding me. Is it 1984 again and someone forgot to tell me? If Grant starts whispering Lita Ford lyrics to me, I'm calling my attorney.

I haven't been this astonished since the day -- years ago -- he rented Volcano, starring Tommy Lee Jones. Guess what happens in Volcano? Are you stumped? Well, Columbo, let me break it down for you. It erupts. Hum-dinger!

I am not happy about this development. On a related note, I am guessing Sly Stallone is not happy about his latest face lift, although I'm not even sure if "lift" is the appropriate term. It's more like a brutal shove, resembling a custard that didn't properly rise in the oven. His neck is smooth and taught like a 16-year-old's. But his brow line? Well, it's, uh...sheesh. It's frightening. And thanks to his overzealous brow waxing and raven black eyebrow dye, you can't take your eyes off it.

Stallone wrote and directed Rocky Balboa. All I can say is that this is definitely a movie that has been written and directed. It was perhaps a wise move on Talia Shire's part to turn this film down and play dead. Adrian's death is the central theme of the movie. And now Rocko has to try to move on from her death and decides to do what any rational 60-year-old would: go back in the ring one more time to take on the current heavyweight champ, forty years his junior.

The movie is choppy. The plot outlandish. The writing is atrocious and the acting is forced. The worst line of the movie (and there are many), has to be from Rocky's new love interest (a girl who looks and plays the part of Pam from The Office): "You show him that the last thing to age on a person is his heart." I'm guessing after Sly wrote that line he tried to smile but his mangled face lift wouldn't allow it.

I derided Grant mercilessly through the whole miserable film, but even I have to admit that when the familiar music started playing for Rocky's token fight training montage, I brightened. I think it's a physiological response for any kid who grew up watching Rocky movies. We just love a good training montage. I particularly love his unorthodox training tools like the ox cart in Rocky IV. This time? He throws beer kegs and spars with a raw side of beef in a meat locker.
It was nostalgic and charming even though blood was splattering Rocky from the raw beef. That bit of melancholy aside though, let me issue you a warning, Stallone. If you ever decide to write and direct another Rocky movie, in the words of Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, "I will break you."

And Grant. I love you. You are a good person. You are a wonderful husband and father. But I am changing our Netflix password. And if you ever figure it out again, "I will break you."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Week 19: The Science of Sleep

First off, I have no idea how this movie got on my Netflix Queue. I know I put it on there, but I can’t remember why. Something in the description must have struck me as compelling. Or maybe I was in a drug-induced haze. Or maybe I was having a stupid spell. Since I don’t take drugs, I’m guessing it’s the latter.

Either way, you win, Science of Sleep. You vexing mistress, you.

You made me break my steadfast rule of “I must finish all movies no matter how dreadful, boring, overdramatic, weird and esoteric.” I made it through 57 minutes of Science of Sleep before I called the match. Rule broken. Streak over. Head muddled. Brain hurty.

I would try to tell you what this movie is about, but I honestly can’t. BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW. I hate admitting that I lack the cerebral wherewithal to comprehend an unusual, artistic viewpoint, but I am honestly struck dumb by this movie. I didn’t get it. There. I admit it. I suddenly feel like the type of person who likes to read Oprah Winfrey’s book selections and considers Ruby Tuesday really good food. Sigh.

Anyway, here’s the best way I can describe this movie: Stephane is weird and sad. He takes a job working on nudie calendars, develops a crush on his new neighbor, makes trippy, magical videos in his home studio and speaks three languages interchangeably. Beyond that, you got me.

In the spirit of total disclosure, I have to admit that we turned this off and ended up watching the new Cavemen show on ABC. Yes, I admit it. And – heaven help me – I laughed at it. I honestly thought it was funny. Double sigh.

Dear god, what’s next? Am I going to start saying things like, “get in the Camaro, honey. We’re out of Fritos so we got to get us to the Ruby Tuesday!”

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Week 18: Volver

I'll be honest here. I don't know if Penelope Cruz is a good actress or not. Part of me thinks she is. But a bigger part of me thinks she's just really pretty and so it's hard not to like her. She's very, very pretty. And that's not a bad thing as an actress. But is it enough? I'm wondering what separates her from the dozens of other stunners slogging away on bad Telemundo soap operas. Does she really have chops?

I have a theory that if she was even slightly homely, no one would ever cast her in an English-speaking role, period. She'd annoy the crap out of everyone with her little-girl way of speaking. But in a Spanish film, it's harder for me to make that judgement. It's hard to be annoying in subtitles.

It probably doesn't matter anyway, because she IS pretty. And she IS charming. In Volver, she practically charms the lens off the camera. Which isn't really hard to do given that this is a really amusing little movie that treats death with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. It's sort of like Amelie with a death wish.

In Volver, Cruz plays a frazzled mother working three jobs to support her daughter and laze-about husband, yet she still manages to look fresh-faced and sexily unkempt, rather than dreary-eyed and haggard like any real person would in such circumstances. But I digress.

Her daughter accidentally kills her lecherous husband when he tries to molest her, and right around the same time, the spirit of Cruz's dead mother starts making appearances. Add one dead body to a convenient nearby restaurant freezer and hilarity ensues. Even though the situations are sometimes campy and predictable, Volver is overwhelmingly charming and the characters are adorable and charismatic. Maybe this was director Pedro Almodovar's love song to the women of his country.

I am still raising one eyebrow at the fact that Penelope Cruz got an Oscar nom for her role in Volver, but a bigger, perhaps better part of me, is just grateful it wasn't J. Lo. We can all breathe a sigh of relief there.