Friday, September 24, 2010


Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

Starring: Megan Faccio, Nev Schulman, and Rel Schulman

Synopsis: Nev is a photographer in New York starts recieving paintings of his photos from 9 year old Abby from Michigan.  As he grows closer to the whole family, he starts to realize that things aren't always as they appear.

Catfish- He said (Spoiler free)

Documentaries and first person camera movies seem to be the hot ticket this year. This makes sense, given our obsessive nature as a culture to document every aspect of our lives in as many mediums as possible. Earlier this year, we had Exit Through The Gift Shop, a documentary about street art that might or might not have been fabricated in order to make a meta-commentary about the state of modern art. As recently as last week, we had I’m Still Here, the Joaquin Phoenix documentary, that turned out to be false. Now we have Catfish. The story of people trying to make connections over the Internet is not necessarily original. The way that it’s presented here, the story becomes really interesting look at relationships over the Internet. The validity of this movie is in question, due to what some say is the almost scripted nature of the mystery. But unlike I’m Still Here, the message of this movie is not hindered by its validity.

I loved the way that this movie was shot, with the production values being very cheap. Nev, the main character, is a very likable dude living in New York as an artsy photographer just minding his own business. When Abby starts to send him paintings of his work, he becomes rather attached to the girl’s family. Not sure if his empathy is real, but I find it interesting how much he likes this family, just from their online presence. When it comes to talking to the older sister, Megan, who Nev develops a crush on, the movie takes an accelerated pace. We see Nev talk to Megan on the phone, and he’s talking about how much he likes her. You laugh at Nev, but I’m sure you’ve met people that have thought that they’ve made a “real” connection over the Internet. And this is where the movie gets interesting.

If it were to have many flaws is that the story itself has no dramatic tension or pull, even when it gets at its most tense, you never get a sense of true conflict. This is just a series of events happening, which some people might find boring.

I can’t really spoil anything, which is making this terribly hard to write, but after a certain point the movie takes a turn for the weird. It’s not scary like the trailers make it out to be. But I believe that it is making an important statement about how we develop relationships in this day and age. Depending on your point of view, it will take on to a whole different meaning. I’m rather conflicted on it, seeing as the reason I’m writing this is because of relationships and friends I’ve made over twitter. Not sure what this says about me, but it will be different for everyone, which I believe is the greatest strength of this movie.

Catfish- She said (MAJOR SPOILERS)

Okay, I’m prefacing this by saying that I cannot talk about this movie without MAJOR SPOILERS. Pretty much this is a discussion piece more than a review, so if you don’t want to be spoiled…stop reading, go see the movie, then come back and finish the article. :)

So let me start off by saying that I actually really enjoyed Catfish. I felt that the movie was very moving and tragic. In the end, the story had nothing to do with the premise that you’re given. The basic story is about Nev, who is a photographer, and Abby, a nine year old artist, and how their relationship starts and how Nev’s relationships with Abby’s family evolves and comes to be. In the end, Nev (and his documentary making buddies), go to meet Abby, her mom Angela, sister Megan (who Nev has had an online/phone relationship with), and the end results of that meeting.

Now within the first part of the movie, you can tell where the story is going. You know that Abby probably doesn’t paint Nev’s photographs. But the real heart of the story happens when Nev finally meets Angela. He gets a look into her life. She’s a stay-at-home mom of Abby and two step sons with debilitating disorders, and she’s had to give up her dreams of painting professionally because her family had to come first. It’s the classic situation of choosing between family and career. So, in order to maintain some sanity, Angela found some of Nev’s photos and began to paint and send them to him. That doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary.

Then, the more Nev gets closer to Angela’s daughter Megan through Facebook, phone calls, and texting, he begins to see inconsistencies in Megan, Angela and even Abby. Anytime Nev calls, Abby is mysteriously not there or asleep. He finally gets to talk to her once, but only for about a minute. When he travels to see Megan, the address she claims is her farm is vacant. When he asks Abby about painting, she says she doesn’t paint much, and she hasn’t seen her sister in a long time. So, finally Nev confronts Angela about everything, and she admits to painting the paintings, pretending to be Megan on the phone (Angela has two phones for such purposes), and admits to Nev how miserable she is but understands that being a mother is her job.

During this confession, your heart breaks for Angela. She is stuck. I mean like really stuck in her situation. There is literally no hope for her to escape and pursue her dreams. So, she created this alternate world for herself that she lives online. Her story of how she escapes her life makes you wonder how many people do the same thing now because of how easily accessible social networks are nowadays.

Initially I thought I was going to feel for Nev, and I did a little, but Angela became the more tragic character for me. I couldn’t imagine being that hopeless that creating another life online would help me stay sane. In the end, the movie comments more about the relationships that develop through social mediums. Now, what’s great is, depending on your experiences, there’s so much you can take from this movie. It’s a fabulous conversation piece. Sure, there’s speculations of how much of the movie is real/fabricated, but I don’t find that important because the message is still the same.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Directed by Ethan Maniquis/Robert Rodriguez

Written By Robert Rodriguez and Alvaro Rodriguez

Starring: Danny Trejo, Robert DeNiro, Steven Seagal, Jessica Alba, and Michelle Rodriguez

Synopsis: After he is betrayed by the Mexican government and his family is killed by a ruthless drug lord, Ex-Federale "Machete" is a fugitive in Texas. Living as a day laborer, he is contracted to kill a Texas senator, but he was set up. Now on the run, he is out to get vengeance on those that betrayed him.

Machete- He said

Back in the college days, I had a date (at least I think it was) with a nice lady friend. My problem was what kind of movie to take her to. To my surprise, she decided on Grindhouse; the super risky movie made by pals Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, where they pay homage to old cheap exploitation and grindhouse films of the 70’s. I loved the films, even if I couldn’t appreciate Death Proof at the time, and so did she. What we talked about the most afterwards was the possibility of turning the fake trailers that were played before and in between into the movies. Directors such as Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, and Edgar Wright all contributed to this project. Well, this week we have what is the first of those fake trailer movies with Robert Rodriguez’s Machete. Starring Danny Trejo as his first leading role along with a cast that is wide and varied; this is a fun, gore-filled action movie.

Danny Trejo is the Mexican everyone sees in all movies. He’s like Stephen Tobolowsky in that he is “that guy”, and it’s a shame because, in my opinion, he does a fine job as a leading man. One of the things that I really dug is that it kept with messy film look that Planet Terror and Death Proof had but didn’t over-do it. Seeing as Rodriguez loves Austin, it was great to see so many of the iconic buildings and locations around the city being used. The movie almost reminded me of Shane Carruth’s Primer, in that it contains very adaptive sets and locations, contributing to that rough look and feel of the film. Also the movie does recreate almost everything from the fake trailer as a cool bonus.

The action sequences felt fresh and ridiculously gruesome. Those that don’t have the stomach for a lot of gore might want to stay away. While it is very violent, it’s so ridiculous that you almost can’t help but laugh, either way my warning still stands. The widely varied cast makes this movie a tons of fun. Seeing Jeff Fahey in something other than Lost was refreshing, as well as seeing Steven Seagal in movie that is actually in theaters! Jonesy and I saw it in a packed house and the audience responded to some of the best gags and cameos and it made the experience all that much better, so try seeing it on a Friday night.

A big complaint was the casting of Jessica Alba; she is as cheesy and awful in way that she was the most unbelievable aspect in a totally far-fetched movie and it ruined a bit of the movie for me. Finally, the biggest thing that bothered me was this war/revolutionary tone that the movie takes while commenting on illegal immigration. As a Mexican immigrant with dual citizenship, this has never been an issue for me, but something that I follow closely, and if Robert Rodriguez wanted to comment and do “good” with this movie, I feel this was probably not the way to go. I understand that the context of the revolution and battle talk is directed towards a particularly nasty group of vigilantes, but I feel people might get the wrong impression and put some bad thoughts in their heads.

Overall, Machete is well worth the price of admission, and even if the audience it caters to is a niche one. It succeeds in making a ridiculously bloody action movie full of great scenes with a great cast. Let’s hope that Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving isn’t the last we see of these fake trailers being turned into movies.

Machete- She said

I never actually saw Grindhouse. I know…horrible of me. So, I went into Machete not really knowing anything about it except it was a “trailer” before Grindhouse, and this guy, Machete, kills with machetes. Literally, that’s all I knew. So, when the movie started the opening sequence had me laughing, I knew this was going to be a wild ride of a movie.

Machete is ridiculously fun. It’s balls the wall blood, guts and action. I could describe to you the plot, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s all about the style. It’s gritty and dirty and hot. The action scenes completely fresh and fun and includes one the best ways to swing into a window I’ve ever seen in a movie. Even though the movie is very stylized, all the action is easy to follow. It doesn’t get weighted down by too many fast cuts.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie is how even the small “throw away” characters were all dynamic in their own way. There’s a pretty hilarious scene between body guards that almost speaks to the what most people think about illegal immigrants. Also, the movie treats many stereotypes in a respectful yet funny way. Balance it takes to create a scene where a Mexican comes running into a fight with an ice cream cart and not have the audience be offended takes real talent. There’s so much politically incorrectness that it gives Bill Maher a run for his money. The movie makes a strong comment on today’s immigration situation and the lengths people will go to on either side of the debate. What’s different about Machete is both sides are very extreme in their standings, very extreme.

For me, there were so many surprises in terms of casting, I found it really enjoyable not knowing who all was in the movie before I saw it. And it’s funny as hell. I mean really, really funny. Machete almost fits into the new category of “cheesy, fun” movies. I know it probably won’t make my top of the year list, but I feel like it’ll deserve a mentioning. Part of the reason I enjoyed the movie so much is crowd I saw it with. The theatre was packed with crazy Grindhouse fans who were ready for a good time and knew what cheesiness we were about to watch. This is a movie to see with your friends on a packed opening weekend. It’s smutty, gory fun for everyone.