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100 Years of Movie Posters

Adam Vitcavage over at PasteMagazine.com has brought together a fascinating collection of some of the absolute best film posters of the last 100-years of cinema. He offers a little bit of insight with each, and every single poster has something beautiful and unique to offer. Please head over to http://www.pastemagazine.com/blogs/lists/2012/02/the-best-movie-posters-of-the-past-100-years.html and check it out!


#47. Crazy, Stupid, Love - Review

Crazy, Stupid, Love promised kindhearted, if not benign, pokes at the unpredictable misadventures provoked by being in love. Helmed by directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, whose previous film I Love You Philip Morris was an effortless blend of cynical sweetness and charm, Crazy, Stupid, Love seemed like an easy homerun when considering the superbly talented cast they had assembled.  Sadly, this film only serves to prolong Steve Carell’s post-40 Year Old Virgin slump, joining the likes of Dan in Real Life, Evan Almighty, and Date Night in the actor’s past mistakes.

This Shirtless Ryan Gosling GIF should help get more web trafficIt is obvious Crazy, Stupid, Love prides itself on its candidness. Characters blurt out whatever is on their minds, and act upon any impulse no matter how foolish. The film begins with Cal and Emily Weaver (Steve Carell and Julianne Moore) out to dinner during one of the most ritualistic of 21st Century suburban events – the date night. When Cal unassumingly asks his wife what she wants for dessert, she compulsively exclaims she wants a divorce. It turns out Emily has been unhappy for quite some time, and even confesses to having had an affair with her coworker David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon). Cal is understandably blindsided by these revelations; he is one of those dopey husbands that assumes everything is fine when no one is complaining. Apparently being a kind, caring husband and father is not enough for the new bourgeois American wife weaned on The Real Housewives and other such filth.  This film’s portrayal of men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers are, simply put, disgusting.

This is a film where boredom is an understandable justification for divorce. Where we are expected to sympathize with a woman that kicks the father of her children out of his home without giving him any chance to mend their issues. Cal, having been cheated on and cast out from his family unit, is the one expected to “change,” and to be the one that fights for the marriage. This is a film that glorifies Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), a 20-something club-hopping womanizer who lives off of his dead father’s inheritance. With no ambition beyond sleeping with every attractive woman he comes into contact with, Jacob is most likely a degenerate sex-addict, bringing home a new girl every night. For Crazy, Stupid, Love Jacob is a hero. He is the savior to Cal’s humdrum suburban persona, and promises to help the hapless ex-husband learn how to meet women. This includes maxing out his credit card on new suits, and memorizing every manipulative line and mannerism to trick, I mean motivate women to sleep with him.

Crazy Stupid Love banner posterThis film quickly goes from bad to worse, adding not only a silly B-plot involving Cal and Emily’s teenage son and the babysitter, but also a misaligned C-plot involving Jacob and the girl of his dreams (Emma Stone). It is by way of these useless and underdeveloped subplots that Crazy, Stupid, Love sacrifices structure and common sense for shallow twists and nonsensical character development. It tries to sell depravity as charm, and selfishness for self-reliance. It portrays women as shallow and superficial, men as emotionally unconscious boobs, and everyone as oversimplified instinctually confused wrecks completely incapable of empathy or self-restraint.  This was the worst movie of 2011.


#46. Grave Encounters - Review 

Grave Encounters (2011) posterDepending on the intentions of everyone involved, Grave Encounters was either the funniest film made this past year, or by far one of its worst. With the first half devoted to spoofing the paranormal-investigation shows that seemed to pop up on channels like SyFy after Paranormal Activity came out in 2009, Grave Encounters solidly apes the shallow premise and sheer ridiculousness of the genre. However, once the film starts going for scares it is obvious the directors’ eyes are bigger than their budget.

Taking advantage of the über-creepy asylum employed in the pitch-perfect film Session 9, Grave Encounters is yet another failed entry into the bloated “found footage” genre. For the sixth episode of their television series “Grave Encounters,” the crew pledges to spend the night inside the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, a location ripe with ghostly promise. Immediately the film’s tone is a flippant mess. Throughout the first act I was left confused, unable to determine if this was a genuine horror film or a silly satire lampooning shows like Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State, and Ghost Adventures. Host Lance Preston did not help matters, conducting himself with an overwrought earnestness that unintentionally left me in hysterics. Breaking character, cracking jokes about ghosts and their jobs, and even paying a gardener to lie and say he has witnessed first hand the spectral tenants of the hospital, I was enjoying my time with the Grave Encounters team, but I had the feeling they were not in on the joke.











Lance and company have themselves locked inside the run-down asylum, with the quirky caretaker Kenny promising to let them out in the morning. Quickly the film devolves from so-bad-its-good territory to just plain bad. The pacing is excruciatingly slow, forcing us to watch as Lance and the others wander through the hallways Collingwood, hoping to score a shot creepy enough to edit into the final episode. No one actually believes they are going to see anything extraordinary. Even their resident “expert” Houston Gray breaks after every take into laughter because of how absurd their actions truly are. Until of course they start getting the feeling something or someone might be with them inside the hospital!

Windows open, hair gets teased, Houston gets choke-slammed by the invisible ghost of Andre the Giant; the residents of Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital hate basic cable schlock even more than I do. Thankfully, it is at this point in the film directors the Vicious Brothers (I shit you not that is their actual name) employ all of the tricks available in iMovie to deliver some of the most hilariously ineffective scares since The Happening. You know the Internet meme where you trick someone into staring at a computer screen long enough to let their guard down and then a screaming ghost pops up and scares the shit out of them? Well, I am pretty sure the Vicious Brothers (I can’t even type it without rolling my eyes) just copied the face from that silly gag and pasted it on top of every single ghost the crew comes into contact with throughout the night. Ironically, the meme is far more effective than what you see in Grave Encounters; ultimately making you realize this film cannot even compete with spam mail.

With yet another solid premise squandered by overacting and misdirection, Grave Encounters is just one more nail on the coffin of the found footage genre. Filled with unlikable, stereotypical characters spewing vapid, inane dialogue, this film fails at what made Paranormal Activity 2 so good, which is giving us a single person we could care about and relate to. By the end you are rooting for the ghosts because no one, not even the apparitions of a dilapidated insane asylum, deserve to be locked in a building with the crew of Grave Encounters

If you were able to sit through all of Grave Encounters let me know what you thought in the comments section. Is it just plain bad, or does achieve so-bad-its-good status? Please link the site by clicking the "share" button below.


#45. Stella Dallas - Review

Stella Dallas 1937This movie is heartbreaking. Any women out there with mommy issues, daddy issues, and/or relationship issues better just stay clear of ol’ Stella Dallas. King Vidor’s 1937 classic portrays a young working class woman who marries rich, and in the end dies alone. Along with William Holden, I believe Barbara Stanwyck is one of Hollywood’s most underappreciated movie stars, and here as the titular Stella she proves her might. This is stunning filmmaking; with an ending so incredibly devastating I’m not sure I could ever watch it again. Stella Dallas is pure melodrama in the best possible way.


#44. Paranormal Activity 2 - Review

Paranormal Activity 2A good sequel is a rare gift. For the sequel to completely turn you around on a series incredible. I pretty much hated Paranormal Activity when it was released in 2009. I found the two leads to be disengaging, the set-up uninspired, and the scares repetitive and by the end lazy. I put on Paranormal Activity 2 expecting two more hours of frustration watching a good premise get thrown away. Sometimes I love it when I am wrong.

Paranormal Activity 2 owes a lot of its success to its cast. The family dynamic, dog and all, really worked to bring me in and let my guard down. Unlike the couple in the first film (whose appearance did not bring a smile to my face), the family has interesting and believable conflict apart from the haunted house routine. Speaking of which, that scene in the kitchen!?!? Oh man, right?

If you loved or hated the first Paranormal Activity, you should give its sequel a fair shot. It is far and away a better structured and paced film, with a houseful of likable characters you will actually enjoy watching get tormented on black-and-white security cameras.



#43. Pontypool - Review

Pontypool 2008Pontypool is a surprisingly inspired take on a continually overused and typically uninspired horror subgenre- the zombie film. Stephen McHattie (Watchmen) plays shock-jock Grant Mazzy. Once a big time radio personality, it seems his sarcastic sense of humor along with his abrasive work attitude has finally caught up with him. Out of work and with little chance of mending his broken career, Mazzy reluctantly takes a morning show job at a small Canadian radio station in Pontypool. Aided by his engineer Laurel-Ann (Georgina Reilly) and by-the-book producer Sydney (Lisa Houle), the AM show is typical talk/music fare.

Propped up by a piping hot cup of coffee and whiskey, Mazzy has the attitude of a man under constant censorship. With Sydney listening to every word that comes out of his mouth, he begrudgingly does his best to try and keep himself in-line. Of course, every so often he finds an opening to let fly some of the caustic charm that most assuredly got him fired from his last job. Right around the time his whiskey and coffee pick me up kicks in Mazzy waits for the bright red “on-air” sign to come alive before he delivers –“Now, in our top story of today, a big, cold, dull, dark, white, empty, never-ending blow my brains out, seasonal affective disorder freaking kill me now weather-front, that’ll last all day, or maybe when the wind shifts later on, we’ll get a little greenhouse gas relief from the industrial south. Hail Mary, yea though I walk… we now go to Ken Loney in the Sunshine Chopper.” When you find out the station’s “Sunshine Chopper” is really just Ken Loney’s Dodge Dart or some such thing you really begin to sympathize for not just Mazzy, but the entire population of Pontypool, Canada.

When news comes over the police scanner that there has been a shootout between local police and a gang of ice fishermen, the trio do their best to figure out what sort of madness is occurring right outside their station walls. What starts out sounding like a prank phone call quickly escalates into a complete anarchic breakdown, with the citizens of Pontypool devolving into gibberish spewing undead.

Stephen McHattie in PontypoolWith a pacing and subtlety rarely seen in zombie or infected films, director Bruce McDonald expertly crafts a horror film that is equal parts Dawn of the Dead and Orson Welles’ infamous radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. With the majority of the film taking place inside the radio station, McDonald’s ability to ratchet up the suspense and paranoia without being dull was surprising, and proves how delicate he is with every scene and line of dial­­ogue. For all of his success it is McHattie who deserves most of the praise here, for this is his film and he owns every minute. Mazzy is layered, more developed than he perhaps needed to be, but McHattie delivers the DJ with such nuanced distinctiveness you cannot help but remain invested until the bitter end.

I love small indie horror fare, and Pontypool is an achievement. If you have seen Pontypool let me know what you thought of it in the comments section, and please, like always, let others know about Controller Unplugged by clicking the share” button below!


#42. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) - Review


I can clearly recall when the distinct covers of Stieg Larsson’s “millennium trilogy” began to pop-up on every grocery store checkout stand and Target side display seemingly all at once. Expertly crafted to grab my attention, the words The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo stood separated from each other, as if attempting to embody the rebellious nature of its pierced protagonist. However, unlike most “new & noteworthy” must-reads that typically penetrate mainstream American culture, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was not only foreign, but also accompanied by two sequels, the similarly scattered The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  Unfortunately, after reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code in 2004 I have an involuntary reflex to avoid most flavor of the month novels deemed thrilling by every neighbor, mailman, magazine, or billboard that I come into contact with. So I shied away from the Swedish trilogy, and not in a snobbish way mind you, I am hardly the avid reader trust me. I just did not care.

The Millennium TrilogyMy disinterest did not begin to wane until I read the reviews for the first cinematic adaptation directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Critics generally enjoyed the Swedish film, and most heralded Noomi Rapace’s performance. When the entire trilogy was offered on Netflix I had no excuse not to finally give Lisbeth Salander her fair shot. But then David Fincher got involved… so I waited. 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) poster The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo should have come out 10-years ago and starred Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd. Freshly exiled journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is hired by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the patriarch of the wealthy Vanger family and CEO of Vanger Industries, to investigate the disappearance of his niece Harriet over 40-years ago. The entire Vanger family lives on a beautiful island estate, each with their own homes scattered amongst the snow-covered trees and steep jagged hilltops. The only route on and off the island is by way of a bridge that, it just so happens, was closed the day Harriet vanished. It is made clear early on that it had to have been a member of the Vanger family responsible for the crime, but who?

During his proposition Henrik warns Blomkvist just how corrupt his relatives truly are by saying, “You will be investigating thieves, misers, bullies—the most detestable collection of people that you will ever meet: my family.” A fair warning indeed, but what Henrik is really doing is making a promise to the audience that Blomkvist, and later Salander when she is hired as his assistant, will be enveloped by villainy, brought on to solve a crime where every clue will lead them deeper and deeper into a depraved worm hole where they will almost certainly be eaten alive by a cast of unfathomable deviants. Sadly, this promise is never fulfilled. Besided the actual killer (who is quite charming until his/her eventual turn), almost every member of the Vanger family is pleasant, even accommodating to Blomkvist and his assistant. The Vanger’s is a family tree lush with greed, incest, betrayal, secrecy, murder, and war criminals. Still, even the infirmed Nazi of the family happily assists Blomkvist in his search for the culprit. If there is anything I hate more than a Nazi it is a damn likable one!

The Vanger FamilySteven Zaillian’s script is a muddled collection of Steig Larson’s simple ideas, inexpertly arranged in a semi-comprehensible mishmash of not-so-clever whodunit tropes. This is a mystery that seems content to keep its audience guessing by simply hiding information from them. With absolutely no nuance each character is disappointingly shallow, unambiguous ornaments employed by Fincher and Zaillian to serve as uninteresting road blocks for the protagonists to intercept when necessary. This is a film where the most exciting moments occur during scenes of research, where watching Salander juggle four or five different open windows on her Macbook at the same time is absolutely mesmerizing. Similar to The Social Network, Fincher found a way to shoot a single character and her computer and make it completely engaging.

Or, perhaps these scenes work in Dragon Tattoo because of one person:

Lisbeth Salander.

Rooney Mara Lisbeth Salander Skittish, reclusive, uncontrollable – broken.

And unbelievably strong, she is her own savior, fighting for a single moment of calm in a lifetime of chaos. Rooney Mara plays the pierced protagonist with complete fearlessness. Consider her task for a moment. Mara not only has the daunting charge of playing a character that is manipulated, assaulted, mugged, abused, and raped repeatedly throughout the film, displaying a vulnerability unimaginable by most, but also follow in the footsteps of Hollywood’s newest “it” girl Noomi Rapace, who cut her teeth playing Salander in three Swedish adaptations, garnering critical praise and attention for her bombastic performance. Having not scene the Swedish films I cannot compare the two leads, but I can say without hesitation that Mara is sensational here, crafting a heroine quite unlike anything I have ever seen before. Salander is a shape-shifter, constantly adapting to her surroundings and her predators to stay alive. Her face is punctured with metal studs, her emaciated frame tattooed with random images and aphorisms, and while most people have personal reasons influencing their body art, it seems poor Lisbeth Salander gets ink done after a particular traumatic event- like the latest in a presumably long history of rapes and sexual assaults. For as riveting and complex Salander as a character is on screen, with the many questions of sexuality and female empowerment she evokes (and remember this is the same year Warner Bros. gave us Sucker Punch), it is a damn shame the film is a jumbled mess of thriller conventions and Fincher’s own eccentricities.

Beginning with an awkward, out of place opening credit sequence and ending with an uninspired climax so windless I did not realize Blomkvist and Salander had actually solved the case until the final scene on the island, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo never proves itself to be anything other than a blatant Hollywood cash-in. Salander as a character, and Mara’s impressive representation of her for that matter, deserves better than this, and Fincher is capable of so much more.  There are so many problems I have with this film I wish I could do a review with spoilers, but the film has not been out long enough in my opinion, but I have no doubt Salander will be showing up in film essays for years to come, redefining sexuality, control, and female empowerment in cinema. If nothing else Fincher deserves my thanks for introducing me to a female lead that should carry on, and hopefully influence screenwriters (males specifically) who seem content to appease horny man-children with disgusting representations of femininity and sexuality because they are the only demographic that will reliably buy tickets. 

If anyone wants to have a spoilery conversation about the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo then hit me up in the comments, because there is a lot of details about the film I would love to discuss with anyone that has seen it. Like always, please let the people know of Controller Unplugged by clicking the "share" button below!