Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (8.0).

I remember seeing the ads for this film and feeling interest when I was a teenager, but I never acted on that interest at the time.  It wasn't until 2005 or thereabouts when I finally saw it... and found out what I'd been missing.  The concept is Tim Burton (Pee-Wee's Big AdventureBeetlejuice, 1989 Batman).  The music is Danny Elfman (Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, 1989 Batman... and, oh yeah, Men In Black, 2002 Spider-Man, and pretty much any film soundtrack since 1990 with an element of fun or whimsy).  The film itself is a stop-motion musical about the citizens of Halloween Town, responsible for the human holiday, who discover Christmas and are so excited that they decide to take it over.  If you haven't seen it, you should check out the opening song, "This Is Halloween"; if you don't like it, you're probably not going to like the rest of the movie.  (I'm also going to question your taste, because... seriously, it's Danny Elfman.)  Score: 4 stars out of 4.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Wiz (1978)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (4.7).

The scenes filmed at the Emerald City were elaborate, utilizing six hundred fifty dancers, three hundred eighty-five crew members and twelve hundred costumes. [...] The Wiz proved to be a commercial flop, as the $24 million production only earned $13.6 million at the box office.
— Wikipedia

This musical re-imagining of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) is today remembered as the flop that killed Motown Records' forays into film (and indeed, blaxploitation as a genre).  Despite that, I have fond childhood memories of this film, and a recent rewatch confirmed my memory: while it has many glaring flaws, it has the whiff of greatness as well.  The worst problem is that it drags: many of the musical numbers are twice as long and half as interesting as they ought to be, especially the ones near the beginning and end.  The second-worst is the casting: Diana Ross got a lot of flak for her Dorthy (now a shy mid-20s schoolteacher), but I thought Dorothy's problem was less Ross and more the director, while Richard Pryor's Wiz was awful and Nipsey Russell's singing voice for Tin Man was wholly inappropriate for everything but "Slide Some Oil To Me".  And the problems don't stop there; there's the occasionally awful cinematography, for example, or the unforgettably goofy subway sequence.  Yet it's never the problems I remember; it's "Ease On Down the Road", the aforementioned "Slide Some Oil To Me", the infamously lavish Emerald City sequence, the 24 glorious minutes from Dorothy leaving the Emerald City to her triumphant return — giving us both Mabel King's fabulous villain song "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News" and the liberated Winkies' "Everybody Rejoice (Brand New Day)" — and finally Ross's sappy but appreciated "Home (Finale)".  Overall, the film's great moments easily outshine the problems.  Score: 3 stars out of 4.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Consider Phlebas (book, 1987)

Links: TVTropesWikipedia, Amazon, Google Play.

Well, that was disappointing. I guess I was expecting something with a bigger scope, that would put The Culture (Iain M. Banks' fictional spacefaring society) up front and center. Instead what I got was a story that read like a mediocre Forgotten Realms tie-in novelization starring a Drow IN SPACE! who happens to be a Chaotic Neutral long-lost cousin of Drizzt Do'Urden. Or, to come at it from a different angle, like you took Captain Kirk away from Spock and Bones, stripped him of his moral compass, and then put him through a series of wacky Flash Gordon-style space opera adventures. The book has an actual Wacky Wayside Tribe of dark-skinned human cannibals IN SPACE! and I don't know that it's possible for me to keep respecting any work that goes off and does something like that. The ending was... well, better than the rest of the book in some ways, but it artlessly makes a heavy-handed point about the brutality of war. Score: 1 star out of 4.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.3).

Well, that was an interesting take on a horror movie. Unfortunately, I can't really say much without spoiling everything. It's basically a deconstruction of slasher horror films, but not in the way you might expect: Scream, for instance, simply parodied the slasher genre conventions for laughs; this film instead asks why the genre conventions exist in the first place. And while this film has its morbidly funny moments (two words: happy frog), it also has entirely too much existential dread to qualify as a "horror comedy". (If you don't mind partial spoilers, you can watch the trailer. I recommend stopping at 1:38, when it says "THIS APRIL".) The film is co-written by Joss Whedon (who's having a good plot day in addition to the snappy dialogue one expects) and Drew Goddard (most notable in this context as a writer on late-season Buffy and Angel; faint praise, I know, but he did co-write Conversations with Dead People, the best ep of season 7). If you like Whedon and you like horror, this is a must-see. Score: 4 stars out of 4.

P.S.: If you don't mind moderate spoilers, here's a pithy description in ROT13: vg fgnegf nf Sevqnl gur 13gu zrrgf Phor, gura gheaf vagb Erfvqrag Rivy zrrgf Gur Arireraqvat Fgbel.

P.P.S.: If you have seen the movie or don't mind major spoilers: gur napvragf ner hf (bhe pbyyrpgvir vq); bhe vzntvangvba pnhfrf gurve svpgvbany havirefr gb rkvfg; gur evghny pbzrf sebz bhe guvefg sbe fcrpvsvp ubeebe zbivr sbezhynf; gur snpryrff betnavmngvba pbaqhpgvat gur evghny ercerfragf gur zbivr fghqvb flfgrz; gur napvragf evfvat ercerfragf gur natel zbivrtbvat choyvp erwrpgvat nal zbivr gung qbrfa'g fngvfsl gur penira oybbqyhfg va gurve vq.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Black Blood of the Earth (beverage)

Link: product.


Black Blood of the Earth (BBotE) is a coffee product made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for a day or so, then vacuum extracting. The long steep is supposed to bring out some of the oil-based flavors that normally get left behind in drip coffee, and the cold temperature is supposed to prevent some of the bitter flavors that come from heat damage. The process also gives it much more caffeine than normal coffee, making it something of a "coffee concentrate" that supposedly, quote unquote, "tastes like coffee smells". The recommended serving size is 1 shot (1.5 US fl. oz., 45 mL).

(The name comes from a line of dialogue in Big Trouble in Little China.)

I'm not a fan of straight black coffee, but I do like coffee when combined with other flavors. I'd been hearing about BBotE around the Internet for a while, and found the idea intriguing, so I decided to give it a whirl. I bought a 750mL bottle of the Columbian variety, whose previous batch had been described by tasters as having chocolate notes. When the bottle arrived, it was cool but not actually chilled.

  • First trial: straight. My initial reaction was "yeah, that's black coffee all right", although on subsequent sips I started to notice bits of the lingering finish mentioned by the tasters. Once I found them, the finish flavors were pleasantly more complex than my initial impression, but very subtle. Verdict: eh, ok, but too much like black drip coffee.
  • Second trial: with vodka (Hangar One). This combination was supposed to bring out the oils and create a perception of sweetness, which should show the biggest difference from drip coffee. Verdict: tasty, and I kind-of-sort-of see what they were getting at with the "sweet" description, though the flavor of the vodka (?!) was getting in the way a bit. I'm not sure that finding something more flavorless than vodka is practical, so I may have to settle for spirits with flavors that simply complement it.
  • Third trial: with milk. Verdict: milk with coffee in it. I think I got the ratio of BBotE to milk wrong (too much milk), but I'd already consumed a fair amount of BBotE so I postponed the rematch until tomorrow. I may try adding a little chocolate syrup for a café mocha.

Overall verdict: nice but overrated. Worth trying if you already like coffee, but you're not missing something amazing. Score: 3 stars out of 4.

P.S.: The caffeine numbers on the website don't add up. The BBotE site claims it contains 40 times the caffeine of drip coffee and recommends limiting consumption to 100mL per day. The caffeine content in a 200mL serving of drip coffee varies a lot, but the site cites 120mg, which Wikipedia agrees is reasonable (if lowball). That's 600mg/L. Assuming the "40 times" figure is by volume, the site implies 24000mg/L of caffeine in BBotE. That's 2400mg of caffeine per 100mL daily consumption limit (45 cans of Mountain Dew), or 1080mg of caffeine per 45mL serving size (20 cans of Mountain Dew). There is no freaking way that's actually true: that's enough caffeine to put someone in the hospital (although not actually kill them). Based on how my own body reacts to caffeine, I estimate that BBotE contains maybe 100-150mg of caffeine per 45mL serving (2 or 3 cans of Mountain Dew). That puts it at roughly 4 or 5 times the caffeine of drip coffee by volume, which is a much more believable figure.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Prometheus (2012)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.7).

Miles: This is philosophy as taught by 5 year olds.
Noah: Yeah, it's this movie that thinks it's so much smarter and deeper than it really is.
Miles: But it's so much dumber.
Noah: It's way dumber. The characters are way dumber. This movie has nothing to say, nothing to show us, and nothing interesting to explore. [...] If a better writer had gotten ahold of this story, like Arthur C. Clarke, this would have been a really fascinating movie. Instead, they were content just to make it an alien creature-feature, with nothing substantive to say, and in fact as actively insulting to the intelligence of anyone who tries to think about it critically. Am I far off?
Miles: It's an insult to anyone that actually does try to think about these issues, these philosophical and theological issues.
Noah: 'cuz they're weighty issues. They're issues worth exploring. In a smarter movie they might well have explored that, but instead they think by just bringing the issue up, and then actively contradicting it, that it's somehow deep. And it's not. It's just dumb. It's a very pretty, well shot, stupid fucking movie.
— 1:07:04-1:09:08 "Vlog 6-8-12 - Prometheus", The Spoony Experiment

Prometheus is exactly why I don't generally see movies in theaters. Good: the cinematography was very pretty, the score is basically good, and the actors do good jobs with their material. Bad: everything else. The plot was incoherent, the science made no sense, nearly all of the characters were undeveloped and forgettable, and the remaining characterizations were wildly inconsistent. One particularly glaring problem: there's no reason whatsoever why android David has either the knowledge or the motivation to do the things he does in the first half of the film, especially given what we know by the second half. The movie feels like it's trying desperately to be a clone of the first Alien film, to the point that it feels more like a franchise reboot than a pseudo-prequel. The old man makeup for Mr. Weyland is jarringly bad. Oh, and what is this tedious and out of place "I choose to believe" religion sub-plot doing in here? That has no business in this series. If I'd known that one of the principal writers of Lost was responsible for the script's final rewrite, I wouldn't have bothered to see this film, and I would have been correct to do so. Score: 1 star out of 4.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Frankenhooker (1990)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (5.7).
If you see one movie this year, it should be Frankenhooker.
— Bill Murray, fresh off Ghostbusters II
Considering there's a scene with exploding prostitutes, [Frankenhooker is] amazingly gore-free.
TVTropes page

Frankenhooker.  As soon as you hear the name, you already know the premise.  Only two questions remain: how is the plot going to arrive at that scene — don't look at me like that, you know the one I'm talking about — and how amusing will the movie be along the way?  This movie has its faults, but also its charms.  On the minus side: even at 85 minutes the plot is thin and padded, there's this weird out-of-nowhere bit with trepanning to erase moral qualms relieve headaches (a WTF even for a movie built on WTF), and the out-of-nowhere final scene is somewhere between a Twilight Zone twist and a shaggy dog story.  On the plus side: the lead actors deliver appropriately hammy but endearing performances, Louise Lasser pops up out of nowhere to steal a scene, and I had shockingly few problems with this film's portrayal of gender (well, grading on a curve).  Score: solid 3 stars out of 4.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

They Live (1988)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.1).

It's hard to overestimate the weak-but-broad cultural reach of John Carpenter's sci-fi horror/satire about aliens enslaving humans with consumerist subliminal propaganda.  The film is pretty shallow: it's about class strife in the era of Wall Street and Reaganomics, essentially a story about a violent hero getting involved in a Marxist uprising by the oppressed proletariat overthrowing a ruling class of alien conquerors disguised as the human bourgeoisie.  The shallowness makes it accessible, which is the very reason its imagery has been appropriated far and wide, particularly in culture-jamming art and anti-consumerism but also in more surprising places.  Anyway, regarding the film as a film, I feel this is a surprisingly weak Carpenter entry for its era; it followed both The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China, both of which were great movies that bespoke a growing talent.  Some of the problem is budget: this film was made on $3 million and it shows.  Sadly, I think some of it is writing as well; there's a reason Carpenter is better known as a director than as a screenwriter.  That said, a "surprisingly weak Carpenter entry" is nothing to sneeze at, supposing it's not Dark Star.  Score: 3 stars out of 4 (includes one bonus star for cultural significance).

Aside: I find it frankly rather concerning that the film is so eager to depersonalize the real-world upper class fictional aliens to the point that kill-on-sight is the correct response.  You can't change the world by decrying your opponents as evil commie mutant traitors and calling for their heads.  You, your allies, and your opponents are all humans (or, in this case, movie aliens with suspiciously human-like drives and emotions), which means your minds are all made of the same inner workings: you and your allies are just as corruptible as your opponents, therefore violent overthrow grants a temporary reprieve at best (viz. Tsarists, Bolsheviks, Stalin).  I won't delve any deeper into that, as it's an essay or two by itself.

Repo Man (1984)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (6.8).

I'm really not sure what to make of this comedy.  On one hand, it has some great dialogue moments ("[scared] Let's go do those crimes", "[stunned] Yeah... let's go get sushi, and not pay" -- the famous one about tense situations was ruined for me by excessive quoting).  On the other hand, this movie is a rising crescendo of nonsensical surrealism with religious and sci-fi elements that never makes a coherent point or even attempts to justify its own existence.  It sort of fingerpaints a satire of LA in the 80s, but it seems too lazy to actually target anything in particular, except to take some friendly jabs at punk rock culture.  I suspect the movie is a continuous in-joke about stuff I'm missing.  Score: 2 stars out of 4, although Your Mileage May Vary if you're in on the in-joke.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Lost Boys (1987)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.0).

It's hard not to like this film: it's the sort of Goonies-with-vampires movie that could only have been made in the 80s.  The film modernized the vampire concept, directly paving the way for later fare like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it's also good cheesy fun with 80's icons Corey Feldman and Corey Haim as they raid vampire lairs and steal holy water for their squirt guns.  One noteworthy fact about the film is that it was filmed in Santa Cruz with the numbers filed off, which is very apparent if you've ever been there in person.  The film has also acquired... attention... for its (unintentional?) homoerotic undertones.  As if the ambiguous tensions between Michael and David weren't enough (the latter played by a disturbingly young Kiefer Sutherland), we also get Sam (Haim) singing "I Ain't Got a Man" while a shirtless Rob Lowe poster hangs in his bedroom closet.  Did we just not pay attention to those things in the 80s?  Score: 3 stars out of 4.

P.S.: In lieu of the traditional drinking game, I present an alternative for Cry Little Sister:
IT'S DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE! [Lighter] TAKE THIS.
Zippy the Lighter will shield you from this and other power ballads.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Dreamscape (1984)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (6.3).

I was rather unimpressed by this 80s sci-fi "action" schlock.  The plot is thin and tortured, the acting performances are flat all around, the handful of effects are pretty awful even by the standards of the day, it has an impressively unimpressive 80s synthesizer soundtrack, and there's enough "take that!" at Reagan-era warmongering to distract from the movie (note that '84 was the year of the Reagan vs. Mondale election).  Beyond those problems, the film also assigns psychic powers to the main character, yet they're an informed ability that doesn't even have any plot relevance.  I have no idea how this ended up in the Rotten Tomatoes Journey Through Sci-Fi list (supposedly the 100 best-rated sci-fi films).  The film is not painful to watch or even bad, but it's unrelentingly bland and mediocre and the "sci" is pure fluff.  Score: 1 star out of 4.

P.S.: Oh, and is it me, or is the movie's poster trying to trick people into thinking it's similar to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which came out 3 months earlier?  Because it's pretty much the opposite of that.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Heathers (1989)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.3).

“Children of the so-called Baby Boomers, Generation X has been characterized as a group unable to speak about anything unironically, while also possessing a mistrust of authority and a longing to have sex with Winona Ryder. According to Ryder, this demographic deserves to have "at least one" of its thwarted hopes and dreams for itself actually come true.” 
— "Winona Ryder Finally Agrees To Sleep With Generation X", The Onion
“I LOVE MY DEAD GAY SON!” 

Heathers is a pitch-black comedic satire of 80's teen comedy/drama films.  In terms of tone, it's sort of the forbidden love child of John Hughes and Tim Burton, culturally seeing out the 80s and propping the door open for the 90s to meander in.  I sadly never saw this in its own era, but it was impossible not to immediately notice how this one film both predicted and shaped the decade to follow: the goth look, Winona Ryder, grunge and Nirvana, the early 90s pop-cultural opinion on gays changing from punchlines to people, the sarcasm and cynical humor, Clueless, Daria (with tiny hints of Beavis and Butthead too), wangsty self-harm, and... well, let's be honest here, Columbine is the elephant in the room.  Beyond cultural significance, the film itself is great up through the Burtonesque dream sequence (yay Glenn Shadix!), but then the ending falls apart because the film can't quite decide how surreal it's supposed to be.  Score: 3 stars out of 4.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Leprechaun: In the Hood (2000)

Links: TVTropes (film series), Wikipedia, IMDB (3.3).
Film reviews were mixed to negative.
— Wikipedia article, with characteristic understatement
The shtick of the horror-comedy Leprechaun series is summarized thus: (a) Warwick Davis is wearing ugly makeup to play an evil leprechaun; (b) he kills you while cracking jokes.  This particular one takes a... curious direction, by setting the film around a trio of wannabe rappers in LA.  The film is all over the place and, frankly, most of those places are clearly labeled "bad" on the map.  On one hand, the movie continually succeeded in dodging my expectations for the horror-comedy slasher genre and was rarely formulaic.  On the other... where to begin?  For one, I'd think that the threat of being murdered for stealing a leprechaun's supernatural property would sort of derail any plans you had for starting a musical career, not turn your career into the A plot.  For two, what the HELL were the creators thinking with the... well, I hate to use the word "transwoman", because the creators certainly didn't.  Did having that scene (you'll know it when you hear it) and playing trans panic for laughs really enhance the film?  Ignoring the massive problems, though, the movie does have some great stuff every now and then.  Particularly the zombie fly girls at the end.  Score: 2 stars out of 4 (your mileage may vary).

P.S.: I'm looking forward to rewatching Leprechaun in Space in the near future.  I recall it being much more enjoyable than this film.

Redline (2009)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.3).

Imagine F-Zero, Rock n' Roll Racing, Extreme-GSpeed RacerAkira, and Sailor Moon thrown into a blender, violently puréed into a chunky paste, and then gulped down with a bottle of Tapatío and a raw egg.  That's pretty much the best description I can think of for this film.  The foreground plot is pretty generic; the background plots straddle the line between nonsensically elaborate and totally random; and, well, you're not really going to get much in-depth character exploration either.  BUT IT'S SO SHINY!  AND IT HAS GIANT COSMIC HORROR MONSTER BATTLES AND DRAG-RACING POP IDOLS WITH MAGICAL PRINCESS POWERS AND CYBORG SPACE NAZIS ON SUPERSONIC ROLLERSKATES!  Score: eh, 3 stars out of 4 (the middle drags, between the races they forget they're not in a serious movie).

P.S.: A friend aptly said of this film, "I'm surprised this movie didn't travel back in time so it could retroactively be in Heavy Metal".

Monday, January 16, 2012

Gattaca (1997)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.8).

Set in "the not-too-distant future", this film is sermon about designer babies, eugenic discrimination, and effort versus genetic determinism. The main storyline is decent enough, and the film occasionally makes some good points, but the film is as subtle as a brick. It also goes way over quota on pretentiousness: it shows a society of impossibly pretty people who never emote, who are seemingly trapped in a world of late-30s retro-noir while wearing impeccable suits at all hours of the day, even if they are astronauts currently being launched into space. It's also hurt by the lack of attention to scientific detail: sure, we know much more now than we did in 1997, but we definitely knew then that upbringing and lifestyle had huge effects on, say, the odds of developing heart disease. Worst of all, the movie left untouched the most significant controversy of all: when designer babies become possible, only the rich will be able to afford such screening. In the world of the film, one's genes determine one's socioeconomic status, but in the real world cause and effect would thus be reversed, leading to much more controversial questions that are barely hinted at in Gattaca. Overall, it's good, but it could have been so much more. Score: 2 stars out of 4.

Aside: Hello-o-o fanservice! Ethan Hawke would not be my first choice in normal circumstances, but he's looking quite nice here and the camera is not shy about showing it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Runaway (1984)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (5.7).

When I want people to quake in fear before me, threatening to force them to watch this movie is one of the most surefire ways to do it. You have the "meh" protagonist acted by Tom Selleck, you have a mediocre villain portrayal from Gene Simmons of KISS fame (without makeup, i.e. mentally scarring us with his hideous visage), and you have Michael Crichton as writer and director of this film about Roomba-like household robots that suddenly start killing people. While this is a more competently filmed movie than, say, Zardoz, at least I enjoyed Zardoz for being the gloriously 70s camptastic mess that it is. This film feels like the sort of phoned-in drek that Cinemax might commission so they'd have something to run in the 3PM-on-a-Sunday-afternoon slot. All that said... it's not gouge-out-your-eyes bad: as much as I hate complimenting Michael Crichton (I am NOT a fan), there's some intelligent writing here, and the film makes a pretty reasonable attempt at sketching a plausible future. Score: 1 star out of 4 (BARELY).

Labyrinth (1986)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.3).
There is a time in every child's life when they start to suspect that there might be some physical differences between males and females, but young female viewers of the cult classic Labyrinth got more than affirmation: they got David Bowie.
Nostalgia Chick
As yet another 80s kid-oriented epic fantasy film from Jim Henson and crew, this film is something of a spiritual successor to The Dark Crystal. While similar in many ways, this film visibly attempts to correct for the earlier film's perceived flaws, especially that the predecessor was darker in tone than originally intended. The result is a campy fun fantasy film with an edge of Alice in Wonderland-esque playful humor. Though less epic in scope — no genocides or global conquests to be found here — the film is much more fleshed out than Crystal and feels much more like a solid world. The movie also benefits because the target audience is a few years older than that of Crystal: this film is very much a coming-of-age movie targeted at preteens, which lends itself to more nuanced storytelling. There are a few "comedic" scenes that drag... A LOT... but the rest of the movie has its definite charms. Score: 3 stars out of 4.

P.S.: David Bowie IS the Goblin King.

The Dark Crystal (1982)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.0).

This entry from Jim Henson's crew basically kicked off the aforementioned trend of 80s kid-oriented epic fantasy films. The film is done entirely in puppets, causing some uncanny valley problems, and has a pervasively dark tone, probably not what you were expecting from the creator of the Muppets. I feel that the world and backstory is poorly developed: too vague in most places and too orderly and cookie-cutter in the places where it's not vague. In short, the story writing is appropriate for very small children, which hurts the film's attempts at having an epic scope. I wish I could like the film more, but the final result just isn't interesting enough. Score: 2 stars out of 4.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Neverending Story (1984)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.4).
“It's only a story! It's not real.” — Bastian
The 80's were a surprisingly rich source of kid-oriented epic fantasy films, and despite the stiff competition this film may well have been the best of them. At first glance, the film almost seems like a pro-library PSA, but it also has a surprisingly rich texture and depth to it. It's also surprisingly postmodern, and for once I don't mean that in the "sarcastically self-aware characters" sense: it's basically German existentialism meets House of Leaves... for kids! I'm not a fan of how the film left out the themes from the second half of the book, but there was probably no way to do it given that the film already runs 100 minutes, and that's after clearly omitting some important characterization. I guess I'm just bitter about the sequel, and how badly it botched the material. Anyway, this film is totally worth watching. Score: 4 stars out of 4 (possibly influenced by the awesome that is the theme song).

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

Links: Wikipedia, IMDB (6.8).

Rare Exports is a film adaptation of two earlier shorts: Rare Exports, Inc. and Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions. (Warning: don't watch the shorts yet. You should see the film first... and possibly read up on the Krampus.) Unlike the shorts, the film itself is a Christmas-themed horror comedy. I thought the film did a great job in the beginning, taking its premise completely seriously, but the middle botches things by failing to do anything with the tension established earlier. Suddenly, however, the end of the film takes a swing toward the lighthearted/tongue-in-cheek and ends on a solidly entertaining note. (Aside: this is the least gory horror-comedy I've ever seen. Perhaps unrelated: Finland is nearly antipodal to New Zealand.) Score: 4 stars out of 4.