Posts Tagged ‘norway


“heroes,” part one. [the many lists of 2009.]

First came the “villains,” now it’s time for my favorite “heroes” of 2009. This list is a bit more straightforward than its counterpart, but I still had lots of fun picking and explaining the characters I loved best. As is always the case, they are in no particular order, but I am publishing in two parts because it wasn’t coming along as quickly as I’d like.

***I have to warn you now, these lists are often filled to the brim with spoilers. Not every description of why a character or moment made the list is spoiler-heavy, but it may be safer for you to just skip the ones from films you haven’t seen but plan to enjoy in the future. I don’t want to be that guy who ruins a great movie for someone, so, you’ve been warned.***

1. Max – Where the Wild Things Are

Max isn’t just one of my favorite heroes this year, I can say quite honestly, and without hyperbole, that he is one of my favorite characters in the history of film. His character, in relation to his family and to the Wild Things, was so remarkable in how it captured and expressed what it means to be a human being.

Our hearts are, every one, filled with wild, dangerous and beautiful things. Max’s journey into his own heart was not just the journey of moving from childhood to adulthood, it is the continual journey of at once growing up and learning to stay childlike that each of us will be on for the rest of our days.

He is angry, sad and afraid, he feels alone and doesn’t understand why he keeps hurting those around him with his desperate and angry outbursts. So, he goes on a journey to learn about those things deep inside that don’t have words.

Max is trying to learn to hold his rage and his sorrow, his joy and his wild playfulness; he is trying to understand how beautiful and wounded his heart is and reconcile all of these disparate things as part of himself. He is learning to howl when he has no words, and how to come home and share in a love and a safety that doesn’t need to be spoken to be felt.

It felt as if Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze had looked deeply into my soul, into all the pain and blood I carry around from wounds that don’t heal, then, after looking and knowing deeply, named that soul Max and told a story of comfort and commiseration which expresses things which can only be articulated in fantastic stories of deep, troubling anger, as well as joyfully wild rumpus.

It is rare that a film or character comes along that has the power to make us feel less alone, more understood, and helps us understand ourselves better. Max, and Where The Wild Things Are did exactly that for me.


2. The Crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise – Star Trek

The odds stacked against the reboot of the Star Trek franchise were considerable. One of the chief difficulties would be in the realm of casting. How on earth do you find new actors to take the rolls of a number of beloved characters? They need to be quickly likable, not an easy feat when one character has to be the lovably arrogant Captain James T. Kirk (that lovable arrogance quickly becomes your garden variety aggravating arrogance in the hands of the wrong thespian). The characters also need to honor the way the character was played before without simply imitating it, and to be successful commercially and critically, the cast needs to be people who get the franchise enough to keep the Trekkers happy, while also being accessible enough to please the masses.

The task is impossible, and yet, J.J. Abrams and company pulled it off gloriously! I enjoyed watching the crew of the Starship Enterprise do their thing as much as I enjoyed watching any other cast out there this year. Even on the third viewing, they were still delightfully entertaining. I hope it isn’t too long until Kirk, Spock and the gang return to give me another fix of that rebooted Star Trek goodness.


3. The bad-ass, but nonetheless ill-fated Norwegians – Dead Snow

Normally, if you were to offer up the prospect of a bunch of young Norwegian medical students vs. a host of Nazi zombies, you wouldn’t put much money on the med students. And, while in the end they most certainly did each come to a terrible and gruesome demise, they certainly fucked up enough zombies to cover the spread.

For the most part, these kids knew their zombie rules, they fought with vicious and brutal tenacity, and even as they died one by one, it was almost never as the result of a stupid decision (like it always was in Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead), but merely a result of being grossly outnumbered by a militarily trained undead horde.

Basically, the film and its heroes are used as an apt representation of the wise, time-honored Norwegian proverb, “When life gives you zombies, grab a chainsaw or a snowmobile and tear some shit up.”

3(a). Columbus, Tallahassee, Little Rock and Wichita – Zombieland

While technically this is cheating, it wouldn’t be fair to discuss zombie-killers without mentioning our fine, young American friends from Zombieland. They instructed us all on the necessity of adhering to some all-important survival rules for the zombie apocalypse, and at the same time they found friendship and love, learned some valuable life lessons about the importance of family and community, and killed the fuck out of some zombies. All in all, a productive endeavor.


4. Holmes and Watson – Sherlock Holmes

It’s not exactly a well kept secret that bromances are pretty popular right now. Yet, just because something is a fad doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable when it is executed well, as it is in Sherlock Holmes. The love affair between Holmes and Watson was immensely enjoyable to watch, thanks to the fantastic performances of both.

Yet, it was more than just the relationship between the two, each character functioned quite well on their own. On just about every level, I found the two dashing gentlemen great fun to watch, and it is a franchise that I can’t wait to see more of (but that is another post still to come). I’m pretty sure that if you don’t love Robert Downey Jr., your brain might be broken.


5. Simon Foster – In The Loop

In the movies, more often than not heroes come ready made with a heaping dose of swagger, he or she is usually a capable and talented individual reinforced by the strength of their convictions and a clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Even if the character doesn’t start off this way, the events of the film mold them into the hero we hope for, and when the moment of truth arrives, they shine. Yet, that isn’t really the way it works in real life is it? In real life, heroes usually look quite a bit more like Simon Foster.

Simon Foster is, to be kind, a bumbling, incompetent idiot. He is terrible at his job and everything that comes along with it, especially articulating his positions in a world of sound-bites. Yet, throughout the events of the film, he ends up bumbling his way, granted on a very roundabout and evasive route, into doing the right thing and standing up for truth. It happens almost by accident, but as a conscious choice nonetheless.

Unfortunately for Foster, that isn’t where the similarities to the real world end. Simon’s reward for doing the right thing is being unceremoniously chewed up and spit out by people far more diabolical, and far more competent than himself. His story ends in humiliation and defeat, and the war he tries to prevent happens anyway. He chose good over evil, and in the end had nothing to show for it. To be honest, I think there is something sadly beautiful about that.


Halloween Moviefest 2009

I’ve never really been much into horror movies. Mostly because of associations with films like Nightmare on Elm St. and such, which aren’t really my cup of tea. However, realizing the silly popular horror films aren’t representative of horror films in general, I want to broaden my horizons a bit into the hugely diverse realm of scary(ish) movies. Thus, this year, I was struck with the inspiration to watch a different movie from the horror (or similar) genre every night on the days leading up to Halloween, culminating in a joyous viewing of my favorite related film, Shaun of the Dead.

Most of the films I watched were films I already planned on watching and this was just a good excuse to finally get to them, while some of the films were movies I probably never would have seen were it not for this Halloween themed celebration of film.

As your friend, I HIGHLY recommend checking out the trailers for the films, especially if you are unfamiliar with a particular film!

Day One: 28 Weeks Later


Sequels are always a dicey proposition. We’ve all had franchises we loved murdered by the likes of the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the At World’s End type films of the past. Thus, when 28 Days Later got the sequel treatment but Danny Boyle didn’t return as director and none of the original cast came back, I avoided it like the plague. My assumption (an unfair one as it turned out) was that an American film studio had cranked out another mindless horror film and slapped the 28 Days Later moniker on it to add credibility.

Since it was while watching 28 Days Later a few weeks ago that I got the inspiration to watch a different horror movie every night leading up to Halloween, it only made sense to kick it off with 28 Weeks Later. It didn’t hurt the cause that I learned after deciding to watch it that Danny Boyle was involved creatively on the project even though he didn’t direct (he even directed some secondary unit stuff!).

Lots of zombie fans dislike the 28 films because they don’t like the fact that the infected aren’t officially undead and fans loathe even more the fact that the ‘zombies’ are fast (although Danny Boyle insists they aren’t zombies, much like George Romero did after Night of the Living Dead came out). I understand the trouble with zombies being created by a rage virus, but it isn’t a problem I share. 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later are both great films and while they do turn the zombie genre on its head, it is in the best possible way. The first 5 minutes of 28 Weeks Later may be the best zombie sequence I’ve ever seen.

28 Weeks isn’t as strong as 28 Days Later, but we still had a great time watching it. It will certainly make an appearance during ‘Halloween Moviefest 2010.’

Click the photo below to watch the trailer for the film, and to be honest, watching the trailer again I wonder why I waited so long to watch the movie!

28 Weeks Later

Day Two: Let The Right One In

Let The Right One In

This film was hands down, by far, in every way my favorite new film watched during HM2009. It was quiet, understated, beautiful, while also deeply disturbing and troubling in the best possible way. It wasn’t particularly scary in the traditional sense, but maybe that’s just me. However, it was brilliant, moving, engaging storytelling that ruminates on the violence and desperation of vampire mythology, while also making it human by setting it in the pain, brokenness and grit of real life and childhood.

I highly recommend this film to anyone who can stomach a fair amount of blood and violent content. Again, click on the photo below to see the trailer.

Let The Right One In

Day Three: The Orphanage

The Orphanage

The Orphanage was the second movie in a row that was more creepy than scary, which I am realizing is a great thing. Fortunately, it also continued the trend of great storytelling. A story of tragedy, loss, unfailing love, and creepy ghost children, it didn’t bring anything new to the table as far as ghost stories go, but it used the old conventions and devices to weave a moving, engaging tale. There were many similarities between The Orphanage and Poltergeist, but in all the places where Poltergeist swung and missed for me (which I’ll get to later) The Orphanage hit it out of the park!

As of night three, we were batting a thousand for film selections.


Day Four: Ghostbusters


What needs to be said? The primary reason for the inclusion of Ghostbusters is that it is the only film I knew my wife Emily would watch with us, so I wanted to get her in on the fun.

The movie is a classic, there aren’t many a child who grew up in the 80’s for whom the Ghostbusters weren’t a regular part of their lives. From Hi-C Ecto-cooler to ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ cartoon series, I would be a rich man if I had a dollar for every time I pretended to be busting ghosts as a kid.

Day Five: Poltergeist


This was included because of its status as a classic in the ghostly activity genre. I looked forward to catching up on what I’d been missing since I had been too much of  a wuss to watch it when I was young. Sadly, while it was intentionally funny fairly consistently, it was also unintentionally funny even more consistently. It wasn’t scary as much as it was flat out ridiculous. Maybe it was the era, maybe it was just my personal tastes, maybe it was how dated it is by now; whatever it was, I wasn’t impressed. I wasn’t scared or creeped out, I didn’t care about the characters at all, and I found myself wondering how much longer it was until the movie was over.

I respect the fact that it is a classic, that it was really well received critically, and that it was huge in the 80’s, so it must be me, I just wasn’t into the Poltergeist action.

Day Six: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

night-of-the-living-dead-postersI had never seen Night of the Living Dead before. Obviously, as a fan of zombie lore I needed to finally be initiated into what became the inception of the modern zombie sub-genre. Sadly, much of the punch the film would have had for the original audiences was lost on me because I’ve already seen this material rehashed so many times, as well as because the legendary ending had been spoiled many times over.

However, I couldn’t help but appreciate how the effectively creepy, siege based storytelling which gives every viewer the opportunity to imagine how they would respond in the same situation spawned the sub-genre so close to my heart. If I had to pick characters from various zombie films who would be in my corner in the event of  a real zombie apocalypse, the films main character, Ben, would certainly be included!



Day Seven: Part I – Evil Dead

Evil Dead

Who doesn’t love Ash? There are plenty of complaints one can have about the Evil Dead franchise, and rightly so, but as a character you can’t find a more absurd, hilarious, over the top, bad ass than Bruce Campbell as Ashley Williams. I hadn’t actually seen Evil Dead before, I’d only seen Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. Since we knew later in the day we would be watching Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell it made perfect sense to kick things off with the film that started it all for Raimi. It was everything one might think it would be, much more an absurd, ultra-violent, ridiculous gore-fest as opposed to anything scary or frightening. Well, it was potentially frightening in one way, you may be frightened by the horrible thing on screen you just laughed at in any given scene like a pencil to the ankle or lopped off head.

Part II – Drag Me To Hell

Drag Me To Hell

Watching the trailers alone I had no plans to see Drag Me To Hell. However, when it consistently received great reviews from critics and wasn’t discarded as another mindless scary movie I took notice and decided to include it in HM2009. Boy am I glad I did. Drag Me To Hell was like Evil Dead with a brain. It embraced all of it’s camp and silliness and reveled in it. Staples to the forehead, a sacrificed kitten that resurfaced in the most ridiculous way later on, and a scary, gross old lady as the villain are just some of the delightfully absurd thrills the film offers. At the end of the day, it was just loads of fun to watch, and it was nice to see Raimi back at the top of his game.

As is always the case for trailers with embedding disabled, click on the photo to view the trailer.


Day Eight: Trick ‘r Treat

Trick 'r  Treat

For the most part, I enjoyed Trick ‘r Treat. We are all quite familiar with stories that celebrate the joy, peace and love of the Christmas spirit. Well, this is a film that celebrates the fun, danger, terror and mischief of the Halloween spirit. Not as much a continuous story as a loose connection of stories that intersect (á la Pulp Fiction). Each storyline acts as a playful interaction with various conventions and myths of Halloween. It succeeds on a number of levels as a fun 90 minutes to spend on an October evening. It includes everything from Anna Paquin turning the story of Little Red Riding Hood on its head, to Dylan Baker as a serial killing principal, as well as Halloween’s version of Scrooge getting a dark lesson in celebrating Halloween the right way.

The biggest disappointment came from what had been my favorite part of the film for the majority of the movie. Wandering throughout the story is the spirit of Halloween. What looked like a creepy little kid trick or treating was actually a murderous little menace who had a list of who was naughty and who was nice, purely by Halloween standards. Instead of getting a lump of coal, you would instead die a gruesome death. The reason it wound up being a disappointment was because for a few brief minutes they remove the characters mask, and it was utterly ridiculous in the worst possible way. He immediately went from my favorite character of HM2009 to the most disappointing one. Sad. Hopefully I can have enough of a selective memory to edit the brief lame portion out of my head.


Day Nine: Dead Snow


You really only need two words to understand what you’re getting into with Dead Snow: Nazi. Zombies.

As I tweeted immediately after watching: Dead Snow was campy, hilarious, gory as all hell, filled to the gills with movie reference tips of the cap, and soooooooooooo fun!

The folks who made this film love movies, and more, love zombie movies, and it comes through in every moment of this film. It was at once campy and beautifully shot, it was pitch perfect, and it had everything you could possibly want in a zombie movie, including bad ass victims who aren’t willing to go down without a fight. Also, while I won’t ruin the surprises for those who choose to watch it, it has one of the best scenes in the history of zombie films, as well as some of the best zombie fighting. Also a strength is that their numerous movie references are often subtle, and are always used to great effect as opposed to just pointing out that they are referencing a movie, it actually works on a storytelling level too.

These aren’t your grandfather’s zombies kids… well, unless your grandfather fought in WWII, then I guess technically they are his zombies. As opposed to being mindless flesh eating monsters, they are a bunch of bastards so evil and greedy they won’t stay dead, thus they still think and act like humans hellbent on getting back their Nazi treasure. When these zombies eat flesh, it’s because they think it’s fun, not because of a zombie bloodlust. Again, a different twist on zombie lore, and a great addition to the family!!!



Day Ten: Dawn of the Dead [2004]

Dawn of the Dead

Sadly, I’d have to call the updated Dawn of the Dead the biggest disappointment of HM2009. I enjoyed it more than Poltergeist, but I wasn’t expecting as much. I really thought Dawn of the Dead was going to be an entertaining film, but instead it was just dumb. More often than not I was just yelling at the screen because of how frustrated I was with how infuriatingly dumb and illogical the characters in the film were. Also, while I don’t have a problem with fast zombies, the zombies in this film were more superhuman in their speed and agility. It makes sense that Danny Boyle’s zombies would act the way they do because they were overcome by pure rage, why Zac Snyder’s zombies have their attributes is completely inexplicable, but little girls can suddenly jump up like cats and zombies with no legs can swing around from pipes like apes. WTF?!?

As I summed it up on Twitter later that evening: Dumb.


Day Eleven: Shaun of the Dead


The crown jewel of my plans for HM2009, this isn’t just one of my favorite zombie or horror movies, it’s one of my favorite movies. It succeeds on every level possible and delivers me so much joy, laughter and fun that it should probably be illegal. I LOVE this movie, and I’m so happy to have discovered another excuse to watch it. When we do HM2010, Halloween night will once again involve a viewing of Shaun of the Dead 



I enjoyed doing the themed movie nights so much that I have already decided to continue doing more of the same. I did find out during this little experiment that they already do something similar over at Ain’t It Cool News, I guess great minds think alike or some such nonsense.

Next will be a Time Travel themed week or two of movie goodness. So far, off the top of our heads, the titles to be included are Primer, Time Bandits, Timecrimes, Back to the Future I & II, and Donnie Darko. I would LOVE suggestions on other great time travel movies that should be included! Sadly, I checked and Hot Tub Time Machine doesn’t come out until March. We aren’t waiting that long.

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