Sunday, May 11, 2008

Teeth Review

Rich Knight
94 Mins
No Rate
Starring: Jess Weixler, John Hensley, Josh Appleman, Lenny Von Dohlen
Directed by: Michael Lichtenstein
Produced by: Joyce Pierpoline, Michael Lichtenstein
Written by: Michael Lichtenstein
Dimension Extreme

For virgin males, the fear of what “it” might actually feel like down there between a woman’s thighs can be very real and horrific if one’s imagination were to run away with itself. Thoughts of anything from a vicegrip like hand to pincers that will chomp off precious appendages can be evoked by even the tamest of minds.

Teeth, a movie featuring a teenager with actual chompers between her legs, plays with that concept to the extreme and supplies ample laughs for just as many cringes.

The Movie: Four stars out of Five

To call Teeth a horror movie is a bit unfair, even though I’m sure the marketing committee would love to have it called as such to give it that special edge to it. In all truths, though, if Teeth is to be considered anything, it’s a black comedy with elements of horror attached to it that make it feel more camp than bone-chilling. In other words, it’s about as alarming a cautionary tale for men as Army of Darkness is a caugtionary tale for hardware salesmen sent back through time to fight medieval skeletons atop a castle.

As much as that campiness might detract from the overall horror feel this film is trying to evoke, though, that’s what actually gives it its charm—its ability to laugh at itself for being so bizarrely wonderful and wonderfully bizarre at the same time.

The story is centered around a young woman embodying the sexual mythology of vagina dentate, which is, if you’ve never read anything of Frued or Greek mythology before, the belief that some women might have pearly whites beneath their pubes. In the wrong hands (or is that legs?), this could cause almost epically large ramifications for a sexually active woman looking to detach as many male members as possible. But our hero, Dawn (Played by the excellent, Jess Weixler) is not that kind of girl. No, she’s actually a member of a very chaste group that frowns upon sex before marriage and wears a special ring to indicate how serious they are about abstenance.

The thing is, Dawn is too good. So good in fact, that when a local boy with the kind of submersive eyes that make young girls swoon, tries to rape her, you know the remainder of the story is going to be focused on her ultimate descent into madness, and that’s okay. In a way, Teeth acts as a meta-throwback to vintage horror movies like Friday the 13th, where the people who bit the big one were always the antsy kids who couldn’t wait to step out of their virginity suits and get it on in the forest, and the plot of Teeth takes that idea a bit further. The message of “do it and die” fits nicely here, and is actually mocked at by the ridiculousness (even though it might actually be realistic) of the abstinence group Dawn subscribes to called The Promise. The real promise in the movie though, is that sooner or later, Dawn’s going to be taking a bite out of her victims when anybody steps beyond their bounderies. The real hoot being that instead of sex being the reason for the killings, as in Friday the 13th, sex IS the killer in this movie. In other words, sex kills.

And a lot of that message couldn’t be pulled off if the actor’s weren’t entirely believable in their performances. Jess Weixler plays the perfect na├»ve girl who’s just trying to deal with the world any way she can, and her half-brother, Brad, played by John Hensley, plays the perfect polar opposite. He’s the kind of skeevy guy with muttonchops that you could see yourself fearing, but, could also see yourself feeling sympathetic for due to problems he might have had in his childhood—did I mention that Brad can only have sex anally with the women he dates due to something psychological that happened to him and his sister when he was younger?

This movie isn’t perfect though, and some of it is actually hampered by the moments where it’s trying to vear away from comedy and into shock horror territory. Moments of seeing gaping holes where penises used to be are not as silly as they could be, and the dynamics of the overall family could be stronger, especially since Jess’ mother is dying throughout almost the entirety of the film. But that’s just being obsessive about nitpicky details that don’t really hamper the film in any way. Overall, Teeth does have quite a bite to it, even though some of the minor problems give it sort of softened chew.

The Disc: One star out of five

Featured on this very barebones disc are deleted scenes that add absolutely nothing at all to the movie as a whole. Also on this disc are a TV spot, a trailer, and a hit or miss commentary by writer/director, Micheal Lichtenstein. As mentioned before, the deleted scenes are an absolute waste of time, but what I really want to talk about now is how sick and tired I am of these sparse spoken commentaries that are becoming more and more the norm these days. In this DVD, the director seems to feel that it’s only important to discuss his film when he’s not entirely absorbed in his own finely wraught creation. In other words, for almost the entire DVD commentary, the director remains silent and we’re left to watch the movie over again with brief spurts of the director talking about how brilliant the music is, or how finely acted some of the scenes are.

I mean, for a movie like Teeth, a second watch through isn’t so bad, as there are a lot of comical details on the sidelines and in the musical cues that you may have missed early on the first time through. But for other, far worse films, where the director doesn’t have much to say, then by all means, don’t say anything at all and leave the commentary for those who like to ramble on and hear themselves talk (Kevin Smith, I’m looking at you).

I wouldn’t be so pissed though if the brief, intermittent moments of commentary weren’t so daggone interesting. We learn that the cooling towers in the film, the ones that sit in the background for a majority of the movie, are meant to represent our main character’s emotions; hence, the reason why the smoke that bellows from them gets blacker and blacker the further the plot progresses. We also find out that her sick mother is actually sick BECAUSE of the smoke from the cooling towers, which was something that was totally lost on me the first time through.

A lot of my angst in all this though is because I’m an honest to God fan of movie commentary who often likes listeining to it more than actually watching the movie itself. For me, one of the main reasons why I think commentary is so interesting is because it adds an extra layer of depth that creates a sort of subcutaneous bit of flesh on top of the skin that’s already on top of the film. But nowadays, it seems like a lot directors feel that it’s actually necessary to put a commentary in their DVD, even if they don’t have anything to say, and for me, that’s a problem.

In the end, though, I guess my biggest complaint is the fact that I feel lied to by the company distributing the film. I mean, I don’t think it’s acceptible to have it printed on the box that there’s director commentary if the director only speaks for about 30 minutes in a 90 minute film. To me, that’s false advertising that hampers the film, rather than enhancing it. Teeth, good movie, bad commentary.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Mario Kart Wii Review

Three and a half stars out of five

The new Mario Kart for the Wii is good, and I guess that’s my biggest complaint with it, as Mario Kart’s not supposed to be good, it’s supposed to be great. And too many factors—a few so-so tracks, a busted peripheral, and the greatest sin of all, rather lackluster multiplayer—make this racing adventure a slight wrong turn in the revolutionary series.

Let me get my biggest complaint with the game out of the way early. The new steering wheel that comes packaged with the game is an utter piece of garbage. What might seem like an innovative new way to play your favorite kart racer, turns out to be a tremendous misfire on Nintendo’s part, as it’s too cumbersome and twitchy to use in any competition outside of the easy as Pong 50cc cup.

What’s so bad about it is its nonresponsiveness and lack of stabilization in heated battles. Sure, when the area’s clear and you’re sitting pretty in first place, it’s all fine and dandy (Which is why I said it’s okay to use in the 50cc cup), but when the whole track is packed with other racers vying for first place, you’ll find yourself slingshooting yourself all over the place just trying to get yourself back into racing position. I’ll give it to Nintendo, though, it was a good idea, it just didn’t work out quite as they expected. Oh, well, at least the game controls as nicely as you’d expect with the old-timey Gamecube controller, which worked wonders yet again in Super Smash Bros. Brawl only a few weeks ago. The only problem is, and maybe it’s just because I haven’t figured it out yet, but you can’t do any tricks if you’re using the GC controller, and can only pull them off if you’re using the new Wii steering wheel. Lame.

But the wheel’s not the only problem with the game, not by a long shot. Another concern is the twelve racers on the track instead of eight, which adds to the mess and confusion and, sad to say, higher frequency of being bombed by a blasted blue shell, which threw me to near insanity more times than I could count when I was knocked from first place all the way to eighth in literally the blink of an eye.

Also of note is the fact that some of the tracks are just plain lame (Moo Moo Meadows equals yuck), but at least there are a lot of tracks (32 in total, 16 new, 16 old but updated) to tide you over for quite some time.

And then there are the bikes, which I absolutely love since they add a whole new dimension to the rip rollicking action. Shifting into turns with the speedy bikes is an absolute blast, and it’s fun to watch Toad go flying off into the stratosphere when Bowser comes around a corner with a mushroom, knocking him high into the sky. I also like a majority of the tracks in the game (Maple Treeway and the new Rainbow Road are my absolute favorite tracks ever), and dig how intricate they are. When compared to the older, retro tracks that can be found in the game, you start to wonder what the great appeal was for some of the N64 and SNES tracks, as they’re only about 40 seconds long. If anything, at least they’re a nice reminder of your childhood when life used to be simpler and gas was cheaper.

I’ll have to give a major thumbs down to the battle tracks, though. Even though there are many of them, both old and new, it just seems like they’ve grown past their welcome. And multiplayer, always the greatest highlight for the series in my opinion, actually pales in comparison to the surprisingly deep single player mode, which adds a great deal of difficulty to the later cups in the game.

Also of note is the lame online feature, which I was heavily looking forward to early on in the game’s development. Playing its online feature is pretty much like playing the computer as it actually feels that soulless. Like all Wii games built with the online feature in mind, you’re not allowed to communicate with anybody verbally. It makes for a pretty bland experience that you won’t be enjoying as much as you might have planned.

As you can see, I have mixed feelings about the game, which was never a problem I’ve ever had with any of the other Mario Kart titles in the series. Ever. But I guess that’s just because I expect greatness from it, and for the first time in the history of the series, that greatness has been slightly sullied. Don’t get me wrong, though, definitely buy this game (Like you haven’t already), but heed these words—Mario Kart Wii is good, but not great. The sooner you get that through your lemon-colored cranium, the sooner you can get to start having fun with this flawed, albeit fun, little racer that could.

Now That Mario Kart is out, I officially Have Nothing To Look Forward to on the Wii

Let’s face it, the Wii’s not a very good system. And while I know I’m going to be tugging on quite a few rabid fan boy’s dog chains with that last statement, let’s all admit it together—the Wii really is a piece of garbage.

The graphics are last gen, the controller is more a novelty than anything else, and the games for it are mostly crap with pretty packaging.

Hey, it hurts me just as much to say it as it does for you to hear it, because I’m a Nintendo fanboy, too, always have been, and, even with the unbearably crummy Wii, always will be. Ipso, facto.

But with the release of the recent Mario Kart (Read my review—I’m not entirely pleased with it), I ask you fellow fanboy, what’s there to look forward to now that all the great first-party titles are already out? As has been the case for the last two or three Nintendo systems, the power of the house of N has always been in their first party software, as gaming staples like Mario, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Metroid and Pikmin were the only really great reasons to get excited for anything on Nintendo’s horizon as those were the only good games that would come out for the system.

Wait, let me correct myself with that last sentence. Nintendo’s first party games were not good, they were great, and they made me (and millions of others), into the die hard Nintendo fanboy that I am today.

It’s the third party stuff that I’ve always been worried about for the system, and that’s all I can see far and wide for the rest of the year for Nintendo.

Let’s see, what’s coming out soon? Dream Pinball 3D? Space Chimps? Don King Presents: Prizefighter?!?! Does THIS sound like the roster of a system that was meant to thrive?

Sure, Steven Speilberg’s heavily consulted, Boom Blox might be a fun little diversion, but will I rush home to play it like a Mario Galaxy or a Smash Bros. Brawl? I don’t think you’d have to be a gambling man to answer a swift and easy, “no.”

The fact of the matter is this—Nintendo put all of its eggs in one closely knit basket, and now they have to deal with the fact that casual gamers can only play Wii Sports, Mario Kart, and the probably going to be a hit, Wii Fit for so long before they start to get tired of them and want something more.

And as much as I’d hate to say it, I guess that’s where the Playstation 3 comes in. Metal Gear Solid 4 is going to be, well, huge, and if Nintendo had only gotten Solid Snake to stick around a little longer after his Smash Bros. Brawl cameo, well, well thenwe may have been in business. But as of right now, Nintendo is a sinking ship, and we fanboys are the only passengers who are going to stick around, even after the hull has reached its dead weight sandy bottom.

Botched Review

Rich Knight
Not Rated
94 minutes
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Jamie Foreman, Geoff Bell, and Jamie Murray
Directed by: Kit Ryan
Produced by: Terrence Ryan, Ken Tuohy, and Steve Richards
Written by: Raymond Friel, Eamon Friel, and Derek Boyle
Darclight Films
Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish

Torture porn, or, shackle and maim films, if you will, have yet to receive due treatment in the comedic spoof genre. Zombie films have Shaun of the Dead, and once prominent Japanese horror movies have laughably bad American counterparts to fill the void, but torture porn has sadly been forgotten in the great scheme of things. Sadly, if Botched was meant to be that comedic offering, then the title alone speaks for itself—this movie was definitely botched.

The movie: 2 stars

Some of the best comedies were actually intended to be horror movies. Sam Raimi realized that his campy-by-first-wink hero, Bruce Campbell, would be much more effective if he actually did wink at the camera, and George A. Romero milked comedy for every drop he could with his satirical/outlandish epics about zombies in military bases and shopping malls. But these were budding directors who wound up making far better things (Well, Raimi, anyway), and fostered their comedic chops with these seminal releases.

Not so with Kit Ryan, though, whose directorial debut, Botched, tries so very hard to be something it’s not—a well paced horror spoof with equal amounts of guts and guffaws. Instead, we get a laughless romp featuring Stephen Dorff and a villain who prances about on his tippy toes before he swings a medieval sword directly at somebody’s throat. Add to the fact that this unrated movie is virtually tame enough to receive a standard R-Rating, and you have a movie that’s not even gory enough to sustain the interest of those who would even be interested in watching this kind of movie in the first place. In the end, both comedy fans and horror nuts will ultimately be disappointed.

The story is about a down on his luck thief named Ritchie who’s been asked to steal a precious golden cross from an ordinary looking building after he botched (hee hee, get it?) a diamond heist with a couple of his cronies. The thing is, this ordinary looking building has a mysterious 13th floor where the heir of Ivan the Terrible resides and enjoys attacking and maiming victims who happen to stumble upon his floor.

I know, hilarious, right?

Plot’s not everything, though, and this film could have been salvaged from being a total wreck if the cast of characters trapped on the deletrious 13th floor with Dorff had more spunk and charisma, but they don’t. Instead, they wind up leaving you astonished by how banal and un-funny they are, and I actually found myself losing track of the plot when I started counting how many times I rolled my eyes at the movie’s terrible jokes—Note, I eventually stopped when the eye rolling count reached 23.

We first get a taste of this slapdash cast when we’re introduced to Stephen Dorff, who made such a delicious villain in the original Blade movie. In this film, though, you feel that his gruff, covered in stumble mouth could have easily been replaced by an even tougher badass, like Ray Liota or Jason Statham. The thing is, even though both of those aforementioned actors have both appeared in far worse films (*Cough*, Dungeon Seige *End cough*), I still have a hard time believing that either actor would actually take this role since it’s so forgettablly lost in the shuffle of the other horrible characters.

Take Peter (played byJamie Foreman) for instance. As a tough talking, course Russian accented loose canon, you’d think he’d steal the show with his boasting and bravado, but when he says lines like, “I am not Santa Clause, and this is not Christmas,” you feel that you want to chuckle, but just can’t bring yourself to do it. It really sounds better on paper

Or, Boris, for example, a security guard who obviously has delusions of grandeur and keeps proclaiming “Alpha Male,” as if he were Flava Flav and saying his own name for the umpteenth time. You want to laugh at his reckless attempts to save the day, but find yourself merely smiling rather than slapping your knee and throwing your popcorn up in the air you’re laughing so hard. The jokes are there, but they just aren’t strong enough to sustain your interest for very long.

That doesn’t mean this film is all bad, though. There are a few scenes in the movie that I thought were pretty funny, one involving a very upset Peter smacking his brother around because he (his brother) wants to eat a sandwich during a hostage negotiation. But the laughs are just too few and far between, and the violence is too tame to excite the typical blood lusting horror fan. Director Kit Ryan has a long, uphill battle ahead of him if he wants to catch up with the big boys like Raimi or Romero, as this offbeat slasher debut just doesn’t make the cut.

The Disc

1 Star

Special features? What special features? This Unrated version of the film has nary a single one other than scene selection and subtitles.

If anything, that’s the funniest joke in the entire package—a modern day DVD that doesn’t even have any special features. Not even a theatrical trailer. Now, that’s what I call scary.

Local Woman Runs For Cure

Some people run marathons to prove something to themselves, while others, such as co-onwer of full service marketing and advertising agency, Gateway Creative Group, and mother of three, Lori Sperber, runs marathons to help others.

“When you’re doing it for a cause that’s bigger than you are, it brings light to where there’s darkness,” Lori says.

The cause she’s speaking about is a cure for Leukemia and Lymphoma, as she’s a dedicated member and mentor in Team in Training, which is a group that trains runners to cross the finish line at marathons for the cause of raising money for cancer research.

But for somebody who’s soon going to be entering her third marathon in under three years for the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon, you’d think that Lori has had a lifetime of running under her belt, but then, you’d be wrong.

“Lori has no background in running,” says her husband and fellow owner of Gateway Creative Group, Jeff Sperber, “but trained for the NJ Marathon one year ago, and finished it with flying colors.”

That’s probably because she was running on something much more than just will and determination, she was running on love, which is also the name of her blog (, where she talks about her new goals, challenges, and also about the Concert for a Cure that she’s throwing at Randolph High School to raise money and awareness for her upcoming race.

“I just hope that people show up and support the show,” Lori says in relation to the concert that will be held on May 10th from 7-10 PM.

It all started when she was sitting at a business meeting, and somebody asked the question of what would you do if you could stop everything in your life and do that one thing.

Lori’s response: Run a marathon.

“I said it, but didn’t give it much thought,” Lori says.

Two weeks later, though, as life would have it, a postcard came in the mail requesting that she do just that, and of course, she heeded the calling.

“I thought, this is like karma,” Lori says on the timing of the postcard, “I couldn’t believe it, [it came almost] right after I opened my mouth.”

What solidified the deal though was the fact that it came with a cause attached to it, one that Lori felt an urge to run for.

“My father died in 1995 from Non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” says Lori, who felt compelled to run for him, “[and with news of the race], I said, I’m going to do it.”

And do it she did, and then, she did it again, this time for the Washington D.C. Marine Corps Marathon.

“My father-in-law passed away in 2007 when I was training for the last marathon,” Lori says, “and I felt like I should do another one for his [her husband’s] parent.”

This next race is for Ben Strauss, her sister-in-law’s father-in-law, who, like her own father, also had Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“It felt appropriate to run for Ben Strauss,” she says.

It just goes to show that when darkness, such as cancer, falls at unexpected times, Lori will provide her own light, 26.2 miles at a time.