Thursday, January 24, 2008

The beginning of a beautiful friendship...

I avoided blogging for a long time. My first introduction was on Livejournal, which has some pretty insipid content. So, I decided I'd only write when I had something I considered interesting. For a long time now I've been reviewing movies on forums and social networking sites, so I figured, why not blog about them? I manage to travel a few times a year and sometimes get interesting photos of places that not everyone would think to go to or see. So I decided I ought to share some of this and see if any kindred souls came out of the woodwork.

Yesterday wasn't quite that exciting, but I watched two movies and enjoyed a glass of Brooklyn Brewery's amazing seasonal Black Chocolate Stout, so I'll begin with my thoughts on these. I'll use 4 stars just like Ebert.

Dead Silence (James Wan)

Now this was surprisingly good. I went in with lowered expectations, since the team that brought us the gimmicky Saw was behind it. It begins with a happy couple, Jamie and Ella Ashen in their new apartment, getting the gift of a ventriloquist's dummy in the mail. Not something that happens every day, and of course it ends in tragedy. The husband (Ryan Kwanten) tells the detective (Donnie Wahlberg) that where he comes from, they are considered a bad omen. Then why did he leave his wife alone with it? Never mind. If you get past that, the movie manages to redeem itself as he travels to his creepy hometown of Raven's Fair.
There we meet his estranged father (Bob Gunton, the warden from The Shawshank Redemption) who had a stroke and is confined to a wheelchair. The patriarch of the Ashen family certainly lives up to the name, being a healthy tombstone grey. His new wife at his side, they tell him a little about the legend of Mary Shaw, who "if you see her in your dreams, do not ever, ever scream." She was a famous ventriloquist who laid a curse on the town for some reason only the undertaker knows. When he sees Jamie's wife on the slab he suddenly remembers the generations of families found in Raven's Fair with their tongues ripped out, and has a collection of photos to show Jamie. They conveniently look like old family photos badly photoshopped to have grisly rictuses where their tongueless mouths should be, but once again, never mind.
Jamie finds out what happened to Mary Shaw and visits her crumbled mansion on the lake, with some of the best visuals of the film. It has a true-to-life abandoned feel, as someone who's done urban exploration, looks like someplace you'd find in Weird NJ magazine. The detective follows him home and they delve into the town's dark secret, with a thrilling ending and a twist or two that might bother some, but worked for me. The downside here are the subpar gore effects; when your tagline is "You scream. You die." I expect to see some tongues ripped out at the roots, not just the bad CG aftermath of such. Even a rubber tongue like in Kill Bill vol. 1 would suffice. The movie manages to redeem its weak opening, and is a pretty good recent horror film, on par with Dead Birds, which I also recommend.

Domino (Tony Scott)

Tough heroine in a man's profession? I'm sold, usually. But this isn't just a tale about a bounty hunter, it's based on the true story of the daughter of Laurence Harvey (The Manchurian Candidate) who began modeling and then became a bounty hunter, got on a reality show, and eventually died of a drug overdose in a bathtub while this film was being released.
She sounds like an interesting character, but the combination of Kiera Knightly's unimpressive performance, the disjointed script, and Scott's cut-happy directorial style, I couldn't stay interested for more than a few minutes. It's really a shame, because I wanted to like this movie. I can enjoy Tony Scott's frenetic editing style, but I'm beginning to think that Man on Fire was the last good movie he'll make.
When Mo'Nique shows up on The Jerry Springer show with a flow chart explanation biracial combos with "Blactino" and "Chinegro" I was wondering if I was in one of the Scary Movie spoof films. Jerry Springer, really? In 2005? It was barely funny when Austin Powers did it in 1999, but six years later it's embarrassing. Richard Kelly wrote the script, and it says something that Scott hired him after reading the script to Southland Tales, which I actually enjoyed to some degree. It says a lot when I can sit through 150 minutes of that movie, but couldn't bear to finish watching this one. Now, maybe I'm not qualified to review the movie because I deleted it at the 45 minute mark or so, but I can tolerate a lot. This was so oppressively mediocre, with Scott trying and failing to amp up the unfortunately boring story of a model who became a bounty hunter, that I could take no more.

But more importantly, I'll review Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout, which would be The Wind That Shakes the Barley if it were a film. Beautifully filmed, full of character, with a tasty finish. Even my girlfriend, who loves wheat beers and usually hates stouts, enjoyed the flavor. It pours slow and looks black as tar, but is smooth with no bite, and a lovely smoky chocolate aftertaste. The head looks like a chocolate milkshake. It really must be tried, and I'm told it goes well with vanilla ice cream. I bet it would make a lovely cheesecake, like the infamous Guinness cheesecakes.

This is one of my favorite seasonals, and I try to get it ever year. Brooklyn Brewery has never ceased to impress me, and I'm going to try for a tour soon. However, High Point Brewery just announced their Ramstein Eisbock is available at the brewery for pickup in growlers. That takes precedent, and I plan to visit this weekend to fill my growlers up. High Point in Butler, NJ has consistently made spectactular wheat beers, and their Ramstein Blonde Hefeweizen and Winter Wheat are two of my all-time favorites. I have both in the fridge right now, and it's hard to pass them up for the Stout. I'll post some photos from the Ramstein Brewery when we go. It's worthwhile to visit their website and sign up for e-mail notifications of their events. They have beer tastings once a month (except January and February) and often have German food buffets.

Tomorrow I'll have a few new movie reviews, and a review of Sea Dog's Apricot Wheat Ale. Later today I might post some thoughts on reading the unabridged version of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, which I finally tackled after beginning it on the plane to Paris last year. 1462 pages, I tell you, being a (former) English major ain't all fun and games sometimes...

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