Written by Wentworth Miller
Directed by Park Chan-wook

Park Chan-wook’s Stoker is an amazing film that is only a few steps shy of perfection. But it is those final steps that make up the bulk of my complaints, forever sealing Stoker away from classics territory. The story of a teenage girl’s journey to womanhood just as a mysterious uncle enters her life plays on much of the angst we all experience as youth. It also plays on a lot of Hitchcock tropes, right up to having the mysterious uncle that the niece finds the murderous truth about be named Charlie. Holy Shadow of a Doubt, Batman!

My biggest beef seems like a slight thing, but Stoker involves what is essentially the sexual awakening of the India Stoker character, but both the writer and director are men. This isn’t a huge thing by itself, but it reveals itself in a million tiny tiny things that just add up to put Stoker a bit off from masterpiece status in my eyes. Mia Wasikowska obviously had some input on her character and how she acted, but everything is based on the templates laid down by Park and Miller. Perhaps I’ll soften a bit on this after a few years, Stoker being very worthy of revisits.
Park Chan-wook’s films have gained him a cult following throughout the world: Joint Security Area, Thirst, I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, and The Vengeance Trilogy. Stoker is his English-language film debut, one of three cult Korean directors who had English language films debuts in 2013 – Kim Jee-won with The Last Stand and Bong Joon-ho with Snowpiercer are the others. Park Chan-wook took the great tradition of Korean film transitions with him. The scene where the hair turns into the field of grass is one of the best shots ever in film. Park succeeds in providing excellent tension building thanks to some masterful editing, and continues to ratchet up the drama as the story gets more disturbing. Screenwriter Wentworth Miller was largely known for acting until this point, starring in the Prison Break series on Fox. His script for Stoker wound up on the Black List, which lead to its eventual development. It all results in a terrific thriller.

The narration by India Stoker is done as a whisper, giving a more intimate feel, and the aura of us hearing a family secret. Secrets weave the web of the world of Stoker, the Stoker family having their own skeletons in the closet
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Midnites for Maniacs DiRTY LiTTLE MUNCHKiNS Trip Report

Hey-ho! In my continuing adventures to occasionally go to the movies, I wandered over to the historic Castro Theater for a triple bill under the Midnites for Maniacs series. Now, I have been going to this series off and on for a decade now, back when it was still at the 4Star Theater and was one movie every week. I keep up with the shows now that they are at Castro, and can stop by occasionally, though not as often as I would like. Work, life, those sorts of things ruin everyone’s day!

The Midnites for Maniacs series is curated by Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, who used to be a projectionist at the 4Star and now teaches at the Academy of Arts and is a SFBay Guardian contributor

This triple bill was the DiRTY LiTTLE MUNCHKiNS marathon, and was composed of The Bad News Bears, Gummo, and The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, making this one of the greatest triple features of all time. This was also my fourth time seeing The Garbage Pail Kids Movie at one of these Midnites for Maniacs events, which now makes it the film I’ve seen in the theaters the most.

This was the first time I had watched The Bad News Bears since I was a young kid of like 7. Ostensibly a film about a children’s baseball team, The Bad News Bears is a very adult film that is filled with commentary on America in the post-Vietnam post-Civil Rights era. The team is packed with a mixed assortment of rejects from other teams, combined together due to a lawsuit forcing the league to accept all players. It’s ethnically diverse and filled with stereotypes we all know and love – fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks. Tough kids, sissy kids, though no one gets chicken pox. Also a girl. The Bad News Bears casually drops filthy and racist language, and Walter Matthau is brilliant as the usually drunk coach who is in this for the paycheck at first, but then it becomes something more. The team begins to come together, becoming less of a joke and more of a threat to the established order.

This was the first time I had seen Gummo, from writer/director Harmony Korine. It doesn’t follow the traditional narrative form, instead is more of a loose collection of events and sketches that form a larger abstract story. It features a lot of real people who aren’t professional actors, and showcases a decaying underbelly of small town America, taking place in a town that was struck by a tornado years ago, which has only increased the pace of its withering away. Gummo features disturbing imagery, but is hauntingly beautiful in a weird way. It is not really a film I would recommend to most people, but if you have an appreciation of the obscure and the strange that has more going on then first appearances would suggest, you will have a feast.

And that brings us to The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. A film that deserves a giant review on this site and will hopefully get that soon (I did spring for the DVD after all!) The Garbage Pail Kids Movie is one of the greatest films of all times. It is visually unlike anything that has every existed, complete with the most ugly animatronic little person costumes and the most 80s fashion that was ever in the 1980s. Our hero Dodger can’t seem to not get beaten up by the local drug dealer gang leader, who is so big time he robs middle school kids for their lunch money. Dodger lusts after the girl Tangerine, who is dating the drug dealer and is not very nice. Dodger works at an antique shop where the owner is an eccentric world traveler, and there is a garbage pail that is knocked over, and the Garbage Pail Kids emerge to cause havoc in the city. But there is danger, because the city is carting everyone ugly way to State Home For The Ugly, where the ugly are then squashed into cubes. Luckily, the Garbage Pail Kids have the power of sewing.

Trust me, this all makes sense! And it’s awesome. And remember: You can be a Garbage Pail Kid!

Rah Rah Roni

My free Garbage Pail Kid for going to the show!

Spring Breakers are bad girls doing it well

Spring Breakers

One film that has been burning up the charts (the Internet charts, on the Internet!) is Spring Breakers, largely because it features several former Disney pop princesses turning bad girl and robbing a bank, in addition to James Franco being completely nuts. James Franco is basically playing MTV reality star Riff Raff, who says

“I sent him a few things. But all you gotta do [to see how I dress] is search through my videos. I got a pretty distinct style, with the braids, the jewelry.”

The plot:

Brit, Candy, Cotty, and Faith have been best friends since grade school. They live together in a boring college dorm and are hungry for adventure. All they have to do is save enough money for spring break to get their shot at having some real fun. A serendipitous encounter with rapper “Alien” promises to provide the girls with all the thrill and excitement they could hope for. With the encouragement of their new friend, it soon becomes unclear how far the girls are willing to go to experience a spring break they will never forget.

Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine play the law-breaking foursome.

Spring Breakers is written and directed by Harmony Korine (of Kids and Trash Humpers fame.) Those I know who saw it during one of the festival screenings raved. In fact, I’ve not seen a single negative review yet, and this is one of those films where if it was bad it would become a critical train wreck very fast.

The soundtrack is currently streaming.
The Red Band Spring Breakers trailer is here.

And below is a collection of publicity photos and posters for Spring Breakers. It opens wide March 22. Just in time for Spring Break!!!!!