Different Perspectives: Movie 43 Isn’t That Bad

In early 2013, Movie 43 was unleashed upon audiences. Don’t remember it? Really? It starred pretty much ALL of Hollywood, even the likes of Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Emma Stone, Seth MacFarlane, and Oscar darling Kate Winslet … among dozens of other accomplished, likable stars and up-and-comers. In fact, there are so many stars in the film, I could spend an entire blog post just listing their names.

No, you don’t remember Movie 43.

Well, maybe you do, but most people don’t. The film came and went in a matter of weeks. It was trashed by pretty much every living, breathing critic, and forgotten by most audiences. Even some of the cast wanted little to do with the film.

Curiously, Movie 43 actually did make some bank. According to Box Office Mojo, the film cost roughly $6 million to produce, and grossed close to $30 million worldwide, with a mere $8 million of that coming from the U.S. But it was still a moneymaker, kind of. And it’s more than likely made money on home video, the rental market, and through TV distribution deals.

Still, there isn’t a whole lot of love for Movie 43. For just a moment, let’s focus on the hate. The film ranks a dismal 4.4 out of 10 on IMDb, a 4% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a 19 out of 100 on metacritic, and a 26% approval audience rating on Flixster.

In less words, people don’t like Movie 43.

But I have a confession … I kind of loved it.

No, it’s not a flawless film. And there are plenty of things to complain about. For example, the film is annoyingly flat. There are more misses than hits in this one. The sketches tend to end on weird notes, and most of the jokes aren’t much different from what you can get for free on sites like College Humor, Funny or Die, or even Youtube. In truth, you could probably collect ten or twelve of the best shorts from any of those sites and put together a better, funnier sketch anthology picture.

But I still dig Movie 43.

There is some rather potent, and oddly subversive, humor in the film. I get a sense that the picture was meant to spoof blander-than-bland anthology comedies like New York, I Love You, Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve. It was sold to comedy lovers as a “Kentucky Fried Movie” for the modern age. While Movie 43 hardly ranks as high as that wonderful cult classic, it’s clear that a great many people involved cared deeply about this project and wanted it to succeed, even when actors like Richard Gere allegedly tried to vacate the film at all costs.

For a detailed, and rather sordid, look at the history of the making of the film, check out Movie 43’s Wikipedia page. It’s an interesting read.

I struggled to put a finger on what I loved about the film, but I do love it. I admire the writing. There’s a lot going on under the surface of this disturbing, crass little picture. A great many of the film’s more impressive metaphors seem to have gone over people’s heads. That’s probably because most focused on the obvious gross-out aspects of the humor. This was certainly not a film for everyone’s taste, in that regard.

A great many of my absolute favorite actors, writers and filmmakers worked on this project. And the project itself is so wacky, crass and gonzo, I relish in watching the actors involved go to the extremes to find a laugh. And while many of the jokes don’t always work, I love watching actors dare to be different. It’s refreshing and enticing.

For example, there’s a sketch in which Stephen Merchant and Halle Berry go on a date and end up competing in an EXTREME game of “truth or dare.” The sketch isn’t all that funny, but watching Halle Berry mock her picture perfect persona by doing something crass, and even a little vile, felt almost … human.

Allow me to explain. Our stars strive to create images for themselves. Brands of painted perfection. They are flawless. Their skin is perfect. Their hair is trend setting. Their clothing is staggeringly beautiful. And their personalities are ones that everyone strives for.

But that’s not who people are. That’s all an image. All spectacle. Actors are real people. That sounds absurd to even write, but so many fans honestly forget that. It’s especially noticeable when someone asks an actor to recite a line from a movie they did 25 years ago, like they’re some kind of trained puppy doing tricks.

When I watched Movie 43, I saw the people behind Hollywood. I saw human beings having a fun time exploring the comfort zones of their image, and taking audiences along for the ride. I saw a film where Hugh Jackman wasn’t afraid to put a prosthetic pair of balls on his neck just to get a rise from his fans. Or a sketch (writen and directed by Elizabeth Banks, mind you) in which Chloë Grace Moretz has her first period, and the men all around her act like … well, the fools who control women’s rights in congress. It was a gross sketch, but there was something deeply revealing about it, too.

And here is a look at one of my favorite sketches in the film:

There is a lot going on in this scene outside the beaten-into-the-ground joke. Did you catch the real point of the skit?

Movie 43 is not a win by any stretch, but it’s a fascinating look at the edges of comedy, where the crass, disturbing and subversive meet and do some rather dark, rather bad, and rather wonderful things. There is a lot more going on in Movie 43 than people give it credit for. There’s a hidden theme in nearly every sketch, a hidden message — a metaphor that went unnoticed. And that’s where the film’s strength derives. Movie 43  is not a masterpiece, but it is a work of controversial art. And like all works of that style, it has its haters and it has its fans. Count me as one of the latter.

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Shameless plug time! If you own a Kindle (or have the free Kindle app on your phone), check out my thrilling short stories, The Stray Cats and The Horror. CLICK HERE to buy your copies today! And be sure to follow me on Twitter.

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Review: Kindle Fire HDX

I just wanted to share my thoughts on Amazon’s latest flagship reader, the Kindle Fire HDX, ahead of its Oct. 18-28, 2013 US release date.

I’ve been a lover of Amazon since the site launched. Their service is cheap, easy, intuitive and their customer service is typically excellent (from my experiences). I have been a Prime member for more than four years (get Prime, seriously) as well. So, naturally, it wasn’t difficult to fall in love with Amazon’s tablets when they launched just a few short years ago. My wife owns the original Fire tablet and I have owed the Fire HD. They are wonderful products for reading, for internet and for most games and tablet uses.

Since buying the Kindle, I find myself reading more than ever before. As a writer, I love Amazon’s text-to-speech function (and its many awesome voice options), as it quickly helps me find mistakes, grammar issues, spelling and other problems in my stories as I read along. In brief, the device is handy, portable, fun, efficient and enormously easy to use.

The new HDX isn’t a major improvement over the Fire HD, but it’s a worthy upgrade, especially for potential new buyers.

This new device is significantly faster than the previous version thanks to a quad-core Snapdragon processor. Internet browsing is vastly improved and games run a little smoother as well. The screen resolution has also been upped to 1920×1200, and looks gorgeous. And, as before, the tablet’s Dolby audio is absolutely astonishing.

The HDX is fairly customizable, so for more information regarding specs and details, feel free to hop over to Amazon, where you’ll find photos, videos and more.

The tablet’s redesign is quite spiffy. Simply moving the power button away from the volume buttons was a big improvement (power is on the opposite side now). With the old device, I continually found myself pressing the power button when I meant to press the volume buttons. That is no longer an issue. The tablet is also a little easier to hold than before, thanks to the squared design.

One negative of the new model: the mini HDMI port has been removed. But Kindle’s OS now allows users to flip what they’re watching on their tablet to your home device (like a PS3) using Amazon’s Video app. Netflix also allows users this ability. So the mini HDMI port is a bit of a wash, though I imagine some will be disappointed by this missing component.

The best aspect of the redesign is the weight. The Fire HD wasn’t a particularly heavy tablet, but for those who binge read (like me) you probably know that the tablet can wear you down after a while. The new HDX is about 30% lighter than the Fire HD, making it an easier tablet to hold for long hours. It’s also a tad smaller, too, while retaining the same 7-inch screen size.

My only major gripe with the HDX thus far has been a persistent blue border that surrounds the vertical sides when there’s a white screen present. I’m guessing it’s a reflection of the white against the black plastic surrounding the glass, but I do find it a bit distracting — far more distracting that the previous Fire or Fire HD. I’ll have to check out another HDX at Best Buy soon and see if they have this issue, too. If not, it could mean I have a defective screen. I’ll update this article as soon as I know for sure.

UPDATE 10/22/13: Amazon has now officially addressed the blue border. Here is their explanation: “We want you to know… The Kindle Fire HDX 7″ has perfect color accuracy (100% sRGB), and we wanted to share more details around our display design decisions that helped us achieve this.

You may notice a very narrow, faint blue tint around the edge of the device when looking at items with a white background, such as books or web pages. All displays have some level of light emission around the edges, and the light on the Kindle Fire HDX 7″ is blue due to the technology used to render perfect color accuracy. Most LCD displays use white LEDs, and then apply filters to extract the desired color. The result is oftentimes a compromise to tone and color accuracy, or—if attempting to address these compromises—an increase in battery consumption and, thus, device weight.

We’ve taken a different approach. To achieve the perfect color accuracy on Kindle Fire HDX 7″ at the lowest possible battery consumption and device weight, we used blue, not white, LEDs. Blue LEDs allow for a much more accurate  and rich representation of color and result in an up to 20% improvement in power efficiency.

So there you have it. It sounds like a logical response, and the reasoning is sound. Blue LEDs were used to save weight and improve battery and color accuracy. It could also be total BS, that I am not sure. I imagine we’ll hear more as the tech community dives into this statement and dissects Amazon’s reasoning. That said, I have gotten used to the screen over the past few weeks. The image display truly is remarkable, even with the blue or purple border distraction.

Back to the original review:

The HDX also includes a charger. For some inexplicable reason, Amazon opted not to include a wall charger for the Kindle Fire HD last year. Instead, they sold the charger as a separate accessory, which felt a little cheap. The HDX rectifies this problem, but creates another – the plug is too damn cumbersome, taking up two plug spots instead (on a surge protector) and nearly taking up two slots on a wall socket. It’s not a bulky plug, either. In fact, the plug looks quite similar to the Apple wall charger, except it’s larger all the way around, instead of perfectly square with a wall socket. Here’s what they look like side-by-side:

plug

It’s not a major issue, but it’s a silly design choice that’s sure to piss off some buyers.

I can’t wait to see what comes next with the Kindle readers. I’m hoping to see a tablet that has an HD (maybe 3D) screen on one side, and e-ink on the other. Perhaps that’s a pipe dream, but I’m hoping it’s coming in the next year or two. We’ll see.

For those looking for a great electronic reader that’s also useful and effective for portable gaming, media playback, video chatting and tablet uses, the Kindle Fire HDX is certainly a great option, second only to Apple (and catching up). Build quality is outstanding, the processor is quick and the redesign is great. And there’s plenty of value to be found with the tablet, like customer-friendly goodies such as Mayday, a live video customer service chat line. (I did not get to test Mayday, but it seemed quite functional.)

UPDATE 10/24/13: Mayday review … I finally had a reason to try Amazon’s latest customer service app, “Mayday,” last night. After a rather brief 30-second wait, I was connected with a rep who walked me through how to access and use Amazon’s pre-installed Officesuite. I thought the app was something you would just open, similar to other apps like Silk or Amazon Store. Rather, Officesuite has been integrated into the Kindle, which proved somewhat confusing to configure and use.

The CS rep guided me through the whole process in a timely, efficient manner. He seemed to know what he was doing and was able to give me the tutorial with ease, though he did seem a little annoyed. I’m sure this is one question he gets a lot; that and “why is my screen border blue?” I placed my Mayday call in the middle of the night, so the service may not run as smooth during the day, but I can’t knock the experience yet. It was smooth, easy to use and kinda fun. Thumbs up, Amazon. I wonder how long until Apple follows this groundbreaking system of customer service.

Back to the original review:

The HDX is not an iPad killer, but it is a pretty great competitor that stacks up well in many aspects, especially when it comes to cost and ease of use. If you’re in the market for a tablet, give it some consideration. And if you’re on a budget, I’d definitely check out the previous Fire HD. It’s still an awesome tablet.

Shameless plug time! If you own a Kindle (or have the free Kindle app on your phone), check out my thrilling short stories, The Stray Cats and The Horror. CLICK HERE to buy your copies today! And be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Different Perspectives: Chucky: The Complete Collection and Curse of Chucky

Chucky The Complete Collection

Chucky: The Complete Collection. This awesome little box set arrives on Blu-ray on October 8, 2013. You can buy your copy here.

The set compiles all six films in the Child’s Play/Chucky series. The first disc is the same as the previous MGM release (review here), but Universal has also included first-ever Blu-ray releases for Child’s Play 2-3 and Bride of Chucky. Also included in the set is a brand-new direct-to-video sequel titled Curse of Chucky, which was written and directed by series creator Don Mancini.

The Chucky franchise is an interesting one. The movies aren’t necessarily very scary, but they’re almost always fun. I’ve rather enjoyed each entry in the series (even the lesser efforts, like CP3 and Seed of Chucky), and I genuinely love that writer Don Mancini has stuck with this series since it began way back in 1988. It’s rare to see a writer stay on board his own creation as the series progresses. He’s even taken to directing a few of the movies, too, which is equally awesome.

Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect from the new film, Curse of Chucky, especially after the wayward Seed of Chucky, which took the franchise in a very bizarre, meta-centric comedic direction that seemed largely inspired by John Waters (who also appeared in that film). Thankfully, the new film, also directed by Mancini, is actually quite great, especially when factoring it’s the fifth sequel and a direct-to-video production. Here’s a trailer to fill you in on the core story:

What I love about Curse of Chucky is that it’s a return to form for the series. Chucky’s token love it or hate it wit is still intact, but there’s a refreshing sense of style and menace that hasn’t been a part of the series for some time. It’s also probably the scariest entry in the franchise since the second film. I literally jumped twice, a feat I can’t recall doing with any other film in the series.

A great many of the thrills hinge on when Chucky is going to, well … become Chucky, and that actually worked for me more than I expected. Just waiting for him to do his thing became the most unnerving aspect of the entire experience. Even better, the film is stylishly shot in a way that evokes classic storytellers like Dario Argento, Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma. Yes, you read that right. It’s clear Mancini is (at least somewhat) aware of the negative stigma surrounding DTV films, and it was refreshing to see such style in a low-budget, usually phoned-in, effort. His work here is truly admirable.

There’s a quirky bit of melodrama, too, that adds to the themes of family this series has explored for the past few entries. The back-story aspect of the film was fascinating, though it’s a bit too confusing. The film also has a loose placement in the series canon. I honestly can’t tell you where it fit with the other chapters. Chucky mentions the events of the previous five films, though the new movie almost seems to take place at the same time, or roundabouts, of Bride of Chucky. I’ll leave that mystery to the Chucky diehards on the forums of IMDB to dissect and analyze. Have at it!

Obviously, if you weren’t a Chucky fan before, the new film won’t win you over, but for fans of the series, Curse of Chucky ranks as one of the best entries in the franchise. There are plenty of thrills, an interesting story, and a few AWESOME cameos that make the whole experience worth it. Seriously, stick through the credits for one of the single best cameo gags in any film seen this year!

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The Blu-rays for Chucky: The Complete Collection are pretty decent. The first film is simply a port of the already released Blu-ray. There are a decent assortment of bonus features on that disc (super fans should also check out Tom Holland’s own Child’s Play commentary). There’s also a slew of goodies for Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, ported over from the DVDs. Child’s Play 2-3 are scant, with only trailers. It’s a shame Universal didn’t toss in the deleted scenes as well. You can find those below:

Curse of Chucky includes a commentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel, a featurette and three Blu-ray exclusive featurettes. Picture and audio quality on all five films is about average. The first film looks the worst of the bunch. The second films looks great. The third looks pretty mediocre. And the rest get better with each entry. Also, audio didn’t seem to work properly for Child’s Play 3 when played through my PS3. Not sure what that was all about. But it worked fine on my backup player.

So, that’s what I’ve been watching these past few days. What are your thoughts on the Child’s Play series? Which film is your favorite, and which is your least favorite? Sound off in the comments and let me know!

Also, be sure to check out my buddy’s thorough Child’s Play retrospective, where he discusses all six films in detail, and offers his own ranking of the series.