80th Annual Academy Awards Predictions and Drinking Game

The 80th Annual Academy Awards aired Sunday Night, February 24, 2008.  Below were my predictions for the winners in the major categories.  The actual winners were filled in after the Oscars were announced.

It was an off year for the Academy as they chose the absolute worst film for Best Picture as a way to finally reward the Coen Brothers (just as I sadly predcited).  Meanwhile, the Schleicher Brothers tied for the lead in the Oscar Pool with 13 correct predictions from 24 categories.  This was off from my personal best from last year where I scored 17 correct predictions. Continue reading

A Review of Martin McDonagh’s “In Bruges”

Just when I was about lose faith in film due to the muck and mire currently overstuffing multiplexes and DVD shelves, In Bruges comes along, out of nowhere, to restore my religion.  First-time feature length director/screenwriter Martin McDonagh hasn’t crafted an earth shaking masterpiece, but he has a made a film that has spoken to me personally.  It tells the type of story that I hope to tell as a novelist.  It features sharp writing that I aspire to and smart directing I wish there was more of in Hollywood.  It combines elements from two of my favorite writers: Graham Greene’s religious and deeply psychological study of the criminal mind, and David Mamet’s too cool f-bomb laden verbal sparring.  Finally, it showcases three of my favorite things: trails of blood running down cobblestone streets, beautiful French actresses (Clemence Poesy), and midgets (I mean dwarves).  Why is it I want to visit Bruges now?

CAPTION:  “Oh, remember that guy we killed…IN BRUGES!  Good times, good times.”

“They’re Filming Midgets…”, 16 February 2008
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

…in Bruges. Two Irish hit men (Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell) are sent into hiding by their British boss (Ralph Fiennes) in Bruges, Belgium after a botched job only to learn that the most damning job awaits one of them just around the corner. Bruges is a picturesque tourist trap built around the oldest and best maintained medieval city in Belgium. Director and screenwriter Martin McDonagh bleeds the setting and the material for all its worth and makes his feature film debut in superb style.

The dark comedy built around the existential quandaries of hit men has been done to death over the years. If last summer’s You Kill Me was the relentlessly dark and relentlessly sitcom-y take on the genre, then In Bruges is the hipster art film take on the theme. McDonagh deserves all the credit in the world for breathing life into the stale story by texturing the tonal shifts with crisp digital camera-work (that is surprisingly haunting), deep character development, and by creating a wonderful sense of place. Imagine a Graham Greene novel (Brighton Rock specifically comes to mind) modernized by David Mamet. The dialog is super smart and wickedly un-PC while the comedy parts are as gut-busting as the crime thriller parts are suspenseful.

McDonagh has also brought together an outstanding cast who thrive in the material. Farrell defies all odds and manages to be as sympathetic in the dramatic parts as he is charmingly sarcastic in the comedic parts. Brendan Gleeson gives a fantastically nuanced portrayal as Farrell’s mentor and friend. Meanwhile, Ralph Fiennes channels the scary-as-hell energy he’s used previously in Schindler’s List and the recent Harry Potter films in a limber subversion that is a frighteningly fun to watch. The supporting cast is to die for, with Jordan Prentice spot-on as a coked-up dwarf actor shooting an abhorrent art film on the streets of Bruges, and Clemence Poesy coyly seductive and unforgettable as Farrell’s unlikely local love interest.

Ultimately In Bruges meanders down too many cobblestone paths, and one scene near the end involving a bell tower stretches credibility but adds necessary dramatic effect. Certain plot elements will turn off a large segment of the viewing audience. However, those with the right mindset will be greatly rewarded.  In Bruges is hilarious, contemplative, sometimes scathing, often nihilistic, but marked by a shockingly hopeful undercurrent while tones shift and the colors of the human condition undulate in McDonagh’s insightful light. The arrival of a commanding talent has been heralded…in Bruges.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:


Home Movies Wrap Up Winter 2008

Is it just me, or is the 2008 movie season getting off to one of the worst starts in recent memory in terms of the quality of films?  While Hollywood jams the multiplexes with Oscar nominated films I’ve already seen and their Z-level garbage not good enough for year-end or summer releases, I decided to catch up with some films recently released on DVD.  Sadly, these films made 2007 seem not so hot either.  They include a historical epic, a horror remake, and a sci-fi flick that range in quality from “it’s so bad it’s good” to “transcendentally awful.”  I should’ve just seen There Will Be Blood for the fourth time and called it a day.


Elizabeth - The Golden Age (Widescreen Edition)

Her Majesty!!!!!!!, 10 February 2008
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

It’s really not so odd that director Shekhar Kapur would wait nine years and then craft a loud, bombastic sequel to his only claim to fame, the lavish period drama “Elizabeth” which rightfully launched the career of uber-actress Cate Blanchett, in an attempt to resurrect his own floundering career. It is rather odd that Blanchett, a consummate actress of incalculable range, seems to never turn down a script, including this dud of a sequel to the film that first allowed her to shine. The oddest thing, however, is that the completely uncalled for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” is actually quite entertaining and might’ve received higher praise had the intrusive music score not induced such a numbing headache.

Blanchett, of course, is terrific, and doesn’t seem to mind that the screenwriters have turned her signature character into a woman with split personalities: a raving love-scorned woman in private who constantly crumbles under pressure, and a powerful monarch who commands the wind and becomes a divinity to her people in public. Elizabeth has no character arc here like she did in the original film that saw her mature from frightened princess to calculating queen. The sequel suffers from this lack of development for its titular historical icon, but Blanchett rules the madhouse with an iron fist, chewing the scenery when necessary for dramatic effect and maximum entertainment value.

The sequel also suffers from too much focus on a silly love triangle involving Elizabeth, Sir Walter Raleigh (an uninspired Clive Owen), and one of her ladies in waiting (a ravishingly gorgeous but ultimately lifeless Abbie Cornish). The rest of the film covers events that were already treated in a more respectful and quietly powerful manner in HBO’s miniseries starring Helen Mirren. These include Elizabeth’s divisive relationship with Mary Stuart (a blistering Samantha Morton doing an entertaining bit of over-acting), and the defeat of the Spanish Armada, whose sinking is done up in a rock opera style that serves as a guilty pleasure to watch.

Meanwhile, director Kapur, who never saw an overhead shot, candlelit scene, or 360 degree crane movement he didn’t love, uses his bigger budget to ridiculously grand effect creating immaculate set designs populated with over the top costuming and epic pageantry. “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” is completely unnecessary, but despite some of its stunning ineptitude, it turns out not to be a colossal waste of time and will entertain those who will allow it to bludgeon them. Where the first film was a smart period piece inspired by “The Godfather”, the silly sequel is a dumb art-house film inspired by obnoxious action flicks. Blanchett, who hopefully will become more selective in her roles as she ages, oddly seems at home in both. I’m not sure if that’s the mark of a great actress or a desperate movie star.

Originally published on the Internet Movie Database:



Halloween - Unrated Director's Cut (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)

Dreary Rehash from Zombie, 11 February 2008
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

*The following is a review of the unrated director’s cut:

Say what you will, but Rob Zombie is a director of considerable technical talent who knows how to frame tension-filled scenes, utilizes rock music as another character in his films, and shock audiences with his juxtaposition of pristinely photographed shots and extreme quick-cuts of brutality. Why he would decide to do a remake of the original “Halloween” is anyone’s guess. Granted his original works have been far from masterpieces, but with such innate skill, one wonders what Zombie would be able accomplish as a for-hire genre director. Instead he continues to wallow in the muck of the horror film gutter and debase his audiences through the display of his own sick obsessions.

The actual remake portion of the film (the last 45 minutes) is fairly well done and probably would’ve worked had Zombie not made the three teenage girls stalked by Michael Myers such annoying and unsympathetic characters. The “chase” scenes are well staged and Zombie throws in some decent scenarios not found in the original. The climax is an entertaining combination of classic 80’s style horror where you are screaming at the female lead for being so stupid and modern horror grisliness where you feel sick to your stomach after enduring it.

Zombie leads up to this with 45 minutes of wildly offensive exposition giving us details on Michael Myers’ life we never cared to know. Part of the thrill of the original was the mystery behind Myers’ insanity. Zombie plays up the “tortured childhood” aspect in his signature white-trash-nightmare style and makes the adult Myers too superhuman to be truly feared. It’s a calculated gamble to add this new layer, and it doesn’t pay off. In the end, “Halloween” is perfectly watchable for horror buffs, but why would anyone waste their time with Zombie’s monster of a movie when they could just sit down with the original?

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:




Messy Space Opera Implodes, 11 February 2008
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

At some point in the future scientists discover the sun is dying and send a team of non-characters on an obvious suicide mission to, well, I guess stop the sun from dying. Yes, the plot of “Sunshine” is that dumb. What’s amazing is how dead serious it is all treated by director Danny Boyle. This is one of those sci-fi films where characters stand around talking lots of technical jargon designed to trick viewers into thinking the plot is plausible, and then get overly emotional and start yelling when the mission goes horribly awry.

Boyle has always been one of those directors with an obnoxious visual style (lots of hand-held camera work, an obsession with bright whites and golds, and quick-cuts) who somehow manages to tell decent stories. The zombie melodrama “28 Days Later” and the kids flick “Millions” were good in-spite of Boyle’s nauseating cinematography. “Sunshine” has no such luck as the story never makes any sense. While it does boast some amazing space visuals of the craft hurtling towards the sun, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before in a dozen other sci-fi flicks. The special effects, when not subverted completely by Boyle, make the film marginally watchable.

The film eventually devolves into “emo” nonsense and has a pointlessly tacked-on horror element thrown in at the last minute for no apparent reason other than Boyle clearly ran out of ideas. “Sunshine” is one of those rare films where I had absolutely no idea what was going on most of the time, but I could see the hideous ending coming from a mile away.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:


Super Bowl Party Drinking Game XLII

A degenerate like myself never needs an excuse to drink or gamble, yet they still insist on playing the Super Bowl every year.  Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less about the game.  I’m a one sport kind of fan, and my heart belongs to baseball.  However, I never turn down the opportunity to legitimize my vices.  Super Bowl XLII boasts more appeal than usual as the showdown between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants in Arizona heralds that classic Boston-New York rivalry all sports fans love.  The Pats also have the chance to become the first unbeaten team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

Now let’s get serious, folks, do we really need a drinking game designed around the Super Bowl?  Heck no!  Most people will be blitzed before kick-off.  Here I present a drinking game for the Super Bowl Party most Americans will be attending.  The Super Bowl Party allows for some keen observation of human behavior while socializing with people of all ages in various forms of food and alcohol induced inebriation. Continue reading