Monday, March 28, 2011

Reel Rhino Review: SUCKER PUNCH

Sucker Punch: 4 Horns
Limitless: 4 Horns
It was boys day out for Zach Snyder's latest offering in SUCKER PUNCH.  The plan was movie at the AMC Studio 30 IMAX and then off to Kansas City's famous OKLAHOMA JOE'S for a run at some BBQ!

Movies are great, no question whatsoever....but a movie and BBQ...that is a heavenly journey into this great world.

The day as a whole would be a total loss as a part of trying to eat anything remotely healthy....allow me to recap:

1. Steak and Shake
2. Popcorn (medium only!)
3. Burnt Ends Lunch Special at Okie Joe's
4. Ruby Tuesday's Salad Buffet...maybe this is the closest thing to healthy for the day, but believe me, it wasn't.

Reel Rhino Shenanigans
To make things a bit more interesting, the Reel Rhino had some fellow travellers for the day.  I am usually a solitary movie goer.  Usually, it is in fear that I may have a man-o-pause moment, and be struck so tenderly by some aspect of a movie, that I break down in tears.  No such fears with SUCKER PUNCH, though, although standard seat-between seating would be employed.

My peeps Jason, Ross, and Dustin decided that for all my talk, they had to know what it was like to actually see a flick with me.

I think they got a bit of my sense as a forgiving film goer, as the ratings for Sucker Punch played out like this...

Reel Rhino: 4 of 5 Horns
Dustin: 3
Ross: 3
Jason 1

All three of my compatriots gave their points for one reason alone...the girls of Sucker Punch certainly are snappy dressers. (Read: Sexy Schoolgirl Uniforms are still "in.")

I too loved this aspect, but of the four of us, I am the only one who enjoyed Zach Snyder's actual product, as opposed the other part of the "show."

I love Zach Snyder's visual style and the tone of his films.  By a mile, you can call me a Watchmen apologist, because I love that movie, giant blue penis and all.  I think that Snyder gave us the best possible Watchmen we could get, and while there are flaws, he shot for the moon and in my humble opinion, hit it!

Snyder gave us visionary looks into the world of Frank Miller's 300, George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, and most recently, the animated feature, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole.  I haven't seen Legend of the Guardians.  I remember getting sick of seeing the trailer so many times in the theater.  I haven't seen it yet, but I will soon.

Here is my plea for your forgiveness of Sucker Punch.  Yes. This movie is a 15 year old boy's wet dream.  This movie is a video gamer's paradise.  This movie throws everything at you and more.  The story is sometimes hard to follow and when it is all said and done, there will probably be some story points you on which you are unclear.


How absolutely original is this film?  Zach Snyder both wrote the screenplay and has story by credit.  This is his baby.  It is ORIGINAL MATERIAL and this is something that we need more of in this same old story film world.

But wait Reel Rhino, some of those visuals were kind of rehashed from other material, weren't they?  Were those Orcs?  Dragons? Nazi Zombies?  Yes, they were!  But the sum total of the visuals in this film and the original nature by which they were all presented make this film as a whole, something wonderful. (P.S. For another great trip into the world of Nazi Zombies, See Also: DEAD SNOW).

I am not a fanboy, but I know what I like.  This film is no Star Wars.  It is no Lord of the Rings.  It is no Indiana Jones.  But it is a film that is yet another early entry into the career of a filmmaker who shows signs of the greatness that the likes of the creators of those older great series.

The visuals in this film are fantastic.  I am so happy he decided on IMAX but passed on 3-D.  This film was dark and with 3-D, things almost get too dark.  The tone was perfect, the subdued colors sublime.

I know what I am...I say it all the time.  I am an easy to please moviegoer.  You know who that works out well for?  Me.

Let's touch on the movie for a moment...

Emily Browning is Baby Doll, and boy is she ever.  I don't mean that in too much of a sexist way, but she really is a cutie.  Baby Doll's mother dies and in the first few minutes of the film, her step-father attacks and kills her sister, and the blame is put on her.

She is sent to a home for the mentally ill...Lennox House, where she meets her soon to be gang of merry misfits...

Abbie Cornish ... Sweet Pea
Jena Malone ... Rocket
Vanessa Hudgens ... Blondie
Jamie Chung ... Amber

The are corralled by Dr. Vera Gorski, who is played with an odd Eastern European accent, by Carla Gugino.  I like Carla Gugino.  She is a beautiful woman who takes on very risky and adventurous roles and will always exist in some capacity as Ingrid Cortez, that hot mama super hero from the Spy Kids franchise.  For my money, I loved her short lived sci-fi series, Threshold.

When Baby Doll arrives at the home, within a very short while, the movie becomes a fantasy world film, set within the mind of one of our characters.  This film exists in a not-as-smooth-as-Inception dream within a dream within a dream kind of deal.

The home is set up as an escort house of sorts where the girls dance for clients and make money for their boss, Blue, who is the primary baddie in the film.  Blue is played well by Oscar Isaac who had also done well last year as Prince John in Ridley Scott's ROBIN HOOD.

There is a trigger that sets in motion the bad ass action sequences you saw in the trailers and which drew you into the theater.  There are several mind-blowing scenarios that push into the realm of video-game style action....yes, placating the 14 and 15 year old boys everywhere, by scantily dressing hot young 20-somethings and having them absolutely kick ass!

Jon Hamm has a cameo in a key role to the film but by far, the best thing not in fishnet stockings or school girl skirts was Scott Glenn, credited as only "Wise Man."

He spouts wisdom like ice cream at a soda shop, and while he appears as something of a cliched character, I loved him.  Generally speaking, I love Glenn's body of work and it was great to see him having fun with this role...hey...if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything!

I loved what was great about this movie, but I will also be the first admit, where it fires mostly with a bang, I felt it ended with a fizzle, primarily due to a rather unclear resolution.

I forgive the end for what came before it.  Zack Snyder may not have the Spielberg or Lucus or Jackson touch just yet...but he is working on it.  Keep it coming...keep it coming.

As I have said in the past with dick and fart jokes, there is a place for everything in this cinematic world...even wet-dream teenage boy fantasies projected live and in living color.  Zack Snyder delivers a fine effort here and I hope that his writing evolves into a complete package.  For now, I will survive on his stellar chops in the action and effects department with the ballet he has given us here as evidence of his career promise.

You know what he has lined up next, right?  SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL...directed by Snyder, produced by Christopher Nolan.  The thought gives me chills, and while I was one of the few who enjoyed Superman Returns and forgave Brandon Routh's wooden turn as Clark Kent as homage to Christopher Reeve, I am super duper excited for this.

Zack Snyder had directed commercials, some music videos, and while he has a way to go, I think he could thrive as a protege to Chris Nolan.

Hey, Nolan is my favorite director of the moment and while I say that he is great, his filmography isn't that deep and he isn't that old!  I love that these young bucks are tearing is up and I see them as a new revolution in fantasy, saga-rich film making.  I'm not talking Dungeons and Dragons kind of stuff...even though there was some of that in Sucker Punch, but I mean a George Lucas/Steven Spielberg kind of renaissance....those guys and the likes of D.J. Caruso and JJ Abrams are some of the best we have for making our dreams come true.

You know I'd like to rope Michael Bay in there too...but even I, a proclaimed Bay apologist admits that he is own animal.

We had some fun after the flick, roping a young lady on AMC's staff in to taking some shots of us having fun with the Sucker Punch lobby stand-up.  At one point, she said...this is kind of creepy.  Yes it was young lady....yes it was....  

It also took me a week to see last week's #1: LIMITLESS, the Bradley Cooper vehicle.  Sucker Punch's own Sweet Pea, Ms. Abbie Cornish was here as well, along with a rather subdued Robert DeNiro.

Limitless was a fun Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller and while a bit in unpolished in some areas, I feel it held up from start to finish. 

Bradley Cooper can act, but I haven't ever doubted that, but apparently he needed to convince the world.  He has been great in all the jerky but lovable  roles (see also: The Hangover, The Wedding Crashers) so why wouldn't he be good in this.  Hey, I even found ALL ABOUT STEVE remotely entertaining with a rather touching ending. 

Limitless gets 4 of 5 Horns as well.

Two 4-fers in one weekend, that ain't bad!

Till next time...

RR is X'ing Outta Here!

Friday, March 25, 2011

March Film Buffet of 12 Movies in 14 Days

So this whole Red State deal had me quite preoccupied and I promise that I shall now resume my regularly schedule programming...

So how about these Westboro Baptist Church wackos...just kidding...

I have been remiss in providing up to date reviews, but as I said in the first Red State post, seeing that film on the Kevin Smith Roadshow was a milestone in my film going life.  It wasn't the movie itself, the fact that now it seems God hates me, or that that we finally learned the truth about, it was all of it!  The experience of movie going is a passion of mine, and that was one hellova ride.  I enjoyed the evening and I enjoyed writing about my experiences.  I hope you enjoyed reading about it as well.

I welcome comments or questions always at and when possible, I will post the Q and A here in the blog.

So how about some movies, folks?

I have been to many since my last review post, which was for Hall Pass, oh so long ago.  I will try and bring you up to speed!

Reviews in this Post (5 Horn Scale)
The Adjustment Bureau - 5 Horns
Red State - 5 Horns
Rango - 4.5 Horns
Mars Needs Moms - 4.5 Horns
Battle: Los Angeles - 4.5 Horns
The Lincoln Lawyer - 4 Horns
Paul - 3.5 Horns
Take Me Home Tonight - 3 Horns
The Tempest - 3 Horns
Drive Angry 3-D - 3 Horns
Red Riding Hood - 2 Horns

Take Me Home Tonight - 3 Horns - There were several excellent experiences that came with seeing this film, and the movie wasn't one of them.  The movie was only okay and I laughed a bit, but it seemed like this film wanted to be more of a drama when it was presented in previews as a blow out comedy.  Dan Fogler was pretty awesome and I think that for some of his mild obnoxiousness, he is quite watchable in anything he does.  Topher Grace was a bit lackluster and while Anna Ferris was completely competent, this role was much more straight than her usual fare.  I very much liked Topher's lady, Aussie actress Teresa Palmer who I last raved on, in my Sorcerer's Apprentice review last year.  The best part of this movie for me was getting to go to it with my brother Steven, who was in town visiting.  The second best part was running into my friend, Sgt. Chip and his friend, Major Don.  In my book, the more the merrier when it comes to the movies and while Chip was very much the biggest fan of the flick in our group, his enjoyment of the film was infectious and it moved me from just seeing a mediocre comedy to the category of actually enjoying the film, just being able to share in the laughs with friends.  Ahhhhh the power of cinema.

The Adjustment Bureau - 5 Horns - I absolutely loved this movie!  It was made with the highest of production values and the city of New York is a palpable character in this film.  Matt Damon is stellar (as always) and Emily Blunt is clearly established as one of Hollywood's finest young actresses.  Don't agree with me?  Go see this movie.  Yes, it is high concept and it is full of rich characters with roots in the oldest of human literature.  It is based on the short story "Adjustment Team" by a legend in Science Fiction, Phillip K. Dick.  I have heard complaints that this is more a romance than a sci-fi, but I disagree.  There is such thing as a romantic sci-fi.  The sci-fi is overt.  The romance is overt.  The message has been decried by some as corny, but I loved it.  See this movie in the theater, you won't be disappointed.

Drive Angry 3-D - 3 Horns - This is a B-movie with Blockbuster sensibilities.  That said, it still falls short of something really worthwhile.  The film was shot in 3-D, which means the 3-D scenes are actually decent.  Nic Cage is standard Cage, which I don't hate, so that's alright.  Amber Heard is a hot mama who gets pretty deft at kicking butt.  William Fitchner is always enjoyable as is his turn as the hammy straight man in hell's Accountant, set out to recover the escaped soul in Cage.  There are some enjoyable moments, with much tongue-in-cheek laughs to be had by the movie's most graphic sex scene.  I think they were thinking about MY BLOODY VALENTINE's naked 3-D scene when they shot this.  The main baddie is played by Billy Burke, a primary in Red Riding Hood and perhaps best known today as Charlie Swan in The Twilight Saga,  Burke is suitable for the role and his delivery fits the over-the-top B-movie feel.  Like I said, not great, but moderately fun.  Go with friends or see it in a crowded theater.

Battle: Los Angeles - 4.5 Horns - This is an action-packed thrill-ride that at its center has real heart.  The movie looks and sounds stellar.  I am not crazy about the $4 up charge for AMC's ETX theater, but I would have paid double that for the crisp look and feel that the ETX delivered for Battle: LA.  Don't believe the hype!  This movie is fun and Aaron Eckhart is a talented actor around who this Summer Blockbuster-worthy flick is built.  Yes, there are many cliches afoot here, but come on...this movie's fantastically adrenalin charged scenes make up for the stuff that is rehashed from similar previous films.  I said it in previous posts, I respect any sci-fi film with this kind of scope, that lives in the daylight rather than in the shadows of night.  This movie is something like ALIENS, on earth, and under the bright of day.  ALIENS is the superior film by quite a bit, but Battle: LA holds its own!

Rango - 4.5 Horns -  This kid's flick ain't really for kids, folks.  It is a fantastic film that is rich in characters.  It is not to be missed and while there are enough interesting visuals to keep the kids semi-happy, the adults will really see the humor and the depth that this film has to offer.  Johnny Depp himself has become somewhat a cliche of wild character films, but he does Rango true justice and yes, even though we rarely get to see Depp in any kind of subdued role, his wild eyed range adds to Rango in the best possible ways.  In most animated films, it is hard to look past the voices to see the characters.  In this film, these characters live and breathe on their own.  I challenge you to pinpoint any of the talent behind the voices, outside of Depp and a very obvious Timothy Olyphant-astic.  This film is a pure animated spaghetti western disguised as Nickelodeon fodder.  You will have a great time at this movie!

Red Riding Hood  --- see also, KIMBALIANO --- While I don't disagree with her assessment, I think I liked it a hair more than she.  What was most upsetting, was the promise that the concept of this film showed.  I would have thought someone would have realized the acting by the B-players came off as excessively wooden and some of the cliche film making techniques would relegate this film to a campiness that is way too short of the fun that usually accompanies camp.  My rating: 2 Horns

Red State --- 5 Horns --- asked and answered, counselor.  See also, my last three posts.

Mars Needs Moms 3-D - 4.5 Horns - There is much more heart in this film than I expected.  I mentioned above the watchability of Dan Fogler...he pleases in animated form as well.  Don't miss the credits as the secrets of the making of and mo cap methods are revealed.  And don't worry, while Seth Green is created as portraying Milo, the lead, he does so only in movements and mo cap.  Milo is actually voiced by an unknown voice actor who does true justice to the youthful vigor needed for this passionate young man.  Yes, if you want some serious brownie points, go with your mother.  You will hold each other during the tender scenes near the end of the film and you will feel better as a human being!

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Director's Fan Cut 3-D - yes...I shrunk the text size just a little bit, in hope that maybe you would slip right past this one...let me qualify this film with a few comments...

I only went to see it because of the 2011 Reel Rhino Oscar Pool prize.  See also, the champion: Queen Kristin.  If you saw that post, then you may understand the nature of her sadistic behavior.  The winner got to choose one movie for me to review.  Ms. Kristin choose the Biebs.

I was obligated to fulfill my welch on a bet is the lowest form of existence...

I loved this movie. Hands Down: 5 Horns (review forthcoming, but take my word, this is not the film you think it is.  This movie had heart and was a well told story of a self-made star.)

The Tempest - 3 Horns - Yowza...I fell head over heels in love with Julie Taymor's ACROSS THE UNIVERSE in 2007.  It is a wonderful movie if you haven't seen it.  I was never really a Beatles fan, now I am.  Thank you Ms. Taymor.  Now, if you could only please explain The Tempest to me, I would be most obliged!  The Tempest is a visually beautiful film that contains a story I had quite a hard time following and ultimately understanding.  Near the end of the film, when I sensed a major conflict or showdown of sorts approaching....roll credits.  I fancy myself a fairly savvy guy, but I was a little bit in the dark on this one.  It is based on William Shakespeare's play of the same name, which is famously his last work in which the monologue by Prospero (actually Prospera in the film, played by Helen Mirren) is said to be Shakespeare's farewell to the stage.  Maybe the Cliff's Notes is the key to my understanding?  Oh how my High School English teachers would be disappointed :-(

Paul - 3.5 Horns - I loved the references this film delivered at every turn!  It was pure fun to see all my favorite movies from the last thirty years to be used very organically within the dialogue of this film.  That said, there was just something missing.  I can't explain it, but it missed that spark that made me love it.  I enjoyed the F Bombs a plenty and the alien dong references.  Kristen Wiig is subtly funny as hell and overall, the supporting cast is fantastic.  I predict with additional viewings, I will love this movie!  See also: Anchorman.

The Lincoln Lawyer - 4 Horns - I had a root canal on Friday and saw this on Sunday, my cheek all sorts of throbbin'.  I definitely was not in the right mindset to see this movie.  I walked out a little disappointed and a little sleepy.  After further reflection, I promoted The Lincoln Lawyer to a 4 from a 3.5.  I may see it again in the theater, but more likely I will wait for BluRay.  McConaughey is in top form and this film is loaded with great character actors.  The ending plays out like something on par with a cheesy Lifetime actually made me awkwardly think of the ending to one of my all time favorites, Fletch.  The ending be damned, the movie is enjoyable and like Paul, I think with another viewing or two, I will really find a place in my rotation for this flick.  I do think I will like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter a little more...but that will be a story for another day.

That is quite a list, yes I know...what is on tap for this weekend?  For starters, a guys movie day to see...



SUCKER PUNCH: The IMAX Experience is on tap for Saturday and let me tell you....I am excited!  Zach Snyder can do little wrong in my book and I stand by that he gave us 100% the best version of Watchmen that we could have ever expected, given the material.  I can't wait to see what he does with the Superman reboot, but for now, a little Punch should hold me over.  Check out the trailer that is embedded below!

Until then....Reel Rhino is outtie-bo-boutie! (Yep, that just happened.)


Saturday, March 19, 2011


(Reel Rhino Note: THIS IS THE FINAL CHAPTER OF A THREE PART RED STATE SERIES - Based on my recent trip to The Midland theater to see Director Kevin Smith's latest offering...Red State)

I'm tired...

Physically and mentally tired.

Between the long posts and the raccoon incident of 2011 (see the top of my last post), I am tired.

Some might have you believe that the raccoon was the hand of God, sent to wreck havoc on my life.  You see, I...Reel hated by God.

Are you ready for it...GOD HATES @REELRHINO.

You may be asking yourself: "What could lil' ol' Rhino have done to incur the wrath of the Lord, as administered by such a high and holy one as Fred Phelps Sr., the high master of the oh so righteous Westboro Baptist Church?  What Rhino, what have you done?

Well for starters, I am a sinner.  Yes, I can say it.  Hallelujah! Praise Him, Praise Jesus!  I am a sinner...forgive me oh Lord!

I do not live in a glass house.  A glass house such as that prominent home in Topeka, KS, that shelters those who know "right"...those who know right so strongly, that they feel it is their privilege to judge their fellow man and woman.  

I know what I am and who I am.  I am so very proud of it.  The choices I have made in my life have brought me great joy and a beautiful family.  I admit my sins and I am happy with the life I live. 

So what have I done to incur such wrath as the hatred of the loving God that I call mine?


Fred Phelps is really good at drawing straight lines.  Not my words, but an echo of the estranged Granddaughter, Ms. Libby Phelps.  The Girl Who Lived...a survivor of the Westboro Baptist Church.  An escapee, broken free from bondage and escaped to the real world.

Was it hurtful of me to post these words?  Perhaps...and if I REALLY hurt someone, I am sorry.

This is what separates my way of being from the hideous face of the WBC.  I am willing to ask for forgiveness when I have done wrong.

And if we do classify this as name calling...then what are they doing?  The righteous find a way from being the pot or the kettle, yet they still call names of their own.  If God hates me...God must surely hate them as well...right?

They...they front nothing but hate in the name of the Lord, and while their words are hurtful to countless millions, they do nothing so ask for forgiveness, let alone change their ways.

I think that Kevin Smith's DOGMA is both a fitting transition and appropriate given that this event is all surrounding the release of Smith's RED STATE.

Devout Catholics may not like DOGMA for its approach at inspiring faith.  You see the message of Dogma is no secret.  It is overtly spoken by Rufus, the thirteenth apostle, as portrayed by Chris Rock. 

Bethany (Linda Fiorentino): You're saying that having beliefs is a bad thing?

Rufus: I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier.

Ideas are influenced by our environment, by our conscious, by those in our lives, and by the outcomes of our actions from living those ideas.  Ideas are influenced as well by the Bible and in our individual beliefs in the words in whatever Bible you may call yours.

The WBC has beliefs so strong, that anything that isn't aligned with them, is the spawn of the devil.  Josh Phelps-Roper and Libby Phelps had ideas.  They saw the evil of their ways and changed their perspectives.

It was enlightening to hear the words of Josh and Libby.  It made sense of what seems to many to be senseless.  Their providing of a better understanding of the WBC didn't make the message of hate any more palatable, but maybe did give a better understanding.  Josh and Libby hurt others through the years and you know what...

I forgive them.

I understand that the Westboro Baptist Church preaches their hateful words because of a blind faith without an ounce of individual thought or an iota of an idea as to what they say, actually means.

The WBC protesting Barack Obama's speech
at Kansas City's Liberty Memorial
2008 Preseidential Election
(c) Reel Rhino

"God Love Dead Soldiers"
"God Hates Fags"
"God Hates ReelRhino"
"Kevin Smith is a Gay Enabler"
"God Hates The University of Kansas"
"God Hates Rainbow Brite"

...what the hell?  It's feels wrong even typing and repeating these hateful phrases.

This is just crazy, which is why I am almost annoyed to be posting such serious fare in what is usually a lighthearted look at the movies. 

I have a brother who fought for his country and sustained injury in his service.

I have gay friends who live proudly, who I know are hurt at the words of the WBC.  Even in their knowledge it is baseless hate speech, it still hurts.

Not an idea of worth from any of them, just echoes from a hateful old man.  Josh and Libby realized the truth...I wonder how many others of their numbers are on the fringe.

Here is what I say to the whole mess.

Live life as you want to live.  Fear not the hate of others, but bask in the love of those in your life.  The Reel Rhino loves you, even if God doesn't (and we know that isn't true).

The Supreme Court has ruled that the freedom of speech will stand, even in instances in which the words spoken freely, inflict real and true harm.  In my opinion, that is paramount to a physical assault.

Love defeats evil and hate any day.  I don't think that is cheese, I think it is truth.  It's unfortunate that our world that is full of people who love, accept, and encourage is marred by a few that propagate hate.

Was it Gandi who said that if we lived in a world of eye for an eye, it wouldn't be too long before we were all blind?  How do you respond to such hate?  I guess the best way is to ignore it.  To live freely and happily.  Show love and compassion to those in your sphere of influence. 

Evil begets evil.  Love begets love.

God may hate Reel Rhino, but I still love God.  Respect those who CHOOSE to serve our country.  Respect those who are labeled as "different" than you, when in reality, they are the same.  Shed labels.  View people as people, not labels.  It is only by social agreements that labels are born.  We are all just people. 

@ReelRhino hates hate....retweet that, Gramps.

Hiding behind the Bible doesn't make you right.

The end of days is not upon us.
Japan was not punished by God.
However a person lives their life, is the right way for that person to live their life.
Fred Phelps, Sr. draws great straight lines. 

To all my readers, I am but a humble servant of my fellow man.  I mean it. 

To finish, I offer you a fragment of a scene from this week's release, PAUL.  Near the end of the movie, an amazing feat of selflessness results in something amazing.  With all of the proof to contrary, and an alien standing directly in front of him, John Carroll Lynch's Moses Buggs, a fire and brimstone Christian declares:  A MIRACLE!  THE LORD WORKS IN WONDEROUS WAYS!

Sometimes there is no changing the beliefs of the devout.  People see what they want to see, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Until next time, take care and enjoy this nugget from Charles Dickens's classic, A Christmas Carol..."God Bless Us Every One."  ...Or if God ain't your bag...enjoy this one, from that lyrical poet Ke$ha..."We are who we are."

Until next time...peace, love, and understanding my brothers and sisters.
Reel Rhino

(I will return soon with light-hearted movie reviews and all these stuff we love!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


So I had planned on a more integrated post in which I got a bit more into the comments by Papa Schmer and The Kid.  What happened instead was after 20 minutes of barking, me and my flashlight rounded the corner at the back of my house to come face-to-face with my dog, Lucy, standing there with a 30 lb raccoon hanging from her face, right cheek ultimately just short of fully pierced.  Two calamitous hours later, I sit down for the night. 

With that, I will start with The Kid and Papa's video pre-show clip, go with Papa's thoughts, then The Kid's, then finish with their post-show recording....enjoy. (To Papa and The Kid, I pretty much posted these as is, without many lack of time became quite dire.)

PAPA SCHMER - A True Kansas City Movie Going Experience

On Saturday, 3/12/2011 I had the opportunity to spend a great evening with two of my movie going comrades, ReelRhino and the Kid in the Helmet. We attended the special showing of Kevin Smith’s Red State followed by a Q and A with the film maker. The short story here is it was a great night. But now for the Paul Harvey rest of the story.

The evening started with dinner at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue at the Freight House, one of my favorite dinning places in town. The freight house is in an old rail freight house just north of Union Station. The freight house as built in 1887 but fell into disrepair and would have likely been demolished but it was purchased by a group of investors and renovated in the late 1990’s. The barbecue and atmosphere are the best in town.

We then moved from the Crossroads District into downtown. We had about an hour before the doors opened so the next logical stop seemed to be The Empire Theater which now houses the AMC Main Street Theater for a beer and film discussion. The Empire Theater was originally opened in late 1921 as the Main Street Theater and has housed many types of entertainment to include motion pictures and vaudeville shows. The Durwood Theater Group, now AMC, purchased the theater in the late 1950’s and renamed it Empire Theater. The Empire closed its doors in 1985, the last years the Royals did anything. Kansas City’s downtown entertainment district, Power & Light District, begin its renaissance in 2005 and the Main Street Theater reopened to the public under it’s original name in 2009. If you have not visited AMC’s Main Street Theater in downtown Kansas City, MO you are missing a movie going experience second to none. “The renovated theater features six auditoriums, on two floors. The ground floor has three standard auditoriums, while the upper level features "cinema suites" with reclining loungers, food trays and a call button to summon a server. All auditoriums feature 4k digital projection and 11-channel sound, including overhead speakers and bass shakers mounted under the seats. AMC claims that it is one of the most technologically-advanced theater setups in the world. All six auditoriums feature reserved seating.” (Wikipedia)

The evening finished the screening of Red State followed by a Q and A with Kevin Smith. The film was a different genera of film, while it is classified as an horror-thriller, I would have to say it was more of a Thriller-Action film, just to many rounds of ammo expended to not be an action movie. The movie uses Fred Phelps and the Westborough Baptist Church and the Branch Davidians of Waco, TX as a jumping off point. The film shows the flaws in all humans and I think the idiom “ People who live in glass house should not throw stones” is one of Kevin’s main themes in the film.

I gave the film 5 out of 5 stars in Rotten Tomatoes last night. I think it was a very original and fresh piece of work. Kevin spoke about the talent and the breath the actors brought to his words and I could not agree more. I know that Michael Parks will not be nominated or win any awards for his performance but he should, he was off the chart.

The Q and A was the icing on the cake last night. Megan Phelps and her group of merry miss-fits where picketing outside the Midland Theater and had been invited into the theater the view the movie. Megan and about 14 others did come in to watch but left about 15 minutes into the show. Megan was scheduled to be on stage with Kevin for a little friendly debate but that did not happen and we were kind of bummed. Approximately half way through the Q and A a young man and woman stepped to the microphone and announced to the group that they were Phelps’ who had left the church and family. Kevin brought them on stage and the fun soon began. The whole thing was being filmed and I am sure it will be on the DVD along with a commentary with them and Kevin.

Thanks Rhino and The Kid for an evening not soon to be forgotten.

Nice...thanks Papa was a helluva night!

THE KID'S Saturday Night

(Reel Rhino note: The Kid is our resident Kevin Smith expert.)

As has been mentioned before on Rhino's blog, I am a big Kevin Smith fan. So I have been following Red State for years, through the ups and downs of financing and getting the movie made. So it was very exciting that the Red State USA Tour was making it's way to KC. Even more exciting was the news that Megan Phelps would be in attendance and wold be joining Kevin on stage after the movie to give her thoughts. It seemed for the making of a very interesting and funny evening. But more on that in a minute.

Regarding the movie itself. I thought it was great. By far Kevin's best movie since Clerks II. Action packed, intense, and filled with great dialogue (as you would expect). I don't know that you will see anything else like it this year. "Baby" Dave Klein shot an amazing looking picture. But there's a reason why the reps from Fox Searchlight walked out after the first on screen kill when it premiered at the 2010 Sundance film festival; it's not the most marketable subject matter and it's not going to be a movie with mass appeal.

That said it sure appealed to those of us lucky enough to be in attendance at the midland. It was one of the best audiences to see a movie with. Everyone was into it. Cheering and clapping at all the right moments and laughing so loud lines were missed at times. My favorite moment came when one of the villains took a bullet to the head. The crowd cheered, naturally, and then as the cheers subsided someone yelled out, "Winning!" Brilliant. Thank you Charlie Sheen. Even amidst one of the most epic downward spirals of all time you still manage to entertain.

As the credits began to roll Rhino checked Twitter on his phone only to discover Megan Phelps and crew and left shortly after the movie had begun. And sure enough as Kevin came on stage to A our Q's he confirmed that 15 minutes into the movie Megan had tapped him on the shoulder, thanked him for inviting them, and politely left due to the fact that the movie was, "filthy." Bear in mind that the first 15 minutes of the movie is primarily 3 high school boys talking about the prospect of meeting an older woman for group sex. Yes, these people can stand on street corners holding signs full of hate speech, and protest funerals of people far braver than they...but fake characters in a movie start talking about heterosexual sex and they can't take it. So they can dish it out but they can't take it. I guess we shouldn't be surprised.

So I was somewhat disappointed Megan would not be sharing her thoughts but hey, to hell with her (tee hee hee). The Q and A then went along just fine and normal until Josh and Libby Phelps stepped up to the mic, announcing that not all the Phelps had left early. Josh and Libby being some of the few Phelps who have "escaped" from the WBC and are now trying to lead normal lives where God doesn't hate everything from New Zealand to Rainbow Bright. Kevin quickly brought them up on stage and gave them a place to sit and a microphone and had a conversation with them. I don't want to spoil any of what they had to say here (I couldn't do it justice anyway) but suffice to say it was moving, funny, and heart breaking. While it would have been interesting to see Kevin and Megan go at it...I think we can all imagine what that would be like. Megan and the rest of the WBC are kind of like a broken record at this point, so I'm not sure she would have had anything original to say. Libby and Josh were far more fascinating and I am thankful that they were able to get up in front of a couple thousand people and tell their story.

If you are interested in SEEING what they had to say the Q and A was being filmed and I imagine the portion with Libby and Josh will make it onto the DVD. In regard to a commentary track with the 2 of them being on the DVD, Kevin tweeted, "done and done." But if you are interested in HEARING what they had to say on stage that night you don't have to wait much longer. Episode 15 of Plus One (which can be found here ( should be up sometime on Tuesday (03-15-11), in which you will hear the conversation we were lucky enough to see live on stage at The Midland.

It was an amazing night with a great crowd and 2 great movie going buddies. Thanks Rhino and Pappa Schmurf. I look forward to more events like this in the future. If any of you reading this get the chance to check out another screening of Red State before it comes out in theaters on October 19th you should really take it. It's worth the extra cash for the experience of hearing Kevin speak about it and seeing it with such an active and involved audience. He mentioned bringing it to Topeka sometime soon...that could be EPIC! See it now, or see it later, but it is a movie that needs to be seen.

And one final note. I just want to thank my unborn daughter, Jill, for staying put in her mamma's stomach long enough for me to see the screening. I haven't even meet her yet and we have already bonded over a love of all things Kevin Smith. Snoogans...

Thanks Kid...and now, as promised, The Kid and Papa give their post-show video recap...

Until later...take care!

Monday, March 14, 2011

RED STATE SATURDAY with Reel Rhino, The Kid, and Papa


I, in my adventures in filmgoing, enjoyed a major installment on Saturday night in my ongoing tale.  No, it wasn't my 1000th flick, which is very near on the was instead a fantastic night of film with a few of my best film going buddies!

Myself, along with fellow film travelers THE KID IN THE HELMET and PAPA SCHMER, rallied for some early evening Barbeque at hands-down, my favorite joint in all of KANSAS CITY: JACK'S STACK FREIGHT HOUSE.  This place rocks, and it was the only place in town that could adequately satiate our pre-film hunger.  It was good to meet you, Martin City Mayor...your burnt end/cole slaw mix was glorious and I hope to see you again soon.

Our destination on this fine night in Kansas City, was not the Big 12 Tournament, that was raging a few blocks away at the shimmering Sprint Center...while I could have cared less as to who won, my fellow travelers both bleed Mizzou Black and Gold, so KU's taking of the title certainly would damper the weekend, but only in the slightest.  If you're keeping score, I could careless who wins any game, unless my Maryland Terrapins are in the house.

RED STATE, the latest offering from my favorite fellow fat man KEVIN SMITH (I say this with love, as I tip the scales at just under 400 lbs myself), stopped at KANSAS CITY'S MIDLAND THEATER.  The doors opened at 7:00pm and the show started at 8:00...okay, fashionably late at 8:15pm, but it only helped add to the tension.

TENSION?  Tension, you say?  Yes, there was a fair bit.  You see RED STATE is based loosely on the Topeka-based "church," Westboro Baptist Church, or the WBC.  Have you seen the signs that read: "God Hates Fags" and "God Loves Dead Soldiers"...that's them.  

Smith and Ingram
Smith's friend Malcolm Ingram, who is proudly a bear (read: large gay man), directed a fantastic documentary in SMALL TOWN GAY BAR, within which he interviewed WBC head Fred Phelps Sr.  While only a few minutes of the footage was used in the picture, Smith had a chance to see all of the nearly 1 hour of footage that Ingram captured while talking to the church's leader.  This footage may have served as the initial inspiration for the film, but part of what helped propel Smith forward and actually make the movie was his March 2010 Q and A visit to the City of Fountains, yep Kansas City.  The WBC was out in full force and in addition to their standard lines of bull, they developed the opinion that the friendly filmmaker was in fact a...get ready for this...a "gay enabler."

Small Town Gay Bar

If he had been sitting on the concept for Red State, he would sit no longer...Red State was to become a reality.

The casting announcement for the oh so important role of "Father," the very character that was inspired by the senior Phelps, came at Comic Con 2010.  Legendary character actor, Michael Parks, perhaps most well known for playing the LAW in several Quintin Tarantino films, would become, and I mean BECOME, the Father.

The role was one that Smith at one point thought his old reliable, George Carlin, could have played as well.  He clarified on Saturday that since its first inception, he always imagined Michael Parks in the part.  He was inspired and in awe of Parks since he was introduced to him in Robert Rodriguez's DUSK TIL DAWN.  While Carlin was at one time considered, the movie was shelved, and sadly, Carlin died.

So Papa, Kid, and Reel Rhino were out in full force...we drank a pre-show cocktail at the AMC Mainstreet Theater (see also one of my previous posts).  We swapped tales of our first memory of the movies at the theater.  Papa Schmer's was Diamonds are Forever, Kid's was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and mine Return of the Jedi, at the ripe ol' age of 7, with my mom and my sister.  We talked of our least favorite flicks, but for we three, that is a bit harder to finger as we all fall into the exceptionally easy to please category when it comes to our butts in theater seats (THE LAST AIRBENDER was my pick...and I am an M NIGHT apologist!  I have learned that you can only apologize so much!).

At around 7:00pm, we headed north for the MIDLAND.  We wanted to catch some of the pre-show action, and boy were we not disappointed.  The WBC took position on the east side of Main, directly across from the main entrance to the Midland.  The counter-protest, encouraged by Smith himself, was set along the sidewalk directly outside the theater.

Some of these photos should give you an idea about the shenanigans, and my apologies for the low quality pictures...I only had my cell phone camera with me, as the Midland prohibited any recording devices, cameras included. I will be shopping for a cell with a better cam soon, I can promise you that.

Megan committed, she holds four signs. Yay!
I accused this guy of winning the Kevin Smith look-a-like
This one was Kevin's favorite, visiting his Clerkian roots.
Megan Phelps-Roper is perhaps the Darth Vader to Smith's Luke Skywalker.  The two have engaged in Twitter battle and this fateful night in Kansas City appeared as though it may have been the Death Star showdown we we all waiting for.

Smith was so kind to comp the Phelps clan 15 tickets.  As Kevin put it...apparently God doesn't hate charity.  They actually came to the showing, much to the surprise of all, but their seeing the movie be damned, we were all waiting for the fireworks that were to follow, as Megan had agreed to come onto the stage to participate in the Q and A.  Smith acknowledged this before the screening began, and only asked that we honor their freedom of speech and respect them as guests of the Smodcast nation when they did finally hit the stage.  Smith went so far as to acknowledge the importance of their recent Supreme Court victory that will allow them to continue to protest at the funerals of American soldiers.


I like freedom of speech and I respect the freedom of speech, religion, sexual orientation, and any of the liberties that the Constitution grants us as occupants of the United States.  But when the rights granted us as Americans treads so deeply and hurtfully at the expense of other Americans, is that right?  Apparently, eight of nine Supreme Court Justices think so.  Maybe it was the right call, but it sure doesn't feel very good.

~~~~~~~~RED STATE~~~~~~~~~

RED STATE is a landmark film for a number of reasons, but perhaps mostly due to the finance and distribution route that Smith choose for this effort.  I was able to see this movie because Smith "bought" the rights from himself at a single-bidder auction following its premiere at Utah's SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL.  (Sadly, KIMBALIANO was not able to attend that screening.)  Smith decided he was "taking it back" (see also: Clerks 2) and would hit the road with Red State, like in the good old days, or something of what is done with the Afterdark Horrorfest these days.  What does Reel Rhino say?  Genius, pur genius.

In addition to self-release a la the road show, the film will get an October wide-release.  The number of screens it hits in October will be affected, it appears, in part by the success of the road shows and also the amount raised in merchandising at the shows, at the Smodcast site, and Smith's View Askew site.

As it stands right now, the advertising for this film has been web-based, twitter-centric, and word of mouth only.  Smith did interviews on the radio stations, so at least he is effecting local word of mouth by hitting the airwaves as well as the net.  I am curious to see the Prints and Advertising budget (if any) the wide-release brings in October.

This film is also a landmark in timing.  Most of the casting announcements came out over Summer 2010, with a few roles filled as late as September 2010.  This film was screened at Sundance in January.  I am going to imagine a number of sleepless nights in the Smith household, and several more where Smith woke up drooling on the Avid console, mumbling some kind of an apology to Pete (see also: DOGMA).

When you write, direct, and edit your own film, you can roll it out as quickly or slowly as you like.

Essentially two months after shooting wrapped on this film, he had a first cut that was audience ready.  Since that first screening, Smith has revisited the cutting room and I would imagine that what we see in theaters in October is the sum total of all of the experiences of the road show, rolled into a masterful cut.  Really, its kind of brilliant.  Normal, focus group showings are comped tix for the audience as long as you fill out this questionnaire.  Smith got them (and me) to pay between $50 and $80 beans for a ticket to the event.  And, he has all the questionnaire feedback he wants on Twitter, Facebook, and the Smod boards!  I say again...he is an effing GENIUS!  Kevin, my only request as I hope we see this more often, is that the ticket prices come down...between $20 and $50 would be much more reasonable for an event.  $50 - $80 was too much.  I was 5th row, dead center and I'd of paid more for such great seats to an event like this.  But in times like these, I hate that folks had to pass because they just didn't have the dough.

RED STATE follows the hijinx of THE FAMILY, a religious sect that has many shared beliefs exhibited by the WBC, but taken to extreme with murder and mayhem also on the menu.  What I saw as the major parallel between the WBC and the sect featured in Red State, is that both groups seem to have a strong distaste (or HATE) for anything and everyone who isn't them.

Pastor Abin Cooper is the leader of this band of religious fanatics, and his daughter Sarah (recent Academy Award winner Melissa Leo) is a church elder.  Sarah's husband Caleb is played by Director Smith's HOLLYWOOD BABBLE-ON sidekick, Ralph Garman.  Garman is a comedian, radio personality, and now movie-star and while his words are few, it was good to see him on screen.  Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, wife to Kevin, is also a baddie in the flick, playing Ester one of the congragation's loyal subjects.

The two most memorable roles from this film were the portrayal of the town sheriff, by Stephen Root, and the ATF Field Office Commander, by John Goodman.  What about Michael Parks' Cooper, you say?  His role defied the term memorable to the level of being iconic.  Abin Cooper as a character in this film, and Michael Parks' portrayal of him is nothing short of iconic.  But for every memorable moment with Parks, there was an near equally powerful moment by John Goodman.  I was absolutely floored by Goodman's performance and perhaps it struck me so starkly when compared to PArks because I was used to Parks being great and his fantastic delivery was no surprise to me.  For Goodman, I think this is his finest role to date.  And as for Stephen Root, it wasn't perfection or delivery that made Root's Sheriff Wynan so good, it was the character and his part in all of this that makes him so memorable. 

A spoiler-free description in a nutshell for the movie is this: three city boys head off to the country, looking for a little bit o' sexual escapade.  They get wrangled into some trouble with the aforementioned religious sect and ultimately law enforcement is drawn in to investigate.  Calamity ensues.
This movie was fun to watch with tense moments interlaced with well-delivered one-liners and longer monologues written with grace and finesse that Smith's earlier works haven't offered him as many opportunities to write.  This is an adult movie with adult language (I mean tone, not swearing you infant!) - Smith shows us he can write for the big kids as well as some of the best dick, fart, and weed jokes ever written. 

There were some great steady-cam, Bourne-Identity like running around action shots.  For every bit of action, there was a bit of humor, some intentional, some were just of the uncomfortable as hell moments, so-I-will-laugh variety.  My only complaint goes towards some of the shots of the sect members involved in a bit of gun play at a couple of spots point in the film.  For a few scenes, the shots are limited to close-ups of their upper torsos, firing their weapons.  I thought these static shots took away, oh so slightly, from the other action sequences that were shot so well.  Perhaps his goal hear was to show the fortitude of their position as matching that of their will?  Whatever the goal, I thought these few scenes could have been shot more dynamically, but I must say that on a $5 million budget, I offer some forgiveness because over all, Smith took $5 million and made it look like $25 million, easily.

The Reel Rhino is clearly a big fan of Kevin Smith.  I give RED STATE a very strong 5 of 5 horns and offer to the Director a congratulations.  Not only have you done something different than you have in the past, but you did it right  See this movie!  If it is coming to your town or anywhere close, go see the show.  The movie alone will be worth the trip, but the subsequent Q and A will definitely make it worth it!

~~~~~~~~THE Q and A~~~~~~~~~

We learned at the outset of the post flick Q and A that 15 minutes into the film, the Phelps clan left the theater, stopping only to give a gift to the Director, a picket sign that read: "RED STATE FAGS."  If the text and message weren't so deplorable, you could almost call the banter between Smith and the Phelps as cute.  Megan Phelps-Roper's parting words to Smith...this is filthy, we can't stay for this.  And with that, the Phelps/Smith aka Vader/Skywalker duel would not come to be.  (DON'T WORRY KEVIN, I don't think Megan Phelps is your father. Maybe a Kirk/Khan reference would have been better?  Frodo and Smeagel?  Sorry...I didn't mean to bring the LOTR into this!!)

The Q and A was it's own glorious part of this night...instead of getting that she-devil in Megan, we got an hour of just Kevin, which is always a good thing; and a half-hour of "The Boy (and Girl) Who Lived."  (See also: Harry Potter).  

During the Q and A, Josh Phelps-Roper, son of Shirley Phelps-Roper (spawn of Fred Sr.) and his cousin, Libby Phelps (granddaughter to Fred Sr.), both came onto the stage with Kevin to talk about the family...with a twist.

Josh and Libby were both defectors from the WBC...they wanted out and broke free of the twisted views they had lived their whole life.  No easy task when you figure it meant leaving their kin behind to foray into the big bad world on their own.  A feeling Josh related to the feeling of lonesomeness that many in the gay community may have endured if they have ever been shunned by family and friends in their lives. 

Josh also recalled one time in his teen years being told they were out stop evil doers and seeing the people that they were hurting found it hard to distinguish between his own kind and the supposed evil doers of the world.  I would imagine it was about that time that he started hatching his escape plan.

Hearing their stories was a great cap to the evening.  Too bad the WBC didn't stick around.  Josh and Libby both felt they would be steaming as they lost their time to spread the word.  Publicity whores is a term I remember hearing.  It's sad when all you care about is screaming the message and don't take the time to listen to what your yelling. 

At around 11:30pm, the plug was pulled, and Kevin said his good-nights.  Sadly, we left, having spent a great night with as affiable a personality as there may be.

Side note...Kevin has always joked how Megan is kinda cute.  A point that is certainly debatable, but that aside...He also made a point to mention that Libby is much cuter...agreed Mr. Smith, agreed.  And I don't know at what exact point the Phelps cut out, but Megan's ego could have been massaged a bit if she would have caught Kerry Biche's Cheyenne, the filmic rendering of Megan Phelps-Roper.  Biche is both a talented actress and a beautiful woman...I will be looking for her more in the future.  Perhaps Kevin, she could play a role in Hit Somebody?

Kevin Smith, sir, you are a gentleman and a poet.  Please know that I support your decision to make HIT SOMEBODY your last film, but it gives me great joy to know that you will always be a part of the zeitgeist of entertainment.  Long live SMODCAST and the VIEW ASKEW worlds and whatever they may become.  Thanks for a great night.  Both The Kid and Papa Schmer agreed....
Until later, Reel Rhino is outta here!