Tag Archives: Lindsay Lohan

Movie Review: The Canyons (2013)


Let’s be honest here. The names attached to The Canyons and the process of how this mini-budget “erotic thriller” got made in the first place is far more interesting than the film itself. In fact, I’m fairly certain that a documentary or a movie based on the making of this film would be totally awesome.

Made on a shoestring budget of just US$250,000, The Canyons is written by famed American Psycho author Brett Easton Ellis and directed by Paul Schrader, the legendary co-writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and the director of American Gigolo, Affliction and Auto Focus. It stars the actress no production company would take on because she is uninsurable, Lindsay Lohan, and the most popular male porno actor of his generation, James Deen. It’s a wild and wacky team that drew a lot of attention over its troubled production — mostly involving Lindsay Lohan meltdown stories — and its sexual overtones — also, of course, involving Lohan.

(If you’re interested — and I guarantee, it’s very interesting — I’d recommend reading this amazing New York Times piece, “Here is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie.” By the way, the film totally bombed, failed to be selected for a bunch of film festivals, and Lohan refused to support the film, which has been branded a new “career-low”.)

All things considered — the budget struggles, the troubled production, and most of all, Lohan — The Canyons is not as awful as it could have been. Sure, it’s bad, and depending on your point of view, arguably embarrassing, but Brett Easton Ellis is too good of a writer and Paul Schrader is too good of a director to churn out a product that doesn’t at least have positive attributes.

The premise of The Canyons is not far from porno/amateur film/student project territory — when Christian (James Deen), a wealthy trust fund douche with Hollywood ties suspects his girlfriend Tara (Lindsay Lohan) could be cheating on him, he spirals into obsession and starts doing crazy things. There’s a little more to that, such as the fact that Christian likes inviting random people to watch him and Tara get it on, or get it on with Tara while he watches. And the guy Tara might be involved with, Ryan (played by Glee’s Nolan Gerard Funk), is a struggling actor (with a girlfriend) who may have to resort to opportunistic gay stuff to make ends meet. Typical stuff, really.

The whole look and feel of the film reflects its measly budget and can’t seem to escape that Melrose Place soapy melodrama tone, though on the other hand there is that soft-core porn aspect of the film many people have been curious about. Yes, LiLo does get her puppies out, and no, it does not improve the film in any way.

The one saving grace of the film is the surprisingly good performance by James Deen. I haven’t seen his porn work (he proves in one dangly scene that he definitely belongs in porn), but the dude has screen presence and can deliver a line with charisma and conviction. He steals the scenes he’s in and overshadows Lindsay’s performance, which I suppose is not bad given that she appeared to be hung over most of the time. In that sense Lohan’s Golden Raspberry nomination for worst actress is probably undeserved, but to be honest I couldn’t really focus on Lindsay’s acting because I couldn’t stop looking at how bad and old she looked — and she’s just 27! She just looked terrible, and I sincerely hope she gets some help because she needs it.

As bad as The Canyons is, at least it does not come with any misleading expectations of it being good. More importantly, it’s not a boring film. I managed to remain focused for most of the 99-minute running time, wondering whether the film might be heading towards something better. It didn’t, of course, but it kept me watching.

There are actually some parallels to be drawn between The Canyons and Tommy Wisseau’s legendary masterpiece, The Room, the so-called “Citizen Kane of bad movies.” Both look like trite amateur flicks with bad sex scenes and are about an obsessive wealthy guy who goes crazy when he suspects that his girlfriend might be cheating on him. However, while The Room is so unintentionally and laughably bad that it has become a cult classic and is loved around the world, The Canyons is just “normal bad,” and that in my opinion makes it a worse film.

1.5 stars out of 5

“You’re tearing me apart, Lindsay!” — James Deen in The Canyons

Movie Review: The Bling Ring (2013)


Despite critical acclaim, I haven’t been a big fan of Sophia Coppola’s earlier works, such as The Virgin Suicides and Lost In Translation, both of which I felt were somewhat overrated. Her latest (written and directed), The Bling Ring, is based on the true story of a bunch of self-entitled rich kids in LA who break into the homes of famous people such as Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson, and Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr. Apart from Paris Hilton, however, the other stars refused to take part in the film and archived footage was used instead.

The film features an impressive cast headlined by Emma Watson, who shines as the bratty and care free Nikki, with Vera’s sister Taissa Farmiga (from American Horror Story) playing her more naive younger sister Sam. These two are the biggest names, but they are really supporting characters, with the parts of the ringleaders taken up by the manipulative Katie Chang and the central protagonist Israel Broussard, the only male member of the gang.

The Bling Ring is categorised as a satirical black comedy, though it certainly felt a lot more like a semi-serious drama with just a sprinkle of satirical laughs. It’s really about how shallow and stupid these wannabe celeb rich kids are, thinking they could actually get away with something so brazen, but also about how ridiculously bad the security is at the homes of Hollywood celebs! Seriously, most of the time the kids just waltzed right in!

The performances are strong, but there is a strange distance about them that makes it hard to really get under their shallow facades. I felt like I was just watching a bunch of silly kids doing silly things while thinking it’s really cool, without ever really caring for them or what they were doing. They felt one-dimensional; I didn’t get to know them, nor did I want to. Part of the blame has to go to Coppola’s direction, which didn’t stand out for me, and failed to deliver the substance I had been hoping for. Maybe it was an impossible task to accomplish, given that the source of the story is essentially limited to news clippings, but even for a brisk 90-minute film (which was probably already stretching the material) it felt like more depth and insight could have been achieved.

In the end, The Bling Ring came across as superficial as the characters Coppola was trying to portray. Maybe it was too nuanced for me to get, but I didn’t find it particularly funny or engaging. It was an interesting idea to tackle and the performances were stellar, but more had to come from the characters since we knew from the beginning what they were doing and what ended up happening to them.

2 stars out of 5

End of Year DVD Blitz: Part IV

I guess this will be the final part of my ‘End of Year DVD Blitz’, considering it is the new year, after all.  Four more here, then I’ll have to start my ‘Start of Year DVD Blitz’ (since I still have a bunch to watch).

Machete (2010)

Apparently Machete is a character from the children’s film Spy Kids and stemmed from a fake trailer in Grindhouse, but this Robert Rodrigue (and Ethan Maniquis) film stands on its own just fine.

In Machete, Machete (Danny Trejo) is a Mexican badass that likes to use, uh, machetes to hack people up.  And there’s plenty of that intentionally fake, gory violence that was employed in Grindhouse, though for me it was still cringeworthy watching limbs and heads hacked off.  The film features of trio of sassy ladies — Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and Lindsay Lohan — and excellent bad guys, such as Robert De Niro, Jeff Fahey and in probably the best role of his career, Steven Segal.

Machete is fun, entertaining and loud-out-loud funny at times, though the ‘fake exploitation’ angle does get a little old quickly.  It’s a movie you’re likely to remember a few years from now, though you’ll probably have no idea what it was all about.  I actually have trouble remembering right now, but I do recall it was fun while it lasted.

3.25 stars out of 5

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009)

Perfect example of a tight, well-written script and excellent direction (by J Blakeson).

Gemma Arterton is the titular Alice Creed, who is kidnapped by two goons (Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan).  It seems like a standard kidnapping film, except that it’s not.  The Disappearance of Alice Creed is an intelligent film full of thrills, tension, and twists and turns.  Shows that you can make a great film that doesn’t have to be lengthy (96 minutes) and has a limited set and budget (most of it takes place in a couple of rooms), as long as it has a good script, a good director and good actors.

This film might have gotten most of its press from the fact that Arterton gets her kit off but it’s definitely one of the better thrillers I’ve seen this year.

4 stars out of 5

Skrek Forever After (2010)

I liked the first Shrek and liked the second, and I can’t remember whether I saw the third (and don’t care).  I kind of approached this fourth, and supposedly final film in the franchise with the same indifference — thinking that it would be pretty funny but wary because I was afraid they have milked the same jokes too far.

As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised.  In this one, Shrek, married with children, is bored with living ‘happily ever after’, and in a moment of weakness hastily signs a contract that turns his world upside down.  By creating an alternate universe and a brand new villain (Rumpelstiltskin — played by Walt Dohrn), DreamWorks has reinvigorated an otherwise stale franchise.  A lot of the jokes have been recycled, but there are some new ones to keep things fresh and funny.  The magic and the excitement may no longer be there, but the laughs certainly are.

It may be because my expectations were relatively low, but I think this one was definitely better than the third film, whether or not I actually watched it.

3.5 stars out of 5

Get Him to the Greek (2010)

I’ve always thought any movie with a Judd Apatow connection has been overrated.  Some of them may have been pretty good, or at least different to a lot of the same old crap we had been seeing over the last few years, but none of them have been, in my humble opinion, as great as they have been made out to be.

Get Him to the Greek is, and I don’t say this lightly, the WORST movie I have seen this year.  Maybe not from a technical standpoint, but I truly loathed this film, to the point where I had to challenge myself to finish the damn thing.  This is incredibly rare for me as I’m usually known to be quite generous when it comes to reviewing movies.

Where do I start with this crap?  It’s a comedy-drama that is brutally unfunny for the vast majority of its 109 minute running time.  I wasn’t even in a bad mood, so I can’t blame it on that.  I actually thought Russell Brand’s character Aldous Snow was the highlight of the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall (from which this film spun off), but here he was just an annoying prick.  And despite his girth, Jonah Hill, whom I’ve never been a big fan of, simply cannot carry the film as the protagonist.  Maybe he tries too hard, but neither him nor Brand are likeable or sympathetic characters.  And don’t even get me started on P Diddy, who received rave reviews for his performance as a foul mouthed record company head.  His act got old on me real quick too.  Only Rose Byrne’s character, Jackie Q, cracked me up a couple of times.

Am I being too harsh here?  I dunno.  All I do know is that I have rarely felt such passionate distaste for a film.  If people being incredibly obnoxious and vulgar, constantly swearing (in an unfunny way), constantly vomiting and being obsessed with anuses is your idea of humour, then maybe you might like it better than I did.  The randomness worked well in Sarah Marshall because Snow was a minor character, but here it felt contrived.  I just didn’t get this one.

0.5 stars out of 5