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Five acts to catch at Bumbershoot
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Asian Pacific Islander Pageant returns to Seattle
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Cho-Dependent a hilarious night of comedy and music
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Drag superstar Varla Jean Merman spends an evening in Seattle
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A Dyke About Town: John Hiatt rocks Zoo Tunes
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Bizet's Carmen gives tired opera another chance
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Rufus Wainwright gives emotional, complex performance
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Tripping the light fantastic: An interview with Burn the Floor's Gary Wright
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Fantasy Swan crashes into reality
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Bloody Machete goes back to the grindhouse
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The Last Exorcism doesn't close the deal
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Scissor Sisters, Dierks Bentley, Arcade Fire top September concerts
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Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
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Moondoggies look forward to playing Bumbershoot
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Letters
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Scissor Sisters interview with Seattle Gay News next week
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Bloody Machete goes back to the grindhouse
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer Machete
Opening
September 3


Three years after drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal) kills his wife and child and then leaves him for dead, former Mexican Federale Machete (Danny Trejo) finds himself across the border in Texas trying to find work as a day laborer. But after Booth (Jeff Fahey) contracts him to kill incumbent anti-immigration State Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) only to double-cross him, the one-time law enforcement officer wants vengeance, and the bloodstained trail leads back to the criminal who originally made him an outlaw.

Im not really sure what there is to say about Robert Rodriguezs (El Mariachi, Sin City, Spy Kids) latest B-movie creation Machete, other than to point out this is a schlock genre enterprise based on a fake trailer crafted for his and Quentin Tarantinos 2007 double-bill Grindhouse. If you were one of the people in the audience who cheered the sight of Danny Trejo soaring through the sky on a motorcycle equipped with a machine gun, then this is the movie for you. If you were not, or even if just the sound of something like that makes your eyes roll and starts to turn your stomach, then it is not. Simple as that. No more detail required.

If only that were true. Sadly, as this is review, I am supposed to come up with something interesting or witty or even vaguely sarcastic to say about it. The problem is that nothing is coming to mind. Yes, Rodriguez (working with co-director Ethan Maniquis) has a blast rummaging around in his genre playpen. Sure, there are moments of extreme bloodletting and gore that are as truly extraordinary as anything the filmmaker as ever unleashed. And, of course, it is borderline awesome to watch 67-year-old Trejo continue to be a total badass, rip peoples throats out, and bed every 20-something (like Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and, yes, Lindsay Lohan) that comes his way.

All of this is very cool, but Im not entirely sure its entertaining. At 105 minutes, its way too long, and Rodriguez is unable to maintain momentum, even though the films violently absurdist tone never wavers. It also doesnt quite know where to go or how to end, though it needs to use as many scenes from that fake trailer as possible, and save the majority of them for the absurdly silly climax. But by then the thrill is sadly gone, and no amount of intestinal fluid or cranial trauma can change that fact.

Not that all of this cant be fun. I enjoyed a great deal of the picture, especially during the wild and wooly first half when Machete is busting out of a hospital using a poor guys innards as a rope or when Michelle Rodriguez is using a raw egg as some sort of mystical medical device. I absolutely adored all of De Niros fake senatorial commercials which, considering the vitriol being unleashed during the currently raging political debates, arent nearly as far-fetched as wed like them to be. Finally, any movie that can make me laugh and want to puke almost in the very same instant cant be all bad, and if seen in a packed theatre with an audience receptive to that sort of thing, its almost impossible not to sit back and enjoy oneself.

Still, as nice as those statements are, at a certain point the whole thing devolves into nothing more than a mildly amusing, sometimes disgusting, an often too sadistic for its own good cacophony of noise. I grew tired of the film, no longer as captivated by the wily off-center whirligig as I was during the first couple of acts. By the time it was finished, I just didnt care anymore, and while I cant get worked up enough to throw anything close to a fit, that doesnt mean Im willing to give the film a pass, either. The bottom line is that Machete was borderline entertainment to begin with, and in the end the only work visa or green card I see this one getting is for early access into the DVD bargain bin at your local Best Buy.


The Last Exorcism doesn't close the deal
by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

The Last Exorcism Now Playing
Box office numbers turned into a horse race last week, with early reports claiming The Last Exorcism actually topped the deftly cast heist flick Takers. As the final numbers were tallied, Takers did edge out a win, but just barely.

Why is this a surprise? Takers is a slick, genre-specific movie with a multi-ethnic cast built to pull the dream demographic of 18- to 24-year-old males. You have hot black guys, hot white guys, and a handsome Latino for good measure. On top of all that, there's an old guy (I still remember swooning over Matt Dillon in his tighty-whities as he popped Kristy McNichol's cherry in Little Darlings circa 1980) to bring in, well, other old guys.

The Last Exorcism, on the other hand, is a low-budget horror film with a genre-busting gimmick and a nameless cast. Seems like Takers should have been a slam dunk. That didn't happen.

The Last Exorcism is almost a good movie. The setup isn't revolutionary (a girl may or may not be possessed by a demon, and she may or may not have a couple of other secrets, too), but it keeps you guessing the entire time. Unfortunately, the early going feels a bit stretched and the last 15 minutes feels a bit rushed. This is a pacing problem and should have been fixed in the editing room. The bottom line is there isn't enough story to support an hour-and-40-minute film.

The acting is decent, with Ashley Bell shifting from wide-eyed ingénue to bug-eyed possessed girl with enthusiasm. Veteran actor Patrick Fabian works the hell out of his disillusioned preacher character and keeps on working even when his character does stupid things. Tony Bentley pulls off the best acting trick as the local clergyman with a small secret.

That brings us to the biggest problem with The Last Exorcism: The hand-held camera as character gimmick. Technically, this is a cinematic device (think of the game-changer The Blair Witch Project), but in the hands of director Daniel Stamm the device becomes gimmicky.

A cinematic device is employed to tell a story, develop tension, create composition, and/or to somehow further the filmmaker's vision. A gimmick is used to create cheap thrills designed to cash in on other folks' real creativity. In this case, I suspect the filmmakers used it to save money.

Whatever the reason, it doesn't work. Transition and establishing shots become narrative problems. The story arc is limited and watching can be physically dizzying. The camera as character may work in a short film or even a shorter feature film, but it's tough to sustain for an hour and 40 minutes.

Perhaps the biggest problem with The Last Exorcism is the last 15 minutes. This should be the money shot with the possessed girl doing all sorts of disgusting stuff that we know will keep us up at night but that we just love watching anyhow. The movie teases along for almost an hour and a half and then lets you down. It's like having sex for a long time without an orgasm. I say skip The Last Exorcism and see the first Exorcist. That movie will scare you.









 
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