Wednesday, April 28, 2010

1 Year! It's my anniversary...

It's been exactly one year since I started this, and this is my 51st post. I've published 35 film reviews covering 50 movies (some in batches) and one TV show. There's also a variety of articles covering aspects of cinema and movie-going, online availability via Hulu, links of film news, and more.

So this is a good time to say a few things, ask some questions, and address a few issues. First, thanks to everyone who contributed to my film discussions, who posted a comment on fb or this site - I appreciate the feedback, the disagreement, the opinions. I'm always open to debate on any topic, especially film, and I love having a spirited and challenging conversation about movies. I wish I could do it more often and with more people.

I should point out that, in addition to my knack for hyperbole, I often employ a particular kind of cynicism. For one thing, it's not constant - just one of many tools for approaching a situation. I do get displeased sometimes with studios, executives, and the many different groups that make the film industry work. Still, the only real frustration arises from watching powerful and capable people perform below their abilities. It's worse to see them do it recklessly. And that, in turn, can be frustrating because cinema is such a big aspect of my culture.

Movies are such a big deal in America. In many ways, I feel our pop culture is our culture. Americans often relate to each other and the world around them through pure pop - top 40 songs, blockbuster films, megahit tv shows. Conversations take place around all of us every day - how many times in the last week have you talked about (or heard friends/strangers discuss) one of those three things? Even when folks talk about art, they're often really just addressing the pop-culture elements of a song or movie, not their artistic aspects. This is a real shame.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Weekly link run-down, part 3

Life's been hectic lately, so I took my sweet time getting this written. Sadly, it's mostly remake/reboot news, so my comments/snark will be light.

The bad news first: Hulu may start charging for any videos older than the "5 current episodes" fronted by most networks. The plan is to increase ad duration and charge $10/month for all the old stuff Hulu has. I advise you to read the article, mourn a little, and maybe email the company a complaint - explain how stupid this idea is.

Please also realize that this idea is guaranteed to explode in Hulu's owners' faces. And it should, because Hulu is one of the few stand-up things that the entertainment industry has ever done for the American public.

The standard approach to the public by the entertainment industry is simply predatory. Here's the condensed version of the info in that LA times article.

Pixar got the Disney bug a bit hard, I guess. The Champions of Storytelling and their owner have announced their upcoming works through 2012 and it's sequel-heavy to say the least. Pixar is making 3 sequels and 2 new films. It's especially surprising since one sequel is "Cars 2," a follow-up to their most critically-panned picture yet.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"House of the Devil" - Let's do the time warp again!

2009's "House of the Devil" is not amazing - it's just a simple, good, horror film. The first thing you'll notice is that it looks 20+ years older than it is, and that's not an problem. It also has the best title sequence I've seen in years.

"HotD" is an intentional throwback: there's a young coed with a "Charlie's Angels" hairstyle. She's a cutie who turns to babysitting for cash. Her friend tools around in an old Volvo, listening to classic rock. Even the color schemes feel straight out of "Friday the 13th" or "The Hills Have Eyes." The effect is great, but the whole production is backed up by solid filmmaking.

The writers, director and actors give us good acting, a nice score, and a basic, suspenseful, story that plays out nicely. Violence is intense without being over-the-top, harsh enough for genre devotees but too quick and infrequent to be excessive. There's no noticeable CGI to make things easier for the crew. Best of all, the audience gets a quick ride that never overstays its welcome.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Weekly link run-down p.2

Another week, another batch of film news to go over. Is it bleak or promising? I mostly highlight a slew of improbable productions, all attempts at establishing franchises (sigh). I have a larger article on the topic coming, but in the meantime...

Netflix Agrees to Delay Releases for 3 Big Studios
Netflix trades instant streaming of many shows for a 28-day delay in releasing new movies by Fox, WB, and Universal. It's a smart move by the studios, and one I actually thought they'd decided on before - because I never rented films online until 2008. It doesn't seem like a weak business move for Netflix either - their streaming selection now includes every season of 24, Arrested Development, every show made by Joss Whedon, and many more.

What do lovers of film think? Do you care if Avatar comes out in April and can only be rented in May?

Mighty Mouse - Dredging Up Old Intellectual Property Reaches a New High
A Mighty Mouse movie. Yes, I dimly know about this old figure, but I haven't even seen a picture since the early 90's at best. Still, it's pre-packaged for the revenue-generating kids' market and has "a lot of source material" - these seem to be the requisite two lame excuse for what gets produced these days. [Because two excuses makes it sound reasonable and thought-out]

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Bad Taste" - Peter Jackson's Early Glories, Pt. 2

"Welcome, my friends. The job is almost done! We take off for home tomorrow; I'm sure you'll be pleased to be leaving this shitty planet." - Lord Crumb

What does a New Zealand town, fast food, and a tax collector have in common? They're elements of Peter Jackson's first film, "Bad Taste." 1987's action-horror gem lives up to its name nicely (that's a compliment). The clever, precise execution here would be a credit to any director on any budget, much less a freshman on his own small dime.

I hope "Bad Taste" is picked up as a midnight film, since PJ's demented debut would fill any theater with laughter and fright. The sounds of the disgusted-but-delighted crowd would be worth recording...
"Get out of there fast, Derek!" "I can't do that - I'm a Derek. Dereks don't run." - Barry and Derek
Honestly, this is the very definition of a cult film, but it might give you nightmares if you're squeamish. It IS sick, but it's a great ride. I think that the story, music, and pure sense of fun make it an easier ride than it should be; that is quite necessary with the sort of icky, creepy, shocking, goosebump-inducing gross-outs that occur.

Still, "BT" doesn't attain "torture porn" status since (a) it's demented, not mean-spirited, (b) it actually has humor, plots, etc, and (c) it was made by a real filmmaker, not a cheap hack. This movie rivals "Evil Dead 2" in tension, humor, blood, execution, and talent. In fact, it has more action than "ED2," but they're different stories.

It begins with a panicked voice and a prim phone operator. Before he's cut off, the caller mentions lights, loud sounds, and "invaders" killing people. Now, a coastal New Zealand town must be investigated: the lucky blokes are a team of four government employees, good Kiwis in the Astro Investigation and Defence Service.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Weekly link run-down p.1

What pleasures or horrors await us in film this week? Mostly terrors, I'm afraid. Make yourself a mug of cocoa (or some comforting drink) and let's go over a few things...

Genius Skewers the Star Wars Prequels Perfectly

What can I say? It's a perfectly-wrought and hilarious dissection of the Star Wars Prequels Disaster. The reviewer adds a lot of hysterical madness to give these reviews extra punch (inspired by the "Saw" films, maybe?). Although it takes 70 minutes to crush "Phantom Menace" (& 90 for "Attack of the Clones"), it's so funny and entertaining - and dead-on accurate - that it never feels indulgent or drawn-out. I'm so impressed, I'm almost jealous. Massive props go out again to AICN for leading me to this. No matter what problems I have with their reviews/reviewers, they really do bring out some amazing #$@1.

Creepy E*Trade Ad Babies are the basis for a film. Seriously.

Thank you, AV club, for reminding me that no idea is too stupid for Hollywood. Actually, I grew up during the 80s, so I should've remembered that Jim Varney got 9 "Ernest" movies made in 11 years. "Ernest Goes to Camp," "Earnest Goes to Jail," etc... - somewhere, a writer was probably trying to make the first "Memento" or "Brick" or "Pan's Labyrinth" and was turned down because the picture on the right was deemed "more appealing to Americans."

The premise is, as the article states, that a movie will be made solely on the basis of those creepy part-CGI infants that are in recent E-Trade commercials. Yes, Tinsel Town sure isn't interested in things like plot or story. America sends a great image of itself out, huh?

"Splice" Trailer Released

This film looks like a blast, and I sincerely hope it carries through. The names attached since its inception (coincidentally the title to another film I eagerly anticipate) certainly carry enough promise... Lovely.

Hulu carries film premiere
A fine day for this post-internet-film-distribution-post-modern-period. I have no idea if the film is any good, but I'll try to give word within the next two weeks.