Thursday, December 29, 2011

Things

The cat head mix of  The Dark Knight Rises trailer is "meh"
So we come to the end of the year, and a little wrapup. It's a nice, if cheesy, moment, especially since 2011 was great for this blog.

I'm very proud of the pace I kept from January to September. I've never sustained an effort like that, and I'm glad I didn't sacrifice quality for it. I streamlined my reviews a little (i.e., used fewer words). I kept up with news about my pet topics - online video options and the "streaming wars," unneccessary remakes/sequels...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Die Hard, My 2011 Holiday Movie

Everyone knows that Die Hard is set at Christmas, and, like Jaws 4 last year, it seemed a perfect choice for my holiday reviewing. Die Hard is one of the best action films ever, the picture that elevated Bruce Willis from rising popularity on a hit TV show to one of America's most successful movie stars. In short, being Die Hard means never disappointing anyone in the audience.

Simple enough premise: John McClane, an everyday-joe NYC cop, flies out to LA. Arriving at the skyscraper his estranged wife works in, he's surprised by her company's holiday party. He's hoping to reconcile and see their children, but blunders into a tense fight instead. Alone, cooling his heels, McClane hears gunshots from the hallway. Everyone else is now a hostage, so John hides and does whatever he can: contact the police, stop the well-armed invaders, and protect his wife.

The appeal of DH is pretty obvious: the action is tense, visceral, and inventive. The cast is, from the 10-second roles to the main players, full of vivid characters that have a real impact on the viewer. The dialogue is smart, playing the situations with appropriate gravity and successful humor. The music and acting and camerawork are all great. The word "success" might have a picture of the Die Hard poster next to it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Some End of Year Videos

I (should) have one post left before 2012. I've got a lot to do before the year ends, and I can't be certain I'll find time for more. So, like yesterday's post on news and links, I'm closing out 2011 by putting up some videos that I've found during my 2-month blogging break. Enjoy, please.

RedLetterMedia announced that they're adding a new Plinkett review soon. They've just finished a live-stream marathon of all the earlier Plinkett works, and I'm looking forward to a break from their cool Half in the Bag series. Their funny, thorough take on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull went up today. Below is the trailer for the review. I'm sure it'll be a fun ride for all of us.

Great "Emperor" voice, right?

Dangerous Minds was good enough to introduce me to a Pulp Fiction fan-cut. This one's edited into the chronological order of the film's events. It's a brand-new way of looking at a picture that all of us saw and most of us love.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Some End of Year News and Links

This post contains 7 links. The first set has some handy and funny sites or posts that any film fan should want to check out. The second set contains some news articles that came out during my break; I consider these special enough to point out, even if they're no longer timely. I can be fickle that way. I have one more post set to come out this month, doing a similar catch-up on videos that I would've put up if I had not been on a break.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Netflix App Experience

I said I'd only have one more post for the rest of 2011, but I want to wrap some things up before January. I've written about what it's like to use certain services, like Youtube's free movies and Hulu Plus. Here, I'll cover the Netflix app for a tablet running the latest Android. Overall, it's a nifty system with some flaws that I hope get smoothed out soon.

I almost wrote this as a news entry when the revised app appeared in mid-November. Downloading and installation are easy. The application doesn't require too many permissions, all things considered. It's been updated once in the last 2 months, with noticeable improvements, and has frozen or crashed about a dozen times; since I decided to put the system to heavy use for a spell, that's not so often as to be an issue.

UPDATE 12/17/11 - the app has a new update available as of last night, and the permissions it's asking for are completely insane. "Full Network Access," meaning it can "create network sockets," is a little creepy, but I'm more worried that it asks for permission to "Read sensitive log data." The latter options means it can "read from the system's various log files. This allows it to discover general information about what you are doing with the tablet, potentially including personal or private information." My suggestion is that you DON'T take the update. My other suggestion is that Netflix go screw itself and stop trying to spy on people.

One surprise is that the videos load more quickly than through a web browser, both on start and when skipping forward or back. It's really nice to catch a line that you missed and know that you won't have a 15-second wait ahead of you. There are fewer "loading" screens overall, though you're likely to face one if you pause playback or don't use the app for a while. The video quality is sometimes poor at first, but within 5-10 seconds, I guess more data loads and it becomes picture-perfect.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hunter Prey, an indie shames the studios

He looks like Bobba Fett. This may help.
Hunter Prey is the first full-length release by Sandy Collora. I've written about this independent genius before, and I'm happy to cover this picture today. This fun sci-fi/action film has some brains, a little comedy, and tons of beautiful scenery that support a smartly character-driven story. This is what you haven't been getting from Hollywood for the last X years.

We begin in space, with a ship in transit. It breaks apart. Then we're with a group of people in armored suits in some kind of desert. They were transporting a prisoner, who's now loose after the crash. Sorry, "now loose after the crash and stalking his captors." As I wrote in my Year-End post, it's US Marshals meets Predator.

My earlier comments were a nice summary: this story feels like a movie-inspired video game. We follow a small unit of soldiers trying to recapture a bad guy, occasionally tracking the enemy with a pinging hand-held device, like in Aliens. They wear super-suits with a talking artificial intelligence, like in HALO. Hell, given the armor design and the desert terrain, it looks like a great spin-off of Star Wars IV.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

George Lucas in Love: a classic Fan-made Gem

Yet another quality vid I should've pointed out earlier. In 1999, some young genius was inspired by the film Shakespeare in Love. SiL might have annoyed some, but I remember enjoying it in the theater as a good romantic meta-comedy, which, like the modern-day George Lucas, rehashed everything you've seen before, whether you wanted that or not. GLiL, however, was accessible, quick, and funny.

In that way, SiL was like Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, which made the stupid-but-entertaining choice to show Indy getting his whip, hat, chin scar, and fear of snakes all in one freakishly-eventful day (it was fun, if preposterous and reductive). Yet SiL still carried its burden as a comedy with love at its core, while playing through plots and jokes that came straight out of the works of the titular 17th-Century writer.

In much the same way, GLiL shows the story of a young Lucas suffering from writer's block while at film school. Much like Joseph Fiennes' Shakespeare, inspiration is all around him, yet it can't come together yet until he gets some wisdom to balance out his passions. The result is just excellent.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Year-End Roundup 2011

It's time for 2011 to get out of our collective faces and for 2012 to bring it on. We all have parties and Santacon and end-of-year business to get to. But you gotta clear out the old stuff before you bring in something new, so this is my review of the year in movies. I'm going to stick to the 8 categories I used last year, although there are some variations. Enjoy.

Best New Release (that I actually saw) - um... I actually have no memory of any film I saw in the theater this year besides Friends with Benefits. I don't know why... but at least I'm man enough to admit it. Let's move on, shall we?

Best Out-of-the-Blue Release - Friends with Benefits.



An odd way of moving on, right? My favorite reviewers didn't like this at all, and I don't get it. This was not a JLO or Kate Hudson film, where two attractive people smile and face "zany" plots but fail to elicit chemistry. I don't complain about romantic comedies because I need them to be like The Princess Bride, Splash, or When Harry Met Sally. I complain because they're not convincingly funny or romantic.

To that end, Kunis and Timberlake were good in their roles, the sex/romance material was well done, and there were many jokes that made me laugh. Recent "rom-coms" really bomb that last part, so maybe I'm glossing over some flaws - like Timbo not knowing what a "flash mob" is. I still think the cast did a good job of supporting an entertaining movie... Maybe it was my low expectations?

Most Internal-Conflict-Causing Release - Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock's in Azkaban?
I waited until it was on Netflix Instant and,  as seen in the review linked above, felt a bit torn after. The movie looked beautiful, and there were many nice character beats and scenes. Regardless, it felt like Robert Downey Jr. was just doing his Iron Man bit, and so this did not feel like a story about the most famous literary detective ever. I know the Holmes' character pretty well, and he was not it.

SH should've just been a "new property" period-piece mystery, really. BBC's Sherlock is more authentic, and that's a modernized version.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Netflix expands tablets usage, pays no attention to PR

You don't need me to tell you this, do you? After this year of crazy announcements and unrelenting emails from Netflix's CEO? After the removal of all "friends" features, making "member reviews" anonymous (and thus, worthless), hiking rates 2x in >1 year?

Of course you don't need me to tell you this. You've seen it for yourself. And, if you dropped your dvd service and kept streaming like I did, you know that you can't look up an actor's available CV. Yes, the system only shows the movies that you can watch instantly. Who would wanna know that other stuff, right?

So yes, Netflix continues to pay no attention to their customers or basic principles of PR. It's just a little funnier this time out.

This week, Netflix expanded its tablet compatibility to include Kindle Fire (as of today 11/11/11) and Barnes & Noble's NOOK (announced four days ago). There's nothing technically bad about this news. Sure, it will help increase internet traffic, raising bandwidth throttling and pricing issues again, but I won't argue that now. Maybe I'm bitter that I had to install the Netflix app 3 times before it would stream anything.

What's wrong is how they the company released Monday's news.


Look at that image above again and laugh with me, please. In the headline of the article, it's announced that "Netfix" was available on the NOOK. How the hell do you screw up your own company's name in a news announcement? It's part of the title, it's in the url, and it's clear as day! And it sounds like a business founded by Ewan MacGregor's character in Trainspotting; "choose Netfix," right?

The fact that this is a major, big-boy company with paid staff and everything is what makes this so surprising. The sheer snark-factor of it all was enough to make me put out this post. My vacation, however, is still on-going, and I don't have an update on that yet.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Movie Review Quickies, X (Halloween Edition)

It's a special time: my 200th post! No wait, also Halloween. A time to dress up unlike yourself; indulge the scariest, most macabre, ideas you can. Get a fake (properly-rigged!) noose and make someone think you're dead. Decorate your house with creepy stuff. And watch scary movies, even if you're not very much into them.

If you're a full-time goth, bdsm-fetishist, or taxidermy nut, then I truly pity you: it's just a wilder Monday than usual. In any case, since it's nearly All Hollow's Eve, I'm reviewing 7 horror movies (here are the jump links to each entry) - Freddy vs. Jason, The Ruins, Trick 'r Treat, Leviathan, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Black Sheep, and Dee Snyder's Strangeland - as well as providing a final set of recommendations for anyone looking for a good scare. Enjoy, please, and feel free to let me know your thoughts.

Freddy vs. Jason
I walked into this because the original Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the greatest things ever put to film. It's so scary, I wouldn't blame anyone for running out of theater and trying to stay up for several nights. It has a great cast - Depp, Englund, Saxon, Langenkampf (I miss saying that name). It even has John Cusack's evil gf from Better Off Dead. Forget (most of) the sequels.

The Friday the 13th series, as I've written before, is a difficult case. Once you understand where it stands in film history, you see why something like that could create 10 sequels. Most of them were odd film "events" - like the occasional James Bond pic over the last 45 years. Their budgets and quality fluctuated even more than Nightmare's. Still, "everyone" knows the names "Freddy Krueger" and "Jason Voorhees." The synergy must've been easy to sell.

2003's Freddy vs. Jason was a bit schizo, smashing together elements from each. At least the starring pair were combined neatly: Freddy can't haunt kids unless "the public" fears him. His town, however, deleted all records that even name him. Krueger decides to bring Jason into town because any supernatural killing machine is sure to make people eventually think Freddy's back. Of course, Jason's a little too good, leaving no survivors for Fred to feed on.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Netflix lost 810,00 "members"

It's easy, sitting back here on my blog-cation. It's also a lot of fun watching news updates come in. I took Netflix to task in a post I wrote when I heard about their second price increase in under a year. I did it again when they announced they would spin off their DVD business, and I also covered their reversal of that decision. Now, I'm writing one more time, to discuss the aftermath of all this.

Netflix lost 810,000 viewers between July/August and October of 2011. According to CBS, their stock price also dropped 31% in after-hours trading as a result of the company's declaration of the extent of their losses. Before I slag off the service (I mean, really, I let my membership lapse for a month and half but still re-subscribed, just to prove a point), I will say a few things in their defense. I'm like that.

For one, the company was over-optimistic on their membership figures, but only by 200,000 members/viewers/human being (whatever those are). For another, the company still improved on its earnings by over 50% of what it earned last year at the same time. These two facts serve as proof for me that the stock market is a ridiculous, senseless place. It is, by its nature, driven by mob mentality - some loud noise happens on the left, so everyone runs to the right; something looks scary, so it must be threatening. It's scarier than Freddy Kreuger to think that our economy actually relies on this system.

It's especially scary, because it's clear by the numbers that Netflix is not on the verge of collapse, and has a lot of value, and will continue to do good business. Honestly, given that my country-men and -women are so addicted to tv and film that they will watch them on tiny cell-phone (much less tablet) screens, there's no freaking way that Netflix will suddenly become a bust, like the Edsel or Coke 2. All this "market action" is driven by idiots with just enough info to be over-scared or over-confident.

I take comfort in knowing that if the collective "stock market world" were put in a horror movie, their dumb asses would run straight into a trap and get killed in no time flat. Thank heaven.

Turning now to the flipside: Netflix precipitated all this selling in the market by the letter it sent to its investors, announcing its problems over this last quarter. This corporate entity basically made an admission of how things were not going very smoothly. Still, this type of public declaration is required by the SEC for publicly-traded stock, so it was an act of obligation, not kindness and forthrightness.

Also, even tho the news was written for a fairly-impersonal process - like contacting an uncle/cousin you despise about the death of a mutual relation - it still gave this news in the most impersonal, sugar-coated, bs-ey way possible. You can read that letter here. It's all business, folks, and it's run like a den of prostitution where they (I don't know from personal experience) time your activities down to the second, and bill you as much as possible. Netflix states that it still expects to do great on a "global" scale, because they can afford to get trashed in the US while they opened up business in the rest of the Americas, and soon England and Ireland, too.

So the only way I can properly sum up everything I've typed is this: Netflix is still a "good" company in terms of profitability. It's still an increasingly lousy company in terms of how it respects and treats the people that actually use and pay for it. I will give them a hard time, but their viability is still obvious. Just like I-Tunes didn't totally suck because they copy-protected their music.

All things taken together, this phenomenon/business/fad is pretty much like The Soup Nazi - it may not treat you great, but it still gives a lot of satisfaction for what it demands from you. As a consumer, then, it's up to you to decide whether it's worth what it costs.

And if anyone has suggestions for how I can further distance myself from them, I'm open to it: at this point, I don't care any more about Netflix than it cares about me; it's one of the least seductive brands of all-time. It's like having an attractive person proposition you for really-good, but utterly meaningless, sex.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2 Vids, other film blogs, PS I'm on holiday

Yes, I said it in May, but I found more blog posts within myself. I powered thru June, July, August, and September like a 1-ton lovin' machine because that's what I am. This video shows, more or less, what happened to me recently:

"...I can dodge bad movies?" "No, Thaddeus... when you're ready, you won't have to."

Except you didn't see the kiss before my revival, and, rumors be damned, I never had a physical encounter with Hugo Weaving; other than that, it was pretty much what you just saw. & I inspired myself to keep posting through injuries, hospital trips, rough work conditions, and big life changes. Others have written through worse, how could I not?

But keeping this site is a labor of love, and it feels like I'm "makin' love out of nothing at all." While it's doable, now I need a recharge; I like what I write and even I get tired of hearing me singing solos. Thus I am weary, having said before that breaks would be necessary. So here we are, announcing my leave in my 199th post =)

Yes, I was holding for applause.

The upside: The 2011 pace was at least what I promised, 12x/mo, and I beat my combined output for 2009 and 2010. If you've followed me, you noticed that I upped the pace even more. I made 6 additional posts in August & September, with which I could've easily strung everyone along until November. I didn't because I run a class operation, and believe in finishing strongly. And I wanted to play with my schedule a bit, even while planning this break. Maybe when I come back, I'll post every day..

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

John Carpenter's The Thing: The Musical

Jon and Al Kaplan have contributed a lot to the world. The Predator Musical, the Conan musical - those have been featured here before.

Now this: John Carpenter's The Thing, The Musical. J & A have made a beautiful piece, all the more so because it breaks style from their earlier work. Instead of parodying Les Mis, they took a page off The Rat Pack, and so we have Sinatra/Dean belting out the tale of an alien creature bent on world destruction, all in a swanky mood\. If anything, this makes me want to rewatch Carpenter's classic all the more.

I noticed this yesterday while I was making sure my "Netflix-not-Qwickster" post went up properly, so I set this entry to post today. I will shortly alter my "Vacation" post so it appears after both. Enjoy, please:


Monday, October 10, 2011

Netflix buys itself a clue, so my vacation takes a back seat

So I announced my vacation this past Saturday. It received all the fanfare that I expected. Then Netflix messed that up for me with today's announcement: they are undoing their decision to split the DVD and streaming business into separate companies. The news went out by 9AM this morning, and the company sent me an email saying the same about 2 & 1/2 hours after that.

I'm glad that Netflix made this choice - that they "saw the light" (or "got their heads out of their asses") - but it also means I have to break my vacation silence. Clearly, their Charlie Sheen-style binge has already reached the repentance phase. I've written about them too much to not follow this news and give my two cents. I think I'll post this and then re-date my "vacation" post so it'll show up afterwards.

Why did Netflix reverse its decision? Was it because of fan outcry? Was it because the idea wouldn't produce the desired "efficiencies" that the company was hoping for? Hell, no, it was because their stock price has dropped by about 60%. That's what they really care about, and that's what really motivated them.

It may sound harsh, like I'm an anti-corporate type, but that's not true. It's just that, if you follow my posts on Netflix, you'll recall that they removed all the personalization from their service. Specifically, you can't tell who gave a good/bad review to a video.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

34 Seconds of Movie "NOOO"s

This, of course, ties back to my entry about George Lucas' forthcoming alteration of Return of the Jedi - specifically Darth Vader rescuing Luke from the Emperor while shouting, "No! Noo!" It's all the better given last Thursday's news that Steven Spielberg regrets altering ET to, among other things, give the bad guys walkie-talkies instead of guns. Thank you, Jungian Synchronicity!

The High Definite, which often posts "supercuts," introduced me to this vid, bless their hearts. It's not the best supercut, really - I can recall several movie moments that could've been included - but it's still fairly amusing, and you might like some of their more unusual choices. In other words: (a) great use of Sexy Beast, and (b) I can't believe I got a post-There's Something About Mary laugh from Chris Elliot.


I think this is worth at least one or two broad smiles, especially given that it's just 34 seconds long. I also think this will be funnier in context of my next post, coming tomorrow or the day after.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why I Won't Watch September 11th Films

It's toughest for films to satisfy some people on things that they're most familiar with. I'm a nearly life-long New Yorker and I will never watch a single movie about September 11th. Not if they're directed by Oliver Stone, with Nicholas Cage as that cop, or even the one directed by Paul Greengrass.


My reason is that I don't think movies have anything important or "real" to say about the events of that day. I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell of getting something worthwhile from a 2-hour cinematic narrative (and definitely not from a series) depicting the occupants of those planes, the people in all the buildings involved, or the individuals who had to run toward or away from fires or falling masonry.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Netflix Goes Full-On Charlie Sheen, Spins off DVD Service

Just minutes before I did my regular check of Netflix's blog, I decided to see what's new on the AV Club's site. Rare for the early hours of a Monday, they had news up. And, wow, this one's sort of a big deal.

I've reminded readers twice over the past few months that Netflix sees its future as an "online streaming only" business. Now comes the announcement that Netflix will spin off their DVD service into a new company that will handle DVDs exclusively. I #$@# you not, my friends.

In a post that went online at 9PM last night, Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO, discussed the recent price change that's gone over so poorly with members, stock analysts, and their own investors. This incredibly flawed defense for their actions makes a lot of unlikely statements like:
Most companies that are great at something... do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us) because they are afraid to hurt their initial business.
and

Oh this image is too funny


I don't need to make a punchline. This picture does all the work. I saw it, then I just laughed and laughed.

I thought I'd leave it at that, and for everyone who wants to stop there, don't click "Read More »" - just enjoy the moment. But really, every element except for the background image is worth cracking up over.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hollow Point - B-Action at its Best

A recent conversation with a friend: what comedy do you love that you can't explain to anyone else? 1996's Hollow Point is sort of like that, only for an action/comedy B-movie. The stunts are good enough for any pic, the roles are very fun, and it uses humor as the lynchpin that holds it all together. Why do I praise the comedic touches here so strongly?

That's why.

The storylines center on three parts: Dianne is an FBI agent going through a rough spell. She spent years undercover, seducing the son of a Russian mob boss. After luring the old man out - by marrying his son! - the sting goes awry, the old man gets away, and the son is killed. Her last few partners have all died on duty, and the mob's just offed her best friend. And then there's that damn annoying guy who ruined her bust...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Pig with the Froggy Tattoo, Netflix Stock Drop

Let me lead with the talky stuff first. In July, I told Netflix to "eat a bag of ducks" because they hiked fees twice in under a year. I figured they made a bad bet about the bandwidth used by members. I suggested everyone suspend their accounts before the new, pricier billing cycle this month; in conversation, many of my friends agreed.

So... you can imagine how happy I am to learn that Netflix's stock dropped over 13% from losing customers. The AV Club article I linked to here also filled me in on news I missed - Starz will cancel their deal with Netflix; this means that, in Feb 2012, the rental giant will lose streaming rights to pix from Disney and Sony, as well as Starz's original shows. Will their recent launch into Latin America and the Caribbean help them regain lost ground?

Well, at least 13+% isn't that... Oh. Well, at least lots of people don't want to stream movies from Disney and... Oh. Wait, that must hurt. I'm almost crying with laughter; I love it when people get greedy and insensitive, then face a little instant karma. It puts a fresh face on Jason Alexander's commercial for The Netflix Relief Fund, that's for sure.

[Update 9/16/11]: My friend Ash sent me a link to yesterday's techcrunch post. It highlights how (a) Netflix revised their forecasts, as they misjudged the loss of members and (b) confirms the stock dip was 14.9% (double-ouch). He also sent me this great web comic from July, which I hadn't seen before. I'm amazed no one is really talking about Netflix's plan to drop DVDs altogether - which I still feel is climbing Mount Everest, then blowing the damn thing up.

Did you follow my advice and use the free online vid options I suggested? Did you read my earlier post? As you walk on by, will you call my name? Sorry, scratch that Simple Minds reference. With no further comment, I give you the Muppets' teaser trailer for The Pig with the Froggy Tattoo.

I guess the original title would translate as "men puppets who hate women puppets"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Great Moments in Bad Films: Masterminds

We've all seen bad pictures. Maybe you thought they would be good. Maybe, like me, you had a friend who was going through a rough patch and you accompanied them to something you knew would suck; it's the only reason I saw The Island and Transformers to support a divorce-besieged pal. God, I'm a good friend to have on your side...

Yet lots of films that are "no good" still show little touches, moments of wit, cleverness, inspiration... This post is dedicated to one such scene: 1997's Masterminds follows the plot of another inferior movie, Toy Soldiers. The whole concept is that a boarding school is overrun by terrorists who find that the kids are as resourceful as John McClane in Die Hard.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: Of Two Minds

On one hand, you have Sherlock Holmes, a well-shot, well-acted movie. This picture is a thrilling crowd-pleaser that's smart and engrossing, yet delivers high-octane action.

On the other hand, there's Sherlock Holmes, a brilliantly-shot and performed summertime blockbuster that was released on Xmas Eve. It's nice but loud, and has some odd or sloppy choices, a carefully-calculated effort that misunderstands its titular character and is more hollow than it seems.

I was lucky to be able to watch both at the same time. I got to notice flaws in a fun, pretty picture while still enjoying it. In short: Sherlock Holmes is a great popcorn film that looks gorgeous and has good action, but it's entertaining without being exciting. The Matrix, Inception, and 28 Days Later were all both entertaining and exciting. 2009's Sherlock isn't in that league, and is inferior to the Sherlock BBC series I reviewed in June.

A classic "Holmes gets the case" scene!
The film is designed for "extreme" success With a core cast of Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams, this was guaranteed to draw a large audience. Before Holmes, Law and McAdams had been working a lot; they have 20 combined films in the 5 years before its '09 release. 2 Downey movies in 2008 made roughly $800Mil. These are very popular people, in addition to being attractive and talented actors. SH cleared $524Mil at the box office, so... good bet.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Unusual Influence of American Me

Ever had a friend say that they went to a movie and it was a disaster? Well, many years ago, a brother of mine told me what happened when he saw American Me, an LA gang movie directed by Edward James Olmos. His thoughts about the movie and the evening had a huge impact on me, though I've never seen it. Have you been influenced by a close friend's opinion like that?

Today, I'm writing about a rarely-discussed aspect of movies: the reliable review from a friend that scares you away. If you've been in the same position, grab your socks and hold on; I may just blow them right off your feet.

American Me is about Mexican gangs in California, from the 40s/50s and on. The movie describes how a young kid starts a gang, then find that gang life dominates his life. How? Well, he gets busted for BS, then murders the guy who rapes him on his first night in juvie. This act of revenge earns him a prison sentence, so he goes into the system at 16 and leaves at 34. In that time, he starts a powerful and successful new gang, yet lived only an awful, cruel mockery of a real life.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Great Moments in Film Karma for Animal Cruelty

The clip below is from Steven Seagal's Out For Justice. What's missing is the scene where Seagal jams on his breaks because a plastic Hefty bag has been thrown in front of his car. Inside - an adorable puppy! That's just evil.

Steven, our valiant, street-clearing, elbow-breaking cop remembers only the bumper sticker (guess they didn't train him on license plates). And now, after standing up for the community, beating back the mafia, and avenging his partner's death, our hero finds the guy who tossed a puppy out a car window. With all the cursing they're both supposed to be from NYC or NJ, maybe Yonkers...


And the resulting testicular trauma should feel rewarding for just about anyone. Although, yes, it would've been better to arrest the vile jerk instead of spinning him around and kicking him where it counts. Then again, maybe this was mercy - Steven could've broken the guy's bones.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Wisdom of Crocodiles Review

Jude Law plays Steven Grlscz, an unusual bloke with an unpronounceable last name. He casually strolls away from a car-wreck scene - we learn later that was his fiancee. Maybe he's not taking it too well. He does, after all, write the word "despair" in his diary.

And then Steven stops a woman from killing herself in a Tube station. He gives her his card, and the two become involved. Then he kills the lady and drinks her blood. He dumps the body and writes the word "disappointment" in his diary. Yeah, Steven's an unusual bloke...

Yet our lead doesn't have long teeth, and can go out whenever he pleases. In fact, murders aside, Mr. Grlscz largely lives like a normal person. He works, tries to avoid fights with muggers, answers questions for the police, and soon gets into the orbit of lovely Anne. She's not just a looker - she's an engineer who just radiates personal strength and confidence.

What follows is Steven's attempt to make things work with what may be the right woman. Of course, given what we've seen, the real question is: right for what?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

You Shoulda Been a Movie: System Shock 2

I was considering an article about video game movies, and how they're uniformly sucktastic. But I'm tired of covering fantasy-type stuff, and that sort of entry would still involve making 1-2 paragraph reviews for several on-screen train wrecks. I'm in the mood for something far more positive and fun.

So it's not just that I don't want to review Doom, 3 Resident Evil sequels, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, Super Mario Bros., or BloodRayne. Forget the low expectations I'd have based on the bad rep of each one! I'd rather cover a solid drama, or a even mediocre indie pic by far... But I'd be happier still writing about a game that should be made into a movie. So...

There's a video game called System Shock 2; it came out in 1999. I had a good pc, so I bought & played it. This computerized horror/sci-fi/fantasy venture has landed on multiple "best games" lists, and I'm going to explain why.

SS2, from the boot-up video on, carries out the terrifying idea that you've somehow slept through a nasty alien force overrunning your vessel in the far reaches of space. Your lone companion is a caustic and acerbic Doctor; she's trying to guide you to her, by radio. The terror grows immeasurably several hours in, as you start to wonder whether there's anyone on-board who's still alive or sane.


The only way I can express the appeal, to those that don't play games, is simple: pick the best horror movie you've ever seen. I mean one that satisfied you with its story and acting, but also (a) creeped you out all the time while (b) scaring you senseless, repeatedly. Now imagine playing that movie as a 15-20 hour experience.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tucker & Dale vs Evil looks SO good

The last few weeks, I haven't found much to lure me into a theater. Then I read about the comedy, Tucker & Dale vs Evil, which comes out this Sept 30th. It sounds like the sort of idea I would have but forget to write down before going back to sleep. Damn!

It seems so good, actually, that I'm flat out asking you to rely on my description of the premise and the one video I'll include below. Please don't learn more about this movie, it'll only spoil your fun. I'm gonna have a few drinks to destroy my memories of the way-too-revealing trailer.

The Premise of this dark comedy: Tucker and Dale are two average guys, good ol' boy-types from West Virginia. Respectively, they're played by Alan Tudyk (from Firefly, DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, Death at a Funeral) and Tyler Labine (from... Invasion and Reaper?). Tucker is thoughtful and perceptive, while Dale is fun-loving and kind. They see some good-looking college kids out for a fun weekend in the woods - but the group is soon convinced that Tucker and Dale are actually psycho hillbillies who want to kill them.

If you see the actual trailer, you'll see too many of the fun beats that are coming our way. That's why I'm happy I saw the video really late last night, and why I'll erase those memories in the next 20+ days. This idea plays perfectly on the cliches of the horror franchise from the 80s to now.

The best part is that these young people sound like the cast of Scream. They know horror films, and are thinking of all the obvious signs and dangers those pix display. As you'll see if you spoil yourself with the trailer or other preview clips, the funniest thing about it is that the group actually puts themselves in danger by acting on what they've learned from years of tv and movies...

Watch the "just smile and laugh" video below. It's a perfect, concise, non-spoiler example of what the film has in store for audiences. Even better, it shows how Tucker and Dale are more complex than you'd expect; these guys may be rednecks, but they're not evil or violent ("redneck" is, in fact, a compliment, but that's a tangent). Laugh your ass off, and join me in picking a day to watch this in a theater.


Right? That's the most concise example I can provide, and I hope it has you as stoked for T&DvE as I am. I'll be glad to shell out my money to watch it. Bless you, Hollywood. You still have (or option) great ideas every now and then, and it's a good reason not to get too jaded towards you; it may be the best/only reason.

Friday, September 2, 2011

JJ Abrams may be a sociopath

Did you watch 24? Every season? If so, I'm sorry - in large part because you witnessed 13,630 confirmed deaths, and even looking at so much fictitious death, violence, anger, and destruction must be bad for you. It's not as if audiences weren't warned, tho; 24 was always billed as an action-thriller dealing with terrorism. It makes sense that there's a lot of bloodshed over 192 episodes.

I've come to look over the career of a certain JJ Abrams (heard of him?) and I've begun to wonder whether he's a sociopath. Why? There were about 100 deaths in Lost's finale Season alone. And there were many, many more before it. Look at this list. It's got every single death from each season, and I don't have the time to count them all, so I invite your assistance.

Or watch this 6-min video set to Jim Carroll Band's "People Who Died."

It's true that movies and tv shows often pick people off at a level that would cause an alarming drop in the human population in real life. JJ is not new or special in this regard. Any 1980s Schwarzenegger film - particularly the 80+ terminations in Commando - can show you that. So why do I take issue with Abrams' kill fetish?

Because a JJ Abrams story often does a lot to connect with the emotions of the audience. We see characters who clearly love their boyfriends, wives, daughters - the actors and dialogue for any of these moments really convey a deep and important affection. Even if we're witnessing a setup scene with a mom and her son, you'll clearly see that one of these people truly cares about the other.

Then wham! One of them is dead. It might be an unknown, rampaging monster, a planet-killing alien, or a technological terrorist group. Someone's life is snuffed out, and this not only means that a person is gone, it means that other people are left to suffer the aftermath of traumatic loss.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

George Lucas Shames Us All

[PS - this was written yesterday, and there's a delicious bit of info that came out later today after this published: namely, quotes of George slagging off the 1980's boom of colorization and film alteration. The relevant quotes and info have been added at the end of this post.]
 
Or, if you actually ever believed Star Wars was "cool," he's certainly about to. I heard in late August that George Lucas is going to make new fx changes to the Star Wars prequels, replacing puppet-Yoda in The Phantom Menace with a CGI-Yoda. I simply didn't care.

It doesn't really matter anymore whether this newest change is because of perfectionism, OCD, or a cheap desire for more money. Those prequels were garbage, and though I've enjoyed their being mocked and critiqued, they've taken up too much time. Watching them was like surgery without anesthesia, and "thank God, it's over" sums up my attitude.

This latest news may convince you there really is no bottom with Mr. Lucas, tho. Not even the reviled Indiana Jones IV represented his low-water mark (George famously rejected Frank Darabont's script!). Why? Because GL is still making adjustments and "improvements" to the original Star Wars trilogy! It's like what if a successful filmmaker were the subject of Hoarders on A&E.

Two days ago, AICN posted an article on how Lucas intends to add new audio into the last fight in Return of the Jedi. Now, when Darth Vader finally chooses his son over the creepy Emperor, big bad Darth will shout "NOOOO!" as he picks up the old guy and tosses him down an air shaft. Fer realsies. Watch below, then read on:


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Too similar?: Eric Stoltz vs Suzy Amis

Surely, you've seen pictures of "x random person" who's a movie star lookalike. And you've seen those "separated at birth" photos, too, probably. Well it's my turn, so I'll focus on an attractive actress named Suzy Amis and an attractive actor named Eric Stoltz.

The photo on the right is of Stoltz, a well-known actor who got his start in the 80s. He's appeared in many comedies, dramas, indie films... He was the main star of Some Kind of Wonderful.

No, you'd've seen him in more than that. Recently, he was in a SyFy tv show called Caprica. He's the lead in Killing Zoe (yay!), The Prophecy and The Fly II. He was also in Rob Roy, Kicking and Screaming, Say Anything..., Singles, and Jerry Maguire.

Oh, what am I, on crack? You do know him - as Lance in Pulp Fiction! Yeah, he plays Travolta's drug dealer who helps him out when Uma's in trouble. Everyone remembers that dude because they remember the whole awesome scene.

On the other side of the world, you have Suzy Amis, who is James Cameron's current (and 5th!) wife. She played Jeff Bridges' spouse in 1994's Blown Away. I mean the one with Tommy Lee Jones as the villain, not the skinemax thriller with Nicole Eggert, Corey Haim, and Corey Feldman.

Amis has always had a striking, atypical look, so I'm surprised her CV isn't bigger. She's a pretty, thin red-head with vivid eyes and an unusual jawline.

Notice any similarity? Yeah, that's Suzy Amis. I'm not making a big deal out of nothing, am I?

Maybe this one picture isn't enough for you. Maybe you believe in the scientific method. Let's look harder, ok? On one hand, you have a picture like...:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lethal Weapon, reviewed backwards

This isn't an effort to show off. I'm just in one of those moods, so I'm actually reviewing a movie before I watch it again. Isn't that avant-garde of me? Aren't "avant-garde" things sometimes just "stupid?" Well, I've toyed with my style more than usual lately, and I chose a pic I know fairly well. I think I can stand on what I write about Lethal Weapon - and if I'm off the mark, I'll learn it during my post-review rewatch. Finally, I get to prove myself wrong...

For a lot of people, the 80s are a nostalgic time in American cinema - and not because that decade introduced "franchises" and "properties" that are still being used today. Sure, there were lots of great romantic comedies, like Splash and Big. And there were plenty of fun teen movies, like The Breakfast Club and License to Drive. But for many, the 80s were a golden period for action films.

Arnold Schwarzenegger ruled the roost, so to speak, with a string of exciting pictures like Predator, The Running Man, Terminator, and Commando. Bruce Willis transitioned from a bartender to a tv star, then made one of the best action films ever, 1988's Die Hard. It's extra-impressive, as many people thought they'd already seen one of the best action films ever just one year before - Lethal Weapon.

He's a con's worst nightmare - an LA cop who grew up in Australia.

The three names you're about to read are all people who are, rightly, a big deal in Hollywood: Richard Donner, Mel Gibson, and Joel Silver.
  • Silver appears in so many credits as "producer," it sounds like he has a monopoly on the industry - the Predator and Die Hard films, The Matrix, the new Sherlock Holmes franchise... If it had guns and explosions and at least one big-name star, he was likely involved. 
  • Donner is known for a wide body of work, especially this series, the first two Superman pictures, Scrooged, and The Goonies.
  • Gibson hasn't needed an introduction since 1987, when Lethal Weapon came out. If Mad Max hadn't made him a household name, this picture absolutely did. Now, of course, no one wants to introduce, much less meet, him...
Yet the smaller names are probably what made LW a guaranteed hit with audiences - Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) wrote an excellent screenplay. Danny Glover's talent and presence pulled in everyone who didn't care about Mel. And Gary Busey played one of the best "support villains" of the decade; he compares neatly to Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys. Movie-going audiences never stood a chance. So, plot:

It's Christmas-time in LA, and we see a pretty young girl. She's wearing so little that she must have just had sex with someone. She takes some drugs, climbs onto the railing of her balcony, and falls straight onto a car below. Later, Narcotics detective Martin Riggs (Gibson) subdues a bunch of criminals in a pine tree lot. He handles matters well enough, then unleashes his rage and nearly shoots an unarmed crook. Later at home, we see him cry over a picture and put a gun in his mouth. It's a very "angsty" time of year, huh?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tumblr of Corp. Logos in Film, Say/Hear Anything

Fauxgo is a site that lists various fictitious company logos from movies.  Among others you might recognize is the Weyland-Yutani symbol from Alien and Aliens, or the "i" for Mr. Incredible, or the Duff beer label.
 
It's certainly a useful page if you want to research an article, or look up a fake corporate logo without, y'know, actually having to carefully watch a movie again. This website isn't just a pleasure, it might help me decide on a tattoo! I was pleasantly surprised to find the symbol for Cyberdyne Systems from The Terminator. Who knew it was a pyramid divided by a capital "Y?"

I'm also pointing out Lloydtube, a site that's a little weird to use. It's a pastel-screened image cap of John Cusack holding up his stereo; the scene is, of course, from the well-loved Say Anything... The neat thing about this comes from the box at the bottom of the page.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

David Cronenberg Blogathon, The Hangover/Simpsons remake, & 25 Pre-Fame Stars

As many of you may or may not know (or care), this blog is a member of the Large Association of Movie Blogs (yes, "LAMB"). They have a monthly Director's Chair feature, wherein LAMB sites submit their reviews and articles on particular directors. Much to my delight, they chose the fantastic artist David Cronenberg for this month's session. The feature goes up later today, so please read and enjoy.

I submitted my own reviews of Eastern Promises and Spider, as well as my link to a BBC documentary on "The Cinema of the Extreme," which is a perfect fit for this amazing Canadian man. I won't link to them here, because I already have a Cronenberg tag, and you can use that to see what I have to say about him.

Moving right along, the Film Drunk has posted to point out: a major Hollywood blockbuster follows not only a lot of the plot of one episode of The Simpsons, they use a lot of the same visuals too. What do I mean?

Vegas is a popular film destination, and it will naturally have a lot of the same imagery - chapels, desert, neon casino exteriors or brightly-lit interiors. Naturally, various stock people/performers will also appear; waitresses, blackjack dealers, and lounge singers are pretty much a given. It's ridiculous to compare, right?

Well, consider that in "Viva Ned Flanders," Ned and Homer Simpson run into famed boxer "Drederick Tatum" (what a great name) while they're in Vegas. In "The Hangover," the cast meets Tatum's obvious real-life inspiration, Mike Tyson. And that's only one thing they have in common.


Pitch Black Review (feat. 1990's Tremors)

Pitch Black was made in 2000 by David Twohy. It was created as a star vehicle for possible modern-Schwartzeneggar-replacement Vin Diesel. In many ways, it tries for the same feel as James Cameron's Aliens. It fails to match the quality of that 80's film, and my friends and I have often clashed over it.

You'll really get used to that silver-white image. They use it all the time.
I say Pitch Black is "a nice try," mediocre at best. In a fit of lazing on the couch with work-out soreness, I rewatched it, and my opinion hasn't really changed.

Pitch Black is set in the distant future (27th Century) that is credibly lived-in and realized. A ship is flying through space, and meets a pocket of fast-moving rocks that tear through the ship. These little collisions are deadly. Even tiny objects can move so fast that they go through walls and people, killing the captain and forcing the vessel to crash land.

With only two crew members surviving the attack of debris, the docking pilot, Carolyn Fry (Radha Mitchell), is left to try to save the ship, which is starting to enter the atmosphere of an unpopulated planet. Fry jettisons various sections of the craft, and realizes that her last, best hope is losing a section that carries 9 people in suspended animation. Desperate to save herself, she pulls on the lever that will toss them into the searing heat of reentry. Nothing happens.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Facebook puts Big Lebowski up for community viewing

Well, Facebook is going to make a big pop-culture splash into the online video rental world with The Big Lebowski. It'll cost you three bucks for 48 hours, but you can find a way to pass $1 discounts onto your friends.

But I started searching for it today, and it certainly isn't much now. The social theater page on FB's site is um, embarrassingly spare,especially with over 5,100 active viewers. Just look at it:


Not exactly jaw-dropping. My friends have more visually interesting, engaging fb pages; hell, some of my enemies do (tho I wouldn't know).

And then following the "App" link at the top of the page takes you the Social Theater website, which is also not particularly impressive. Still, I like hearing about new ways to rent videos online, even if I'd never use them. Does that sound contradictory?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How It Should Have Ended: Harry Potter

You don't always have to agree with someone to like their jokes, do you? Well, that's how I feel about the website How It Should Have Ended. They have web comics, self-made videos, reviews, and more. I can't give them my complete approval, because they are surprisingly positive about some sucky movies. I'm particularly referring to Tron: Legacy (4 stars?) and the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake (3 stars?!).

As... um, lenient or easily satisfied as they may be, I still find their H.I.S.H.E. videos to be funny, and I loved the one they made for the Harry Potter franchise. If you've read the books, you can see that their take is not only full of honest characterization, but it's funny and smart. You may even prefer it to the ending that you read somewhere by yourself. Or to the final act that you saw in a crowded theater (just scroll up slightly).

I like this Snape better than in the books or the films! He's like C3PO as a cool spy.

I got a kick out of the smart use of images and moments from the series, the clever resolution, and the interaction between the characters. I'll say "thank you" to the How It Should Have Ended people, and I think you should too. Thoughts?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kevin Smith doing 2 more flix, Disney exec dismisses "stories"

I cover this news less because it's fascinating and more because I wrote before about Kevin Smith's choice to quit directing. Thus, I should at least follow through and relay the latest development: Smith will direct 2 more films, not one.

It's not the biggest development, tho - no "extra-talky 2012 Citizen Kane" or something. It's just that Hit Somebody, Kevin's pro-NHL player movie, will be split into two parts, in the style of Kill Bill. There's a joke here somewhere about masturbatory filmmakers who write long stretches of dialogue.

It's interesting enough news. This division has been made so that the 1st movie can focus on a boy who grows up wanting to play professional hockey. This will give the 2nd film proper breathing room to follow the adult career of the same person.

I'd've been impressed if he'd made both at once, but I like giving directors and screenplay writers more leeway. I also like that KS is probably using what he learned while releasing Red State. Most importantly to me, tho, I'm tired of Smith constantly talking about what a lazy stoner he is, so I like this move because he's actually showing some ambition.

Finally, there's attention on a now-infamous speech given by a Disney exec, in which he says that stories don't matter at all - only franchise/tentpole Summer releases. It's the sort of thing that is both (a) insulting and annoying, yet (b) so geared toward modern cynicism that I want to just ignore it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Great Jason Voorhees Bodycount pic, Peanuts + Jaws = Sweet

Someone made a smart movie mash-up, in comic form. At Snake Oil Comics, you can witness the cast of Charles Shultz' "Peanuts" as they go through the story of "Jaws." All i can say is that it's a great idea, perfectly executed.


The next entry is especially appropriate, since I reviewed the first 10 "Friday the 13th" movies not long ago. Unless you've seen all of them yourself, you can only imagine my happiness at finding an infographic chart that shows the number of kills in every "Ft13th" film. Unlike my own article, it goes through "Jason X" to include "Freddy versus Jason." And, even better, the graphics also show how each person dies. If you're a horror-minded person, it's real treat.

I'm done, enjoy and learn from the picture below.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New study on spoilers misses the point

AV Club recently posted a news article about a study on spoilers. The upshot of the results is that people do not really mind knowing details about a story before they experience it for themselves. Despite the whining and complaints made by dozens of internet message board members, it seems to make little difference when people know what they're in for.

Unfortunately, AVC's post didn't seem to understand that the study doesn't apply to the film industry very well. Why? Because the analysis was focused on giving advance knowledge to people reading books. I don't think that's really comparable to film spoilers at all.

Literature and film are totally different. Film is an audio-visual format that's usually requires 90-120 minutes of your time. Literature, however, is a visual-only format that needs much more time. Audio books are generally much longer than the time you'd need to read the original text.

An actual book, though, contains a lot more information than your standard film. And it has certain advantages - like an easier use of 1st/2nd/3rd person narration, and internal dialogue that's often awkward to convey in a movie. Comparing the two is like saying that 5-minute ride to a coffee shop is the same as driving from one coast to another. Or like comparing a 2-season tv show to a 3-film film franchise.

Monday, August 15, 2011

More Remake-itis, Walmart Streams Video too now

It's been a while since I've covered film news. Now I've got a bit to cover, all related to two familiar topics: remake-itis and "the streaming wars" (that's what I call it). This time out, all of my links are going straight to AV Club, so thanks to them (yet again) for filling me in...

The funniest "did you do that ironically?" bit of remake-itis is that the makers of 2005's failed Bewitched (Kidman and Ferrell) have been hired to remake Bewitched for CBS. AVC rightly points out the logic gap here: the original tv show was an earnest comedy with romantic elements, whereas the film was a cynical take on the ridiculousness of remaking the tv series Bewitched.

I know that tv networks need new shows, and that remakes are becoming more popular (Hawaii Five-0, Bionic Woman, The Prisoner, Charlie's Angel's forthcoming revival)... Seeing CBS attach itself to the same principles of "name recognition = more money" so thoroughly is disappointing and silly. And then we go from that to "oh wait, CBS is mentally unstable, dangerously so" since their choice was the guys who failed at this same (film) project already. It's like MC Escher went to Hollywood and did a lot of drugs while reading Charlie Kaufman scripts.

The same source also gave me a look at the Australian How To Train Your Dragon remake, adapted for the stage. It is true that I didn't see the movie, and it is true that Aussies have a reputation for not being fazed by all the terrifying creatures on their continent. Regardless, HTTYD was a kids' film, and the article rightly states that the dragons look completely horrifying and make frightening/disturbing noises. Watch below. God help you if you're not at least 12 years old.

Yeah, buddy I am afraaaaaaaaid, too. And I'm a grown man.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Blaxploitation Star Wars Youtube Gem

At long last! "Blackstar Warrior," an awesome Lando Calrisian blaxploitation version of Star Wars. The feel and look of it match the tone of the original series far better than the later prequels, continuing to prove something about a certain creator being both tone-deaf and hyper-wealthy.

I'm as proud to introduce this today as I was to highlight the Predator Musical or the Conan the Barbarian: The Musical. Don't you enjoy this as much as I do?


Or aren't you cool?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

1.5 Double Dip, 1/2 Quickie: X-Men Trilogy

Yes, it's a mashup of two site features, mixing a half-length Movie Review Quickie (only 3 films) and a really unusual Double Dip. I wrote a hefty X-Men review a while back. It was longer than I needed it to be, but I was setting up coverage of X2 and The Usual Suspects. & I guess it’s easier for me to praise or trash a pic than for me to call it “so-so.”

I'm going back to the well, but differently. This time, I'll briefly cover all the films, meaning I’ll tackle X-Men again, if quickly – and I’ll still reserving my long-form X2 review for later. So, it’s sort of a "1 & 1/2" or possibly even a "double-reverse" double dip. Confusing? I call it a bold, elegant, and startling act of symmetry; trust me on that.

X-Men

In two sentences: Good people with powers spend their time learning about themselves and being constructive while bad people with superpowers try to scare humanity into not killing or "tracking" them. An untouchable runaway girl and a rugged man who heals anything get involved in an on-going struggle between 2 charismatic older Englishmen, a kind wheelchair-bound telepath and a brutal rebel who controls magnetism. Yes, that's an actual story.

You will believe a man can rock that hairstyle.

X-Men is at times hollow, weak, effective, heart-felt, cool, clever, dull, exciting, and dumb. The title's misleading, as the film zeroes in on mega-talented Hugh Jackman and his charms and rarely goes beyond him. Hugh's presence sells the pic, but he neither gets the whole film nor allows time for the rest of the cast, so he dilutes its purpose; at least he gets a proper arc.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Netflix, American Psycho's Eateries, and Cracked Filmshop Contest

Today, I'm going to quickly cover 3 online entries that are about the film world. First up is an article on Netflix. The second is a guide to restaurants mentioned in American Psycho. I'll mention the Cracked B-movie Poster Photoshop Content last, but pictures from it are all over this post. I'm like that.

 
Although it's not a response to my awesome post on Netflix' new pricing scheme, The AV Club released an article this week on the same topic. It's called (in part) "The Convenience Trap," & it's thoughtful, going into more depth about the subtext behind the change - what it says about businesses, entertainment, and the potential effect on Netflix users and online video watchers.

The article also touches on one issue that especially irked me; namely, Netflix destroying and then abandoning the physical video rental market. "Sell both smartly, stupid," seemed like a fair response on my part. Hey, The AV Club staff is professional (paid), and they add an interesting two cents on the topic.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pick your reviews, yall; August is gonna be dull

Which, I know, is an awful bit of self-promotion... Still, it's been 8 weeks since I've posted a site update - now I only have site updates scheduled for August. At least today's will be different and quick.

I'll take requests/suggestions/etc for films to cover. I have a long list of things to review - all the other Miyazaki pix, more from Cronenberg, Hitchcock, The Ramones in Rock n Roll High School, Rian Johnson's The Brothers Bloom... Still, there are many movies I haven't heard of, forgot about, or lost in the middle of my rental queue. If you'd like to see me tackle something, just call 'em out.

Of course, some requests are less likely to happen than others. I'm almost guaranteed to bounce pointless garbage - so probably nothing with a "4" (or higher) in the title, Human Centipede, X random porn film title, Breillat, The Brown Bunny, Michael Bay's work). And not anything I've seen & failed me in every possible way like Curse of the Golden Flower. I don't know that anyone can make a convincing argument for those...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Recommended: Cable TV's I Survived...

I'll be upfront, if cliched: life gets tough. I've posted here suffering from assorted problems, injuries (e.g., to an eye), change of jobs, & lots of personal/professional "drama." I don't write about it much, but I'm not talking "reality tv" drama (anything on MTV basically) - I get the real deal. So how do I get my balance back?

Sometimes, I take advantage of A&E (through the Biography channel) and its long-standing series called "I Survived..." Using a few pix, some narrative text, and face-to-face interviews, the show goes back-and-forth between the stories of 3 people who faced death and lived. The show's concept is excellent, while the tragedies that unfold are tastefully-handled.

Your kids were scared to hug you?! Also, someone please fire biography's music guy.

A teen pilot's tiny plane runs into a sudden storm, then gets trapped in power cables. A snowmobiling vacation gets un-fun fast when a guy sees his brother fall through cracked ice; they get separated, each nearly freezing to death. An Australian town suffers a fire that sounds as destructive as the aliens from "Independence Day;" it leaves a young woman and her father seek first temporary, then permanent, safety, uncertain if the rest of the family (her mom/his wife, and her daughter) are even alive.

I watch this, in part to remind myself that even if I've faced imminent death, others have been through lots worse; also, to remember that life can just suddenly go wrong, and so many things help decide the result. Finally, it's a serious, sorta-therapeutic look into how people overcome their problems, as well as the emotional aftermath of these kinds of events.

Are you pissed that someone stood you up for a date, or your roommate finished your milk? A woman got raped and stabbed multiple times; another was hurt so badly her surgically-repaired face is... spooky; each said that she decided to let go of all her anger. Try bitching about your milk now. I have no experience with shrinks, but I guess this works like group therapy. & I don't care that "IS..." can be grim, horrifying, and uncomfortable. I'm glad to have watched a dozen eps of this show; I appreciate its perspective.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Great Review Duo, Batman 89 Thoughts

A while ago, with 2 hours' downtime, I noticed that 1989's Batman was available for streaming. I remembered loving it as a kid, & finding the later movies unwatchable. It did not hold up well; I was surprised by how rough, senseless, and OTT Tim Burton's picture was; also, the tone was all over the place.

It's already clear that I loved the Nolan pictures, but not because they're stories about "Bruce Wayne:Dashing Vigilante." BB and TDK are just great movies that tell great tales. And I had no idea that the Nicholson-Keaton original was made so poorly.

Fortunately, just a bit later, I came across two funny, smart, observant reviewers who set out to tackle every film in the Batman Universe. For the last two months, one pair of guys have run through the films in chronological order, a feature they call "Remedial Batmanology." (nice, right?) Soon, they will tackle Catwoman, then move on to the 2005 reboot.

Most of all, I think I was lucky because I found someone who could help break down and explain exactly what is wrong with Burton's Batman. I was even luckier to find two people who would do that enthusiastically, in a really witty and down-to-earth way. As an alternative, you can read Todd Alcott's solo review of the same material, but that's not what this post is about.

Chris Sims and David Uzumeri are bigtime comic geeks, yet they know how to review pictures from the perspective of someone who just wants a good flick as well as from the outlook of a comic fan. Best of all, they have a great rapport, which they show off by using alternating paragraphs to cover a movie. The result is film review by way of conversation, and the effect is just super.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Fog of War - a must-see documentary

For once, I get to review a movie with worrying about a 1000+ word count. Fog of War, the 2003 documentary by Errol Morris is an exceptional film, and I don't have to recount a plot or describe actors or anything like that. This time out, I can just tell you about a great picture and suggest it. And FoW will surely make you think about war, death, and how close we are/were to nuclear destruction...

Errol chose a unique man to interview, one pivotal to 20th Century American history: Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense under JFK and LBJ. Film fans will already be familiar with him from Thirteen Days, as he's Kennedy's closest advisor. In the end, Fog won both an Oscar and an Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary, and still holds 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. It's available for free on Google Video, and I suggest you take advantage of that.

What's really amazing is that RSM's most famous job post doesn't limit him to rehashing Vietnam or the Bay of Pigs. In 1940, Robert was the youngest, highest paid-prof ever at Harvard, having received an MBA there only one year before. He ran Ford Motors, and lead the World Bank after leaving Johnson's cabinet. Clearly, we're dealing with a capable man who could do anything greatly.


Some of the most interesting statements are about what he did between teaching and running Ford. During World War II, McNamara taught business analysis techniques to the US military, then joined the Air Force as a Captain. Working in the USAAF's Office of Statistical Control, he was responsible for helping bombers become more effective on their attacks in Japan.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Recommended: With BBC's Misfits, Hulu Strikes Back

Yes, yet another streamable UK series gets my recommendation, but it's not on Netflix this time. I suggest foreign stuff because I like different locations, accents, themes, and details. UK TV is welcome in part because of quality and part for lack of familiarity. This time out, I got "slacker/rebel superheroes meet a modernized John Hughes film."

If X-Men happened to NYC schoolkids, Wolverine might use his healing power to just prank people. The blandest couple ever, Jean and Scott, would probably trash rooms by abusing their powers during sex. The xteam would get into a lot of fights and make huge mistakes. So, I guess London's the same, but they curse using "the hard 'C' word" a lot (it's a slightly different meaning, but still...). And that's Misfits.


It's a misdemeanor community service version of "The Breakfast Club," only these screwups get struck by lightning. While a freak storm gives one guy the power to turn invisible when he's ignored, their probation officer becomes a strong axe-murderer and attacks them. So 5 kids with criminal records kill a guy in clear self-defense, then realize: they have no credible alibi and thus are screwed.

Misfits is full of foul language, nudity, and offensive behavior. The series has a very "punk" mentality that makes it both energetic and incredibly fun. It's irreverent, with heroes that might stumble at any time, or villains that might be hysterically-lame. Like the quick theme song by The Rapture, tho, it may get very old the 7th-8th time around...