Monday, January 31, 2011

Kevin Smith to self-release Red State, quit directing

Kevin Smith is a strange figure in the film world. I've written about his movies previously, and I hope it's clear that I'm conflicted. Smith is uneven and (seems very) undisciplined, but he's got such a gift for comedy. He's also a great poster-boy for the "I can make it in Hollywood" dream.

Which brings us to his first big announcement at the Sundance festival last week: Kevin Smith intends to make 1-2 more movies, then retire from directing; he'll try to help others get their films made. You can read about it - or you can watch the speech below.

Even though Smith has only directed 10 movies over 17 years, I consider this a big announcement; it certainly could have massive repercussions. Given how often people talk about egos and the film industry, it's apparent that many would think Smith was "burning his bridges" while currently standing on one of them.

I think the guy was just using candor - which would fit nicely, since a lot of New Jersey people are fairly forthright. In fact, bs-ing people and speaking like a PR exec can be seen as very insulting, so it would be hard to ask Kevin to be more diplomatic. Might as well tell him to lie, then...

There was a lot of news out of Sundance that night - as noted by the AVClub link above, some review sites trashed the movie's screening. They claimed that many people left the theater early, and that many people were far more interested in Jets v. Steelers than a New Jersey rant-master.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Recommended: BBC's "Hyperdrive" on Netflix

[2/15/13 UPDATE: I understand that several of the pix and vid have been taken down. It's really impossible to maintain myself at this point. I'll update what's missing early next week, although some jerk has decided to remove every single Youtube clip for this show. Feel free to warn me if/when you see these don't function anymore.]

The BBC sci-fi comedy "Hyperdrive" might be "The Office: In Space." A pleasant-but-dim space captain faces aliens, bureaucracy, and his insane/gifted officers. It's not amazing, yet it is light-hearted, very clever, and fairly unknown.

Captain "Mike" Henderson pilots the HMS Camden Lock through space, protecting Great Britain's futuristic interests. His problems are often absurd, lethal, and dead funny. They're usually caused by himself or his crew...
"This thing is eating my crew!" "Only the slow ones." - Mike and York
Sometimes, he finds aliens that lick hands and faces in greeting. "It's not sexual," they insist. Or Henderson is asked to manage a mediation - and both sides unite to declare war on his ship.

The military nature of this series is played to the hilt, like an English National Lampoon's "Star Trek." Rules, missions, and alien contact constantly drive the pressure. The crew could provoke each other any day, so...

I love how they handle the die-hard First Officer York. In one scene, the ship's Stasi-esque(!) #2 drops a guitar, whips off his cloak, and arrests a scared teen:
"Arabella Spacer, daughter of Admiral Spacer, you are two days late for University. We are here to escort you to your place of study, where you'll commencify a course in land management and social history." "Nooo!" "Wrong! Not 'no' - yes!"
The genius slacker Jeffers is a lot of fun. He's the kind of guy who loves blasting alien music - including the war anthem just released by the ship's newest enemies. It's a Rammstein-like club tune called, "Kill the Humans."

The ship's PA system says things like, "[t]o access the toilet, enter the second, fourth and eighty-third numbers in your security code."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The awful "Reign of Fire," 100% Johnny Cash free

I walked into the Midtown theater with my brother, big grins on our faces. 2002's "Reign of Fire" would be the last movie I saw before leaving NYC. The special effects looked great. The hyper-talented Christian Bale leads a desperate struggle against Dragons bent on destroying humankind, 15 years in the future. Fair enough.

In two words: Fizzle. Pop.

 Finally, McConaughey realizes he smokes too much weed.

See, it comes off like an "Alien" picture, but with dragons, Earth, Christian Bale, Gerard Butler, and Matthew McConaughey! Derivative and almost-hokey? Sure. Well, even if your standards were that low, you would've been let down.

What you do get is annoyingly typical: A lot of movies with a sci-fi basis - and that's what "RoF" seemed like and is categorized as - tend to fall on the cliched backdrop: British and sort-of-medieval. It got old by "Alien 3." In fact, this trailer reminds me of "A3," another disappointment. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lethal Weapon, Bad Santa, and Jerry Lewis remakes?

Hey, remember that movie, "Rounders?" That low-key, slow, really boring poker film from 1998? Did you ever want to go back to that world of senseless, failed NYC law students and secret gambling dens? Me neither, but Miramax is looking to make a sequel anyway.

Wasn't that riveting?

Re-makes? I know - I've written about this before; just look at the Remake-itis label. Sometimes I even write in favor of remakes. Every studio and exec is on this bandwagon, really, and they've been on it for a while. Still, I have to wonder just how far it's going to go.

I say that, in the end, creating a good movie - much less a re-make or sequel - comes down to stories and characters. You flirt with disaster when you do otherwise. Or when you mistake audiences' familiarity with a re-used name and story as a way to succeed...

Getting to it: Over the past week, there's been a bit of re-make news. Starting with the most recent, we have Thursday's announcement that Warner Bros. is looking to remake "The Dirty Dozen," "The Wild Bunch," "Tarzan," and "Lethal Weapon." Maybe they should just call it "re-monetizing."

Starring Rob Pattinson and Will Smith? In 3-D?

Clearly, there are "stories" and "characters" among those titles. But there's no guarantee that either will really appear in the new pictures. It's all packaging. It's all demographics.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Netflix drops DVDs from streaming devices, owns net bandwidth. Wow.

Big News #1: Netflix blogged that it's dropping the "Add to DVD Queue" button on any streaming device. You can't add dvds from any non-computer, streaming gadget - Ipad, Ipod Touch, PS3... Big News #2: Netflix may ditch DVDs completely because virtual=cheap - and its Streaming service may engulf a big chunk of the internet.

I guess you can see why I felt like I had to post again so soon. Before discussing the first bit o news, I'll give you the chance to see whether it'll bother you. That's the bottom line right? Well, the list of devices is all broken up on Netflix' site. So I actually took the trouble to write it out for anyone who's actually interested. It helped me feel like I wasn't just parroting another person's good work.

No seriously - you should know this already, but follow the link to see if this will impact your Netflix Streaming Capable Blu-RayPlayer, or Home Theater System, or Streaming Player (like Roku), or Mobile Device, or Game System, or HDTV, or DVR (just TiVo). It was kind of annoying to do, but I might as well go all the way, right?

That's all out of the way, now; I can actually add some thoughts... I guess I chose the right name for my blog, though I didn't select it because of the company. Honestly, I believed it was extra-clever because I had just started using Netflix. Yes, I waited until 2009 to join. Laugh now.

#1 - This afternoon, at my job, I noticed a news article during my lunch break. I knew I'd have to devote some time to writing today afterward. In fact, I probably should've noticed the post on the Netflix blog, but I've been working hard. Like, "deadly" hard.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A funny fan-made edit of "The Lost Boys"

Just a quickie for now: I've never heard of Dan Nixon before. But the guy must have a great sense of humor and a love of film: his edit of "The Lost Boys" contains all the lines in which people say the name Jason Patric's lead, Michael. 114 times! The clip is below, but you can find it here.

If you read my review, you know I love this flick. This idea, tho, is hysterical, especially once you start to remember the movie. "Michael wants to know what's going on; Marco, what's going on?" "Maggots, Michael. You're eating maggots." "You're a creature of the night, Michael, just like out of a comic book!" It's like "Frodo" in "LotR!"

Well, Dan went that extra mile by removing every word except "Michael." Genius. Watch that clip - it just gets funnier every time. I wasn't sure Nixon could pull off that one word, over and over. He did.

I think if you watch it, you'll see that it deserves a place with the other "Fan-made Film Parodies" that I've highlighted before. A special thanks goes out to Film Drunk for making me aware that this exists. Enjoy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Airplane!" is back in theaters 1/29 & 2/1

In case you hadn't heard, the 1980 comedy classic "Airplane!" will be re-released, 12 days from now, for two showings only.  Thousands of movie-goers will be laughing themselves silly on January 29th, at 1:30PM, and February 1st, at 7PM.

This announcement came out on Friday the 14th, so it's not a lot of notice. There might be another problem - it will play only in AMC theaters, so if you're interested, I hope you have one nearby. The official site has a complete list, by city if that helps.

But I must warn you: look at that list carefully, because some fool put every AMC within 20 miles of NYC into the "New York" listing. Hey, guys - no one in New York City is looking at times for the AMC Nassau Metroplex 10! Nor in New Brunswick, Port Chester, Stony Brook, or even East Hanover. They actually made it harder to find a theater for everyone in the Tri-State area.

For my part, I support this decision a lot. I actually liked (but didn't attend) the "Back to the Future" re-release last October - and that was timed for a DVD release! Why? You can't complain that the movie industry is grubbing for cash when they put out something that's pure quality. It's as simple as that.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Big News: US Girl with the Dr-oh who cares?

This week, we got the first publicly-released shots of Rooney Mara dressed as Lisbeth Salander, aka "The Girl with Dragon Tattoo." They're ok(?), but the whole idea is dumb. January 11th audiences shouldn't be teased for a December 21st show. Worse, this movie shouldn't even be made. Here's the stupid photo:

The composition, I like, but is she a teen hooker from Eastern Europe?

I've never seen anything else the old "Girl" did. Nor do I like chiming in just to complain. Understand that I'm writing about why this happened, why I don't like it, and how it might've worked out better. Take a few minutes, please - I'll try to be quick about it.

Now, I already reviewed "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." I've seen its sequels, though I haven't had time to write them up. I've posted before about my issues with US distributors changing foreign films, which I discuss regularly; if you look on the far right, 25 times. Two days ago, I took a look at Japan's "Spirited Away."

"TGwtDT" is a very good movie - I wrote as much already. It was based on a Swedish book, was filmed by a bunch of Swedes, and all three parts in the series were released in 2009 (how's that for a fast turn-around?). There are no more finished books to base movies on, because the author (Stieg Larsson) died. Do you know what all these facts mean?

They mean that a film version of this set has already "said everything it had to say." So that's it; there is no need for anyone to spend money on an American re-make. Just give the original trilogy a large-scale domestic (I mean my country) release.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Spirited Away is Perfect

You're 10 years old. Your parents have been captured, leaving you stranded among monsters. And your best hope at surviving is working in a demonic bath-house. So begins a perfect film, 2001's "Spirited Away."

Magic? Or psychotic break?

I recently promised I would review this pic; I didn't expect to follow through so soon, but it's "5 Ones Day," so why not. And believe me, "Spirited Away" is an easy example of "movie magic." Everything about it - the story it tells, the visuals, the score - is film-making at its very best.

Every 3-4 years, Japanese genius Hayao Miyazaki releases another animated-yet-grown-up fairytale. Critical and commercial success (if not always in the US) always follow; the differences are in story and in G- vs PG-rating. The short version this time: a young girl is up-rooted from her home town, then must fight to save her family from a magical world. And it's probably bad for kids 5-6 and under.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Site Update, Yogi Bear-Jesse James parody

Just taking a few minutes at the end of a brutal work week to give advance notice: new reviews are coming soon. Jean-Luc Godard's "Contempt" is one, and I've had the DVD for so long now it's shameful. "Spirited Away" is another, but it may have to be a multi-part review...  If I picked worse movies, I'd have less to say...

The other bit of news, of course, concerns the aftermath of the site redesign.  Most of my old entries are now one long paragraph for some reason; also, many pictures, clips, and/or their headlines are askew. I've fix everything up to 2010; the rest could take the better part of a week. Going any faster cuts into my writing time. Naturally, I'll holler when it's safe to look at the '09 entries again...

But I hate dry posts that just explain what's going on. Here's something pretty and clever to look at - last month's now-famous parody, "The Assassination of Yogi Bear by the Coward BooBoo." If you haven't seen it, you'll probably be happy to now. Better late than never, right? Enjoy, please...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Pete Postlethwaite has passed on!

Pete Postlethwaite has died today.  It's incredibly sad, both that he didn't get to enjoy more of 2011, and that he died at the yougn age of 64.  He had a long-running battle against cancer (he'd already lost one testicle to it), so this entire story is just tragic. 

If you think you don't know who Pete is, you're dead wrong.  He's a very well-known and well-respected English character actor.  If you've seen more than a dozen movies, then you've seen him.  He was Kobayashi in "The Usual Suspects," the #2 to Keyser Soze.  He was also in "Inception," "In the Name of the Father," "Brassed Off," and many other pictures.

Character actors are a very awkward topic, to my mind - on the one hand, no one ever calls a "star" a character actor.  However, many people understand that character actors tend to give deepest and nuanced performances; they act as the lynch pin for many films...  So, a character actor may give better performances than many stars, but they have less control and a lower salary.

Here's an easy way to explain it, a quote I heard from Nicholas Meyer: an actor convinces you that they are someone else; a star convinces you that someone else is them. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A 2011 two-fer - news and my 7-sentence Star Wars Prequels review

The good news: on New Year's Eve, Mr. Plinkett of Red Letter Media released a new video review on, and it tackles Star Wars 3:ROTS. The bad news: it's 1 & 1/2 hours long, and there's a 1 minute joke that you'd probably rather skip. It even inspired me to write a quick review of all 3 prequels, my first for 2011. You can find it near the end of this post.

I actually learned all this yesterday, but was too busy to write about it; also, I'd already published my Year-End Round-Up one hour earlier. Even though I couldn't watch them at the time, I was happy to see more of Mr. Plinkett, the sinister and word-fumbling character featured in Red Letter Media reviews for big budget sci-fi films like "Star Trek: First Contact" and "Avatar."

Even better, Plinkett came back with yet another funny rant that's part film-student basics dissection, part practical observation. The review is right on the RLM home page, in 3 30-minute clips. As before, Zagat would probably describe it as "thoughtful" "perversely clever" and "funny." It's still thoroughly weird and occasionally rough humor, but he pulls off some jokes that would normally fail or offend.

And, as before, it's an impressive work. It's also a good, if extremely thorough, example of a film review - it covers the film's creation, marketing, dialogue, fx, cinematography, and sets and story, as well as individual plots. Plinkett even begins by putting ROTS in the context of the 2 films that came before it. You can tell that this man knows how to write an essay.

But it's just too long. A lot is said, and it doesn't discuss the story until well past the 20m mark of clip 1. This feels like a mistake. Also, the story discussion is woven throughout the whole review; it might dilute the effect here. The sheer length is a pretty big flaw, and there are other, smaller problems.