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.

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: