Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Star Wars/Raiders Stage Play Mashup

May is now at a close. It's been a banner month for me, Half a Film Student, and for this site, Net-flixation. Why? I posted more this month than ever before! By a lot, too - the record was this April's 17. May's 25 posts were helped along by DJ's long-awaited return to the site with his excellent Double-Dip review of Malice.

And I finally broke 4000 hits for one month! Almost 4400, beating the previous record, 3997. It's just incredible! June will feature more fan-made gems, as well as the "question for the week of" entries. There may be fewer reviews, as I'm contributing elsewhere now, too; I'll link to those entries here, in my "Reviewing With Others" posts.

But not every movie I watch this month will be on assignment, so expect to see my reviews for The Dark Knight Rises, etc, on this site.

This month leaned heavily on fan-made work, and I close it with one piece that's very different from the rest: the winners of the annual Star Wars fan film contest got to play out their vision on the stage. There's nothing quite like a big budget stage adaptation of your own independent movie, huh?

George Lucas was in attendance, which is an honor for any SW fan, much less budding filmmakers. Whatever the complaints about the Prequels (or the altered originals) are, Lucas is still an amazing role model for struggling & indie directors...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gotham City Anti-Drug PSA Posters

I planned May as a month to I share a lot of fan-made gems, but I never guessed there would be so many Batman entries! And I had this one in the pipe for a while, so I might as well post it now.

Some clever person came up with a bunch of anti-drug PSA posters, all based on the Batman Universe.

They're not incredible works of art - I'll have a post on that next month - but they are fairly smart, and I like them. Follow the link to see the other five posters.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Question for the Week of May 28-June 3: Prometheus II

How could Ridley Scott think this Prometheus trailer would alleviate a smart fan's concerns?
In March, I asked a Question about Prometheus, Ridley Scott's new sorta-prequel to Alien. The main issue was that this story seems completely unnecessary, and there's nothing dumber than answering a question that no one really asked.

Sadly, the above clip is great to watch, but doesn't really address my concerns. No matter how good Prometheus looks, the truth is that we all know this will end in keeping with Alien and Aliens. The story will resolve so that mankind has no knowledge of these deadly buggers, Earth will not be destroyed.

Really, those first two movies made it clear that humans in the future are dealing with unknown monsters. As such, Prometheus obviously will wrap itself up so that mankind still doesn't know what it's up against. Although I'd love to see the movie that's shown in this trailer, I still claim that no one needs a real or semi-real prequel to Alien. Just go in another direction with your big world, guys!

Or fight a totally unrelated, different GD alien. I'm sure future humans ran into a couple.

When you direct a story that everyone knows the ending to, you have to work hard to make it worthwhile. This is often done through plot changes, a twist, or a heavy character element. I still see no such new creativity in the story and look of Prometheus. Maybe in 21 days, the reviews will agree with me; then again, maybe not...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Voice Acting Greats Do a Star Wars Table Read

Last week, courtesy of AV Club (as usual), I learned of something grand: this March, a Comic-Con in Seattle gathered some voice acting greats - Futurama's John Dimaggio (Bender), Billy West (Fry, The Professor, Zoidberg), among other esteemed voice-experts. They read aloud the script to Star Wars: A New Hope - in the style of characters chosen by fans!

Awesome idea. And the gathered brilliant voice artists pull it off beautifully. It's an exquisite pleasure, hearing Jabba the Hut as Tony Soprano, or Han Solo as a PowerPuff Girl! Porky Pig, Calculon, Inspector Gadget, Christopher Walken, Wakko and Yakko... these brilliant actors run wild with their imaginations, and the effect is excellent.

It's a read-through of the first half of the first SW, so expect this to go on for just 80 minutes. It will be worth your time, and I hope that many more of these are staged soon. Thank heaven for the internet, huh?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Don't Get Batman for Your Kid's Party

At least, Chris Nolan's version. It's just gonna be... too gritty. Also, really really funny. This skit drags on (the pinata, specifically), but it's still very inspired and nicely-executed.

I can't believe I've posted about Batman so many times this month. My favorite part is probably the cake; you'll see.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reviewing with Others, pt. 3: 100 Years of Evil

Last Saturday, I attended a show at Brooklyn's IndieScreen. It was the premiere of 100 Years of Evil, a fictional documentary about whether Hitler may have survived WWII and successfully emigrated to the US. I had a great time watching it, and at 6PM EST the review will go up at Man, I Love Films.

UPDATE: you can find the review right here - enjoy, please.

Adam Yauch/MCA Double-Dip

I already posted about the death of the great Adam Yauch, aka MCA of the Beastie Boys. I said what I had to say, but a nice fan-made work prompted this follow-up.

Some man got his family together and used young children to recreate the "Sabotage" video on Vimeo. It's a glorious tribute, and perfectly in keeping with The Beasties (or Beatsies). See the crafty effort below.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Imdb for cars! Alien kiddie comic! Sin City-Disney Style and The Walken Dead!

The bulk of my posts this month, obviously, are dedicated to fan-made gems that we can all enjoy. This edition, then, is a slightly-longer, more varied look into the inspiration people have drawn from cinema.

First up is the Alien comic. Based on the first film, "Seven Dreamers" is quite funny and inventive and I've been waiting a while to share it with you all. It's off-the-charts-genius, perhaps.

The classic scifi thriller deserves all the attention it get. Enjoy the pic to the right, one of many works inspired by it. Follow the link above to see the rest; it's the cutest freak show ever.

Next, someone had the smart idea to combine Sin City with Disney films. See below:

All you auto-enthusiasts now have an excellent resource at your fingertips! Yes, we now have the IMCDB, or the Internet Movie Cars Database. As you'd expect, it's a shockingly thorough listing of the cars shown in major films.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Question for the Week of May 21-27: Abandoning Shows

A conversation with DJ led to the question for this week:
When should you abandon a TV show?
Plenty of TV series diminish over time. You can't help it. Under the American system, where 20-22 episodes is the standard season, you're guaranteed some sub-par or bad eps. By the time a show has done more than 80, actors and writers have left the series, plots get repeated... It's to be expected, a bit.

So, although this article is practically a follow-up to my post about Burn Notice 3 weeks ago, I have multiple answers to this week's question. The first two are philosophical, while the last talks about 7 specific shows and when you should hit the "eject" button on each.

The simplest answer is that you should give up a show after 3-4 consecutive eps that leave you unsatisfied; this is doubly-true if the changes strike you as weird, cliched, or dumb. Use that time for something else, and ask friends or check in with TV reviewers to see if the show bounces back. It's quicker and you'll be spared all the ads.

But even the simple answer isn't quite so simple. Have you ever tried to get a friend into a show when it's already in a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th season? If you've ever tried to promote a show to interest a friend, lover, or relative, you know that some episodes can be skipped until someone's already hooked. Or that a show gives 2 bad eps and one mediocre one, all in a row, only to have a great run right after.

The more complex answer is that a series is there to do two things: (a) tell its story and (b) entertain you. And because these producers and crew are professionals, you shouldn't make it too easy for them, either. It's human nature that if you ask for less, you will get less - because of human nature, studio interference, or plain-old bad choices.

So you should bail if you're not satisfied with the story that a show is telling - or it feels like they're telling it in a way that you find dumb, condescending, annoying. If you stick with them, do it for a real reason, like having genuine hope that the series will fix itself. Don't keep watching out of habit, or boredom.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Vader Sessions is a Work of Genius

Darth Vader, especially if you know Star Wars and Empire, is one of the greatest film villains ever. There's not much competition for a capable bad-ass like him.

Similarly, everyone with a brain reveres James Earl Jones because he's a fine actor and has a magnificent voice. We all know him as the speaker behind the mask, and Lucasfilm deserves credit for picturing that sound coming out of that great costume.

Then someone made "The Vader Sessions" - dialogue from various James Earl Jones' movies is grafted onto scenes from Star Wars, and it is just pure, unadulterated genius. I have to admire and love the person who found this great JEJ movie line:
I had a nervous breakdown, once - after 14 years on The Force
I feel silly, since I've known about this vid since 2005 and never posted it here. This vid has cursing and the n-word (Jones is saying it, duh), so play it somewhere safe; it's a little long, too, but there is no way you won't also love most of this:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Donna Summer has passed on

Donna Summer has passed away, yet another victim of breast cancer. I post today quickly, just to commemorate her absence from this world. She's been in every MP3 player I've ever owned.

This news isn't off-topic, as I watched her in the movie Thank God It's Friday. The film student I dated in college (she that put me on the path to being Half a Film Student) rented the video one night. The movie wasn't perfect, but it was very entertaining, and it featured Ms. Summer singing 4 wonderful songs. It might've been the first time I heard "Last Dance."

I never followed Donna like I did the Beastie Boys. I can't feel her loss as badly as I did Adam Yauch. I was, however, completely pulled in by "I Feel Love" - it's a fantastic club song with a great beat and hypnotic vocals by Summer.

Even live, it's fantastic.

I'm not the only one that was enamored of her voice or sound, tho. Donna's music, according to IMDb, has been used over and over in film and tv. If you care to follow up, just skim the soundtrack listing I linked to - 116 titles, including video games, from 1974 to this year. That's nearly as many Jimi Hendrix, a record that speaks for itself, considering that she wasn't the greatest guitarist of all time.

Thank you very much, Donna, for your beautiful voice and the great tunes you've given me. I've listened to you once every two weeks, at least, for the last 10 years. I won't stop now.

Question for the Week of May 14-20: Peter Parker's Hair

How am I supposed to believe that a smart teen - an unpopular nerd - has hair that looks so perfectly-styled?
Today I'm here because of hair and remake-itis. Yes, you read that right. Look at this picture I found while browsing the web, and understand my pain. Seriously, that 'do makes no sense for a teen, much less a straight one, much less a nerd!

Parker is a natural 5'8", but 5'11" with hair.

When I first heard about the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, I cursed out loud. I'm a native New Yorker, so that's not rare, but I was stunned: Sam Raimi is an excellent director, and even if the 3 Spidey films weren't amazing or deep (I liked part 2 a lot), they made a ton of money.

More importantly, I trust Raimi; even when his movies have flaws, they're always respectable works. Although I wasn't thrilled with them at the start, I also grew to like the cast, including Tobey MacGuire and Kirsten Dunst.

While comic-book movies aren't important to me, quality film-making most definitely is. The reboot news seemed like... the opposite of that. Sony decided to ditch a proven director who had some fancy "ïdeas" and just re-start the whole franchise; apparently, the teen market only likes stories about teens. Will they reset this again in 5 years?

Pete, what did you spend on product last month? It's ok to tell us you're gay...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jimi Hendrix without Hendrix but with Andre 3k

Last week, it was revealed that a Jimi Hendrix biopic was underway, filming in Ireland with OutKast's Andre 3000 as the lead. I love Jimi's music, as any person with good taste should. I don't really care who plays him, so long as it's not Chris Tucker, Martin Lawrence...

However, I do find it stupid and weird that they're ignoring many excellent and compelling black British actors - there's a lot of them, you know: Idris Elba, Colin Salmon, Lennie James, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (whose name I can pronounce just fine, thank you Nigerian coworkers!), Chiwetel Ejiofor... Honestly, if Thandie Newton played Mr. Hendrix, it would make more sense - tho it would leave me with suddenly-confused feelings about Jimi.

Of course, three days later, we learned that Jimi Hendrix's estate is denying permission to use any of his music in the film. And this is nothing less than greedy stupidity - to the max, brah!

I don't know that any movie could ever capture Jimi's life well. Not his days as a paratrooper in the Army, not his success in the UK before being recognized in the US or his legacy or his death. Still, you expect typical studio foolishnesss to mess up a biopic: glossing over bad or controversial moments, inventing material for dramatic effect... But refusing music rights because you're not getting paid enough is just moronic.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods Review - WOW!... Wait what?

24 hours after seeing The Avengers, I went with Scott G. to see The Cabin in the Woods, which was also written (but not directed) by Joss Whedon. We had a great time. I loved the cast & laughed quite often, but it wasn't very scary and has huge plot holes. Strangely, it was too fun for either flaw to hurt the experience.

I have mentioned this film twice before - and I'm so glad I skipped the trailers, as they reveal far too much. Now, I have the supremely-difficult task of reviewing it. The problem is partly that it's easy to spoil, and partly the weirdness of the picture itself.

See, Cabin is a very meta horror film, much like Scream, but more odd. The characters know the rules: don't go alone, or into a basement, and dear god, don't read Latin words from a book out loud. As in Scream, horror cliches are often referenced, right down to the 1 required nude shot, yet tCitW is still packed with smart surprises.

The Cabin in the Woods, however, goes far beyond Wes Craven's self-awareness and into new territory: from the very opening, this picture spills its secrets. It does this with bite-sized pieces of conversation between coworkers at some location that suggests a major corporation or government agency.

This clever and carefully-calculated aspect makes me (and most other reviewers) extremely cautious about spoiling the intelligent work on-screen. It also sets a great contrast in tone while neatly deceiving audience expectations. As a movie reviewer, this picture is one big migraine. As a film watcher, it's a hell of a lot of fun.

Even this gives away too much, probably.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Reviewing with Others, pt. 2: The Fury

A while ago, I asked my friend M Hufstader if she'd like to do synchronized reviews with me. I thought the first work should be a double-feature, and I loved the supernatural pairing of David Cronenberg's Scanners and Brian De Palma's The Fury. My bonus idea was that we would post on each other's sites.

Now, the event kicks off, as the owner of The Smoking Pen and Feed Me A Stray Cat has published my review of The Fury on her site. I'm excited for the 3 other posts to come in this little experiment, and I hope you enjoy them, too. I doubt I'll re-post The Fury here, so go there and read it now - then check out her other entries.

M is smart, cool, and fierce, and I look forward to putting her review up soon.

Friday, May 11, 2012

To the Victor, the Spoilers: Malice

WARNING: the post that follows may contain SPOILERS for Malice, as well as Psycho, The Social Network, The Empire Strikes BackCitizen KanePredator, and the original Saw. If you haven't seen those movies (well, Malice and Psycho, at least) or if you're the kind of person who whines when you learn about the endings of movies before you've seen them (even if they're decades old), then stop reading, come back once you've had the chance to give them a rental. Don't worry, this post will still be here.

Everyone else seen these movies or don't care about spoilers? Great, welcome to To the Victor, the Spoilers. Today, I'm bringing the spoiler-filled counterpart to a review Thaddeus started a few weeks back, on the Alec Baldwin/Nicole Kidman/Bill Pullman vehicle, Malice.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Last night I saw Whedon's Cabin!

Just a quick update to let you all know that I took the L into Williamsburg, where my friend Scott G and I caught a 10:05 showing of The Cabin in the Woods. All I can say is that I had a great time watching the insane film team-up of Drew Goddard (Buffy, Angel, Lost, Alias) and Joss Whedon. (those first 2). I laughed very hard and very, very often.

I also really enjoyed my first visit to the Nitehawk Cinema, and not just because of good company or a good film. Not only did Nitehawk have a nice lounge and (wow) alcohol concession stands, they actually have drink and food service - a real menu, mind you - at your seat! It was... very impressive.

But I could live without the booze or the food. What I loved about the venue: the excellent shorts that play before the picture. They were very surprising and great at breaking up any pre-film conversation. One was a claymation zombie clip where a maid does her best to kill the monsters and save a baby! It was demented fun, like Peter Jackson's Bad Taste.

Simply, I had a great time, Scott was great company, and I seriously look forward to going there more often! Cabin, by its own nature, will require a Double Dip, but I'm already working up a review. I'll post it this weekend, or next Monday/Tuesday.

What's inside R2D2? Tupac. Obviously

Last month, a cool/horrible concept came to life: Eminem and other wrappers performed at Coachella joined by a freaking hologram of Tupac Shakur! This nightmare of modern technology - like Frankenstein's monster, but digital - is surely controversial, but it's apparently been inspirational as well.

And so the middle of last month gave us a lightning fast answer to how good that inspiration was: the answer to what else is inside R2D2's databanks as a message for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Enjoy, please, and comment often.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Avengers Review - "Not to 50!"

Last night, at roughly 11:30PM Eastern Standard Time, an incredible noise was heard in NYC. That was me, reaching climax while watching The Avengers. It sounded like that torture scene in The Princess Bride, but from sheer pleasure.

Yes, Joss Whedon took me "to 50."

I wrote last week that I was excited about the film. Sure, I mocked their marketing campaign and slagged off Netflix for showing the run-up Marvel films in Canada only. But I hoped the reviews would be positive, and they nearly all have been. Yet as my brother and I left the theater, I still couldn't believe how good it was.

The Avengers is smart in that it tells a fairly basic story: an American super-spy agency is doing research on a powerful object. Aliens make a deal with Loki, the Norse god of mischief, giving him an army to conquer Earth in exchange for that object. The spy agency gathers 4 complex super-heroes to fight the threat. Game on.

I won't spoil the story much - I often use Double Dip entries for that - but maybe the description wasn't so simple. And honestly, this isn't in any way a "thoughtful" movie. However, the action gets top billing along with its characters and humor, and it's supremely satisfying in all those aspects. This wasn't high art, just terribly fun and not stupid.

Fortunately, that's not a flaw. Movies can succeed on the strength of their story, their message, or their players. When one of those is great, you can produce a solid, enjoyable film. Avengers entertained as much with its roles as it did with exceptional action sequences. For any recent non-drama not made by Chris Nolan, it's astonishing how strong the character work was.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

batman false start

In mid-April, Caleb Goellner at Comics Alliance wrote about a hysterical batman clip, made by fans. He pointed me to this site, and I gotta agree, it's an extremely clever and inventive take on the Batman of the last two (Nolan) movies. If you ever wonder why a guy who doesn't read comics still checks out a comics website, the vid below is the reason.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Question for the Week of May 7 - 13: My 2012 Hopes

What movies am I looking forward to this year?
Thank god, I got a softball for once:

The Cabin in the Woods, as I'm dying for a good horror flick right now, and this team means it will be great. I almost want to play a mean prank on Lionsgate for not releasing this #$^#ing picture 2 years ago; really. Feb 2010 became April 2012 since they pushed for a 3D conversion, then ran out of money 4-5 months after it should've come out.

Going with my brother to see The Avengers.

How Nolan will make me hate him for ending his Batman series with The Dark Knight Rises.

Cosmopolis, because so long as my legs aren't broke, I must see everything that David Cronenberg puts onto screens.

Brave - Pixar is... their works are almost all instant classics. Also, how do the kids say it? "Female protagonist ftw"

Safety Not Guaranteed. It sounds like it may be exactly my type of comedy/drama.

Moonlight Kingdom. I was an early mega-fan of Wes Anderson but I ran away before Life Aquatic even came out.. I've never even seen The Royal Tenenbaums.

Looper, because I love Rian Johnson, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. They even involved Shane Caruth, the Primer creator. This will be an orgy of indie genius... with Bruce Willis.

The Hobbit, for which reasons to watch need not be given.

The World's End. I love Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost terribly by themselves, and even more when they're together. I hope it comes out this year! Bless Nikhat for telling me about this.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Adam Yauch Is Gone

I love the Beastie Boys. Not "more than a friend," but still... And today, I learned that MCA, also known as Adam Yauch, is dead. This musician, film-maker, and hyper-Buddhist finally succumbed to the cancer that plagued the last years of his life.

The Beastie Boys, and Yauch individually, are very important, both to myself and the whole 20th Century. They never lost relevance in the 00's or 10's, and this day brings their importance into focus - if in the worst possible way.

I hesitated to post, because there aren't enough words to express how awful this is. What I can say is that he was a figure in independent film, part of one of the best rap/hip-hop groups ever, and an overall cool guy.

Hang your heads in sadness, think about what we've all lost, and then find a way to celebrate (life and music) that MCA would be proud of. Do, as I saw one of the Beasties do in concert, a kicking handstand off a massive speaker.

It's not their best song, by far, but "Sabotage" offers a good view of Adam's face, looks like an awesome cop film, and is a good track. If I just wrote this for myself I'd use something from Paul's Boutique.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Where's Jason?" Wallpaper is super cute

It's a little odd, as I've enjoyed a lot of horror movies, but I don't really write about them as often as you'd think. There's too much garbage out there to review it all, which would also be a waste of my time. I prefer to recommending really strong horror entries, with solid direction, action, etc...

Which is even more odd, as I've written about Friday the 13th a few times here. I reviewed the entire series (save the reboot) in one of my MRQs, and gave a boost to the Ft13th poster showing every death...

And then Glen Brogan had the nifty idea to make a "Where's Jason?" wallpaper, and here we are again. You can go to the Strange Kids Club site and download it in 3 different sizes. It's not a huge laugh like some of these other web gems, but it still put a smile on my face.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Burn Notice Double Dip

I don't cover TV here much because it's a little off-topic and I don't watch a lot of it. When I do, I try to draw special attention to something really good and fairly unknown. This is why I often go abroad - because I want something new and different and hopefully more mature and thoughtful than what American audiences tend to get.

So, yes - Intelligence, Hyperdrive, Sherlock, Survivors. I wanted my first post about TV, tho, to be a warm-up, so I went with then-favorite Burn Notice. I'll write a review to tell you why I think you should watch something; I'll write about strengths and weaknesses, but not plots. Why spoil the surprise?

Since "re-review" isn't a word, today's Double Dip covers something important to all story-telling: why I completely dropped a show that I once reviewed glowingly. If you look over my post, it might've seemed the producers were paying me for it (how I wish they had!). Years away have made my feelings easy to express.

Burn Notice really impressed me. From the start, it had a smart sense of humor which it used in many ways - dialogue, or little beats, character intros... It had good action and charismatic leads (Donovan, Anwar, Bruce Campbell!), and came off as Grosse Pointe Blank meets MacGyver.

Best of all, we see a master spy with his wings clipped, trying to clear his name. This basic story is so much better because he's also forced to see his mom and brother again, all while the bomb-making, gun-running, Irish girlfriend he skipped out on comes to town to both torment and seduce him. Seeing Fiona kick Michael's ass was such fun.

I stopped watching BN regularly after it returned for a third season; I'd stopped altogether by the fourth. It wasn't just from being busy - although that helped; I didn't care. So what changed?

There's this quality that a good tv series can have when it wins your interest: the episodes feel like chapters in a book - each installment is "of a piece," one big story unwinding. Burn Notice absolutely had that in its first and second seasons. & the appeal went away because the 30-whatever entries after S2 just felt like... like episodes in a tv show.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The B@man Musical is... stunning

On April 20, this year, something special happened to me: I found out about the B@man Musical. These same people already found nerd-fame with a Harry Potter musical 3 years ago.

It is an insane, funny, clever, long-ass work of art. It's also intentionally campy and has swear words in it.

It's on Youtube in 14 parts, so I recommend that you have some time on your hands and take advantage of the "Queue" or "Playlist" features the site provides. The above link in this post leads to a page that points to all 14.

Or go here, where a Batman expert (you can laugh, but he knows more than Clooney) gushes about how good it is.

Better still, the soundtrack is available on Bandcamp, so you can listen to this as much as you like. Is this good, imaginative, fun?