Friday, June 29, 2012

Reviewing with Others, pt. 7: Good Virus

June has been a banner month. I didn't just break 50,000 hits over the last 3 years, I'm already nearing 52k! I also broke 4,000 hits/mo for only the second time in this blog's history (last month was the first).

I think I kept a nice pace this month, and I think my posts had a good variety. May's 25 entries took a lot of work (and an assist from DJ), but they were helped by the fact that I declared it Fan-made Gem Month. June's 17 entries were more manageable, and I had at least one entry per week that showcased some in-depth/more thoughtful writing..

Finally, I should note that though I only covered They Live here, I did review 1 movie per week over at the Man, I Love Films site. I will be keeping that same pace during July, and as well as writing one Gem and one Question every week. Any thoughts on that?

Today, in this final June post, I'm linking to my latest bout of reviewing with others...

Last week, I saw Good Virus, a documentary about happiness, its ability to spread, and how it can improve health, outlook, and society as a whole. I liked the movie (the site requires me to give it a score, so 3/5 hearts, sigh) - liked it enough that I wanted more out of this fairly-short picture. My thoughts are up now at Man, I Love Films. Read, enjoy, let me know what you think...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Blade Runner Re-created in Watercolor!

I've linked to them in the past, and I've explained this before: I check out the Comics Alliance website often because they have a series of great super-hero movie reviews, and they find some neat film-related material. For realsies, I haven't read comics since I started dating; think there's a connection?

In this case, Caleb Goellner recently revealed that a brilliant person named Anders Ramsell has an new art project: recreating Ridley Scott's Bladerunner in watercolors. The video embedded here uses the movie's audio track, but with the artist's own contribution. The result is truly beautiful, as well as stunningly-impressive. Enjoy, please.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Question for the Week of June 25 - July 1: Seagal's Pain Philosophy

"What does it take?... What does it take to change the essence of a man?"
It's from On Deadly Ground, a middle/late entry in Steven Seagal's "the title begins with a preposition" series. It's asked by Seagal to Mike Starr, who plays a meathead that torments an Eskimo in a bar. In keeping with Steven's work, the 3-fold answer is unexpected: slap your hands impossibly hard, karmically-just humiliation, and internal bleeding.

Of course, this leaves room for interpretation. Maybe "changing the essence" refers to the blood transfusion Starr will get in the hospital (perhaps from an Indian? hmmm?). Maybe Mike's talking about literal healing when he whimpers the reply, "Time. Just time." - to stop bleeding inside. Most heroes either beat you up or philosophize at you; only Steven enjoys that niche market of doing both.

And couldn't Seagal have turned his pudgy justice against the bar full of Alaskan losers who didn't mind the old guy being bullied and ethnically insulted in front of them? Making fun of a drunk is one thing, who doesn't care that suddenly the topic is race?...

Too much analysis, right? Well, I hope you enjoyed this positive message: sending someone to hospital can really make them reconsider their racist attitudes. It's not experiencing bigotry first-hand, or realizing that we're all sort of the same, or learning that harassment is an actionable crime. Nope, it's gut-punches until someone both throws up and spits blood.

My personal answer was "try painting," "work out more," or "choose a charity." I'm such an idealistic fool...

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Avengers Double Dip: Fan Facts and My Thoughts

It was with great pleasure that I saw a bit of fan-made genius the day after I saw The Avengers with my brother: it would cost $160 Billion to repair the damage caused to NYC by various evil aliens, demi-gods, and heroes. A week later, AICN posted first one article where a physicist weighs in on the science behind the movie (a flying aircraft carrier?), and then a later follow-up on its portrayal of scientists and specific heroes.

In the days after, even more articles appeared. Red Letter Media made a great Half in the Bag review on Whedon's work. In the penultimate week of May, Marvel itself released a timeline of its Avengers-related movies. Even Cracked got into the game with a fake script for the film; among other gems, it has this great bit of dialogue:
Nah, that's just writer/director Joss Whedon dialogue. Funny when it's trying to be funny, hilarious when it's trying to be serious.
Hang on a second, your hammer has decimated everything you've ever hit with it, you had no way of knowing my shield or Robert's armor would protect us. Did you just attempt to straight-up murder us? Don't change the scene, I want an answer to thi-
Even a mid-June followup on Comics Alliance came up with this great series of storyboards for the picture. All this attention not only entertained the hell out of me, it gave me a great opportunity for a spoiler-ific double dip. I wanted to track all this info and share it with ya'll. So check out those articles, and watch the How It Should Have Ended: Avengers video below.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Aliens Musical and Pulp Fiction Timeline Map!

So, let's kick things off by with something I love: the movie Aliens. It's an all-time favorite, as are Jon and Al, who I've mentioned before for their musical parodies of Predator, Conan, The Thing, and Sean Connery's crazy accent. Now, they're graced us all with Aliens: the Musical. God, I wanna give these guys a small parade.

When I closed out 2011, I made sure to post some great videos. One was a youtube link that had all of Pulp Fiction, in chronological order. It's a fine movie - one I loved - but I haven't paid it much attention here.

Enter Noah Daniel Smith, the man smart and skilled enough to create a perfect graphic timeline of all the events in Pulp Fiction. No point in using a bunch of fancy adjectives or comparisons to say how impressed I was. Or, perhaps...

And thus verily! were we all wowed by the - sigh, just look:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

R3V13W3R$: Open Mind During, Not Before

I mentioned it before: a few times, I've seen bad movies not on purpose. I don't mean entertaining not-good films, like Tango & Cash - I mean Transformers and The Island and Resident Evil 3. I went to those because my friend Greg invited me, and I liked him a lot and he was going through a difficult divorce.

The real issue is that I "knew" these movies would suck without seeing them. It's natural, definitely, yet it's often a bad sign - sometimes in people, but always in a reviewer. (now that I mention it, if you wonder where "R3V13W3R$" comes from, click here.)

How can you trust my opinions? If you walk into something with a bad attitude, by and large, you will often come out with nothing more than the same lousy mood. Expectation has a huge impact on perception; it's a fact.

And that's leaving taste aside - what's actually important to a person. Some people really enjoyed all those lousy Martin Lawrence and Rob Schneider films! Someone out there loves Jack & Jill, or Human Centipede (the Paris Hilton of movies), or Glitter, Gigli, Ishtar, Cop Out, or Die Hard 4.

My fair attitude means that when someone drags me to a pic I expect to hate, I will dread it - right up until I take my seat and the movie starts.

I've been let-down by pix that couldn't hold up despite a great budget or cast. I've been stunned by films I was sure would Suck Hard, or even Suck Hard With A Vengeance. So I ditch my worries when the trailers end, and hope for the best. I might as well be positive about it, and, even weak movies can have some highlights...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reviewing with Others, pt. 6: Kawa

It's time for another Indie Spotlight review! Two Mondays past, I saw Kawa, a New Zealand film about a Maori who comes to terms with his own sexuality, and must reveal his real nature to his family. I can't identify with the specific problem here, but the conflict is universal, and Kawa has a much wider appeal than "gay issues." I truly hope it's not confined to the "Special Interests" or "Gay & Lesbian" section of video stores.

The picture is very well done and I really enjoyed the acting, narrative, and glorious NZ scenery. You should check it out asap. At 6AM EST the review will go up at Man, I Love Films.

UPDATE: Direct link here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Question for the Week of June 18 - June 24: Predator Names

This is not just a question I asked myself, I'm asking it to you as well.
How do you feel about the names of Arnie's crew in Predator? They're called: Dutch, Dillon, Blain, Hawkins, Billy, Mac, and Ramirez.
I think it's both funny and awful. I love multi-culturalism, so it's great to see a a movie cast that isn't all white men. We've only got 2 brothers, 1 latino, 1 Native American, and 3 honkies. It's a strange group to accept, though.

I want to count Schwarzenegger as a minority, due to his heavy Bavarian accent and that his last name means "black plowman." But Carl Weather's Dillon is a weird case, as he's not part of the actual team. And Ramirez shouldn't count because he's very, very pale, and his Spanish is accentless (then again, the actor's name is Richard Chaves).

Still, we're talking about a 1987 Hollywood production, so even having two non-Anglos (and with no friction over their backgrounds, either) is a very nice move. I can't believe that the names manage to be even more diverse than the actors - they are so extremely far-ranging, it's the cast-name equivalent of a Benetton ad.

And honestly, I don't care if I already posted this video before - it's a masterpiece, and I'm nearing 300 posts on Net-flixation, so I'll take a rare moment to gratify myself. At least, unlike some people, I'll make sure you're (probably) entertained, too; I'm giving that way:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reviewing with Others, pt. 5: A Necessary Death

Yes, another game of linky-linky! This Monday, I saw A Necessary Death, a fake-documentary about a film student who chooses to interview and follow a person who wants to commit suicide, from beginning to end. I enjoyed watching it.

At 6AM EST, the review went up at Man, I Love Films. See ya there.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Question for the Week of June 11 - June 17: Rebel Scum

I don't always take easy Questions. But it's easy to see that I can watch an indie romantic comedy and then write nearly 2000 words about it. All I can say is that if I die and am buried, I wouldn't mind if the words on my headstone were "Ain't no Half-Steppin."

Anyway, I discovered this randomly, and it leads me to ask this question to you:
How cool is it that you can go to Wiki, type the words "rebel scum," and you're sent directly to the page for the Rebel Alliance from Star Wars?
I think it's grand.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

R3V13W3R$: Reviewers I Follow

Which professional reviewers do I listen to? Who gets me in or out of a theater? Well, the links on the right of my page will answer that question, but they don't tell you why. If I can back movie podcasts, I should have stumped for my faves by now. & if you want to know how today's post got this title, click to jump to the entry's end.

I've written about reviewing before. I've made a lot of art, and I'm going to keep at it. Sometimes it's just practically being a freaking performer (in public or private), or through photography, impromptu design or craft work, or (most often?) words. I find... inspiration more easily than most, and I use it without simply craving attention.

So I care and think a lot about aesthetics, individual and collective taste, artistic theses or goals... Having a sense of these things is important in art, and you'll see it most in my Movie Aspects posts. Everyone I've linked to has my respect as writers and/or web designers, but my favorite pros (in no particular order) are:

AV Club - They're not listed, but I link to them all the time. Though I seriously disagree with their take on several films, I often lower my expectations if they rank a pic as a D or C-. Their entries go up on Thursday, with more are added by Friday afternoon. The reviewers rotate, and I don't agree with each one, so your mileage should vary, too.

Alexandra DuPont - Wrote for DVD Journal and AICN, and covered a variety of films: the new Star Trek, Watchmen, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Dark Knight. I especially recommend her thoughts on the Star Wars Prequels - she picks apart the problems expertly. She's an exceptional essayist, but she never runs on. She seems to have retired, I've been slowly going through her beautiful body of work.

She's an extremely gifted, intelligent writer with a strong sense of style and wordcraft. It's easy to respect her opinions, since she's clearly an educated fan of film. Her complaints and comments are always fair and thoughtful. She's probably very cool, too. If anyone knows where she's writing now, please tell me. I'd read her on any subject. It could be... I dunno, My Little Pony Fan-fic and I'd read it.

Red Letter Media - must've been the best film school classmates ever. They're smart, skilled, and hard-working. Their reviews are thoughtful, but (thankfully) they can just sit back and turn off, too... Unlike most critics, their technical and aesthetic critiques come from experience. Their site hosts the dozens of videos they've made; these men (and women) clearly love film.

Monday, June 11, 2012

They Live Review - I'm confused

John Carpenter is an odd director. He made some excellent early films, then had an unfortunate run of movies sunk by either poor plots or bad dialogue. If I were mean, or a pessimist, I'd say he lost his knack for making good pictures. But I just can't disparage the maker of The Thing, Escape From New York, Halloween, and Big Trouble in Little China. Which makes They Live kinda weird, because...

I do like that line, tho.

First, you must know that They Live is a sci-fi/action movie with a decent budget and fx. Its wildly inventive story: a decent construction worker in LA has fallen on hard times. While camping out in a temp-worker shanty town, he finds a pair of shades - sunglasses that show subliminal ads are on tv, print ads, and the radio! And some people look like hideous aliens! This man spends the remainder of the movie fighting the ETs.

Second, you must know that They Live dedicates time to being loudly... libertarian and borders onto full-on populism. It's weird to see a B-movie philosophize, much less so overtly. The fact that it stars Roddy Piper, a pro wrestler, means that TL is hyper-absurd in pandering to the downtrodden everyman.

It also features one of the most stupid/ awesome/ ridiculous fight scenes of all time:

They Live actually kinda-sorta works, and is well-regarded as a cult film - partly from 80s nostalgia and partly because this movie is just fun. You might enjoy it, but it can't be a guilty pleasure for me because it's simply not good enough. No offense to lovers of cult films - I'm a big fan of many, myself - but I have no reason to care about the characters, the dialogue's often poor, and many parts simply could've been executed better.

Mercifully, it's got all the hallmarks of good 1980s action. Not great action (e.g., Commando), mind you, or good action as part of a really well-conceived film (e.g., Midnight Run) - it's just excessive in keeping with that decade's style, and full of elements that place it firmly in its time. This is flashback-in-a-can; or, rather, in-a-movie.

Carpenter directed & wrote this 1987 pic with a pro wrestler (Roddy Piper) as the lead, Nada ("nothing" in Spanish). Strolling into town with a big travel pack and a honky-tonk theme, Nada soon finds himself in a room where a large sign has the heading "Job Opportunities" - and is totally blank underneath. Next, he's in a park, where a black preacher rails against modern excess; but soon, a pair of cops arrive and hustle the priest away.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Darth Vader in Love

Have you ever fallen in love?

Was it gentle? Did you suddenly notice someone in a way you never did before? And then you look at the rest of them and see it all differently? Or was it awkward? You're in the middle of doing something, and your train of thought gets utterly derailed and it's like you're on some drug?

Or maybe you always felt drawn to somebody - to their style and their jokes - and gravity just throws you together one day. Being in love is beautiful, a little terrifying at times, and can happen to any of us.

Darth Vader in Love was made for the BBC's The Peter Serafinowicz Show. It deals with the question that none of us ever wanted to ask about the big, semi-mechanical, former Jedi: what happens when he meets the right woman?

This skit may lose a bit of steam towards the end, but it's a fine film parody, and quite funny. It's certainly good enough to share. A lot of effort and skill was put into wardrobe, cinematography, and dialogue. I love her costume design, how they recreate the Galactic Empire's look and feel, and the bit with the hologram is just brilliant and hysterical.

Next week will have one new review here and one posted elsewhere, among other non-Fan-made Gem surprises. I hope you enjoy them all.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Finally, a movie/classical painting mashup

Wow, I'm still exhausted from the review I wrote earlier this week. Thank heaven that the interweb still provides plenty for me to share - and to write about efficiently! Life's been so hectic lately, it would be easy to fall behind... But just because I'm hard-pressed doesn't mean we can't have fun together.

There's nothing like a job well done, is there? May featured so many pop-culture entries, but this one goes beyond The Batman. An artist called Hillary White decided to add popular film characters to a series of famous paintings. The results are really quite funny, creative, and pretty to look at. I'll give you a tour of 3:

On the upper- right, we have this funny/grotesque look at "The Last Supper." You can see Skeletor from He-Man, the Luck Dragon from The Neverending Story, Ninja Turtles, Spiderman, Kermit, Darth Vader, and the freaky-deaky eye monster from Pan's Labyrinth. It's great, sacrilegious, and unnerving all at the same time.

Luckily, I'm not offended by religious imagery, or parodies of them. Actually, since religion dominated most art (and the world) in Ye Olden Days, most of this series will, naturally, end up being taken from paintings with a religious bent...

Does he hiss at the sky?
And what can possibly be cuter than seeing an Alien in the throes of deep, painful regret? Can you feel the passion? The sorrow? His little acid-pumping heart surely bleeds at the loss; and that blood probably melts through the 4 floors below...

And who doesn't love the thought of a merciless Alien finding love and loss in Russia? This painting was based on Ilya Repin's "Ivan the Terrible and his Son, Ivan," which is both an inspired and a left-field choice. I've never seen the original work until after I found this...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Question for the Week of June 4 - June 10: Recent Kid Flick

What's the last kid's picture I watched?
I dated a big-time movie buff in 2007 (match made in heaven, right?) and we went to see Bridge to Terabithia. She suggested it, confident that I'd be game for a children's film - something I hadn't seen in 7 years, different from anything we'd seen before - and she was dead-right.

She chose well, too. The movie was well-made, setting every element up nicely. The beginning establishes a simple family environment that feels very authentic, like in Close Encounters or Spy Kids. The fx were very good, and the imaginary world recalled Heavenly Creatures, which is a fine pic to even be reminded of.

More importantly, I had no idea what to expect. I saw a film that did not talk down to the audience and wasn't riddled with cliches. In fact, Terabithia had a huge storyline surprise, and I was impressed by how the film dealt with the subject matter while also playing out its story.

Oh hell, I just realized I actually saw Ponyo after that! But I already wrote this entry, and I negatively reviewed Ponyo over two years ago. Maybe I should change the question to "the last kid's movie I saw in the theater?"

Monday, June 4, 2012

Reviewing with Others, pt. 4: 6 Month Rule

Last Friday, I went to the the NYC premiere of 6 Month Rule, a romantic comedy about a hyper-bachelor who suddenly falls in love with an elusive artist. I really enjoyed it, and I couldn't help but write over 1800 words about it. I hung out with the cast for several hours after the screening, and it was a perfect end to a great week. At 6PM EST the review will go up at Man, I Love Films.

UPDATE: My review can be found here.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Arnold Gets Mixed!

I don't like mocking people's accents, because that's often at least kind of racist - and because teasing people for being different is just lousy humor; a good comedian doesn't need to mock someone's accent or looks - the worst parts are always inside, right? I think it has nothing to do with my own father's Spanish-inflected English.

In an ideal world, we would all know at least 4 languages, and when someone's who's European, Asian, or African tries to pronounce words in English, no one would think twice because it's damn hard to pronounce words right if you're an American trying on Cantonese, French, or Urdu.

And yet, it's so hard not to enjoy Arnold Schwarzenneger's voice. Do you remember the vids I linked to ages ago, the two where Arnie was dubbed as Darth Vader in Star Wars?

I'm glad that someone kept Arnie in mind when they wanted to make music. I just thought I'd share the joy of two videos I discovered courtesy of Uproxx.The first is a nice, mellow trip-hop tune called "Who Is Your Daddy (and what does he do?)":