Friday, November 30, 2012

End of November Thoughts and Thought-Like Things

Well, for starters, I broke 5k hits for the third month in a row! I not only broke 75k hits over 3 & 1/2 years, but I've nearly hit 80k, all in one passing of 30 days. It's amazing, and I'm honored to have done even better in November than I did in October. Thanks, everyone.

For another, I recently discovered that I'm on Wikipedia! It's a brief mention of a review for Man, I Love Films, and I don't have my own Wiki page or such (yet). Still, it's an honor to be included in the Internet's biggest encyclopedia/database. What I'm trying to express is that I'm patting myself on the back, firmly...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Three Kinds of Crazy: Appreciating Nick Cage

Because life can be dreadfully random, here are three short reviews featuring Nicolas Cage. I'm sure it won't be a shock to anyone that in all three he plays deeply disturbed individuals.


Ever find a movie somewhat enjoyable and also kinda reprehensible? That's Kick-Ass, the adaptation of Mark Millar's comic book--a decent enough time complicated by story and morality problems.

The story has two parts. The first is the type of high-concept premise that Millar specializes in: what if a regular superhero-obsessed teen (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), with no superpowers or fighting skills, decided to dress up in a wetsuit and go out there and fight crime? The initial result, a high profile beat down at the hands of some hoods, should be the end of the story. Instead, we go to part two, where Kick-Ass--wetsuit guy's actual chosen superhero name--recovers from his injuries and gets back into the superhero game, improbably becoming a big success and capturing the public's attention.

In this second part of the story, the focus shifts from Kick-Ass to two unrelated heroes, Big Daddy and Hit Girl. Big Daddy, played awesomely by Nick Cage, is basically Batman, minus the restrictions on killing and using guns. Cage gives Big Daddy two sides--a mild-mannered and sometimes visibly disturbed civilian identity, and a dead-on Adam West impression while in costume, making the character almost equal parts incredible and pathetic. Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), the Robin to Big Daddy's Batman, is one of the more problematic fictional characters in film history. She's a sword- and gun-wielding killing machine, foulmouthed like Don Logan...and she's also middle school-aged.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Road House, the Evil Version

In the middle of this month, the brilliant folks at Uproxx told me about something pretty clever: a tyrannical version of Road House where Patrick Swayze is, basically, a villain.

Or, as this genius video imagines, a total d--k:

I will review Road House soon (next month), but I gotta think that this is, at least, a very smart way to play with an established film. I just wish they gave Swayze a goatee... 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Question for the Week of Nov 26-Dec 2: Random Re-casting

What's the best random reinterpretation of a movie I've ever seen or heard of?
A while back, I was talking to a coworker, Josh, and the movie Commando came up. We both shared how much we liked it, and how good the old Schwarzenneger films were. Suddenly, the conversation turned to Commando's villain, Bennett. He was played by Vernon Wells, an Australian actor who also appeared in Weird Science and Mad Max 2. That's Vernon on set with Arnie.

He was an over-the-top villain, but Commando was a very OTT movie. How OTT? Arnie kills someone by hurling the blade of a circular saw at their head.

Bennett has a real problem with Arnold Schwarzenegger's role, John Matrix. From the very beginning of the film, Bennett is executing John's former Delta Force team, one by one. Then Bennett kidnaps John's daughter to force the hero into assassinating someone.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Reviewing with Others, Pt. 29: Linotype

I just watched and reviewed Linotype, a documentary about a machine that's basically the 19th Century's most perfect printing press. My thoughts can be read or whatever over here at Man, I Love Films.

As to the upcoming week: I'll stick to the Fan-made Gem/Question/Review/random entry schedule. The Question coming up should be a lot of fun for everyone, and the Gem is pretty good. And I think that, in addition to an indie review, I'll finally post MRQ XII this week. Also, there should be 5 posts this week instead of the usual 4.

Naturally, the real shame here is that the awesome "T2 Mitt Romney" post from mid-November is now no longer on my homepage. Then again, the only way I would be truly happy is if that clip played every time you visited my site...

Or every time I closed my eyes.

See you all tomorrow
Half a Film Student

Friday, November 23, 2012

Question for the Week of Nov 19-25: Franchise Disillusionment

What's with you and franchises? What happened?
Well, I gave up on them; in fact, I see them as a near-guarantee of poor quality, these days. It's a sad turn of events, I guess, but I'll try to break down the different factors very clearly. First, tho, a little background:

My college roommate and I held multiple marathons or semi-marathons of the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street films. Fortunately, my roomie wasn't just a film-lover - he really enjoyed horror pix on multiple levels, just like I did. Those two series, particularly, are scary at times, but also silly, funny, dumb, messed-up, inventive, impressive, and clever. 

They're great for looking back at the 80's and 90's, too. It's not just the hair and clothes, these pictures feature a lot of surprising cast members (Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne, Crispin Glover, Steven Williams...)...

And, since childhood, the Bond series was a big deal for me. I was raised to revere travel, and I loved the music, and I can't tell how many times I might have seen any one of the first 14 or so 007 movies. It might be why I wrote up No One Lives Forever. I was also a big fan of the original Star Wars trilogy and the Indiana Jones films - although I've had some problems with Jedi, as well as Temple of Doom and Last Crusade

I guess a lot of the damage started with the 1-2 punch of the Matrix sequels and the Star Wars prequels. Yes, Phantom Menace made no sense, but I was so happy for more SW that I was willing to play along - until I saw Attack of the Clones. That was so bad that I only saw RotS because (a) a date cancelled on me, (b) my roommate wanted to see it, and (c) I figured after parts 1 & 2, it'd be funny watching Anakin get maimed (answer: it was). That's right, I saw Star Wars RotS ironically.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Reviewing with Others, Pt. 28: Programming the Nation

Yes, you have a lot to be thankful for on this super-early Thanksgiving Day (the earliest it can occur, btw). I have two - yes two! - posts up today, to make up for the lack of an indie movie review last week. I've kept a fairly steady pace on those over this Summer and Fall, but I will have another review up this weekend to make up for it - as well as my weekly Question post, which goes up tomorrow.

Getting back to the documentary: it's about the use of subliminal and unfairly-manipulative advertising in the US. I was open to its ideas, and liked a lot of the doc, but it could have been a bit better. To learn my opinion - and suggestions for improvement - just check out my review over here at Man, I Love Films.

Yes, yes, I do this all for free, and yet I'm still working it on a federal holiday. That's the way I roll, friends. You keep reading and responding, and I'll keep writing.

Happy T-Day!

Lockout Review - it... actually works

I can't believe it. This film had a trailer that I only watched because I like Guy Pearce a lot (Memento!). The trailer's set up to give you a guy that's basically Snake Plissken from John Carpenter's excellent Escape From New York - a bloodier version of the Marlboro man. Y'know, man at his most... Man.

It also gives Pearce a filthy mouth and a mean sense of humor. The trailer was genuinely fun - watch it for yourself: 

But, of course, this kind of movie isn't meant to be any good, right? It'll probably work on some half-camp level, but the dialogue will suck really really badly. Some performer may overact so much (or be so flat) that it ruins every scene. The fx might be kind of shoddy, or you won't have distinct characters that evoke any feeling from you, much less sympathy or concern.

So what the hell happened? Lockout was...not bad. In fact, it was... just fine(?)! Lockout was entertaining?! It would have been very easy to misstep with this story and these types of characters; the directors (James Mather and Stephen St. Leger) managed it perfectly well. I was going to cover this movie as part of an MRQ, but this is so rare nowadays that it deserves to be reviewed on its own.

Why is it so rare? Because the filmmakers used exactly the kind of roles, plot progression, and pace to make this motion picture work. Let's be blunt: if you see a movie called House of the Dead, the title itself says you're in for a cheesy B-horror movie, cheap fun. Without a "serious" director or writer attached - Fincher, Aronofsky, Tarantino, Charlie Kaufman, Joss Whedon - you're even more prepared for a low-stakes, low-expectations entertainment.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy 50th, Cinematic James Bond!

So, James Bond has been in film for decades now - 5 of them, as of this year. As a result, the pop-culture staple is getting a lot of attention in 2012. I'm only highlighting two of these videos today, but the Bond series will come up a lot in this week's Question post, and DJ will pop in to review Skyfall...

For starters, there's this official video (AV Club told me about it), which was created by Barbican. It's always been true that the world of 007 is all surface, lots of excitement without necessarily a lot of depth. Appropriately enough, this vid is about designing 007's style:

If you follow the link to Barbican above, you can see the other videos hosted on the site. They cover various aspects of the series, so you'll get to learn quite a bit about the only spy too stupid to use a fake name...

And I have to mention that, in October, even The Economist got in on the game. Its website posted statistics for all six James Bond actors. So what kind of stats does a spy like 007 get? Yeah, Economist couldn't do better than a Maxim article: they went with the number of (a) martinis, (b) sexual/romantic conquests, and (c) enemy kills.

It's shocking, because the results don't play out like you'd expect. Pierce Brosnan blew everyone away in the murder/death category, killing nearly 20 in just 4 movies. Sean Connery and George Lazenby seem tied for conquests - but George was in only one film, so he must've had like 8 women or something in OHMSS...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ranker's Great Alternate Endings List

Let me tell ya, I'm feeling so happy that I added the Fair Warning page recently. Obviously I must've foreseen the future and realized I'd be riding the subway in to work with my cell phone showing me that once again a draft got published instead of the finished post.

But let's not dwell. It happened, it's over. I'll try to figure out why this has happened like 5 times over the last month and half, when it barely occurred before.

Ranker recently came up with an excellent list of alternate endings for some fairly well-known movies. It includes the usual entries - Blade Runner, Brazil, I Am Legend (sigh), Fatal Attraction. Hell, Little Shop of Horrors made it in, and I've seen like 6 posts since October about its original ending.

But it does bring something new to the table, too: I didn't know that Dante was supposed to die in Clerks(!). Wow, I guess he was supposed to be an allegory for Christ. "For I have told thee before, that I am not supposed to be here today, my son..." There's also some surprising differences with the endings to of Deep Blue Sea, 1408, and The Lion King.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Question for the Week of Nov. 12-18: Best Poster + Tagline

What's my favorite movie poster tagline?
Well, there are some that I love ironically, and there are some that I love because they're so awful. Anyone who knows me well is aware that I often use the taglines from Jaws 4: The Revenge (that sub-title!) and the second half of the title for Breakin' 2.

And, clearly, Striking Distance deserves its own spot in the treasure chest of trivia my brain is full of, which is why it's got it's own post on this site...

But if I were pressed to call one up to stand above all? For sheer quality, I'll have to go with the original A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Final Romney Fan-made Gem: T2 Version

There was no way I could possibly not post this. It's bloody hysterical. Whoever made it deserves a hug, a high-five, and a cash prize. I like it so much, I don't care that it kinda does fit the width of my pages...

It's not just some political insult or mockery - this is actually a valid observation about what might be the real situation behind closed doors. I'm also so impressed because I myself wouldn't have thought to do this - as either a joke or as commentary - for any political event, whether I had personal feelings on the matter or not.

Ryan's real-life position may well be like little Johnny Connor's: Romney is done, because the modern political party attitude will just focus on the fact that he didn't deliver; it won't matter to them and folks like Rove whether they really liked his message or thought he had the ability to lead the country into a brighter future. Also, Romney said that mean thing about minorities after he lost, so...

Meanwhile, Ryan, as the VP nom, won't bear the blame for any failure, and he'll move on into the uncertain future.

And James Cameron will remain incredibly popular; it just has nothing to do with the election. See, T2 ties right in to these events so neatly.
I know now why you cry. But it is something I can never do... I cannot self-terminate. You must lower me into the steel. Good-bye.
-The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Monday, November 12, 2012

UnFun Film News: Latino ParaAct; Animal Farm, Neutered

I'm here today, readers, friends, random-ass strangers, to fill you in on two bits of news. They're not recent - I learned about 'em weeks ago. I try for positivity and whatnot, but I think both are awful tidbits of info, ones that reflect poorly on the film industry.

The first bit begins with something cool that I didn't know: Andy Serkis took advantage of all his motion-captured performances and started his own mo-cap production company. That was a cool thing to learn, to me, and I congratulate Serkis and wish him the best. 

Except on his first project for the fledging business: Andy wearing his green-screen suit so that he can put on a cinematic production of Animal Farm, which will have no politics in it.

Yes, I can't support a family-friendly Animal Farm film that will dance around all of the social and political issues that George Orwell put into his novella. This work was assigned to me in like the 6th grade (or earlier, I can't recall), which makes the changes completely stupid and... stupid. 

As a writer and Lit major, I am offended, repulsed, and disgusted that anyone would take George Orwell's amazing socio-political allegorical piece and turn it into what sounds like Babe 3: The More Animals Edition. Talk about aiming for the basement, right?...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Reviewing with Others, Pt. 27: Sironia

This week, I saw Sironia - it's a fantastic drama about a musician who jumps immediately from success to failure, forcing him and his just-pregnant wife to move to her home town in Texas (Sironia). They adjust to their new lives there, but their fresh start is far from smooth.

I chose to review this film the instant I saw Amy Acker was starring in it. She's a fantastic actress, and my capricious choice paid off in spades because this was a great, rewarding, funny, and true-to-life movie. It's very atypical, in a lot of ways, and bonus points were awarded for the excellent cast, which includes Jeremy Sisto, Robyn Lively, and the exceptional Tony Hale.

Read my glowing review over at Man, I Love Films. And then come back here on Monday; I'm not certain if next week will have more than four posts, but I still have some sweet entries lined up for all of you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Netflix Takeover?, Amazon Competes!, Lame Hulu-CBS Deal

This week, it came out that a man named Carl Icahn owns 10% of Netflix's stock. This is more than he owned a short time ago - and he's used some of his personal billions to acquire these shares, as well as through his investment business. For those who don't know, Icahn is well-known as an activist shareholder. 

So, if he invested in a company & it starts under-performing, he tries to take control of it. He buys more of its stock, then proposes replacements for the business' leadership - with people who'll follow his biz plans. The idea is that the company will be sold to a competitor, or will spin off some division that is doing poorly, or something along those lines...

In response to Icahn, Netflix has adopted the "poison pill" corporate defense. The phrase comes from the idea that if a "shark" (the guy trying for a hostile takeover) "swallows" (wins) his prey (the company he takes over), then the shark will eat something that will "hurt." It's "poison" in that the method might limit the shares the take-over-er can buy, or make the business harder to control. 

Here, Netflix is using a shareholder rights plan to do their work. Folks in finance and entertainment are all a-buzz about this, especially because Icahn wants to sell Netflix to its biggest rival: Amazon. Holy ----.

Sticking with Netflix for a second - if only to discuss their biggest competitor - Amazon Prime will now have a monthly instead of a yearly fee. Yes, anyone who wants to check out their large selection (and reduced shipping fees), will be able to try them on the same terms as they can try Netflix and Hulu Plus. It's going to be one hell of an incentive, to not have one free month to decide on an $80 fee for the retail giant's video selection.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Question for the Week of Nov 5 - 11: Why So Serious?

What are you going on about with all this critique and criticism?
How can I explain... why I seem like a hardass? Instead of explaining all my standards, which I've done slowly thru my Movie Aspects and R3V13W3R$ tags, I'll use an example. 

And one example we've all seen major movies use, misuse, overuse, and abuse: the American film/tv industry's obsession with "dark" or "edgy" characters, scenes, and/or material. It's so over-played, I figure any reader has a similar moment in mind already...

9MM has a guy enter the bdsm/fringe film element, hunting down the source of a snuff film; Tron: Legacy: The Suckening had a spoiled 21 year-old trust fund baby describe the last 30 years with absolute bored cyncism; in Gladiator, the lead's wife and babes are killed; any season of The Sopranos after the 1st.

The basic idea: character/plot elements should be more compelling when (off the top of my head) a suburban grandma kills a nice dog because she's jealous of its owner. In many recent pix, this sort of scene just comes out of the blue, with not enough characterizing setup beforehand or thematic purpose displayed afterwards. It only happens to sting the audience.

If you read my review of Peter Jackson's debut film, Bad Taste, you know I revere and adore a sick indie movie that entwines its smartly-executed alien invasion storyline around scenes that are flat-out disgusting. My review made verbal love to that picture, and the only non-spoiler scene I can find to try to explain how it's like a hysterical but icky gross-out contest from your best friend is a clip from Jackson's 3rd film (which I will review), Brain Dead. But please, don't have kids nearby when you watch this, ok? 


Right? Can you tell that it's not like I'm only for brainy, arthouse movies or historical biopics? That I can want to hug a film that pulls harsh, messed-up s--t at the drop of a dime? It's like a great Halloween story, or... a prank from a parent or sibling! It's not cheap, you can't dismiss it, and it's effective!

The important thing is that all the splatter was appropriate to BD (in the US, called Dead Alive), and that it also had good dialogue, camerawork, characters, pace, and tone. And, honestly, if a director gets to make a film without massive studio interference, there isn't much excuse - it's the basic job of a movie to have those things. That's my big, fancy standard that I write about all the time.

Monday, November 5, 2012

How It Should've Ended: TDKR

The semi-geniuses over at How It Should Have Ended made a fun new entry at the end of August - they gave The Dark Knight Rises their unique, clever treatment, just like they did to The Avengers in June.

Once again, this work neatly points out flaws, plot problems, and other little quirks in Nolan's last Batman installment. It made me laugh a bit, and I think it'll do the same for you. Click below and enjoy, then check out this bonus scene, which the HISHE crew made shortly after.

Maybe it's not great; I could be wrong. What's most likely is that I was completely won over by the very first joke - it strikes at the heart of something weird about The Dark Knight Rises (Bruce Wayne's identity being known so freely), while also making the perfect comment on it (Batman is frustrated enough to freak out, yet still tries to score with a hottie). For whatever reason, this struck me just the right way. I hope it does to you, too. xoxo Half a Film Student

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reviewing with Others, Pt. 26: We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists

I just watched and reviewed We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, an indie documentary about Anonymous, the online hacking community responsible for shutting down the Playstation Network, PayPal, and even the governments of Tunisia and Egypt

This documentary is very timely, beautifully-shot, and informative. If you have a friend or relative who knows nothing about hacking and online communities, this film is actually a great primer. The interviews are also exceptionally well thought-out and -conducted.

I loved We Are Legion a lot. It got the highest rating I've ever given for a review on another site. You can read what I wrote here over at Man, I Love Films. This picture is available to rent or purchase online now, and I strongly suggest you check it out...