Thursday, August 30, 2012

Reviewing with Others, Pt. 17: Bots High

Last week, I saw Bots High, a documentary about a bunch of high school students who love to build breadbox-sized robots and enter them into WWF-style competitions. We follow these teens through their various conflicts with sports, academics, romance, and friendship.

At 9:50AM EST, my thoughts go live at Man, I Love Films. I think you'll enjoy the film a lot...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Question for the Week of Aug 27-Sept 2: The Mordor Express

Why the long journey to Mordor? Wasn't there a faster way to get there?
Wow. I'll keep this short since my supporting arguments aren't all that deep. In The Fellowship of the Ring, a variety of races learn that an evil demon is trying to regain a magical object that'll let it conquer everything. These people are, to use the USA as a reference point, in the middle of Ohio, and they plan a trip to... Las Vegas, Nevada.

Throughout the 12 Extended-Edition hours of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, we see people walk on snow, over mountains, through valleys and forests, into abandoned towns, underground cities, deadly caverns... They're the ultimate track team of fantasy novels.

You sort of have to start by asking "could these guys have found a quicker route to their goal?"

Unfortunately, for fans of common sense, the answer is a resounding "not really." See, there are these creatures called Eagles (start your "Hotel California" jokes now), and they arrive at the very end of tRotK to help fight the bad guys. In tFotR, one saves Gandalf from the top of Sauraman's tower. They're bear-sized birds, so speed and altitude are their thing.

So we have an entire scene - a fun, cool scene - where some weird guys stand around and talk about how they're gonna toss a ring into a volcano. It's like 8 minutes long. Why didn't our coalition of heroes and powerful and centuries-old people think about using the birds to get there safely and quickly?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Recommended: Hulu snags BBC's Line of Duty

My love of foreign TV shows is well-documented. I enjoy suggesting some Canadian tv, as well as lots and lots of BBC shows. I only wish I could find material from even more countries - in English or not - to recommend to you. I love seeing things that are different, learning to enjoy new actors, and not feeling mired in the same old American tropes.

Well, today's installment of Recommended (the post title is already too long) is worth being excited about: Line of Duty is a new BBC series that began airing its 5 episodes 2 months ago. The series wrapped up last month, and Hulu made an excellent choice in snagging this show. It's top-notch, and ep 2 goes live today, so you can jump on board now...

We open with an anti-terror raid in London. Steve Arnott talks his SWAT team through their raid on a suspected bomber. The men bust in, a man inside turns around, and one of the team fires twice. Killing an innocent father who's holding his infant at the time. They raided the wrong place - the old "the 9 on the door fell down and is a 6" gag - and the right apartment (with threats written on the walls) is empty.

It's the worst possible outcome, but a rock-faced superior makes it all more horrible as he quickly gives the team a made-up story that makes them look alright. Steve just can't go along with it, and a short while later, he joins the UK equivalent of the Internal Affairs division. No one else will have him.

On the flipside, we come to one of my favorite actors, Lennie James. I love love love this man, as he's a fine, compelling actor who can really breathe life into any part; he's kind of like a dark-skinned version of Christopher Walken that's good with action scenes. This time out, Lennie plays Tony Gates, super-cop.

Tony sits in a cafe with a woman he's been intimate with for a long time. They're flirting, she talks about tonight being "his big night," and then we hear a woman outside screaming. He runs outside, sees two men mugging a lady, disarms one and beats up the other. And then we see him win a "Top Cop" award that evening. And later, we see him go home to his actual wife and kid.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Reviewing With Others, Pt. 16, sorta: Top 10 Indie Films

At 9:30AM EST today I'll have a different kind of entry on the Man, I Love Films site - a list. Those guys and gals love to do weekly lists, and I was given a chance to pitch one.

Yet I didn't have a really inspired idea on hand, so I kept it simple, which I us often just as good as being. I write indie film reviews for the site, so I stuck with that. Now you can read my latest post, Top 10 Indie Films of the Last 25 Years.

It was a tough group to put together, but I had a lot of fun writing this. Some of my very favorite films made it in, including two I've reviewed here already. I hope you like reading it, and feel free to comment about my choices here or on their site.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reviewing with Others, Part 15: The Babymakers

Last week, I had a viewing party for The Babymakers, an indie comedy featuring Paul Schneider, Olivia Munn, and two of the Broken Lizard troupe of Super Troopers fame. The movie puts us in the shoes of one couple that's desperate to have a child together.

My friends and I had a good time watching this movie, and you can read my whole opinion at Man, I Love Films. Let me know what you think...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I Want to Find the Star Wars Escalator

Yada yada, I've written this many times: I don't follow the Comics Alliance website because of comics, I follow them because of the great movie reviews, news, and Gems. It was a short while ago that they posted this on their site, and now I must find out if this exists in real life.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Question for the Week of Aug 20-26: Inception's End

So what does the ending of Inception mean?
Yes, I say let's jump right in to this week's Question. But it's all a big fake-out, as I can actually wrap this one up quickly. Did you read my Inception review from last year, or the F Yeah Strutting Leo post I made because I had to celebrate that meme? Go do so now if you haven't - I don't spoil anything in those two.

Or, if you read my Inception Double Dip, you'll know I covered some of the themes and a Nina Simone track that I think matches the film perfectly. Obviously, I liked Inception a lot, and and the Double-Dip is considered a spoiler warning, as should whatever I type below this link. Dear readers, decide for yourselves if you want the answers.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Batman Blowout: Maybe, Batgirl Fight, Cronenberg Burn

David Cronenberg was doing interviews for Cosmopolis, and he basically said that Christopher Nolan's Batman movies are kid's movies that can't be taken as serious films. That's the news in a nutshell, so I might as well put that up-front. But f that, I'll include three great, new Batman Fan-made Gems to break up all the text.

That's how I roll, son.

First up, we have "Batman Maybe," a brilliant TDKR-themed riff off the popular track. I don't really need to care that it has such a nice use of the recent blockbuster's story, the way it's sung and filmed is a real treasure. Everyone involved in staging and acting and singing this deserves real praise.

Part the second: over the course of the interview in question, my favorite Canadian director gave a deeper opinion than expected. For one thing, his comment wasn't just directed at BB, TDK, and TDKR: David was talking about all Super-Hero movies. He also took a moment to praise Nolan's work on Memento, calling it a genuinely interesting film.

So what gives? Here's the full interview, Rob Pattinson and David Cronenberg chatting it up with Brooke Tarnoff:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reviewing with Others, Pt. 14: Ajami

Yes, it's another Indie screener review! Ajami is a drama/thriller about a Palestinian boy whose family istargeted by a gang and must also raise $50k for his mother's life-saving operation. I really enjoyed Ajami. My thoughts are up now at Man, I Love Films. I know you'll enjoy it, tell me what you think...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Great Moments in Film Absurdity: Zoolander Gas Fight

On occasion, this blog is my personal repository (I said "re-pository") of things I love. And sometimes, even a flawed, deeply-imperfect film can deliver one of the greatest moments in cinema. And thus did Zoolander earn my love, despite its many problems. The words "orange mocha frappachino" just put a smile on my face.

The following counts as a movie moment I actually wouldn't mind living out, no matter the consequences:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Faculty Review

In 1998, Robert Rodriguez produced a perfectly-entertaining little film, a hybrid of teen comedy, scifi, and horror. It did not meet with high critical and commercial success, which is a mystery to me. Actually, the initial mystery was that I liked it in the first place.

The Faculty has many blessings, its cast being the vest: Jon Stewart, Piper Laurie, Daniel von Bargen, Christopher McDonald, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Robert Patrick and Bebe Neuwirth take on the mature side of a high school pic. The young side features Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Clea DuVall, Jordana Brewster, Shawn Hatosy, Usher, and Laura Harris. Embarrassment of riches, all around.

Moreover, The Faculty features all of the bells-and-whistles of Rodriguez's direction, but combined with Kevin Williamson at the top of his game. Kevin had just come off of the exceptional Scream, and his writing holds up brilliantly here. It's an excellent combination, as not only does the story carry you swiftly through its events, but the characters are fleshed-out perfectly and there are scares galore.

I'm not going to do the typical Half a Film Student review, this time out. This is going to be a bit rough and dirty. This movie has great horror, action, and acting, and I don't want to spoil too much...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Question for the Week of Aug 13-19: Scary Still

What horror movies do I love that haven't lost the ability to scare with time?
Ah, a simple Question. I won't go about this at great, great length - I gave some Halloween recommendations last year, after all. This time out, I'll provide some lists, with links to what I've reviewed. There's something to be said for brevity - namely, that I should try it on this site more often. Here goes:

I. What horror movies do I love and still find scary?
Peter Jackson's Bad Taste and Dead Alive (aka Braindead); Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street, the first Scream, and A New Nightmare; Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2; The Lost Boys; Brotherhood of the Wolf (I think it qualifies); Cube; the first Final DestinationAlien and even Aliens (it's scary enough to qualify); Korea's The Host and Tell Me SomethingThe Thing; Misery; Black SheepPan's Labyrinth; and 28 Days Later.

Actually, y'know what? The first Matrix movie practically counts as a horror film, and those elements were incredibly effective and icky and... I shuddered. At least twice. I also greatly enjoyed a European horror movie from the 80's called Demons. Oh, and you should definitely watch Cemetary Man (aka Dellamorte Dellamore); it's a very fun and deliciously weird picture...

II. How about horror movies that are scary and that I don't love?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mel Stuart, Director of Willy Wonka, Is Dead

Thank you, Mr. Stuart
Friends, acquaintances, random-ass people who don't care about me at all: I promised myself I wouldn't post more than 4 times a week unless something big happened or the site was suddenly getting bigtime attention. Unfortunately, it's the first, and in the worst way.

I can't imagine why anyone would not love 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If you know someone who's a real-life Ebeneezer Scrooge (so, if you're related to Joan Rivers, Donald Trump, maybe Richie Chaney), then perhaps you've come across someone who can resist its spell; I hope they're not closely-related to ya, buddy...

Everyone falls in love with the movie, for many reasons. And it's impossible to find much fault in a perfectly-funny, perfectly-charming movie that's safe for kids and never boring for adults; very few pictures that can even compete with it, by that measure. WWatCF is an inventive ride, a great adaptation of Roald Dahl's original story, with excellent songs to boot...

And yesterday, the director of WonkaMel Stuart, died in his California home. He was 83 years old, with his 84th birthday just a few weeks away, but that shitty, shitty thing called cancer took him. But let's look at his life for a sec: In his life, Stuart was also known for the movies If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium and Four Days in November - a documentary about JFK's death that came out the year after his assassination.

Mel Stuart was, first and foremost, a documentary filmmaker. He directed dozens of videos, films, and tv movies in that genre - hell, his last big picture was 2000's Running on the Sun: The Badwater 135, a doc about a scorching-hot 135-mile race from Death Valley to the start of Mt. Whitney. This guy - a fellow New Yorker - did what he loved for a very long time - he directed films until 2005, and produced movies up to 2009.

Since Mel gave something so important to myself and other people, I really should take at least take a moment to mark this man's life, and to put him in your thoughts. Join me in thanking Mel, please; he gave us all something quite lovely, a happy and engaging and gentle distraction.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Reviewing with Others, Pt. 13: Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears

Recently, I saw Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears, a documentary about the famous boxer. I really   liked this movie. My thoughts are up now at Man, I Love Films. I hope you enjoy it, tell me what you think...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Japander, a great Fan-made Gem site

Wow, that was an awkward title, huh? But the proof is in the pudding, and this site is so impressive that... just check this out, for some reason a Bruce Willis fuel ad has more energy than some of his films:

I want that clip in a locket around my neck! I discovered years ago - I'm so happy to know that it's still live, that you can still watch vids on it, and that the owner plans to moved clips over to Youtube.

The Japander website has, on its main page, a simple-yet-elegant mission statement. I've copied it here:
Pander:n., & v.t. 1. go-between in clandestine amours, procurer; one who ministers to evil designs. 2 v.i. minister (to base passions or evil designs, or person having these)
Japander:n.,& v.t. 1. a western star who uses his or her fame to make large sums of money in a short time by advertising products in Japan that they would probably never use. ~er (see synecure, prostitute) 2. to make an ass of oneself in Japanese media.
So, do you want to see the sorts of crazy ads that Arnie has done for Japanese TV? No problem. How about Nicholas Cage? Ditto. Mariah Carey? Peter Falk? Bruce Willis? Winona Ryder? Yes to all of the above.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Question for the Week of Aug 6-12: Hugh Grant Romcom Hoax

Considering the way he acted, why didn't one Hugh Grant romantic comedy have a more likely storyline: that the love interest thinks he's gay, and he's gotta convince her otherwise?

In many ways, some Hugh Grant romcoms could've been a franchise called C-3PO in Love. My favorite golden robot may be a lot of things, but "lady-killer" wasn't one of them. In films like About A Boy and Notting Hill, it's like 3PO took on human form and is trying to work on more intimate relationships - but with women, for some reason...

Synchronicity is weird: a coworker mentioned Grant, I was looking at a list of genre pix, and it hit me: Hugh Grant was often cast in romantic comedies where he bumbled his way thru most encounters with his object of affection. He'd often be so awkward or so... delicate. Enough so that he might come off as trying to figure out how to act around women.

Or, perhaps - and for lack of a better word - a lot like a dandy.

Maybe acting like Grant does in Notting is more likely for that genre. After all, the romantic comedy is meant to be light, so acting like a nervous teen might be considered funny... and an un-smooth male lead may be more sympathetic. But if those elements are common to this type of film, they seem excessive in the typical Hugh Grant role.

Of course, thinking about this lead me to pitch a story line to myself. Try this, I came up with it:

Monday, August 6, 2012

R3V13W3R$: Aesthetique Thoughts

Yes, I have more thoughts about what it's like to be a film reviewer. As always, if you're wondering where I got the "R3V13W3R$" title, click here. Hopefully, this entry won't be so long that you have a hard time following what I'm discussing, or coming up with your own thoughts on my opinions.

We've all been there at some point: unless you mindlessly accept everything that happens in a movie, you hit a part of a film that really bothers you. Maybe you don't like sad endings, or you can't believe that a character quickly changes from "bad" to "good" (or vice-versa). Perhaps you don't like that someone died, or some sub-plots seem completely improbable.

In each case, we're being critical of what the filmmakers chose to do with their stories. It's like reading Great Expectations and thinking (SPOILERS), "how could that young boy grow into such a small, unfortunate adult?" You're challenging the validity or credibility of narrative choices that are made by professionals. But most of the people who do this are amateurs, not pros.

Why's that kid such a mope, huh?
As such, today I want to spend a spell describing when I think these sorts of complaints are valid, and why. The real key, I believe, is to focus less on your own preferences and more on "objective" good rules of writing. Ultimately, it's the writing that's my usual focus (unless I'm shooting photos, of course), and I think I have a good-enough technical knowledge and stylistic ideas to get into this topic.

By the by, I'll focus mostly on TV plots because it's less likely that I'll spoil something huge for you; you might start watching a series and forget the late-game spoilers I reveal below. If you want to think about movies that do what I'm complaining about, just consider most romantic comedies, scifi, and horror over the last 20 years; your mind should supply its own examples, all spoiler-free.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Reviewing with Others, Pt. 12: Abel

How can I describe the last few weeks? Fun, tiring, and... tiring; but also fun. For now, I'll just stick to my thoughts about the site: I beat my record for monthly hits (just shy of 5k), and the schedule worked very nicely and I still found time for on-the-fly posts.

So I think I'll do the same for August. I'll repeat what I tried to do in July, and I've got a nice lineup of posts coming your way. It'll be a lot of fun for all of us! (I hope)

My latest Indie Spotlight review is about Abel. It's a dramedy by Diego Luna, the star of Y Tu Mama Tambien. I liked many things about this movie, despite having some serious problems with it - it's got this childhood mental illness angle that I find chilling. However, it's still a good foreign film, and a nice slice of family life below the border.

My thoughts will be up at 9:43am EST on the Man, I Love Films site - I love the permalink feature which provides me with a URL before a post goes live. Read it when it's up, or just browse the Man, I Love Films site until it goes online. The site is always worth checking out, whether I post there or not.

In any case, tell me what you think...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Recommended: Youtube gets Blue, other women-centric shows

Yes, Youtube has been moving into the original series market as well, and I just watched their latest effort, called Blue. It features Julia Stiles as the lead, a single mom with a simple office day job as well as a sometimes-complicated prostitution gig on the side.

Stiles is a fine actress, and she's pretty without having the sort of cookie-cutter looks that many celebrities do these days. She does a good job of breathing life into this unusually-deep figure. It helps that the 12 installments are brief vignettes about her life.

Part of why the show works so well is that it's never repetitious. Every ep shows a new facet of Blue - yes, it's her name, used both by clients and her teenage boy. She talks to her coworkers, with whom she displays concern without ever really revealing herself. You might see her on a typical night at home. You might see that a guy who adored her in high school has learned about her double-life and hired her for the night.