Friday, August 30, 2013

QftWo 8/26-9/1: Imposters #7 - Elysium vs. The Butler

So, if you missed my post on August 13th, you don't know that my weekly Questions are being partly-substituted with these Imposters entries. It gives me time to work up proper Qs, like the ones to come in September. I'm cheating only a little, since the question presented by Imposters is "what's wrong/right with these subway posters I see on my commute?"

And, unfortunately, Elysium also suffers from the thing I dislike most about most modern film posters - it's mostly a big picture of the lead that is meant to be the big draw for the audience.

First and foremost, it's almost as if they don't understand that Matt Damon fans will actively follow his work, and will be interested in poster that simply bears his name, much less his likeness. People who need attention, or are (/feel) ignored yell because they don't know any better. Confident people trust that their words will be heard whether not they speak softly.

At least, in the case of Elysium, it actually keeps the super-vanity shot of the protagonist off to the side and uses the rest of the image to say something about the world of the movie. Unfortunately, what it expresses is that a beefed-up Damon is in a place where society is in decay. While this works with the tagline "a better life is just a world away." However, not only could that tagline stand to be a little better, it doesn't match the synopsis! From IMDb:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Reviewing with Others Pt. 54: La Source

My latest indie screener review is for La Source. It's a documentary about an upstanding Haitian who moved here in 1989 to work as a custodian at Princeton University and as a cab driver. But Josue Lajeunesse doesn't just send money home, as so many immigrants do. He's also been working for over 20 years to make sure that his hometown no longer has to choose between drinking contaminated water or making a perilous mountainside trip to get clean H2O.

So what did I think about LS? I liked a lot of it, but things toward the end of the picture made my reaction so complicated I had to delay this review from last Sunday to today. You can read my thoughts here at Man, I Love Films.

September Blowout! What To Expect

My review of the documentary La Source goes up at 6PM today, but I wanted to give everyone some scheduling info so they know what's coming next month.

If you've been following for a bit - and shame on you if you haven't - you know that I bust my @ss for this blog at least three times each year. April is Net-flixation's anniversary month, so I put a lot into that. At the year's end in December, I write a Holiday review and some wrap-up entries about the overall year. September, however, is a special month only because I love the transition period from Summer to Autumn - and I've tried to make each September entry stand out.

And so: first, I plan to suspend all Reviewing with Others reviews for Sept. I may break that suspension, but if so, they would be in addition to my 4-per-week posts. Second, I will post a TV Recommendation for each week - three shows are way old, one is ongoing, and all are series that I really love. Further, I'll publish 2+ proper Question entries, not just the poster critiques which replaced the Qs. In addition, I have my 13th MRQ lined up, my 3rd You Shoulda Been a Movie, and I plan to review The Ipcress File, one of my all-time favorites films. My regular Bill Murray and Great Moments in... entries will also return.

In short, September will be a true blowout here, as well as a resumption of the 1 Question, 1 Fan-made Gem, and 1 Review cycle which was my regular schedule for so long here, but with Recommendations standing in for each week's 4th, "random" post. I've worked hard to make this as fine and fun as possible.

I hope you all enjoy what's to come!
Half a Film Student

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Reviewing with Others, Pt. 53, sorta: Short Term 12 Ticket Contest!

Two weeks ago, I gave a very positive review to the indie film, Short Term 12. It was an excellent pic, and I am so happy that I was invited to attend a screening for it.

Since I liked it so well, you can only imagine how extra-happy I am now that I was contacted by Man, I Love Films to write a post for their site, an entry which offers one winner (and a guest) the chance to see this engaging indie drama this weekend for free, at a venue and showtime of the winner's choosing. The winner will receive 2 tickets for a showing this weekend, as well as a copy of the soundtrack and a poster signed by ST12's star, Brie Larson.

Not only was this movie a great experience for me, it can be a great experience for one (+ 1 guest) of you. I recommend you check out the contest page at Man, I Love Films and follow the instructions there. I'm disqualified, but I wish you good luck!

Great Film Drug Scenes Supercut

So I must kick off today's entry with an admission: I was ready to post an indie film review on Sunday, but couldn't get it up in time (cue Anthony Weiner joke here). In essence, I had a lot of thoughts and doubts, and I decided to take my time, re-watch the film, and publish it later instead of posting an inferior review.

This means my review of La Source goes up tomorrow, Wednesday at 6PM, EDT, and that this extra post is meant to make up for the shortfall. If I couldn't work the situation out well enough given time constraints, that's fine. But I promised 4 posts per week, and so you'll get 5 for this one in exchange. Moving on...

It doesn't really matter what your stance is on real-life drug use, every film fan knows that drugs have been featured in a lot of movies. Across a variety of genres, contexts, and time periods, chemical experimentation comes up frequently: Pulp Fiction, Training Day, A Clockwork Orange, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, Requiem for a Dream, Reefer Madness...

And last week, I learned that some clever individual has taken a whole slew of these scenes and combined them into a very fine 7-minute video mashup. The selection of movie moments is quite good, and I like the music choices, too...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Werner Herzog's Texting-While-Driving PSA

Two things I've written so often here as to almost become mantras: (1) it's not easy getting new questions, and I don't want them to mostly be lists of favorites/gripes; (2) I don't want to repost things that I just find on the main pop culture website that I read, at least not for a little after. This time, I only gave this site's fine entry a two-week lead because the news is very important, socially.

14 days ago, I learned that Werner Herzog produced a 34-minute documentary, From One Second to the Next, for an ad company. Anyone who knows a bit about Herzog knows that, over his 45 years of directing full-length features (51 including shorts), he doesn't shill for the Hollywood machine, and that he has a great social conscience. This German creates Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a nature documentary about a French treasure trove of the old known cave drawings. Another, Into the Abyss, was a full-bore attack on the death penalty. I assume he played the villain in Tom Cruise's Jack Reacher last year because it was a fun experience, since the man is clearly a humanist.

As such, it wasn't too surprising to learn that this 34-minute doc is a brutal and harrowing look at the dangers of the consequences of car accidents caused by drivers who text-and-drive. The whole thing was put up on Youtube, among other places, to give wide-spread exposure to this serious issue. It's important enough that I'm altering my schedule a little and not including my monthly tribute to Bill Murray just so I can get this entry out there. Sorry, Murray fans, this is too big to allow any other recourse.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

QftWo 8/19-8/25: Imposters #6 - Kick-Ass 2

One of my filmic pet peeves is that many movie posters are just big pictures of the stars' faces.

Such is the case with this Summer's After Earth - one of the main sucktastic images that inspired me to start noticing film posters during my commute. It's basically saying "Will Smith is in this, so just go see it; we don't have to reveal anything else about our work because we know that's all it takes and that's how much effort we'll put into our marketing..."

Now, the theatrical poster for Kick-Ass 2 is incredibly similar, following that same principle, but to a higher level because it doesn't even bother to have a tagline or anything. See?:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Reviewing with Others Pt. 52: Brooklyn Girls Fight Club

Today's indie movie review is for the documentary Brooklyn Girls Fight Club. From the title and opening moments, I expected this narrator-free doc to center on an underground boxing/MMA club for young women. Instead, the two directors used their footage to craft a look at the sad and troubled lives of people who live in the notoriously-dangerous slum of Brownsville, Brooklyn.

BGFC is a fine documentary, although it's difficult viewing for anyone who, like me, grew up in a rough neighborhood and cares about the betterment of inner city minorities. No one should have to live with the certainty that they will always live in a neighborhood where violence can break out at any time.

Enough, already - my review was published today and you can read it here at Man, I Love Films.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I Love Seinfeld's Movie Posters

Seinfeld was one of the funniest TV comedies ever. At its best, it was more smartly-written than any other series on the air. Employing everything from sarcasm, sight-gags, callbacks to prior eps, slapstick, and wordplay, the show created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David is a comedic juggernaut.

Among other things, Seinfeld was great at having little throw-away gags. It also had the New York City residents at its core engage in realistic urban activities, like group trips to a mall (to take advantage of having access to a car), meeting up at Chinese restaurants, and going out to a movie. And movies ended up featuring a lot in the adventures of Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer.

This TV series, however, didn't just have the cast going to second-run shows of popular or famous films. These characters were often talking about and watching new movies - fictitious movies that were created by Seinfeld's crack writing team. And then some day, a genius whose site is called oldredjalopy decided to create posters for those movies.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Reviewing with Others Pt. 51: Brooklyn Castle

My latest indie movie review is for Brooklyn Castle. It's about a junior high school whose kids have been dominating chess tournaments around the country since 1999. Suffice it to say that inner city school children aren't exactly known for their love of "geek" sports.

Did I like BC? Hell, yes. Should you still read the full review anyway? Ditto. So if you want to read why you'll like it, too, find it over here at Man, I Love Films.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Reviewing with Others Pt. 50: Short Term 12

In early June, I was invited to a screening for an indie movie called Short Term 12. I didn't know anything about the cast or the director. I just knew that it took both the Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award at SXSW 2013.

I'm so glad that I was game for something different and unexpected, as it's easily one of the finest films I've seen all year. This drama was exceptional, with great writing, important subject matter, and a lot of humor to balance out the pathos.

How much did I like ST12? It's a must-watch, and I hope it gains more awards and attention following its release date, August 23rd. I also genuinely think that this movie should be played in schools.

But enough freebies - my review was published today and you can read it here at Man, I Love Films.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Stealth QftWo 8/12-8/18: Imposters #5 - Clear History

I've come to a decision: I'm going to "kind of" cheat, but in a way that I think still counts. I have only 4 "Question for the Week of" posts in the works. They usually take a lot of time to write, and I need to ease up a little so I can work on other things.

Another big factor is that I've had trouble thinking of non-list Question entries, and doing it each week puts some time pressure on me. As such, I'm "cheating" by adding a new feature here, called "Imposters." It's basically about film posters that I see and think are either (a) great or (b) very much not-great. I will use these to relieve the QftWo entries, and I think they count because - predictable or not - they boil down to "what's good/bad about this poster."

It'll allow me to write a little less - even though I will actually be analyzing these images - while letting me restock on my official Question ideas. Am I gaming the system a little? Yes. Does it still count? Yes. Do I find that fact terribly amusing? Hell, yes.

Imposters will be taking over the rest of August's question posts, though they will return for September. After Sept., I'll decide how much to handle all this. I might alternate, or do 1-to-3 for each month, or I might play it by ear. I added the Imposters label to past entries that dealt with this topic. Now, let's kick this off...

After I wrote this entry, I watched the trailer for the HBO film Clear History the other day, and I was quite surprised. The cast for this is exceptional - on the strength of them alone, I'm pretty sure this'll be a good film. But its poster is completely f--king terrible.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Reviewing with Others Part 49, sorta: List of Last-Act Killer Reveals

Today's entry was going to provide a schedule update and officially introduce a new Net-flixation feature. But I bumped today's post to tomorrow because I got a last-minute request to write a list for Man, I Love Films, where my Reviewing with Others post go up.

Their site publishes lists regularly, and I contributed one list this January, as well as another this last August - of which I am most proud.

And, hopefully, I can be as proud of today's entry as I was for the first list I contributed. So head over to Man, I Love Films and read my list of top ten last-act killer reveals.

I'll see ya'll tomorrow, Wednesday (for a RwO of Short Term 12), and then on Sunday (for yet another RwO, of Brooklyn Castle). It'll be fun for everyone, right? Half a Film Student is clearly the hardest-working blogger in blog-business (ugh, sigh...).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Reviewing with Others Pt. 48: To Make a Farm

My latest indie screener experience is To Make a Farm. It's about a group of young Canadian farmers who are dedicated to breaking away from the modern, industrial methods of farming and are looking to find a healthier way towards achieving their goal - small-scale, local farming.

My review just posted, and you can read it here at Man, I Love Films.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Question for the Week of Aug 5-11: Laugh Harder

Which films made you laugh the hardest at a theatrical viewing? Like, laughing so hard you think "maybe I have to cover my mouth?"
If you've been reading these Question entries for a while, you know that I had a bit of an writerly crisis some time back. For a spell, a lot of these posts were much closer to lists, whereas I like to ask questions about why X character chose to do Y in a particular film, or about general trends and problems in the world of cinema.

I was actually pretty proud of myself for the sudden bursts of inspiration that overtook me this last month or so. I got right back down to it, and I hope those entries have been entertaining as well as edifying for all of you... In case you can't tell, I mean to answer today's Question with a list. And a short one, at that.

Austin Powers - James Bond films were all the rage in my family, pretty much up until the Pierce Brosnan era began, which is when I started watching them with my friends and/or my brothers, as opposed to the whole family unit. The World is Not Enough.

As such, I had a lot of familiarity with the material that the Mike Meyer's vehicle lampooned so expertly. One gag after another hit, and hit hard. When Dr. Evil introduces the manservant based on Goldfinger's "Odd Job," I completely lost it. I lost it dozens of times throughout this picture. It's a damn shame the sequel was a shockingly self-indulgent mess, a lame, limp rehash of the inspired original effort.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Reviewing with Others Pt. 47: Bonsai People

My latest indie screener experience is Bonsai People. It's about the microcredit industry, and the economist who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his revolutionary banking idea. Just look at the trailer below.

My review was published three minutes ago, and you can read it here at Man, I Love Films.

Sorry for the version of this post that was up since 8:47 - I had a train delay and got back late from work...

Monday, August 5, 2013

CinemaSins takes on Harry Potter 1

I've written once or twice before about my issues with the first Harry Potter film. I enjoyed the books, despite their flaws, and I was quite happy with the third installment (I skipped out on parts 5-7). I'm glad that someone - specifically, the CinemaSins team - took on the woefully-problematic first picture.

Enough talk - let's just enjoy, shall we?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

#555 & Reviewing with Others Pt. 45: My Village, My Lobster

So let me first note that this is the 555th post on Net-flixation. I did not make a big deal out of #550 because I'm too much looking forward to #600. Although I said that these Sunday posts would go up at noon, EST, I was offered the chance to get overtime pay today - and then I had to see some friends. Trust me when I write that I'm proud of my triple-nickles milestone, and that I got this post together as quickly as possible. I think my work ethic speaks for itself. Now on to what you should know:

At the risk of seeming rude, how could I not choose to review a movie with a title like My Village, My Lobster? Sadly, nothing about the experience was a laughing matter, as this documentary covers the exploitation of Nicaraguan divers who end up getting incredibly sick to satisfy consumer's desire to eat the spiny crab.

It gets even worse when you realize that many people in the area are dependent on this business - so a steady decline in demand (and, thus, divers' pay) as well as a ban that was enacted this year are likely to cause even further problems for people that already possess so little. The movie is good in making us think about the human cost of our culinary desires. You can read my review here at Man, I Love Films.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Great Moments in... Film Assassination

I've been happy to make Great Moments in... a biweekly thing, and I'm extra-glad to have found this one in particular. This clip comes from Hard Ticket to Hawaii, a 1987 action/thriller of the kind so often made in the 80's - full of nude scenes and Playboy models. The premise is that a team of government agents deal with some real bad criminal-dudes, encountering both danger and "romance."

I really must thank Clipnation for hosting this vid, though a few weeks after I noticed it, I found that Red Letter Media also covered it as part of their new Best of the Worst series of reviews. Everything old is new again, right? Those hard-working RLM folks probably didn't mention this scene because they wanted viewers to discover it for themselves.