Thursday, January 30, 2014

QftWo 1/27-2/2: Imposters #32 - Out of the Furnace

Although I do not like guns at all, I was floored by this sweet poster. The composition of the image - running from top to bottom, the action placed in so that we're disoriented as to Bale's physical position - is brilliant and really catches the eye.

And I can't give enough praise to the size of the poster. This thing hangs like a giant banner from the ceiling! It's just so visually-engaging. "Well done!" to whoever designed this...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You Shoulda Been a Movie: Fallout

[I put finishing touches on this post on February 6th, just over a week after this went live. I had some extra points to make, and it's tough finding every typo in an entry this long.]

The first Fallout game starts with the logo of the developer studio, Interplay, which recalls an old Flash Gordon serial. The screen fades to black, we get the title credits, then the sound of a record player starting up. The classic Ink Spots' song "Maybe" is incredibly sad, and the wordless images that pass across the screen make everything depressingly, devastating clear.

First, a brief 50's-style ad for people to live in a "vault" inside a mountain, then an old news-reel style clip exclaiming the big news of the day - the US annexed Canada (with robot-suited soldiers!) - then after a few ads, we learn how it all worked out:

Yes, that's the great Ron Perlman laying out the backstory.
Maybe... you'll think of me when you are all alone/Maybe the one who's waiting for you/Will prove untrue/Then what will you do?/Maybe, you'll sit and sigh/And think of me/When you are all alone/Then maybe I'll say "maybe"/Maybe I'll say "maybe."
These sentimental, moribund words kick off the opening to Fallout. It's clearly an old recording - singing style aside, the audio is scratchy and tinny. Added to the old-timey video reel and a glimpse of an ruined American city, and you get the horrifying idea that "the future" has itself become an antique.

The very next video immediately presents your character's motivation: your secluded people have survived in an underground vault for almost a century since China and the US broke the world. Now, your home of metal floors and walls will break down unless you repair their self-contained water system. Fixing it means you must venture outside, into unknown territory, to find what you need - with a 150 day time limit.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bill Murray Golf-Wear Hilariousness

(brief note: yes, no off-site review last Sunday, either, but they should be coming back this Sunday, to continue indefinitely)

For my first Murray-centric post of 2014, I thought I would go with a clip that highlights Bill Murray's love of golf. It's a sport I don't care about - I've been to driving ranges maybe two dozen times, but that's it - and yet I have to think I'd be interested in attending, and/or even playing, if Bill were around.

And how can you not love a man who wears this to a golf tourney:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

QftWo 1/20-1/26: Imposters #31 - Ride Along

Well... at the very least I think that Ice Cube is cool.

It's just a shame that everything here except for the casting is uninspired. No, wait, the tagline isn't too bad - but it's still nothing special. But even that's not entirely fair - I think it's the theatrical poster's fault.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Post #666! My Satan Kicks Your Satan's A$$!

[An early draft of this post went up on Wednesday. Sometimes blogger makes multiple copies of the same post, and it's easy to lose track. Anyway, milestone to celebrate, so ahem:]

Yeah, I stopped celebrating every time this blog hit post #250 or #350 or whatever, but really the number 666 comes up so many times, in so many films. How can I let this opportunity pass me by?!

And, of course, not to get all Jim Carrey in that lame-ass #23 movie (of course Michael Jordan is evil), but the numbers line up perfectly for publishing this entry today, too. I mean, this is the twenty-fourth, and two + two (for the millennium) + one (January) + one (for the decade) and you get six! Or four + four - two makes six again!

Two + four also equals six! One + one + four equals six as well!

And the timing of this post is 7:06 PM, which is what 6 hours and 66 minutes would be! At night, when evil is strongest! We are through the looking glass, people, and all I can say is that it seems pretty dumb on the other side.

So, in honor of this inauspicious number, I decided to share some of my most/least favorite cinematic depictions of that utter p-o-s jerk, Lucifer:

Al Pacino - The Devil's Advocate

Al chews up a lot of scenery as John Milton, owner of the diabolical law firm, Milton, Chadwick, & Waters. Of course, he does also play several scenes with a great sense of world-weary affability.

But at the start, a subtle-ish creepiness pops up only when he deals with people he knows. While this version of Satan is never a real physical threat, Milton still has a lot of raw malice in him. The biggest thing that's really missing from the character in the film, tho, is that he barely talks as if he were a lawyer (in NY, only lawyers can be law firm managers); Al plays more of a sneaky old-timer, here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

International Stories about Impassioned Film Projectionists

If, like me, you follow Kermode & Mayo's BBC film reviews, you know that Dr. Kermode has a deep respect for film projectionists. He regularly talks about the importance of quality projection, and how a poor job - or lack of a projectionist altogether - can ruin the viewing experience. Though I am not nearly as educated on the topic as Dr. K., I do agree with his points.

So I was both happy and pleased by a recent email I received from my good friend, Tom. Tom hosts an excellent website, radio swirly international, where you can listen to some excellent music from around the planet. And Tom was considerate enough to point me to Planetary Projection, a section of the Caboose Books site that is curating stories about film projectionists from around the world.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Great Moments in... Unusal Weaponry (Melee Edition)

There was no indie film review last week, obviously. I needed a break from writing blog posts, and I already had four entries up (speaking of which, I doubt I'll keep offering 2 Imposters every week).

It's nice to just watch a movie and not worry about reviewing it, y'know? And I needed that. I'll post RwO #68 this weekend, probably.

On to the topic at hand - Godfather I: Sonny vs. Carlo. Sonny was always my favorite member of the Corleone family. He's got charm and passion to spare, and a good sense of humor. His biggest flaw is, of course, his temper.

And, as you'd know if you'd seen the film, the biggest disturbance that he faces is that his sister, Connie, is getting smacked around by Carlo, her new husband.

As angry as these sorts of things make me, I don't know that they make me angry enough to turn anything nearby into a weapon.

Friday, January 17, 2014

2013 Holiday Review: Jack Frost

Have you all noticed that I have a perverse sense of humor? It's true! And, if you didn't already know this about me, you're about to learn the lesson hard: my 2013 Holiday film review is 1998's Jack Frost. It's such an inspired pic, I might even have trumped my 2010 Holiday entry, Jaws IV: The Revenge.

In case you don't know what that two word title means, or you think it's the 1997 horror film with Shannon Elizabeth, just watch the trailer below.

"That turned into something wonderful?" "Wonderful" isn't the right word, buddy.

So, yes, we have a teen-targeted holiday film in which the child's dad dies... then comes back to life as a f--king living snowman. I don't care about religious denominations, this idea is both blood-curdling and obviously insane.

"My dead father came back a year later as a snowman" doesn't sound like a "one more chance with my family" story. It sounds like a brutal trip through Purgatory, if not that... other place.

The execution on this crazy premise is equally nuts. We spend much time with teen hijinks and tomfoolery, yet it's always underscored by the fact that our protagonist Charlie Frost (yes, his dad is actually named Jack) has been emotionally hamstrung.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Imposters #30, Bonus - Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

[2:06PM UPDATE: I added videos, fixed the missing 4th poster, and reworked the opening paragraphs. Sorry to the 17 of you who already read this once]

So now Harry Potter is over, and Twilight is over, and Hunger Games is 3 books, and you don't hear about sequels for the Dragon Tattoo remake (thank heaven), so no one knows which the hell franchise they should be shoving down our throats.

Thus, since the Jack Ryan books... exist, and were very profitable, it was decided to reboot the whole thing, with an original story based on Clancy's work.

Now, here we are (again), with Jack Ryan. I liked the paperbacks well enough, when I was in my early/mid teens. Yet the history of this role in film is just terribly odd.

The Hunt for Red October gave us Alec Baldwin as an intelligent action lead, and it's amazing that his blockbuster star never took off, given his off-the-charts youthful charisma. Despite tHfRO's success, Baldwin was busy with Broadway (or business?) when the second film came around...

After which point we got Patriot Games, a sequel that swapped Baldwin for the super-low-key Harrison Ford.

I really didn't like PG, especially since I read the novel and knew how... cliched Games was, and how much it made the antagonists into caricatures.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mitt Romney Doc Coming to Netflix

Only three times, in 2012, did I mix some politics in with my film and tv coverage. I didn't talk about my preferences or opinions, but movie lovers seemed to be really inspired by Mitt Romney.

Something about this candidate really urged people to have fun, and the results were undeniable. The "Rom-Com" posters were excellent, Joss Whedon's endorsement of Romney was shockingly-funny, and the post-election T2 gif was beyond brilliant.

Monday, January 13, 2014

QftWo 1/13-1/19: Imposters #29 - I, Frankenstein

Well, this poster for I, Frankenstein is an evocative image. Immediately, you know that this movie will feature blood, guts... and a trenchcoat.

I have a fondness for strong light and dark contrasts, visually, so I am less annoyed by the sole focus on the title character than I am impressed by the presentation.

Still, it's so lifeless (ha), with nothing else to say than "here's a bloody monster!" Also, the sole words on the poster are: "Immortal," which is inaccurate and insultingly-simplistic; "January 2014," which is informative, but still kind of vague...

Actually, let's take a look at the equally unimpressive subway ad for I,F:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Reviewing with Others Pt. 67: Ain't in It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm

I worked on today's review (and a bit on this site) right up until I fell asleep last night. So, while my review for Man, I Love Films went up today at 9AM, this post went live in it's raw, placeholder format. I'm sorry, but it's all been fixed now.

Today's indie film is Ain't in It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm. It's a documentary about The Band's famous drummer and singer. We see him struggle to maintain his damaged voice in old age, cutting a new album and reminiscing about his life.

I liked it a lot, despite knowing little about The Band. You can real my full review here at Man, I Love Films.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

QftWo 1/26-1/12: Imposters #28 - Lone Survivor

There are times you get the feeling that people are trying. Sometimes they try too hard, other time they don't try hard enough. But it's better than feeling that people aren't trying at all.

In that sense, I don't know what to make of the poster for Lone Survivor. I like the colors, and the composition if the shot. It's good that it's off-center... But I look at the theater poster, and I'm just fine with it. I like the colors and it has... a strong atmosphere about it.

Mark's half-hidden face suggests some deep undercurrents here. Or it could be the figure looking backward. Or it could be that you only see half of what you think you're seeing, which could be clever.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Honest Trailers: Thor

Late last year, the screenjunkies gang the Honest Trailers treatment to Kenneth Branagh's Thor. These guys have given me many laughs over the years, and I'm glad that I checked out this entry, even though it came out years after the actual film's release.

In fact, this is so nicely done that I'll let it stand on its own, with no further comment from me. I'll see you all tomorrow!

Half a Film Student

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Review: American Hustle

The con artist film is the kind of thing everyone loves. Writers love them because there's a lot of plot to play with. Actors and directors love them because they are, in a way, metaphors for filmmaking--after all, every con is a little piece of theater, every con man is an actor. Audiences love stories about charismatic people being clever and badass. It's win-win all around.

It's also a tired genre. When it comes to con games, we've pretty much seen it all. It's easy for audiences to enjoy these films, but it's also hard for them to surprise us, much less delight us. We've seen so many double- and triple-crosses, so many faked death scenes to brush off the marks, so many "Whose side is she on?" femmes fatale that eventually, it all starts to fade to beige.

So when word came down that David O. Russell's next movie was a con man film based on the ABSCAM scandal of the 1970s, I wasn't too excited. Despite a star-studded cast, it looked like the kind of story that writes itself, in a bad way. A period piece, set in one of America's most absurd historical periods, of a scandal that was considered somewhat tawdry and ridiculous, even at the time? The whole thing screamed "extremely broad farce." The commercials for the film seemed to bear that out:

Turns out I was wrong. Here's the rundown--Irving (Christian Bale) is a small time hustler out of the Bronx who owns a string of dry cleaners and runs scams on the side. Amy Adams plays Edith, his partner in crime and soulmate, who pulls in the suckers with plunging necklines and a "sophisticated" accent. Edith and Irving are perfect for each other, but the obstacle in the way of their happiness is Irving's volatile but resolute wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence).

Monday, January 6, 2014

Imposters #27, Bonus Edition - August: Osage County

I gotta give it up to whoever designed the poster for August: Osage County. For starters, I like this picture. It's more accessible than the first one I saw for The Wolf of Wall Street.

Unlike that tWoWS pic, this image provides a very clear image of what to expect - an extremely fractious family - and gives a nice listing of its actors. I like the red text, where it's placed, and the fact that it's so... overwhelmed by the white text.

And clearly, this is quite a fine cast. I'd watch this group in just about anything.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Reviewing with Others Pt. 66: Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony

[11:24AM UPDATE: Got called in to work. The broken link and incomplete second sentence are now fixed, though.]
My latest indie screener experience is Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony. It's about bronies, males who are both (a) able to vote and (b) love the cartoon series known as My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic.

How much did I like B:tEUAFoMLP? It's got a lot of problems. My review was published today and you can read it here at Man, I Love Films.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Year-End Top Five

This is as close as I've come to having a genuine top five for the year on December 31 in a long, long time. There's the proviso that I haven't watched a lot of films that I expect might make some noise on this list including but not limited to: 12 Years a Slave (geez, title of 160 y/o slave narrative, SPOILERS much?), Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, Frances Ha, All Is Lost, and Before Midnight.

1) Gravity -- I gushed enough about this previously--it's the film that finally convinced me 3D was good for something. The interesting thing about #1 vs. #2 is how close the race is, and how completely and totally different the two films are. Gravity blends CGI and live performance so extensively that it could technically be termed an animated film; meanwhile, I would be fairly surprised if there's a single frame of CGI in American Hustle. Depending on the day of the week, I could flip-flop these picks.

2) American Hustle -- I'm not sure if this will go up before or after my American Hustle review posts, but if it's before, I'll come back and link it here. Let's just say that I was really taken with this subversive con man film, which is, but isn't really, about the ABSCAM scandal of the late 1970s. This is the kind of movie that could sweep the acting categories at the Oscars if the stars align just so.

Year-End Roundup 2013

Since I started doing this, I have posted a recap of the year in films, usually in the last week of December. That wasn't entirely doable this time around, but it's ready now.

Once again, I'm sticking to the unusual categories that I came up with - at least until someone suggests a good alternative. Bonus: DJ's own 2013 recap will be up roughly 30 minutes after mine. I'll see you on Sunday for my weekly Reviewing with Others post.

Best New Movie (that I actually saw) - Upstream Color - Well, Shane Carruth knocked me on my ass again. DJ's review covered it quite well, but I will write about it also, as soon as I can. It's very complicated, and several people I know had issues with it, so I can't quite say what I want to yet...

Best Out-of-the-Blue Release - Due to my off-site indie film reviews for Man, I Love Films, I get exposed to movies that I didn't expect to see. At the worst, I have a little notice that I will receive a particular set of movies. Some films, I choose because I like the premise or the actors. But I'm also lucky that Ben, my distributor contact, has exceptional taste - and, if he really likes a picture, he'll recommend it so strongly that I end up playing the DVD, sooner or later.

This time out, Ben wasn't responsible for sending me to view Short Term 12, the hands-down winner. My review explains it all, but Ben did send me The History of Future Folk, and Bonsai People, which rate quite highly, as does Sushi: The Global Catch. I recommend ST12 above all, and then the rest in descending order. Just keep in mind that the last 2 are documentaries, whereas the rest are narrative films...

Most Internal-Conflict-Causing Film - Django Unchained was the biggest contender for this spot. I hate seeing slavery, religious persecution, sexual assault, and the Holocaust, and it doesn't quite matter what the format is. Over a decade ago, I saw an exhibit on torture devices of the Inquisition, and it both gave me a lot of food for thought while also filling me with disgust.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Patrick Stewart's Cow Sounds

I swear, I wish this was the title of Patrick Stewart's new one-man show on Broadway - but alas, it's just another fantastic example of the talents of an actor that I genuinely revere. Much thanks to Uproxx for this assist, probably their 40th to this site.

Mr. Stewart has found a genuinely funny version of Eddie Griffin's old bit: "Yorkshire cows be mooing like this - but Chelsea cows be mooing like thiiiiiiiis!"

QftWo 12/30-1/5: Imposters #26 - Black Nativity

Two Imposters in a row? Sorry - DJ and I are still prepping our 2013 recaps. Those'll both go up tomorrow - mine first, and DJ's soon after. Today's super-cool You Shoulda Been a Movie entry will post next week, and a new Gem is coming in just 31 minutes. I want to cure your hangovers with laughter (and Patrick Stewart)!

On to what's wrong and/or right about the marketing graphic below: This is a very odd use of collage, the bland background of the image broken up by little promo vignettes for six of its characters.

So what's odd? Well, it's a freaking experiment in multiple perspectives! I know Forrest Whitaker well enough to say that oftentimes he cracks that great big smile of his, then looks downwards. It's one of his many endearing traits. To the unfamiliar, the angle is all weird... Especially since this photographic montage doesn't let you see what's in front of or below him.

So, basically, it looks like he's receiving an incredibly cheerful blowjob during the holidays.

And, hey, who wouldn't want that? But for his smile to be so big, this has got to be one damn festive bj. Is she wearing clown makeup? Is she dressed like Santa or a supremely sexy elf? Maybe while she's doing it, she's twirling a noise-maker in each hand...