Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Great Moments In... Mel Brooks Interviews

Words cannot express how much I love and revere Mel Brooks. And since words can't do it, I'll leave the videos to speak for themselves.

Here's Mr. Brooks talking to Merv Griffin, in Venice, in 1979:

And here's Brooks talking to Joy Behar almost 35 years later:

I'm pretty sure if you offered your soul in exchange for a wit to rival Mel's, the Devil would say, "that's a tall order. What else can you throw in?"

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Happy Trail(er)s: Final Girl

Much as I was so excited for Tucker and Dale Versus Evil and The Cabin in the Woods, I really do love when people play with the conventions of horror films. As such, Final Girl looks like it might be a real winner:

Friday, September 26, 2014

QftWo 9/22-9/28: Imposters #71 - A Walk Among The Tombstones

[Update: Sorry, a draft went up this morning and stayed up for 9 hours after. I told y'all I was busy!]

A Walk Among the Tombstones has a real honey of a poster. It has a good balance of empty space and use of background objects on the far right side contrasted with the the foreground being quite full on the right. I love the different fonts used for all of the txt in the graphic. And the tagline, "people are afraid of all the wrong things," is quite good.

In fact, the only misstep is that Liam Neeson looks about 15 years younger than he should. But I suppose that many people won't mind that, much less complain about it.

Then, of course, we're left with the masterstroke of this image: everything being in greyscale, save the lake on the right side, which is blood-red. It looks simply beautiful, and it suggests a lot about the plot. You add that to the satchel and gun being held by Mr. Neeson, and you can really start to get intrigued about the picture, or at least start to guess what story is about.

You take that expressive efficiency and simply beauty and the result is a brilliant piece of design. I hope the film lives up to it...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Too Similar #4: Taimak and Marcus Chong

Now, many people won't recall him, but Taimak is well-known to fans of 80's cult films. He appeared in the 1985 movie, Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon, a pic that pretty much encapsulates a lot of the era's more insane musical and fashion choices. I may remember it well, yet I can't call The Last Dragon a good film.

The script is not exactly smooth or tight. The picture casts Taimak as Bruce Leroy, a questing karate expert who becomes a savior, then bodyguard, to the gorgeous host of a TV show that's patterned off of Soul Train and the early years of MTV. The main villain is portrayed by Julius J. Carry III, playing a mean-ass street fighter who calls himself "Shonuff, the Shogun of Harlem." Shonuff sees Leroy as his only obstacle to complete supremacy over martial arts in the ghetto.

Shonuff's evil intentions - in essence, ultimate props - are matched by those of a man played by Chris Murney, who portrays a video arcade mogul named Eddie Arkadian. Eddie is trying to forcibly get his Cyndi Lauper-esque girlfriend to become a major singing act - despite her lack of talent. For insane 1980's logic reasons, the popular TV show is seen as the best way to accomplish this. Eddie thinks he can kidnap and then force Taimak's damsel-in-distress/love interest into making Eddie's girlfriend TV's next big act.

Seeing Bruce as the sole (and unbeatable!) protector for the celebrity he wants to abduct, Arkadian forges a pact with Shonuff to destroy their mutual enemy so that each baddie can get what they want. Why Harlem is split between these two fighters, like why the TV studio has zero security, is a mystery for the ages...

Monday, September 22, 2014

Frodo and Sam Supercut

I just cannot stop laughing at this. I personally love the anecdote from a reviewer I used to follow: he saw the movie on opening night, and once the crowd realized how often characters would shout "Fro-do!" the whole audience started saying it, too.

It would have killed the buzz of a legitimately-fine film, yes, but it would have been a hell of a lot of fun to sit through...

Friday, September 19, 2014

QftWo 9/15-9/21: Imposters #70 - Let's Be Cops

It's kind of impossible to really judge this image, and the reason is simple: this looks like a hell of a lot of fun.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bill Murray Golf Victory Humorousness

Leave it to Mr. Murray to not only be gracious following a victory, but to be damn funny as well. I could only hope that he would win most every year after 2011, so we could get more great clips like this:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

You're Next Review

When I first heard about You're Next, I felt pretty excited. It got very strong reviews - which I only skimmed, so as to not spoil anything - the kind of critical praise that made me want to catch it in the theater. Unfortunately, I had a very busy schedule at the time, and wasn't able to see it. I crossed my fingers, hoping that it would become available on Netflix's streaming service.

Well, a few weekends ago, I got my wish - and it was so much more than I could have hoped for. Not only was this a well-made film, it was so grisly and scary that I locked by bedroom door and left a baseball bat beside my bed. No joke, this is a home invasion-type horror film that is genuinely terrifying. If you're sensitive to stories about people getting attacked in their own houses - do not watch this movie.

We open with a scene straight out of an 80's picture. Two people enjoy each other's company, have a little sex... and then their lives start getting pretty damn weird. The cold open neatly dovetails into a slightly different scenario with no clear connection to the movie's beginning: a couple in their early 50's taking a drive to their home in the countryside. From there, it's pretty easy to start to figure out that we're looking at a long-overdue family gathering.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Vancouver Drug Addiction Documentary is a Youtube Standout

This is an amazing 52 minute documentary about the drug addicts encountered by a handful of Vancouver police officers, yet another of the many free films available on Youtube. If film has a special power, it should be more than mere entertainment - it should be about exploiting its ability to let us hear and see events in order to educate its viewers. In terms of its goals and how it tries to achieve them, this truly is a superlative piece of work.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reviewing with Others, pt 75: Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case

Hey, all! My final (or possibly, penultimate) Reviewing with Others entry is for Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case, a documentary about a famous Chinese artist. His work is extremely modern, and his struggle involves some serious brutality at the hands of the police in his country.

Pop on over to Man, I Love Films to check out my review. The one thing I left out of my coverage of the film is that I would have titled the doc "Wei So Serious?"

Friday, September 12, 2014

On Hell, & Indefinite Site Break Starts October

As I mentioned last Wednesday, I'm off writing regular reviews. You'll still get two Reviewing with Others entries - this Sunday for Ai Weiwei, and in a week or two for Kill the Messenger - and then my forthcoming You're Next review is the last one that'll post here (though Snowpiercer was actually the last one that I wrote).

However, after the middle of October, the site will go on an indefinite break. It's been a long time coming - I wrote my July through October posts months in advance - but it stems from 95% good news and only 5% bad news. Either way, my online time is at a premium, and I can't afford to use it here... Great Moments In and Bill Murray posts are prepped through December, and there will be an End of Year wrap-up entry, but that'll be it.

Lots of people talk a lot of s--t about what they can do or what they will do, but you have to be able to back that up. The best way to back up your own hype is... well, it's just by doing:

The proof is in the pudding... And now I want Mexican pudding.

So do you want to know what "Hell" is, if it exists? A look back on my 666th post made me think I should do the same with hell here. I have some longstanding ideas on this topic, although I'm talking about fewer films this time out.

But first, here's one we should get out of the way asap: the end of Death Becomes Her definitely counts, but is unlikely to be experienced literally by... most viewers -

Firstly, Hell is a place where your words and actions have no power. The things that you do have no effect, are not believed, are interpreted the wrong way every time, or are not taken seriously. Christy Brown's cerebral palsy meant he could only use his left foot, and Helen Keller was missing 2 out of 5 senses (sight, hearing), and even those people found a way to communicate. If your method of expressing yourself always has no effect - or one that's the opposite of your intentions - then that's got to be a form of Hell.

In the really-real world, you can screw up and apologize or other people can screw up on you and you can accept their apologies. You can tell people that you love them, or you can explain to people why they should change their ways, or you can get two people to make up with each other. You and teach - as well as learn - new things...

But if people never believe you, judge you in the worst ways possible, or simply don't ever listen, then you have no power, and that has to be what Hell is like. Take it from a white-looking mixed-race kid from the slums of NYC: being powerless must be a key element of unending torment.

Secondly, Hell is a place where you cannot change anything. For many people, the concept of Hell is mere suffering and pain. But the worst pain is always what you feel inside, not what the body suffers. And the scary idea about the worst conceptions of Hell is that it's eternal torture.

One of the greatest truisms is that where there's life, there's hope. So long as you draw breath, you can improve yourself: you can grow and change, experience can influence your actions or reactions, and maturity can temper your perspective and emotions. But death seems like a static condition - at least for the people one leaves behind, it sure is. Your past actions decide how you're remembered, because you don't have any "new" moves to make.

But if you're alive (or, damn, dead and conscious) and in a situation that can never be changed, then hope has to dissipate. And, without hope, you're pretty well f--ked. However badly life sucks, it's gonna keep being exactly that bad.

Whatever mistakes you've made? You're stuck with them. Anything you want to improve? You're stuck with how things are there, too. Wanna see the bright side of things? You can't. Once you reach a certain point, everything looks scary or threatening, and no one has good intentions, because everyone is out to get you.

Please skip ahead to the 2:26 mark. What comes before looks great, but Annie's Hell is truly horrific.

Depression is a pretty good instructor on what Hell must be like. But even without it, I figure Hell involves a lot of fear, self-pity, regret, and anger. I figure it's being trapped in a tiny little box which one doesn't leave. I figure it's devoid of change, or power... I figure it's always assuming the worst of everything and everyone. It's pretty much the opposite of life.

And it's pretty much the opposite of my situation. I've just landed a new (time-consuming) job, made a few other improvements, and have felt an ability to change my lot in life. It's (partly) because of those elements that I have to move on from the site. The time that I had available before is now, simply, gone.

We'll still have four entries per week until mid-October. After that, it'll be a few Bill Murray and Great Moments In posts, as well as an End of the Year wrap up. I'll still respond to comments and emails, but my offline life has been growing steadily busier since May, and I can't commit to this blog, or most online stuff, right now. Let's try to have fun with the time we've got left, okay?

Hell is a place where one has been broken, and that damage is both irreparable and insuperable. Instead of picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and trying something new, you're stuck in the same old mess.

Right now, the future holds a lot of things - for all of us, I hope - and it's worth working toward a better tomorrow with confidence and happiness. Nothing good will come of not trying to improve one's situation, of getting stuck on the past vicissitudes of life and wallowing in misery - nor will it become brighter or happier by focusing on what you can't change, instead of focusing on what you can change.

I've been "lucky enough" to have had so many serious, life-or-death crises in my past that it's easy to see most problems in life as minor speed-bumps. And I've been fortunate enough to have lots of good news and activities and events that whatever makes me unhappy isn't going to bring my whole world crashing down. I hope it's much the same for you, dear readers. Onward and upwards, motherf--kers!

I really wish I had a clip of this whole funeral scene. It's terrifying.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

F--king Glengarry Glen Ross

For this site's 800th post (!), I decided to go with a supercut of scenes pulled from a fine film.

This video of all the curses in Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross really needs no introduction or discussion on my part. I've written about this movie before and don't need to say more about it now. Res ipsa loquitor, baby - the thing speaks for itself:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

QftWo 9/8-9/14: Imposters #69 - The Giver

They're too big. Or they don't need to be in the center of the picture. Or there should be something more going on in the background. At the very least, I like the silhouettes of Streep and Bridges, but I'm not sure if they're additional characters, or if these two kids will grow up into these two older figures.

I will say, I'm glad that they use the book's popularity as a promotion, as it's really a well-known work, though one I've never read. I like the choice to make the "V" in "Giver" large, as it looks nice.

And I respect the decision to give the names of the writers and director, but not the actors. I mean, the novelist's name should be there, but it's a brisk, tasteful choice.

I suppose the only element that confuses me here is that, despite the relative lack of information - no MPAA rating, no tagline to give us a sense of what's to come, and a rather bland, empty background - they bothered to include, in the lower left corner of the ad, the words: featuring the original song "Ordinary Human" by OneRepublic.

Given the scant info provided by this poster, it just stands out as an odd element.

Overall, this ad comes close to being a net win...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

QftWo 9/1-9/7: Imposters #68 - The Expendables 2

It does advertise what you would expect: in short, come see these not-young a--holes in a testosterone-fueled action film. Fair enough, I suppose, but this poster really does nothing more than that. I don't find a group photo and a list of 17 cast members to be especially impressive...

Also, judging by the waistlines alone, I've strongly resisted the urge to call this The Expandables. Oh, wait...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Snowpiercer Review - Nailed It

The story of my efforts to see this movie might make for a decent post, but I won't bother with that now. Suffice to say that I made something like 4 trips to the movie theater, and was shut out every time. The reasons varied, but the results were the same. It's taken a while to write this up, which I just revealed to be my "last" review here - mostly because I promised myself a break from blogging - but I think the post is ready for mass consumption.

Bong Joon-ho is a director I've been following since I first read an early AICN review of 2006's The Host. That movie was an excellent "monster in a city" horror film, and I was simply stunned by its tension, drama, and high caliber effects. And, while I missed his follow-up, 2009's Mother, I was even more stunned to learn his next film would have a mostly American/English cast: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Ewen Bremner, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt... In fact, the only returning Korean figures were Song Kang-ho, the lead in Host, and Go Ah-sung, who has played his daughter in both that film and this one.

Well, no matter the cast or the setting, the quality of Bong's storytelling and filmmaking hasn't diminished one bit. If this writer/director isn't already there, then this latest pic should really place him on a list of people to look out for...

By way of a quick opening montage, we learn that efforts to defeat global warming backfired horribly. A brief opening scrawl tells that Earth in 2031 is a frozen wasteland, all life is dead, and humanity's survivors live aboard a train that circles the globe constantly. Curtis Everett (Chris Evans, playing a role with his own real-life initials) is one of the ill-treated folks at the very back of that train. Curtis keeps insisting that he's not a leader, although his best friends, Edgar (Bell) and Tanya (Spencer), constantly turn to him for orders and advice. Everett, however, keeps passing the buck on to his mentor - the wise, crippled Gilliam (Hurt).

The danger with a science fiction effort like this is that you often receive waves of clumsy exposition that feel unnatural and/or slow the movie down. Yet this movie barrels right into things after that opening montage: in 2031, the world is frozen and all life is dead, except for the people who've lived (or been born) on this train since 2014. And, with that said, Bong's film largely abandons backstory and focuses on providing a sense of what life is like for the unfortunate people in the tail section.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Michael Bay Bombs Like an Amateur Auteur

Site Update:I've completed my last new movie review for the next while, for Snowpiercer. I only finished writing it yesterday, and You're Next was slated first, but the latter is still in theaters (on a late June release? how?), so it should go live tomorrow to provide whatever boost I may bestow.

However, I simply lack the time to do more movie reviews, and to do them right, at the moment. Anyway, I think it's one of my best reviews ever - and there's still much fun to be had with all the posts I prepared months ago, like Glengarry, Frodo and Sam, Taimak, Mel Brooks, free Music Documentaries...

Moving on: I try not to give in to schadenfreude much, but there are some people that inspire zero sympathy and compassion from me. One such is Michael Bay. And, a while back, he was basically hired to give a speech at a demo for a new kind of television set.

This man, whose films have grossed insane amounts of cash at the box office, starts to talk about how he works as a director and what film means to him. It's all a scripted preamble before he is supposed to turn around and describe how these new TVs will provide a great, fresh way to experience and enjoy (his) motion pictures.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Great Moments in... Film Interludes

Student Bodies is a little-known horror parody that came out in 1981. It is, in essence, a totally gonzo film: victims are killed by suffocation in plastic bags, the killer occasionally gets winded while chasing people down, and the high school principal and counselor are both clearly insane.

The movie is far from perfect, and it may not have aged well, but several moments reveal not just a gift for slapstick and parody and demented humor, but a nice knack for some a few clever jokes.

My favorite, of course, is the scene wherein the story completely stops so that some narrator can explain to the audience that the filmmakers want an R-rating:

Happy Labor Day, everyone! Enjoy these last days of Summer while you can- I know I am...