Friday, May 28, 2010
FRIDAY SCATTER-SHOOTING: Summertime Blues Already, Sex and the City Makes Me Insane, and 3-D sucks because...
* Boy... I missed the mark on MacGruber being a hit I guess. Whoops...
* I don’t know what angers me more, Sex and the City 2, or the fans of Sex and the City 2. You know, the ones who lie to your face after seeing the midnight show and tell you how amazing it was, how it was better than the first one… which is like saying lip cancer is better than colon cancer. SATC used to be a clever show on HBO, well written, watchable. But now it is reduced to two and a half hour (SERIOUSLY!) movies that advocate consumption. Consumption of clothes, shoes, men, marriages, society conventions. I could not think of a more superficial piece of garbage, and what better time to release this abomination on the women of this country than in the aftermath of a recession. And there is no reason it needs to be AS LONG AS MAGNOLIA!
* Well… maybe not that long. But still…
* And what about this guy that mule-headed Sarah Jessica Parker is married to in the movies? What is so charming about this douchebag? What a smarmy prick.
* Oh look, Samantha is a whore… That’s so funny.
* For a little perspective, the girl who told me this sequel was better than the first one also said it was better than The Dark Knight because TDK was “too scary.” That’s what we are dealing with here, people.
* Ok, now that I got that out of my system… I think once Inception comes and goes it will be time to focus on the Fall.
* Speaking of Inception, I see where Tom Berenger has a role big enough to get his name mentioned with everyone else. That’s kinda cool.
* You know what is responsible for Shrek’s less-than-anticipated box office take from last week? 3-D. The fact that it was 3-D made ticket prices in New York and the like get to twenty dollars. That means a family of five has to drop a ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR BILL to buy tickets. They would have to take out a loan against their house if they wanted popcorn and a soda. This is problem number 27 with 3-D.
* I am glad we are on a Christian Bale break right now. He was getting too overexposed last year.
* 49 days until Inception.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
10) Agent Pappas (Point Break) – Often overlooked is Pappas, the seasoned veteran partner of that “Quarterback punk,” Johnny Utah. What many forget is that the ex-president-bank-robbers-are-surfers theory was the brainchild of Pappas to begin with. Without his investigating techniques there is no film. Sometimes looked down upon by the others in his department, namely Harp, the weasel chief played by John C. McGinley, Pappas nevertheless has strong resolve and is a great partner to Utah. He is always a step behind Johnny, but never too far away at the same time. His world-weariness is the perfect juxtaposition to Utah. Pappas also has the best line in the film: “Utah… Get me two!”
9) Silent Bob (Kevin Smith Movies) – This is one of a few on this list who appear in more than one movie. As the quiet, thoughtful, stoic partner to Jason Mewes’ maniacal Jay in five flicks, Silent Bob gets none of the glory. But Silent Bob is not simply the sidekick to Jay; he really works as a sidekick to all characters in Smith’s movies. And despite his title, he does speak from time to time, but never with wasted words. And despite his lumpy appearance, Silent Bob has a little bit of the force coursing through his nerdy veins from time to time.
8) Pedro (Napoleon Dynamite) – Sure, we are all tired of Napoleon Dynamite these days (that was so 2004), but there is no denying the fact that Pedro was a pretty good second banana for nerdy young Napoleon. Pedro was soft spoken, almost in a creepy way with his choppy Spanish cadence, and he was the center of one of the most memorable film elections of the entire decade. And who could forget Pedro’s older brothers, offering nerds everywhere protection from the bullies? It is funny to think, but Pedro was definitely responsible for giving Napoleon cool points, if that is at all possible.
7) Ratso Rizzo (Midnight Cowboy) – “HEY I’M WALKIN’ HERE, I’M WALKIN’ HERE!!!” Those famous words were ad-libbed by Dustin Hoffman at the time when a frustrated cabbie in New York drove through the barricades on set, nearly running him over. Hoffman’s Rizzo, a sketchy two-bit New York hustler, joins forces with Jon Voight’s Joe Buck, the naïve country boy who becomes a male prostitute. The two men definitely do not mix well at first, but their relationship builds throughout the film. Rizzo’s resolve, his ability to deny the fact that he is an outcast, is what keeps these men moving along. And Rizzo finds his first real friend, as does Buck.
6) Garth Algar (Wayne’s World) – These pictures were definitely Wayne’s show, but where would Wayne be without his high-strung, Def Leppard-loving Garth? Garth, always on the look for a babe, serves as the audience’s guide. He repeatedly breaks the fourth wall to lead us through a situation or give us his opinion. Garth’s nervous energy is the genesis of some of the funniest scenes in both films, and no matter what the situation he will stick by Wayne in the end. This is a friendship built on similarities, but thriving on differences, and one could never go long without the other. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, this is definitely Wayne’s world, Garth is just a great partner in the sidecar.
5) Red (Shawshank Redemption) – Red is the guy who knows how to get things, and he has an interesting dynamic with Andy Dufresne. The two become the best of friends during their time at Shawshank prison, musing on hope and working to build a better environment inside the walls, including a library that would rival the public libraries in many towns. But aside from their everlasting friendship, Red also unknowingly is the man responsible for busting Andy out of prison. Without the rock hammer or the posters, Andy would never have had a chance.
4) Igor (Young Frankenstein) – My first inclination was to put the original Igor from the Karloff film on this list, but I started thinking: that Igor is really a fuck up and generally a bad guy. But what about the Igor in Young Frankenstein? Now that performance from Marty Feldman is the very definition of comedic sidekick. Not very much of an assistant, and not very much help in any real way, Igor is there simply to frustrate Dr. Frankenstein and confuse things for everyone. Igor has some of the best moments and some of the funniest lines in what is perhaps the greatest parody in the history of film, so he deserves a high spot on this list.
3) Walter Sobchak (The Big Lebowski) – If Igor is the definition of comedic sidekick, then John Goodman’s Walter Sobchak takes that notion and turns it up to eleven. Walter exists simply to frustrate the hell out of The Dude. The unlikely pairing of Vietnam vet with leftover stoner from the same time is only part of the genius of the Coen Brothers’ creation. Walter means well, but everything he does causes another problem, from his brilliant idea of making a ringer full of undies for the kidnappers, to destroying what he thought was Larry Sellers’ new corvette, to routinely exploding into an hysterical fit of rage, Walter is the cog that keeps the crazy plot turning.
2) Goose (Top Gun) – Sure, there is an unbelievable amount of homoerotic subtext to the 1985 classic that made Tom Cruise such a hit, but that is to be expected in a movie about Navy pilots. Maverick was the focus of the story, there is no question about that, but without Goose, Maverick is not… well… Maverick. Not as good looking, not a ladies’ man, but a damn good wingman, Goose is nothing but a great and loyal friend for Maverick. And Goose also has some of the best lines in the film, and is a great comic relief at times. And his death is still a heartbreaking moment for any fan of the film, regardless of how many times you see it.
Monday, May 24, 2010
4 - Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) – The last entry into the franchise is a little bit sad. It’s like watching two of your favorite people being played by someone else. This time around, Riggs is now too old for this shit, meaning Murtaugh has no business wearing his badge. The plot revolves around Chinese immigration, and the only thing novel that does is introduce the world to Jet Li. And we also had Joe Pesci back as Leo Getz (for no reason), and Chris Rock as another investigator (for no reason). The action in the franchise had gotten a bit more illogical and over the top, but in this fourth installment the two have to take on an armor-clad flame-throwing robber, they jump a car from a highway into an office building and back onto the highway, and they get stuck underwater after a fight for about three minutes. Too much comic book, not enough reality.
3 – Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) – The franchise started showing signs of creakiness in this entry, as comedy became the priority of the picture instead of it being a side note to a more serious narrative. The opening sequence where Riggs and Murtaugh are sent in to defuse a bomb (failing miserably), a play on the red-wire-blue-wire bit, is funny and a pretty good opening explosion, but why would two homicide detectives be allowed to go into the building? That’s the sort of logic problems the franchise starts to run into. Oh and there is a plot about a crooked cop that is pretty dull. Riggs and Murtaugh start to find trouble a little too easy, as evidenced by the shootout that leaves Murtaugh’s son’s friend dead, a dark subplot to an otherwise flighty movie. And back is Joe Pesci as Leo Getz, less funny this time around and more annoying. But at least we are introduced to Rene Russo’s Lorna Cole, an ass-kicking love interest for Riggs.
2 – Lethal Weapon (1987) – It felt too easy to put this one number one. The dynamic is set between Riggs, a suicidal loose cannon, and Murtagh, a family man counting down the days until retirement. It’s funny to think that Murtagh was getting close to retiring at the end of the very first film. Riggs is decidedly more dark and disturbed here, having lost his wife in what is believed to be an accident, and there is a truly unsettling moment where he chews on the barrel of his gun while the Looney Tunes Christmas show is playing in the background. The plot revolves around Vietnam veterans in the drug trade, and the ties to Riggs and Murtaugh run deep here. One of the victims is the daughter of a former platoon friend of Murtaugh’s in Nam. There is some great action here, a good story base, and Gary Busey (always a plus), but these characters still feel too crazy or too exasperated. They hadn’t quite got the perfect mix yet.
1 – Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) – This sequel barely edges out the original for a few reasons. First of all the entire plot, revolving around South Africans and their illegal doings in the US, and the fact that they are protected by diplomatic immunity, gave the film a broader international feel. Aside from that, the opening chase sequence is the second best car chase in the franchise, only to be bested by a chase later on where the bad guy catches a wayward surfboard in the face. And who could ever forget the toilet bomb scene? A completely absurd moment in the history of this franchise that somehow feels real here but would be laughable in all the wrong ways had it been in one of the last two films. Riggs and Murtaugh are in a groove in this second picture where their chemistry is a perfect mix. And remember when Leo Getz was a funny sidekick? Before he got ridiculous and annoying? Yeah, that was here in the second movie. But aside from all this, the romance Riggs has with Rika van den Haas (the stunning Patsy Kensit. Someone explain to me how she didn’t get more film roles), the assistant to Joss Ackland’s Arjen, is passionate and a good thing for Riggs at the time. So when she is murdered by her own people, we finally get to see Riggs to the point of pure unhinged insanity, something he was always flirting with in the first film. There is so much more detail and layering in this second installment, and everything from the totally goofy to the truly dark work wonderfully in context.
Friday, May 21, 2010
FRIDAY SCATTER-SHOOTING: John Cazale's Appropriate send up, comedian careers, and Val Kilmer is still kinda cool...
* It sucks that Gene Hackman has retired. He is one of the greats.
* Remember when Mike Myers was funny?
* Seriously though, he used to be diverse in his comedy. So I Married an Axe Murderer is such an overlooked gem. Now he just does the same bit over and over, like Shrek movies.
* Speaking of Shrek, I don’t understand why Eddie Murphy isn’t funny anymore. He used to be hysterical, charming, witty. I know this is well documented, but my god how can somebody so great turn into such a fucking joke?
* And where is Jim Carrey? Has his comedy routine grown old in this new age of Apatow?
* James Franco is going to be in a Planet of the Apes prequel. The question ‘why’ pops into my head for so many different reasons.
* Has anyone figured out the end of Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes movie yet? What a piece of garbage that was.
* I have this sneaking suspicion that MacGruber is going to be a good SNL movie (oxymoron). There is no real reason to believe this, but I think Will Forte is genuinely funny, the production values look solid, and 80s action flicks seem like the perfect genre to parody. Sure, the premise is paper thin, but Val Kilmer is the bad guy. It can’t be all bad.
* Val Kilmer is an actor that truly confounds me. This dude was in Heat. This dude played Jim Morrison. He was Elvis in True Romance. He was the best Doc Holliday ever. But this dude also starred in The Real McCoy, At First Sight, Alexander, Wonderland, Red Planet, The Saint, The Island of Dr. Moreau… not only awful movies, but the basis for a truly confusing filmography. I still think he is quality though.
* T-minus 56 days until Inception.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
TOMMY LEE JONES
Despite it being a TV mini-series, Lonesome Dove was a star-making role for Jones, who only starred in two of the episodes. Then again, in the late 80s, a mini-series on television had much more publicity and clout than it might these days. Nevertheless, Jones’ career really took off after Lonesome Dove. In the years following, he starred in films like JFK and Under Siege, but it was his role as Samuel Gerard in 1993’s The Fugitive would win him an Oscar. Though it is debatable on whether or not he deserved the win over Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List. Actually, there is no real debate, Fiennes should have won.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
There are no green tights. There are no merry men. There isn’t much merry here at all. This Robin Hood’s England is dank, drab, a grey-stained palette. In other words, a lot like what England probably really looked like at the end of the twelfth century. Crowe is Robin Longstride, a skilled archer in King Richard the Lion Heart’s (Danny Huston) army. Once Richard is killed, Robin decides to return to England with Little John (played by an irritating actor named Kevin Durand) and Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes). Along the way they encounter a dying Robert of Loxley, and Robin promises to return his sword to his father in England. And then the plot gets a little too heavy for its own good, not because it is hard to follow but because I found it hard to care.
Friday, May 14, 2010
* Samuel L. Jackson says there will be a SHIELD movie after The Avengers. I really don’t see the point in this. These setups for The Avengers are becoming a distraction in the Iron Man sequel and after the credits to both Iron Man 2 and Incredible Hulk. I don’t see any reason to make a movie about the unit that forms The Avengers after it's all said and done.
* Regardless, I am getting more and more excited for The Avengers.
* Jonah Hex looks absurd.
* George Clooney’s new film, The American, looks like an interesting suspense thriller set in Italy. It reminds me of a John Frankenheimer movie. But it seems like Clooney is falling into the acting pattern of the morally-compromised character he plays in Michael Clayton and Syriana and, to an extent, Up in the Air.
* John Frankenheimer was a pretty good director. Ronin is a very underrated movie.
* Darren Aronofsky is a busy dude. He is finishing up Black Swan, he is planning a Jackie Kennedy picture, and now he is trying to get a project going again with Brad Pitt. Fine by me.
* Why is Amanda Seyfried going for all these sappy Nicolas Sparks films and Sparks knockoffs? She is a pretty amazing young talent in my opinion; she needs to take on something heavy, like she did a few seasons ago in Big Love.
* The Inception hype machine is picking up steam fast and furious. I enjoy the hype, but I try and distance from it. I learned a long time ago to not watch clips and read early reviews and stalk movies online that I was supremely excited for. When you do this, you will inevitably be let down by the final product, regardless of how good or bad it really is. You’ve simply invested so much time and energy into preparing for the experience, there is nowhere to go but down. This worked for me with The Dark Knight a few years back, There Will Be Blood the year before, surely it will work this summer.
* That being said… 63 Days until Inception.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Simple. Robust. Direct. The makers of this poster realized that the draw of this film is the cast together, not the explosions. A lot of these hollow-type summer fireball fests come with overloaded posters, but not this time. The tagline is pretty clever, but maybe the steel-riveted title could be a little bigger. And I know simplicity is better than activity in the background, but where is the iconic black-and-red van? They look like they are standing in the middle of nowhere (maybe they are). And the faces of the stars are a little too glossy and muted.
PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME
I get it. Gyllenhaal is the draw, and his costume is on full display here, but it just blends in with the strange foggy background. Every trailer and clip I see from this movie suggests sun-baked Egyptian and Middle-Eastern settings. So why does the poster look like he is lost in England? Everything is monochrome in the poster just to make the red sash he is wearing pop. To that it works, but the rest of the poster is kind of a wash. And I know the tagline is meant to be enigmatic and thought-provoking, but it's a little too much.
So this is all it takes I guess to get the tweens and the cougars in the seats. Because this poster is almost as boring as the movie will surely be. I am trying to keep my biases away from this poster, but it's hard to do. Everyone is in mopey emo drab gray and black, surrounded by smog or something, and why are they all staring at me? There was absolutely zero creativity put into this poster, but when your audience is predetermined I guess you probably don't even need a poster to begin with. Pattinson looks like some chemo-ravaged transvestite and that other kid, Taylor something, is putting me to sleep with his lunkhead stare. Snooze...
Seriously? Not that the story is all that original, and the movie might be pretty good or pretty terrible, but the least the makers of this poster oculd do is have one original idea. The center of the poster, the obvious focus, is a combination or, a splicing (see what I did there?) of the first and third Alien posters, complete with egg shape and alien tail. And the spacing on the title looks like Alien. But the typeface and coloring reminds me of Species. The lack of originality doesn't make me too optimistic about the originality of the picture itself.
EAT, PRAY, LOVE
This is a good poster for a few reasons. First, everyone knows what Julia Roberts looks like, so the name on the top is suffice if you want to go simple like the makers did here. Second, the film has a built in audience who read the book, so they need only the title and the actress to get excited about the release. And for those without any knowledge of the story, the three words and the star are eye-catching, enough to draw interest. And the way each word is formed with corresponding items is a nice touch. The poster is relaxing, like some framed artwork you would find on the wall at a spa. Well done.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
10) Terrence Malick – Malick has been around since the seventies, but his body of work is relatively thin. Any Malick film is a true event for some – myself included – and his films carry a depth of emotion and an unmatched visual power. Malick’s only nomination for best director was in 1998 for his cerebral World War II film The Thin Red Line, losing to Steven Spielberg and his mainstream war picture, Saving Private Ryan. But Malick could have been there before as his two films in the seventies, Badlands and Days of Heaven, were both magnificent in their own ways, and for my money The New World was one of the best films of 2005. Malick’s upcoming Tree of Life, starring Sean Penn and Brad Pitt, might be another chance for him come Oscar time.
9) Michael Mann – Mann has been in a bit of a valley recently in his career with Miami Vice (which I personally really like) and Public Enemies, a film with pedigree that may have been mishandled a bit. But there is no denying that Mann throughout the 90s, when he directed Last of the Mohicans, Heat, and The Insider, was at the very top of his game. At its time, oddly enough, Heat was met with a lukewarm reception from critics and audiences, but is now firmly entrenched as one of the finest crime-dramas of all time. And The Insider, in my opinion, is one of the ten best of the nineties, and was Mann’s best chance at winning. Perhaps in hindsight he should have taken home the award instead of Sam Mendes for the slightly overrated American Beauty.
8) Spike Lee – I wrote at length about Lee yesterday, who is on my radar recently as some directors and films tend to do in waves. Lee had two great opportunities to win best director, first in 1989 (when he was not nominated) for Do The Right Thing, and again in 1992 (when he was) for Malcolm X. The trouble is, Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven was released in 1992, and Eastwood winning the statue was the right move. Lee has not been as consistent a director recently, but there were still some films throughout the years, Bamboozled and the vastly underrated The 25th Hour, that could have gotten some notice for Lee around Oscar time. But I feel like his time may be near. Not because of any project he is working on, but it’s just a feeling.
7) Sam Peckinpah – The first deceased director on this list is also one of the most enigmatic. Peckinpah was notoriously hard living, abusing drugs and alcohol until he died at 59 of heart failure, but while he was around he directed some of the most controversial, groundbreaking, violent pictures of his time. And none more important in the realm of cinema than The Wild Bunch, one of the best and most memorable of all westerns. Aside from The Wild Bunch, Peckinpah also directed the Steve McQueen/Ali MacGraw road film The Getaway, a year after the highly controversial Straw Dogs starring a young Dustin Hoffman as a quiet man pushed to the brink. Peckinpah was a great influence on the likes of Quentin Tarantino, and his style has gone unmatched since his passing.
6) Stanley Kubrick – That’s right, Stanley Kubrick never took home a statue, going 0 for 4 in his lifetime. It seemed that every Stanley Kubrick film was groundbreaking or important in some way, and the dedication and maniacal directing style was perhaps just as famous as the films themselves. Kubrick was a talent before the seventies, but was one of the mavericks of the decade that helped to shape modern American cinema (well, the good parts anyway). From 2001, to Clockwork Orange, to Barry Lyndon, Kubrick was always trying new things, new techniques, and always coming up with the same great results on screen. His films were always just a little too controversial for the buttoned-up Academy to branch out and award him accordingly.
5) Fredrico Fellini – This is an interesting case, Fellini. He, like Kubrick, went 0 for 4 as a nominee, getting noticed for his transcendent works 8 ½ and La Dolce Vita, as well as Satyricon and Amarcord. Fellini inspired virtually every groundbreaking filmmaker in the seventies, none more so than Martin Scorsese. But his work was always a little more appreciated after the fact rather than at the moment. 8 ½ and La Dolce Vita were both semiautobiographical, and both are monuments not only in Italian film culture, but in the culture of cinema as a whole. Overall, Fellini was nominated for twelve Academy Awards, not winning a single one for writing or directing, a true head-scratching anomaly.
4) Akira Kurosawa – Kurosawa was given an honorary Oscar in 1990 from Martin Scorsese, and was Marty’s biggest influence as a director. But we aren’t counting these hollow honorary Oscars, especially when a director as influential and talented as Kurosawa went without winning in his illustrious career. Most remember Kurosawa for Seven Samurai, but his only best director nomination was in 1986 for Ran, losing to Oliver Stone and Platoon. But the loss is not as staggering as the fact that he was not nominated prior to 1986, for Seven Samurai, Kagemusha, Ikiru, any number of seminal works over the last half of the twentieth century.
3) Alfred Hitchcock – This is where things get ridiculous. Hitchcock was a five-time nominee, for Psycho, Rear Window, Spellbound, Lifeboat, and Rebecca. Three of these pictures were beaten understandably, but Psycho and Rear Window are two of the 100 best films of the century. And let us not forget that he was ignored for Vertigo and North by Northwest, two more of the 100 greatest. Hitchcock even created an unofficial signature style and technique that borrows from his name: Hitchcockian. Hitchcock was another great influence on every director that came after him in one way or another, and the fact that he never won an Academy Award is criminal.
2) Robert Altman – If you appreciate Paul Thomas Anderson, then you inherently appreciate the power and scope of Robert Altman, a unique visionary who experimented with a new style and created an American realism with his pictures. Using expansive casts and overlapping dialogue was the trademark of Altman throughout his career, as he directed such classic films as Nashville, MASH, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Player, and Gosford Park. Altman would have deserved a win any one of those years, and like Hitchcock was shut out five times. Perhaps his most deserving film was The Player, or maybe Nashville, but they came up against two pictures with deserving pedigrees in themselves, Unforgiven and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, respectively. But regardless, somewhere along the way, Altman should have taken home the statue before receiving his honorary “we fucked up” award in 2006.