Sunday, January 31, 2010

Short Reviews - January 2010

As you probably know, deep down all movie critics are frustrated filmmakers, like Rod Lurie and that Attanasio bastid. And yes, Roger Ebert, if that IS your real name... Reinhold Timme! But I've got an idea that tops 'em all, I tells ya: The Tom Green Movie. It'll be a 90-minute movie of sketches! So far I've got the opening sketch all planned out in my mind. We open on a 10-story building, kinda like in the first Lethal Weapon, and a guy's getting ready to jump. Tom Green shows up and takes the bullhorn from the police, and starts telling the guy to jump. "Yeah! Jump! You should jump, bro. Jump." Tom of course eventually wins the whole crowd over. "Yeah! You should jump! We're science students. When you land, we can sift through your guts and see what you ate. Oh, which reminds me: you should take your clothes off first so we won't have to sift through your clothes. Don't get your clothes all dirty!" That's just your basic rough outline. I'm sure Tom can improve vastly upon it. And so, after about three minutes, the guy jumps, splat, and then Tom turns to the camera and yells "Welcome to the Tom Green (Show) movie!!" Title credits pop up, theme song plays, which should be Morphine's "Honey White." And it goes from there. Basically it could just be Jackass but with Tom Green's vignettes instead, either filmed anew or they could just show the old tapes to save money.

Dang! Not a lot of movies this month. Hence the long intro. Oh well.

Paranormal Activity 2 - I guess that shouldn't come as a surprise. But if Hollywood success stories have taught me anything, the director will become a dictator, the budget will skyrocket past its original 30 million dollar ceiling, stars will get married, quit the production, etc. etc.

Volcano - Just checking out the trivia section... oh, what a sad state of affairs, but Mick Jackson probably WASN'T replaced as director. He may yet wish he was.

Go Straight to Hell - Drag Me to Hell 2?

Straight to Hell - Slightly ahead of the curve, for what that was worth.

Bagdad Cafe - Damn! We missed the 20th Anniversary!

Kick-Ass - It better!

Repo Chick - Everybody's got to bring their career full circle: even Alex Cox. Well, as long as it's better than The Next Karate Kid.

The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond - Who plays Big Daddy?

Wonderful World - Sequel to The Visitor?

The Russians Are Coming x 2 - One of the Top 10 films of 1966!

The Borrowers - An obscure John Goodman pic? I mean, besides this...

Homegrown - An obscure Billy Bob pic?

Irma La Douce - I think the rule still is: the more fun the filmmakers have making the film, the less good a film is...

Buried - Van Wilder buried alive? Sign me up!!! Also, I'd have a little more respect for it if they spelled it with more numbers, like 8u7136... I guess you'd have to twist the numbers a little. Can't do it in Notepad, you know. Maybe for the 'ur' you could turn a 5 on its side, mash 'em together... never mind.

Auteur Watch - Angela Bassett

Oh, but SHE'S not a director! Not yet, that is. But she's working on it. And perhaps we can use the Decade Theory on Mrs. Bassett's extensive acting career, but I don't know if I can do it without being cruel. The 80s were fruitful, but despite her supermodel looks she just couldn't catch on. The 90s would change all that, with plum character roles in the likes of Malcolm X and two John Sayles pics, culminating in her 1993 starring role in What's Love Got To Do With It. For some reason after that, it all slowly went downhill with films like Waiting to Exhale, Strange Days... going back uphill slightly with Contact, but then gently sloping downhill ever since. I'm still scratching my head in disbelief, but for me things couldn't be worse for a legitimate actor getting roped into a Tyler Perry film. Hers happened to be Meet The Browns. After that experience I guess she figured she could direct one of these damn things herself. Why not? She's got a 2010 release called United States. Catchy title! But they had others to pick from: Erasure, Masterwork and... well, I'll let you read that third one yourselves and figure out what's wrong with it. Fingers crossed! Here's hoping they go with that last one anyway...

Pandora's Peaks

Oh, I gotta be careful. I'm still at 2% of my image capacity. I mean, even a geriatric Mel Gibson can't joust Avatar from the top position for the unprecedented seventh straight week in a row. I haven't seen anything like it since... Titanic? The Dark Knight? Home Alone? It must really have something! I do like how those flying dragon things have heads that kind of make them look like geese heads when their mouths are shut. You know, with the red chins?... never mind. Edge of Darkness debuts strong at #2, even though they spent that much on TV spots. And the other deubt this week is When in Rome. Oh, Kristen Bell... you had to go and blow all your Sarah Marshall street cred on this turkey? What were you thinking? I'll tell you what you were thinking. You WEREN'T thinking! That's what you were thinking! I gotta go... the Simpsons is on! Homer gets a lotto ticket... just like Roseanne!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunshine Cleaning vs. Extract: Which Kicks More Ass?

I know, I know, you're probably sitting there thinking to yourself, Hey! The Movie Hooligan! That's insane! Comparing two movies like that! Especially those two. Why, tha'd be like trying to compare Clerks 1 to Clerks 2! (directors cuts) Or The Godfather to The Shawshank Redemption!... okay, bad examples. Oh, whouldn'tcha know it: Avatar's slipping already. That's gratitude for ya. Anyway, just bear with me on this. Sure, they're both about totally different subjects. Sure, one's a chick flick and one's a night out for the boys. Sure, one's ideologically driven and the other isn't... I forget which ones. Someone check the World Socialist Web Site to remind me. But if you peel back the onion layers just a little bit, if you look a little deeper, similarities begin to emerge. After all, both were made in the same decade. And both are set in present day. Oh, sure, they're no Up in the Air, but in their own little ways they're a reflection of the era we're living in. There's bootstrapping involved in both to varying degrees. And both are of the comedy genre, or rather, of the neo-indie comedy oeuvre genre, driving down that road paved by pioneers such as the Coen brothers, Alexander Payne, and to a lesser extent, Bagdad Cafe. Both aren't the best work their makers have ever done: one from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine, the other from the director of Office Space and Idiocracy... and the creator of Beavis and Butt-Head.. No! No! Not that one! King of the Hill and The Goode Family. THOSE are the respectable ones! But most importantly, there is a rather direct link 'twixt the two: both feature the work of respected character actor CLIFTON COLLINS Jr.! Yes. Best known for his role as Vato #2 in Menace II Society, he unfortunately wasn't given a plum role in the Hughes brothers latest: The Book of Eli. But never mind! He's got these two to boast of! So let's just jump right in: which kicks more ass?


Welp, in the wake of Breaking Bad and ... something else, Sunshine Cleaning should fit right in. Who did LMS anyway? Checking the IMDb, as I way too often do, there's about 50 producers, but some of the names the two have in common are Peter Saraf, David Friendly, and a bloke named Marc Turteltaub. Any relation to Jon, perchance? Apparently not. I don't know if comedic sensibilities are genetic, but if they are, clearly this is a case of sympatry. But there I go again trying to squirt a little fancy book-learnin' into where it clearly doesn't belong. Well, one thing the two films have in common is kind of a, let's be kind and say a shallow look at relationships. Or rather, let's say their points of view are skewed by the screenwriters' respective genders. In this case, the film was written by a chick, so the men are all pigs. Well, just that damn hunky Steve Zahn. Go figure. He plays a cop who's having an affair with high school sweetheart Amy Adams, the movie's hero. Now normally I wouldn't root for the hero of a movie that's an adulterer, but damn it, that's just how good Amy is! I mean, damn! She's got TWO Oscar noms under her belt already! Emily Blunt is in this too, and her career's similarly on fire right now. And she DOESN'T play the sister of Mary Lynn Rajksglh... lemme double-check the spelling on that. Rajskub? Hmm. Must be Anglo-Saxon. No, Blunt plays Adams' sister, and you'll wish your girlfriend was a freak like her. They're the dysfunctional Lorkowski family, and they're not exactly in the Middle Class, if you know what I mean. But fortunately, Zahn feels guilty a lot, and he gives Adams a tip on a good job: cleaning up messy crime scenes. Oh, and the film opens with such a crime scene, incidentally. You'll never forget it.
Clifton Collins plays the one-armed proprietor of a cleaning supply store that Adams goes to to get cleaning supplies. Not to give too much away, but you might be jaded like me and try to think two steps ahead of the movie. Will these two fall in love? The answer might surprise you... or maybe not. Guess I better not get into it. I couldn't help but think of Breaking Bad, if only because they were both filmed in the Southwest, and both are about normal people finding themselves in unusual, technical circumstances... I'm just sayin', I'm not trying to sound superior or nothin. It made me think of another one I've seen recently (other than Extract) but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. But I won't lose any sleep over it, and neither should you. The cinematography wasn't terribly flashy, and I think the film needed something. I should mention that a vote was taken during the viewing to move on to something else, but was voted down. I tells ya, we're heading for an insurrection!



Yessir, 2009 was a good year for Jason Bateman, no question about it. And people sure love that Arrested Development. I saw the one with Martin Short; I never seen him spit so much in one spitting! He plays Jason in Couples Retreat; I don't know if that's out of respect, or just laziness on the screenwriter's part. If I may be so bold, it IS laziness in Desperado when Steve Buscemi's character is named Buscemi. I don't care what anyone says. But back to Bateman. He could very well be the Tom Hanks of the 2010s and beyond. Bateman's in the same position that Will Ferrell would be in were it not for that damn pressure to do or say something funny. No, Jason will never be cursed with that. And so it's only fitting that he play the boss of a vanilla extract company in our instant case, Extract, the latest from Mike Judge. Apparently all those disgruntled fans of Office Space are tightwads because they stayed away from this in droves. But God bless him, there is no easy formula for a Mike Judge film. Here, Bateman plays Joel Reynolds and his company is Reynold's Extract, makers of vanilla and almond extract, what have you, but that's not the main thing. The main thing is, it's a company that actually makes something useful, rather than a seemingly redtape mill that Office Space's Initech was. Reynolds lives comfortably in the suburbs next door to a Lundberg type played terrifically by David Koechner.
But all is not well in paradise, as we learn. As Joel confides to his bartender friend and confidant, he and his wife haven't had sex in months now! Eventually, a notion is borne: why not hire a gigolo to have sex with your wife? This way, if Joel has an affair, he won't feel guilty about it. The target of his seven-year itch: Cindy, played by Mila Kunis, who toiled in near anonymity all those years on That '70s Show, but it's paying off now. Now you might not think she has the chops for a meaty role like this, but obviously you never saw American Psycho 2! ...come to think of it, neither did I. Anyway, you get the idea of the skewing here: women are either cold wives or manipulating kleptomaniacs. But you can sorta see that Judge is trying to make a larger point; man, something bad musta happened to him! Supermodels, you're on notice. Your Italian banker boyfriends aren't gonna take it anymore!
But enough about all that. Check out Clifton Collins in this role: compared to the other movie, he seems like a local! In this one, he ends up losing a testicle in an industrial accident. Why, lesser actors couldn't do it with all their body parts intact, I tells ya. Here, he auditions for the throne left vacant by Jim Varney. I think Larry the Cable Guy's a little too zaftig for it. J.K. Simmons was briefly let go by the Reitmans to play Bateman's right hand man who calls all the employees nicknames like "dingus." If Simmons ever gave a bad performance, I don't wanna know about it. So where does this fit into the Judge oeuvre? Somehow I can't give this four stars, as good as it is. Idiocracy so far is his masterpiece. That's definitely a four star movie. I promise I'll get around to it one of these days. I'll give it what I give Office Space: three and a half. Four for the soundtrack.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

It's the Invention of Something, all right!

I understand that Ricky Gervais is a comic genius. I've seen him and liked him well enough on 60 Minutes, I've seen him get on well with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. I know he does everything from TV to movies to kids books called Flanimals, and Lord knows how much else. And yet... well, to put it this way, to claim that he has an "Everyman" appeal, somehow that part doesn't work for me. To have everyman appeal, you have to have a certain humility, or at least know how to fake it. I don't get that from Gervais. But if I did, and if I were a diehard Ricky Gervais fan, I'd defend The Invention of Lying to my last breath... or would I? Even though it stands proud and tall on the shoulders of so many films before it... Groundhog Day comes to mind as the main one... it does manage to find a slightly unique spin on things that hasn't quite been explored yet; at least, Gervais Style. The premise is, as he explains up top, it's an alternate reality that one might find in an old Twilight Zone where everyone tells the truth. It's pretty much life as we know it right now already, but the dialogue's obviously tweaked for comedic purposes, and more specifically, for Gervais' own unique comedic purposes, which are an awful lot like Larry David's in Curb Your Enthusiasm, only people don't shout at Gervais. Even the most die-hard Gervais fan would have to admit that The Invention of Lying commits crimes of egotism and narcissism and self-congratulation that damn few others would be allowed to get away with.

Having come to these painful realizations, will I ever find like-minded critics out there who agree with me? Ebert: no. He's clearly in the tank. The Onion didn't even dare review it. The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, both didn't quite fall head over heels for it, but they don't want to beat up on Gervais too much, either. For example, they note that Gervais delivers his explanation of the afterlife on two pizza boxes. If this were a Michael Bay movie, they would most assuredly point out that they were prominently displayed Pizza Hut boxes, and that this was indeed a sad co-opting of the cinema by evil corporate forces. Gervais himself goes easy on Pizza Hut, who don't call themselves something truthful like "a miserable excuse for a pizza place" or "worse than ketchup-covered road pancakes." No, his harshest criticism goes to Pepsi and Coke... and yet, it still feels like they were willing corporate participants. The film's premise allows other Truth in Advertising opportunities on the sides of buildings, like an old folks' home that says "A Sad Place for Old People to Go and Die"... something like that. And again, the Simpsons have been doing this for years. Justice For Most ring a bell? Or how about "Gummi Bears: They Hibernate in your Colon"? "Lunkheadz: A Place for Drooling"? Anyone? Oh, to be a lone Simpson fan in the wilderness...

Cameos abound: more cameos than an Adam Sandler picture, I dare say: Edward Norton, Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, fresh from the Pirate Radio set, obviously. In fact, Sandler film veteran Jonah Hill shows up! Why he's not playing Larry in the new Farrelly Bros. Three Stooges movie is beyond me. Haverchuck from Freaks and Geeks shows up as the first of many disgruntled waiters... oh yeah, I remember! I keep that candle in the window! There's probably other cameos I'm forgetting... oh, right, The Daily Show's John Hodgman and Nathan Corddry show up. I guess Ricky really did piss of Ed Helms that one time, huh? As for Tina Fey, well, she's almost as beloved as Ricky Gervais so naturally she'd have a part in this. After all, she singlehandedly turned SNL into the progressive workplace it now is. Suck it, Ana Gasteyer! All that work with Will Ferrell for nothing, bitch!

Anyway, I will give kudos to the script construction, which at least scales the heights of its premise. Again, like Groundhog Day, it makes almost the most of its insular universe, but I must not have been enjoying myself since I wondered aloud when religion was going to enter the picture. First comes the Superhero moment / Origin Sequence in the bank, then the gathering of riches... I guess insurance companies just wouldn't make it in Gervais Land... and then, when riches can't solve all ills, like saving the dying, religion. The Catholic League, well, if they didn't get up in arms over this film for its take on religion, and putting Gervais on the wall of the church, they're obviously slacking off on the job and have fallen under Gervais' seductive spell as well. I'd be more interested in how someone would invent the idea of a man in the sky in this alternate universe, but the film doesn't have the time for such silly questions. If the word 'truth' doesn't exist in this universe, why should the word 'God'? And frankly, one dip inside Ricky's pulsating brain was quite enough, thank you very much. I must be getting squeamish in my old age. And I'm no Jesus freak, but even I thought it was a bit much when Bellison's facial hair looked like, well, it looked pretty holy, yet well manicured. Not scraggly enough. I'll bet the real J-Man had white guy dreadlocks and beads in his beard. Some have theorized aloud that this was the character's Brian Wilson phase, but I say, oh, it's better than Brian Wilson. I mean, did Brian invent Flanimals or, better yet, a whole new religion? I mean, besides Pet Sounds and Smile. Okay, bad example, but I guess that makes Louis C.K. Dr. Eugene Landy. A red-headed, balding, son of Charles Grodin Dr. Eugene Landy.

And since this is a comedy written by men, they're naturally going to put the women characters in as poor of a light as possible. But I always try to look on the bright side: at least Anna, the love interest that's too far out of Gervais' league, she believes in science... genetics is still a science, right? I mean, we all want the best for ourselves. Shlubs want babes, too! Gervais picked Jennifer Garner to play the love interest and not Camryn Manheim. But I must say, her lips looked a tad unnatural. And someone in the past complained about the Hollywood ladies working out way too much, to the point of losing their cute baby fat. Garner was one of the examples of the new breed of streamlined Hollywood fembots. Gervais and company merely point to the larger trend, but don't quite satirize it: it does seem like the world's attention span is shortening further thanks to the internet, and the pressure is mounting on the remaining cadre of handsome and beautiful people, and the ability to join their ranks. They may just be sperm donors, but handsome sperm donors still trump all. The Time Machine's prophecy of Morluks and Eloi is where we're headed, let's face it... man, that's some depressing sh... stuff to grapple with. Let's skip it for now. It'll most assuredly come up later, though. Hollywood's still sorting these issues out.

Cinematography: I've been seeing a lot of Suhrstedt's work lately! Extract, and this... oh, crap. I actually SAW some of Frank McKlusky, C.I. I was home alone, it was on cable! It was like a car wreck, I tells ya. If HE had to tell the truth, I'd dare venture a guess he'd reply that Mike Judge is more fun to work with. I dare say either Fantasia 2000 or Idiocracy is his masterpiece... I'll go with Idiocracy.

The Village Voice did go so far as to say that Gervais and company should've done another draft of the screenplay. Just what I was thinking. For example, If Gervais REALLY wanted to deliver biting satire, he'd tell Garner that he's better than Rob Lowe because of the British accent. I mean, let's face it: the colonies are still all too eager to be led by the token British dude, even if he's a bit pudgy. Gervais does have a handsome chin, I'll give him that. Just go to the gym a little more often, buddy! You're so close! Do like Stephen Lang for Avatar or something... okay, maybe not that far.

As most often happens, the superpower is never shared. Bill Murray's alone in his Groundhog Day time warp. No one else gets bitten by the super spider in Spider Man. The Incredibles is obviously a neo-Eugenics screed. And the other one I was thinking of... damn! What was it? Oh, right! Dr. Detroit from Watchmen... I mean, how much of a fluke was that? You'd think the government, if they were using him to win the Vietnam War, surely they'd be trying to create duplicates of this guy! So, as usual, the superpower is fiercely guarded... until the end, when they finally do have those damn kids we spend the whole pic hearing about, and like The Incredibles, in this alternate reality, those lucky enough to win the genetic lottery get to share the super secret bounty.

But I must concede the film did have its moments. I did like the part where he's reading the manuscript he found in the desert, and it had the foresight to include his mean co-workers! Excellent. If I were writing it, I would've called them "boogerheads", but I guess that's a little too juvenile. And I dare say Gervais deserves an Oscar nomination for his hospital scene by his mother's side. It was that convincing, and yes, that good. Plus, our Academy loves the British. Also, Woody Allen just called. He wants his font back!!

In the DVD's favor, we didn't have to sit through the usual two minutes of those damn commentary warnings. Now they're in French and Spanish, no less! I thought there were six DVD regions in the world! And they did have a couple vanity logos; forgivable in this case, I guess. But I have to give it two and a half stars since there was a lot of squirming amongst my viewing companions and a call for a vote to move on to the next bit of entertainment. How they made Massachusetts look so boring I just don't want to contemplate. And I guess the IMDb budget information's correct now; back in the day it said the film cost $4 million to make. Er, I don't think so. All those big stars? All that big expensive movie lighting? Shoot. 18.5 is more like it.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Leora Barish

Now we move on to... oh, crap. She shouldn't count! Well, I might as well put Tamar Hoffs on my list while I'm at it. No, Leora Barish is a chick and I've vowed to do all chicks this year. So far I can't tell if she's married to Henry Bean, but she might as well be seeing as how their career's have become intertwined. Well, you know how it is. Sometimes you just gotta cling to a lifeboat. Lemme explain. But let's also contemplate: which do you think is Leora's favorite decade? Is it the Golden Eighties? Oh she was young, dumb and full of ... positive feelings during the Me Decade. And, why, look! Her association with young Bean began in earnest already! But Desperately Seeking Susan was all her, baby. Take that! And once you've warmed your hands on the campfire that is Madonna, well, the rest of the world's just never quite the same after that, is it? At least back then, anyhow.
But then, the Me Decade came to an all-too abrupt end, the Berlin Wall came down, and it was time to care about crap like the "environment." Boo hoo. And all those young 80s filmmaker punks with mohawks had to grow up and do a movie with a slumming Morgan Fairchild, like Leora who CO-DIRECTED Venus Rising! Now I hate to pass hasty judgment, but how good can it be if one of the only 3 reviewers is Thank god Movie Hooligan wasn't taken! I was so close. Maybe I coulda gone with Movie Vomit Comet... nah, too cutesy. And so, Leora's lone wolf days were far behind her, and she had to defer to Henry Bean's obvious directing prowess. And who wouldn't be attracted to a guy who makes a film like The Believer, which some critics have called the closest thing to a good argument FOR Anti-Semitism. Yeah, thanks a lot, asshole. Keep up the good work, Mein Fuhrer! That must've gone to his head, because team Bean-ish thought they could do anything, like re-vitalize Basically It-Stinks 2... I love it! I love the Razzies.
So what will the 2010s bring? Is it the new 1968 all over again? Will we have to care for one another? More importantly, does Leora Barish have anything on the ol' plate? Not so far according to IMDb, but Henry Bean sure does! And that'll probably be more than she can handle anyway, so keep the hits coming, Team Bare-Bean!

'Avatar' Finally Turns a Profit

Yes, I think even Spielberg has to admit that... nah, he's still pointing out the similarities to Jurassic Park. Tintin just better be good, that's all I'm saying. Meanwhile, my grumpy friend's complaining that, still, this doesn't reflect raw ticket sales. Why, back in the day, when E.T. or Jaws was a blockbuster, the tickets were, like, 3 bucks a pop! Somehow there were more people back then, and they were all going to the movies. Well, the technology was trying to catch up back then. But at the rate this is going, Avatar will still be #1 when the Oscars roll around! How crazy would that be?
Meanwhile, a sufficient challenger has yet to claim the throne. Three newbies this week have tried: Extraordinary Measures with Harrison Ford, Tooth Fairy with Julie Andrews... she went on The Daily Show, for God's sake! She NEVER does press anymore! And of course, Legion, another one of those sci-fi thrillers that invents some excuse that allows grandmothers to crawl on the ceiling and delivery boys to look like Batboy from the Weekly World News. Sorry, guys, but even Americans have standards now, and they won't drop off their kids at just ANY old piece of crap anymore. Too much excitement; I gotta go...

Auteur Watch - Gillian Armstrong

Sorry, folks, gotta keep it short again, but I probably couldn't do her justice anyway; not as well as, say, ... her IMDb bio page. No one wants to step up to the plate? Not even gafan83598756? Hmmph! Some fan.
Anyway, what's her favourite decade, ya reckon? Was it the go-go 70s where it was mostly short films? She was young, in her prime, all the guys hitting on her, that is, until they found out how weird she was. A gurl film director? Nevuh happen. Have another Foster's. Or was it the 80s when she caught the Australian New Wave? I watched Mrs. Soffel, but was much too young to fully appreciate its maturity. But Bob Dylan apparently could! And soon Gillian Armstrong was the female Jonathan Demme of the 80s, but somehow MTV never let her catch on.
Maybe the go-go 90s would be kinder. I actually saw Little Women lo those many years ago. I will confess that the DVD cover almost makes it look like a movie from the 1950s or so. Doesn't Winona Ryder look just like a young Judy Garland without Mickey Rooney trying to drag her down? Or maybe it's the go-go 2000s? Armstrong rode the Cate Blanchett Gravy Train for as long as she could. It started with Oscar and Lucinda, and apparently ended with Charlotte Gray. I mean, Gillian's good and all, but she's no Shekhar Kapur, for one. And so, cast adrift, she might as well go back to doing short films. No, surely, the Decade of Dubya's no longer her favorite. All I know is, from all the bonafide directors I've heard from, the latest decade is always the best. And look! Something called The All of It is coming up in the 2010s. I don't have IMDb Pro yet, so I don't know anything about it. So I'm forced to look elsewhere for information... Carlino!?! Is that the best you could do, G.A.? I mean, seriously?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Let The Campaign Begin

I'm referring, of course, to this year's Oscars. James Cameron, whose Avatar is STILL kicking ass at the box office after 5 weeks... CAN HE BEAT HIS OWN RECORD? Sorry to shout, but can he? Seems like Titanic was #1 for, like, 5 months or some craziness like that! Anyway, he was recently on The Jay Leno Show, dooming his ex Kathryn Bigelow to a distant second. Remember, dear, it's the Best Picture that made the most money... in 1999's case, for Spielberg. As for the late night wars, well, it's like politics. I'm tired of 'em all. Vote 'em all out. Just move Conan to 12:05 at ABC, they don't have anything there anyway...
But I digress. Back to the only news that counts. Well, I'm falling behind as usual. I'm still waiting for Pyun to respond to that other one. This is getting out of hand! The debuts this week: don't care, don't care and don't care. Gotta run! Past my bedtime again!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In Memoriam: The One Week Hits of 2009

Oh yeah! I keep forgetting to do this. Well, there's two things I gotta do. First, I gotta appeal to my hardcore fan base and say... ALBERT PYUN! NAOMI WATTS!!! Okay, done and done. Second, I gotta make all my hard work pay off, and pay one last tribute to all those films that made 2009 a little more special than most years: specifically, all those films that made it into the Top 10 for one week, then slipped off the radar on their way to an increasingly uneager video store shelf. Sheesh. Fortunately, we're not at that stage yet where films will have to be sacrificed in order to save the planet and an increasingly obese human population eager for more salty, sugary, fatty treats than ever. Anyway, here's the list... aw, man! I gotta do the hyperlinks, too?

not easily broken, defiance, new in town, street fighter: the legend of chun-li, miss march, sunshine cleaning, dragonball evolution, my life in ruins, away we go,
a perfect getaway, ponyo, taking woodstock, extract, whiteout, pandorum, amelia, fantastic mr. fox, the road, everybody's fine

Oh, crap. And I gotta capitalize the damn thing. Oh, and I want to give a brief shout out to the Jonas Brothers 3-D concert film that debuted at #2, dropped to #9 the second week, the dropped to #11 and higher the third. A spectacular bottoming out, boys! Ooh, Taylor Swift's in it! Guess she didn't say Amen vigorously enough.

Not Easily Broken - And yet, Rick Warren's novel will make a billion dollars at the box office, huh?

Defiance - I guess people got confused and thought it was one of these two: 1980, 2002... or these three: 1932, 1952, 1917.

New In Town - Sorry you can't stay!

Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li - Yeah, the Legend of one week at the box office legend!

Miss March - Oh, Whitest Kids U Know, maybe you'll get a second chance, maybe not. You should be more like Broken Lizard, and less like Kids in the Hall on Crack. But look at it this way! Sex Drive didn't even make the Top 10! ...oh, wait. It did. No, I was thinking of College (2008).

Sunshine Cleaning - Got its clock cleaned at the box office!

Dragonball(:) Evolution - Man, even the anti-Darwinists gave this the cold shoulder.

My Life In Ruins - So where's the surprise?

Away We Go - And away it went!

A Perfect Getaway - This is way too easy!

Ponyo - Actually, that's supposed to be pretty good.

Taking Woodstock - Make no mistake about it, even one bomb like this will not stop Demetri Martin from making all of us his slaves, forced to stare at that haircut, thinking to ourselves, yes. He truly is the true Fifth Beatle. We lavish all our royalties upon you, Master... I mean, buy the soundtrack! No Stairway to Heaven!

Extract - Oh dear, was Office Space the biggest cult hit, leading to ever diminishing returns?

Whiteout - Well, we'll remember you here, Whiteout, even if no one else will!

Pandorum - Wait a minute... is this the prequel to Avatar?

Amelia - Oh... what an ironic way to honor her memory.

Fantastic Mr. Fox - not quite fantastic enough, I guess.

The Road - Not specific enough.

Everybody's Fine - You know, I think I see how it is. Robert DeNiro's just like anyone else: he wants to be able to sleep at night, and be proud of what he's done over the breadth and length of his long illustrious and intensely profitable career. I think the best example I've ever heard, partially because I'm a freak that picked up on that minute detail myself, but a rabid fan went up to John Flansburgh of the band They Might Be Giants and said, hey! On that Dial-A-Song Getaway, the lyric used to be "The fare collector's drinking lighter fluid and claimed she killed our parents" but on the latest album you changed "killed" to "told"... or rather, "Claimed she'll tell our parents." Why'd you do that? And Flansburgh's answer was, well, I think we've already got enough songs about kids' parents getting killed. Same thing with DeNiro. I mean, who wants to meet a fan who says, oh, Mr. DeNiro. I've been watching Taxi Driver over and over and over and over again for the last few months; specifically the part where you're holding your fist over that stove! Dude, that was intense, man. I mean, that was an old school New York City GAS STOVE blue flame, for God's sake! Not one of those pussy stoves with the red element we have today. Oh, by the way, could you do me a quick favor? Could you sign my suspicious looking suitcase for me? I have to leave it at the bus station in a locker... On the other hand, I guess in the biz we call showbiz, you don't want to end up going the other way to the extreme... say, like, Jon Turteltaub. I mean, sure, his stuff is forgettable tripe that goes in one eye and out the other, but he goes to work every day from 9 to 5 and tells everyone he meets: "You see that placard on my desk with my name and job title on it? That says I'm a film director. Film directoring is what I do. And I do it well. Damn well. I go to work at 9 a.m. every morning and I've got five hundred people asking me what to do, and I give them the guidance and the wide smile they need, and they go and do for me, and I punch out at 5 p.m. every night and go home to get ready for the next day. It's a good life. And once I put in my 30 years at the office, I get a handsome severance package, a full retirement, I get to cash out that 401K, and all my doctor's visits are on Uncle Sam's dime. So I would have to say, yes, I'm very happy to be a film director. And everyone else agrees with me." Um... should I tell him?

Believe the Hype: Avatar

Boy oh boy! Was it ever an epic movie night for me. I sat through TWO movies today: The Science of Sleep, and Avatar. Both are essentially relationship movies, but I dunno... The older I get, the more I want to be like Avatar. I guess Avatar is what one strives for, but it ends up looking more like, well, The Science of Sleep, for one. But I digress. As my good friend sometimes says, if a movie was walking down the street, and the hype about it were walking the other way, they wouldn't recognize each other. Gangs of New York came to mind. I mean, I don't think it's the WORST movie Scorsese ever made. But every once in a while a movie is a blockbuster that one might actually root for. I'll admit I was in the Lord of the Rings camp when the great LOTR-Harry Potter raged earlier this decade but it certainly looks like Potter's winning the marathon after all. And as much as I hate to admit it, I was entertained. A lot. This was my first 3-D experience, probably not my last, but I think the writing's on the wall already: this whole 3-D craze simply isn't immersive enough. No, those of you who might read this several centuries from now, take pity upon us mere mortal Neanderthals, who used to stare passively at a flat screen, who were never able to camp out for a wild night amongst the hungry creatures on Pandora... is it Pandora or Pandorum? I'm already confused.
So there's no question the special effects are top notch. I'll never be able to look at Final Fantasy the same way again. Actors are damn close to being replaced altogether, but look at it this way: no more wasted hours in the makeup chair, right? And the lighting is probably as good as it's going to get. Some of the forests in Revenge of the Sith, for one, were lit rather strangely; let's just leave it at that. No, the world of Pandora's pretty damn fleshed out. You know how you'll often hear that a place is one of the characters in the movie? Yeah! This is like that, but I guess it goes without saying, or somehow it doesn't seem strong enough.
That being said, the story... ah, who cares. There's already a sequel in the works. Yes, Cameron's ready to come out of semi-retirement and leave the documentary world alone for a while. Having found Jesus's final resting place, he's got his franchise that'll finally give him the creative freedom to do what he wants. What Michael Bay is to Transformers, Cameron is to Avatar and beyond. I was kinda disappointed that the old Lightstorm Entertainment logo of True Lies and Strange Days didn't come up, but apparently the company's gone altogether... okay, it's just a silent partner now. So, let's talk Spoilers. I hate to break it to my good friend, but the whole Dances with Wolves in space thing's already been claimed. But they also said the ending's a bit like Pinocchio, and I'll bet ol' Walt Disney's cryogenically frozen head must be spinning in its box right now, in the hopes that future Disney underlings could sue for story infringement. As for me, well, I couldn't help but see this as a warmup for that movie that Cameron wanted to make about cliffdivers, what with all the flying and the diving. Normally, I'd wonder where the water comes from that can make a waterfall on a floating rock, but sometimes you leave those questions aside for when you watch the movie at home alone with all your jaded friends. And I guess I wasn't enjoying myself completely when they talked about how only a select few have ridden the giant red dragon. Could you even doubt that our hero was going to end up doing that? Although I did like the way he prefaced it by saying that sometimes you gotta make a big crazy gesture. Er, how many times have you been married, Mr. Cameron? Sorry, but I had to go there. Call it MY OWN big crazy gesture.
Apparently, Digital Domain, WETA and ILM all teamed up on this bad boy. And the big tree crashing down, well, I haven't seen something so spectacular since the big water tower falling down in Looney Tunes: Back In Action... actually, it kinda sucked, but oh well. They tried, they really tried.
I think I covered all the points... oh, right. I'm still kinduva sucker for True Lies, and there was that one part where our hero Sully was hanging off of that missile on the side of that warplane... just like the terrorist at the end of True Lies! But this time, Sully's NOT fired. And I know you have to save the arch bad guy for last, but puhleeze. That was quite a fall from the exploding plane, wasn't it? As for the latent charges of racism, well, most good entertainment is. Maybe I'm racially insensitive, but how many sci-fi films have you seen that have their own unique races to be racist about? Besides, the whole Chosen One thing's an easy plot structure to fall back on. I guess some are pointing to the big line at the end: "How does it feel to betray your own race?" In this case, it's really just a case of climbing the corporate ladder, really. Fingers are bound to get stepped on by the feet from above! But really, Sully's avatar gives the ideal answer to that question: a hiss.
And finally, will Cameron conquer the Oscars once again as he did 12 years ago? Well, people are a lot more jaded these days, but I'd say it has a better chance than Benjamin Button before it to really sweep up some hardware, especially in the SFX departments. As for Stephen Lang, well, 2003 was your big year, buddy, but I think the muscle mags will give you some mad props instead! It's a whole another you, buddy.

so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Friday, January 15, 2010

MGM: Studio on the Decline -> Touch

Yes, I don't remember exactly when I had this realization. Maybe it's when they re-released Fame and it did poorly amongst critics, then the public. Maybe it's when I realized Warner Bros. bought the video rights to Gymkata. Maybe it's just an example of studio politics guiding business principles, where Disney's the honor student and MGM's the black sheep of the same family. And even though we just barely missed scraping against that iceberg known as Great Depression II lo those couple years ago now, not all got away unscathed. And perhaps you're thinking to yourself, well, MGM's still got Bond! James Bond! True enough. And even though you might not like Daniel Craig in the lead, the films are too expensive and need to be financed by a second studio, like Sony or... Fox! No, the only thing that'll be left in the MGM catalogue is the De Laurentiis collection. It's only a matter of time before Maximum Overdrive comes on the MGM HD channel. And I'm sure it'll look great... even though that blonde kid kinda creeps me out. And the cool girl; I think this is her. Doesn't quite fit the mold for me. But you gotta like Lisa Simpson in it, doing a Southern accent.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. Which brings me in a roundabout way to Touch, recently seen on MGM HD. I guess it was crisp enough. Somehow film isn't done justice in HD, especially a film from the 90s and earlier. But at least they don't streak whenever the camera moves from light source to light source like crappy digital video. Anyway, in the wake of Get Shorty, it seemed that Elmore Leonard could FINALLY be adapted, and the Coens worked on a treatment for his Cuba Libre, for example. Yes, he was no longer confined to the neo-noir ghetto of the likes of Donald Westlake and others... Charles Willeford? He was one hot commodity now, and Touch would be the perfect vehicle for his talent.
Or so it was thought. I dunno. Something about it. It needed more action or something. It was too immaculate, too laid back. It's about this guy with a very powerful gift, and those first hit by the blast wave that would eventually reach a national television audience. Skeet Ulrich plays the guy with the gift, and everyone else pretty much plays someone who would exploit that gift. Who will it be? Will it be the slick huckster preacher Bill Hill played by a Christopher Walken impersonator? Oh, wait, it's actually Christopher Walken. Or will it be his pretty former assistant played by ... UNDERplayed by Bridget Fonda? Get that girl a mike! Or will it be the obnoxious Tom Arnold? Seriously, though, he did pretty good. I guess you could say the character was perfect for his '90s persona; then again, one doesn't usually equate Tom Arnold with religious orthodoxy. Does Skeet Ulrich himself long for a life of fame and riches? Will his gift disappear once he achieves either? Who's exploiting who here? Or could it be that God's exploiting all of us, and frankly being a bit of a showoff by giving one man Christ-ish powers? I kinda like that last answer, since I thought of it myself.
There are various colorful cameos, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Christopher Walken and Anthony Zerbe are reunited after appearing 14 years earlier in The Dead Zone. Lolita Davidovich takes a break from working with hubby Ron Shelton to make an appearance as a former Catholic turned stripper. She and Christopher Walken give Tom Arnold a theological run for his money. I will say that the music was pretty good. I would give a shout-out to Conchata Ferrell, but really, everyone knows Mr. Deeds is the performance she'll be remembered for.
I think that was about it for Touch. To refresh people about my star system: 4 stars is for a movie that I will surely watch more than once a year, 3 and a half for a movie that's not quite a classic, but at least has some worthy action scenes. A 3 star movie is a movie like Just Cause or The Client: a slick Hollywood vehicle that will be shown forever and really only needs to be seen once. Two and a half and lower, well, now we're getting into walkout territory. And I should report that I and my viewing companions, while watching Touch, tried to take a vote to abort and watch something else, but we figured it's like a vaccination: might as well get it over with so from now on, if anyone should perchance ask, we can say, why yes! I saw Touch once.

Visual motif: major scenes are begun showing a character's shoes... usually Walken's nice shoes

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Asia Argento

Man, this chick's messed up. And I don't say that lightly. She almost makes Jennifer Chambers Lynch look normal. They should remake Thelma & Louise together... call it Boxing Thelma & Louise, heh heh. Sorry, had to go for it. Of course, JCL's a grandma compared to our girl Asia! Why, AA's a citizen of the world, chillin' with Catherine Breillat, hangin' with her boyfriend in Hong Kong, what have you. Now I know what you're thinking: if there were a comparable dude you wouldn't be so hard on them! Not necessarily true. Harmony Korine and Jody Hill come to mind. Get a room, guys!
I hesitate to use my patented Decade Theory on Ms. Argento, as it doesn't seem to apply. Surely she has a fondness for the 80s and 90s, if only because of the filter of youth. I fear that decades to come won't be as iconic as the late 60s, 70s, and early 80s were, but hey. Sometimes you gotta clast your own icons. Asia's cultivating a party girl persona, but trust me. Any party person eventually comes around, and they end up doing family comedies for Disney in the end... close enough.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

We Need 31 baby models to wear UGG Boots

Boy, the spam emails are sure getting weirder and weirder. Well, the Avatar juggernaut grinds on at #1 for the 4th week in a row. It'll be a happy Valentine's Day at the Cameron household, but even he knows better than to re-release Strange Days. As for the rest, well, it's an anemic crop of debuts this week. At #4, Daybreakers, the latest not-as-sexy-as-Twilight vampires to grace the silver screen. Well, Ethan, you're still the poor man's Tom Cruise to me! At #6, a rom-com called Leap Year. That Amy Adams can sell anything, but she's overexposed now. Take a couple years off. Backpack through Europe, girlfriend. At #9, Youth in Revolt. That's the problem! They're revolting, and not going to see the movies. Damn cynical youth. I'm so outta here.

Auteur Watch - Allison Anders

Damn. Falling behind already. So much for New Year's resolutions! On to the auteurs of 2010. How's the other half of A Band Apart that no one talks about doing lately? To be even more brief, which do you suppose is Ms. Anders' favorite decade? And will she and Nancy Savoca ever resolve their bitter blood feud over who's got more indie film cred? If I had to guess, I'd say she enjoyed the go-go 90s with such films as Gas Food Lodging... ooh! Good title. And of course, Grace of my Heart which could've been more cynical like Pirate Radio and used a flimsy excuse to cash in on a top-heavy soundtrack laden with all the greatest hits from the greatest period in recorded music history, but she chose not to, and wisely. But if directors have taught me anything, it's that the current decade is always the favorite, even if you've only gotten work in TV on shows such as Cold Case and Men In Trees. But the 2010s look to be more fruitful in terms of that ol' silver screen that all aspire to! Something called Smile Now Cry Later... pretty good title; must be a coming of age story about how she got picked on all the time. (after visiting site) Close enough.

Monday, January 04, 2010

No debuts this week!!

Sorry, gotta keep it short again this week, but why not? No debuts at the box office this week! What, Transylmania not doing well in regional markets, like, the directors' home town? Well, 1 to 4 stayed the same, but after that it's complicated... see how I did that? Lemme tell ya something: The Blind Side is the little movie that could! It rises from 6th to 5th, clinging to the box office for the 7th week in a row. It's the movie that Precious shoulda been, but just wait til the Golden Globes and the Oscars, baby. Up in the Air switches places with Blind Side, slipping to #6. Princess / Frog and Invictus stay constant, while Nine and Morgans trade places. Nine is finally where it belongs! At #9. As for Did You Hear about the Morgans, well, it's headed to a place even more hidden than the Witness Protection Program: your local video shelf, and then to the pawn shop where it will languish forever in the locked Blu-Ray case, doomed to be passed over for more interesting fare like Zohan and that direct-to-video Fantastic 4 sequel... sorry, I made that one up. But who would be in that cast? Probably James Belushi as The Thing and Alyssa Milano taking the Jessica Alba role. I gotta go.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Short Reviews - December 2009

Well, while Larry Flynt's busy producing "Tiger's Nailin' Paylin", it's the end of the year and it's time to do some reflecting. Apparently, it's the end of a decade as well. We didn't learn from the last decade, either. No, the sheer excitement of the numbers flipping was too much. Surely Jesus would come back for that! I coulda sworn 2011 would be the start of the new decade, but it must just be me. Seriously, though, what do I watch: Nine or Broken Embraces? I need my Penelope Cruz fix, but I can only pick one! Meanwhile, The Flight of the Conchords has ended its run of two seasons. And yet, no one's bitter about that. A sign of the ennui of the times. Everyone involved is all too eager to move on to more lucrative projects, like Rhinestone Cowboy or whatever the hell that was called... Gentlemen Broncos, that's it. Anyway, on to the movies... but really, what's the point? Someday we're all going to ... ah, who cares.

Everybody's Fine - No, they're not.

Everybody Wins - No, they don't.

Everybody Says I'm Fine! - Must be a David Sedaris thing.

Everybody Wants to be Italian - Must be a Nick Turturro thing.

Everybody Loves Sunshine - Prequel to Little Miss Sunshine?

Everybody Hates Chris - Everybody wants attention, too, no matter how they get it.

Everybody Loves Raymond - Yeah, that Zach Braff's pretty good, no question about it.

Everybody Loves Hypnotoad - Damn! They stole my idea before I thought of it!

Everybody Sing - Nah.

Everybody's Fine - About Schmidt ring a bell?

Everybody Wants to Help Ernest - Oh, I thought it was Ernest P. Worrell. Not as fun.

Nothing Like the Holidays - Well, that's true, even though the movie might not do it justice.

Christmas with the Kranks - Didn't Dan Aykroyd used to be a comedian?

Deck the Halls - Why didn't they just go all the way and have the flying sleigh in front of the full moon?

What was that Christmas movie with James Gandolfini in a beard? Romance and Cigarettes? No, that wasn't it...

Surviving Christmas - Ah, yes! That was it.

Saw VII - Directed by David Hackl. How perfect is that? The only one more perfect would be Eric Red.

Fracture - The Amory Lovins Story?

Full Metal Jacket - Face it, ladies. You have Terms of Endearment and Steel Magnolias, we have Full Metal Jacket.

It's Complicated - That's okay, Americans these days don't know what that means... but they probably know where it comes from!

The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker - Didn't quite re-capture that Graduate magic, didja, Turman?

Up in the Air - When are Anna Kendrick and Adam Scott going to make a movie together? Wouldn't they be the new original Power couple?

Knockout (2011) - Remake of Girlfight?

Hider in the House - It's a documentary about Gary Busey, right?

"I'm With Busey" - - The American people have apparently had enough

The Princess and the Frog - Don't call it urban!!

Dragonard / Master of Dragonard Hill - Were these both filmed at the same time? If this ever comes out on DVD, they'll have Patrick Warburton on the cover. Maybe Herbert Lom. Also starring Dennis Folbigge as Governer... WARBURTON? Coincidence, right?

Ice Castles - Meh.

The Ice Pirates - How did this end up in my DVD collection? Good Lord.

Vampire Circus - Cirque du Freak?

The Next Best Thing - So, the hidden message of this movie is: Madonna is our secret weapon in the war against gay men!

The Wild Bunch(2010) - Wow.... somebody's been smoking some genetically modified WEED!

Extraordinary Measures - Not extraordinary enough.

Collapse - Oh, shit.

It's Complicated - Wait! I finally figured it out... Meryl represents SNL, because Steve and Alec have this running feud going to see who'll host the most times. PLUS, they're both hosting the Oscars in a few months... but you blew it, guys! Totally blew it. You SHOULD'VE released this the weekend of the Oscars, hosted SNL together the night before, THEN do the Oscars! Either take the Red Eye, or get Tina Fey to pull a few strings and have them present the Oscars at Carnegie Hall or something. Just throwing that out there.

I never did finish hyperlinking this post... should I bother?

Auteur Watch - Claude Zidi

Well, I personally can't think of a more perfect way to end this year of auteurs than with one of the men responsible for James Cameron's 1994 effort, True Lies. Hard to say which decade is his favorite; they do all tend to meld together in France. Moving up quickly through the ranks after being a camera operator, his greatest gift was in his ability as a writer / director... of his OWN material, of course! No, again, the best way to look at it, at least, from our limited American perspective, is in terms of the pre-Cameron period and the post-Cameron period. Surely the post-Cameron period was more enjoyable, moving up to big budget fare like 1999's Asterix et Obelix? But he's the kind of guy to start franchises, not finish them... unless they're his own, like Ripoux 3. Yes, even if it takes you 20 years, some stories are worth telling, to the bitter end.