Sunday, December 25, 2016

Auteur Watch - Rick Famuyiwa

Well, I tell ya... when you get into the Taye Diggs business, you don't not want to be.  And yet, that brings us to 2015's Dope.  You have the usual lot in it: your Rick Foxes, your Zoe Kravitzes, what have you... and NO Taye Diggs.  Hope they patch up their feud going into this new Trump world we'll be living in.  A lot of things are going to change.
But I guess that's not going to matter to someone like Rick Famuyiwa, apparently.  Why, take a look at these titles and plot descriptions!  Whether it's nostalgia for a wedding, or nostalgia for the simpler times a generation or two ago, or whether it's a project with the tentative title "Untitled Coming-of-Age Project," ... that's a little cynical, isn't it?... Rick seems to downright specialize in nostalgia!  How's that?  Whatever the psychology involved there is there, I guess you just gotta keep moving forward, no matter who's president of the United States, and keep doing your thing.  And even though it's an analogy that probably doesn't fit, I always go back to Henry Jaglom, who never lets the critics, or the audience, or even and especially his consistently disappointed financiers, get to him.  At all.  Ever.  If you were born a storyteller, you just gotta stay a storyteller, telling over and over again the greatest story ever told... his!

A Star Wars kinda Christmas

Whelp, we're all still eagerly awaiting this weekend's box office totals... but you know how it is.  Everything's closed now on Christmas.  Everything.  Guess the economy's picking up again!  People can afford time off again.  Well, Trump will take care of that.  First act?  As soon as all his business conflicts are resolved... sometime around January 22nd, 2019... why not fire those air traffic comptrollers again?  That'll learn 'em!  Trump is sooooooooooooooooo tired of dealing with unions.  And not just those pesky marriage ones.  He's all like, "Ivana!  Marla!  Grannies!!  PLEASE!!!  Stop calling!  It's over!"
...okay, the data's finally in.  Sigh.  Time for me to start another Excel spreadsheet.  Can you believe that?  Incidentally, if you're friends with someone who constantly asks that question... you might either a) be a redneck, as that one hick got famous for saying, or b) you might be in an abusive relationship.  Especially if you start shouting back at them "YES, I DO BELIEVE IT.  YOU PARKED IN FRONT OF THE HYDRANT AGAIN... AND YOU GOT A TICKET AGAIN.  AND YOU'LL GET ANOTHER TICKET WHEN YOU DO IT AGAIN."  At which point they'll say to their friends afterwards "So I had to give her a black eye.  Can you believe that?  Talking back to me like that."
Awright!  Another one act play under my belt.  As for the box office, well... might as well comment about each film now, because that's how I start my Excel spreadsheets for the year.  I used to do the amount of money each film raked in... but seeing as how I never look at these files ever again anyway, why not just do their ranks, even though those sometimes switch places as the final economic vote is tabulated.  Yes, because in Hollywood, sometimes the difference between third and fourth place means a lot to the filmmakers whose futures depend upon it.  As for George Lucas' future, well... I'm pretty sure it's secure.  I think they only expected Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to do half a billion anyway domestically, and they're about 60% of the way there, so no sleepless nights again... except for this!!!  WUUUUHHHHHHHH
Meanwhile, in second place, it's Pixar's second fiercest competitor.  I think the first is Blue Sky studios, the non-Trump geniuses behind the Ice Age franchise that used to be big.  The second is called "Illumination," and apparently it's every Pixar-lite company's dream to have two big box office sensations in one year now.  Their first was The Secret Life of Pets... and now they have "Smash"... I mean, Shag... I mean, Sing... I mean, Sing Street... I mean, Singur Acasa 3... huh?  Maybe you can figure out what it is, I seem to be having trouble.  Happens when you see the world through eggnog-colored glasses, I suppose.
At #3, well... what can be said?  It's the battle of the sexes, fought anew, Hollywood style, in the biggest Coliseum the modern world has to offer.  Each gender puts their best and youngest forward.  For the girls, it's Jennifer Lawrence.  For the guys, it's... Chris Pratt?  Well, to be fair, that Bradley Cooper's getting a little overexposed.  J. Law, not overexposed enough, apparently.  A lot of guys are starting to find constellations in the pattern of dimples on her chest.  Cepheus or Boötes, guys?  Probably the latter.  Maybe it's just Draco or Hydra; anyway, sure is fun to try and find the ends of those ones, am I right?
...oh right, and it's called Passengers.  Sometimes I forget that these things have a title.  But the main thing is that in space, no one can hear your heart break.  "I wouldn't go out with you if you were the last man in space!"  That's gotta hurt, and bigly... I mean, alot.  Anyway, at #4, John Hamburg, who used to be in the Ben Stiller business, is now in the "Silicon Valley"-ish business with something called Why Him?  It's kind of a sad state of affairs in the world somehow, and it's just from the plot description of this movie.  Here it is: "A holiday gathering threatens to go off the rails when Ned Flanders... I mean, Fleming realizes that his daughter's Silicon Valley billionaire boyfriend is about to pop the question."  Well, maybe there's some hope in there after all.  Apparently, Silicon Valley billionaires are now a dime a dozen.  Thanks for devaluing the world's currency, guys!  Makes me long for the days of A View to a Kill somehow.  Maybe we need to throw some of these billionaires out of the Zorin zeppelin, just to see how many are wearing parachutes.  See how golden they are, that kind of thing.
At number five, it's the much maligned Ninja Assassin is finally out... I'm sorry, that's Assassin's Creed.  Well, that's just another testament to how far we've come, technologically.  I mean, isn't this in 3D and IMAX or something?  So picky.  What more do people want?  Kinda hard to believe that Avatar was a hit, in a way.  Anyway, James Cameron's scrambling to make his four Avatar sequels as cutting edge as possible.  They now have to look good in Ultra HD Blu-ray, don't forget!  Apparently, you can pack a lot more detail into 100 gigabytes now instead of just 47.  As for Jeremy Irons, well... second Oscar?  I'm just asking the question.  Just throwing that out there.  I think he's overdue.  He's clearly working harder in his Third Act than even he thought he'd be.  Well, some of us can't announce constant retirements like Anthony Hopkins and Liam Neeson, you know.
Meanwhile, Moana slips from second place to sixth.  Ouch.  And for the African American audience, there's Fences with Viola Davis and Denzel Washington.  I probably shouldn't phrase it like that, but clearly it's not getting the traction that, say, The Help or The Butler got on their initial release.  Forgive me, Lee Daniels' The Butler... oh crap, Denzel directed it.  Forgive me!!!  You know, maybe it's too early to ask this, but... best director Oscar?  I'm just sayin'.  It's either that or a Hail, Caesar! sweep, and that's probably not going to happen.
Anyway, the rest is leftovers.  The Woody Allen inspired La La Land, the latest comedy trying to escape its cookie cutter office-based roots Office Christmas Party, and Will Smith's latest non-blockbuster.  Gotta run!  It's my day off and I'm booked solid.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Auteur Watch - Daniel Falconer

Damn... not the Weta Workshop guy.  Oh well.  On the other hand, another short résumé!  I kinda like those sometimes.  Reminds me of my own, I guess.
Anyway, while some filmmakers like Sam Raimi have left Detroit in favour of Hollywood, others have stuck around to try and make sense of it all.  That's Daniel Falconer, for one.  Judging from the various interviews/reviews of Deforce, clearly he's a guy that's going places.  But he's also got a lot to learn as well, if only what's in local city charters.  And a shout out from Ken Burns always helps.  Lemme tell you something, if the right person calls your film "iconic," there's no stopping you!  Hollywood's bound to take notice, maybe begrudgingly so because it's Ken Burns.
But it's not all rage against the machine.  Falconer's an actor as well.  Take Days Together, where Daniel stars as a guy named Eric.  That's more flexibility than, say, Norm MacDonald can show as an actor!  Or maybe Tony Danza; he typically plays a guy named Tony.  I'm guessing Days Together was not on Burns' radar as much.

A Star Wars kinda Box Office

Whelp, the wait is over, and once again we see that something involving the Star Wars franchise can still make it at the box office.  This one was directed by wunderkind Gareth Edwards.  His IMDb bio cites the usual suspects as influences from his childhood, Lucas and Spielberg.  I guess 2014's incarnation of Godzilla just might be his 1941 then.  I mean... seriously?  Ford Brody?  You know that Tom Green's character in Freddy Got Fingered was named Gord Brody, right?
Anyway, let's get back to the task at hand here.  So while Doctor Strange is just about done navigating the just as bizarre world of health care red tape, Hollywood's covert war on Uggos continues unabated.  This latest attempt by Will Smith to have a non Men in Black-related hit is called American Beauty... no wait, that's the 1999 Best Picture winner that no one likes anymore.  The audacity of belly buttons, guys... the audacity of belly buttons.  No, this one is called Collateral Damage... no wait, that's the 2002 collaboration between Chicago's own Andrew Davis... yes, the Andrew Davis, and Austria's native son, the Guvernator of Cully-fornication, Ahnold Schwarzenegroponte... American Collateral"The Mind of the Married Man"?  Maybe I should just go back to the original page, like my doctor always tells me... okay, it's apparently called Untitled Will Smith Project Winter 2016... I mean, Collateral Beauty.  Jesus.  I guess "All this Useless Beauty" would've been too fraught with historical context or something.  Good double bill with Seven Pounds maybe.  Now, the plot of Collateral Beauty is basically this... can a brutha get some ANSWERS here?  The Fresh Prince gets some of Hollywood's best and brightest to stop by and help him: Edward Norton!  Kate Winslet!  HELEN freakin' MIRREN, for God's sake!  Take your kerchiefs with you to the 3D multi-plex for this one, I'm just sayin'.
Now, surely something this deep was adapted from the much beloved book, right?  And directed by one of the greats like Bertoluc... I mean, DePalma or how about Lasse Hallstrom?  He hasn't courted disaster, right?  No, the director is someone named David Frankel.  Lemme put it to you this way: his very Woody Allen-esque Miami Rhapsody isn't in his IMDb Top 4, and Marley & Me IS.  Well, Hope Springs eternal, and perhaps that's the way it should be.  The film's writer is Allan Loeb... maybe of Leopold and Loeb fame, and also the writer of an Adam Sandler pic... okay, maybe just Jennifer Aniston's half of it, to be fair.  But when you get that close to Adam Sandler, and you're a non-Tim Herlihy screenwriter, your thoughts will no doubt eventually turn to tragedy, and a screenplay like Collateral Beauty will no doubt be bourne.  And you will search for answers to questions like... why does God let good things happen to bad people?  Or bad things to good people?  Well, after the presidential election we just had, I think we find that the scales can be tipped by the media or the FBI a little bit.  And I suppose that people would feel a little bit of resentment at even the most deserving parents who, say, lost their children in a house fire, but enjoyed a sudden string of successes as God moves them to a home in Beverly Hills, gives them a successful reality TV show and gets them a Nobel Prize, maybe one of them fancy MacArthur Genius Grants on top of it.  And no taxes ever.  And they can eat whatever they want and not gain any weight... like Defending Your Life, not the Stephen King Gypsy curse one.  I mean, what does the rest of humanity get out of the deal?  Dreams can come true?  Don't want to cause no fuss, but what the f... heck about us?
And speaking of Woody Allen-esque, Woody Allen's latest musette Emma Stone stars with Ryan Gosling in something called Jiminy Glick in La La Wood... sorry, that was from 2005.  Slightly happier times, I guess.  No, this one is called La La LandTotally different; major apologies to both films involved here.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Auteur Watch - Winfield Ezell Jr.

Well, I tell you what.  I'm probably going to have to owe my first heart attack to Ezell's Chicken that I used to eat a lot at work for lunch about eight years ago.  And because my time on this third rock from the sun is indeed limited, thankfully this week's auteur has a short résumé to deal with.  I have an appreciation for that more and more as the days and weeks march on faster and faster.  Less is more, frankly.  And when you're dealing with temperamental musicians like ones you never heard of (Serius Jones) and ones you have heard of, just not for their music (R. Kelly), well... what do I have to complain about?

Flirtations with the Law

It's the oldest trick in the Hollywood playbook.  We've got three debuts this week at our beloved Top 10 Box Office hits.  The first was the highly publicized Office Christmas Party.  I found myself actually curious about who the director or directors is or are.  Turns out, it's the Coen-like team of two behind 2010's The Switch.  Now, you're probably thinking, oh yeah!  That bawdy romp with Deadpool and what's his face... just me, I know.  No, that was 2011's The Change-Up, and I think that's the team responsible for the Hangover trilogy.  We'll never hear the end of it.  But don't worry, for Hollywood workhorse Jason Bateman is in both, and he and Jennifer Aniston return for Office Christmas Party.  How lucky it must be for a Hollywood screenwriter to be writing for these two, this Dynamic Duo.  But the big story is that "Silicon Valley" star Erlich Bachman got arrested for... something.  Frank Lee, I didn't have the heart to find out for what.  I'll leave that dirty job to the guy who seems to have stopped posting those infomercials all over the place.  I guess this is what selling out looks like.  What I want to know is... when do I get my cut, damn it?
The next debut is called Animal Kingdom... I'm sorry, I mean it's called Animal Factory... I mean, it's Body of Evidence where Madonna tells Sheriff Willem Dafoe that we are animals.  Yes, we are... ooh!  It's right near the top!  That's no fun.  Oh, which reminds me, Jennifer Lawrence had to apologize for something again.  Apparently, she touched a sacred rock with her, um... posterior.  Okay, now this I gotta look up.  And I hate to say it, but with the flood of actual fake news these days, I have to turn to Us Magazine as a source.  I guess it's not that big of a deal after all.  The way I see it?  Now the rocks are sacred for a whole new reason.  Oh, and go see Passengers this month at the multiplex!
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention!  Now that Arrival and Nocturnal Animals are both in the Top 10, Amy Adams is beating herself up at said box office!  Probably not the first time that's happened, Frank Lee.  Anyway, the last debut this week is the latest from Kenneth Lonergan.  You might remember him as the writer/director of something called You Can Count on Me.  His latest, Manchester by the Sea... basically the same thing.  Ouch.  Okay, maybe that was a little unfair.  But the official IMDb page for the film has a blurb that says that Casey Affleck has finally, officially surpassed older brother Ben as the better thespian... something like that.  Personally, I kinda thought that that was the case with his Robert Ford movie, but still... something annoying about those Affleck boys.  You hate to love 'em, and love to hate 'em.  Maybe it's just that Dazed and Confused had such a profound affect on me, I don't know. 
Anyway, that's the box office this week.  If you can find a better analysis of it, well... it's probably at The Onion.  They do that as well.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Auteur Watch - Chantal Eyong

Well, I tell ya, this guy or gal is an n-tuple threat... cinematographer, editor, writor, set decorator, camera and electrical department, caterer... I guess you have to be these days, in the age of those Red cameras, and of movies shot completely on one Canon Rebel EOS that was borrowed from the student newspaper building.  Looks pretty good, I hate to say!  On the other hand, how many of those Facebook messages in your inbox would you rather not have anymore?  I don't know how to delete those!  I guess they're yours forever.  Not the ones from F@ce800k $ecur!ty threatening to take your account offline, mind you.  No, the ones from your dear friends who have investment opportunities in all their latest and greatest "film" projects.  Anything will help, even a piddly five dollars, of course, and you get an assistant producer credit.  Nothing to join the PGA over, of course, but it's still prestige-ish.
Still, I can't help but feel a little depressed.  Check out this title here: "Atlantic Crossing: A Robot's Daring Mission."  But the more I think about it, the more I remember that robots do lead much more interesting lives than people lately, what with things like interplanetary travel, bomb defusing, Roombas... before you know it, we'll be having Dos Equis commercials with the most interesting robot in the world selling us beer.  If there were robots like Bender that could enjoy beer, surely Dos Equis would be the beverage of choice?  Stay human, The Movie Hooligan... stay human.
...oh, I guess Chantal is a chick.  Here's her YouTube channelFreestyling to Sean Paul's "Temperature"!  A very dope choice indeed.  He seems even whiter than Pitbull somehow; go figure.

Week of Re-Gifting

Worst week ever.  But I'm noticing that there's a lot of one-word titles in the box office lately.  We've got Moana at #1, there's Arrival at #3, Allied holds strong at #4, Trolls hangs in at #6, and the only debut this week is director, and melted wax figure of Russell Brand, Brad Peyton's vacation away from "The Rock" called Incarnate.  You let me down, "Gotham" fans!  You don't want to see young Bruce Wayne before he dedicated his life to the role?... oh, wait, I didn't see it either.  Never mind.  Apparently, they got him just before the crew of "Gotham" fired up and never stopped.  Well, clearly Catholics weren't interested either.  Not Stigmata interested, that's for sure.  I guess the very existence of the Catholic Church didn't hang in the balance on Incarnate.  Too bad, because it makes for a great plot.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Short Reviews - December 2016

It Happened on Fifth Avenue - I mean, the part with the throwing of the tomatoes was fun, but... I can totally relate to these people.  The daughter to the father: "Oh, father.  You're the CEO of the company!  And you're making my fiancée go to Argentina when you could be giving him a job at home?  For shame, Father!  For shame!"

"Last Tango in Halifax" - "Ummm... too late to change our title?" asked the TV series

Last Tango in Paris - New outrage on the heels of the film's 45th anniversary as director Bernardo Bertolucci confesses about something called the "butter rape" scene.  In response, celebrities are now tweeting their outrage, saying things like "Disgusting.  Roman Polanski should be ashamed of himself" and "Hope you like butter with your rape, Polanski!"

The Sandy Bottom Orchestra - I could hear it from the next room and it seemed like a Nicholas Sparks-type thing.  It's a lot like my experience in high school band class... only whiter!

Anyway, it's the end of another Christian year, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to work on this To-Do list that's been sitting here for months at my desk.

Bangkok Dangerous - Another lone assassin with a set of rules he follows religiously... but there's at least one surprise to it.  I hate to spoil it, but it involves his deaf girlfriend... damn it!!!

The Fifth Estate - Benedict Cumberbatch does another good job, but... no.  Can't do it.  I'm just too upset about the election to consider Assange a hero anymore.  If his team of hackers can't get to Trump's taxes, well... either Trump's taxes are just that sacrosanct, or Assange is just a big albino chicken!  Bawk bawk bawk bawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwk.....

Fury - Let me just say this about writer/director David Ayer's WWII tank drama, Fury.  Basically, it started out fine enough, then descended into more and more laughability and implausibility until the completely ridiculous finale.  But there was one thing that was never properly explained to me... the origin of the character named "Coon-Ass."  I feel highly cheated by this, and will not rest until it is properly explained to me.  Is he miscegenated?  Did he grow up eating raccoons?  Even the new guy to the tank wasn't curious at all about it!  I mean, what a scene that would of... have been.  "Why do they call you 'Coon-Ass'?"  I mean, even the first Revenge of the Nerds explained the "Booger" character, right?  Personally, I think the guy's nickname should've been "Whiny Little Bitch," but that's just me.  It would've fit the overall juvenile tone of the show a little better, but whatever.  Can't have everything, right?  It did look great on Blu-Ray, by the by!

The Judge - Puh-leeeeeze.  My comment from earlier is still apt, and that was this... when they announced the Oscars for the year that The Judge came out, they said "Robert Duvall!"  And a mighty cheer rose up from the crowd present.  Then they said "...for 'The Judge'" and the whole crowd kinda went... well, first, they gritted their teeth, inhaled through them, and said "Ooh" all at once.  Kinda unusual!  Also, they stole the makeout side plot from Old School... you know, the part with Eliza Dushku... I mean, what's her name, trying to not have to look it up.  Elisha Chthulu... Cuthbert!  That's it!  And if you know what I'm talking about, well... you're a sick boy just like me.

O Lucky Man! - The cast of A Clockwork Orange was worth repeating

The Show of Shows - DEAR LITTLE PUP!!!!!.... wow.  I thought I would never find that again

Swing Time - With Victor Moore as J. Edgar Hoover

Alas, I didn't get what I wanted for Christmas this year.  But for Christmas 2017, as with the current year, the only thing I want is this: Underworld vs. Resident Evil.  Is that asking so much?  Swallow your pride, ladies, and do the right thing.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Auteur Watch - Kevin Jerome Everson

Ah hah!  Good strategy.  Mr. Everson is one of these people that has a long résumé thanks to short films.  Lots and lots of short films.  He appeals to the science and or "Breaking Bad" fans with titles like Fe26 (and rather especially so with that one, as it's one of his IMDb Top 4), Sugarcoated Arsenic, Quality Control, Cinnamon... and of course, giving a nod to the Hollywood of old with titles like Pictures from Dorothy, The Golden Age of Fish and Rhinoceros... not the 1974 feature with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, naturally.  Admittedly, we could use a new one.
So the only question is: does this guy have a YouTube channel?  Well, a perfunctory search doesn't turn one up right away.  Oh, but he's all over it, big time.  He's on YouTube like a bitch.  Bigly... damn, sorry about that.  Still trying to cut down.  Anyway, given Kevin's predilection for travelling the world in search of subjects that would look good in 16mm, I wonder what would happen if he got together with Jason Mann, who did similar world travels before hitting box office gold with HBO.  Will the global community ever be the same?

Hey Moana

Yeah, nostalgia is fun.  For example, I suddenly remember this show on MTV called "The Big Picture" (not affiliated with the 1989 Christopher Guest film of the same name) and one of the features they would have on there is the top five movies at the box office.  And as you may know by now, even in a horse race such as this, people do often have their favourites.  For exmaple, host Chris Connelly was a champion of the Joel Schumacher film Dying Young.  A big champion of it.  Alas, it wasn't exactly the box office gold that, say, Flatliners was at the time.  You know, Brat Pack and all.  Wow.  There's a blast from the past for ya!  But there was one title that managed to climb its way to #1 somehow, probably surprising even the film's makers, and that was F/X2: The Deadly Art of Illusion.  Directed by Richard Franklin, and the sequel to the 1986 original called F/X.  Long before there was a cable channel with a similar name, mind you.  Now, you're probably thinking, oh, the co-director of Quick Change!  I love that movie.  Well, the IMDb informs us that, no, it in fact is HOWARD Franklin.  I'm always getting those two mixed up for some reason.
Anyway, so F/X2 was #1 at the box office, and host Chris Connelly says "Yeah.  Two letters and a number.  Terrific."  Something like that.  I take it he wasn't a fan.  As for us in the present day, something called Moana is #1.  I had a feeling it would do well because I saw some information about it on a box of Rice Krispies.  I couldn't see anything else at all!  So while Moana chants her litany of boredom and frustration, as for me, well... if I go to heaven and Moana's not there, I'm going to write its name on the heavenly stair.  Meantime, someone needs to tell John Lasseter to give it up.  Yeah, beauty pageants are fun.
The only other debuts this week are the old timers down on their luck again.  Big surprise.  First, there's the new Zemeckis non-MoCap feature called Allied.  The Onion didn't care for it, of course; not "transcendent" enough, apparently, which is a little rich coming from a fake newspaper, in a way.  But there's a lesbian lover in it, for God's sake!  Thereby disappointing both fans of Turner Classic Movies, AND all the Millenial LGBTs out there who can smell a trap a mile away.  There were lesbians in some of those old Turner Classic movies at the time, people just didn't officially know it.
As for Bad Santa 2, well... my boys weren't behind the camera at all on this one.  How did that happen, exactly?  I guess the contract lawyers screwed them again.  Usually producers get a piece of any future sequel, don't they?  I guess they're on to bigger and better things instead.  So let's instead examine the filmography of BS2 director Mark Waters.  Well, the most wholesome thing appears to be 2005's Just Like Heaven, and I'm sure he'll take as much credit for Reese Witherspoon's Oscar win as he can.  (Walk the Line, incidentally)  And I'm assuming that Mr. Popper's Penguins and The Spiderwick Chronicles, while basically for kids, has as much raunch packed into their frames as he could.  So perhaps he has the stuff to take on the tradition that a Bad Santa movie requires.  Again, the Onion is soooo picky, calling it basically a "re-gifting" but that it stays current on all the latest raunchiness, nomenclature and otherwise.  What MORE do they WANT?!!!!!  I gotta go.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

While His Guitar Gently Doubles as a Flame Thrower

Yeah, myths and legends are fun.  Just ask Jeff Albertson!  But how do you go about creating one, quite inorganically?  Well, in the case of Robert Rodriguez's 2003 offering, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the completion of his El Mariachi trilogy, more or less, despite the fact that none of the original cast of the first $7,000 El Mariachi has returned, I'm assumpting... in this case, you follow the new standard sequel rules, as basically laid down by megahits like the Indiana Jones films and the Lethal Weapon films.  To an existing myth and legend, you add a few new key characters (Jones), and you add that the hero and heroine have a baby (LW4).  That the heroine and baby are revisited in flashback because of the tragic death that befell them (spoiler alert) just makes the myth and legend... all the more myth-y and legend-y, I guess.
Salma Hayek returns as the heroine from 1995's Desperado and, as one of the characters in the movie informs us, she's perhaps the most beautiful woman we've ever met.  Unfortunately, she shows a lot less skin here than she did in Desperado... except for her very smooth tummy.  Why, it practically has a starring role all its own.  All the girls in the audience want to get the workout DVD involved now!  Feminine and muscular, but not to the point of freaky egg-crate like abs.  Frankly, Once seems to have considerably less bite than Desperado, generally.  For example, in Desperado, Quentin Tarantino visited the worst toilet in all of Mexico.  Clearly, Rodriguez took the studio's notes to heart about that.  And all we get in terms of weapons to pack inside a guitar case is a mere flame thrower.  I feel cheated.  Downright cheated.
Now, to be even more frank, there's nothing the American audience likes more than a good myth and or legend... and that's part of the problem.  The myth/legend market's saturated these days, frankly, and the rise of the very snooty myth/legend connoisseur class continues unabated.  Much like the focus test audience on The Simpsons, we want a realistic myth that deals with real emotions and complex, modern problems... that also features aliens and dinosaurs.  Something like that. 
As for the more hardcore science nerds among us, well... you've probably had your earful of them already.  Take the sequence involving Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, and the chain that binds both their wrists together.  It's a pretty cool, breathtaking sequence, and I'm guessing it informed the thinking of at least Martin Campbell before he fired up the old creative juices going into his Zorro sequel, then right on into Casino Royale (2006) right after.  But then... it dies the death of a thousand plot holes.  Sure, it looks like it's actually Banderas and Hayek hanging there a hundred feet above the ground, which could also mean that Mexican movie stars have considerably less rights than we first thought.
Anyway, so they awaken from slumber, and Antonio looks out the window, in that movie star way of his, to see two guys in army fatigues with machine guns.  They start to fire.  The bullets hit the wall just above his head.  The chained twosome make a break for it.  They then find themselves on the balcony just outside their room.  There's, like, four or five soldiers with machine guns and they all start to fire... now, seriously, are they ALL that bad of shots?  Is the balcony just THAT good at repelling bullets?  Who's with me?  And so, they start their mythic escape from the tiny window on the top floor.  They use the chain to their mutual benefit, and swing from floor to floor on their way down.  More shooters are positioned outside, all with machine guns, and the bullets fly anew.  Enough bullets fly to knock the external metal staircase from its mooring, and it falls, crunching a car in the alley below (right in time with the music, BTW).  Again, I ask... really?  Seriously?  Not ONE bullet of the hundreds that are now flying?  Not ONE hits either Banderas or Hayek?  Hmm.  Must be part of that whole legend and or myth thing.  I mean, it's pushing the luck of BOTH Jules and Vincent, I'm just sayin'.  And then, of course, there's the matter of them hanging on to the building with their mere hands.  One hangs on as the other jumps and or gets thrown to the floor below.  As one of my viewing companions quietly observed, "I don't think they're strong enough to hang on."  Again, the legend and or myth.  Or, in even more Simpsons terms, a wizard did it!  Love that show.
As for the finale, well... writer/producer/associate producer/director/cameraman/caterer Rodriguez does a fine, workman-like job of setting up the final conflict between the good guys and Mexican General Bad Guy and his dozens of soldiers.  I hate to spoil the surprise, so I'll try not to, but the fate of the assassin's target turned out happily enough.  And most everyone went on to bigger and better things.  Take Julio Iglesias' son, for example, who's now the king of some of the douchebaggiest songs you'll ever hear.  Tonight I'm loving you, my girlfriend's on vacation and she doesn't need to know, what have you.  Well, admittedly, he's gorgeous enough to pull off the occasional and or regular basis adultery.  As for Johnny Depp, well... I was a little unclear if he was playing one character or several, but I'm pretty sure he was doing a Brando impression in the confession booth, that I'm pretty sure of.  Depp gets to be a bit of a legend here in his own right, ending up as The CIA Man with No Eyes (and, for some reason, a Mechanical Third Arm), let's say.  Spoiler alert.
As for the cinematography, well... the older I get, the more I see some films as a travelogue of places I'll probably never see in person.  The more popular term is, of course, "stay-cation."  Uggh.  Now, I love America probably not as much as the red states do, but I'm always more impressed with Mexican architecture than our own.  It's got something: panache, style, zazz, zing, zork, better pastels, what have you.  They can't all be mere monoliths of steel and glass, right?  And even though the art of digital cinematography was relatively new when this was made, Rodriguez learned early on that the trick is to keep the camera AS STILL AS POSSIBLE, ALL THE TIME.  Sure, mostly to give it that indie feel, but any time you do a pan shot (i.e., moving the camera around when it's on a mere tripod), things tend to get streaky.  Even now, but the art of the digital aperture is constantly improving.  Some have called Rodriguez a pioneer of digital cinematography, but they tend to forget about Michael Mann's Ali, for one.  For him, I guess it was an improvement, but the film still cost $100 million to make anyway.
I will take this opportunity to report that we just happen to get a TV upgrade.  As sort of a post-celebration victory lap of the occasion, the chief viewing planner of the household went to the pawn shop, and Once was one of the titles obtained there.  DVD, Superbit version.  Now, I can't speak to the mythic and or legendary status of Superbit DVDs in general, as the only other Superbit title we have is 1997's Starship Troopers.  The original, as opposed to the too-many-to-count direct-to-DVD sequels that followed.  Now maybe it's just the Blu-Ray talking, but you're kinda letting me down, Superbit!  As for my final summation about myths and legends and Rodriguez' part in all of it, I will say that Once is quite understated compared to the Machete that was soon to follow.

***
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Falling in Love with H. G. Wells

The time: last night.  The place: Turner Classic Movies.  The movie: 1979's Time After Time... the Cyndi Lauper song must've come later.  I don't think this is one that TCM usually shows, but as the years march on, and the channel's mission scope continues to creep... I'll still be very surprised if they show any of the Friday the 13th movies, like sister channel AMC... well, even Robert Osborne gets tired of constantly singing the praises of Lawrence of Arabia.  Can't other films from the '70s be classics, too?
Now, you might think we should start with H.G. Wells, seeing as how he's the central character of this film and what not.  But this is my blog, and I think we should start instead with Nicholas Meyer.  And even though Time After Time is a Warner Bros. picture, Meyer's first home is still Paramount Pictures, don't kid yourselves, and their beloved Star Trek series.  Before becoming a director, Meyer dabbled in unit publicity, and a little novel called "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution," which was his take on the Sherlock Holmes series.  Hey, sometimes you just gotta go for the gusto, and try and one-up the old masters like Doyle!  Hollywood took notice, making sure to ignore Meyer's Invasion of the Bee Girls sordid past, and the movie version of 7%S was soon made.  Meyer wasn't quite ready to direct, either in his own opinion or Hollywood's, but a director's chair stalwart like Herb Ross ain't a bad tutor, apparently.  Either him or Arthur Hiller, both perfectly adept.  But by the time of Time After Time, the director's chair was his to take, for some reason.  Well, kissing the asses of the Paramount shareholders didn't hurt, I'm betting, and I guess 7%S was a modest hit, even if it wasn't completely faithful to the novel.  And even if the novel wasn't faithful to the Sherlock Holmes tradition, that's immaterial.  Novels must be respected on their own two legs.
And so, we get to the setup of Time After Time.  The year: 1893.  The place: London, England.  The opening scene: a rather grisly PG-rated murder of a lady of the night.  That's right... we get two historical icons for the price of one: H.G. Wells, and Jack the Ripper.  Side by side, as they were always meant to be, apparently.  Well, now that the opening intro's done, time for the scenario that will consume the rest of this thing.  Much like we meet Rod Taylor in 1960's The Time Machine, so too do we meet H. G. Wells hosting a dinner party, talking about this and that... free love?  In 1890?  Really?  Seriously?  I mean, it's... okay, whatever.  Let's keep going.  Wells is waiting to reveal a big surprise, but not until his last dinner guest arrives.  It's David Warner, and even though his name is Stevenson... I mean, he's just gotta be Jack the Ripper.  Just gotta.
Okay, so all the dinner guests are there.  Time for Wells' big surprise.  And what's the surprise?  A time machine, all-electric, complete with parabolic dish to collect the sun's rays.  You know, to power the time machine... okay, to keep things short and sweet, we'll just skip over all of that.  Apparently, Wells wrote his time machine novel in 1895, so that fits.  My viewing companion, on the other hand, had a problem with the machine's glass.  Apparently, the art of smooth, professional-grade glass hadn't been perfected by that point.  Kevin Costner's Open Range is an example of honest to goodness, true-to-life amateur glass windows.  Also, the big roulette wheel-type wheel is missing on Wells' time machine.  Oh well.  Wells passes on to his dinner guests, and to us indirectly, a few key features of the time machine.  There's a key to lock and unlock the machine, and some kind of weird, rainbow-creating wand that allows the machine to return to its point of origin... something like that.  The older I get, the less significant unsignificant details like that become.
Now, I don't mean to question the genius of H.G. Wells, but the premise of this movie has forced my hand.  1) Wells has two table-sized blueprints with all the details of a functioning time machine.  2) Unlike the time machine in the 1960 and 2002 versions, as we find out later, Wells' time machine is able to make a leap from London to San Francisco.  3) Even though, during Wells' 2001-esque journey after Jack the Ripper (who's already used said machine), the time machine threatens to break apart at the seams, it manages to hold together, despite the loosening of a few screws (available in 1893?).  And 4) the time machine is able to return to Wells' basement after Jack the Ripper has used it.  I just think it's quite a bit of disbelief to suspend for one movie... and that's just the beginning.
Now, the fun part... oh, and I should point out that Malcolm McDowell plays H. G. Wells.  So, Wells follows Jack the Ripper into the future, all the way to the year 1979.  And why 1979?  Um... because it's when this film's actually being made, dummy!  Derrrrr!!!!!  I mean, no one had a problem with Back to the Future taking place in 1985, right? ...where was I?  Oh yeah.  And so, H.G. Wells makes the journey from 1893 London to 1979 San Francisco.  After a few minutes of getting his bearings... he is a genius, after all.  Shouldn't take him that long to do anything... he's hot on the trail of this other time traveler.  Armed with a few pounds and a couple pieces of 1893 jewelry, Wells goes to every bank in the city to try and find Jack the Ripper, who's surely done the same thing.  At this point, I can't help but think of Jack Benny's old routine, where he's giving a young lady directions to get somewhere, and all his instructions include various banks.  When the young lady points out that there's a much simpler way to get there without going past all those darn banks, Benny waits a beat and says "Well, okay, if you don't like scenery!"
Okay, back to the anachronisms of Time After Time.  Wells meets up with bank employee Mary Steenburgen, and needles to say it's your proverbial love at first sight.  Apparently, this movie made Steenburgen officially a star, but I might attribute it to either Goin' South or Melvin and Howard.  Her performance in this movie seems to have informed Melanie Griffiths' late 80s early 90s work, but again, that's just me.  Soon enough, Wells and this bank employee are in bed together... hey, just because a guy travels through time doesn't mean he's completely dead inside!  Look at all the American soldiers in WWII who married French gals, for one.
Oh, and Wells catches up to Jack the Ripper.  For those of you who are fans of great Malthusian dialogue, this part's for you.  With the help of the hotel TV and its remote control, which Jack the Ripper has already mastered... we'll leave aside the invention of TV for now, of course.  If there's one thing this movie doesn't have time for, it's for the actors doing the full acclimatization to a future culture bit.  We've got plot to get to!  Anyway, Wells wants to take Jack the Ripper back to 1893 to face justice and what not, but Ripper makes a strong case that he belongs in 1979.  He says that he was a freak in 1893... you know, what with the whole killing ladies of the night and what not... but in 1979, he's normal.  An amateur, even!  Wells is a Hilbertian positivist about human nature, whereas Ripper is a proverbial Godelian, um... negativist?
Of course, Ripper has yet to run afoul of modern police and their various state-of-the-art crime-solving techniques, but whatever.  Ripper is just about to kill Wells forever, when there's a knock at the door.  Wells is saved!  Ain't this movie fun?  Here's a cinematic confession for you... I haven't seen the ending of this film yet, but I'm confident that John Salley and the Warners' brass were pleased with the PG-rated ending of this semi-classic, and that the moral compass of the film's universe returns to dead center.  As for Steenburgen's character, well... I feel her pain.  Why can't a girl fall in love with someone for a change who isn't a time-travelling classic novelist?  And what's the deal with all those lens-flare rainbows?  Is this film their only starring role ever?

**1/2
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Scott F. Evans

While he tries to avoid the obvious choice of playing the lead in The Van Jones Story, this master of all Hollywood trades just has to keep right on keepin' on, as the old phrase of yesteryear goes.  But his track record so far's not too shabby!  At least, compared to some of the auteurs I've profiled lately.
His alpha offering is called Big Bag of $.  But don't you DARE call it any type of sploitation cinema, my friends!  Oh, it's much deeper than that.  So much deeper that than... than that.  Sure, some of the reviews, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, they thought they were being so clever and tragically hip by using "Big Bag of $#!t" as their headline, but... oh, there aren't any actual reviews yet.  But you can watch it here on YouTube for free!  That's... that's good, right?
Then there's another crime heist caper type deal called The Turn, which seems to be a poker term.  I forget which one.  Personally, I thought Shade was the be-all end-all of poker films (best Slow Rolls ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!), but maybe it's time to rethink that Takeaway Teachable Moment. (copyright owned by Microsoft)

"...you think Donald tells his wife everything?"

Whelp, as one of the headlines said, the latest J. K. Rowling juggernaut is #1, while the new debuts are down.  Down, down and very dreadfully down!  Does no one want to dream anymore?  I guess Rowling will get to give away another billion dollars after all... didn't she do something like that?
I'm telling you darlings, directors don't matter anymore!  The golden age of the Auteur is over.  I mean, does anyone even care that David Yates directed this?  Or do parents drop off their little beasts at the cinema and say "Ooh!  I hope the 3D and the 1080p is good this time!"  And... dayamn!  Their IMDb web graphic costs more than the average movie did thirty years ago!  In any event, I think we're going to be hearing more from this crazy Lisbeth Salander... I mean, Newt Scamander.  Now, you might be thinking that that's a strange name and all that... but I say perhaps it's a start to erasing Gingrich from our minds once and for all.  A more than suitable replacement!  That's the ticket.
Meanwhile, I try to be optimistic.  The other headlines say that the new debuts really really ate it at the box office this weekend... I prefer to think of it as a triumph of indie cinema, if there's any left.  The IFC channel produces their own shows now, and how long has it been since they showed The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love?  (...note: had to use Yahoo to find that.  You let me down, IMDb!)  I mean, take what they're showing RIGHT NOW as I write this... 1993's The Fugitive.  After that, 1994's The River Wild, and then, 1999's The Green Mile.  Hollywood's best and brightest.  Not one indie movie in the bunch.  NOT ONE.
So let's try to devote some words to the two new debuts this week.  The first is called The Edge of Seventeen, possibly influenced by the Stevie Nicks song of the same name... now, is it just me, or does that sound almost egg-zactly like The Police's "Bring on the Night"?  Same key, same tempo... whatever.  Anyway, life imitates art and vice versa, because the star of The Edge of Seventeen, Oscar-nominated Hailee Steinfeld, appeared in a publication called "Seventeen" magazine.  I know because it gave me a rather nasty paper cut that still smarts.  Love those razor-like covers!  Anyway, the movie was written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig who got the idea after seeing that episode of The Simpsons when Nelson Muntz starts dating Lisa Simpson.  I'm just sayin'.............
The other debut is a boxing movie called Bleed for This.  Well, after Jake Gyllenhall and now Miles Teller, I guess playing a boxer is one of those seven roles that actors often talk about.  The others being cowboy, astronaut, soldier... lawyer?  Race car driver?  Also, a great excuse to crunch those abs.  I saw Miles Teller on the Colbert show and all that, and, well... I don't even want to expound on the (waning?) influence of Colbert on things.  Please don't leave us!  For me, I will say that it was probably the title that turned people off.  Same thing happened with Only the Strong.  Love that movie.  But 90% of the movie-going public said, "Well, I'm not strong, so I guess I'm not going."  Um... capoeira much?  What part of "Mark Dacascos is a national treasure" don't you understand?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Auteur Watch - Rodney Evans

...my God!  This guy's the Highlander, isn't he?  I mean, check out that C.V.  Twenty years in the director's chair, and he's as good as ever.  His first was the 1996 documentary called The Unveiling and... why do I get the feeling that Dixie is his mom?  You know, same last name and what not...
But it wasn't until 2004 that Rodney would get the film synonymous with his name, and it's called Brother to Brother.  By which I mean, ... whew!  Found it.  Boy, when you multitask as I do, the ol' short term memory gets overtaxed.  So, check out this YouTube trailer for Rodney Evans' The Happy Sad, and note the description which says "A romantic drama directed by Rodney Evans (Brother to Brother)"  SEE?!!!!  I'm not totally crazy... not yet, anywho.
And so, it seems that Brother to Brother is still the alpha in Evans' burgeoning résumé, and for two big reasons.  One, Anthony Mackie, and his involvement thereof, and two, check out this half-glowing "The Onion" review.  Now sure, they complain that, as with Spike Lee's She Hate Me, the film traffics in broad stereotypes and characters with one annoying attribute in the face of complex social issues, but... hey, it kinda worked, right?  It got the review, didn't it?  And Anthony Mackie's a big star now, right right?  Rodney Evans, call him.  Don't be too proud.

Removing Every Last Trace of Honor and Dignity From the White House

So we've got three new arrivals this week.  First, the latest sleek sci-fi thriller you'll never ever forget for the rest of your life, called The Arrival... no wait, that's the 1996 Charlie Sheen- David Twohy collaboration.  Twohy only wrote Terminal Velocity... I didn't know that!  Well, it was right after The Fugitive, and Twohy had a bunch of scripts in his desk drawer that weren't going anywhere, and he knew he didn't really want to direct that one himself.
Anyway, we've got the early Christmas comedy called, appropriately enough, Almost Christmas.  Only about 41 shopping days left, people!  This could be the last one!  And finally we've got Shut In, the latest in a long line of low-budget neo-horror flicks... but what do I know.  Maybe it actually took twelve years to film, maybe they filmed five minutes of it during the winter months like a certain other film whose name I forgot already.
And, of course...when Trump announced he was running for President of the United States after riding down that escalator, I said no, this can't be happening.  And when he won the Republican party's nomination, I said no, this can't be happening.  Then when the FBI and KGB got involved in our democratic process, I said no, this can't be happening.  I guess you just have to take the small victories at times, like the Access Hollywood audio leak.  Finally!  Access Hollywood serves a higher purpose.
Well, everyone in the media has been doing two things lately... well, three, really.  One, they've been on the verge of tears.  Two, they've publicly said that they will give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt... but his supporters don't really believe that, now, do they?  Certainly not when he tries to strip women of their reproductive rights or, having failed to get Mexico to pay for the wall, he instead tries to get the American people to pay for it instead.  And let's have some sympathy for Trump supporters, as they've already been dealt a crippling blow just today.  When asked about locking up "Crooked" Hillary, just as he promised to her face in the second debate... he now says he's got bigger, more important things to do.  Typical politician.  Saying whatever they have to to get the job, then stabbing you in the back, and twisting the knife a couple times just for good measure, and just to make it that much harder for the back specialist to repair the slipped discs.  What else is he going to backtrack on?  His Muslim ban?  Repealing Obamacare?  David Duke on the Supreme Court?
...where was I?  Oh, right.  The third thing that everyone has been doing is telling personal stories about how this election result affected them in ways they hadn't anticipated, usually involving their kids and having to explain it all to them.  "Daddy, why is Archie Bunker the president now?"  I should've suspected something was wrong when I heard that Alabama voter proudly declare that Trump was one of them: not afraid to speak his mind, and wanting to get it on with his totally hot daughter.  Help us, Ivanka!  You're our only hope!  Bill Maher and I can see that: she's the only one of Trump's kids that seems to possess any shred of humanity.  To a lesser extent, Tiffany (aka LaToya Trump), but even she knows that Ivanka's the alpha.
Welp, I don't make it a point to get too personal here, but a few antidotes... anecdotes come to mind.  I remember, in happier times, when it actually seemed like I might be able to change careers, I took a class with three teachers.  The oldest and wisest of the teachers had us think about a question.  The question was along the lines of: does it matter if my farmer is a good person or not?  Seemed kind of innocuous at the time, but the more I thought about it... I do try to shop at my local co-op and what not.  I can't do the grocery outlets... I just can't.  I mean, the low prices and passed expiration dates are fun and all, don't get me wrong.  And I'm no vegan/vegetarian saint, to be sure.  Tried it a little a long time ago... probably should've stuck with it.  But now we've got the spectre of a farmer and White Nationalist making robocalls on behalf of a Republican candidate for President.  There's an article from a website called RedState with the headline "Disgusting"... but something tells me they were pressured to say that.  Kinda like how Ann Coulter wanted to say that if President Obama had a leaked audio clip of himself similar to Trump's Access Hollywood "locker room talk" audio clip... well, not only would that be grounds for impeachment, the Republican DC establishment would do everything they could to run him out of town as literally on a rail as possible.  Coulter really really wanted to say that, but fake modesty forbid.  So let me just take this opportunity to apologize to minorities everywhere because, as you may remember, the White establishment in this country got a little bit scared of President Obama, and opposed him at every turn.  Disenfranchised Whites will put up with a lot, but apparently not a Black president.  And yes, say what you will, but Obama is black enough.  There was some debate about that in 2008, but they ultimately decided to move on to bashing his religious credentials instead.
...there was one other thing that came to mind.  Before Ah-nold Schwarzenegger became the Governator of Cully-fohnia, I saw a clip of him on TV.  I think he was on a sports show, and he was talking about... I can't even remember, some up-and-coming bodybuilders or something.  I clearly remember his demeanor, though, as he seemed to be foundering, looking for a purpose in life, quite literally in that moment.  Terminator 3 hadn't posted the record profits of Terminator 2, and the general trappings of a mid-life crisis seemed to be sinking in.  Maybe he had about ten or twenty cups of coffee too many that day before going on the air.  But when he took the governorship?  Calmness and serenity restored.  Same thing with Trump because, unlike most billionaires, sometimes being a billionaire just isn't enough.  Why, even old Monty Burns had a thing or two to say about that when the plant was bought by German investors!  "What good is money if you can't inspire terror in your fellow man?" asks an exasperated Burns.
Anyway, I hope President Elect Trump tries to use the office for good, and I will give him the benefit of the doubt... too late.  What a douche nozzle.  As for all you Trump supporters who are starting to feel disappointed, well... Trump did warn you, remember?

Monday, November 07, 2016

Auteur Watch - Bentley Kyle Evans

Well, when you've been in the Martin Lawrence business during the You So Crazy phase before he had a stroke and sold his soul... I mean, got a full time job at Disney, nothing you do afterwards will probably smell as sweet.  Such is the case for one Bentley Kyle Evans, submitted for your approval.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Strange Days Indeed... Most Peculiar, Momma

Oh, data analysis is just so boring, but I do recall with a certain wistful fondness when I was prowling the halls at a community college as an overage student for a while, trying to avoid the looks of the pimply-faced youngsters, when I noticed a movie-themed study on one of the walls.  I think it had something to do with statistical analysis of the Oscars... that's all of it I can remember.  Well, who would expect a youngster to come away with a takeaway teachable moment worth anything to the Oscar community, when they already know there was a massive societal shift in the late '60s and what not.  All you need to do is look at the Oscar winners for 1969, then the ones for 1970, and... well, frankly, the whole Oscar system is corrupt.  We need an orange-faced billionaire outsider to go in there and do some serious reforms.  And if he can't, well... back to bankruptcy court for all of us.
Of course, the data analysis that the big studios might be interested in now is an analysis of box office performance compared to publicity.  Take Benedict Cumberbatch, for example, or as I like to think of him, the new British Dennis Quaid.  He's had a busy week, taping segments for Saturday Night Live, and doing various talk shows for the last two weeks, not to mention traveling all over the world and making various stops on behalf of Marvel Studio's latest and greatest.  And what's the grand total?  Well, that it would be #1 in America is without question, but... a bit shy of $100 million?  I guess you could say that it's not bad for a character that, while apparently everyone's now favourite comic books they red... I'm going to leave that one as is, and rub my nose in it now and again. 
The Doctor Strange comic books are, all of a sudden, everyone's favourite, having READ all of them as children, along with Pogo and Dumb Dora from the funny papers... and yet, this is the character's big debut to the Marvel Universe, so to speak, or the Marvel-verse... Marv-iverse?  Muniverse?  Unimarv?  The point is, I think even the most partisan among us can agree, it's still way, way better than that Fantastic Four reboot.  Wow, what a stinky cinematic turd pile.  Guess it'll be a while before they get into one of the Avengers movies... the Marvel ones, not the much reviled 1998 cinematic re-envisioning of the classic 60s show starring Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg.  You will remember the name Chechik!  Chances are he's directed one of your favorite TV shows.  His fans are of course called Chechik Rebels.
Meanwhile, on the flid sipe of the kenard... coin... what multivariate calculus could possibly explain the performance of Hacksaw Ridge?  Well, let's start with the setting: World War II, a setting that, while not done to death, seems a little bit close to it, especially after Saving Private Ryan, and "Band of Brothers," the HBO miniseries version of Saving Private Ryan.  Then you've got "The Pacific" and The Monuments Men.  Those are just the modern examples.  I exclude Inglorious Basterds just because it's a little bit fantastical.  Do with that what you like.  But one thing these all have in common is that everyone involved seemed very, very committed to doing everything they could to defeat that bastard Adolf Hitler.  Some guys who were declared 4F committed suicide at home.  There was rationing at home on a scale unseen in modern times, even on top of the Great Depression, which your grandparents can tell you was bad.  Really bad.  Why, Bob Dole had to take in boarders, for God's sake!  Filthy, unwashed boarders.
Okay, so bearing all that in mind, along comes Hacksaw Ridge about a conscientious objector in World War II.  Um... okay, that's... that's different, I guess!  Sure, the concept wasn't as popular then as it was, say, during the Vietnam War, but whatever.  Donald Sutherland's Hippie-like character in Kelly's Heroes seems out of place as well.  Oyster, urster.  Which brings me to the director of Hacksaw Ridge, Oscar-winner and new gold standard bearer of the title "raging Hollywood trainwreck" Mel Gibson.  He went on with Colbert to flog his new wares, and he was planning on behaving himself asbestos he could, unlike with, say, Diane Sawyer.  And unlike when he was pushing Edge of Darkness, now he does give a f... damn.  So let's say it's a double feature: a pro-Vietnam movie with We Were Soldiers, and an anti-fighting WWII pic now with Summit Entertainment's Hacksaw Ridge because, well... after the Twilight series, Summit's got money to burn, and Mel was in Oscar territory 20 years ago... maybe he's overdue!
So given those two choices, audiences were clearly divided, which is why Trolls was people's go-to Plan B, a nice, non-offensive fare to dump the kids off at for a couple hours.  Boy, but parents can't get enough of those, can they?

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Short Reviews - November 2016

Almost Christmas - Boy, I tell you... much better than Nothing Like the Holidays, for one.  And that clip with the girl stuck in the window, and the guy trying to get her out?  Well... oh, it's definitely going to go viral... actually, variations on that theme are already an internet sensation.  Let's just leave it at that.

Almost Heroes - They show this one on cable lately?  Probably just on TNT or TBS or something

Angie - Every time it happens.  I'm watching the scene where she's in labor at the hospital, and someone's walking down the hall and they only hear the audio.  I keep having to say "No, it's not a porno!  The character's in labor, for God's sake"...........................

Arrival - ...looks smart and stylish and all that!  And the director is... oh, this guy's way too busy.  Also, the font variety of these posters is getting about as slim as the letters themselves!  Has anyone else besides me noticed that yet?

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk - ...oh, Steve-o.  I guess this would be a good double bill with... A Hologram for the King?

Bottle Shock - Bottle Rocket?  Love that movie.  Wes Anderson and what not!

"The Company" - It's not just "Mad Men" about the Cold War... it's NOT!!!!

Defense Play - ...wow!  How do I stumble upon these things?  I hate to say it, but this is a lesson in the importance of movie stars.  Otherwise, we'd be watching something like Bombs Away! all the time.  The girl from Teen Wolf kinda isn't enough of a draw for me, I hate to say.  Also, the only review left of this seems to damn the film with faint praise when they say "Also watch WarGames"... you know, basically the same movie, only it came earlier and is much more beloved.  And actually available on video.

Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo - Okay, okay, finally time to read Schneider's tweet to "the Democrats" - ...that's it?  It says "I haven't seen the Democrats this mad since we freed the slaves!" ...OH MY GOD.  ROB SCHNEIDER'S THE HIGHLANDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo - And don't forget to check out Rob Schneider in Adam Sandler's "Here Comes the Funny" tour, featuring David Spade and Norm MacDonald as the funny.

Friends with Benefits - Damn... Mila's not going to name names.  Well, I hate to disagree with the spokeswoman for Jim Beam, but she's right.  The pay gap between men and women should be closed, and hopefully it will take less than 134 years to do that.  But if you're going to be that sensitive about one email, well... I guess you weren't working with Spielberg, for one.  I mean, with all the attention paid to Hillary Clinton's email, who wants to use email anymore at this point?

Hacksaw Ridge - Well, I did it... just saw Mel Gibson on Stephen Colbert.  Don't tell Mel about all the jokes that Colbert has done over the years about Mel's crazy dad.  Speaking of dads, I watched the interview with my dad.  Mel started talking about his idea for a film about the Resurrection, or the three days in Jesus' life after he was crucified when he apparently descended to Hell, and... whatever.  Negotiated a peace treaty between the Devil and the Surface Dwellers, something like that.  I'm no historian... and so Mel was talking about this film he's working on about the Resurrection, and the exciting storytelling opportunities inherent in such an undertaking, and my dad says "...is he crazy?"

Loving - I'm sorry, but for a person like me, there's only ONE "Loving," damn it!!!

Pixels - Check it out if you want a preview of a Trump presidency

"Pure Genius" - Yeah, being an obnoxious internet billionaire is fun.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Are the hardcore Star Wars fans going to geek out over this one?  Or are they going to just wait for Episode 8 instead?

"Seinfeld" - One of the random brain farts you'll occasionally hear from Right wingers on the subject of taxes, and how the rich aren't taxed enough, they'll usually say "Well, why don't people send ALL of their money to the government if they love taxes so much?"  I believe Rudy Giuliani mentioned Warren Buffett recently in regards to that idea.  Well, here's something that Rob Reiner and I have been wondering... if Steve Bannon hates Jews so much, why does he own a piece of "Seinfeld"?  Um... he knows that Jerry Seinfeld is Jewish, right?  I'm not up on all the stereotypes, but... isn't that Seinfeld money, like... TAINTED or something?  Apparently, not tainted enough.  Not for Breitbart's Steve Bannon.  Maybe for some of Trump's voters, but I'm sure they can come up with a reason why that's not a problem.  They'll be doing a lot of that in the coming months as it is.

The Sixth Man - RUN!!!! KILLER DIRECTOR ON THE LOOSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Snakes on a Plane - What does it say about a movie when it can be reduced to basically one 14-second scene?

The Walking Dead - Man, the black dude's film title always gets stolen first.

ZAYN: Pillowtalk - This just in: President-Elect Trump mistakes Gigi Hadid for the next First Lady, starts French kissing her in front of reporters.  When Melania heard about this, she purportedly said "I know deal.  Donald Trump is my man, but he's having lot of hormones in body."  Correction, Melania: the classiest, most gold-plated hormones of any man of all time, including Cretaceous and Devonian.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Auteur Watch - Eugene Ashe

Some come to filmmaking from another career.  It's usually how it goes.  You know, people get tired of installing solar panels on rooftops.  I mean, why do something useful for society when you can get involved in the creation of the next great Mass Communication Distraction?  It's a hobby!
Take the example of Eugene Ashe, for example.  As the name suggests, yes... he is indeed a distant relative of tennis great Arthur Ashe.  But even he wanted to move to the director's-type folding chair that the game's referee uses up there in the crow's nest overlooking the playing field, surely?  I wonder if the IMDb ever lists anyone's cause of death as breathing smoggy New York City air.  Surely, many have succumbed to it time to time?
Wonder if he's at all related to Internet great Danni... never mind.  Anyway, Eugene started off as an award-worthy recording artist... I'm sorry, major label recording artist.  Now, I'm no music expert... and anyone who's read this blog knows that I am a) a bad writer, and b) I love love LOVE Richard Donner, no matter what Mel Gibson implies about him... but if you really are a major label recording artist, you're probably not going to point to the Free Willy soundtrack as a career highlight.  Just saying.  The other being 1994's Blankman.  Now... like a lot of you, I'm also facebook friends with Mike Binder... I think I am, anyway.  But again, all due respect... probably not a soundtrack you'd want to take credit for, let alone the movie.  I'll be the first to admit that I don't truly appreciate the historical significance that Blankman will have when the final piece of dust is settled, the box office Rosetta Stone chiseled, the last Mann's Chinese Theatre franchise shuttered, what have you, but when I think movie soundtrack... well, Dirty Dancing is the first one to come to mind.  Different era.  Ooh!  How about Pirate Radio?  Because sometimes you just gotta stretch the bounds of historical accuracy when it comes to classic rock.
So, with street cred in the music biz firmly established, it was time to pivot.  Because, after all, even the funkiest of poets dream about realizing that screenplay they've got in their head, even if it's just the big, autobiographical one about that time you got kicked out of the public library for exposing yourself... oh, wait, Eugene did some acting first.  Well, every little bit helps.  You want to see the filmmaking process from all aspects before taking a managerial role in it.  Doesn't hurt.  And so, after an aborted chance with Spike Lee, it was time for a documentary: 2009's Home Again.  Apparently, it's a documentary about Americans who emigrated to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War.  No one reviewed it yet, but 50,000 plus people lived it.  That's... that's a demographic, right?  After all, people were doing that in 1776 as well, or so I've been informed.  The best and brightest step up to the nation's call and say "Sorry, I'm going next door.  My life's far too important to sacrifice this way."
Sticking with the theme of home, we get 2012's Homecoming.  From the plot description, it sounds a bit like The Big Chill, only blacker.  And not just the music, mind you.  Judging from the poster, however... looks like they couldn't afford a Grade-A movie poster.  More like C or D.  I mean, that one Madea movie where (s)he pretends to be in The Godfather and other Hollywood classics... that's an A-/B+ movie poster in terms of graphic company production quality.  Where's the quality, people?  Where's the professional pride and grade? 
Anyway, there's one review from the esteemed "Common Sense Media."  Surprisingly, they give a positive, ethnic-friendly review.  If Mr. Ashe wants to proceed to the next project, hopefully something away from home if only for my sake... I think he's got the green light!  As long as it's cheap and under budget.  And by under budget, I mean no budget, and shot with a Canon Rebel EOS.  Get ready to max your credit card(s), dude.  As for me, well... I went to the University of Washington for two years, and you couldn't pay me enough to go to a reunion with the puds that I roomed with that first year.  The middle school and high school hadn't rubbed off quite yet, lemme tell ya.  Second year was okay, but they probably want nothing to do with me anyway.

Code breaker, Challenge Taker...

...don't you mess around with me.  Yes, despite their stoutest efforts, Tom Hanks and company come in at a distant second place with the latest installment of the Da Vinci Code... I mean, the Professor Robert Langdon series, and it's called Inferno.  Alas, Tyler Perry's latest was slightly more towering at the box office.  As for me, well... I just don't feel Catholic enough or Gospel enough for either entry, Frank Lee.
Now, I'm no computer expert, but why does everything not load anymore?  Why do I have to go to a website and hit refresh to get something to load?  And speaking of computer problems, more Hillary emails have apparently surfaced... oh right, from Anthony Weiner's wife's computer... something like that.  They also found a lot of... let's just say stuff belonging to "Carlos Danger."  All I know is, when even They Might Be Giants is against you... the band, not the 1971 movie from whence they take their name... see, the tweet says "Applications for Comey's job can be submitted starting Nov. 9".  Okay, found the way to copy the link.  If the news can do it, damn it, so should I.  Also, does anyone remember a little movie called Fair Game (2010) and the incident that it's based upon?  Anyone at all?  I know, I know... it's just pre-9/11 thinking again.  Something like that.  And really, wasn't that "Crooked Hillary"'s fault too?
The only other debut this week is something called Ae Dil Hai Mushkil... better post the link to that.  Boy, that Aishwarya Rai (Bachchan) can put da butts in da seats!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Auteur Watch - Alexander Etseyatse

Well, if the short film business doesn't pan out... it is always good to take a break from it... there's always working on the big Hollywood films, even in a smaller, less heroic capacity!  Such is the life of one Alexander Etseyatse, caught between two worlds while trying to raise a young boy by themselves, looking for new love in the meantime.  And there's always a third fallback position, I'm assuming.

Boo! A Box Office Halloween

...oh, I thought Doctor Strange was coming out this week.  That's next week.  And if it doesn't make more than $100 million its first weekend, well... the new Marvel Studios will be very disappointed.  They might question the wisdom of doing a worldwide junket.  You know, really get the word out in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
But once again, Tyler Perry's Madea proves that (s)he can take charge of the box office in a down week.  This time, because it's near Halloween and all, (s)he offers us Boo! A Madea Halloween.  I guess writing three or four shows for TV just isn't prestigious enough at times.  But just like the VeggieTales, Madea knows that taking a break for a song and a prayer helps to pad things out a lot.  I checked Boo!'s cast list to see if Perry scored any major casting coups.  You know, like Kim Kardashian in 2013's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor or Kathy Bates and Alfre Woodard in 2008's The Family That Preys. (what better way to close out the Dubya administration, am I right?)  And who can forget BOTH Stephanie Ferret and Stephanie Ferrett in Madea Gets a Job?
Anyway, on to the next.  While Madea's latest isn't exactly a sequel, seems like everything else is.  Tom Cruise is still ashamed of the now dreaded Roman numeral with Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.  Um... isn't this guy some kind of a detective?  Isn't going back kind of a big part of the detective's JOB?!!!!  Taking over directorial duties from The Usual Suspects maven Christopher McQuarrie is Cruise's pal from The Last Samurai director Edward Zwick.  I hate to say it, but no wonder this debuted only at #2.  People don't want too much sentimentality from their Jack Reacher movies.  Sure, Zwick takes on the tough subjects, but with kind of a light touch... to be fair, the brutha's not afraid to get thrown into his own police van!  That was him, right?
Our third debut (in third place, no less) is the sequel to 2014's Ouija and it's called Ouija: Origin of Evil.  I guess the dreaded Roman numeral is more scary than Ouija boards themselves... damn Gypsies.  A brief scanning of the cast and crew reveals that, well... as with Atlas Shrugged Parts 1 and 2, the casts of the two Ouija sequels seem to have no common threads.  The first one takes place apparently in photogenic present day, the sequel in 1965, just south of that new golden age of nostalgia that we all seem to be pining collectively for, the 1970s.  There's a reason that Itchy used his time machine to go to a '70s disco, you know!  No, the only common thread seems to be Michael Bay as producer.  So it's true, he really is going through the whole Hasbro product catalog... they own the Ouija board, right?  I guess 1965 is when the Ouija board first made contact with the underworld, thereby setting off the controversy that lives to this day... dayamn!  Got the Hasbro part right!
And finally, America's stoner uncle Zach Galifianakis makes another bomb, this time with Jon Hamm, who just can't get a non-"Mad Men" break in the biz.  It's tough, it's rough, I tell ya!  It's called Keeping Up with the Joneses... it's a little bit like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but the filmmakers promise it won't be spawning a new Brangelina-type thing for the tabloids!  No sir.  Actually, it might be more like The Whole Nine Yards, but really... who wants to look back that far, am I right?