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.