Saturday, December 30, 2006

Movies Made Me Smart

I'm smart.

I'm smart because I learned a lot of things from the movies. You can too if you pay close enough attention. And here's what I've learned this year.

1. Mission Impossible III taught me that if you just so happen to have a chip in your head that will blow up your brain and kill you, you can short out that chip by hooking a couple of live wires up to yourself. Of course your heart will stop, but with any luck you'll have a hot nurse there who happens to be your wife to bring you back to life.

2. Beerfest taught me that if I should ever be chugging from a boot full of beer, I must turn the boot to the side at the last minute to properly discharge the air-bubble that has built up in the toe of the boot so that beer doesn't go all over my face.

3. The Devil Wears Prada taught me that even the dumbest clothes that I wear are born from some really cool designer. So that makes me feel better.

4. The Pursuit Of Happyness taught me that if you work really hard one day you too can wear a $10,000 watch on each wrist.

5. The Good Shepherd taught me that if you want to really serve your country you should join the C.I.A. It also taught me that true happiness is having lots of friends and people you can trust. And that you cannot be in the C.I.A. and be happy.

6. Hard Candy taught me that stalking a 14 year old is a bad idea. Who knew?

7. Cars taught me that you must wait at least 10 years before you can rip off a Michael J. Fox movie.

8. Miami Vice taught me that you can shoot someone in the head at just the right place so that they die instantly and thus cannot push that detonator that they are holding in their hand as their cold-dead body falls to the ground.

9. The Descent taught me not to be friends with any extreme sports people who like to go spelunking.

10. An Inconvenient Truth taught me that we're pretty much fucked.

Calling All Black Christmas Comers

I am a father of two. And as such, I only have so much rope. And that rope ain't long enough for me to saunter into the remake of Black Christmas, not that I'm sure that I would want to. But I'm curious about it in a can't turn away from a train-wreck kind of way.

So if you've seen it, post your thoughts/reviews here. And don't skimp on the gory details. I want to live vicariously through you.

Thanks in advance.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Somebody please fix Broken Lizard

I think it was just a few minutes into Super Troopers when I discovered I had hit comedy gold. The Troopers had just busted a group of college kids for "smokin the refer" and they had them in the backseat of the squad car. One of the guys had eaten a bunch of dope and some shrooms (like my slang?) and he was licking the plastic shield separating the backseat from the front. As he was licking the plastic, he uttered a classic line from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory "the snozberries taste like snozberries." I laughed out loud and thought what a great inside joke. If you get it, you get it. And if you didn't get it, Broken Lizard didn't care. That's what I loved about these guys and this movie. It was not broad comedy and I would say it was one of the best comedies in the past decade.

I was so excited about Super Troopers and Broken Lizard. I asked myself, is this the new Monty Python or National Lampoon? Could be. Could be too early to make that call. So when I saw that Broken Lizard was coming out with another movie called Club Dread, I couldn't wait. And so I saw it. And it sucked. It had some moments of brilliance (the live Pac Man scene and the fireside sing-a-long with Paxton) but it certainly did not build on the comedy brilliance of Super Troopers.

And then Jay Chandrasekhar (one of the members of Broken Lizard) directed The Dukes Of Hazard. Ummmmmm, yeah.

And when I saw that Broken Lizard was making a movie called Beerfest, I was a bit skeptical but I thought it seemed like ample territory for them to make me laugh. So I saw it this past week. And it pretty much sucked. I'm sure if I were a Freshman in college and was about eight beers in, I would think it was comedy gold. But I'm a bit older and was sober, so the jokes were too easy and the pacing was awkward. And I couldn't help but long for another Super Troopers.

So listen up Broken Lizard. The lowbrow road is well-traveled by you. Reward us for being in on the joke. In short, work on some new material. Please.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Plot Farm 1.0

Okay, here's something I came up with last night. I give you 10 words/phrases and you put some of them/all of them together in such a way as to create a truly original movie plot. String them all together, put them in a sentence, a paragraph, whatever you want.

Who knows maybe HWood will be browsing, come across your truly original movie plot and come calling.

NOTE: Don't let the title fool you. This is not a program that I wrote last night that randomly generates plots. You have to do it yourself, you lazy asses.

Okay, here are the words/phrases.

An old timepiece
Picture Frame
Jet Plane
A piece of rope
The Caribbean
A bum leg
A Flower Shop Owner
Blond Hair

Can't wait to see what you come up with.

Michael Bay Finds His One Special Purpose

Thank you Michael Bay. Thank you for realizing that you are not a serious director. Thank you for taking your chips from the serious films card table (Pearle Harbor) and going home to do fun action movies. I know, I know Michael, it's not all your fault. Jerry was there goading you along, filling your head with all sorts of big ideas. But there's an important message here Michael and I want you to listen closely. You too Jerry. Don't equate big box office with major talent. You can shoot a car racing down an open road like nobody's business, but Jon Voight as FDR? Come on buddy.

But that's looking in the rear-view mirror Michael and I'm not about all that. Let's look to the future. And that's exactly where you are with your next movie Transformers. And judging from the trailer, it looks pretty damn good. But listen up and I want you to pinky swear on this Michael. The Island was not a hit and I'm sure a bit humbling, so if Transformers becomes some mega monster history maker, I don't want you doing some Hurricane Katrina movie. Okay? Promise?

The Most Disappointing Movies of The Year

This is the time for everyone to look back and name the best movies of the year. But I'm not going to do that. Look, you can quibble with a movie here or there, but the list will be pretty much the same if you have any taste in movies whatsoever. Your list will include The Departed and Little Children and Little Miss Sunshine and Letters from Iwo Jima and The Queen and probably Borat as well as others. And if I wanted to, I could throw in an obscure movie like Hard Candy to raise a few eyebrows and to prove my movie geekness, but I'm not going to do that. If you want the best of 2006, go here, here, or here. However, if you want the greatest disappointments of 2006, you've come to the right place.

All The King's Men Probably my greatest disappointment. What a cast. Sean Penn as a corrupt southern politician and Jude Law as the journalist who becomes his right hand man. Add to that Mark Ruffalo, Kate Winslet, Patricia Clarkson, Anthony Hopkins and you've got a movie that on the surface looks like a masterpiece. Unfortunately, the book is practically unfilmable, so the film is choppy with a narrative that's all over the place. To make up for it, Penn does a lot of yelling throughout.

The Black Dahlia Film noir written by James Elroy and directed by Brian DePalma. If ever there was a match made in heaven, this was it. This movie had all the makings of a DePalma comeback to the glory days of Body Double and Blowout. Unfortunately DePalma didn't ever grasp the story and despite having lots of DePalma signatures like spectacular death scenes and a lesbian night club scene, this movie does little to truly engage.

Cars I liked this movie about 10 years ago when it starred Michael J. Fox and was called Doc Hollywood. Let Brad Bird direct and write from now on and lets get more movies like The Incredibles.

Clerks II Poor Kevin Smith. It wasn't long ago that he was judging Cannes and making interesting movies like Chasing Amy and Dogma. With the release of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Clerks X on DVD and now Clerks II, Smith has gone to the teet one too many times.

The Da Vinci Code Actually, this is not a disappointment to me since I thought the book fell very short of the litereary praise it received. So Ron Howard couldn't polish a turd. So big deal.

Pirates Of The Carribean 2 The first was a nice surprise, but the second was too wink wink nudge nudge. As a result there's too much Depp playing the drunken sailor and not enough swashbuckling.

After Dark Horrorfest Man did I get duped by this brilliant marketing ploy. Eight horror movies received a special weekend release from After Dark because they were billed as "too graphic or disturbing for audiences." The truth was they were "too shitty and dumb to make any money which is why they didn't get a general release."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Props To Mann

FACT: Michael Mann is the best action movie director living right now. Screw Michael Bay, and James Cameron, and John McTiernan. John Woo might be an exception.

FACT: Dukes of Hazzard was a shitty movie made from a pretty bad TV show. As was Starsky and Hutch.

FACT: Miami Vice is not Dukes Of Hazzard. Or Starsky and Hutch.

When Miami Vice was released this summer, it got a bad rap. Either people didn't take it seriously because they thought it was another bad movie based on a TV show, or they didn't like it because it didn't tip its hat to the old TV show with a bunch of pastels and neon. For the record, I never watched the TV show and I don't feel like there's a big empty place in me because of it.

What makes Mann such a remarkable filmmaker is that he takes his audience for granted. He hooks you at the beginning and then knows that you will follow him where he takes you. No time is wasted in making sure that you're tracking. There are no scenes where the characters set up or rehash what you've seen. Blink and you'll miss it. It's a rare thing that a movie engages you and continues to engage you gets a general release.

Few directors today can create a scene like Mann (Scorsese and Lynch come to mind and Lumet was once the master of it). A simple meet and greet between Foxx, Ferrell and the resident baddie quickly becomes a heavy test of wills. The dialogue is fast and furious and the tension is thick. This all happens without the usual lazy Hollywood elements like music and fast editing. Mann sits back and lets the actors and writing do the work. He captures it in true stoytelling fashion without any manipulation. The tension is honest and the scene is unforgettable.

One last thing. Mann shoots the whole damn movie in video. He is able to shoot some scenes that look as rich as film while in others the footage is so raw it makes you feel like you're right there. Most directors shy away from video, Mann embraces it and plays to its strengths.

So forget Don Johnson and that other guy with three names and rent Miami Vice for a serious action film. And don't blink because you'll miss a truly great action film.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dude, I rock.

Wow, what an honor. A few weeks into this movie blog thing and already I'm receiving honors. Time's Person Of The Year. Not bad.

So what tipped the scales? Top 5 Tuesdays? My interview with Brooke? My critique of Rocky Balboa? Please return my phone calls.

Anyways, thanks. Sincerely.

Can't wait for the award show. I'm gonna get drunk.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Top 5 Tuesdays (T5T) minus some digits

Top 5 Tuesday is here again.

Today's Top 5 Tuesday category? Give me five movies where a character in the film is missing or loses a finger.*

*I will also accept entries where a character has more than five fingers.

  1. The Royal Tennenbaums Margot (Gweneth Paltrow) goes sans digit during a stint with a mountain family.
  2. Escape From New York The President (Donald Pleasence) gets the old presidential ring finger lopped off within minutes of landing in New York.
  3. The Lord Of The Rings Return Of The King Frodo (Elijah Wood) battles Gollum to the death. He loses the ring finger, but saves Middle Earth. Geeks everywhere rejoice.
  4. Phantasm Here's a movie that doesn't get thrown around many social circles. A good horror movie nonetheless. The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) meets the bad end of a large knife and loses a couple fingers in the process. Fortunately, one of those fingers turns into a giant killer fly. I'm not making this stuff up.
  5. Four Rooms In the last short of this four story series, Tarantino steals from Hitchcock and a guy loses his pinky to a meat cleaver during a bet.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Will Smith gets back his Cherry

A long time ago in 1993, a young man named Will Smith starred in a movie titled Six Degrees of Separation. He was fantastic, as was the movie. It was a serious, thoughtful role which surprised many based on his past TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He starred alongside Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing and gave a performance that said he could hold his own with the best of them.

Times were promising for the young actor. With a performance like that so early in his career, he was on the right track to be the next Denzel Washington or even, dare I say, Sidney Poitier.

But then came Michael Bay. And he said "no, no, no you're not a serious actor. You're a sassy black man who can make people laugh by saying lots of things with sassy black man attitude." So he made him a co-star in the movie Bad Boys. And Will put lots of bullets in people while saying things with lots of sassy black man attitude. And the train began to derail a little.

And then came Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich and they said "we think you're just scratching the surface with your sassy black man attitude." So they made him the star of Independence Day. And Will dated a stripper with a heart of gold and he punched an alien straight in the face and said something with a lot of sassy black man attitude and then started smoking a cigar. And the train began to derail a little more.

And then came Barry Sonnenfeld and he said "let's see if we can't take this sassy black man attitude to 11." So he made him the star of Men In Black. And there he played sassy black man to a straight white man and he punched lots of aliens while saying lots of stuff with lots of sassy black man attitude. And the train began to collapse upon itself.

Sure he was making tons of money, and sure he was entertaining. But he was one-dimensional and just showing us his fingernail as far as talent goes.

Fortunately, Michael Mann came along and he said "hey, I saw Six Degrees of Seperation and you were fantastic." And so he made him the star or stars in Ali. And he was really good. And suddenly the train wasn't looking so bad.

And now a few years later, he's getting back on track. Haven't seen The Pursuit of Happyness yet, but it seems more worthy of his chops than I, Robot.

We will see. But for now, I'm getting aboard. Nice to have you back Will.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Clint The Sneak

Marty take note.

Clint is a genius.

Two years ago, Clint came in under the radar with a small film called Million Dollar Baby. It was released December 15th. Overnight, it was a sensation garnering a slew of awards including Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards.

Guess what? He's doing it again. Letters from Iwo Jima hasn't even gotten a general release (it's due out December 20) but yet on December 6th, the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures named it best film. And on December 10th, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association named it best picture. Clint is also nominated in the best director category of the Golden Globes twice for Letters and Flags of our Fathers.

Some marketers believe that a movie needs to gain momentum before entering awards time which is why most Oscar contenders get released in October. But not Dirty Harry.

My advice to Marty is to get ahold of Clint's schedule book, find out when he's not releasing a movie and then make a run for the Oscars. Until then, it's Clint's world and we're just watching.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

This Poster Will Make You Dumb

Look at this poster, but only for a moment. Prolongued expose will lower your I.Q. because it assumes you're a complete moron.

So let's start with the title moron. The movie is titled, Because I Said So. Don't need to see the movie because the title has left no sort of intrigue whatsoever. Overbearing parent consistently inflicts strict guidelines on his/her child. Movie begins with a flashback showing the long history of the parent's overbearningness. Movie ends with everything getting out of control (maybe a wedding?) and at the point when the parent is about to lose complete control a close friend tells the parent to "just let go" and then parent learns a valuable life lesson.

In case you didn't get that from the title moron, there's always copy that reads "she's just your normal, overprotective, overbearing, over-the-top mother."

And if that didn't get you moron, then the visual will. Diane Keaton pointing a finger at Mandy Moore as if to say "you're going to do it Because I Said So." And Mandy Moore is giving a look as if to say "Ah Ma, not again."

Do you get it now moron? Good.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wes Anderson goes Commercial

Ever wonder what a two minute Wes Anderson movie would look and feel like? Turns out it's as brilliant as his full-length features. A nice commercial for American Express.

Viva Los Venture Bros

I would like to clear up some awkwardness if I could.

I watch The Venture Bros. A lot. And I love it. And as a result of loving it, I want to talk about it. A lot. The problem is, I don't know a lot of people who watch it. Do I care? No. I still talk about it and tell scenes from it and I end up laughing. Alone. And that's when the awkwardness sets in.

If you haven't seen The Venture Brothers, it's an excellent animated show spoofing the old Johnny Quest cartoons. It follows the adventures of Dr. Venture, his two sons Dean and Hank and his bodyguard Brock Samson (played brilliantly by Patrick Warburton). If you are a fan of The Tick, this is same stuff because it's created by Christopher McCulloch a.k.a. Jackson Publick.

So here's what I ask. If you get a chance, go out and buy it, or rent it (Season 2 comes out April 17, 2007). Or watch it on Adult Swim and then come back and let's chat. Because it's lonely here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Top 5 Tuesdays Goes Pantiless

In honor of Britney stepping out on the town and out of her panties, I decided that this Top 5 Tuesday should be about movies featuring movie stars without their undergarments on. So here it goes. There are lots out there, so I would love to hear from you all. Or as Britney would say it, ya'll.

  1. SHORTCUTS My favorite by far. Julianne Moore goes sans underwear and reserves a place in my heart forever.
  2. BASIC INSTINCT Too easy, but it has a place here.
  3. NO WAY OUT To be fair to the women folk, Kevin Costner has a scene in here where you see his butt.
  4. SLIVER Wow, Sharon Stone again? I mean, I can't believe that such a respectable actress could actually have two entries in this category. Believe it.
  5. BORAT Again, for the ladies. Borat (Sasha Baron Cohen) has quite a chunk of screen time without dem boxers. Fortunately for the dudes, there's a censor bar. A rather large censor bar.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Superman Vs. Batman

I finished watching Superman Returns on DVD and the whole time I'm watching it, I couldn't help but compare it to Batman Begins. Both were a redo of sorts. Batman had been pissed down the tubes thanks to Joel Schumacher (why that guy is still making movies, I'll never know). The same could be said for Superman. Christopher Reeve wrote Superman IV and got a bit carried away with things.

This time Bryan Singer directed the new Superman. Not sure why Singer has been pigeonholed as the comic book director. The Usual Suspects was brilliant and the first and second X-Men showed promise but didn't quite hit the mark. This time back Superman is much more serious. And thoughtful. The problem is that he's too familiar. The new elements of this movie are better special effects and Spacey as Luthor and then everything else is memory lane.

Once again, Lois Lane (this time played by Kate Bosworth) is head over heels for Superman. And he is for her. Most of the movie seems to be centered around Superman saving Lois from one snafu or another.

Once again, Lex Luthor has a sinister plan again (this time to create an island that would eventually destroy the United States and kill billions).

Once again Luthor's assistant (Kitty played mildly by Parker Posey) had know idea of Luthor's plan and does what she can to sidetrack it.

And once again, Luthor taunts Superman with Kryptonite rendering him helpless.

I have to admit, I loved the scene where Superman floats above the world and listens intently to hear where he is needed next. This felt like new territory and answers the age-old question where does Superman hang out when he's not saving the world? But everything else felt like Superman 1 all over again.

Batman Begins on the other hand went in all new directions. Christopher Nolan seems an unlikely director for this and at first I worried that Batman could go the way of Ang Lee's The Hulk. Thankfully it didn't. Quite the opposite. Nolan uses new eyes on the franchise and finally captures the fear and rage that drives Batman (a main element that Burton seemed to forget). At the beginning of the film, Nolan shoots Batman much like someone would shoot a horror movie. We hear bumps and we see shadows. Batman is a fricking scary mother and should be treated as such. More importantly, Nolan shows us the man behind the mask. There was a scene early on when Christian Bale gets out of bed and we see bruises all over his body. No one had caught this before. That this was a man who could be hurt. And was hurt. It was a 10 second scene but it said boatloads about the character. And if Nolan can make the Scarecrow a good villain everything else is cake.

So while I can't wait for Dark Knight (Batman 2), I can wait for Superman: The Man of Steel (Superman 6?).

Batman 1

Superman 0

Pop Quiz Hot Shot

Just found this while searching blogland.

It's a movie quiz usings office items. I'm a sucker for this stuff. Test your knowledge and then submit it for fabulous prizes.

Nancy Meyers completes the trifecta of Poo

Wow. I never thought Nancy Meyers could have pulled it off, but she did. Three movies in a row that really suck.

First there was What Women Want, a fake look at what goes on when an incredibly shallow man suddenly discovers what women are thinking a la an accident involving a blow-dryer dropped in the bathtub. Most people would have just died, but not Mad Max. If you think it's funny watching Mad Max wax his legs over and over again, even though he knows how bad it hurts, then this is the movie for you.

Then came Something's Gotta Give. Again, we get to see another super shallow man (Nicholson) turn himself around with the help of a woman. The characters are so unreal and so loathsome, my wife was asking me to turn off the DVD player 20 minutes in.

And now here comes The Holiday. Haven't seen it, but judging by the reviews here, here, here, here and here, I think I'll pass.

But what that means is that Nancy Meyers has made shitty three times in a row. And she's pulled down some pretty big people in the process. Nicholson, Keaton, Winslet, Law and Jack Black (who if he were playing his character from High Fidelity would no doubt refer to this movie as "sentimental crap.") No matter, I'm sure it will hit all the numbers it's supposed to and she'll get even bigger stars next time.

And when that happens, we can celebrate the quad of crap she has created. Can't wait.

Friday, December 8, 2006

All I want for Christmas

I'm a simple man. I don't ask for a lot. I just want a few things. And here they are, in no particular order of importance.

1. I would like to see Mad Max stop remaking Braveheart (ultra-violent movies disguised as a meaningful film i.e. Passion Of The Christ and Apocalypto) and start making more Mad Max movies. Or even a remake of that piece of shit Beyond Thunderdome. But keep Master Blaster.

2. Please, please, please don't turn the TV show Three's Company into a movie. I think that's the only bad TV show left to not become a bad movie.

3. It would be nice to see Marty get his Oscar.

4. I want John Carpenter to go back to making John Carpenter movies. We need another far-fetched imaginative Escape from New York, a paranoid effects bonanza like The Thing, or a creepfest like Halloween or The Fog.

5. I would like Scarlett Johansson to do a really nice nude scene. Perhaps with another woman.

6. It would be nice to see Roadhouse get the credit it deserves. That being as one of the greatest action movies of all time.

7. I would put Sweet Tarts back on the menu in movie theatres. Man, I love those things.

8. I would like to see Francis Coppola stop making wine and start making brilliant movies again.

9. To burn the negative of the movie The Grinch. And Titanic.

10. I would bring back John Belushi.

A letter from the Academy

Dear Mr. Scorsese,

Can we call you Martin?

How are you?

Hope the holidays find you well. I bet you're wondering why we've written. Well we would like to apologize. It seems we've kind of screwed you in the past in the "best director" category. If it were just for Raging Bull, that would be one thing, but for Goodfellas too. That's pretty unforgivable. Who watches Dances with Wolves anymore? Our bad. But hey, this is Hollywood. Forgive and forget right?

The good news is that you've dumped the period pieces and gotten back to your roots with gangster movies. The Departed is a mighty fine movie. Di Caprio seems at home, and Nicholson is... Nicholson. Sure it's a remake, but it's a good one.

Anywho, the best director category is wide open this year and we were thinking maybe just maybe. Don't hold us to it, but baring some actor turned director in the category, you should do just fine. Oops, we forgot Clint Eastwood is up for Flags of our Fathers. Well, good luck.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Monday, December 4, 2006

Grindhouse - An homage to John Carpenter?


Grindhouse, a movie collaboration by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez is due out sometime in 2007. On the surface, it's a B-Movie exploitation flick, but dig a little deeper and I think you'll find that it's a direct tribute to John Carpenter, the master of horror himself.

Case in point.

Point A. Look up Robert Rodriguez' bio and it reads "of all the people to be amazed by the images of John Carpenter's 1981 sci-fi parable Escape from New York none were as captivated as the 12-year-old Tejano boy who sat with his friends in a crowded cinema." Allow me to simplify if you got hung up on the word "Tejano." Robert Rodriguez is making movies because of John Carpenter. The guy made him want to make movies.

Point B. Death Proof (one of the two stories featured in Grindhouse and directed by Quentin Tarantino) is about a serial killer who uses a car instead of knife or a gun to kill his victims. Sounds a little like a movie we've seen before. Could it be Christine? Directed by none other than John Carpenter? And the serial killer in the movie is played by Kurt Russell who was also the star in... wait for it... Escape from New York.

Point C. John Carpenter is writing the score for Grindhouse.

It's nice to see the master get his props. Even if his last movie was Ghosts of Mars.