Friday, May 30, 2008

Baghead Trailer

This trailer scares the shit out of me for reasons previously stated.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Longing For The Lines!

When Iron Man first opened, I took my son and his friend to a Saturday 5:30 showing. We had a soccer game that afternoon, so the plan was that we would rush home, change clothes and then head to the movie theater and arrive around 4:45. With any luck, the line wouldn't be too long and we would still get good seats. As we arrived at the AMC Theater 24, I noticed the lack of hustle and bustle in front of the building. I ran over to will-call to receive my pre-paid movie tickets in anticipation of an early sell-out. It was 4:45 on the nose as we walked into the lobby of the theater. I was fully prepared to witness a line that went on for miles. And yet, there was nothing. Walking into that empty, line-less lobby was like Fast Eddy walking into a closed pool hall. It was embarrassing as hell and pretty damn heart-breaking. A bad sign of the times.

We took our time getting our sodas and our popcorn, then we found the exact seat we were looking for and plopped ourselves down with plenty of seats on either side of us. I apologized to my son and his friend for being there so early. And as we saw the same looped commercial for a local eye-care center for the third time, I apologized again. And as we finished our soda and popcorn before the movie ever began, I apologized yet again.

Growing up, part of my summer blockbuster experience was waiting in long lines. Lines across malls. Lines around the block. Lines blocking major intersections. Making small talk with my friends about the awesomeness that awaited us. Leaving two or three hours before a movie even started, anticipating the lines. Oh, those glorious lines. A line meant the movie was awesome, even if it wasn't. A line meant the city was alive. Something was happening and people were lining up to get a gander. Getting through that line was a badge of honor. Sitting in the corner seat in the first row was still great because you had earned the right to be there because you had stood in line and the aching feet were your scars to prove it. The truth is, the mega-plex is to blame. Gone are the days of the one or two screen theaters. Of movies playing once every 2 hours rather than once every 15 minutes. If there is a single theater, it usually plays independent movies, or $3 second run movies. Suburbs are filled with the 12 and 24 and 32 screen theaters and the downtown theater is just a faint memory.

Of course the studios love it because that means more screenings per day which means more money in the pocket. A release on thousands of screens is something to brag about in the halls of Hollywood. And yes for most, it's better. For those who don't see movies as something to plan evenings around, all of this is convenient. But if part of your criteria for seeing a movie is convenience, than I'm sure there are 45 copies of whatever just came out available at a Blockbuster near you. But that ain't me.

To me, movies should be an event. Something to talk about the next day. Something to plan for. Some might argue that there are no lines because there are no good movies anymore, but I'm not buying that. Iron Man was a good movie. A great summer blockbuster. One that I sure as hell would have waited in line for, had there been one. Man, I miss those lines.

For more movie nostalgia, check out Where Were You When and Kansas City's 1973 Cinema.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Top 5 Tuesdays (T5T) Roots For The Bad Guys

Bad guys. Hissssssssss. Booooooooooo. Hisssssssssss. The badder they are the gooder they are. Boooooooooo. Hisssssssssss. And when they get their comeuppance, it's awesome because you hated them so much because they were such good bad guys. Booooooooo. Hissssssssssssss. Immortalize them even more by listing them in this weeks Top 5 Tuesdays. Give me your top 5 best bad guys. Here are mine. Hisssssss.

1. Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate Puppeteers don't come any nastier than this. And I always thought she was a nice old detective from Murder, She Wrote.

2. Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber in Die Hard You can change your accent Hans, but you still got those snakey scales.

3. Glen Close as Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil in Dangerous Liasons So very glorious in her awfulness. I was angry for a week when she didn't receive the Oscar for her performance.

4. Colin Friels as Louis Strack Jr. in Darkman What an asshole. I hate this asshole. The way he talks. The way he looks. I can't stand this asshole.

5. Gene Hackman as Little Bill Daggett in Unforgiven Is there any better character actor than Gene Hackman? He is always good at playing his characters on the cold side. But there is no one colder than Little Bill.

Honorable Mentions: Ben Kingsley Sexy Beast, Lawrence Olivier Marathon Man, Ralph Fiennes Schindler's List, Kevin Spacey Seven, The Grinch The Grinch Who Stole Christmans.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's Over Indy

May we always go out on top. May we always stay ahead of the curve. May we never have to listen to our audience tell us when it's time to stop.

When Michael Jordan came back to play basketball, was it for the love of the game? When George Foreman came back to fight again, was it out of sheer passion? When the Eagles go on their twenty-fifth "When Hell Freezes Over" tour is it because they love the music that much? Or is it for money? For ego? Is it possible that ego and love can go hand in hand? There's nothing more depressing than when someone tries to come back and remind you how magical it was when they were around, yet demonstrate to you why they left in the first place. Damn you Indy, you had it all. And you blew it. As we left the theater that was playing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull this weekend, my ten year old looked at me and said "they just don't make movies like they used to, do they?" I'm not sure if he knew what he was saying, but damn it was profound.

I have to admit I was skeptical walking in to see this final(?) installment. I didn't feel that all of this was necessary. I mean, why can't Lucas and Spielberg work together on another great movie character and release that? Why do they have to revisit this well again? Well they did, and from the moment the movie opened, it felt more like "self-reflection" than "on with the show." It's my feeling that if you're going to give us one more, than by God, give us one more. Give us a great story, filled with great villains and great fights sequences. Don't give me the first few minutes of Indy talking with a character I've never seen before about past adventures. And don't give me a villain that I would rather fuck than fight. And don't give me a sword fight on the hoods of jeeps that harkens back to Return Of The Jedi. And please, please, please whatever you do, don't give me Shia LaBeouf as the sidekick. Ultimately this fourth installment was nothing more than a long string of one-ups. Everything trying to be better than it was before. Better action sequences. Better fighting. Better scenery. Better adventure. You know, like every other sequel we've ever seen. Damian of Windmills Of My Mind, recently wrote a good piece about the parallels between Indiana Jones and James Bond. There's no doubt that there would be no Indy without James. And if Lucas and Spielberg would have brushed up on their James Bond cinema a bit more they would have realized what almost killed the Bond franchise is one-upmanship. A desire to make everything better except the script. In the midst of all these one-ups, all I did was long for the original.

So what we're left with is a bunch of old has-been trying to relive the glory days. I usually relish cases such as these because it's usually ego that drives these things and I rarely enjoy ego. But unfortunately I didn't laugh here. I like Indy too much. What I did was cover my eyes, because I was no longer watching a great serial that kept me wanting more, instead I was watching a bad sequel that made me want to shut off the lights to signify that the party was over.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wait! Here's an idea. Let's take what looks to be one of the worst presidents in history and make a movie about him. And let's start making it while he's still in office. High-fives all around, everyone.

Seriously, can't we let this guy just go away? Hasn't George W. Bush taken up enough of our time and energy? No matter the message, Oliver Stone's W will do nothing more than position George W. Bush as someone who was interesting enough to make a movie about. And he's not. Let the history put Bush in his place, not Oliver Stone.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A friend sent this to me because he knows of my deep, deep love of Michael Bay.

Is There Anything Geekier Than A Centaur

Allow me to give you a little Piper background.

I played Dungeons & Dragons growing up. I collected figures and multiple-sided dice. In short, I was geeky. But I loved the game and the images it created in my head of characters and different worlds and oh my God, there I go again... being geeky. I can't help it. A 12th level Paladin with a 24 dexterity, and somebody please stop me before I kill again!!!! I enjoyed that time and there's no doubt in the world that it helped me with my creativity, but I'm all grows up now and have placed it neatly up on a shelf as one would with a nicely painted Minotaur figurine.

So the family and I went to go see Prince Caspian, the latest installment in the Narnia Chronicles. I have enjoyed the books and because of my Dungeons & Dragons background, I have always enjoyed stories involving alternate worlds where Goblins lurk and giant buffalo creatures roam the earth on two legs with gigantic double-sided axes. When I talk of the Rings Trilogy, I still get some eye-rolls from friends saying they don't really dig fantasy movies. And to me, describing The Lord Of The Rings as a fantasy trilogy isn't doing it much justice. It's just a really good batch of movies. Dress up the bad guys how you like, but these were classic good versus evil movies. And when I defend or just discuss the Rings Trilogy, I do it unabashedly. Without guilt or fear of judgment. I don't make excuses for it saying "well, you have to like fantasy movies." You just have to like well-made movies on an epic scale. When the trilogy came out, the parallels between it and 9/11 were uncanny. And let me say that I hate drawing parallels such as this, but it was unavoidable and is a testament to the timelessness of these stories. There will always be good and there will always be some big fucking monster trying to kill all that is good.

Prince Caspian is not very good as a stand-alone movie and as the second installment in a franchise it's even worse. What makes the Rings Trilogy so good is the reason why Prince Caspian fails. The story could not transcend the mythical lands or the creatures. About halfway through the movie, the Narnians have lost a major battle and had to retreat. There's a quick exchange of glances between a couple Centaurs. The male centaur looks at the female centaur as if to say "things didn't go well." With this news, the female centaur begins to cry and all I could think was "man Centaurs are geeky looking." Like something an anti-social kid in early Jr. High might be drawing on his notebook instead of listening in his Math class. A special "character" in his imaginary world that he dreams about every single night. It's like a Liger in that it's a combination of two un-geeky things that when combined together becomes the pinnacle of geekiness. In the Rings Trilogy, you could dress the characters up as you like. They could be Hobbits or Wizards or gigantic trees, but they were still human in how they were presented in the movie. The Centaur scene was supposed to be emotional as two stoic man/horses delivered reams of dialogue in a single look and the result was pure hokiness. Not a human story, but just a geeks dream come to life on the big screen.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Top 5 Tuesdays (T5T) Loves The Ford

Indy is back and it's good to see him even if we have to speak a little louder this time. I kid, I kid. Indiana Jones is just one of the great characters Harrison Ford has played. And just one good performance among many.

So give me your Top 5 Harrison Ford performances. Here are mine.

1. Allie Fox
Mosquito Coast

2. Rick Deckard
Blade Runner

3. Colonel Lucas
Apocalypse Now

4. Han Solo
The Empire Strikes Back

5. Tommy Lillard
The Frisco Kid

Monday, May 19, 2008

Why I Won't Burn My Entire Scorsese Movie Collection Just Yet

Watch the commercial and then read my commentary.

Shortly after I witnessed the public whoring of Scorsese in the Frexinet Sparkling Wines commecial, I saw another commercial in which he starred and suddenly all things were right in the world again. The commercial was for AT&T, and the message was "please be courteous and turn off your cell phones during the movie." I'm of the camp that doesn't mind commercials before movies if they are truly entertaining. And this one was. The acting is perfect from all three characters and the commercial lets Scorsese do his fast-talking, frantic thing and the result feels spontaneous - as it should. It's really something to think that this commercial was shot several times and directed pretty tightly, yet Scorsese's performance feels in the moment. Looks like my Scorsese movie collection will survive after all.

Why I Will Burn My Entire Scorsese Movie Collection

Watch the commercial and then read my commentary.

I saw this commercial last week in New York at an advertising award show. It was featured as one of the best commercials of last year. As I watched it, I was in complete awe because of what I thought it was doing - and that is trying to promote film preservation. The commercial is about how Scorsese possesses three and a half pages of an unfinished Hitchcock script. The idea up front is that instead of preserving films that have already been made, Scorsese is going to preserve this script by shooting it the way Hitchcock would. As an idea for film preservation, it's incredible. As I watched the spot, my mind was blowing because I thought this was the greatest idea ever. Not for one second did I think that this commercial was not 100% legit. Well, look at me. The guy who's in the biz and who should know better getting played like a sucker. The spot wasn't for film preservation. It was for Freixenet Sparkling Wines. Goddamn sparkling wines. The kind of shit that my 90 year old aunt drinks because it's "yummy." Directed and acted by one of our greatest directors ever. To me, this commercial represents all that is ugly with advertising. Not having an ounce of respect for anything as long as it helps peddle a product. It makes a mockery of film preservation and makes a whore of Scorsese.

As an homage to Hitchcock, this commercial is great fun, drawing on classic framing, camera movements and musical scores. As a progressive idea for film preservation, this commercial is fantastic, really taking a new approach to highlight how important film preservation can be. As a commercial for frickin sparkling wine as shot by Martin Scorsese, it sucks. Most of the blame falls squarely on Scorsese here because he knew what he was signing up for. There are plenty of bad ideas out there and what keeps the good people respectable is their ability to pick and choose and to stay far, far away from the stinkers. This was a terrible mistake on behalf of Scorsese and honestly it's soiled me a bit on the guy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Cerebral Mastication is hosting the Indiana Jones Blog-A-Thon going on now.

Too Many Projects Film Club is hosting a Production Design Blog-A-Thon beginning tomorrow.

And don't forget the Dad's In Media Blog-A-Thon going on at Strange Culture June 12-15.

Feel The Excitement Ride Up On You.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bags On Heads = Scary

The new trailer for The Strangers (due out May 30th) dug into the old scary bag and pulled out the tried and true white bag over the head trick. Probably had some potatoes in it, or some nice oranges. They dumped that crap on the ground, cut out eye holes, placed it over someone's head and voila... instant terror. My four year old daughter could place a white bag over her head and say "I love you Daddy" only for me to fall to the floor in a puddle of my own piss, stricken with horror - that's how scary it is.

Sure it's been done before, but when you've stumbled onto a guaranteed scare like this you gotta pass that shit around, right? You know what, I think I'm going to go into the patent office and trademark the white bag over head idea. Every time it's used, I rake in millions and millions of dollars, all the while in a cold sweat, laying in a pile of my own feces because I'm so damn scared (notice my bodily function obsession I seem to have today). I'm talking all white bags. And pillow cases. And white paper sacks as well. This is my formal declaration that I'm trademarking this stuff. I'll get it in right before The Strangers breaks and the piles of money will come flooding.

Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981) The trailblazer for me really. I'm sure there have been white bags on heads before, but this is the earliest I remember. It's a little crude, but give Jason a frickin' break, he drowned and now he's possessed by the devil. Do you really think he gives two shits what he looks like when he's splitting you down the middle with a machete?

Malevolence (2004) This movie is an homage to the horror movies of the 70's and 80's so it's no surprise they brought out the white bag on the head for this. There's nothing funny to say about this because the damn movie is so scary and if I said anything funny about it, the movie might get mad and come after me so I'm not saying shit.

Resident Evil 4 (2005) Watching a spooky dude with a bag on his head in a movie is scary. Watching that dude come at you with a chainsaw trying to cut off your head is really fucking scary.

The Orphanage (2007) This is more like a gunny sack and oh look it's got some make-up on it and rosy cheeks and isn't that cute. I mean, holy fucking shit run for your lives!!!!!

The Strangers (2008) That bag on that guy's head is tight. And by tight, I mean sweet. All form fitted and shit. The seams are showing, but that's stylish. You could stroll the town in that bag and maybe pick up a couple of ladies that have a fetish for bags on the heads and by the way, what kind of freaky ladies would be into that kind of shit and keep me the hell away from them please.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mark Them Calendars. It's Bizarro Time.


It is Bizarro Piper.

You all suck which is why I hate you and don't want you to participate in the upcoming Bizarro Blog-A-Thon 2, June 23-25. Last year's participation was terrible and I would hate it if even less of you participated this year.

If you don't remember the rules here they are: up is down, right is wrong, white is black and Norbit fucking rocks. Write up movies you hate like they're the best ever. Write about movie stars you love, like you can't stand them.

Feel free to e-mail me if you want a reminder.


Bad Bye

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What Say You: Old Heroes

I love movie trailers. Most people complain about them and say how there are getting to be more and more these days. I say there aren't enough. I would probably throw down good money to see two hours worth of trailers. I'm straight up crazy that way. I live literally 3 minutes away from an AMC gazillion-plex. I wish it were some smaller, older theater but I'm not going to complain. The wife likes to leave about 5 minutes before a movie is to begin. I myself don't like to cut it that close. The wife always says "we're only missing trailers, it will be fine." Now this is a woman who knows full well how I feel about trailers, and yet... AND YET... she still says that, digging the blade so deep in my heart. Good Lord, where am I and what am I talking about?

Okay, so I go to see Iron Man in its first weekend and the wife isn't with me which means I get there nice and early so I can catch all the trailers. Among the trailers is one for the new Indiana Jones movie. It's a good trailer and the movie looks to be entertaining enough. But damn Harrison Ford looks old. Not cool old like Sean Connery, just old old. He's not really that old, but he just looks old in this role. And so that begs the question, is The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull doing damage to not only the franchise, but to faithful audiences in general? There's a reason Superman never gets old, and it has less to do with his planet and more to do with the fact that people don't like to watch their heroes go gray. For me it's not a vanity thing, it's a fact that we're witnessing the magic wearing off. Like a really nice potion that turns that beautiful woman that you've been dating for a few months into a 90 year old woman right before your eyes. It hurts. Indiana Jones is all about movie magic. It is an homage to the serial movies of old. So why break that mold with this late installment? An entire age group could give a damn about an older Indy, but not me. To me, it's a reminder that we're all mere mortals, even Indiana Jones. But that's just me. Is the new Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull really that big of deal, or just good clean fun.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Top 5 Tuesdays (T5T) Gets Shitfaced!

First things first. It seems that the old Top 5 Tuesdays is now an award winning weekly feature. I just received a LAMMY at the first ever annual awards show just a few days ago for Best Running Feature. So if you were hoping this little baby might go away, think again. I'm going to ride its award winning coattails for a long time. Thanks to everyone who voted for it.

To celebrate, let's raise a couple (or five) to the best drunks in movies.

Acting drunk doesn't seem like it would be that hard. Stumble around, slur your words, maybe get in a fight and then piss yourself. No problem. There are some who do it justice in movies and then there's John Cusack in The Sure Thing (worst drunk ever!). We've gathered today to honor those who make it seem so real you'd swear they were really drunk. And maybe they were.

Give me your Top 5 Best Drunks in movies. Here are mine.

1. Bluto Blutarsky (John Belushi) in Animal House "Christ. Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well join the fucking Peace Corps."

2. Arthur Bach (Dudley Moore) in Arthur "Where's the other half of this moose?"

3. Terry Ann Wolfmeyer (Joan Allen) in The Upside Of Anger "Yeah, what the hell. I'm going after the mother of the year award."

4. Bob & Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) in Strange Brew "If I didn't have puke breath, I'd kiss you."

5. Gary Wallace (Anthony Michael Hall) in Weird Science "Well, my nuts are halfway up my ass, but other than that, I'm perfect!"

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Lovable Loser

I saw Jason Segal's junk a lot in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Okay, I just had to get that out of the way so we can move on. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is an uneven comedy albeit a charming one because it's got something going for it. And that is Jason Segal, the lovable loser. When you think about it, the lovable loser is a hard role to fill.

Handsome but with love handles.
Most likely to have played Dungeons & Dragons or the like earlier in life.
Socially awkward in situations making him stand-offish.
Honesty will outweigh coolness in all situations.

Probably not the most likable guy, but you like him anyway because he's the most realistic. The kind of person you identify with because there's an honesty there. There's a scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall where Peter (Jason Segal) is working up the gumption to jump off a cliff into the ocean. While attempting to do so, he trips on some ground covering, sliding down only a bit and hanging on to the cliff for dear life. If he lets go, he will hit the rocks and he probably doesn't have the strength to climb back up. Oh, and let's not forget that the very hot Rachel (Mila Kunis) is at the bottom witnessing all this. I watched this scene and said "that's me" and I'm sure I'm not the only one. To me that was a much more honest scene than the naked one at the beginning of the movie that everyone writes about.

I had all but given up on the lovable loser until this movie. Seth Rogan plays a recent one in Knocked Up, although I was not as big a fan of this movie as most were and I actually prefer Seth as a crazy cop or kinky electronics employee. To me, the epitome of the perfect lovable loser is Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) in Say Anything. The ghetto blaster outside Diane's window is cheesy as hell but damn it's honest.

I'm actually surprised we don't see more of these guys. While we may root for the geeks in movies like Revenge Of The Nerds and Weird Science, we know that we're setting aside reality in doing so. And even more so when we root for the hunks like Mathew McConaughey and Patrick Dempsey. But with the lovable loser, we're rooting for more than just a character in a movie. We're rooting for ourselves.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Credit Mayhem 2

Panic Room

The tone that the credits set: Distant and creepy. There's something very ominous about the type against the large buildings. The enormity of the settings and the type coupled with the ominous score is unsettling. One wonders if there was flowery music underneath, how that would change the feeling of these opening credits. Rank: 9

Do the credits help tell the story: No and there isn't really any reason to. It's a simple story and the title gives away a lot already. I suppose if Fincher wanted to he could have featured renderings of the security measures taken when creating a panic room, but then he might risk copying from himself. Rank: 7

The technique used: Ornate type is placed alongside giant buildings in Manhattan, as if the type is part of the buildings themselves. It's simple and striking. Rank: 9

Is it style over substance (does the technique get in the way of delivering the credits): The cuts area bit too fast at times and the perspective of the type at times may limit the readability but I doubt either of these matter on the big screen which this was designed for. Rank: 8

Overall Ranking: 8.25

The Shining

The tone that the credits set: There's dread in these mountains. No doubt that Kubrick lays it on thick and he starts early with the credits. The tone is not set with the credits so much as the opening score. It tells the viewer that nothing is safe. Even beautiful mountain views. Rank: 8

Do the credits help tell the story: Kind of. The credits run over the opening action as Jack and the family drive the winding roads on the way to The Overlook Hotel. Rank: 7

The technique used: The credits run more as closing credits, scrolling down through the screen rather than fading in and out. There's a no-nonsense approach to these credits as if Kubrick wants to get them out of the way, yet they are very memorable. Rank: 8

Is it style over substance: Hardly. While the shots are striking, they don't take away from the credits and the credits are big and bold and right there for everyone to see. Rank: 8

Overall Ranking: 7.75

To Kill A Mockingbird

The tone that the credits set: Innocent and playful, like a child introducing you to his room. The camera highlights different things within the cigar box as if each one represented a peak behind a new curtain. Rank: 9

Do the credits help tell the story: A little. The entire movie is told from the perspective of Scout, so it helps that the movie begins to set that premise through random objects that Scout has collected. Rank: 8

The technique used: Beautiful cinematography. When looking at it today, the photography is brilliant, so when you think that this was shot over 40 years ago, it makes it that much more beautiful. Rank: 10

Is it style over substance (does the technique get in the way of delivering the credits): No. The entire sequence is graceful, slowly fading in-between shots and the simple white credits fit in nicely with that. Rank: 8

Overall Ranking: 8.75

My Best Friends Wedding

The tone that the credits set: There was a time when you kind of knew what to expect with a Julia Roberts movie. It was rather formulaic and on the surface this movie proves to be just another predictable outing. But the truth is, this is a different movie. A strangely quirky one that's a lot of fun along the way. These credits are along those line. Fun and different. Rank: 8

Do the credits help tell the story: A little bit. The song tells the viewer that when you find a man you love, you have to hold on to him and show him that you care. That tips the hat to the story of My Best Friend's Wedding being that Julia Roberts wants to tell her best friend Dermot Mulroney that she is in love with him. Rank: 7

The technique used: Live performance, is that a technique? I would say yes. Otherwise, the type is a fun yellow script against a pink background - which is to say that it's nothing terribly special. But the live performance takes it up a couple of notches. Rank: 8

Is it style over substance: The credits could suffer a bit due to the singing grabbing all the attention, but I would say that mostly that the credits and performance compliment eachother quite nicely. Rank: 8

Overall Ranking: 7.75

Dawn Of The Dead

The tone that the credits set: At first scary and then somewhat ironic when Cash chimes in with "When The Man Comes Around." Great song, but it lets the audience off the hook. To me Snyder should have gone with straight fright here. Rank: 7

Do the credits help tell the story: Yes, with random cuts of news stories and rabid zombies, the credits help tell the story of the outbreak and the mystery surrounding it. It's a nice placement as well, introducing the credits right after the opening scene where all hell begins to break loose. Rank: 10

The technique used: Random shots of chaos on video provides the background which is interesting, but nothing really new. The type treatment on the other hand is excellent. The titles appear on screen and then scatter from the screen as if alive. It's a nice reinforcement that what we're dealing with here is a really nasty epidemic. Rank: 10

Is it style over substance (does the technique get in the way of delivering the credits): It's a little ADD with all the cuts, but the technique used to deliver the type keeps your attention focused where it needs to be. Rank: 8

Overall Ranking: 8.75

Catch Me If You Can

The tone that the credits set: Intriguing fun. The structure of these credits is not unlike the opening to a Pink Panther movie, yet it's not as playful. There's still a sense that danger lurks somewhere and that more is at stake. Rank: 9

Do the credits help tell the story: Not really, but they help tell the general premise of the story which is the cat and mouse pursuit between DiCaprio and Hanks. Rank: 8

The technique used: Simple animation that is at once progressive and then an homage past credit sequences. Spielberg is a lover of films and it shows in these credits. Rank: 10

Is it style over substance: To me this is the perfect balance of style and substance. The animation is intriguing and the introduction of each credit is seamless within the animation. It's like witnessing a perfect machine. Everything works as it should and it moves forward. Rank: 10

Overall Ranking: 9.25

Twin Peaks

The tone that the credits set: These credits make me want to take a nap, which is exactly what Lynch and Frost were going for. But Badalamenti's score suggests that somethings a miss, which it is. What's you're left with is a sleepy town that's creeping with miles and miles of bad road. Rank: 8

Do the credits help tell the story: Yes. They help set up the town in which everything takes place. The shots of the lumber yard and the blades being sharpened is almost comical in its monotony which is very much the tone of the show. If I could make a suggestion, I would ask for more shots of the sleepy town. Rank: 8

The technique used: No technique here and no need for it. Rank: 8

Is it style over substance (does the technique get in the way of delivering the credits): No fear of saw blades being sharpened overtaking green type on the screen. Especially after repeat viewing every week. Rank: 8

Overall Ranking: 8

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Is It British? Turn It Up!

So the wife and I decide to watch Death At A Funeral the other night. I start the movie off and about three minutes into it I realize what I always realize every single time I watch a British movie. That I can't hear a single goddamn word they're saying. Everything sounds like it's played through a thick wool sock that's been deep fried and had duct tape placed over it. Am I alone on this? So I have the volume cranked up so I can hear it, but then the soundtrack kicks in and suddenly it's blaring so then I get the dirty look from the wife like I'm suddenly 80 years old so I turn down the volume. Then the talking happens again and I'm worried I might miss a joke (this is because unlike American comedy, the British don't announce the joke, tell the joke and then remind you that you just heard a joke) so I turn the volume back up.

And so it goes throughout the evening. Volume up so I can hear it until music or sound effects kick in and the walls shake then I get the dirty look from the wife so I fumble for the remote control to turn down the volume until the talking begins again and I can't hear so I grab the DVD remote to rewind the movie to make sure I haven't missed anything then I find the TV remote to turn up the volume and then proceed all over again. It's a vicious circle really and I'm pretty exhausted when it's all said and done. Needless to say the movie better be pretty damn good because, you know, I've put in the effort. It's like an expensive meal on a date. I better get a little something at the end to make it all worth while. Unfortunately Death At A Funeral was not worth while. I had a couple of friends tell me it was hilarious. That it was their new favorite movie. That it shouldn't be missed. And there I sat with remote controls in both hands and I waited for jokes to happen that never did. The best way I can describe Death At A Funeral is that it's like a very unfunny Seinfeld episode and honestly, that might be giving it too much credit. One of the main characters takes a pill that he thinks is a Valium but it's really Extacy, and so he acts like an idiot the rest of the movie. And not a funny idiot. More like an annoying idiot who makes you role your eyes every time he comes on screen. He says how green everything looks, grabs at some things that aren't there, and then he gets naked. And that's supposed to be funny, which it might be if it were playing Friday night at the Shady Grove Retirement Village. It's sad really because the character I'm mentioning is played by Alan Tudyk who I like very much and thought he was really good in the TV show Firefly. The movie is one series of misunderstanding after another with a couple of snafus mixed in for fun, or un-fun as it turns out.

I was told by my friend that her husband laughed really hard at one part which is strange because he's a pretty dry guy who rarely laughs out loud much. So I spent the entire movie waiting for that scene or string of scenes that were going to make me laugh, hoping that my incessant remote controlling would not be all for not. Did I mention there's a midget in the movie? He's played by Peter Dinklage. Yep, non-stop hilarity.

I guess I'm not surprised by all this. The movie was directed by Frank Oz who has been missing rather largely lately with The Stepford Wives and In & Out which was a complete disaster. Some will say so was Bowfinger and I might join them in saying that. I will say that with a couple of solid jokes and some more charming Michael Caine-like talent, Death At A Funeral could have been Dirty Rotten Scoundrels good which is to say that it wasn't a terribly funny movie, but at least it was a pleasant experience. But instead, I just got hand cramps with all the remote control action and I probably advanced my unavoidable carpal tunnel surgery by a couple of years. Damn.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Top 5 Tuesdays (T5T) Celebrates The Disaster

Ah, the disaster film. Gotta love it! Wait, I mean holy shit, the disaster film. Run for your lives! Here comes an epidemic that came from a meteor which caused a tidal wave that is setting off earthquakes and volcanoes all over.

Give me your top 5 disaster films. Here are mine in no particular order.

1. Twister I watch it every year at this time. Makes me want to go out and chase down tornadoes, but then my wife slaps me and I come to my senses.

2. The Birds Hitchcock made us afraid of birds. I'm still wondering how he did that.

3. 12 Monkeys Airborne diseases scare me. And so does a red-headed David Morse.

4. 28 Days Later A great concept about a very real premise. I'm still waiting for a movie to document what it's like during an outbreak on a large scale.

5. The Day After I don't remember a lot of this, but I remember it scaring the hell out of me. So I've included it here because nuclear war scares me and I know that I'm not alone on this.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Friends Don't Let Friends Dance The Dance Of The Angry

This entry is for the Invitation To The Dance Blog-a-Thon going on over at Ferdy On Films. Won't you join in the fun?

When movie characters break out in dance, it's usually out of joy. By definition, dance means to leap or skip about excitedly. They get caught up in emotion and break into song and then the toes start tapping. It's a bit awkward really when you think about it, but there probably is no greater show of elation than the dance.

And then there are the trailblazers, Those who dance not on behalf of happiness, but on behalf of anger. These people use the dance as some sort of punching bag to get out their aggressions. Had a hard day at the office? "Honey, don't bother me for the next 30 minutes, I'm going to be in the basement dancing angry." And that trailblazer is none other than Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) the straight up fox from Footloose. As awkward as spontaneous joyful dance might be, angry dance is even more so. Honestly, I would have rather watched Kevin Bacon set fire to a small village than to watch his feet pound in synch with a bad 80's keyboard. But that's what happens when you love dance this much. You dance for joy and you dance so you don't punch somebody square in the face.

Damn I'm pissed. I have to work out some teen angst here. If I don't get un-pissed I might do something drastic. Like dance.

Stupid Preacher. He's got a hot daughter, but he makes me mad because he says I can't dance. But I'll show him...

How do you like those moves Mr. Preacher Man? I'm dancing. But not dancing for joy. I'm Angry Dancing.

Hey hot daughter of Mr. Preacher Man. You're hot and I can have you so I'm not sure why you make me mad, but I'm angry dancing so chances are even stuff that makes me feel good will piss me off. So I'll show you...

How about a twist. And a hop and a skip. And I'm so pissed I might sway. Oh, there I go. I'm swaying. That's how angry I am. I'm swaying.

Stupid Mr. Cop Man. Mr. Pig! You think you know me because I'm a teenager and you know all teenagers, but you don't know me, man. I'm an Angry Dancer and don't make me mad because I might just do a little Jitter Bug right her in front of you. In the meantime, let me show you a couple of moves...

How do you like this? I'm so angry I'm dancing up against backlit silo walls. That's how angry you've made me. Remember, you made me do this Mr. Cop Man.

Stupid Druggie Teenager. You think drugs make me feel good? No way. Dancing makes me feel good. But not when I'm mad. When I'm mad I Angry Dance and you don't want to be around when that happens. But you've made me mad with your drug ways and... uh oh now look what's gonna happen...

I'm going to skip in front of backlit silo walls. There's corn and seed and shit floating around and I'm dancing around with it because that's how angry you've made me. You wanted to make me feel good Mr. Dope Man, but instead you've angered my inner dancing beast and now it just wants to hop and skip about.

Who Wants To Dance?

Marilyn at Ferdy on Films is hosting the blog-a-thon Invitation to the Dance.

Get over there are start tap, tap, tapping.

I will be posting shortly.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Super Hero Risky Business

About 30 minutes into Iron Man a couple of nagging questions popped into the old noggin. First question: who the hell would have guessed that Jon Favreau could have pulled off this movie? And when I say he pulled it off, I mean he did more than stand behind the camera and let the special effects drive the movie. Truth is, he could have phoned this baby in. When Fantastic Four makes enough to warrant a sequel, you know you've got a recipe for success in a comic book movie. Instead, Favreau gave us more. He gave us a great movie that just so happens to have a super hero in it. And damn it was a fun ride. One that you absolutely must experience.

We're seeing an evolution of the comic book movie my friends, brought on by directors like Sam Raimi and Christopher Nolan and now Favreau. Gone are the days of passing these off as high-priced popcorn. I suppose if they gave the reins to the likes of Michael Bay and Bret Ratner (which they did of course with X-Men 3), then that's about as far as we would get. Fortunately there's someone out there who had the insight to listen to the ludicrous idea of Jon Favreau delivering a big budget comic book movie. And who is that guy with all that insight? Or gal? Please buy them a drink from me and send me the bill. They deserve it. Okay, back to my questions.

The second question I had was who the hell would have thought that Robert Downey Jr. would have made an excellent main character in a comic book movie? I remember when the original Batman came out and Michael Keaton was cast. It was an interesting choice but honestly I didn't really see a good marriage there. I think Keaton was cast more for his lips than anything else. And everybody hooted and hollered about Jack Nicholson as the Joker, but really who didn't see that coming? It's not like you were casting against type there. But Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark? His flamboyance was perfect and probably a no-brainer, but he also had the depth to make the convincing transformation from war monger to super hero. Of course there are lots of people out there that can pull that off, but not many that can have so much fun with it.

It's hard to believe that amidst all the dreck that comes out, especially during the Summer, that there are still people out there in Hollywood taking risks. And not just little itty bitty risks. But big, huge risks. Favreau, while a very lovable character in movies and on TV, doesn't exactly have a bankable track record. The reception of his first movie Made was mixed, and Zathura never found its audience. Elf was a hit, but it was hardly the paved road on the way to "hey, I can deliver a big budget summer movie."

One hopes that these risks amount to something other than huge pay raises and bigger offices for the the person(s) involved. One would hope that Hollywood might perk up its ears and take note. Afterall, this isn't the first time that major risks have paid off. Look at Peter Jackson and the trilogy that made Robert Shaye the money whore he is today. Or Sam Raimi with Spiderman? Or all the way back to Tim Burton with Batman? It would be nice to see some of these risks translate to other areas of movie making that maybe don't need hundreds of millions of dollars or a super hero attached. It would be nice to think that movies such as Zodiac and There Will Be Blood are more the norm than the exception in any particular year. Jeez, wouldn't that be weird. To think that it's not the little independent features that could drive better films, but the big super hero movies instead. It is Hollywood after all, and stranger things have happened.

Friday, May 2, 2008

What Say You: Paul Rudd's Career

I have yet to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but I have been told several times (and read it even more) that Paul Rudd's five minute performance in the movie is perfect. And if not perfect, it's at least hilarious. A friend who was telling me about his performance asked herself out loud "when will Rudd ever get a lead in a movie." Like a lightning bolt I was there asking her to never ever wish something so horrible on the man. I would say that Paul Rudd (Over Her Dead Body not included in this statement) has managed his career damn near perfect thus far. The precision he has used in his movie choices should make the greatest surgeon in the world jealous. With smaller parts, he never risks over-exposure. He could star in 10 movies in a year and wouldn't feel like he's all over the place. Plus if one stinks, not many people would know. Except they don't really stink. The smallest parts, Rudd makes larger than life. And this all goes without saying that he has made himself the unofficial fifth Beetle in three of the hottest comedy troupes today - that being Apatow, Ferrel and The State with relatively no comedy background to speak of.

I think to give Paul Rudd leading man status now would only damage him in the long run. And honestly I don't know that he has it in him. And trust me, that's no slam against the guy. Paul Rudd seems best when he is bringing some personality to a larger ensemble. But that's just me. Should Paul Rudd have his name in big shiny lights, or should he just keep on truckin' with what he's already doing.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Credit Mayhem Part 1

On the surface opening credits are nothing more than a vehicle to deliver the mandatory information. With a straight delivery of credits the only excitement that can be drummed up is from the action going on behind the credits (if there is any at all) or from the names themselves. Still there are some movies who choose to make more of a statement in the opening credits. To use the credits as an opportunity to set a tone for the entire movie. To me, not dressing up the opening credits is like going to a party without a really cool hat. Sure no one will notice if you don't wear the cool hat, but if you were to wear the really cool hat, people would say that it's a nice addition.

There are lots of great credit sequences out there and I've only highlighted a few. This is not meant to be a "best of" just a random sampling. I will judge these opening credits as all opening credits should be judged: The tone that the credits set, do the credits help tell a story, the technique used, and is it style over substance (does the technique get in the way of delivering the credits).

North By Northwest

The tone that the credits set: From the moment that the lines are drawn and Bernard Hermann's fantastic score kicks in, you get the feeling that this movie is going to move at a frantic pace. And North By Northwest delivers. Rank: 8

Do the credits help tell the story: While the credits definitely help set the tone, they don't really fold into the story. But in their defense, I will say that they don't need to. North By Northwest's strength is in its ability to throw you into the middle of the story. So while the credits may not give any backstory, they do their job perfectly. Rank 7

The technique used: The opening is simple enough with bright colors and architectural-like renderings, but as the credits go on, the lines give way to a live-action skyscraper. What's interesting in the presentation is that the type retains the same perspective as the building giving the illusion that the credits are actually appearing on the side of a building. I wasn't alive in 1959, but I have to believe that technique was pretty damn advanced for the time and it's still impressive today. Rank 9

Is it style over substance (does the technique get in the way of delivering the credits): Not one bit. The frantic-ness of the music and design and the the perspective of the type never takes away from the presentation of the credits. Rank 9

Overall Ranking: 8.25


The tone that the credits set: This is kind of an odd selection because these opening credits actually come at the end of the film so it's hard to say that they help set a tone for the film. What I will say is that these credits compliment the comic book-like violence that filled the movie. Rank: 9

Do the credits help tell the story: No doubt everyone went to see 300 because of non-stop killing and these credits help tell the story of a series of great battles with lots and lots of blood. Rank: 8

The technique used: What appears to be layers and layers of different silhouetted stills. The technique is very now and in the moment. As a milestone for technology, I think this is very good, but as an example for the ages, I don't believe so. Rank: 8

Is it style over substance: I feel sorry for the people listed in these credits because they will be lost to splattering blood and non-stop camera moves. Rank: 5

Overall Ranking: 7.5


The tone that the credits set: Evil, that's the tone. Random images flash on and off the screen and scenes go in and out of focus. The entire sequence is shot like some kind of illegal film that you shouldn't be seeing. I remember seeing these credits and wanting to leave the theater because I didn't believe I was mentally prepared for what lay before me. Rank: 10

Do the credits help tell the story: Once you've seen the film, the credits make perfect sense in giving us shades of the diabolical killer at the center of the movie. Rank: 9

The technique used: As with most of Fincher's work, these credits are a nice melding of new and old techniques. You never feel as if you're watching something that was born from a computer although it may have been. It feels as if it were shot by an amateur in the basement somewhere and the titles were literally scratched into the film. Rank: 9

Is it style over substance: Not at all. The credits work seamlessly with the overall design yet they don't blend in so well that you don't pay attention to them. The flicker technique also helps to bring attention to them. Overall, this is a nice execution that works well with the film and also stands alone as just a really creepy Nine Inch Nails video. Rank: 9

Overall Ranking: 9.25


The tone that the credits set: The flyby technique used to present each credit seems somewhat random, but it flows nicely with the opening car scene. The truth is, the opening scene that's sandwiched in these credits is so powerful you could shoot kids handwriting on a kitchen table and that would suffice. Instead, they gave an interesting treatment to credits without making them so interesting as to take away from the opening. Rank: 7

Do the credits help tell the story: The credits bookend the opening vignette that ends with Henry Hill's famous line "as far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a gangster." That vignette in a nutshell is mob life and the credits do their job by providing some space before and after to give that scene the weight it needs. So I would say that while the credits are somewhat straightforward, they help in setting up the movie. Rank: 7

The technique used: A Scorsese film will always err on the more classic side as these credits do. There's nothing flashy about them, but they have always stuck with me. I like the moving technique and for some reason or another it seems to work with the entire film. The credits zooming through the screen makes sense. Rank: 9

Is it style over substance: The general presentation of the credits does not take away anything, however I can't say the same for the opening scene. After multiple viewings, the opening doesn't seem as shocking as it once did which gives you ample time to take in the credits. But upon viewing for the first time, my guess is that the entire second part of the credits were lost on most of the audience. Rank: 8

Overall Ranking: 7.75

The Naked Gun

The tone that the credits set: Get ready for ridiculous fun. That's the tone that's set. And let me just say I'm embarrassed that I just wrote the phrase ridiculous fun. Rank: 9

Do the credits help tell the story: As far as comedy goes, there's not a deep story here to tell so the answer is no. But for this type of movie, you're not really looking for the credits to do much. The fact that they are a funny bit in and of themselves is a real treat. Rank: 7

The technique used: No doubt a small hood with a police siren on top is attached to the camera. Nothing fancy, but there's no need for fancy when you've got a good solid idea - which this is. Rank: 10

Is it style over substance: Not terribly. The credits are front and center. I will say with the environments constantly changing, the credits seem more like a nuisance than anything which is probably a bad thing. Rank: 8

Overall Ranking: 8.5


The tone that the credits set: It's hard to tell on this. Let's say I were to go back and kill the brain cells that remember Halloween and this opening and I were to see it again and had no preconceived notion of this movie, would I think that this opening credit sequence was spooky? Good question. But since I do know what I know I will say that there's creepiness in simplicity. Never before and possibly never again will a simple jack-o-lantern be so terrifying. Of course the music helps a lot. Rank: 9

Do the credits help tell the story: No real story to tell here. It's more important to set expectations with atmosphere which is exactly what this does. Rank: 7

The technique used: A simple push in on a jack-o-lantern. Very simple and very effective. Rank: 8

Is it style over substance: Absolutely not. The tone is set but it takes nothing away from the big and bold credits that run on the right side of the screen. Rank: 9

Overall Ranking: 8.25

Want more Mayhem? Check out Chase Mayhem, Fight Mayhem Part 1, Monologue Mayhem and Montage Mayhem.