12.17.2003

Trailers Galore
In case you missed it, the Spider-Man 2 trailer is up and running, featuring Doctor Octopus in action and looking good. To my chagrin, the spot opens up with the number one problem I had from the first Spider-Man: Pete's denial of his desires for MJ. As I've said before, I'd sooner believe someone can walk on walls than blow off the person they've been "in love" with for years. But that's just me, and I am clearly insane.

Also, for fans of Pitch Black, Vin Diesel's underrated sci-fi horror extravaganza (that might be giving too much credit -- let's just say "film". Better.), here's the trailer for the sequel: The Chronicles of Riddick.

12.12.2003

Evil. Time. Suckage.
Thanks to Jaquandor, I've lowered my already record-low Friday productivity with this. Pfeh! I've earned it!
Brilliant!
Over the past couple weeks I've heard some positive word-of-mouth reviews for a movie called Gothika, while the critical reviews have been overwhelmingly harsh. Could this mean this is a film destined to be cult status, or (more likely) this film boondocks? Frankly, I don't know because (DISCLAIMER) I haven't seen it, so perhaps one day when it's on Oxygen I'll watch it.

In case you haven't heard, Gothika is a starring vehicle for the okay-looking Halle Berry in a psychological thriller. Walter Chaw, of FilmFreakCentral.com, wrote a predictably funny and scathing review of the film, in which he notes:
    "The guilty parties are obvious from the first frame on, and just the number of times Miranda [Berry] is referred to as "brilliant" should cause the least observant to cock an eyebrow."

Needless to say, Walter's a pretty astute guy. I recalled that line while biking to work today (Yes, it's 35 degrees out. Yes, I wear shorts. Yes, I hate public transportation and particularly traffic.), and it got me to thinking: How does one become a 'brilliant' psychologist? How does one establish that in film without just refering to it as fact? For instance, in your opening introductory scene for a movie with a 'brilliant' detective, you would show him (or her) being tremendously clever and of course unorthodox in solving some prologatory crime (contest! how many movies can you name in which this pattern is followed?). But how would this be established for a psychologist? Perhaps the following, in flashback:
    FADE TO:
    EXTERIOR: PRISON
    Drisly rain falls over a grey, foreboding penitentiary. Lightning and thunder.
    INTERIOR: INTERROGATION ROOM
    Halle, er, Miranda is sitting in a room with two colleagues, across from Charles Manson. She is questioning him.
    CHARLEY: ... So they I told them to whackity-whack-whack away.
    MIRANDA: It is my clinical opinion that you are insane.
    COLLEAGUE #1: Brilliant!
    COLLEAGUE #2: (thoughtfully, hand stroking chin) Hmmm....

And there you go, one scenario. But before that could happen, someone had to plot the character out. For that, you have to turn to your put-upon union-grade screenwriter. Here's a likely scene for the idea germination:
    FADE TO:
    EXTERIOR: STUDIO LOT
    Drisly rain falls over a grey, foreboding executives building. Lightning and thunder.
    INTERIOR: CONFERENCE ROOM -- STUDIO LOT
    Two studio heads are reviewing projects. A screenwriter (we'll call him 'Kelly') for Gothika is present.
    STUDIO HEAD #1: So what else do you have going on?
    STUDIO HEAD #2: Well, we just got Oscar-winner Halle Berry to star as a --
    STUDIO HEAD #1: Brilliant!
    STUDIO HEAD #2: -- psychologist in a new film.
    HACK SCREENWRITER: (thoughtfully, hand stroking chin) Hmmm....

That's probably the case, but with such new Oscar-caliber star power, it's also possible that Halle used some creative control to foist her ideas on the poor hack screenwriter (again, Kelly). In that event, here is a dramatization of the most likely (scored a 93% probability) way in which Halle's idea about the psychologist came to fruition:
    FADE TO:
    EXTERIOR: MANSION
    Drisly rain falls over a grey, foreboding mansion. Lightning and thunder.
    INTERIOR: LIVING ROOM
    Halle (dressed in underwear only, natch) is feeding her goldfish (Mr. Snookums).
    HALLE: Now Mr. Snookums, I'm putting in a little extra food in case I get home late from the script meeting.
    MR. SNOOKUMS: (thinking: Brilliant!)
    HALLE: (thoughtfully, hand stroking chin) Hmmm....

Of course, Ms. Berry doesn't strike me as someone who would ever be typecast as a 'brilliant' anything, so hopefully this will be a rare instance of shoehorning unwarranted adjectives into a character. But unlikely.

12.11.2003

Movie Anti-Recommendation
Although this is sure to inspire the rage and baffling indignance of some readers, I'm going to post the most negative review ever of the most deserving film ever, that being (of course), Boondock Saints.

I just recently added my review to Amazon.com, but where to begin with the ways in which this film was disappointing? Here it is:
    This movie was highly recommended to me by no less than 3 friends of mine as "incredible" and one of their favorites of all time. Sadly, my respect for their opinions has plummeted; this film was a cliche from start to finish, with tired 'comedic' scenes, copycat action, and questionable themes. It felt like a film that couldn't figure out whether it wanted to be some kind of a moral statement (regarding the tacked on man-in-the-street comments in the end -- vomit) or a 'Lock Stock' ripoff. In short, this film was so notoriously bad that it has made it into my casual speak for awful (e.g., "Rate it from Boondock to 10", or "That Boondocks"). It is just shocking how this film is like fire to the pseudo-intelligencia flies. On the upside: I now ask a new person what they thought of the film as my instant gauge to their mental acuity.

I guess it boils down to my reaction to intelligent people doing illogical things. I believe that people are genetically predisposed to do and think different things. While culture and education and upbringing are shaping factors, your foundation will generally incline you towards a certain view. That realization made it possible for me to accept people of different political affiliations without feeling the pointless need to 'convert' them. Likewise, I'm trying to accept those with religious zeal in their blood, but it's rather difficult since most (that I've encountered) religious types aren't well-read (one could say that ignorance is essential for religion) or aware of the false-hoods they've been taught, so it is hard to have a leveled discussion about faith with the faithful. But I am trying. Where am I going with this? Boondock Saints has made it into the three things you should never talk about (along with politics and religion) in a bar because I just cannot fathom how someone smart could like and admire this film, and it pains me to see people like that falling into the pit of boondock.

I found this additional review on Amazon.com, which speaks to the content of the film. I agree with every word. Now go out and rent it and burn your copy.
    "The positive reaction to this film can only be called absurd. The only thing worse than the poor acting and childish dialogue is the serious lack of any character development. In order to make the point that the desire for justice leads logically to outrage, which leads logically to viglilantism, the director/writer would need to build an identification between viewer and the 3 main protagonists. One of these figures--Rocko--is so moronic and out of control that there can be no such identification unless you are moronic and out of control. The two Irish brothers are supposed to seem deeper, presumably because they speak several foreign languages, but really they are the same sort of hyper-testosterone bar slime they become so enraged at throughout the film. A film that tries to confront violence/crime without contextualizing it, is racist in terms of its stereotyping of Irish, Italians, and Russians, and also classist (drug addicts deserve wrath and punishment? How about the corporate crooks and politicians that make drug addicts?) If you have two hours to kill and would like to ponder the moral dilemmas causes by an inadequate justice system, consider reading Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Boondock Saints is childish psuedo-philosophy geared toward 15 year olds (the ignorant ones) who lack the ability to contextualize historically both crime and the mechanisms currently in place for dealing with it."

12.09.2003

East Coast Earthquake
I don't feel a damn thing.

However, I did catch the first installment of the Sci-Fi Channel's new mini-series, Battlestar Galactica, and I was surprised how involving it was. This sexed-up, drama-injected, impressive looking update on the 70's short-lived TV series was an unexpected Monday evening alternative (to sleeping). Now on to the all-too short conclusion tonight. The storyline is written as a four-hour pilot, and if part two holds up, it practically demands a prime-time series.

That had nothing to do with the earthquake.

12.06.2003

Top Twenty Favorite Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen

I had deliberated for the past couple days a lengthy response or commentary based on Jaquandor’s Ten Hated Movies List, as I (naturally) have issue with most of his list. Briefly, our longstanding debate over The Usual Suspects and our ideas of what constitutes ‘lame’ won’t be aligned as we get older any more than they were in our youth. Suffice it to say, I was prepared to lambaste his explanations, but I thought it better to contribute to the positive well-being of the universe by providing a list of movies you should see as opposed to ones you should not because of some general mental defect of the blogger (score!). Many of you know that it is not normally in my nature to do good (or anti-evil), so I figured I should take advantage of the inexplicable momentum.

There are many lists out there of great films that everyone knows. Through my own limited experience, the following list represents my favorite films that, when spoken of in casual conversation with the average joe, bring blank stares or shrugs (and in return receive my patented ‘aghast look of condescension’). In order to prevent my already numbingly-high egotistical nature from spiraling out of control, I suggest checking out the following somewhat-obscure gems before our next encounter (or “Here’s some films I like and I think you’d like too!”):

1. Sleep With Me. Not a porn, but a funny, biting, and wickedly insightful looking into a young marriage complicated by an obsessed best friend. Featuring a virtual who’s-who of 90’s independent film stars (e.g., Meg Tilly, Eric Stoltz, Parker Posey, William Gibson, Craig Sheffer, Joey Lauren Adams) and the famous Quentin Tarantino monologue concerning Top Gun as a metaphor for homosexuality, a lock recommendation for any occasion.
2. My Favorite Year. Peter O’Toole won a richly deserved Best Supporting Oscar for his turn as a drunken movie star struggling with his own demons. His poignant and hilarious performance makes this the only comedy I bawl my eyes out for at the end.
3. Dark City. Alex Proyas (of The Crow) creates one of the most unique science-fiction tales ever, which was clearly an influence on The Matrix. Featuring great performances all around (from Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, William Hurt, and a then-unknown but holy-crap-radiant Jennifer Connelly), this is a film that gets benefits from repeat viewings to catch the nuanced performances. Roger Ebert liked it so much that he did a insightful DVD-commentary track for the film (to my knowledge, he's only done one other, for Casablanca).
4. Secretary. Word of mouth has gotten this film more recognition than the others on the list, but it still remains a largely underground favorite. Not a movie to watch with your parents (at least not mine); I’ve only watched it with one person and that was a great night. My original review of it is here.
5. Way of the Gun. After writing The Usual Suspects, Chris McQuarrie’s directorial debut took the underworld crime genre (in which cops are rarely seen or ineffectual) and did away with the clich├ęs (and Jaquandor's much-hated 'tricks'), making a smart, witty (if only for the opening scene) and original film.
6. Zero Effect. Bill Pullman and Ben Stiller star in the quirky private detective mystery that deserves a goddam sequel more than Lara Croft. Pullman’s Daryl Zero is one of the best characters ever, whip-smart, incisive, and the worst singer-songwriter of our generation.
7. Manchurian Candidate. Although a classic, I haven’t encountered many who have seen this twisting brainwash drama. Frank Sinatra is wonderful as one of the former GI’s who discover their memories and behavior aren’t all their own. One of the best endings ever.
8. The Limey. Another movie with a great ending, Steven Soderberg’s revenge flick features great performances from Terence Stamp and Peter Fonda. Involving and, dare I sound repetitive, poignant. I could actually name several more Soderberg movies on this list (Out of Sight and Sex, Lies and Videotape in particular), but that would be selfish.
9. Dragonslayer. My favorite fantasy film ever. Dark, tense, and thrilling coming-of-age story of a reluctant wizard-in-training (Peter MacNicol, years before he over-quirked on “Ally McBeal”) who must slay the dragon before the king’s men slay him.
10. The Quick and the Dead. Sam Raimi’s wild, stylish, and entertaining western, featuring a dream cast (then unknowns Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, Gene Hackman, Keith David, Lance Henriksen, Sharon Stone, and of course Bruce Campbell) and great cinematography. The movie looks like Sam had a great time filming it, and the feeling translates through the screen to the audience.
11. The Big Red One. Lee Marvin and Mark Hamill together in a World War II movie? Believe it, and believe that this movie had the definitive D-Day scene before Saving Private Ryan rolled around. Sports one of the greatest film-ironic moments ever, where Mark Hamill’s GI character (he’s excellent in the film, BTW) confronts a German soldier in a concentration camp (i.e., Luke Skywalker confronting real evil) and pumps bullet after bullet into his body with a mad gleam in his eye.
12. Miller’s Crossing. Gabriel Byrne is quotable and dynamic as Tom Hagen, the too-smart-for-his-own-good anti-hero who plays both sides in the 30’s era gangster drama. Don’t get hysterical.
13. Captain Blood. The film that put Errol Flynn on the map and set the mark for pirate action-adventures not equaled, in my humble opinion, until Johnny Depp put a fun and indelible spin on it in Pirates of the Caribbean.
14. Hard Boiled. John Woo made the best action movie ever in Hong Kong. Plenty of explosions, double-gun fights, drama, and Chow Yun-Fat at the top of his game as the cop named Tequila. That should tell you enough.
15. Donnie Darko. Weird, cool, touching, confusing, and a great science fiction tale. Jena Malone steals the pic with a heartfelt performance as Donnie’s paramour.
16. Lone Star. Slow, deliberate and involving mystery on a bordertown, as only John Sayles could film.
17. Other People’s Money. I keep going back to this film time and again for its clever Wall Street story of love and money and playing games with both. The two speeches delivered by (RIP) Gregory Peck and Danny Devito at a tense stockholder’s meeting at the end are brilliant.
18. The Shadow. A guilty pleasure, Alec Baldwin stars as the titular hero, a reformed evil-doer whose penance is fighting crime. At times both campy and menacing.
19. Before Sunrise. The ultimate generation X talkie, with Ethan Hawke and a radiant Julie Delpy as potential lovers roaming around Vienna talking about anything and everything in their one day together. Incredibly charming, witty, and genuine.
20. Lawrence of Arabia. Everyone’s aware of the film but so few have actually taken the time to view this beautiful film. Peter O’Toole’s amazing debut performance as Lawrence is a breathtaking study of a man slowly going mad.

Honorable mention: Mumford. Subtle, funny romantic comedy-drama about a relocated man who wanders into a small town, adopts the town name (Mumford) as his own and practices psychiatry. His unothodox methods are popular and successful with the townfolk, ironically because he has no psychiatric degree to speak of.

These are my “obscure” favorites. I’m always on the lookout for undiscovered movie greats, so if you have any, let me know. Good night.

PS. This list was originally going to be only five in number, but I got carried away. Is that vanity?

12.05.2003

That's the sound of inevitability
It was bound to happen sooner or later. I just didn't figure it would happen so close to home in such a high-profile case. It appears that Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the two DC sniper 'suspects', has an unhealthy obsession with The Matrix, and he apparently sees himself as Neo. Looney toon. Unfortunately, this will likely influence some over-protective censorship idiot to blame the film for their murderous killing spree. With the deadheaded backlash toward the recent films, just you watch.

12.04.2003

Christmas PC Wishes
I suppose it was bound to happen sometime, but for children in a New Zealand town, there'll be no sitting on Santa's knee this year. Billed as a precaution against future lawsuits (someone has obviously pre-screened the movie "Bad Santa"), it's sure to boost holiday cheer.

Of course, as you may well know, I'm not a fan of Christmas, but isn't this a little ridiculous? How does one explain the concept to a child who has been engaged in the tradition previously? "Well, Kelly, this year our town council is trying to prevent temptation to overcome Santa should he want more than your wishes." Charming.

This goes up there with the new, hip Buddy Jesus. Now that's a god I can party (or par-tay) with and get absolved in the morning when we're both hung over.

12.01.2003

Not that good
To quote a Giants fan, the Eagles are not that good, but somehow good enough to have won 7 in a row, including at Lambeau and in Carolina. Yeah, right. This team is as good as it gets right now.

Although I think McNabb should have sat at least a game or two when his throwing hand was injured (the source of most of his interceptions, and we do have two backup quarterbacks who were a combined 5-1 last year), he's steadied and become more consistent, and is downplaying his own role while emphasizing team play.

The Eagles are a more complete team than anyone else, which is most evident in this startling statistic: This was the seventh straight game the Eagles have given up 100 or more yards on the ground, the last four having a single back achieving the 100-yard mark alone. Well, maybe not startling, but for all the talk about having to run the ball to win games, the Eagles are apparently good enough to win even if other teams play by this old rule. If I had a nickel for every time Jaquandor harped about running the ball... well, I'd probably have $1.10.