Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ten Reasons You Need To Go Out And See "Death Race".

1. Because even though Paul W.S. Anderson managed to make two bad "Alien Vs. Predator" movies, the fact remains that homeboy directed "Mortal Kombat". If we give him our money, maybe we'll see more of the Highlander as Raiden and Sub-Zero being frozen and killed. Especially the latter. I don't care if it didn't make sense, that shit was awesome.

2. Jason Statham is ripped as hell. Seriously. That dude could use me as dental floss. And then claim all the women in my family with a single brooding gaze.

3. All the navigators, "bused in from the female prison", look like models. Not one of them has a mullet or a moustache thicker than any I could grow. Therefore, this is the best fantasy flick since the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

4. A guy gets killed by the side of a moving car. I'm pretty sure it was by the door of the car. I really don't have some cute punchline for this one. That's just really, really metal.

5. For all the video games that have been (poorly) turned into films over the years, this is the first film that truly needs to become a video game. There are level-up pads on the racetrack, one-dimensional prison badasses and even introductory shots of said badasses that look like "Character Select" screens. I would play the shit out of this game, even if it'd basically be "Twisted Metal Black" without the scary-ass clown.

6. Hearing acclaimed, award-winning actors swear profusely and for no valid reason is always fun. When Morgan Freeman did it in "Wanted", I cheered. When Joan Allen drops "cocksucker" in this, I achieved enlightenment.

7. At one point, Statham stops his car mid-race to snap a white supremacist's neck. Now, as much as I hate neo-Nazis, if I'm in something called the Death Race, I'm staying in my armor-plated car. I wouldn't be trying to tempt the guys who have machine guns strapped to their hoods.

8. Relating to my last point, if my navigator looked like Natalie Martinez, I'd never leave the damn car. Especially if I was Jason Statham. We'd have the greatest children ever. They'd be gorgeous and able to survive a mile-high fall from a helicopter.

9. There's a guy named Pachinko. I don't remember which one he was or what his car looked like or anything else. I just remember that he made me think of this, which bought true joy back into my life.

10. What else do you have to see this weekend? "Babylon A.D." should only be viewed when the version that Fox didn't ruin comes to light (review of that one coming Monday), and the weekend's other new release is "Disaster Movie". God kills a kitten for every ticket sold for "Disaster Movie". Think of the kittens.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Movie Trailer: Blood Night

In honor of my favorite movie genre, I am putting this trailer up. Blood Night: the story of Mary Hatchett.

I am looking forward to this.

This is an independent feature starring Nate Dushku, Bill Moseley, Danielle Harris and Samantha Facchi. Directed and written by Frank Sabatella

For more on the movie visit or

WTF?!: Facebook movie

I'm finding more and more things to write about in the pseudo-column of mine. Which is a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is that this becomes a more regular column. The bad thing is that Hollywood is going down the shitter more every day.

College kids and high schoolers alike love Facebook. It lets us network with classmates, but mostly stalk those that we find attractive. So what better to do then make a movie about it?! Aaron Sorkin, responsible for the hit television series The West Wing and the screenplay for A Few Good Men, has decided to use his literary talents to write a screenplay about the creation of Facebook through it's inventors. It's like the American dream. Guy eats a bunch of Dorito's and creates one of the biggest social networking websites around. Hell, even Tom on MySpace went to film school! Maybe he can make a movie about MySpace if the Facebook venture goes well. Sorkin has created a Facebook page to let it's users help in the process, so that he can better understand the website. There are articles detailing this all over the internet, but I found The Onion's coverage to be the most accurate and entertaining.

WTF world, why must you make me lose faith in this industry....

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Review: Hamlet 2

"Hamlet 2" caused me to feel a sentiment towards it that I've never felt towards a movie before: I felt like I had seen it all before, but I didn't see this as a bad thing in any way. The film is like a strange amalgamation of the inspirational teacher movie, the struggling artist movie and the dysfunctional class of students movie, all thrown together by the writer of "Team America: World Police", which in case you forgot is the movie that prominently featured puppets boning in every position imaginable. Based on the above sentence, you probably now have a pretty good idea of just what you're in for.

The center of "Hamlet 2" is Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan), a failed actor who refuses to accept failure. What makes his character so interesting is that unlike most characters in this vein (the struggling actor who refuses to admit he's not talented), Marschz is fully and completely aware that he's not all that talented. He's so stubbornly attached to his dream that his lack of talent is merely a trifle. He works at a high school for free to share his love of drama; this love is shared with two suck-up students and a class full of Latino students who are totally indifferent and only joined the class because it was the only arts elective left. His arch-enemy is a tiny boy who viciously criticizes his stage adaptations of works of art like "Erin Brockovich". At home, he's no better off. His wife (Catherine Keener) can't be near him without sarcastically criticizing his work and his inability to impregnate her.

When he is told that the drama program is being shut down, he desperately puts together "Hamlet 2", a sequel to the Shakespearean play that involves a time machine, Hillary Clinton, Einstein and Jesus. Also, lightsabers. The moment the town finds out about this, Marschz is thrown out of school, and all of a sudden Tuscon, Arizona becomes a hotbed for the free speech vs. smut debate.

While the film seems to be attempting to make a larger point about free expression, it surrounds itself in a great deal of cliches. Occasionally, it notices this, and there's a hilarious scene, such as when Marschz tells a student to punch him after watching "Dangerous Minds" and deciding to engage in tough-love teaching. More often, though, it collapses under its own weight. Coogan does the best he can with the writing, and manages to make even the most overplayed of jokes (Oh no, the fool got his hand stuck in a door!) funny. Even more so than in "Tropic Thunder", Coogan shows here the sort of devilish wit and willingness to revel in his own indignity that made him so popular abroad. Despite his performance (and that of a game Elisabeth Shue, who trashes her own borderline-forgotten career for some knowing laughs), there are too many easy jokes (the girl who keeps getting hit in the head with random objects) and random moments of after-school-special sentimentality that'd seem more at home in "Dead Poets Society" than in an R-rated comedy.

While we're on the subject, it's been a while since I've felt this about a movie, but it needs to be said: Given some of the content in play here, "Hamlet 2" actually isn't R-rated enough. When a film ends with a song-and-dance number entitled "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus", complete with the Messiah doing a moonwalk across water, the film has to keep up. It feels like the shocking final performance of "Hamlet 2", by far the funniest part of the film, is a third-act stretch to add shock value to a movie that seems like it should've had more of it building to that point. The film is more or less a screwball comedy (albeit a profane one) up until that point, and then it veers wildly into satirical territory. The problem is, when it hits this point, it's actually not offensive enough to be considered intelligent in the way that the "South Park" film is. It's just...well, it's just kind of there.

"Hamlet 2" isn't really a bad movie, but it feels like, with a few exceptions, both a mockery and a collage of movies I've seen before. This isn't a bad thing, and Coogan alone makes it worth watching, but it's nothing hugely special. Then again, maybe I'm just desensitized by the fact that the past month has bought us a work of madcap genius ("Pineapple Express") and a film that did the filthy-funny satire bit better ("Tropic Thunder"), and there was no room for a "Hamlet 2".

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Review: In Search of a Midnight Kiss

I've done nothing but watch movies for the past week, but as a result, I've been slacking in my blogging duties. Starting today, however, I have a glut of material to work with. I figured I'd start with a little indie movie that I only heard about through the Landmark Theatres website, and that might just be one of my favorite films of the year so far.

"In Search of a Midnight Kiss" is the story of Wilson (Scoot McNairy), a screenwriter who moved to Hollywood with starry eyes and a screenplay that'd help him make it big. Soon after arriving, his laptop, holding the only copy of the screenplay, was stolen, and his girlfriend left him when he moved away from Texas. Our first impression of Wilson comes as he's photoshopping the face of his roommate's girlfriend onto porn for the sake of jerking off to her. Not only does his roommate walk in and see this, but he then brings the girlfriend in too. Within ten minutes of the movie, all I wanted to do was give the poor guy a hug.

His roommate, Jacob (Brian McGuire) is a longtime friend, though, and rather than get indignant, he decides to help Wilson. Since losing his screenplay, Wilson has done nothing but pass his days smoking a ton of pot and eating ice cream. It's New Year's Eve, and it looks like Wilson will be doing more of the same. Jacob goads Wilson into putting up a dating ad on Craigslist, which Wilson starts off with the words "Misanthrope seeking Misanthrope". Strangely enough, he gets a response from a woman, who calls him for a meeting and says he has ten minutes to impress her. Wilson runs with this, and ends up paired with Vivian (Sara Simmonds). After these ten minutes, Wilson can tell she's fairly out of her mind. She's the kind of girl who's constantly engaging guys in psychological warfare just to test their merit, while also simultaneously drawing them close and holding them at arm's length. She tells Wilson that he has until six o' clock to show her that he's worth staying with all night. As they wander the streets of Los Angeles, they begin to let each other in, little by little.

If this sounds like "Before Sunrise", there are definitely a lot of similarities, right down to the two films sharing a producer. However, where "Sunrise" featured two young, idealistic pseudo-bohemians wandering through scenic Vienna and pondering life and the hope embodied by the future, "Midnight Kiss" is far less bright-eyed. The film is shot in gorgeous black-and-white, and the protagonists are a pair that might be meant for each other, but couldn't really function with anyone else. He's an insecure, dejected mess; she pops pills and compulsively lies to avoid telling even herself the truth.

As their night stretches on, they encounter a psychotic ex-husband, a party where a relationship is stretched to the limit before their very eyes and the very real issue of having to enjoy one's midnight kiss while stranded in deadlocked traffic. More importantly, though, Wilson starts to break through to Vivian, through all the walls she's built up for herself, and they both find something a little redeeming in each other.

The ending is not the one most people would expect or want, but it's the most honest one that this film could possibly have had. Really, it's perfect for this time of year. The summer is drawing to a close, and those wonderful, fleeting romances are coming to an end. Sometimes, though, even if it's for the summer, or just for one night on one New Year's Eve, finding that right person to kiss is all that has to matter, or will ever matter, and the morning never has to come.

Monday, August 25, 2008

WTF!?: New Catwoman Annoucement

Leave it to my room mate to again ruin my day with news from Perez Hilton. According to his blog post, singer Cher is in talks to play a more mature Catwoman opposite Christian Bale in the new Batman film. A studio executive (which really means nothing) said that Christopher Nolan wants the gay icon to play a vampy version of the villain in her twilight years.

Hello God, it's me Amy. PLEASE DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN! Catwoman has been one of my favorite villains in the Batman universe next to the Joker. So far all the villains have been excellent in Nolan's movies. Why make Catwoman older? Michelle Pfeiffer wasn't old when she played Catwoman, and her performance inspired me to wear only Catwoman gear for a year. She suppose to be this sexy thief and they want to make her this throaty old fart. I actually read on another website that Angelina Jolie is also being considered for the part. I think she'd be a much more fitting actress for the part. She's younger but still mature, with that harder edge that Cher could never possess. Plus, I think Jolie has the perfect body to play a fearless Bat villain. I'm straight but those lips? Anyone would want to see Nolan's awesome dialogue come out of those. I really hope Nolan is kidding about Cher. Otherwise, I might cry.



I was feeling nostalgic and a little down while shopping after work. In the FYE entertainment store, I came across a film I could barely remember. Something really bloody from my past that had chilled me to the bone and had caused me to cover my eyes and ears at every turn.

I am speaking about THE HAND starring Micheal Caine (Alfred in the DARK KNIGHT)and written and directed by Oliver Stone.

Yes, that Oliver Stone. I had thought he was above horror movies and was more or less into producing and directing historical dramas like "Born on the Fourth of July". But, I digress.

THE HAND is a psychological horror about a gifted cartoonist whose life as he knows it officially comes to an end when his left hand (his drawing hand) is accidentally severed. Remarkably, as he tries to adjust to being maimed for life, darkness creeps inside of his subconsciousness. He begins to have blackouts, and people who stand in his way begin to die.

But, is it the man who is committing these murders or is it his severed hand acting demonically on its own?

Carlo Rambaldi is responsible for the special effects in this feature. Reportedly, designing a different hand for each scene: A crawling hand, walking hand, a strangling hand, a hand slowly decomposing, etc. Over 30 different hands in all.

The movie as a whole has very Hitchcock feel to it. We don't see the cartoonist committing the murders. Instead we see his severed hand do the dirty deeds. It leads the audience to wonder how culpable the cartoonist really is and sane he really is.

I found it interesting that it was his left hand that was severed. The left side of things is often reserved for evil deeds while the right is for good. For Michael Caine's character, the left hand is his most deepest repressed desires coming into fruition. He know what he wants, and he takes what he wants. Be damned anyone who stands in his way.

However, it is the goodness of his whole nature that cannot stand it. So the left hand acts on its own.

This was a really interesting and terrifying film. Micheal Caine gives a wonderful performance and holds the whole film together while his character comes apart bit by bit. We don't feel for anyone but him as he tries to hold himself together in the face of an uprooted life, a non supportive wife, and sheer madness.

All in all a very good film.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My Winnipeg

So there's a film society in Downers Grove, IL that convenes once every two weeks. I'm a member (or at least I was until this month, when I ran out of money), and when I looked into the next film that they're showing, titled "Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg", I didn't know what to think. It looks like a pseudo-documentary by way of early Russian cinema, and that's not even scratching the surface.


I doubt that I can write a review that will do this film justice. But, I will try.

Imagine if you will with me: What if you have two people who are exactly the same? So much so that they are the same soul walking the same earth. Now what if these two entities were to shake hands?

Well, that would be the end of the fourth dimension and the world as we know it.

I am not kidding. Not since Donnie Darko has my mind been so thoroughly warped by a movie.

SOUTHLAND TALES stars Dwayne "Rock" Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar (as a porn star), Shawn William Scott (as the 4th dimensional anomaly) and also has Zelda Rubenstein, Kevin Smith, Will Sasso, Sheri Oteri, Jon Lovitz, Mandy Moore and Bai Ling, etc. In a story set in 2008 and narrated by Justin Timberlake.

Yall with me so far?

Ok, it is the eve of a major election just after the beginning of World War 3, the internet is monitored, filtered and policed by the government to the point of 1983 proportions and forces have aligned themselves to fix the election. But until the end, it is hard to tell which forces are doing what. And it is also 3 days until the world ends.

Well, the story centers around action film star Boxer Santaros (Johnson) who has apparently lost his memory. Who doesn't know who he is and doesn't remember his wife (a senators daughter played by Mandy Moore) or anything about his life.

He is found by Sarah Michelle Gellar's character Krista Now who seeemingly falls in love with him while using him to further her career. She holds him up in a Malibu beach front condo where they have written a screen play together.

The screenplay is a mute plot device kinda like this review is a mute and futile attempt at explaining a picture that went a thousand miles over my head at times.

Like the film Magnolia, all of these charaters are connected, and all them seem to act for the benefit of themselves.

The story was weak at some points, but the acting was solid in most cases.

The big revelation at the end should shock some and piss off others. At this time, I don't know what it is that I am.

I should have taken notes or something.

So how does the world end? Not with a whimper, but with a bang.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tripping the Web: 8/16

News Item: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" has been delayed until July of 2009, in order to strengthen Warner Brothers' lineup for next summer.
What you need to know: Well, this sucks. I'll openly admit I camped out for the last three books, and I was really excited to see how they'd translate a book as flashback-intensive as the sixth one. This makes sense, though, because WB's two biggest films for the first half of 2009 are "Watchmen" and "Terminator: Salvation," both of which are going to be rated R. Plus, after "The Dark Knight," it's not like they're short on cash at the moment.

News Item: About a day after "Half-Blood Prince" was moved, the film version of "Twilight" was moved up into its place.
What you need to know: I guess it's a strong move, given that it seems like the same set of people are into both the "Twilight" series and "Harry Potter." I know I'll end up seeing this movie at some point, because I have far too many friends who worship those books, but it doesn't look like a good translation of the book so far. And yes, I read the first one. Man card? Revoked.

News Item: Word has it that, in addition to B.J. Novak, Brad Pitt and Eli Roth joining the cast of Quentin Tarantino's long-gestating WWII epic "The Inglorious Bastards," Simon Pegg and Mike Myers are also on board.
What you need to know: This actually makes me think of the way films were made back in the 30s and 40s, where a couple marquee names would anchor a host of talented character actors. I've managed to resist the urge to read the leaked script online, but I've heard there are still a ton of parts to be cast, including the main villain. Plus, I mean, it's Quentin Tarantino. He's still the director that will draw an instant crowd for anything he puts out. And with a cast like this, "Bastards" might end up being the smash box-office hit that "Kill Bill" should've been.

News Item: In keeping with the mania surrounding (SPOILERS, not that it should matter by now) the death of Two-Face in "The Dark Knight" and who the villain in the theoretical third Christopher Nolan Batman film should be, a poster has circulated online touting the Riddler.
What you need to know: For one, Warner Bros. should be hiring this guy immediately. Even though this is a fake, it looks pretty awesome. Also, I'm torn, because the Riddler would work well within Nolan's universe, but he's always kind of been Batman's bitch. Given all the Mob subtext in the last two movies, I'd go with Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the Penguin. And then I'd kill Batman, but that's another blog for another time....

News Item: Early test screenings of the Megan Fox-starring, Diablo Cody-written horror film "Jennifer's Body" have indicated that the heralded nude scene involving Fox was nowhere to be seen.
What you need to know: I don't want to be a typical guy and say that this just took away my only reason for seeing this movie, but given that I didn't care for "Juno" very much, this pretty much just took away my only reason for seeing this movie.

News Item: Reports suggest that Lionsgate, after firing director Lexi Alexander upon her completion of the upcoming "Punisher: War Zone," want to trim it down for a PG-13 rating.
What you need to know: And here I was thinking that after "Iron Man" outgrossed "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Suck and Failure," combined with the massive success of "The Dark Knight," studios would learn to trust the target demographic of comic adaptations; in the case of the Punisher, people who like seeing Frank Castle fuck shit up. Silly me.

News Item: "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" has obtained only a 19% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 35% on Metacritic.
What you need to know: Just so you understand how terrible George Lucas' decisions have been lately, find the rejected Frank Darabont script for the fourth "Indiana Jones" movie online and read it. It'll make you hate what Lucas allowed to happen even more.

News Item: Tom Cruise's Nazi epic "Valkyrie" has been moved back into Oscar contention, by pushing the release date up from February 2009 to December 2008.
What you need to know: When he's not a national punchline, the man is talented. See: "Magnolia," "Vanilla Sky." For that matter, don't see: "Eyes Wide Shut." If this can bring him back from wherever he's gone, god bless.

News Item: Michael Phelps is poised to win his eighth Olympic gold medal tonight.
What you need to know: I'm aware that this is not movie news. At all. Maybe it'll be a movie someday, I don't know. Or maybe if "Aquaman" is made into a film, Phelps can play him. Point is, I had to give some love.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Review: Tropic Thunder

I need to preface this review by making one statement: If you haven't watched the R-rated trailer for "Tropic Thunder" online, DON'T. While the all-audiences trailer and the commercials don't give away too much, the online trailer spoils some of the funniest scenes in the film. That being said, the summer's last big film is upon us, with a mountain of hype behind it, and the big question is, does "Tropic Thunder" hold up to all the buildup as a sort of fevered tent revival of studio comedy?

The answer is both yes and no. I hate to be so wishy-washy, but allow me to explain. The film's biggest strength and its greatest handicap lies within its central conceit: the idea that the only way to get a bunch of cliched actors (the waning action star, the perennial award-winner) to make a great war film is to stick them in an actual war zone. More importantly, writer-director-star Ben Stiller has taken aim at Hollywood itself, while making a film with a budget of $100 million within it. The best precedent to compare this idea to is Robert Altman's film "The Player," which was slammed upon its initial release for being too insular, too self-congratulating by the kind of people it was supposed to be a screed against. However, in the age of the Internet, more and more moviegoers are privy to every behind-the-scenes detail, and that's why a movie like this can exist: Everybody's now part of the big in-joke.

For as much as I've said about precedent, though, there is no real precedent for this movie. Good or bad, "Tropic Thunder" is unlike anything you've ever watched. It blends vicious satire with massive action setpieces, and throws in a surprisingly large amount of gore and some genuine plot twists for flavor. The film follows a cast of six men filming "Tropic Thunder," the most expensive war movie ever made. There is Tugg Speedman (Stiller), the action star whose attempt at an award-winning performance ("Simple Jack," the controversial-in-real-life story of a mentally handicapped farmhand) is critically lambasted, leaving him in need of a hit. There's also Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), an award-winner who gets so far into his performance that he has his skin dyed to play a black sergeant. The other "big name" is Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), a comedian known for playing multiple characters in fat suits and farting a lot. (Sound familiar?) The group is rounded out by rapper Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson), who has serious issues with Lazarus' Method acting, and Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel), the sanest of the bunch. When their director (Steve Coogan) drops them in the woods to shoot the film, everything goes terribly awry, and the actors find themselves fighting for survival.

The film's biggest issue lies within the fact that the jungle scenes with the actors are the best part, but it takes the movie nearly a half-hour to get there, and then there are frequent cutaways to the mainland, where the film isn't nearly as entertaining. The biggest disappointment has to be the non-secret cameo by a semi-unrecognizable Tom Cruise as the foulmouthed studio head. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I really didn't find him funny; anyone who's seen the phenomenal film "Magnolia" has already heard Cruise do the profane, against-type character, and better.

Speaking of minority, one of the film's most controversial plotlines concerns Downey Jr. doing what is, more or less, blackface. This isn't meant as mockery, though; he's parodying actors who take themselves way too seriously. I know that with any satire, people who aren't smart enough to understand this will get offended; these are the same people who took Kevin Smith's "Dogma" to be blasphemy and tried to kill him a decade ago. This being said, the movie belongs to Downey, without a doubt. The most memorable and priceless lines are almost all his, and every time he appears onscreen, the film picks up a notch. This is also a bit of a hit against the rest of the movie, though, because Downey Jr. is so good that some of the other actors' performances, passable in another movie, don't hold up as well here. In particular, Stiller seems to think that his action-movie-guy comes off as a lot funnier than he really does.

There are also plotlines involving heroin addiction, a Vietnamese cartel that starts taking hostages and a super-agent desperate to get Tivo for Speedman, in addition to a multitude of other celebrity cameos. For a film that's only 106 minutes long, there is a ton happening, and this is another weakness. Most of the time, before you can really appreciate a good joke, the film has already moved on to three more. There are sporadic moments of gut-busting hilarity, surrounded by a bit too much heavy-handed satire. If Stiller would have focused his script more on the actors, and didn't try to attack everything about Hollywood all at once, the film would have probably played better.

After watching "Tropic Thunder," I was reminded of another film from two years ago, "American Dreamz," a satire that virtually nobody saw in theaters or otherwise. Both films had genius premises, but collapsed under the weight of trying to live up to them. While "Thunder" is a better film, it is just a bit of a disappointment with respect to how funny it's been made out to be. However, don't let me dissuade you. The film is a must-see just for Robert Downey Jr.'s performance, and when the film nails a good joke, it's as hilarious as anything else that's come out this year.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Boba Fett. Doing 'Flashdance'.

Is there any reason for this? No. It's amusing enough to share, though. Frankly, I'd rather watch this on a loop for two hours than sit through "The Clone Wars."

(And I promise, Thursday will bring a real post. And by real post, I mean my review of "Tropic Thunder.")

Monday, August 11, 2008

Zack and Miri teaser trailer

Kevin Smith always seems to be on the ball, and his latest film Zack and Miri Make a Porno seems nothing less than fantastic. The premise: two friend who are short on cash decide to directa porno together. Hilarity ensues. The film is definitely able to make up for Jersey Girl, and reduce any sour taste Smith has left since then. Check out the teaser trailer, I promise you'll be cracking up by the end:

My 2 cents

The movie Tropic Thunder has already garnered some controversy. (And not from the re-emergence of Black face as an art form either.)

Apparently, advocates for the disabled have said they will picket the movies premiere in Los Angeles. They are also encouraging others not buy tickets to see this film.

In TROPIC THUNDER, Ben Stiller plays a character called "Simple Jack" and as part of a subplot of the film is constantly being referred to as "RETARDED". This has some worried that people with learning disabilities will be offended by this picture.

{Representatives of the Special Olympics, the Arc of the United States, the National Down Syndrome Congress, the American Association of People with Disabilities and other groups met with studio executives last week to discuss the film, but DreamWorks did not make any changes.----YAHOO}

Ben Stiller, who also directed the picture, in my opinion is just trying to be entertaining. This is the guy who made Jim Carey scary in THE CABLE GUY. AND did bad impressions of celebrities on his canceled sketch comedy show. (Which I thought was funny at the time).

We (yeah me too) are all guilty of satirizing the limitations of others. Is this possibly the most offense film ever made? No. I have seen and heard of worse. But I have not seen the movie TROPIC THUNDER, yet. Do I want to? Well, yeah.

I can remember in the not so distance past a certain film in which Johnny Knoxville played a guy pretending to be (dare I used the word) DISABLED so he could win at the Special Olympics. I think it was called THE RINGER. Where were the committees and naysayers then, huh?

Look see the movie or don't see the movie. Put your money to better use or go have a look see at this film and hopefully (or not) enjoy.

This is not going to win any Oscars. This is not another BIRTH OF A NATION. This is not a call to arms or for alarm.

For the record, I am African American (who has been called retarded once or twice in childhood) and I approved this blog entry.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Joining the Trend of Armchair Box Office Prognostication

So here we are. Week 4 of the summer belonging to "The Dark Knight," and it still has its hold on the number one weekend box office spot. We all knew it was going to make money, but this much money? To provide perspective, it currently has grossed about $441.5 million. Another twenty million, and it surpasses the original "Star Wars" as the second highest-grossing film of all time. However, in reality, it already has. See, the first "Star Wars" (or, Episode IV if you want to play THAT game) has been re-released twice since 1977, and its spot as the second highest-grossing film of all time is reflective of all three of its runs in theaters.

Also, everybody seems to be pissing and moaning about how if you account for inflation (!!!), "The Dark Knight" is nowhere near the highest grossing movie of all time. I say, shut up about that. Why? If we accounted for inflation, "Gone With The Wind" would be the highest-grossing film of all time, and there are few people who really want that, I would like to think. Seriously, that movie sucked. Call me callous, but I laughed my ass off when the little girl got her shit pushed by the horse.

So, where does that leave us in terms of modern-day money? Once TDK claims second place, all that's left is "Titanic," with $600 million even, domestically. The big question now is, can the most overrated movie of all time actually be defeated by a superhero movie? As sad as it makes me to say, I don't think so.

To wit: When released in late 1997, "Titanic" was number one for something like thirteen or fourteen weekends in a row. That's unheard of in this day and age, where tentpole movies come out nearly every week. Also consider that "Titanic" came out in December, and at the end of the month. That meant that during January, February and March, typically months of the year where nothing of value is newly released, there was no direct competition to stop it from making $30 million each weekend, week after week. "The Dark Knight" has done well, but there's been stiff competition, and odds are when "Tropic Thunder" comes out Wednesday, it won't hold yet another week.

Another factor is that there are still people who don't want to see "The Dark Knight." I was little when "Titanic" came out, but I distinctly remember that everyone and their brother had seen it. Personally, even at the time I didn't get it, I thought that "Twister," which came out earlier that year, was cooler, and to this day I stand by that opinion proudly. Regardless, "Titanic" had one distinct advantage that TDK lacks: the female demographic. Now, this is one of my favorite Hollywood misconceptions. Every executive seems to think that women don't see movies, and when a female-skewing movie makes bank, it shocks the shit out of everybody. I don't get that. Look at this summer alone: "Sex and the City" has made $150 million to date (and I've still been able to avoid it, knock on wood), and "Mamma Mia!" just broke the hundred-million mark this weekend. For further proof, look at "The Devil Wears Prada" and "The Notebook" in past summers. TDK hasn't cornered this demographic, and that might be the one Achilles heel that stops it from taking the record.

However, there is one glimmer of hope that few people have talked about as of yet. Traditionally, Oscar nominees, especially those up for Best Picture, are re-released if they've been out of theaters for some time. Now, in addition to the need for a Supporting Actor nod for Heath Ledger, and probably one for Best Original Screenplay as well, the clamor for a Best Picture nomination is getting louder. If this happens, "The Dark Knight" would return to theaters a few months after leaving them, which would probably lead to increased interest in an additional viewing for a lot of moviegoers. That would be the one trump card that might just push it over the edge. However, with $160 million to go, it's still a long shot.

(Final note: I realized I said before that I was done talking about TDK, but who the fuck am I kidding? I'm a fanboy, deep down. Just wait until March 6th, 2009. I'll never shut up at that point.)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Review: Pineapple Express

Could this movie have been made even three years ago? Every time I saw the trailer, that's all I could think about. Well, that and the fact that "Paper Planes" is one of the best songs I've heard in years, but I digress. Break this down purely as a premise: A dedicated stoner and his drug dealer run afoul of the two warring local mobs, and go on the run, while continually smoking a lot of weed and engaging in action movie-level fights. I mean, this sounds like the premise for the third Harold and Kumar movie, but even so, I can't imagine this being pitched to a studio and selling.

But then, a funny thing happened: Judd Apatow became Hollywood's golden boy over the past year or so, churning out hit after hit (and "Walk Hard," which still wasn't that bad), and now, we have a major summer tentpole action movie starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, the latter of whom is best known as the second Green Goblin in the "Spider-Man" movies. Even stranger is the fact that this works, perfectly.

In its own way, "Pineapple Express" is at once a subversion of the traditional action movie formula, and a celebration of it. The final sequence is not only shockingly violent for a comedy (more on that in a minute), but wouldn't feel out of place in a Will Smith movie, circa 1998. Even before this, the madness includes a three-way brawl in an apartment, a car chase and a few other sequences that feel like they belong in a "Rush Hour" sequel, not a stoner movie.

That's the trick, though, and the reason this movie works: Most "stoner movies" are content to mine 12-year-old-skewing idiocy and the hilarity of watching stoners be stoned, and call it a film. The problem is, stoners being stoned are, as a standalone, not all that funny. The humor is purely situational, and that is why films like the "Harold and Kumar" movies and "The Big Lebowski" work so well; much like your average stoner, a little intelligence makes the whole thing a lot more interesting and entertaining.

The other major reason that this film works so well is James Franco. As Saul Silver, he is absolutely phenomenal. In a summer where marquee movies have yielded Oscar-caliber performances, Franco should at the very least be in the conversation for a Supporting Actor nod. He absolutely steals the film every time he appears onscreen, and might be the most dead-on movie stoner ever. The best example is a scene in which Saul is talking to Dale (Rogen), and when Dale tells him about his job as a process server, Saul just struggles to keep up, sporting a half-lidded gaze and picking random words like "moustache" and "disguise" out of the conversation, and eventually reaching the conclusion that Dale is a butler. Later, when Dale flips out at Saul for getting them into the mess they find themselves in, Franco's heartbreak is genuinely distressing. This is the kind of pathos usually reserved for heavier material, but like many of the other Apatow leads, Rogen and Franco don't limit themselves to a certain level of performance, just because this is "only" a comedy.

But then, is it, really? After watching the film, I couldn't figure out whether it was a really violent comedy or a really funny action movie. Most comedies, even action comedies, don't have a prominent supporting character taking a coffee pot to the face, or a main character suffering an injury that will remind some of the nastiest scene in "Resevoir Dogs." However, where some critics have cried foul regarding this abrupt jumping of tone, I think they're just having trouble accepting that the Apatow gang is branching out; if Quentin Tarantino had directed this movie (which, at a couple points, it seems like he could have), heavy-handed reviews would have examined the subtext drawn from juxtaposing violence with laughs. Thankfully, we'll be spared.

One final note: I'm sure that before long, people are going to raise a fuss about how this movie glorifies drug use. I disagree; it's about two people caught up in a mess they don't know how to deal with, and the fact that they smoke a lot of weed is just a part of their characters. Plus, let's face it: Between the anti-heroism of "Iron Man," the bleak, hopeless struggles of "The Dark Knight," this movie and next week's "Tropic Thunder" bringing back blackface, a lot of childhoods are already being ruined this summer. If anything, this might scare a few kids away from weed.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Inside The Mind of a Movie Blogger Buying Cheap Shit at Blockbuster

All right, I have money. I also haven't bought a movie in about six months, which is just unacceptable. I need to up my collection.

OOH! Three movies for twenty bucks? Win. All right, what do we have here...."The Hottie and the Nottie." Now, wait, is this....YES. This is the one that Paris Hilton was in, that literally set box office records for futility. I swear to God, I don't know why anybody casts her in anything. She has a bitch face. If she was a nanny, and she wanted to be the nanny of my theoretical children, I would not allow her, because my children would adopt bitch faces by proxy.

Now, we have "I'm Not There," which is amazing, even if I don't quite understand the whole part with Richard Gere, as Billy the Kid. That shit was weird. Getting that, though...

What's "Red Line"? I know I've heard of this. This is the one Eddie Griffin movie that had literally nothing but still shots of cars and sideboob in the trailer. Speaking of sideboob, here's "Meet the Spartans." I remember asking a couple twelve-year-old boys why they watch movies like this, and they said for the chicks. I told them to watch some real porn. It's not like it's particularly hard to find. My roommate once showed me this chick, who took a gun and....

FOCUS. I need to pick a couple more movies. "Into the Wild"....I mean, it was an amazing movie, but it also kinda made me cry like a pussy, so maybe I shouldn't. Ah, well. I'm getting it. While I'm at it, "Cloverfield" as well.

Also, I have just noticed that "How She Move" is available. I don't know what the fuck this is about, other than breakdancing. All I remember was riding the El home drunk one night, and seeing the billboards for it, and having a lot of fun with that. In light of such tender memories, I would be remiss to not buy it. Except, you know, for the part where my film collection automatically loses all credibility.

Now, I've just found a reason to leave this terrible place. There is literally half a table filled with copies of "Beowulf." Fuck Blockbuster. That movie was bad enough when it was in 3D, so I'm pretty sure that without it, there's no reason at all to watch it. I can verify this theory, considering that I sort of watched "Journey to the Center of the Earth" at a drive-in, and it was not good, at all. I'm leaving.

(Brief final note: This is post #100. Congrats, y'all.)