April 2011

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" Trailer

Here's a link to the official Warner Bros trailer for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" .

This is the trailer for second of the two full length features in final adventure of the Harry Potter film series, which opens nationwide on July 15th, 2011.  

Directed by David Yates.  Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. Screenplay by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling.

In another epic battle between the forces of good and evil - if you read the book then you know how the war of the wizards escalates into an all-out war, how Harry and friends have another dramatic showdown with Lord Voldemort, and how the drama ends.  

Revisiting "Strange Days"

Kathryn Bigelow's 1995 sci-fi flop Strange Days would be a prime candidate for our occasional feature "The Misunderstood" if it didn't have a fervent cult following. It's an alluring slice of tech-obsessed dystopia with an incredible (but for one exception in Juliette Lewis) cast, a killer soundtrack and a fairly unique premise. Despite all of this, it took home a pretty anemic gross at theaters, not even earning back 1/5 of its budget. I'd like to argue that, even though so much of Strange Days is dated today, it would play much better to a 2011 audience than it did to its original viewers in 1995.

Here's the super-quick breakdown of the plot of Strange Days. Ralph Fiennes, hot off two hit roles in Schindler's List and Quiz Show, plays Lenny, a disgraced former cop in 1999 Los Angeles. Once a capable detective, Lenny got mixed up in a sort of "digital drug" that lets people experience the memories of others using a recording device attached to the head. The experience is intense but it tends to make junkies of its frequent users, Lenny among them. Now a dealer of black market recordings, Lenny quickly gets tangled up in a murder mystery that may be part of a vast conspiracy. With the help of a tough bodyguard named Mace (played by Angela Bassett), Lenny puts the pieces of the mystery together in a sort of cyberpunk-meets-noir-detective case.

The Final Cut

The Final Cut

It is said that comedians make some of the best dramatic actors. I can testify to that. Robin Williams is one of the funniest people on the planet but he has also done an excellent job in dramatic movie roles. The Final Cut is a small, intimate, thoughtful science fiction movie from Australia, released in 2004.

Evan Almighty: Carell Hits the 'Burbs

Before we get into the film, a question needs to be asked. Who names their kid Evan? Seriously. If that kid winds up with a weird speech impediment, that name’s turned to mud. And regardless of one’s perspective on same-sex relationships, Evan seems like a good candidate for the name of a life-long cocktail (pun unintentional) waiter.

Anyway, being something of a sequel to Bruce Almighty, despite the character being utterly different, Steve Carelltook over the spot vacated by Jim Carey in Evan Almighty, who’d been commended for taking a pass. Either way, the film winds up being a bit better than all those waggling critic fingers would make one believe otherwise. Plot wise, the Evan is a newly elected politico whose necessitated to move his family into a larger, more opulent home in Virginia to be close to his place of work. As a freshman, Evan’s required to follow the lead of some senior folks, leading him to a bill with questionable impact on the environment. The entirety of Evan Almighty is made to be something like a rumination on human’s stewardship of earth. The points not easily lost when Morgan Freeman shows up portraying God. And while it would have be unsurprising to have that followed by a spate of discontents figuring God isn’t black, Evan Almighty was ripped up by critics, PETA and all of Islam.

Critically, the film didn’t do well. And no, the film’s not tremendously funny. But passable mostly due to Carrel’s ability to take on just about an absurd character imaginable. With such a focus on recreating the Noah story, using animals in filming became a necessity. PETA took issue with the use of some animals seeing as they’d be neglected or abused in the past. No furry creature looked too uncomfortable throughout the film. More interesting is that some Muslims took issue with depicting God in physical form, saying that the move offended the entirety of the religion. That’s a lot of people, but presumably, lower castes in India didn’t see the film, so they weren’t too offended. Whoa…crisis averted.

Another Crappy Teen Movie

Why I Only Started Hating High School After The Credits Rolled

We were all teenagers once, right?

You know that middle time between grade school and college. Most of us have some painful memories from it. Lots of us just cruised through it trying to keep our heads down, and the others remember it as the time of our life. So we can at least all agree it held some importance to us. Then why do movies have such a hard time getting it right? We all went through it yet writers can’t seem to honestly remember it.


Since we can all agree it was an important time in shaping who we are then why does Hollywood always get it wrong.

Choke: Sam Rockwell Gits Weird

Chuck Palahniuk’s a pretty overrated dude. It’s not that his writing is a bummer, or that it touches on useless topics. Neither’s true. But in the wake of Fight Club’s success in theaters, a huge fan base sprung up, touting the writer as the next Brett Easton Ellis – who kinda suffers from the same sort of rapid appreciation. Whether or not Fight Club was worth a shit as a film is a moot point. It’s a movie and not a book. But using Palahiuk’s Choke as the basis for another feature project should leave more than a few people luke warm at best. That being said, having the original book so significantly personalized by the film’s writer, Clark Gregg, the end result was something like an utterly different story, one sweeter than anything the novel’s author might be capable of. Regardless of that, Choke’s an entertaining vehicle for Sam Rockwell, a guy whose been slightly overlooked.

As an actor, Rockwell doesn’t approach the herculean properties someone like Kirk Douglas or Orson Welles worked with. There doesn’t seem to be that pent up rage spurting out at opportune times – or inopportune times, for that matter. Rockwell’s usually just a solid, second tier supporting guy with a number of interesting credits. Starring in Choke as a sex addicted con-artist was clearly a move based upon the film’s potential as opposed to the commercial applications the feature might possess. Anjelica Houston playing Rockwell’s mom here probably didn’t hurt.

Having such an accomplished performer as Houston should have raised Choke’s visibility a bit. But it didn’t. Either way, the malleable talent plays a character spanning a few decades in age surprisingly well. There wasn’t a huge chance voting Academy types were on-board for this one. Nor were the performances that strong. But with the two stars functioning at such a high level, the film should have received a bit more notice.

Potiche means "trophy wife" in French, is also a good movie with Catherine Deneuve

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Catherine Deneuve, a sixty-something French actress with tiny teeth and nice legs, has a surprising draw for me.  And everyone else in the world, I know, I know. But really, actors or actresses really are rarely the reason I see a movie—I love Matt Damon, but if a trailer for one of his movies looks really stupid, I’m not going.   

Going to the Movies

What Hollywood Has Done to Theaters.

 

 I can't even begin to define how much I love movies. They are such an inner part of my core being. Not to mention the fact that I went to film school to learn how to make movies. And when I'm not blogging or working my regular job I try to watch any movie I can get my hands on. So I feel like there is enough evidence to show what movies mean to me. That's why it pains me to say this but the movies are being ruined by the studios.

     This isn't one of those angry rants about how Hollywood doesn't produce any original works just carbon copy remakes. I'll save that for another blog down the road. No, what I want to talk about is how Hollywood is ruining the movie going experience. Half the reason we go see movies in the theaters is to be able to lose yourself in the world for a couple of hours. I would look forward to going with my mom ( a single mother) and getting a big bag of popcorn and a nice large drink. It was a big deal. I would wait for a slow moment during the movie to rush out and get the popcorn and drink refilled and run to the bathroom and make sure to be back in time for the good part. We go to the theater to sit with a date and use the excuse of total darkness and a scary movie on the screen to bring our bodies closer together. As someone who through my teen years and my twenties couldn't  afford the best in technology for my living room so going to the movies was an at the very least a visual experience. Except in the same amount of time Hollywood has done everything to ruin these memories.

The Bobby Dukes Story....Nonsense.

For the 2004 comedy, Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story Brant Sersen, who also directed the feature, and Brian Steinberg wrote up a sordid tale of professional sport’s intrigue. The film’s title at once summons McCarthy era witchhunts, but also Pete Rose and those folks who’ve stepped over a line in athletics. Whether or not Rose deserves to be forgiven and granted access to the Baseball Hall of Fame – and he should – is another issue. Here, though, Corddry and an ensemble cast comprising a number of familiar faces from not just the Daily Show, but a wealth of weird comedy, go in on a tale of redemption. And eventual success.

While performing at the top level of paintball, yeah, paintball, Bobby Dukes arrived at the games pinnacle, only to be caught wiping paint residue from his clothes during a championship bout. He was disgraced – natch – and removed himself to South America. Even as his time down south isn’t ever expounded upon, viewers do get a few glimpses of Corddry running around the forest with his sister, training for a comeback. A film beginning in such auspicious tones – earthy ones – is sure to be comedically successful, right?

Kinda.

After being introduced to Bobby Dukes, the remainder of the film is dedicated to the character trying to find enough willing and able bodies to help him play the game again. Locating a squirrelly ref from the paintball field (range?...if I knew the proper nomenclature, I’d be bummed.), Dukes puts together a unit consisting of a few burly looking misfits. And after practicing for what seems like an interminable amount of time, the crew sets up a match with some douche from SNL who was, at one point, Dukes’ buddy. To make matters worse, said douche, is now doinking his ex-girlfriend, a frightful wretch as vein as anyone you can imagine.

Operation: Endgame :: Over

I don’t know if Rob Corddry is married, but I kinda hope not. And no, that doesn’t stem from any personal motivations I might have. Being a bald dude – in Hollywood or anywhere else – limits you in a great many ways. Why go talk to some random woman on the street when you know her eye’s aren’t gonna meet yours, just your hairline. Surely, Corddry realized that a while ago. But since his time on The Daily Show and his subsequent jaunt through big budget comedies, the guy’s probably been able to encounter folks who are blinded by his celebrity and not the glare from his bald pate. As long as he stays away from the Kardashians, he should be alright.

Even with Corddry’s relatively successful – and one would assume lucrative – film career, he’s still not a leading man. And yes, that has to do with his hair cut. While he most likely won’t ever be at the center of a film franchise, the actor’s been able to prove himself a funny guy in any number of roles. Appearing in Operation: Endgame, what seems to be a cut rate action film, was probably as a result of finding the whole thing entertaining and not for the prospect of fame and fortune, although, he probably pulled down more than most of us make in a few years for a couple month’s work.

Joined by everyone from Ellen Barkin, Zach Galifianakis to Jeffrey Tambor, Corddry’s in good company even as the script doesn’t do much for any of the involved performers. That being said, spy movies are pretty entertaining by and large. Including a pair of omniscient narrators, who wind up seeming like those two guys in the balcony from The Muppet Show, was a bad idea. But there’re aren’t too many ways to cure a film suffering from a script devised as a series of vignettes in which principal cast members kill each other.

Last Action Hero

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Last Action Hero

Burt loves action movies. He has seen every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie several times. I don’t care for explosions, gun fights and car chases. But Burt insisted that I watch The Last Action Hero which came out in 1993. Arnold stars as Jack Slater, a Los Angeles police detective. The movie was a howl!! It was a send up of action movies.

Death Watch

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Death Watch

Burt loves science fiction movies. I think that he has seen just about every sci-fi movie release since 1950. I like some if they have a good story and character development. The French have made some interesting sci-fi movies over the years. These are not the big budget special effects extravaganzas so beloved by Hollywood. They are smaller more personal stories with interesting plot twists.

"Nerd"ery

Warning: This Is Ranty.

I'd like to make a "shout out" to all of the nerds out there; brandishing their styrofoam swords, sporting their capes, rolling their dice, and brazenly using words like "photon torpedo", "battlemaster", "blood magic", and "wookie" in public conversations. Men that wear tights, and not in a sexually-experimental way but because "it fits their character". Women that forsake current hairstyles in favor of something more Renaissance, or Elven. Generations of people that coexist in a romanticized world that replaces harsh, real prejudices and violence with ideals of good and evil, light and dark, honor and justice.

J. J. Abrams Pirate Ninja Robot Movie Underway

Fringe creator hires writing team for Zanbato

Seriously though, what is it about trochees? A recent xkcd strip nailed this trend on the head. For some reason, contemporary American culture is dangerously obsessed with trochaic nouns: two-syllable words that place the stress on the first syllable. Think about it. I bet you can come up with examples without even trying. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers? Our childhoods were made up of quadruple-trochees, and now we can't shake them. 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Dreams Are Better than Life

The potential for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty being remade prompted me to seek out the original. Considering any number of Hollywood types have been attached to the remake without any sort of real forward progress being achieved made watching the original a better move than sitting around and waiting for millionaires to get out of their own way. Who knows if that remake’s actually gonna come around. In the meantime, we have Danny Kaye to entertain us.

A John Waters "trashy" retrospective

John Waters, dubbed “The Sultan of Sleaze,” The Baron of Bad Taste,” and, his favorite, “The Pope of Trash” is an anti-establishment filmmaker, writer, and artist of in the genre of film called “white trash,” “camp,” or simply “trash.”

Waters was born in 1946 in Baltimore, Maryland to middle class Catholic parents. Waters was a huge consumer of pop-culture as a child. His youth gave him an incredibly varied group of influences, including Herschell Gordon Lewis, the creator of low-budget gore movies, Kenneth Anger, the creator of homoerotic comic books, Andy Warhol, the superstar pop artist, and George and Mike Kuchar, the creators of high-color melodramas.

Black Death

Current Then. Current Now.

     Nation-threatening disease pandemics, religious fanaticism, crises of faith and persecution, terroristic threats....sound familiar? Nope, it's not popular upheaval in middle-eastern countries or fringe congregations in the south. It's 1348, and the Bubonic Plague (not designated until centuries later) is in full swing in England. Known simply as "the pestilence", the plague is seen as a punishment by God for the sins of Medieval man, ravaging cities and villages and leaving nearly half the population dead.

I Now Pronounce You Adam and Kevin

Adam Sandler’s achieved the sort of notoriety only a few folks attain from working in comedy. Seinfeld’s got it, but not too many other folks. Steve Carell, maybe. But that’s it. For his generation Sandler represents all the things Uncle Milty did for older folks. There aren’t variety shows Sandler works on any longer, he already did his time on SNL. So, turning to the big screen and remaining a tremendous box office draw from the better part of fifteen years is bound to result in criticism. It’s been figured that Sandler only makes features when he can include all his friends in the proceedings. There’s, usually, a bit about those movies being vacuous. But wouldn’t we all rather work with people we’re familiar with on goofy projects than being deadly serious in an office somewhere, pressured by bullshit? Right.

Anyway, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is one of those movies people are bound to damn considering it’s cast includes Kevin James alongside Sandler as the pair goes in on a spate of dick jokes suited only for rarified air in dorm rooms and smoke filled living rooms. That shouldn’t read as being detrimental. But unless a film makes some monolithic statement about culture or redefines an historic figure, it seems the press is ready to damn just about anything.

It could be figured that I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry addresses homosexuality in a unique manner. The film finds the James character needing to marry in order to bestow his worldly possessions to someone in the event he dies, leaving his children uncared for. Sandler’s character, being the guy’s closest friend, goes along with the gay marriage thing. This being a comedy, however, more than a few problems arise.

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