Welcome back to Motion Pictures! We’ve got lots of great stuff coming your way in the next few weeks (including my LENGTHY dissertation on Inglourious Basterds, coming on Wednesday). For now, let’s see what sorts of fun stuff has hit the web recently:
James Cameron has finally made another movie! And after almost two years of teases, we have at last been graced with a trailer — check it out here. I don’t hate Titanic — not at all. I happen to think, though, that it’s one of Cameron’s weaker movies — because I absolutely adore the two Terminator Films, Aliens, The Abyss, and True Lies. Those five films are all pretty much masterpieces, in my book, so I have been bummed that Mr. Cameron has gone a decade without making a new film. But that drought is finally at an end! Let’s hope Avatar is good…
Some other interesting trailers have hit recently: Here’s a glimpse at the long-delayed The Wolfman. It’s got a great cast (Benicio del Toro, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving, and Emily Blunt) but the year-long delay and lots of rumors of problems with the film have me skeptical.
Then there’s the latest Michael Moore joint, Capitalism: A Love Story. Check out the trailer here. That should be interesting…
Earlier this month, when I was looking for an image of the crows from Dumbo for my Transformers cartoon making fun of the ridiculously infantile (not to mention offensive!) Skids and Mudflap, I came across this fascinating list of the Nine Most Racist Disney Characters.
In a recent interview with Europe’s Sky TV channel, Quentin Tarantino listed his twenty favorite movies of the past twenty years. It’s a pretty bizarre list, hence Chud‘s article titled Is Quentin Tarantino Totally Fucking With Us? (Unlike the author of that piece, I for one was THRILLED to see Unbreakable on that list!!)
Finally, take a gander at this:
Been there, man. TOTALLY been there. I can’t wait for this! Might have to bite the bullet and sign up for HBO for a few months so I can see the much-heralded Seinfeld reunion…… [continued]
I can’t believe the summer is already drawing to a close!
As I did at this time last year, I’ll be taking one week off to re-charge my batteries. We’ll be back to our regular schedule of daily updates (new comics Monday-Thursday, and new blogs every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) on Monday September 31.
I’ve got LOTS of fun stuff cooking (including reviews of (500) Days of Summer, District 9, Inglourious Basterds, the new director’s cut of Watchmen, and some older films such as Bottle Rocket and Diabolique), so I’ll see you back here in a week. Bring all your friends!… [continued]
I just got back from a spectacular evening — seeing the Rifftrax gang live (just not exactly in-person) riffing on what they described as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies,” Plan 9 From Outer Space!
I was overjoyed when I discovered Rifftrax a few years back. Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy, three of the masterminds behind the later years of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, had again teamed up to make fun of terrible movies. At Rifftrax.com one can download feature-length commentary tracks to play along with movies you own or rent on DVD, in which Mike and the gang make glorious sport of the film being played. I’ve downloaded quite a few Rifftrax over the past few years, and they are every bit as entertaining as the best MST3K episodes.
Tonight, the Rifftrax gang performed a live riff in Nashville Tennessee to one of the most well-known awful movies of all-time: Plan 9 From Outer Space. The performance was broadcast live to movie theatres across the US, and I was lucky enough to take in the show at a theatre here in Boston. It was fantastic!
The event started promptly at 8 PM (and bonus points for that, by the way). After introducing themselves, the Rifftrax crew kicked the evening off by riffing on an old short from the 1950′s called (as I recall) Flying Stewardesses. It’s not, as the gang is quick to point out, a documentary about stewardesses gifted with the ability of flight — rather, it’s a pretty quaint little piece about the training that women must go through to become what we’d now call flight attendants. The guys were in top form, and their riffs on this short were hilarious.
This was followed by a little time-filling. Jonathan Coulton (you can find out more about him here) came on and played two amusing songs, which were funny, but not nearly as hilarious as when the cameras broadcasting the event would capture Nashville audience members rapturously mouthing the lyrics along with Mr. Coulton. There were also some amusing fake ads (created by Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka — I don’t know what that “Lowtax” nickname means, but he created the Something Awful humor site). All of this stuff was cute, but I started to get a bit antsy for the main event to begin.
But once it did — yowza! Plan 9 From Outer Space is every bit as catastrophically terrible as you might expect. (I hadn’t watched the whole film through, start-to-finish, since college.) It’s so bad that it’s quite unintentionally hilarious to watch all on its own, without any sort of Rifftrax commentary. Going in, I was a little worried, in … [continued]
Growing up, my two favorite cartoons, by an order of magnitude, were The Transformers and G.I. Joe. That makes it sort of hard to believe that this summer saw the release of a live-action, big-budget movie version of both of those beloved (by me, at least!) old TV shows.
Wish I could say either one of them was any good!
Although, I must confess that I enjoyed G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra way more than I expected to, and a good deal more than the really undeniably terrible Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I mean, take a look at these two trailers:
Doesn’t Transformers look awesome, and G.I. Joe pretty terrible? But the reality is that G.I. Joe wound up being a far-more entertaining and coherent film.
Heh. Coherent. That’s a funny word to use to describe G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, a film that is completely over-the-top and ridiculous from the first frame to the last. But, whereas Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was a film that made absolutely not one lick of sense (and click here if you don’t believe me), with nothing even remotely resembling a logical progression from one scene to the next, G.I. Joe is actually a pretty straightforward adventure film.
Army grunts Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) witness the complete annihilation of their convoy by a highly advanced terrorist organization, and get swept up in the efforts of G.I. Joe, an elite multi-nation fighting force, to stop the bad guys.
Again, I realize the silliness of my calling this film “straightforward.” Though it’s live-action, this movie is a complete cartoon, filled with soap-opera entanglements for almost all of the main characters and one crazily insane action sequence after another. But in contrast to Transformers, there is a coherency to the plot. There is some sense as to how one event leads into the next, and while I had to check imdb to figure out some characters’ names (for instance, I had no idea that Lost‘s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was supposed to be Heavy Duty), I didn’t have any trouble telling any of the myriad good guys and bad guys apart from one another (again, in marked contrast to Transformers).
The actors all seem to be having a lot of fun, and the cast is, for the most part, pretty solid. I have never really understood the need for comic relief characters in films like this, but Marlon Wayans’ Ripcord isn’t too terribly annoying. Channing Tatum’s Duke is fairly stiff, but I guess he’s supposed to be. Dennis Quaid (looking more and more like Harrison Ford with each passing year) chews great scenery as General Hawk. … [continued]
Try as I might, I must admit that my expectations do sometimes color my opinions about a movie that I see. Occasionally I go into a film with very low expectations — and even if the movie is mediocre, I come out pleased because it was better than I expected. Conversely, if I go into a film with very high expectations, if it falls below those expectations I can come out disappointed, even if in hindsight I can recognize that the film really isn’t that bad.
Well, after weeks of people telling me that The Hangover was a comedic triumph, maybe my expectations just got raised a bit to high because, when I finally saw it a few weeks ago, I didn’t really think it was all that.
Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) head to Vegas with with their good buddy Doug (Justin Bartha) to celebrate Doug’s impending marriage. Cut to the next morning, when the guys wake up in a trashed hotel room with no memory of what transpired the night before, and discover that Doug is missing. The film follows their increasingly frantic efforts to reconstruct the events of that hedonistic night and locate their buddy in time for the wedding.
I really shouldn’t be too much of a grouch — much of The Hangover is very, very funny. But I guess that after the past several years of so many brilliant Apatow-style comedies, in which no matter how lunatic the situations (such as a 40 year-old virgin getting his chest waxed), everything is still grounded in relatably human characters and situations, I have sort of tired of movies based on outlandish wacky comedy premises.
The film’s greatest strength is the terrific chemistry between Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis. Each is a great actor and comedian in his own right, and together they have a deliriously nutty energy. There are far worse ways to spend two hours than watching these three lovable numbskulls bounce off of one another.
Still, while The Hangover was a fun two hours in a movie theatre, I can’t imagine that this will be a film I wind up revisiting too often in the future. (Whereas I am already eager to see the much-less-well-thought-of Funny People again on DVD.)… [continued]
I read somewhere a reviewer refer to Judd Apatow’s new film, Funny People, as his “James L. Brooks movie.” Well, if James L. Brooks isn’t making James L. Brooks movies anymore (his last film was 2004′s Spanglish, which not coincidentally was also the last time, before Funny People, that I enjoyed a movie starring Adam Sandler), then I for one am more than happy to see Judd Apatow fill the void!
I’ve been hearing a lot of disappointment from people who have seen Funny People. I suppose if one goes in expecting the laugh-a-minute experience of The 40 Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up, one would be disappointed. There is a lot of very funny humor in Funny People, but also some lengthy stretches without any laughs at all. This would be a big problem if what was happening in those laugh-free-zones wasn’t compelling — but I found everything to be VERY compelling. Funny People is a much more adult, nuanced film than Mr. Apatow’s first two movies, and while I positively ADORED those first two films, I am also thrilled to see him exploring some deeper territory here.
Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, a wildly successful comedian and star of many hugely popular and sort-of-juvenile, well, Adam Sandler-type movies. Despite his success, he is all alone in his huge mansion (except for his house-keeping staff, of course), and struggling to deal with the news that he has been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. Seth Rogen plays Ira Wright, a young man trying to break into the brutally tough world of stand-up comedy. Their paths cross one evening when George drops by a comedy club where Ira is waiting to perform, and Ira quickly gets sucked up into George’s orbit. Ira is star-struck by getting to spend time with his idol, and desperate to taste some of the massive fame to which George has become inured, and George — though he’d never admit it — is lonely and looking for some sort of companionship, having driven away all of his former friends, girlfriends, and family.
Rogen and Sandler are both at the top of their games, creating fully believable, lived-in characters that feel completely real. I have often said that I really like Adam Sandler’s comedy, but that I can’t stand his movies. This remains true for me. But I have really enjoyed the few films in which Sandler has actually tried to ACT — films like Spanglish, and Punch-Drunk Love. In those movies, I was quite impressed that Sandler could actually create a real, sympathetic character, and he does similarly high-quality work here. Rogen too turns in probably his most … [continued]
I’ve written about a few of the films that I’ve seen this summer (click here for my review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, here for my review of Year One, and here for my review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) but there are a lot more that I’ve seen but haven’t had time to write about. Hence, this first installment of my Summer Movie Catch-Up!
Let’s start with Pixar’s latest opus, Up.
Carl (voiced by the great Ed Asner) is an elderly widower, living alone in his small house. When we meet him, it seems that all of the happiness has been drained from his life, and the only thing that gives him any energy at all is his cranky refusal to sell his home to the real-estate developers who want to purchase his land.
When things take a turn for the worse, and it looks like Carl is going to lose his home after all, he comes up with a cartoon movie plan to escape — and also to fulfill one of the life-long dreams that he and his wife shared.
The trailers for this film were remarkably successful in refusing to spoil any of the wonderful weirdness that happens next, and I won’t either. Suffice it to say, after a fairly serious beginning, to my delight and surprise the movie takes several sharp left turns into loony mayhem. It winds up channeling almost as much adventure-serial energy as did The Incredibles — something I was not expecting but really enjoyed.
Much has been written about the beautiful, haunting prologue to the film in which we learn everything we need to know about Carl’s life and his relationship with his wife. Those scenes are Pixar at its very best — dazzlingly economical storytelling that is tender and poignant, and not at all the way one might expect an “all-ages” film to begin. It’s every bit the work of genius that you might have heard, and luckily the rest of the film is able to live up to the incredibly high bar set by that prologue.
I had the pleasure of seeing Up in 3-D, and it was magnificent. Before the movie started, the theatre played several trailers for upcoming 3-D movies, and those were filled to the brim with all sorts of annoying in-your-face 3-D gimmicry. But I am pleased to report that there is very little of that in Up. Rather, the artists at Pixar have used the 3-D in an entirely different way: to subtly enlarge the visual palette of the film, adding enormous depth to the visual wonders on display. As Carl and his house, born aloft by … [continued]
Some great new trailers have hit the web in recent days, and they have quite a lot in common with one another in some fascinating ways.
First up, we’ve finally been given our first substantial glimpse into what Terry Gilliam has cooked up in his new film The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, and, as one might expect, it is spectacularly bizarre. I cannot wait to see Heath Ledger’s final performance. Click here for the trailer.
Is that not enough cinematic weirdness for you? Then check out the trailer for Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland. That man was born to make this movie. I just hope it has a little more life to it than Burton’s version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory did.
Are we on a roll yet? Continuing the theme of visionary directors adapting famous books, take a peak at the newly-released second trailer for Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. That looks absolutely marvelous, doesn’t it?
Finally, speaking of visionary directors adapting famous books, here‘s a long-anticipated (by me, at least) look at Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones that is absolutely haunting. Can’t wait.… [continued]
Last month I wrote about discovering and really enjoying, in college, some films from what I consider to be Steven Spielberg’s “middle period,” in which he began moving from the crowd-pleasing adventure films that he did so well (epitomized by Raiders of the Lost Ark) to more serious dramatic material (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, etc.) Rewatching The Color Purple for the first time in a decade, I found that there was still a lot to enjoy, though in some ways I felt the film was a bit simplistic. (Click here for my full review.)
But I found myself quite mesmerized by Empire of the Sun when I re-watched it last month (also for the first time in about ten years). This is a dramatically under-rated movie, and a strong piece of Mr. Spielberg’s over-all filmography.
Young Jim Graham is a spoiled British schoolboy, living with his parents in great luxury in Shanghai in 1941. When the Japanese invade, he is separated from his parents in the chaotic evacuation of British citizens and is left to his own devices to try to survive in the dangerous war-time world.
Whereas I found The Color Purple to have a bit too much schmaltz, Empire of the Sun is surprisingly tough in its depiction of Jim’s four-year ordeal in war-torn China. Although the film centers on a young boy (as do many of Spielberg’s films — see ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, AI: Artificial Intelligence, etc.), this is — for the most part — a tough, honest film. There are moments of Spielbergian romanticization — mostly having to do with Jim’s fascination with airplanes — but I found those to be moving scenes that furthered my emotional connection with the story being told, rather than distracting me from the reality of Jim’s situation.
That’s a tough balance to find — but when he’s at the top of his game, no one is better at finding that balance than Steven Spielberg. And he does fine work here. There are long stretches of the film without any dialogue, propelled by the gorgeous and haunting imagery (and a lush but not overly intrusive score by John Williams). When there is dialogue, it’s tight, well-written stuff penned by Tom Stpppard (Brazil, Shakespeare in Love).
Spielberg is well known — and rightfully so — for his skill in getting strong performances from his child actors, and Empire of the Sun is a stand-out in that department. Jim is played by a young Christain Bale (who’s been having quite a moment, playing Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins & the Dark Knight as well as a variety of other high-profile roles in films such as … [continued]
In one of my very first posts for this site, I mentioned that I’d really enjoyed Cloverfield when I saw it on the big screen, but I wondered how it would hold up to a second viewing (especially on a TV screen as opposed to on an enormous movie theatre screen).
I was eager to find out, so I scooped up Cloverfield on DVD when it came out, about a year ago. But, for some reason, that DVD sat on my shelf, unwatched. I’m not sure why. Maybe other films just caught my attention. Maybe I didn’t want to discover that the film didn’t work on a second viewing.
But a few weeks ago I finally decided to pop in that DVD. And you know what? I am pleased to report that I enjoyed the film just as much as I did the first time I saw it!
The first 10-15 minutes of the film could be the start of any type of urban dramedy. A group of friends gather in an NYC loft to throw a good-bye party for one of their friends, Rob (Michael Stahl-David), who is leaving town for a new job in Japan. Through some fun banter we begin to get a sense of the dynamic between the group of friends, and learn hints at a romance that went wrong between Rob and Beth (Odette Yustman). Then the power cuts out, they see a huge explosion across the city skyline, and the party-goers rush out of the building in a panic only to see the severed head of the Statue of Liberty smash into the street.
Then, you know, things get worse from there.
The conceit of the film is that one of the friends, Hud (T.J. Miller), who was filming the good-bye party as a favor, winds up capturing on his digital video camera the entire nightmarish scenario that follows. The entire movie is seen from the point of view of his camera. This is an enormous conceit, to be sure, and certainly there are a few times in the film where you might find yourself wondering, “I can’t believe he still has the camera on!” But I think the filmmakers do a pretty credible job at maintaining credibility to this idea throughout the film. (And, interestingly enough, while on my first viewing I did find myself evaluating, from scene to scene, whether I could really believe that Hud would have been able to capture what I was seeing, on this second viewing I didn’t think about that at all. I totally accepted the scenario.)
I have to praise the filmmakers, camera-men, editors, etc., for the skill with which the shots were created and … [continued]
Battlestar Galactica vets Hamie Bamber (Lee Apollo) and Tahmoh Penikett (Helo) will be together again on the season 2 premiere of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse! Click here for more details.
Speaking of Dollhouse, any interview with Mr. Whedon is always worth a look, and this piece contains some tantalizing glimpses at the unaired Dollhouse episode “Epitah 1″ (which screened at Comic-Con and sounds super-cool) as well as hints at a sequel to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (one of my favoritest things ever)!!
So wow, Capone over at AICN has a report from Peter Jackson covering about 10,000 upcoming projects, all of them enormously exciting!! Click here to get an update on The Hobbit, District 9, The Lovely Bones, Tintin, and more!
The Sci-Fi channel (urg, I really don’t want to call it Sy-Fy) has posted video from all of its Comic-Con panels. Perhaps, like me, you couldn’t care less to watch video of people talking about Stargate: Universe — but be sure to check out the full hour-long panel about Battlestar Galactica: The Plan and Caprica!
Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill will be lending their vocal talents to The Simpsons? Awesome! Here’s some additional info that came to light at Comic-Con on the season’s upcoming 20th (20 years! Unbelievable!!) season.
I am disappointed, but not terribly surprised, to read that Kevin Smith might have to change the title of his upcoming buddy cop movie (starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan), A Couple of Dicks.
By all accounts, the Iron Man 2 panel was pretty awesome. (Click here for a description.) Why can’t some of this footage be found on-line?? Grrr. But here’s another interesting tidbit of Marvel movie news: some hints about the line-up for the upcoming Avengers movie! Some interesting choices. I really hope that they use Millar/Hitch’s magnificent Ultimates series (which I reviewed here) as the basis for this film.
Since Comic-Con is also a place for news about, you know, comics, I’ll close with a piece of comic-book news that should get any true comic fan very excited: Planetary #27 is finally being released in October!!! Can it possibly live-up to the hype generated by the years-long delay? We’ll see!… [continued]