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Friday, December 12, 2008
Trailer Reviews: December Batch
Pay Full Price Star Trek: I honestly never expected to find myself looking forward to a Star Trek movie. It helps, tremendously, that this actually looks a bit like the anti-Trek. A Trek in name only. In other words, the fact that everything about this film is pissing the holy hell out of the people whose fascination with the show turned it from an actual pop culture thing into the most convenient short-hand possible for "obsessive weirdo loners you don't want to hang around more than necessary" gives me great hope that we might actually get a watchable science-fiction action film.
Push: I am, perhaps, too willing to overlook potential problems with a movie just because they cast Chris Evans in it. And the vague Jumper-ish vibe I get off this "super-powered young adults fight the government" piece suggests that may be the case here. Still, as long as it's better than the second Fantastic Four film (which, honestly, won't be hard), I'll probably be happy.
The Spirit: I don't care what anyone says; I think it looks like a hoot. Like a live-action version of All-Star Batman.
The Unborn: It's like every contemporary horror film cliche rolled into one, but it still looks strangely compelling. Plus, both David S. Goyer and Gary Oldman have earned the benefit of the doubt on stuff like this, so a certain baseline of quality is probably going to be there.
Timecrimes: Whoah, wait...a time-travel movie that isn't about big explodey effects and actually has a unique approach to the genre, namely trying to prevent your past (or future) self from committing murder? I...I can't believe someone made something like that. Oh, it's not American? Well, that explains it.
Netflix-able Chandni Chowk to China: I literally sat dumb-founded through this. A mash up of every Bollywood and martial arts cliche actually got filmed and released. It's like some strange, pomo, post-colonial chimera, and I'm finding the concept intriguing.
Inkheart: I see that film studios are still searching for their post-Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter fantasy-film meal-ticket. This doesn't look as if there's anything particularly wrong with it...but it doesn't look like there's anything remarkable about it, either.
Watchmen: While I'm still not finding myself exactly favorably inclined towards the film, I'm not exactly finding myself hostile to it either. I'm enough of a contrarian to be amused by the folks who are outraged that the name of the hero group has been changed to "Watchmen" from "Minutemen". But in general I'm just seeing it as an ambitious failure. I'm suspecting that Snyder has his heart in the right place, and he seems to get the original materials in a way that previous adapters of Moore comics didn't, but I don't think the complexities of the source material can translate to film, and the marketing truly seems to be selling the movie as an action film starring Rorshach. If that's not what Snyder delivers, I think the general audience is going to reject the movie. But, at the very least, the film's imminent release finally got DC to change that god-awful cover for the collected edition, with the extreme close-up of a blood drop that only made sense to people who had already read the comic.
The Lodger: I kind of dig this approach to a remake. The story of a landlord who begins to suspect his tenant is Jack the Ripper becomes a story of a landlord who suspects her tenant is a serial killer imitating Jack the Ripper. That it's got a pretty decent cast is a plus, especially to someone like me, who will sit through some pretty dreadful serial killer films just because it's late and I'm bored.
Let the Right One In: I hear really good things about this, but the mere fact that it's a vampire movie gives me an incredible amount of skeptical resistance that the film needs to overcome. My loathing and hatred of the vampire genre may be utterly irrational, but man, when shit like Twilight actually makes money, can you blame me for thinking vampires are fucking stupid?
Gran Torino: Cranky codger Clint Eastwood as a cranky codger with a gun fighting gangs. It's almost beautiful in its simplicity as a film concept.
Splinter: What looks like more disposable torture-porn about drifters kidnapping the happy young white couple actually turns out to be a movie about people trapped by a...satanic porcupine? The swerve alone perked my interest.
Duplicity: This gives every impression of being a bouncy, tongue-in-cheek caper film. In fact, it looks good enough that I'm willing to overlook the presence of Paul Giamatti.
Angels & Demons: About the only positive thing there is to say about the last film version of a Dan Brown book is that at least the movie was better than the book. It's going to be a gloriously over-indulgent train-wreck of a film, but I feel compelled to see it, if only to see just how awful it ends up being.
The Uninvited: Ah, another movie about a teenage girl being menaced by vaguely defined ghosts. The "step-mom is a serial killer" angle is a nice touch, though. Gives it just enough spin on the core concept.
Defiance: I don't usually have the patience for war movies, but it's nice to see a film about Jewish resistance fighters, instead of the usual "yay, here come the Americans to solve everyone's problems" approach.
The Haunting in Connecticut: My loathing for "based on a true story" horror films is duking it out with my love of haunted house movies. As a rental, at least, I can always turn it off if, as I suspect, it does turn out to be sub-Amityville level plotting and scares.
Prometheus Had It Easy Fired Up: I was willing to just shrug this off as yet another stupid teen sex comedy starring actors in their thirties, and then right smack at the end, a fag joke. So the people involved with this can go die in a fire.
Delgo: Just because you have the funding to make a film, that doesn't mean you should.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Every new trailer they come up with for this film just makes it look creepier and creepier and creepier. I honestly can't tell who the intended audience for this film could possibly be; nothing about it looks appealing. I guess, maybe, it's for the Fitzgerald fans?
The Day the Earth Stood Still: It's fun watching Keanu attempt to emote. I'd like to see him and Tobey Maguire attempt to do a serious drama together...
Marley & Me: I love doggie movies. To a point that may be unhealthy. I won't see this. Solely because it stars the two most obnoxious celebrities in the world.
2012: The Mayans couldn't think of a practical use for the wheel, but conspiracy theorists would have you believe that they knew when the world would end. Yeah, no, this is skippable. I'll put up with some stupid bullshit in my movies, but not this crap.
Friday the 13th: So, we've gone from remaking the good horror movies, to remaking the shitty horror films that were rip-offs of the good ones in the first place. At this rate, I fully expect someone to be remaking April Fool's Day or My Bloody Valentine any day now...
Paul Blart: Mall Cop: A Christmas movie that doesn't come out until January? Yeah, that ain't a good sign.
Valkyrie: Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise in "The Good Nazi, Who We Will Be Pretending Wasn't Complicit in the Murder of Over Six Million People Until He Realized That Hitler Was Kind Of an Asshole."
Finding myself with an excess of time on my hands over the weekend, I used it to sit down and watch some "under $5" DVDs I'd purchased recently, of films that I felt deserved to be in my collection, Alien and An American Werewolf in London. They're both good films (for varying degrees of "good") that I enjoy, but I'd never really placed them highly on my list of favorites. Taking the opportunity to watch them again, after not seeing either in probably at least ten years, offered a chance to reappraise them.
Now, I probably would have to say that Werewolf is the better film of the two. It has flaws, to be certain. It's better as a horror film with some darkly comic moments than as a comedy with some horrific moments. In retrospect, the inclusion of the continually decaying Griffin Dunne as the undead Jack never really works. I can see that it's a gag that writer/director Landis thought was unique and clever, but it just doesn't gell in the final film. Supernatural horror is tricky enough to pull off, and while a back-packing American turning into a werewolf just about falls into "suspension of disbelief" range, to have him haunted by zombies as well is just pushing things too far.
But apart from that, the film largely works. Most of the comedy comes believably from the characters reacting to their situations, and the horrific parts are suitably frightening. David Naughton gives a particularly good performance as a young man, cut off from his family and friends, in an unfamiliar place, who has suffered great trauma and is not quite sure if what he suspects is happening to him is really happening of if he's losing his mind. The film also features one truly masterful sequence. And while the absolute carnage that takes place in Piccadilly Circus is thrilling and proof, as if any is needed, that one doesn't need hordes of monsters to create a serious and credible threat to a large number of people, it's the stalking of the commuter in the subway station where the film truly is most successful in creating a sense of terror and dread and unease.
Somehow I had managed to see this film in theaters upon it's initial release. I'm still not sure how I managed that. My parents were fairly lax about letting me see R rated films, with horror films being the particular exception to that rule. I know I did see horror films as a child (Jaws is the first film I have memory of seeing in a theater), mostly with my father, but all I can think is that my dad heard of John Landis's involvement with this film and assumed it would be more in line with something like Blues Brothers or Animal House, and that the adult jokes would simply go over my head. Also, in seeing the film as an adult, I think I've pinpointed this as the moment werewolves became my supernatural monster of choice. Granted, as an adult the symbolism of werewolves appeals to me more than that of vampires or ghosts or witches, but as a pre-gay kid, I strongly suspect that the frequent nudity of David Naughton in this film helped cement the appeal for me.
A film I most definitely was not allowed to see in the theater was Alien. Watching it now, it's both better and worse than I remembered it being. It's better, in that it takes a lot of those elements that I tend to associate with the auteur-influenced methods of film-making popularized in the seventies; shots that are held for a prolonged period, a very slow and deliberately paced plot, naturalistic dialogue and acting, and a biting and somewhat cynical world view, and applies them to the science-fiction genre. And as a science-fiction film, Alien is definitely one of the classics. As a horror film, it's a bit of a mess. Partly that's because a creature we don't know anything about or understand killing off people with little to no personality one by one isn't particularly scary or terrible. It's just about half of a plot. But still, it's the only good film in the Alien series, and far and away better than the jingoistic militarism of Aliens.
Another thing that becomes more noticeable about Alien upon rewatching is that, despite Sigourney Weaver's Lt. Ripley frequently being cited as the premier strong female lead so often cited as lacking in action, sci-fi and horror films...she's not. Not really. Ripley is a strong character, absolutely, but she feels like a stronger woman than she really is because the only other female character in the film is the prone to hysterics Lambert. Apart from going back to save the cat, a remarkably human moment for a character that up to now has been portrayed as being preoccupied with rules and regulations (as evidenced by her willingness to leave Kane on the surface of the planet rather than break quarantine and her head-butting with Ash over protocol violations), Ripley is largely indistinguishable from her male co-workers. She's pretty much of the "man with breasts" school of "strong" female characters, an impression heightened when you consider that screen-writer Dan O'Bannon allegedly wrote the roles in the film as unisex. That still didn't prevent Ridley Scott from devoting an extended sequence in the film to watching Ripley strip. Still, given that most sci-fi/horror/fantasy fans are of the types that see something like Buffy as a deep feminist statement, maybe Ripley isn't so bad at that.
I've mentioned how Argento like to exploit the voyeuristic aspects of horror films, and a key example of that is in the film The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. In this early scene from the film, Tony Musante plays Sam Dalmas, an American writer living in Rome and forced to write books about the care of exotic birds in order to make a living. While walking home after picking up his final pay-check, the pay-check which will allow him and his girl-friend to move back to America, he walks past an art gallery and sees an altercation inside:
Moving closer, Sam can see a woman struggling with a man in a dark coat, a knife close to the woman's face:
Momentarily distracted when a car nearly runs him over, Sam looks up to see the woman has been stabbed, and the man in the dark coat is leaving the art gallery through a back door:
Sam rushes into the building to help the woman, only to discover that the interior doors to the building are locked from the inside. He is unable to reach the injured woman and aid her:
Unseen by Sam, the man in the dark coat presses a button from inside the building, sealing the exterior doors as well. Sam is now trapped between two sets of doors, unable to go for help, unable to reach the woman, able to do nothing, in fact, but watch the woman slowly bleed. It's a harrowing sequence, conjuring up strong claustrophobic imagery appropriate to a horror film, as the woman tries to escape the building, only to see Sam and turn to him, apparently unaware that he is as trapped as she is:
A man comes by the gallery, and Sam mimes for him to go get help. The man mimes back that he is unable to hear Sam and leaves, giving Sam no indication whether or not he has understood Sam's plea for help and seemingly unaware of the injured woman:
Again, Sam is unable to take any actions, other than watch the woman slowly bleed. He paces the small corridor, alternating between watching the woman and looking for possible help:
Finally, the police arrive, and Sam is finally able to indicate the injured woman to someone. He, however, remains trapped in between the gallery and the street. Again, there is nothing he can do but watch:
It's quite a neat trick Argento pulls here. He takes the criticism of horror films as sadistic, voyeuristic entertainments, and puts his hero into the same position as the audience. The audience, in a horror film, is invited to see something that should not be seen, and as a consequence is unable to look away. Sam is put into the same position. He has seen something he should not have seen, and now he is quite literally trapped, unable to do anything except watch, even as another person's life is on the line.
It's also worth noting, that as the police arrive, Sam moves from viewer to viewed. Now he is an object of scrutiny for the police, now they must watch him, and the camera shift away from Sam, placing him in an actual spot-light within the gallery, only emphasizes this. Since Sam is the figure the film has invited the audience to identify with, both by making him the protagonist and by placing him into the same voyeur role as the audience, this shift to being the object of study himself also turns around on the audience. Sam is looking back at the audience in these final frames as much as he is looking at the police.
And now, in no particular order, four of the best scenes from Dario Argento movies.
Trauma Doctor Lloyd, playd by Brad Dourif, is decapitated by the Headhunter via elevator, and the camera follows the still-screaming head's descent down the shaft.
Phenomena Jennifer Corvino, played by Jennifer Connelly, psychically commands insects to devour the murderous dwarf who has been terrorizing the Swiss countryside, only to encounter the true villain and be saved by a chimpanzee with a straight razor.
Deep Red Pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) witnesses the murder of his neighbor, and in a brilliant move, Argento actually reaveals the killer's identity at the start of the film, in his greatest "hero misunderstands the vital clue" scene yet.
Opera Betty, a young opera diva played by Christina Marsillach, is forced to watch her stalker murder her friends and lovers, in a film in which Argento directly critiques the voyeuristic and sadistic elements of horror films.
So, Mother of Tears. I almost hate to review it, because here I am, setting up this week about how great Argento films are, and his most recent release is absolutely terrible. A lot of the blame can be chalked up to "sequel-itis." You see, in Suspiria, Argento set up this back-story about the Three Mothers: Mater Suspiriorum (the Mother of Sighs), Mater Tenebrarum (the Mother of Darkness) and Mater Lachrimarum (the Mother of Tears). The Three Mothers are extremely powerful witches who essentially created black magic because they got bored one day. In Suspiria, American dance student Suzy Banyon destroys Mater Suspiriorum pretty much by accident. In Inferno American music student Mark Elliot, while investigating his sister's mysterious disappearance, accidentally destroys Mater Tenebrarum. In Mother of Tears, however, American art restorer Sarah Mandy (which is hard to tell, because Asia Argento is utterly incapable of maintaining an American accent) accidentally releases Mater Lachrimarum from imprisonment, beginning a series of calamitous events that nearly destroys the world and results in the deaths of...well, pretty much every single character in the film save two.
Really, Dario? A demon in the camera? You're going to start the film with a "gotcha" scare?
The primary problem with the film is one of tone: there isn't one. Well, no, that's not entirely fair. There is no suspense to the film. There's none of the surreal dream logic that characterized Suspiria. Instead we get a disjointed series of events, punctuated by extreme gore. Yes, extreme gore, even by the standards of an Argento film, a director who has never been particularly squeamish about showing brutal and inventive methods of murder. It's almost as if Argento looked at the contemporary marketplace for horror films and decided to make something that would sell, not something that would actually cap off the story begun in Suspiria. Mother of Tears has more of Saw or Hostel to it than films like Tenebrae or Deep Red.
Never get blood on the mystic artifacts, kids.
Plot-wise, the film runs along rather confused lines. A mysterious casket is unearthed at a monastery. The casket, decorated with mystical sigils, is sent to an archaeological museum to be researched. While there, the casket is opened by two assistants, one of them Sarah, and the other disemboweled in short order by three demons while Sarah is chased through the museum by a monkey. She escapes only when a mysterious voice opens locked doors, allowing her to escape. The police, understandably, are skeptical of her story. Meanwhile, the contents of the casket are claimed by a witch-cult worshipping Mater Lachrimarum, and a wave of violence and murder begins to sweep through Rome. Sarah's boss/lover Michael tries to discover the history of the casket, finding that it contains the emblems of Mater Lachrimarum's power. Underage prostitutes begin following Michael as he comes closer to finding out who took the casket and he soon finds that his son has been kidnapped by witches. It's at this point that Sarah starts to come off as a bit of a dolt, as she refuses to see any connections between the casket, the waves of violence, and the murder of her co-worker.
The forces of Evil, or Lufthansa flight attendants?
More witches begin arriving in Rome as the cult's power grows and Sarah starts researching the appearances of trinities in occult history. Michael disappears while attempting to find an exorcist, prompting Sarah to search for him, cleverly outwitting the emo-est witches in the world in a train-station, escaping only by finding an inventive use for a sliding door and her previously unknown ability to turn invisible. Yes, really. And that's the point where any pretense of logic flees the film in search of greener pastures. Sarah tracks down an exorcist, only to get him killed. She gets help from a lesbian good witch, only to get her killed. She finds Michael, who's now a zombie. She finds an alchemist who knows the history of the Three Mothers and how to destroy them, only to get him killed. And all along, the ghost of her mother, a good witch who imprisoned Mater Suspiriorum, thus weakening her enough for a dancer to kill, gives her pretty much useless advice consistently too late to be of much use.
Witchcraft training looks remarkably like weird lesbian foreplay.
After a fairly interminable period of wandering around, Sarah and the one competent cop in Rome discover the hiding place of Mater Lachrimarum and her coven. Argento pulls out all the stops, here. He wants to create a Boschian nightmare of debauchery and depravity and evil, but the end result is...silly. Like an episode of Red Shoe Diaries crossed with Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose. And at the end of all things, the Mother of Tears is defeated...because she kept all her power in an object that burns easily. Of course, our heroine has to endure at least one more disgusting, humiliating scene before she's allowed to escape and enjoy her near-coincidental and almost completely accidental triumph. It's almost as if the witch-cult gave Sarah the power to defeat them, as frankly just about anyone could have given the nature of their destruction.
Yes, Asia, this is the crap in your dad's head.
Really, it's a downright tragedy that this is how Argento has chosen to end the storyline begun in Suspiria. In hindsight, neither follow-up was really necessary or contributed to the effectiveness of the original (nor, do I suspect, will the long-discussed remake of Suspiria that threatens to be made every few years).
Not even lots of shots of Italian men in suits can save this film.
Tomorrow: Suspiria gets the treatment it's always deserved!
I've been watching horror films as long as I can remember. The first film I can recall seeing in a theater was Jaws. Even if I have to say it myself, I consider myself a very finicky connoisseur of the genre. I won't go near zombie or vampire films, and I've been known to rage at the screen when a film blithely ignores it's own internal logic, on the grounds that "it's horror" is no excuse for sloppy storytelling and continuity errors. And, given all that, Dario Argento is the only horror film maker whose films I make a point of seeing. In my personal film collection, Argento is represented more than any other director by a factor of at least times three.
When you break down his films into their component parts, his appeal to me feels obvious. Argento likes to experiment with interesting perspective shots and camera tricks. His use of color to build mood and emotion is practically unique within the horror genre. The play he engages in with the visual nature of horror is so strong it becomes a recurring theme throughout the films. Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Opera both exploit the voyeuristic aspects of horror and horror as an audience spectacle. The long tracking shot within the ballet theater in Sleepless is probably one of the most inventive examples of building an inevitable sense of dread I've seen in film. Oh, just look (but not at work):
The visual inventiveness you see in Argento's films is something you just don't see in other films. The only films that are even remotely comparable are those that fall into the "torture porn" genre, and the intent in those films is more similar to the old Herschell Gordon Lewis school of film-making, where the intent is merely to find new and elaborate ways to gross out the audience. Argento's films are more complicated; there is as much an implication of the audience's culpability into the brutality, an accusation that the audience is as much participant as viewer that challenges the passive nature of film-going. Again, the emphasis on the voyeuristic nature of horror films is a strong component of this. It's at the strongest in a film like Opera, but more recent efforts, such as Do You Like Hitchcock? return to the theme and make them central to the story
If there's a slight weakness in Argento's formula it's in the fact that there is, in fact, a formula. Whether a straight-thriller or a more supernaturally-orientated outing, there are a few key factors that repeat themselves over and over again in Argento's work:
A black-gloved killer.
A motivation rooted in a real or imagined wrong-doing in the past.
A clue contained in a work of art.
The hero misinterprets an important clue.
An obviously innocent red herring character.
A character figures out the killer's identity but dies before the hero can be told.
(This last list item reaches it's zenith in Inferno, in which every character dies shortly after meeting the hero, who finally confronts the Ultimate Evil of the film without knowing who she is, why she's important, or knowing what the hell is going on at all.)
And while Argento does love his formula, it works surprisingly well. It gives a tested and effective spine on which to hang his set-pieces and characters and shots, which is why you watch his film. You know you're only ever going to see the killer's hands until the last fifteen minutes of the film, and you know that the killer is insane because of something that happened years before the film starts, and you know you're going to be tricked into misunderstanding something important along with the hero, but it doesn't matter, because you're going to be seeing some inventive and original camera work and scene stagings with distinctive characters.
(Another complaint it might be fair to make, and this extends to big swathes of the horror genre as a whole, is that there is frequently a chauvinistic, if not outright misogynist, subtext to many of Argento's films. There's no point in denying that it's there, in some films, such as Stendhal Syndrome there's almost no film without that subtext. The only mitigating factor that can be offered is that, compared to most of his contemporaries in the Euro-horror scene, Argento is an enlightened feminist. Don't watch any Lucio Fulci or Lamberto Bava films if you're uncomfortable with cinematic depictions of violence against women because they're women.)
So, with all that in mind, which Argento films should you be watching if you're curious about his works? Well:
To Watch Bird with the Crystal Plumage: His earliest thriller work, and very conventional by the standards of the genre, but it sets the tone and formula for so much of his later work and it really is a clever and devious little mystery. Cat O' Nine Tails: The killer's motivation is perhaps amongst the silliest you will find in cinema, but it continues the tone set by the previous film. Deep Red: One of the significant films in the giallo genre and Euro-horror in general, with some very inventive set-pieces and characterizations, with another clever and devious mystery at it's heart. Suspiria: The master-work. The film that defines and justifies Argento's place in film history. A phantasmagorical supernatural thriller filled with twisted dream logic. Yes, we will be revisiting this. Tenebre: A return to the pure thriller roots, with one of the best and most unexpected twists in horror history. Phenomena: A bit too caught up in the midst of 80s horror trends, and the thriller and supernatural elements never quite mesh, but still worth watching. Opera: Probably does more to critique the horror genre while playing by the rules of genre of any film, save possibly the original Scream. Trauma: Argento's "American" film, and it shows. Lacks the punch of his earlier works and feels like an after-school special at times. Scott Pilgrim fans will like it, though, for the creepy pederastic aspects of the story. Sleepless: After a decade of sub-par work, Argento's return to pure giallo territory and tropes. It's a kitchen-sink approach to the thriller, but it uses Argento's formula to great effect. Do You Like Hitchcock?: Remarkably low-key compared to most of his other film's, but a nice tribute to Argento's primary influence.
To Avoid (Yeah, Argento does misfire, and spectacularly, from time to time.) Inferno: The first sequel to Suspiria, and the first clue that maybe Suspiria should have been left to stand alone. Stendahl's Syndrome: A bloated, confused, border-line misogynist exercise in making the audience feel as dirty and sick as possible. Phantom of the Opera: There really is no excuse for this film. The Card Player: It's got a very clever trick in the central mystery, but the characters never gell, none of it ever quite makes sense and it just sort of chugs along to an inevitable conclusion. Masters of Horror: Pelts and Jennifer: Final proof that Argento just should not try to work with American production companies. Both are utterly unwatchable dreck. Mother of Tears: Oh dear. We'll be revisiting this as well.
Next Time: We watch Mother of Tears, the finale to the Three Mothers trilogy, and test our dedication to this whole "Argento Week" in the process.
Fall is a dicey time of year for movies. What you basically have to choose from are the films that aren't considered quite good enough money-makers to release in the summer or over Christmas, and the early batches of the Oscar-bait films. Frankly it's a miracle anything worth watching ever comes out between the firsts of September and December.
Full Price Milk: It's horribly Oscar-baitey, but I'll forgive that, given that it's a fantastic cast, a director who, frankly, needs to make a good film again, and a historically important subject that feels particularly relevant in contemporary politics again.
Ghost Town: I have high hopes for this. The reason is simple: I laughed at the trailer despite Ricky Gervais being in it.
Eagle Eye: It looks like dumb action movie stuff with a ridiculously implausible plot. That's what I want from my action movies usually. I'm not necessarily proud of that (or the sick sick sick Shia LaBeouf thing).
Watchmen: I have to admit, my curiosity about what the final product is going to look like has overcome my significant reservations about the ultimate unfilmability of the original comics. I'm not expecting this to be the breakout, maturing of the genre that some expect it to be. I just don't see this going over well with the public at large. For all the film-maker's statements to the contrary, they've crafted a trailer that makes the story look like a super-hero beat-em-up. If the final film is not, the majority of the public that has not read the comic is going to feel cheated. If it is, they'll have missed the point of the source material. So it looks like a lose-lose situation either way.
Quantum of Solace: I'd written off the Bond films a long time ago. Let's face it, the last good one was On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and even that is stretching the definition of "good" to the breaking point. So it took me awhile to get around to seeing Casino Royale. But when I did...man. It was like someone had actually read a Fleming novel and based a film on it, rather than trying to remake In Like Flint. Again. And so, yes, I'll be more than happy to put down my $10 to see a follow-up to that.
Netflix-able Bolt: It's a doggie movie, so I'm intrigued despite myself. I'd really much rather see the Chris Sanders take on the subject, rather than what we're getting.
Rock N Rolla: Guy Ritchie films are usually worth renting, at best. But Dark Castle films are usually worth ignoring entirely. Combine them, and you've got something that might be worth renting, so long as you keep your finger right on the "disc tray open" button so that you can end the film immediately if you need to.
Changeling: Clint Eastwood is an iffy proposition as a director. He tends towards the self-important, if not the downright self-indulgent. But the story here is compelling enough that it's hard to imagine Eastwood going too far off the rails (though scenes of Angelina Jolie in an asylum might suggest otherwise). Now if only I could hear the title without shuddering at the thought of someone remaking the George C. Scott film.
Role Models: It looks utterly horrible and like a rehash of a dozen other films. And that's without getting into the ongoing love affair with man-children that Hollywood seems to be in. But, it's Paul Rudd and Sean William Scott. I'll just turn the volume down real low and stare at them for ninety minutes.
Max Payne: So, it's a movie based on a video game that was a break-through because it incorporated into it's gameplay a cinematic technique that's become played out and cliche in actual films. Gotcha. Pretty, though, and who knows, Marky Mark may take his shirt off.
The Spirit: I'm curious to see it, in a "how bad can it get" sort of way. I mean, I was in the minority in thinking Sin City was lousy (though I get the impression that critical consensus has shifted in my direction on it), and the attempts to replicate that look is not encouraging. But there's been some almost wit in some of the footage that's been shown (and some beefcake), so rental it is.
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: I've been assured that the source material is better than this trailer makes it look, so I'm tentatively overlooking the fact that Michael Cera is in this and I'm willing to give the rental a shot.
Sex Drive: I laughed more than once. For this kind of film, that's the one and only clue that it might be even remotely worth my time to watch.
Australia: Has Baz Luhrman made his second good film, after Strictly Ballroom? Time will tell, but lord knows it can't possibly be as bad as Romeo+Juliet.
Choke: I seem to be one of the few American adult males who didn't think Fight Club was a revelatory work of genius. I don't know, maybe my daddy did love me enough. But I like Sam Rockwell well enough, and there's a darkly comic edge on view here that makes me think I can give the film a shot at least.
Known To Cause Spontaneous Blindness Doubt: Oh, look, it's The Children's Hour with an evil nun instead of a vicious brat. Or is it The Crucible with an evil nun instead of a vicious brat. Or is it Atonement with an evil nun instead of a vicious brat. You know, I'm getting the impression I've seen this kind of film enough times already.
The Soloist: Nothing like a little white liberal guilt sprinkled into your "give me an Oscar" film. But hey, it worked for Crash.
The International: So Hollywood is just now getting the message that banks are evil and people hate them? I'm tempted to say that I admire the restraint the film-makers show in the trailer; after all, they don't show any bankers biting the heads off babies, but it looks so fundamentally stupid a film (first clue on that score, Clive Owen is in it) that I just sigh heavily and move on.
Nights and Weekends: Another "pretty straight white people have romantic issues" movie. Coupled with the least interesting trailer I think I've ever seen in my life.
Madagascar 2: If this is the kind of uninspired garbage that's going to be foisted on the public, I've got no problem banning animation entirely.
Fast and Furious: Well, we've seen the most interesting stunt in the trailer, so there's no reason for anyone to pay money to see the film now. Ah well. I guess Vin Diesel's career won't recover after all.
The Haunting of Molly Hartley: It's looking to be a pretty dire Halloween for horror fans if sub-basic cable level stars in kid-friendly anti-Christ movies are up on offer.
Nothing Like the Holidays: While I respect the efforts to get a family Holiday movie made that doesn't follow the usual "white people with problems" model, the fact that this looks nearly identical to every other "wacky, dysfunctional family hijinx at Christmas" movie ever made is a huge strike against it.
Real Time: I'm pretty fed up with films that ask us to identify and sympathise with people whose troubles are entirely of their own making. And just because every other crime film features, inexplicably, a British actor in the cast, that's no reason to make Randy Quaid speak with a silly accent in your allegedly "quirky" film.
Humboldt County: Having actually lived in Humboldt County, I've met more than my share of pot growers. They're not kooky yet lovable eccentrics. No, they're pretty much just shiftless hippies.
Body of Lies: You can stick as much fake facial hair on him as you want, Leonardo DiCaprio still looks to be about twelve. I just...no, there's no possible way for me to take him seriously.
Appaloosa: I'll start caring about Westerns again when the people making them stop mistaking "hard man" cliches and moral ambiguity for interesting film-making.
High School Musical 3: Senior Year: I've managed to stay blissfully ignorant of the whole "High School Musical" thing, and seeing as how I'm not a pre-teen girl (or Chris Sims), I'm okay with that. This trailer is the most I've ever seen of any iteration of it, and it doesn't look like I'm missing anything.
Yes Man: Bradley Cooper is seriously endangering my fondness for him by appearing in a movie with Jim Carrey. One with an embarrassingly unsubtle Red Bull ad inserted into the trailer at that.
Shiver: Man, when did the European horror directors start making the same sort of tired-looking shlock the Americans are doing?
What Just Happened: Can we please stop making movies about the film industry? Film is a narcissistic and masturbatory business as it is.
Saw V: Fuck me, what's it going to take to get people to stop giving money to the people who make this shit?
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: And the "need to buy a bigger house" phase of Simon Pegg's career officially begins. Gross out comedy with a man-child character...yes, this is exactly the sort of thing we didn't need more of.
W.: I know some people are worried about Stone pulling a Nader with this film, but let's be honest: does anyone actually think people are going to go see an Oliver Stone movie anymore?
Quarantine: I guess Cloverfield made at least enough money for more sub-Blair Witch faux-verite films to get made. And here's the "zombies in an apartment building" film that one guy who still gets excited about zombie movies was clamoring for...
Twilight: Even if I didn't hate vampire movies out of all proportion to their impact on my life, I'd still have to pass on the film version of the books that are all about using them as symbols for sexual repression in teenage girls.
The Day the Earth Stood Still: While I have to admire the sense of humor of whoever cast Keanu Reeves as an emotionless alien, I have to say that the best thing about this movie is that it increases the likelihood of a third Bill and Ted movie getting made.
I usually ignore those "XXty Greatest XXXXXX Movies" lists because, honestly, the lists are so subjectively put together and so barely plausible in their justifications of what belongs on the list and what doesn't that it becomes a fool's game to try to make any sense of them. And, shockingly, I find it hard to believe that anyone really cares how many of the "200 Greatest Car Chase Films" I've seen. But then AfterElton had to go and make a list of the 50 Greatest Gay Movies, and I realized that, oh yeah, I can be infuriatingly opinionated about gay films.
1. Brokeback Mountain: It's probably fair to quibble over whether or not this really qualifies as a "gay" film. Everyone involved in the production was straight, after all, but it's probably the most successful and well made film on gay themes to come out so far. The acting is superb, and it's an emotionally moving story, but it's problematic that the most widely acclaimed gay love story set to film is about two closeted men, one of whom dies at the end.
2. Beautiful Thing: The gay film genre is crowded with coming out stories, so it's nice to see the best example of the trope placed so highly, as it really is the only one you ever need to see to know everything there is to know about that particular sub-genre.
3. Shelter: I suspect this film places as highly as it does because it's very recent and well regarded. And it is a good film, to be sure, I'm just not certain it's "third best gay film" good. It's another coming out story, and it has the pacing problems common to independent films, but it's mercifully free of that irritating gratuitous male nudity that many gay films feel obligated to have while still showing intimacy between men very tenderly and believably.
4. Latter Days: Another film to benefit from recent memories, I suspect. It's a coming out film, again, but the religious back-ground of the story is an innovative and compelling variation of the genre, and the film-makers deserve some credit for taking the "sexy Mormon" subgenre of porn mainstream and taking it seriously.
5. Maurice: Unwatchable, melodramatic clap-trap, in my opinion.
6. Trick 7. Get Real
8. Big Eden: A surprisingly good film about being gay in a small town, even if the notion that no one in rural Montana is homophobic or racist is a bit fantastic.
9. The Broken Hearts Club
10. The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert: While the film is worth watching at least once, it inspired America's love affair with films about magical drag queens that solve people's problems, and I'm afraid that is a sin it cannot be forgiven for. And no, lots of shirtless Guy Pearce scenes don't make up for it.
11. Longtime Companion: A bit too earnest to really be good or enjoyable, but historically an important film. And still loads better than what Hollywood gave us when they decided to finally acknowledge AIDS.
12. Torch Song Trilogy: The second gay film I ever saw, and still one of the best. It's a funny, humanistic story about one man's search for love, and is easily one of those films that everyone really owes it to themselves to see at some point.
13. My Beautiful Laundrette: Probably my choice for "best gay film" and another one of those movies that anyone who calls themselves a film fan should have watched by now. One of the things I like most about it is the casual, matter-of-fact way that the gay relationship is handled. It's a film about two gay men in which the central conflicts have nothing to do with their sex lives, and that's still remarkably rare.
14. Parting Glances: A film important to indie film history and gay film history...and yeah, that's about it. It's at best mediocre, and even after all these years I strain to find any reason why everyone is so hung up over Steve Buscemi's character, as he's just a morose loser.
15. Just a Question of Love 16. Mysterious Skin
17. Summer Storm: Hey, everybody! They remade Beautiful Thing in German!
18. The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Really? Fifty films to list and you put this one there? Don't get me wrong, I love it for the pansexual, cacophonous riot it is, but to put it on a "best gay films" list is to narrow the point of the film so much as to make it laughable.
19. The Birdcage: And every gay man who voted for this film needs to go ahead and slap themselves right now. Hard. And promise never to take any drugs before voting in an online poll ever again. While the original French version might (and that's a pretty fucking conditional "might") deserve some leeway for being both a product of it's time and French, the people who unleashed this abomination on the world have no excuse. Unfunny, homophobic and just plain bad are the three words that come to mind when I think of this gut-churningly awful movie.
20. Sordid Lives
21. Hedwig and the Angry Inch: An amazing film with a fantastic soundtrack, that also feels strangely limited by trying to pin it down as just a "gay" film. You need to see it. It's as simple as that.
22. Shortbus: John Cameron Mitchell managed to pull off what many have tried to do and failed miserably at; making a sexually explicit film that is both dramatically satisfying and non-pornographic. It's a brilliant work, and I wish I could recommend it unconditionally, but I can't, because there is a lot of sex in this movie, in occasionally graphic detail. It works, because sex is such an important aspect of how humans relate to one another, and it never feels exploitative or cheap in the film. But we're Americans, we don't want sex in our films, especially not anything that reeks of non-heteronormative serially monogamous sex.
23. All Over the Guy: It's telling that I had to look to see who was in this film to remember if I'd seen it or not. It's that memorable. I remember enjoying it, but apparently it was very slight.
24. Another Gay Movie: A guilty pleasure. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or not that the gay film genre has matured enough that we can get cheap, exploitative teenage sex comedies on the level of American Pie, but we've got 'em.
25. Boys in the Band: It's a little disappointing this didn't place higher, as historically it's an important film, but it can be very hard going, especially to viewers used to more positive and upbeat gay films. It's probably best to view it as something of a time capsule; this used to be the reality for gay men all over the country. And, you know, it's actually good. It's funny when it needs to be funny, and dramatic when it needs to be dramatic, and pretty much every character is memorable and recognizable. And it's got one of the best "character introduction" lines in film history: "What I am, Michael, is a 32 year-old, ugly, pock marked Jew fairy, and if it takes me a little while to pull myself together, and if I smoke a little grass before I get up the nerve to show my face to the world, it's nobody's god damned business but my own. And how are you this evening?"
26. Philadelphia: How telling that when Hollywood finally deigned to making a movie about AIDS, it was all about a straight man learning to have pity on those disgusting faggots.
29. The Wedding Banquet: Ang Lee's first crack at a gay movie, and slightly more relateable than his masterpiece. It's obviously an earlier example of his work, but there's some nice character development here, with more recognizable motivations.
31. My Own Private Idaho: The fetishistic devotion some people have to this film astounds me. It's really, honestly, not very good, with some truly dreadful acting and an absolutely charisma-less leading man. It's cold and emotionally uninvolving, but one of the stars died young, so we have to pretend that it was some great work of genius.
32. Jeffrey: One of my favorite films, to be sure. Yes, it's fluff. But it's funny, but a gay romantic comedy was almost unheard of at the time, and it managed to deal with the reality of AIDS without getting (too) preachy. Plus, it's the finest work of Patrick Stewart's career. He's amazingly good in this.
33. The Trip
34. Edge of Seventeen: It's...okay. It's, yet again, a coming out film. Anderson Gabyrich is good in it, but the main cast are not particularly compelling, and the big dramatic "coming out" scene is so unintentionally comically melodramatic that screen-writer Todd Stephens even parodies it in his later film Another Gay Movie.
35. Priest: You watch it now, and you're hard-pressed to see why it was so gosh-darned controversial at the time of release. I guess, given all the things people suspect of Catholic priests nowadays, for one's big bad secret to be that he's gay is small potatoes. Still, it has a love scene that I've had more than one straight man tell me almost converted them.
36. In & Out: This is just merely bad. It has it's heart in the right place, but that's about all you can say in the film's favor. And yes, some men come out late in life, but it strains believability to think that a man could reach his fifties without the question ever occurring to him.
37. Eating Out: Utter garbage, and patently offensive. The "gay guy in love with straight guy" angle is played out and tired in porn! The only reason why anyone ever recommends this movie is the nudity. It certainly can't be for the plot or acting, because you know what? THERE ISN'T ANY! So, naturally, it was a massive success and generated a sequel...
38. Velvet Goldmine: A love-letter to the glam rock era. It's very good, and criminally under-rated, with fantastic music. The pastiche of Citizen Kane was a clever touch, and the shadow of Oscar Wilde that hangs over it is a brilliant element as well. For you slash fans, it also has Obi-Wan making out with Batman.
39. Angels in America
40. Love! Valour! Compassion!: I know I've seen it. But, even straining, all I can remember is that John Glover plays a stock "tragically doomed" gay man. So not a very memorable or compelling picture, then.
41. The Sum of Us: Amazingly, this is not the film which gave rise to the phrase "maybe someday Russell Crowe will play a straight character." Father/Son dynamics are frequently overlooked in gay themed films, as most film-makers seem obsessed to nearly Freudian levels with dysfunctional Mother/Son relationships. It's nice to see the focus turned the other way, especially since this is also one of those rare Father/Son films in which the Son is not beset with maddening Daddy Issues.
42. Burnt Money
43. Transamerica: I want to like it, but ultimately I just find it a little too problematic. I get prickly about actresses being cast as male-to-female transsexuals, especially when, as in this case, they seem to have cast a woman only to have an excuse to bury her in prosthetics to make her look like a man. She doesn't, she looks like a woman in a prosthetic mask.
44. Victor Victoria: Now, I love Blake Edwards. I love Julie Andrews. I love James Garner. I love Lesley Ann Warren. I love Robert Preston. And I love the songs. But this? Very much of it's time. You've got the "Magical Fairy" thing going on with Robert Preston's character, you've got the "he thinks he's in love with a man, but he's really a she" bit that worked in Elizabethan drama and not since. It's an amusing little comedy with some pleasant actors to watch, but oh, it can be cringe-making viewed out of it's time and place.
45. Bent 46. Yossi and Jager 47. Bad Education 48. Gods and Monsters
49. Making Love: Any goodwill the film might have earned is undone when you remember that it came with a fucking disclaimer.
Why No Love? The films I'm surprised not to see on the list. Adam and Steve: It suffers a bit from indie-itis at times, but it's a refreshingly mature romantic comedy that deals with issues that many, if not most, gay men will recognize and relate to. It's not a fantasy of gay life, nor is it a melodrama, but it's warm and funny and squishy-feeling romance. Straight-Jacket: A snappy comedy about a closeted, Rock Hudson-esque actor, set against the back-drop of the anti-Communist witch-hunts in Hollywood. It's got great comic timing and characters, and a setting that's been underused. The Ritz: The first gay film I ever saw. It's another one of those time-capsule films, possibly best viewed today as a reminder of what the gay world was like. But it's an early gay-themed film in which the gay characters are not the butt of the jokes. And I can only imagine how the world reacted to the notion of a comedy set inside a bath-house. It's worth seeing for Rita Moreno's role alone, in any case. The Hanging Garden: Magical realism comes to gay drama. It's a heavily symbolic film with the lines between reality and fantasy and shared fantasy heavily blurred.
Oh Thank God It Wasn't Listed Hellbent: If anyone ever tells you this is a good movie, you can safely ignore their opinion on anything. Even by the standards of "basic cable stars in peril" horror movies, this is a sub-par example of the genre. That we're meant to pretend that it is somehow transgressive or ground-breaking because all the victims are gay is just perplexing, if not downright insulting. Honestly, we're supposed to be glad that the "the gay guy dies at the end" school of film-making has come back?
No, that doesn't happen. Oh, sure, I've heard those sub-Dane Cook level comedians make those same sophomoric jokes: "Hnurr hnurr, I wish I was a lesbian, I'd just stare at myself all day, amiritefellas?" It's not funny. It's really kind of offensively stupid. And the joke really doesn't translate when being applied to gay men. Especially not when it appears in a comic aimed at 25-35 year old man-children who would probably shriek in terror at the thought of a nude gay man. And yes, this is me being appalled at something in the worst comic since Skate Man. A fool's errand at the best of times.
Speaking of people who have apparently never met a real-life homosexual, I'm a little weary of people trying to make the Machine Gun Joe character in Death Race some sort of indicator of the progress of gay characters in mainstream films. In the film, when the question of the character's sexuality is introduced, it is quite clear from the context that it's just a homophobic taunt. From one of the likable "good" characters, naturally, homophobic insults still being something that it's okay for protagonists in mainstream films to say. Unlike smoking or racist insults. Now, I'm aware that some of the film-makers have said that the character is meant to be gay, while others have not. In any case, there is nothing in the film itself to suggest the character is gay, save that insult. The character himself never declares himself to be gay. And the one vaguely "homoerotic" moment in the film is almost instantly deflected by the normalizing return of heterosexual values. In a way, the film-makers have stumbled upon a neat trick; they get to take credit for a "ground-breaking" gay character in an action film without ever actually having to deal with a gay character.
So, I keep thinking about Kevin's posts about bad retailing decisions, mostly because I'm baffled that smart people keep missing Kevin's point so badly. Either they think it's a good thing for a retailer in a small margins business to actively discourage sales in the names of "integrity"--which is an argument that really phenomenally misses the point that comic shops being run like club houses instead of businesses is bad for the industry, or they keep bringing in this asinine restaurateur metaphor, as if a waiter suggesting the crab cakes because the clams with linguine are a bit off tonight is anything remotely like a retailer sending out a mass e-mailing to existing and potential customers insinuating that they're idiots if they like a comic he doesn't. It all makes me reconsider that "smart" adjective. But what I keep coming back to is that telling your customers your opinion of a book, and still selling it to them, are not mutually exclusive.
Amazing Spider-Man #2338; While many fans, myself included, were upset with what it took to bring the character to the new status-quo, the new creative teams on this title have met with critical and commercial success. A new storyline starts here for those curious about what's been going on. Astonishing X-People #2222; While the combination of Ellis and Bianchi are not to my taste, a new storyline starts here, tying in to the larger "Manifest Destiny" branding in the X-books. It's a good jumping on point for those who enjoy Ellis's super-hero work.
Hey, whoa, did you see that there? I gave as neutral a judgement as I could while still finding a way to tell interested customers to check the book out. And it was easy. Of course, this doesn't address the concerns of those bloggers who see nothing wrong with what the retailer in question did because he was bashing super-hero books in his newsletter. But I'm sure that if he had slapped a big NOT BUY on Kramer's Ergot or Love and Rockets, the art-comix bloggers would have had my back.
Apparently The Dark Knight was a cleverly disguised pro-Bush polemic: There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.
I can see what he's getting at. I mean, just like Bush's policies are creating more terrorists, Batman is creating more criminals. And just like Bush's violations of civil rights, Batman's are viewed with repugnance by moral observers. Or were we not supposed to extend the metaphor that far?
It is time, after too long a break, to unfairly evaluate whether or not a film looks worth bothering with based on nothing more substantial than...well, than the primary method the film's producers use to convince an audience that the film is worth bothering with.
As is the usual method, the films are divided into three categories. Those that fill me with an urgent need to see the film are deemed worthy of Full Price Admission. Those that look interesting, or entertaining, but not quite up to the first category are Netflixable. And the rest are the ones where, if you find yourself paralyzed and stuck on your couch with the television tuned to a film-showing cable channel are probably better than Willing Your Head To Explode. Maybe.
Full Price Admission
Chaos Theory: So, even if we discount the beefcake factor of having Ryan Reynolds and Stuart Townsend in the same movie, the story of a man giving his life over to random chance has a strong appeal. I like that Apollonian/Dionysian conflict in my narrative fiction, and so few writers really seem willing to go there.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: There's a horribly over-entitled fanboy buried within me, screaming at the idea of aliens being introduced into his favorite pulp adventure series, even though intellectually he understands that aliens are perfectly thematically appropriate for the period the film takes place in. I'm doing my best to smother him, as I'm fairly certain that I'm not going to give a damn one way or another how good the film is. It's not like it can be worse than Temple of Doom anyway. And damn, when did Shia LeBeouf turn into a hottie?
Speed Racer: Beautiful, gorgeous eye-candy. The film is probably going to prove to be critic proof, as there's simply nothing else out there that looks like it, people will go for the experience. I'm, surprisingly, really looking forward to it. The Warchowski's aren't bad film-makers, but they're more miss than hit, and this time it seems like they've found a property where their aesthetic and approach to film-making actually fits.
The Fall: A meta fictional fantasy about an addict telling a little girl a story in exchange for drugs? The trailer gives us amazing visuals and an evocative setting, and the "real life" drama looks as compelling as the fantasy story sounds brilliant. Now to hope it actually plays somewhere near me.
Mamma Mia!: It's a jukebox musical with Abba songs. I think they revoke my Gay Card if I don't go see it.
Iron Man: It's taken long enough, but it looks like there might finally be a second good Marvel movie. Almost all of this is down to the cast. Downey Jr is almost pitch-perfect casting for Tony Stark. He's oozing charisma in the trailers, and there looks to be lots of appropriate big iron suit action to make any weaknesses in the plot fade away.
Anamorph: I'm so very picky about my serial killer thrillers. I like the idea of the genre, but the actual films tend to bog down in cliche and stereotype, most of them are unwatchable. But the notion of a killer using a little known artistic technique as part of his tableau, well, it's very giallo-esque, so I'm going to have to search this out.
The Incredible Hulk: I'm one of the few people who actually enjoyed the last Hulk movie. Well, the first two-thirds of it or so. And while this doesn't look bad, not really, it also doesn't look like anything to be excited about. I'm informed by Peter, however, that because Edward Norton is in it, we WILL be seeing this. So there's that.
Get Smart: I'm not so jaded that I can't be persuaded by silly, stupid fun. And a good-natured, unambitious comedy with good casting sounds very appealing right about now.
Wall E: I tend to dislike more Pixar films than I like, but this one is oh so very pretty, and there's a real "sensawundah" feel to some of the sequences in the trailer. I cringe, more than a little, at the narration over the trailers, as I was led to understand the film would be mostly dialogue free, and the presence of a narrator suggests either that's been changed, or the studio doesn't want to scare people away from a film without snappy animated thingies saying funny things.
The Visitor: You guys pretty much had me at "from the director of The Station Agent"...
Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanomo Bay: I didn't expect to like the first film, and it turned out to be one of the freshest and most original comedies I'd seen in years, with an actual interesting point of view about race in America without glossing over uncomfortable truths or playing After School Special. And it looks like the follow-up is going to take that same approach to the politics of fear. I'm there. This is stupid comedy for smart people, a rare genre, and one worth paying attention to.
Mister Lonely: A film about a colony of celebrity impersonators and flying nuns? I'm pretty sure I don't need to know the plot; just those little details on their own are enough to convince me that, at some point, I must lay my eyes on this film. It will either be good, or appalling, but it will be sublimely so either way.
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army: I wasn't terribly impressed with the first film, and the original comics are ones that I feel like I should like, but they just leave me cold. And while this looks visually interesting, I've learned the hard lesson the del Toro's films usually look good...and that's about it.
Mongol: A biography of Genghis Khan sounds like one of those objectively good films I should probably see to be a well-rounded and well informed movie viewer. The test will be if my usual boredom with biographical films can be defeated by my curiosity over the subject matter and approach.
Tropic Thunder: I'm pretty sure I've already seen this basic plot (stupid person thinks a real thing is a fake thing) too many times, and there's something still very unsettling about the Robert Downey Jr in black-face role, even though they go to pains to explain it in the trailer, but still, something about this whole thing feels off. Maybe Stiller and Jack Black just need to go away for awhile, and give us a chance to remember why we liked them in the first place. This looks watchable, maybe, but not something I want to be seen going to by anyone I might know.
Deception: A good cast makes a hell of a lot of difference, it can't be said often enough. I've got no interest in "erotic thrillers" at all, as they are always neither, but you put actors of the caliber of Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGregor in one? And yeah, okay, you got me.
Chapter 27: This has "Jared Leto and Lindsay Lohan are now serious actors" written all over it. And despite the silliness of how that sounds, in this film at least it looks like it might be true. I'm not seeing anything here that compels me to seek the movie out, but it looks like the sort of thing that, again, is worth seeing at least once just to be a well rounded film viewer.
The Tracey Fragments: There's still something to be said for formal experimentation in film, and a film told with split screen has a curiosity value alone. That the story, of a girl looking for her lost brother, maybe, at least that's what she says she's doing, draws me to it as well is a good sign, too. Plus, I'd finally get to see if Ellen Page really is as good as everyone says she is, without having to watch something that feels like it's going to annoy my sense of politics.
Righteous Kill: At what precise moment did Pacino and DeNiro become caricatures of themselves? Because I'm watching this, and it looks like it's a touch cops movie, and then it becomes a serial killer film, about a killer killing people who get away with crimes (shades of Dexter!) and, honestly, I kept waiting for the joke. Because I fully expected this to be a comedy. And no, it's serious. I'm fairly certain that wasn't the reaction they were hoping for.
Wanted: Nice stunts. But even if this turns out to be one of the lousiest films ever made, it'll still be better than that shitty, shitty comic it's based on.
Mister Foe: A semi-Oedipal loner skulks the rooftops of Edinburgh looking for love. I guess. This definitely has the feel of "throw it in the queue, I'll watch it when I'm bored" and still feel like it was a good use of my time.
The Grand: I was just about to say "Dear God, please no more poker movies" and then Werner Herzog strolled onto the screen. So it's a silly thing to make a film watchable, but it does anyway.
The Happening: I'm a little torn here. So far, every other Shyamalan film has been...watchable. Lady in the Water was dreadful. In theory, then, this should be a...watchable film. On the other hand, this looks very, very similar to Signs. Which is one of the very few films I actually hate. With a passionate intensity. My tongue hurts, remembering how hard I was biting it to keep from screaming at the stupid, asinine film I was watching. The only other film that reaches that intensity of loathing in me is The Three Amigos. My tongue hurts watching this trailer...
Amusement: It looks like a torture porn anthology film with the old "spooky asylum" as the framing sequence. I'd have to know more before decided if this is the right rating for the film, or if it should be moved up or down, but oops, the producers don't want to give me any clues whatsoever about what the film is about in the trailer. I see an evil truck and an evil clown, and while I can concoct all kinds of scenarios connecting those elements, I'm getting a Jeepers Creepers vibe off the two mostly, and that's not a good sign.
Not Worth Dying Over
The Strangers: What's this? An R-rated horror movie that seems to build it's scares on atmosphere and dread rather than gore and misogyny? Dare I hope? Oh, wait, it's just psychos in masks and "based on a true story" posturing? AND it has Liv Tyler in it? Never mind then.
Who's Your Monkey: With a title like that, certain expectations are created in me. Not one of those expectations is "over-grown man-children having comic misadventures trying to dispose of a body."
Bangkok Dangerous: Nicholas Cage, in yet another bad wig, playing a hitman with a heart of gold.Yeah, that's skippable.
Zombie Strippers: So, that's one ticket for Chris Sims and? Anyone else? This is the sort of thing you'd watch half of on Up All Night, and hope that it isn't one of those nights Gilbert Gottfried was hosting to screech at you before the commercial. I have a lot of patience for bad horror movies, but there's just no way in hell this is going to be watchable.
The Deal: Shannon Elizabeth playing a hooker seems...really familiar for some reason. But the rest of this just screams "white kid with daddy issues" and no, thank you, we've got too much of that crap in the entertainment industry as it is.
Step Brothers: Will Ferrell needs to go away for a little while now, too. The brain-dead man-child routine has been done just a few times too many now, and it's worn out its welcome.
Pineapple Express: A stoner comedy that's trying far too hard. And, I hate to say it, but Seth Rogen has joined the "go away for awhile" club now as well. Still, at least Rogen has more than one emotive style, that gives me some hope he can still do something worth watching and move beyond the gross-out humor for 18-25 year olds market.
Redbelt: Even if Mamet hadn't gone a bit cuckoo recently, a film about a martial artist trapped in the sinister underbelly of Hollywood, done as a serious drama, wasn't going to interest me at all.
The Love Guru: This shit wasn't funny when Peter Sellers was doing it. And Mike Myers is no Peter Sellers.
The Hammer: Adam Carolla as a loser who becomes a boxer. It's rare that I actually feel embarrassed on behalf of the people in a film...
Postal: I've never actually seen an Uwe Boll movie. I doubt I'm going to start with this. Again, I've got a lot of patience for bad movies sometimes, but this looks like it would tax even my endurance.
Still moving, updates still to be spotty, so amuse yourselves with this:
NONA...Nerds Only Need Apply
I was thinking of this while reading a discussion of the new Star Trek film, and how my gut feeling is that the franchise hasn't lain fallow long enough to remove the stigma of being for a hard-core cult audience that a new film version needs to be viable. That, to be truly effective, the franchise needs a Doctor Who or Battlestar Galactica length gap between old and new versions; long enough to make the old fans happy it's back, but also long enough to make the wider audience comfortably nostalgic for it. At this point, it doesn't matter how many pretty young men you pack into the film (and boy howdy, are they packing them into this movie...almost as if they're deliberately banking on gay men and slashing fangirls shoring up the box office), the general public's opinion of Star Trek is that it's something for nerds, by nerds, and no one but nerds would have any interest in it.
But, I kind of like that turn of phrase, NONA, even if I must say so myself. And now I'm curious; what else out there in the pop culture spectrum do you think is being hurt (or helped) by the Nerds Only Need Apply attitude of creators?
Pay Full Price The Golden Compass: It's nice to see that they're finally giving some glimpses of plot, even if only to explain to the public that this is not an attempt to cash in on the Harry Potter films (well...not directly...certainly not in the same way that, say, Eragon was an attempt to grab some of that sweet, sweet Lord of the Rings money). I'm still curious to find out how this goes over with the general public, given the usual bleatings you hear in the media whenever a film seems to not be sufficiently Christian enough.
Jumper: This will probably satisfy my 'stupid action movie' quota for several months. I like, actually, that the science-fiction element is restrained, focusing on one specific, easily exploitable and explainable thing.
Wristcutters: Ah, quirky indie comedies... I missed you. It's nice to have so many of you back, lately.
Harold and Kumar 2: The first film was one of those movies that I had zero expectations for and ended up liking a lot. I suspect this will be the film which causes me to 'owe' Pete first choice of movies for a few weeks, though.
Weirdsville: Okay...two slacker dudes getting into improbably misadventures...well-trod ground, but there's potential in that still. And then, I see it...midgets in armor. Oh yes.
Southland Tales: It feels like we've had to wait far too long for a proper follow-up to Donnie Darko. This looks gloriously mad and inventive and clever. The major flaw, of course, will be the DD fans, whose irrational devotion to that film, which makes your average Whedonite look like a fandom dilettante, will almost certainly spill over onto this. I mean, seriously, those people. "Did you work out that the film involved time travel?" Uh...yeah.
Enchanted: It looks silly and fluffy and cute. There's nothing wrong with that. Okay, maybe there's something wrong with that, but the inversion of the fantasy trope, with fairy-tale character going to the real world, appeals to me.
Iron Man: Dare I say it? Do we have a Marvel movie that looks...good? Wow, what a difference hiring people who can actually act makes, huh?
The Dark Knight: Isn't it past time we got some actual footage-type trailers?
The Mist: I liked the story. When I was a kid. And the usual unwatchability of films based on Stephen King's work is a factor to consider. But 1408 was...okay. So I have an unwarranted optimism.
Netflix It I Am Legend: As a novelist, Richard Matheson made a really good short story writer. There's an enjoyable element to his work, and he was pretty much the master of 'high concept' before that phrase came to be applied to just about every film that came out. Still...I'm not looking forward to vampire movies becoming as over-played as zombies.
Slipstream: How can I put this... this somehow looks like Anthony Hopkins trying to do a live-action version of a Satoshi Kon film only... not as good.
I'm Not There: I'm not a Dylan fan. At all. I'm really more of a Phil Ochs kind of guy. But it's Tod Haynes, and the conceit of casting six different actors to play the same role appeals to me. So it's worth a look.
One Missed Call: I'm not exactly sure why the Japanese find cell phones so creepy, but it feels like I've seen a good half dozen or so Asian horror films that posit something sinister in the things. In any case, there is an upside to the stream of usually inferior American remakes of Asian horror films: it's one less damn zombie movie to be made.
Juno: This looks sort of cute, and could be good, but I've become unfairly suspicious of 'child-birth' films recently. The political pundits jockeying to make the film support their point gets wearisome.
Walk Hard: I suppose with the number of music bios which have come out the last few years, the broad satire was due. Looks slight, but amusing.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets: About the nicest thing I could say about the first film was that it was a nice, non-pretentious version of The DaVinci Code, and it's apolitical, non-preachy patriotism was kind of touching. I'm not sure it was quite good enough to merit a sequel.
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep: I'm looking at a trailer for a charming looking family film, and then they have to go and rewind me that it's being made by Walden Media, a company that exists to put politics before story.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: I'll admit to being curious about it. Granted, it's a morbid curiosity. On the other hand, nerds seem to hate the very idea of this film tremendously. The word "rape" has been used, as has the word "childhood" on many a message board. Which tells me the film must be doing something right.
Wanted: I like to think the fact that the producers of the film have, apparently, completely abandoned every aspect of the original comic's theme, tone and plot is their attempt to replicate the complete and utter contempt Mark Millar has for his audience as displayed in that comic.
Sweeney Todd: I still can't get over the seeming avoidance of letting people know this is a musical on display in that trailer.
The Orphanage: You know, sometimes it's a good idea in a horror movie to give the audience a friggin' clue what the film's about. Just sayin'.
I'd Rather Go Hunting With Cheney There Will Be Blood: Paul Thomas Anderson doing a (very loose, apparently) adaptation of one of Upton Sinclair's more moralizing novels? Uhm, yes, politically timely and all, to the point where you may as well have the characters holding up signs indicating who they're meant to represent, but unless I was a high school student trying to cheat on a book report, I don't see anything here for me.
27 Dresses: As I get older, I find my tolerance for the 'quirky romantic comedy about a gal who just can't get it together' fading rapidly. I mean, seriously, a brides-maid twenty-seven times, and she can't get a date? That's not funny...that's just depressingly sad.
The Ten Commandments: In addition to the laughable casting of Christian Slater as Moses, the animation simply looks...well...like shit.
Fred Claus: If you have children, and they ask to see this film, put them up for adoption. Seriously. In the long run, you'll all be happier.
P2: Ah, 'woman in peril' movies...your transformation from 'feminist parable' to 'creepy misogynistic exploitation films' was so gradual, we barely noticed.
August Rush: Another heart-warming tale of a preternaturally gifted child? Those are getting to be as tiresome as screenwriters working out their issues with their fathers on film.
Be Kind Rewind: No. Please, no. Please no films that encourage nerds to over-estimate their own importance and creativity.
Beowulf: Oh, Uncanny Valley...why do the makers of computer animated films want to pretend you don't exist? I'd much rather see a remake of Grendel in any case. Although, on the bright side, if this does as well as Stardust, maybe Neil Gaiman will start writing comics again...
That stupid fucking nameless movie: Words cannot express how utterly dumb and annoying I find this. It's clear the creators had no faith in their concept or story, so they concocted this lame 'viral' stunt to build nerd buzz. Because that worked so well for Snakes on a Plane I guess.
Hitman: Still, I'd rather watch that J.J. Abrams film than another movie based on a video game.
Drillbit Taylor: Even setting aside my distaste for Owen Wilson films, I just can't get excited about YET ANOTHER 'teenage nerds in wacky crisis' film.
10,000 BC: Well, the protests from Evangelicals offended by the film's rejection of a young Earth should be entertaining. And there might be some fun to be had in playing "spot the anachronism." But apart from that...maybe I'll just rent Quest for Fire.
One of the points raised the other day in my post about Sweeney Todd was that the play is actually very funny, something not on display in the trailer. So, to get the Cult of Burton off my back (like the Cult of Joss, only with better clothes), I'll make you a deal. If Depp and Bonham Carter can pull off this scene, I'll be charitably inclined towards the film.
This brief snippet of Sweeney Todd pretty much confirms many of my misgivings. Talk-singing? Helena Bonham Carter looking woefully miscast as Mrs. Lovett? A more ridiculous wig on Johnny Depp than he's ever worn before? A seeming reluctance to let the audience know it's a musical? Oh, dear...
But I Doubt Will Ever Get Made (this applies to books, comics and tv shows, too)
A woman in the big city returns to the small town she grew up in and discovers that those homely "old time" values she was nostalgic for were just cover for petty, small minded bigotries, and that she was much better off in the city.
City folk get lost in the back-country and are shocked to discover that the people who live there are not evil, inbred, mutants, cannibals, or some combination of the above.
An espionage thriller in which the government conspiracy theory guy isn't taken seriously and is in fact proven to be consistently wrong, because a conspiracy implies competence on the part of the government.
A science-fiction film with internally consistent logic. We have faster than light travel, but we can't outrun a pursuing ship? Yeah, that makes perfect sense.
A horror film in which the gay character...doesn't die.
A horror film in which a set of rules that the killer/monster must follow are established, and then the killer/monster actually follows them, and doesn't deviate from them for the sake of a cheap shock.
A romantic comedy in which the "gay best friend" of the female lead tells her to fuck off and solve her own problems; he isn't some magical pixie that can fix everything for her with the power of homosexuality.
A mystery in which the resolution does not hinge on some fact with-held from the audience in order to make the detective look smarter.
A children's film without poop or fart jokes.
A thriller about a serial killer who isn't a suave, debonair genius, always able to outsmart his pursuers, but actually acts the way real people with violent, schizophrenic paranoia act.
Two stills from upcoming movies that I found interesting:
Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in Sweeney Todd, directed by Tim Burton, based on the musical by Stephen Sondheim. Burton has cast two actors not generally regarded as accomplished singers for the lead roles in a rather difficult musical. And the production design seems, so far, to be more evocative of a fire sale at Hot Topic than a grand guignol. And any criticism of the film will be shouted down by the Cult of Burton.
Christian Bale and Heath Ledger as Batman and the Joker in The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, based on the DC comic. Nolan has cast two exceptionally talented actors who, to be honest, could probably do a lot better than a super-hero action movie. The production design is faithful to the feel of the source material, without blindly replicating it. And super-hero fans will do nothing but complain (but go see it anyway).
Monster Attack Network by Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman and Nima Sorat, published by AIT/Planet Lar
Ever wondered who cleans up after those giant monster attacks? Or who is responsible for making sure the city gets evacuated? This is the story of the folks responsible for maintaining the safety of the citizens of the tiny island nation of Lapuatu. It's a decidedly high-concept book, with a beautifully calculated appeal to monster movie fans who don't take themselves too seriously in its premise. It's fast-paced, funny and has a frenetically expressionistic art style that's just enough this side of caricature to get the humor and energy of the story right. It's fantastic fun, escapist entertainment, to be brief.
Not going to Comic-Con. Not particularly interested in Comic-Con. Maybe if it were about two hours closer, about one-third to one-half the size, and actually about comic-books instead of selling games, movies and tv shows to nerds, I'd be interested, but everything I ever hear about it suggests that, nope, the closest thing the comics industry has to a trade expo is not for me.
Forget uncomfortably proportioned super-heroines, I've found the creepiest doll ever, courtesy of the Tonner Doll Company. I've joked in the past about Tobey Maguire's utter and complete inability to emote. Well, when you combine his "no resemblance to human emotions" acting style with the cold, dead eyes of an uncomfortably realistic doll, something nightmarish is created.
I mean, look at this doll's face:
And compare it to this photo of Tobey Maguire:
It's uncanny how well they've captured that unreadable, blank look of his. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Tobey Maguire's unique, anti-emotive attributes make him the perfect candidate for an action figure which crosses into the Uncanny Valley.
I mean, I'd wager I could mix up the photo of the man and the photo of the doll, and most people would be none the wiser.
Zodiac was very good. And by "very good" I mean "exceptionally good." Easily Fincher's most accomplished and mature film. I wish I had more to say about it, but it's the kind of film that requires another viewing or two to really appreciate the craftsmanship and intricacy of it. It is not the sort of happily and easily resolved, meaningless serial-killer thriller that audiences are used to seeing, which sadly I expect is hurting its popular and critical reception. I've even seen and heard people complain about the ending in which (SPOILER ALERT) the cops fail to capture, or at least satisfyingly blow away, the killer.
Which is the sort of thing that makes me think someone, somewhere, has missed the point. And I don't think it was me.
On a similar note, I rewatched Dario Argento's Bird with the Crystal Plumage recently. It still holds up as a well-crafted, though not entirely fair-play, thriller. It's stylistic tics and innovations still impress me. The early scene, with Tony Musante trapped between the security doors of an art gallery, unable to either get out and call the police or get in and help the woman who has been stabbed, is still one of the most nerve-racking set pieces I've come across. Oh, sure, Argento's latest films are fairly crap. And I think I've decided that Stendahl Syndrome is the most misogynistic film I've ever sat through. But I still like Argento's formula. It's hard to go wrong with: black-gloved killer, secret from the past menacing the present, misremembered clue, work of art providing critical clue. Death or serious injury by modern sculpture optional.
Oh, come on, the character was named Osiris! If you didn't see that coming from the moment he was introduced, I'm sorry, there's no help for you.
The most interesting thing about going to see Ghost Rider was that it was raining as we left the theater.
Not that there's much point in bothering to review a movie like Ghost Rider. It will, no doubt, do well for a week, maybe two, and then be forgotten, because it is a thoroughly forgettable and relentlessly mediocre film. Badly acted and poorly written, striving for camp (it's one saving grace) but in the end taking itself too seriously. Never before has the utter ridiculousness of super-heroes been so brilliantly, if unintentionally, translated to the screen. Every ponderously self-important utterance of the Ghost Rider sets off giggles, and the "penance stare" is the worst conceived super power in film history, consisting of thirty seconds of vague orange shapes flashing across the screen.
Still, better to go see this than Norbit.
Actually, I lie, there was one interesting thing about going to see Ghost Rider: trying to place it on the scale of awfulness in comparison to other films based on Marvel properties. The list I devised, from "not bad" to "proof there is no loving God" runs:
X-Men X-Men 2 Spider-Man 2 Fantastic Four Punisher Spider-Man Ghost Rider Hulk Daredevil X-Men 3 Ultimate Avengers
(Please note, if you think I'm unduly harsh in my assessment of a film, particularly a film you're really looking forward to, that the point of a trailer is to make you want to see it, and these are my reactions to those efforts. Also, if you think I say mean things about these films, you should have seen the trailers I couldn't, in good conscience, inflict upon you.)
Pay Full Price
First Snow: This has a really good, strong cast, and it gives every appearance of breaking out of the usual thriller mode to provide an interesting look at notions of fate and destiny. They're not uncommon themes in the genre, but there's a certain mix of paranoia and self-fulfilling prophecies that promises a better crafted look at the notion than similar films.
The Valet: I will admit, I laughed at this. A poor schmoe forced to live with and pretend to be in love with a beautiful woman in order to hide from the paparazzi a wealthy man's philandering. It's been a good long while since the French put out a decent sex comedy. I'm already almost depressed at the prospect of a terrible American remake. Probably starring Dane Cook.
The Host: A Korean horror-comedy about a horrible mutant monster. It simply looks fantastic, and from what I've seen has only been praised. (Okay, granted Ain't It Cool News is quoted in the trailer, but I won't hold that against the movie).
Zodiac: This is one of the upcoming films I'm most anticipating. It's been too long since Fincher had a good, intelligent film out, and it's getting horrendously rare to find a thriller with a strong cast and a strong visual sense. I'm particularly interested in the approach the film apparently takes that, because this is a mystery with no real solution, it is important to focus on why this case became important to these investigators and such a cultural touchstone.
Hot Fuzz: This is the other film I'm eagerly anticipating. Not just because just about everything Simon Pegg has done has been so good, but the comedic mystery has always been one of my favorite genre mash-ups. That the people who gave us the nigh-definitive horror comedy and the freshest sitcom in decades made it makes me tremendously giddy.
Add to Netflix Queue
Knocked Up: I'm going to set aside the obvious question this trailer raises, because I'm fairly certain that contemporary politics make it impossible to bring up in a comedy. Well, and the other obvious question the trailer raises, because that's even more of a hot-button issue for a comedy. But I trust Apatow. Plus, Paul Rudd.
I Think I Love My Wife: I'm finding myself oddly surprised that Chris Rock is no longer playing the obnoxious, loud-mouthed kid roles. Normally marital infidelity movies don't interest me, and I can't say I find myself particularly compelled by this one either. I'm just lacking the requisite puritanical outrage to be shocked or appalled by the suggestion that sometimes people stray or think of straying.
Amazing Grace: No sarcasm or cynicism here. A film about the English abolitionist movement, even if it wears its heart on its sleeve, is probably long overdue.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: Well, it's not like it could be that much worse than the first one, right? Although, for me, this trailer fails on one fundamental level: it doesn't tell me enough about the movie. Okay, so the Silver Surfer will be in it. And? That's supposed to be enough, I guess. Though, the fact that Pete will make me go see it in the theater makes my opinion as to the trailer's projection of the film's quality a moot point.
Across the Universe: Assembling Beatles songs into a musical? That plan could never fail. It looks pretty, though I often find myself wondering when writers and directors of a certain age are going to get over the Vietnam war. I'm not denying the profound psychic scars it left on the country, and it's been the inspiration for some truly stellar works of art: it's also been used for lots and lots of trite political short-hand.
The Abandoned: Yes! Ride that Russo-horror bandwagon! Follow in Nightwatch's coat-tails. Oh, wait, hardly anyone went to see Nightwatch in this country. This may get a pass just for the haunted house angle.
Nancy Drew: I never liked the Hardy Boys (too white bread) and never even gave Nancy Drew a chance. I sort of skipped over the whole "young adult" phase of books anyway. This looks cute. Silly, somewhat superficial, but cute. It may be a "take the cousins out for a date and give the rest of the family a friggin' break" type of movie.
Sunshine: It's actually quite...refreshing...to see someone even attempting to make a science-fiction film that's actually a science-fiction film. And not an action movie in space. Or a western in space. Or anything other than God-forbid a science-fiction movie. Because, let's face it, the science-fiction audience doesn't want science-fiction, they want an action movie in space.
Seraphim Falls: For some reason, this put me in mind of Ravenous. It doesn't have the horror angle, but that taut, genre-bending mood seems to be the same as in this thriller.
The Lookout: It seems a bit late to me to be mining Memento for plot points for your crime drama, but there you go.
Shooter: Ah, the "Oswald was a patsy" theory translated into a big budget action-thriller. These sorts of things always beg the question with me: if the hero is smart enough to unravel and expose an international conspiracy by himself, how come he couldn't tell he was being set-up?
Blades of Glory: This will make Pete happy, a Will Ferrell movie I won't try to make him see. Largely because I don't care for Jon Heder in the slightest. But also because a broad farce about male figure skaters makes me think I should probably bring along something to keep a tally of the number of gay jokes.
Spider-Man 3: Man, imagine how good these movies would be if anyone who could act was in them. Well, okay, they probably still wouldn't be very good because Spider-Man is a whiny little punk, but surely they'd be better, right?
Let Me Claw My Eyes Out First
Wild Hogs: Ah, is there anything better than a comedy about men playing dress-up and pretending to be bad ass bikers because they're in the midst of a mid-life crisis? Anything is better than that? Even yet another movie about a guy with daddy issues? And this particular trailer ends on a quasi-Brokeback Mountain joke. Because those are still cutting edge.
Mr. Brooks: I can still appreciate the serial-killer genre of thrillers, even if their ubiquity is troublesome. And I can even appreciate the effort of having two different actors play the different personalities of the lead character. Where you lose me, utterly, is Dane Cook. No film, by definition, can be worth watching if Dane Cook is in it.
Surf's Up: Yes, penguins are always cute, but too many assemblies as a child where we were "rewarded" with tedious surfing documentaries has killed any desire in me to ever see any film about surfers. Even cute penguin ones.
Full of It: Ah, a film for children about how your life improves if you lie a lot. Only in Bush's America.
Dead Silence: Now, I'm usually in the mood for a good haunted house/vengeful ghost type of horror story. It's probably darn close to my favorite genre within the genre. And the creepy dolls and prohibition on screaming angles make for both an old favorite and cool new twist, respectively. So I should really want to see this. But, see, where you lose me is this: "From the writers and director and producers of Saw." I hate the torture and gore porn school of horror. I hate that it's come to dominate the horror genre in film (well, that and stupid remakes and sequels). So, no, count me out. Your previous work in the genre leaves me with no confidence that you can make anything worth watching.
Grindhouse: No. Just because you Tarantino and Rodriguez grew up on shitty movies in the seventies is no excuse to make more.
Black Snake Moan: I'm left baffled by this. Is it meant to be some sort of bad taste comedy? Or is it serious and unintentionally funny? Or is someone working out their issues with women on film?
Live Free or Die Hard: Have I ever mentioned how much I intensely dislike the Die Hard franchise? Let's put it this way, the only action movie with Bruce Willis I enjoy is Hudson Hawk. Please note I said "enjoy" not "think is good." It's the All Star Batman of action movies.
Fred Claus: I'm hard pressed to think of which actor has more worn out his welcome, Vaughn or Giametti. The combination of the two of them? Man, I'm feeling slightly nauseous just thinking about it.
The Hills Have Eyes 2: It's probably best to just count-off the reasons why I'll refuse to see it. Torture porn. Sequel to a remake. Female soldiers screaming and panicking.
Now that the publicity for the third Spider-Man movie is ramping up, I thought it would be amusing, for me anyway, to more explicitly describe what my primary objection to the film series is. Namely, Tobey Maguire's complete and utter inability to emote in a recognizably human fashion. Which brings us to a slight repeat, and improvement upon, past content as we play:
What Emotion is Tobey Maguire's Blank Stare Supposed to Convey?
Is he happy? Horny? Or just trying to remember where he left his wallet?
Is he angry? Afraid? Or just really, really stoned?
Is he sad? Serious? Or did Lenscrafters get his prescription wrong?
Is he pensive? In pain? Regretting ever signing up for this gig?
Is he...you know, never mind, I don't want to know what's going through his mind in this shot.
I want to personally thank you for coming to the smart decision and removing Joss Whedon from the Wonder Woman film project. I'm sure it's terribly obvious in hindsight, but the man was simply never a good fit for the project. In every interview he gave on the subject, he seemed disinterested in the film. Persistent rumors even suggest he never even bothered to finish writing a first draft of the screen-play. And I know I, personally, felt he was wrong for the film when he mentioned that he wouldn't use any of the traditional Wonder Woman villains in the film. I'm sorry, but if you can't think of a good filmic treatment for characters as diverse as the Cheetah, the Silver Swan, Ares, Circe, the Red Panzer, Paula von Gunther or Doctor Psycho, maybe you shouldn't be writing a Wonder Woman movie.
(And I realize I'm in the minority on this point, but I just don't see the cause in citing him as a "good" writer for female characters. Outside of pixie-ish ingenues prone to making contextually inappropriate pop culture jokes, he doesn't seem particularly interested in writing women.)
Now, to address some of the complaints about this decision you're likely to hear, let me take two I spotted right away as examples:
To clarify, Joss Whedon had one movie tank, a moderately successful cult television show, a struggling television show, a quickly cancelled television show, and a second film that tanked. Oh, and a couple of moderately successful comic books, by the current standards of the comic book industry. Not assigning such a person to a summer tent-pole, franchise-launching film is a sign of a studio executive trying to prevent the loss of great amounts of money, to my mind.
There are two phrases I've been known to bandy around; "nerd rage" and "fan entitlement." That excerpt above? It's a near perfect example of both principles in action. An over-identification with a fictional character, to the point where any slight deviations from what the fan thinks should be done is taken as a personal affront, and inappropriate emotional reactions to something of ultimately trivial consequence.
(I mean, I'm a Wildcat fan, and a bit notorious for being one at that, but when Geoff Johns kills Ted Grant off at the end of the current Justice Society story-line, you're not going to see any angry, bitter posts from me on every blog and message-board you can find, nor will I be calling Johns names. My borders might go black for a couple weeks, but that's about it. This is because, while I'm a fan of the character, and care about what happens to him, I'm not fucking nuts.)
Lastly, and if I may be presumptive, there is one tremendous benefit to not having Whedon attached to the project. And that's the possibility that Peter Dinklage could be cast as Doctor Psycho: