Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Presumption Disparity

There’s a phrase that I learned about recently that describes a lot of movie watching; ‘presumption disparity’ – it’s the difference between the actual reality and the perceived reality. If you walk into a bar and ask for a tropical drink – what the barkeep would hand you would be far different than what people in the tropics actually drink – that difference is the ‘presumption disparity’.

When I get really excited about seeing a movie – I’m wagering that it I have no ‘presumption disparity’ – and that it will live up to exactly what I want it to be. When I’m pleasantly surprised by a movie – it usually means that I expected the movie to be all right – but exceeded my expectations.

When I sat down to watch BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID – I thought it was going to be a more traditional western – but it turned out it was a kitschy buddy film. This affected my opinion of the film quite a bit – but is it the film’s fault? No. My ‘presumption disparity’ was too large and that is made it seem poor to me – I didn’t fairly judge it for the content that was – I judged it based on the content that I wanted it to be.

I try my hardest to go into movies with a 5 out of 10 mentality – and it’s the movie’s job to either improve on that score or degrade that score. It’s hard not to get excited about certain films – people are paid to figure out ways to get you excited and advertise based on that excitement. It’s also hard when you go in expecting a “classic” when you’re told over and over how great something is.

People have told me that THE BLUES BROTHERS is hilarious – one of the best comedies ever – which isn’t really fair considering that this praise puts an unfair burden on this film to deliver. Thus, when I finally get around to watching it my ‘presumption disparity’ is probably going to be way off – and I’ll think it’s overrated. Unless everyone of course is dead on and not exaggerating about their love for a film – which is a blog topic onto itself.

As I’ve been thinking of this ‘presumption disparity’ factor more and more – I decided to axe my ratings of ‘x out of x’ – and just give an honest opinion of what I watch. I will lavish praise on films I like and give reasons as to why I loved the film. I will cut down films I dislike and I will argue as to why it was not good.

I think cutting out a rating system will reduce the amount of high marks given out based on an initial exceeding of my ‘presumption disparity’ – which is more common than I care to admit. I also feel like it will give people more to think about if they chose to take my movie recommendations rather than “it’s a 5-star film so it better be great” – and with 5 followers – I’m really concerned.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Purple Rose of Cairo [1985]

A disenfranchised woman escapes her dismal marriage by going to the movies. She goes so often that one of the actors in the movie notices her and steps off the screen to be with her.

This was actually quite a charming little film about the escapism people experience when they are really drawn into a movie. It is set in the depression era New Jersey – so the escapism in films was probably even more intense as it is these days considering that Hollywood movies were so glamorous.

I was charmed by Mia Farrow in her role as Cecilia and Jeff Daniels in dual roles as Tom Baxter the escaped actor and Gil Shepard the actor who plays Tom Baxter.

I thought the writing was a little off with the character of Tom Baxter – who keeps explaining that his character has X defined trait and X defined knowledge of such things – because it wasn’t clear that he could learn outside of those designed character traits. In one scene he finds out his money is fake movie money – in another scene he hands some out to a man waiting in line at the soup kitchen. It doesn’t make sense to me – unless it’s just a gag – though the film didn’t seem to rely too much on gags.

I was also confused with some of the direction – Cecilia leaves her abusive husband early – then we see her wander around – and then show up at a door and enter it. Up to this point we haven’t been introduced to the outside of her house – so I wasn’t sure if she was going to her sister’s place or retreating back to her abusive relationship – especially considering they don’t show Cecilia together with her husband for some time after that scene.

Harmless errors – that are easy to overlook as it turns out it was really a lot of fun. I enjoyed watching the other actors in the film that Baxter stepped out of bicker and complain about not being able to go on with the movie (for a little while). The audience interacting with the actors was kind of fun (with a few characteristically Woody Allen jokes). I really liked the love triangle that developed between Cecilia, Baxter and Shepard – it would’ve been interesting to hear what would’ve happened to Cecilia if she stepped into the film with Baxter to live happily ever after and the film ended its run (a depressing technical question that shouldn’t be asked in a fantasy film such as this).

I’m getting more serious about considering purchasing and learning to play a ukulele.

Anyway, it’s real charmer of a film – and would recommend it to you if it sounds like something you’d like.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oh nevermind...

I was finally made aware that the 20th anniversary box sets of Nirvana’s Nevermind were available for pre-order – not that I was eagerly waiting – just wondered what new material would be released. I’m disappointed to say the least - especially in the 5-disc set.

The 2-disc you get the remastered album – the b-sides – and demo recordings of the album for less than $25. Which is a fairly solid deal considering...

In the 5-disc set you get the 2-disc set – plus a different mastering of the album – a live concert CD and on DVD – along with a 90-page booklet for only $110 more! That’s right – for 2 more CD’s – a DVD – and a book - $110!!

It’s not like there’s NEW music – which I’m suspicious that they are holding out on. Where are the studio versions of Spank Thru and Talk to Me? Kurt was a demo junkie – I’m sure he had stuff down for his scheduled session with Stipe before he was murdered (yeah, he was murdered). I’m sure we’ll probably have to wait for the In Utero remaster for more

Anyway – the concert is intriguing because it’s been claimed as the only full concert of Nirvana’s that was filmed – on actual film – thus could be remastered for Blu-Ray release – and with only the DVD as a part of that 5-disc box – why cough up the scratch for it if you can get the concert separate on a “better” format?

Yes, I would LOVE to have the concert CD – as I’d get far more use out of it - but NOT $110 love...

I refuse to speak for Kurt – but I know the over marketing of his works makes me sick - and I’m not sure if it’s in the spirit of that era in music to gouge the fans like this – but that’s business – every other Christmas have some “new” Nirvana repackaged bobble to sell.

If it bothers you so much - why are you going to buy the 2-disc set? Well, I'm a big fan - and one of my favorite tracks from off the box-set is the Breed (rough cut) - which was so brutal and wonderful so I'm hoping for some more remastered rough cuts... Plus, I'm a sucker...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Talk to Me

I kind of already got the feeling that even though I have a 3-day weekend - and having expired many of the things that I would do to normally entertain myself... I will be sitting around talking to myself...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Double Feature Friday: [REC] (2007) / [REC 2] (2009)

A news segment about a reporter following a local Barcelona group of firefighters on their nightly routine suddenly becomes documentation of some kind of outbreak of some contagious disease that causes people to become rabid killers.

[REC] is one of my top 5 favorite horror movies of the past decade. It’s essentially a zombie movie – but it’s far more thrilling than the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake because it’s told from a first person point of view. It blends what feels like news footage from a war zone into what’s simply a claustrophobic zombie experience.

Throw in the intrigue of how quickly the building is quarantined and the intrigue into what mysteries are being hidden and where – the film works on a variety of levels for both thrills and on-the-fly narrative. The direction of the film must have been tricky – as you would have to have your cinematographer running around as a character – and monitoring the adlibbed both camera movements and dialogue – it’s an easy recipe to fail at for someone who didn’t have a big pair of brass balls. The lead actress is likable and convincing as both a fluff news reporter – and as a terrified as she becomes as the situation unfolds.

[REC] was remade almost shot for shot in the US and released as the film QUARANTINE – I beg you to SKIP that version and go straight to the source.

Nearly an hour since the events in [REC] a swat team is sent into the quarantined building along with a priest to find out what’s going on.

What [REC] succeeds at – [REC 2] tries to tweak only mildly. Each swat team characters has a helmet camera to monitor what they see – so there are multiple cameras at work as opposed to the single camera in [REC]. Then it takes what the audience perceives as the rabid zombie virus and turns it on its ear – which is hinted at toward the end of [REC] – but even if there was never a sequel – one could be happy with the direction of the first film without this film as an addendum.

[REC 2] does more story telling than the first film – it leads the audience down a certain path instead of spinning them around in an office chair and dropping them into a mess. So, in a way they are two completely different films – but the same concepts were being used as story telling elements. I do admit that the freshness of the first film doesn’t come off as well into the second – but I think that has more to do with the storytelling in the second – which is understandable – you have to change the formula a bit for a sequel to this kind of film.

I love how it turned the zombie element on its ear – I’m honestly getting a little bored of zombies – not as much as I’m sick of vampires – but there’s too much zombie stuff going around these days. There are some good twists – and some head scratchers in this film – but after a step back from watching them both – they make far more sense than most American horror movies.

Though I have not seen QUARANTINE 2 – from the previews it appears that it abandon’s all that the premise that makes [REC 2] special – which actually makes me curious to see Q2 a bit.

Two additional [REC] films are being planned – reading that just now gives me a little chill up my spine – I can’t wait.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes [2011]

A young scientist eager to discover a way to create virus that will reverse the damage Alzheimer’s does to the brain – creates something that makes the apes he’s testing it on super intelligent.

I watched all I could of the original PLANET OF THE APES films – which consisted of the first film – quickly losing interest in the second – and the boring Tim Burton remake. So, I was quite surprised when I found myself becoming more excited for this “reboot” – or origin tale – I’m not sure what it’s meant to be. It seemed to be garnering a fair share of positive reviews – and less scrutiny than I figured it would get – even some Oscar talk for Andy Serkis. I had to admit after watching the commercial a few times – it looked well executed – even if all they advertised was the apes going nuts – it might be a fun action film.

The first thing I noticed was that the tone was grounded in Will Rodman’s quest to help his father defeat Alzheimer’s – but as discoveries were made and the focus shifted to Caesar the heart of the original tone remained strong. It’s easy for effect films to start out strong with identifiable feelings to get the audience to connect with the characters – then use that initial connection to get you through the nonsense effects that follows – but this isn’t one of those films. It successfully worked with the special effects to create a fully realized story – something that could work without the effects.

The effects were wonderful – you’re never lost on the fact that Caesar was a chimpanzee – which is glorious considering he was being portrayed by Andy Serkis and motion capture. The effects weren’t distracting as make me feel like I was watching a fake monkey. The human aspects Serkis brought were so smartly used that the blurring the lines between the two species were difficult to grasp. Serkis’ performance was powerful – it really made Caesar a sympathetic character and the most fully realized rounded character of the film.
When it comes to the human characters each was essentially a caricature of the mad scientist/misunderstood creature film – but it works because they were framed creatively and each character is allowed to hit their marks instead of being forced into each plot point. The story was injected with enough heavy handed moments to make the story as a whole a success.

Casting was a great strength – James Franco was excellent as Will Rodman the man who was desperately trying to discover a way to save his ailing father Charles - played expertly by John Lithgow. Brian Cox is an expert at playing the uncaring asshat who runs the animal sanctuary – and Tom Felton who plays his son is dangerously close to being typecast as a menacing little git – this should be his last Draco Malfoy performance for a while.

My only regret was watching this movie at a brew & view – where I was pulled out of watching some of the scenes by a waitress asking if I wanted a refill on my iced tea. Trying to get the pen to work and sign my tab – made me miss the culmination of the major end battle scene. Missing some of the big action though didn’t detract my enjoyment of the film – as I thought it was a great film for the entire journey not just the results of the journey.

The possibilities of sequels were hinted at throughout and nods to the original series were made – I hope for the continuance of the intelligent filmmaking that made RISE a success and never to give up the real emotional threads for effect films. I’ve only seen 4 movies in the theater this year – but this is my pick for best summer movie.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stray Dog [1949]

Set in post WWII Japan - a rookie cop is pickpocketed and loses his gun. He begins a desperate search to find his weapon in fear of what damage it could cause in the wrong hands.

The film unfolds as if it’s meant to be a modern day fable of not allowing the weight of the world crush you – yet there’s a bit a disconnect when it comes to the universal “ah-ha” moment we are meant to feel at the end of a good fable. We are given the “wisdom” of a senior officer – and it basically boils down to “you’ll get over it, kid” – which even though may be true – isn’t as powerful as you’d like for a fable or a movie.

I’ve only really seen Toshiro Mifune in Kurosawa’s samurai films – and could barely recognize the man – but the intensity of his performance was ever present. As he investigates the emotional build up keeps showing itself through Mifune’s face and body language – the guilt he feels – as if this major dishonor to him speaks for the culture of post war Japan.

As he learns of the crimes his missing weapon has been involved in – he is encouraged not to put the weight of the world on his shoulders even though it’s hard not to feel guilt in a situation like this. He must learn in order to deal with his own humanity that it’s the choices that people make that define them – not the mistakes and curves life throws at them. He could have chosen to move on with his life and career – he was given a punishment – but instead he chose to move forward with the investigation and retrieve his weapon because of the character of his being.

Thus again – this would speak as maybe a message from Kurosawa to post war Japan – to not be in shame and use the defeat to lead down the road to bad things – but to learn from the mistakes and grow from out of those lessons.

Actually, as I write this I’m beginning to realize how the fable actually works very well as a message to the society as a whole - though I would’ve liked to see a major “ah-ha” moment – but I guess you can use that ambiguity to say “it’s your move, society”.

As for the film – you’ll find me pretty hard pressed to say that Kurosawa doesn’t know what he’s doing – because he’s as good as a director as have ever been. He keeps the story engaging throughout – uses the composition of his shots, lighting and single continuous shots wonderfully as always.

I had reservations about the story – but after having time to think – it’s quite good – though I realize I’m not always in the mood for ambiguity – I’d recommend it if it sounds interesting.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Insidious 2: Never Say Never [2011]

Now, my completely FAKE review of INSIDIOUS – based on what the poster looks like.

A family tries to buy a home from Justin Beiber – but he doesn’t want to sell it at all! When the courts award the house to the family because even the courts think Justin Beiber is a spoiled little shit – he gets really mad.

So mad he TURNS RED!!!

Beiber shows a much darker side than what I ever expected of him – but that’s what puberty will do to you!

His first strategy for getting the family to give back his house was obviously to sing and dance out in front of the house on the sidewalk – you’ve got to have the kiddie music tie in if you’re gonna have a horror movie based around Beiber. I understand that but to the length that they went and how well the family acted impartially-terrified was horrific all in itself. I actually went into the kitchen and started looking for my Rachel Ray knife set ready to slit my own wrists and sign over my apartment to Beiber in my own blood.

When that didn’t work – and Beiber got even more enraged he started standing in front of the house just staring into it with his face unchanged – just like in the poster – for what appeared to be days. When the dog came up and piddled on his leg for the 4th time – is when I think Beibs went from a human to a demon – the 5th time was just too much if you ask me. I get the 6th time was to drive in the emphasis of his mission – but the 7th time kind of made me sick to my stomach.

Beiber then decides to pull out the ACME catalog and orders a doggie door – installs it on their back door when they are at work – and then later that night sneaks in and rearranges their potted plants – caught by the wife character – she calls the police – Beiber is arrested and spends the night in jail – only released out on bail when he seduces a local gang member by doing more singing (the head resting on the bars of the cell – and the other inmates rhythmically banging their metal cups against the bars – made for a sweet scene) – once out of jail Beibs heads right back over to the house hides in a pile of dead leaves and waits for them to leave for work the next morning – then he goes through the doggie door once again – only to discover they boobie trapped the house to explode if he enters the house – melting his face but leaving his hair intact – we see Beibs apparently dead body and we zoom in on his eyes that pop open and scare the bejesus out of everyone... Thus setting the scene for the sequel; INSIDIOUS 3: BABY BABY BABY

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Insidious [2011]

A family moves into a new house – and suddenly their son is in a coma and the wife sees a bunch of creepy people all around who menace her newborn and attack her – but when she calls for hubby’s help – they’re gone! So, they move – and it keeps happening!! What’s going on here?

After a certain amount of dropping piano sounds and screams – I became apathetic to the whole movie. It wasn’t a bad movie – it just relied too much on those aspects to get scares – when I thought it was doing a fine job building suspense on its own – it didn’t need to result to cheap tactics.

The movie reminded me a lot of the atmosphere that the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies were trying to build (and it’s from the makers of – so it makes sense) – with the calm eeriness – then something happens that grips your throat and you’re instantly freaked out. Instead of allowing that air it self out though they threw in a loud bang sound effect – which I honestly couldn’t tell if they wanted you to believe that it was coming from inside the house or from the soundtrack.

I also felt the filmmakers almost intended to make a simple haunted house movie by the way they introduced the books falling off the shelf while everyone was in the kitchen eating breakfast in the beginning. If you’ve seen the movie and know the “twists” – then you’ll know how this scene doesn’t make any sense – unless it’s JUST the house. I guess they will leave those answers to the eventual sequel.

The ending was a shame – there’s a lot of horror movies that end the exact same way – and I would’ve just liked to see the opposite because I felt that would’ve made for a BETTER twist.

Again, it wasn’t a bad film – there were some redeeming qualities – such as the reliance of the idea of what is left unseen. I’m not sure if it was intended as part of the freaky nature – but the relation of where things/people were in relation to each other was left me confused and it brought me into the story a bit because it wasn’t set in a way that I could immediately identify. I tend to think it was a bit of bad filmmaking but it worked for me.

From the advertisements I saw – it was pimped as being from the ‘makers of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY’ – even if it was directed by the creator of the SAW franchise. So, when the SAW puppet made a blatant cameo I felt that was a dick length scene – the “I’ve spawned more sequels and I was on the scene before you PARANORMAL ACTIVITY guy” – because I CAN’T see the point of having that puppet drawn on the chalk board in hubby’s classroom. No point – other than Ego of the director. It’s fine if you want to work the puppet in – but making that blatant? There’s a lot of moving boxes – couldn’t the puppet be somewhere in the background half hidden by boxes? No... Let’s essentially turn a scene where we’re supposed to concentrate on the lead character having a phone conversation – and put a drawing of the puppet over his shoulder the entire time!

The film isn’t bad – but it’s just above average for me – you’ll get for the most part what you expect from it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

35th Avenue Crazy

Went to my first ballgame of the year last night - that only means that the summer is officiailly coming to an end...

(Yeah, I know it's on 35th Street - but the song is '5th Avenue Crazy' - had to compromise)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid [1969]

Infamous bank robbers Butch & Sundance rob some banks and escape the law!

That’s one of the more difficult synopsis I’ve had to write – because what do they do in this movie? They love on their women – rob some banks – and escape the law – then the ending comes on. I can appreciate it for what it is but I’m not really sure what exactly it is.

Instead of it being in the guise of Butch and Sundance – Newman & Redford could’ve played just about any cowboys, gangsters or medieval knights. There was nothing particularly special about them in these specific historical figures – other than their chemistry which was great – but nothing that the roles brought. One’s a lover (Butch/Newman) - one’s a fighter (Sundance/Redford) – and those traits could’ve been portrayed in any role they chose to play.

Don’t get me wrong – I liked them together – but I think the story was weak and disjointed. The whole film felt like an interlude to the end gun fight. Butch and Sundance flirted and bickered like an old married couple - but there was no real depth to the characters – other than the bickering which showed they had been together long enough to be comfortable with that layer of male-flirtation. Butch liked to plan and think – Sundance liked to shoot first – but those were clown hammer traits – it would’ve been nice to see more of their characters developed through the story – maybe even a short explanation as to why they were that way.

I’m not wild musical breaks in the story especially if it feels like goofing around filler – and Barry Manilow’s ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ bike riding sequence and the whole “Dabba dabba” song sequence of Butch & Sundance in Bolivia – really just took me out of the story. It probably worked for the carefree time that the film came out – but it doesn’t hold up for me – and maybe it would have if I didn’t feel like they came out of nowhere as the tone up to that point was light – but not THAT light.

At this point I realize I’m sounding like a film curmudgeon – because I’m aware that this film has been honored as being one of the greatest American films of all time – and it is considered a classic. I can’t help but wonder if it’s really the performances and the fondness people have for Newman & Redford that really make this film a “classic” – not really the film itself.

It was at the same point in movie history that Sergio Leone had completed his work with Clint Eastwood in Spain and created 3 of my favorite Westerns – elevating the genre to something it had not been. Hollywood instead, was having fun with two great actors injecting pop culture into the genre and in a way allowing itself to take a step back – which is disappointing.

I didn’t hate the movie – I didn’t even think it was “bad” – I just found more to criticize about it than to embrace about it. You can find any number of people who would love to tell you how “great” it is – but I simply can’t overlook aspects and do that. I wouldn’t watch it again if I was in the mood for a western – I would watch it again if I was more in the mood for some good male bonding banter.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Cars That Ate Paris [1974]

Weir’s first feature length film – done on a shoe-string budget and essentially given a tight timetable to finish this film. It’s often criticized for being too quirky to be horror – for Western audiences I can agree – but if you expand your mind and think outside the box of what horror is – it’s a surrealistic nightmare.

Weir – though on such a small budget uses all he can to build up his directing skill – he builds up the atmosphere of this town to perfection. Uses odd interesting camera angles to help create the feeling that this town isn’t like other towns – and that it’s so far removed from “the real” world that their everyday is of course nothing like our everyday.

The rest is an excerpt from a review I wrote back in August 2008:

This movie deals with a small town in Australia named Paris that has an odd way of sustaining its economy. Since it’s so far out in the country with under-developed roads and infrastructure – they “purposely” cause the cars that pass through to crash – “because city folk have a hard time with those old dirt roads” – then they loot the wrecks for valuables. Any survivors are either lobotomized or in some cases (such as children) adopted as part of the town. One day they cause two brothers to crash – killing one of them – and the other Arthur is left petrified of driving and is adopted into the town as the mayor’s new “son” (even though he must be in his 30’s).

The town is split into essentially 2 factions – the elders who run the show – and the youth who spend their time drag racing around the town causing problems. I love this dichotomy especially when it comes to one of the themes – old vs. new. The old timers are obviously in the wrong – but in their minds they are right. And they raised their kids doing the wrong/right things – and the kids as they grow up they rebel and take it to the next level of wrong/right. Which of course in the minds of the elders is viewed as wrong – though it’s essentially the same thing that the elders do.

Then you have Arthur who’s caught in the middle – played by Terry Camilleri who pulls off in a subtle mousy performance – he’s the perspective that we all share as the viewer. At first we aren’t 100% sure of what’s going on – and as it develops we start getting the hang of it – and then are further repulsed by the town’s behavior.

The budget of this film must have been tiny – but they make the most of it. Using and destroying plenty of junker cars and building and destroying pretty much an entire town. The acting - which is a bit hammy – is pulled off well by essentially a bunch of amateurs. The one thing this film does have heaps of is – talent behind the camera – Weir really displays some great directing chops and does a fantastic job of creating a feel of isolation and even claustrophobia which help further define Arthur’s state of mind.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Super [2011]

Frank’s wife leaves him – eliminating one of the two perfect moments in his life. The other perfect moment? Well, that was helping a cop stop a bad guy. Since, the person his wife left him for is an actual bad guy – Frank knows what he has to do... He becomes the Crimson Avenger and starts fighting crime!

This movie was so much better than I expected it to be. Grounded in some real emotional issues – and mourning for the loss of his wife – Frank as a character was wonderfully well written. As portrayed by Rainn Wilson – and already having a familiarity of him as Dwight on the US version of The Office – Frank is only a short leap from Dwight. Less arrogant – but with that equal and unwavering allegiance to what he believes is right and wrong. He carries the depressing parts without taking us too far down with him and has a way with the humor of the story that allows it to be present but not distracting from the story.

The other characters were strictly secondary – I’m trying to pin point scenes that Frank wasn’t in – and there’s not many. It’s the story of Frank – and though they got top notch actors to fill in the remaining roles – Rainn really carried the film.

Ellen Page as the comic book nerd girl, Libby – was portrayed with a ton of enthusiasm – a great performance by Ellen one of her best. Kevin Bacon as the bad guy – was fun, grimy and menacing. Liv Tyler always seems half asleep to me – and continued her tradition – but I didn’t care. The cast was rounded out with James Gunn’s buddies Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker from SLITHER – they both pulled a little scene stealing in their roles – which was fun.

James Gunn as a director is pretty good – I get the feeling that he gets story structure enough that you could give him what’s essentially an effects film and we can get a pretty grounded story out of it. SUPER was done on a low budget – so the effect shots were mostly done on screen – the good old fashioned way with pyrotechnics and exploding mannequins and models. Yes, there’s some CGI – but according to the ‘making of’ – those were added to sculpted models to base everything in reality – and it works great.

It’s too easy to compare this film to KICK-ASS – but that’s not really fair. KICK-ASS even though it’s the same concept (why hasn’t anyone slapped on a costume and started fighting crime) – is NOT based in reality. It’s a fantasy version of reality – the lead character in KICK-ASS starts out getting beaten up to the point he has major nerve damage – thus his “powers” are to take a beating – not eating out of a straw (like it should be). In SUPER, Frank has no “powers” – just a wrench which he beats people in the head with – that’s probably enough in reality.

I love the leaps this movie takes - all of which I won’t mention – because I recommend this movie – it’s got an ‘all in’ attitude. It’s grounded in reality – with real emotions, real motivations and the reality of these people’s choices. I find it hard to believe that I hadn’t mentioned it until now – but this movie is a comedy – and it’s damn funny! I laughed out loud several times – which is a compliment – as I generally smirk through comedies.

I blind purchased this one on Blu-Ray because it was only $13 brand new on release date – and it’s one of the best blind purchases I’ve made of a movie. The extras were okay – a standard couple of “machining of’s” and a 5-minute featurette of Rainn and Ellen at a film festival dressed as their heroes running around acting silly. For as much as you can pack onto a Blu-Ray – I wanted more – but it doesn’t matter – the movie is what I bought it for. And it was a great movie!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Director Roulette: Peter Weir

Birth: 21 August 1944

First Film (as director): The Cars That Ate Paris [1974]

Last Film (as director): The Way Back [2010]

Notable Projects: Picnic at Hanging Rock [1975], Gallipoli [1981], Dead Poets Society [1989], The Truman Show [1998], Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [2003]

Genres: drama, satire

Common Themes: forbidden love, culture clashes, violence versus pacifism, conformity versus non-conformity

Directing Techniques: dreamlike compositions sometimes bordering on the surreal, distorted sounds, slow motion, and un-naturalistic light exposure

Interesting Facts: He’s a private man – not exactly a prolific director – about 15 feature films in his 35-year career. He’s worked with and help further launch careers of actors that had previously been unable to show their full range (Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey)

My Comments: Weir borders on and almost never fully reaches, a comic pitch in his films – which makes him hard to pigeon hole as solely being a dramatic director – the closest I can think of director wise is Terry Gilliam – who shares a similar style and seems to tackle things in the same fashion – but Weir uses “less” where Gilliam uses “more”.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Album of the Week: The Meadowlands

The Meadowlands

by The Wrens

released 2003

One of my favorite albums of all time (if not my most favorite) - the swirling ease of the drunken but precise guitar being used as percussion instrument at times - and the layered vocals of what sounds like various portions of a long rambling letter to an ex-girlfriend - makes for one of the most powerful and cathartic albums I have ever witnessed - it's layered for ultimate enjoyment through headphones - but it's energetic and full of swirling rock enough to be blasted at 11 and driven around to while you scream your head off singing along in the car - complex and powerful - brutally honest and bittersweet

Friday, August 12, 2011

13 Months In 6 Minutes

Today, I feel like this...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Modern Times [1936]

This film is an outstanding achievement in showing how far films have come – but also truly great all in itself.

It’s apparent that though filmmaking was still in its early stages when Chaplin became a director – he was quite proficient at it while making Modern Times. This was a fast paced film – with lots of action and pretty quick edits. Of course since Chaplin was not only the director – but also the writer and star – he realized that his performance in the picture is the #1 – fancy camera work wasn’t a requirement – just keep the right performer in frame (that being the standard of the time anyway – it’s no surprise).

Simple technical proficiency allowed a few composite shots intertwined into the film that worked surprisingly well – and quite advanced looking for the time. The special effect shots with the gears and the feeding device – was well used – and well made – down right beautiful.

I found the film overall quite charming – and it managed to elicit a few actual laughs – which is a feat for modern comedies. Story structure is something that Chaplin seemed quite aware of – working in gags to use into the story of The Tramp and the Orphan Girl seemed to be key – as opposed to creating gags and working around them.

Chaplin’s score was for lack of a better word – brilliant. It’s not something that I can sit around listening to – but in the context of the film – it showed that he was a perfectionist.
The everyman, Chaplin, again plays The Tramp – who works in a manufacturing plant – the pressure of the work makes him snap and he is sent to an asylum. He’s released and looking for a job – and is subsequently arrested by mistake – sent to jail – where he’s quite comfortable and quite frankly does not want to leave. Once released he meets and orphan girl – who he befriends only on his path to get himself re-incarcerated – they look out for each other and he sets down the path of trying to be legit to help support the both of them.

For THE MOST important aspect of films - the purely entertainment standpoint – Modern Times is well worth watching. From historical and directing point of view – it’s most certainly worth watching as well.
If you consider that this film captures life back then – the scarcity of work in Great Depression – how difficult it was just to survive – and how it’s really not unlike what we’re experiencing in America today. The rich remain rich – well off – and without a care in the world – because they earn it off the back of the workers – that are disposable. You can make more money if you limit the wages – work them harder – and cut them when they begin to be a nuisance.

Chaplin was one of the great Hollywood liberals – looking out for the working man used his films as his platform – and did it effectively – finding comedy and hope in the depths of the tragedy. Instead of opiates for the masses with superheroes and such – a page pulled from Chaplin/Modern Times would be much better choice these days.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rule #1

I’m reading more amateur reviews of movies (and video games) lately – and I’m noticing a lot of complaining about “originality” - in both negative and positive reviews people talk about how “original” something is like if it’s not the most original thing it will stop being fun/good.

I’ve said it before – and I’ll say it again – originality is probably the most overrated concept in movies. Just about every story has been done and done to death.

We crave movies to be brought to a familiar place and guided through the motions – leave us comforted and happy. The majority of films – the good guy wins – the right girl ends up with the right guy – and mankind survives despite unbeatable odds. All of these things are cliché – but much needed clichés in films. Sure, there are the occasional twist endings – where everything ends wrong – and it’s great – but those films don’t happen as much as you’d think.
Why? Because movies are our escape from reality and reality is filled with the bad endings. That’s why thousands of years ago – fiction was created on the walls of caves – around campfires and passed between nomadic travellers. They used it to escape from the world where there are real dangers around every corner.

Fiction is our delusional way of dealing with reality – and comforting ourselves into not believing everything is as bad as it is.

We all know in reality if a bad guy captures the good guy – he WOULD NOT explain his devious plans – then walk away leaving him to be eaten by his missile-guided badger-sharks... The bad guy would shoot the good guy dead and go on doing his bad things.

It’s a standard movie concept though – bad guys giving the good guy a loop hole – but that’s what we want! We could run around saying that it’s not original – but we are generally optimists as people – and want to see the good beat out the bad – and we conveniently ignore that it’s not “original” because we’re being entertained.

It’s not originality that we miss – it’s creativity! In storytelling, in characters, in direction and performances! Why was AVATAR such a huge hit? Not for its originality, no ma’am! What about THE DARK KNIGHT? It was a typical action good guys versus bad guys film – with great performances and solid direction. INCEPTION was pretty cool – but was it original? Not really – there has been plenty of heist films and plenty of dream films – but combining them in that way – was pretty damn cool!

If the journey is worth telling in an interesting way – or the same story framed in a different light – or a story based on intelligence and not boom-boom splosions - people will catch on!

But cblaze – your banner – DOOMSDAY – not creative!!! I know – but the fact that it’s so uncreative – and it wallows in the pigpen of its own derivativeness of its genre – that is something I personally love! I like movies that are one thing – don’t pretend to be another – they do that one thing - and they do it well. Leave the art, self-awareness and the comedy out of it – just do a well-made stand-up genre film full bore – and I’ll be a fan.

Well, I said my piece – got Rule #1 out there – again! (Oh how original!) I may expand on that in the future – or keep rolling out the rules as they are fully realized.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Director Roulette: Charlie Chaplin

Birth: 16 April 1889

Death: 25 December 1977

First Film (as director): Twenty Minutes of Love [1914]

Last Film (as director): A Countess from Hong Kong [1967]

Notable Projects: The Immigrant [1917], The Kid [1921], City Lights [1931], The Gold Rush [1935], Modern Times [1936], The Great Dictator [1940]

Genres: Slapstick, mime, visual comedy

Common Themes: poverty, run in’s with the law, social commentary, autobiographical

Directing Techniques: Early in his directing career Chaplin never shot from a completed script to allow him to work out the story on film and as ideas came to him – until he started working on talkies in the 40’s

Interesting Facts: Chaplin directed 60+ films – and worked on 82 completed films according to his autobiography. Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux [1947] was a story idea of Orson Welles. Worked slowly for filmmakers of the time – doing many takes in order to get exactly what he wanted. While traveling to promote his 1952 film Limelight – Chaplin’s American re-entry permit was revoked due to supposed communist sympathies and lived in Switzerland the remainder of his life.

My Comments: I haven’t seen any of Charlie Chaplin’s films prior to starting my Director Roulette series – which is exactly what I was going for. Though Chaplin is an intimidating historical figure to start with due to the fact he had been in films since pretty much the beginning of the narrative art of movies – and it’s really tough to pick out a few things for what is supposed to be a brief entry.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Southern Train to Doomsday

The time has come for a less generic title to my movie blog – ‘Southern Train to Doomsday’ is a good start – but I’m going to work on it until I get it right. The best would be ‘Doomsday in the Matinee’ – but I’m following a blog that starts with a D and ends with a Matinee – and I don’t want to step on an old friend's toes.

The new title reflects both a lyric in one of my favorite songs of all time and of course the patron saint of my movie blog; Saul.

I’ve got some ideas for blogging fun – but building up the energy to get them down isn’t happening. I’ve got a folder filled with half entries and my recent movie watching has been less than inspiring. I’ve had a few posts scheduled – but I’ve been pushing them back – but it’s time they are released.

Sorry about the Scott Lucas & the Married Men spam on Monday Muzak last week – but you can expect at least one more of those Monday Muzak spam days. Music is an important part of my life – and should probably take more of a prominent role in this blog than Monday tracks.

Well, hope you’re all having a good Thursday... Or Friday – depending on where you are and when you read this.