Thursday, November 10, 2005

Madonna Gets "Hung Up"

Sure, I go and make nasty and negative comments about her on Man vs. Clown!, and then Maddie has to come out with her best single since "Like a Prayer." I mean, I really like it, even though it's basically just a sample from ABBA's "Gimme Gimme Gimme" over and over again. And she looks so fucking hot in the video. I mean, really hot. That's the Madonna cycle, sadly. I ignore her for seven years or so, and then she suddenly looks hot in something (the last one was "Beautiful Stranger," and the one before that was "Take a Bow") and I look like an idiot for having said I despise her and then suddenly drooling at one of her videos.

You mad, diabolical genius, Maddie. I salute you. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Significant Rumblings at Disney

So, Chicken Little has been released and Walt Disney Pictures can't stop talking about how it beat all expectations at the box office with its $40 million opening. But what does this mean for Pixar, who is about to re-enter negotiations with the new, Eisner-less Disney?

Look, you could split hairs any way you want about Chicken Little and how much it made per screen and how it doesn't even come close to a typical Pixar opening weekend and whether or not it definitively proves Disney can put out a hit CGI movie on its own. We'll see how the box office does over the next couple of weeks, as Zathura and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire saturate the family movie market in time for Thanksgiving weekend. But the negotiations are still going to happen, and it looks like Pixar might yet be in a good position.

There are a couple of significant things that have happened at Disney. First off, they've admitted that, even though A Day for Wilbur Robinson, their next CG-animated release, is still on track for next fall, both American Dog and Rapunzel Unbraided, both of which insiders have called very promising, have been pushed back by a year. That means there's no release set for 2007, and they've seen fit to either retool or completely overhaul the stories to both pictures. Supposedly, if Pixar were to re-up with Disney, Steve Jobs would require that Pixar be able to choose their own release dates from 2007 on (Pixar's next film, Cars, opens in June 2006). Interesting how Disney would suddenly pull two films from their projected release dates.

Nextly, Disney has stopped work on a Cars-themed attraction at Disney's California Adventure. This is possibly because Jobs also wants, from Cars onward, to up the fee charged to Disney for the use of Pixar movies and characters at its theme parks and in its merchandising. From Cars on, Pixar would--according to Jobs's projected terms--own their films outright, and then license them to Disney. Could the possible fees involved be what's stopped work on that Cars attraction?

Another piece of evidence that Disney may be ready to accept Steve Jobs's terms? There's suddenly been no talk of Disney's Toy Story 3. A lot of Disney observers, myself included, have suspected that Toy Story 3 (which no director would touch for a long, long time) was announced simply as a negotiating tactic by Disney. One that has the potential to backfire. Probably, that's why any talk of the project has simply ceased.

So, whether or not any of this speculation is true, we'll have to wait and see. It's my own feeling that Disney can't afford to lose Pixar a final time, because this would probably be the last time Jobs came back to the table. But I've seen the previews for Cars, and it looks absolutely terrible, so it's probably only to Pixar's benefit to get the negotiations sewn up by the time June rolls around. Just a feeling.

Boy, how funny would it be if Disney agreed to continue their partnership with Pixar and then Steve Jobs sold Pixar to the Weinsteins?

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

ALFIE (2004)
Pointless exercise in acrimony. This all resulted because Nancy Myers and Charles Shyer used to make films together (Irreconcilable Differences, Father of the Bride, The Parent Trap), and now that they're divorced they're making silly attacks on one another through film. So, Nancy Myers made the dull, shrill Something's Gotta Give, which took a perfectly fine love story and used it to make the completely untrue point that all men will eventually have to stop womanizing and realize how wonderful older women are, and he's countered with a remake of Alfie, in which he tries (and fails) to justify, apologize for, and add depth to the life of a womanizer. The problem here is the tone; Myers can't commit wholeheartedly to either the charming romp quality he wants to infuse, or to the overriding criticism. There's no point, no ending, no sense of artistic direction. Part of the problem is the total miscasting of Jude Law. If they wanted charm they should have gone for Ewan McGregor, and if they wanted brutal cynicism, they should've gone with Christian Bale. Most women I know would rather fuck them than lily boy Jude Law and his delicate (yet ugly) frame. Law's not a good enough actor for the role. And the tail he gets! Samaire Armstrong, Marisa Tomei, Jane Krakowski, the exquisite Nia Long, and the inflamer of my loins, Susan Sarandon. I would kill to bed any one of them (and in Sarandon's case, much more). But he doesn't seem charming or appealing enough to be this lucky of a cad. It all feels so...dishonest. It very nearly works, too. I at least liked it better than the original version (why people remember that movie as a fun romp is beyond me...maybe they're remembering Albert Finney in Tom Jones), and it's got a better theme song, too (Mick Jagger's "Old Habits Die Hard"). So very close, but still *** stars.

Okay, so I'm supposed to believe that Heather Locklear can't find a decent guy? Has she looked in the mirror? If I had her body, I'd shop for groceries naked. You'll meet guys that way for sure. Anyway, even after The Lizzie McGuire Movie and A Cinderella Story, this is Hilary Duff's absolute worst movie. It's the only one I couldn't even pay attention to; shrill, annoying, whiny--this is Mark Rosman's idea of a darker Hilary Duff movie? After Raise Your Voice, which at least gave the Duff a chance to expand a range of emotions, she's apparently decided to give up acting and just play a type. And she could be so good if she just wanted to put the work into the process! No stars; a complete waste.

Alexa Vega from Spy Kids is a cutie, and turning out to be a good actress (she was great earlier this year on Odd Girl Out, which was a Lifetime movie, but every young actress has to go through that at least once, even Kirsten Dunst). The plot is pure fluff and easily disposable, and except for Mika Boorem, her young co-stars are interchangeable. Good comedians like Jeff Garlin and Steve Carell are kinda wasted, though Carell has a couple of laughs. It's silly, and it feels like it was written by ten year-olds imagining what junior high will be like, but it had some genuine feeling to it, unlike, say, The Perfect Man. I was going to say I couldn't really recommend this movie to anyone over the age of 14, but I'm not Roger Ebert; I don't rate the movies on their recommendation, but on how much enjoyment they gave me, so *** stars.

Disposable Disney Channel fluff with a big dog and a surprisingly talented Kay Panabaker (from Phil of the Future). You know, with the amount of talented young actresses out there, it's a real shame that no one thinks to make, I don't know, good movies about kids. ** stars.

Yet another of those movies about aimless rich boys who come of age. This one had a nice 1950s feel to it, and a good supporting cast. I'll probably never really like Amanda Peet, but Susan Sarandon is just excellent, and Jeff Goldblum is finally getting good again, too. Is it weird that I want to make love to Claire Danes because she looks like a really beautiful man? If she had a cock, she'd be perfect. ***1/2 stars.

Silly junk about a gold-digging mother (Sigourney Weaver, showing off that she's only getting sexier with age, if that were possible) and her accomplice daughter (Jennifer Love Hewitt, being all yummy). Jason Lee's in it, too, which is always good. Well, usually good. But the movie's not as clever as it thinks it is, not by half. ** stars.

John Duigan hasn't made a good movie since Sirens in 1994. The trend continues unabated. Charlize Theron is naked and charming, though, and does some of her best acting here. Too bad it's in a lame * star movie.

A stunning documentary that makes use of cameras that can track insects in their tiny world with amazing clarity. This is one of the greatest, most alien, most absorbing films I've ever seen. It's merely a day with insects, from dawn to night, but the manner of the film is refreshing. There's no manufactured storyline, very little narration (only in the opening and closing), and no attempt to give insects recognizable human emotions. It doesn't raise the daily matters of survival, created by unmoved nature, to noble or courageous levels. It just shows us bugs getting along in the world, and that alone surves as engrossing fascination. I can't adequately describe how much I love this film and wish more of them were made this way. A Bug's Life and its reduction of the insect world to facets of humanity cannot touch the wonder of a film like Microcosmos, which pulls you in and just lets you see the things we never notice. A dung beetle rolling a ball along; two beetles in a fight for supremacy; the coupling of snails; a pheasant attacking ants; the birth of a butterfly. All of them, images to be savored and marvelled at. A wonderful **** star film from the makers of another one, Winged Migration.

An excellent documentary (set to Eno music) about the Apollo space program. It's the next best thing to being there; through archival footage, we are transported to the ground floor of one of the greatest endeavors in human history. There's Gene Kranz and his bad waistcoat, alright, directing the missions. There's the Apollo 13 disaster, and there's Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. The wonderful thing about this documentary is the way no omniscient narrator tries to put it all in perspective; the narration is by the astronauts who were involved in the missions, the controllers, the scientists. Interviewed for their perspectives on the mission (not on camera), they provide a flowing commentary that allows the images to enhance their words; flow is a good word. The entire documentary flows as a singular experience, not breaking up into acts or pulling away from the sixties and seventies and the events before us. Interestingly, too, the movie amalgamates several Apollo missions, not just Apollo 11, which brought us to the moon in the first place. It's a stunner, and the importance of the moon landing cannot be disputed. I'll admit I weeped as the credits rolled, not only for our ability to be great, but also at our loss of the moon. When will we go back? It's important and uplifting to remember the time we came in peace, for all mankind. **** stars.

The World of Microcosmos

Monday, November 07, 2005

What, You Want a Piece of This?

Man, Jessica, so fiery. What is it about girls giving the finger that is such a fucking turn on? Posted by Picasa

Someone's Supposed to Die on "Lost"

I think it'll be Sun. I mean, what's her story at this point? (I'll add a courtesy Spoiler Warning for any British readers who are still watching the first season.)

Here's my prediction: since the people in the tail are going to meet up with our crew, Rose and her husband will have a dramatic reunion that will be tempered by the fact that Jin and Sun can't reunite because she's dead. Her death would serve a dramatic purpose. Any focus on her this season has been to show how unhappy she was at home and how she's expecting something terrible to happen to Jin. Otherwise, it seems like they already reconciled her earlier story--that she was hiding her ability to speak English--when she gave Jin the phonetic dictionary. Look at Boone; his story was over, too, when he stopped obsessing over his sister. Granted, it would suck (today is actually actress Yoon-jin Kim's birthday, by the way), and she's quite beautiful and talented. But a woman's supposed to die this time around, and since they won't kill Kate (though they should; Christ, I'm sick of her), and since Claire still has a story (they haven't touched on Charlie and the new batch of heroin yet), and since Shannon still has a story (possible psychic ability involving Walt), and since Rose is too much of a side character (it would be arbitrary) and the new people are too new, my money's on Sun. We'll see if I'm anywhere within the realm of close this week.

UPDATE: I suppose Claire would make some dramatic sense, though. It would be tragic because of baby Aaron (who was not supposed to be raised by others, as the psychic told her), and it would give Charlie more drama: heroin, or taking care of the baby? But, I still wanted to post this very pretty picture of Yoon-jin Kim. Posted by Picasa

One Little Slip?

Well, the reviews are out, and seems as though Chicken Little garnered reviews ranging from middling to awful. No good ones out there. Congratulations, Disney, you're doing a really good job of completely murdering animation as an art form. But how well did the film actually perform? Is a $40 million opening weekend really a failure, even if your movie cost $60 million to make (which, given today's animation climate, is surprisingly low)?

Well, I can point out that, of all the major computer-animated films released since 1995, Chicken Little comes in tenth. It did make more than the pundits were predicting, but it still fell short of expectations. On the other hand, Chicken Little had a bigger opening weekend than any Disney film of the last eight years; their last major animated release, Home On the Range, opened to $13 million just last year.

So, the congratulations are mixed, and the executive who greenlit the movie probably won't get fired. Supposedly, Rapunzel Unbraided was pulled from development for extensive retooling when the reviews for Chicken Little started pointing out how tiresome the barrage of pop culture references and jokes about other movies is. That's in every animated movie now, and I'm sick of it, too: Shark Tale is nothing more than one long Godfather joke. It's a shit movie, but it made money. Is Disney ready to sacrifice story for money? According to more than one review of Chicken Little, it's true.

Disney animation is dying, here, and pretty soon there aren't going to be enough people who can identify the body. The home of animation is alienating people right now, and they should know from experience that it's a bad thing. And at this point, it doesn't look like grosses for Chicken Little are going to suddenly explode, either; next weekend, Zathura throws down in the Holiday Family Movie ring, and the week after that, Harry Potter's back in town.

Good luck, Disney. Here's genuinely hoping you get your priorities straight.

Well, That's Settled

Sony Pictures at last released their first official image of Thomas Haden Church as the villain in Spider-Man 3, ending a lot of wild internet speculation about which villain he's playing (they list him as "Flint Marko," but everyone who's ever picked up a comic can take one look at that shirt and see that he's the Sandman). Of course, this only ramps up the speculation on whom Topher Grace is playing, but my money's still on Chameleon (still, as long as it isn't Mysterio, I'll be happy--I wanted Electro, though, if we're playing). Posted by Picasa