Saturday, August 08, 2009

New Where the Wild Things Are Trailer

My God, I can't wait to see this. The sound on this trailer is surprisingly low, so turn it up.

Friday, August 07, 2009

John Hughes 1950-2009

John Hughes' impact on my life is something I never really thought about until recently. It's not only that he was a great Chicago filmmaker (and made one of my all time favorite Chicago movies, Ferris Bueller's Day Off), it's also that his movies about teenagers happened to come out when I was a under the age of ten. You see Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club when you're that young, and the kids in those movies are so recognizable, and their music is the music on the radio, and you kind of start to think that that's what the "big kids" are really like and that your life is going to be very similar. I knew so many kids in high school who just desperately wanted their lives to be like a real version of The Breakfast Club. They wouldn't admit it, but they really tried. For me, Molly Ringwald just seemed so much older and sophisticated, so much like my babysitters who were high school girls--and I was in love with most of my babysitters, especially Mindy and Marnie. And Gretchen. But not Laurie, really. But anyway... that was a big part of the Hughes impact on me.

So it was sad to hear that he died suddenly in and seemingly good health. And it was a sudden reminder of I think the best line he ever wrote, which comes from Ferris Bueller (and which was quoted by Governor Quinn today): "Life moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around every once in a while, you could miss it."

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

500 Faves

226. Just a Friend - Biz Markie
227. (Just Like) Starting Over - John Lennon
228. Keep Yourself Alive - Queen
229. Killer Queen - Queen
230. King of Pain - The Police
231. King of the Hill - Roger McGuinn
232. Kiss from a Rose - Seal
233. Kiss On My List - Daryl Hall & John Oates
234. A Kiss to Build a Dream On - Louis Armstrong
235. Knowing Me, Knowing You - ABBA
236. La Mer - Charles Trenet
237. Lady Samantha - Elton John
238. Lake Shore Drive - Aliotta/Haynes/Jeremiah
239. Land of Confusion - Genesis
240. The Last of the Famous International Playboys - Morrissey
241. Lay Lady Lay - Bob Dylan
242. Layla - Derek & the Dominos
243. Let's Face the Music and Dance - Nat King Cole
244. Let's Spend the Night Together - The Rolling Stones
245. Let It Be - The Beatles
246. Let My Love Open the Door - Pete Townshend
247. Let's Stay Together - Al Green
248. Lies - The Knickerbockers
249. Light My Fire - The Doors
250. Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan

Film Week

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

One of the better Disney movies from the past few years (Lord, some of them have been bad) about high school kids who figure out how to travel through time. Good messages about friendship, for a change, and JP Manoux is always hilarious. And Chelsea Staub is cute, even if she doesn't get to do much. I hope the Disney Channel comes up with something else to do with Jason Dolley; he's the only good thing to come off the awful Cory in the House. *** stars.

One of those lavish romances where everyone's problems become small in scope compared to a massive special effects sequence. In this case, it's a flood. Good production values, great effects, and Myrna Loy is likable as always as a married British noblewoman who falls in love with a Hindu doctor in a fictional Indian colony. Still, the melodrama feels half-hearted. For a much better example of the same kind of movie, I recommend John Ford's The Hurricane. **1/2 stars.

I really never expected much from this movie (not an Anthony Minghella fan), but I was engaged, even riveted, and blown away by this movie. Matt Damon plays Tom Ripley, a mimic and forger who goes to Italy to persuade Dickie Greenleaf, the wastrel son (Jude Law) of a captain of industry (James Rebhorn, always good), to come back home. He ends up completely enamored not just with Dickie, but with his lifestyle, and tries to get closer to it any way he can. I remember hearing a lot about gay subtext, but I think it's a lot more "text" than "sub." It's played very interestingly; Ripley could be a master criminal, but he craves emotional closeness, and it becomes his tragedy. Excellently acted from all the leads--Damon, Law, Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman (though he's kind of riffing on Malkovich here) and Jack Davenport--and beautiful to look at. Anthony Minghella really made this as though it were a film from the 1950s rather than just one that took place in the period, and I adore the way it looks. Excellent, excellent movie that I'm rather sorry it took me this long to see. **** stars.

Now, I really enjoyed the first movie. This one... I don't know, it's kind of smug. It feels like it thinks it can get away with anything and you'll just laugh your ass off at it. Unlike the first movie, which was funny, this one feels like it was aimed at children. It plays it safe for a general (family) audience. Even the mission--Bandit, Snowman, and Carrie have to transport an elephant to the RNC--feels aimed at kids. Add Dom DeLuise as an Italian doctor and Jackie Gleason playing not only Buford T. Justice but also his three brothers (one of them really over-the-top gay and not at all funny) and this is just... not really very good. **1/2 stars.

One too many movies. *1/2 stars.

Interesting, but ultimately very cold Western directed by and starring Ed Harris as a lawman trying to bring a murderous rancher (Jeremy Irons) to justice. Harris is very good; Viggo Mortenson as his partner is better. Renee Zellweger plays the widow who comes between them (and has the most psychologically interesting role). Great production values, good music, and most of the performances are good (I really wish I could still like Renee Zellweger as much as I once did), but it doesn't quite add up. A shame, since with some tightening and a more direct style it really could've been something more. **1/2 stars.

OH, GOD! (1977)
I saw this as a little kid, of course, but hadn't seen it in about 26 years. It was coming on cable and I thought, hell, why not? I didn't realize this movie was written by Larry Gelbart, directed by Carl Reiner, and produced by Jerry Weintraub. Unfortunately, that makes it sound a lot better than it is. The plot is simple--God takes the form of a man and tells a grocery store manager to spread the gospel--but executed poorly. This thing feels like it takes place in real time, and the conflicts--what little there are--are obvious. George Burns plays God, and I really wish they'd stopped trotting him out in the seventies and eighties. All he does is stand around and have no facial expressions while delivering one-liners that fall flat (but at least he doesn't murder a Beatles tune in this one). John Denver wisely doesn't overdo it as the chosen prophet, and Teri Garr is always watchable (her second unsupportive wife of 1977, though she's not as multifaceted here as she was in Close Encounters). Paul Sorvino is especially funny as a televangelist, playing the kind of role you never see him in. I don't know, there's a whole smugness to the thing. It's not preachy, but it's very self-satisfied. It's like the bad Disney films of the era. Swing and a miss. ** stars.

The Rock is great at comedy, and I'm glad he keeps doing it. I hope he gets better vehicles for it at some point, but Race to Witch Mountain is a great improvement over The Game Plan (which I thought was harmlessly cute). In this movie, he plays a cab driver who falls in with some alien kids trying to get back to their space ship, while Ciaran Hinds (playing it the same way Ray Milland did as the villain in the original Escape to Witch Mountain) pursues them on behalf of the government. I have to say, I'm getting a little sick of the government as the default villains in science fiction. It just seems too easy these days. But I really, really enjoyed this movie. It plays so much like a science fiction movie from the seventies, with the same sort of effects and a real focus. It's like a Spielberg movie from the time. And it jumps right into the story instead of dicking around for a half-hour like far too many movies do. Oh, and Carla Gugino is as delightful as always as a scientist. It probably sounds ridiculous to give this movie ***1/2 stars, but I don't really care. I enjoyed the hell out of it and I wish they'd make movies like this again. Pure fun. (Oh, and I thought it was cool that Disney got the two kids from the original movie to make cameos, because I'm into Disney like that.)

Now that's a movie. Crime movies like this were so much better in the seventies. They came out of a real working class cynicism instead of the slick action movie style of too many movies today. Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, and Earl Hindman hijack a subway train and hold it for a million dollars ransom. Walter Matthau plays the Transit Authority cop who has to deal with the situation. It's tense and suspenseful without cheating the audience, and it's smart and logistical without being remotely tedious. It's a perfect movie, and it only last an hour and 43 minutes or so, and it all ends on a perfect final shot. **** stars.

I Call Shenanigans Here

I'm calling shenanigans on Paramount and on G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra over their pre-release build-up.

Shenanigans on the people who are already saying they've seen the movie and it's great. It's all, like, random blogs from nowhere who have been saying this. They've been going down on this movie like crazy and talking about Stephen Sommers making up for Van Helsing.

Now, it's not like I'm saying there's no way this movie could be good. Hey, maybe it is. It doesn't look like G.I. Joe to me, and I'm sure as shit tired of these cynical adaptation/exploitations of geek franchises in order to get my money, but maybe it's awesome. Star Trek was awesome. Land of the Lost was awesome. So it's not like I'm opposed to an adaptation automatically because it doesn't look like my vision of the original.

And I'm not opposed to the idea that Stephen Sommers can make an awesome movie. The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are awesome movies. Two of my favorites. I also profess a deep love for Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, even though it doesn't have much to do with Rudyard Kipling or, honestly, with books. I love all three of those movies, so it would be great to see Stephen Sommers make another one that I liked. Just because Van Helsing was incredibly shitty doesn't mean that I won't like another of his movies ever again. Who knows?

But the reason I'm calling shenanigans here is that these random nobodies who have somehow seen this movie have gotten G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra an 80% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. And I'm just not buying that.

Especially when you consider that Paramount has decided to not screen the movie for critics.

And they've basically said that they're doing it because Transformers 2 was completely trashed by critics, and they're "more interested" in what the audiences think of the movie than what the critics do.

Which is just... just so, so much bullshit.

The last thing a movie studio cares about is what audiences think of a movie. They just care that audiences spend money going to see it. That's it. Finito. If shitty movies didn't make a ton of money, studios wouldn't make them. That's the end of the story. Do you think, honestly, in all reality, that studios care that a bunch of people on the internet didn't like the movie? Not unless it effects the amount of people going to see it, they don't.

So, I'm calling shenanigans here. They've obviously had some screenings for small audiences (from what I understand, military audiences, which is pretty cool of them to do, I admit), some people have liked the movie and talked about it online (or were encouraged to or, in some cases, let's just say it, planted to), and they've decided that's a word-of-mouth build-up they can use, and they'll just skip screening it for critics.

And the reason why?

Well, they've obviously made a terrible movie.

I mean, I'm sorry but... the only time movies don't get screened for critics is when the studio knows they've got a bad movie on their hands and they don't want the word getting out too quickly. Because these days, the opening weekend is all that matters, and as long as they can keep word from getting out before Sunday, that's all that matters.

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra must be awful.

Or, you know, maybe it's awesome. I don't know for sure. All I know is what this common pattern of hype and no critics' screening tells me from history. And knowing is half the battle.

(Aw, you knew I was going to say that, come on.)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Super Mario Sex Tape

Kind of NSFW, but really funny.

500 Faves

201. I Was Made to Love Her - Stevie Wonder
202. I Would Die 4 U - Prince & the Revolution
203. Idiot Wind - Bob Dylan
204. If I Can Dream - Elvis Presley
205. If You Could Read My Mind - Gordon Lightfoot
206. If You Wanna Be Happy - Jimmy Soul
207. If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out - Cat Stevens
208. Imagine - John Lennon
209. In the Mood - The Andrews Sisters
210. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning - Frank Sinatra
211. Innocent When You Dream (Barroom Version) - Tom Waits
212. Island in the Sun - Weezer
213. It's a Sin - Pet Shop Boys
214. It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City - David Bowie
215. It's So Easy - Buddy Holly
216. It Don't Come Easy - Ringo Starr
217. Jackie - Scott Walker
218. Jamaica Farewell - Harry Belafonte
219. Jane Says - Jane's Addiction
220. Jealous Guy - John Lennon
221. Jennifer's Body - Hole
222. Jokerman - Bob Dylan
223. Joy - Apollo 100
224. Jump in the Line - Harry Belafonte
225. Jump They Say - David Bowie

Bad TV Show Idea

Here's some more proof that I can think like an entertainment industry executive schmuck.

You know how pop groups made up of younger people often have one or two bubblegum songs that they can't escape from? Apparently the Jonas Brothers are still singing "Year 3000" at their concerts (which, to my surprise, is actually a cover of some British pop group I've never heard of). It's a song about a guy who builds a time machine and goes to the year 3000 where, apparently, not much has changed, but they live underwater. So, since Disney is intent on cross-marketing all of their properties any way that they can, I came up with the really stupid, easily marketable idea.

It's a cartoon called Jonas 3000. Animated versions of the Jonas Brothers find out that their next door neighbor is a crazy scientist who builds a time machine and whisks them off to the year 3000. But a rival scientist, a real Dirk Dastardly/Snidely Whiplash kind of guy, damages their time machine and the Jonas Brothers and their scientist friend end up being lost in time, appearing each episode in a different and strange time period as they try each week to get back home.

It's Quantum Leap with pop songs.

And the brothers do the voices, naturally.

Oh, and there's a cute animal sidekick. I think an otter with a little plaid tie and vest. I mean, it can't just be a dog. Every cartoon character in the new millennium has an improbable pet that's also an action star, like a platypus or a naked mole rat.

So they get into all kinds of wacky situations and romances that their music helps get them out of in the caveman days, Ancient Egypt, the far future with lots of cool aliens, etc, while the evil scientist pursues them and they try to find their way back to their own time. It's like the lamest show Hanna-Barbera never made.

Basically, it's Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, only with the Jonas Brothers and their music. Pretty much like their sitcom Jonas is The Monkees, only with the Jonas Brothers and their music.

I think it's a surefire hit, and it's proof that I can think like an uncreative executive. I'm waiting for Disney to call on this and my awful Hall of Presidents movie idea.

The Megan Fox Blackout

Today is apparently the day when several news outlets have banded together to have a blackout on "news" about Megan Fox. And while I'm all for having less of Megan Fox in the media, I think this is pretty stupid.

First of all, it just reminds me of how People or US Weekly or some rag said they weren't going to talk about Paris Hilton anymore. That lasted all of a week, I think. If you don't want to talk about Paris Hilton, either don't do it, or don't be a soft celebrity news outlet.

Second, these idiots were kind of hedging their bets waiting until the first week of August to have their showy little media blackout. It's just far enough away from the release of Transformers 2: All This 'Splodey Shit Over a Magic Car Battery to not really matter. What are the chances anything interesting--which is a relative term when talking about Megan Fox--is really going to happen in the world of Megan Fox "news"? She's not really pushing anything right now; Jennifer's Body is still far enough away that she's not talking it up just yet, anyway. So it's not like it really matters, anyway.

Third, isn't talking about how you're having a "Megan Fox blackout" just still talking about Megan Fox and tacitly acknowledging that she has some effect on the media?

So what is the freaking point? No one reports real news, anyway.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Monster in the Mirror

For no real reason other than the awesomeness of Grover.

500 Faves

176. Human - The Human League
177. Human Nature - Michael Jackson
178. Hung Up On a Dream - The Zombies
179. Hungry Like the Wolf - Duran Duran
180. I'll Cry Instead - The Beatles
181. I'm Looking Through You - The Beatles
182. I'm Not Sayin' - Nico
183. I'm the Urban Spaceman - The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
184. I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever) - Stevie Wonder
185. I Believe in a Thing Called Love - The Darkness
186. I Don't Like Mondays - The Boomtown Rats
187. I Don't Wanna Grow Up - Tom Waits
188. I Fought the Law - Bobby Fuller Four
189. I Get a Kick Out of You - Frank Sinatra
190. I Got a Name - Jim Croce
191. I Heard It Through the Grapevine - Marvin Gaye
192. I Just Wasn't Made for These Times - The Beach Boys
193. I Love to Sing-A - Al Jolson & Cab Calloway
194. I Say a Little Prayer - Aretha Franklin
195. I Shall Be Released - Bob Dylan
196. I Think I Love You - The Partridge Family
197. I Thought I Saw Your Face Today - She & Him
198. I Want to Break Free - Queen
199. I Want You Back - The Jackson 5
200. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You - Elvis Presley

Rapunzel Concepts

Some concept art for Disney's Rapunzel Unbraided. Apparently they've come up with a new look for the film; it's still going to be computer animated, but it uses a non-photorealistic rendering that will make it look painted but with depth and dimension. I'd love to see an experimental look like that for a Disney film. All computer-animated films are starting to look exactly the same to me, and this sounds interesting. Is this the same technique used for the "Steadfast Tin Soldier" segment of Fantasia 2000? Because that looked amazing.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Man, I really need to get my Veronica Mars DVDs back out.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

500 Faves

151. Gloria - Laura Branigan
152. God Only Knows - The Beach Boys
153. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End - The Beatles
154. Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy - Queen
155. Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys
156. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John
157. The Great Pretender - The Platters
158. Handbags & Gladrags - Rod Stewart
159. Hands Clean - Alanis Morissette
160. Hang On to Your Ego - The Beach Boys
161. Hard to Say I'm Sorry - Chicago
162. Hazy Shade of Winter - The Bangles
163. Heart of Glass - Blondie
164. Heart of Gold - Neil Young
165. Heaven Can Wait - Meat Loaf
166. Heavy Horses - Jethro Tull
167. Hello, It's Me - Todd Rundgren
168. Hello Goodbye - The Beatles
169. Help Me Make It Through the Night - Kris Kristofferson
170. Here Comes My Baby - The Tremeloes
171. Hey Baby - No Doubt
172. Hey Jude - The Beatles
173. Hey Ya! - Outkast
174. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me - Mel Carter
175. House of Fun - Madness

Song of the Week: "Godzilla"

I've had this song in my head all week. Since I'm nearly done with my trek through the Jason Voorhies movies, I decided to act on a half-suggestion I made way back to have a Godzilla Fest this summer. I'll be watching a bunch of Godzilla movies over the next few weeks, revisiting some, seeing some for the first time, and this song has just been in my head. Blue Oyster Cult with one of their best, this performance is from a 1978 concert that was released as the album Some Enchanted Evening. Great stuff.

The Paint Your Wagon Experience

BECCA: (20 minutes into Paint Your Wagon) This is really, really dull. This isn't a movie you like, is it?

ME: No, I just like some of the music and Lee Marvin.

BECCA: Lee Marvin's awesome, but this movie is really just stupid.

ME: Do you want to watch something else?

BECCA: I can already tell this is the kind of movie I don't want to waste my life on. How much longer is it on?

ME: About two and a half hours.

BECCA: Oh, God, shut if off! Shut it off!

Twilight Summarized by a Smartass, Chapter 6

So Bella finally, finally goes on this fucking beach trip we've been hearing about endlessly. Bully!

Honestly, I don't know why Bella even goes. She just doesn't seem to relate to anyone. She's not even interested in relating to anyone. Everyone is just chatter and babble, and she just goes through the motions. She's trying to make Mike happy, because Mike is into her, but her "friend" Jessica is into Mike, so she's trying to make Jessica happy too... Why doesn't she just come out and tell Mike that she's not interested in him? My guess is that Bella is so selfish she can't imagine what it's like to be compassionate, but interprets that inability as the desire to never hurt anyone's feelings, even though she's totally dead inside to the feelings of other beings. Yeah, she's a bitch.

Most of Bella's time at the beach is taken up with descriptions of what she's doing and what the beach looks like (she says "breathtaking," then fails to describe it in a breathtaking way) and looking into tide pools, because these kids don't have anything interesting to say in Stephenie Meyer's mind. When they're not talking about Bella or about Edward, these kids may as well not exist. They barely do, anyway. One of the other girls, Lauren, is starting to get catty about Bella, which is as close to depth of motivation as any of these kids has yet had. Boring, boring, boring... it just keeps going and going and going without any reason to go anywhere.

Bella mainly pines for Edward and tries to find ways to get out of being too close to Mike (other than honesty, of course). A group of teenagers from the nearby reservation joins them, and Bella knows one of them, a younger boy called Jacob, from when she was a kid (their fathers took fishing trips together). Bella immediately notices his pretty copper skin, his dark eyes, and his round cheekbones. It's like Edward all over again--does it bother anyone else besides me that Bella only deigns to speak to boys who are all pretty and glowing in some way? I mean, she won't open up to anyone unless they're preternaturally--or supernaturally, I guess--beautiful. Everyone else is too "ordinary" for her.

Well, even though she thinks Jacob liking to rebuild cars is somehow fascinating (and it made me laugh out loud that his idea of working on a "classic" car is a 1986 Volkswagen Rabbit), she can't get Edward out of her head and wonders about the Cullens and why they couldn't join in. One of the reservation kids, Sam, says "Cullens don't come here," and Bella immediately needs to know why because she's been such a fucking busybody desperate for any scrap of gossip about the kid who treats her like such a jerk at school.

Her plan--get this--is to flirt with Jacob to get the information out of him. See, we're still supposed to believe that "Beautiful Swan" is gawky and unattractive, even though she's got three guys plus Edward falling all over her every move (and the girls are finally starting to hate her for it), so she keeps describing her flirtations as "inept" and "awkward." How are her flirtations inept? I have no idea. She just tells us they are. But they're not; it's perfectly competent teenage flirtation--which is to say, it's just a little bit of flattery and some direct questions.

Jacob tells her what he calls a scary story, which isn't scary at all. It's just some local reservation legend about men who turn into wolves and their enemies, the cold ones, who made a treaty many years ago. This legend goes that the Cullens are vampires who don't feed on humans, and who made a treaty to keep off the Quileute land. It's an interesting story, the first implication that there's a larger mythology at work in this ridiculous book, and the only thing I've liked so far in the book (and only 123 pages in!).

But here are two things I don't like about it:

First, Bella's reaction is silly. Instead of having a believably skeptical reaction, she swallows the whole thing and gets all freaked out by it. I just don't buy that reaction, even with someone as ridiculously overdramatic and caught up in herself as Bella is.

And second, Jacob's scary story isn't really scary, it's just some old Indian legends about vampires and werewolves. And worse still, Meyer actually has Jacob say about the legend, "Your people would call them werewolves" and "Your people would call them vampires," as though this is foreign terminology outside of white kids, or something. I don't know why, it just rubbed me the wrong way. Like Meyer was trying to make this really important and different and just totally failed and thinks using words like "vampire" and "werewolf" are somehow beneath her. Sorry, you're writing a vampire novel, get over yourself.

And what kind of perception are we supposed to have of Jacob? Besides being a fifth guy who is immediately in love the supposedly awkward, unattractive, clumsy, not-special-in-any-way Bella, he completely buys into Bella flirting with him. She keeps telling us that her flirting is "inept," but that it works on Jacob. So... Jacob is stupid, then? Is that what we're supposed to take away from this? Awesome.