Monday, August 18, 2008

And the summer is almost over (and my wallet rejoices)...

Okay, so I pretty much swore off the summer movies after Dark Knight - I mean, it's like eating a steak and then being offered processed cheese slices - just can't compare.

But, my movie obsessed nerd inside couldn't stay aware for too long. Enter: Pineapple Express.

Now, let me preface this by saying I was a Judd Apatow fan long before it was cool to be a Judd Apatow fan (screw you catcher-on-ers!). Back in the day, my family would gather around the telly and scramble every damn week to try and find a little program we loved called "Freaks and Geeks." If you've yet to see this gem, stop what you're doing... I mean it... Put it down... And go buy it. And watch it.

The way I liked to describe it back in the day was "The Wonder Years in the 80s" but that doesn't do it justice. It's an honest, funny, painful look at finding yourself during your teenage years - set during the 80s. The Pilot is still one of my all-time favorite television episodes ever (I can't hear "Come Sail Away" by Styx without getting all warm and fuzzy inside).

Well, this little gem introduced the world to Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jason Segal (as well as Linda Cardelinni and a whole cast of Apatow faces you'll know). It was the best.

Well, flash forward a few years and I'm rolling on the floor laughing while watching Knocked Up. By myself. Yes, I saw it by myself. Then I manipulated my wife into seeing it (who doesn't like vulgar movies, and this was the king of them). And she loved it. LOVED it. Apatow manages to take real life circumstances and pull every bit of excruciating, uncomfortable humor out of it in a college frat boy way, that doesn't manage to alienate the audience.

Okay, so Summer Movies were pretty much over, but Pineapple Express, the stoner action movie came out. I was skeptical, but on recommendation from a colleague, I venture out to see it.

And laughed my ass off the whole time.

Pure genius - two potheads get embroiled in a drug gang war. Basic plot. But, in Apatow/Rogen (who is a fantastic writer on his own), the undercurrent of the story is about friendship and growing up. Maybe I love all these movies because I'm close to the same age as Rogen - and can identify with the things he loves to write about (now, granted, if I smoked as much weed as his characters do, I'd never get anything done - semi-annual blog entries included).

James Franco is hilarious, the slapstick to Rogen's straight-lace, and it would be criminally remiss to not mention Danny McBride - my favorite part of the movie. Best lines and situations. I died when he was on the screen.

Is it perfect? No, not exactly, but if this is your style, you'll love it. I did. I was laughing so hard at points, I missed the second barrage of jokes that always followed the first.

See it. Then buy Freaks and Geeks. You'll not regret it. Grade: A-


Mamma Mia.

Okay, so, I'll admit, I love musicals. If there's a musical, I'll see it. They just make me smile. I even sat through the dreg of Moulin Rouge (which had it's high points, the least of which was NOT the story) for the music (which, when you've got top-hat'ed old men singing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", how can you not).

Anyways, Mamma Mia is a chick-flick. More so than that, a middle-aged chick flick. It's about a group of 50 something women who rediscover themselves (so to speak). My wife surmised it the best with "I'm tired of 50 year olds acting like their 20."

But, part of that is the charm of the movie. The actors/resses are great - and all but Pierce Brosnan (bless his heart) are surprisingly good singers. The story is cute - there are laughs enough. The music is FANTASTIC (I'm not an ABBA fan, but I loved all the songs), the location is gorgeous. Basically, if you're a woman (middle aged preferred), you'll like it.

I'll give it a B-.


Okay, first off I love Amanda Seyfried! She plays Meryll Streep's daughter. If you've never seen Mean Girls - you're missing out on one of the funniest teen movies (and performances from Amanda) you can get. Second off, if you've not seen Veronica Mars - do yourself a favor and throw the first two seasons into your shopping cart when you buy Freaks and Geeks. It's amazing! I doubted the premise, but bought it on word of mouth - and DEVOURED it. Such an amazing, short-lived show. And she's prominent in the first season.

Second rambling aside - what struck me the most about Mamma Mia when the crowd that was there. Like I said, the movie was targeted to a demographic that is always overlooked. When you go look at the summer movies, how many are marketed to middle-aged women? Almost none. But, when they do - what happens? The movies actually makes MONEY. Look at Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City - these things made bank - 100MM + (so has Mamma Mia). So, it'll be interesting to see if more movies are made like this. Time will tell, and I think nothing will change, but every so often when someone pushes a movie through targeted this way, everyone will be "shocked" to learn that there are other people who see movies that males, aged 16-24.

Rambling done.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Case of the Modest Coverage

Okay, so, back a long time ago (read: last post), I told you that I had submitted my script (A God-Fearing Man*) to Slamdance Feature competition. In addition to doing, I also requested "Coverage." For those of our readers (hi mom!) who don't know what that is, coverage is defined as:

"Wearing clothes that blanket an area of the body deemed inappropriate to a modest degree."

Wait, what the hell? Damn wikipedia, wrong entry. Oh well, anyways, coverage is industry-speak for having a professional reader read your script and write up a basic "What's good, what's not." So, I had a Slamdancer read it and she (I believe it was) wrote up a three page doc.

In my imaginary "I'm famous and have blog readers" world, I'll post it (someday, I promise, when people care and it actually matters) so you can compare the draft sent in with the coverage and see if you agree.

Basically, they gave me thumbs up for the first two acts - saying they were "nearly great." So, for a second real script, I'll take it. They said that the third act seemed somewhat forced and disconnected a bit. They gave a few suggestions to make things connect better (all of which were formulaic, but I can't understand the idea that they're suggesting).

So, we'll see if that influences the outcome of my placement in their competition, but I'm very happy about the positives I received. The negatives (though, surprisingly polite and nice about it - didn't really even seem like that big of a deal) were helpful too. The script, to me and a few others, is very sublime about the way it goes about, and if you don't catch the subtle touches, you miss why it moves a certain way. Those who really examined it, got it instantly.

That aside, I'm not perfect at all, nor do I believe the script was perfect. Perhaps too much stuff was unsaid/unseen - so it did disconnect. Not everyone will be able to read into it and read into my brain. So, I'll pull it out and start to rewrite it at some point and try to make it more apparent (without ruining the cerebral quality I was going for). Tough balancing act, no doubt.

Well, so, we'll see how it fares at the competitions (I'm hoping it'll do well and people will "get" what I'm trying to say and do). Slamdance did push back their announcements for finalists two weeks - so it won't be until September 5th that I hear how I'm doing with it all. Sad. Tear.

Onward and upward. Any readers of the blog interested to read the script, let me know, and I'll see if I can get it to you.

* to previous post

* - I just thought I'd give you a quick recap of what the script was about, because, as evidence, I love to hear myself talk.

A God-Fearing Man is a domestic drama that takes place in a small town, anywhere USA. Elijah and his wife Karen are a middle-aged couple with three kids. They're the ideal for the town. Elijah grew up there and is a pillar in the community. But everything is not as it seems. Karen is unhappy and wary of the possible affair her husband is having with the town's sweetheart - 17 year-old Shelly - and Elijah's strength isn't rooted in the community, but a fragile sense of self-worth.

Elijah and Karen are forced to examine their lives, sense of balance, and everything they hold dear after a town tragedy rocks them to the very core - as individuals and as a couple.

End blurb.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Post Without Movies is like without Topless Pics (or: Kelly Kapowski's Quest)

Luckily, neither, today, are without.

(and, btw, become a regular visitor to - if you love trash celebrity gossip, biting/witty commentary, or topless pictures - you'll LOVE the SF (as we cool people refer to it as) - and don't worry, the nips are "starred" out, so it's safe for the kiddies (read: not really))

Endorsements aside, let's talk about life. Tony's life, for that matter...

Okay, so foolish dreaming has been a long-standing facet of Tony's life. In order to compensate for the normal order of his life, thus far, he's spent an instituitional amount of time imagining all sorts of delusions of granduer.

At some point a few months ago, during an experiemental period with mushrooms picked from my backyard, Neil Patrick Harris came to me on a pony - wait, no, that was Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay - no, it was David Bowie, circa 1986 Labyrinth - nope, that was Flight of the Conchords (man, are there any good celebrity hallunications left?)...

Okay, I've got it - motherf@%3C$ing Tiffani Theisen (Kelly Kapowski, baby) appeared me to, clad in clingy, dripping wet celophane and revealed to me that I was to embark on a quest. A quest unlike one I'd embarked - but one I had been preparing for my whole life. Well... parts of it. The dreaming parts... That specifically related to the quest.

Okay, the quest...

Move to LA.

It's not secret that I want to write (well, to the people who know me), I mean, hell, I spend my spare time rattling away at a blog that no one reads just for the sheer pleasure of writing. So, it's been my dream for almost ten years now to write screenplays. Well, okay, so more than just write (cause I have been doing that), but to actually sell them - to have a career in "the biz."

About 18 months ago, I decided that instead of telling people "I've got a degree in finance, but I really want to get into writing" and do nothing about it, I'd actually start writing. Cause, well, you can't be a writer unless you start writing. I mean, I had folders and folders of anything from a basic idea for scripts, to dense outlines (my largest one reached nearly 40 pages, and I still have no actual script to show for it (but about four years of work)), but I hadn't finished a feature length script since I wrote an adaptation of the short story "Horror Weekend" when I was 15 (and, boy, let me tell you - if you want script writing at its best, check that baby out. You'll enjoy endless pages of me, droning on about whatever I felt like (my personal favorite is probably a ten minute scene where two characters discuss Jeph Loeb's "The Witching Hour" and Kevin Smith movies - which, by the way, has nothing to do with the plot or characters)).

It took me a bit to get going, but around the time I graduated (with a business degree - I know, I know, wtf for sure), I was watching "The Faculty" (which didn't age well for me), and I noticed that I had never seen a Teenage Zombie movie. You know, "Breakfast Club" meets "Dawn of the Dead." So, I started writing some teenage stereotypes and tweaking them - the old "The is the perception, this is the reality" and coming up with a situation that would stick them all together for a zombie invasion (perhaps, epidemic is a better term, zombies don't really invade, they spread like herpes - which, by the way, is no fun, so children beware).

I won't get into it (though, someday, when I'm coherent and famous, I'll post it for the mocking pleasure of all those frustrated unpublished/unpaid writers), but it took me about 11 months to write from first word to "final" draft. I say "final" cause I might go back to it and fix it up - it's not perfect by any means, but I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Well, in an effort to do something with my work, I entered it into the Slamdance Horror script competition. There were over 700 entries, and after an agonizing few weeks, I learned that I didn't even place in the top 100. What added insult to injury was the fact that my script ("Graduation Day") placed below such stellar flicks as "Porn Star Zombies" "The Bum, the Witch, and the Whore" and my personal favorite (which I will always remember as a reminder that people thought this was better than mine) "Yact Zombie Christmas: A Lesbian's Worst Nightmare" (swear to dog, that was the full title - and, yes, it beat me).

But, life wouldn't get me down. I was inspired by local events and the effect they had on me, to write my next script "A God-Fearing Man" - a complete departure from "Graduation Day" in every way. I wrote "God-Fearing" out of an emotional reaction and dilemma - and was really close to the material. It wasn't a plot movie, it was a character movie that didn't come with answers, just questions. The script was extremely difficult to write - partly cause it was so different than what I had written, that I didn't know if it was good or awful, I was entirely uncertain of myself. It was exciting and fun and scary all at the same time.

In under six months, I had gone from idea to the draft I submitted to competitions. In the process of rewriting, I got really good reviews from some of my readers - people who had tore everything I'd written up to that point apart. I was astonished, but realized, unless you have an emotional connection and feel for what you're writing, it won't be good. I loved "Graduation Day" but I wrote it for fun, not because it meant something to me.

Well, it was during this process that Tiffani came to visit me. It was a scary visit because it meant I needed to do something more than just sit around (in Utah, not even LA) and wait for my career to find me. It meant I needed to give up what I had (in many ways) and move to where it could happen.

So, faithful, noble reader, here's my plan (and I will update as things don't work out, er, I mean, progress). I took "A God-Fearing Man" and entered it into three competitions:

Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition

Slamdance Feature Writing Contest

Creative Screenwriting AAA Contest

The first announcements for these competitions will be this month, so stay tuned to hear about my crushing defeat (If I get beat by that damn "Yacht Zombie Christmas" again, I'm pulling out the straight razor).

This is my first line. My hopes - highest, will be to win any or all of them, secure representation, get my name out, sell my script, and get an assignment. That's a lot to hope for (almost too much, but where are we, as a race, if we can't dream), so, at the very least - to get recognition. I'd love to just secure representation - or have my script looked at. Living (right now) from a distance, the most I'm hoping is to give me something to jump into when I shortly move to the area.

Onto my second line. During the rewriting phase of "God-Fearing," I, of course, started working on my next script. Inspired by my current job, and the current idiots I have to occasionally work with (don't worry, they're not reading this), I started writing a corporate thriller comedy (I've had multiple titles, but I can't find one I like, I'll let you know).

I'm in the final stages of rewriting it because I'm entering it this week as a writing sample for my application to the Disney Features Writing Fellowship. This bad boy is the beez kneez if I can pull it off (enter: loud, doubting laugh). Disney will hire you as an employee for a year and teach you, network you, and have you develop content for them. I won't hear back until December(ish), but I'll let you know when I do.

So, there are my main plans - as they fall away and crash and burn, I'll fill you in on other ideas. But, basically, we're looking to move in January down to LA. We've looked (online) at Beverly Hills, West Hollywood area, but we're open to wherever is good.

So, that's the quest. I've reported it now, so I'm held accountable to you, faithful reader. Wish me luck and I'll let you know if you're luck has worked for me (or against me). And if I fail, it's all your fault!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Movie Marathon Part... whatever the hell we're up to now...

Okay, so I wondered if we'd ever top Iron Man. The summer has actually been a lot better than last years threepeats of shit (exception being Bourne Ultimatum, which rocked the world), but nothing had really been excellent - just good.

Boy, were my fears put to rest.

Enter: The Dark Knight
Hmm.... what can I say that hasn't been said.


This movie was incredible. Best comic movie ever - and one of the better movies I've ever seen. Let's look at some of the examples of great screenwriting/filmmaking in the movie to be a tad different. (SPOILERS AHEAD - DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN)

Amanda, the aspiring TV writer, already commented on a great character moment where the Joker tells us all we need to know about him without actually giving boring exposition. Joker first tells Michael Jai White that he got his scares when his dad cut open his face. Later, he tells Maggie Gyllenhall that they were self-inflicted. So, in two simple exchanges we learn this about Joker - he's crazy. No only that, but he's a liar - he's out to push people out of their comfort zones and frighten them. He's unreliable.

Another great example is how any time he explains himself - he's lying. He tells Harvey/Two-Face that he's not a man with a plan - just an agent of chaos. That what he did to Dent wasn't personal. But, we know as we watch, he's planned everything to a T. Not only has he planned everything, he has contingencies out the wazoo. And his attack on Dent was inconsequential - it was planned. His goal was to destroy Dent, and thus destroy Gotham's hope.

Dark Knight succeeds on every level because it knows how to up the ante continuously and take all the characters' worst fears - and materialize them. If characters can't at least flirt with the worst thing that could possibly happen - then we're bored. With Batman - it's having to go too far to help - to the point where his actions make the Gotham a worse place - not better. With Dent, it's seeing everything around him get destroyed, except himself (great moment in the beginning that shows Dent's flippancy about himself is when the goon in court pulls a gun on him and he doesn't even flinch). With Gordon, it's that his compromising on the police force will, in fact, hurt everyone around him - that the consequences will outweigh the benefits.

The threefold scene of the attacks on Comissioner Loeb, the judge, and Harvey is fantastic. So is every single climax in that movie (I'm still trying to figure out how many acts there are in the film). And with each attack, Joker puts more and more people in danger - pushing the city into a frenzy. At first it's the mob, Batman, the three previously mentioned, the mayor, the police force, hospitals, and then the whole city (as encapsulated by the boat of normal, scared citizens and the boat of criminals). From beginning to end, the movie just keeps ratcheting up (MAJOR props to Chris & John Nolan with story help from David Goyer).

Not only are the characters put in their worst fears - but they're pushed to the edge of what they will do (and often cross it). Think when Batman pushes Maroni off the building - or when Dent essentially plays Russian roulette with one of Joker's goons in the alleyway - all at these times, you're holding your breath, screaming to yourself "He's not going to go that far, is he!?!?" And, sometimes, they do.

Surprises that are well built-to. See: the death of Rachel Dawes. Wow. Did you see that coming? Okay, maybe you did - I didn't. They built her as the linchpin for both Harvey and Bruce - and what better to destroy them both, than kill her. When Batman busts into the building Harvey is in (thinking it is Rachel) didn't your jaw drop and your heart sink? Oh man, still get chills thinking of Harvey screaming "No!" cause he knows that means Rachel will die.

Okay, so I'll wrap it up and finish with just a note about the actors.
We all can agree that Heath Ledger's Joker was the performance of a lifetime - regardless of the length of his life. There was no Heath Ledger on that screen - there was only the Joker. Simply astonishing. I could rave for pages. But I'll stop.
The one downside to that is that I think Aaron Eckhart will get overlooked. His Dent was everything and more. He's a great actor and was so committed to that role, every time he got mad or yelled, I got chills. There was no Aaron - there was Dent. And Gary Oldman was fantastic. Same for Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Maggie G. Some people may dissent on that, but I thought she brought a maturity and emotional weight to the role that Katie Holmes could only have hoped to have done.
Hats off to Christopher Nolan - my new favorite filmmaker. If you have not seen all his movies, just go buy them. When they're not amazing (Memento, The Prestige), they're still very good (The Following, Insomnia).
Grade: A. A sold "A"

Movie Quickies...

Okay, good lord, taking too effing long to write reviews for all 853 movies I've seen this summer (were you to casually stumble upon this blog during an earnest search for woman and ferret porn, you would swear all I do is watch movies - which you're not far off). So, let me see if I can bang these 4 out real quick before getting to the big one.
(big breath in)

Strangers. Again with the Liv Tyler. Okay, simple setup. A couple, in a house, out in the middle of BFE nowhere, gets a knock at the door at four in the morning. Soon they're attacked by three strangers wearing masks who say nothing. Creepy. Scary. Disturbing. Though the end left some to be desired, it still topped my list as scariest of the year so far. It's a good testament to the film that when it ended, my stomach hurt from being clenched for the whole 90 minutes. B

Wanted. Love it. Love it, love it, love it. And that's not cause it was a terribly great movie - it had problems, but it was funner 'n hell. From the opening shot to the end, I was smiling. Though the Voice-Overs were a tad apparent and tried a bit too hard to get you to like Wesley, it still worked for me. James McAvoy has been the man for a long time (see the Amazing Atonement for a testament), and he continues to shine. Jolie is awesome. Freeman was great. Unexpected twists accompany this unexpected movie. See it. Great stuff. You won't be bored. Wins award for best way to shoot people using another person. B+

Hancock. Man, I hit a streak of pretty decent movies. While critics blasted it, I liked it. I like Will Smith. All in all, he makes entertaining, enjoyable movies. Hancock was original and interesting. I wish they had spent more time mining the psyche of a depressed, jaded superhero, but you might have alienated your audience. You don't go into Bad Boys or I Am Legend to have a deeply intellectual experience. You do so to see Will Smith make funny jokes and shoot stuff. Hancock had some turns and twists that worked against itself, but I still liked. I'd hope for a sequel, though it'd have no point. But, yeah, again, if you're wanting entertainment - check it out. B+

Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Okay, in order to review the movie, you have to separate the movie from the comic. The comic is a dark, magical, mythical, alchemical masterpiece. It mines every legend and fairytale for an entirely unique but addictive story. The movie, is entirely different. It's a bright, effects filled, goofy tale. The first one just didn't click - it didn't know what it was - whether apocalyptic/serious or popcorn movie/spectacle. And it failed in that. The second one, however, is much better (and leaves me wanting a third). Hellboy is having relationship problems. He's having problems at work (he's too loud for a secret agency). That and an ancient elf prince has decided to break the pact between humans and magics and revive an ancient mechanical army to destroy their race. Hilarity (kinda) ensues. The second film has found it's groove. In between Hellboy movies, Guillermo Del Toro decided to become an auteur. Pan's Labyrinth was a bleak, wonderful little movie about escapism and heroics. That movie bought him Hellboy 2. Hellboy goes for humor. Perlman is comfortable in his red shoes (as is the rest of the cast), and though it's a tad goofy for itself at times, it makes up in sheer visual wonderment. Check it out for that alone. That artless bastard, George Lucas (still love you George!), could stand to take a lesson fro Del Toro here. You can use makeup and effects to make amazing visual scenes without a computer in sight. And it's even better. So, yeah, much better than number one. Good for the crowd that enjoys a slightly more odd fare of movie. B+

And that, ladies and gentlemen (or, as I like to say it "Mom and... well, that's about the readership"), is a wrap.

Movie Marathon Part 5 - Cashing in on AlGore

Next up, the new Hulk.

Now, admittedly, I was apprehensive about this remake/reboot/sequel. I'll stand by my belief that Ang Lee sucks. I'll take flack for saying Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a load of crap disguised in great cinematography and wire stunts. The first Hulk went to prove my point (most people I know fell asleep during Brokeass Mountain - and no one has ever even seen Lust, Caution - and Sense and Sensibility was about 45 minutes too long). I saw Ang Lee at Comic Con in 2002, at a panel where he narrated PRODUCTION STILLS like an elderly Asian man giving you a travelogue of his trip to Yosemite. This gave me a bad feeling. What was an even worse omen was that he couldn't pronounce the characters' names right. This has nothing to do with his ethnicity - this has everything to do with the fact that he didn't understand his source enough to even get names right!!!

Ugh... Now, I liked what he tried to do with Hulk - a more psychological examination of the protagonist. But it failed miserably... Boring, long, pretentious, and terrible scene transitions.

So, flash forward a few years and Marvel announces the sequel no one wants (them touting that Hulk's popularity is second to only Spiderman, worldwide (which also goes to Marvel's editorial inability to understand reality (see: Brand New Day), but that's another post)). But, they begin to move in a positive direction. No more Eric Bana. Bless his heart, he just kills everything he touches. We should call him Charlie Bana.

Enter: Ed Norton. Nice. Enter: Ed Norton co-writing and producing. Very nice. Enter: return of Liv Tyler. Extra nice. And so on.

The result:

Not bad. A very entertaining action movie. My wife described it, accurately, as a boy's movie. My brother in law, who likes his movies full of explosions and boobies, said it was really good (but, parents of the world, relax, the only boobies in this one are green and manly). All in all, it starts really well, with Bruce Banner, in self-exile for years, trying to master his inner-self (I love the metaphors for Hulk, and the underlying psychology, which I wish they would have explored - Hulk is not a her, Hulk is a normal person who has to deal with the fact that if he loses control for one second, he ruins lives. Very cool stuff that wasn't touched on enough). The government is still after him.

They chase, they fight, they chase, they fight, they chase, big final fight. That's the gist of it. It was fun to watch, performances and effects (including directing) were well-done. I wished for a deeper look at things - which is why I'm praying for a director's cut.

When the movie was edited, the first cut was 20 minutes longer - all with more character development. Marvel rejected that and trimmed it down to be leaner. The movie could have been a little... fatter. If you look at the SUPREME Dark Knight (which we'll get to some day when I have a lot of time and energy to cheer and praise it), it sacrificed action lean-ness for an incredibly dense character story - which made it amazing. Iron Man did the same thing, in a sense.

Props to Marvel for bringing Robert Downey, Jr into Hulk for a brief cameo foreshadowing the togetherness of the upcoming Marvel Films Universe (I get chills thinking about it). All in all - decent. Check it out if you like action movies/comic movies. I'll give it a B.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Movie Marathon Part 4 - Let's Have Sex

Now, let's start off by saying that I am not the target audience of Sex and the City. I'm not a woman. I'm not self-obsessed (though readers of the blog might beg to differ). I'm not middle-aged. I'm not gay. I'm not one who spends copious amounts on money on shoes. I don't have a "New York - specifically Manhattan - is SO much better than anywhere else" stick up my ass. I don't own the show on DVD.

That said, the movie isn't half-bad.

Okay, I'll be brief with this (I feel better after the Lucas rant). The movie runs long - 2 1/2 hours long. It feels more like a short season than an actual movie. So it drags a bit. The first half drove me NUTS. Nothing but selfish, self-obsessed women making an absolute mess out of their lives. The second-half is them realizing this, growing, and patching things up. Good ending, bad beginning.

Part of what made it bad was that this was pretty much territory already covered in the show. The show ended too well (from a character standpoint). They had to take a step back for everyone to give us what they did. That was terribly annoying and a cheap cop out.

But, they did a decent job moving them forward.

Did I love it? No.

Did I hate it? No.

Was it really worth making? No.

Did I enjoy it enough? Well... yeah, pretty much.

Decent. B-

Movie Marathon Part 3 - The Bottom of the Barrel

How many weeks into the summer season does it take Hollywood to crap out? Four baby. Count 'em, FOUR.

Enter: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (or, as I like to call is: Indiana Jones and the "Jar Jar could have made this piece of shit better").

Exit: Filmmaking

Okay, so, let's recap here (Spoilers ahead for any of you without the common sense who still want to see this movie):

George Lucas. Made a few decent movies (THX, American Grafitti) and then made the holy grail of geekdom: Star Wars: A New Hope. This movie was great. He, wisely so, got "too busy" to write and direct the next two - which was a good thing. He hired writers who knew how to write tight scripts withe real characters and directors who knew how to work with actors. The result - on the of the best trilogies of all time (so good, in fact, many an overweight or gawky skinny men have foregone their chance at sex for).

Then, now that's he's hopped up on ego and Endor (oh ho! good geek joke), he thinks he's God among filmmakers. It doesn't help that he helps helm the Indiana Jones trilogy - which, while it is no Star Wars, is good in its own respects.

So, let's go back to the eighties - and what do you do to follow them up? Willow and Howard the Duck. Body shiver. A disturbing Val Kilmer Midget-fest (I present that George Lucas, while a talent-less and confused young man, fell into a drainage canal and was saved by a midget. Owing his life to the pint-sized rescuer, he vowed to incorporate midgets into EVERYTHING HE DOES from that point on) and a movie about a midget duck from outerspace that talks.

Do you see what I'm getting at? Everyone gives it to him that everyone is hit or miss.

So he decides to retire to Marin County and build his empire (see: smoke some weed) of toys, games, memorabilia, effects houses (ILM), sound stages (Skywalker Sound), etc. Things go well. So well, in fact, that his delusions of grandeur return and he decides that "The technology is finally to a place that I can revisit the Star Wars trilogy." Which is his first mistake - thinking the effects in Star Wars is what made the movie great.

No, no, no...

The first sign of his decent into madness (read: CGI) is his remastering of the original movies. What did Return of the Jedi always need? An unnecessary music video with badly animated, annoying slugs. Of course! That's what my Id was crying out for all those years! How could I have been so blind.

Greedo shooting first, aside (another nerd reference - zing!), it was still cool for a new generation of under-sexed unwashed masses to see the films on the big screen.

Enter the new trilogy. Oh, could I rant. From Mannequin Skywalker to Hayden "Whining with a edge to my voice means emotion) Christenson to ruining great actors like Ewan "If I could have shown my penis this would have been better" Gregor and Natalie "We should have hired Jean Reno for this" Portman - I could never end.

Suffice to say - we all realized that lightning only strikes ONCE.

But, we all paid to see these. So, Lucas begins to think that he's not only the master of filmmaking (all though he's the only Oscar-less filmmaker out there among his graduating class), but a master of revitalizing old franchises.

Cue the John Williams soundtrack.

Enter Harrison Ford.

Cue the flying monkeys...? WTF?

Okay, Indy Jones starts out bad, tries to stabilize, and quickly deteriorates into crap. The first scene, in an obviously bad green-screened warehouse sets the stage. Quickly, Indy finds himself in an entirely unnecessary nuclear testing site where the only way to save himself is to shut himself inside a lead refrigerator - which proceeds to be blown about 1400 feet across the desert. Good thing our hero can shake it off.

Then we're all over the world without a definition of why or why we care. Pretty soon we're running through a CGI jungle with Shia LeBeouf swinging from vines with monkeys - and beating cars. Giant fake ants eat people - we get to meet plexi-glass aliens (I know, I know, wtf, scream it with me, people) that can melt minds and setup a civilization thousands of years ago that we're supposed to care about (with no motivation to whatsoever).

Then it's all gone in a flash of (again) OVER-USED special effects.

Oh man, it's bad. Even Harrison Ford looks disinterested. The characters make no sense. The story doesn't either. Not grounded in any simile of reality. The script is a total mess. I just felt insulted by the time it ended.

It's always a good gauge of when a movie has stretched its believability to the max when my wife rolls her head to me and gives me the "Are you serious?" stare. The whole last hour of this movie - she never even looked back at me.

This was a textbook entry on over-blown summer movies - there mere definition of why we don't see crap like this.

A resounding D+.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Movie Marathon Part 2 - Days get Darker

Summer movie season was off with a blast - how long would it last?

Two weeks.

Enter: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: or How I learned to Love the Nuclear Bomb: Part Duex: Could this Film's Title be any Longer?

Now, let's go back, oh, 2 1/2 to 3 year to the first movie. It was surprisingly decent. Came across a little like Lord of the Rings-Lite, but good story, cute English kids, and good effects. It was good. The allegory worked well (if not so heavy handed it could bludgeon a child), and the structure of the thing supported it's weighty running time well enough.

Previews for the second one looked good (and how is it that most movies' trailers are better than the actual films. Like EW suggested years back, why don't we hire the people who make the trailers to just make the movies - they'd be far more entertaining) - a darker look, interesting concept, and all the kids hit that awkward ugliness of teenage-dom.

But things went downhill from there...

Okay, so I'll be fair - I actually enjoyed watching the movie. It's filled with lots of action (an extreme amount of violence and gore for a PG movie - that rating was totally bought by Brazilian hookers or something) and intense action scenes. But by the time you hit the two hour mark - the aesthetic of fighting with no real story has worn off - and it's made even worse when, once again, as soon as our characters get stuck in a tough situation - the damn Lion shows up and saves the day.

Which leaves all of us wondering "Why the hell didn't he do that earlier in the movie and saves countless lives?" I know it's a Christian Allegory - but it just makes you mad to think about it. It's the lamest cop-out ever. And the incredibly deep explanation "Things don't happen the same way twice" didn't help the taste of bitter taste of bile in the back of my throat as I walked away.

In short - fun to watch, entertaining - if not light on story, but with a cop-out ending (that, I guess shouldn't really bother you unless you're a movie nerd like me). I'd wait for the dollar movie or a cheap matinee.

Even though I bitched a lot, the film was done decent enough. The structure was smoother and leaner than the first. All in all, at times better, at times worse, than the first.

An "eh" B-

Movie Marathon Part 1

Wow - summer is off to a good start and I haven't said a thing. I'll say it's because all my spare time has been spent at the cineplex, viewing an insane amount of movies - that and building a Paul Rudd fansite that would rival my John Stamos shrine (heretofore to be known as "John's Rine"... which sounds a bit off, let me see what I can come up with...).

So, let's play some catch up.

It's the beginning of May and I'm still optimistic that the summer might be a good movie season (as I am at the beginning of every summer before some dog-awful sequel ruins it and leaves me a jaded and bitter nerd (see: X3 in 2006, Spider-Man 3 in 2007, Indiana Jones 4 in 2008)). I'm in NY on business, but still find time to squeeze in a little $11.75 sneak preview of a film called Iron man.

Now, let's be honest - in my ever-loving support of the comic industry (I already owe my first born child to Satan and all my creative dignity to Mephisto (very inside joke for Spiderman Nerds) because of comics), I try to see every comic adaptation like it (X2) or not (anything with Jessica Alba in it). But, Iron Man isn't exactly a namebrand - heck, I spend half my monthly salary at the comic store and I've never bought an Iron Man comic regularly.

So, off to the plex with one of my best chums to give Iron Man a shot.

And holy shi....zzle (trying to watch the vulgarity for the child readers of the blog - all none of them) - it was incredibly good.

I ain't going to summarize the story - if you haven't seen it, stop here and go now. Best movie of the year so far.

Robert Downey Jr. (as everything he stars in) is a revelation. He plays the most perfect unlikeable, can't not like him, charming, charismatic, funny comic character ever created. Have you noticed how damn glum all screen superheroes are? Even Spiderman, who is witty and hilarious in the comics, is a total "My goofy stare means I'm haunted inside" douche-bag in the flicks (the only funny thing is unintentional "Emo-Spiderman" and dear Lord, don't get us started on that poop-stain in the already messy underpants of Marvel Films). But Downey's Stark is awesome. I not only was entertained the whole time - I was laughing the whole time.

In addition to the humor, the movie carries a lot of weight - examining the roles we are in and the responsibility of our actions. Great stuff.

The rest of the cast, too, is amazing. I was hesitant in hearing about Gwynneth Paltrow playing a token female sidekick/love interest - but from her first scene, she shows that she's got a pair. She doesn't play the helpless/spineless character I feared - even to the last scene, she's a great addition to the cast.

So, yeah, go see it. One of my favorite comic movies ever.

A solid: A-

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rant Time

I'd like to welcome our faithful readers (all three - thanks mom!) to a new and maybe recurring segment: Rant Time - where I bitch about things that piss me off. Let's start this off on the right foot:

John McCain
Now, let's be honest - I'm not what you'd call Liberal (in honor of the border-fence initiative I've erected a barbwire fence around my kitchen - ain't no Mexicans getting out!), but the idea of John McCain as president makes me quiver like a child after watching that Pee Wee Herman movie (damn Large Marge scared the shit out of m--- er, most kids). And it's not cause he's old, out of touch with reality, been a career politician, schemed with Huckabee to run Romney out the race because he's a bigoted bastard - it's because HIS ARMS ARE TOO DAMN SHORT!!!

Have you seen those stumpy bastards? He flails them around like road cones glued to his shoulders. Gah! It reminds me of when Kermit the frog yells and shakes around, except I can't find those wires they attach to John's wrists. I bet you he has them attached to his pants so he can reach down to pull them up after crapping on our country.

That I have to Vote for McCain
Okay, so 'witty' rantings aside - the big issue this year is the economy. Politicians love to harp the War on Iraq - but it's almost inconsequential when you examine the most pressing issues threatening the country today.

Essentially, of the two plans I've heard (McCain and Obama), McCain's is the only one that won't plunge the economy further into a recession/inflation/stagflationary state that it's already in. That happens - say goodbye to prosperity for quite a few years people. No more Super-Sizing them Big Macs for about five years.

Tangent: It's 1979 - Carter has just screwed up the country. Gas prices are at record highs - inflation is out of control - and the economy is in the toilet. From a monetary policy point of view - what do you do? Battle Inflation (by raising interest rates) or battle the recession (by lowering rates)? Either way, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. What did the FED do? Raise interest rates sky high. From a Fiscal policy - you're Regan, coming into this heap of monkey crap - what do you do? You cut away any programs that are large expenditures for no good reason - Gov spending does not dictate the economy, but it has an impact.

And it worked. It took a few years, but the economy got under control and became quite prosperous (and paved the way for the great 90s).

Welcome to today. Similar conditions, eh? What can you expect the FED to do? Raise rates. Very soon. Bernanke is not dumb - he's much smarter than Greenspan if you really look at it. What do we need a politician to do? Cut programs and buckle down.

What is McCain's plan - cut taxes. What is Barrack Hussien Jong Il Putin Obama's plan? Raise taxes and increase government spending. Hmmm.... Is it really that difficult to figure out, people? "Change" does not mean "plunge the country into the toilet" - it means fixing what is wrong.

This has been a public service announcement brought to you by PETA. Remember to have your dogs and cats spayed and neutered!

Sadie loves mommy - but is frightened by that last statement...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Killer Mac and Cheese Recipie

So a friend of the blog, we'll call her "Chi-chi McIpod," has been bugging to actually update something once and a while - and were it not for that damn thing called work (or, as I like to call it "Hell with Joel Madden" (which is much worse than just normal Hell, like three or four levels)), I'd be blogging everyday. As it stands, I barely have the creative energy to make witty barbs about obscure actors like Will Friedle to passerbyers.

But, something incredible happened the other week and I must share. It's what I like to call:

Boo's Cheese and Mac Recipe.

So, friend of the Blog Brittany made me some Mac and Cheese the other week. Now, granted, the standard recipe for the dish is pretty easy. Add noodles, water, milk, and cheese by-product powder into a dish and heat.

Well, Brittany is no common mortal, no, no. She decided to pull an Emeril and go nuts on this bad boy. Check this bitch out:

Step one: Boil water
Step two: Add Noodles
Step three: Drain water
Step four: Add milk and butter
(and here's the real kicker)
Step five: And TWO (you heard me, two) packets of cheese mix

See, why cook 1 part cheese, 1 part noodle, when you could do 2 part cheese, 1 part noodle?

The results:

Wow. Words can't be formed (cause I'm choking on the cheesiness). A dish that is so sludgy with cheese, it would make Chester Cheetah gag. Powerful stuff. I couldn't wash it down with draino.

So, the next time you're in a mood for something new - try this bad boy out and watch in enjoyment as people cringe and pee themselves.

Until then!

Sadie loves mommy!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sundance Wrap Up

For those out there in the inter web, one night can also mean 6 weeks - and no one will know. Just like the time that I switched out Gatorade at the local gym for a bottle of my own urine.

Vomiting on exercise equipment aside (that old lady will never forgive me), here's how the rest of my movie watching ended up:

Thursday night: Birds of America
Okay, so I picked this movie not cause it sounded great (of course, the Sundance blurb writer could make a Hilary Duff movie sound like Pi), but because Matthew Perry, Hilary Swank, Lauren Graham, and Ben Foster starred in this movie (and I got tickets to the premiere).

So, here's the basics - two ominous signs of doom keyed me off as an alpha and omega (for those of us non-fraternity people (or those who were too pissed to remember those six years of community college) that means Beginning and End).

One - when the Academy Award winning stars (not to mentioned that some of them PRODUCED the movie) don't even show at the premiere - the movie might be a piece of crap.

Second, and keeping in line - when the "climax" of the said piece of crap involves the main character dropping trow and taking a fat dump on his neighbor's lawn - you know you're not exactly watching Citizen Kane.

Yeah, no need to say more. Moving on. (Grade: D-)

The Last Word:
Wes Bentley plays a poet who earns a living writing amazing suicide notes for people who are considering the end-all, be-all option. Ray Romano (hilarious, dry, and depressed) plays his latest client. Winonna Ryder plays the sister of a previous client (meaning: he killed himself).

Idea is great, the execution is pretty decent. Though it didn't hit on all cylinders, it was funny and tragic and most of what is promised. And I loved the end. I'd see it again. (Grade: B-).

And the last movie I drug myself to see (note to self: don't try to see more movies that come out in a month in just under 8 days) was, you know, screw it, I'm not even going to give out the name, cause it'll never make it over here and no one will see it.

Basically, the name was an inappropriate term that I thought was a play on words or a double entrandre, which, no, it wasn't. It was a blatant illustration. Yeah, at the promise of a horror movie, it turned into porn and I left disgusted. I won't even make a "Me like porn" joke that would be oh so typical of me - this movie just pissed me off. "Art" my ass - this was crap (and not the funny uncomfortable crap that was Matthew Perry on Hilary Swank's lawn).

But - to make up for - the cinema gods smiled on me. On Sunday I flew out to NY for a secret spy meeting - oops, wasn't supposed to say anything. Why does this damn typewriter have no white-out!!! Gah!!

Anyways, on the flight I sat next to a Producer for ABC who was watching Sundance films on DVD in order to give a recap for his show. So, I so kindly leaned over and watched an entire movie over his shoulder (which I'm sure he enjoyed in the oh so close confines of a spacious coach flight). The movie was The Wave

It's a German film about a gym teacher who, while trying to get his students to understand fascism (which, they being German (think: Indiana Jones), think they know all about) gets them to form their own little club. Which turns into a clique. Which turns into a Gang. Which turns into an Army. The movie is shocking and scary and realistic. It does an amazing job of showing how quickly mindsets can be swayed and spiral out of control.

This was a powerful movie that I saw over a guy's shoulder on a plane. Imagine how it would be in an actual theatre. See this movie. (Grade: A)

And, there you go - it's still January (the end). The Oscars haven't happened yet - John McCain didn't ruin the Republican party's chance at re-election - the Stock market hasn't gone into the toilet - and Pauly Shore hasn't been shot yet - whoops! That hasn't happened yet. 

damn Delorean gets me into trouble everytime...

Friday, February 1, 2008

And... We Have a Winner

Night four.

The winner.

So, we hopped in the car and went to the Eccles (an amazingly large theatre for a high school - it was like a freakin' theatre hall - it's bigger than the Gershwin in NY) for the premiere of Assassination of a High School President.

Starring Reece Thompson, Mischa Barton, and Bruce Willis, the movie follows Bobby Funke (Thompson), a High School sophomore who imagines himself a Pulitzer Prize winning writer - who's never finished an article yet. He's tasked to interview the class president. In process, all the SATs are stolen from the Principal's safe (Willis). Seeing this as his Watergate (and he Woodward and Berntstein), he delves into the politics and trappings of high school.

Initially, he solves the case and becomes a school hero. But, as in all great Noir, everything isn't as it seems. So, he must go further into the underbelly of the school. But, for a kid who's never been anything, is he willing to give it up in order to become the reporter he thinks he is.

Thematically, it's a crime noir thriller in the vein of Chinatown. Set in high school, I was reminded of Brick initially (which is the holy grail of high school and noir movies for me), but this movie quickly made itself unique. Very well written, snarky and funny - the characters rule the movie, and do a damn good job. Willis steals every scene, but Thompson is the real star. Surprisingly, Mischa (as the president's girlfriend) does a great job too (which is a turn from her stellar acting in the OC).

The ending, though I had thought I had it figured for a long time, still was amazing. The movie disarmed all my conclusions right before it revealed anything - so I loved it. If I can be surprised, I'll love the movie.

What also added to this great movie was the fact that it was the premiere and everyone from the movie (except for Bruce) was there. Director, writer, stars. They did a Q&A and talked to people afterwards. We got about five to ten feet away from Mischa (looks like herself in real life).

What made my night was the fact that as we were moving toward the stars, I noticed Olivia Thirlby (Leah from Juno (one of my favs)) standing next to me. I was totally shocked. I talked to her for a few minutes and she was really cool. I loved Juno, I loved her character, and I loved her in it. It was so cool to meet and talk to her. I was floored.

What made my wife's night was meeting and talking to Marlon Piazza (played by Luke Grimes), whom she drooled over the whole time we were watching the movie.

So, yes, it was my favorite movie of the festival and favorite experience. Great movie. great time.

Grade: A.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sundance Night Three: Indie Night

Back on up to Park City for the world premiere of Baghead.

The Duplass brothers' second movie follows four wannabe actors who, after seeing an (terribly done) indie movie at a film festival made for just under $1000 decide to hole themselves up in a cabin at Big Bear and write a star vehicle for all four of them.

Unfortunately, hidden intentions, desires, and booze get in the way of writing. The first night, one of the girls stumbles into the night to throw up. After puking, she spots a man, standing in the woods, watching her, wearing a bag on his head. She immediately freaks and wakes up in her bed, in the morning.

Spurred by her apparent dream, they begin to write a horror movie involving a killer with a bag over his head. But, after walking through the woods, the two men find the vomit. Was it actually a dream? Is someone actually watching them?

Expertly balancing comedy and horror, the movie is not too bad. It's Indie, for sure. But, it's got heart, is decently funny, and, at times, down right scary. I enjoyed it. I was surrounded by a "Too-Cool-For-School" crowd of Starbucks drinking, Prius drivers, so that got a little old. Everyone thought too much of themselves and gave the "That was amazing" too all involved (while secretly hating the creators for completing a simple movie and managed to get it to play at Sundance) - which was distracting, but all in all, it was good. Nothing to write home about, but for what it is, it's good. 

I'll give it a B-

And, to add to the point that it's decent for the crowd it plays to - Baghead was bought the next day by a distributor (one of the few movies this year that was actually bought). So, bravo. Shot in an interesting, efficient style (and economical), I'll be interested to see how it runs at the BO and Blockbuster.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sundance Night Two: Too Many Movies in a Row

Have you ever stood in line at the grocery store, or at a restaurant, or at Blockbuster with just a shit-load of things you want, thinking (at the time) that you're so hungry/bored/excited that all this stuff will be perfect for you - and you need it. Only to find out when you get home that renting High School Musical One and Two was a really bad idea. That you can only take so much sugary goodness in one setting (and to offset this, you go look at the naked cell phone pics of Vanessa Hudgens - but feel like a pedophile 'cause she's only like 12.... okay, so yeah, neither have I....).

Welcome to my Saturday (though without naked Vanessa - but if it were that Zac Efron - let me tell you, they story might be different)! In attempting to get tickets to all the movies I wanted to see, I majorly loaded up for my first Saturday night. Keeping in mind, I didn't get home from Diary until 3 in the morning the night before.

So, yes, in a mad dash to savor Sundance-y goodness, I bought tickets for three movies that all started just about back to back. I've given them a day to gell (cause that's what my mind was after sitting in cramped, artsy theaters for over seven hours), so hopefully my thoughts are lucid and free of the clown midget that seemed to permeate them last night come hour seven.

Starting at 6:30, at the Rose Wagner theatre in Salt Lake City, was Sunshine Cleaning. So, starting off - what other movie do you think of when you read that title? Yep, that's it. Sundance's own, record-setting sale of 2006 - Little Miss Sunshine. So, let's do a little fun exercise comparing the two.

Title: Sunshine Cleaning / Little Miss Sunshine
Plot: A dysfunctional family tries to find where they belong / a dysfunctional family finds where they belong
Actors: Alan Arkin plays the eccentirc grandpa with a heart of gold / Alan Arkin plays the eccentric grandpa with a heart of gold
Opening Montage: Shots of the cast one at a time, orchestral music playing, in character establishing, funny scenes /Shots of the cast one at a time, orchestral music playing, in character establishing, funny scenes
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico / Albuquerque, New Mexico

Okay, so we can stop - let's just say, it borrows more than a few plays from Little Miss Sunshine. Now, I love LMS - it is one of my all-time favorite movies (see earlier post), so any film that would try to achieve the same effect using similar things is up against a difficult task.

But, I have to admit - I really liked it. Not to say that it's perfect, but it's good. The performances by Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, and Alan Arkin are fantastic - as two sisters and their father who are struggling to make ends meat and peace with each other/their own selves. Adams and Blunt form a cleaning company to cleanup after crime scenes. This, of course, leads to genuinely funny and heartbreaking scenes. The movie never treats the subject of death lightly - yet it finds all the humor it can in it. 

Not every plot threads work - some leave you scratching your heads - but it works overall. It manages to mine the spectrum of emotions that very few movies do. It's definitely recommended - though don't go expecting a completely amazing, emotional movie that LMS was.

Rating: B+

Next: Time Crimes
Okay, so I had enough time to grab a bite at the Olive Garden, but had to run (okay, I had to quickly waddle - that damn Olive Garden food fills you up) to my car in order to speed over Broadway cinemas to catch my next movie.

Time Crimes is a Spanish film about a man who, while living out in the country, spies a woman undressing in the woods up in the hills near his house. He (of course) heads into the woods to investigate (as any pervert would.... okay, so any guy). In the woods, he finds the undressed girl unconscious. As he leans in closer to see if she's alright (yeah, right) a figure in a black trench coat with pink bandages over his head jumps out and stabs him in the arm. The man runs and the figure chases him up the hill. The man finds a laboratory atop the hill. Climbing into a tank to hide - he awakens 6 hours earlier. And the movie goes on (time conventions and hilarity ensues).

So, here's what works: Time travel movies are cool when executed well - and this one is executed petty well. There are all sorts of little things that happen in the first twenty minutes that are unexplained - and they get explained as the main character travels back in time. And then, of course, there are more weird things that happen. It's really interesting. And the twist toward the end is pretty cool.

And, okay, here's what doesn't work: If you know time movies - just about everything will be kinda predictable. With that - it hits stretches where it gets kinda boring. The movie also backs itself into a corner (which is cool as it happens) by the end. You feel "How is this going to end?" And I bet the filmmakers felt the same dilemma - so they just ended it. The ending was weak. It took a halfway decent (depending on how well you can predict movies) movie and killed it - leaving you unsatisfied. The movie also bounces between genres. At first it's creepy and slightly erotic (and why not - it's a Spanish film, aren't they all?), then scary, then sci-fi, then it bounces all over. You name it, it hits upon it - so you're never sure what to feel.

All in all, worth a shot, but wait for the DVD and only if you're a fan of time travel movies. If you want to see a truly great time travel Sundance movie - go rent Primer (won Sundance Jury Award (or something like that) in 2004). In fact, one of the people I saw Time Crimes with describe it as "Primer, if Primer were a comic book." Aaaaaaand, that's not a compliment.

Grade: C+

Number three: The Broken
Okay, so after two movies - my butt was tired and my mind was getting slow. And it was getting late. And I was wishing that I had tickets for this movie at another time - but at least it was only a few blocks away. Ditching the Time Crimes Q&A, I ran over to the Tower theatre to follow cadre of freaks that stalks SLC Sundance for the next movie.

So, okay, got to talk to some other Sundancers who'd hit all the movies that I had that night. It was nice to get some oppressed thoughts out of my already crammed mind.

So, at Midnight (taking into mind that I got into SLC at like 6 o'clock) I started the final movie of the night. The Broken is a British film (look! I celebrate diversity, I watched two foreign movies in one night!) about a woman who after seeing herself drive by, follows her to an apartment where she finds a picture of herself and her dad. She blanks out and clicks back in a car, driving away. Her car veers into another car and she goes into a coma. 

Waking up a bit later, she notices that her boyfriend is no longer acting like himself. Slowly, as she tries to piece together her missing memory, everyone around her starts to change - and she begins to suspect something sinister at work.

So, yeah, let's dissect.

Good: Man, this movie nails atmosphere extremely well. The writer/director introduced the film and said he made it in the spirit of Edgan Allen Poe. The movie is scary and very creepy. It keeps you guessing and really twists everything around in a very "Ahhh.... of course, it all makes sense now" kind of way. Plus, Lena Heady, so hot and cool. I'm glad I'm seeing more of her in movies and on TV (she's Sarah Connor on the new Terminator show). I really like the movie.

Bad: until it ended. Then I realized that the movie had no point. There wasn't really a theme or a message (even bleak movies like The Ring or Memento have a theme and leave you thinking about something when it ends). When The Broken ended, all I was left thinking was "Wait.... what was the point of that?" It didn't really have one. It was like the writer/director had a cool creepy idea, built a movie around it but didn't bother to dig any deeper to themes and deeper meanings.

Well, so, were it not for that (and, let's be honest, only cynical pranks like me will have a problem with this - most people will really like it), the movie would be really good. But, sadly, I need more meat in my movies, so I give it a B-.

So, all in all, not a bad night. I didn't dislike any of them as I watching them - I've got to say, I love going to all these movies not really knowing anything about them. It is so cool to see interesting, fresh movies one after another.

Ooh, ooh! And, the best part of Time Crimes was an Australian short that was shown before the film. It was a very scary, well-done short about two people who trespass on a private tennis court. Look for Match: Satan anywhere that you can - and turn up the volume loud (it was so loud in the theater - which made it really intense). It's good.

So, I will sign off for now and come back after my next few Sundance endeavors.



Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sundance, Night One: Diary of the Dead

Well, here we go. Last night I braved 6 degree temperatures, incoherent bus drivers, large crowds, and the dark to journey up to Park City for the first movie I had tickets for - the Premiere of George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead.

And let me tell you, I wasn't disappointed.

I came into the movie with trepidation - Romero is in his 70s or 80s or something (which is kind of old and possibly out of touch with today's horror/movie audiences). His last movie was Land of the Dead - an awful, poorly done, kinda boring, Sci-Fi Saturday movie that was too saturated with a preachy "Gulf between the rich and poor" message. And it really wasn't scary. And Dennis Hopper was in it. As the bad guy. And Dennis Hopper sucks.

But, imagine my surprise, when the movie turned out to be not only scary, but genuinely relevant, realistic, and with a thought-provoking message.

The movie is thus:

The film is the edited footage of a group of college kids who, after seven days in the isolated woods shooting a horror film (shocker - haven't I seen this setup in a million different movies), come to find out that the world has gone to hell around them. Zombies are loose and attacking. So they venture back to the city to save the Director's girlfriend. After getting her, they set out in their Winnebago to get to her home and check on her family. And zombie hilarity ensues.

The story, though visually told from the director's POV, is told from his girlfriend's POV. She has taken the footage shot - with other footage found - and edited their story together - a documentary on the end of the world. What makes this movie work so well (on so many levels) is the fact that everything we see is shot by the characters - it's all from their view. It's intensely claustrophobic and terrifying. You're never allowed to sit back and look around - you're entrenched in their nightmare.

The movie is about the danger of relying on the media (in all it's various sources) for information, instead of seeking out the truth. In the day of MSNBC, FOXNEWS, YouTube, and Blogger - this is pretty relevant and interesting stuff. And, like all great zombie movies, the movie also examines human behavior by placing humans in extreme circumstances - and questioning what it means to be human. Trust me, the end scene is chilling.

So, starting off the festival on the right foot. I give this movie an A-. At times it fell into cliche, but it managed to pull out quickly. The acting is spot on - you feel like nearly the whole thing was adlibbed (though it wasn't). It only falters when it tries to be cinematic. Great movie - recommended for horror fans and movie fans alike.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Read this Post if You Want to Live Part 2: Judgement Day

Okay, so I'm finally back. Let me start by saying that I have all the good intentions of Ted Kaznyski to write on this thing everyday - promise to Maude - but life continually finds ways to piss me off (see: work) and take up my time (see: work). I'm finally back for the second half of my review for the Terminator TV show premiere (coincidentally, the second half of that premiere).

Aaaaaannnnnddd..... the same as before. A few interesting plot points that may go somewhere - but a lot of similar things we've seen before.

Is there anything I need to update on....? Umm... no, not really. If you want to check it out, do so, you'll not be too far behind after missing the two part pilot. And, let's face it, unless you want to watch Men in Trees (which, shockingly, has new episodes stockpiled like right-wing basements, circa 1999), this might be the best thing to watch if you're looking for new TV (damn you studios! just settle with the writers!).

So, moving onto bigger and brighter - SUNDANCE started yesterday!

I'm proud to say that I have tickets for nine movies this year (including three premieres)! Tonight I kick off the shebacle with George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead. Now, George invented the zombie diary, and this sounds exciting and new, but we'll have to see (his last endeavor, Land of the Dead, was like a bad Saturday afternoon Sci-Fi TV movie). I'll try to give moment to moment (see: every coupla days) updates and reviews of these, hopefully, great movies.

Until then, remember:

Sadie Loves Mommy!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Read this Post if You Want to Live

Future/time-traveling movies fascinate Sadie (yes, you'll think less of her, but even Jean Claude Van Damme's TimeCop got her blood pumping - but who can argue against some dude in a banana hammock doing the splits across the counter to avoid a laser blast?). Part of this being that Sadie has lived many different lives (some in the future - I bet you wish I'd stop rambling and tell you those stories) and these type of stories remind her of her own life.

And what's the mother of all these type of stories? The Terminator series. Now, number three aside (Sadie refuses to accept it as cannon), this series rocks. It plays with the notion of violence and man's tendencies toward self-destruction. At a higher level it examines the different philosophies of Fate versus Destiny (and all the paradoxes that go with time travel).

So, Sadie was tickled pink (don't tell her I said that - it's embarrassing) when Fox announced The Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles (and I dare you to try and say "Sarah Connor Chronicles" three times fast - it's impossible!) - a Terminator TV series that picks up after number two, with Sarah and future messiah John Connor on the run from... well... everyone.

Here's Sadie's review of part one of the pilot:

Sadie loves mommy.

Okay, so, well, articulate - she may not be. Let me give this a shot for her...

The goods: Good production value. How do you follow up one of the most influential films as far as special effects go (T2)? Tough act to follow, even 17 years (can you believe it? Man, I feel old) after it came out. Well, they do a decent job. Makeup, effects, etc is up to par. The actors are all pretty good (the guy pulling an Arnold impersonation kinda sucks, but how do you imitate one of the most iconic characters ever?). Lena Headey is a good Sarah Connor. What she lacks in Physical prowess, she gives a hint at her emotional breadth (which is what we'll really need). Summer Glau as Cameron, the new terminator, seems pretty cool. This was one of my favorite parts of the new show. The upside to the premise is that it seems future John has sent people and others back in time, in (possibly) various places to leave tech and other things to help our heroes.

The bad: the plot seems like a rehash of T2 and, well... T3. It seems that though they sacrificed all to stop Skynet from being built, it only prolonged the building 14 years. In 2011 (I believe) Skynet will go online and judgement day will happen. So, they hop forward from 1999 to 2007 to see who will build it and stop them. Sounds like the others? Umm... yeah. For something that is supposed to RetCon T3, it sounds just like it (minus "I only take roles in bad movies" Kristina Lokken). So, so far, nothing new really. The action is cool, but it all seems familiar.

The good to the bad: the setup could be very cool, and we're only one, introductory episode in. The previews for part two of the pilot (tonight) look like they might add a new twist and dimension. It's got potential, boys and girls. Let's hope they take it. This definitely could be cool.

Were I to do it (this should be a new feature of the blog where I talk about how cool I would have made something (example: World War 2. Two words: Giant Snakes)), I would ditch the Skynet always is risen angle, it'll get old fast (it's been done, twice). Instead, do you ever wonder where the robots got their look from? Why not have the robots sent back to present, unaware of who they are and why they're there (no knowledge of judgement day or any machine/man war). They have core programming, but don't know anything else. As around, they run into live humans who resemble them (hint: get Governator to make an appearance in the second season, he should be out of office by then, I would think). So, we not have the imagesake of the killer robots, robots from an unknown future. Now our group has to put it all together to figure out what the future actually is and if they have to prevent anything at all.

Heck, I'd even go in that direction with the current "Judgement Day will happen" storyline. They encounter people who are the spittin' image of the killer robots. How do they fit in? Do they create Skynet? Etc. Much more interesting. So, we'll have to see how things pan out.

So, the Sadie grade on this new show: A Tentative B (opportunity to be really good, but could fall into banal repetitiveness rather quickly). Sadie will update after tonight's part two.

Sadie loves mommy!

Monday, January 7, 2008

The End-All, Be-All List (of whatever I feel like today...)

So, ever since the movie reviews, everyone - and I do mean everyone - has been asking Sadie what her favorite movies are. Now, I know, for a dog, you'd expect Lassie, Old Yeller (though, that would be a morbid choice for a Dog's favorite movie), 101 Dalmations or even Air Bud.

That's not the case with our Sadie, though.

Bless her heart, she has class and taste. Without any further adeiu (though I love to write adeiu), let me present my - er - Sadie's top movies from the past 10 years:

2007: No Country for Old Men
Let's be honest - Juno might be my favorite movie of the year - but there was something about the Coehn brother's haunting, stark, subversive western/thriller that still sticks with me. I can't stop thinking about that movie. From the muted, powerful performances (hats off to Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly MacDonald, and especially Javier Barden (one of the scariest characters ever), to the convention-breaking, yet still amazing, structure, to the coitus-interruptis ending(s) that leave you spinning - this is a movie that you have to talk to someone about. It's powerful and scary, yet quiet and simple - yet massively deep and complex. This is a movie that needs to be seen. A thinking man's movie.
Second Best: Juno. Just an amazing, funny, poignant, powerful little movie about real people who really care about each other. Ellen Page deserves and Oscar (so does everything about this movie). This is one for everyone that everyone should see.
Hon Mention: Bourne Ultimatum

2006: This was a packed year of goodness. I'll try to expound.
Best: Little Miss Sunshine - never has a dysfunctional family road trip movie made me laugh and feel so much. Fantastic performances by the entire cast. This is Steve Carrell at his best. A powerhouse of a movie that never gets old. Great script, acting, and heart. It'll be a long time before another movie makes me feel like this one did.
Second: The Departed. Martin Scorcesse's best film - which, consequently, won him his first Best Picture and Best Director (including Best Adapted Screenplay) awards. Just an edge-of-your-seat, who's double-crossing who now, thriller. I don't think Mark Whalberg could be a cooler Badass - and, hey, this is the movie that finally broke Leo DiCaprio out of teen heartthrob and into a full-fledged, amazing actor. Probably the best movie of the year (though I still favor LMS).
Third: Children of Men. Alfonso Curaon got screwed in '06. Children of Men, one of the most powerful, inventive, original sci-fi/drama/thriller movies ever came out too late in a year where there were already too many good movies. An incredibly cool hook (humanity will be dead in thirty years) with amazing directing. I was entranced watching this movie and the war scene during the end is not only terrifying - it ends on one of the most visually powerful (and by visually, I mean no words were spent for the incredible emotion) scenes ever.
Fourth: Brick. Rian Johnson's Noir High School Crime movie is not only original and inventive, it's captivating. Like a finely crafted wine, it starts out slow but builds to one of the most satisfying endings of any movies of its kind. Just downright a great movie.
Fifth: Streanger Than Fiction. Who would have imagined that a Will Ferrell movie would be this good? Not only is he funny- he's human, he's tragic, he's heroic. It was advertised poorly - but don't let impressions fool you, this Kauffman-esqu film is tip top.

2005: King Kong. Now, now, you may call foul after I say this - but seriously, when was the last time you saw a movie that you enjoyed this much and reminded you why we have movies in the first place. Pete Jackson's homage to the classic movie did more than just fill the time - it excited and broke your heart. It let you forget that love between a 25 foot ape and a woman is kinda gross - and made you feel for the two. Pete Jackson can't really make a bad movie anymore (far cry from his early ventures into film) and this cements it.
Hon Mention:
Serenity - Joss Whedon's Sci-Fi movie that was what the Star Wards Prequels should have been. Awesome.
A History of Violence - David Cronenberg's haunting, chilling examinatio of the effects of violence and how we can't escape their consequences.
The Constant Gardner - Almost redeems Ralphe Finnes for The Avengers. Almost. And Rachel Weiss deserved the Oscar she got.
Crash - contrary to ignorant belief, this isn't a movie that makes a 'statement' about race - it's a powerful movie that makes a statement about humanity's fault of distancing itself from one another. Very, very good.

2004: Garden State. Zack Braff decided to try his hand at directing and writing (as well as acting) and just happened to make the best movie of the year (and best soundtrack too). Moppy-headed bastard. I hate people this talented. The story of a disassociated young man's return to his long-abandoned home town and his quest for a sense of normalcy in his life is profound and funny. Natalie Portman steals the show and again reminds us that she's not the wooden costume mannequin and action figure we came to know her as in Star Wars. What a fantastic movie.
Hon Mention:
Million Dollar Baby: Tragic and Poignant, Paul Haggis tries out the big screen with astounding results.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: One of the best love stories ever with a powerful statement about love and relationships at the end. A masterpiece.

2003: Love Actually. Call me a sap - but I love this movie. Intersecting vingettes about love around Christmas time in England not only has an amazing cast - but it's amazingly good. Richard Curtis is the kind of the romantic comedy and this solidifies him as such. Can you pick out a bad storyline in this? No. Can you pick out a favorite? No. All are so good and so true to life (with the witty exaggeration we expect from RomComs) that we can't say which is best - they all are.

2002: Adaptation. Odds are - you haven't seen this. Odds are - you need to. Nic Cage plays twin screenwriting brothers Charlie (who is a real person) and Donald (who isn't) Kauffman. Charlie has been hired to write an adaptation on The Orchid Thief - a book about a Florida orchid thief. Problem is - there is no story. Taken from real-life Charlie Kauffman's struggles to adapt The Orchid Thief, this movie straddles the line between reality and fiction so closely, you can't tell what is real and what is made up. Fantastic, original, genius movie.

2001: A Beautiful Mind. Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman biopic about John Nash, Nobel Prize (or was it Pulitzer) winning economist's struggle with mental illness, life, and ultimately love rings true and powerful throughout the movie. Russell Crowe and the gorgeous Jennifer Connelly are perfect together. Great movie. Interesting, shocking, tragic, and always moving.

2000: Traffic. Okay, so "Sadie" was 17 when "she" saw this and it blew her mind. Traffic revolves around the US's war on drugs. It's graphic, haunting, honest, and chilling. Traffic doesn't bother to try and be one-sided or flippant about the issue, but explores the triumphs and tragedies of government-run initiatives trying to stop a problems that affects individuals. Shot in very distinct styles depending on the location of the storyline, Steve Soderberg hit is peak here (and, sadly, has yet to return). After this was over, it was well over six hours before I could even begin to think about of form an opinion. I was just blown away.

1999: Unbreakable. Back before movies like Lady in the Water, M. Night Shyamalan was a cinematical genius. The Sixth Sense was a phenomenon, but Unbreakable was really where M. Night showed us that he was a master (who eventually got too stuck on himself and made the piece of shit Lady in the Water - are you sensing my hate for that movie? good. It sucks.) with Unbreakable. Bruce Willis, in his best performance ever, plays David Dunn, a man at odds with himself. Through a series of strange, violent, and scary situations, he's introduced to a possibile explanation for his purpose in life. Supported by Sam Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark, and Robin Wright Penn all doing their best I've seen. If you're not moved by the end - you don't deserve to read this.

1998: Surprise - The Sixth Sense. Who doesn't remember the first time you saw this movie - especially the "How did I not see this coming, yet it blew my mind" ending that will forever be branded by The Sixth Sense (seen Fight Club or The Others - good, but you keep thinking "Too Sixth Sense-y"). What an incredibly good movie. Sure, it screwed Haley Joel Osment for life, but wow - he was incredbile. I still watch it and get chills with his performance. Best movie of the year.

1997: Can you guess? Look at the year? What were you seeing the end of that year (and subsequent viewings the beginning of '98)? If you guessed Titanic - you are right. Sure, you may laugh nervously now - trying to be cool - but admit it, you loved this movie when you first saw it. Sure, it may not be perfect, but this is the movie that opened my eyes to how powerful and incredible movies can be if done right. It hit on all cylinders, and, by the end, you were right there with the characters. You knew them, you felt them, and many (uh, not me, of course) cried with them. Ten years later - and it still stands as the highest grossing movie of all time (among many other records). It will take a very long time and a very amazing movie to beat that record. James Cameron - thank you for Titanic.

So, there we have it. Oh, and for Saide - go see Can't Hardly Wait (1998) - best Teen movie of that era. Totally under the radar, but extremely funny.

So, the next time you're at Blockbuster and you can't find anything to watch (which is the WORST feeling ever) - think: "What Would Sadie Watch?" and you'll be set for the evening.

Sadie loves movies!