thehefner: (Green Lantern: Bling Bling!)
While I steadfastly avoided the reviews for Green Lantern which popped up today on the sites I usually go to (and the fact that they're not releasing reviews until the day before release is a bad sign of WB/DC's own confidence in their overly-promoted would-be blockbuster), just seeing the dire headlines was enough to confirm the worst: this film was going to be the disaster we always thought it would be. Or worse, it would be a tedious slog with horrible CGI, an inglorious mess which isn't even fun as a train wreck.

The reality is, it wasn't that bad. Oh, it wasn't great either, but it's far from a terrible movie. It's just an incredibly flawed movie with great stuff that are threatened to be overshadowed by stupid and boring stuff. It has FOUR story credits, and it sure feels like four half-baked films with great premises, great moments, great potential, all of which go nowhere.

For instance, take Hector Hammond, the giant-headed sub-villain of the film. He's given decidedly more humanity, tragedy, and backstory than the character in comics ever had, but so much of that comes through the actor's performance and scant hints from the screenplay which, at times, seem to come out of nowhere, and subseqquently go nowhere. Hector's subplot, which had a lot of great elements, ultimately didn't serve the movie one bit, and just added to the bloat.

This is going to sound worse than I mean it, but in terms of that bloat, I was comparing Green Lantern to the third Pirates movie, while Henchgirl compared it to X-Men 3. Now, I liked GL waayyyyyy more than either of those films, especially fucking Pirates 3, but GL similarly suffers from filmmakers wanting to cram way too much into one little film, introducing one great element only to abandon it for another, and so on.

For example: Tomar-Re was WONDERFUL. Geoffery Rush and the CGI team combined to make a delightful character and break ol' fish-beak to life. He showed up, had great lines, delivered exposition, then vanished. What was the point of having him there in the first place? Then Sinestro shows up to beat up Hal, which serves as both a prelude for their friendship in the short term and their OTP of Hatred in the long term. But before any of that can be established, he too is gone. Mark Strong's Sinestro was great and nuanced, but he too was given far too little to do, and he shared far too little screentime with Hal to make it matter. Henchgirl says that Sinestro could have had Tomar-Re's whole role, and she's absolutely right. Just one of many examples of this film trying to spread itself too thin with the mythos.

I don't know what this film should have been. Maybe it should have been grounded entirely on Earth, with Hal Jordan's life being intruded upon by sci-fi elements with a few hints of the grander cosmic opera into which he's found himself intertwined. Maybe they should have thrust Hal directly to Oa and the Corps, dropping the cocky human right into the Space Opera amidst all the aliens ala Farscape. Maybe they should have ditched Green Lantern: Secret Origin (the lackluster Geoff Johns take on Hal's origin which DC is pushing as the be-all end-all BIBLE of Hal Jordan) and instead gone for Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn, the greatest GL origin which has been forgotten because people still hate that Hal was a drunk driver in that story. I defy people to look down on that now, since the Hal Jordan of the film is a complete and utter ASSHOLE. Not even a redeemable asshole like Tony Stark, just an asshole. As a longtime Hal Jordan fan, it pisses me off that many people will see that as a faithful take on the character.

The film wasn't terrible. I mean, it was a mess, and it was often boring, but it was also often delightful, fun, funny, thrilling, and soaring (Hal's first flight was a genuine bit of movie magic). We saw this in 2D, but we now want to watch it in 3D. I actually want to pay money to see this film in 3D. That should count for something. God knows how much watching it on the small screen will hurt the effects and bring out the flaws.

In terms of enjoyment quality, I put this film on the level of the first X-Men and Spider-Man films. Which is to say, they're flawed messes with cheese, stupidity, and tedium duking it out with the great stuff, which itself sets the stage for a potentially GREAT sequel. Here's hoping that happens, assuming that this doesn't flop. Granted, Transformers was a ridiculously stupid and critically-panned movie that was still a hit, but I fear that GL might be slightly too smart even in its stupidity to appeal to your average stupid movie-viewer. And if it flops, god knows what that'll mean for DC, who seems to have everything riding on this one damn movie.

There's a lot more I could say, but for now, this is the only review I've yet read which pretty much nails my thoughts (but it comes with a SPOILER tag, so be warned). For those who've seen it, let's discuss it in the comments.

I've been waiting for a Green Lantern movie with Hal Jordan and the Corps since I was thirteen years old. I feel like I'm still waiting.
thehefner: (Venture Bros: Theatre People)
One of these days, I really need to work on a proper essay about Frank Oz's Little Shop of Horrors, to cover five topics in detail:

1.) Why it's one of the greatest movie musicals ever, even if the only time I ever hear it referenced in pop culture is via Family Guy (who've directly homaged it no less than three times)

2.) Why it's vastly superior to the stage versions, both the original and revival

3.) Why Menken and Ashman are perhaps the greatest musical writing duo of all time

4.) The brilliant Bill Murray scene, which adds absolutely nothing to the story

5.) Why it's a rare example of a studio audience being absolutely right in rejecting the dark original ending in favor of a re-shot happy one.

For now, I'll say this much. In the context of the original stage show, it fits to have the plant win. It's a Faustian bargain, and those never go well. But the film makes enough tweaks to the storyline, most notably with the brilliant new song "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space," that automatically make Seymour less of a weak-willed sucker who deserves his fate and more of an underdog who we WANT to win. Frankly, Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene put so much genuine emotion into "Suddenly Seymour" that I honestly can't imagine anyone really enjoying watching them lose and get eaten, as the original script warranted. But no matter how important and truthful it is to see people pay for the consequences of their actions, I find the original ending to LSOH too damn ugly, because Seymour and Audrey just didn't deserve their fates, especially since the film version pretty much absolved Seymour for Mr. Mushnik's death by outright making Mushnik an opportunistic, blackmailing thief. For those who haven't seen it, here's how the film originally ended, and it's the version preferred by Oz, Moranis, and pretty much everybody involved with the film:

It doesn't help that "Don't Feel the Plants" is the weakest song by far of all the songs included in the LSOH film. The film lost several songs from the original Off-Broadway version, and was better off for it. None of those songs were anything to write home about, and the same goes for "Don't Feed the Plants," which fails to convincingly sell the idea that the two characters whom you came to care about all died in the name of the film's overall message. It's a bad song and a bad ending that appeals only to critics who bend over backwards to betray character and emotion in the cold name of theme.
thehefner: (Harrumph)
The Coen Brothers' True Grit adaptation was a fine film, but I don't see what was so different from the original John Wayne film that justified the remake.

I suppose the best reason is that the new actress is superior (and the appropriate age for the character), but honestly, the original actress stopped being terrible once she started interacting with John Wayne. He's a character and actor who are both so great dynamic that he/they immediately force the other actors to step up their game. That said, I'm also torn between which Rooster Cogburn I preferred. Bridges is brilliant, but Wayne's was--Henchgirl and I decided--rather more cuddly in his gruff badassedness, which worked for the character.

Throughout the film, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was watching a rerun. It doesn't help that I'd seen the original recently, but that also made me more acutely aware of how similar--and thus, unnecessary--this celebrated remake seemed. But that's hardly a criticism that'll apply to everyone. Many (most?) people haven't seen the original, a possibility which almost always saddens me, even with the best remakes. I myself would probably not have seen it if the remake hadn't been coming out, so I guess I'm not one to talk, but it bugs me nonetheless.

Any further discussion about the film will go into SPOILERS territory, so I'll save that for the comments if anybody has thoughts of their own to share. If you've seen the remake, have you seen the original? If not, would you consider it? If you've seen the original and the remake, how do you think they compare?

Again, be warned: I plan to go full-on SPOILERS GALORE in the comments.
thehefner: (In the Mouth of Madness: Blue)
I spent two hours last night composing a list of the three things that happened over the past week which left me feeling very, very depressed as a comics fan. The post, long-ass as it is, remains unfinished. Maybe I'll get back to it if the bad mood hits again. And it might, depending on if anything happens next in regards to the whole debacle with a famous Spider-Man writer clashing with Henchgirl on her LJ.

For today, I was distracted by all that. First, by seeing Tron: Legacy (full review forthcoming, maybe. I'll say this much: for better or worse, that was definitely a faithful Tron sequel), and then by having a fight with Henchgirl, during which I ended up making her cry. In the Safeway. In the frozen foods section.

As punishment, she forced me to watch Frank Miller's The Spirit. I had it coming.

In the meantime, while I formulate my Tron: Legacy thoughts to post here or at [ profile] box_in_the_box's review (where is it?! WHERE?!), I'd like those of you who've seen it to rewatch the awesome teaser trailer that premiered in July 2009:

Notice any major differences in that trailer vs the final film? Notice Flynn's location in the scene and the design of the programs' suits and faces in particular. I'm curious as to what happened between the making of that trailer and the making of the film. Bear in mind, if you've seen the action figures, they're more closely modeled on the characters here than in the film.
thehefner: (Batman: I Am The Night)
First, Aaron Eckhart is "heartbroken" to learn that Nolan is definite on Harvey Dent being dead, and thus will not be in Dark Knight Rises. It's worth actually reading Eckhart's story of how he learned the news. I predict it'll launch a number of slash-fics.

For my part, I'm glad to hear it now than to hold out hope that maybe, maybe there'd be a surprise cameo in Arkham or in the twist ending or after the credits or in a deleted scene or maybe hell maybe in the fourth film yeah yeah maybe who knows *cries*. So, good to be spared that cycle.

Still, it's certainly put a crimp in my entire day. This is why I haven't actively thought about TDK for months. It just puts me in a frustrated, thinky mood for hours, going on with what I liked and what I wish wish wish they had done differently.

In related news [ profile] box_in_the_box posted the following, dubbing it the "Best Batman Theme EVER." It's a combination of the themes by Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, and Shirley Walker:

Oh my god. Okay, very mixed feelings here.

Whenever the theme went to Zimmer, I. Was. So. Bored. At least, I'm guessing the boring parts were Zimmer, because they were the parts that were neither Walker nor Elfman. Now, I didn't like Zimmer's theme in BB until I heard it used in the trailer for The Dark Knight, at which point I was like, "Okay, this is actually pretty badass, I like it now."

Here, it was swalled up by Elfman and Walker. Maybe it's just that the composer didn't effectively recreate the literally thirty seconds of good music from Zimmer's entire BB score, by which I mean the first thirty of this:

Those blaring horns and slamming beats are the only part that could have stood up to Elfman and Walker, and while it actually took me a couple listens to discover that the composer actually had included that part, he didn't successfully recreate the "grab you by the balls and PAY ATTENTION" urgency. I think that speaks more to Zimmer's production than composition skills, because without that factor, it really is a boring track.

Actually, I'm listening to that above Zimmer piece on its own, and I'm rather loving it. The best thing Zimmer can do with the soundtracks is give them a sense of urgency. But even this is two-dimensional compared to the sheer scope of Elfman and Walker's soundtracks.

And yet... maybe it's because of that that I actually felt gut-punched both times Shirley Walker's theme came in, and elevated the entire piece to greatness for those few seconds. Maybe it's sympathetic pregnancy (and dear god, I've wanted to kill somebody for chocolate on more than one occasion, so it well could be), but I was actually moved to tears when the Walker theme came on the second time. Amazing how hearing that theme over and over again in the most formative show of one's childhood can have that effect.

There's something so much more hopeful about that theme to counter Elfman's glorious darkness. Both are soaring statements about who Batman is. Zimmer's is more just what Batman does: just pure action, action, action, without introspection.

All in all, this was a fascinating and fascinating piece, one that was even moving in a couple occasions. I want him to do a second version down the line. Maybe a series. Hell, I'd love to hear him combine all three Joker themes. Ohhhh fuck yeah, do I wanna hear that. Screeching Hans Zimmer white noise of horrifying madness:

... giving way to a magnificent Elfman waltz...

... giving way to that whistling, happy, mischevious Walker theme (cue to 4:15)...

... and back again with little to no warning. Ohhh man, I gotta write to this guy and make a request.
thehefner: (Harrumph)
You can tell a lot about a movie if enough of the right people call it "stupid."

Take the recent sci-fi film SPLICE. There was a film that had a very silly trailer, yet the presence of Guillermo Del Toro as producer made geeks like me interested that maybe SPLICE would be worth looking into.

What really clinched that feeling was an essay from Devin at, "How You Can Save Good Movies This Weekend," wherein he implored all lovers of genre cinema to support SPLICE, because "even if you find that you don't like it, I guarantee you're going to at least be able to admit that it's interesting and it's unique and it's pretty incredible that a studio like Warner Bros gave it a major release."

On the very same day, I discovered that D-List celebrity Joe Rogan had tweeted the following: "SPLICE may very well be the dumbest fucking movie in the history of dumb movies. The whole theater was laughing at how stupid it was."

"Dumbest fucking movie." "Stupid."

I had flashbacks to seeing a showing of William Friedkin's BUG, a smart, daring, powerful psychological drama smugged into multiplexes under the guise that it was a creepy crawly insect-themed horror movie. The audience was pissed off throughout. Someone even yelled out, "What the fuck is this shit?!" by the end.

It did not fit their expectations, so they furiously, willfully missed the point. And as I suspected from Rogan's tweet, what happened to BUG was doomed to happen with SPLICE all over again. Now, last I checked, it holds a 75% "fresh" rating on, so the critics appreciated the film enough.

But no one ever said that the critics speak for the mentality of your average moviegoer. At least, the moviegoers who express their opinions online at LJ, twitter, facebook, etc. Twitter and Facebook have made it easier than ever for any lazy, impulsive idiot to broadcast their ill-formed knee-jerk opinion for others to take to heart.

Here on LJ, most people were railing against SPLICE not due to seeing the film themselves, but rather due to this ranting, all-caps "review" that hated the film for the sheer fact that it included shocking, disturbing, provocative, and transgressive themes.

In response to one of the few comments that actually dares to question the "reviewer" by bringing up that the fucked-up parts served the narrative purpose, the OP responded:

"I can't deal with the fucked up parts! Those are what made this a bad movie for me."

Look, I can understand someone not wanting to see a film because certain subject matter is upsetting to them, for whatever reason. I, personally, have absolutely zero interest in ever seeing IRREVERSIBLE. But just because the film included a ridiculously-extended and graphic rape sequence, I'm guessing the filmmaker probably had a reason for including that in the film. It would be horrifying, disgusting, infuriating, yes, but that alone wouldn't make IRREVERSIBLE a bad movie.

But IRREVERSIBLE is an art film, and most mainstream audiences wouldn't go for art films any more than they'd go for your average David Cronenberg flick. In fact, watching SPLICE, I was most reminded of Cronenberg's THE BROOD. But unlike THE BROOD and IRREVERSIBLE (and like BUG), SPLICE was released to multiplexes nationwide, seen by the kinds of audiences who made hits out of the SAW series and all those watered-down PG-13 remakes of classic horror.

Usually, I'd just see this as a typical case of a film being marketed to the wrong audience, as has often happened. Twenty-five years ago, SPLICE would have gone on to gain appreciation and popularity from the movie geeks who would scour the horror and sci-fi sections of your local video store, "discovering" awesome gems, and sharing them through word of mouth.

But that was before the internet. Now, even at, a site for the types of geeks who should at least appreciate SPLICE, those same geeks tear it apart with little more thought than to just call it "stupid."

But one commenter, a guy named Dhelix, wrote:

I can't help but wonder if film geeks born after the mid-80s just have different tastes, or if there's just more mainstream filmgoers on sites like AICN and Chud due to all the popular novel and comic book adaptations that have been coming out since the early 00s but film geeks lately have been pissing me off. It feels like an entire generation of kids has been raised to think that films have to behave a certain way and anything that's a little campy, weird, different gets shat on and ridiculed by the types of people I would have thought would have appreciated it.

It's a shame that so many fans on a site like Chud or AICN are shitting on this movie with the kinds of mainstream criticisms normally reserved for Holllywood blockbusters. There used to be a time where film geeks bought magazines, went to conventions and spoke lovingly about makeup gore, special effects, and just about any movie that pushed the boundaries of good taste. Guys like John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Sam Raimi, etc could pack thousands into convention halls for their autographs. These guys seemed rebellious. They were making movies on their terms and putting up images of dark humor, violence, gore, sex, etc in ways the rest of us could only imagine in our dreams or nightmares.

There was this cool little underground aspect to it all and the midnight showings were the best because people didn't walk out complaining and bitching about how unrealistic things were, or acting, or whatever... The bad became good. Poorly delivered lines became classic quotes. Tree rape scenes became legendary. People were appreciative and willing to suspend disbelief because they felt privileged to be able to see the kinds of sights, sounds and ideas that the studios wouldn't dare show us because 7 out 10 average, everyday citizens wouldn't approve of those images.

"Fans" these days feel so entitled and haters look up criticisms from professional critics and feel validated to spread that hate anywhere that will let them. In the past, those voices weren't heard so fandom was more positive and appreciative.

Dhelix's comment was quoted by Devin to kick-start his essay, "The Nature of the Modern Movie Geek," in which he raised a sobering question for movie geeks like me:

I wonder what it would be like if EVIL DEAD 2 were released today. Would it get relentlessly run down on the internet for being too silly and for the performances and production value? Have we become a world of film fans who can only accept movies that look like they cost a hundred million dollars, that have no tonal variances, and that adhere to Robert McKee**-style rules of structure? I wonder how Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi would have fared if there had been an internet when they were making their first films...

... We're in a weird place where the geeks won, and maybe it wasn't as good as we hoped it would be.

What a thought. In a time where the geek genres have become mainstream, where everyone can have their own little hive communities to inform and reinforce their opinions without challenge, where do we go for the new cult culture?

I don't think anyone really considers Cronenberg's THE BROOD to be a brilliant film, but it's a seminal classic in the 80's oeuvre of a great filmmaker. It's not my favorite film of his, but it's so distinctly Cronenbergian that I totally respect it for existing. But can you imagine how it'd be received today? There would be whole communities online ranting complaints like, "EWWW, she licked it off the baby? That's so disgusting! This movie sucks!" "Deformed murderous dwarf kids? That's stupid."

That's the thing about SPLICE. It's not a perfect film. In fact, I think it's a mess, but I respect the hell of it for what it tried to say about gene splicing, parenthood, science gone mad, "man is the real monster," etc. For all its shocking, gooey elements, it hearkened back to a time before STAR WARS turned sci-fi, the genre of ideas, into the genre of spectacle.

There are many ways one can criticize SPLICE, particularly in how they failed to deliver on the themes they'd established throughout by ultimately turning it into just another monster movie. But most people--geeks or otherwise--aren't talking about that. Their short, derisive, insubstantial dismissals show no indications that they even bothered to give the film some thought, nothing beyond a visceral knee-jerk reaction. They don't think, they only feel.

If they can't actually back up why they think a film is stupid with actual criticism and thought, then chances are it's not the film itself that's stupid.

*Sometimes I feel like every third link I post is by Devin Faraci from Yeah, he's often an asshat when he talks about pop culture and anything not related to movies. He's worse than Roger Ebert, who seems to keep harping on all the ways that video games are not and can never be great art. Even when Ebert makes some interesting points, all I can think of is all those snobs throughout the 20th century who said that comic books could never be art. But like Ebert, when Devin sticks to talking about movies, he's often brilliantly dead-on.

**I always wince whenever critical-types deride Robert McKee's screenwriting techniques, because I think they always assume that he just teaches cookie-cutter storytelling formula, and is thus churning out an industry of hacks. No, what he really does is teach classical story structure with the idea that one has to master the classic structure FIRST before they can deconstruct it. No one ever seems to catch that subtle distinction. I'd love to hear a dissenting opinion on McKee by someone who actually *understands* what the hell he actually teaches.
thehefner: (Batman: Jervis)
THE WOLFMAN was terribly disappointing, particularly because I feel like I could just see all the good intentions scattered somewhere inside the horribly-edited mess of a film. Could a different cut salvage it? I'd love to think so, but I doubt it. Sigh. In fairness, the original WOLFMAN wasn't that great either, what with the stalker-tastic love story which could have easily been called--as Henchgirl quipped--THE WEREWOLF WALKED ON TIPPY-TOES. But still! Sigh.

That said, I'm still not sure if crushing disappointment is better than intense horrified loathing. Which brings us to my thoughts on ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

There are few words to describe just how much I loathed Burton's film (which he made, as I understand, without having ever read the actual books), and if I had the time/energy, I would rant about it wholeheartedly instead of doing this kind of cheap, unsupported drive-by complaint. But really, when it comes to a film that makes the Mad Hatter a badass revolutionary, tries (and utterly fails) to combine the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen, and ends with a song by Avril Fucking Lavigne, what else do I really have to say? I mean, seriously.

That said, I want the soundtrack. The Hatter's dance music was the first time I've heard Danny Elfman write anything sounding like Oingo Boingo since even before Oingo Boingo broke up. Too bad it had to happen in the brain-meltingly-awful moment when the Hatter danced the Robot. I mean, seriously, do I really have to defend these points? Really? Whyyyyy???!?!

On the plus side, I now want to write my essay on why Batman's Mad Hatter, Jervis Tetch, is a woefully abused character who deserves more love.

Speaking of Bat-Rogues, I posted my first Two-Face Tuesday entry in two weeks, the first part of Harvey vs. the Robins, with a focus on the first appearance of Tim Drake. I'm kinda disappointed that it didn't get more attention at scans_daily, what with their adoration of the Robins and all, but hopefully that'll pick up with the next entry, focusing on Dick Grayson's ties to Harvey in PRODIGAL.
thehefner: (Harrumph)
"If a 3-D movie isn't as good in 2-D, how good, objectively, is it?"-- Roger Ebert, via Twitter.

One thing I hated about AVATAR was how obviously it was filmed for 3D to show off the technology at the expense of any actual story of worth. I feel like audiences were blown away by the effects, which might have been enough to wow me too if I hadn't already seen the NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS 3D re-release, CORALINE, UP, and BEOWULF (an okay film that was awesome in 3D, but nobody saw that).

As it was, many of the "wow" effects in AVATAR left me not just cold, and kind of a little angry too. Everyone else is marveling at the immersive effects, while to me, it feels no different than watching JAWS 3D or FRIDAY THE 13TH 3D: "Oh look, I have a YO-YO!!!" "Hey, wanna see my new PADDLE BAAAAAALLLLL?!" And those films hold up only slightly worse than BEOWULF did (and AVATAR will) in 2D, because the gimmick was such a major part of those films.

Compare that with UP. Did anyone else see Pixar's UP in both 2D and 3D? I did, and let me tell you, they're just two ways of looking at the same brilliant, beautiful film. Because Pixar has always understood the vast importance of story and character and everything else that makes truly great films underneath all the (stunning) effects and design.

The amazing thing about the 3D in UP was how totally intertwined it felt in the world. Aside from one moment, I can't recall any specific instances of the 3D effect being used in UP, because it was weaved so organically into the storytelling itself. It supported the film--much in the same way a great soundtrack does--rather than dominated it.

I'm still not sure if 3D is a game-changer that will truly be the way to keep movie theaters going or a fad gimmick (y'know, just like the all the other times they've tried 3D in movies). But all filmmakers interested in producing something other than empty spectacle should pay close attention to Pixar's example. Because I cannot wait to see this in 3D when it hits:

Toy Story 3 Trailer 2 in HD

Trailer Park Movies | MySpace Video

BTW, that's Michael Keaton voicing Ken. This makes me insanely happy. Where the hell has he been?

I feel like one of the only people to have been underwhelmed by TOY STORY 2. Time was, people were calling that the best Pixar movie ever. It was all right, but it wasn't up to par with the original. As for best ever, I'm still giving that vote to RATATOUILLE, followed by UP, followed by a clusterfuck three-way tie of WALL*E, FINDING NEMO, and THE INCREDIBLES.
thehefner: (Donald Sutherland: J'ACCUSE!)
Edgar Wright eulogizes the great Edward Woodward. To be followed up with Simon Pegg's own remembrances. I love how Pegg also notes, just as I do, that THE WICKER MAN* is a quasi-musical.

MGK's alternate-history timeline fic, SCENES FROM AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE WHERE THE BEATLES ACCEPTED LORNE MICHAELS' GENEROUS OFFER, is magnificent. I look forward to actually reading this one aloud to Mom later.

Twenty-something critic from the AV Club watches GHOSTBUSTERS for the first time, does not like it. A generation explodes. The quote that inspired the greatest ire:

Here’s the thing about Ghostbusters, though—a thing that seems to come up a lot when revisiting beloved old favorites: It isn’t as good as you remember. And if it is as good as you remember, that’s because you’re viewing it with nostalgic blinders on. And while there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a movie for nostalgic reasons, keep that in mind next time you berate someone for not seeing that one movie you loved when you were 7 years old.

On one hand, she does kind of have a point. Every time I revisit the original STAR WARS trilogy (which I first saw at the ripe age of 5 or 6), I think, "Wow, if I didn't love these movies so much, I might not like them at all." On the other hand, GHOSTBUSTERS! *arm flail*

Magnificent fan art covers for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS comics... as drawn by Jack Kirby.

The last one is my favorite.

Devin at on "The Tyranny of Realism" in film. I'm not sure how much I agree with him, but he raises some good questions. Choice quote:

Sometimes you want to just tell a story and as long story and the emotions behind it feel true, why does anything else matter? How does learning how Batman made his suit improve Batman?

*God, how sad is it that a whole generation knows THE WICKER MAN only as a misogynistic campfest where Nic Cage gets bees poured upon him?
thehefner: (Grindhouse: Reel Missing (PT))
My mother caught the middle of THE TRANSPORTER 2 on TV yesterday, and had to call me up to tell me how she was transfixed by this piece of glorious trash. So between that, and in celebration of CRANK 2: THE CRANKENING opening today, I present the following essay for your edification.


By Patton Oswalt

Jason Statham has never been in a great movie.

He's also never been in a boring one.

Statham's profile, collectively, is a promise to you, the weary filmgoer. It's a promise that says, "I promise that you will not FOR ONE SECOND be bored during one of my movies. You won't learn shit about the human condition, or feel a collective connection with the brotherhood of man. But if you give me $10, I will fuck an explosion while a Slayer song plays".

I just watched CRANK on Showtime, and I can't understand how I missed this when it was in theaters.

I'm buying THE BANK JOB and DEATHRACE on iTunes today. After CRANK, Mr. Statham can count on my $10 every time he makes a movie. If someone figures out how to make a movie for $8, and it stars Jason Statham, then they're guaranteed a $2 profit.

I look forward to any new film by Ang Lee, David Gordon Green, Paul Thomas Anderson, The Coen Brothers, Paul Greengrass or Ross McElwee.

And now, Jason Statham. I don't know how much say he has in the films he makes. But I get the impression that he reads the scripts. And if the script doesn't make him want to drive a bulldozer through a cake store, I'll bet he punches the script through a wall.

In fact, my entire stack of Academy screeners would have been vastly improved by the addition of Jason Statham. Here we go:

CHANGELING: Jason Statham plays the kidnapped boy, who immediately beats his kidnappers to death, then fights female assassins on top of a blimp.

CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON: Jason Statham injects the backward-aging man-freak with a Sino/Chilean rage compound, and they fight in lava pit.

DEFIANCE: Jason Statham throws Hitler into a woodchipper, eats the entrails as they fly out the other end, and then shits out Winston Churchill.

DOUBT: Jason Statham drop-kicks the Pope through the core of the Earth, and the Pope's head goes up Meryl Streep's ass and then Motorhead's "The Ace of Spades" plays.

FROST/NIXON: Jason Statham pulls off David Frost's skin, drops him into a tank of sea salt, and then Statham and Nixon rent a limo and drive across country, shotgunning hippies.

GRAN TORINO: Jason Statham glowers at Clint Eastwood, who glowers back, creating a Glower Vortex which destroys the planet.

THE READER: Statham kills the teenage kid with a lawnmower, then fucks Kate Winslet literate.

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD: Jason Statham drives an 18-wheeler full of nitro into the title suburb, blows everything to shit, and then spends 90 minutes hunting down absolutely everyone involved with the making of this film, beating them to death with TV trays.

THE WRESTLER: Jason Statham, Richard Nixon, the 'roided-out Benjamin Button murder-freak, the Churchill feces-baby and Mickey Rourke drive cross country in a limo, with Leo DiCaprio's severed head on the hood, where they crash the Spirit Awards and kill everyone.

There you go. Statham! Full disclosure: I saw Jason Statham eating a salad at Joan's on 3rd, here in L.A. Really, I did. I wanted to say hello, but he seemed like he could chuck an arugula leaf through my skull.

Do yourselves a favor, Academy voters. CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE comes out April 19th. On April 20th, rescind all the voting categories. There should be one statue given out next year -- a 45-foot, sentient Oscar kill-bot, which Jason Statham will fight to the death at the next ceremony.

Statham! Yell it when you're fucking!
thehefner: (Applause)
Well now. I'd heard some people say that the new Seth Rogan film OBSERVE AND REPORT wasn't accurately marketed, but that's a massive understatement.

Good lord, that was an excellent but deeply unsettling movie.

It's not at all surprising that it's gotten such mixed reviews, but my favorite joyless bastard, Devin from gave it a rare 10 out of 10, saying, "This is classic smuggling: taking a buzzed about filmmaker and a very popular, mainstream star and teaming them up to make something uncompromising, strange, uncomfortable and dark."*

Devin adds, "OBSERVE AND REPORT is an amazing movie... for the right audience. I'm not dumb enough to think that this movie is for everyone; there will be people who simply won't understand why other folks are so desperately in love with it. There will be people who don't quite see why many of the jokes are funny (such as the ending - shocking, violent, sick and in my opinion one of the funniest things I've seen in a movie in years), and who wonder how anybody can stomach these characters. But if you're that special kind of viewer, the kind who likes to be challenged, who likes to go places sane people avoid, who thinks transgression isn't just desirable but also kind of hilarious, Observe and Report might be your favorite movie of the year."

He sums up my thoughts pretty well (although more pompously than I would, but that's Devin for you), but the major difference between how he saw and how I saw it was that I didn't find it that funny. I laughed maybe... five times. I wonder if I'd seen it with a full house of people who got it, as opposed to the matinee showing with six other people (man, this movie is gonna flop so hard), would I have laughed? Even cheered in places?

Because that's what the film wants. It wants you to root for this character, to cheer for him, like he's just another delusional loser usually played by Will Ferrell or Kevin James... and then, it pulls the rug out right from under you. Because Rogan's character isn't like Ron Burgundy or Paul Blart, a pumped-up jackass who has no actual abilities or talent to back up his arrogance.

Rogan's character has those. And he's a racist bipolar sociopath. Oh, and a date rapist too, but we'll get to that in a minute.

Several people keep bringing up comparisons to TAXI DRIVER (director Jody Hill reportedly considers Scorsese's THE KING OF COMEDY--which I have yet to see--as the bigger inspiration, but it's impossible to ignore the Bickleness of Ronnie), but at various points I was reminded of other proto-fascist characters in films like FALLING DOWN, DEATH WISH, STRAW DOGS, and especially EDMOND, based on the David Mamet play of the same name.

In fact, it was evocative of several modern plays, particularly the everyday sociopaths of Neil Labute, plus the dark comedy and shocking violence of Martin McDonough. If OBSERVE AND REPORT were on stage, it might be hailed as a modern masterpiece, with students at the Studio Theatre conservatory fighting to play Ronnie scenes for class.

I'm sick of seeing such stories dominating the modern stage, presumably in the name of being anti-Hollywood sensibilities. But as such, seeing it on the screen--pushed by a major studio into multiplexes--is damn well exhilarating, even though I'm sure many will reject it outright. Some will be pissed that it isn't a wacky farce or a big-hearted Apatow comedy, while others will avoid seeing it in the first place because that's exactly what the film's going to be. Not to mention those who'll boycott the film because they've heard that it makes light of date rape.

I'm not gonna really try to defend that scene, because it's impossible to do out of context. If there's a laugh to be had in that scene, it's only a laugh of nervous relief, and even that sounds horrible to say. Trust me, it's ALL about context, because this is not a character with whom we're ever asked to sympathize. Even if he fools other people into thinking that he's the hero he thinks he is, we the audience know better.

Because this film sees him for what he is, a power-tripping everyday fascist representative of too many real-life police officers (some might argue most or even all cops, by their nature), and the fact that he may or may not get his comeuppance--even being rewarded for his actions--raises many troubling questions. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE comes to mind ("I was cured all right."), as does AMERICAN PSYCHO, which raised the question of how much was reality and how much was a sick fantasy from a sick mind.

Many critics are struggling with that question, bringing up the jarring shifts in tone. From farce comedy one minute to brutal and disturbing darkness the next. From bumbling guy to superhuman fighting machine and back again. Non-white characters are looked down upon or are criminals. The sexually active girl is demonized, while the (born-again) virginal pure one is the "redemptive" girl.

Many people seem to want to write the film off as being partially or wholly a fantasy, whereas people like Devin believe that to do so would rob the movie of its punchline. But if it isn't all in Ronnie's head, then we're faced with the possibility that the film itself is as fascist as he is. I strongly doubt that's the case, but I do wonder and worry about what others might take away from this film.

Me, I need to see it again, and with other people with whom I can dissect the movie for an hour or two (and maybe with them, I might actually find it as laugh-out-loud funny as others have). Because this is not a forgettable little movie for the mall crowds, as it's marketed to be. It's film that stays with you and lends itself to lots, lots of discussion.

OBSERVE AND REPORT is very worthwhile movie, and essential viewing for anyone interested in challenging films. See it before it flops. Or worse, gets totally misunderstood and held up as a heroic masterpiece by scary people, just as TAXI DRIVER and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE were.

*Not for the first time, I'm reminded of THE CABLE GUY, which flopped just as I'm sure O&R will flop, but is now considered by many to be an excellent black comedy.
thehefner: (Venture Bros: Theatre People)
Know what's special? Watching the Director's Cut of TROPIC THUNDER with commentary by Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr... in character as Kirk Lazarus in character as Lincoln Osiris.

God, this movie's far from perfect, and yet I love it so. And goddamn, RDJ's so brilliant it makes me sick. If Daniel Day-Lewis ever did a special THERE WILL BE BLOOD commentary in character, I may have to commit actor seppuku.
thehefner: (Harley and Ivy have funny hats)
Via [ profile] tragical_mirth:


Who wants to see AGUIRRE, WRATH OF GOD on the big screen with me tomorrow at 9:00? Having seen it at AFI a couple years ago, I can assure you, this film is somehow even better on the big screen.

Just before that, there'll also be FITZCARRALDO (a film I like, but it's like a less awesome version of AGUIRRE, and the behind-the-scenes story infinitely more interesting) and the amazing POW story LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY, which Herzog himself adapted as RESCUE DAWN with Christian Bale.

C'mon, folks! 9:00 for AGUIRRE, if nothing else! Let's get grog at Piratz Tavern, and then watch Herzog!

thehefner: (Harrumph)
Did I mention that food poisoning sucks? Because it really, seriously sucks. The good news is that I'm pretty much able to eat and digest food like a normal human being again, but my brain still feels weak and groggy.

I was hoping by now to have delved back into the happy retreat of the Harvey Dent novel, steeling myself for the hardcore hack-n-slash revisions for THE HEFNER MONOLOGUES: HOW HEFNERIAN,* but instead, I've just spent the past couple of days catching up on movies. Here's what I've seen:

IN BRUGES: I find Martin McDonough a little one-note as a playwright (I love THE PILLOWMAN, but I find THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN and THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE to both be rather pointless bits of entertaining fluff punctuated by spatterings of nastiness) but this was rather unsurprisingly grand. But then, Brendan Gleeson being awesome is always a good thing. Plus, Ralph Fiennes is slowly morphing into Christopher Eccleston. That is neither good nor bad, it simply is.

EASTERN PROMISES: Better than I remembered it; a solid little film without too much to make it stand out other than that utterly badass naked bathhouse fight. It's gratifying to know that Viggo is a grower not a shower too.

GONE BABY GONE: The hype is true. Ben Affleck has reinvented himself as a damn fine director. This is all the more impressive considering that I think I kind of hate Boston crime stories. Or rather, I am painfully unimpressed by them. THE DEPARTED, MYSTIC RIVER**, BOONDOCK SAINTS... that atmosphere does nothing for me, and the plot twists alone should have derailed it for me. I imagine I'd probably dislike the book. But somehow, Affleck crafted a compelling and challenging character-driven crime drama, one with no easy answers that somehow also ends on a pitch-perfect note of grace at the last minute. Also, he gave the unspeakably awesome Michelle Monaghan her first decent role since KISS KISS BANG BANG, so there's that too.

THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE: Holy crap, young Eric Roberts is a very surreal sight, let me tell you. Is that his natural hair? Sorry, this was a great little film, one of Rourke's true classics and a testament to the powerful actors they both were and are, but every time Eric Roberts was on the screen, my brain kept trying to reconcile that guy with Sal Maroni. Good thing I haven't seen THE WRESTLER yet, or I think my head would have exploded. Even Mom didn't recognize either Roberts nor Rourke.

THE PAPER CHASE: A classic "teacher-student" movie, featuring future three-time George W. Bush portrayer Timothy Bottoms as the douchbaggiest protagonist that I've seen in recent memory. A good but very, very dry, somewhat-dated law school drama which I watched expressly for Harvey Dent research. Not sure what help it could be, since I've cut out all the law school days (even the scene where he debated with some blind, redheaded, hotshot New York law student!). That said, there was one term that I never heard before but just might come in handy. Locus poenitentiae: an opportunity to withdraw from a contract or obligation before it is completed or to decide not to commit an intended crime. In Latin, literally means, place of repentance. Yes, there just might be a place for that in the Harvey Dent novel, wouldn't you say?

Not sure what else is on the docket for tonight, although based on what's on On Demand, choices include HARD TARGET, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, and BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALLOO.

*When I told [ profile] badmagic about how I needed to cut HOW HEFNERIAN down to sixty minutes--as per Orlando Fringe's required time limit--he became crestfallen and said, "What? Why? But I like the two hour version!"

To which I said, "Uh, Joe, it was only seventy-five minutes."

Which I think says it all, don't you?

**God I fucking hate MYSTIC RIVER. I skimmed through the book to see if it'd be any better, and I came upon the Laura Linney character's big speech, her goddamn Lady Macbeth moment, and I was filled with hate all over again. Fuck that book and fuck that movie. Not that I think it's actually bad, as much as just blah and mediocre, and there's just something about blah and mediocre things being hailed as brilliant masterworks of art that really just gets under my skin.
thehefner: (Grindhouse: Reel Missing (PT))
I have only the slightest ideas what the upcoming films THE EXPENDABLES and MY SON, MY SON, WHAT HAVE YE DONE? are about, but plot seems entirely besides the point. All that matters is this question: which film are you more pants-jizzingly excited to see based purely on the cast and talent behind it?

THE EXPENDABLES, written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, starring a ridiculously ripped Stallone*, Jason Statham, Forrest Whittaker, Sir Ben Kingsley, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren (the last two of whom will be sharing a fight scene). With a possible cameo by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, playing himself, hopefully still kicking ass.


MY SON, MY SON, WHAT HAVE YE DONE? Directed by Werner Herzog, starring Willem Dafoe, Michael Shannon, Chloe Sevigny, Michael Pena, Brad Dourif, Bill Cobbs, Udo Kier and Grace Zabriskie. Oh, and it's being produced by David Lynch.

Don't make me chooooooooose, I already love you both!

*Mom refuses to believe that's not Photoshopped. But then again, she also refuses to believe that's Ricardo Montalban's real chest in STAR TREK II. Old people can't be ripped!
thehefner: (Harvey Dent: I Believe In Harvey)
And here, we're left with the two films of 2008 that I--for one reason or another--could not objectively rank in the previous top ten. Yet they merit discussion and attention nonetheless, and I'm exceedingly pleased to be able to count them among the film's I've seen this year.

I'm sure you can guess one of them... )

Also, for the sake of completeness, I should mention that I recently saw WANTED. But I don't want that poster stinking up my LJ. A loud, vapid movie that threw out even the novel aspects of its loud, vapid comic book source material.

Die in a fire, Mark Millar. And take your magic fucking loom with you.
thehefner: (Harrumph)
Part Two, including my choice for best superhero film of 2008 (hint: it's not THE DARK KNIGHT) )
thehefner: (Harrumph)
So as I said before, I wanted to do my usual list of "Heffie's Top Ten Films of 2008," but then I realized that I hadn't even seen ten! Well, actually, I'd seen eleven, but three of them I didn't love, and two of them I didn't feel entirely comfortable rating objectively in a "Best Of" list.

But as of last night, I managed to catch one of the two-and-a-half-dozen supposedly-great films I missed this year, and thus am able to round out my list. I've decided to break it up into three parts, the first comprised of entries #10 through #6, each of which were troublesome enough in their ways to warrant discussion.

So without further ado, let's start counting them down, and let the grumbling begin! )
thehefner: (Bill the Butcher: Whoopsie Daisy)
I tried thinking up a "Heffie's Top Ten Films of 2008!" list, until I realized that I couldn't come up with enough.


And I'm not even counting THE DARK KNIGHT. That shit's disqualified as a special case.

Crimminy. Maybe I need to do a marathon of whatever's playing in town. Priority films are THE WRESTLER and SYNEDOCHE, NEW YORK, followed by RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, IN BRUGES, and MAN ON WIRE, but most I'll have to wait and Netflix when I get back (and others I've listed haven't even gotten wide release yet!)

Any must-see suggestions, folks?

thehefner: (Fountain: Death is the Road to Awe)
I cannot wait to see this movie, and am incredibly jealous that [ profile] fishymcb will be getting to early, with Darren Aronofsky there for a Q&A.

Has it been officially said anywhere that this story is inspired by Jake "The Snake" Roberts? Because it looks like BEYOND THE MAT brought to life, a powerful film that, halfway through, stops being about wrestling and becomes three powerful portraits of artists addicted to their art, with Roberts' story being the most devastating. Combine that with the meta-level of how it reflects Rourke's life, and I already want to give him Best Actor for that trailer alone.

That said, I'm disappointed but unsurprised to see the trailer not say "By the director of THE FOUNTAIN" (to its credit, nor does it mention the REQUIEM FOR A DREAM). I can at least take comfort that these days I only find one person who hates that film for every three that love it.

September 2012

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