If it doesn't suck, you didn't see it here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Does It Have to Be a Plane?

Patrick Goldstein's LA Times article today talks about the new Samuel Jackson movie, "Snakes on a Plane." Goldstein admonishes Hollywood for not "embracing the future" - meaning, they should be getting on the digital train. He's obviously right... unless that train has already left the station. But I think his article tells only half the story. Yes, Hollywood fears the future; yes, the entertainment industry should be looking for ways to embrace that future instead of fighting pointless, doomed holding actions.

But really: "Snakes on a Plane?" Hollywood should fear the present. It's conceivable that "Snakes on a Plane" might make a lot of money for somebody other than the director, the producers, and Samuel K. Jackson; nevertheless, precisely because this is the sort of opening-weekend-oriented drivel that has replaced smart storytelling in Hollywood* (and it will be drivel: we all know that, right?), an awful lot of people are no longer ... well, very interested in going to the movies. I know I'm not. I used to love movies. Now I just kind of like them. Once in a while. On DVD. And only if I don't have to pay late fees.

In fact, I might just wait till some enterprising assistant editor re-cuts "Snakes on a Plane" into a trailer for a movie about... doomed Hollywood producers.


* There did used to be smart storytelling in Hollywood, right? Some? A little?

Monday, March 20, 2006

V for... what, again?

This Is Only the Beginning.

Given the presence in the starring roles of trilogy go-to actors Hugo Weaving (The Matrix parts 1, 2 and 3; Lord of the Rings parts 1, 2 and 3) and Natalie Portman (Star Wars parts 1, 2 and 3), it was inevitable that Warner Bros. would announce they're making two sequels to V for Vendetta, to be entitled W for Vendetta and X for Vendetta.

Hollywood is nothing if not thrifty... at least when it comes to ideas.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Brother, Can You Spare $7.5 Million?

Oh, that's right, it was Oscar night last Sunday. Now how on earth did I miss that?

The score: soliloquizing bigots, 1; gay cowboys, 0. And people are saying how unexpected it was - this, in a town where a concerted PR effort by soliloquizing bigots last year cost Kinsey its shot at the Oscar - unless you consider "Best Supporting Actress" or "Best Original Screenplay" to be real awards. (Not that Kinsey was such a strong film, but come on: Million Dollar Baby? That should have won an award for best movie of the week, maybe.)

In a stronger year for films, Crash wouldn't have won the best picture award; then again, in a stronger economy, Paul Haggis could have afforded some extras. Which is to say, times are hard. Oh, yes, they are.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Serenity

Every movie you've ever seen? Joss Whedon has seen it, too... and here it is!

Serenity
is one of those movies whose dialogue you can predict in time to chime in with the characters, or even beat them to the punch. A pastiche of every sci fi movie ever made, and every western ever made except for the good ones, Serenity retraces each step of the Hero's Journey as remorselessly and joylessly as a flagellant visiting the stations of the cross. The dialogue is generally mumbled and often inaudible, so much so that watching the movie on video takes about an extra fifteen minutes, what with all the rewinding needed to figure out - wait - what did he say?

There is one moment that rises to the level of high art, though it is difficult to watch: on the DVD, Whedon's introduction to the movie, the short-lived television series whence it arose, the superior taste of its fans, and his own profound storytelling genius, is possibly the most devastating portrayal I have ever seen of the horrifying smugness that success - or failure - in Hollywood can engender.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Come On, Now...

Jack Twist?

Sight Unseen: Why We Fight

We fight because she loves documentary, and so do I, but I have no desire to have John McCain tell me how patriotic he is, nor listen to Gore Vidal endlessly imply how smart everyone other than him is not.

We fight because Michael Moore has poisoned the well for political documentary; and so, like a cat which has once sat on a hot stove, I decline to sit on any stove at all.

We fight even though we are both disgusted by the whole prospect of paying close attention to this mess that someone else made. It's the same reason we feign sleep when the baby wakes at three in the morning with a dirty diaper.

We fight because the last movie she rented was Blind Date, and the last movie I rented was Constantine, and now neither of us can trust the other, or even ourselves; but we know we'd rather fight than go through another experience like watching either one of those movies.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sight Unseen: Brokeback Mountain

this is an audio post - click to play

Monday, January 23, 2006

Poor, Poor Emily

So "Emily's Reasons Why Not" has been unceremoniously cancelled... well, actually, probably there was a ceremony: the ritual burning of postproduction contracts. (Though I'm sure the producers, at least, will be paid for episodes that were never even shot.) The show was, as I didn't quite have the nerve to predict, an even bigger hit than "Blind Justice," if you mean "hit" in the sense that the mob uses it.

At least it will soon be safe for Heather Graham to go outside once again.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Appropriate TV Series Titles

Two nominees:

"Sleeper Cell." Deadly... boring.

"Deadwood."

(Awards show to be held concurrently with the Emmys.)

Inauspicious Movie Titles

If, in this era of high-stakes opening-weekend grosses, I were to release a movie - especially a movie starring a pair of such dubious box-office draws as Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker - I would take particular care not to give it a title like "Failure to Launch."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sight Unseen: A History of Violence

A History of Violence: Teeth. Fists. Rocks. Sharp sticks; sharp sticks, thrown; sharp sticks, propelled by a bow. Sharp knives; long sharp knives; swords. Guns; big guns; guns that can shoot more than once. Automatic weapons. Bombs; really powerful bombs; missiles with bombs; cars with bombs.

There. Now you don't need to see the movie. Any lingering questions? Fortunately, this movie has one of those trailers that spells everything out for you.

You can send the money you just saved to me. The time I just saved you, consider it a gift.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Movies That Should Have Been

Santa's Rejects - A group of renegade elves... ah, you can write this one yourself, can't you?

President Evil - the President of the United States is really a zombie, controlled by the Vice President, who is in reality an evil alien bent on destroying the world. There's a portal (got to have a portal) in the Lincoln Bedroom, that leads to a complex, or maybe an installation, take your pick, through which periodically come more zombies, all of them intent on destroying the world. When a lowly intern gets wind of the real situation, she must recruit a ragtag group of ex-Special Forces burnouts to enter the zombie stronghold and blow up a whole bunch of shit.

Rented - A group of gay, bi, lesbian, trans, gay-friendly, bi-friendly, lesbian-friendly, and trans-friendly friends moves into a multiplex in the Lower East Side, spending their days sneaking back and forth between theatres, singing about whatever they end up seeing. Hey, given the housing situation in Manhattan, ten bucks for a movie doesn't seem so bad anymore...

The Sensibility of Emma's Persuasion of Pride and Prejudice at Northanger Abbey - the Jane Austen adaptation to end all Jane Austen adaptations - please, God, let it be so.

Sight Unseen: Tristan and Isolde

If the movie takes place in the pre-dental care era (in England and Ireland, for God's sake), and all of the leads have perfect teeth and Clearasil complexions, I ain't buying it. Even if Kenneth Turan says it's okay on Morning Edition, I ain't buying it.

Especially when one of the leads also played Green Goblin, Jr., In Spider-Men 1,2, & 3...I ain't buying it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Poor Emily

The city is infested with billboards advertising a new show called "Emily's Reasons Why Not." When I say infested, I mean that this morning I exited the freeway to be confronted with two identical billboards sporting the same ad, in the same line of sight. So I have two questions:

Can Heather Graham even go out anymore? I mean, what does it do to your psyche to see yourself everywhere you turn?

Will "Emily's Reasons Why Not" be as big a hit as "Blind Justice" was?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sight Unseen: Breakfast on Pluto

While it may be true that you can't judge a book by its cover, you can occasionally judge a movie by its title. Even if you can't, you can still judge the title on its own merits, and make a decision accordingly on whether to go to the movie. It's not a perfect system, but it's a lot more reliable than obeying the edicts of, say, Roger Ebert, whose "thumbs up / thumbs down" ratings system has never, in my opinion, been adequately mocked.

A really good title will occasionally entice me to see a movie I'm sure I won't enjoy - I may, for instance, just barely may, be suckered into a theatre to see King Kong. No, probably not. But maybe. Whereas a really bad title...

Which brings me to Neil Jordan's Breakfast on Pluto, a movie I won't be buying a ticket for, and not just because Stephen Rea is in it. No, I will not see Neil Jordan's latest film because I know that if you were actually to have breakfast on Pluto, your coffee would be a superconducting solid, you wouldn't be able to read the paper because the sun would be too far away, and you would die.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Breaking News: Crash

Apparently, Paul Haggis's last name is not pronounced like the Scottish delicacy/revolting concoction consisting of:
the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep or a calf minced with suet, onions, oatmeal, and seasonings boiled in the stomach of the animal
Thank goodness, for his sake.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Sight Unseen: King Kong

Short of a gay cowboy movie, Peter Jackson could probably, at this point in his career, do anything he wants. Make any movie, write any script, direct a Broadway musical based on The Frighteners, race stock cars, jump out of an airplane without a 'chute, do open heart surgery on Dick Cheney. And this is what he comes up with?

First of all, hasn't he learned how to make it walk? The movie's called King Kong, not A Trip to Skull Island.

Secondly, Naomi Watts has been the next big thing for, what, fifteen years now? It's time to move on, people.

Thirdly, has no one ever heard of the square-cube law? To see an ape the size of a building leaping around like... well, like a digitally generated special effect... is to lose all hope of believing in this movie on any level.

If, as reported, some were counting on King Kong to reverse Hollywood's much-analyzed attendance slump, then a line from the movie All of Me seems apropos:
... if I can be of any help at all, you're in worse trouble than I thought.

Fresh Meat

According to the LA Times, which should know if anyone does, Jon Stewart has been anointed Host of the 78th Annual Academy Awards, which means everyone will be waiting to see how many viewers, bored beyond endurance by this year's crop of Important Films About Issues that Are Already Settled (Brokeback Mountain; Good Night, and Good Luck) and/or Big Moneymakers that Didn't Insult Our Intelligence Too Much (... I can't actually think of one this year) and/or Bloated, Pretentious Films with Big Stars (that's right, I must be talking about Cinderella Man), will fail to watch the telecast. However many people do watch, it won't be enough, and Stewart will be blamed, and then forgotten until Oscar time rolls around again.

Second big question: just how much too long will the Oscar telecast run?

Third big question, and one that actually gets people to watch: will a big star embarrass him or herself, possibly beyond redemption, by saying or doing something profoundly ill-advised?

Stewart's most important qualification for the job of host: not being bad when he hosted the Emmys. His second most important qualification: "My wife and I watch him every night," said producer Gil Cates.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Lion, the Witch, and the Overbearing Soundtrack

If you want to see a grown man giving a brilliant performance as a tragic, mythical, half-man, half-goat... then you should really go to the theatre next door and catch Capote. Although, if it really is playing next door, chances are good that you will still be able to hear, moaning and thudding through the wall, the relentless, soul-destroying score that overwhelms, rather than accompanying, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Narnia (let's just call it) has all the flaws of the book, made glorious, computer-generated flesh: a claustrophobic series of disconnected landscapes which the creators attempt to pass off as an epic, fully imagined world; a Christian subtext which manages to be simultaneously obvious and incomprehensible, and which stubbornly refuses to remain sub; a confused mishmash of storybook, fairytale, and mythological motifs, in which Father Christmas, an unconvincing talking fox, and the Minotaur are all allowed cameos; a timeline which requires glaciers to melt, insurrections to be mounted, kingdoms to collapse, and armies to mass, seemingly in a matter of hours...

Oh, and a witch's castle on a frozen lake, which, with its risible resemblance to a Christmas-time model railroad layout, makes the point, yet again, that computer animation is not yet ready for its closeup. Or its establishing shot, either.

Crash

Since it is Oscar season, after all, perhaps a rehash of a few of the best films of the past year might be in order.

On the other hand, I'd rather talk about Crash.

Crash
might be better titled Racism for Dummies... or perhaps, Racism by Dummies. It would be bad enough if it merely trotted out all the old tired cliche versions of racism, recycled, perhaps, from uncritical listening to old Eddie Murphy comedy routines; but no, Crash invents brand-new cliche versions of racism for our amazement, amusement, and edification.

Remember Grand Canyon? That movie convinced me that writer/director Lawrence Kasdan had probably never met any black people. Well, based on Crash, I surmise that Paul Haggis has not only never met any black people, he has in all probability never met any people at all.

Oh, and another thing: how big does your budget have to be before you can afford some extras? Haggis's eerie Los Angeles felt like one of those post-apocalypse movie cities, where most of the population has been wiped out by disease or nuclear war or a giant comet hitting the earth. Lucky them.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Old News: The Island

Watched The Island the other night on DVD. It wasn't nearly as bad as I had been led to expect. That's not to say that it was at all good, it wasn't. I mean it wasn't in the same catastrophic category of badness as, say, A Beautiful Mind.

The director, Michael Bay, for all his posture of arrogance, seems actually to be quite arrogant. I mean ignorant. Only someone who hasn't been paying attention, say for any one of the past fifty years, would think that the story he tells in this movie is original enough to be worth writing, let alone spending a hundred million dollars to commit to the screen.

Bay tells stories, not in a traditional three-act structure, but in a debased and genuinely boring three-chase-scene structure. Had The Island been held, say, to twenty minutes or half an hour in length, it might have been the first act of an interesting real movie, instead of what it is, which is... well, not much.

Neverthless, because I watched it I got to hear the following description of God (this is not verbatim): You know how sometimes you want something, and you wish for it really really hard? Well, God's the guy who ignores you.

High point of the film, definitely.

Why, Oh Why?

The LA Times yesterday had a feature story pondering the Big Question in Hollywood this year: how come people aren't going to the movies? Various possibilities were proposed, various people (friends and neighbors of the reporter, no doubt) canvassed. What is the problem?
Movies suck?
Ticket prices too high?
Too many trailers?
Too many advertisements?
Advertisements at all?
Too hard to park?
If I had to choose one reason why I don't go to the movies much any more, it would be this:
Cheaper by the Dozen 2.
Enough said.

Sight Unseen: Munich

Even watching one of Steven Spielberg's exercises in disposable pop entertainment is usually like being forced to eat an entire chocolate cake. Watching one of his "serious" movies is like being forced to watch someone you love, being forced to eat an entire chocolate cake.

First of all, Schindler's List should be all the proof you need that Steven Spielberg's not up to the task of directing a serious movie. If you need more evidence, watch as much as you can stand of the first few minutes of Saving Private Ryan (the bit before the fighting starts).

Spielberg's self-importance is matched only by his inability to tolerate nuance. It's like he's allergic. Add to that the disservice he has done to history by his childish simplifications and bizarrely inappropriate use of symbolism and iconography (such as the Man on a White Stallion in Schindler's List), and use a little common sense: don't waste your time on Munich.

I'm sure Spielberg has another dumb sci fi movie in the works. Wait for it.