Sunday, March 25, 2007

Gone Elsewhere has gone elsewhere

by Nick
All right, people, I was emailing Brian about this and he was all right with it. We'll see how it works out.

As I told him; I was just checking out Wordpress, since no one was willing to do or say anything about whether or not to move to a new spot, when I inadvertedly reserved the "goneelsewhere" address there, and apparently now I can't take it back. This of course was a fucked up thing of me to do, so of course I thought, what the hell, let's see how much more damage I can do.

I've only been playing around with it for two hours or so and I have to say it's quite a bit better than Blogger from what I can surmise. It's more complicated, sure, and if we want to do any grand changes to it we'll have to pay money and learn CSS coding, but even the little stuff so far is better than what we have on Blogger. I think. I don't know. I still haven't found a way to get a sidebar for latest comments. Maybe that's one of those things we have to pay for.

But the fact that I could just import practically our entire blog over in less than five minutes is pretty cool.

Anyway, so after my screw up, of which I tried to do the best I could, I mailed Brian, asking if I should kill it or not (and if I did that specific address would be lost without way of getting it back), since if he's all right with it (him being unofficial copyright holder of the name and all) then I guess that that's all right then.

I think that if we gave this thing a shot it could turn out better and a cooler place to post stuff than the one we're using now. Anyway, you guys be the judge, but keep in mind that I don't know what I'm doing, and I've only been doing that for around two hours. A lot of stuff can be changed.

But to do so, you guys have to join Wordpress (you don't have to get a blog there to do so, by the way) and then mail me at kockum (*at*) gmail (*dot*) com, so i can send invites for you to do damage.

There are four options here; either I make you an administrator, editor, author or contributor. It's up to each of you to judge if you wanna help out structuring the site and editing posts/comments and so on. I don't know what the specific differences between them are, though. I suppose we could make all of you administrators in a spirit of democracy, but democracy has it's faults as well. Some might be comfortable just posting a review or news item from time to time.

Speaking of that, I don't think I'm alone in thinking that there are some setbacks to having a blog from having a forum. Reviewing and longer thoughts and articles work better than before on the old forums, but random bullshit less so. Blogs are so serious.

My suggestion would be having both a blog and a forum. Problem is I know even less about setting up a forum than I do a blog. If someone else knows more, speak out, man. I remember our old administrator Brian (Walker) offered to help us if we decided to set up one. Anyone feel we should get in touch with him, or could we handle such a thing by ourselves?

Anyway, here's the address for the Wordpress blog in progress:

Let me know what you all think, without saying 'it looks nice'. Some proper constructive criticism so we can make it a smooth place to hang out.

This blog hasn't always been as active as it was those first two months of March and April 2006, but nonetheless we've managed to post more than 340 posts and logged in over 2000 comments to those posts, and lately activity has been pretty good. Let's hope we can continue doing that in a potentially spiffier place.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s

by Professor Wagstaff
A sort of sequel to this thread, a few years back the Online Film Critics Society published a list of what they thought was the 100 most overlooked films of the 1990s. The list in what appears to be order of rating is below with my comments on those films I've seen:

Miller's Crossing
The Sweet Hereafter
Lone Star
Heavenly Creatures
Waiting for Guffman
The Hudsucker Proxy
Babe: Pig in the City
Dead Man
Fearless – Haven’t seen it for a few years, but this film starring Jeff Bridges struggling dealing with the fact that he miraculously survived a plane crash without harm is first-class. It’s easy to see why it failed at the box-office as it was that 1990s Hollywood mainstream rarity – a central character that wasn’t that likable, slowly paced, doesn’t spell everything out. Definitely deserving of being here.
Chungking Express
The Straight Story
Searching for Bobby Fishcer
Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai
That Thing You Do!
Dead Again
Sneakers – For the most part this caper comedy starring Robert Redford is smart, slick and entertaining. But it really lets itself down in the final few minutes with a really dumb ending that sees it go from the mentality of an intelligent feature film to a dumbass sitcom. Despite that, deserving of being in this list.
Zero Effect
The Butcher Boy
Truly, Madly, Deeply
In the Company of Men
Devil in a Blue Dress
The Red Violin
Cemetery Man
Welcome to the Dollhouse
The Apostle
Eve's Bayou
Hard Eight
Defending Your Life – Albert Brooks comedies invariably tend to be underrated as despite them having a lot of good qualities, he’s seen as a poor man’s Woody Allen. I really liked this when I first saw it but seeing it again recently, it just wasn’t as funny as I imagined. I think the issue is that while Brooks can draw up clever situations, he doesn’t maximize the potential humour out of situations. Still, probably deserving of entry in here.
A Little Princess
Bringing Out the Dead
Hana-Bi (Fireworks)
Jacob's Ladder
The Spanish Prisoner
Pump Up the Volume
Beautiful Girls
The Double Life of Veronique
Very Bad Things
Richard III
October Sky
Strange Days – This James Cameron written film is the classic template of an underrated film who’s reputation grows over the years. Has too many unpleasant and other elements to make it popular but its overall qualities ensure that it gets appreciated for the generally fine film it is. No classic and not really overlooked, but deserving of being in here.
My Neighbor Totoro
L.A. Story – Slick and enjoyable Steve Martin film that looks like a masterpiece compared to the dreck he’s dished out in the last few years
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
A Bronx Tale
The Limey
A Perfect World
Before Sunrise
Bob Roberts
Dick – Comedy imagining that the Watergate scandal was actually started by two teenage girls. Lame one-joke effort that deserved to be ignored.
Raise the Red Lantern
One False Move
The Ref – This Christmas comedy has a lot of things going for it. Constantly sharp, funny and cynical with an excellent cast including Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis. It isn’t as satisfying as it should be as its not particularly well directed and gets a bit sappy at the end, but I liked it a lot more then this decade’s version of a cynical Xmas comedy, ‘Bad Santa’. A deserved entry on this list.
Joe Versus the Volcano – Doesn’t deserve to be here, not just because its an ordinary movie but because its somewhat galling that the star, Tom Hanks, who was treated as the greatest actor going around in the 1990s, now gets a category in the underrated section. Let someone more deserving get the adulation.
The Ice Storm – Film examining an early 1970s middle-class American group of families who are completely unable to handle the new permissive lifestyle. While this film has a lot of good qualities that make it a critic’s favourite, it’s emotionally cold which distances one from the film and while a worthy film in many aspects, it could’ve been better and not one that demands repeat viewings
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – It may have been ‘underrated’ in America but it was the opposite in Australia. It was a massive hit here and was all the rage for a while. Never really cared for it from what I've seen of it.
The Winslow Boy
Girl on the Bridge
Bullet in the Head
Cannibal! The Musical
Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
The Last Days of Disco
Eye of God
Flirting with Disaster
Bottle Rocket
Ashes of Time
Fallen Angels
Great Expectations
A Midnight Clear
Deep Cover
Twin Falls, Idaho
The People vs. Larry Flynt – Fine film documenting how Hustler publisher Larry Flynt became an unlikely champion of free speech in America. It’s raised being a well done but predictable film by being well directed by the underrated Milos Forman.
Quick Change – While its not up there with Bill Murray’s best films (its not bad), this was a significant turning point in his career as he began to shed his 1980s persona (which I often found obnoxious and smug) into much more richly rewarding and diverse work. ‘What about Bob?’ would’ve been a better choice, a very funny film.
The Secret of Roan Inish
Big Night
Living in Oblivion
Jesus' Son
Glengarry Glen Ross – An excellent film but does this belong in this list? I thought it was the classic case of a film whose reputation has deservedly grown over the years.
Chaplin – Biopic of Charlie Chaplin. Robert Downey Jr. is excellent in the title role but apart from that this has little going for that, mainly because as per usual director Richard Attenborough is obvious and heavy-handed, makes it pretty tedious. The best bit of the film is the montage of clips from Chaplin’s own work, showing up how inferior the rest of the film is.
Dead Alive
Cradle Will Rock
The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl
Mystery Men – Saw about 30 mins of it recently, seemed like a film with some good ideas but yet another badly executed, laboured Hollywood comedy. I guess by this stage they were struggling to fill out the list and had to take what they could get.

It's a good idea for list although I think they could've narrowed it down to 50 or less. They've either got films that plainly don't deserve to be there (Mystery Men) or films that were fairly popular or got critical acclaim at the time of release (The Apostle, That Thing you Do!)

What other candidates are there for the list? I can't think of too many right now, although as I wrote above, 'What About Bob?' would've been a better Bill Murray choice then 'Quick Change'. It's hilarious and never really goes out of control until the very end.

One of the two Brady Bunch movies they made in the mid-1990s I would also have there. They may not seem like much, but in a decade of poorly thought out movies based on TV shows, this was an exception that managed to be an entertaining spoof on the series but something that fans of the show could still take to.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

The Stardust trailer

by Nick
The trailer for Stardust is up at Yahoo! Movies. It looks excellent.

I highly recommend the Neil Gaiman novel it's based on. It's as enjoyable, witty and clever as fairy tales get. The film is directed Matthew Vaughn (who made a very impressive first film with Layer Cake), who passed on X-Men 3 to do this instead. He seems to have added some spectacle and scenes to the film, and set a somewhat different mood (the novel is somewhat more sombre).

Oh, and the Spider-Man 3 trailer is out, as well.

NC's Resurgent Film Industry

by jaydro
I had just been reading bits and pieces over the past couple of months about several new productions starting soon in NC, and I was thinking, wow, it's almost like the '90's all over again. Things had pretty much petered out after The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. If anyone cares to read more about it, the INDEPENDEnT Weekly has a nice collection of articles, featuring news on Clooney's film, Leatherheads.

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Inland Empire

by jaydro
Well, somehow it has happened. Again. I always eagerly look forward to any new David Lynch film, and early buzz on Inland Empire had me, well, who cares--it's a David Lynch film. I've barely seen any clips or reviews of it, and that doesn't matter. It came here two weeks ago, and bounced between a trio of arthouse theaters where it was getting one show a night (the one most convenient to me played it the full two weeks, but pre-empted it several nights for special screenings). I was going to play hooky to go see a matinee of it at a distant theater on Wednesday, but, damn, the weather was so nice it was too hard to play hooky to go sit in a theater. Then I planned to go last night, and it didn't work out. And now, well, it's gone. After just two weeks.

The Good German redux. And Inland Empire had even less promotion than German, but that shouldn't surprise given its nature--Lynch is self-distributing. It's just....

I'm still a bit distressed that I have yet to see any DVD release details (like when and whether there's going to be Soderbergh commentary) for German, which makes going down to the virtual Canal Street all the more tempting.

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Opening in Dallas, 03/23

by Brian
I suppose I ought to begin by noting that the AFI Dallas International Film Festival kicked off here last night. It seems that I remember that when the festival was announced, it was made out to be a major festival, striving to be on par with Toronto, Venice, Berlin, etc. A quick look at the actual films being presented, though, is pretty underwhelming. While I feel a little bit guilty about skipping out on it, I just don’t see any reason to be excited about it until somebody points out something that I missed or am just too ignorant to recognize.

Now, on to this week’s openings:

Becket: How exciting - I never thought in a million years that this would open here, and I didn’t even realize until earlier this week that it was.

Reign Over Me (trailer): Looks decent, but I’m skeptical. I always felt that Mike Binder’s The Upside of Anger was overrated if not outright annoying.

The Namesake (trailer): Preventing Adam Sandler from winning the week’s “Goin’ Straight Award” is Kal Penn, appearing here in what appears to be a legitimate role that requires actual acting.

Color Me Kubrick (trailer): Sounds interesting, but I saw the trailer for the first time the other night, and it really looks bad.

Shooter (trailer): Antoine Fuqua back in his element after the comically poor King Arthur.

The Last Mimzy (trailer): I don’t know what a mimzy is, but, like Mohicans, it’s probably worth saving the last one.

TMNT (trailer): What I wouldn’t have given for this to come out 15 years ago. But, alas, the Turtles did not age well, and now they just seem goofy in retrospect..

Pride (trailer): Not that I don’t wish Terrence Howard the best and all, but a 1.7 user rating on IMDb is enough to chase me away, thanks.

The Hills Have Eyes II (trailer): Is this cheap horror fad never going to end?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Quote of the Week

by Count Olaf
Justin Timberlake:
"I'm the nice guy who follows through on the things he commits to. But I don't know if I'll be going through that sort of thing again. I feel like the Grammys used me for ratings."

Uhh...what else are they going to use you for, your rapier wit? Other than ratings, why else would an awards show be broadcast?

This almost reminds me of his Nirvana comment that he got flak for a few years back:
"There's different forms of rap that are pop. Nirvana was pop because they were popular. And so I think that's the whole concept behind the song itself."

Perhaps he shouldn't talk to the press.

Lost, 3/21, "The Man From Tallahassee"

by Jackrabbit Slim
Discuss in comments.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

So weird

by Nick

And then you combine that with this.

So what dead actor/person would you like to see re-animated?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Best Movie Posters

by Jackrabbit Slim
By way of Jeff Wells, here's the link to Premiere's 25 greatest movie posters of all time:

Premiere's 25 greatest movie posters of all time

Some good choices there, but I would add a few:

Friday, March 16, 2007

Opening in Dallas, 03/16

by Brian
I had to go to Las Vegas for a few days this week, so I’ve got a bit of work to catch up on today. Because of that, and because there’s really nothing interesting this week (anyone know anything about Le Petit Lieutenant?), I’m running titles only.

Le Petit Lieutenant (trailer)
I Think I Love My Wife (trailer)
Premonition (trailer)
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (trailer at official site)
Dead Silence (trailer)

Introducing the iRack

by Nick

Paris, je t'aime (Paris, I love you)

by Nick
There have been good romantic films, but most of them, especially the ever prevalent romcom's, feel like nothing. Fluff. So a series of short films about love in the so called "city of love" might be inviting extreme corniness, to not say tackiness if it's done as a marketing ploy by the city.

I don't know how this project was brought together, but the film, as a whole, works. It's eighteen segments, each one after the other, taking place and named after a different section of Paris, with love as a central theme in each. There are bad, tired, incomprehensible segments, and towards the end an attempt at a conclusion that is misjudged. But there are also some really, really good parts, and they comprise almost half of the film.

What is to love here, excepting the stories themselves, is the directors assembled, and seeing what they can do given free reins. You sit there and you notice certain things about some of the directors styles and affectations, some good things, some bad things.

(Click |LINK|, for fast spoiler-free reviews of some of the segments)

Overall, those willing to see a good romantic film (films?), go see it in May when it gets a limited run in the States. The good parts more than made up for the bad ones.

Like, I don't know who Oliver Schmitz is but his segment ("Place des Fêtes") might be the best one. An immigrant cleaner meets a woman he's been flirting with during unfortunate circumstances, flashbacks going back and forth. Perfectly comprised in time, in the end heartbreaking.

Gus Van Sants "Le Marais" feels most reminiscent of this 'vague' thing his work seems to be going through. Or, anyway, I didn't get it.

And I used to think Wes Craven was a victim of some kind of typecasting in directing horror films, but even here, when he wrote the thing, the supernatural makes an appearance. Self-typecasting?

And Vincenzo Natali's (Cube) segment "Quartier de la Madeleine", with Elijah Wood hunted by a vampire, illustrates a problem that the current wave of films with digitized palettes (like Sin City and 300) seem to suffer from. They're too cool, with a total lack of human commitment, striking one as soulless. Wes Craven cameos.

Sylvain Chomet's (Triplettes of Belleville) "Tour Eiffel", is perhaps the most commercial and stylized of the parts, but it's also the most enjoyable. It's an ingenious tale, practically a cartoon, of an Eiffel tower mime finding love, and made me laugh loud more than once.

The Coen Brothers' "Tuileries" has Steve Buscemi, who, if I recall correctly, doesn't say a word, getting involved in a humorous confrontation at the Paris underground.

Gurinder Chadha's (Bend It Like Beckham) "Quais de Seine" has a very sweet
interplay between two French teenagers, one a Muslim girl.

Isabel Coixet's (My Life Without Me) segment ("Le Bastille") is classic short film stuff, with Miranda Richardson in another near-silent (or non-French speaking, at least) role. None the less, it's effective, with one of those voice-over uses that only the French and English films seem to get away with (I think it's because Americans tend to overdramatize).

I loved Alfonso Cuaróns segment ("Parc Monceau") simply because it has Nick Nolte going on a ramble through the streets of Paris. Sometimes that's enough. Of course it's all one long take.

Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) "Faubourg Saint-Denis" with Natalie Portman, made me rewind and watch the whole segment again. It's another one of his hyper-spool-time-segments-whatyamayhaveits with a techno beat but, dammit, it works again. Even if Portman plays ditzy American girl, again.

Alexander Payne's "14th Arrondissement", is the last segment of the film, and has Margo Martindale (Swank's mother in Million Dollar Baby) as an American tourist with a horrible french pronounciation. Might be more enjoyable for those with some understanding of french.

There are others, but they were mostly forgettable, or just plain bad (Nobuhiro Sawa's "Place des Victoires" with Juliette Binoche and Willem Dafoe was especially horrible).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lost, 3/14 episode, "Par Avion"

by Jackrabbit Slim
Discuss in comments.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


by jaydro
Last month when this was released, Brian marveled that a good studio picture like this would show up in February. I think I know why--it was slotted as a late-year Oscar-contention release, and then the powers-that-be realized they didn't have an Oscar contender and held it until February. I don't know this, but I guessed from my own reaction and the 2006 copyright notice.

Jackrabbit already said he found it "okay," and I have to agree or go even further to call it a disappointment and perhaps even pointless. I vaguely recall the CBS TV miniseries version of this from a few years ago, and I found it more compelling (and with perhaps an even higher-caliber cast than this film! William Hurt, Mary-Louise Parker, David Strathairn, Ron Silver, Peter Boyle...). That version rightly focused on master double-agent Robert Hanssen rather than on the guy the FBI assigned to keep tabs on Hanssen in the month before his takedown, played rather dully by Ryan Phillippe (as noted by Jackrabbit).

Watching the film I kept feeling like it should be building towards something, but it just kind of sat there, spooling away (and I was perhaps disappointed that this was one of two analog films at the all-digital multiplex where I saw this, complete with scratched-up print and popping analog Dolby Stereo--did they dump their film projector digital sound equipment? It felt like going back to the early '90's). The moments of suspense seemed contrived, though perhaps they were rendered in complete attention to what actually happened, but in every case I had no question about what was going to happen. There have been great films based on historical events for which I knew every detail depicted in the film, and yet I still felt suspense watching them. This was not one of those films.

Chris Cooper was good, Laura Linney was good, and it was nice to see Caroline Dhavernas (who I haven't seen since Wonderfalls) provide some presumably required Canadian content to this production while showing that she can do an East German accent about as well as Mira Furlan does a French accent on Lost. And Dennis Haysbert--when he appeared as a generic no-nonsense FBI agent, I almost laughed out loud. He is being typecast to death, isn't he? He's come a long way since he was the last-minute replacement for Eriq La Salle (who was replacing Denzel Washington) in Love Field.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Kim Morgan was on & Roeper

by jaydro
One of the stars of our links in the right sidebar, and yet another former columnist at that site we left, was the guest fill-in for Roger Ebert this past weekend on what I've taken to calling the & Roeper show. I hadn't checked out Kim Morgan's column in a while--maybe I should get in the habit again. Her site was mentioned on the show, though the tagline below her name was "MSN Entertainment," where it looks like she has another blog. Back last year Jackrabbit brought up some of the issues around Ebert's replacements. I'm beginning to wonder if Roger is ever coming back.... :-(

But anyway, good for Kim Morgan.

The Lives of Others

by Jackrabbit Slim
One of the surprises from the recent Academy Awards was that the German film, The Lives of Others, won the Best Foreign Language Film over Pan's Labyrinth, the Mexican film. Pan won three other Oscars, but got aced out by Lives. However, those who had seen the film were not surprised, which reminds us that the voting in that category is limited to those who see all five nominees in a theater and pre-arranged screenings. I caught up with Lives on Sunday, and while I may not have voted for it over Pan, it is a worthy victor.

As to why it won, I can only surmise that The Lives of Others tells just as terrifying a story as Pan does, but without any fanciful fairy-tale imagery, which might have turned off the older, more conservative voters who usually dominate this category. The German film, written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmark (research project for the future--longest name of any Oscar winner?) is similar to Pan in that deals with the horrors of a totalitarian state, but the evils in this film are all human.

The film tells the story of a member of East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, in the early eighties in Berlin. Wiesler is a man who is totally dedicated to his job, which is to capture the enemies of the state, which in East Germany's case was anyone who uttered a peep of dissent. He seems to be so dedicated to his work that he has no family and no other interests, a faceless bureaucrat who has no problem with imprisoning people for minor offenses. One night his boss, the minister of culture, takes him to the theater for the premiere of a play by a popular playwright, played by Sebastian Koch. The playwright is one of the few in the country who is not seen as disloyal, and actually believes in his country. Wiesler gets suspicious, though, and volunteers to monitor Koch and his girlfriend, his lead actress, played by Martina Gedeck.

As Wiesler listens to every conversation that takes place in their apartment, he becomes drawn into their lives, and the film in some ways parallels Coppola's The Conversation. Wiesler undergoes a change, and a cat and mouse game ensues between him, the artists that Koch runs with, and Wiesler's higher ups. I don't want to go any further than that, because this is the kind of film which is difficult to see what is coming next.

Von Donnersmark has written an excellent script and directed to fully maximize the justifiable paranoia of the time period (with the current administration in the U.S., you might leave this film and go home and check to see if there are any microphones behind your light switches). I think the largest kudos are due to Ulrich Muhe as Wiesler, the kind of man who blends into any crowd, which makes him all the more terrifying here. Watching this character grow over the course of the film is quite rewarding.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Opening in Dallas, 03/09

by Brian
The Host (trailer): Previously reviewed by Nick, and now released in the US courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Looks like they did an OK job with the marketing, too - the guys on the oldies station this morning were going on and on about it.

300 (trailer): Like so many movies with this kind of fanboy appeal, I can’t help but want to see this, but I also can’t shake the feeling that it’s probably something I won’t like all that much.

Believe in Me (trailer at official site): Never heard of this before this morning, but maybe it’s not all that bad? Good review in the Dallas paper.

Starter for Ten (trailer): I hate it when stuff like this comes along, because there’s just nothing to say about it. There’s not much advance word one way or the other, and it doesn’t look either particularly good or particularly bad. It’s just there.

Maxed Out (trailer): Worthy subject, but sometimes documentaries come out where I feel like everyone already knows everything they have to say.

Puccini for Beginners (trailer): First of two lesbian comedies this week that don’t look any more interesting than the typical romantic comedies involving straight people. This one stars Elizabeth Reaser and Gretchen Mol, who were both in good movies last year.

Gray Matters (trailer): Second of two. This one stars Heather Graham and Bridget Moynihan, who were both not in good movies … ever, maybe.

The Ultimate Gift (trailer at official site): FoxFaith entry about … oh, I don’t know. Somebody dies or something. Lessons are learned. Lives are changed.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Lost, 3/7 Episode--"Enter 77"

by Jackrabbit Slim
Discuss in comments.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Opened in Dallas, 03/02

by Brian
Still trying to get over the respiratory infection that has been plaguing me for a week and a half. Hopefully, in the next few days I’ll be able to actually go see a movie again.

Zodiac (trailer): Jackrabbit Slim posted a review already earlier today. As for myself, not a Fincher fan, but looking forward to this all the same.

The Dead Girl (trailer): Garnered high praise for the performances late in 2006. I had forgotten about it until this week, though.

Black Snake Moan (trailer): Looks every bit as compelling yet completely stupid as director Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow was.

Days of Glory (Indigènes) (trailer): Best Foreign Film nominee, by way of the Weinsteins, so it’s probably not that great. Hope it hangs around for a couple weeks, else I won’t have time to see it on account of the illness and the resulting backlog.

Two Weeks (trailer): If MGM really wants people to know about this, they might start by, you know, mentioning it somewhere on their website. I know that by itself wouldn’t accomplish much, but, well, it’s a start.

Full of It (trailer): I don’t really know what this is.

Wild Hogs (trailer): My goal in life is to someday have kids who don’t carry on like this trailer is the funniest thing they’ve ever seen. If I can accomplish that, my time on earth will not have been in vain.


by Jackrabbit Slim

First, so you know where I'm coming from, I thought Seven was okay, and I did not like Fight Club. That way you can understand that I am not one of those fan-boy legions who seem to worship David Fincher. I think he has an interesting visual style but I don't find him to be an amazing auteur. That being said, I thought Zodiac was a good film, his best so far, and this even when he has a story that is too messy to conform to classic film structure.

The story concerns the investigation into five killings in the San Francisco area in the late sixties. The killer, clearly someone who wanted attention, wrote letters to the area newspapers, including cyphers. A political cartoonist becomes obsessed with the killings and keeps working on the case, long after the police and the public have lost interest.

This film is full of details and red herrings that give it a two-hour and forty-five minute length. That's a little too long, given that there are two lengthy scenes that one thinks involve Zodiac but turn out not to. Fincher seems to have the same obsession for detail that Robert Graysmith, the cartoonist who stuck with the case and wrote two books about it, did.

Some critics have come down hard on this film for the messy structure. This is always a conundrum. Do you stick to the truth, and have the audience walk out without a sense of closure, or do you tidy things up and rewrite history? One solution is not to make a film about a case that has no definitive solution, but then we wouldn't have all those Jack the Ripper films. I'm fine with what Fincher has done here.

The film is basically in three parts. In the first third, three killings are shown, including one that will forever change your reaction to Donovan's "Hurdy-Gurdy Man," and another that is a very creepy attack on a couple of college kids. Letters to the papers are sent, and a crime reporter, Robert Downey, Jr. gets involved, as well as the paper's boyish cartoonist, Jake Gyllenhaal, who has no official role but eventually worms his way into it.

The second third of the film involves the police investigation, and I found this to be the best section. It's classic police procedural, like a Law and Order episode on steroids. The detectives, Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards, like a guy name Arthur Leigh Allen, but can't get the smoking gun that would lock him up. The intensity of the investigation nearly drives Ruffalo over the brink, and Edwards eventually has to transfer out of homicide. When the killings and letters stop, Ruffalo has to let it go.

The last third of the film brings back Gyllenhaal. He hasn't stopped, and wants to write a book about the killings, and attempts to bring a reluctant Downey and Ruffalo back in. There are few more red herrings, particularly a visit to a film theater owner, but eventually Gyllenhaal thinks he has the answer. Meanwhile, his marriage to Chloe Sevigny suffers.

The acting is interesting in this film, as it involves many different styles. Gyllenhaal is perfect as the Eagle Scout cartoonist, and Ruffalo simmers as the hard-boiled cop. Downey, who is always an interesting actor, may have given his character too many quirks. Each line he says seems to have come from a different part of his brain. Sevigny, stuck in a thankless part, does manage to give the character some life.

Judging by the box office numbers, when a movie like Wild Hogs can out perform Zodiac three-to-one in ticket sales, it may be a bad sign that the public just doesn't want to sit in a theater for three hours watching a film about a serial killer that doesn't have the killer getting justice. That's a shame, because I'm sure that five minutes of this film is far more interesting than John Travolta getting hit in the face with a bird.

Countrypolitan Favorites

by jaydro
What I've been listening to the past week or so: the latest album by Southern Culture on the Skids, a covers collection of some of the songs that most influenced them entitled Countrypolitan Favorites. I was initially disappointed when I heard about this--their last album was a live concert album, and now a covers collection; one has to hope someone doesn't have writer's block. But I've really been digging their surprising take on songs I'm familiar with as well as several songs I'd never heard of. (Note: if you buy the CD, be sure to get it at an independent record store, where it will come packaged with a special indie-only SCOTS four-track bonus disc.)

My favorite is the old Lynn Anderson song, "(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden." I love Mary Huff's voice--her songs on SCOTS records are always something to look forward to. Something always gets me about taking a song like that and forcing it into a more upbeat tempo.

For those unfamiliar with SCOTS you may recall their appearance as the band at the beginning of I Know What You Did Last Summer. Or maybe you heard their minor hit, "Camel Walk," which they performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno way back when (lyrics: "Baby, would you eat that there snack cracker in your special outfit for me, please? Baby, you make me want to walk... like a camel. The way you eat that oatmeal pie just makes me want to die!").

I've been listening to them for about 15 years now. I was hard-pressed to explain to people what exactly their music was until I saw them listed in the category of "psychobilly." That's a good description. While they may appear to be making fun of the image they are projecting, they are also embracing it wholeheartedly.

Though SCOTS is a local band I heard them first on CD, having shunned their live shows because I thought they were a straight country group. And at their live shows you might find boxes of fried chicken, biscuits, and little cups of banana pudding being passed around (uh, food has featured prominently in several of their songs; see "Camel Walk," "Eight Piece Box," and others), and a masked wrestler may also make an appearance. It is better experienced rather than described.

P.S. My other favorite local band is Two Dollar Pistols. While I don't profess to be a country music fan, I love that honky-tonk Dwight Yoakam/pre-Hee Haw Buck Owens sound.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Lost, 2/28 Episode--"Tricia Tanaka is Dead"

by Jackrabbit Slim
Discuss in comments.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Oscar Talk

by Jackrabbit Slim
Well, another Oscar season over. I did so-so, getting 11 of the 21 categories I predicted. I was bummed Peter O'Toole didn't win, the look on his face after he lost was like, "I can't believe I came all this way and sat through this show again, and for nothing," but I was glad for Scorsese, even if that was catching up for all the times he was screwed in the past.

I liked the show. Every year I watch with friends and we enjoy it and then the next day I read blistering reviews. Ellen was okay, particularly the interaction with Scorsese and Eastwood. I liked the Will Ferrell/Jack Black number, and the Pilobius (sp?) stuff was amusing. I'm not sure what critics are looking for in this show.

Some upsets always help. Even though I picked him Alan Arkin had to count as one, and certainly The Lives of Others was another, especially since Pan's Labyritnth won three other awards. But Foreign Film is voted on by only those who have seen all five films, so it's a smaller sample. Also, it was certainly a big night for Al Gore. It was also probably the only time a female Oscar winner has thanked her wife (Melissa Etheridge).

What did you all think?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Strange week

by Nick
First they found a giant half-ton squid.

Then in San Antonio, Guatemala, a gigantic 130 feet wide, 330 feet deep, hole just opened up, swallowing two.

And now James Cameron claims to have proof of finding the tombs and bodies of, among others, Mary, Joseph and Jesus Christ. And, oh yeah, Jesus' son Judah.

Somehow I thought people would be less focused on the Oscars during the end of days.

10 years since the Titanic phenomenon

by Professor Wagstaff

Later this year, it will be 10 years since the release of James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’ which is – despite increasing ticket prices over the past decade - still comfortably the highest grossing film of all time.

And unlike so many modern day high grossing films, it didn’t gain its grosses through a massive marketing campaign and enormous anticipation that ensured, even if it wasn’t particularly well liked, that it would be a massive hit. In fact, as I recall the buildup to the film was quite negative with lots of talk about a troubled production that had seen the budget skyrocket. There was little indication that it would be a major success.

But after its opening, it clearly captured the public’s imagination as it went from being a hit, to a major hit, to a phenomenon. People weren’t just seeing it and recommending it to others, they were seeing it a 2nd and even a 3rd time. To top it all off, it won 11 Oscars.

And yet 10 years late, despite being a film that captured the public’s imagination like few others, its reputation has dwindled in that time. A good statistical example of this is its average rating of 7.0 from the over 124 000 votes on the IMDB site – it’s pretty good there’s very few Best Picture Oscar winners over the past 50 years that would have a lower rating (‘Out of Africa’ is the only one I could find with a lower rating).

But on a broader level, there was a backlash against its massive success as growing segments of people found it an incredibly overwrought, sappy and manipulative film, filled with one-note cardboard characters (Billy Zane’s villain especially so). Specifically critics noted how absurdly idyllic the life of the poor was portrayed and that if it hadn’t been for the Titanic’s sinking, the film implied that DiCaprio and Winslet’s characters would’ve gone on to live a life of harmony despite the vast differences in their backgrounds and personalities.

Also, James Cameron’s performance on Oscar night didn’t help matters. His ‘king of the world’ exclamation became rather infamous but what always stuck in my memory was his self-indulgent request of a few moments of silence in memory for the victim’s of the Titanic. I guess some would say it was well intentioned but there wouldn’t be an Oscar ceremony where an actor or filmmaker could make such a request for the real-life victims portrayed in their film (‘Schindler’s List’ being an obvious example).

One of the reasons why I’m interested in looking back on this film is my personal reaction to it. I went to see it soon after it was released and not only enjoyed but was quite moved by it. In fact, it stayed with me so much that I went to see it again a few weeks later. It’s the only new release film to date that I’ve gone to see more then once during its theatrical run.

However, it is not a film that I’ve maintained an interest in over the years. I haven’t seen it since and don’t really have an interest in watching it again, let alone purchasing it on DVD. When I saw a few minutes of it during a TV screening a while back, it didn’t hold my interest. So it seems my reaction to the film reflects how people overall have reacted to it.

My questions are: what were the qualities in it that made it such a massive hit in the first place and why has its reputation dwindled over the years (or has it)?


2007 Independent Spirit Awards

by jaydro
Okay, I didn't blog it live (or nearly live) like I did last year, because I wasn't watching it anywhere near live. Moreso than last year there were several films I had never heard of (I didn't pay attention to the nominations until just before I watched the show) and even more that haven't played here yet (though for all I know they may already be on DVD). Just to show my ignorance, of the more prominent nominees I was unaware of American Gun, Sweet Land, and Land of Plenty. Okay, that's not so many, but I think last year there was just one.

Just before it started I thought, wow, Little Miss Sunshine is going to clean up here. And I was right. The show seemed like the Oscar Consolation Awards for Little Miss Sunshine.

Oh, and for Ryan Gosling, too. He made light of finally winning against Forest Whitaker, who was nominated, but not for The Last King of Scotland (it was American Gun this time).

Last year Felicity Huffman provided the highlight of the show in her funny acceptance speech, but this year she was the lowlight as she announced winner Shareeka Epps twice as Shakira Epps. Sarah Silverman later announced that Facility Hoffman would be the host next year.

This year's highlight for me was Minnie Driver singing the show song for Pan's Labyrinth: "I Blew a Giant Frog to Smithereens" to the tune of the old Melanie song "I've Got a Brand New Pair of Rollerskates." I watched that three times!


Friday, February 23, 2007

Opening in Dallas, 02/23

by Brian
The Lives of Others (trailer): Yay! Been looking forward to this one since … what, Cannes? Has it really been that long?

The Astronaut Farmer (trailer): Liked the Polish brothers’ Northfork a few years ago. I’m a bit suspicious about this one, but willing to give the benefit of the doubt for now.

Amazing Grace (trailer): I could write something very snide here, but I’ll let it pass.

The Number 23 (trailer): I finally quit on Joel Schumacher for good. I’ll go see this only if someone gives me a damn good reason to.

An Unreasonable Man (trailer): Appears to be Nader revisionism of the highest order. Myself, I don’t blame Nader for running - I blame Democrats for making such a big fucking deal about a fringe candidate.

Reno 911!: Miami (trailer): Never watched more than a few minutes of the show. Used to like “The State” OK.

The Abandoned (trailer): Just another horror movie with a creative poster.


Going Elsewhere

by Nick
Regarding Brians comment in the Lost thread, great minds think alike. Been thinking about that myself lately. Even started doodling potential banners for my own amusement.

Checked out Vox, looks great! I dig it. My own small suggestion would be Wordpress, which doesn't look as cool, but looks more stable (here's an example of a nice site). Not a Livejournal fan, aesthetically and programming-wise it looks like a bitch.

Personally, I'm all for moving.

Vanity Fair

by jaydro
One of the things to look forward to for many years before the Oscars has been the extravagant Hollywood Issue of Vanity Fair. In the past they've featured in-depth articles (that were sometimes later turned into books) on subjects like the making of Eyes Wide Shut, the making of Sweet Smell of Success, the rise and fall of various production companies and Hollywood go-getters, etc. etc. Great stuff. Plus for eye candy there was the cover and then the, uh, elaborate photo essay on the inside.

I can't remember last year's issue off the top of my head, and I didn't even buy this year's after I happened across it in, of all places, the public library. (Aside: if only they'd sell coffee there I think they'd make a real go of it!) After flipping through over 200 pages of ads and filler, I finally got to a real article, a bit of a ho-hummer on the making of A Face in the Crowd, a movie worth seeing for those who don't remember Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts or the Original Amateur Hour, which are the roots of the Idol shows today. Anyway, the article tries to make more of the film than I think was there, and I saw it for the first time less than two years ago. You can look at the rest of the issue yourself, but I thought the film noir theme fell flat, with a bit of a perfunctory essay on the genre and their most over-the-top Hollywood Portfolio yet, which did nothing for me, and didn't look as good as the staged shoots HBO does for each season of The Sopranos. The issue's ad spread for Disney theme parks with Scarlett Johansson et al looked more inspired, and was also photographed by Annie Leibovitz no less. Come on guys, just give us Jennifer Aniston soaking wet in the grotto at the Playboy Mansion again, that's all we want! Wow, everything I've talked about here was photographed by Leibovitz.

Anyway, I came away thinking that it shouldn't help the MPAA's fears of piracy that I found the most fascinating article in the Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue to be the long piece on The Pirate Bay. I had no idea those guys were in Sweden, and I thought they had been shut down a long time ago.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

This is a very cool poster

by Nick

It'll probably never be anywhere near as big as South Park, but this is still a damn nice poster. Always good to see someone strive for art in a poster. I'll add a scene from the series that gets me every goddamn time.

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Oscar Picks

by Jackrabbit Slim
Here are mine. If you have yours, post them!

Best Picture: Babel, by a nose over The Departed. I don't buy the Little Miss Sunshine talk.
Best Director: Martin Scorsese
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, although I'm rooting for O'Toole
Best Actress: Helen Mirren. Duh.
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, in an upset over Murphy
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson
Best Original Screenplay: Little Miss Sunshine
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Departed
Best Animated Film: Cars
Best Makeup: Pan's Labyrinth
Best Foreign Film: Pan's Labyrinth
Best Art Direction: Dreamgirls
Best Cinematography: Children of Men
Best Costumes: Dreamgirls
Best Visual Effects: Pirates of the Caribbean
Best Editing: Babel
Best Score: The Queen
Best Song: Listen, from Dreamgirls
Best Sound Mixing: Dreamgirls
Best Sound Editing: Pirates of the Caribbean
Best Documentary Feature: An Inconvenient Truth

As for the Short Subjects, I haven't a clue.

Lost, Feb. 21 episode

by Jackrabbit Slim
The title of the episode was "Stranger in a Strange Land." Discuss in comments.

Monday, February 19, 2007

I'm a Cranky Old Man Who Doesn't Like Change

by Brian
What the hell have they done to the IMDb?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Opening in Dallas, Weekend of 02/16

by Brian
Breach (trailer): Looks interesting, and if the reviews so far are any indication, it’s actually good! Imagine that - from a major studio! And right here in the middle of February!

God Grew Tired of Us (trailer): I don’t want to be a jerk, but why does this look so insufferable? Am I supposed to laugh when the guy says that he expects using electricity to be very hard? That doesn’t seem funny. In fact, it seems downright condescending to laugh at that. What kind of a world do we live in where grown men have never used electricity? But yet, it gets a laugh every time I see it. Ha, ha, those charmingly goofy Africans with their backwards, non-electricity using ways! Maybe I’m the one that’s insufferable. Yep, that’s probably it.

The Italian (trailer): Talk about insufferable. Might go see it anyway.

Ghost Rider (trailer): Might get dragged along to this, in which case I anticipate 100 minutes or so of Nic Cage amusing himself more than anyone else in the theater. As usual. (Sorry, that last part was mean.)

Music and Lyrics (trailer): Might get dragged along to this, too, but whatever. It’s February, so these things happen.

Opal Dream (trailer): Indy kids movie by Peter Cattaneo, who did The Full Monty, which as far as I can recall wasn’t bad. Only playing daytime shows at one theater.

Bridge to Terabithia (trailer): Not much to say. Don’t have kids. Didn’t like Narnia enough to see every movie about kids in a fantasy world.

Daddy’s Little Girls (trailer): Man, lots of kids in movies this week.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lost, Feb. 14 Episode

by Jackrabbit Slim
Discuss in comments.