Friday, June 30, 2006

A Star Trek Conspiracy?

by jaydro

I haven't been duplicating post subjects between my (mostly moribund) personal blog and here, but I'm making an exception in this case. This is big. Really big. Well, maybe not.

I just know that at least Chris has been watching Star Trek: 2.0 on G4, and last night they aired the last episode of the second season, "Assignment: Earth." I've been sitting on a potentially explosive bit of trivia about this episode for around ten years now, and when the trivia crawl from G4 didn't come through I knew I had to finally go public with what I know.

This episode has a strange double coincidence with real-life events. Spock mentions that the same day the US is launching an orbital nuclear warhead platform there will also be an important assassination. The missile shown in the episode is actually stock footage of the launch of Apollo 4, the first unmanned test of a Saturn V. Less than a week after the episode's first airing Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated the same day as the launch of Apollo 6, the second unmanned test of a Saturn V. Spock's other "prediction" of a government coup in Asia did not happen that day.

I discovered this around ten years ago when researching the source of the famous inter-stage separation footage from Saturn V flights. Its appearance in this Star Trek episode nails Apollo 4 as one of the sources, since it was the only Saturn V flight to predate this.

Am I the only person to ever notice this? I looked around a lot when I was correcting the Wikipedia entry on Apollo 6 a while back and could find no other references, but I still didn't have the nerve to come forward. Others have noticed the King assassination closely followed the episode's original airdate, but as far as I know my observation of the Saturn V coincidence has been unpublished (other than in my own e-mails to skeptical, er, unimpressed friends). Until now.

I'm adding it to Wikipedia. Then it will turn up everywhere....

Opening in Dallas, weekend of 06/30

by Brian
Not a lot of quantity this week, but the quality is about as good as it gets.

Movie I’ve already seen:

Superman Returns (trailer): My full review is here.


The Fallen Idol: The latest re-issue from Rialto makes its way to town. This is apparently the film Carol Reed did immediately before The Third Man, one of my faves. Like that film, this one is also based on a Graham Greene script; both he and Reed were nominated for their work on Idol back in 1949. But, it’s apparently been largely forgotten since then, and I’d never heard of it until I saw it on the re-issue slate. Can’t wait.

Lady Vengeance: Chan-wook Park’s follow-up to Oldboy finally arrives, after spending nearly a year traveling around the world to various festivals and countries that care more than ours. There’s been decidedly little fanfare for this, considering how well Oldboy was received, but distributor Tartan Films has never really seemed on the ball to me in terms of marketing beyond a niche audience. So I guess that figures.

The Devil Wears Prada (trailer): I don’t really know what to think about this. It doesn’t look great, but the thing about Meryl Streep is that her movies are always a little bit better than you think they will be. Not that I’ve rigorously tested that theory, but it seems right. And at any rate, it looks better than Prime did.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Superman Returns

by Brian
There’s a scene in Superman Returns (it’s in the trailer, so this isn’t a spoiler) where Superman catches the falling globe from the top of the Daily Planet building on his shoulders. This is a very obviously symbolic, yet evocative, image, and I think that if you’re going to include such an image in your movie, you have an obligation to make the rest of the film live up to it.

The original Superman, which I watched again this past weekend, didn’t really go in this direction. It was more of a straight-ahead comic book movie, and at times was accordingly silly. But it worked because it didn’t take itself all that seriously, and never tried to force the idea of ‘Superman as messiah’ on us. Superman Returns, however, seems downright bizarre in the way the hero is treated with such reverence, while Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor almost seems to be operating in a Schumacher Batman film.

To say that this film has an uneven tone doesn’t even begin to describe it, and to someone who actually finds the idea of Superman-as-savior interesting, it’s a huge letdown. There’s a lot of rich thematic ground to be covered in the Superman myth, but Bryan Singer seems content with a lot of empty symbolism instead. Unlike last year’s Batman Begins, or Singer’s own X-Men films, there’s no effort to come up with a plot that ties into the overarching themes – just another dumbass Luthor land grab.

Adding to the problems is the casting, especially of Brandon Routh. Unfortunately, he brings nothing to the table except for an odd smirk that I was unable to interpret. Kate Bosworth isn’t really able to pull off the mommy or reporter angles she’s given here; she looks overwhelmed. And my general dislike of Kevin Spacey has now turned into outright hatred. The movie simply dies whenever he’s on screen. He’s awful.

Movie I've Seen the Most

by Jackrabbit Slim
Following up on the Slate piece, what is the movie you've seen the most? Mine would have to be Annie Hall, which I've probably seen close to forty times. Ironically, I did not see it when it first came out, but first saw it on HBO in '78 or so. I then watched it everytime HBO aired it, and many times since then. I've also seen Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters many times.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Miami Vice

by Jackrabbit Slim
Jeff Wells writes that Miami Vice is "the Big One" to watch for this summer. Hoo boy. Maybe I'm in the wrong demographic, but I have little desire to see this. I respect Michael Mann (I loved Heat, Last of the Mohicans, and The Insider, liked Collateral, was iffy on Ali) but I didn't care for the TV show, and Colin Farrell has fast become an actor to avoid. Unless the critics cream all over this I'll likely pass and wait for the DVD.

What is everyone else's anticipation of Miami Vice?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Darwin's Tortoise Harriet Dies at 176

by jaydro

Or is it 175? I was waiting for Nick to post this, but, ah, I guess he's otherwise occupied. Not as old as the venerable Addwaita, but was the oldest documented living animal (Addwaita's papers were never in ze proper order) and even more interesting as possibly haven been collected by Sir Charles Darwin from the Galapagos. Rest in peace, Harriet.

Making the audience laugh

by Professor Wagstaff
A few years back I went to to a local theatre to see Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau in two 'Pink Panther' films from the 1970s (Return of the Pink Panther & Revenge of the Pink Panther). Something happened during this screening that I haven't experienced in a cinema before or since. The moment that Sellers appeared on the screen as Clouseau the audience started cracking up... even before his character had done anything funny (something he did plenty of in both films).

It's the only time I've seen this audience reaction in a cinema and it's a massive advantage for a film comedy to possess - to have a comic character who audiences inherently perceive as funny even without him/her attempting to be funny. Obviously in the situtaion I saw it a large portion of the audience knew of the Inspector Clouseau character very well but it was a tribute to Sellers and director Blake Edwards that he'd become so highly regarded in this manner. (Regrettably Edwards began over-exploiting this potential with his desperate attempts to create more Clouseau films post Sellers' death in the 1980s and beyond but that's another story).

Has anyone else had similar experiences where cinema audiences they've been in have automatically found particular characters or actors funny no matter what they did in a movie?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 06/23

by Brian
It’s a very, very lean week:

Wordplay (trailer): I’m not a crossword puzzle fan. I don’t have the patience to figure things out, and I never know more than two or three things right off the bat. But, a good movie is a good movie, and this one’s gotten great reviews across the board.

Peaceful Warrior (trailer): This one has assuredly NOT gotten good reviews. Which is too bad, because it looks fairly interesting and Nick Nolte has been consistently good for a long time now. On the other hand, it’s not hard to believe that the director of Powder would make a bad film.

Waist Deep (trailer): Directed by Vondie Curtis-Hall, who way back in the day (1997) did a pretty decent movie called Gridlock’d, with Tupac and Tim Roth. Then he did Mariah Carey’s Glitter, unseen by me but from what I’ve heard, apparently not as decent. This one looks fairly routine, but I would be surprised if it were truly awful.

Click (trailer): The only Adam Sandler movie that I ever really liked (and I mean out of all his movies) was Happy Gilmore. This one looks especially bad, the presence of Chris Walken notwithstanding. It’ll be interesting to see how this one does, because I’d think that his main audience is rapidly starting to outgrow him, if they haven’t already.

Also this week, we have Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation, which is not my thing but feels noteworthy nonetheless.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 06/16

by Brian
Drawing Restraint 9 (trailer): Honestly, I don’t know much about this movie other than what I’ve seen from the trailer, which I’ve seen several times and is thoroughly, extraordinarily grating. But it’s a very lackluster week, so what the hell.

Nacho Libre (trailer): Having not seen Napolean Dynamite but being annoyed with it all the same, I’m not all that eager to see a movie that’s already having a similar effect before it’s even released. Probably will, though.

Forgiving Dr. Mengele (trailer at official site): I presume the title of the film speaks for itself, although I have to wonder what the greater implications of forgiveness in this situation are. I can’t really see any, frankly.

The Lake House (trailer): Looks pretty bad, so this may be a bad time to ask, but why’s everyone always picking on Keanu Reeves? I’ve always thought he was a better actor than his reputation allows.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (trailer): Haven’t seen the first two, won’t see this. I surrender any choice comments to the floor.

Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (trailer): I used to love Garfield as a kid, but now I’m not altogether sure why. When I read the old books that I have, they don’t seem particularly funny. Maybe the animated cartoons were better; I really don’t remember. Anyway, I’ve outgrown it now, but even if I hadn’t I don’t think these two movies would have appealed to me, at all.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pulp Fiction

by jaydro

I've always been a fan of film noir, but other than reading some of the established classics by Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and a few others, I had never really plunged into the literary world of crime pulp fiction.

Until now.

It was because of publicity over Stephen King's novel, The Colorado Kid, written for the Hard Case Crime series imprint, that I first became aware of these books. I later admired the cover of the King book in a bookstore. Though I do have nostalgia for that sort of cover, I'm not really a Stephen King fan, so my interest wasn't quite piqued. It wasn't until a newly-renovated local public library actually put up a large display of the books in the series that I actually read one (I decided to start with the first one published and then continue serially--sometimes I'm just like that). And then another. And another. And another....

So far I haven't been disappointed. They're just like watching good film noir, only they're not restricted by the Hayes Code. The worst one so far has been Erle Stanley Gardner's (of Perry Mason fame) Top of the Heap, which was a bit too upbeat for my taste. The series mixes classic pulp titles with new material.

If the first few paragraphs of Grifter's Game don't suck you in....

Deadwood and Dashiell Hammett

by jaydro
Shoot, I meant to get this up before last weekend and I just plum forgot. I happened across the current issue of American Heritage (I loved that magazine and used to subscribe before I realized I had more copies stacked up waiting for me than I'd ever be able to read--I used to be a real magazine whore) and found an interesting interview with Deadwood creater/producer/writer David Milch (cool--and it's online, too!). The interview had an interesting sidebar (also there in the online version) about a novel I had forgotten about which apparently has influenced a lot of people: Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett. I must find this book, you see, because lately I've been on a bit of a binge of novels of that ilk....

The article's other sidebar comparing Deadwood to Gunsmoke was interesting, too. I was never much of a fan of that show (I always preferred Bonanza), but I just happened to watch last night a 1966 episode guest-starring a chubby William Shatner along with (!) Ben Johnson and Timothy Carey. What a cast!

I haven't watched the new episode of Deadwood yet, and I actually just finished the last season not too long ago (I have to get in a certain mood to enjoy it).

On a related note, The Proposition is arriving in area theaters tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to venturing back into a theater to see it. For a while now I've been just not feeling that up for going out to see a movie--I think all I've seen this year have been Inside Man and V for Vendetta. I'm not sure what it is--friends too busy, lack of presentation quality, lack of overall film quality, lack of audience quality. Mainstream films I miss and finally get around to watching on HBO usually make me feel like I've wasted two hours of my life--case in point being two I watched yesterday: Flight of the Phoenix (which except for some cool visual and aural effects is completely unnecessary if you enjoyed the original) and The Secret Window (Depp was good but overall it had a been-there-seen-that feel).

Split Decision on Superman

by Jackrabbit Slim
Surprise, surprise. Jeff Wells and Dave Poland appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum on their opinions of Superman Returns.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Capote - fading from the memory

by Professor Wagstaff
Towards the end of its cinema run here in Australia I watched 'Capote' a couple of months back.

Certain things struck me about it: it was well-made, intelligent and a deserved Oscar-winning performance to Phillip Seymour Hoffman... and almost totally unmemorable. There isn't one scene in the film that really stood out as top notch. Even another recent biopic 'Walk The Line - which I felt was pretty pedestrian and TV-movie standard for the most part - had two memorable scenes (his first meeting with Sam Phillips and his confrontation late in the film with his father) that stay in the memory because of their intensity and quality.

Thinking back to it, there's virtually no scene that stays in the mind, as if the entire film has faded from my mind. Why is this? I think, for me at least, the film lacked emotion and depth, and had a cold and informal feeling about it. This is especially so with regards to the fate of Perry Smith, which simply does not have the emotional impact that it should have (in particular the scene where his hanging is shown which, considering how the film had been setup beforehand, should've been a shattering moment for the viewer).

The film was pretty successful in conveying the rise and fall of Truman Capote over the period covered during the film's duration. The info mentioned at the end of the film that Capote virtually ceased to be functioning writer after finishing 'In Cold Blood' is understandable and convincing considering what we've seen in the film and the quality of the performance of Hoffman.

But overall, considering the subject matter and critical praise, 'Capote' was a fairly considerable disappointment for me.

Monday, June 12, 2006


by Brian
Cars falls somewhere on the low end of a list of Pixar films, right around A Bug’s Life and Monsters, Inc. Which is not, of course, to say that it’s a bad film – far from it.

We’ve come to expect nothing less than the best from Pixar in terms of craft and story, and while Cars certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the former, it does lag a bit on the story front. It lacks the depth of The Incredibles and Finding Nemo or the wit of Toy Story 2. In short, it feels like more of a kids’ movie than the other Pixar offerings, even with a two-hour run time.

But even with a nearly two-hour run time, it never feels slow or boring, and that’s because, unsurprisingly, it’s expertly crafted and the animation is occasionally downright stunning. The race that opens the film is especially amazing, and like the best of other Pixar films looks like a weird kind of photo-real animation, while at the same time being a masterfully shot and edited action scene.

One thing that pleasantly surprised me was Larry the Cable Guy as Mater, the tow truck. Like everyone else I know, I can’t stand normally stand the guy, but he’s really great here. It’s a Tom Arnold-in-True-Lies kind of role, where he shows the world that he can be ingratiating, after all. We’ll see if, unlike Arnold, he ever does it again.

And, as always, the end credits are downright inspired.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Opening in Dallas, Weekend of 06/09

by Brian
Cars (trailer): A new Pixar movie is a genuine cinema event. Reviews have so far been mixed, though it seems generally on the favorable side. Given Pixar’s flawless track record, though, I frankly wouldn’t care if every review was terrible. Side note: new trailer for Pixar’s Ratatouille available today.

A Prairie Home Companion (trailer): Never been a big fan of the admittedly few Altman movies I have seen, but this actually looks fairly interesting. Also, in their short existence, Picturehouse Films has distinguished themselves as a very high-quality joint. Jackrabbit Slim has a more in-depth preview here.

The King (trailer): Always an interesting actor, William Hurt really became something of a must-see for me after last year’s performance in A History of Violence. Like Nick Nolte, he seems to have accepted his status as a character actor and really made something of it.

Sketches of Frank Gehry (trailer): Sydney Pollack-directed documentary about architect Frank Gehry. Wells dug it, and that’s good enough for me to go check it out.

Look Both Ways (trailer): From the description, this movie sounds kinda … precious. But the trailer plays OK, might be interesting. The movie’s won a bunch of awards, especially in its native Australia, but I haven’t heard much about it. If I get time, I’ll go.

Twelve and Holding (trailer): I somewhat unfortunately, I feel, missed Michael Cuesta’s debut film, L.I.E., about as unfortunate as one can feel for missing a movie about a pederast doing all kinds of pederasty stuff. But I’m really, really tired of movies about disaffected suburban youths and all the terrible things they do when their parents aren’t around, and until I hear that this one has more to offer than, say, Thirteen, I’m probably going to skip this.

The Omen (trailer): Yawn, I guess. I’d love to get all worked up about a dumb-ass remake and the stupid release date but I honestly couldn’t care less. Whatever.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Most Important News Story ... Ever

by Brian
Via Movie Marketing Madness, comes an AP story that shows all too well that snakes on a plane isn't just something you find in the movies.

Watch out, people. I had thought that reptile discontent was limited to alligators in Florida, but it's now clear that all reptiles are joining together in a revolution against their human oppressors. I, for one, think that it's about time, and I welcome our new reptilian overlords.

More Reasons to Pity the People of Louisiana

by Jackrabbit Slim
We debated the gay marriage issue ad nauseum in the Hollywood Elsewhere forums, but I had just had to point out the moronic statement made by Louisiana's Republican Senator, David Vitter:

"I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one."

He was speaking of the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment. Seriously.

This is a man who represents a state that is still reeling from a devastating hurricane. I hope the people of New Orleans who are still suffering from the effects of that storm are comforted by the fact that they have a senator who is working hard to make sure that there are no same-sex marriages.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Prairie Home Companion

by Jackrabbit Slim

I'm looking forward to the release of A Prairie Home Companion this Friday. I've been a listener of the radio show for about ten years now, and really enjoy Garrison Keillor's folksy, deadpan, Midwestern-flavored, liberal-tinged style of humor. I'm not as particularly interested in the usual musicians he has on the show, which usually run to the country, bluegrass and gospel style, but it doesn't hurt to get exposed to that sort of music once a week.

But beyond that, this film was directed by Robert Altman, which is intriguing, and has a dream cast: Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, and even Lindsay Lohan!

I'm sure this film will be a hit with the teensy little NPR crowd, but wonder how it will do in multiplex land. This past weekend the radio show was at the Hollywood Bowl, and featured Streep, Madsen and Reilly doing radio acting, which was fun to listen to. Streep had a tour-de-force as a forties-era radio actress, who did everything from the farm report to a soap opera.

So, here's hoping this meets the expectations of PHC fans and finds a larger audience.

Friday, June 02, 2006

I'm Ready For Some Footie (A Fan's Perspective)

by Count Olaf
I may be the only one here who feels this way (and that's OK), but I'm not sure that any other event instills national pride/patriotism in me the way the World Cup does.

Maybe it's the fact that the US has always been the underdog coupled with bygone days of playing soccer growing up, but I am absolutely beside myself with anticipation about what's going down just a few days from now. I've been sending my friends the video and the US Soccer Attacks countdown from Nike Soccer for the past few weeks. I'm psyched about the "Don't Tread On Me" campaign....even to the point of considering buying a jersey for $80!

The Olympics come close to giving me a "proud to be an american" feeling, but it's nothing like the Mundial every 4 years. My heart beats faster and faster everytime I see that Gatorade "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" commerical on TV. When watching the aforementioned Nike "Joga Bonito" video I almost get choked up when the players salute the crowd.

How I wish this could be something that brought the nation together....other countries practically shut down when their nation is playing an important match. Over here you might find a blurb in the last page of sports section about the Men's National team making it to the 2nd round. It's CRAZY! I read something on FOX sports (here and here) that summed it up nicely: America only wants winners. We only root for what we're good at. Just making it to the tourney is a godsend for most countries - for us unless we're playing in the finals, don't even bother me. We just don't understand the privilege it is to even make it there. France won the thing (beat Brazil even!) in 1998 and couldn't even score a goal in 2002. It is a tough sport to stay consistently good at as a nation. Which makes Brazil's record even that much more amazing. (my Mom was born and raised in Brazil, so I start rooting for them when the US is out....not too soon, I hope)

Elsehwere, it's a completely different mentality. Other nations wrap up every socio-political-religious issue into a football match. Which seems kind of silly, I know, but sports often do bring people together. In the weirdest ways...

In 2002 with the cup in South Korea & Japan games were not on at normal times here. In the 3rd round with US vs. Germany I woke up at 3am to watch the hard fought match until 5am to see us go down swinging in a 1-0 decision. It was awesome, but I admit that I got a little depressed. I remember reading internet items about how it felt like you were in some sort of cult staying up late or waking up early to watch a game halfway around the world. And you couldn't talk about it with many people because America doesn't "get" soccer. It was a good feeling to know that other people were losing sleep over the tourney like I was.

It's still so bad here that Hasbro is marketing this game ( overseas only. They won't touch the US because no one would buy it. But here I am trying to get it from AmazonUK and they won't ship it to me! BURN! I'm an amateur monopoly collector and amateur soccer's my dream!

Anyway, all this is to say "GO USA". I'd love to be over there with Sam's Army in the stands, but a trip to Germany just isn't in the cards. I'm pumped and excited to see what happens to us in the Group of Death.

I ♥ Muties

by LesterG

From a USA Today article on Fox's plans for the X-Men franchise:

"The studio is also exploring a movie with Three Kings director David O. Russell based on the character of Emma Frost, a sexy mutant telepath who can transform her skin into diamonds. She is an X-Men comics regular but was not featured in the movies."

Ok, to geek out for a second -

I was pretty stoked about David O. Russell potentially doing the "Silver Surfer" film, but this easilly trumps it.

Emma Frost is one of the most complex (and entertaining) characters in the X-Men mythos. Originally written as a one-dimensional villain, she really came into her own during Grant Morrison's 2001-2004 run on the books.

Now, how the heck FOX is going create a viable spin-off film with her as the lead is a mystery - but this is certainly a project to watch.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 06/02

by Brian
Slow week:

An Inconvenient Truth (trailer): I doubt it will come as any surprise to anyone that this is on my must-see list. I've never liked the title, though; it seems a little bit smart-assy, and I suspect it will turn a few skeptical folks off. Ditto the tagline: "By far the most terrifying film you will ever see." I know what they're going for, but it doesn't work. And this poster is just a travesty. So, I think the marketing has been pretty silly, for a movie that seems ... not silly.

The Break-Up (trailer): I don't know about you, but I'm preparing to be extremely underwhelmed. Here's a question: why is the movie PG-13, when the trailer plays up the nude Jennifer Aniston thing so much? How committed are the filmmakers to the material when they're obviously trying to have it both ways - playing up the sex angle, while still being all things to everyone enough to be PG-13?

Free Zone (trailer at New Yorker site): As the trailer makes clear, Hana Laszlo won Best Actress at Cannes last year for her role in this film, about three Jewish women traveling in Jordan's Free Zone. Very little publicity for a movie with Natalie Portman, even by indie standards. Reviews have generally been less than glowing.

District B13 (trailer): French action movie from 2004 now getting a US release. Nick did a mini-review last week. I have little interest.