Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I have had it with these Mother F@ckin' Hydra Agents on this Mother F@ckin' Hellicarrier

The short of it. When you go see Iron Man this weekend (and really every single Sickness Cinema reader should) stick around to the end credits if you want to see something that will make nerds squeal like Yoda just unleashed the dragon on Christopher Lee for the first time.

SPOILER WARNING:

I mean it, turn back now if you don't want to know.

According to CHUD and contrary to early reviews of the film, Samuel L. Jackson WILL be in Iron Man right at the very end of the film as Col. Nicholas Fury. Will he ask Robert Downey Jr. to join some group he's forming called the Avengers? EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE I hope so.

Yeah that's right, this guy:

is playing this guy:I am a happy, HAPPY blogger.

He's going to be VERY popular

Today's imdb poll (always good for a brief amusement) was particularly interesting today. The question was of twenty iconic horror movie-villains which scares you the most? I voted for my favorite, Frankenstein's monster, though I take umbrage at Frankenstein's momster being called a villain. He's an inherently sympathetic character, if not THE most sympathetic character in most iterations of the Frankenstein myths. In fact many monsters on the list are misunderstood or just want to be left alone. The fact remains that quite often man (and I apologize for the forthcoming cliche) is the greatest monster of all.
Why is Frankenstein my favorite, you may wonder? Well, simply because Frankenstein's monster is the monster trying to do right. He's what we feel like when we look in the mirror and feel ugly, despised, foolish. We look to the heavens and reach out for understanding, asking why were we created. You can attach all sorts of meanings on Frankenstein but basically he's the ultimate emo monster. He was born into a world he never asked for and his "monstrous" stems primarily from being misunderstood. Plus, no lie, the guy has the most consistently quality films (excepting that awful Branagh one, ugh). I wouldn't mind seeing Guillermo Del Toro or Mark Romanek or Frank Darabont take a crack at the big guy.

So who do I think genuinely belongs on a list of horror villains? Let's run down the list.

Norman Bates, Psycho-Ok fair pick, although (spoiler alert for a nearly fifty year old movie) isn't Mother Bates the real villain of Psycho?

Chucky, Child's Play-A serial killer's soul transfered into a red-headed freckled doll (brrrr), yep villain. Plus Brad Dourif is just...unsettling.

Count Dracula-Depends on the version of Dracula. In some cases he's just an immortal in love, in other versions he's a total dick.

Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-You can see the problem of having both on the list, right? Take him off.

Freddy Kreuger, A Nightmare on Elm Street-Child molesting dream serial killer who doesn't know how to shut up, pretty damn villainous.

The Gill Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon-I really like this guy. We messed with him first, he's just chilling in the Amazon and then boom, stupid humanity.

Imhotep, The Mummy-A cursed lover. Has the unfortunate distinction in having most of his movies suck. Doesn't quite make the cut for me.

Leatherface, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-An inbred, chainsaw wielding cannibal. Not exactly a nice guy.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs-His popularity has made him an anti-hero, but the guy is a stone-cold killer. He's currently imdb's number one pick. Go figure.

The Living Dead-Great but too many variations, they're scary but only in the right context.

Michael Myers, Halloween-Lacking in personality, but like the zombies his inhuman nature makes him truly terrifying (though one movie, a classic to be sure, would've more than sufficed).

Nosferatu, Nosferatu-There's nothing romantic or sexy about this vampyr, he's a frightening parasite and by the twentieth time they've made you watch him in film school he's kind of dull.

Pazuzu, The Exorcist-Definitely villainous, definitely frightening but the series is diminished by the fact that what inhabited Linda Blair is no longer quite THE Devil.

The Phantom, Phantom of the Opera-Poor old chandelier face. It's not his fault he got royally screwed, doesn't belong on the list.

Pinhead, Hellraiser-A pin-faced demon from hell, who according to creator Clive Barker, gets loads of fan mail. Very creepy, very evil, definitely fits the description.

Jack Torrance, The Shining-In the book I'd say no, but in the movie it's pretty clear the evil was in Jack all along.

Jason Voorhes, Friday the 13th-Most of these movies are incredibly, INCREDIBLY bad. The fact that Jason is a boring, BORING villain has a lot to do with it. At least Mike Myers is backed by first rate film making in his first outing.

The Wolf Man-Depends which version but if you're talking about Lon Chaney I'd say the poor guy is a victim to his condition, doesn't belong on the list.

What say you reader? They forget anyone major? Think I'm nuts in my choices? Put it in the comments.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fearful Symmetry

The man is suave, laconic and disarmingly handsome. His fedora is perfectly cocked, his trench-coat does not have single crease. He is a killer, but he follows the code of the samurai, he is Alain Delon's Jef Costello in Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai.

Melville, who is known for his expertly atmospheric crime thrillers, is in top form but his slow-burn approach might be difficult for modern viewers who probably associate a lightening fast cutting style with the genre. The film is filled with precise, limited movement. This not only gives it a smooth, leisurely pace but it makes any sudden burst of activity (like Jef's showdown on the bridge) all the more resonance. The plot is ridiculously simple (Jef is duped into killing a high profile target and now the authorities and mob are after him), but Melville fills his frame with activity and buoys screen-time with procedural details. The film is so meticulous that it makes the investigation against Jef just as riveting as Jef's adventures in trying to cover his ass.
It wouldn't be the first Melville film I would recommend to newbies but it's a marvelous example of the prodigious style and atmosphere that Melville is capable of creating within his frame. Cool, baby, very cool.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Looking for the buds at the bottom of the baggie

How can one even begin to critically disseminate a film like Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay? People who liked the first film are obviously going to enjoy the return of these two stoner characters and those who missed the first aren't likely to jump on now. The new film, like the first is really just a loose series of encounters strung together by the duos traveling shenanigans. What gave the film it's ballast the first time out was the strong undercurrent of resentment towards modern America's enduring stereotypes and discomfort with the other. To have two Asian protagonists in a mainstream comedy was, and still remains, something of an anomaly. Sure there was plenty of bits of scatological, anatomical and pot humor in the first film but at it's heart is that it's the story of two characters who are fed up being the sidekicks in their own lives.

Of course now Harold and Kumar are a DVD institution and much beloved. How to follow up the first film? Pretty much by more of the same. A series of comedic encounters as the duo fight for freedom. Continuing right after the first film ends Harold (John Cho), now with newfound confidence, is planning to surprise his lady-love in Amsterdam. Along for the ride is Kumar (Kal Penn) who in a decision so dumb it could only produce a modern mainstream comedy, brings a smoke-free bong aboard an international flight. Let's review: a bong... on the plane... to Amsterdam. Isn't that like bringing Mickey Mouse ears to Disney Land? To make matters worse the duo's ethnicity and the bong's resembalnce to an explosive device land the duo in Guantanao Bay. Jokes about "cockmeat sandwiches" (and the hypocrisy over sexuality in military prisons) ensue. The pair quickly escape (on a raft with Cuban immigrants of course) and the mad-dash to Texas for political clemency begins. Cho and Penn maintain solid comedic chemistry and easily fall back into their rhythm.

The world situation has not improved since the first film so the directors/writers John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg have set their sights more directly on Uncle Sam, here embodied by Rob Cordry's loutish moron special agent Ron Fox and a nerdy, nebbishy more compassionate liberal Dr. Beecher played by Sickness Cinema Favorite Roger Bart. The two men make a fun comedy duo as it was fairly amusing to see Cordry so perfectly epitomize the Bush mindset (in one particularly memorable sequenxe he shoves the photo of a young girl in Bart's face saying that in letting the boys go he is raping this girl i.e. America). In fact the film has so many comic bits and keeps them so brief that the misses are inconsequental compared to the number of hits. I'd rather the film had ditched some of the more obvious bits of gratuitous nudity and easy pot and redeneck jokes for more political satire, but that was a battle I was doomed to lose LONG ago.

I've been remiss in mentioning something. What could it be?
Right, that was it. Neil Patrick Harris makes a welcome return to the world of Harold & Kumar as a sort of raging id demi-god. He pulls up to the boys right when they need help in a sports car blasting hip-hop, devouring baggies of mushrooms and chugging a bottle of Jack Daniels with a hankering for whores. When Harris is on-screen the film regains the originals go-anywhere, do-anything energy. Too bad he isn't around for very long (though the faithful would do well to stick around to the end credits). One wonders why Harris isn't around more as his appearance really does give the film a goose at the half-way mark, perhaps we'll get a NPH spin-off film.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Sickness' Cinema Guide to Summer '08 Part Two

And we're back with June, separating the studs from the duds. You can check out the month of May right here.

You Don't Mess with the Zohan
(June 6)
Premise: Mossad agent Adam Sandler (okaaaay) ups and moves to New York City to become a hairstylist. Hillairity, needless to say, ensues.
The Sickness ingredient: Produced by Judd Apatow (I know). Nice for little Jewish kids to have an Israeli hero who doesn't cry during sex (thank you Eric Bana).
What worries me: Apatow and broad comedy don't always go together. Hopefully this collaboration will bring out the best of the two men, they do go way back.

Kung-Fu Panda (June 6)
Premise: Shark Tale but with Kung-Fu Pandas.
The Sickness Ingredient: Interesting setting, I like the animation style.
What worries me: Where to even begin? The annoying AMC promo adds that some idiot in the theater always laughs at? The use of "Kung-Fu Fighting" over a martial arts sequence for the billionth time? The casting of celebrities over actors? The fact that Dreamworks has yet to turn out a single half-decent computer animated feature? Take your pick.

Mongol (June 6)
Premise: The epic story of Genghis Kahn (in Russian).
The Sickness Ingredient: Big, fancy epic scope. Good advanced buzz and an Oscar nominee for best foreign feature.
What worries me: Sweeping epic fatigue and the fact that the nominees for foreign film that have already been released were not great.

The Incredible Hulk (June 13)
Premise: He's a big, green, shirtless monster and you wouldn't like him when he's angry. By why are we talking about Dick Cheney?
The Sickness ingredient: A newly revamped cast (Ed Norton, Tom Roth, Liv Tyler) and a director who loves action, Louis Letterier (Unleashed, Transporter 2) should amend some of the problems with the ambitious but ultimately frustrating first Hulk movie...
What worries me: Except for the fact that there has been a very public snit between Norton and the studio, Norton wants more introspection, the studio wants more action. Not good. Also the fact that the final battle between the Hulk and the Abomination in the trailer looks pretty boring.

The Happening (June 13)
Premise: Something is... happening (ooooo) that's causing people to mysteriously die (or kill themselves). It's all directed by M. Night Shyamalan (what a twist!).
The Sickness ingredient: When M. Night pulls it off (Sixth Sense, Unbreakable) or mostly pulls it off (Signs) the results are pretty damn impressive. The cast is really likable too (Wahlberg and Deschanel).
What worries me: Shyamalan has been trending downwards for a long time now, though I guess that's what happens when your head is shoved firmly up your own butt. Stick to directing and stop writing, please.
SC Pick: Get Smart (June 20)
Premise: Agent Maxwell Smart is introduced to a new generation.
The Sickness ingredient: Good action comedy is damn near impossible to pull off but it looks like Peter Anger Management Segal has pulled it off here. Also the cast virtually guarantees a good time (Carrell, Hathaway, Koechner, Arkin, the Rock).
What worries me: Maybe the trailer has given away all the best bits. Carrell had a rough time with an fx heavy movie last summer (though THAT was doomed from the start).

The Guru (June 20)
Premise: Mike Myers tries to be Peter Sellers, fails.
The Sickness ingredient: Well, at least it' s a new character, kind of.
What worries me: Hey remember all those "klassic komedy katchphrases" from the Austin Powers movies? Yeah, expect that ALL over again. Go rent The Party instead.

Kit Kittridge: American Girl
(June 20)
Premise: Young girl with indomitable spirit has fun in the Great Depression. Comically torments Wallace Shawn.
The Sickness ingredient: Wallace Shaw, Stanley Tucci, Joan Cusack, Jane Krakowski-that's a pretty solid supporting line-up.
What worries me: Will young girls respond to a period comedy where the girl's concerns aren't entirely superficial? God I hope so.
SC Top Pick: Wall-E (June 27)
Premise: Robot discovers inner-life, love and the desire to be more then just a cleaning unit.
The Sickness ingredient: PIXAR, the only name you can trust absolutely in film. Plus for all intents and purposes this is a silent film. Also a good friend of mine (I wouldn't dare expose her identity) saw the complete film and said that it was "amazing" and "very different from anything they've ever done before."
What worries me: Do we, as a society, deserve a movie this good?

Wanted (June 27)
Premise: Comic scribe Mark Millar sells out so that you can watch yet another movie where pretty people shoot each other.
The Sickness ingredient: At least it looks fairly ridiculous.
What worries me: Why call it Wanted if it looks not one iota like the comic?

Carold & Humor Go to Blog Castle

I have a bunch of links at the ready for you but today we'll be breaking tradition to just focus on ONE. After much persuading and nudging my friend Cary has FINALLY started his own TV blog. When I tell you this is the best thing to come to the internet since my blog I know what I'm talking about. Cary's subject is TV and that makes this site like his older sister. The site was spawned in part because of this one and I am totally flattered. His taste and mine run very close together and he's a very solid writer. Basically if you visit my site daily you should be visiting his site the second you're done here. He'll be covering all the shows I love but don't have the time to cover here; The Office, 30 Rock, Lost, How I Met Your Mother, Pushing Daisies, Friday Night Lights, Project Runway, Law and Order: SVU and many, many more. From what he's told me he has some very cool recurring features coming up too, so you aren't going to want to miss that!

Believe me when I say that the man loves TV the way I love movies. In fact even when drunk he doesn't call out the names of people he declares his love for TV. THAT, my friends, is devotion to your medium.

So where can you find this Cadillac of TV blogs? Right here. Or you can do what I did and just make http://ijustlovetvsomuch.blogspot.com/ part of your daily website visiting rotation. Well, get on it. By the way, in case you're wondering, my June summer preview will be up later today. Until then enjoy the site.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Sickness' Cinema Guide to Summer '08 Part One

Summer is here and that means one thing, big damn exciting BLOCKBUSTERS! Some are great, others are crap and sometimes a tiny, great all-time classic comes out. It should be pointed out that Once arrived in theaters in late July, early August and I certainly liked that more than the Pirates, Spiders and Shreks.
So without further ado I will be taking you through a multi-post look from May to August ranking what movies you should see to have the most Sickness' Cinema approved (or SC Picks as they'll be labeled) summer.

May
SC Top pick: Iron Man (May 1st, 8 pm baby)
Premise: Robert Downey Jr. takes to the skies as the armored Avenger, is generally awesome.
The Sickness ingredient: Jon Favreau is a solid director who deeply cares about the opinions of fans and never lets effects over-ride performance. Figure that along with a ready to be a movie star Robert Downey Jr and the writers of Children of Men and how could this be anything short of invincible.
The thing that has me worried: Not enough time in the suit? I don't know, there doesn't appear to be any cracks in the armor (shameful).
SC Pick: Son of Rambow (May 2)
Premise: Young British rebel teams up with quiet, home-school child to remake Rambo.
The Sickness ingredients: Directed by the underrated Hitchhikers director Garth Jennings, lots of good early reviews, cute premise, great trailer.
The thing that has me worried: Might get lost in the shuffle.

Made of Honor
(May 2)
Premise: My Best Friend's Wedding with the genders revered.
The Sickness ingredients: Patrick Dempsey is in his element, admit it the man is a good romantic comedy lead. Michelle Monaghan in lingerie montage. The presence of Rome's Kevin McKidd means someone may get stabbed with a trident...maybe. Could do worse for a date movie.
The thing that has me worried: It took three writers to churn out a My Best Friend's Wedding remake with the genders reversed?

Speed Racer (May 9)
Premise: Haha! Speed Racer you must win the race! Haha, why is bear driving car? Haha!
The Sickness ingredients: It looks like the Wachowskis have churned out an effects heavy batshit insane action film. Plus Emile Hirsch and a live action chimp as Chim-Chim. Matthew Fox is unusually fun in movies.
The thing that has me worried: It looks like the Wachowskis have churned out an effects heavy batshit insane action film.

What Happens in Vegas (May 9)
Premise: Laws of Attraction with a cash prize and dumber, younger stars.
The Sickness ingredients: The phenomenon of the random hot chick party is discussed. Rob Cordry is reliable in supporting roles, Cameron Diaz looked hot on SNL.
The thing that has me worried: Ashton Kutcher, Cameron Diaz, romantic comedy.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
(May 16)
Premise: Jesus lion to the rescue along with Prince Caspian (he represents Moses...or something).
The Sickness ingredients: Peter Dinklage AND Warwick Davis in the SAME movie.
The thing that has me worried: The first one was boring and it's story-telling was frequently flaccid, lots of cgi rushing at each-other in the previews, never a good sign. Action looks pretty damn generic post Lord of the Rings.
SC pick: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (May 23)
Premise: Indiana Jones is back. Do you really need more than that?
The Sickness ingredients: Duh duh duh, duh duh duh, duh duh DUH, duh duh duh DUH! (that's me humming the Indy score). Harrison Ford, Frank dream girl Karen Allen, Beowulf's Ray Winstone, Shia LaBeouf, nostalgia, John Williams and Senior Spielbergo.
The thing that has me worried: A strong creative hand by producer/collaborator/"Yousay peoples gonna die" creator George Lucas. Lots of fanboy whining even if it's good. Reports of a bloated running time.
SC pick: The Foot Fist Way (May 30)
Premise: Will Ferrell sports comedy sans Will Ferrell set in a martial arts dojo starring name you should know (and David Gordon Green regular) Danny McBride.
The Sickness ingredients: Loads of positive buzz from the likes of Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell and the boys at CHUD. Amusing guest spot in character on Conan.
The thing that has me worried: I didn't laugh during the trailer. But I think context will help a lot.

Sex and the City the Movie (May 30)
Premise: Really?
The Sickness ingredients: Ummmmmm. Hmmmmmm. If your girlfriend likes this show, you will probably be seeing it, so brace yourself now.
The thing that worries me: That this is continuing a bad trend.

More Sobotka bodies found in Scranton

Damn you AICN, first I waste my money on that awful Harry Knowles autobiography, then there was that time I believed the good advanced Van Helsing review and now this. It would appear everyone was a little premature on the whole Amy Adams guest appearing on the Office thing (then again I've been known to blow my load on ADubs...news before). However it turns out that one of Baltimore's finest Officer Beadie Russel aka recent Academy Award nominee Amy Ryan will be guest appearing on the Office season finale. I would like nothing better than two see these shows characters actually cross over. Just imagine it, Omar could stick up Creed for dealing, Dwight could hire on Bubs at the beet farm and Jim and McNulty could play pranks on Michael and Landsman. Oh and what would happen when Stanley met the Bunk? Any other Wire and Office cross-over bits you'd like to see? Put it in the comments.

Wow, Katy is so nice

Ahahahahahaha. Awesome.

So yeah ADubs will be making her return in the season finale of The Office and considering that we are potentially on the verge of maybe Jim/Pam nuptials (girly squeal) this could throw a major monkey into the works. Some have theorized that she may be with Roy (a fitting pairing given the context of the show), but who knows what will happen when she drives her "cute" Volkswagon Jetta onto the lot of Dunder Mifflin Scranton? You can bet your ass though that we'll be celebrating with something special here at the Sickness' Cinema.
Oh what the hell, one more clip.

I like to think that when she turns to look at the camera she's looking at me. That's healthy right?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nostalgi-ah

Bear with me, this isn't super movie related and I've had a week that's been...awkwardly similar to the last movie I reviewed.

Today as I continued to work on the big move to LA (tear) I was going through books to give away/sell (I have a lot, more then I have DVDs which is saying something) and eventually my hands passed by my high school senior year book. I probably haven't looked at this thing in...oh let's say about seven years. I used to look at it a lot during freshman year of college (because I was THAT guy) but had completely forgotten about it's contents. Well, it was quite an eye-opener. For one thing, I was in amazing shape and looked really good in high school. Really, really good. I wish to god I had dressed better but hot damn I was handsome. It's scary. If I could retroactively go back and have my current brain in my old body and purchase a way better wardrobe (apparently I used to have a closet of nothing but muscle shirts and black jeans...shudder) I probably would've gotten laid every single day. Stupid, stupid high school Sickness.

Which brings me to today's topic. As bad as the world is (Sub-prime mortgage crisis, Darfur, unrest in the Middle East, human rights violations in China, Matzah shortages, anything connected to the Bush administration, celebtards) it's tempting to lose yourself in an earlier time, a time when three massive celebrities could cram (and I mean cram) themselves into tuxes, go through a sketch that they were clearly running through for the first time while the cameras rolled and then go into a song and dance number. While I've never seen a whole episode of it, I love, LOVE the Dean Martin Show. There are a plethora of clips (and pinatas) on youtube but this one is one of my favorites. They were classy (everyone in formal wear) but at the same time silly, bawdy and chauvinistic (hot women everywhere) and had a real intimate "you're in on the joke" kind of atmosphere. Plus it's just cool to see the legendary stars of the 50's and 60's let their hair down (so to speak). Oh also it's great that time has rendered the whole Rock Hudon and Tab Hunter joke a million times more amusing (plus now we get why the boys are smirking). Much thanks to Dr. K's 100-Page Spectacular for directing me to this clip. They're doing an awesome Matt Helm (Dean Martin's spy character-yes it's as awesome as it sounds) tribute all week long so check them out.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Girl I Can't Forget


In news that should surprise no one (but should be a relief for the stumble that was Drillbit Taylor) Judd Apatow's newly produced Forgetting Sarah Marshall is an absolute success. The film deals with break-ups similar to how 40 Year Old Virgin dealt with sex and Knocked Up dealt with pregnancy; hilariously comic moments laced with emotionally honesty. The film is as fine a comedy as yet to be put out by this increasingly solid comic dream-team and Jason Segel steps it up to show the world what Freaks & Geeks and HIMYM fans already know, that Jason Segel is comedy gold. It's a rare actor that can have you in stitches at his pain and misery but Segel fills the theater with laughter with each new bout of crying.
The film's premise is simple enough. TV composer Peter Bretter (Segel) is dating the star of the police procedural drama he works on, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). Peter is doting (maybe a little too doting) and not quite as compatible with Sarah as he thinks and right at the start of the film he is dumped, a fact made all the more embarrassing that he is completely naked (the film is more than happy to show you as much flaccid Segel meat as possible). Peter becomes a total mess and follows up a suggestion by his best-friend/step-brother (the always delightful Bill Hader) goes to Hawaii to, well, forget about Sarah Marshall. Unfortunately upon arriving at the resort Peter runs into Sarah and her new beau the Bono-esque Aldous Snow (British star Russel Brand). Peter sinks further into misery, but not the audience. He eventually comes to grips with the break-up through the aide of an customer-service rep Rachel, played by the effervescent Mila Kunis, along with a variety of oddball hotel workers and guests.
The film is confidently scripted by Segel and collaborator/director Nick Stoller. It not only quickly sketches its characters and then moves smoothly from sight gags, to killer one-liners to hilarious set-pieces (many of which concern a Dracula musical...with puppets). This is the kind of film where one misses jokes because they're so busy laughing at the previous one. As a comedy it's an absolute success. The film fares less well under the relationship microscope. Rachel and Peter connect more easily then one might expect and one never sees what initially attracted Sarah to Peter. The film also trots out an awful lot of characters in it's second act and while they are all funny the plot loses some of it's momentum. The film also relies heavily on a sort of male-biased logic in order to solve a third act complication. I've talked with several women about this and across the board it seems agreed upon that Peter's actions are irredeemable. This won't be helping anyone trying to make the case for Apatow's movies trending toward a male heavy bias.

In spite of these tiny issues FSM is a constant laugh-generator and a great time at the movies. Jason Segel shows himself to be a proper leading man in the Apatow group (I would venture to say he's got far greater range than Seth Rogen [though Rogen may have superior delivery]) and Mila Kunis works wonderfully on the big screen. She's sexy, charismatic and comes off as very genuine in what would otherwise be the bland "good-girl" part. Russel Brand makes a distinct impression as the deviant Aldous Snow and I wouldn't be surprised to have him at least as well known as Steve Coogan after this role. As for Kristen Bell she doesn't quite get to demonstrate the range she showed on Veronica Mars but she does get to show her ample comic chops. Other notable members of the ensemble include Paul Rudd as a stoner surfing instructor, Jack McBrayer as a naive newlywed and Jonah Hill shows up as a greeter with a crush on Aldous Snow. It's a group like that which makes Forgetting Sarah Marshall near impossible to forget.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Screw movie-title puns: It's My Birthday

And in the style of hobbits (how did I EVER get laid?) I'll be giving YOU gifts, the gifts of links.

The one you've GOT to see: This site is compiling every great title sequence EVER. Check out the awesomeness here.

Funny: Last night's 30 Rock was an all-time classic, but last week's was nothing to sneeze at either. Entertainment Weekly has an interview with MILF Island winner Deborah right here.
Someone was kind enough to put Professor Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr. (YOU CALL HIM DR. JONES DOLL!) course syllabus online. It descends into obvious parody after a short time but the concept is still cool. Audit the course here.
The more I hear Jason Segel talk about his new Muppet Movie the more I expect total greatness, also I laughed a little.

Lists: Jeff & Patrick are at it again compiling a killer list of 10 films so bad they haven't been put on DVD yet here.
Times Online has the ten best assassins in film history (it's a decades spanning list, good for them) here.
Killer Film put out the top 10 most difficult to watch movie scenes (fair warning the descriptions are pretty gross too).
New York Magazine compiled a list of New York canon of films. Awww, I miss you already NYC.

Strangeness: Etan hooked me up with this awesome strangeness. Someone digitally removed all the birds from Hitchcock's The Birds. Behold homo-erotic undertones (sans birds) here.
Peter Bretter updated his blog again. Something about how he hates Sarah Marshall.
Someone read Amy Adams body. Yeah...even I thought this one was kind of weird.
Cracked put up a list of 10 scenes of brutal violence that are guaranteed to induce laughter. The first one has Gary Busey saying "Butt-horn" and it all goes up hill from there.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

From my brain to Apatow's camera

The other night (and by other night I mean Sunday) as I watched the Night of Too Many Stars benefit for autism (a night where the pendulum swung back and forth between delightfully hilarious and incredibly awful so many times I got motion sickness) I was pleased and delighted to briefly see Jonah Hill but befuddled. Befuddled because the basis for his appearance was a joke about how he wasn't famous enough yet to join the other celebrities on stage. Pretty galling considering it was Ben Stiller who delivered his brush-off (Duplex star Ben Stiller), the fact is that Hill has a pretty solid track record for films and Hollywood always needs a sardonic chubby guy. No, the Superbad alumnus who is going to have to be very canny in his career is McLovin' himself, Christopher Mintz-Plasse. It will be very tempting for him to take a bunch of McLovin'-esque roles in the future and coast on convention appearances if he doesn't show range (which frankly I think he has and will). Amusingly enough Chris AND Judd Apatow are well aware of this and no sooner did I have this thought THIS video showed up on the interwebs:

Awesome. What else did I want to mention? Oh right, that Mary Poppins thing I promised. It's on it's way. I promise. I want these Sickness Cannon entries to be really solid so I'm taking a little more time with this one. I think I may have been a tad premature on saying they'd be weekly. Maybe more like monthly. But that's love isn't it? It takes time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Lars Has No Clothes

Damn it I love indie movies. Oh but did I mention I love them when they're not done as an excuse for sentimental tacky crap?
Angry Spoilers follow: In case this movie passed you by (oh how I envy you if it did) the story is about Lars (Ryan Gosling), a quiet, shy man who can't bear human contact decides to order himself a real doll and pretend that it's a real person he is dating, much to the chagrin of his brother (Paul Schneider) and the surprise of his sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer, who Lars is in love with secretly). Dr. Patricia Clarkson says the best thing for Lars is for people to treat Bianca like she's real. It should help pull Lars out of his delusion. I suppose Lars could probably recover with a few people playing to his delusion but the WHOLE TOWN DOES IT! Even when Lars ISN'T AROUND! I can understand doing it when he's there but to record a voice for her to read to school children (without Lars in attendance) is fucking MADNESS! The whole town should be thrown into the loony bin. Oh those poor children. Lars eventually redirects his affection to some cute co-worker played by Kelli Garner (one of Di Caprio's chippies in The Aviator) and allows the doll to die (there is a an emergency trip to the hospital and a funeral and EVREYTHING).

Fuck Lars. Fuck the real girl. And fuck that town full of enablers. It's an infantile solution to an infantile problem, a problem that is treated like some giant revelation when in fact is abundantly clear in the film's FIRST SCENE. OK, we get it, you love your brother's wife, grow a pair and DEAL WITH IT! What an absolute load. Oh I get it, it's charming at how we're all meant to "believe" in Bianca, Lars' new plastic companion. How the miracle of advanced new-fangled psychology combined with hokey Capra-esque values bring Lars to genuine understanding and coping with his emotions. I get it. But it just doesn't work. Not for one minute. Maybe if we saw Lars when he was better at the beginning. Maybe, I don't know, I don't want to backseat direct this thing, but damn it. How is it that people couldn't WAIT to line up and shit on Juno but this film is somehow beloved? Don't think I'm without sentiment, I'm bursting at the seams waiting to meet Wall-E, I believe that Superman cannot lie (Clark Kent on the other hand...) and I get teary when Mr. Smith filibusters in Washington. But don't expect for a minute to swallow this shit in a rolo-wrapper.

I still don't see what the big deal is with Ryan Gosling, I think Emile Hirsch and Joseph Gordon Levitt are a whole lot more interesting "up and coming" actors. Emily Mortimer does do a fine American accent and David Gordon Green regular Paul Schneider is great (although his character's attitude to the whole proceeding most echoed my own). It helps that he gets an excellent bit of writing about what it means to be an adult (the saving grace of the movie for me). Kelli Garner is doing a sort of mash-up of ADubs in Junebug and Natalie Portman in Garden State, she's cute but sometimes tips into cloying. The direction is low key and nicely compliments the earnest (but frankly credibility stretching) script, which is well structured enough that I was pleased as Lars made gradual process (because I knew the movie was closer to being over). So really EVERYONE in the town goes along with it and eventually grows to love Bianca? Ugh. No wonder people hate Hollywood. It kind of reminded me of that Mr. Show sketch about Entitilitus, where people who are expected to die get heaps of praise for things they do badly, the thing about Entitilitus is that it can take somewhere between 50-70 years to kick in. This is a movie riddle with Entitilitus.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I'd do anything/for you dear anything Part Two

Here is the second part of my look at the actors and actresses that EW called "The 50 Actors we'd watch in anything." Part One, in case you missed it and are too lazy to scroll down, is located here.
26. Amy Adams-YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. Yes.
27. George Clonney-The male equivalent Amy Adams. A Man-Adams if you will? Yes, definitely yes. Our nation’s greatest movie-star/actor.
28. Tommy Lee Jones-You can tell when TeeJon doesn’t care and it makes him dull as dishwater. I’m looking at you Man of the House, MIB II and US Rangers. That said, his work in 2007 was perfect, especially that devastating closing monologue in No Country.
29. Mos Def-Def always brings it 100%. He always finds glorious, unconventional stuff to make his characters incredibly endearing like his greeting dance with Zaphod in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy or his slow, stuttered speech in Be Kind Rewind.
30. Helen Mirren-The classiest, most awardiest Dame of them all. I’d watch this Silver Fox in, on or around anything. The fact that she appears naked in a ton of her old movies makes it just that much easier.
31. Sarah Polley-Spot on. Polley is very selective in making sure she appears in only the most thoughtful material (The Sweet Hereafter, My Life Without Me). Or fun (Dawn of the Dead, Slings & Arrows).
32. Bill Nighy-An excellent legitimate choice for the list. Damn good choice. The man can do drama, the man can do comedy and he has an eye for wonderful collaborators (he was one of the first big names to jump on the Edgar Wright bandwagon).
33. Christian Bale-They only way I could like Bale more is if every single article about him commented on his bulking up or weight loss before or after each role. Damnit I’m perpetuating the cycle…the Batcycle. I don’t thnk I’ve missed a thing he’s been in since Newsies.
34. Joan Cusack-Ah yes, where would Judy Greer be without trailblazers like Cusack setting-up the way for “the funny friend?” Cusack is spot on even when she’s playing, oh I don’t know-Kate Hudson’s kooky sister. She makes bad movies tolerable but she doesn’t get me into them.
35. Alan Rickman-Wow, once you get into British character actors you really hit a vein of actors worthy of the “we’d watch in anything” category. My model for teaching…JK…Rowling.
36. Javier Bardem-I wonder if he’d be on the list a year ago? Regardless of his “topicality” Bardem is always solid, he’s BECOME a must-see.
37. Alison Janney-Three words and this one is for WW fans. Black. Vera. Wang.
38. Viggo Mortensen-Peter MacNicol put it best “He is Viggo! You are like the buzzing of flies to him!”
39. Andre Braugher-I’ll watch him in any episode of Homicide but if you think my ass is seeing Fantastic Four 2…again…you’re crazy.
40. Regina King-There really should be a subset of this list called “They make crap better” list. I wouldn’t watch Regina in anything but she makes it better.
41. Steve Carell-Since I saw Evan Almighty and have Horton Hears a Who (whom?) on my Q yes, it’s true, I will watch him in anything. But please Steve no more Almightys.
42. Paul Giamatti-In addition to being the actor I’d most like to play me in a movie I’ve been madly in love with Pig Vomit since Private Parts.
43. Mary Louise Parker-MayLo, is guaranteed gold and her taste is discriminating enough to ensure she never ends up in crap.
44. Clive Owen-The complaint that they don’t make tough guy actors like Lee Marvin and John Wayne and Robert Mitchum anymore should be that they don’t make tough guys like Lee Marvin and John Wayne and Robert Mitchum in AMERICA anymore.
45. Jeffrey Wright-I won’t let the “anything” label stretch to Invasion, that is for damn sure.
46. Julianne Moore-Um, no. She’s amazing but she has something like a 2:1 bad to good movie ratio and I simply cannot see that many bad movies.
47. Neil Patrick Harris-Yeah I would, now. If NPH keeps up his high caliber of film, TV and stage work his career will be, dare I say it, LEGENDARY.
48. Colin Firth-Can I take back that thing I said about British actors? Naw, I like him but he hasn’t had THAT role that makes me fall in man-love yet.
49. Laura Linney-The venerable Ms. Linney has thus far stayed away from falling into the Moore trap, she’s gotten close, but if she keeps having 2007’s she’ll be fine.
50. Joseph Gordon-Levitt-I haven’t seen Stop-Loss yet but I plan to and his being in it has A LOT to do with it, so yes.

Monday, April 14, 2008

All Hail the New Flesh: Part of the Sarris Blogathon

This post is part of the Andrew Sarris and The American Cinema blogathon.
I can think of no more worthy entrant into the category of Expressive Esoterica then Canadian auteur David Cronenberg. Most narrative mainstream film is marked by it's characters transformations over the course of the film; the workaholic father learns the value of hearth and home, the slacker youth straightens up under the weight of newfound responsibility, the whore with the heart of gold marries Richard Gere and so on. Heroes journeys are inherently transformative, but the films of director David Cronenberg embody transformation on a cellular level. Cronenberg has utilized graphic, fantastic transformations to underline the changes of his characters and it is one of his many marks as a director that elevates what in the hands of a less talented director be the stuff of late-night cable TV. Throughout his career Cronenberg's work has been marked by its fascination with alterations that are intimate and extraordinary and explore characters identity.

Cronenberg himself says on the topic of identity "The bigger question is that of identity. What does an identity consist of and is there a continuity of some kind in personality? Is there an absolute form of self from the beginning to the end of a person's life? Is it mental, is it physical? If you change yourself extremely in a physical way and consequently change yourself mentally, then are you the same person? You have the sense that you are, but is that just an illusion? On a romantic, personal level is this transformation different from the way you or I change? How would it affect us if we're involved in this person's life?"-Reel Conversations by George Hicknelooper

In utilizing the conventions of the horror genre, a medium that Cronenberg is exceedingly pleased to be working in, he has found a niche that has allowed him to create an extraordinary body of work for nearly three decades. On horror Cronenberg says "It seems natural to me to go where the primal energies and concerns are. With horror you are plugged directly into those things, there's no pussy-footing around." Through the prism of horror Cronenberg has tackled topics as diverse as abortion (The Brood), sexually transmitted diseases (Shivers, Rabid, the Fly), fetishes (Crash), our increasing fascinations with both televsion (Scanners, Videodrome) and virtual reality (eXinstenZ), violence (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises) and our deep unbridled fear of the unknown in the past (Spider) and future (The Dead Zone).
While Cronenberg's films can be labeled as violent and gory both these elements are precisely what the films require, they are never in excess and are never there solely to titilate. A fine example can be seen in A History of Violence, the film has two beautifully shot sex scenes, both are graphic but it MUST be noted that both underline how Tom and Edie Stall's (Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello respectively) relationship has been changed by the events of the film. The first sex scene is cute, innocent, aping the conventions of a juvenile courtship complete with Edie dressed in a cheerleader's uniform. Cronenberg's shooting of the scene is unobtrusive, revealing Edie in her outfit, the score is playful. The next time the viewer sees the two being intimate the scene is infinitely more intense. The act is shot from a skewed angle and the scene is staged more like a violent sexual assault. Eventually Edie capitulates and the act becomes more sensual but no less violent. Both scenes do a great deal to inform us of how the Stall's world has changed.
Cronenberg's success lies not just in revealing his themes and telling stories but as an accomplished director of actors. Many directors of genre pictures may put their emphasis on their fx or if we're lucky on their stories, but Cronenberg from the beginning has a penchant for making decent actors effective and making good actors outside the norm appear great. Men like Christopher Walken, James Woods, Jeff Goldblum, Jeremy Irons and Viggo Mortensen have all done career best work under Cronenberg and it has all been to their advantage. None of these men would be considered matinee idols (with the possible exception of Mortensen who couldn't care less about being a movie star) they're all a bit rough hewn, off the beaten path type acors who Cronenberg has revealed to have enormous depths of feeling in the midst of fantastic chaos. The fact that he has dorected several of the men to Oscar nominations is well worth noting. Cronenberg has done wonders with his actresses as well a distingusihed group that includes Geena Davis, Genvieve Beujold, Maria Bello, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Holly Hunter. His female protagonists have been more then just scream queens, they are genuinely damaged by the horrors they see or impressively overcome them.
Cronenberg's acceptance by critics and audiences has grown by leaps and bounds over the years but while he's ventured further out into the mainstream he has lost none of the edge that fist helped him make his mark in 1975's Shivers (the image of a women being attacked by mutant parasites in the tub is still so potent as to have inspired the marketing and a key sequence of James Gunn's Slither nearly three decades later). Consider the fervor that was stirred up by Nikolai's nude bathhouse knife-fight in Eastern Promises and one is reminded of the outcry from viewers when Max Renn perused a channel where people were whipped and beaten in Videodrome. Both scenes have huge resonance and speak volumes about their characters, themes and the remarkable man who helped bring both scenes to life.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It Pettigrews on you


Yes, I know an Amy Adams film review that is over a month late, what kind of “obsessed” fan am I (the guys over at amyadams.blogspot.com are probably laughing at me)? But as I’ve said before, real life has had to take precedence over the glorious world of film. Now enough apologizing and on with the review.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a breezy, wisp of a film, enjoyable and quickly forgotten. The film was by no means required to become a new classic but with the talent on hand it’s a disappointment that it hasn’t become more. Taking place in London on the eve of World War II, the film features Frances McDormand as the titular unlucky governess, Guinevere Pettigrew, who becomes the social secretary of fussy aspiring performer and ingénue the deliciously named Delysia Lafosse played by Amy Adams (HALLELUJAH...where did THAT come from?). By the time Guinevere is officially hired by Delysia she’s already helped Delysia dispatch one young lover (who Delysia is using to get a lead role on the West End) and dodge another (who Delysia is using for his lodgings). Delysia’s true love is the impoverished pianist Michael (Pushing Daisies pie-maker Lee Pace) but the two naturally can’t come together at the beginning because, well, then there would be no movie. Delysia and Guinevere nicely compliment each other. Delysia gives Guinevere (who at the start is kind of the hot-tranny mess version of Mary Poppins) beauty and impetuousness and Guinevere gives her class and maturity. The two form a close bond and over the course of the day make-overs occur, songs are sung, face abounds and both ladies find true love (for Guinevere it comes in the form of an unusually charming Ciaran Hinds playing an undergarment manufacturer).
Director Bharat Nalluri is an accomplished British TV director and he certainly makes the film look good, Adams is never shot to look anything less than breathlessly gorgeous and especially so in one breathless scene as she barges down a hallway quick changing into perfection as she goes. However he encounters the same pacing problems that Clooney’s Leatherheads has, namely that the film has an uneven tone and never gets revved up properly with genuine screwball comedy pacing. With all the beauty and pageantry on display it’s a case of too much “ball” and not nearly enough “screw.” Adams certainly give the proceedings a buoyant energy as her Delysia is a cross between Marilyn Monroe’s Sugar Kane and Katherine Hepburn’s flustering society ditz in Bringing Up Baby. Adams rubs off on everyone but the goings are rough at the start, the film doesn’t have any oomph but by the time Delysia is showing off black lingerie and a jazz version of Anything Goes plays on the soundtrack I had a smile going from ear to ear. The problem is that the film offers nothing new to the genre. There are flashes where the film tries to contrast the frivolity of the characters by having McDormand and Hinds discussing the brutality and destruction wrecked by the first War. However these moments, while well acted, seem out of pace in the otherwise featherweight proceedings. Perhaps if the film had decided to use the contrast to deconstruct screwball farce then it would provide the film with a bit more ballast. As it stands though the film is a brief, forgettable delight, a perfect date movie for an evening with the bigger plans on the agenda.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I'd do anything/for you dear anything

EW put out a list of the “50 actors we’d watch in anything.” Hmph, if ever there was a list worth commenting on THIS would be one of them. Here’s the list with my usual snarky/lame commentary. I’ll be breaking these up into two easily digestible posts. Here are the first twenty-five.

1. Kate Winslet-Ok so we start off fairly strong. Even her silly looking outré sexy performance in the non-seen Romance and Cigarettes looks interesting.
2. Alec Baldwin-I wouldn’t say I’d watch him in anything, but when Jack Donaghy barges into a room I sit up and smile. Let me say though as much as I like this Baldwin I ain’t watching Cat in the Hat without getting paid…a lot.
3. Jude Law-I go back and forth on Jude. For every Gigolo Joe or Dickie Greenleaf level performance there is some suck-ass dull as dishwater nonsense like The Holiday or All the King’s Men.
4. Philip Seymour Hoffman-Like Baldwin he’s dependable good but I certainly don’t enjoy everything he’s in (especially the tiny, dour stuff). That being said he had a flawless 2007 (I am not referring to Flawaless though, that was ass).
5. Edie Falco-Like her but won’t go out of my way to see her. I will say that I was incredibly impressed with her work in Sopranos (obviously) and in 30 Rock (surprisingly funny).
6. Morgan Freeman-Categorically no. Freeman’s resume has been bogged down with absolute tripe and he’s dipped into the magical black-man/narrator well so much so that he’s become a joke. Come back Red, we miss you.
7. Meryl Streep-Perfect. The consummate actress and I will in fact watch her in anything. I may mock the Mama Mia trailer loudly and often but damn if I won’t be in the theater that weekend (right after Dark Knight).
8. Johnny Depp-He’s always dependable but he’s not so good as to make me want to see him in dreck (sorry Secret Window, or am I?).
9. Daniel Day-Lewis-I won’t say that line (because that joke is beyond dead) but I will say that a Daniel Day-Lewis movie isn’t just a pleasure, it’s an event.
10. Simon Pegg-I’d watch anything he’s in, eventually. Sorry box-office returns of Run Fatboy Run. It’s on my q, I swear.
11. Ryan Gosling-Eh, I’m yet to be impressed. Or to paraphrase Neil Diamond “I’m NOT a believer” Get it? Get it? I’ll stop now.
12. Rosario Dawson-A hottie who can act? I’m there, I’ve even seen Pluto Nash. Rosario is a good sport and TENDS to make good choices, it makes watching her in films much easier.
13. Don Cheadle-He has impeccable taste in directors (and he’s also worked with Paul Haggis-BURN) so it makes him a very accessible actor for me. I don’t seek him out, we just sort of find each other.
14. Kristen Bell-I suffered through season two of Heroes for you Kristen. Now that IS love.
15. Tony Leung-Haven’t seen enough of him (In the Mood for Love is the only one if you were wondering) to get excited about him. Nate over at filmexperience sings his praises almost daily and he’s almost never wrong.
16. Nathan Fillion-I’ve followed ole Captain Tight Pants into a lot of crummy TV shows and movies but I refuse to follow him to Wisteria Lane. Do you hear me FIllion? I won’t GO!
17. Emma Thompson-Yes, 100% Emma Thompson is to quote LPieks, “flawless.” I even watched Nanny McPhee when it was on HBO.
18. Denzel Washington-I will say that Washington is an exceptional leading man who commands attention and can carry a film and audiences will follow him anywhere. I won’t though, I think he pulls into the same dramatic bag of tricks too often. He did mention on “The Treatement” that he’d be interested in playing Superman and that is absolute favorite movie is Wizard of Oz, so can you please do movies in that vein Denzel? Please?
19. Cherry Jones- Easier to see on stage then film, plus you really have to look for her in most films. I will say that having her ina movie is like having SOMETHING on the top of a sundae, I can’t think of what is is though.
20. Brendan Gleeson-This guys representation/script acceptance is perfect. I don’t seek him out but I can’t think of ANYTHING I’ve seen him in that I didn’t like (except Troy). Also he gets killed in virtually every movie he’s been in.
21. Will Ferrell-Before Kicking and Screaming (the non-Baumbach one) I would’ve said yes, but since then it’s been way too many sports comedies.
22. Catherine Keener-Yes, yes, yes. I first laid eyes on this extraordinary lady in Being John Malkovich and since then exploring her older films and seeing her in new stuff is always a breeze and never a chore.
23. Tom Selleck-The man has the mustache of a titan. He does a lot of dreck though, so I stumble into Selleck material more then I look for it.
24. Patricia Clarkson-She’s never been bad in anything but damn Patty, if Nick Naylor can’t get me into No Reservations you sure as hell can’t either.
25. Paul Rudd-If I didn’t have a giant man-crush on Rudd would I have I Could Never Be Your Woman, the Oh in Ohio and the Chateau in my q? Hell no. No chance.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Link@Heart

Oh man, how good were The Office and 30 Rock last night? The answer, so good the goodness rubbed off on Scrubs. I know, crazy right? Onto the links. Warning they are list heavy.

Speaking of 30 Rock, Carold sent me this delightfully named 30 Rock fansite, here. I don't dare spoil the name, see it for yourself.

Music: Oh and before you read anything else you MUST check out the incredible INCREDIBLE music video for the Bjork song Wanderlust. Even if you can't stand Bjork (I dig her but understand she's not for everyone) you should DEFINITELY check out this very special music vid here.
The Playlist blog has a really cool feature where they've complied fictional soundtracks for popular filmmakers based on their previous musical choices. You can download them for the low, low price of free right here.

Lists: Sometimes you see movies ad you respect them but damn they are depressing. Check out the 10 you have to see and then never see again here. While we're at it, here's a list of the 10 most depressing movie endings of all-time too here.
After reading those two depressing lists cheer yourself up by reading about the top 20 movie underdogs of all-time here.
An unconventional but VERY cool list of the greatest movie posters of all times right here.

Analysis & Opinions: Spike Lee has some choice words about the Oscars courtesy of New York Magazine right here.
The Film Snob looks at the late, great Charlton Heston as a comedic actor here.
Because of ScarJo's forthcoming album the Onion AV Club has an insightful piece on actors who've tried to become recording artists. Alternatively thought provoking and hilarious here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

You are invited to a Werewolf Bar Mitzvah

Spooky and scary festivities will commence at 8:30 pm EST. Please join us for a celebration in which boys will become men and men will become wolves. Formal wear required as it's after five o'clock and I'm not a farmer.

Translation: 30 Rock returns tonight. Get your butt excited.

Oh also some show called the Business...or something, comes back tonight. I suppose THAT is pretty funny too.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Out of my league

I recently got a chance to see a much beloved modern film (though it doesn't get much talked baout in my "film circle") 24 Hour Party People. The movie reminded me what I so throughly enjoy about director Michael Winterbottom (aside from his hilarious last name) is that he is capable of working in a wide range of styles and genres (drama, romance, satire, documentary and even sci-fi). 24 Hour Party People chronicles the rise and fall of Factory Records in Manchester, England and the colorful personalities that inhabit this world and period. The film is shot in a messy, improv'ed, pseudo-mockumentary style that frequently reflects on it's own post-modernist touches. Some may find it pretentious and too self-conscious for it's own good but that's what I dug about it. At the center of this world filled with experimental punk rock, drugs, sex, booze, violence and genera anarchy is the supremely confident (and completely ridiculous) Tony Wilson played by British comedy God, Steve Coogan. Coogan marches through the film like a cross between Ron Burdgundy, Sid Vicious and Ferris Bueller, he never gets bogged down in the noise, mess and clutter that surround him even though he comments "I'm a minor player in my own life story." Coogan is hardly alone though, the movie is packed to the brim with top-flight British talent. Check out this list; Shirley Henderson, Paddy Considine, Andy Serkis, Rob Brydon, Christopher Eccleston, Simon Pegg and the list goes on. The movie does a solid job filling you in on the world of the Manchester music scene but I still felt there was a whole layer of film that I was completely missing because I lacked virtually any prior knowledge of the world the film inhabits (I have a collection of New Order singles and Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols but that's it).

Let me say this, sometimes going into a movie "blind", not having read the novel or comic, heard the album, knowing the history etc is exciting and prompts the viewer to go out and learn more but sometimes you're left with the feeling of just missing something that would aide in your enjoyment and/or understanding of the film. I ask you readers do you like to go in blind or do you soak up any prior information you can on a movie before watching?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Beware the flying Poppins


Traditionally I post links on Friday but there is a bit of a time limit on this one so bear with me. Today I had the supreme pleasure to hear DAME Julie Andrews on NPR’s always-topflight interview show Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Dame Julie was on promoting her new memoir that chronicles her early life and the pre-Mary Poppins stage of her career. Topics included her intense (Andrews adorably refers to it as “Dickensian”) upbringing growing up in a home of entertainers during the war and an abusive alcoholic stepfather. Sadly there is no discussion of Mary Poppins (Dame Julie calls it “The Poppins”-AWESOME) but she does have some intriguing stories about The Sound of Music, Victor/Victoria and not continuing her stage role as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady on the big screen. Oh readers I wish you could’ve seen me listening to this thing on the subway. I was smiling ear-to-ear, very goofy. This memoir will most definitely be summer reading for me. If you want to hear this AMAZING interview it’s available FOR FREE to download on iTunes or you who have not sipped the iKool-Aid, you can download it from here.
For those of you who don’t know Mary Poppins is probably my personal FAVORITE movie of all-time. I’m not saying it’s the greatest (The Godfather), I’m not suggesting it’s the coolest (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or Le Cercle Rouge), most structurally sound (Seven Samurai) or the most worthy of critical dissection (Discreet Charm of the Burgeoise or Citizen Kane or Rules of the Game or Manhattan or, or, or or…)., but my personal favorite. I really want to share with you all WHY it’s my favorite and so I will be starting a new series in the coming week; The Sickness Cinema Personal Cannon. In this ongoing semi-weekly feature I will introduce a new inductee into my own personal list of favorites. The first entry will feature first and still most favorite enchanted Disney lady..Mary Poppins. Get ready with that spoonful of sugar and medicine Miss Poppins cause here comes the Sickness.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Two happy pictures to cheer me up

Life gets crazy. It happens. You get really busy with moving and big exciting life changes and movies sadly fall by the wayside. By the end of the week I'll hopefully be re-inspired by something awesome (or some movie news will come out that makes me supes excited) for now it's the little things. Like the two pictures below.
Around prequel number two my enthusiasm (wait let's call it what it really was, sick obsessive love) for Star Wars fizzled into nothingness. Oh the money I poured onto this franchise; on movies, novels, action figures, video-games, comics and posters. The hours spent examining every scrap of news posted up on theforce.net and so on. Yikes, it's amazing I was able to develop a personality in high school. You can only be an apologist for so long before one solid kick to the head by the flannel-bearded one (he who shall not be named) undoes it all. I still love the classic trilogy, warts and all (though I admit that with the exception of Empire they're not particularly well-made films by any stretch of the imagination). I've seen a lot of production photos from these movies but I'd never seen this one before. Awesome.
This picture makes me endlessly happy. I particularly love that Linus is The Comedian. I wonder if Sally (not pictured) would still call him her sweet baboo if she saw him beat and kill that Vietnamese woman and rape her mom. For those of you who don't recognize these outfits, these are the Peanuts gang dressed as the protagonists of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons comic masterpiece Watchmen. Watchmen the movie directed by Zak Snyder will be in theaters in 2009.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Roommates on Charlton Heston's death

A short play. The cast of characters:
Me-I'm awesome
PsychLovinGal-The she-roommate, liberal, works for famous author, sexy dancer part-time
Scott-He's Scott, works in agribusiness.

Me: Hey you guys hear, Charlton Heston died the other day?

PsychLovinGal: Yep.

Scott: Uhuh, 83.

Me: Yep.

Scott: Awwww sad.

PsychLovinGal: Not so sad.

Me: Ouch.

Scott: But come on man. He was MOSES!

Me: It's true, when you grow up Jewish there is no one more legit than Moses.

PsychLovinGal: Yeah, I guess. Plus he was what's his name...Platypus.

Scott: Ummmm.

Me: Spartacus, she means Spartacus. And that wasn't him. He was Ben Hur.
And that ladies and gentleman is why I will be sad to be leaving for LA. For a more...um...fitting Chuck Heston tribute this one is pretty thorough.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Out with the new, in with the old

Leatherheads, the latest directorial outing of George Clooney, has a great affection for the lush period setting of 1920's Americana and does a solid job of garnering audience affection but offers few real delights. It is a charming, extremely well acted motion picture but any chance at greatness is offset by tonal uncertainty and a general lack of momentum. I've mentioned before on the site my enormous reverence for the classic screwball comedies of the thirties and forties which elevated snappy banter, pratfalls and farcical fumbling to an artform, Clooney's comedy tries and often connects, but the speed and timing aren't where they need to be. To horrifically mix sports metaphors the film should be a homerun and instead bunts a single.

Clooney plays the coach/press agent/quarterback of the Duluth Bulldogs, Dodge Connelly. Both Connelly and his team are getting on in years. Professional football, a game consigned to muddy fields attended by few spectators, the game is fun for the players but a bit of a joke. This is in stark contrast to the world of college football where recently returned all-American war veteran Carter "The Bullet" Rutherford (John Krasinski) is drawing huge crowds. Rutherford in turn is being trailed by feisty reporter Lexie Littleton (Rene Zellwegger) who's editor suspects that anyone as clean-cut as Rutherford has something to hide. Lexie isn't the only one with an eye on Rutherford, Connelly wants him for the Bulldogs and wants his legitimacy for professional football. With all these elements in place a love-triangle develops between our three attractive leads.
Leatherheads is the kind of film that's easy to like but difficult to love, but that's certainly not because of it's performances. Clooney is spectacular showing off that it's not just the Coens who can harness his Gable-meets-Grant too smooth operator persona. He shows that even at his "advanced age" a great proclivity for physical comedy, especially in his marvelous reaction shots. Kransinski proves himself just as adept at playing an earnest All-American Van Helfin type as well as he is in the role of hipster icon. Zellwegger too is in fine form though this is hardly surprising as she's tackled this sort of material before in Down with Love and Chicago. Clooney, being the game director he is, fills the screen with all sorts of rock solid character actors including Stephen Root, Jonathan Pryce, Max Casella, Marian Seldes, Peter Gerety (Judge Phelan for you Wire fans out there) and even his writing partner Grant Heslov. All are welcome presences and help nicely fill out the edges of the film.
Being this is a sports movie there isn't much doubt as to what direction the film will go but it takes it's time getting there. Along the way Connelly realizes that bringing legitamacy to football may be profitable but it's killing the fun that he once had. Clooney revels in showing off fully-uniformed, long-skirted cheerleaders and referees fumbling for newly written rule books. While Clooney the actor loves the easy pace of the comedy and longs for the good old days of the game, Clooney the director loves the good old days of film (as his sepia toned transitions and lush Randy Newman score support) where Cary Grant and Rosalind Russel traded barbs and the Keystone cops ran amok. Clooney relishes in showing off the characters and their world and he is well aided by DP Newton Thomas Siegel. He loves to show his characters playing, flirting, scheming and fleeing but in the midst of his lingering shots of all this Clooney the storyteller fumbles.
All the great screwball comedies share a sense of urgency. Hildy must stop an execution in His Girl Friday, David is desperately searching for his interclostal clavicle in Bringing Up Baby and Traci Lords wedding must be stopped by SOMEBODY in The Philadelphia Story. The bottom line is the pace tends to get picked up when a fire is lit under their ass. Clooney's films has no great motivator. The characters just seem to casually move along even in their banter. It's frustrating to think that scenes such as Lexie discovering Connelly in her train bearth after hours could get more laughs if Clooney just goosed the tempo a bit. The other problem is the tone. The film doesn't balance it's three competing poles particularly well; the romance, the fond nostalgic look back at football and the screwball comedy. Usually the romance takes precedence but it then gets interrupted by one of the other two and the film loses it's grounding. For all its problems Leatherheads scores but it could've benefited from getting to the zone a little faster.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Linkerheads

Just in time for Saturday it's my Friday night links.

Lists: Judd Apatow runs off the films that have influenced his own wonderful style: you might be surprised here.
EW.com provides some of the finest opening credit sequences of all time (complete with video evidence). Get jazzed for the rest of the movie here.
But that's not all EW has a list-y opinion on, check out their favorite top twenty horror films (a fairly respectable list for film novices). Get scared (unless you're Eli Roth) here.

Funny:Jeff and Patrick (handsomest guy in the office [SUCK IT JAKE]) have a run-down of several cinematic sub-genres over at college humor, here.
Peter pointed me to this pointed piece by a famous author about how his work has been eaten up and spit out by the studio system here.

Interviews: Etan pointed me towards a fascinating piece about the relationship between Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard courtesy of the New Yorker here.
Esquire magazine has two of my favorite cinematic voices; Shane Black and Edgar Wright, shoot the shit. I'd listen to these two guys talk about grass growing, so to hear them talking movies give me a giant cine-boner. Wright vs. Black here.