Archive for March, 2012

 

In 2008 Steven Spielberg directed one of the largest steaming piles of crap I’ve ever seen. That pile was named Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It had the potential to be a great revamp of a classic series, but if you’ve seen it, you already know it was not meant to be.

In 2011, Spielberg has made up for his last role at the helm with The Adventures of Tintin based on three comic stories written by Belgian artist HergĂ©. Spielberg also co-produced Tintin with Peter Jackson who’s WETA studios was in charge of the digital animation of the film. The two already have plans for Jackson to direct a sequel and the two collaborating on a following third film.

Spielberg has owned the rights to Tintin since acquiring them after HergĂ©’s death in 1983, so this project has been at least been mulling in his mind for the past two and a half decades. That thought and preparation paid off in the feature film I’m writing about today. This movie should have been made years ago, but the wait was well worth it. Tintin has adventure, excitement, mystery and lovable characters from Thomson and Thompson, Captain Haddock and of course our heros Tintin and his clever pup Snowy.

Not only are the characters amazing, the voice actors they got are top notch. Jamie Bell plays Tintin, Andy Serkis plays Haddock, Thomson and Thompson are played by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, and our villian Sakharine is played wonderfully by the great Daniel Craig.

This story reminded me so much of what it felt like to watch the Indiana Jones Trilogy (For that’s all that exist in my mind for the franchise) for the first time. The mystery that Tintin unravels rivals great heist stories, detective films and even action adventure movies.

The WETA studio has gone above and beyond what I ever could have imagined an animated film to look like. More than a few times, I was so absorbed by the beauty I was seeing on even my modest screen at home was enthralling and entrancing. It was not what I expected and far surpassed anything I could have dreamed. I’ve been a Peter Jackson fan for many years now and have loved watching his ability to work with CGI grow and expound more than even he could have hoped for. From the first time we see the first ghosts in 1996’s the Frighteners, we were shown what would become the Ring Wraiths in 2001’s Fellowship of the Ring. It’s shown me great hope to see how well he’s going to handle 3D in the new Hobbit films and made me even more excited to see the continuing adventures of Tintin.

The story for Tintin is superb, based very closely on the original stories the film is based on but updated to a more modern vernacular by another of my favorite film makers/writers Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim, Shaun of the Dead, etc.) The writing keeps the action rolling, there are few if any dull spots but the action picks back up so quickly, you forget about it within seconds.

I highly recommend The Adventures of Tintin for a family movie night, or just a night to help forget the last Indiana Jones film and replace it with a true adventure story that will take you on a trip few movies can lay claim to.

 

Being born in 1986, there are probably a lot of people who may think I have no place in trying to say anything about the Grindhouse Genre, let alone the “Grindhouse experience”.

I will be the first to admit, I’ve never lived a true grindhouse experience. Yes, I went and saw the Grindhouse double feature presented by Quentin Tarrantino and Robert Rodriguez back in 2007. It was presented in one of the larger auditoriums at an AMC Theater down in Dallas. There were 7 other people in the theater at the beginning of the feature, and three of us left at the end.

I’ve begun taking it as a bad sign when the ticket teller looks at you odd and asks if “You’re sure you know this is a three hour movie right?” before they actually sell you the ticket.

Yes. I know it’s three hours. It’s 100 degrees in the shade out today, I’m pretty sure a large efficiently cooled building is exactly where I want to be this afternoon. Especially for three hours.

I rather enjoyed my first grindhouse experience, but it left me wanting more. I wanted the sticky floors, I wanted the scratched and ripped reels of film shown back to back for days on end. I wanted the real grindhouse experience that only 42nd Street in New York City.
Grindhouse theaters popped up in the old burlesque houses on 42nd Street in the 1970s. Grindhouses showed mainly exploitation films where you could pay less than a dollar and sit for an entire afternoon watching whatever they had laying around.

The films shown in these modified theaters fell into a few different genres all fitting under the umbrella of the exploitation title. These included; sleazy pornos, cheesy horror or slasher horror films, poorly dubbed martial arts films, or crazy action flicks. While quality varied from film to film, almost all had the same things in common, low production costs and value and even poorer print quality often resulting in lost frames or damaged reels causing delays in screenings which in turn resulted in people throwing popcorn and random fluids at the screen. (Resulting in said sticky floors)

There are a number of collections of trailers you can find online that give you the impression of the types of films that were shown in these theaters. Almost none remain fully intact to this day. Trailers were easier to keep due to smaller reel size and weren’t subject to the multiple showings that the film reels were put through.

If you have Netflix, just search for the keyword “CHEEZY” and you’ll find three collections of trailers available to watch on instant viewing.

The reason the grindhouses were successful and have become such a favorite genre for many film makers and viewers alike is the fact that the film makers had free reign to do whatever they pleased. These films weren’t subject to being edited or censored by the MPAA, they were shown because they had enough money to get their own movies made and put onto a film transfer that could be shown in a theater.

There’s something missing with today’s cinema that disappeared with the grindhouse and that is freedom. The freedom to do what you wanted, the freedom to gather with a bunch of friends and waste away an entire day watching bad kung fu movies, sleazy horror slasher flicks, and trashy zombie action films.

I’ve thought time and time again, that if I had the money to start up a theater, these are the types of films I would show. Anyone with a camera and an idea could make whatever they wanted and could show it at my theater. It’s easy to get your movies out to the masses these days thanks to the internet. And that’s great, but there’s something about seeing your own ideas and stories presented on the big screen in a real theater. It’s the dream of everyone who’s made a short film for a class or just for fun.

The closest thing we have to a grindhouse experience these days are the few and far between theaters that still show the Rocky Horror Picture Show during the summer months at midnight on Saturday nights. These theaters still hold onto the dream and view it through rose-tinted lenses. We could learn a lot from our past. There’s still hope for the future. The grindhouse will rise again.

 

 

As a closing note, to learn more about the Grindhouse experience check out the documentary ‘American Grindhouse’ available to watch instantly on Netflix.

Learning to Read. . . Again

Posted: March 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

The past few years, I’ve fallen away from reading. I don’t know a specific reason why, but I have a feeling that TV, Movies and Video Games really put a damper on things.

When I was in high school I was at any given time, reading anywhere from 3-5 books. I used to have people ask how I was able to read so many books at one time, and the simple fact is that it was easy. I didn’t have the distractions I have now. I didn’t have satellite TV, only had a Nintendo 64 which I didn’t play much of outside of Zelda: OOT. And I lived out in the country, my closest friend being 7 miles away. Books were how I escaped from life. They let me be something different. If I got bored with one book, I’d pick up another and read a few chapters in that before jumping back to the first book, then i’d throw a third into the mix, and then a fourth and a fifth. I’d finish all five within a few days of each other and then move right on to the next big batch.

When I look at my book shelves nowadays, I see a lot more graphic novels. Only the best of course; Fables, Y The Last Man, Jack of Fables, Transmetropolitan, A large portion of the Allan Moore library, Sin City (In two different prints), and various DC hero collections.

That could also be part of the reason my reading of standard form books has dropped off the edge. My attention level has dropped so low, that I can’t focus on reading a book for a very long period of time.

Fortunately, I’m back on the road to recovery. I read the Hunger Games trilogy within a couple of weeks, and I’m actually finding more and more books that are sucking me in more and more. I want to read more again. I made a trip to Half Price Books the other day and picked up some new books to help get me back into my old reading habits. A couple of Andy Sedaris books, a few Kurt Vonnegut books, and a Christopher Moore book. I’m also finishing up American Gods by Neil Gaiman right now.

I’ve got a lot lined up to read, I would really rather read than waste more time watching crap on Netflix anymore. I may have to put my subscription on hold for a couple of months so I can retrain myself to focus on reading things that will in turn help my own writing advance.

Learning to read is hard, learning to read again, can be a daunting task. I’ve got too many gadgets to distract my time, too many movies to stimulate my eye holes more than my brain, too much time that I’ve forgotten how to utilize.

It’s time for a change, it’s time to learn again.

What will you be doing May 25, 2012? If you’ve been reading my reviews the past few weeks you may be able to guess what I’ll be doing. If you guessed watching the new Wes Anderson film, Moonrise Kingdom, you’d be correct.

The story revolves around two youth Suzy and Sam played by Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman respectively (both of the young actor’s break out roles) running away from home together for what we can only assume is some sort of adventure. Sam is a pigeon scout, and Suzy is an apparent budding actress from a family of six including three younger brothers, and her parents.

The thing I’m looking forward to most in this film, other than the story which looks fantastic from the trailer, is the fresh cast for this film as compared to the past Anderson films. We’ve got fresh blood flowing this time starting with the two young leads and being backed up by; Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel, and of course Edward Norton!

Aside from Murray and Schwartzman, these are all actors that Anderson hasn’t worked with yet. I can’t wait to see how well they mesh together on screen. It seems that Anderson can get any group of actors to become a family when we see them together. There is always that deep connection that jumps from the screen and shows us something fantastic.

I am also looking forward to the return of the whimsy in this film, from the extremely tall tree house, the motorbike smoking in the tree after presumably flying off a cliff, and the fact that you’ve got Bill Murray walking through the house shirtless and holding a bottle of wine in one hand and an axe in the other informing his three boys “I’ll be out back. I’m gonna find a tree to cut down.”

This movie has the potential to come in at a new number two for me on the Anderson list. I hope it meets my own high expectations.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Posted: March 19, 2012 in Review

When I first saw this movie I thought, “Yech”

But that’s not a fair way to start out a review. I’m going to preface this by saying, Fantastic Mr. Fox is definitely on my list of movies to watch again because I fell asleep half way through my first viewing, and struggled to watch the rest the next day. So this may not be the most fair review since I’ve been dreading watching it again at this juncture.

This is a stop motion animation film which was done mostly by the team behind Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, making it visually appealing and very fluid, but leaving me the wanting for something more Burton-esque.

Let’s do the Anderson run down;
Cast: Awesome. George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Meryl Streep, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, and of course Owen Wilson.

Writing: Amazing as always, the story is a fantastic rendition of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s tale of the same name. Wonderfully updated by Wes with added bits to the beginning and end to make a more well rounded story.

Acting: As far as you can talk about the acting, it’s great. It’s voice acting so it’s a bit difficult to get the total emotion out of actors a lot of the time, but when the story is written and directed by Anderson with his wry, dry sense of humor, it’s a lot easier for the emotions to flow across the screen. I also read that when Anderson was working with his cast doing the recording, they actually did the recording on location in the woods, underground, in a backyard, etc. which really gave more reality to the film.

Cinematography: . . . It’s good. It’s well lit? I only know the basics on how stop-motion films are produced, so I really can’t give an official statement about how this was shot. All I know is that it does indeed, look quite good.

Characters (Puppets): These things look AMAZING! They have enough of their human counterparts in them that you can see Jason Schwartzman in Ash, just like you can see Clooney in his puppet of Mr. Fox. They must have taken months to create and finish to the details they are.

That all being said, I wouldn’t sign this movie off as bad. The reviews against me are astounding in their love for the film. Once more, I will be watching this movie again. And when that happens, I will write a new review matching my new, or established, thoughts towards it.

The Rum Diary (2011)

Posted: March 16, 2012 in Review

I’m going to be the voice of the people and that voice will be ink and rage.

So I just finished watching the 2011 film The Rum Diary starring Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi, and Amber Heard. This is Depp’s second go around as a the main part in a film based on the works of Hunter S. Thompson, the first being Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

When I picked this one up I was expecting another go around in the twisted drug addled alcohol fueled mind of Thompson and for the most part I wasn’t disappointed.

The story revolves around journalist Paul Kemp as he transfers into work at a newspaper in Puerto Rico in the early ’60s. First arriving in, he tells his new boss Richard Jenkins that he’s a upper end social drinker planning on cutting back. Puerto Rico is really not the best place to try to cut back.

The alcohol flows and little reporting is actually done till Paul is approached by hotel mogul Hal Sanderson, Eckhert, who asks Paul to help him and his business associates to write up some articles for the paper to help gt the locals warmed up to the idea of building a new hotel on one of the nearby islands that has until then been owned and used for training by the US Navy.

Paul’s coworker and staff photographer Sala (Michael Rispoli) along with another coworker, Moberg (Ribisi), do their best to try to get Paul to avoid working with Sanderson due to his being a known crook. It’s hard to pull Paul away however due mostly I. Part to Sanderson’s girlfriend Chenault (Heard) being quite the flirty vixen.

There are slow parts to the film. A lot of slow parts, but the story is really interesting and overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and will probably watch it again sometime soon. The characters are interesting and the writing is quite good.

The book scribed by Thompson is near the top of my list to read soon and after watching this film has moved up a bit higher on the list.

My favorite character in this film was Ribisi’s Moberg. He is to Rum Diary what Depp was to Fear and Loathing. The drug addled alcoholic who writes when he feels like it and survives by the edge of his nails. It’s not a pretty site but it works gloriously. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Ribisi but he was a welcome site in top form. Moberg is the religious corespondent for the paper who happens to have many connections around the island that re helpful to Paul more often than not. He’s jut not that reliable since he’s ruined mot of his mind with rum. Not to mention the fact that he and Sala have a spinning machine they use to spin stolen filters from the rum factories to extract what they claim to be 463 proof rum. Very flammable and very very capable of destroying brain cells and inhibitions.

Depp had a few moments where he jumped back into the Gonzo shoes he wore so well in Fear and Loathing and Eckhert was in rare form as the corrupt bastard Sanderson. Heard has also begun to prove herself as a surprisingly strong actress since I first saw her as Seth Rogen’s girlfriend in Pineapple Express.

Paul eventually comes to realize the bad circles he’s come to be swimming around in and begins to find himself as a writer and decides to stand up for the people becoming their voice. The voice made of ink and rage.

All in all, I believe it’s much better than the mediocre ratings other reviews have given this film. But like many films that deal with corporate bastards and foreign affairs, you’ll either like it or hate it. It’s a fine line and this movie walks that line hard.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Posted: March 15, 2012 in Review

What’s wrong with you?
I don’t know. Let me think about it. I’ll tell you next time I see you… Thanks for using me.

I love this movie. Just love it. And it still falls behind Royal Tenenbaums as a tie for number two on my favorite Wes Anderson film list.

As I stated in my Hotel Chevalier review, the use of the iPod as a soundtrack too, is absolutely astonishing. It brings the audience into the film even more because the music is there in the fore front, not just a tool used and inserted in during post production. When the audience can see something like that it breaks the proverbial fourth wall, it makes the characters more real by showing us, the viewers, real every day actions that we ourselves constantly take part in doing.

This is another of Anderson’s journey films. It’s the story of three brothers trying to revitalize their relationships with each other after having spent the last year apart with no contact what so ever following their father’s funeral. The brothers are played by Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrian Brody and you really couldn’t ask for a better set of actors to be your leads in this movie. Their chemistry shines throughout. You see their hatred towards each other ebb and flow from beginning to end up and down and all around.

But like most brothers, nay, siblings that I know in real life, they have ups and downs, falling outs and falling ins, it’s one of the benefits of having a sibling, no matter what happens, there is always love between them. Whether that love is apparent or not, it is always there. That’s what I love about the Darjeeling Limited, there is no doubt of their love and dedication to each other at the end of the day. Even during the bad times where you don’t think they could hate each other any more every action is done with the best intentions in mind.

“I love you too but I’m going to mace you in the face!”

Anderson really came into his vibe early on with this film, prefaced in the theaters by Hotel Chevalier, we already had a bit of back story, while not necessary for the Darjeeling Limited, it was nice to know how Jack (Schwartzman) got to where he is. There was no lack of entertainment from start to finish with Darjeeling. There are times I. His other films where I’m a bit distracted, but the flow throughout this one is so incredibly enthralling that you are able to zone out and tune in completely. Something that’s really hard to come across often these days.

So if you’ve now checked out Hotel Chevalier, but haven’t checked out the Darjeeling Limited, you should remedy that as soon as possible.