Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Pixar Retrospective

I remember the first preview of Wall*e. That ultra simple ad that features a little robot staring up at the stars. So much said with so little. A chill went down my spine. But that's what Pixar does so well. Quick little moments that capture so much. Once you watch all of these movies together, certain themes start appearing. A realization of one's own potential. An epiphany that takes you back to what really matters. Plus, they are all fun, funny movies with great action sequences and fully realized characters.

Here is a rundown of my favorite Pixar movies has done, along with my favorite moments from each one. Spoiler alert! (I may skip some of the shorts)

Toy Story: A movie that really captures the feeling of kids thinking that their toys are actually alive. Favorite scene: Buzz Lightyear realizes he is not a space man and has sort of a nervous breakdown. Of course, he realizes that he is a toy and that, in some ways, is more important than saving the galaxy. Don't define yourself by what you aren't, but by what you are.

Toy Story 2: My favorite Pixar movie and, miraculously, even better than the first one. Takes the characters to a natural progression. Andy is growing up, and losing interest in the toys. How do you react when you go from being very important to completely useless? Fave scenes: Woody being stitched up by the toy expert guy(awesome balding visual gag in there), "I am your father" and the Sara Mclachlan song, "When she loved me", which plays over a montage of showing Jessie's journey from favorite toy, to being simply discarded . The excitement when her owner finally pulls her out from under the bed, only to leave her on the side of a road. I am a bit ashamed that a Sara Mclachlan song got me teary eyed, but I would say it has more to do with the magicians at Pixar than her songwriting.

Monster's Inc.: Second favorite Pixar movie. The door rollercoaster scene is amazing. But this movie has one of my favorite final beats of any movie ever. (Along with Before Sunset, but that's a blog for another day.) Sully opens the door. Looks for the girl. Off screen, we hear the little girl exclaim "Kitty!" Sully's face lights up. Credits. It's what they don't show you.

The Incredibles: Dash, after a life of repressing his super power, runs so fast he can skim across water. At first he is terrified. A beat later, he giggles, and accelerates even more. A little kid just beginning to realize his potential. Magical.

Ratatouille: Upon eating our hero's titular, masterpiece, a cynical food critic is transformed back into a little boy coming home from playing, eating his mom's home cooked meal. I can't even write about it without getting all mushy.

So there you have it. Will Wall*E have any magical moments like that? I bet it will. They've made rats, toys, monsters, bugs, and superheroes capture moments from my mundane life. On Friday, a little trash robot will join that list. I can't wait.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Best Movie Coming Out in the Next Few Months

Oscar Buzz!

Does he only do movies now that let him have that balding Shakespeare hair?

I am pretty sure Nicholas Cage came up with this movie idea/title himself.

Nicholas Cage lands in Bangkok and sees the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
"Bangkok Pretty."

Nicholas Cage goes to famous food bazar and samples the local delicacies.
"Bangkok Tasty."

Nicholas Cage finds himself in a bar later partying it up with the locals.
"Bangkok Fun."

Nicholas Cage finds you can get two prostitutes for the equivalent of 10 US dollars.
"Bangkok Cheap."

Two months later, Nicholas Cage finds himself staring at an H.I.V. positive test at his estate in L.A.
"Bangkok... Dangerous!"

Grrrreen Light!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 blogger

Hey friends. I am now one of the main bloggers on the awesome movie nerd site


World's Biggest Badass: Kris Kristofferson

I could swim the Atlantic if I wanted to.

First of all, look at his face. Its like if whiskey could smoke cigarettes. He’s only 72, but looks 700. He defines grizzled. If you look up that word in the dictionary, it’s a picture of Kris Kristofferson punching a bear with a bottle of Jack Daniels, only somehow he’s drinking from it at the same time. This man could beat Clint Eastwood, Dennis Hopper and a Mummy in a grizzle-off. In fact, he kinda looks like a mummy who was like “fuck these bandages all I need is some whiskey and ass.”

But don’t take my word for it. Read the man’s bio I got from imdb. He’s like Forrest Gump, but with more brains cells and a wicked hangover. The bio in quotes, my comments in italics.

“Kris Kristofferson's father was an Air Force general who pushed his son to a military career.”
Son, killing things is what you wuz made for.

“Kris was a Golden Gloves boxer and went to Pomona College in California.”
It surprises me not at all that he can throw a punch.

“From there, he earned a Rhodes scholarship to study literature at Oxford.”
Ummm… what?!? The Rhodes scholarship?!? The most prestigious academic award in the world? To study… literature, of all thing? Ohkayyy…

“He ultimately joined the army and achieved the rank of captain.”
Of course he did.

“He became a helicopter pilot, which served him well later.”
Wait, how is this going to come into play?

“In 1965 he resigned his commission to pursue songwriting.
He had just been assigned to become a teacher at West Point. He got a job sweeping floors in Nashville studios. There he met Johnny Cash, who initially took some of his songs but ignored them. “
You don’t ignore the ‘stoff.

“He was also working as a commercial 'copter pilot at the time. He got Cash's attention when he landed his helicopter in Cash's yard and gave him some more tapes.”
Like, I said, you don’t ignore the ‘stoff. He will land a FUCKING HELICOPTER IN YOUR BACKYARD! “Hey my songwriting career isn’t taking off the way I would like. I know what I’ll do. I’ll land a helicopter in the backyard of one of HISTORY’S GREATEST SINGER/SONGWRITERS!” I would love to have seen Johnny Cash’s reaction to that. “Wait whats that sound? So loud! It sounds like a copter just landed in my yard. Ok, that is literally what just happened. Wait, is that the janitor from the studio getting out—“ The ‘stoff intimidated Johnny Cash into listening to him. Johnny Fucking Cash. The man who once sang “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” and made you believe it. Yeah, THAT Johnny Cash. Well, I hope the ‘stoff’s songwriting can back up his bravado.

“Cash then recorded Kristofferson's "Sunday Morning Coming Down", which went was voted 1970's Song Of The Year by the Country Music Association. “
BAM! Song of the Year motherfuckers! Oh he also wrote Me and Bobby McGee, perhaps you’ve heard of it.

“Kris was noted for his heavy boozing.”
You don’t say.

“He lost his helicopter pilot job when he passed out at the controls, “
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

“and his drinking ruined his marriage to singer Rita Coolidge,"
Wait, wait, wait. Let's go back to that last one. He passed out drunk while he was piloting a helicopter, and survived. No one has ever survived passing out at the helicopter controls before. He lost his license because they had t take it away, but apparently his supervisor’s only rebuke to him was “That’s awesome.”

when he was reaching a bottle and half of Jack Daniels daily.”
A bottle and a half? Do you have any idea how much Jack Daniels that is? If you drank that much in one day, your liver would literally fall out of your stomach. The ‘stoff did it every. Single. Day. While his liver kept yelling “Bring it!”

“He gave up alcohol in 1976.”
Cuz he reached the point where he can be perpetually drunk without ever having to taste alcohol again.

“His acting career nose-dived after making Heaven's Gate (1980) in 1980. In recent years he has made a comeback with his musical and acting careers. He does say that he prefers his music, but says his children are his true legacy.”
Nose-dived? Yeah, do you remember the Blade movies? Also, his legacy is not his children. There is no way they can live to a father who was a Golden Gloves Boxer, a Rhodes scholar, a Captain in the army, a helicopter pilot, an award winning singer songwriter, an actor who out badassed Wesley Snipes without even trying.

Here is a verse from Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down

And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin'.
And it echoed through the canyons,
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.

Disappearing dreams? Man, you sound like someone who’s already lived the dreams of five people. I feel lame. I gotta get to work.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Incredible Hulk Review!

The Incredible Hulk Review

So this was exactly what you would think a Hulk movie would be. Which is good. It had a lot of action, it moved quickly and had decent actors hamming it up. It was also a little forgettable. So go see it if you wanna see a not-super-dumb popcorn summer movie. Its no Iron Man. But its good fun. Here are problems with it:

Hulk… LOVE!
There is no chemistry between Ed Norton and Liv Tyler. Like, none. Every scene with them feels like their first meeting. They were supposedly lovers for years, but every scene has the exact chemistry of the first 30 seconds of a blind date.

“Oh, you must be… Betty?”
“Yeah. Nice to meet you. General Thunderbird Ross said you were his most promising scientist.”
“I was. Listen, do you wanna help me find a cure for my gamma radiation?”

In fact, every scene between them is just as awkward as the first 30 seconds of a blind date if one of the parties has just revealed that they were exposed to gamma radiation.

“Waiter! Do you have any bibs… made of lead?”

Tough coming after Iron Man, where RDJ and Gwyneth (yup, just the first name) seemed like two people who genuinely liked each other, even though there were no “romantic” scene between them per se.

So how smart is Hulk supposed to be exactly? If he’s a super dumb monster, why does he save Liv Tyler, and then have a total King Kong lets-sit-down-next-to-each-other-and-pontificate moment with her? Hulk is the equivalent of a guy who can differentiate the craziest equations, but then stares at an elevator wondering which button to press. It just doesn’t work if you keep going “Don’t make me angry! I become this huge awful destructive monster that I cant control”, but then every time you become the Hulk, you only fight the bad guys and totally help the good guys. It just doesn’t work. Hulk might as well be helping old ladies cross the street and picking up litter on the streets. Actually, that’s a good Hulk. The good Samaritan Hulk. “Don’t make me angry! I’ll start recycling, giving change to the homeless, and give a speech on the perils of global warming and the sustainability of veganism. You wont like me when I’m angry!”

The cgi Hulk looks cartoonish, fake and goofy. Whenever he bounded on the screen, I thought I was watching Roger Rabbit. I was waiting for Bob Hoskins to show up and totally give Hulk a lot of attitude because his brother was killed by a shitty looking cg character. “I hate computer generees.” I think we still don’t have the technology to make fully cg humanoids look good. We can read human faces too well. Even if something is slightly “off’, we can see it right away. We didn’t have the technology to do Hulk five years ago, and we don’t have it now. Couldn’t we have waited a bit longer? It makes me think of the mouse who keeps biting on the electrified cheese over and over and over. “How about now? Nope. Still no good. How about now? Nope. Lets wait another second and… How about now?” He also seems like he doesn’t have any weight to him, although that’s hard to judge since the Hulk is so strong that he doesn’t move like a human. The Abomination looks much better, because he looks more like a traditional monster. We haven’t been staring into the face of Abomination looking people our whole lives, so we don’t know the intricacies of their facial movements. I guess, on an Abomination planet, there is some douchey guy with a blog going “The Abomination’s face looks like shit, but the Hulk looks great!” Not to imply that I’m douchey. But a guy on an abomination planet with a movie blog? He’s probably douchey. Also, there, the movie would be called The Incredible Abomination.

But the action scenes are good and it moves fast. So go see it if you like that.

Also, why is Lou Ferrigno still so huge?

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Least Favorite Genre: The Person Who Inspires Others to Truly Really Live

Tell me that's not terrifying. "Can you see the universe in my adorable spoon?! Now I will destroy you!"

This is a personal preference of course, but I hate this sub genre of movies. Its condescending and trite, almost always unrealistic and extremely predictable. From what I gather, these kinds of movies always fall into three sub genres. Here they are:

1. Free Spirit moves in, inspires stodgy family/town to really live each day.
(Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Amelie, Chocolat)
I watched Sound of Music and Mary Poppins as a kid, so I don’t even know if they are bad or good. But all these movies follow the exact same plot. A sad man is showed in the beginning riding the bus alone, heating tv dinners, just really letting life pass him by. You can extrapolate this to whole towns too, where an entire town is lame and boring. Until… Free spirit! A recent example is Chocolat. Oh my. Chocolatier moves into town and makes people realize that Christianity is wrong. That’s how that pitch went? But my least favorite example of this has to be Amelie, the least subtle movie ever made. The director might as well have been in the theater yelling “Now you all cry! Ok now you all be charmed out of your pants. Now you all be inspired! Now you all be so inspired and charmed that you cry. Ok, now you start crying, but halfway through become really charmed and get inspired. Ok, now you get so inspir—“ We can think for ourselves Mr. Director Man. I found her character to be very unlikeable too. Why does she act like that? She’s like a crazy sociopathic woman child, but for some reason I’m supposed to like her? If you were friends with Amelie, could you handle her at all? She would be the hippy friend that always stared too long, brought up the power of Gaia all the time, and had a grin on her face that convinced you that her daddy loved her too much one night. The whole movie is so fucking exploitative. There’s a scene where she grabs a blind man and runs him around and describes the beauty of his surroundings to him. I threw up into my popcorn.

2. The mentally disabled person who teaches friends and family about what really matters in life.
(Rain Man, Radio, The Other Sister, Forrest Gump)
In some ways the most offensive of these kinds of movies. They reduce the mentally challenged to people who say the cutest possible things in each situation, and simplify the unique challenges of raising a mentally disabled child. The Other Sister is the worst of these. Those two fuckers always say the cutest goddamm thing possible and never do anything unsightly. This is an actual exchange from the movie:
Carla Tate: I wonder who thought up sex?
Daniel McMann: I think it was Madonna.

This is how this exchange would actually go.
Carla Tate: I wonder who thought up sex?
Daniel McMann: I feel happy! Can I have some juice?
Carla Tate: Me too. Lets hit someone really hard and then cry.

Not trying to make fun of the mentally disabled, just saying that if you really wanna make a movie about someone who is mentally disabled, treat the situation with some realism. All these movies reduce the mentally ill to cartoon characters. Oh, Radio actually has this line in it:
“We thought we were teaching Radio. Turns out, Radio was teaching us.”
What was he teaching you? To shout really loud? Cuz that’s all he does in that movie.

3. The Magical/Impossibly wise Black Man
(The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Green Mile, Family Man, Bruce Almighty)
Ok, this one is the most offensive. I think its very harmful. In romanticizing the other, it still dehumanizes and instead of dealing with people as real people, we get to just think of them as fairies or magic men. In The Green Mile, the magical black man can actually raise the dead! Its also like the worst manifestation of white man’s guilt, like ever, and the lamest kind of reparations possible.
“Listen, sorry about slavery and the existing racial divide and all, but to make up for it, we’ll make a bunch of movies where you guys help out white people with your black magic. Oh that didn’t come out right at all.”
“So I’m still servicing the white man. And isn’t that, in a way, just as condescending as anything else?”
“Wow, you’re articulate. Good for you. Listen, can you bring my dead cat back to life?”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

5 Worst Movie Endings

Imagine you're making a pancake. It's the most perfect pancake, golden brown, fluffy, you can tell it's going to slightly crispy on the outside, and melty mushy on the inside. You flip it one final time, but you flip it too hard, and you watch it fly into the ceiling fan, which not only rips it into shreds but deposits pancake material all over everything. Now, not only do you not have the perfect pancake, but you have to spend hours cleaning to get pancake goo off of everything. That is how my friend Josh described the ending to A.I. All of the movies below are cinematic equivalents of that pancake gone awry. Great movies, ruined by lousy endings.

A story about a little robot boy who wants to be human, so he goes searching for the Blue Fairy. He finds a submerged statue of the Blue Fairy and starts pleading for the Blue Fairy to turn him human. The screen goes to black. What a brilliant ballsy ending! Is there anything more human than hope against all odds? This little robot is going to sit there pleading for all eternity, pleading to become a boy, but the Blue Fairy will not grant his wish. But his useless hope and his unfulfilled dream is what will make him human. Brilliant. I start clap—wait why is the screen coming back up? 2000 after the next Ice Age? What the--- wait a minute. Are those the alien things from Close Encounters? Why? Why are they here? Oh. To reanimate the mom from the lock of hair that the teddy bear kept. Take something subtle and powerful, and make it literal and lame. Pancake goo all over the place.

Usual Suspects
Yes, another one people will hate. The problem with this one is that… its all made up! The whole thing is! He could have been lying about everything! Everything. It's a very slight variation on the "It was all a dream" movie. Imagine a movie called AstroBattle! where a guy tells a cop about this space ship he was on, and the rest of the movie is an epic space battle with feuding races and warp drives and countdowns and the bad alien race wins! And they are on their way over! And the cop has to warn and convince everyone of this impending attack! The cop runs over to his supervisor, tells him the tale and the supervisor goes "Oh that's Lying Lenny. He just lies about everything." The End. That's Usual Suspects.

Haute Tension
Ok, this is a kickass French slasher movie about woman chasing down a crazy psychopath after he kills her friend's whole family. The entire movie is a reverse chase thing with her escaping him, then fighting him, then running him off the road with a car. She kills him at the end! Yay! What a badass woman! Until the filmmakers tell you, literally tell you, that her and the serial killer are the same person. He's just a character inside her head, and she is responsible for all the murders. What? How? There was a car chase with a huge collision at the end! Did the collision just involve one car! Did he psychosis manifest itself as an actual physical car trying to run her off the road? Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation makes fun of this kind of movie, which is ironic because…

BAM! Ok, I know what the ending to the movie is doing. You don't have to explain it to me. Its being meta and doing all the things that it said bad movies do. I get it. Whenever I tell people I don't like the last third of the movie, they always go, "Well but see they're doing exactly what they said they wouldn't d—" Oh I get it! The problem is, its still just two people in a swamp being chased by an alligator! This is exactly the wrong kind of Charlie Kaufman, where his characters are secondary to whatever intellectual point he is trying to make. He found the perfect balance in Eternal Sunshine, but not here. The first two thirds are so exciting and provoking, and then the last third is a chase around a swamp. This kind of meta tomfoolery seems clever, but does such a disservice to its characters, and its like a big fuck you to the audience for caring. The movie might as well have ended an hour in with "Reel Not Found 404" screen. Same thing.

What? An M. Night movie on a list of worst anythings… yes. It's a magical day. I like this movie a lot. The alien invasion from the perspective of a small family is a great idea. You get the scale of it, but without sacrificing the personal experience of the family. That scene where you see the alien in the birthday party video = terrifying! People screamed their heads off in the theater. But the ending is literally contrived. The plan has been in place forever, everything that has happened was for a reason, there's someone up there calling the shots, so now Mel Gibson can go back his faith. (which, by the way, he did with aplomb when he made Passion of the Christ. Thanks, M. Night.) But, on top of the groanworthiness of "swing away" and the glasses of water and the asthma, the point M. Night makes is flawed because he put the plan into place. You cant use it as an argument of God's existence, because you wrote the whole thing. You wrote all the contrivedness into it. You are the God of that world. It rings emotionally untrue, because the audience knows that you wrote all the happenstances into it. You set out to prove the existence of God, but you really just proved the existence of a writer. This is the first hint of M. Night's narcissism, as he basically makes all his characters worship him at the end. Also, that alien looks mighty goofy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Love Affair with Rom Coms

For a few years there, my favorite genre of movies, bar none, was romantic comedies. I am not ashamed of this. I am not. Ahem.

It makes sense now why it happened. Boy in Pakistan hits puberty, any thought of sex induces unholy (literally) amounts of guilt, so he starts fantasizing about himself in loving relationships where the sex was implicit, not explicit. It's a story oft told, people. Get over it.

I had little to no contact with girls. Most of my schooling happened at what was ostensibly a coed school, but the girls and the guys had classes in different sides of the building. And there was a dude with a big stick who sat in between the two, thwarting any attempts at infiltration. Not that I would ever want to go into that other side. The only thing scarier to me than the big dude with the big stick, were the girls who studied past him. I was nerdy, I was scared, I was told talking to girls was wrong. Which was probably just as well, since I had no idea what I would say to a girl. "You look soft," is probably the best I could muster. I wanted to be suave with girls, of course, but I could also hide behind the rules laid down by my religion. "The only reason I don't talk to them, is because God told me not to. Which is probably the best reason possible, if you think about it. I would totally be suave to girls. If it weren't such a sin."

In such times, when the twin forces of hormonal changes, and debilitating fear (of girls, or consequences) govern my life, I would turn to romantic comedies. Where the men were smooth, the women beautiful, and the endings happy. Oh, let me lay down some ground rules about what makes a rom com. The audience has to know right from the beginning who will end up with whom, and the entire movie is about the barriers leading to that. These movies stop the moment that the two get together, so that nothing in the actual relationship is explored. Oh, and the main point of the movie is the two getting together. There may be other things going on, but those are secondary plot points.

I cant remember exactly when my affair with rom coms started, but I can tell you I watched them almost every day. When Harry Met Sally, Hope Floats, If Lucy Fell. If it had love, I was watching it. And I was the main guy in every single one. I was very explicitly aware of that. I wasn't watching two other people fumbling towards love. I was watching an alternative version of my own life, where I was smooth and I was always got the girl. I was a scruffy yet likeable French rogue in French Kiss, a washed up golfer yet likeable golfer in Tin Cup, a slightly dickish yet likeable whatever-Billy-Crystal-was in When Harry Met Sally. And I watched some terrible ones too. Addicted to Love (Meg Ryan in a stealthy robber outfit?), I.Q. (Einstein had a lot of accomplishments in the field of science, but they pale in comparison to his accomplishments in field of match making) . I even hated Sleepless in Seattle, which takes the whole barrier to love thing to an extreme, so that the principals don't even meet till the END OF THE MOVIE! Hey,Nora Ephron,, if I wanted to see a movie about a guy not talking to a girl I would hit stop on the vcr and go live my life!

Then, things changed. I went to a different high school for my last two years, one a bit more liberal than Big Dude with Stick High, and found myself sitting in classes with girls. It was terrifying. I would sit all the way in the back, so that they couldn't see me. Long story short. I had a crush on a girl for a year, we "dated" for either 2 or 4 weeks, I can't remember which, and it took me a year to get over her. "dating" btw, was more like pretending to date. It meant talking to her every other day and deciding that we were going steady. NO kissing, no phone talking, no hand holding. Just a label that we would have proudly displayed for everyone to see.

Around the time that I was trying to "win" her over, I watched Four Weddings and a Funeral. This would be the peak of my rom com "period." Hugh Grant was the perfectly idealized version of myself. Attractive, funny, and possessing an awkward bumbling nervousness that came across as charming to the ladies. I watched the movie over and over. And when I finally asked the girl if she wanted to be my "steady", I based it on the moment when Hugh Grant tells an engaged Andie McDowell that he loves her.

Except, I replaced all the talk of "love" of course, with talk of "going steady." I also realized that nervous stuttering is cute only if there is swelling music in the background, and if you look like Hugh Grant.

Anyway, after our 2 to 4 week stint, she dumped me. And then started "seeing" someone else. I was Hugh Grant in Four Weddings still, and her new boyfriend was the aging Scottish asshole that Andie decided to get engaged to. For no apparent reason. Why the fuck would she wanna marry that guy? He is ugly and useless. Look at how adorable and nice Hugh Grant is. Stay with him. And then eventually she comes back to Hugh. Just as this girl would back to me. But she never did. How could I be Hugh Grant if our stories weren't parallel. So I moved on to Casablanca. Ingrid Bergman does leave our hero at the end, but not because she wants to. She does it because the fate of the world depends upon it. Finally, that made sense. She left with the other guy because, in some secret but very real way, the fate of the civilized world depended upon it. Heartbreak is so much easier to take if it occurs due to the threat of Nazi world rule.

I now realize just how unrealistic most depictions of romance in rom coms are. There is no such thing as love at first sight. Love is much more complicated, and beautiful, than first attractions. And all rom coms end when the couple gets together, which is obviously when the actual "love" part begins. In some ways, the simplistic depictions of love in rom coms has been more harmful to us than any other genre of movies. Sure, movies are too violent, but we are rarely in situations where we can use guns to mow down our enemies. But all of us get into relationships, and the over simplified view of love can cause so much harm. The real "love" happens not before you meet the person, but after. My fiancĂ© and I live together, and my concept of love now is very different from the one I had during my "rom com" phase. Its about two people connecting on a deeper level than a series of "meet cutes", and about trying to find fulfillment and satisfaction individually while using each other for strength, comfort and… love. Our relationship does not make us one person, but two people stronger than they were before.

Also, I wanna see a rom com called Rent Check, where two people who really love each other try and come up with money to pay the rent every month. That's the rom com for me now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Best Movies Ever Made: The Abominable Dr. Phibes

First of all, its one of the greatest movie titles of all time. It’s right up there with At Midnight I Will Take your Soul (you know when to expect him), Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (that’s five s’s in “badass”) and Purple People Eater (you know what he looks like, stay away from him.)

The title tells you everything you need to know about this guy. He’s bad and he’s a doctor so he’s smart. Oh, also he’s pissed. His wife was killed in a car accident. But he blames the death on the 9 doctors who tried to save her life.

9 killed her
9 shall die
9 eternities in doom!

Also, he’s completely batshit insane. Watch the trailer here.

Doesn’t it look like the greatest thing ever? Well, I’m here to tell you that… it is! Its funny, creepy, and ultra weird. And it has a lot of self awareness and is, in some ways, parodying a lot of the early 70’s psychedelia. But it is also obviously a product of it. This movie could not have been made at any other time in history. And it is beautiful. Perfect art deco sets and crazy ass outfits. Watch the first 10 minutes of the movie here:

In fact the whole movie is on youtube. But don’t watch it like that. Watch the first 10 minutes there, fall in love with it, then go rent it. Or just buy it. You’ll end up buying it anyway.

Here is an imagined conversation between Dr. Phibes and his psychiatrist.

“I must have my revenge on the 9 that killed her. 9 killed her. 9 shall die. 9 eternities in doom!”
“Well, they actually tried to save her life.”
“No! 9 killed her. 9 shall die. 9 eternities in doom. But first I have some preparations to make. I have to make wax replicas of each doctor which I will melt with a blowtorch as I check them off the list. I must also construct a massive art deco set with a backdrop depicting a party so that I may dance around believing that I am at such an event. I must also have a huge pink organ that rises out of the ground. And a full band of emotionless robots that will play songs for me. I will call them Dr. Phibes’ The Clockwork Wizards.”

“Why would you call them that?”
“Because they are mine. I must have all this done ere vengeance begins. And then, since I have lost the ability to speak, I will carry a phonograph with me that I connect to my neck which will allow me to speak. I will use it to speak to the spirit of my dead wife, to whom I will also have built a very creepy altar. ”

“Isn’t that a bit excessive?”
“Have you seen her pictures? She’s a total babe. Or was. Until 9 killed her. 9 shall die. 9 eternities in doom.”
“Ok, wouldn’t it be more constructive---“
“Oh I almost forgot. I will use, as my inspiration, the 10 bibilical plagues. For no particular reason. So I will kill one guy with bees, one guy with rats, one guy with bats, one guy with a frog mask that slowly tightens—“

“Bats aren’t really that deadly.”
“One guy with locusts, one guy, check this one out, I will slowly drain the blood out of his body while my assistant plays a completely white violin.”
“You have an assistant?”
“Yes, Vulnavia. She’s a total babe as well.”

“Is that her real name?”
“No that’s just what I call her.”
“Wouldn’t you call someone Vulnavia if they let you?”
“Fair enough.”
“Oh and I will use my neck phonograph thing to make taunting crank calls to the doctors responsible---“
“What purpose could that serve?”
“9 killed her. 9 shall die. 9 eterni---“
“Oh look at the time.”

Just watch the movie right now. It has a guy from Citizen Kane in it! Really, it does! And its as good as Citizen Kane. Really, it is!

Everyone in the movie seems to be having a blast. This is Vincent Price's best role, and he's made like 300 movies. "But a lot of his movies suck", you say. "How many movies have you made?", I retort. You slink away, ashamed. He really is pitch perfect in this. You can see Vulnavia laughing at Vincent Price in the first sequence. Why didn’t they do another take of that scene? Cuz its fucking art, man. And it has the most beautifully twisted use of Somewhere Over the Rainbow ever.

Sidenote: those shitty awful Saw movies stole a bunch of ideas from Dr. Phibes’ twisted and magical brain.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Totally Recalling Awkwardness


The first female breasts I ever saw were on that three breasted mutant lady on Total Recall. You know how the ending to Casablanca reminds you that, even with our propensity to do untold harm to each other, human beings have the singular capacity to find goodness within themselves, that no matter how bleak the situation might be, we maybe able to illuminate it with the sliver of light within each and everyone of us? That’s what it was like. Except replace the problems of “three little people” with “three medium sized breasts.” I turned off the vcr and ran and told my parents. “That movie had scenes I shouldn’t be seeing. Also, uh, couple of questions…”

We had strict rules about movies. No sex. No sex at all. If I was watching a movie that they had rented for me that had sex, I was to turn it off and go tell them. And I did it everytime. What was worse, though, was when scenes would show up during movies I would watch with my parents. The rules were simple. Bury my head in the pillow as my dad fast forwarded through the offending scene. It was worst when you could kind of see it coming.

“Hey, thanks for helping me with the Nazi brigade back there. You wanna come up for some coffee?”
(Oh shit. No. No please don’t go up for any coffee. My mom and dad are right here.)
“I don’t drink coffee.”
“Well, honey, you won’t have to.”

Cue the very specific windy/whirry sounds of fast forwarding as I bury my face in a pillow.

It felt horrible, just the implicit acknowledgment that sex was about to occur, that I somehow knew the kinds of wordplay and verbal jousting that led to these scenes. I certainly had moments where I mistakenly buried my head in the pillow expecting love making. And then had to emerge from my pillow of shame a little embarrassed when the scene changed. “I totally thought she was into him.”

Here is the worst of these occurrences. Watching a movie with my parents, the sex scene happens, I bury my face in the pillow. Except there is no fast forwarding. My mom yells my dad’s name. “Fast Forward it!” “I don’t think the battery is working.” And then I sat there, my face in a pillow, the sounds of simulated sex filling the air as my dad fumbles with the remote control, trying to change batteries. The moaning gets louder with each fumble, or maybe it just seems to get louder. My mom is yelling my dad’s name, I can hear my dad trying to get the batteries in the right way, as the two people on screen moan towards faked ecstasy. One giant moan, and then silence. And then, when its obviously too late, the windy whirring sounds of fast forwarding. There has never been a bigger disconnect between the way characters have felt on screen and the way that an audience has felt watching them. Or, in my case, hearing them. What I felt was the exact opposite of having sex. We all emerged from the episodes changed. That moment took something from each of us.

The weird thing, however, was that we could watch the most violent movies ever made. And that was fine. Somehow, watching a man kill another man was better than watching the natural act of sex. I watched all the Rambo movies, all the Rocky movies, and every single horror movie I could get my hands on. I still don’t really understand this double standard. We watched the most gleefully sadistic scenes without a hint of awkwardness, but then would be reduced to quivering heaps of embarrassment as soon as two characters decided to spoon. What would get a worse reaction from my parents:

“Mom, dad, I had sex for the first time last week.”
“Mom, dad, I murdered someone for the first time last week. You know, one thing led to another, and next thing I know…”

Now that I think about it, I actually wouldn't be surprised if it was the former.

"What did you do? Have you no shame?!? This is not how we raised you!"
"Go hide in the basement. We'll bring you food down twice a day. We love you very much."

Also, what awkward sex movie moments have you guys shared with your parents?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Alternate names for Batman

So, according to Batman Begins, he named himself after bats because they were his biggest fear. Here are other names he was considering:

1. Falling Boy

2. The Gliding Orphan

3. Unable to Live Up to Family Legacy Avenger

4. Colonel Katie Holmes Thinks I'm Shallow

5. Captain The Big Hole in the Yard

6. Super Maybe it Was My Fault That Dad Died

7. My City is an Irredeemable Shithole, Man

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Iron Man and other comic book movies

I’ll save you the trouble. If you haven’t seen Iron Man movie yet, go see it. It’s the perfect comicbook movie.

The trickiest thing about making comic book movies, I think, is getting the world of the movie right. You gotta do a world that has enough heft for us to care about the characters, while still being able to support colorful superheroes. Iron Man nails this universe perfectly in a way that hasn’t been done since Spiderman 2. Too often superhero movies will either set up a universe too real and serious (Batman Begins), or one way too goofy (Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four, every other bad superhero movie.)

Before I go on, here’s something about Batman Begins. I like the movie, I think the sequel is going to kick a lot of ass, but Jesus Christ did that first movie have to be so solemn? At the end of the movie, when you finally see Batman in full lighting, didn’t you go “What the fuck is this goofy asshole doing here?” The world was so serious it didn’t make sense for someone to be running around in a goddamn high tech bat costume. Why does it take so long for Batman to show up? Its called Batman Begins, not Batman Begins 3/4ths of the Way into This Movie. And did we really need to see how he ordered the different components of his batsuit from different companies in China so as not to make them suspicious? When news of Batman being around spreads, are the Chinese companies really going to go “Well this guy Bruce Wayne ordered a bat helmet recently, but nothing else bat related, so it must not be him. Back to working for very little money.”

There’s also a scene where Bruce Wayne is sitting in his house drinking Orange Juice. I could have gone my whole life without seeing a scene where Batman drinks Orange Juice. (Why am I capitalizing Orange Juice? I don’t Know.)

Anyway, that’s my Batman rant. Makes it seem like I don’t like the movie. But I do. And I think the next one’s gonna kick ass. I just feel like Batman showing up shouldn’t feel out of a place in a FUCKING BATMAN MOVIE!

Anyway, no such problems in Iron Man. The universe is a little more serious than the one in Spiderman, but the suit still fits right in. I couldn’t wait for Iron Man to show up, and then he does, and I cheered, and he had a motherfucker of an action scene right out the gate. Fuck that tank up Iron Man, I yelled at the screen. And he does guys! He fucks it up!

Part of the reason the suit works is because they spend so much time on Tony Stark actually making the suit. If you had told me a year ago that the Iron Man movie is going to be mostly just Tony Stark making and testing his suit, I would have rolled my eyes so hard you could have heard it. But in this movie, these scenes are delightful. Tony doesn’t need to commission Chinese companies to make his suit. He makes it himself! Using the magic British machine that resides somewhere under his lab. Ahem.

But the making-the-suit scenes work well because Robert Downey jr. might just be the most charming man on the planet. Oh man. Can you imagine hanging out with him? It would be the greatest! He would buy you weird drinks and give you advice on everything and tell you what heroin really feels like but still convince you to never try it and then leave with your girlfriend at the end of the night but you don’t care cuz he’s Robert Downey Fucking Jr. and frankly you never really had a shot. . He should be made our philosopher king. I know we’re not doing the whole Philosopher King thing anymore, but I say if its good enough for Kallipolis, its good enough for us. Does anyone doubt that if Robert Downey Jr. ran on the Democratic ticket, he would win in a landslide? Yes, even with his drug addled past.

Reporter: Weren’t you caught like fifteen times with 3 prostitutes and a suitcase full of heroine?
RDJ: Hold on a second, I think there is something in your eye. (Walks over, purses his lips together, and gently and precisely blows into the reporter’s eye. Walks back to the podium.) Sorry, what was your question?
Reporter: Can I touch your face?

The only misstep I think the movie makes happens after the credits, in the "bonus" scene. But that's for tomorrow guys.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Movie Nerds

I consider myself a movie nerd. But I am hopefully not a bad movie nerd. I go to my movie dork sites ( etc) and people just get… into it. For instance, a Beverly Hills Cop movie just got announced, and people are already up in arms. “They better not fuck this up! They better not fuck up Beverly Hills Cop!” Really? Beverly Hills Cop? Do you even remember that movie? It had Balky from Perfect Strangers as a gay art dealer. It’s not that sacred. What memories do you have of this movie? The only way it would be sacred is if a vhs copy of it stopped a bullet that would have killed your dad. That’s the only thing that can explain the kind of reactions that this announcement has elicited.

I remember when the Transformers movie was coming out, people were livid. Livid! “Optimus Prime has lips? What? Optimus Prime shouldn't have lips! Why did they give him lips?!?” Pick your battles guys. There are better things to get angry about.

Just a couple of days ago, rumblings of a He Man movie started surfacing, and I have already heard people getting ready to rip it to shreds. “They better be riding giant cats in this one. That’s all I’m saying. If they’re not riding giant cats, I’m not in. It better be true to the artistic vision of giant cats being ridden.” Artistic vision?!? The only artistic vision was the dollar signs they saw from you buying the toys. The only reason they rode cats was so that they could get you to buy plastic versions of them. They really really just wanted your money, and now you are attaching all this emotional significance to it? Do these guys also get really attached to airline change fees? “They better charge me $100 for it man. They better do it. Otherwise I’m out.”

Some movie dorks have this weird fanatical obsession with consistency between the original products and their movie counterparts. But the fact is, most of the time the original just does not hold up. Have you tried watching a He Man cartoon recently? It’s close to impossible. I dare you to get through one episode, alone, without the aid of substances. What the hell would anything in a He Man movie look like anyway? What would Orko look like? Can you imagine him interacting with actual human actors? How can you make that not look like the goofiest thing ever? I’ll tell you this though. If this movie does happen, I will be there opening night. Unless they give Orko lips. Then I'm out.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Strangers Review

Liv Tyler is all like "I don't know any of these people."

So this isn't going to be a super long review, cuz the movie isn't super long. Plus, there's not really that much to say about it. The first half hour is real scary. Like, everyone-in-the-theater-screams-then-laughs-fuck-everything scary. But then when the action heats up, the movie isn't as scary anymore. Maybe because what we imagine in our heads is always scarier than what we see on screen? I think every person has their own specifics about what is super scary to them. I mean, there are obviously things in common. Everyone is scared of octopi. (Wait, you aren't? You should be. They are hyper intelligent, have 8 tentacles, and no remorse. And they can fit through a hole the size of their eyeball. Imagine what that looks like. And I am pretty sure they can communicate telepathically. I think I saw that on the Discovery Channel. I think they have a shared hive mind kind of thing going on as well. Oh, and falling. People are scared of falling too.)

Ok, so when a movie doesn't show you the really scary stuff, your brain fills it in with your own personal little phobias. But then if they show you the badness in plain daylight, your brain doesn't have room to add anything. That's the main problem with this movie. Its just three normal people in goofy masks. They are wearing bracelets and watches, and then i imagine them shopping for bracelets at JC Penney and trying to get a good deal on them, maybe checking the discount aisle to see if any of last year's models are cheaper. And nothing is less scary than bargain hunting. Plus, I get what the director is trying to do with the goofy masks. Isn't it terrifying, the dichotomy between how cute they look and the horrible things they do? But that doesn't change the fact that you still look like you're wearing a looney tunes mask. There's a reason there hasn't been a scary movie where the killer wears a porky pig mask. Wait, that's kind of a good idea. He stutters "That's all folks" right after he slashes a bunch of coeds. The tagline could be "This time, the pig's doing the slaughtering." Or "This time, that duck pushed him too far." Or "He'll bring home the bacon. Your flesh = the bacon!" Or "This time, the pig will make YOU squeal." etc.

Wow this digression got really out of hand. I could delete it, but the deleter is all the way over there. (Gestures to the top right corner of the keyboard, tries to reach for it, but gets tired and drops hand onto the keyboas'ohidhaiuwhfdiheih0p-i32.)

Anyway, the point is that it's hard to have a really scary movie with the badness in plain sight. Jaws is one of the scariest movies ever, and you hardly ever see the shark. In Alien, you don't get a good look at the actual alien until the very end. What's the scariest part in this movie? The knocking. "Who's there?" Silence. Then. Knock. Knock. "Jeezus who the fuck could it be?!?" Nothing. and Everything. Anything could be behind that door. Knock fucking knock. Hold me I don't think I can take this anymore. If the knocker had replied "I am a woman, mid twenties, blonde hair, wearing a goofy cartoon bunny mask or something, and I got a really good deal on this silver bracelet", it would kill the tension. Which is kind of what this movie does after the first half hour. Too bad. But most movies can't achieve tension at all, so this movie gets kudos for that. It's slight, but kinda scary and fun. The audience at the movie, though, gets a much worse review. Especially that kid yelling "boo!" to try and scare us. Teens are the worst audience members for scary movies. They feel lame for getting scared and try to up the bravado. When the octopi finally do rise up against us, teens will likely be their first target. I know. They told me so.

Monday, June 2, 2008

One more random thought on Lucas

Oh, random thought on lucas. I was watching the docs on the LOTR dvd’s (yeah I watched every single special feature on the dvd’s. They are awesome) and there is one part where Peter Jackson talks about how he directed the fight scenes in such a way that he pulled back to show the massive scale of the battle, but kept cutting back to the principal characters in each fight, so that we had a human connection to the fight, and never lost track of the emotional aspects of the whole thing. So, even though it’s a huge epic cg battle, we still are emotionally connected to the battle through the people we know and care about. Then, I realized that the final Star Wars prequel battle, is literally Clones fighting Droids.

Clones vs. droids.

Could not give less of a shit.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Bearded One

Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Fuck You George Lucas!

Take 2: Sorry I got off on the wrong track there. I will now maintain objectivity and do my best to review this movie the bes--- mother fucker! Don’t hold me back! Let me go! I’m gonna rip off his fucking beard and use his massive frog chin to----

Take 3: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a very disappointing movie. The more time goes by, the less I like it. Lets get the obligatory caveats out of the way. I love all the Indiana Jones movies. And this movie is not that bad. As a movie. As an Indiana Jones movie, it is pretty bad. There may be spoilers ahead so be careful. Here are my problems with it.

1. Fucking gophers? Really? Why? No no seriously. Why? It reminds me of how busy every scene in the Star Wars prequels is. Just shit flying around everywhere. In present terms, it would be the equivalent of walking down the street and the street is littered with paperboys, bike messengers, detectives with magnifying glasses in their hands, a mime on a unicycle, an accountant balancing a sheet, two guys carrying a pane of glass, and a pregnant woman breaking up with her husband.
2. Aliens? Really? Why? No no seriously. Why? Also, they’re not aliens, as John Hurt says. They’re interdimensional beings. They look just like aliens to me. (John Hurt has had a lot of experience with aliens before, so he should know better I guess.) And them being inter dimensional beings rather than aliens doesn’t really affect the story either way. But they still made it a point to mention, twice, that the crazy beings are inter dimensional, not alien. Its just so when people ask Lucas “Aliens? Really? Why? No no Seriously. Why?”, he can say, “Actually they’re inter dimensional beings.” And then he can pick what’s left of our childhoods out of his beard and slip it into his mouth.
3. Marion has nothing to do. In fact, she has a decent intro scene, and then she devolves into a weird woman child who grins and makes crazy faces. Lucas does not know how to write female characters. We’ve known this before. Its because he hasn’t spoken to a woman since he convinced Carrie Fisher to kneel before a giant booger in a bikini thing. No, the giant booger is not wearing the bikini thi--- you know what I’m talking about.
4. I hate sand. It gets everywhere. Wait. That’s the other movie he ruined.
5. The last sequence is all cg. I expected David Duchovny to be in the hat after that alien shi--- sorry I mean inter dimensional ship, rose out of the ground into space--- sorry. Into another dimension.
6. That scene where Mutt Williams tarzans all over the place. Also, his name is “Mutt”, Indy was the dog’s name… there’s a connection there maybe? Also, the monkeys. Goddammit. I expected Jar Jar to be swinging on one of the vines with him. “Mee sa swinging on trees.”

Ok. That’s all. Thanks for ruining my fondest memories. I now wait for Lucas to make a movie out of that really great day I had when I was 14 when we went to Universal Studios and I ate two Snickers ice cream bars and bought Psycho bath towels and rode in that awesomely kick ass Back to the future ride. But, in the movie version, the Back to the Future ride is changed to a Time Cop ride, the Snickers bars are now gigantic tubs of bubblegum and poop ice cream, and my Mom talks like she got lobotomized by a broken dvd of The Phantom Menace. Yes, I know that the movie didn’t come out until after my visit, but Lucas has never been a stickler for consistency.

Spielberg is ok tho.

M Night Shyamalan's The Happening

I haven’t seen this movie, and I don’t think I ever will. I just want to vent and express how amazing it is to me that he still gets to make movies. M. Night Shyamalan that is. The Village was the worst movie ever made. Until the end. And then came the “twist” and its badness jumped through the stratosphere to levels incomprehensible to the human mind. It became, somehow, the 4 worst movies I have ever seen, because it contained suckness that would normally require the length of 4 movies. So, the 4 worst movies I have ever seen were The Village.

Until he made his next movie. Yes, they let him make another movie after that. Called Lady in the Water. It’s incredibly boring and awful. He claims it’s a bedtime story he made for his kids. He is the only person on earth who thinks a multi million dollar movie should be made out of random stories he makes up to make HIS CHILDREN FALL ASLEEP! And M. Night casts himself as a writer who is destined to save the world with his magical “art.” Apparently at some point in the future, the world is in danger of destruction and the only thing that can save it are pretentious movies with half baked plots and shitty twist endings. Also, overwrought acting helps. Anyway, here are the 7 worst movies I have ever seen, post my Lady Water viewing.

7 worst movies I have seen.

1. lady in the water
2. lady in the water
3. the village
4. lady in the water
5. the village
6. biodome
7. the village

I cant really tell what the happening is about. I hope its set in a world where everything is normal, but a definite article is added anytime the word “happening” is used.

“What’s the happening tonight?”
“I don’t know. I heard there might a concert the happening that people might be going to.”
“When will that the happen?”
“What? You cant add “the” in front of the word happen. Its only in front of the word the “happening.””
“The happening? That’s two words.”
“No I just added a definite article in front of the word cuz that’s what we’re doing now.”
“Who’s on first?”
“M. Night Shyamalan.”

But you know what, I am so fascinated! I want to know if its much worse than his other two movies! I am sure it is, but how? How is that even possible? What crazy self aggrandizing cameo will M. have in this one? I just dont want to give him my money. I wish we had another currency, called Ironic Dollars. That we could all use to watch M’s movies, and then go buy Trolls on dvd. Wait, that is a legitimately good movie. Never mind.