Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
2 hours, 10 minutes
Second Run Seats
It's 2003 and Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington, Hart's War) wishes Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter, Planet of the Apes) would just leave so he can be lethally injected in peace. Fast forward to 2018 and a troop of resistance fighters raid a Skynet research facility, discovering a slew of dissected humans. When their raid goes awry, the only surviving soldier, John Connor (Christian Bale, Equilibrium) is airlifted back to base, but not before meeting with Resistance leaders who reveal to him a new weapon which may cripple the machines.
Let's revisit the Marcus Wright introduction. Thanks to the ten thousand adverts, we all know that Marcus ain't quite "Wright." Instead of saving his revealing history for the second act, director McG (Charlie's Angels) whips out the goods and starts shaking it, killing nearly all mystery surrounding this character. Following that flaccid reveal is nearly two hours of tedium. Things go boom, characters stare a lot, but little of consequence occurs. Don't believe me, ask them:
'Sup. I'm Common (Wanted) and I play Barnes, the brother soldier who stands next to John Connor. I stand around and stare like this in about five scenes. I can't believe I got my SAG card for this?!
You damn well better know me, I'm Michael F'n Ironside (Highlander II)! As Resistance Leader General Ashdown, I give Connor shit for his hella lame ideas. Who cast me as a leader? Everyone knows I get hired to wreck shit or hunt down Douglas Quaid; I don't do talky savior of humanity.
Can you believe I used to date Spider-Man? Now I, Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village), fell for Connor's "I'm the future savior of humanity" line. As his wife Kate, I mostly give advice and look concerned while wearing a belt way above my impregnated belly. Though the world is overrun by machines, one must sport a fashionably high waistline at all times.
Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) here. Am I the only person taking this film seriously? As Kyle Reese I'm the bomb-diggity...if I do say so myself. I just wish my elaborate desert car chase wasn't edited so poorly.
Hi everyone. My name is Jadagrace. I play Kyle Reese's friend Star and I am this many years old. I don't speak, but I go stiff and look scared when a machine draws near. The director told me that there's nothing cuter than a child in peril in post-apocalyptic movies. Don't you agree?
Hey folks, I'm Sam Worthington. I get to play it rough and tough while being confused as to how I have survived lethal injection AND Judgment Day. As more and more is revealed about Marcus, I allow my Australian accent to return. By the climax, I was ready to slip a Terminator on the barbie.
The name's not Boobgood, it's Moon Bloodgood (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li). I play Blair, the hot one in Connor's ragtag bunch. I may seem hard on the outside, but I yearn for companionship. Marcus looks like a major upgrade to my sybian.
My job as John Connor is difficult. I worry a lot about whether this new weapon will work and if the Resistance leaders' plan is what's best for humanity. Screw the Resistance leaders and screw Skynet! I have my own plan. Now if you'll excuse me, I must reassure the huddled masses of soldiers that they will all be dead unless they believe.
Bring on the Terminators, bitches!
You hire Moon Boobgood and don't even let the twins peak from behind the jacket? Meanwhile, Sam Worthington runs around naked with CGI mud covering his junk to keep the censors happy. A lot of people supposedly die, but we don't see too much of it. There's lots of big robots crafted like Matryoshka dolls that make lots of noise and blow up lots of shit, but they mostly look pretty bad doing it.
Connor versus the machines is an ongoing theme in the Terminator franchise, but you wouldn't know it since he only gets to throw down at the film's beginning and end. The big final battle took Salvation to new heights, not difficult to do since it'd been stinking up the screen until that moment.
The Money Shot
I needed my Terminator spirits lifted after FOX castrated my hopes for a Sarah Connor Chronicles, Season 3. Instead I got two hours and three minutes of actors staring at less than spectacular effects erupt against the dreary, washed out aesthetic. McG delivered a jumbled mess of storytelling and loud stunts that has done little to revitalize the franchise.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
New in Town
DVD Release: 05.26.09
1 hour, 37 minutes
Second Run Seats
Product of Miami, Lucy Hill (Renée Zellweger, Down With Love), has her lemon-face and sour attitude uprooted from her cozy corporate office to a wood-paneled one in extremely rural Minnesota. Lucy's been sent to downsize a foodstuffs manufacturing plant, but until she downsizes that enormous chip on her shoulder, she'll get little help from the townsfolk or the hunky single-father/union representative, Ted (Harry Connick Jr, Copycat). Prolonged exposure to their good-hearted nature melts Lucy's frostbitten spirits and lonely heart.
I'll give you two unexpected reasons to see New in Town: Siobhan Fallon (Baby Mama) and J.K. Simmons (I Love You, Man). Simmons' role as plant manager Stu Kopenhafer is minor at best, but the man shines brighter from the shadows. Siobhan Fallon, on the other hand, steals the show away from whomever she shares the scene. As Lucy's assistant Blanche Gunderson, Siobhan performs the somewhat naive, seemingly simple-minded scrapper with pitch-perfect hilarity.
There is nothing particularly new in regards to New in Town's story. Standard fish-out-of-water shtick applies (performed amiably by Zellweger). Harry Connick Jr. has a goofy, panicked-father moment that he lands without a hitch. The budding romance follows familiar footsteps with one exception. Lucy and Ted get all hot and bothered at a completely unrealistic and awkwardly emotional moment. New in Town attaches a fairy tale, anti-corporation message as Lucy and her Minnesota peeps unite to quash their potential termination, but every awww-inducing scene has been telegraphed from the trailers.
It was a little hard to get all gooey over Harry Connick Jr.'s Ted. I think the mountain man beard obstructed that winning smile. At least they opted to explain away his accent in lieu of him attempting a Minnesotan one. There is some EXTREMELY mild sexual humor mainly involving Zellweger's undergarments, keeping New in Town firmly in its PG designation.
The Money Shot
New in Town is a sap-happy affair right down to the Fa-Who-Foray, Da-Who-Doray sing-along by the town tree at Christmas (I could be mistaken, but be on the lookout for a Christmas troll in the crowd!). If you can stomach uninventive rom-coms with uninspired titles, you can do worse than putting this on your queue.
Monday, May 25, 2009
It's strange how the mind works, or at least how mine does. While watching Terminator Salvation, I was reminded of an even better film about robots: Short Circuit. Thinking about that lovable bucket of lug nuts Johnny 5 also reminded me of the perfect artist for my Monday Mood Music.
With the exception of one week, May's MMM selections have all started with the question "What ever happened to...?" Who better to ask that question of than El Debarge. Scouring the internets for his story I have learned that, like Terminator Salvation, they can't all be winners. Eldra Patrick Debarge started his music career in 1979 with three of his ten siblings in the group appropriately named Debarge.
In 1986, El went solo. His first single was a major success, landing at #3 on US charts. It probably helped that it was featured in the aforementioned film, Short Circuit. He continued to find moderate success in the 90's. Unfortunately, according to Wikipedia, in late 2007 El Debarge was arrested on a myriad of charges. Even worse, in October 2008 he was sentenced to two years in prison after violating probation stemming from those 2007 charges. So if anyone asks you, "Where is El Debarge?" you can shake your head sadly and tell them he is currently serving his sentence for crack cocaine possession in California State Prison at Lancaster.
I know not every story can have a happy ending, but let's hope all the best for El. In the meantime, we can remember the good times.
Two funny things to note: I love that Steve Guttenberg was too big of a star to appear in the video, choosing to instead have a cardboard cutout stand in his place. I bet he wouldn't hesitate to make an appearance now. Second, Ally Sheedy's appearance reminds me that Psych Season 4 will be returning soon! See, my mind works in mysterious ways...
Friday, May 22, 2009
How many times has this happened to you? You're sitting in a darkened theater and your fingers, slick from the butter-flavored poppin' corn topping, are nervously rubbing against your palms. You've done it again; you've managed to chase the kernels with two gallons of drink-soda-pop to discover your bladder only has a half-gallon capacity! Do you continue to twist and turn in your seat, hoping the end is near, or do you bolt for the bathroom at the risk of missing Jason Statham break the villain's neck with his pinkie or seeing Scarlett Johansson pull a Fast Times Phoebe Cates moment?
I don't think so. While it is tempting to return that tasty beverage back to the cup from whence it came, your armchair neighbor might not approve. It's futile to hope movie runtimes will return to a manageable ninety minutes; the obsession over the PG-13 dollar and the MPAA's deathgrip on the industry's balls have made 2 hours and eight minutes the recent standard. All we can do is enter the theater prepared.
Unless your a masochist, I do not recommend catheterization. I do recommend the new website:
First off, I love the graphic. You just click on a movie and if the peetimes are available, you choose which time you might expect a much needed release. RunPee will tell you what scene to wait for. A second box holds a synopsis for the minutes of peetime available, which will spare moviegoers from your annoying "What did I miss?" whisper.
The creator admits the site has a ways to go. While I enjoy the witty remarks, it is not always helpful. For example, The peetime for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past states at "1 hour into the movie when...walk out straightaway in fact don't waste money on a ticket." Well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man. You can be funny, but always be helpful for those of us who came specifically to drool over McConaughey's tight and tanned self.
I wouldn't bank on movie runtimes getting shorter anytime soon nor concession cups to get any smaller, so the best bet for you with wee bladders is RunPee.com. Because the more you know, the easier you can go.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Last night, I lay restless, burdened by the task of writing my 300th post. Through half-open lids, the red numbers of the digital clock seared 1:39 into my foggy brain. 2:12. 2:47. I feel the tiredness in both mind and body, so why should sleeping be this difficult? As I pondered, weak and weary, suddenly my room was bathed in a brilliant blue light followed by a crackling, thunderous eruption. Springing forward, I saw a person climbing from a round hole in my hallway floor. Even in the darkness, I instantly knew it was a woman. I jerked involuntarily as she flipped on the lights. When my vision adjusted, before me stood a very, very naked brunette. "Are you the Reel Whore?" she demanded. She looked familiar, but it was hard to focus on her facial features given the circumstances. "Well?" I realized I hadn't answered. In a flurry I stuttered, "Uh, yes, I am. How did you get here? Why are you naked? You know you look like Len-..." She interrupted my babbling, "I am Lena Headey and I've been sent from the future to enlist your help. You should know the time machine only transports living tissue and that's why I'm naked. Now get out of bed. We've got work to do, whore."
Her no-nonsense tone spurred me to action, and I sprang from my bed. Lena looked at me quizzically. "Why are YOU naked?" she asked.
"You never know when a naked woman's going to appear in your bedroom. Besides, it's my house. Wait, the Terminator time machine is real?"
"You know, not everything you see in sci-fi films is fictional."
Opening my draws drawer I ask, more out of courtesy than desire, "Would you like something to wear?"
"No, thanks. I can go for a drink. You don't need those either. Where we're going we don't need clothes."
Sitting at my kitchen table, Lena began to explain the reason for her arrival. She was contacted by director Zack Snyder with an interesting proposal. Zack is endowed similarly to Dr. Manhattan...ONLY with respect to his perception of time. Zack can see past, present and future all at once. With this ability, he saw that the absence of a third season of Sarah Connor Chronicles would initiate a multitude of cascading events wherein Rupert Murdoch would attain the stranglehold on the entire entertainment industry he's strived to attain. She was sent to me because a special project my future self pens for Summer Glau ties me closely to the temporal distortion. She also told me my mad dodgeball skills were crucial to altering history.
My mind was spinning, but that was just the half of it. "To stop this, you and I are to travel to ancient Sparta and retrieve the nose ring Xerxes lost to the spearhead of Leonidas," she told me. Turns out Zack uses his abilities to make his films more realistic. So much so that Lena is actually the spitting image of Queen Gorgo. Together we were to win the favor of King Leonidas prior to the Battle of Thermopylae. I was to become the 'plus 1' in his band of 300. Once Leonidas ripped the nose ring from Xerxes' face, I'd have five minutes to find it and throw it over the cliff into the ocean. If not taken, the ring would fall into the possession of Xerxes' attendant Roudabeh. That ring becomes the driving force behind her grandson's ambition. Thinking himself the direct descendant of Xerxes, Roudabeh's grandson will run unchecked over the entertainment landscape. Without the ring as a constant reminder her grandson, the man we know as Rupert Murdoch, will be weakened. That weakness will open the door for a third season of Sarah Connor Chronicles.
The air in my kitchen changed; the hair on my body stood on end. Lena took my hand in hers, and next thing I knew we stood in the marble chamber of Leonidas. Lena quickly explained that I was her gift to him on the eve of the battle. Needless to say the next few hours did not happen exactly like the film. But when in Greece...
The next morning, I was, thankfully, spared being squeezed into those kiwi-smuggling Speedos and instead was fitted into garb befitting an Arcadian. I'm no solider so the next few days of marching and prepping were a bitch. Zack's plan was for me to hide within the Arcadian ranks until the moment the ring was separated from Xerxes. Time passed, and the stench of blood and death around us grew worse. Between the smell and my nerves I was beginning to doubt if it would happen. Then it did. Xerxes screamed in anger and I watched as the nose ring flew through the air.
I started counting; 1, 2, 3... Once three hundred seconds passed, mission complete or not, I was going home. 8, 9, 10. I broke from my cocoon of Arcadian protectors and dashed into the fray. Either I wasn't that menacing or the Spartans were awe-inspiring because the enemy paid me no heed. Even so, I lost sight of the ring as I dodged splintering weapons and slipped on puddles of fallen warriors. A deflected spear hurled end over end in my direction, but I sidestepped easily. 135, 136. At that moment, the gleaming band of gold caught my eye...as did the woman scurrying from the opposite direction to reach it. Roudabeh! I burst into a full run to beat her to the prize. Just as in dodgeball, I was a second too late. Her hand closed over the ring as mine closed atop hers. She attempted to pull free as I twisted her fingers open. 208, 209, 210. The ring fell back to the ground and began to roll. I tossed Roudabeh aside and lunged. Success!
As I stood, ring in hand, a nausea-inducing pain sprang from my loins. Roudabeh had planted her sandal firmly betwixt my thighs. Oh, how I wished I had worn those cured-leather kiwi smugglers into battle! As I regained my senses I hear a woman's screams. Shit! She's gotten a small group of fighters to surround me. Double shit! The nad-thwacking made me lose count. I'm a good fifteen feet from the cliff's edge. No guarantee I can throw the ring above their heads, or even live to tell about it. Then it occurs to me: the ultimate dodgeball move. I stand tall, staring down the two men obstructing my path to the cliff's edge. With a yell that'd make Leonidas proud, I tore into a flat run towards the men. I broke from between the men and catapulted myself over the cliff's face. At the peak of my ascent I lifted the ring high. Oh, how I hope my count wasn't off! As I loosen my grip on the ring for my kamikaze throw, I feel the air change, and the hair on my body stands on end. My descent down the cliff's face is picking up speed. The crashing waves are rushing to meet me.
A flash of light. My face plants into the half-melted remains of my mattress. Owww! I peel myself out of bed and wonder, "Did it make a difference?" Only time will tell. One thing is for certain; it gave me a great story to tell for my 300th post.
Monday, May 18, 2009
It's time to return to my quest for lost artists. This week puts me at a loss. I have been scouring Wikipedia, iTunes, etc. trying to dig up some kind of information on him and it first seemed he had vanished. You can't even purchase the CD of his album Juice! In fact, you can't purchase any of his albums from Amazon, unless you count the handful of CDs for sale by third-party vendors. At least I have the cassette; even if I have no player to play it upon. That's right, the cassette, which looked something like this:
I absolutely loved Oran Juice Jones back in the day. I remember singing along to his songs The Rain and Curiosity nearly every day. In my search to discover what he is up to now, I finally uncovered a list of albums released the past few years. They include:
Trife Life by Oran Juice Jones Presents the Triflin' Family (05.09.06)
Player's Call by Oran Juice Jones (03.12.07)
Harlem Gangsta Story by Oran Juice Jones (07.29.08)
Oran Juice Jones Presents The Triflin' Family?! Are you serious? I'm even more shocked by Player's Call, especially considering Mr. Jones is pushing fifty. I guess if Ronald Isley has still got it, no need for any other brother to hang up their pimp cane. I'm thinking Oran Juice Jones is trying to be on the scene again, but unlike LL Cool J, he might want to call it a comeback just so someone knows he's making the attempt.
Thinking back on Curiosity, I believe the chorus went something like, "Curiosity killed the cat (cat, cat), But it was satisfaction, that brought it back (back, back)." I am curious to see what grooves he thought would bring him back to front, but maybe I should be resigned that I will always be satisfied by his greatest hit. That single, The Rain, is still awesome. Nearly half of the song is Oran berating his woman for slipping out on him. This diatribe has been committed to memory for the past twenty-odd years of my life. I love that he wanted to whip out the jammy but flat blastin' both of them would've messed up that thirty-seven hundred dolla lynx coat! My wife is still treated to the my utterances of "You without me is like cornflake without the milk!" and "This is my world, you're just a squirrel, trying to get a nut!" Oh Oran, you were the Shirley Brown of your day.
Sorry about the commercials, but Universal Music Group had to be all douchey and disable youtube embedding...
I love that at 0:35, Oran gets so pissed at his woman's infidelity he breaks out into dance on the lonely streets! Even better, at 3:48 we see not one, but two dudes on the sidewalks wearing floral short suits! Oh eighties, how we miss your tunes, but not your style.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
DVD Release: 09.10.02
2 hours, 7 minutes
See It, Take a Friend, Buy the DVD!
This post is part of COUNTING DOWN THE ZEROES, brought to you by IBETOLIS of FILM FOR THE SOUL.
A recent advert for the DVD release of Slumdog Millionaire touts it as the best film of the decade. I couldn't help but laugh when I read this. Have people forgotten about Moulin Rouge!?
Slumdog Millionaire and Moulin Rouge! have similar roots; both projects' directors were inspired by Bollywood films. However, while Millionaire was the Academy darling this past year, winning eight of its ten nominations, Moulin Rouge! was widely snubbed, winning only Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction from its eight nominations. Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet) wasn't even nominated for Best Director! Could it be Rouge! is the inferior, less entertaining of the two?
I think not. The exclamation point in the title says it all; expect excitement. On the day I saw Moulin Rouge! in theaters, many audience members were not prepared. I know this because I watched at least four people leave before the Diamond Dogs began to can-can. When friends asked my opinion of Moulin Rouge!, I made it clear that it was awesome, but you had to give it at least fifteen minutes to adjust to the frantic pacing and wild cinematography.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, Moulin Rouge! is the tale of Christian (Ewan McGregor, Big Fish), a young British writer who moves to Paris at the turn of the nineteenth century to embrace the Bohemian lifestyle. Shortly after arriving, Christian meets the dwarf Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo, Spawn) who is developing a new play with his Bohemian friends for the Moulin Rouge's owner Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent, Gangs of New York). Christian and his mad writing skills are quickly accepted into the group and he is presented to the Rouge's star, Satine (Nicole Kidman, To Die For), to secure her favor for their play. Only problem is Satine mistakes Christian for the Rouge's potential financier, the Duke (Richard Roxburgh, Van Helsing). Ultimately Satine must seduce the Duke, while keeping her burgeoning romance with Christian a secret.
Once Christian and Lautrec meet, there is barely a moment's pause in the singing. Beginning with music from the Sound of Music flowing to the popular cover of Lady Marmalade and culminating in my favorite scene, a medley of love songs atop an Elephant's head, it's nearly forty-five minutes before the film returns to a standard story format. In Moulin Rouge! you find popular songs from artists such as David Bowie, Madonna and Nirvana in mash-ups against seemingly contrary songs, sampled as part of a larger medley, or used in their entirety to particularly comic effect. You might think the result would be irritating, but it's quite captivating. The music of Moulin Rouge! grabbed me in such a way that I snatched up the soundtrack the first chance I got and still give it a listen every couple of months. Until researching this post, I never knew they released a Volume Two. Needless to say, I will cop that tout de suite.
The rousing music is barely even the half of it. Colors jump off the screen. Deep reds, cool blues, neon greens and pale whites are so crisp they crackle. When the doors to the Moulin Rouge first open, a swirling, dizzying flurry of vibrant costumes and leering faces assaults the eyes; Luhrmann uses the visual overstimulation to mimic Christian's perspective on his virgin voyage to the cabaret.
If the music and imagery don't excite you, gazing upon Ewan McGregor will topple your defenses. His boyish smile and adamant belief in the love that he and Satine share is irresistible. You can feel McGregor giving it his all in every scene. Kidman is equally impressive. In fact, from Broadbent's boisterous showmanship to Leguizamo's absinthe-tinged lisp and Roxburgh's nasally tantrums, all the actors deliver scene after hilarious scene. Like Luhrmann's visuals, they can turn on a dime to deliver the most heart-wrenching and dismal moments, changing the playful nature of Rouge! into a rueful affair.
Outstanding music and exhilarating visuals presented by some of the most talented actors--you couldn't ask for anything more. Bollywood films are designed to give audiences their money's worth and Luhrmann does exactly that with Moulin Rouge!.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
2 hours, 6 minutes
See It, Take a Friend, Buy the DVD!
The curse has been broken! It's common knowledge that, by and large, the odd numbered Star Trek films aren't the best of the bunch. If you're looking for a quality experience, instinct will lead you to the second and eighth films (Wrath of Khan and First Contact) before you dare lay a finger on the fifth, The Final Frontier. Fun fact: The Final Frontier stank up the summer of '89 so bad the studio was too embarrassed to release another summer Star Trek film...until now. Twenty years later, along come J.J. Abrams (Mission Impossible III) and company with the eleventh (or first if you consider this a reboot) installment to shatter both those taboos.
How was such a feat accomplished? Simple. Abrams takes the common themes in the second and eighth films: vengeance and time travel. A Romulan mining vessel is pulled through a black hole after witnessing the destruction of the planet Romulus. Captain Nero (Eric Bana, Troy) blames Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek: Wrath of Khan) and immediately starts blowing shit up. From his first encounter, Nero learns they have been pulled back in time over one hundred and fifty years and begins plotting his revenge on Spock and the Federation. As Nero's plans come to fruition, Ensign James T. Kirk (Chris Pine, Smokin' Aces) is being questioned about his performance in the Kobayashi Maru, an unbeatable test designed by Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto, TV: Heroes).
Star Trek is such a success thanks to the action-packed, hectic-paced story. Pushing all the wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff aside, the story progresses easily. Characters brush aside obstacles with only minor effort, much like the National Treasure franchise. The logistics are, at times, far-fetched and my uber-Trekkie friends tell me they fumble some of the history. I could have done without the Nokia-sponsored classic car joy ride and the Cloverfield-esque ice monster chase, but everyone's going to find something to nitpick this revered institution.
You'd just be a douche if you complained about the excellent casting. A better selection of actors couldn't have been chosen to revive Gene Roddenberry's beloved characters. While no one can match Shatner's ego, Pine has the charisma and swagger. Quinto's got that Vulcan look (when the prosthetics' edges aren't showing) and Zoe Saldana (Guess Who) rolls smart, sexy and sassy into Uhura. You can't beat Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz) and his comedic timing as Scotty, though Anton Yelchin (Charlie Bartlett) and John Cho (Smiley Face) are top contenders in their respective roles of Chekov and Sulu. When I heard DeForest Kelly's voice issue forth from Karl Urban (The Bourne Supremacy), that was a little bit freaky, but mostly fantastic!
Penning a story that would maintain the integrity of the original cast and timeline of Gene Roddenberry couldn't have been easy for Roberto Orci (Transformers) and Alex Kurtzman (The Island). The plot device utilized was a stroke of genius in my book. Though some aspects of the characters' history were altered, I appreciate that they remain largely unchanged. Adding in time-honored quips like "Dammit, Jim!" and "I'm giving her all she's got!" played especially well with the audience in my theater.
Abrams just keeps throwing the action at you. It feels like little more than five minutes go by before audiences are treated to another fight, explosion or shoot-out. But apparently, you can't bleed in space. I think I mentioned Saldana's sexiness, but she gets a little help in the gratuitous flesh department from her Orion roomate, Gaila (Rachel Nichols, Charlie Wilson's War).
The Money Shot
Star Trek was an exhilarating film that brings the blockbuster back into the franchise. While I enjoyed the abundant action, I advise they downshift gears for the next installment. Trying to convert this institution into a shallow, fluffy franchise may gain you twenty-five percent new viewership, but you'll quickly lose fifty to seventy-five percent of the Trekkies...and that is one group you don't want to cross! (This geek would love to see Klingons and Tribbles next go 'round!)
My Nerd-laden Nitpicks (Definite Spoilers)
I did have a few issues with the overall execution but here's three that I just can't go without mentioning:
1) I know Nero has been adrift in space for twenty-five years, but that doesn't explain how he conveniently knew he had killed Kirk's father on the U.S.S. Kelvin. It made for a great dramatic line, but crushed the believability.
2) I don't care in which reality you exist; an Ensign cannot magically rise to the rank of Captain just because Madea pins a medal on his uniform!
3) Newly-promoted Captain Kirk, not Spock Prime, should have spoken the monologue at the end of the film. Dammit, J.J.! That's the Captain's duty.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Fletch of Blog Cabins and I have finally been given the opportunity to to partner together to present two thespians, a That Guy and That Gal, who've recently partnered together onscreen in the film Sunshine Cleaning. See how that works two ways, eh? Check out Familiar Face - Unknown Name for the latest inductee while I present my special lady below.
Nearly everyone can recognize Jolie's or Johansson's, um, talents from across a crowded theater, but what about the woman playing their best friend, mom, or even Pilates instructor? Here I shine a spotlight on those actresses that live in the shadows and ask the question:
Mary Lynn Rajskub
3 Unforgettable Roles
Road Trip - Seann William Scott couldn't completely pull the wool over Blind Brenda's eyes. He may have stolen her school's shortbus, but not before she gave him the one-finger salute for feeding her dog and generally being a douche.
Mysterious Skin - As Avalyn Friesen, I instantly recall that dowdy, front-buttoned, potato sack of a dress she wore. Ms. Rajskub seemed nearly as timid as her outward appearance suggested. But Brian discovered more than he was searching for during his brief encounter with Avalyn.
Sunshine Cleaning - Mary Lynn portrays slightly paranoid phlebotomist Lynn, who is befriended by the troubled Norah. Norah tries to bond over the similar family histories, but Lynn makes it abundantly clear that she's not looking for that kind of empathy.
Honorable Mentions: The character of Zelmina the cult member nearly won out for unforgetttable role, but I couldn't show that much love to Dude, Where's My Car? Still, I can almost hear the popping sound of her jacket when I picture her. Ms. Rajskub has played Chloe O'Brian on 24 since Season 3, though I'm sorely behind on that series. The role my wife always remembers is Pam, the pageant assistant from Little Miss Sunshine, playing alongside fellow WtL? inductee Beth Grant.
Saw it, but even I don't remember her in it!
Mary Lynn Rajskub's been appearing in television and film since 1996 so there's a good chance you've seen her and didn't even know it. There was more than one credit that furrowed my brow when I tried to recall her role in the production.
Films: Sweet Home Alabama, Punch-Drunk Love, The Anniversary Party, Magnolia, The Truth About Cats and Dogs
(I don't recall her Magnolia or Truth About Cats and Dogs roles for good reason; she 'appeared' as a voice. Hey, a credit is still a credit!)
Mary Lynn Rajskub is the woman you call when you need 'that look.' 'That look' says:
I am not amused.
Why are you talking to me?
You think you're much funnier than you are.
I would squash you underfoot if I had a big enough boot!
You know, THAT look. She's also great at playing the nerd, or the slightly off-keel girl. If you want to know more about her career, be sure to check out her IMDB and Wikipedia pages. You can also be a total geek like me and follow her on Twitter!
Mary-Lynn Rajskub has one project that will be released this summer. I don't know who Helen is in Julie & Julia, but it's a safe bet she's a friend or relative of Julie or Julia! I can hardly wait for this to release.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I planned to continue the trend of finding lost artists for May. Then I saw Star Trek this weekend and felt obligated to feature this next performer. If you're looking for Reel Whore insight into Star Trek, check back soon.
I will say while I did enjoy the movie, I wished The Shat had had a cameo. Rumor has it he was offered a role and turned it down. It's probable, but did that make me miss his swollen mug anymore; no.
Maybe he can transform his disappointment of being omitted from the film into a series of poems. Maybe those poems can be arranged into songs. Maybe the Shat can then perform those songs with a hodgepodge of great musicians. It's not like it hasn't happened before.
His singing career has been a thing of ridicule over the years. In fact, one wouldn't call it a career so much as an occasional romp into spoken word for shits and giggles. That is until William Shatner joined forces with Ben Folds to create the album Has Been in 2004. I will state on record that not only do I own this album, but I enjoy the hell out of it. Shatner is accompanied by an eclectic group of performers; Aimee Mann, Henry Rollins and Brad Paisley to name a few.
Maybe you've shunned this album. Maybe you've thought I'll give it a listen tomorrow. Maybe you're waiting to borrow your brother's copy. Don't wind up asking, Why did I waste it? Why didn't I taste it? Here's a listen to whet your appetite:
My favorite song on the album is You'll Have Time, but the videos for that weren't up to snuff. When the Shat's involved, there is a certain modicum of quality that one must maintain.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Fuck the H1N1 virus. Allergies ain't got nothing on this. We're on the verge of a pandemic, people!
After days of complaining about irritation and unstoppable scratching, I took my wife's advice and conducted a self-exam. Close inspection revealed that I've got cinematic crabs! That's right, I got Flik-Itch! I managed to pick off a couple but it did little to help. Check out these vicious lil buggers:
Symptoms started presenting shortly after I snubbed X-Men Origins: Wolverine last weekend. Not only did I fore go watching the first big summer movie, I didn't even opt for the counter-blockbuster programming, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Instead, I pissed away the weekend sifting through my DVR, hanging with friends, and, of all things, doing yard work. Needless to say, by Tuesday the itch for summer blockbusters was unbearable.
The only cure for Flik-Itch is summer movies. Any affected party should apply copious amounts of mindless popcorn flicks liberally at least once a week.
With repeated application, symptoms usually subside quickly. Continued usage will cure Flik-Itch within three months. Flik-Itch has been known to subside within two months, but ironically only when the available medication produced is of inferior quality. At this time, doctor's are hesitant to speculate which strain, malignant or benign, this season may bring.
To be safe, I intend to slather on an IMAX-sized dab of Star Trek immediately before I scratch my ass raw! I suggest you do the same.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
1 hour, 42 minutes
Second Run Seats
Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams, Serving Sara) lived the dream in high school; head cheerleader dating the quarterback Mac (Steve Zhan, Riding in Cars with Boys). Now she cleans up behind those living their dreams. She's taking realty classes which consist of secret rendezvous with the now married Mac at the Sleep-Eazy motel. Meanwhile, Rose leaves her son, Oscar (Jason Spevack, Hollywoodland), with her baby sis, Norah (Emily Blunt, Dan in Real Life), since it's one of the few jobs Norah doesn't completely screw up. With a passing comment by Mac and the urgent need to earn private-school tuition for Oscar, Rose decides to specialize her cleaning for the recently deceased. Enlisting her layabout sister, the backdoor business Sunshine Cleaning is born.
Did you catch all that? Rose is juggling a hustling father, a troubled sister, a bored child and a married boyfriend all while cleaning houses, working on a realty license and running an unlicensed bio-hazard removal business. Somewhere amid the frenzy she finds time to catch random television movie scenes to find her late mother's walk-on role as a waitress. Her plate is extremely full, which explains, but doesn't excuse, why all these plot strings don't get resolved by the film's end.
The death of their mother had a significant influence on the lives of Rose, Norah and their dad Joe (Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine). I can't say exactly how it affected dear old dad because Joe's story is only partially told. The trauma leads Norah to seek out a kindred spirit in Lynn (Mary Lynn Rasjskub, Mysterious Skin) with surprisingly contrary results. The effects on Rose isn't as apparent; she continually tries to attack her problems with a determinedly cheery outlook, though her facade appears on the verge of shattering with each breath.
The expressive faces of Amy Adams and Emily Blunt lift Sunshine Cleaning out of complete mediocrity. As my wife put it, I'd have hated to have been in drama class competing for lead roles against either of these two. The two actresses convey such convincing emotions that you want to cheer or cry with them, even if you're not sure what you're reacting to. Arkin gives a fun but all too brief turn as Joe. As Winston, the one-armed owner of a cleaning supply shop, Clifton Collins, Jr. (Traffic) is underused though he becomes an increasingly important part of the Lorkowskis' lives.
Even with the ladies cleaning up spattered human remains, director Christine Jeffs is careful to avoid showing anything worse than a few drying pools of blood. Rose's adulterous affair does provide a fair amount of flesh from Adams and Zhan, but the fun stuff is left up to your imagination.
The Money Shot
I give a standing ovation to casting director Avy Kaufman who couldn't have chosen a better cast of actors for the project. There's nothing particularly bad about Sunshine Cleaning; it's just that in this case, great performances in a mediocre story still results in a mediocre story.
Monday, May 4, 2009
In a moment, do you ever find yourself asking "What ever happened to...?" That's the question that crossed my mind a couple weeks back when this song came on the radio. It'd been a good long while since I had heard it, but I immediately wondered what fate had befallen the artist.
Was he on the road to a comeback? Did he suffer a tragic accident? Did he find religion and give up the hedonism of the pop life?
It turns out those questions don't have simple answers. According to Wikipedia, Terence Trent D'Arby "died a noble death" on October 4, 2001. Don't be sad, Terence Trent D'Arby was only the stage name of Terence Trent Howard who legally changed his name on that date to Sananda Maitreya. His new name came to him in a series of dreams after he meditated for a better representation of his identity as an artist.
In fact, fans of D'ar...um, Maitreya will be happy to learn that he has been putting out albums for most of the noughties and even has a new album, NIGOR MORTIS available. I haven't had a chance to sample Maitreya's newest material, but I am more than curious. In the meantime, I'd like to pay tribute to his long-deceased image of the eighties.
Wow, you discover something new everyday. I think I'll dig up more of these "What ever happened to...?" stories in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Brotherhood of the Wolf
Le Pacte des loups
DVD Release: 10.01.02
2 hours, 32 minutes
This post is part of COUNTING DOWN THE ZEROES, brought to you by IBETOLIS of FILM FOR THE SOUL.
It is said that the best tall tales germinate from a seed of truth. For Le Pacte des loups, a.k.a. Brotherhood of the Wolf, the truth began in the French countryside during the mid-eighteenth century. Over one hundred people were killed in attacks by beastly wolves. The legend of the Beast of Gévaudan is still shrouded in mystery to this day.
In Brotherhood, the mystery is revealed by the recollections of the Marquis d'Apcher as he pens his memoirs. He recalls the brutal killings and how the King dispatched Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), his taxidermist, to investigate the monster. Grégoire and his Iroquois companion, Mani (Mark Dacascos, Cradle 2 the Grave), quickly discover the beast is larger and more deadly than any normal wolf. As the search continues, Grégoire chases more than wolf tales, specifically the courtesan Sylvia (Monica Bellucci, Shoot 'Em Up) and the Count's daughter, Marianne de Morangias (Émilie Dequenne), which her creepy brother Jean-François (Vincent Cassel, Eastern Promises) is none too happy about. As repeated efforts by the local guard to hunt and kill the beast bear no fruit, Grégoire learns the beast's true nature is tied to a political coup.
Period pieces have never really been my cup of tea. How then would one propose to tell a story that is appealing to audiences not typically interested in stuffy clothing, fluffy wigs and verbose posturing? Start by brutally killing a busty damsel. If that doesn't hook them, toss in a savage from a faraway land; let's make him a Native American and, just for kicks, give him mad ninja skills. This savage and his civilized companion are the King's Green Berets compared to the Keystone Cops running around shooting at every shadow in the forest. Horror, action and comedy are covered, but if still unsatisfied, mix in a brothel of naked women and debauchery to lighten the mood even more. You do want to keep the story's tone dark, so it's best to add a pinch of conspiracy and intrigue, another reason to have us looking twice at every character.
Writer-director Christophe Gans (Silent Hill) and writer Stéphane Cabel manage to incorporate all of the above-and more- into Brotherhood. As outlandish as it sounds, they pull it off superbly. Beginning in bloodshed, Brotherhood quickly slips into a cadence, alternating between story exposition and spectacle about every ten minutes. Those spectacles range from bone crunching, hand-to-hand combat to the silky, heaving bosom of Monica Bellucci to peasants tossed about like chew toys by the Beast.
Through a combination of clever transitions and slow-motion, Gans makes Brotherhood a savory visual feast. The Beast, once revealed, is a bizarre and sinister creature that seems nigh unstoppable. Gans ensures audiences understand just how powerful the creature is through a complex battle with Grégoire, Mani and the Marquis (Jérémie Renier, In Bruges). Brotherhood's gruff sound effects drive home the weighty impact of the bullets and the jagged tearing of the blades in ever action sequence.
Gans takes similar care with the softer moments. Watching the camera glide over Bellucci's heart-shaped derriere as the scene subtly changes to the snow-covered hills of Gévaudan was one of my favorite moments, and not solely for a glimpse of bare Bellucci. Gans has a knack for crafting scenes that feel poetic even if the story isn't.
If you find the opportunity to watch it, I highly recommend doing so twice; once with subtitles and once dubbed. I normally prefer subtitles, but with so much action a second, dubbed viewing helps to appreciate the visual details. Being a film not in my native tongue, I hesitate to comment on the acting. Cassel steals every scene he's in, but from what I've seen of him, that is usually the case.
With all that happens in Brotherhood it's hard to imagine it feeling sluggish, but it does lag in parts. The slowness is a minor quibble about an otherwise exhilarating tale of legendary proportions. Thanks to Gans' flourishes, you forget that Brotherhood is little more than a monster movie.
Friday, May 1, 2009
We've dragged ourselves through the dregs of spring movies and now Summer 2009 looms before us. We've got some studly-looking blockbusters in the line up, but we also have some slap-crappy sequels no one asked for. I'll save my lambasting for below.
Those who keep up know I promised to review all the March releases, and I'm still delinquent. Lucky for me, the final two should be opening at the cheap theater shortly. Don't say I never follow through on a promise, no matter how excruciatingly painful.
Summer '09 doesn't look to be off to a bad start. It's not a great start either, but we'll make due. Here are IMDB's May releases, ranked from worst to best for your reading enjoyment:
Exercise the Right To Cinematic Celibacy.
Dance Flick (05.22) How many Wayanses does it take to make a funny spoof movie? Evidently, more than are working on this one. I can slam this all day, but fact remains it will make money, and crappier sequels like Sing Flick and Cheer Flick will come oozing forth like the icky baby in the trailer.
Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian (05.22) Dear Amy Adams, I'm sorry I won't be attending your latest flick. It's not that I don't love you; after all, I did see Underdog to hear your voice. It's Ben Stiller's uncanny ability to make films insufferable. Dear Hank Azaria, I'm sorry I won't be attending your latest flick. It's not that I don't love ...
Up (05.29) Pixar thought a non-speaking robot on an apocalyptic Earth was a hard sell; how about a crotchety old man in a floating house? If it's one thing kids love, it's animated movies about elderly people. I remember how my little sister scurried to the TV every Saturday to watch the Grumpy Old Men cartoon.
Management (05.15) Hollywood just doesn't release enough romantic comedies about stalkers. Watching Steve Zhan and Woody Harrelson make with the funny would make it worth watching... if I didn't have to sit through Aniston's entire cache of pissy and pouty Rachel expressions.
It's Friday, I Don't Want to be Alone.
Angels and Demons (05.15) This Ron Howard-Akiva Goldsman-Tom Hanks reunion has one major advantage over The DaVinci Code: I've never read this book. Considering how badly they raped that story, I should be running for the hills. Then again, Ewan MacGregor costars and that great smile can overcome even the worst scripts and hairdos.
Battle for Terra (05.01) How sad is it that one line uttered by James Garner sold me on this? The animation looks pretty solid and the story has been getting good buzz. Besides, right about now I'm up for any animated flick that doesn't come from Pixar or Dreamworks.
Ghost of Girlfriends Past (05.01) People know Jennifer Garner's crooked mug usually sends me running away. However, the glistening chest and teeth of Matthew McConaughey draw me in like a moth to the flame. Seriously though, I'll sit through this rom-com for a chance to see Emma Stone outshine the lot of them.
Next Day Air (05.08) The mix-up between slackers and drug lords has this flick looking like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Brothers. Either the trailer is cut really well, or this actually shows promise. I like Mos Def and all, but when did he become 'AND' cred worthy?!
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (05.01) I've seen this trailer SO MUCH... it was flaming, flames, FLAMES... on the side of my face... Fans of the film Clue should recognize that great line, but it is also how I feel about this damn film. A clue is what Fox should get because they are trying to market this with alternate endings a la Clue in squeeze more money from us. Even if I had seen the bootleg version (wink, wink) I would have still gone to theaters for a proper viewing, but since Fox has to be such dicks about it, they can sit and spin on Wolverine's adamantium claw.
Moist With Antici...Pation!
Drag Me to Hell (05.29) Sam Raimi makes damn good horror movies. Justin Long is a pretty funny guy. Alison Lohman is a vastly underappreciated actress in both talent and cuteness. That's three reasons to see this. You need one more? That old hag looks hysterical and terrifying at the same time!
Terminator Salvation (05.21) Can someone please explain to me how the actual battle for humanity scores a PG-13 rating when its non-war predecessors are all R-rated? I've had a good long cry about it, and I'm still stoked to watch Christian Bale smoke some metal ass. If only they'd worked a way to insert Summer Glau, then I'd be standing in line right now.
Star Trek (05.08) Another advert I'm sick of: 'Not your Father's Star Trek.' Shatner's not in it so it can't possibly be the same. I'm one of the few who doesn't believe J.J. Abrams is God's gift to sci-fi. Still, this looks fucking awesome. If it lives up to even half of what the trailer promises, it will boldly go where the series has not gone before.
Here's a fun fact; rising star Anton Yelchin is in both Star Trek and Terminator Salvation. If only he'd be cast to play Yorick in the upcoming Y the Last Man film instead of the LaBeouf, I'd be as happy as a little girl!