Friday, January 25, 2013

More Movie Trailers

Whenever I'm bored, haven't done much else to write about, or just feel lazy, I watch and post my thoughts about trailers for upcoming movies. Don't expect this to take up much time, because I sure didn't find many worth sharing:

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
This isn't a real movie, right? There's no way this is a real movie. I don't even just mean because the premise is idiotic, but because no studio could think any movie starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Artereton could be a hit. No offense to either of them who are both fine actors, but appearing in the Avengers doesn't mean you can open a movie... unless that movie opens on January 25th. Fair enough.

Anyway, while I was watching this trailer, I kept expecting Bugs Bunny to pop up and go, "Hansel?!"

Olympus Has Fallen
This isn't a real movie, right? There's no way this is a real movie. I don't even mean because the premise is so 1992, but because no studio could think any movie starring Gerard Butler could be a hit. No offense to Gerard Butler who's a fine actor, but... ah fuck it. Fuck you, Gerard Butler. I liked 300, but what has he done since? I'm certainly not gonna see this one.

A Good Day to Die Hard
This movie looks just as stupid as Olympus Has Fallen -- more so, even! -- but the Die Hard series has earned the right to be stupid, and they've been doing stupid for longer and better since before Gerard Butler was waiting tables at the Planet Hollywood in Melbourne.

Wait... is Gerard Butler Australian? Who cares.

Anyway, this looks dumb, but I'll at least rent it.

The Call
Don't watch this trailer because it looks like a totally by the numbers, generic thriller. I'm only posting it so I can ask this question: When did that little girl from Little Miss Sunshine turn hot?

Saving Lincoln
What the fuck is this? This literally looks like something that was filmed in front of a green screen then chopped together in two weeks to cash in on the popularity of that other movie about Lincoln. This has some good actors, but watch this trailer and tell me it doesn't look like the absolute worst movie ever made.

Scary Movie 5
Here's another trailer you shouldn't watch because, frankly, why would you? I'm only posting it so I can point out that Ashley Tisdale has finally reached the point in her career where she's playing a grown woman with a husband and a child. That just blew my fucking mind, man. She's still gorgeous.

But this movie looks almost -- but not quite -- as bad as Saving Lincoln, and it wins if only because it looks dreadful but not pretentious.

Oh... and this will be of interest to absolutely nobody else, but her husband is played by Simon Rex. Remember him?

This doesn't look terrible, but it does sort of look like a made for TNT original movie. And that's fine, and I'll maybe rent it some day or at least watch it when it does come on TNT, if only because Ed Harris and David Duchovny are both cool. Maybe I'll even go see it if it actually opens in a theater somewhere, if only to support these two, both of whom probably need a hit. It'll be hilarious if this film went on to be the highest grossing movie of all time.

It could happen.

I'm torn. On the one hand, Jackie Robinson was a true American hero whose story is one of the most inspiring and indelible in our nation's history. On the other hand, this looks like a pretty mediocre movie. If it gets good reviews, I'll check it out because I like the man and I love a good baseball movie.

The Last Exorcism 2 / The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia
I didn't watch either of these trailers either, but -- again -- I have some questions and observations:

First of all... look at those posters. These are the same movie, right?

Second of all... how can you have a sequel to a movie called The Last Exorcism? They should've at least called it "The Last Exorcism 2: One More Exorcism" or something.

Third of all... how can you have a movie called "The Haunting in Connecticut" that seemingly appears to take place in Georgia? More importantly, why isn't the tagline for this movie, "The Devil went down to Georgia"? Missed opportunity.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Ok, this one made me laugh. I'm not going to go see it, but I might rent it maybe. Anyway, it might be the one trailer I posted that's worth watching.

 And that's all I got.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Columbo: Season One Review

I've officially watched every episode of Columbo that's available for instant streaming on Netflix, which includes almost -- but not every -- episode over the course of its seven seasons, after which it went into hiatus for over a decade and came back on a different network. So I can't say I've officially watch every episode of Columbo, since that would require tracking down the DVDs so I can watch the ones that are mysteriously left off of Netflix. But I did buy the first season DVD set the other day, so I can say I have watching every episode of the first season, as well as the two TV movies that preceded the series pilot.

Basically all I do lately is watch Columbo and then bore my friends by talking about it, so now I'm going to branch out and try to bore every body else who stumbles upon my blog by giving my thoughts on every episode from the original series of Columbo, and then my thoughts on every episode of every other season as I finally watch them all. This is what my life is now. I have become a Columbo watching machine.

Anyway, here we go:

Oh wait... just one more thing before we begin... I just wanted to point out that Columbo is the best detective show of all time, and front runner for being the best TV series of all time over all, at least among those that don't have "Star Trek" in their title.

Prescription: Murder (February 20th, 1968)
This TV movie was the first appearance of Peter Falk as Columbo, although the character had appeared before, first as a short story, then as an episode of a mystery anthology show featuring Bert Freed as Columbo, making him notable as the first actor to portray the character and that's about it. I suppose if I really want to claim to be a Columbo fan, I should track this down and watch it. I'll put it on my list stuff no reasonable person would ever want to do but I seem to do it anyway.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Top Childhood Crushes

Well... my top childhood celebrity crushes, anyway, since nobody out there wants to hear me talk about Elizabeth from my third grade class at Naubuc School back in Glastonbury, CT. Anyway... here are the top crushes I remember most from the mid 80s to early 90s.

Why? Because I'm still in love with all of them. I was originally going to do this as a top ten list, but then I realized I couldn't arrange them in anything but a random order. They're all number 1.

Gina from Sesame Street

Forget about Gordon, that deaf chick, or all those three-ways between Bert, Ernie, and their rubber ducky, the real sex appeal on Sesame Street came from Gina. I don't really remember much about her character other than that every episode she appeared in was brought to you by the number 69 and the letters S. E. X.

According to Wikipedia Gina is still on the show... and she's called Dr. Gina Jefferson. Good for her!

Robyn Lively

You're going to notice a lot of redheads on this list. Well, there was never a hotter redhead than Robyn Lively. You remember her, right? She was the star of Teen Witch, she was Daniel San's love interest in Karate Kid III, and she appeared in at least one episode of every TV show ever made between 1984 and 1997. And to this day she still appears in my dreams.

Turns out she's the elder sister of current it girl Blake Lively. Those are some good genes! Hey... she's also the younger sister of Jason Lively, who played Rusty Griswold in European Vacation, so I guess those genes might be a little dirty after all.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monstro vs The Orca

Steven Spielberg has referenced Pinocchio (and other Disney movies) so many times in his films that I've always wondered if the escape from the whale Monstro had any influence on his chance from the shark in Jaws. Anyway, I've always just thought both scenes were great and thrilling and kind of similar, so I thought it would be fun to mash them together and see if it works.

This sequence originally appeared in my video review of Jaws, but I edited it slightly and expanded it a little here.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Les Miserables

I don't know enough about the source material so I can't say if this was a faithful adaptation of a terrible Broadway musical or just a terrible movie in its own right. Either way, I can say that I didn't like it.

I took my mother to see this the weekend after Christmas because she was in town and this is the kind of movie you take your mother to, right? Also, she's always been a huge fan of the show, having seen it nearly a dozen times on various stages all over the world (mostly in New York but at least once or twice in London), and as a kid I grew up with the soundtrack playing all the time, either on cassette tape (remember those?) or just from my mom singing the songs as she made dinner or worked around the house. As a singer, she's a little better than Russell Crowe, but not by much.

Anyway, long story short, she loves the play and loved this film adaptation, so take that for what it's worth. I may have heard the soundtrack growing up, but I never saw the play and I thought this film sucked so take that for what it's worth too. I do adore musicals and have been known to listen to soundtracks myself and even sing while cooking dinner too, I just thought this was a bad musical. Bad music, bad singing, poor story, weak characters.

It wasn't all bad, of course, since it was lovely too look at and clearly had a huge budget that was used well on amazing sets and visual effects, although for a musical there was an overabundance of CG. Was this Les Miserable or one of the Star Wars prequels?

Much of the music was great, with a handful of rightly iconic songs throughout, but only the female singers were all that good. Anne Hathaway knocked her role out of the park and was dazzling with her showstopping performance of that Susan Boyle song, whatever it's called. Dream Lover? Dream a Little Dream? And that actress who looked like Vanessa Hudgens was phenomenal. But everybody else kind of sucked. Hugh Jackman is a cool dude but his voice is really unappealing.

And then there was Russell Crowe, who is not a good singer but every reviewer has said that, but he was still ironically the best thing in the movie. Here's how amazing an actor Russell Crowe is: Even though he's a bad singer, he acted liked a good singer and he pulled it off. He stole every scene he was in because he actually had presence, if that makes any sense. He was my favorite character in the film -- perhaps even the only one I found to be the least bit interesting -- because he was actually interesting, layered, and had a story arc that felt real and not totally contrived and nonsensical.

And don't even get me started on the abysmal love store between those two boring kids whose names I remember even less than the more interesting and likable characters whose names I don't remember.

This was also one of the longest movies ever made, or at least it felt like it. There was actually a moment late in the film where I became convinced that it was never actually going to end and I was stuck there forever.

But my mom liked it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Django Unchained

If Django Unchained had been about an hour shorter, it could've been a great film, but at nearly three hours it was just a boring, bloated, unconscionable mess. Anyway, I didn't really care for it.

Django is a three hour film about a slave who is emancipated, kills a bunch of people and then kills a bunch more people until it finally, mercifully, ends. I suppose in between some of the carnage there are extended dialogue sequences, but unlike the usual dialogue in auteur Quentin Tarantino's previous films where two characters talking can be more exciting and visceral than any close up head shot, most of the dialogue here is just boring. When Tarantino is on top of his game, the dialogue is layered upon layer, mixing exposition, character development, and inventive concepts in an explosion of wit and dramatic flourish, like the Royale with Cheese conversation in Pulp Fiction, the opening interrogation from Inglorious Basterds, or Bill's insane interpretation of the Superman mythos in Kill Bill. But when he's off his game, we get abysmal monologues from annoying actors talking about how much they love blueberry pancakes that load a film down with so much crap the entire movie feels like it's going to implode into a black hole from which no audience member is able to escape.

Well, the script for Django is a whole lot of blueberry pancakes.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that the story is so slight, and the extended running time seems to suggest that Tarantino thought it was going to be epic. It's not epic, although there are a lot of characters and various locations, but these elements made it all feel disjointed and poorly structured, not epic in scope. And it doesn't help that the revenge story at its core is so morally reprehensible.

Tarantino's last three films (this one included) have been basically the same movie: Some individual or group gets revenge on an evil organization who has wronged them. Kill Bill was about a woman getting revenge on Bill and his assassins, which I'm going to go ahead and say was a surrogate story for single mothers getting revenge on the deadbeat fathers who abandoned them. Basterders was about a group of Jews killing a bunch of Nazis, including Hitler! And this one is about a former slave killing a bunch of slave owners.

Now, at the heart of it, these all sound like a lot of fun, and they are to a certain extent, but they all left me feeling hollow and uncomfortable... and I think watching this third film in Tarantino's revenge trilogy led me to figure out why: These are revenge films made by a man who is assigning rage to a group of people to which he doesn't belong. Tarantino is a white, gentile man who has now made three films where he attempts to offer solace in the form of vengeance for women, Jews, and African Americans. And by doing so he has attempted to force a bloodlust and desire for pronographic vengeance that is actually found historically in one culture: white, gentile men.

I can't speak for women or African Americans, but as a descendent of Jews (some of whom died in the Holocaust), I can speak as a Jewish viewer of Inglorious Bastereds: It was awful. Quentin Tarentino concocted a film where a team of all Jewish soldiers roam through Europe with the sole intention of murdering Nazi officers in the most horrific ways possible, all culminating in a pornographically violent sequence where Hitler himself is torn apart with machine gun fire and then burned to a crisp. Again, this sounds fun in theory, but when it was actually committed to film it became something of a mockery of the holocaust and turned the murders of nearly ten million people into a joke.

"Look, it's ok now!" Tarantino seemed to be saying. "Hitler finally got what he deserved!"

Well, no he didn't and he never did, and the only way to honor the millions of people who died in the Holocaust is to remember that Hitler was a real human being who did unspeakably horrific things, and not a mustache twirling villain in a summer blockbuster. After all, it would look ridiculous if Hitler tried to twirl that tiny little mustache, but this was a film that was a two hour attempt to do just that.

Anyway, here's my main: These revenge stories are reprehensible because they assign a blood lust and desire for vengeance where none exist. As a Jew I don't respond to the Holocaust with a desire for more bloodshed, I respond with a desire for understanding, forgiveness, and end end to violence. And I imagine that most African Americans feel the same way about the holocaust of their people: They probably don't want to see another lynching or whipping, even if it's the lynching or whipping of the people who used to abuse them.

But even forgetting all that, it maybe doesn't even apply to this film, since even though Django Unchained has been billed and described countless times as a slavery revenge film, it really isn't that at all. Even taking away the slavery, this is just a story about a guy who gets revenge on people who mistreated him and his wife. After all, there are no scenes in this film of Django emancipating any slaves other than himself and his wife. In fact, time and time again he turns a blind eye to the suffering of slaves around him and views them just as a means to an end: to save his wife and escape with her to freedom. All they needed at the end was a simple scene where Django unshackled the remaining slaves on the plantation, but that never happened because Django didn't seem to care about anybody but Django.

Or maybe I'm over thinking this movie, but iff so, that's Tarantino's fault. If he didn't want my mind to wander he shouldn't have stretched out such a slight story into a bloated three hour mess.

But as I said above, it wasn't all bad, and it could even have been really good with some trimming and slight story changes. After all, this is still a Tarantino movie, and he's incapable of making anything truly terrible.

As a writer, Tarantino was able to put in a few of his signature moments, the most notable being the scene where all the riders out for vengeance against Django complained about how they couldnt' see out of their white masks they were forced to wear. That was seriously one of the funniest scenes I've ever seen and the entire theater was rolling with laughter.

The casting, of course, was brilliant. Tarantino is a film fan first and a film maker second, so he always stacks his movies with such amazing performers, and the western genre gave him the excuse to go nuts. We have roles for Michael Parks, Don Johnson, Tom Wopat, Walton Goggins, Tom Savini, Bruce Dern, and even Franco Nero who starred in the original spaghetti western from which this film borrowed its name. And that list is only the tip of the iceberg, with a cast list that includes people that I didn't even notice or realize where in the film. There's even an appearance by Tarantino himself, who inexplicably decided to return to acting by giving himself a role as an Australian slave overseer. Anyway, he sucked.

We also have the starring roles by Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx as our heroes, both of whom were exceptional, although Waltz was the superior performer and the better written character. Foxx was great as the strong but silent cold blooded damn killer, but this also made him feel thin as a character and kind of boring. I understand that this was a nod to the man with no name type heroes who typify this kind of film, but Clint Eastwood had a twinkle in his eye that Foxx, talent not withstanding, can't quite match.

Leo DiCaprio was another very talented actor who seemed hampered by poor writing. He had a lot of fun hamming it up, but his character's motivations were never made clear, and he just felt too forced and weird to be the least bit intimidating as a villain. Don Johnson was way more fun and scary a bad guy in his ten minutes or so on film than Leo was for about two hours. I dunno... he was just aiight for me.

But the entire movie belonged to Sam Jackson, who came in late and just walked away with the whole film, creating a character unlike anything ever seen on film. If I can think of one reason to go see this film, it's for the mesmerizing acting performance of Samuel L Jackson. I'm not going to spoil anything by even talking about who he plays or what role he had in the overall story, but for such a poorly made and thought out film, this was one area truly deserving of accolades and awards. He was amazing.

Tarantino also excels at putting together memorable soundtracks, and this may have been his best and most epic since Pulp Fiction. When "I Got a Name" by Jim Croce started playing at one point, I actually thought it was a joke. I love the song but I never thought I'd see it in a western, but it worked perfectly. And the showstopping "Who Did that to You" by John Legend was incredible. I went to buy it on iTunes but it was one of those "album only" tracks. They know it's the best one too.

Anyway, that's Django Unchained, and this review has gone on almost as long as the film itself, but I had a lot I wanted to say. Other than a few funny moments, some great songs, and the sublime performance by Sam Jackson, I just thought it was too long and too morally questionable to come together as anything that resembles a good movie. But what do I know?