Friday, July 31, 2009
With this in mind, i can accept the rest of the Quadrilogy (though with a heavy sigh) but have a tendency to Hulk out with latent nerd rage when confronted with the Alien Versus Predator films. I realize they're a perfectly fun concept, but they're a total destruction of the original franchise. Yes, even Alien Resurrection is better than AVP. This is why I've been following news of an Alien prequel with some interest. Director Ridley Scott, the man responsible for Alien in its original incarnation, was set to produce with commercial director Carl Erik Rinsch at the helm. Twentieth Century Fox, however, nixed the plan, unhappy with Scott's choice. Today it was announced that Scott himself will be directing the Alien prequel.
You'd think i'd be happy, but i'm honestly not so sure. Yes, i feel better about having Scott in control, but i don't quite understand why we need an Alien prequel at all. Presumably, it will be Ellen Ripley-less (that means no Sigourney Weaver) and will focus on the planetoid who sent the distress call the Nostromo answers. Which is interesting, i guess, but....meh. Also, it seems that this may be a precursor to an actual series Reboot...which would be THE MOST UNNECESSARY REBOOT EVER. Don't do it, Fox, do not do it. Don't you remember the Phantom Menace? Seriously, we don't need an improved version, it's already perfect. Also, Scott hasn't made a decent film in a few years, and he hasn't touched science fiction since 1982's Blade Runner (which i also love). Can we trust an out-of-his-prime Ridley Scott? I don't know.
@ Yahoo! Video
There's finally a trailer for Wes Anderson's stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox! Looks like typical Anderson with little creatures. Same aesthetic, same framing, possibly not quite as rich as the live action films. Still, interesting terrain, and the dialogue could more than make up for a questionable design.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
A few months back, HBO announced an upcoming show called "Women's Studies" about a feminist it-girl turned liberal arts professor. I was psyched then, because having experienced them, i can honestly say that gender studies courses in academia are (more often than not) an untapped comedic (and dramatic) resource ripe for parody and self-reflection.
Now, however, they're adding another show to the in development queue. Marti Noxon, responsible for producing shows like Mad Men, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Grey's Anatomy, is writing an as yet untitled comedy series for the network which will star the one and only Diane Keaton as "a feminist icon who attempts to reignite the movement by starting a sexually explicit magazine for women" [Reuters]. Oh hell yes.
Noxon has wanted to do a feminism-driven show (not Buffy) for quite awhile. Her point of view will stem from experiences she had with her mother. It seems, she was a preteen when her mother "came out as a radical feminist and a lesbian and recalls juggling her mom's beliefs -- which included the dismissal of leg shaving as "giving into patriarchalism" -- with her own interests."
Meanwhile, this could be the role that puts Keaton back on track. She's been on the back burner for the past few years, typecast after Something's Gotta Give in the role of domineering matriarch. I love Diane Keaton, unabashedly, she's a pretty cool lady... but Mad Money and Because I Said So are some of the worst films in recent memory. This, though, sounds just right.
The Coen brothers return for their annual festival of dark humor sudden bouts of bloodshed. Or, so it would seem if the trailer for their next film, A Serious Man, is any indication. True to form, the trailer is really promising...but then again, the Burn After Reading trailer was one of the more interesting movie adverts of last year. And that movie, well, let's call it a minor disappointment. A Serious Man looks like it might break the general Coen brothers mold, but i'm not so sure. Thoughts?
Chapter 1: The Film.
One day after watching the formulaic, charisma-less Hollywood schlock machine The Ugly Truth, (500) Days of Summer was a welcome shift. While its allusions were relatively shallow and its magical moments a cutesy force feed on behalf of director Marc Webb, they worked with the characters and were easy to swallow. Webb constructs a fairly solid balance between the temporal shifts pre, during, and post a one-sided relationship between an underachieving greeting card writer(Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who really, is always pretty good) and a girl who seems content to be an executive assistant, though she's supposedly the ultimate free spirit (Zooey Deschanel). For the most part, this is a playful little film that's a welcome change in a season weighed down by heavy actioners and big budget star-studded vehicles. Undoubtedly, it will be a sleeper hit in spite of its shoddy narration and illogical conclusion. I watched it with a smile on my face and was consistently entertained. It's safe to say this is the next (and a peppier) Garden State for teens and twentysomethings with an underdeveloped film education and a penchant for relating to sad British pop lyrics a little too closely. Basically: if you're 21, High Fidelity is in your all time top 5 movies/books, and you've never encountered French New Wave cinema....prepare to fall madly, madly, in love. See this movie before you move back into the dorms next semester, because there's a strong chance that if you go to a liberal arts college, your roommate will likely have the mini-poster over his/her desk. Four years ago, i may have been the culprit. Which leads us to chapter two.
Chapter Two: Personal Issues.
In which i shirk the objective, cross the boundaries of celluloid, climb up on my ivory tower, and tell you i have developed a beef with these fictional characters. That's right. A beef. A beef which cannot be judged because the real-life versions of the characters themselves, Tom & Summer, would likely take up similar arms if confronted with this display. My complaint is this: I have met these characters before. I know them. I know them well. Neither side is that interesting, neither side that quirky, but both sides will now go forth and spawn less interesting clones that will only make me miserable (yes, this is all about my own personal tolerance, i am THAT selfish). Let's break it down.
1. The Toms - Essentially, Tom represents the type of guy i typically go for. A little bit awkward, musically preoccupied, covers up band t-shirts with corduroy blazers, and who has a whole back catalogue of pop culture references to work with. There are two types of that guy though. The one who is that way because he can't help it and the one who tries really hard to be that guy. The problem with this Tom is that, in reality, he's just a guy with mildly indie musical tastes who ascribes too much meaning onto Morrissey's clever wordplay and loves, loves, loves, being in love. Or, perhaps, more accurately, loves being in love with someone who can't love them, and then loves feeling like a brooding romantic. These guys are always charming. It's hard not to like them. But, my god, can they become insufferable! When they're in love they're "invincible", even when you're sitting there counting down the seconds til they crash and burn, and when it doesn't work out? Prepare for the fallout. Have you ever listened to a dude talk for two hours about how his feelings are so much deeper than yours and you can't possibly understand the pain he's in? I have. I have indeed. And when i watch this movie i can only see it happening 200 more times in my life. A million guys who see Joseph Gordon-Levitt being completely adorable (he is, it's true) and decide they must become Tom because all the cute, well-dressed indie girls will like them. It's going to happen. Believe you me. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the new John Cusack. But that's nothing compared to the Summers.
2.The Summers - In college, there was a small gaggle of girls with Anthropologie-based wardrobes who cultivated the appearance of being daintily indie and worked hard to make themselves seem interesting. They chased after all the mildly intellectual dudes and wanted, i can venture a guess, to be junior Annie Halls. These girls were actually entirely uninteresting and clueless. They'd read one Kundera book and be set for life emulating Sabina. Guys always fell for it. That's the Summer Effect. A guy like Tom always falls for the girl who (at first glance) seems to have similar interests meshed with a healthy sexual appetite. She's the perfect girl! She listens to ______! Her favorite movie is ________! We're made for each other! Yeah, sometimes these girls actually are cool, but for the most part these girls are like the Summer in the movie. They have the aura of an interesting free spirit while, in reality, they're empty shells and walking contradictions. Summer, the free spirit, is a neatly dressed secretary. She talks about not believing in love and then turns around and runs off with the next guy. Ringo Starr is her favorite Beatle because he's no one else's. Note to humanity: that's not quirky, that's trying too hard. Trust me, i know, i went through my phase as a Summer-type early (though really, i would prefer to be identified as a Charlie from High Fidelity, thank you very much), around age 16-18. I wrote stories about not believing in love and made claims that sound ridiculous and was totally OBSESSED with The Fountainhead and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (oh yes, it's true). I went home and listened to How Soon Is Now? while staring at the ceiling (i do still love The Smiths, which, apparently makes you real special according to this movie). It was very boring. Now, at the ripe old age of 24, i can tell you the girls still in this period are also very boring. The difference being that when they shed their attempts at quirk, they won't do so in the nutty world of academia, they'll just slowly transform into, don't know, soccer moms. Just like with the Toms, there will be so many more faux Summers after this. Let's hope they cancel each other out. We will see a spike in album sales for Belle & Sebastian's Boy With the Arab Strap, and these vacuous hipsters will snap up all the decent guys. True story.
But really, the movie isn't that bad. I just can't bring myself to like it as much as i wanted to. Possibly because i'm a cynical and wary curmudgeon.
3.5 out of 5.
Wilde.Dash's reviews and more can be found at Love&Squalor.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Heigl plays Abby, a television producer with traits that make her stereotypically "difficult to love". She's supposedly a smart, sassy, control freak who has high ideals and a checklist of the superficial qualities she wants in a man. It's implied that in most areas of her life, she's a successful and confident woman. When it comes to relationships, however, all of this obviously makes her a desperate harpy. Never mind that Abby is less a high powered woman than a high powered shell. Also, you should probably ignore all the bits where her lack of social graces and inability to control a situation belie her reputation as domineering and intelligent. She's Hollywood's idea of the corporate Everywoman. No personality other than the one that gets the job done.
What do we know about Abby? We know that she likes cats. Her ideal mate is well read and likes red wine. She's a producer, and she doesn't really agree with Mike's (Gerard Butler)wacky rating-grab point of view. That's it! Her only friends are her coworkers, she has no family to speak of, no interests outside her job. As for Mike? He's a dude who mines 'the dark side of humanity'. He was hurt in the past. We know he's not such a bad guy because he looks out for his preteen nephew. Together, they are shiny plastic people whose lives are a string of awkward moments stolen from the canon of more successful rom coms. The Ugly Truth plays by the rules. Media jobs? Check. Grand gestures? Check. Yes, you best believe there's even a restaurant orgasm scene a la When Harry Met Sally. Yet, where the battle of the sexes is a theme that runs through the best of them (take, for example, any old school Kate Hepburn flick, or even Jane Austen) here it's less of a battle, more of a passive shrug of the shoulders.
We all know what happens. Don't feign ignorance, it's not becoming. Girl meets boy. Boy is pig. Girl listens to boy anyway. Boy's advice sort of works. Boy and girl get along alright. Everyone friends. Kiss. Oops! Big blowup. Grand gesture. Happily ever after.
I'm sorry, did i ruin it for you? I mean, the poster alone was a spoiler so i figured we were pretty safe...
The worst part of The Ugly Truth (apart from the slapped together plot, lack of characterization, and alarmingly fast leap from mortal enemy to trusted confidante) is that it's a film written by three women. Kirsten Smith, Nicole Eastman, and Karen McCullah Lutz (some of whom have been responsible for smarter, more surprising comedies like Legally Blonde and 10 Things I Hate About You) are part of something Variety's Nicola Laporte is calling "The Naughty Girl Movement". The Naughty Girls are a response to the man-children of Judd Apatow brand bromances. If the guys can do raunch, why can't the girls? Well, because in attempting to amp up the raunch in formula comedies like The Ugly Truth, you wind up victimizing the people you're trying to connect with while at the same time reinforcing the myth of the happy ending. Apatow's bromances are inadvertent romantic comedies. Romantic relationships are not that which defines the character. Instead, they are (more often than not) the accidental result of a self-improvement and friendship brought about through personal reflection and trial and error. No one's worried about whether or not it's going to work out because that's not the point. The point is that the protagonist has completed something that allows us to walk away from the film knowing they'll generally be alright whether they're in love or not. What Hollywood has stupidly failed to realize is that the general prototype for your standard bromance is one that already exists in a female form. It's not in the theater, it's on television. Sex and the City in its unedited, pre-movie run, was the perfect example of female based candor and crudity done right. That is, of course, until Hollywood sanitized it and released a three hour nightmare of a film. But that's a story for another time....don't get me started.
The point is that when Heigl's character goes for the laughs, it's a mortifying experience. She blindly follows Mike's advice and subjects herself to any number of misguided claims that leave the women in the audience sinking lower into their chairs. While there are a few laugh worthy moments in the film, most are steeped in frustration. Gerard Butler's character doesn't escape either. He's not a rogueish charmer, but a guy who spits out a mess hundreds of men are going to have to clean up later when their girlfriends want to know if their ponytail makes them look like they're operating heavy machinery. The moral of the story: everyone is painted in a bad light. Having a personality is apparently the worst thing that can happen in love.
Have you seen a romantic comedy before? Because if you have, there's no reason to watch this one.
2 out of 5.
Wilde.Dash's reviews can be found at Love & Squalor.
What happened Last Year at Marienbad? Well, perhaps we met. Perhaps we didn't. Maybe you asked me to run away with you. Maybe you didn't. Maybe i said i would. Maybe i didn't. Maybe you're lying. Maybe you're not. Maybe i'm playing along. Maybe i'm not. It was certainly lovely, wasn't it? Why yes! Yes, i'm very sure it was! Darling, Last Year, maybe at Marienbad, maybe here or there, maybe Frederiksbad, we saw a statue. We talked about the statue, we played a game with matches or cards or cigarettes and someone always wins but we don't know why. There was a bedroom, but then again...no. But wasn't it grand? Well, certainly.
It was hypnotic. You would speak, crowds would freeze. They were empty anyway. We're alone. We are strangers, but we've met before. There could be an answer, but probably not. Do you love me? I think so, yet, actually, i don't know your name. But this luxury, this palace, the dark glamour of this lush hotel, it's something to talk about. We should explore it. Oh...empty salons...corridors....doors.....gilded ceilings....
Hiroshima, mon amour? No, that was the other year. The year before last. This was at Marienbad....empty salons.....corridors....salons...doors...doors...salons.....weren't they divine?
Yes. A thousand times yes. And yet, no. To the end, Monsieur Resnais.
Attention all cartoon loving geeks currently seeking acceptance into their WASP/prepster East Coast families: you know those J.Crew Critter patterns Mumsy and Daddums love so much? Well...Cartoon Network is providing you with an alternative. Their Finer Things line is offering up $75 pants featuring Aqua Teen Hunger Force's Mooninites. You can have interstellar terrorists on your pants! If you go golfing, you know you'll win by default because your pants will remind everyone of a silly mix-up bomb scare! Go forth, purchase the pants, sip some mimosas and fire up the PS3. GAME ON.
For the record: I totally loved Tron when i was a kid. I think it may have been pushed on me by my sci-fi loving father as a Disney film that wouldn't get on his nerves with a songs, dances, and talking animals. If it was, it worked. I thought getting sucked into a video game world and wearing light up uniforms was just about the coolest thing ever. Which is why i'm definitely amongst those nostalgia tripping over the teaser trailer for Tron Legacy. It's one of those films i have sort of always wished better special effects upon. So... a few decades later and still featuring Jeff Bridges? That'll work. Too fun.
I swiped this little True Blood montage from the folks over at This Recording, where blogger Molly Lambert has provided some of her thoughts on the show's current trajectory. Where's it headed? Downhill. Fast.
I agree with Lambert when she writes that HBO's runaway success never had any qualms about being camp. It's about as over-the-top as they come. True Blood basically seeks out reasons to get its characters stripped down, having a roll in the hay, or covered in blood. They shoot for laughable dialogue and 'oh no they did not' scenes that remind you 'it's not TV, it's HBO'. Case in point? The second season is an orgy a week special hosted by Maryann (Michelle Forbes) and i'm quite sure there isn't a single character left alive whose nipples i haven't seen. I knew it was only a matter of time before the vamps and fangbangers broke out into song, and last week, it happened: Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), on the piano, belting out ragtime, speaking in a Frenchy-French accent. Cringe.
While the first season managed to effectively lure in its viewers with the promise of gothic camp, Southern swamp sass, murder and erotic tension, the second season so far has shifted its shape into something that looks great on paper, but bad on screen. Someone decided that things needed to be taken to extremes. -90% less full characterization of the troubled and judgmental Tara (Rutina Wesley) and the wonderful, t00 much fun Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis). 200% more for sex, gore, mythological creatures, zealots, Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), and the hairspray in Sookie's (Anna Paquin's) hair... which by the way, does not make her look glamorous, but instead magically transforms her into an irritating trailer trash pageant queen. The worst part? The wink and smile is gone, the age of the straight face has arrived.
I'm suggesting that there's a fine line between camp and cloying dreck, and that line is crossed when the smartly humorous undercurrent disappears and things get serious (and empty). True Blood is trying really hard to cross that line and get itself x-ed off my TV schedule. Lambert is correct when she says the show has become a high-budget version of supernatural soap opera Passions. While several plotlines are in motion (What in god's name is the deal with Maryann? When will the war begin? How's Lafayette going to bounce back? When will the Sookie-Bill-Eric love triangle begin?), the past five episodes have focused more upon finding ways for to couple the characters than answer any questions. An event will occur at the beginning, and a cliffhanger will happen at the end. In between is a solid 35+ minutes of increasingly obnoxious dialogue (must we pontificate on our relationships?) and boredom. I'm just sayin': if my vampire obsessed sister starts checking her iPhone fifteen minutes in, you're doing it wrong.
In the first season, we had characters who were pretty sure of themselves. Sookie was an undersexed but happily independent sweetheart, Tara was a smart-ass with anger management issues and a good head on her shoulders, Sam (Sam Trammell) was the nice guy loner who pined for something he couldn't have, and Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) was an ignorant horndog who launched himself at anything that moved. The characters were believable (though at times frustrating), and their interactions unforced. They were simple folks from a small town who were both fascinated and repelled by a larger reality: vampires are real. They walk amongst us and have come out as wanting to function in a human world, now, we have to figure out how to deal with that day to day. That was what was interesting. Beneath the snarky dialogue and the absurdity of the situations was a fairly real political issue: rural Christian Americans dealing with an alternative way of life they couldn't relate to.
Of course, that theme is still there. Its just drifted to a place too obvious to be effective: the Light of Day Institute. We've lost the conflict between friends and family and scattered characters into their own separate spheres. They don't work that way. Sookie is in Dallas with Bill and Jessica, but never sees Tara, who rarely sees Lafayette, who sometimes has weird interactions with Sam, who is gaga over a shapeshifting hussy. No one ever sees Jason. He's out there playing Jesus and sneakily getting it on with the most stereotypical Texan bible thumper i've ever seen. It doesn't work. True Blood is like a meal. Like... a pizza, for example. Each character is an ingredient. When you separate the ingredients, they're all pretty bland on their own. Sookie is just bread. Jason is just cheese. Tara is a tomato, maybe. And Lafayette is maybe some basil or oregano or something hanging out on his own and exhibiting post traumatic stress symptoms. I mean, what the hell am i supposed to do, cook my own dinner?
That's not to say i won't keep watching. Let's face it. I probably will. There are unanswered questions... but that doesn't mean i have to like it. I'll just sit and cross my arms and complain as i eat my bread and cheese and pulpy tomatoes.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Katie Holmes, looking bored and acting (as per usual) like an alien sucked out her soul, performed a little song'n'dance number on the 100th episode of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance. It was a hyped appearance in which Holmes was supposed to channel Judy Garland, but looks like a failed screen test for the biopic role that Anne Hathaway snatched up.
Seriously, I can't be the only person who thinks she moves like a a robot following steps without understanding them, right? It's one of those things that actually makes me feel embarassed for her.
Friday, July 24, 2009
-Chuck's third season gets a fabulous Drew Struzan throwback ad campaign.
- James Cameron's Avatar (aka: the movie that will melt your eyeballs and redefine cinema with both hands tied behind its back, supposedly) causes geekgasm. The 25-minutes of footage shown has been transcribed in intricate detail at i09. Survey says: hell yes, it is good. BUT...Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of Mark Millar's Kick-Ass supposedly builds epic buzz.
- Gary Oldman claims the next Christopher Nolan Batman film begins filming in 2010.
- /Film says Jennifer's Body supposedly rocks the old-school teen horror vibe, purists rejoice, and...proof that Megan Fox doesn't actually speak in a baby voice.
-The Tron sequel (previously known as ridiculous things like Tr2n) finally has a real title: Tron Legacy. Also, Daft Punk will be creating the film's score (!!!).
-Footage from Terry Gilliam's Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has surfaced.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Creative Director Simon Doonan turned his back for a second and some display person with an underused art school education got crazy with the shenanigans. Barneys New York has removed a display playing on the theme "Dressed to Kill" that cause a major hullabaloo on E. 61st Street. White contorted mannequins flailing as they fend off invisible assailants with red paint splattered across the windows cannot be justified to the public by the inclusion of a Helmut Lang or A.L.C. gown. It's just that simple. Generally speaking, I've learned that people don't really like being directly confronted with unpleasant imagery.
Of course, the display itself isn't so bad (once you get past the disconnect between the supposed theme 'dressed to kill' and the fact that the mannequins appear to be 'dressed to be subjected to a horrific slaughter'), it's just not in the right location. Kid, you've got ambition, move your mannequins over to the MoMa, attach a thesis and you'll be all set. Lesson learned: what can be done in fashion magazine photo shoots cannot necessarily be reproduced in department stores. Retail and contemporary art (even in the swankiest of locales) can only merge so far. Try sex. I hear that sells better than violence...
Before you doubt me, let me clarify that yes, Watchmen is one of my favorite novels. Yes, I read it long before the film was greenlit. I have the appropriate level of nerd clearance to effectively judge the Watchmen's leap from page to screen. Things were changed, sure. Deal with it. This is true in every adaptation. This is an incredibly complex tale that calls for multiple primary characters, the creation of a very specific universe, large temporal leaps, and its own isolated moral code. Simply put: there's a reason the book was deemed 'unfilmable', but that doesn't mean it wasn't worth trying, even if Moore was overseas hexing the production. For such a tremendous risk, Watchmen is undeniably a success. The execution and attention to detail is phenomenal. Every second looks slick, the editing is fantastic, the characters drawn (for the most part) close to what i always imagined. Jackie Earle Hayley is, for all practical purposes, the exact personification of antihero Rorschach. I buy Matthew Goode's Berlin Bowie-esque interpretation of Ozymandias, who is perhaps the book's vaguest character. I've even found the trace of humanity left in Billy Crudup's monotone-by-necessity voice over for Dr. Manhattan.
This is where debate over the film's soul comes into play. For wary newcomers who found last year's Dark Knight possessed by a bleak worldview, Watchmen sinks further into an uncompromising mire. There's no one holding out for a hero here. The lines between the righteous and the villains are blurred, those with the ability to save humanity are those willing to first destroy it. As I always read it, the story's heart is barely beating. It was a cold text that makes for a colder film. Snyder and company have artfully maintained the calculating sci-fi/noir tone that may have made critics argue they were being kept at a distance. But, wait, isn't that how it should be? How else would one expect masked, discarded, largely jaded vigilantes with stability issues to sound? Do we want to be drawn in, or should we be comfortable being pushed away? There's no positive outlook here. The soul of both the novel and the film can be found in what it reveals about the darker side of human nature. Happy endings are false. The movie version manages this without the squid, an exclusion that's frequently cited as a cause for uproar though it would have likely destroyed the overall believability of the film. Really, a CGI squid would be the Jar Jar Binks of the comic book world.
What's remarkable about this particular adaptation is everything that was painstakingly included. Watchmen is an intensely beautiful film that is clearly a labor of love on Snyder's part. As a companion piece to the book, the film is a visual marvel that will in time be canonized as a work of art in its own right. There's never been a superhero genre film quite like it, and it will likely be years before there's another. As it stands, Watchmen will likely never accumulate the mass culture resonance of mainstream Marvel and DC comic blockbusters, though it's more deserving of rabid fandom than most. It will have to settle for its comparatively small yet militant army of admirers, and in time I see many coming around. Author Alan Moore too should probably suck it up and watch it, he might find something worthwhile.
If the attention to detail was remarkable in the theatrical version, the DVD/Blu-Ray Director's Cut adds enough luster to truly shine. 24-minutes of footage were added to the already epic length of the film, and while it may take a fan to appreciate them, the scenes seem almost vital components to the overall package. Conversations have been extended, the story progression flows more cohesively, newcomers can understand the motivation of the characters, and we are given (most notably) the death of Hollis Mason and some (perhaps) unnecessary brutal violence. This is one of those movies that reveals more with repeat viewings. This second time was a remarkable improvement on an already impressive first, I look forward to the third.
My one complaint? I would have loved to have seen a bit of the soundtrack shaken up in the Director's Cut. Specifically, the use of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" during the sex scene renders it alarmingly laughable. Sort of like, I don't know, last week's episode of "True Blood". There are times when immediately identifiable pop songs color the scenes in ways that detract from the atmosphere. Nena and Simon & Garfunkle just don't carry the necessary darkness that the out-of-context, temporally incohesive Smashing Pumpkins track featured in the trailer did.
4.5 out of 5.
Check out all of Wilde.Dash's reviews and more at Love & Squalor.
The teaser premiering at Comic-Con for Tim Burton's take on Alice in Wonderland has shown up online a little early. So far, like the stills, it looks promising but i'm beginning to have my doubts bout some of the 3-D CGI. As Alice's adventures are up there with my favorite stories of all time, you'll excuse me if i nitpick. One thing is for certain, i'll still be at the theater on March 5, 2010.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
A Japanese television show held a contest in which 10,000 folks competed for the chance to be flown to the UK and conduct some interviews from the set of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince as Japan's biggest HP fan. The show, “Karakuri Terebi”, supposedly sent over the strangest option, an excitable girl named Kana, who most certainly had a restraining order placed on her not 2 minutes after she left the set. While the footage is only partially subtitled, you'll get the picture. Watch and laugh as Kana invades Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint's personal space.
Monday, July 20, 2009
(*UPDATE: 7/21 - Yeah Yeah Yeahs are filling in for the Beasties at Lollapalooza. I was hoping for Blur, but so it goes)
Thursday, July 16, 2009
There's finally a trailer for Drew Barrymore directed roller derby flick Whip It!, and it looks pretty promising. Starring Juno's Ellen Page, Juliette Lewis, SNL's Kristen Wiig, and Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat (among others, including Barrymore herself), i'm definitely down with this movie. It's about time for a retro derby girl movie, especially one that avoids the heavy themes of Rollerball.
But, in the name of being fair, let's at least let all the other nominees have their time in the sun...
Click here for the full list.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Imagine my surprise, then, when the film adaptation managed to, with surgical precision, locate the story's heart, pull it from the wreckage, and throw it up on screen. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is truly a beautiful film. It works as a compromise between the visual mastery of Alfonso Cuaron's Prisoner of Azkaban (easily the best in the series) and the humanity of the otherwise underwhelming Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix.
While it's hard to argue that storywise this is little more than an extended set-up for the rollicking events of Deathly Hallows, the film manages to make the most of very little. Director David Yates (whose most notable contribution stateside is the BBC miniseries State of Play) has transformed what is easily the most frustrating piece of the franchise into a breath of fresh air. This is a different sort of Harry Potter film. The expected sequence of events does not factor in. There's no torture with Dudley, no horribly suspicious faculty, no major battle brewing. Hell, even Voldemort is kept at bay. Instead, the hoards of sidecharacters have been stripped away and we are left to focus on the major players. We are given the time to be reintroduced to Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ginny (Bonnie Wright, stepping into the spotlight) and to recall their humble beginnings and their growth into likable young adults suffering the burden of hormones and heavy loads. They are rendered, particularly through the film's artfully methodical pacing, into realistic people whose relationships are delicate and fragile.
The aesthetic fully supports the underlying drama of the film. This is a visually stunning film not so heavily reliant on whimsical effects as it is for a more practical magic. Cinematography and set design are key here, and through filters and lighting the filmmakers have achieved a palpable, flickering darkness. You can feel the storm coming. It's in every scene, no matter how joyous the occasion. There are times, in fact, when it feels more like The Assassination of Jesse James than Harry Potter.
Daniel Radcliffe, for essentially being Harry Potter at this point, seems just a little bit uncomfortable in his role. While he keeps his character thoroughly in line with his other performances, he seems to be holding back. Same with Bonnie Wright. While teenagers in love are awkward as hell, these two stand so rigidly it's like they're playing statues. But then again, maybe that's just good old English reserve.
Emma Watson gets a chance to broaden her range a bit, and Rupert Grint (as usual) is a reliable source of comic relief. Michael Gambon, as second generation Dumbledore, does as much as he can with the reserved Dumbledore without becoming Ian McKellan's Gandalf. Meanwhile, the award for most nuanced perhaps goes to Alan Rickman as the is he or isn't he Severus Snape. While rigidly slimy and monotone as always, Rickman manages to work the eyes and face enough to up the depth of his character and give a hint of what's to be revealed in the final film(s). Jim Broadbent's Professor Slughorn too, is a welcome addition. Overall, even in their weakest moments this cast could beat Twilight's to a pulp.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is a success. Better than the source material and visually dazzling, it slips easily into place as the second best film thus far.
4 out of 5.
See all of Wilde.Dash's reviews at (the under construction) Love & Squalor.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Twitch has become the online home of "Treevenge", a short film which shows us what happens when we mess with Mother Nature. I'll give you a hint, what happens involves a whole lot of disgruntled plant life, and a whole lot of bad. You don't want to be around for that. Brought to you by Jason Eisener, who made the "Hobo with a Shotgun" Grindhouse trailer, "Treevenge" is an impressively awesome display of revenge. I will warn you though, it is neither safe for work, or for the weak of stomach. Blood and gore galore, but all in the name of conservation! YEAH environment.
I wasn't aware being a fanged one was a choice in this lifetime. But now that i know, guess what guys? I've chosen my new path. I'm a vampire. Sometimes, i write at night.
The point is that i wasn't planning on watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. At least, not until it was released on Blu-Ray, and even then, i could probably hold off for a good year. There are good reasons for this, if you happen to be me. The first is that i find Shia LaBeouf to be an irritating, horrible excuse for a leading man. I've said it before, but whoever decided that he should play a part in every action movie ever needs to be shot at close range. The boy is a chipmunk cheeked, bad imitation of Woody Allen's worst traits. His face registers surprise well, and this is why the world has decided to embrace him as an "actor". The second problem? Michael Bay. The man can't seem to get a handle on plot. He can start out with a story that seems clear, then mid-way through decides ten other complicated, half-formed ideas need to be introduced that will double the length of an already too long movie. He's pulling stuff out of his ass, wiring it with explosives, and serving it to you on a $200 million platter.
Are you willing to partake of Michael Bay's $200 million golden shit? You probably are, and you will probably like it. Not because it's a great cinematic achievement or because you can follow the plot (because you can't, believe me), but because your senses will be so thoroughly assaulted that you will be numb and submissive. You will think, in the dark of the matinee, "yes. i liked that film. it completely blocked out the real world for 2 1/2 hours and there were talking robot aliens and things went boom. so, that was pretty neat. i would like to watch Bad Boys II now."
No, Virginia, you don't. And it wasn't. You're dizzy and suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and blunt trauma amnesia. You've been so thoroughly lulled by shifting heaps of CGI scrap metal that you've forgotten this was the most boring display of frenetic excitement you've ever seen. You've forgotten the illogical cuts from robot/boy conversation to Megan Fox stripping down behind the garage. You aren't sure which Decepticon was which. Perhaps they're all the same one. Why do we have to merge the spark with the matrix? Why do we need the Fallen if we can already cause so much damage? If the Allspark gives transformer life, and something already was a transformer, can a transformer be stuck in its transportive disguise and revived by this piece of the Cube? Is the US Army the only army in the world capable of dealing with Transformers? If an Autobot falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise?
I feel like i'm usually pretty good at parsing through movies. I was that kid who explained Donnie Darko to everyone in high school and i once furiously typed up my interpretation of Inland Empire after a late night show. But, apparently Richard Kelly and David Lynch are no match for the webs of deep mind fuckery woven by Michael Bay, because i'll be the first to admit that i have almost no idea why most of the action in the last 45 minutes was happening! No idea! Nary a clue outside of Autobots and Decepticons fight because it's their job as mortal enemies. I don't really feel qualified to discuss this movie. So let's just say this isn't a review and you can take that how you will. If you want the opinion of an expert, i suggest you ask the twelve year old boy who's completed the internet research and bought the collectibles. That kid knows. He knows what Michael Bay was shooting for.
Me? I have a theory. My theory is that roughly 10 years after the fact, Bay finally got around to watching the Matrix. Then he also saw Stargate. It was a pretty big year for Michael Bay. Then Michael Bay, sly trickster that he is, was like, 'if i mix elements from these into a movie with giant robots, no one will know!' Cue evil laughter. That's my theory. So if i can connect ancient aliens being responsible for the pyramids with having a matrix that needs to be merged with a spark, i'll be pretty close to figuring out what happened. The problem is, unlike Sam Witwicky and Daniel Jackson, i'm not that interested in deciphering hieroglyphs.
The thought i'll leave you with is this: unless you're a special effects junkie, the place for this movie to be consumed is at a drive-in or an empty showing. Conversation, especially if it veers towards the MST3K variety, is pretty important if you want to avoid Stockholm Syndrome. You'll especially need it when confronted with the blatant racism of the gremlin-faced ghetto bots. However, Optimus Prime and Bumblebee are still awesome. They are the bright spots of the film, and should work at annihilating the human race. The CGI effects have improved as well, and many of the battle sequences move at a slightly slower pace that allows the viewer to distinguish between Prime and Megatron with more ease than the final showdown in the original. The last nice thing i can say? Shia LaBeouf is just a little more fun when he's having a mental breakdown.
Be forewarned, if you're one of the millions who thinks they hate Megan Fox, just wait until you meet Isabel Lucas.
1 1/2 out of 5
See Wilde.Dash's reviews, and more, at Love & Squalor.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Guilty Pleasures: 15 TV Shows I Tell Myself I Shouldn't Watch, Then Do. +1 I Should Possibly Feel Guilty About, But Don't.
But MTV/VH1 reality shows are not my only weaknesses. Let's count the examples of my questionable taste, present and past. Which shows are your shameful secrets?
1. America's Next Top Model: This one isn't exactly a secret. I've blogged about it before, but i still feel like a guilty sucker. Each cycle is formulaic, the drama has been largely diffused from the program in favor of pure competition, the girl who might actually make it in the modeling business basically never wins, it's all one big commercial for Cover Girl cosmetics, and Tyra Banks grows more irritating and egotistical with each passing year. Alas, i'm addicted. I watch it like it's a ritual, and become very angry if the ending is spoiled for me. I keep hoping that one day they'll get a sponsor who might actually want an editorial model instead of a girl next door. For awhile they were partnered with Elle, which was a decent pairing, but for the last 123 cycles it's been Cover Girl and Seventeen. Also known as "Generic" and "Commercial". What i'd like to see? Something along the lines of Nylon and MAC. 2. Gossip Girl: Another poorly kept secret. I'm roped into each episode with the promise of scandal and inappropriate high school behavior, plus Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick), whom i have an almost inexcusable crush on in spite of his womanizing, old wicked bachelor conduct. None of this is what makes me guilty, however. What makes me guilty is that in general, Gossip Girl almost never pays off. The scandals are more shocking in the advertising than in context, and each episode is strikingly boring, especially since the story has turned a focus away from mean girl antics and towards the tricky adult relationships of parents Lily and Rufus. I just want more drama. Is that too much to ask? (it's not for another teen drama on the list, hold tight)
3. Paris Hilton's My New BFF: The concept of this show is so glaringly ridiculous it's unbelievable. Super fans and fame whores line up to try and win the heart of a notoriously fickle and vacuous frenemy who, in the name of "seeing who's really here for me" puts her new buds through the fluffily torturous fire. She picks a special one each week and inhumanely refers to her new snitch as her "pet", she selects people for elimination based on superficial whims like having bad taste in shoes. The contestants will take part in the silliest challenges ever conceived, all of which Paris says test how well they'll be able to keep up with her "lifestyle". The worst part is, she's probably right. The besties are subjected to 24 hour parties (where you're either not fun enough, or an alkie embarrassment), interrogation by Three Six Mafia, climbing ropes in booty shorts and six inch heels (boys too), spiteful talking dolls, mindgames, and seeing who can pick up the most guys in Vegas and convince them to show up to a party in Los Angeles. As for the contestants, about 50% of them seem like likable enough, naive human beings, which makes you wonder why they'd bother. Sometimes, she will decide whether or not you stay based on the opinions of animals. If Tinkerbell, or a rented Tiger, don't take to you, it's TTYN. The show is so completely illogical, so mind numbingly sugar coated, that it's like liquid crack. Don't watch one, or somehow you'll find yourself watching them all. Which brings us to...
4. The Simple Life: Awful megabrats Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie foray into permanent fame by slumming it across the United States with the most well-timed sound effects in the history of television. They were frequently vapid and sadistic (especially Nicole, who's intelligent enough to really hit you where it hurts), playing with unsuspecting rednecks like amusing little toys, but occasionally took to their host families in a way that was almost quaintly human. I had a roommate who watched this in excess during its spell on E! and who eventually managed to accumulate the series DVDs. That said, i have seen them all. Every episode. And what's worse, even when i complained, it was really repulsively enjoyable. Whoever was editing this show knew how to time comic effect out of nothing in a way that's almost uncanny. As scripted reality goes, this is really a pretty strong example.
5. Nip/Tuck: Ludicrous plotlines, deliberate shock tactics, and the ability to redefine bad taste in television, this is a highly addictive glossy primetime mix of soap opera and horror film. Heavy on sex and gore (which are of course the most delightful parts), this is one of those shows that will make you sound like a depraved nitwit if you dare to outline an episode for a person who has never seen the show. But really, it's campily brilliant and rather beautifully filmed if you can appreciate it. Morally ambiguous plastic surgeons, serial killers, affairs with little people, affairs with Rosie O'Donnell (with sex addict lead Christian Troy (Julian McMahon), no less), and more porn stars than you can shake a stick at, this is the closest you can get to premium cable without paying. Also, have i mentioned how great the photography for the ad campaigns is? I admittedly stopped watching after season 4, but have been considering resuming.
6. Yo Gabba Gabba: Let me state for the record: I don't have children. I have no friends who have children. I don't babysit or nanny or any of that jazz. Also, i'm not waking and baking. So how the hell did i fall into the Nick Jr. psychedelic kiddie trap of DJ Lance Rock and his imaginary friends? BECAUSE IT'S AWESOME. You don't even KNOW how awesome. The people behind this, like so many other children's shows, are on some serious hallucinogens. The cuts are frantic, the monsters are charmingly offbeat, there is no rhyme or reason, and every day is a dance party loaded with terrible songs and guest appearances by Elijah Wood and The Ting Tings and Biz Markie. It's a baby hipster show. And i totally have a Brobee keychain. Why? Because i have a deep appreciation for candy colored nonsense.
7. My Super Sweet 16: This show was like watching the fall of Rome in slow motion. The first season was a glorious display of greed and excess. As it continued, it became tedious, but oh, those first episodes. They were a solid block of time spent with a deep, festering loathing for the people on screen. Unbearable, and all-consuming.
8. Gilmore Girls: Realistically, this shouldn't have to be a guilty pleasure. It's a smartly written show with snappy Howard Hawks dialogue and well-rendered quirky characters. But...it totally becomes one by merit of the inescapable sort of sentimentality it holds. I mean, this is a show about the bonds between mothers and daughters, fundamentally, and if you strip away the quirkiness it's sort of like a quaint, rather whimsical Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Picoult novel. Both of whom i do not read. At its best, Gilmore Girls was filled with snark and so many allusions and cross references that it makes Family Guy look pop culturally unaware, at its worst, it was weighed down by heavy family drama and unfortunate romantic entanglements. My favorite story lines involved Rory's (Alexis Bledel) experiences in academia, my least favorite focused too heavily on fast-talking Lorelai (Lauren Graham).
10. VH1 Shows With "Love" In The Title: Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, or (the best one) I Love New York are pretty much the best shows for eating any sort of meal to. Particularly if that meal is ramen noodles cooked in your contraband dorm room microwave. You sit, eat slowly, and suddenly your food is gone and the show is over. Jam packed with the scum of the Earth and the creme de la creme of people with IQ numbers below 70, every moment puts cameramen at risk of contracting an STD and you're always one second away from a hair pulling fight prefaced by the most grammatically incorrect verbal sparring known to man. The prizes they battle for are the affections and tainted love juices of vile musical hasbeens (a shrunken head, and a balding afghan hound) or the leftovers of the affections of vile musical hasbeens (tranny mess New York, silicone inflated Daisy, etc.). Oh, the price people will pay for their 15 minutes. For some, it's worth public humiliation and a scorching case of herpes. Totally gross. I should also note that post-graduation, my consumption of this programming has been in almost total decline.
11. A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila: Speaking of scorching cases of herpes, MTV one-upped VH1 when they gave us a dating competition that swung both ways and established itself as wholeheartedly idiotic. Starring Myspace non-celebrity pin-up and chihuahua doppelganger Tila Tequila, each episode was a battle of the sexes which (for some reason) always seemed to involve nudity, mud wrestling, lots of liquor, and light S&M. And, of course, Tila managed to find a skankier looking bikini with each passing day. Yeah, it pushed the envelope, but in a way that made you feel icky all over. But admit it: you're totally intrigued.
12. Blind Date: Remember when UPN existed and all they did every afternoon and late evening was air cheaply made dating shows filled with the scum of the Earth? Those were good times. Apparently, though, all the awful human beings of the world have opted for extended durations of VH1 and MTV shows, because Blind Date and its kin (Extreme Dating, Elimidate, and Shipmates) all bit the dust only to be seen on rare days when Spike TV decided to fill some time up. Another contender for wonderful use of stock sound effects, this show is complete and utter trash. It's poorly produced and has no pretensions. It's just crap. Crap to the Extreme. And i always wondered...where do these people find so many hot tubs?
13. Desperate Housewives: This show should have died somewhere around the conclusion of its 3rd season. Then again, there are those that say it never should have existed in the first place. It's predictable, repetitive, over the top, and its characters never seem to learn. This is the ultimate primetime soap opera for this decade. In the beginning, it was a joy to watch, i won't lie. There was a reason it was a gigantic phenomenon. It mainstreamed pastel colored camp and was an effective comedic satire on suburban America. But once you pass over that first season of murder, intrigue, and homemade apple pie, it all goes downhill from there. That doesn't mean i don't still find myself watching it on Sunday nights. Ahem. For the record: I can't stand Susan.
14. The OC: And before "Gossip Girl" we had its west coast cousin. I stuck with this show until its final episodes, and oh, it was dramatic. Ben McKenzie and Mischa Barton were terribly cast as the show's leads, but it's ok, because Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson were there to steal the show and make everything alright. This was the show that exposed dozens of indie bands to messenger bag toting teenagers everywhere while simultaneously getting deep into all sorts of sudsy antics like alcohol addiction and what happens when your mom sleeps with your boyfriend. Fun stuff. Really, this was a pretty great show. If you watched it you know. If you only watched it once it probably took major will power not to return again. Summer, i hear, is the perfect time to pick up the DVDs.
15. Sabrina the Teenage Witch: I was young. Young and easily swayed by 90's clothes and magical spells. It was great fun. Particularly in the high school years. Remember Harvey and Libby? They were pretty great. Then Sabrina went to college, and it got a little worse. Then she entered the real world. And that was just absurd. Yet, i believe i found myself continuing to watch it. How, i don't know, because Melissa Joan Hart is one of the most irritatingly perky and upbeat people on the planet. Oh, also, Salem the talking cat. Enough said.
And now, the one show that I probably should consider a guilty pleasure but really just love without shame...
Skins: Take your Degrassi and shove it. Hard. UK teen drama Skins is, without a doubt in my mind, the best show about teenagers since Freaks and Geeks. It's also one of the most effectively surprising shows i've ever seen. Where Gossip Girl and others promise a shock value they can't deliver, Skins goes above and beyond anything you've ever seen on American television. This show is raw, intense, insane, scandalous, undeniably fun, and compulsively addictive. Drug-fueled, oversexed, filthy mouthed, and then some, it's heavily amplified, frequently campy, prone to postmodernist, jumpy leaps of faith. It is every parent's nightmare. Each episode one ups the last. Each plot twist is delivered in the most brutal way imaginable. And no stone is left unturned. I'm serious. No stone. You've never seen depraved youth like this. I. Am. Obsessed.