Tuesday, November 30, 2010

From the Vaults: Blogorium Review - Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

editor's note: apparently, I never re-posted this review of Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang which, in retrospect, was probably a good idea. Don't get me wrong - I stand by my endorsement of the film and you'll find Kiss Kiss Bang Bang mentioned frequently in the Blogorium, but it's only fair to add my initial reactions, as inarticulate as they may be. Additionally, I have no idea what's going on in the last paragraph.

I never understood what the big deal was about Shane Black; I mean, I like Lethal Weapon, and I never saw The Last Boy Scout but I did also like The Long Kiss Goodnight, but not in the kind of way you'd ever say "holy crap! you need to see those movies!!!" and I thought it was cool that he was in Predator, but then again what about Predator isn't cool? (that's not a question I intend for you to answer because the answer is nothing about predator isn't cool. period end of discussion) but I never got the whole deal about him being this big time Hollywood script writer who was envied in the same was Joe Ezsterhas was until Jade came out.

also, we'll just ignore Last Action Hero, eh? I remember as a youngster that something was wrong with a 90% empty theater on opening night, let alone the sheer awfulness that is Last Action Hero)

That was, until I saw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Now I understand what all the fuss was about, and why it's such a damned shame that he's been MIA for 9 years in Hollywood. See, it has to do with all the legions of idiot script doctors hired to make a script more "palatable to the idiots in middle america" (and yes, that does include Joss Whedon who contributed the most groan-worthy line of ALL TIME to X-Men because even though Arnold's puns in Batman and Robin sucked it was still Arnold so you were expecting it) and as I'd never read Shane Black's drafts for Lethal Weapon or The Long Kiss Goodnight, I was judging his work based on the movie up on the screen. However, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is Black unfiltered, without any of those idiots who "punch up" a draft (*cough*toadstruckbylightning*cough*) and accordingly, it's one seriously subversive mystery-comedy-action-thingy ever to be released in too few theaters and accordingly forgotten about two weeks later. Which makes sense. This is the kind of movie where someone hands you a copy and says "holy crap! you need to see this movie!" and you don't believe them because they told you to watch Junebug and The Chumscrubber and you think maybe their threshold for good movies is a little more lax than yours but you watch it anyway and holy crap, they're right. It's about time Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer got their chance to shine and by gawd not drop the ball, and sure as shit they run with it.

Anyway watch it and if you disagree and think it's overcooked and too self aware then whatever because I still like Junebug and I still like the fuckin' Chumscrubber and Joss Whedon should've known better than to stick a Buffy joke into an X-Men movie. Otherwise I'm cool with him except for Speed which would've tanked and tanked hard were it not for his contributions, and then maybe just maybe those pieces of shit Matrix movies never would've happened.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Unrelated (as much as possible)

I've been racking my brains trying to find something to write about other than the bizarre trifecta of celebrity deaths - Ingrid Pitt, Leslie Nielsen, and Irvin Kershner - because I just don't have enough anecdotes beyond repeating "The Empire Strikes Back was the first movie I saw" or "The Naked Gun was a movie we watched during the first sleep over birthday party I remember" or "Ah, Ingrid Pitt. Where Eagles Dare and The Wicker Man, and oh yeah, Doctor Who*." That's really what I've got.

Other being enthused at the combination of James Franco and Anne Hathaway (who are consistently excellent hosts on Saturday Night Live) hosting the Academy Awards, I don't have much to add to that. Awards Season has been more of a Neil thing over the last few years, and I often find myself missing out on the shameless Oscar bait high profile end of year films. Yes, it's true: I'm more focused on Tron Legacy and True Grit than... well, that should give you some idea of how out of it I am. I'll be lucky to catch Get Low before the Oscar ceremonies, and I really want to see Get Low.

While toying around with ways to approach the forthcoming "Retro Reviews" column - which replaces "From the Vaults" in January - I found myself torn between reviewing films from my perspective now, or when I first saw them. During high school and early years in college, I saw perhaps more films than any other period save for 2007-2010. Many of the films I watched then I've never seen since (Lost in Space, Godzilla, The In Crowd), but some, like The Fifth Element, were revisited, and when I think about what I thought of Luc Besson's film the first time I saw it compared to the second, a review from that first experience might be as entertaining as a critical synopsis from today.

If I can make time in the next few weeks, I really hope to have reviews up for Harry Brown, I'm Still Here, the complete Metropolis, The Magician, Head, and possibly a revisiting of The Expendables outside of the sphere of that other movie opening the same day. And yes, I might look into Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. That being said, I'm torn between Metropolis, I'm Still Here, and Harry Brown, which are sitting on the table with Ratatouille, Grindhouse, 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, The Wizard of Oz, and Best Worst Movie.

That being said, I have a sudden, pressing urge to watch The Wicker Man, Forbidden Planet, and The Empire Strikes Back...

* The Warriors of the Deep, if you were wondering.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Wonderful Wonderful Trailer Sunday


Satan Met a Lady

The Complete Metropolis

The Cyclops (sorry if there's an advertisement in front).

Mutiny on the Bounty

The Evictors

Varan the Unbelievable

Saturday, November 27, 2010


This may feel like an insubstantial post, for which I offer no real defense, but after seeing a trailer for Tron Legacy in front of Faster (a trailer that, strangely, followed True Grit), I was overcome with an uncanny feeling from staring at the digitally young-ified Jeff Bridges as CLU. Before I go any further, it might be best to show you what I'm talking about:

It's Jeff Bridges... but it isn't. Something is "off": his skin is a little too smooth, his features seem to be painted on. Which they are. Jeff Bridges - as he appears in Tron Legacy (as Flynn) - has roughly the same features from the nose upward, but graying hair and a beard, better defined wrinkles on his forehead, accurately replicating what Bridges looks like now. This is what he looked like in Tron:

So on a cognitive level, I understand that the effects crew on Tron Legacy couldn't make Jeff Bridges look like he did almost thirty years ago. I get that, and I understand that effects can accomplish the de-aging process (see the X-Men 3 or Wolverine), but it doesn't prevent me from having the visceral reaction of a Bridges that is simultaneously real and unreal (which is the case considering that he filmed the CLU performance). How do I reconcile this cognitive dissonance?

Okay, if you aren't interested in reading Freud's entire essay breaking down "the uncanny," the working definition that most people know is a sensation of something familiar and yet unfamiliar simultaneously, creating unease that is often difficult to describe. Following the first Tron Legacy trailer to show the completely de-aged Flynn, I had such a sensation and failed to articulate it in a way that registered beyond "weird."

I had a similar reaction to Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but for no particular reasons I never connected the waxy, slightly unrealistic yet hyper-realistic digital versions of actors with the uncanny situation I studied (and, in fact, lectured on during a class about German literature). Other than feeling a bit embarrassed to let a bit of scholarly knowledge fall by the wayside, my reaction is to feel a bit more comfortable in reacting to faux-Bridges and reconciling what I know and my visceral response to seeing something so familiar and yet so alien on TV and projected in theatres.

Whether this affects my ability to watch Tron Legacy remains to be seen, because knowing the root cause of this uncanny reaction doesn't necessarily diminish its impact. I'm working on that, but it's tricky.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

So You Won't Have To: Faster

Here's a general rule of thumb for action writers, directors, and editors: if you're going to have a revenge movie named Faster, it's best not to pace the film in such a lifeless, plodding manner. You might want to seriously re-consider the "Slow Justice is No Justice" tagline if your film takes place over the course of five days during which the police never consider putting an APB out on a 1970s Chevelle with a driver who looks suspiciously like WWE Superstar The Rock. It might not hurt to drop the totally unnecessary third protagonist who, as it turns out, exits the film with about as much impact as he does entering the film.

The protagonists are, for the record: Jake Collum (Dwayne Johnson), anti-hero heist driver seeking revenge on his brother's killers; Slade Humphries (Billy Bob Thornton), anti-hero cop with a heroin addiction and one week left until retirement; Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), an anti-hero assassin who is willing to give up his murdering ways in order to be with Lily (Maggie Grace), his girlfriend. If you really feel like it, throw in Carla Gugino as Cicero, a detective investigating Collum's revenge killings.

(In almost every review, Johnson and Thornton are listed as "Driver" and "Cop", because of their respective job descriptions and, well, that's the name credited to them, but if you take the time to actually look at the screen, you'll notice print-outs with their actual names on them - Thornton's more than once)

Faster desperately wants to blend the aesthetics of the Crank films with the neo-noir storytelling of Point Blank, but fails on both counts. If writers Tony and Joe Gayton or director George Tillman, Jr. had stuck with the simple "revenge" story, then Faster may well have been a gritty, efficient thriller with some noir-ish overtones, but the film is over cluttered with main characters, all of whom are jockeying for the position of "person we're supposed to care about." After spending the first fifteen minutes with Johnson, setting up why he wants revenge and his no-frills style of murder, Faster abruptly jumps into introducing Gugino, Thornton, Jackson-Cohen, and Grace.

From that point on, the audience spends inordinate amounts of time watching Killer talk to his therapist over the phone, wax philosophic about "giving up the job" and marrying Lily, or with Humphries ("Cop") as he tries to win back his former Criminal Informant / Junkie wife Marina (Blogorium favorite Moon Bloodgood) and son Tommy (Aedin Mincks). So much of the film is spent with Thornton's Slade Humphries that I re-titled the film "Bad Santa: Port of Call Bakersfield," which is surprising appropriate considering how reminiscent his story is of other Thornton roles (specifically Bad Santa and The Bad News Bears) and my most recent favorite Nicolas Cage film.

Mind you, this is the movie without the central premise of Faster, the one they've been advertising, where Dwayne Johnson hunts down and kills the four (?) people responsible for his brother's death. It doesn't account for minor characters like Mike Epps' private investigator Roy Grone or Xander Berkeley's Sergeant Mallory, or Dexter's Jennifer Carpenter, who plays... well, I'm guessing "Driver"'s ex-girlfriend, or it might be Driver's Brother's (Matt Gerald) ex. We're already needlessly convoluted, and that's not even taking into account the "twists" of who hired Killer or what "Cop" has to do with any of this.

To cram all of this into a 98 minute movie seems like it should leave audiences breathless, or trying to keep up with the story, but Faster makes every effort to over-explain plot points, to the point where it becomes redundant. If you needed the "twist" to be explained to you (as it is, twice) before Faster gets to the end, I'm sorry, but movies might be a little too much for you to deal with. However, there's no excuse for showing a car-chase flashback that demonstrates Johnson's "driver" abilities, only to follow it with the line "they got away" by Cicero. It's embarrassing; there's no other way for me to describe it, and Faster is full of "no kidding!" lines.

After spending some self-imposed time in Disney purgatory, it was nice to see Dwayne Johnson return to the "tough guy" role he seemed primed for in The Rundown and Walking Tall. He has the build, the charisma, and yes, even the chops for it, but Faster does him a great disservice. Johnson becomes a second fiddle in his own movie for most of the second half of the film, and if Faster's writers or director had the discipline to focus the film to be something more like Point Blank (and yes, the echoes are apparent throughout), this review might be something else. I'm really not that hard to please with action films: give me something with a sense of momentum, some nice fight scenes, a charismatic lead, and a plausible story. Faster could have easily fulfilled that request, but it didn't: Faster is overwritten, cluttered, turgid, and lacks momentum that even its pluses feel neutered.

The only positive thing I came out of seeing Faster was to learn two of the three characters' names, something most critics can't seem to be bothered with.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Video Daily Double You Can Be Thankful For

For today's pre-Thanksgiving Video Daily Double, the logical solution would be to pick up on this year's "it" movie from Summer Fest, Thankskilling and drop some clippage on you. But seeing as the Cap'n is a tricky, dodgy fellow, I've decided instead to focus on two other clips, both of which fixate on earlier obsessions in the Blogorium: Nicolas Cage and The Happening.

As you well know, I am an unabashed fan of Nicolas Cage and his "Mega Acting*", and to many of your chagrin, I hold a special place in my heart for M. Night Shyamalan's disasterpiece of ecological vengeance, truly one of the worst films of the last decade, one that I hope makes a Troll 2-esque push for cult status in the next ten years.

I'm always thankful when one or the other resurface, but this week gave the Cap'n a double whammy when Mark Whalberg openly admitted that he thought The Happening was "bad." Then, today, a video editor by the name of Harry Hanrahan put together a great collection of Nicolas Cage "mega acting." In fact, here it is:

If, for some reason, you've missed out on the Blogorium's incessant coverage of The Happening, or if you've never seen the film, here's a clip that covers exactly what kind of special, special film you're depriving yourself of (plus, it's one I've never posted here before!):

Happy Turkey Day, Everybody!

* All credit due to Vern for coining this acting style.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

From the Vaults Double Feature: Hostel II and Ocean's Thirteen (?)

editor's note: To give you some idea of how much older Blogorium entries drop off as "From the Vaults" winds down, I present a double review of two sequels. I'd be willing to bet that no other reviewer ever mentioned them in the same post, nor should they. That being said, I believe that both films a (under) represented fairly.

I've attempted to get people I know who like horror movies to at least watch Hostel, but for many of them, it got caught up in the wave of post-Saw garbage and they consider it to be as crappy, and to some of you, it might be. From where I'm sitting, Hostel is light years better than Saw, and this is coming from someone who grew to HATE Cabin Fever for it's inconsistency in tone and inability to end. Eli Roth made a giant leap forward with Hostel, and it really is a more mature picture than anyone will ever believe it to be.

That being said, if I can't convince you all to watch Hostel, then there's no chance you're going to see Hostel Part II, which from everything I've read is at least tonally a departure from the original, and plays familiar notes in unexpected ways. So yes, I do want to see Hostel Part II, without the trepidation I approached the first film with.

On the other hand, I've totally given up trying to convince people to see the Ocean's movies. Again, it's an issue of people already making up their minds about a sequel to a sequel of a remake that many of you probably didn't like anyway. That Ocean's Twelve was Steven Soderbergh's ode to European films of the sixties is beside the point, because you either want to see them or you don't. I remember when I saw Ocean's Twelve with Jenn she enjoyed it, and I think Andrea fell asleep during Ocean's Eleven. Call me crazy, but I really like the group of actors who come together to hang out, and that easygoing vibe permeates the screen and in turn makes for two hours of harmless fun. Is it going to improve your quality of life? Probably not, but it is a good time.

The decision to see Ocean's Thirteen turned out to be both necessary and serendipitous; when I called Liz to follow up on a raincheck for last weekend's movie, it turned out she hadn't seen Hostel or either of the Ocean's movies, and since it wasn't imperative to see Ocean's Twelve or Ocean's Eleven in order to watch Thirteen (whereas it seemed pretty necessary to have seen Hostel), that's what we went to see.

Earlier in the evening, Adam called to give me his two cents on Hostel Part II, and as the conversation went on, it became abundantly clear that his minor problems with the movie were actually HUGE problems and he came to the realization that he really wasn't going to ever see it again, which didn't give me much hope. I saw Hostel because he recommended it, and we have a similar taste when it comes to horror movies. If he truly recommends something (not like when he says "go see *snicker* Venom") then it's worth seeing to me, but his problems with Hostel Part II echo our problems with Cabin Fever, and apparently the plan to replace the more lurid aspects of Hostel to make things creepier may not quite work. He said it was a better rental, so I'll probably do that.

However, Ocean's Thirteen was perfectly enjoyable, as I expected it would be, and easy enough to acclimate to that Liz didn't have a problem keeping up with the who's who. It doesn't hurt that the films all rely on certain key elements: dialogue which is short handed to the point of being impossible to decipher, characters double and triple switching plans, and surprise twists near the end, so that if you're willing to keep up with the movie itself then knowing the character connections isn't crucial. I'm curious why neither Julia Roberts or Catherine Zeta Jones weren't available for even a cameo, but there was more than enough fun in adding Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin, David Paymer, Julian Sands, Bob Einstein (aka Super Dave Osborne), and nice repeat performances from Vincent Cassel and Eddie Izzard (who has a MUCH larger role than in Ocean's Twelve).

Again, I know I'm not going to change many minds here, but I still say Ocean's Thirteen is as good as any of them, and I'm sure it'll fund the next three or four oddball Steven Soderbergh film projects.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Plans for the Year(s) to Come

As promised last week, here is an excerpt from my "personal statement" designed to lay out some research plans for the future. Additionally (and because you're such nice people), I'm going to include some extra "deleted" ideas, along with plans for the Blogorium in the coming year:

Intertextuality in film has always fascinated me; following the connective tissue from one film to another - homage, imitation, discursive elements, or direct references – I followed the influences of Fritz Lang on Ridley Scott or of Preston Sturges on Joel and Ethan Coen, developing a lexicon to express trends apparent in my research. Accordingly, I consider furthering the development of intertextuality in film history to be a crucial component in my graduate studies.

I am also interested in pursuing research into theories of authorship, particularly in the “post-auteur” and “anti-auteur” positions taken by filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh and the Coen brothers. The development of the term auteur and its subsequent backlash is a movement within film theory that is fascinating to me, and exploring the usefulness of “director as author” in a contemporary setting - one removed from “auteur” as catch-all phrase in the 1980s – seems to have been largely abandoned in the twenty-first century. Is the auteur theory still valid? Has the term lost all meaning, or has its mutation rendered directors afraid of being “branded” the author of their films? Alternately, there are a number of “authorless” or minimized directorial presences in cinematic “mash-ups” like Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django.

One field of research that appeals to me is the idea of artistic repetition; this is not limited to direct remakes (although the trend towards those merits investigation), but also the presence of virtually identical stories that appear persistently over a period of time – Yojimbo / Fistful of Dollars / The Warrior and the Sorceress / Last Man Standing – and the differences between recurring themes in literature and film compared to direct repetition of title, plot, and marketing. For example, how is does the 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left differ from the intertextual relationship between The Virgin Spring and Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left?

The horror genre, which is often considered a barren field for critical study, remains a point of focus I hope to expand on during my studies. Over the last five years, I made a concerted effort to collect and research the various theoretical approaches to horror, from Carol Clover to David Skal to Robin Wood and Barbara Creed. I am particularly interested in the way that gender and violence are portrayed in horror, from the “slasher” era to the present, with particular focus on the way that “Final Girl” variations are portrayed in French horror films like High Tension, Martyrs, Them, and Frontier(s).

Horror films are often undervalued in critical theory because the volume of low quality releases often overwhelms films with something to say. Does a high profile flop like Cursed overshadow a feminist reinterpretation of werewolves like Ginger Snaps? In order to combat the assertion the genre is “lacking,” I have hosted annual horror festivals in the summer and autumn to expose audiences to films lost in the “white noise” of aggressive marketing for sequels, remakes, and gimmick releases.

With regards to film history as a social movement, I have a long-standing desire to pursue the history of independent cinema from the 1950s to the 1980s through the venue of the Drive-In, where distributors showcased non-studio pictures outside of major cities. Until the advent of home video effectively killed the Drive-In, I suspect one can trace the movement of independent cinema from smaller territories across the U.S. by following Drive-In “culture,” despite James Naremore’s doubts that such a thing ever existed (based on a passage in More Than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts).


Meanwhile, as the blogorium moves into year three on Blogspot, I've been making plans to improve on the existing weekly layout. It's becoming increasingly obvious to the Cap'n that I'm running out of "readable" posts for the "From the Vaults" on Tuesdays. Starting in January, I'm planning on replacing that feature with alternating "Four Reasons" and "Five Movies" posts in order to incorporate their presence back into rotation. I'll also open up Tuesdays to what I call "retro reviews," based on films I've seen in the past but never reviewed, or expansions on existing reviews from the Myspace era*.

I'd also like to invite readers to help pick a section tentatively called "Best of the Blogorium," built from your suggestions, votes, and picks for favorite reviews, features, essays, and other random posts. The "Best of the Blogorium" would then appear as a tab on the right side of the screen, allowing new readers to see the Cap'n at his best without being overwhelmed by the sheer number of posts to wade through.

Down the line, I might consider adding direct links to help readers find copies of Thankskilling, Coen brothers text books, and other horror films featured during Horror and Summer Fest, but that's a bit off yet.

That's what I've been working on, and hopefully the first signs of new directions in the Blogorium will appear in the coming months and years. Keep reading, and I'll keep writing.

* It turns out that most of the "reviews" in the old Blogorium were barely a paragraph and only gave the tiniest amount of information possible, something I feel I can adjust.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Camp-tacular Trailer Sunday

Monster on the Campus

The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock


Not of This Earth

The Nanny

Monster Camp

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winnebago Man vs. Best Worst Movie

As I alluded to yesterday in my review of Ben Steinbauer's Winnebago Man, I'm slightly perplexed why none of the reviews I've seen have compared the documentary to another, very similar type of film, Michael Stephenson's Best Worst Movie. While they differ in the medium addressed, Best Worst Movie and Winnebago Man are functionally about the same thing: a long-forgotten piece of media has taken on a new life, separate from the people principally involved with it, and a filmmaker sets out to connect with one specific person and build a documentary around their reaction to new-found fame (or infamy).

Both films begin with an introduction to the "cult" following, including interviews with critics, media personalities, other people involved with the production, and then set about focusing the film on one person who the director feels is impacted most. Both films feature directors who are personally involved in the narrative of the documentary and both feel they have a stake in their subject. Best Worst Movie and Winnebago Man also deal in the culture of "to be laughed AT," a relatively popular phenomenon in the age of the internet and of "viral videos," where the subject(s) of mockery are largely removed from their audience, especially in the case of Troll 2 and Rebney's Winnebago outtakes.

Where they differ is on two key distinctions: the type of media (and the way it is /was disseminated) and the reaction of the film's "subject" (in Winnebago Man, Jack Rebney; in Best Worst Movie, George Hardy). These differences are critical in the success or failure of each film, in part because they frame the "subject" of the film and their audience well before the two ever meet on camera.

The first distinction is an important one, and it explains to some extent why Winnebago Man stumbles in its mid-section. The "viral video," and specifically Rebney's outtakes, are generally speaking viewed on an individual level. One person watches the video on Youtube (or videocassette, as is explained in the film), and passes it on to someone else. We watch them alone, we enjoy them alone, and don't tend to think of these videos as a truly "shared" experience. Gatherings to view the footage, like the Found Film Festival which is featured in Winnebago Man, are fairly rare events.

Troll 2, on the other hand, expanded from an initial home video run to appear regularly in theatres as a "midnight movie" like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The experience of Troll 2, unlike the Winnebago outtakes, is inherently communal. In nearly every instance during Best Worst Movie, it's clear that fans enjoy watching the film together, laughing at the film together, and sharing the experience of Troll 2. The audiences also seem much more invested in the idea of meeting a George Hardy or a Michael Stephenson than a Jack Rebney, who the founders of the Found Film Festival assumed was dead.

This brings us to our second distinction, and the one that benefits one film and seriously undermines the other: the subject(s). I understand why Ben Steinbauer was interested in finding Jack Rebney: it's a fascinating project to track down the "lost" star of one of YouTube's most popular videos, and to find out how he feels about his indirect fame. The problem is that once it is apparent Rebney has no desire whatsoever to interact with Steinbauer on those terms, Winnebago Man struggles to move forward. Jack Rebney offers no insight into the questions Steinbauer hoped to answer, and moreover, he refuses to interact with the fan base the director planned on connecting him to for almost three years.

George Hardy, on the other hand, is a relatively benign subject who has fond memories of making Troll 2 and an inkling that people seem to like the film now, partly because Stephenson was also in the film. Michael Stephenson lucked out, in some ways, by choosing Hardy to expose to the screenings of Troll 2 he'd been observing prior to making Best Worst Movie. Hardy is easygoing, gregarious, and clearly a little struck by the sudden popularity he encounters, and he has the benefit of knowing the director as they experience Troll 2's resurgence together. Best Worst Movie can then accordingly document Hardy's rise and fall as a quasi-celebrity, complete with a narrative arc right out of classic Hollywood: the humble hero who brushes with fame, becomes consumed with it, and then realizes that it isn't all it's cracked up to be. Stephenson has a willing participant and Best Worst Movie becomes something more than a document of a twenty-year-old stinker's "cult" status, and as luck would have it, no one needs to be prodded to make it happen*.

Trying to manufacture an event with the mercurial Rebney moves the film out of the realm of "what would happen if" and make it a "let's see what happens when I drag someone who clearly isn't interested in what I want to do out of his comfort zone and put him face to face with people he doesn't want to meet for reasons he has every right to express. It reminded me of something that hasn't happened yet - but could - tied to Best Worst Movie.

During a post-screening Q&A, one of the producers indicated that Fragasso wanted to make a Troll 2: Part 2 (in 3-D), and if that were to happen, they would certainly document it for a Best Worst Movie 2. And that's a horrible, misguided idea, I have to say. It's not simply trying to catch lightning in a bottle again; the concept as presented is trying to create it, and that never works. Troll 2 isn't the endearing train wreck it is because the writer, director, cast, and crew set out to make the "best worst movie": it was simply the accidental byproduct of their efforts.

By making a Troll 2: Part 2, everyone involved (and especially the people making Best Worst Movie 2) is going to have the reputation of Troll 2 in their minds, and many of them will be trying to replicate it - or worse, play it up. The documentary crew is certainly hoping for this (and if you doubt me, they also expressed hopes for a reality series with George Hardy and The Room's Tommy Wiseau that fortunately never came to pass) and the result will be a film trying so hard to be bad (on a conscious level or not) that it lacks the necessary "it" that makes Troll 2 the "best worst movie." It's like expecting Jack Rebney to show up at a screening of his Winnebago outtakes ready to spew profanity and swat at flies.

Winnebago Man dances around the nature of Rebney's "fans" by portraying them exactly as he suspected while waiting in line but then soft-pedaling the Q&A and post-screening. Only one person expressly states their perception of the "Angriest RV Salesman in the World" was way off, while other people exiting the theatre substitute for earlier interviews (who sometimes appear taking pictures with him but saying nothing, thereby neither asserting or refuting their earlier opinions). Best Worst Movie doesn't directly address the fan reaction with Stephenson, but the film certainly shows you the ugly side of how the "laughing AT" audiences regard Fragasso, Hardy, and Troll 2 in general. The fans move from genuinely enthusiastic near the beginning to partially hostile (or at least incredibly judgmental, as with the case of the "how come it's called Troll 2 when there are no trolls?" question) to the people involved. There's an ugly undercurrent to the fan relationship in Best Worst Movie that Steinbauer avoids addressing during the second half of Winnebago Man**, much to the latter's disadvantage, in part because the film struggles to find its footing at that point.

I do feel that Best Worst Movie is successful in ways that Winnebago Man is not, but I would like to point out that this is not the fault of Ben Steinbauer: he found himself in the unenviable position of changing a documentary midway through his search with a subject that continued to throw him curveballs and refuse to meet him halfway on almost every decision. Winnebago Man is a well constructed documentary that lost its sense of purpose and has to push onward. Best Worst Movie has the tremendous benefit of everything falling into place in a compelling manner, but this is not to belittle or undermine Stephenson, who put together a consistently entertaining, endearing, funny, and disturbing documentary. It takes just as much work to make either film, and I think they both handle their subject manner in the best way possible. One has a better go at it for me, but I understand why the other one exists, and more importantly, deserves to be seen.

* It doesn't hurt that Best Worst Movie is also populated with a host of interesting supporting characters, from the rest of the cast of Troll 2 to its egotistical director, Claudio Fragasso. Winnebago Man ultimately rests on Jack Rebney's shoulders, and he's clearly less interested in being the subject of that particular documentary than anyone in Best Worst Movie.
** Early in the film, he interviews two hosts of a "found video" cable access show that state upfront they have no interest in ever meeting Rebney or anyone else in the tapes they receive. To meet the person associated with the injury or embarrassment would remove any joy taken from their suffering, they explain, which is a telling comment the film never again explores.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Blogorium Review: Winnebago Man

Editorial Introduction: Maybe there should be a new category of documentaries, called "personal essays" or something to that effect: over the last ten years or so, we've seen more documentaries where the creative force behind the film becomes the subject of their own investigation. Documentaries like Super Size Me, Religulous, This Film is Not Yet Rated, Bowling for Columbine, Best Worst Movie, The Kid Stays in the Picture, Don't You Forget About Me, and now Winnebago Man certainly qualify (in varying degrees) as documentaries told from a considerably more subjective viewpoint than, say, films by the Maysles brothers.

Winnebago Man is a well made documentary that suffers from one major problem: in the end, it's very difficult to answer the "so what?" question. During undergraduate, I was continually faced with writing papers where the stakes weren't clear enough, and more often than not, the best argument against the topics in question were "so what?" This is not to say Winnebago Man isn't worth watching, or that writer/director/producer Ben Steinbauer didn't set out to make a movie that feels superfluous, but I have a hard time giving the film an unequivocal recommendation.

Steinbauer's documentary, about Jack Rebney, the "angriest RV Salesman on Earth": in 1989, Rebney was filming an industrial video for Winnebago RV's, and due to the heat, humidity, and flies in rural Iowa, coupled with an inability to remember his lines, Rebney unleashed a litany of expletives and blowups. The crew edited these outtakes, showed them to Winnebago, and Rebney was fired. That should have been the end of the story, but videotapes of the outtakes started circulating, and five years ago they made their way to Youtube*, turning Rebney into a short-fused joke. Steinbauer, who had seen the tape, wanted to know what happened to the man behind the profanity, what he thought about the tape / Youtube, and how he would approach his audience.

The answer, it turns out, is that Rebney is living a reclusive life in Northern California, doesn't care much for the tape and even less for the people he perceives to be its audience (Jack describes his expectations of "room temperature IQ's" and even when they aren't, he professes he can't understand why intelligent people would watch the Winnebago video). Rebney initially dupes Steinbauer into believing he's a kindly old man who put that anger behind him, but then admits it was all a charade**, and decides he'd like to ask Steinbauer to provide him with a platform for his political, philosophical, and cultural positions. When the director assumes Rebney means his audience on Youtube, the curmudgeon bristles and becomes combative, and Steinbauer leaves, reaches out to his friend Keith Gordon, and eventually coaxes Jack into attending a special Found Film Festival as the Guest of Honor.

Winnebago Man reminds me most of Best Worst Movie - a comparison that, strangely, I haven't seen anywhere - and I'll deal with comparing the films in greater depth tomorrow, but Steinbauer starts the documentary strong with a history of viral videos, including their pre-internet incarnations through events like the Found Footage Festival. His personal involvement in the narrative of Winnebago Man is going to remind audiences of Michael Moore, and to that end I'm willing to overlook some of the "recreations" (like footage of Steinbauer talking to Jack over the phone after their first encounter).

In fact, Steinbauer is as much of a character in Winnebago Man as Rebney, and his constant involvement in prodding the reclusive ex-newsman into opening up or addressing his fans hurts the film the most. Rebney's disinterest in being more of the story leaves the documentary spinning its wheels for far too long, and the exasperated Steinbauer doesn't have much to work with when his subject is wholly disinterested.

Another component that really doesn't help Winnebago Man is that it's very easy to forget that Steinbauer spent three years getting Rebney to come out of seclusion and bring him to San Francisco for the Found Film Festival. The film begins with an argument between the director and subject, then inserts a "three years earlier" card before introducing the viral video. After that, there are periodic, incremental ".... later" cards, and then vanishes for the bulk of the film. Steinbauer and editor Malcom Pullinger collapse the time between meeting Rebney and everything that happens afterward, ultimately hurting the film at the point the "narrative" most needs it.

I also wonder how Rebney would have responded if he knew that the audience he reconsidered after the Found Film Festival Q&A were on camera openly wishing that he'd show up at the theatre angry, cursing, and that "maybe there will be some flies," everything he assumed people watched the video for. The disconnect between what the audience was assuming they'd see, what Rebney assumed he would see***, and the lasting impression he had of his "fans" closes the film on a somewhat sweet, uplifting note, but like Best Worst Movie, the audience members outside were hoping for someone to laugh AT, not with. While at least one attendee admits how wrong their perceptions were coming out of the Q&A, I have my doubts that most people at the showing saw past the grouchy, profanity spouting Rebney**** they expected to see.

There are moments that make Winnebago Man worth seeing, mostly related to Gordon's friendship with Rebney and Jack's dog, Buddha. The DVD includes Rebney's finished Winnebago industrial film, which provides context lacking from only watching the YouTube video. Yes, there's actually a successful flip-side to the outtakes, and I'd argue that it makes the profanity and frustration worth it, as would anyone who seriously struggled to put something good out there. In the "premiere" feature, Steinbauer suggests that Winnebago Man is ultimately about the "human condition," an argument I don't necessarily buy. What Winnebago Man, ultimately, "is", is a documentary about looking for something, not finding what you expected, and making a film out of what's left. It's worth watching once, but I don't know that I'll be revisiting Winnebago Man in the future.

* If you haven't seen the video, then go to YouTube. I'm not putting the link up for reasons outlined in the review. ** I don't want to put this in the body of the review, but the whole "bait and switch" component of Winnebago Man really strikes me as dubious considering how uninterested Rebney is in collaborating with Steinbauer. That many of the film's "re-enactments" happen during this point in the documentary doesn't help matters. *** There's not a good place to put this in the review, but Rebney begins going blind from glaucoma during the film, leaving Gordon and Steinbauer to lead him around. **** Speaking of which, I sometimes wonder how much of the "grumpy" and the cursing is part of what Rebney expects will keep Steinbauer around, as it increases exponentially as the film goes on.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Long Take Video Daily Double

Today's Video Daily Double piggybacks a bit off of an article I was reading about long takes in film. The long take is an editing technique that has, for various reasons, fallen by the wayside in modern film. Part of it is the influence of "MTV" editing from the 80s and 90s, when it was fashionable to incorporate very quick cuts (admittedly, this isn't something unique to the time period, as any sequence analysis of Hitchcock's Psycho will tell you) which became increasingly popular as video directors transitioned to film, upping the ante by making scenes shorter and shorter, and editing accordingly tighter. Audiences are supposedly "bored" by long takes, and the general argument is that they belong in "art" films.

Of course, when you do see them, they tend to stick with you as a result. As the "long take" becomes rarer, the effect actually performs the opposite function of being "boring." The article mentions some of the best long takes there are, and I thought I'd add a couple of my own choosing. Not all of them were on YouTube, so I couldn't include long takes from Moon, The House of the Devil, or 44 Inch Chest, although I did locate one of the best "long" closeups from the film Birth.

As the Cap'n conveniently blanked on other titles that came to mind while hunting for those clips (always write your titles down, kids!), I'll dispense with the chatter and skip directly to the videos.

Our first video is an excellent example of the "long take," and it frames the film by juxtaposing what we expect when we hear "Jean-Claude Van Damme" and the actual story of JCVD:

Our second video is also the opening credits / sequence, this time of Robert Altman's The Player:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

From the Vaults: Guest Blogger - The Cranpire

Our "From the Vaults" for the third Tuesday in November is a compilation of Cranpire-riffic guest spots on the Blogorium. If you've never had the experience of meeting Mr. Patrick Cranpire, this will give you a taste:

Today I think I'll let Mr. Cranpire take care of business. That dude knows way more about movies than I do. Here he is:

It takes dirt and sun to make the shit grow. It takes mutha fuckin' Cranpire to start the show. The Cap'n is now "sleeping" and may not wake for some time. So I will tell you his lies. He changes the time stamp on his blogs so that it appears that he wrties a blog each and every day or normal 24 hour period.

Tonight I am going to be Patrick not Cranpire. This is a side many of you do not see very often.

The Dark Knight was awesome, Heath Ledger was awesome. But here is my point. While filming this movie and after filming ended Ledger was supposedly "haunted by the Joker". So does that make Heath Ledger a bad actor. Yes. I am not saying that his performance was poor, I am saying that he was bad at being an actor. He should have been able to separate himself form the character. There have been many intense, demented and horrifying roles played by many and actor. I can not think of another instance of this happening. If you can let me know. Thank you for your time.

Before I took out the Cap'n he requested that I speak about movies, specifically Death Race. We just finished it and is good. All the things that were said about this film are true. You will not be bored, your questions will be answer and yes people drive cars with the intention of both winning and killing the fellow races. That is all I will say about this movie other than you should watch it.

The Cap'n just briefly woke up and mentioned a conversation about an actor we had. His name is Lochlyn Munro. You more than likely do not know who he is and therefore can not appreciate his talent. Dead Man on Campus is the easiest way for me to get you on ball. He is the crazy guy who, well, goes crazy. That is your starting point and you better pick up the scent and follow it till it goes cold.

I am going to finish this shit up. But I will lead you with this. Do not let stupidity stand.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It Came from Trailer Sunday!

Invaders from Mars

Zontar: The Thing from Venus

Santos vs Invasion de los Marcianos

Devil Girl from Mars

Journey to the Seventh Planet

It Came from Outer Space

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How Little Does It Take to Expose an MST3k Nerd?

Just ask him "do you have any first season episodes on VHS?" and let him go. From an actual correspondence with regular reader the Cranpire earlier today:

I do have a lot of early MST3k episodes on video, but the box marked "VHS" is literally the cornerstone on which my furniture is built on in the storage facility. It's actually the hardest box to get to, as it's covered by shelves, plastic bins, other boxes, and dvd racks.

If the "first season" is the one I'm guessing you looked at on IMDB, then that's the KTMA Public Access episodes they did before going to the Comedy Channel. If you're lucky, you can find one or two on YouTube, but there's almost no chance they're coming out because a) half of them are Gamera films, or b) they're licensed by Sandy Frank, who hates Joel Hodgson for making fun of his movies.

Season two, which includes Robot Monster, The Crawling Hand, The Crawling Eye, Mad Monster, and The Corpse Vanishes, are kinda / sorta on various MST3k collections. I have 18 of the 19 boxed sets (waiting on that new one for Christmas) and all of the individual releases, but as it's the only thing I've ever collected in its entirety (to date), I'm reticent to loan them out (they're often VERY expensive to replace and unless I absolutely have to I'll never sell them).

To your Crow question, it's explained in the MST3k Amazing Colossal Episode Guide that he's actually facing forward, but that the basket creates an optical illusion that makes it look like he could be facing forward. If I had the book here, I'd happily scan the picture in (because try as I might, I can't find it online), but here's a link to back me up:


You can check YouTube; I've seen KTMA clips on there (and the occasional episode), but when a compilation of "Host Segments" from KTMA was on the Twentieth Anniversary boxed set, that pretty much spelled out that they'd never hit DVD. As you can guess from the season two stuff, the show is very much in its formative stages, and they don't really riff much. The show didn't really hit its stride until seasons three, four, and five.


So yeah, you can see why I had to share that; clearly, I know way too much about a long-canceled series off of the top of my head than any person ought to. But now I have some small satisfaction in knowing that you too have that knowledge.

Your reward? part two of "Last of the Wild Horses," where a mirror-universe puts Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank in the experiment:

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Video Daily Bonus

Just so the proposals aren't the only thing you have to enjoy for Friday, here's The Hollywood Reporter's Writer's Guild round table for "awards season" that I think would be a valuable companion piece for Tales from the Script (reviewed here). It's not short, but I can think of many less interesting ways to spend an hour and seven minutes:

A Series of Modest Proposals

(or, a nice way of saying "While it's sitting in the PS3, I still haven't watched Harry Brown yet and therefore can't review it.")

Hello, dear readers. The Cap'n has two things going on this week that contributed to a lack of blogging yesterday and (almost) not one today: 1) I'm feeling a bit under the weather, 2) I've been working on applications for graduate school, which are time consuming and while technically "film" related (being those are specifically the programs the Cap'n is applying to), they don't translate to compelling blogorium material. Perhaps, once I'm positive that they have or will not be looking at the blogorium, I'll share with you my "personal statement," which lays out a number of topics I'm looking to expand on here and in an academic setting.

In fact, if I don't actually post the statement itself, I will happily share the topics of study at a point in time other than today. Today I'd like to pose a series of proposals that you may feel free to answer, not answer, or dismiss and answer some question not posed by the Cap'n but you feel I should know anyway. Is it "lazy" blogging? Oh, almost certainly, but the outcome of several of the answers will directly influence future reviews, commentary, news, and pieces like "Five Movies" and "Four Reasons."

Without further ado:

1. While I am on the record that I have no interest in seeing Avatar, I remain on the fence about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. As you may remember, I was, perhaps, rude (to understate it) to fans of the film during its theatrical showing, mostly as a result of their very public outcry against movies people were seeing not called "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." That being said, I remain a fan of Edgar Wright and have, with a few small exceptions, not heard many bad reviews. I'd like for someone to give me a measured reaction, if possible, and to sell me or not sell me on the film. What works? What doesn't?

2. As I always am, the Cap'n is fishing for recommendations. While I regularly visit DVD review websites in search of something I've never heard of (and have found quite a few that I'll be looking into soon), I also like to turn to the readers and ask them what they've seen lately that they think I should check out. Just because I make it a mission in life to expose others to films they haven't seen before doesn't mean that I have my finger on the pulse of under-watched cinema at all times. Help a Cap'n out, folks.

3. I have seriously been toying with the idea of recordinging and hosting downloadable "rogue" commentary tracks for films that don't have one. While the model is similar to RiffTracks, I don't intend for them to always be comedic. Whenever possible, I'd like to bring in other people who can speak authoritatively about the film or add a perspective on the movie that would be interesting for audiences. If you'd like to see (or hear this) and, more importantly, would like to be a part of this, let me know. I have the initiative, but lack certain key ingredients (like recording equipment).

4. Finally, I'm still looking for a really good title for December's mini-horror fest. Merry Mayhem is the only one I've come up with so far, and I'm not really in love with it. Don't make me turn this into a contest, folks! There could be a prize in it for you!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gilliam Daily Double!

The Cap'n is in a Terry Gilliam kind of mood today; this is never a bad thing, but sometimes the mood for a slightly heightened, surrealist life is just what one needs. Maybe I just want to send out good vibes into the universe so that The Man Who Killed Don Quixote actually happens this time (with Ewan MacGregor and Robert Duvall). As fascinating - and sad - as Lost in La Mancha is, it would be nice to see what Gilliam really wanted to do, rather than a documentary about the un-making of a film.

While there are no shortage of great Python-era Gilliam animations to draw from, I've chosen to focus on two pieces from after he'd established himself as a solo director (even if the first one is "technically" Python-related). Enjoy a bit of the mundane mixed with the whimsical, and let's keep our fingers crossed for the next major feature from the director of Time Bandits, Brazil, 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.


Our first video is an oldie but a goodie: For those Python fans that are only familiar with The Holy Grail... well, I'm not sure what to say, but whatever. You should check out The Life of Brian posthaste, and then look into The Meaning of Life. To whet your appetite for the latter, here's the Gilliam short that opens the film: The Crimson Permanent Assurance (in two parts).

Our second video is a new short by Gilliam: The Legend of Hallowdega. If I had told you that Terry Gilliam made a short film about NASCAR with Justin Kirk (Angels in America, Weeds) and David Arquette (Scream, Eight Legged Freaks), plus actual NASCAR drivers, I doubt you would have believed me, but here it is. (Apologies for not having the short on this page, but embedding seems to be prohibited).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

From the Vaults (Kinda): Leaves of Grass

editor's note: This may be the quickest turnaround for a "From the Vaults" in Blogorium history. I'm reposting this review because the release of the review (March of 2010) - at the time one I hoped would increase viewers for its theatrical run - was so staggered from Leaves of Grass's actual review. Now that the Tim Blake Nelson directed, Edward Norton starring film is on DVD and Blu-Ray (with a rather lackluster cover), I thought it might be a good time to remind people about a movie I think they'll enjoy.

If I'm correct in reading IMDB, Tim Blake Nelson's Leaves of Grass should be playing this Friday at a theatre near you. I would recommend you go check it out; in addition to having the conceit of Edward Norton playing twin brothers - one a Professor of Philosophy and the other an awfully clever Pot Farmer - the film itself (which is also written by Nelson) takes a well worn genre and gives it some clever tweaks.

Norton plays Bill Kincaid, a Brown Professor of Philosophy who spent the better part of his life trying to disassociate himself from his mother Daisy (Susan Sarandon) and brother Brady (also Norton) and his background in Oklahoma. Despite some hiccups with a student making passes and writing suggestive love poems (in Latin), Bill is on track to have his own department at the Harvard Law School. That is, until he gets a call from Brady's friend Bolger (Tim Blake Nelson).

Brady's deep in debt to Pug Rothbaum (Richard Dreyfuss) for the cost of building his state-of-the-art hydroponic grow house, and in addition of Rothbaum's thugs hounding him for the money, he also has pressure from Jimmy and Buddy Fuller (Ken Cheesman and Steve Earle), whose dealing business he ran out of town. So Brady fakes his own death to trick Bill into coming back to Oklahoma. Brady thinks that if he can use Bill to convince people he's still in town, he can go to Tulsa and take care of Pug without consequences, then get back to being a husband and father to Colleen (Melanie Lynskey) and their unborn child.

Meanwhile, a rather confused Bill is talked into smoking up with Brady and meeting Janet (Keri Russell), a high school teacher and poet, as well as dealing with his hippie mother and coming to terms with the family he left behind.

Oh, I know. At a certain point, I was really worried that despite the philosophical backdrop and the great cast, I was just watching a variation on the "city person who left their family behind but then is drawn back in by the folksy good nature" movie. You know, the Sweet Home Alabama / Doc Hollywood kind of film. And while it is kind of that movie, Tim Blake Nelson has the good sense to take Brady's story in some unexpected directions, which Bill then has to deal with in very serious ways.

Leaves of Grass reminds me, in a lot of ways, of a much better version of Junebug. I like Junebug quite a bit, but Leaves of Grass is willing to go to darker places and constructs a better narrative, anchored by a really impressive dual role by Edward Norton. At no point did I not buy that Brady and Bill were different people. Yes, they both look like Edward Norton, and when Brady cuts his hair so that they kinda-sorta look alike, it's even clearer it's the same actor, but Bill Kincaid and Brady Kincaid are two very different people. Bill can only physically pass for Brady in the story, because Norton is that good at convincing you that they have lived different lives and that they do fundamentally see the world differently, even if they're both really intelligent about what they do.

Nelson doesn't re-invent the wheel with split screen technology here, and despite being cognitively aware of how the effects were being achieved, I still believed that two Edward Nortons were occupying the same space at times. There's a great shot involving a mirror with the two of them that really sells the physical proximity, even though it's technically impossible that Norton could be tapping himself on the shoulder.

Anyway, I don't mean to get bogged down on the technical stuff. The story keeps you going through the predictable beats and then heads down less worn roads, and the cast is all uniformly great. There are a handful of characters and plot points I'm not mentioning just to preserve some sense of discovery, but I think you'll find Leaves of Grass to be a movie worth visiting. And yes, Walt Whitman figures into the story, as though I needed to tell you that.

Monday, November 8, 2010

News and Notes

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I really do have to stress that this fall / winter has and will be a very good season for Blu-Ray adopters. It's been a nice combination of new titles and studios dipping into their back-catalogs for some really impressive releases. Yes, every now and then you'll hit a hot mess like Fox's Predator double-dip (so digitally mucked with that most of the actors look like wax dolls), or a mixed bag like The Man with No Name Trilogy, but more often than not, we've been seeing some quality product since September. For example:

Forbidden Planet, Seven, The Twilight Zone, King Kong, The Exorcist, The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Alien Anthology, The Sound of Music, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Back to the Future, Three Kings, Psycho, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Metropolis, Apocalypse Now, Hamlet, The Evil Dead, The Mutiny on the Bounty, Spirits of the Dead, Delicatessen, and some bare-bones but worth checking out Troll 2, Return of the Living Dead, and Escape from New York.

Criterion started their Blu Rays strong, and have been getting better and better this year with titles like The Thin Red Line, Seven Samurai, House, The Darjeeling Limited, Breathless, Magician, Paths of Glory, Charade, 8 1/2, Black Orpheus, Crumb, Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, Vivre Sa Vie, and the forthcoming Modern Times and The Night of the Hunter. Oh, and every film they've announced for January is simultaneously being released on DVD and Blu-Ray.

I haven't seen all of the BD's listed above, but I have sampled Apocalypse Now, Rocky Horror, Back to the Future, The Evil Dead, House, The Thin Red Line, and the massive Alien Anthology. The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Goonies, The Sound of Music, and a lot of Criterion titles are in the "to watch" pile, and I have to say that so far I've been very pleased with what I've seen. Blu-Ray has (fortunately) been embraced by many studios as more than a way to sell brand new releases (which also look very good, by the way), and the older titles have looked as good or better than some of the newer ones.

While it's important to note that nobody is paying me to say this, as the prices on HDTV's are dropping and Blu-Rays are getting cheaper (seriously, some of the TV series cost less than their DVD equivalents), I really do recommend making the move. While some bristle at the "perfect picture / perfect sound," it really is a huge difference when the disc is treated correctly by the studio.


Finally, I have a general question to ask you, the readers: I've made it fairly clear that I have no interest in seeing Avatar (which is getting a - shocker - extended edition on DVD and Blu-Ray next week), but should I see it?

I don't mean should I see it on some kind of "is it worth seeing basis" - most of you that have seen it made it clear that Avatar is at least worth seeing in 3-D - but as the #1 Box Office ranked film of all time, do I have some obligation to watch Avatar if I want to seriously consider film criticism, study, or history? To qualify this, I refer you to the All Time Box Office numbers, world-wide, from IMDB (Please take a look and then join up in the next paragraph).

It's not a matter of the old "Box Office" validation that the Cap'n has joked about in the past, but more the fact that I've seen most of the movies in any of the "all time" box office lists. In fact, of the top 25, there are only 5 I haven't seen - Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Shrek 2, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and the number two and number one entries: Titanic and Avatar*.

Again, I must stress that I don't want to watch Avatar (or Titanic), and I probably won't; I've never been interested in either film, which several attribute to a personal dislike of James Cameron's body of work. On the other hand, as someone who has worked their way through many of the AFI lists, the Criterion Collection, seen most of the highest regarded films of all time - and has most certainly seen the other "juggernauts" of American cinema (not limited to The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Ben-Hur, and Casablanca) and tried to hit the "must see"'s of World Cinema, leaving out two of the most watched films of all time seems... strange.

So what do you think? In a theoretical sense, do I "owe" it to myself to see two films that clearly had a massive cultural impact, both in the U.S. and world-wide, particularly when I've seen most of the others, or is it much ado about nothing? Don't let your personal opinion of either film influence the answer too much (if possible), because I'm not looking for a "merit" based argument on the films themselves. This is purely an academic argument about the field I would like to enter.

* If you push it to the top 50, the number jumps to 13, and top 100 to 26.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Horror Fest V Trailer Sunday!

Slumber Party Massacre

Slumber Party Massacre III

Dead Snow


The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue

Street Trash

The House on Sorority Row

The Curse of the Undead

Kingdom of the Spiders

Weasels Rip My Flesh


Point of Terror


Night of the Living Dead

The Evil Dead

The House of the Devil