Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snow Falling on Trailer Sunday

The Music Man

Universal Soldier: The Return

Lucky Seven

Torn Curtain

The Last Unicorn

Kiss Me Deadly

Black Dynamite

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Weather, why must you block my Cap'n?

Well gang, "One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer" has been postponed. While not indefinitely, there is no set date for its return. I'll try to get on that, but weekends get a wee bit busy as we move along the semester. I'm not at all disappointed, except with the stupid weather that willingly took my long planned event and shat frozen water all over it.

It's not any warmer here at the moment. We're inching towards a balmy 15 degrees tonight, so bundle up and buckle down, as many folks did. The parking lot outside is quite literally covered in a sheet of ice, which is in turn covered by a later of packed snow. I know this because a) you can hear the ice cracking when you walk on the snow, and b) you can uncover the ice with your foot until you fall over.

Some super troopers are coming over nevertheless, and depending on the mood of the Blogorium, we'll either watch Raising Arizona or play this ridiculous Japanese game I have called Katamari Damacy. I don't know what it means either, but it looks like this:

So yeah... I cannot make this stuff up.


In other news: Tuesday brings some nutty business on digital versatility disc and Blue Laser Unlimited Ray. In addition to a non-Criterion BD of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, you can pick up The House of the Devil (previously mentioned here in a post about the awesome VHS packaging gimmick), Universal Soldier: Regeneration (which I hear "sets the bar for direct to video"), The Complete Doctor Who specials, a little movie I like to call Zombieland, plus the one everybody's been waiting for.

Yes folks, I speak of The Music Man on Blu-Ray. And I'm only being half sarcastic, because as we've established, the Cap'n is a sucker for musicals, and I happen to be a fan of The Music Man. So I've got that going for me, ladies.


Okay, my feet are cold. I could put on slippers or wrap this blog up, and I think that we both know how this is going to end.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Damn You, Weather!

The hideous Sou'Easter is upon Blogorium central. If folks are still wondering (or feeling foolhardy), tomorrow's "One bourbon, one scotch, one beer" is still going on. I might end up watching them by myself, but what the hell?

It's a good line up:

Bourbon - David Lynch's Wild at Heart

Scotch - Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Beer - a surprise.

plus I'm throwing together trailers for films that were considered in each category. No stupid snowstorm and freezing temperatures are going to chase the Cap'n off of a movie night, although I suddenly understand why I've never tried a 'thon in January...


Confession time: Remember when I was talking about those Criterion discs? Okay, so several of those "would like to have"'s were movies I ordered used from Amazon. Mona Lisa, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Night and Fog, Salesman, Insomnia, Nanook of the North, Peeping Tom, and Dead Ringers are all on their way.

My criteria for these Criterions had everything to do with being able to get them for less than $20 apiece and the relative ease of locating the films. Most of them never show up in stores, and I've been oogling Salesman ever since I parted ways with it, so I'm glad to have it on the way.


Adam has been gently reminding me that J.D. Salinger died yesterday, and that the unlicensed movies should be coming any day now. Heh heh. May I suggest Shia LeBouf for Catcher in the Rye? Don't even ask me what they should do with Franny and Zooey. Heh. Heh. Two words: Brett Ratner.


Stay warm, and risk those broken limbs for movie night Saturday!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Video Daily Double Plus A DVD Cover Gripe

I'm not really sure why I'm so irked by this, but the DVD for Big Fan arrived yesterday, and I have to say it has one of the worst covers for a movie, especially considering the subject matter. Allow the picture to speak a thousand words, followed by a few of mine:

Okay, so anybody who's seen Big Fan will notice immediately that the DVD cover makes the film look like some kind of inspirational sports film starring Patton Oswalt as a mentally handicapped NY Giants fan. Seriously. That's what the juxtaposition of the picture of Oswalt to the cheering fans at the game suggests. It's very Radio-esque. That is not what Big Fan is. In an odd and pathetic way, it is uplifiting at the end, but not even close to the way that cover makes it look.

To wit, here's the theatrical poster:

First off, I will openly admit that it's less aesthetically pleasing than the stupid DVD cover, but as unmarketable as this image is, it perfectly conveys the tone of the film. This is the story of Paul Aufiero, this total loser that gives no positive impression on you and who would let a football player beat the shit out of him and do nothing. Not the chubby man-child who loves football and finally goes to the big game where the Giants win and give him the game ball.

So that's my two cents on the bungling of that DVD artwork. Stay tuned for videos.


Video Daily Double Part One: 40 Inspiration Speeches in 2:15.

Strangely, it kinda did the trick for me. I feel quite motivated to fight aliens or the British. Or something...

Finally, Video Daily Double Part Two: the trailer for Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.

I really have no idea how I feel about this. It's a well made trailer, but I can't help but worry about the movie. It may be the most unnecessary sequel there is...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On the "reunited and it feels so good" front:

The Cap'n finally got one of my Out of Print Criterion DVDs back. While it's not Sid and Nancy or Dead Ringers or even a completely gone one like This is Spinal Tap or Tokyo Olympiad, I was happy to find a copy of Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious at a downright reasonable used price. Maybe it's because of the 20th Century Fox boxed set, which also carries alternate editions of similarly OOP Rebecca and Spellbound, but somehow I got Notorious for less than it would have been new six years ago.

Looking at Amazon, it wouldn't be too difficult to get Spellbound and Rebecca at reasonable prices too. Sid and Nancy is still pretty pricey, and Tokyo Olympiad is downright ridiculous at $64 used and $115 new. This is Spinal Tap is comparably silly at $48.95 and $109.99. Many of them aren't so bad any more, as when Criterion loses the rights other companies typically swoop in. Even Hard Boiled and The Killer aren't where they once were (pushing $500), and I bet the guy trying to sell Criterion's old version Salo is going to have his work cut out for him at $68 (to wit: it once sold for $2000 on eBay. Seriously).

The Silence of the Lambs and Robocop have fallen dramatically from where they once were, which is fine because I still have those. If there's one I wish I still had that I don't, it's Bruce Robinson's How to Get Ahead in Advertising, which is baselining around $50 (discount the $20-30 copies, as they're rentals and missing components). Oh, make that two; I had no idea Fellini's Nights of Cabiria was out of print. Damn.


My goal with Spine Numbers is to no longer try to get all of them (it is, after all, a fool's errand to keep up with a collection that shows no sign of ending), but to seek out the ones I really want and rent the films that sound interesting. For example, right now I'd really like to have Salesman, Peeping Tom, Sullivan's Travels, Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss, Mona Lisa, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Insomnia, Nanook of the North, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, House of Games, and Kind Hearts and Coronets. I wouldn't mind having Night and Fog, La Jetee, Hoop Dreams, The Long Good Friday, That Obscure Object of Desire, The Horse's Mouth, Burden of Dreams, Overlord, Children of Paradise, and The Orphic Trilogy. I don't know that I need Maitresse, Border Radio, El Norte, Dodes ka-den, Bad Timing, I am Curious, or Fishing with John. There are others that aren't occurring to me that fit in a nebulous category of "I'd probably just rent it", but I think you get the idea. My days of being a completist are over and done.

I envy some of you mad men and women out there trying to conquer the collection. I no longer want to be you, although I may have to drop some coin in order to pick up a few of those OOP discs (the Sid and Nancy one is worth it for the commentary track alone, which is comprised of members of the NYC punk scene, many of whom dispute the portrayal of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen in the film). I don't know that I'd ever need the John Woo movies, or even This is Spinal Tap, but I suppose it is nice to know they haven't totally vanished from the face of the earth.

Thus endeth the blathering.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ah, Forever Young Film Preservation...

I had considered writing up a formal review of Blood Simple, but as time just isn't what it used to be, the Cap'n decided to focus on one particular aspect of the DVD, which happens to be a semi-running gag with the Coen Brothers: Forever Young Film Preservation.

Provided you haven't seen the Universal Blood Simple disc or the 10th Anniversary disc for The Big Lebowski, I can imagine this little joke is lost on you. Ever the sneaky DVD extra tricksters, the Coens created a wholly fictional film preservation society in order to mock the "restoration" process, which was - and still is - in vogue when the discs were released.

Blood Simple opens with an introduction from "Kenneth Loring" of Forever Film Preservation, who promises this all new digital version of the film uses the highest quality digital restoration with all the sound restored and remixed and all the "boring parts" cut out. The Coens are making a savvy crack at the "director's cut" craze by shortening their own film, and to top it off they make up a fake preservation society to oversell the gag. "Kenneth Loring" also appears on a commentary track, reporting misleading and at times patently false information in a scholarly and authoritative tone. Take that, Criterion.

Of course, that's not the only appearance Forever Young Film Preservation makes. For the anniversary edition of The Big Lebowski, "Mortimer Young" introduces the movie with even more flagrant lies. Since there's no edit of the film, "Young" claims that "The Grand Lebowski" had to be meticulously restored from an Eastern European print with a missing soundtrack. In order to save the movie, a John Goodman sound-alike was brought in to voice Walter. There's no commentary track, but you get the idea.

It's a rather dirty trick to play on DVD newbies, or people who have a hard time distinguishing sarcasm, even in such an obvious way. I tried to find you the video files so you could see for yourself, but apparently no one on YouTube thought the jokes were that funny. Too bad, as it reinforces in many ways just how carefully the Coen brothers work to undercut pompous DVD "extras" and what a wicked sense of humor they really have.

Now if only Forever Young Film Preservation could explain what happened on The Ladykillers...


Side Note: Avatar is apparently now the highest grossing movie ever made (if not adjusted for inflation), knocking out Titanic. Congratulations nerds; now James Cameron has the two highest grossing films of all time, but the blue cat thing is better than the boat movie. The nerds win.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hrmph. Despite all of my rancor a few weeks ago about the deal between Warner Brothers and Netflix to deprive users of new releases, I can't honestly say it's made a huge difference in my rental activity. It's possible that this is because I haven't been keeping track of "big" releases from team Warners coming soon (can anybody? that's not sarcasm so much as an honest query. what are their major releases now that the holidays are over?)

The other determining factor may have something to do with what I've been renting instead. Truth be told, the movies I have at home are kind of a mixed bag, and none of them are from the Studio of the Shield. Right now I have Land of the Lost, The Girlfriend Experience, and The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard at home. Aside from a few people telling me to rent the former and the latter, I'm not really sure why they're here. I haven't been able to talk myself into watching either of them at the moment, especially when better fare like Blood Simple is waiting in the wings.

As for The Girlfriend Experience, I already watched the movie once on Instant Viewing, and checked out the disc for the commentary track and "alternate version", which it turns out isn't so radically different. I need to send that back, and I think Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma is atop the queue.

*edit* I just went and checked WB's Blu-Ray site, and I honestly couldn't find one major release in the next month or two. This makes their ploy all the more confounding, and I wonder if it really is tied to some asinine plan on New Line's part to force people to buy The Lord of the Rings theatrical cuts on Blu-Ray instead of renting them first. That's pretty cheesy.


The Cap'n cannot vouch for Ti West's The House of the Devil at this time; I hear good things, put the trailer up yesterday because it looked cool, but I haven't seen it yet. Beyond the good buzz for the film, which is a throwback to early 80s style horror with Tom Noonan, Dee Wallace, and Mary Woronov, Dark Sky Films came up with a pretty ingenious marketing gimmick for old school horror fans:

That's right. In addition to DVD and Blu-Ray releases, Amazon is currently selling a DVD combo pack that comes with a VHS copy of the film in the old clamshell packaging. This warms my heart, as it reminds me of my beaten up tape of Return of the Living Dead, but what's more fun is that they slapped the Gorgon Video logo in front of the film. Because a particular segment of this readership might not be old enough to remember, Gorgon video is chiefly remembered for putting out the Faces of Death "films" on VHS, a staple of the "do you dare try to rent this" horror shelf selection.

I have to admit that as gimmicks go, it's almost good enough for me to order a copy. I do still have a VCR, and it might be fun to throw on The House of the Devil at a future Fest without telling people when it was made. I wonder what the VHS quality looks like. For once, I hope it's a pan-and-scan, which I never thought I'd hear myself say.


Off to bed. You boys and girls behave.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Say Five Trailer Sundays and Think About What You've Done...

Moonwalker (see? I told you!)

I Love You Phillip Morris

Frontier Blues

Reel Paradise

Raising Arizona

House of the Devil


Saturday, January 23, 2010

I already wear glasses!

Oy vey. I know I said this some time last September, but can we please stop with the "everything coming out in 2010 and 2011 be in 3-D" craze? The latest rumor is that Ghostbusters 3 obviously needs to be in 3-D, because that's what we need more than just a third Ghostbusters movie. It's silly enough that Tron: Legacy is in 3-D, but Disney seems to be doing that with any movie they can get into theatres as is (seriously, isn't The Tooth Fairy going to be in 3-D, or just in "Suck-o-Vision"?).

Now, I realize that Avatar is still the greatest movie ever made yadda yadda*, and 3-D seems to be a part of that. The remake craze is a clear indicator that Hollywood does not learn from its own history, so gimmicks like the "third dimension" are destined to live their silly little lives out again on multiplexes, until people get bored again and the next shiny bauble comes their way. The 3-D craze lasted exactly two days during Summer Fest, and I don't feel a twinge of regret about it here at Blogorium Central.

I just hope that in the meantime the Cap'n can watch Ghostbusters 3 in two dimensions, like the luddite I so clearly am.


The Cap'n is a copy of The Hudsucker Proxy away from having a complete Coen Brothers collection. When A Serious Man comes out, I will be totally complete until True Grit or other Coen Brothers movies on Blu-Ray. But for now, I'm pretty good on that.

Because I haven't used the tag in such a long time, allow me to mention that Bruce Campbell is in The Hudsucker Proxy. Bruce is also apparently making Bruce Vs. Frankenstein, the sequel to My Name is Bruce. Regular readers are aware that despite my great admiration for Bruce Campbell, I was not overwhelmed by MNIB, but I'd like to keep an open mind about the sequel. The title sure sounds fun.


There's a dubious looking dvd for Michael Jackson's Moonwalker on Amazon, but if you've been looking for a copy of it for whatever reason (say, punishing someone on their birthday), there it is. If I had to guess, it probably comes from a VHS copy and has tons of subtitle options from Asian countries (zoom in on the cover if you doubt me). I've seen my share of bootlegged dvds from China and Japan, either at Ed McKay's or when Barrett would get a "great deal" on Amazon. I mean, who doesn't want a $15 first season of Six Feet Under that comes in plastic binder sleeves inside of xeroxed cover art?

Sorry, I got off on a bit of a tangent there. If you've somehow never seen or heard of Moonwalker, you ought to check it out. Watch Michael Jackson protect young Sean Lennon and then turn into a Giant Robot to kill Joe Pesci. No, really; that's what happens in Moonwalker.

There was also an awesome game, which now that I look at it again, is kinda creepy.


Finally: sorry about the page layout SNAFU last night. I was trying to stretch the second image a little bit, and clearly it cut off part of the joke. My bad. It's fixed now, so please revisit my failed experiment and chuckle at Adam's misery.

* Some of you are just gnawing at the bit to see me eat crow when it comes out on Blu-Ray and I rent it, but the movie just DOES NOT look that interesting to the Cap'n. It's not like Terminator: Salvation or Halloween II, which look like interesting disasters; there is nothing about Avatar that makes me want to watch the movie, and despite virtually everyone I know telling me how impressive it is, I'm somehow still nonplussed.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hey, it's possible!

Greetings folks! The Cap'n is back after doing some more crazy homework related junk with another journey into the supernatural Blogorium.

I thought you might find this image taken at a local Best Buy amusing. What you're looking at is the Super Rare, Hard to Find, One of a Kind Double Priced Special Edition of Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino. What's so special about it, you ask? Does it come with four extra discs with bonus content and a cd of Eastwood growling through the title song?

Perhaps the Blu-Ray disc was dipped in pure platinum, which renders it unplayable but sure looks cool, or maybe Eastwood personally pressed the disc. That has to be it, right?

Nope. The $29.99 price of Gran Torino was magically doubled by Gremlins living inside of the Best Buy pricing gun. That, or what's inside is actually the super secret Blu-Ray of THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE. I'll leave it up to you to decide what that movie is, but the correct answer is Blood Car. For $60 dollars you can have Blood Car on Blu-Ray, disguised as Gran Torino! Fool your friends and confound your enemies!

I'm such a mean prankster...

Thursday, January 21, 2010


The Cap'n would like to apologize for the sudden lack of Blogorium Reviews. If this week is any indication, there won't be much time to watch entire movies outside of Monday afternoons. I've seen pieces of movies, digested in bite-sized portions: the first thirty minutes of Moon, twenty minutes of Steven Soderbergh and Sasha Grey's The Girlfriend Experience Commentary, the opening of Che. (Did you know that Weeds' Demián Bichir plays Fidel Castro? I missed that somehow...)

I know that much - if any at all - of the appeal of this blog is the promise of new material six days a week, with trailers on Sunday, so I'm really going to try to keep that up. It's going to be very hard though. Whenever possible, I try to keep this blog strictly about film and occasionally television, so I'm going to limit this school update to just tonight. I had what sounded like a reasonable number of classes with a heavy, if oddly split up, work load. And then I went and did a stupid thing, which was to add an extra class. A class I don't need, because I already took it.

The course material was too interesting to pass up. Yes, I'd been in Senior Seminar last year, and slogged through it, but this year was about religion and gender. Three books are on the agenda: The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology, Omnigender, and Judith Butler's Undoing Gender. I wanted to just sit in and read the books, but the ruling came down from high that in order to get the Senior Seminar experience again, I'd have to take the class as an independent study. And do all of the work, again. Facilitate in-class and online discussions, deliver two oral presentations and three written critiques. Again.

Okay, so that's a pain, but worth the price of admission for source material like that. I did not ask to take over the Religious Studies Club. I said I'd help, but I'm not looking to organize field trips, guest lecturers, and help put the next generation of club leadership in place. That's not my bag, kids. I get worn out organizing Horror Fest. I didn't mind having people over every Thursday night to shoot the breeze and wax religiosophically, but responsibility... mrm.

I don't feel quite as horrible because I manage to cram in far more reviews over the holidays than I'd anticipated, and even got the recaps done before 2010 hit. That's good. I still have a half dozen or so movies that need seeing, and I'd really like to catch The Road before it leaves theatres. I just don't know when that's going to happen. Aside from the Coen Brothers class and next week's triple feature, I don't know when I'll be able to provide you with the kind of regular exposure to new movies that dominated most of December and January.

But I'm going to try. It's a tricky thing, walking away from a project I've been adhering to for the last six years. I apologize in advance if the recaps and reaction to news dominates entries. I'll make a concerted effort to get more "Four Reasons" and "Five Movies" out, and there's a chance you'll see a dry run of a Coen brothers paper I'm mulling over. However, it could get bumpy for a little bit, so bear with the Cap'n.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

For the Record: I was NOT scared of Sherlock Holmes!

Happy Birthday to David Lynch! While I have your attention, Mr. Lynch, please make another movie, or nudge the folks airing INLAND EMPIRE in HD to release a Blu-Ray. Please?


The Cap'n is now pleased to present the first (of many) notes on The Auteur(s) - Joel and Ethan Coen:

If nothing else, this class is going to be interesting because Dr. Adams decided to focus on the German and Film Noir influences within the Coen Brothers' films. I'm particularly curious how this is going to reflect on A Serious Man, but all signs look promising for this course. We are not covering Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers, or Burn After Reading. The first two don't surprise me, considering the professor's tastes, but the third is a bummer. I really think there's a lot more going on in that film that people just aren't tuned into.

(This doesn't fit anywhere in particular, but it was announced today that the Coen Brothers' re-adaptation/remake of True Grit will come out on Christmas. Guess I know what movie we'll be seeing on Christmas...)

Also, it's nice to again be in the presence of tons of film geeks with varying opinions. That I don't know, of course. Because I know most of you, and it's nothing personal or anything, but we're usually on the same level when it comes to tastes.

For example, I finally had people who had never heard of Moon, Big Fan, or Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans to pitch the movies to. I guess I've been kinda spoiled being online with such knowledgeable geeks, but that was nice.


Speaking of which, Moon finally arrived. I give full credit to Amazon for responding to the problem once I sent them an email, and they rushed another copy over, Next Day Delivery. They're a class act, I have to say. Once I get done with the considerable amount of homework I have for week one, the Cap'n is going to pop that sucker in for a second viewing. This time I might even be able to hear the whole movie!


There are early screening reviews for Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and while I ought to know better than to doubt the director of Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz, I cannot get myself excited for this movie. But that's not why I added this tidbit. Oh no. I'm including this because apparently the test audiences were told the movie they'd be seeing was "a mix between Juno and Mortal Kombat"...

Um. Yeah.


The Cap'n can't leave you on a sour note, so here's Martin Scorsese on the soon to be former Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Sure Hope We Watch Blood Simple Tomorrow...

Ack! Double plus ungood correction time from the Cap'n: Okay, so previously reported on the Blogorium - The Simpsons Season 20 featured the switch to HD and was in widescreen. Subsequently followed up by a correction (based on watching disc 1) that the episodes were NOT in fact widescreen, with an assertion I must have mistaken season Twenty for Twenty One.

Final Correction, based on all the available evidence: About ten episodes into season Twenty, The Simpsons switches from good ol' 1.33:1 to 1.78:1, complete with the new HD opening (one of several variations). The episode, in case historians lose track of every other record in the Universe save for the Blogorium, is "Take My Life, Please", in which Homer discovers that he actually DID win his Senior Class election. I am not going back to double check disc one, because every site but IMDB officially recognizes this to be the shift in screen size. If I'm wrong again, then you can blame it on bad internet writing. There will be no third correction!!!!


I have a theme. Three films, each related in one way or the other to the phrase "one bourbon, one scotch, one beer". Saturday the 30th sounds like a good day to me; how about you?


The following observation is not intended to critique the quality of Avatar as a film or my own disinterest in seeing James Cameron's new blockbuster. What I'm curious about is whether the continued success of the film (it was once again number one, and the drop off in ticket sales is really negligible from week to week) is the result of new audience members going in to see it for the first time based on word of mouth, or just the collective work of nerds angry that Titanic, Cameron's "chick flick" is the number one movie of all time in making megabucks. Just something I was thinking about...




Monday, January 18, 2010

Maybe it's just that the red carpet hurts my eyes...

Very well then. I will decide the movie theme for the weekend after next. I already have some very good ideas, and to boot, I found not one but two movies for Bad Movie Night in April. They promise to be of comparable quality to last year's entries.

Confession time: I didn't watch all of The Golden Globes last night. In fact, I didn't watch much of the show. Admittedly, I had better things to do, including watching Wings of Desire, but that's not really why I sat most of the event out. Strange as it may be for a film buff to take little interest in the first big award show, I have a perfectly reasonable explanation.

People usually take two positions on the Golden Globes: 1) it's a fun precursor to the Academy Awards where Hollywood types are encouraged to cut loose a little more, or 2) it's a sham, because the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have no actual credentials and their selections for winners are somehow linked to the amount of time they can spend with the stars. To a lesser degree, there are those who watch the show for fashion, like The Emmys, Grammys, or Academy Awards.

I am none of those. I've read the history of the Hollywood Foreign Press, but let's be honest here and not pretend that any awards show, including The Academy Awards, doesn't also appear dubious at times. So that's not really a factor in whether I tune in or not. Over the last few years, I've become increasingly burned out on "award season" and trying to guess who will win and who won't. For that, I turn to Neil because he loves it so. I find predicting the winner and justifying it for yourself is about as good as a coin flip, and in the past few years of Oscar Nights, most people go about 50/50 in predictions.

Strangely, it's not a matter of "Hollywood patting itself on the back", which some also decry. To be fair, awards season is a little self serving, and what I did see last night certainly reinforced that assertion, but Tinsel Town is far from the only club of millionaires giving each other props. Seriously, go check out the awards given at the end of the Football season, to draw a comparison to Big Fan.

I think maybe the reason I don't find The Golden Globes interesting is the same reason I find the new Oscar rules so underwhelming: everything gets in. The Globes maximize star power by having separate dramatic and comedy/musical categories, in addition to including television. The Academy Awards recently expanded the "Best Picture" category from five to ten films. This is great, with regard to getting the word out on fine films from the past year, but does it honestly change the fact that one movie is always going to be crowned "the Winner", and in all likelihood something released VERY recently?

To wit: Avatar took Best Picture (Drama) and Best Director. It's been out for what, a month? Nothing against Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart (I love me some Jeff Bridges) and Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes (I am well documented in my support of RDJ), but Sherlock Holmes opened on Christmas and Crazy Heart isn't even playing wide yet. I'm genuinely torn about Up in the Air edging out Inglourious Basterds for best screenplay, not only because both are excellent films, but I can't help but think that Up in the Air being a little more recent than August had something to do with the win. Still, love the movie.

The Hangover was a surprise to me, until I saw the competition. Not to slight The Hangover in any way, and I'd love to see the Academy actually nominate something so wantonly dirty for their Best Picture, but it's the one win that really broke the trend. There were a lot of movies not nominated at all that should have been, and that brings me to the other source of ennui for "awards season".

Sony Pictures is making no effort whatsoever to push Moon back into the eyes of awards voters. This is bad for Moon, because I think it's a fantastic film, but also speaks to the nature of what films tend to show up in January and February: ones with big pushes by the studio. If a movie can't afford to have the Weinsteins behind it (or comparable studio support), it disappears from consideration in what should be a celebration of the finest films of the prior year.

If you look at many online "top ten" lists - including the blogorium's - you won't see many of those movies introduced by an A-Lister come March. And I just don't like that, because the best thing Hollywood can do for itself is champion quality films for audiences hungry for them. That's not to speak ill of The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, Inglourious Basterds, Julie & Julia, The Informant!, or Avatar. I'm just surprised that A Serious Man, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, District 9, and Thirst didn't get more love. Or even Big Fan, which features a fantastic performance from Patton Oswalt. Half of them had one nomination or less.

So yeah, I didn't watch much of The Golden Globes. What I did watch irritated me, and if all the best films of the year come out in December, why is it the rest of us see so many great ones between January and November?

Although, I have to say, Christoph Waltz: Best Supporting Actor. Called that. He owns that category in the Oscars to boot, as far as I'm concerned. Even if you liked nothing else about Inglourious Basterds (and I'd be bummed that you didn't), it's hard to say he didn't rock Landa.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Trailer Makes the Sunday!

Panic in Needle Park

Vivre sa vie

The Toolbox Murders

Rage of the Ninja

Monkey Shines

Tarnished Angels

Eagles over London

Saturday, January 16, 2010

USA Up All Night Marathon Also a Consideration!

The Cap'n needs your assistance, dear readers. You see, I'd really like to have one more movie marathon before school devours every moment of my free time and the Blogorium becomes a weekly referendum on the films of Joel and Ethan Coen (which is so much more likely than you'd even imagine). The problem is, I don't know what kind of movie night to have.

Normal marathons around here are themed, and for anyone who's arrived here for the first time, they go thusly:

April - Bad Movie Night(s), which occurs in the vicinity of the Cap'n's birthday. The so-bad-they're-good movies are hand selected by the Cap'n, and gifts are made of comparable quality to you, the attendee.

July - Summer Fest, which is a celebration of Horror Comedies. The atmosphere is based on a more participatory relationship to the horror films, and the quality bar is set much lower.

October - Horror Fest, the grandaddy of them all. Horror Fest is a showcase of the good, the bad, and the obscure of horror films which run from dusk til dawn.

More ambiguous about timing - Doctor Who Night, MST3K Night, Exploitation-o-Rama Double Features.

The catch is that I don't really want to do any of those in January. I'd like to try something different, like a "Best of 2009" weekend or something of that nature. On the other hand, I don't want to sacrifice the atmosphere of fun associated with other "theme" nights, and the phrase "best" is often subjective and connotes lofty expectations. So not quite what I'm looking for, you dig?

Therefore, I'd like to turn it over to you folks. What would bring you over to the Apartment That Dripped Blood for an evening that you wouldn't already show up for? What films would you like to see the Cap'n show for an audience unprepared for the experience. Okay, other than Teenage Mother (again).

Would VHS night be up your alley? A collection of films not available on DVD or fancy schmancy Blu-Ray? Believe it or not, they're out there. I have a few, and not just Terrorvision. Hankering for Italian Revenge Films, or Japanese Film Noir? Famous Oscar losers? Unnecessary Sequels? What about Bollywood versions of American films? I'm game, because I'd like to do something that would be fun for you folks and is outside of the normal realm of the Cap'n.

So give me some options in the comments section, and I'll put together a poll to vote on. The best suggestion will become a new "theme" night on the last weekend of January. For sure.

* one caveat: I'd really rather not do "Porn Parodies of Famous Films". Porn marathons NEVER end well.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Land of Confusion

The Cap'n has been trying all day to decide if there's enough I want to say about Monsters vs. Aliens to merit a full review, and to be honest with you folks I'm not sure that I have much to add. It's a fun enough movie; a considerably better version of what Igor was trying to do. Igor tried very hard to be a kid-friendly movie set in the world of Universal Classic Monsters and ended up being a mostly stillborn affair. Monsters vs. Aliens is operating on the Classic Science Fiction template, and to be sure it succeeds in putting together variations of The Fly, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Godzilla/Mothra, the Blob, and the 50 foot Woman together to fight alien invaders and giant robots. Throw in a riff on Dr. Strangelove and you have some idea of what to expect, which they reasonably succeed at.

As computer animated films go, Monsters vs. Aliens looks very good, and it has a nice cast. The theme is a tried and true kiddie-trope: an "ugly duckling" variation about learning to accept that you're okay the way you are, and on top of that what you wanted to be may not be so great after all. The movie is amusing and is hampered only with a few truly groan-inducing pop culture references (the ones that spring to mind involve "Axel F" and Dance Dance Revolution), and I guess I had fun watching it.

That being said, I didn't really want to proclaim from the mountain tops that everyone should see Monsters vs. Aliens. It's a perfectly agreeable film from Dreamworks Animation, sitting comfortably between the instantly dated Shrek films and the considerably better Kung Fu Panda. And that's about what I have to say.


Speaking of "having nothing to say", I keep thinking that I want to weigh in on the NBC Jay Leno / Conan O'Brien situation, or the Spider-man 4 debacle, or even the wildly varying reactions to The Lovely Bones or The Book of Eli, but when it comes to putting pen to paper (or the digital equivalent thereof), I really don't. All of these situations are fascinating to watch and read about as they develop, but there's not much to bring to the table that every other blogger hasn't with greater aplomb. Since those aren't hard to find, I suggest you seek them out, especially if you haven't heard that Sony is re-booting the Spider-Man series after three films (without Sam Raimi), or for some reason don't watch any late night television.


A final update, one with as much bearing on your lives as anything else today: Moon still hasn't arrived, and according to the UPS tracking code that's because the Blu-Ray was either stolen or irreparably damaged the day they tried to deliver it. I've heard nothing from Amazon (or UPS, for that matter), but since I paid for the movie, it would be nice if there was some indication that another copy would be shipped in the near future.

Okay, I'm off to finish a "personal narrative" for Boston University which is, appropriately, a narrative of my life with film. While I think there are some very good pieces, it's not the kind of thing that makes for Blogorium reading, so if you'd like to be one of proof/quality testers, please provide me with an email address and I'll happily send you the finished draft tomorrow.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blogorium Review: Big Fan

People don't tend to think of sports fanatics to be the same, in any way, to comic book fans or science fiction fanatics or hardcore gamers. In fact, anything grouped together under the umbrella term "geek" is meant to suggest an unhealthy obsession with something. While there is one critical difference between the average "geek" and the average "sports nut", people who come to Big Fan based on Patton Oswalt will nevertheless see a lot of themselves in the film.

The biggest difference between a fanatic of sports and the "typical" geek is that the objects of their obsession are flesh and blood. Teams are comprised of real players who perform every week during the season, and don't have the luxury of saying "well, I'm not really Batman. That's just a character in a film." More importantly, this plants the sports fanatic's heroes and villains in the same world they occupy, particularly if you live in a city with a football, baseball, basketball, or hockey team. Despite the rarefied air they breath, the sports fanatic always has a better chance of running into the cornerback for their favorite football team than the geek will of meeting Green Lantern.

And that's exactly what happens to Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt) one night. Paul is a huge NY Giants fan; he spends his days composing carefully worded diatribes to call into radio sports shows with that night. Paul and Sal (Kevin Corrigan) tailgate every home game, talk the scores, the schedule, and what needs to happen to make the playoffs. He idolizes Quantrell Bishop (Johnathan Hamm), a defensive... well, I'm not sure. He sounds like a pass rusher, but I missed Bishop's actual position. When Paul from Staten Island is on the air, his love for the Giants reigns supreme, even against the disembodied voice of Phil from Philadelphia (Michael Rapaport).

But Paul is also a loser: he's somewhere between late thirties and mid forties, lives at home with his mother in a tiny room crammed with memorabilia. He works in a parking garage, has one friend, and as best as one can tell, no prospects whatsoever. His brother is a lawyer and his sister a dental assistant, and he chides them (and his mother) for bothering him about his arrested development. For Paul, the Giants are everything. There is no life worth living beyond that. I can imagine some of you can replace the word "Giants" for something "geekier" and see the parallel.

Everything changes when Paul and Sal see Bishop and his entourage at a gas station. Starstruck, they follow him to Manhattan and into a strip club. So disconnected with reality, they have no idea how to approach Quantrell, and when a chance bathroom encounter and a drink offer amount to nothing, the twosome decide to take the direct approach. Bishop and his boys are amused, to say the least, that two disheveled losers would walk up to their VIP booth, but things go well until Paul lets slip that they followed him. For that, Bishop savagely beats Paul, leaving him in the hospital for three days.

Big Fan is a character study of a man so devoted to his team that he, despite lingering head trauma, refuses to cooperate with the police investigation. Aufiero feels guilty for making Bishop angry, and blames himself for the Giants subsequent losses as their star defensive player is suspended. This would be akin, I suppose, to having a favorite actor or artist attack you, and as you recover the show or comic goes downhill, much to fandom's chagrin. I cannot quite find the accurate corollary, which is why Big Fan had to be about athletes.

I won't say too much more, because the mental breakdown Paul suffers as a result of his guilt mixed with family pressure to sue Bishop and talk radio antagonizing from Phil in Philadelphia is where the movie gets most interesting. The third act of the film moves forward in a logical, albeit disturbing fashion, but then makes a sudden turn which is both uplifting and pathetic. It all depends on where you're sitting on the matter.

Patton Oswalt is fantastic as Paul Aufiero. He embodies the "man child" in a way that's never cheap or condescending; Paul doesn't believe that he's the sad man of the story, even when he lashes out in cruel ways at his mother and siblings. His desperation for the incident to just go away is the portrait of a fan in denial, and Oswalt sells every beat with conviction. People will be rightfully surprised to see him play it straight, and it's a pity more people won't see this film due to limited availability.

Writer / Director Robert Siegel takes a very naturalistic approach to the film, in a manner akin to Aronofsky's The Wrestler (which Siegel wrote). Using RED, a new digital camera that approximates the human eye's ability to pick up low light, Siegel makes the most of the film's low budget to achieve versimilitude. Take a shot, for example, where Paul and Sal are driving through Manhattan, neon lights reflecting off of the windshield, but both men are perfectly visible reacting to the display.

Despite the "no frills" independent film aesthetic, Big Fan looks great in HD. For some reason, the film is only being released on DVD, but I still recommend you check it out. I could continue hurling superlatives as Oswalt, but it's better if you just see the film yourselves. Even if you don't know the first thing about football, I promise that many readers of this blog will recognizes themselves - and a lot of themselves they don't want to be - in Paul Aufiero, the Big Fan.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Things You Should and Shouldn't Look Into

I thought I'd start with an amendment to Monday's piece about The Simpsons Season Twenty. While the episodes are, in fact, in high definition, so far there's nary a widescreen presentation to be found. Based on the opening credits, I may have mistaken the jump from 4X3 to 16X9 by a season. The current run (season 21) has different opening sequences, many of which poke fun at the wider image. Still, I'm a little confused why Fox pushed so hard to rush season twenty out, since it technically misses the 20th anniversary and it's Blu-Ray release doesn't take advantage of the screen in the way fans are going to expect.

Additionally, there is literally one extra on the disc: a three minute teaser with Morgan Spurlock for a forthcoming Anniversary Special. Unfortunately, there's no indication of when the special is airing, or if it's going to be available. None of the commentaries from other seasons are present, or deleted scenes, commercials, making of's, or anything else. It screams of a quick cash-in, and I'm really not going to be shocked if you see this season released AGAIN sometime before season twenty-one.


For anybody with Netflix's "watch it now", while you can't see any new Warner Brothers releases, what you can do is catch two movies that are a little trickier to see: Big Fan and Che. Now Che comes out from Criterion next week, but Steven Soderbergh's four-and-a-half hour Benicio del Toro as Che Guevara epic is going to be a little steep on DVD or Blu-Ray. Luckily, you can watch Part One and Part Two in HD streaming right now. I might just do that in a bit.

While Big Fan technically came out yesterday, no store in the area was carrying the DVD and Amazon has it on a two week back order, so I wouldn't be seeing it that way until the end of the month. Netflix, sensing this problem, not only has Big Fan to watch Instantly, but they one-upped the DVD version by offering the film in HD. Since there's no Blu-Ray release listed, you're getting a bonus here.

I did watch Big Fan, but I'm going to save that review for tomorrow. In the meantime, if you have access to the movie (instantly or on disc) I highly recommend it. Patton Oswalt is excellent, the character study is engrossing, and the ending was a bit surprising. I'll say more tomorrow, but go seek Big Fan out now.


The Cap'n promised I wouldn't make you sit through another pan of Terminator: Salvation, and so you won't have to. I won't tell you about the reasonably interesting action sequences hampered by an idiotic story punctuated with massive plot holes. I won't tell you about the squandered opportunities or the myriad references to other films that were bungled. I won't mention the stupid ending, a weaker version of the "John Connor is a terminator!" twist that leaked prior to filming. I won't mention how toothless the film feels with a PG-13. I won't tell you all about how fake the digital Arnold face looked or the REALLY STUPID plan by Skynet that JUST DOESN'T MAKE SENSE, or how Sam Worthington's accent goes from "Southern" to his native Australian while he's hanging by a car frame. Above all, I certainly won't mention how the film feels exactly like the exercise in futility that I thought it would, but somehow manages to be even less interesting than I expected.

No sir, you won't have to sit through that, and I won't have ripped off a Harlan Ellison article to not tell you.


In the wake of having written my defense of Rob Zombie's Halloween II - which is the best way to prepare someone for that film, because it really is Rob Zombie's singular take on the series - I'd like to hear from Cranpire and find out what others thought. Don't get me wrong; I've seen a lot of bad reviews, but none from people I know. So if there are some guest bloggers out there, I'm asking for your input.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Blogorium Review: Halloween II

Allow me to point out that this is not a So You Won't Have To review, although I suspect many of you won't be checking out Rob Zombie's Halloween II. It's not a perfect film, to be sure, but I found the experience to be far more enjoyable than Halloween.

Many of you know that I was not, am not, and don't expect to be on board in the future with Zombie's remake. I just didn't like it. The familiar faces in supporting roles got to be absurd, the excessive profanity and sleaziness bordered on parodic, and I felt there were fundamental problems in the retelling that robbed Michael Myers and Laurie Strode's story. However, I had hoped that like The Devil's Rejects was to House of 1000 Corpses, so to would Halloween II be to Halloween. Rob Zombie did not disappoint.

From the get-go, Halloween II moves away from the limitations of a remake and forges onward in its own direction. Zombie, not feeling beholden to specific iconic imagery, moves at a different pace than the "slasher" portion of Halloween. In fact, Michael spends roughly half the film without a mask on. When Zombie does pay homage to the other Halloween 2 - a clever nod to the hospital siege - the end result is better than anything in the original sequel. I was more interested in the carnage Michael unleashed and Laurie's desperate attempts to get away than at any point during the original H2.

After the homage-turned-dream-sequence, we're reintroduced to Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris) and Sheriff Lee Brackett (Brad Dourif), living together in relative isolation. Laurie and Annie have severe psychological scarring (and Annie has some pretty serious physical scarring too), and Laurie's constantly teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. She's been having strange dreams with young Michael (Chase Wright Vanek, filling in for Daeg Faerch) and Deborah Myers (Sherri Moon Zombie) in spectral form. Some are bizarre, and at least one involving a pumpkin feast, is outright disturbing.

Speaking of disturbing, the violence in Halloween II is pretty rough. Like, rougher than even the last film rough. Michael (Tyler Mane) carves a path of carnage on his quest to reunite the Myers family - he too has the visions of a spectral mother and white horse - and though I consider myself to have a pretty tough horror constitution, some of the kills early in the film are pretty nasty. Sawing through a guy's throat with broken glass is one thing, but the repeated stabbings, each with increased force, until the sound design resembles someone punching a bag of rotten meat, was more than I expected.

Back to the plot for a second: Halloween II picks up two years after Halloween, and two years after the supposedly dead Michael disappeared. When we see him again, Mane often appears without the mask and instead has a long beard and scraggly hair. You've probably heard folks refer to these sections as "Hobo Michael", but I didn't feel like much of his wandering was aimless. The explanation - that he's following his visions - creates an internally coherent reason for why Michael ends up where he ends up during the film. Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) is exploiting the tragedy once more with a new book, one that threatens to expose Laurie to the truth about her history.

The "guest star" casting (as Tarantino has come to put it in his films) actually works in Halloween II where it did not in Halloween. Perhaps the reason is that while the faces are recognizable from time to time, everybody looks different enough that you don't say "hey! Mickey Dolenz!" or "Look, it's Sid Haig or Clint Howard or Udo Kier!" Instead, Zombie calls on Daniel Roebuck (Lost, Bubba Ho-Tep), Margot Kidder, Mary Birdsong (Reno 911), Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2), Richard Brake (Batman Begins), Richard Riehle (Office Space, Casino), Howard Hesseman (Shampoo, Silent Movie), Duane Whitaker (Pulp Fiction, Feast), and Mark Boone Junior (Memento, The Quick and the Dead).

Where Halloween II succeeds in the way Halloween didn't is that with most of the bit parts, you'd have to really know these actors to spot them immediately. I really didn't recognize Mary Birdsong or Margot Kidder at first, and Daniel Roebuck is almost unrecognizable. Instead of saying "hey look, another person I recognize in a tiny role!", the impression is more like "that person looks familiar, but I couldn't tell you why", which should be the intended effect. Even "Weird" Al Yankovic fits within the scene he's in, which is a talk show sequence designed to undermine Loomis' credibility (the host is Chris Hardwick, of House of 1000 Corpses).

To be fair, not everything about Halloween II works. While Annie's dialogue is a lot better (reflecting a certain maturity in her post-traumatic experience), Laurie can periodically be shrill and annoying. I'm not saddling it all on Taylor-Compton, because the rest of the dialogue for her new friends (Brea Grant and Angela Trimbur) is occasionally cringe inducing. McDowell's Loomis is so glib and shitty that I do wonder if he'd really bother showing up at the very end of the film.

I also have questions about why Laurie, who seems to be frequently terrorized by dreams of being murdered by Michael, would so idolize Charles Manson. She has not only a huge poster of Manson above her bed, but also some hand painted slogan about what would Charley (sic) do or something to that effect. That was the only moment in set design that really did ring false. Also, the "when Michael puts his mask on vs when he doesn't" motif doesn't really have any rhyme or reason. He kills just as brutally without it outside of the strip club.

What most people are objecting to, however, is the kinda-far-out-there choice by Zombie to bring back Sheri Moon Zombie as ghost mom. Now, I will say that it can get kinda goofy, especially when she lapses into a Vampira-esque staredown with the camera, but I didn't find it to be as horrible as the audiences who vocally assaulted the film in theatres. It's an out there choice, but this is no longer the Halloween we expect; this is Rob Zombie's take on the story, going off in its own direction.

Speaking of which, I have to say that while I did see the Unrated Director's Cut, I have seen the theatrical ending (it was *ahem* online somewhere...) and I much prefer Zombie's cut. For one thing (potential spoilers here) killing Laurie earns the "white horse" coda in a better way than having her put on Michael's mask and go catatonic. I'm also of the mind that Laurie doesn't necessarily need to kill Michael for the story to work, so Michael killing Loomis and dying in a hail of gunfire was plenty appropriate. It's similar to the way that they don't show what Michael does to Annie, just its aftermath. True, it would be a cool kill, but the story doesn't need you to see it happen, just like the ending.

Ultimately, while people seem to really hate Halloween II, the Cap'n liked it. I thought that, even with its flaws, this is a sequel that bests its predecessor and works on its own merits. If you can accept that this is a very different kind of movie than any of the original Halloween films, but one with its own internal logic, you might indeed find it worth checking out.

Total Side Note: The Blu-Ray for Halloween II looks nice, but the picture is awash with grain. This was no doubt an aesthetic decision by Rob Zombie, so I'm not bagging the image quality, but I'm betting that if you find the DVD instead the picture won't be radically different.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Was Not Paid to Endorse Any of This Crap

Greetings and salutations! I'd like to kick off tonight's extravaganza of randomness with a response to our commenter and long time reader, El Cranpiro. He has generously offered to review Halloween 2 So I Won't Have To, even though I must admit that for all my misgivings about Rob Zombie's first go at Halloween, I do kinda want to see the sequel.

Alas, Mr. Cranpire, I have no other copies of Blood Car to give, and I'm not sure what kind of compensation I could provide for your review. However, if you want to give all the other decent readers a head's up on H2, I will happily post it under "Guest Blogger".


Tomorrow is a pretty spectacular day for DVD and Blu-Ray releases, even if you aren't a Halloween fan. For example, my oft-mentioned favorite Moon is coming out, along with Big Fan, The Hurt Locker, House on Sorority Row, The Brothers Bloom, and Criterion's Blu-Ray version of 8 1/2. Also, if it's your thing, The Simpsons are making a big jump forward and releasing season 20 on Blu Ray and digital versatility disc. Season 20 was the first broadcast in High Definition and in widescreen, and I've seen a handful of episodes from 20 and 21. They're better than the show's been in a while, but I'm still going to lean in the "rent" category.

In the coming weeks, you can also look forward to Steven Soderbergh's Che, Kingdom of the Spiders (with William Shatner), season five of Weeds, Magnolia on Blu-Ray, Paris Texas, The Toolbox Murders, The Complete Doctor Who 2009 Specials, and Zombieland.


Also, I have to bring this up, because the Cap'n has been bemoaning the absence of this film in any digital medium: on March 23rd, 2010, The African Queen is finally coming to Blu-Ray!

If you've never seen The African Queen, you're in for a treat, gang. Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in a John Huston film from 1951. Since Paramount is so big on "anniversary" editions, I'm a little surprised they didn't wait for a proper 60th anniversary edition, but then again, having something other than my beaten up vhs copy is good enough!


Um, speaking of "So You Won't Have To"'s, the Cap'n wasn't paying careful attention to his Netflix queue, and *ahem* Terminator: Salvation arrived on Saturday. I'm sorely tempted to send it back sight unseen, but I have this hangup about watching what they send me, so I might swallow this crap sandwich as penance for not being more aware. Don't worry, I won't make you sit through another review if I watch T:S. Yuck.

On the upside, Monsters vs Aliens also arrived, and The Hurt Locker is arriving tomorrow. I'm not going to lie: many of the other new releases are worthy of purchase in my eyes, with full acknowledgment that I just said I prefer not to buy sight unseen. Patton Oswalt is one general exception, and I have vague memories of House on Sorority Row from Carbonated video. Halloween 2... haven't made up my mind there. It's probably a renter, but I'll let you know. Either way, look for a bunch of reviews before I head into the spring semester.

As always, Guest Blogging is welcome here at the Blogorium. If you've got something you want to review not represented by the Cap'n, write it up. Unless you're Grampa J. You can't prove that was even me in those pictures...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Free Association and Trailer Sunday: a potent mix.

The Brood

Cecil B. Demented


The Last American Hero

Spanking the Monkey

The Day of the Locusts


Facing Ali

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Grumbly Growl (more about renting...)

By now, you might have heard that Netflix and Warner Brothers reached a deal this week that will prevent new releases from the studio being available for 28 days after retail availability. Warner Brothers s attempting to increase DVD and Blu-Ray sales by removing all new films from the rental market. Of course, they don't appear to be making a similar deal with Blockbuster or Hollywood video. Perhaps that's because, as I discussed two days ago, Netflix and Red Box are dominating the rental market.

Here's the rub: by not making your recent releases available for a month, I'm less likely to purchase a new Warner Brothers release, and I suspect I'm not alone. Not only will I wait a month and rent other films, but I'll seriously reconsider buying any new Warners release new. Maybe I'll just wait for it to hit the "used" market, on Amazon or at second-run retailers. If they want more money so badly, they made a bad decision by cutting off the rental market.

If you're wondering, "so what? what's another month?", imagine this: if this stunt works, then the other studios are going to follow suit, and assuming that you'd rather drive to Best Buy or Target or Wal Mart to buy a movie you haven't seen. If that somehow works, then they'll start looking at "classic" or top tier titles from the catalog and withhold those, in the hopes you'll pony up another $30-70 for "Deluxe Editions" on top of your Netflix rental price.

I have Netflix precisely because I don't want to buy everything that looks interesting. Sometimes I'd like to rent it first, but if I really like a movie, I'll probably pick it up. If the film is only available to buy, I'll put that film way down on my queue and forget about it. Yes, there are other movies to watch - which is another perfectly reasonable reaction to my grousing - and there are so many of them that maybe users will just bypass Warner Brothers altogether.

For example, there's been a LOT of complaining about New Line (a Warner Brothers subsidiary) deciding to put out The Lord of the Rings films on Blu-Ray in their theatrical cuts, when it's abundantly clear that this is a cash grab. Obviously the extended cuts will be on Blu-Ray some time before The Hobbit hits theatres, so New Line thinks they can sell us both versions when they'd easily fit on the same disc. Now I won't be able to rent them and see if it's even worth the picture upgrade for a month, unless I want to drop $70 for the boxed set. Buyer beware.

This is, in some ways, just a slight annoyance, but it says that the studios are concerned about losing money, and that they're willing to negotiate with the new rental giant to remove films in a way that they aren't elsewhere. Netflix fans are being hosed, Warner Brothers is indicating that money is more important than customer relationships, and the other studios are peeking over the wall to see if the suckers will eat it up. And maybe they will. I don't know. I'm not happy about this at all, because the upside has yet to manifest itself.


So as to not leave everyone on a sour note, may I present to you this French interpretation of Star Wars.... at least, I think that's what it is...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Blogorium Review: Up in the Air

Watching Up in the Air, much like the recently viewed Facing Ali, makes me wish I could travel back in time to last week and amend the Year End List a bit. I'd add those, as I suspect that when I do see The Road and Big Fan I'll have two more. Up in the Air isn't quite the movie I was expecting, but to be fair I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

I'd read the Walter Kirn novel a few years ago, when it passed through Edward McKay's, but I didn't remember the book very well. Despite all the movie watching and writing, I do read quite a bit, though most of it wouldn't ever end up in the blogorium. But I digress.

Back to the movie at hand: if you don't know anything about Up in the Air, it's the story of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) who is paid to fly around the country and fire people so that their company won't have to. He's also periodically a motivational speaker, specifically with a piece called "What's in your backpack?" The movie, directed by Jason Reitman, starts comedy. This is appropriate, because Up in the Air is initially going to remind you of Reitman's first film, Thank You For Smoking. The narration is similar, the disdain for humanity is similar, and it plays the funny for quite a while.

Bingham lives in hotel rooms and in airports. It's where he's comfortable, and his nomadic lifestyle keeps him from having to form long term relationships, even with his family. His actual apartment is embarassingly spartan, down to what I believe is a jar full of Pop Tarts above the fridge and abandoned food containers littering his counter. The life works for Bingham, and he even meets a fellow traveler, Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), who meets... shall we say, other needs. In between this, he spends his time coaxing people into accepting their status as unemployed by saying things like "Anyone who ever did anything great sat where you're sitting".

One of the first people we see Bingham fire is Zach Galifianakis, the first of several cameos or small roles in the film, which also includes J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliot, Jason Bateman, Heavenly Creature's Melanie Lynskey, and Danny McBride (the latter two play Bingham's youngest sister and brother-in-law to be). We don't see a lot of these folks, but each brings something interesting to the story, which gets a little more complicated after a breezy introduction.

See, Bingham's job is in jeopardy because the company's new whiz kid, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) developed a simpler system of firing people via video conferencing. Bingham's convinced it won't actually work, and when he learns Natalie doesn't know how to fire anyone, his boss (Bateman) makes him take her out on the road. This could easily be an excuse for more comedic hijinks, and for a little while there's humor to be mined from the mismatch, particularly a non-PC explanation of which ethnic groups are best to get in line behind.

Then, perhaps predictably (or at least as I was expecting), Reitman gets a little sentimental on us. Movies like this are mean to challenge people like Ryan Bingham's beliefs, so Natalie shakes his resolve not to make a serious connection with Alex, and everyone bonds a bit. Ryan decides to go to his sister's wedding with a Plus 1, and even gets the chance to talk Jim (McBride) out of his cold feet. You can see the movie we're heading towards; life lessons are being learned, conventions are being challenged. Yikes, I thought, this is Juno territory... the other side of Reitman territory, the one I don't like so much.

But then Up in the Air does something else, something that a lot of similar movies wouldn't do, something that won me over. I'm not going to spoil anything for you, but it's nice to see a movie that presents a character with easy outs, but doesn't necessarily make them ones that can or should actually happen. Maybe that big life change takes more work than an hour and forty nine minutes allows for. Maybe it does get messy instead of "happily ever after", and while the ending may not satisfy everybody, it's certainly true for the characters. And I appreciated that.

George Clooney is again excellent, and I found his character arc to be similar to Lyn Cassidy's in The Men Who Stare at Goats, but more resonant. Both films presented themselves in a one dimensional way and then veer off in unexpected third acts. Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are also great as foils for Clooney, and Danny McBride gets the rare opportunity to play it totally straight, without being a jokester or an asshole, and does so very well. I always enjoy seeing Melanie Lynskey in films, and J.K. Simmons makes a lot out of a very short scene. I don't have anything bad to say about Jason Bateman, who again is playing the straight man role - as in Extract - or Galifianakis, who's in and out so quickly that you might not realize it. I'm not going to spoil how or why Sam Elliot plays into the story.

Jason Reitman, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Sheldon Turner, has a knack for great shot composition and organic storytelling, even when working with something that could so easily be a "feel good" film. He makes the best out of the cities Ryan travels through, mostly middle-America, and the aerial photography is at times hypnotic. All is forgiven for Juno, Mr. Reitman. I'll chalk that up to the writer and leave it at that. Up in the Air sits comfortably with my very favorite films of 2009, and because many of you might not check it out, I advocate seeing it on the big screen.


Maybe tomorrow I'll give a short write up of Facing Ali, an excellent documentary about Muhammad Ali's life from the perspective of the men who fought him. Or I might take a second to talk about a new development involving Warner Brothers and Netflix that continues last night's question about the impact of "on demand" rentals, but this time relating to dvd sales. We'll see when I get there.