Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Money and What We Spend It On, Today on the Video Daily Double

 Huzzah, Educationeers! Cap'n Howdy is back with another fact filled Video Daily Double. Today we're going to look at what currency is, and then something you should not spend it on. Unless that's your thing. Then again, according to the second film, your thing is a bad thing. Don't touch it. Shame on you!



 Our first film, What is Money, answers the question you never thought to ask. The answer, by the way, is not "delicious."

 Speaking of delicious, our second film is called Drug Abuse: The Chemical Tomb. Can't imagine why.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Retro Review: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

 Quick story: in the world of quasi-counterculture of high school circa 1998, there were very few things as exciting as the impending release of Terry Gilliam's adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I know this because I and friends of mine were quasi-countercultural in high school, insomuch as one could be where we went to high school. For a few of us, following the every movement of the film was like a trail of breadcrumbs to something that of course would be amazing. Even more amazing, we hoped, than the release of Thompson's oft-delayed Polo is My Life (which never came out, by the way).

 As recently as five years ago it was fashionable for assholes to assume that people only knew who Terry Gilliam was because of Fear and Loathing - I guess because the assholes making that assumption weren't old enough to see it themselves. If this qualifies as justification, I think it's fair to point out that before I had a working understanding of what the words "Monty" "Python" "Flying" and "Circus" meant in conjunction, I had already seen Time Bandits. In fact, I'm positive that I had seen Time Bandits on home video long before Monty Python registered in my brain. I was traumatized at a young age by the parents who failed to recognize "Evil" and were destroyed, orphaning Kevin until Sean Connery arrived as a fireman (and not Agamemnon) to rescue him.

 To be fair, it was probably years later before I saw Brazil, which is what most defensive geeks cite when someone throws the "you only like him because of Fear and Loathing" slur, but I did see The Fisher King and Twelve Monkeys in theatres (with a bonus Independence Day trailer in front of Monkeys, which I remember for no apparent reason). Anyway, so the collision of director we liked and author we loved (with Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke, no less) we a "must see" affair. We put on hawaiian shirts, poker visors, and headed to the Grande in Raleigh.

 It didn't matter that critics savaged the film, or that people got up and left during the movie while we howled with laughter. We loved it, and though the film died the quick death at the box office, it became its own bona fide cult phenomenon on video. Hell, it even has its own Criterion Spine Number (175). Eat that, fashionable assholes.

 But that is not the quick story. Oh no. That's the background to what happened after we saw the movie, where our own bourgeoisie version of "Gonzo" kicked in. See, a nearby high school was building a new annex and we'd been sneaking by there on weekends and evenings to poke around the in construction and rarely secured proto-building. We figured that night would be a good opportunity to do the same, and the driver in question parked his Dart across four parking spaces as we tromped around the pretty-much completed and now totally locked new area. The important part here is how he parked the car, because otherwise there's a reasonably good chance the local police wouldn't start investigating potential tresspassing.

 But he did, and they did, and we three geniuses came marching around the building like people with something to hide (rather than walk all the way around the campus and pretend we'd simply been out for a stroll nearby), so they took our ID's and ran them while we sweated it out. Of course, being suburbia, they just told us to go home and we did and that was that. There's no good ending to the adventure, because we lived in and near a city where police are bored, kids are even more listless, and misdemeanors aren't worth anybody's time.

 Still, at the time it felt like a fitting cap to seeing the film, and it wasn't like we didn't visit other high school campuses and tool around (forgive me, but I have a fascination with structures designed to be populated but are instead deserted, hence my dalliance with abandoned mall exploration years later). We watched Fear and Loathing again and again on video, and eventually Thompson published The Rum Diary, Kindgom of Fear much (MUCH) later, followed by Hey Rube. I still haven't seen the critically lukewarm-ed The Rum Diary adaptation (also starring Depp) but I did watch all of Gilliam's subsequent films, including the terrible Brothers Grimm, the Cormac McCarthy-level bleak Tideland, and the fascinating but inevitably compromised The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I haven't tooled around and empty campus in a long time, though. It seems a little perv-y now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fifteen Minute Movies: Adventures in Babysitting (Part Two)

 However, this does not cover the second fifteen minute increment of Adventures in Babysitting. Oh no. I didn't say arbitrary, well, arbitrarily. I mean it. Today we're going to jump ahead past the chop shop, the Buddy Guy "Babysitter Blues," past the double-F-Bomb-in-a-PG13-movie gang fight and hospital chase to the University of Chicago party that Anthony Rapp decides the kids need to attend. Where two guys are convinced that Elisabeth Shue's Chris is "Miss March" from Playboy. Where we meet "The Rudd."

 By this I don't actually mean Paul Rudd, but instead the character that Paul Rudd would be playing if Adventures in Babysitting were made immediately before / after Wet Hot American Summer. Rudd's a little too old to be playing a college junior / senior now, but somewhere between Halloween 6 and Wet Hot I could see him playing the dude who logically outwits the "Miss March" idiots, woos Chris, and then drives the kids to Dawson's garage to meet Thor.

 Ah yes, Thor. I believe I mentioned him last time. Why? Because chances are you saw another movie in 1987 with the guy who plays Thor, the guy who owns Dawson's Garage (which I guess probably makes him Dawson, but whatever). The actor's name? Vincent D'Onofrio. If the name doesn't ring a bell, the face will, from another rather famous 1987 release, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.

  Here's D'Onofrio as Private "Gomer Pyle" in Full Metal Jacket.

 and as Thor in Adventures in Babysitting.

Maybe you can understand why it is I never once thought I knew who the mechanic in Adventures in Babysitting was. The best part? Full Metal Jacket was in theaters two weeks before Adventures in Babysitting, so there's a slim chance that eagle-eyed cinephiles might have seen D'Onofrio's transformation from pudgy psychopath to God of Thunder.

 So we have a moment where the childlike innocence of a girl who loves Thor saves Chris and company from being five bucks short in paying for a blown out tire, and then we're off again. Fifteen minutes was winding down just as Chris drives past the fancy restaurant she and Bradley Whitford were going to eat at, and the kids see his car! Is there a showdown looming? Were there shenanigans with Brenda at the bus stop? Well, I guess you'll have to watch Adventures in Babysitting, because when this feature resumes, I'll be moving on to another movie...

 Until then, keep watching in bite-sized portions!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Somehow I'd Never Done This Before Trailer Sunday

Dr. No

From Russia with Love


You Only Live Twice

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

The Spy Who Loved Me

The Living Daylights


Casino Royale

Friday, November 25, 2011

Blogorium Review: Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides

 The newest Pirates of the Caribbean film, On Stranger Tides, isn't exactly a disaster, but that's not as reassuring as you might think. The movie is lacking in nearly every way: the plot, the acting, the strangely stunted sense of scope (despite visually sumptuous locations), even the villain feels less imposing than he ought to. I'm half tempted to chalk it up to director Rob Marshall, who was not only taking over for Gore Verbinski after three films, but has a track record (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, Nine) that in no way prepares him for a rousing adventure film of swash-buckling and derring do. But I don't know that I'm willing to hang it all on Marshall - the story doesn't really work in the first place.

 Why the story - a overly complicated race to find the Fountain of Youth featuring zombies, mermaids, and Blackbeard - is incongruous with the other films is due in large part to the fact that returning screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio built their script around Tim Powers's On Stranger Tides. The film, accordingly, feels like characters from earlier Pirates films shoehorned into a separate narrative, one that can hardly accommodate them. At first it seemed odd to me that a series that managed to incorporate Davey Jones, voodoo curses, the Kraken, the afterworld, and undead pirates would be unable to intermingle with zombified crew members, mermaids, and the Fountain of Youth (hinted at in At World's End), but the end result is a movie that shouldn't have Jack Sparrow in it but does.

 Speaking of which, I don't know what Johnny Depp was thinking during On Stranger Tides. It's as though he knows he supposed to be playing Jack Sparrow, but often forgets under the demands of playing the lead (a semi-romantic lead at that), so for much of the film he's painfully ordinary, and then as though he's remembered he's playing Captain Jack, Depp will swagger or make a funny face. The performance is uneven at best, but then again Jack Sparrow should never be the lead of one of the Pirates films. He functions best as a secondary character - a ruthless, conniving trouble maker with rotten luck - as a counterpoint to Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan. If coupled with compelling leads and a strong villain, Depp is able to shine and be loopy. On his own, he's adrift.

 And there's nobody in On Stranger Tides to help take the attention away from Depp's "am I or am I not Jack Sparrow" routine. Penelope Cruz doesn't have much to do as Angelica Teach, daughter of Blackbeard and someone who Jack (possibly) corrupted at a young age. Depp and Cruz do their damnedest to generate chemistry, and while the effort is evident, the end result is less than palpable. Worse off is Sam Clafin as Phillip, a missionary being held captive aboard The Queen Anne's Revenge, who has as much chemistry with fellow captive Astrid Bergès-Frisbey (as mermaid Syreena) as a couple of mops in a bucket. Their story is so uninteresting that I failed to care a) when Blackbeard appears to kill Phillip, and b) when the film never bothers to explain exactly how Syreena "saves" him near the end.

 Oh, speaking of Blackbeard, it's probably fair to note just how unimpressive Ian McShane is in a role that should have fit him like a glove. Instead of the imposing presence that Edward Teach ought to be, given that he has a supernatural power over his very ship, McShane underplays Blackbeard at every opportunity. I never once believed he was dangerous, capable of betrayal, or short tempered and cruel enough to murder people (even though he does). The sense of urgency surrounding his need to find the Fountain - due to a prophecy of his death - also never connect in McShane's face. He says all the right things, but one never believes that he's really concerned about anything. Instead of towering, he's annoying - his cruelty is tacked on and half-hearted.

 Only Geoffery Rush emerges with something close to a memorable performance, though it takes the better half of the film for Barbossa to emerge as anything more than a stooge for the Royal Navy. Stephen Graham (Boardwalk Empire, Snatch) has flashes as Scrum, the sort of substitute Gibbs (although actual Gibbs, Kevin McNally, is in the film and traveling with Barbossa). Keith Richards has a perfunctory cameo that makes even less sense than his appearance in At World's End. By the end of the film I'd forgotten that Richard Griffiths (Withnail & I) played the King.

 So Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides sometimes looks nice, is sometimes entertaining, but not really good enough to make it more than a movie you could wander in and out of freely. Pay no attention to the mermaid tears or silver chalices or the rules of finding the fountain, because they really don't matter. They belong to another story, one without a nice wrap-up scene featuring Gibbs and Jack on the beach, explaining what just happened. Unfortunately we have this middling affair, not bad enough to be avoided and not good enough to recommend. If you, like me, were invested in the previous films, then On Stranger Tides is likely to keep you half involved for two hours and fifteen minutes, but the nagging feeling you could have watched something better will creep up repeatedly.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Revenge!

 Please come back tomorrow for a review of animal appropriate Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but in the mean time, tide yourself over with idiots unsuccessfully frying turkeys.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Yeah, Just Disregard This Video Daily Double Tomorrow.

 Well, Educationeers, I tried. I tried to put together a good Video Daily Double to get you through the rest of the week, but then I remembered what Thursday and Friday are. So uh, yeah. Today's short films about eating healthy and being thrifty. You can watch them while snorfing down turkey and ordering stuff online. Like I said, I tried.

 Eh, to the exercise in futility Learn-Mobile!


Our first film, Dining Together, happens to also be about Thanksgiving. Not one you've ever seen, but a theoretical Thanksgiving of the "good old days" old people tell you about.

Our second film, Woman American, is about saving your pennies and not spending like crazy. See if you can get through the entire film without buying something on the internet.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Retro Review: The Fifth Element

 When I re-purposed "From the Vaults" into Retro Reviews, one of the first films I mentioned as an example of how relationships with films change was The Fifth Element I never got around to explaining the first experience I had with the movie, so let's fix that today.

 The Fifth Element came out in May of 1997, a period when I was regularly attending films, both good and bad - McHale's Navy being the nadir of that era. At the time, though, I might have argued vigorously that The Fifth Element was every bit as bad of a film. That's right - when we saw it the first time at Waverly Place, the consensus was that it sucked. I didn't get the over-exagerrated colors, design, costumes, and performances. And that was BEFORE Chris Tucker's Ruby Rhod appeared. We derided the Luke Perry cameo at the beginning, guffawed at "Tiny" Lister, Jr. as the President of Earth, and couldn't get over Gary Oldman's hairstyle.

 More to the point, we weren't paying attention - I remember loudly complaining that the plot didn't make any sense, that it was too busy, and that the resolution that the "fifth element" was "love" was laughable. It seemed like a French take on Captain Planet or some crap like that. We walked out laughing about how horrible The Fifth Element was, how stupid it was we went to see it, and how much more excited we were about The Lost World or Face/Off. We'd just seen the Star Wars Trilogy Special Editions in theatres; what was this garbage all about?

 And that's how I remembered The Fifth Element for another year or so. I don't think I watched it again on video when it came out, and it probably wasn't until I found myself confused but fascinated with the much derided Alien Resurrection that I thought about giving a French director working on American studio films another go. I may have watched Jeunet's The City of Lost Children in the interim as well, and almost certainly had seen (and loved) Luc Besson's The Professional on video. So I gave The Fifth Element another chance.

 I loved it. I had no idea why I ever claimed the film was "confusing" or "stupid," and can only point to youthful ignorance for blowing the film off. It's a goofy, cluttered, and yes, simplified to radical degree, but it's all by design. Besson is having fun with the "fish out of water" trope, in an over-cluttered world that kept building up threatened by evil. The hero is a beleaguered taxi driver just hoping to get points off of his license. The only thing that can save the universe has taken the form of Milla Jovovich, and she literally falls into his taxi. Then two monks try to steal her, police and villains chase her, and an evil mastermind almost chokes to death on a cherry. Again, we haven't even made it to Ruby Rhod.

 There are very few films that I can so vividly remember pulling a complete 180 on than The Fifth Element. From totally dismissing the film to embracing it and showing it to friends in college, I struggle to think of another such radical turnaround in two viewings. It just goes to show that when you see a film in your life can make all the difference. Sometimes you just aren't ready for it, but when you are the difference is night and day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fifteen Minute Movies: Adventures in Babysitting (Part One)

 Walking on a treadmill in short increments is going to provide a fun and hopefully continuing series for the Blogorium, one I'm going to call Fifteen Minute Movies. The length will eventually increase slowly but surely, but as it does, I'll generally be finished with one movie and starting another.

 You see, there's an old TV / VCR combo unit upstairs, and all of the surviving tapes that I didn't banish to storage purgatory are up there, including the original Star Wars trilogy, the Thin Man series, various Disney movies, and all sorts of films that my parents found interesting and *cough* made copies of. I mean, taped off of AMC. Yeah... that's the ticket. Back when AMC didn't have commercial breaks during movies - which actually was the case twenty years ago.

 Anyway, so today we'll look at the first fifteen minutes of Adventures in Babysitting, a movie I'd been orbiting around since finding $4.99 copies of the DVD at the place I worked at before the place I work at now (I was forbidden to mention it by name, mention it's logo with the star in it, or mention the giraffe by name, so why start giving it props now?). I never did pick up that DVD, but the tape sure was upstairs, and I haven't seen Adventures in Babysitting since high school (I'm pretty sure that's the last time I saw it all the way through). It seemed like a good place to start; I didn't remember many of the details but recall enjoying it at age 8.

 Also, since David Gordon Green is all-but-giving-it-the-same-name remaking the film as The Sitter with Jonah Hill, it seemed appropriate to watch the movie that's pretty much entirely based on, at least from the trailers I've seen.

 Here are a few tidbits I didn't remember / didn't know from the first fifteen minutes of Adventures in Babysitting (the only thing I did recognize immediately was Elisabeth Shue dancing and lip-synching to "And Then He Kissed Me" in what is now obviously an appropriation of Tom Cruise's "Old Time Rock 'n Roll" Risky Business scene).

 - I forgot that Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) made his transition from writing for Steven Spielberg-produced films like Gremlins and The Goonies to directing with Adventures in Babysitting.

 - This is, by the way, a pre-Back to the Future part 2 Elisabeth Shue, but post-Karate Kid.

- On the other hand, the film was a post-Back to the Future for Maia Brewton (who appeared as one of Lorraine's younger sisters) before playing Thor-obsessed Sara Anderson, but pre-Parker Lewis Can't Lose, where she played Parker's sister Shelley.

 - Other casting notes during character introductions: Chris (Shue)'s boyfriend at the beginning of the film? The West Wing's Bradley Whitford. Brad Anderson (The Walton's Keith Coogan)'s best friend? Dazed and Confused (or Rent)'s Anthony Rapp. Chris's best friend Brenda? Carlito's Way's Penelope Ann Miller (or, if you prefer, Big Top Pee Wee's Penelope Ann Miller).

 Now, based on what I just looked up on IMDB, I could tell you who it was that played Thor in the movie, but that's a few more "Fifteen Minute"'s away. Let's just say it's a name you're recognize, and considering the other movie he was prominently featured in for 1987, you'd be surprised. But we'll get to that.

 So what else did I get in the first fifteen minutes of Adventures in Babysitting? Well, Columbus and writers David Simkins and Elizabeth Faucher efficiently set up why Chris Parker doesn't have a hot date, why Brenda prevents her from dodging babysitting the Anderson kids, that Brad has the hots for Chris, Darryl (Rapp) is kind of a pervert, and provides the impetus for the whole gang to head downtown. Not too shabby to include a song-and-dance scene and the credits. Well played, Columbus.

 Join us next time for more Fifteen Minute Movies, wherein I pick another section of Adventures in Babysitting to report back with!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

All MST3k Trailer Sunday!


Cave Dwellers

Warrior of the Lost World


Teenagers from Outer Space


Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Cap'n Presents: Adventures in Projectioneering (Part Five)

 This entry in Projectioneering is just barely about movies. That's your warning. What follows is a brief account of what projectionists and ushers do when given too much time and disposable promotional garbage. It is a tale of wanton abuse of information and violence. Prepare yourself.

 During the summer of 2000, when management clearly wasn't paying attention to the "upstairs" part of the theatre, it was not uncommon to see four or five projectionists during a shift. For a sixteen screen cineplex, that breaks down to roughly three-and-a-half to four movies per projectionist. Needless to say, we had a LOT of free time in between (contrasted to when I was running all sixteen by myself, which required elaborate charts of what to start, what stopped, and what needed to be threaded in order to ensure everything started on time). We'd play cards, tell stories, arbitrarily edit trailers, and just generally be buffoons because nobody had the good sense to send two or three of us home.

 One evening, when we realized that the free CD-ROM's of some now defunct internet provider were never going to sell, we decided to have our own gladiatorial combat session in one of the theatres. I mean, the ushers were asking for it, and we were game to take them down a peg. We fashioned weapons out of the plastic wrapped, stock paper cases, and prepared ourselves. It was only a matter of deciding which screen to shut down for our battle.

 We decided on number 12 - where What Lies Beneath was playing. Most of the time nobody was ever in there anyway, because What Lies Beneath sucked. It was the kind of thing you could just sense - even dogs knew that Robert Zemeckis, Harrison Ford, and Michelle Pfeiffer laid a rotten egg in any theatre dumb enough to keep it around. Accordingly, we figured nobody would really miss a showing of it if we "removed" the screening for a week night.

 Of course, as we were preparing for war, some hapless couple came in to buy tickets for (what else) What Lies Beneath. In an act of pure cruelty, we sent the assistant manager of projectionists down to explain that the air conditioning was leaking and that we had "closed" the screen for the night. With our lie firmly in place, they agreed to see something else, accepted passes for What Lies Beneath another night, and we staged war!

 Projectionists being the clever sort we are, we hid a cache of cds in the ceiling to deprive the ushers of much needed ammunition, and brought it out as we moved in. We took the high ground and the advantage, and as the foolish popcorn and soda cleaners charged the stadium seating, we pelted them with cds. I crafted a sort of bolo using the discs and some duct tape and went wild with melee attacks, and our victory was decisive. I mean, they never really had a chance.

 In retrospect, this may be the exact moment that management realized there were too many projectionists working at the theatre, and as many of them left for school, they opted not to replace them, leaving me alone most days. On the weekend they'd put someone on the other side, but we rarely if ever saw each other. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But man did we give those ushers a thwacking.

Postscript: If, for some reason, you were the couple trying to see What Lies Beneath that night and are reading this, I apologize. Not that you missed the terrible movie, but that we misled you - it wasn't that theatre with the leaky air conditioner. That was the one with Scary Movie in it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Well Informed Video Daily Double Makes the Best Decisions!

 Greetings, my Educationeers! It's nice to see you heeded my warnings suggestions yesterday and got on the right side of society. You're better than being one of those no-goodniks, those wasteful nonconformists that spend all of their time bucking trends and ironically appreciating things. Today's Video Daily Double should help keep you on track with a lesson on civics and on what it means to be an informed wife.

 Learn on!


 Our first film, A Citizen Makes a Decision, teaches us that we should research positions instead of blindly following... waitaminute... that doesn't make sense. Why would a well studied opinion help us when it's so much easier to repeat talking points verbatim without considering what they mean?

 Our second film, A Word to the Wives, gives you the option to live in a nice kitchen while you're barefoot and pregnant. That's all you really need, right?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Retro Review: The Birth of a Nation

 Truth be told, I've only seen D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation once. I may have even slept through parts of it, to be even more honest. I saw the three hour plus film in an Introduction to Cinema class my freshman year of college, along with Top Hat, Citizen Kane, The General, Casablanca, City Lights, The Graduate, and Do the Right Thing (all of which I had, shamefully, not seen prior to that point). Appropriately, I've seen all of those films again since that class, but somehow never got around to reliving the glory of the KKK.

 The Birth of a Nation was early in the curriculum, as it was taught chronologically, so it was a warm September afternoon (after lunch, at that), when I meandered into class and plopped down for a 187 minute silent film - a silent film that did, admittedly, make serious strides towards changing the way movies were made - about the South during Reconstruction. I should have known we were in trouble when Griffith portrays the first freed-slaves-turned-Congressmen as lazy degenerates lazily sprawled around Washington, D.C., but I had no idea how much worse it would get.

 I gather that most people who never took a film course have been spared The Birth of a Nation and only know it by reputation, much of which is well deserved. As you've probably heard, the Klan are the heroes, saving South Carolina's Cameron family from the hands of a "rogue black man" named Gus. Meanwhile, lascivious mulatto named Silas Lynch is supposed to be rallying the black vote in the south, but instead he has eyes on a pretty white aristocrat. I nodded out for parts of the film, but what I saw really stuck with me.

 The story is supposed to be about the Camerons and the Stonemans, two Southern families with sons on either side of the Civil War. The sons, Ben Cameron and Phil Stoneman, are friends, and not even fighting against each other can diminish that. After Lincoln is assassinated, the young men return home where Reconstruction is running wild in Piedmont, South Carolina. Newly liberated slaves are taking advantage of their freedom, drinking and gambling and lusting after pretty Southern belles. These are the sorts of things you remember, even when I had to look up the names of the two sons in the film.

 The Birth of a Nation is unabashed in its racial stereotypes, ones that echoed throughout every Stepin Fetchit appearance of episode of Amos 'n Andy. African Americans freed from slavery aren't humans, they're animals, ready to take advantage of any opportunity given to them in this film. D.W. Griffith indulges in the worst stereotypes, and in the meantime treats a KKK raid at the end of the film with heroic flourishes - they sweep in to save the heroine from the evil Negro, and then are included in a montage that implies both Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ approve of their actions.

 Look, I'm all for movies that push buttons, and The Birth of a Nation certainly pushed its fair share for the past 96 years, but no amount of camerwork and editing techniques can overcome the ugliness that is Griffith's film. I hesitated even reviewing it - limited memories notwithstanding - because I have no idea who would come looking for a write up of this films. Film history texts do a better job of contextualizing Griffith and the film and of giving the due credit for its technial innovations, but what I'm left with consistently is how one-sided the film is and how wrongheaded its protagonists seem in the cold light of history - especially the Klan of the 1950s and 60s. Every time I think about looking at The Birth of a Nation or Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, I think twice. I'm not so sure that's a bad thing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blogorium Quick Hits: More Brains and Swallowed Souls

 Over the weekend I finally caught up on some horror documentaries, specifically More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead and Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead 2. The former you might have heard of; the latter is more incentive to pick up Lionsgate's 25th Anniversary Edition of Sam Raimi's splatter classic.

 Dan O'Bannon fans will be elated and disappointed while watching More Brains - the film reunites most of the surviving cast and crew members (including the special effects artist fired halfway through the film), but until the very end, O'Bannon - who passed in 2009 - is absent from the oral history of Return of the Living Dead. There's a lot of talking about O'Bannon, often in conflicting narratives (he was too demanding, too aloof; he was easy to work with and open to suggestions), but only in the closing moments does the writer / director have a chance to speak to the film's cult status. In what was his final interview, O'Bannon is candid about the audience embrace of the film and its legacy, and makes a knowing comment about "if I die tomorrow" before the film goes to credits.

 The story of the making of Return of the Living Dead from John Russo (producer / writer of Night of the Living Dead)'s original pitch to the decision of Hemdale Films to hire Dan O'Bannon to write and direct the film as a horror comedy, from casting to premieres, is an affair filled with gossip, contradictory stories, and debates about whether Clu Gulager really threw a can at the director in a fit of rage. I'm tempted to share anecdotes from the cast, or to mention the ongoing bad blood between the production designer (William Stout) and first make-up effects (William Munns) over the inadequate zombie masks and "headless zombie" appliance. The memories are sometimes contentious, sometimes defensive, but always entertaining. More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead is well worth the time of fans of Return of the Living Dead.


 Meanwhile, I'd like to thank a video store in the mall that will go unnamed until later this week for erroneously placing two copies of the 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray of Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn the weekend before the disc is actually released (it comes out tomorrow). I've bemoaned the endless re-releasing of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films on DVD before, and we're seeing the first instance of "double-dipping" in high definition for the trilogy. As Anchor Bay closes (or whatever is going on with Anchor Bay) and their catalog is divvied up by Image Entertainment and Lionsgate, we're likely to see another release of The Evil Dead before long, and I find it hard to believe that Universal's underwhelming "Screwhead Edition" of Army of Darkness is the be-all-end-all of HD releases.

 But for now, let's look at the Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn 25th Anniversary double-dip. As a sucker for supplements, I must admit the list of extras seemed very promising - collections of featurette's about the casing, effects, conception, direction, and filming. When I put the disc in, I didn't realize that all of these individually listed extras were part of one 98 minute documentary, Swallowed Souls. It's reminiscent of segments of Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, and is broken into chapters complete with claymation vignettes to bridge them.

 Like More Brains, the primary element lacking in Swallowed Souls is the presence of Sam Raimi. It's not as though his presence isn't felt, because the "making of" footage shot by Greg Nicotero features young Sam Raimi in abundance, but he's noticeably absent from the proceedings. On the other hand, the doc features an abundance of newly shot interviews with Bruce Campbell, who speaks candidly about Evil Dead 2 and shares stories I don't think I've heard anywhere, including in If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. Swallowed Souls also prominently features the rest of the leads of Evil Dead 2: Sarah Berry (Annie), Dan Hicks (Jake), Kassie Wesley (Bobbi Joe), Richard Dormeier (Ed) and Ted Raimi (Possessed Henrietta). Hearing their perspective on making the film is in and of itself a treat - many of them had no idea what they were in for.

 The entire makeup effects team, including Mark Shostrom (From Beyond, A Nightmare one Elm Street Part 2) and the first time in years that I've seen all three members of KNB (Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, and Howard Berger) on camera talking about a project they worked on together*. Their camcorder footage, which documents the conception of Evil Dead 2's effects all the way through the film's production, are a treasure trove of unseen footage from Wadesboro, North Carolina in 1986. They gleefully exploit their creations and play around with camera tricks, mimicking Raimi's "evil force" camera shots.

 So here's where it gets tough - do you want to drop another $14 for Evil Dead 2 to see an admittedly great "making of" documentary? If you still have the Anchor Bay disc, you'll notice that The Gore the Merrier is still included, the commentary is still included, and I'm not sure that the picture is that much different. The price is fair so if you don't already have Evil Dead 2 on Blu-Ray this is a no-brainer, but wary double dippers are going to have to ask themselves if the making of justifies buying the film again. I will say that if it were released on its own, Swallowed Souls would be worth picking up in the same way as Halloween: 25 Years of Terror or His Name was Jason are. Evil Dead fans, prepare yourselves for the impending moral quandary. I don't regret it, but I also have the added bonus of picking the disc up early...

 * Since Kurtzman moved on to create his own production company, it's common just to see Nicotero and Berger appearing in "making of" documentaries that KNB did makeup effects for.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cap'n Howdy Presents: My Week in Trailer Sunday

Blue Velvet

Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn

Killer Elite

Barry Lyndon


Fanny and Alexander

More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Blogorium Review: Killer Elite

 I like Jason Statham movies to a fault; whereas most times when I see a movie that has bad (or worse, no) buzz like Killer Elite, I'll just ignore it. Cranpire will ask me if I saw it and I'll say no because why would I? It's going to be a letdown. But put Jason Statham in that movie and suddenly I'll rethink that wisdom. Add Clive Owen and despite the fact that I KNOW nothing good can come from this movie because Robert De Niro is going to be in the movie, I will choose Killer Elite over Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Captain America, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Contagion at the $1.50 theatre*.

 Actually, before I begin, can I mention how sad it is that the mere presence of Robert De Niro in a film is now an indicator that it's not going to be good? Really, there was a time when I'd see a movie with Robert De Niro because his body of work was so varied and so interesting that appearing in the Rocky and Bullwinkle movie seemed like a stroke of genius. But since (and I'm being generous here) Analyze This, there's been a steady decline in quality in his films. I'm going to name the good movies and then the bad ones. Good: Machete, The Score, The Good Shepherd (which he directed and is only kind of in). Bad: Analyze This, Flawless, Meet the Parents, 15 Minutes, Showtime, City by the Sea, Analyze That, Godsend, Meet the Fockers, Hide and Seek, Stardust, What Just Happened, Righteous Kill, Little Fockers, and Limitless. There are a few other movies like Stone that I didn't see but seem to be neither here nor there, and the "Bad" movies are in varying degrees from "disappointing" to "rotten" but the end result is I now groan when I see Robert De Niro is going to be in a movie (likewise Al Pacino).

 So where does Killer Elite fit into that category? Well, if you somehow didn't get the idea from the first paragraph, it's not in the "Good" pile. To be fair, it isn't De Niro's fault if only because he's really not in most of the movie - just at the beginning and near the end. Killer Elite sucks - it's a grade school version of an action movie. Over and over we're given needless scenes of exposition where characters say things like "As you all know, we're former SAS members, and since we are no longer SAS members we are bankers." Why are we subjected to this unnecessary information? My suspicion is that writer Matt Sherring didn't want any audience members to be confused during the film, so he overexplains everything and director Gary McKendry didn't bother to cut out the redundant (and embarrassing) extra dialogue.

 Killer Elite is an unnecessarily complicated film, apparently based on Ranulph Fiennes' book The Feather Men, which is a memoir about Britain's Special Air Services' involvement in Oman and about hired killers or some crap. To be honest, if the book is anything like the movie, it doesn't surprise me that the British government denied everything that Fiennes claims happened. If the book is half as poorly written as the movie I'm amazed they acknowledged it exists at all. It is also a remake in name only (maybe) of Sam Peckinpah's The Killer Elite, which makes it similar to the servicable but also not-very-good The Mechanic, another Statham vehicle I watched begrudgingly.

 The long and the short of it is that in 1980 and 81, Danny (Statham) and Hunter (De Niro) are hired killers who travel around the world doing dirty work that no one else wants. Danny kills some Mexican official in front of the guy's daughter and "quits," which we all know means he'll be back for one more job. Sure enough, a year later he is summoned from his new home in Australia by Agent (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), the man who handles these kills, to help Hunter. Hunter accepted a job for Sheikh Amr (Rodney Afif) to kill three SAS soldiers responsible for the death of his sons, but then he chickened out and is being held prisoner. Danny now has to kill the three soldiers to save Hunter, so with his team - Davies (Blade Trinity's Dominic Purcell) and Meier (Aden Young) - he sets out to do the impossible and murder three special forces badasses.

 If that were the movie, okay, I'd be interested. But then, because that isn't enough movie, the SAS guys are all friends of Spike (Owen), who works with the shady SAS guys who are now bankers. They want him to keep a lid on things, so now we have an American Gangster like dual story except that neither protagonist is really that good of a person and they both enjoy beating the shit out of people. Despite an attempt to develop a love story between Danny and Australian native Anne (played by Chuck's Yvonne Strahovski) and Spike's wife who is in literally one scene and is never heard from again (couldn't find her name), we never really care about either character.

 The fight scenes are edited in the usual blur of motion, shaky cam style that prevents audiences from being able to follow anything that's happening, so at least there are some decent chase scenes (on car and on foot) to balance that out. Dominic Purcell is pretty funny as Davies, a character so bad at impersonating an SAS veteran that other SAS vets immediately see through his ruse. Considering how unimpressed I was with his Drake in Blade Trinity, I felt it was worth pointing out that he's the highlight in an otherwise stupid movie. Robert De Niro is not bad, but he doesn't really make much of an impression - Hunter mostly walks around and threatens people but doesn't kill them, even when he should. Statham and Owen do the best they can with basically useless dialogue.

 Half the time, you wouldn't know the film takes place in the 80s because Killer Elite is also full of sloppy anachronisms - for example, if you have a title card that says "The Year is 1980" and then one that says "One Year Later," you cannot use a newspaper obituary that claims the SAS member killed after the second title card died in 1980. You also cannot use modern earphones, motorcycle helmets, or new $100 bills in your period film. It's REALLY lazy and brings further into question the flimsy logic the film hopes to pass by with. Why do Jason Statham and Clive Owen continue fighting when the MFWIC (which stands for "Mother Fucker What's In Charge," one of the arguably best lines in the film) reveals that he's actually the bad guy both of them are fighting? Why does the film even suggest that Spike might still come after Danny even though there's NO good reason to keep this going?

 Look, I understand that on some primitive level this film exists because some stoned asshole said "what would happen if Crank fought Shoot 'Em Up?" I get that, but the end result is convoluted and feels twice as long as it actually is. I really stopped caring after Danny killed the third SAS guy, and that's maybe the halfway point on Killer Elite. By the time Clive Owen is in Sheikh Amr's palace / house and delivering photos of a fourth SAS soldier, I'd tuned out. I'll tolerate action movies that try too hard to a point, but Killer Elite can't decide whether to be overachieving or lazy, so it's both. And it sucks.

* It's actually two dollars now, but that doesn't have the same ring to it that "dollar fifty" does when spoken, so let's keep it as it was.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stupid Eyes

 I don't have much to say, because it's really hard to look at any one thing for long periods of time. The short story is that Cap'n Howdy's eyesight has improved, to the point that my glasses are too strong. I guess that would be a good thing, except that until my new prescription comes in, I've been advised to use the computer without them. They're better than the glasses can handle, but they aren't THAT good, so I get a wicked headache from staring at the screen, and I just worked eight hours sitting in front of a computer.

 As you can imagine, since I don't like sitting right in front of the TV screen, watching movies is very difficult. I'm about 20 minutes away from finishing More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead, but I just can't do it tonight. I'll get that review up Friday or Saturday, when my eyes don't hurt so much. I don't even know why I agreed to go see something (anything) tomorrow night when I know good and well I won't be able to see it. Thankfully, Professor Murder has his heart set on Jack and Jill, which violates my "No Adam Sandler Movies" rule (of which Little Nicky and Punch-Drunk Love are the only exceptions after 1993*). Then again, if I can't see it, it didn't happen, and I have no intention of paying for it. I'd rather not be able to see The Thing if that's an option.

 So I can't watch movies, I can't write for very long, and I have trouble staring at the computer screen. You can see how this isn't conducive to proper Blogorium decorum. Hence I will leave you with the following: Francis Ford Coppola's Dementia 13, in its entirety.

 Please accept this as my apology for not being able to create a fictional dialogue between The Dude and CLU this week.

* I would not necessarily consider Airheads to be an "Adam Sandler" movie, but for you sticklers out there, I put in that qualifier.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mind Your Video Daily Double, Or Else!

 Oh, my Educationeers... how you have strayed from the pack. I'm very disappointed in your inability to snap into line with the social programming on display in the Video Daily Double. I'm trying to help you conform to the pack so as not to be ostracized and left behind from all the hip and cool things you could experience otherwise.

 Today I've selected two very special films to help curb your antisocial behavior. Pay close attention, or you'll end up like Barbara at the beginning of the second film...



Our first film, Snap Out of It, teaches us not to express emotions. Emotional balance, after all, means that being upset by not meeting lofty standards is undesirable. Settle your expectations to "acceptable" or "mediocre" so as not to upset the status quo? Well, maybe just expect that others think you're a loser and will reflect that accordingly through your work.

 Our second film, Habit Patterns, teaches us that if we deviate from socially acceptable behavior (including, I kid you not, the phrases "programmed" and "doesn't even need to think"), you'll be shunned from society. No, really. Take that, non-conformists.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Retro Review: Shock Treatment (and The Rocky Horror Picture Show)

 Alas, I couldn't find Double Take between last week and this week, so instead of trying to piece together a movie I think involves a train and Orlando Jones and Eddie Griffin, I thought I'd try to focus on something I could actually remember. It turns out that when it takes three times to get through a movie that you actually can recall it. Well, sort of. This is the true story of the Cap'n and Shock Treatment.

 I include The Rocky Horror Picture Show in parenthesis (instead of, you know, doing it the other way around) because it's necessary to contextualize Shock Treatment. For as long as I could peruse the weekend section of the newspaper, I was aware of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was the only movie that was playing - every Friday night at The Rialto. The midnight show. I didn't know what the film was, or the phenomenon surrounding it, but I knew it existed. When I was in middle school, The Rocky Horror Picture Show aired on television for the first time - on VH1. I don't know if anyone remembers this, but it was a big deal in 1993(?). It was the first time most "normal" people ever had a chance to see the legitimate cult sensation - the long(est?) running "midnight movie" of the original gang*. I only saw parts of it - the content was too salacious, even watered down, for middle school Cap'n to be allowed near VH1 that night.

 Actually watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show came later, just before I saw the midnight show for the first of many, many Fridays. I bought a copy of the recently released VHS edition while working at Suncoast and watched the film to "prepare." I'll tell you right now that watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show at home, alone, is an underwhelming experience. All of the film's deficiencies are immediate and glaring, and without the communal atmosphere of callbacks and performances, TRHPS lacks that "oomph" associated with it rowdy reputation. The live show, on the other hand, more than makes up for the let down of watching the film in isolation.

 Like I said, we went nearly every weekend for two years straight, and then on and off during college, where I played the Criminologist and one of the callback "assholes" in student run spin-off's of the Rialto production. To this day, I can sit down at any part of the film and immediately spout off callbacks, and it's been years since I last attended a live show.

 But anyway, this isn't about The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It's about Shock Treatment, the only movie more of an enigma than Rocky - the infamous sequel, an ill conceived and despised continuation of characters from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Shock Treatment allegedly has a hard core contingent of fans (some recorded a commentary track for the eventual DVD release), but I've never met one. Shock Treatment wasn't something I ever heard about from Rocky Horror fans. In fact, I read about it in Martin and Porter's Video Movie Guide (probably the 1986 edition), where they generously awarded the film a "Turkey." The phrase that stuck out was "sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show," an inconceivable notion to me when I finally understood what Rocky Horror was.

 How could there BE a sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show? How does that happen? Why would that happen? But sure enough, Richard O'Brien and company got together in 1981 and continued the story of Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, back in Denton and contestants on some elaborate game show that's the secret plot of Drs. Cosmo and Nation McKinley. Only Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon were nowhere to be found. Brad and Janet were now played by Cliff DeYoung and Jessica Harper (yes, of Suspiria). Richard O'Brien was Dr. Cosmo McKinley and Patricia Quinn was Dr. Nation McKinley. Little Nell was Nurse Ansalong, Charles Gray was Judge Oliver Wright, and I'm sure there were some other Rocky alums I'm forgetting. Tim Curry was also MIA, and the songs...

 Oh goodness, the songs. That brings us to the "three times to watch it once" part of the story - I finally found Shock Treatment on VHS at Video Bar (or North American Video or whatever they called it after it moved into the fabric store) and tried to watch it. The first two times, I made it as far as the "Denton" song that opens the film before I turned it off. I couldn't watch it - it was unbearable.

 The third time was the charm, and I soldiered through "Denton" only to discover the incomprehensible narrative that was Shock Treatment. Maybe it was just that I was so bored I tuned out halfway through, but I can't tell you what it is that happens to Brad and Janet after they become "trapped" by the game show, or why it is that the mad Doctors want to separate Brad and Janet, or even how the whole thing ends. No clue. I can't conceive of a reason I'd watch Shock Treatment one more time, so I may never know for sure, and I'm okay with that.

 Most Rocky Horror fans never try to watch Shock Treatment - it's reputation is such that there's no good reason for them to subject themselves to it. I would say I did it So They Won't Have To, but I can't even satisfy your curiosity. I don't recall much about the movie other than I hated it from beginning to end and that it was more endurance than experience. If there's really a cult following for Shock Treatment, it's surely more devoted than even the most die hard Rocky Horror fans. That's saying something, and while I can't say I admire their dedication, I will say to each their own. A guy like me who preaches The Happening to anybody listening can appreciate when something that isn't my cup of tea is yours, but that's serious devotion. Shock Treatment sucks.

* According to Midnight Movies, that would also include El Topo, Night of the Living Dead, Pink Flamingos, Eraserhead, and Reefer Madness.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Interesting Tidbit of the "True Story" Variety

 I almost wasn't the Cap'n.

 Not as in "I almost didn't call myself Cap'n Howdy when this blog thing came together" but as in my life almost went in an entirely different direction. For most, if not all of high school, my nickname was "Matt Pinfield." I guess that doesn't mean as much nearly fifteen years later, but the host of MTV's 120 Minutes for the 2nd half of the 90s was the basis of comparison for my friends because I wasn't the "movie" guy - I was the "music" guy. I haunted record stores, read anything about bands I could, made cassette tapes of college radio playlists, and was constantly turning people on to random bands. Blame it on a healthy dose of Rolling Stone, Flipside, CMJ, and Maximumrocknroll, or whatever else I was listening to (CMJ was fun because of the free cds), but my VHS collection was secondary.

 The fact that I was maybe, kind of, hooking two VCRs up and making tapes from the piles of movies rented from Carbonated Video was a minor part of high school Cap'n. Er, Matt Pinfield. Having half a dozen Nirvana bootlegs or knowing what Sentridoh was (and having the Sentridoh cd) or finding a used copy of The Concert for Bangladesh on vinyl at The Record Exchange was what I was known for. That and dozens of things I'm forgetting about - getting copies of Breeders Digest and buying nearly everything the Deal sisters released... or having a Slant 6 cd (and I still think Inzombia is quality low-fi fun). I wasn't encyclopedic by any means, but I knew a lot of obscure bands and I followed tangents by artists to their logical extension. For crying out loud, I had a duped copy of The Body Has a Head on cassette after seeing the King Missile / John S. Hall / Dogbowl reunion show at the Local 506. That last sentence most likely doesn't make sense to people.

 Anyway, I've been trying to remember when the shift happened from music to movies. Films were always in the background, the other strand in my pop culture DNA, but they didn't really assert themselves until college I think. It might have been from discovering Ain't It Cool News junior year of high school, but I think what happened was that at UNCG, the local cd store and the local video store were next door to each other. Crunchy and College Hill Video. Crunchy was cool - you could find Danzig albums mixed in with punk and ska (oddly enough, the Cap'n owned the first Operation Ivy record, even though I hate Rancid), but College Hill video had *ahem* bootlegs.

 Bootlegs, the heretofore unseeable, obscure, or forgotten films on a store bought tape with black and white labeling. To be fair, the guy who ran the place (and who is, now, a mostly reputable producer so I won't identify by name) did make cover art for the boxes, and we were grateful to be able to watch Bad Taste or the director's cut of Army of Darkness or Eraserhead, even if he'd just taped the porn he couldn't rent out last week. He was providing us a service - the complete Twin Peaks or Battle Royale; a VHS port of the Criterion Brazil laserdisc. Slowly but surely I drifted away from Crunchy and towards College Hill.

 When I went back after home after freshman year, I worked for a movie theatre - the one from Adventures in Projectioneering - and despite the fact that I was still absorbing the Complete Miles Davis and John Coltrane Sessions, films were winning. The summer of 1999 was an exciting period for film, even if it doesn't seem like it in retrospect - The Phantom Menace, Eyes Wide Shut, American Pie, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, The Sixth Sense, Payback - it seemed like every week had something to look forward to.

 If I had to pinpoint where film won, it wasn't sophomore year, when up and coming freshmen were knocking at my door asking to challenge the "movie game guy," although that amuses me now, or even the fact that I was "renting" out movies I brought to school (many of which never came back), but the summer after. In 2000, out of school indefinitely and unsure of what to do, I interviewed at Camelot Music, and with the handy knowledge of who Ani DiFranco was probably had a job waiting. But then a friend of mine wandered in there and hit it off with the staff, and I decided to go back to the movie theatre, where I quickly ascended from concessions to projectionist.

 Being surrounded by film, not just figuratively but on any given shift literally, I slowly phased out of biographies about Jim Morrison and into books like Gilliam on Gilliam. Film became more interesting, more fun. To me, despite all of the dress rehearsal that came before it, down to working at a Suncoast during Christmas of 1995, those quiet shifts sitting amongst the projectors really turned the switch and created the Cap'n as you know him now.

 I still have that Sentridoh cd, by the way.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Another Trailer Sunday, a Different Trailer Sunday...


Magic Trip

Cannonball Run


The Mill and the Cross

Father of Invention

Another Earth

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Blogorium Review: In Time

 Let's keep this short, because what you need to know is that In Time isn't worth any of yours. I really like Gattaca and Lord of War, Andrew Niccol films that wear their political and social commentary on their sleeves. I also really like The Truman Show, which Niccol wrote. If reduced to their core, all of those films are "message" movies about one topic or the other - Gattaca is about the haves and the have nots, The Truman Show anticipated the onslaught of reality television programming, and Lord of War explicitly criticized the military industrial complex and black market arms dealing.

  In Time is no different - in fact, it's probably even more "on the nose" than the at-the-time underrated Gattaca when it comes to the 1% and what it takes to maintain power, but that is not at all to the film's benefit. As a matter of fact, In Time is so ham-fisted in its criticism of the elite class that the film can't decide whether it's supposed to be serious, satirical, or even saying anything at all. At one point the police chasing Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) and Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) are faced with a social revolution and the man in charge is asked "what should we do?" He replies "go home," and puts his gun down and leaves.

 In case you somehow haven't heard what the conceit of In Time is by now, it's probably fair to take a step back: human life tops out at twenty-five. From that point, a timer on your arm counts down how long you have left to live, and you can add or subtract time by purchasing more, gambling, or buying things. Time is money, etc. Since everybody mentions this all the time, you aren't likely to forget that, even though if the ages of characters are correct, it's been a LONG time since anybody ever heard of money in the first place.

 The elites who live in New Greenwich have anywhere from centuries to millenia on their clocks, allowing them to enjoy the easy life, while the poor are lucky to find themselves with a day left at any given point. Will is one of the working poor, who often wakes up with less than a day left and works double shifts just to stay alive. When Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) is flashing around his century's worth of time in a low end bar, Will finds himself protecting Henry from the Minutemen, a gang that steals time from anyone foolish enough to flaunt it. Henry gives Will his time, asking him not to waste it. That night, Will's mother (Olivia Wilde) literally runs out of time and dies, so he heads into New Greenwich to take down the haves.

 Because the Timekeepers, police led by Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) are on his tail, Will ends up kidnapping Sylvia, daughter of Phillipe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser), a wealthy owner of Timeshares (you get the idea) and they begin a criminal spree of... well this is where the movie really falls apart.

 I'm willing to overlook stupid things like Timekeepers and Minutemen and the fact that there's a loan agency called Timeshares, but all In Time really seems to exist for is to criticize the idea that the wealthy have power and they use the police and gangs to maintain it (the Minutemen and the Timekeepers are both in the pocket of a consortium of elite who control "Time Zones" around the world). At some point the film makes a tonal shift from dystopia to comedy as Will and Sylvia become a futuristic Bonnie and Clyde, robbing banks and taking "time." They give it to the masses and Leon complains that they're making things worse. Rinse, repeat.

 After Will gets his century from Henry we realize that Niccol didn't actually know what he wanted to do with the movie, so Timberlake meanders around New Greenwich without much of a purpose until he wanders into a casino and meets Kartheiser's Weis while playing poker. Timberlake and Seyfried have zero chemistry and their characters don't serve any purpose other than to say things like "I'd say give me your money or your life, but since your money is your life..." (actual quote from the film) and to talk about how the system is unfair. Niccol planned things out so poorly that his only solution for the evil elite when Will and Sylvia steal a million years is for them just to give up. Not only did I not believe that's what would happen, but he continues to push this bone-headed theory that Will and Sylvia could continue to rob banks even though they defeated one Timekeeper.

 It's not as though I'm siding with the "elite" of the film, because their flimsy logic that Will and Sylvia can just continue what they're doing and disrupt the entire system while the rest of the masses wait to be "saved" by a pair of dystopian Robin Hoods. Under any kind of scrutiny, In Time fails to make even the slightest logical sense, let alone taken simply on the terms the film presents. Why it becomes a comedy in the middle of the film and then switches to an action movie at the end doesn't make any sense, nor does the flimsy logic behind why Sylvia switches from kidnapee to bank robber. Nothing about In Time works, despite the fact that there's talent in front of and behind the camera. It's obvious, noisy, schizophrenic, and lazy. That's a shame, because any time a movie makes me wish I'd seen the prequel to The Thing instead it has to be really lousy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In Progress (a euphemism for Slacking)

 Hey gang! How about I tell you about things I'm currently in progress as a way to divert attention from the fact that I don't have anything done yet*? Sound good**?

 The Cap'n has begun reading Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg, which is to this point very entertaining. When I finish the sort-of memoirs interspersed with passages from a fictionalized (?) version of Pegg's life away from the silver screen, I'll give you cats and kittens a review. Since I only have time to read it at night (before bed), this might take a little while, but it worked for Shock Value, so I think it'll be sooner rather than later.

 Last night I was doing some laundry and was finally able to put on More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead, which is a "warts and all" documentary about the making of Dan O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead. I only watched forty or so minutes, but the film doesn't sugarcoat anything so far. It's both informative and funny, which doesn't always work but in this instance is exactly the tone to strike when covering Return of the Living Dead. I'm hoping to finish that up sometime this weekend for a proper review, but so far it's pretty engrossing. Stupid needing to sleep.

 Let's see, what other plates am I trying to keep spinning? Well, spine numbers are 50% off again at Barnes and Noble, so I'm really going to have to mull over those copies of The Battle of Algiers, The Complete Jean Vigo, 3 Women, Orpheus, Cul-De-Sac, High and Low, If..., Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and, um, Salo. Because I'm in such a hurry to watch Salo on Blu Ray. And you're so ready for that review, I know.

 Professor Murder will also be in town this weekend. That's almost always a call for some strange movie in theatres, so against the prevailing wisdom of reviews, I might end up seeing The Thing. Or something much worse. He did miss out on Horror Fest, and we have to rectify this, you see.

 As a small addendum to that, would people please stop referring to John Carpenter's The Thing as "the original"? You do know that John Carpenter's The Thing is a remake of The Thing from Another World, right? Oh no? You do now.

* In my defense, my work schedule makes it very difficult to do much of anything when it comes to watching movies, and it's only been getting busier because of two words: Annual Enrollment. Last weekend was by far the most movie watching I've done since the beginning of September.
** There are actually no other options, so I hope so.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Good Video Daily Double Makes People Jealous, Understand?

Welcome back, educationeers! We're on the other side of Halloween, so it's time to return to good old fashioned social behavior engineering. Today I thought I'd look at two films designed to cover what goes on between those ears of yours. If you can follow the first film, I must admit the second film will be even sillier. Really!

 Time to learn! But it's fun!!!


Our first film, Understanding Others, sounds too hard. But it's not hard watching a movie, right? All you have to do is sit there. And not in one of those uncomfortable metal chairs like in school! You can sit in a comfortable chair and pretend to pay attention!

 Our second film is for you married couples out there, specifically the husband. Why is your wife jealous? Let's assume the people who made Jealousy have the slightest idea...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Retro Review: The Time Machine (2002)

 I don't recall ever seeing this film. Huh. Don't know why I'd review it. I guess if I had, I might say that it was very bad. Jeremy Irons hams it up and Guy Pearce doesn't really... well, I don't know. Like I said before, I don't think I ever saw this movie. Have you?

 Here is some information from IMDB that might be of interest to you. For example, it's said that Gore Verbinski (The Ring, Rango) came in to re-direct the film after H.G. Wells' great-grandson Simon Wells had trouble with "extreme exhaustion". Simon Wells then went on to make Mars Needs Moms, a movie I know I didn't see. Seriously this time. Working with computer actors is probably less exhausting, I guess. Also, Double Take's Orlando Jones is in this movie. Until 45 seconds ago I forgot that Double Take was a movie, let alone one I saw, enjoyed, and owned on DVD for a while. I guess I can thank The Time Machine for that.

 Also, I kid you not: Jeremy Irons' character is identified as Über-Morlock. Yikes.

 I can't recommend this movie because even if I did see it I honestly don't remember anything about it. That's probably because I didn't see it, but don't quote me on that. I see lots of things and forget about them.

 Oh well, hopefully I can find something I watched last week. Maybe I'll try to remember Double Take. I honestly seem to remember liking it, but have scant memories of the film. I think there's a train.... wow, this is gonna be a rough stretch of Retro Reviews...