Saturday, December 11, 2010

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 16

THE TRAILER ROUND-UP

The third trailer for
"Tron: Legacy" came out a month ago. This link will take you to them and a few clips Disney has released. The trailers make this film look like the coolest thing since "Inception." However, the clips (especially the one with Castor) left me worried, especially about the dialogue. Might we have another "Avatar" on our hands? A gorgeous film with spectacular special effects and exciting action sequences, but a script in need of work (namely the spoken word). "Tron: Legacy" comes out next week.

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" has an interesting trailer until we actually see the transformer. At that point all excitement left me. I've seen the first and frankly, that was enough. Again, special effects do not make a movie... they make tech demos.

You've been forewarned, the second and latest trailer for
"Rio" decreased my eagerness to see it. It is a little distracting to have who I now associate as Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) voice the main bird. On top of that, movie trailer man rattles off a bunch of other famous people who have donated their voices to the cause. That's dandy and all, but that's not necessarily going to make a fine flick. The narrative will, which has a good enough premise. The animation looks very nice, but that's not hard to come by these days.

If a baby orangutan wasn't enough... "Nenette" is a 40-year-old orangutan! She is the oldest resident in a Paris zoo. That could be a fascinating premise of a new Pixar film, but it's not. It is a documentary, but it still looks fascinating! This brings back memories of "Koko: A Talking Gorilla," another primate-y documentary (from 1978) that I love.

Add some testosterone to your weekend with the first trailer for "Thor." This superhero's backstory is especially unique. Anthony Hopkins (who plays Odin) looks great with more hair than ever! Kenneth Branagh, yes, Kenneth Branagh, directs.

None of these trailers left my jaw dropped or mind bewildered. So, no awards this week.

ENLISITED

Stephen King likes putting his Top 10 Films of the Year list out early. He says he considers the years from November to November. He is a compelling writer and this is a compelling list (his Top 10 Films of 2010).

THE GOOD

This is good news to me because, unlike many humans, I thoroughly enjoyed each installment of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy. They were entertaining movies, each with its own grandiose set-pieces. Johnny Depp's performance was a revelation and the antagonists in each film delivered brilliant performances. The stories were wild adventures on the high seas, set against a historical era, but steeped in mythologies. I deem the trilogy a huge success. It is with this forward that I share with you some
production stills from the fourth installment "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." The film is due May 20th and I am optimistic again for one of the better series coming out of Hollywood's gates. the brilliance of Depp and Geoffery Rush (who is making a splash this year with his performance in "The King's Speech") return with some new faces. The biggest change is the man in the director's chair: Gore Verbinski has been replaces with Rob Marshall ("Chicago" and "Memoirs of a Geisha"). Does that mean we can expect a few musical numbers? Bring it on! I'm guessing we can look forward to a trailer in the next or month or so.

THE BAD

I was looking VERY forward to the new Farrelly Brothers film, "The Three Stooges." Unfortunately the three wonderful leads they had casted (Jim Carrey, Sean Penn, and Benecio Del Toro) all jumped ship. I easily imagined the greatness that trio would deliver... Well, the Farrellys aren't giving up. They are looking to cast three new stooges. JoBlo.com covers the story in their humorous "Cast This" segment.

AND THE WEIRD

Emma Stone (from "Zombieland" and "Easy A") is staring as Peter Parker's initial love interest, Gwen Stacy, in the "Spider-Man" reboot. Proof. The role was played quite well by Bryce Dallas Howard in the "old" one. It still leaves me scratching my head that we're getting an all new "Spider-Man" film franchise this soon... Do you know the other roles? Andrew Garfield (Eduardo in "The Social Network") is the main man. Martin Sheen is Uncle Ben. Sally Field as Aunt May. Rhys Ifans (?) is going to play the first villain, The Lizard. Of course, his character was once a doctor. Marc Webb (who was pointed out to me as having a fitting last name) snags this as his second feature directing (after "(500) Days of Summer").

KEEPIN' IT SHORT


This is a powerful animated short. An interesting and inspiring take on the Greek myth.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 15

THE TRAILER ROUND-UP

I remember hearing word about this on the web months ago... I was thrilled to stumble upon the trailer just now. "The Beaver" stars Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster. The film is directed by the latter. It's hard to take the film's ridiculous premise, subject matter, and namesake seriously, but the makers ain't kidding when they declare "Genre: Drama." Something like this is easier to swallow having seen "Lars and the Real Girl," a nice small film (like "The Beaver") about a guy who overcome's personal problems and mental illness through a relationship with a doll. Like a heist plan hatched in a "Ocean's"-movie, this just might be crazy enough to work. It's good to see Gibson again.

Speaking of the "Ocean's" series... here is a doc from the mastermind (Steven Soderbergh) behind the remake and its welcomed sequels: "And Everything is Going Fine." This is a tribute for and about Spalding Gray, a zealous storyteller. All who tell stories can find something of interest herein. This came as a pleasant surprise.

"Mars Needs Moms." If you say so. This CGI-adventure from Disney is one of the most realistic looking computer animations I have ever seen. I just hope the narrative and innovations can match the visual detail.

Another good-looking CG-animated feature. This one is appropriately due come Spring. You see, "Hop" is about the Easter Bunny. It comes from the studio behind "Despicable Me," a film I thought I'd deplore and actually quite liked. (Isn't that bunny playing "The Song" by Blur?)

Toss of the Week: Did you know Earth Day was April 22nd? Well, now we both do. I've missed Disneynature's previous Earth Day releases ("Earth" and "Oceans"), but I'm putting "African Cats" on my calender. I've still yet to catch up with the "Planet Earth" series and the aforementioned Disneynature features, but believe I love love love nature docs. "African Cats" looks astounding. Cinematography and documentation at its finest. I'm thrilled!

KEEPIN' IT SHORT*
*In this all-new segment within "The Film Tome Report," I will be delivering a short film for your consideration.

Directed by Aaron Yonda

This humorous and clever bit won Best Short Film and Best Concept at the Chicago Horror Film Festival in 2006. I thoroughly enjoy perspective pieces like this. On a somewhat related note, "The Bottle Neck" by Hans Christian Anderson is a personal favorite.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 14

THE TRAILER ROUND-UP

Consider "Born To Be Wild" my MONKEY DO this week. A nature doc about an orphan elephant and an orphan chimp. Look gorgeously photographed. Who would you get to narrate? Morgan Freeman, number one answer.

Pixar has now released a trailer that actually tells us something about "Cars 2." It looks very nice, but I'm actually not all that excited for it.

"The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" is one of my most beloved film. Well, now Walt Disney Animation Studios is reviving the property with the simply named "Winnie the Pooh." The animation is almost too clean, the voice changes are jarring, and, aside from a nice montage of possible new tails for Eeyore, I was pretty uninterested. Still, gotta be hopeful for something so cherished eh?

The special effects in "Green Lantern" are worth seeing. I know nothing about this superhero, but I'm willing to give it a chance next summer.

My mother and sister ever ask about "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." It's hard to pick a favorite of the brilliant "Chronicles" series penned by C.S. Lewis, but this one would definitely be considered. Here's the latest trailer! It comes out in less than a month (Dec. 10th).

The "Okay...": Can you count all the similarities "Red Riding Hood" has with "Twilight"? Good grief. I'll say no thank you now, but predict I'll somehow someday get caught up with this one.

Toss of the Week: Vampires, zombies and aliens! Oh my! Yes... these three are all the rage these days. I've got yet another alien flick to make you aware of, but this time I couldn't be happier. Based on a comic book (of course!) of the same name, "Cowboys & Aliens" looks possibly too cool. Last month Rockstar proved that adding zombies to the Western genre was a stroke of brilliance with the "Undead Nightmare" expansion to this year's best video game, "Red Dead Redemption". To me, inserting aliens instead could be just as good. An impressive and exciting preview to say the least! Next summer can't come soon enough now. It is a wonderful sight to see Harrison Ford don a cowboy hat again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

KEEP THE RIVER ON YOUR RIGHT - REVIEW

Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale
Released: 4.1.2001

Written and Directed by David and Laurie Shapiro

This is a little doc about an old man who has a lot to say. A fascinating discovery that agitates and leaves you meditating.

The subtitle is rather misleading. Yes, Tobias was by definition a cannibal on one occasion, but it certainly isn't an ongoing part of his life nor is it an ongoing topic in this documentary. Hoodwinking or not, what a great title! It piqued my interest enough to merit my initial commencement of watching. However, it was the story of this man Tobias that brought me back (you see, it took me three or so sessions to reach the end).

Over fifty years ago this man traveled through Peru. Near the Amazon basin he found and lived with the Harakambut tribe for seven months. Later he engaged in similar activity with the Asmat in New Guinea. With a travelog like this, you can see why someone would want to make a documentary about him.

Like most of my favorite docs, it becomes about an individual. This is the tale of Tobias Schneebaum, who at the time of filming was 78 years old. We learn about his past through archival photos and videos (including a challenging interview with Charlie Rose) and the memories Tobias cares to share. Tobias is an open book (and in fact has written several about his own life experiences). His honesty and open-mindedness is immediately apparent. We learn many things about him, from his seasons as a painter to his lifetime of homosexuality.

The film has some odd bits that I wouldn't miss if cut. Also, the narrative jumps at times without offering smooth transitions. However, the Shapiros' project succeeds not only because of their star, but because of their understated filming of him (and their surroundings). The fitting original score is an eerie jungly melody, but I doubt I'll ever be able to track it down.

The action really took off in the last half when the film crew finally convince Tobias to return to the Peruvian jungles where he lived with a group of natives (taking part in a murderous raiding party and an instance of cannibalism). The adventure is brilliantly inter-spliced with archive footage from when he appeared as a guest on "The Mike Douglas Show." During these final chapters the film gets downright Herzogian (maybe no surprise since a lot of it is taking place where the master shot "Aguirre"), and if you know my love for Werner Herzog's work, you know how commending this comparison is.

The most powerful moments are when Tobias reunites with those who he met on his journey long ago. In these scenes we see an exotic people that outsiders cannot wholly relate to. Tobias came closer than most and it shaped him and scarred him. The result is his solicitousness in grasping another world.

The film takes a leisurely course to get to these great points, but when someone as interesting as Tobias Schneebaum is your guide, the travel is hardly dull. Whenever his paced monologues start rolling, you can bet on a valuable perception. The thoughts he shares while visiting the glorious Machu Picchu and later whilst floating down a muddy branch of the Amazon are particularly abiding. Tobias is continually haunted by his past, yet happy of it and tranquil in his old age. Viewers may likely be victim to some haunting as well.

By the film's end we've spent a considerable amount of time getting to know this man. Shooting the documentary was clearly a draining experience for him. He leaves us singing, "Show me the way to go home, I'm tired and I want to go to bed." Tobias passed away in 2005, "Keep the River on Your Right" will ensure his tale lives on.

 ★★★★ 

CONTENT:
nudity (including a circumcision sequence)
adult conversations and situations

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

TOP HAT - REVIEW

Top Hat
Released: 8.29.1935

Directed by Mark Sandrich
Written by Allan Scott and Dwight Taylor


"Top Hat" sizzles and surprises from start to finish. The song-and-dance routines are to live for and the narrative is a ball. Astaire and Rogers, hats off to you!

Confession #1: This is my first Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers experience.

I had heard their names, but in all honesty, I had no large desire to seek out their films. In fact, were it not for the Film History class I'm currently taking, I wouldn't have seen at this time. Earlier today when my professor put the DVD in and I knew what we were about to behold, I was about as excited as the time my parents took us kids to Lancaster, PA to get some Amish custard. I've said it before, but boy do I love being proved wrong! Being delightfully shocked by a movie is an ineffable incident. Say! That'd be a great Top Ten List: Pleasantly Surprising Films. You can bet your significant other's favorite pair of shoes that "Top Hat" would make my list.

Confession #2: I was quite literally a giddy schoolboy while watching this film.

The story itself is a screwball comedy full of mistaken identities and witty banter. The narrative plays with the audience like a bit of yarn dangled above a cat's head. The resolution and discoveries we want so badly to happen seem almost within reach and are then yanked away. It is maddeningly fun! All players involved herein give great performances. It's silly, but it's thoroughly entertaining. Near the end I was slightly dissatisfied with some of the payoffs and then one last twist is revealed which had me sold again. "Top Hat" truly delivers. I'm certain I had a smile on my face during much of the second and third acts.

Credit for the songs belongs to Irving Berlin and Max Steiner. While the lyrics aren't all that inspiring, the tunes themselves belong somewhere between Heaven and Earth. After the first musical number I knew that each consequent time Freddy transitions into a song, my ears were about to be serenaded. I believe the likes of "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" and "Cheek to Cheek" were instant classics in their day and are still beloved.

The highlight of course are the dance sequences with Astaire and Rogers. When they first frolic together inside a park's gazebo during a rainstorm, you'll wonder (like I did) where this stuff has been all your life. It is a definition of the art of tap-dance I definitely needed a reminder of. There are several other moments of movement with elegance I'll ever recall. Praise be given to Hermes Pan who assisted Astaire with the choreography.

Confession #3: I have not seen a lot of musicals.

In the words of Prince Humperdink, "a technicality that will shortly be remedied." You see, next semester I'm scheduled to be taking a genres course specifically on musicals. After today I'm more excited than ever for that opportunity!

Take my final declaration for what it is worth (keeping my last confession in mind): "Top Hat" is one of the best musicals I have ever seen.

 ★★★★½ 

CONTENT: Some innuendos and adult situations.

Monday, November 15, 2010

HEREAFTER - REVIEW

HEREAFTER
Released: 10.22.2010

Written by Peter Morgan
Directed by Clint Eastwood


Another mawkish Eastwood flick that would feel right at home on the Hallmark Channel and yet, a fine work indeed.

(Note: I love to write... especially about film. Whenever I sit down to deliver a review for a movie I spend an excessive amount of time concerning myself with word choice and obsessing with the overall structure of the piece. They often grow into lengthy analyses. Since the Film Tome first slithered out of the viral womb, you could count the number of reviews I've posted on a single healthy hand. It has been months my dears! This is rather deplorable. Therefore, it is for this reason I am going to consciously strive to make my thoughts concise and coherent. (I don't like the word "condensed," though such milk is a bliss in certain bowls.) I usually never say all I'd like to anyway, so where's the harm in keeping in a little more? I'd much prefer this to be a Tome that has a little to say about everything than a lot to say about one or two things, that is, things pertaining to film of course. Besides, I can always write more later on! Merrymake.)

STARTS WITH A BANG
Contrary to major opinion, I feel this year has been a harvest of excellent films. A majority of these gems have some of the best beginnings in recent memory ("The Book of Eli," "The Social Network," and "Toy Story 3"). I would put the opening sequence of "Hereafter" right among the chief of them. The opening scene features a gorgeously horrific CGI-tsunami. Once that scene concluded my father leaned over to me and commented, "Geesh! I feel like I've been in a tsunami now." How true! Like the opening battle of "Saving Private Ryan," it makes the audience into surrogates who experience a traumatic ordeal. That scene alone is worth the price of admission. That scene alone may initially deceive you.

Despite such a grandiose set-piece to start things off, "Hereafter" never gets anywhere close to epic proportions again. In fact, besides a couple of moments, it becomes a slow and small film. The result is a bewildering mash that sometimes managed to charm me.

WEAVING, ETC.
The stories of three individuals are told herein. The big name attached is Matt Damon (I guess him and Eastwood worked well enough together in last year's "Invictus") who plays a "retired" medium living in San Francisco. The other two character's have experiences that lead them to come to grips with mortality and question the afterlife. Screenwriter Peter Morgan weaves the three narratives (often on three different continents) in an interesting way, but when they eventually merge it feels overly ordained. I am a huge fan of the successful feats "Magnolia" and "Babel," which also have a rich collage of multiple stories. "Hereafter" feels more forced in similar matters.

The subject matter herein could be labeled "fantasy" or "spiritual." Whatever it is, I admired the film's dedication to it. "Hereafter" takes itself seriously, but wisely avoids becoming preachy. Nonetheless, it does manage to be heartfelt and though-provoking. My father, who is quite enthralled by all things postmortem, wanted more (in terms of exploration of the film's namesake). It would have been interesting and brave, but I bet Morgan didn't want to alienate the potential customer anymore. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the story it told.

The acting is fine, but don't expect any Oscars nominations coming out of this one. I quite liked the short relationship between Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard's character. Eastwood definitely knows how to direct his actors, perhaps that's the plus of being one yourself.

THAT'S A WRAP
Like many of his films, this one is wrapped up in a pretty little bow by the end, tying together any loose ends with melodramatic means. I'm not just talking about the collision of the three narratives Eastwood managed to juggle, but the solving of each character's problems. This time around it seems particularly far-fetched. Ask most Eastwood-directed-connoisseurs what the legend's greatest film is? The reply will be a unanimous "Unforgiven!" I think Clint could benefit from examining the exquisite equivocation perfectly demonstrated within his earlier work.

Remember the harvest of excellent films I mentioned at the top? "Hereafter" just misses a safe landing into the basket.

 ★★★½ 

CONTENT: Brief strong language and intense disaster/accident sequences.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 13

THE TRAILER ROUND-UP

Earlier this year I put the UFO spotlight on two alien films. "Skyline" just came out and is only fairing so-so at the box office. Not sure if "Monsters" is going to get a wide release. Well, TWO MORE alien films are now landing! "Seres: Genesis" is a Mexican invasion film. It looks disturbingly cool. "Battle: Los Angeles," Hollywood's entry, looks just plain cool. (Count how many times we see a spacecraft zoom by overhead.) This film further proves at least one thing: If you need a macho female marine you have to cast Michelle Rodriguez (of "Lost" fame).

"All Good Things" come to an end? Starts off quite chill, but gets quite intense. Again, a reveal I wished I didn't know until I was in the theater. Regardless, this one looks quite effective. Hooray for the under appreciated and largely unknown Philip Baker Hall (he's seen in the trailer for a split second).

"Season of the Witch" is a pleasant surprise. From what I could dig up, this is an original IP and I consider that absolutely marvelous. Hollywood is becoming infamous for its remakes (Their thinking is such: "If it was made here over 25 years ago, it needs an update. If it was made in another country last year and was any good, it needs an American version so we don't have to read subtitles.") and franchises (Their thinking is such: "If the first was any good and made bank, make another."), so it is like unto seeing sunlight through darkening clouds when a novel idea comes around. Besides that, it's a little known fact that I am a sucker for the medieval-era fantasy flings. A CGI bombast to be sure, but I have high hopes for this one. Oh yeah, this stars Nick Cage.

More olden-timed drama and warfare for my queue! "The Eagle" is yet another example of how key plot twists are so often spoiled in trailers (see "All Good Things"). Still, looks like nothing narratively innovative here. A plus for some good-looking battle scenes.

Is this a documentary? That I even have to seriously ask is a huge measure of success for "You Won't Miss Me." Naturalistic filmmaking has always had a lasting effect on me. Perhaps it will on you too. Taking a stab at real life and aiming to touch each of us
in one way or another... these types of projects are bold.

"Kung Fu Panda 2" of course. It even sounds great! I was amazed when the ending credits began to roll on the first "Kung Fu Panda." Amazed that I finally finished watching it after several attempts. Amazed how much I genuinely liked an American, non-Pixar, CG-animated feature film. And amazed at the celebrity ensemble involved for delivering the voices. Jack Black was certainly clear, but I had no idea the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan and Seth Rogen. Sure, it's fun, but not at all necessary. I can't help but think how much of the budget was spent on voices of the famous. Anyways, I'm all for another fun-filled adventure with Po and the gang (what grand action scenes the first one had!).

"The Way Back" is the latest from one of the greatest, Peter Weir. Another POW-escape adventure! (I highly recommend Herzog's "Rescue Dawn.") It seems we've struck a definite theme of "trailers that give away the story" today. Y'know, I think most are like that... I'm just particularly sensitive to the offense today. In truth, I stopped watching this one just over halfway through because I didn't want to know any more. I look forward to seeing this one!

Another trailer for "Little Fockers" has emerged. Notice the lack of a link. Notice my disapproval. Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman are amazing actors, but this is an insult to them. "Meet the Parents" was good enough, but should not have received any return (especially not a second time).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 12

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 11.4.10

THE TRAILER ROUND-UP

Gus Van Sant (director of the near-perfect "Good Will Hunting" and the pretty mess that is "Elephant") is back on the scene with "Restless." Nice enough. The guy and girl look a lot alike. Huh.

Zack Snyder is a director who you never know what to expect with. His 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead" is still a favorite of mine, but "300" proved to be a bitter disappointment overall. Earlier this year he unleashed "Legend of the Guardians" (AKA "that CGI-owl flick") on us. Well, Snyder will strike again in the first quarter of next year with "Sucker Punch." This looks like utter eye-candy, but sounds so lame (just listen to authoritative man tell the girl about the "five things"... are you serious?).

Tyler Perry, who I know little about and whose films I know little about, has a new thing:
"For Colored Girls." Something tells me I may not be the target demographic here... This looks more in the vein of "Precious" than say the likes of "Why Did I Get Married?" The trailer came out back in September, but a new clip was released last week. I recommend the trailer, not the clip. I'm shocked to say this looks quite good! I dig the stylish introducin
g of the cast. Anytime I get a "magnolia"-vibe, as I did here, it should be duly noted.

I haven't seen either of the "Ong Bak"s (martial-arts extravaganzas from Thailand), but have always wanted to. "Ong Bak 3" looks like more of the same. Translation: AWESOME!

"Regresa" looks like sweet nuts! By that I mean a sentimental flick that gets a little crazy... Beware

The "Okay...": Two jolly films about old Saint Nick. "Navidad S.A." looks intriguing and befuddling. If that one isn't to your liking Santa Clause is also coming to town... on a murder spree! Some Finnish filmmakers thought this was good idea? Would you open "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" or ask your friend if he still has the receipt?

NEW IN THEATERS
  • 127 Hours* - 94%
  • Due Date - 41%
  • For Colored Girls - 33%
  • Megamind - 66%

NEW IN STORES
  • Centurion - 56%
  • Going the Distance - 52%
  • Toy Story 3 - 99%
  • Winnebago Man - 90%

Sunday, October 31, 2010

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 11


THE TRAILER ROUND-UP

"The Descent" - the crazy creatures = "Sanctum." Looks pretty enough and interesting enough. Meh. Maybe.

The "Okay...": "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never." I'm very oblivious to the kid, but props to him never giving up... wait... he's only 16...

Nothing I'm leaving my lasso around this week folks.

ENLISTED

Top 50 Horror Movies - Rotten Tomatoes: I figured this was appropriate given the season. A lot of people are upset to not find "The Exorcist" on this list. Having yet to see it, I'm not one of them. Couldn't be more pleased with their #1.

NEW IN THEATERS
  • Monsters* - 64%
  • Saw 3D - 8%

NEW IN STORES
  • The Girl Who Played With Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden) - 68%
  • The Infidel - 62%
  • Sex and the City 2 - 16%
  • Winter's Bone - 94%

Sunday, October 24, 2010

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 10

THE TRAILER ROUND-UP

The Simon Pegg and Nick Frost duo return! However, this time "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" were easily two of the funniest flicks of last decade. They are returning in February with "Paul," a comedy with subject matter out of this world.

Apparently what came out last month was not "The Last Exorcism" because come 2011 there is going to be more, this time with Sir Anthony Hopkins in a little freaky picture called "Th


All hail Pixar! Thus far the practically-perfect-in-every-way team has only released sequels to their first and best film ("Toy Story"). It is a strange thing then to hear word of them making "Cars 2," a sequel to my least favorite Pixar feature. This lackluster teaser may be the most unimpressive thing I've ever seen to come from their studio. Are times changing?

Toss of the Week: Generally speaking, losing a child is one of the worst experiences imaginable. "Rabbit Hole" is an artsy and gutsy stab at capturing the lives of a couple who had to bury their child. This was easily my top pick for the week.

ENLISTED

Rotten Tomatoes - "Five Favorite Films with Tim Burton" Pretty self-explanatory. The guy is an absolute visionary. Check out what inspired him!

NEW IN THEATERS
  • Hereafter - 51%
  • Paranormal Activity 2 - 67%
NEW IN STORES
  • Oceans - 80%
  • Predators - 63%

Thursday, October 21, 2010

VAMPIRES SUCK - REVIEW

VAMPIRES SUCKAugust 18, 2010 (worst birthday present imaginable)
82 min (82 minutes too long)
Written and Directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (now America's Most Wanted)



This might be one small step for Friedberg, Seltzer and the other deceived denizens of their cast and crew, but in my eyes it is one giant leap in the degeneration of comedic cinema.

MY CRITICAL DISCLAIMS: A RANT BEGINS

I exalt and endorse constructive criticism. Some people write "reviews" that look something like this: "This movie sucks. If you like it, you are so gay." Such an opinion really does nothing for the reader/hearer short of adding vindication to explain the writer/speaker's denseness. To epitomize, constructive criticism (yet another topic I plan to address in a someday-written-article; I want to call this one "Everyone's a Critic") keenly identifies the elements that worked in a film and explains why. Furthermore, when handled carefully, the critic can analyze what did not work in a film, explain why, and when appropriate, pitch a cure. A law in constructive criticism demands the reviewer to not judge a film for what it isn't, but only for what it is.

With all that said, this time around I am throwing constructive criticism out the window (the window, the second story window!). Why? The writer/directors Adam Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer simply do not deserve it. You've heard the supportable axiom: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" Perhaps that overshadows the more obvious rule that if it is broke, you oughta fix it! These two have been attempting to build a neighborhood with rusty tools and damaged materials... All the houses on the block are broken! They are making movies, (movies that are all spoofs of other movies) feigning to be a sub-genre of comedy, that are not comedic.

I am a huge "Weird Al" Yankovic fan, he is mostly famous for his parodies of pop songs. I think he is a madly creative genius and consistently funny. Also, he frequently makes his own unparodied comedic songs. Mel Brooks managed to spoof "Star Wars" and then some with "Spaceballs," but it was frequently inventive and often hilarious. His "Blazing Saddles" took on the entire Western genre and was clever enough that it worked. ALL Friedberg-Seltzer can manage to do is take a film or genre and redo select scenes with added scatological humor and/or replacement gags (i.e. In "Twilight" this town was called Forks, in "Vampires Suck" it is called Sporks). Yankovic and Brooks have adopted similar techniques, the only difference being their outcomes are artfully mirthful. Spoofing is, in essence, making fun of something. It is, in essence, varying degrees of mean-spiritedness. The only thing to save this difficult base is to counter with a positive emotion. With burlesque this is more often than not laughter. When such results are nowhere in sight, the performer comes off being a jerk. And that, ladies and gentlefellows, is why Friedberg and Seltzer simply do not deserve constructive criticism. Besides, it is a bit of a blast to occasionally run on a rant. Shall I begin?
SLIGHT STEP
"Witlessly broad and utterly devoid of laughs, 'Vampires Suck' represents a slight step forward for the Friedberg-Seltzer team." -The Rotten Tomatoes consensus
A "slight step forward"? Oh my America! If this unripe tripe is an improvement, then these guys should have stopped making films before now. Most previously the dreadful Friedberg-Seltzer duo released (in this case analogous with "gas emitted from the anus," my dear dictionary's definition of "fart" - okay, sorry, I'm beginning to sink to their level of "amusement" - consider this a radical form of proxy informing - as if you you saw this movie too) "Disaster Movie," "Meet the Spartans," and "Epic Movie." The three of these each reaching a rank of 2% on Rotten Tomatoes. Ah, I see what you did there RT crew! 7% > 2% and so = "a slight step forward." Makes sense. But really, if this movie is a slight step anywhere, it's backwards (I haven't seen those three films and dread to, but "Vampires Suck" can NOT be an improvement. Can not I say!). I think of the infamous diagram of human evolution. I imagine the upright man waddling backwards from whence he came. Or if it must be a step forward it must be referring to this rendition. Yes, I am suggesting a devolution in the human race. Only an undertaking as vile and as abysmal as this movie could make me question the true origin of a man for a second and consider the seemingly only possibility. "Vampires Suck" is, in every sense of the word, godawful.

AND OTHER CHOICE WORDS
This movie makes the actual "Twilight" (which I approve as a personal guilty pleasure) seem like a masterpiece in comparison. It's sole purpose (to make a mockery of and molest the "Twilight Saga") falls flat on its despicable face and fervently fails due to countless inane attempts at what humans call humor. At one particularly dreadful point in the movie my date pointed out that the filmmakers weren't even capable of recreating the impressive cinematography during the montage sequence found early on in "New Moon." The very scene they poorly parodied contains more artistic merit than anything found in their work.
When the best parts of your film (and boy oh boy are they few and far between... a one-armed man could easily count them on his fingers) can barely emit a half-hearty chuckle that you soon enough suppress upon realizing how stupid the gag really was, you've got a Frankenstein of a creation that, like an ignited rabid dog, should be shot.
When you're firing on all canons, literally aiming for hundreds of laughs throughout, and virtually none of them hit, it's time to scuttle the craft, sack the crew, and sentence your captain to be hanged. You want some constructive criticism (the term I discussed in opening) folks? STOP MAKING MOVIES.
In all honesty, I'd rather watch "Cannibal Holocaust" again (and in slow motion!) than sit through this lowly, unacceptable, obtuse excuse for "entertainment." I may have finally stumbled upon the shipload of stools I can label "the worst movie I've ever seen." And I've seen "Soul Plane."
I apologize on behalf of my girlfriend who took me to this sorry excuse for a movie last Tuesday and surrendered exactly $2.00 at the box office. Luckily, a portion of that will go to theater (right?), but from the look of things, I think the remainder might prove to be a significant portion for the budget of whatever Friedberg-Seltzer choose to defile next. My apologies to humankind as well.
I should admit that there was one person in the theater who was laughing nearly throughout. At this point I do not know her story nor her sorrow, but I will ever remember her laugh (like that one "Seinfeld" episode). If I ever find the secreter of those distinct guffaws I will ask of her, "Please, how can I fix you?"

Earlier this week a respectable critic over at JoBlo posted a top ten list entitled "Movie Jail." I like the concept. It is "a place to put repeat offenders of cinematic trash." I was amused, though not at all surprised, to see who he put in the #1 spot. Said he of
Friedberg-Seltzer, "Nobody on the planet makes worse films than these two... Anybody that has ever supported them, encouraged them, smiled in their general direction, or simply poured them a... coffee should be ashamed of themselves. Movie Jail just made the world a better place."
This statement isn't all that clever (and I highly doubt original - I bet critics around our planet are using it), but I will state it nonetheless: "Vampires Suck" sucks.

  

CONTENT:
Why bother?! Just don't see it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 9



THE TRAILER ROUND-UP


Every year each country gets to submit one film to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to be considered for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards (AKA the Oscars). Of those myriad entrees, five are officially nominated. For the 83rd Academy Awards (sometime Q1 2011), Peru has officially submitted
"Contracorriente (Undertow)." The synopsis calls this a "unique ghost story set on the Peruvian seaside." After watching the trailer I have no idea what is going on. I feel that is a good thing when trailers are concerned, but surely not when the film itself is that way. We'll see.

"Chico and Rita" is an up and down love story set in the late '40s. Music is a priority in this piece. The mixture of hand-drawn animation with the use of CGI looks stunning. In select theaters on November 19th.

A couple of documentaries emerge from another point of view to things. As an answer to "An Inconvenient Truth" and global warming in general we've got "Cool It." And for all you Mayans out there who believe 2012 is Earth's last hurrah, "2012: Time For Change." Both are docs about "going green" and how we can do it. They seem to be of a more optimistic variety and confront the FEAR that runs so rampant in our societies. That same issue is among the more interesting themes running throughout Michael Moore's collection.

The "Okay...":*
*Here is another
Trailer Round-Up reward. This one goes to the trailer that while/after seeing I find myself saying "Okay...." You should know the word and orate-method I'm referring to. If you don't, you should.

This weeks "Okay..." goes to
"I Am Number Four." Is this based on a previously existing intellectual property? This looks and sounds (I read the plot description) like a mixed bag of fantasy banalities. D.J. Caruso, who's "Disturbia" w
as a fun contemporary retelling of Hitchcock's "Rear Window," directs this one. Has a film that looks and sounds like this ever succeeded? Not to my knowledge. You've got a lot to prove Mr. Caruso. I hope for the best, but still emit "Okay...."

Toss of the Week: We frequently receive proof of the stock phrase, "Fact is stranger than fiction." "Marwencol" is yet another pound of proof to this debatable truth. I love strange docs ("Vernon, Florida," "King of Kong," and anything Herzogian), so this one is like unto a friendly and exotic creature approaching me with a protruding tongue in the grocery store. That is to say, a pleasant surprise. Non-fiction films consistently pack more emotional punch than most of other breeds. It is the most "realistic" aspects of the fiction films that can even measure up. It has been written that "the truth will set you free." Filmmakers who work in accordance to this certitude will be free to influence their audience in powerful ways. "Marwencol" is a true story of a fellow man, one I am eager to notice.
ENLISTED

Entertainment Weekly - "The 50 Greatest Directors and Their 100 Best Movies" (Here is the same list on a single page.) It's a good list. They've got most of the essentials: Hitchcock, Ford, Keaton, Spielberg, Kurosawa, Scorsese, and my favorite, Herzog. I believe this list was dated 1996, which would explain the absence of modern marvels I'd like to see, including P.T. Anderson, Tarantino, Miyazaki, the Coens and Zhang Yimou. I can think of a few they could replace...

THE GOOD*

"The Hobbit" has finally been greenlit! Shooting will begin in February and "Part 1" is scheduled to be among us on December 19, 2012. I'm guessing "Part 2" will come a year later. I, for one, am fine waiting. Take as long as you need Mr. Jackson (that's right, P.J. is directing!) to make us another epic masterpiece. Getting the production for this film to take off has been like coaxing an emu to take flight. Alas, miracles do happen. Read more (including the complications) on The Wrap.

Near-unanimous praise is always a delightful thing. There are currently three films in wide release that are being heralded highly (according to the TOMATOMETER on Rotten Tomatoes): "Let Me In" - 88%, "The Town" - 95%, and "The Social Network" - 97%.

THE BAD

I saw "Vampires Suck." Look for my venomous review on The Film Tome soon!

AND THE UGLY
*Changing "and the Weird" to "and the Ugly" this week. I'll use which ever of the two best suits the news. Cool?



Uwe Boll is a notorious filmmaker. I've never seen one of his movies, but those who have love to hate them. In fact, five of Boll's films are on IMDb's Bottom 100 (the opposite of the Top 250). He is largely responsible for the quite-true statement, "Films based on video games blow." If there ever was a video game that shouldn't have been made into a movie, that game was "Postal." And Boll did. Well, now Mr. Boll, a German writer and director, is stirring more controversy than ever with the announcement and teaser of his next film, "Auschwitz." At first glance this seems like a "Passion of the Christ" for the victims of said concentration camp. By this I mean graphically portraying the suffering, torturing, and killing of the victim(s). Mel Gibson's attempt was a powerful success in my book, admittedly one I don't want to frequently behold. I wonder if Boll is capable of such an accomplishment. Then again, after watching the trailer for his adaptation of "Postal," a comedy of the WORST kind, I doubt. Other film gurus are calling it "tasteless." Lastly, I really wonder what the masses would be saying if some other iconic director's name (i.e. one widely acclaimed rather than one widely disdained) was attached to this project. I honestly think the responses would be very different. Enough talk, here's the trailer for "Auschwitz," decide for yourself. (WARNING: This trailer contains graphic images. Think "Schindler's List" in color. Viewer discretion strongly exhorted.)





NEW IN THEATERS*
*Quite simple. I tell you what films are coming to theaters this week/weekend and their current rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Conviction - 60%
  • Hereafter* - 60%
  • Jackass 3D - 59%
  • Red - 69%
  • Samson and Delilah - 97%
* = Limited Release









NEW IN STORES*
*Again, a simple piece. I tell what films have come out on DVD/BluRay/whatever this week.
  • How To Train Your Dragon - 98%
  • lo sono l'amore (I Am Love) - 81%
  • Jonah Hex - 13%
  • Leaves of Grass - 61%