Sunday was big for TRON and me. First, I had my first experience with Gemberling. Then, on the way back from seeing NEXT I caught the TRON music suite on XM's Cinemagic channel. Finally, I saw this Honda commercial. I feel that the MCP is trying to tell me something.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Sunday, April 29, 2007
More films have been made from Philip K. Dick short stories than novels. NEXT continues this trend. Based on the story "The Golden Man," Lee Tamahori's film was adapted by Gary Goldman--a long-time Dick fan with his name in the credits of TOTAL RECALL and MINORITY REPORT. Despite (or perhaps because of) Goldman's participation, Dick's name should probably be removed from this film as the relationship to the short story is tenuous at best.
The only similarities between "The Golden Man" and NEXT come from the main character's name and ability to see into the future (Dick calls this "prethinking"). He must also share an undeniable charm to females, otherwise the relationship between our protagonist, Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage), and the woman he's destined to meet, Liz (Jessica Biel), would just be too difficult to believe. Unless Liz is simply a sucker for Cris's orange (golden?) tan, hair extensions, and self-sacrifice (he sleeps in a car while giving her a hotel bed all to herself).
While the title of the film refers to Cris's ability to see two minutes into the future, the short story could have shared the title but would have referred more to Cris being the next link in the human evolutionary chain, albeit perhaps not the most desirable one. In Dick's post WWIII story, Cris is another in a series of mutations. He's managed to elude capture and euthanasia. While Cris can see into the future it's more instinctual than reason. In fact, he has no higher powers of reasoning and runs on animal instinct alone. He doesn't even have the ability to speak. That Cris is undeniably attractive to women with his golden skin and Adonis physique, it's without a doubt that his DNA will carry on and someday usurp the current human genome. None of that can be found in the screenplay by Gary Goldman, Jonathan Hensleigh, and Paul Bernbaum.
The film opens strong, showing Cris at work in Las Vegas as a cornball magician and skilled gambler. When one of his good deeds backfires on him, he makes a daring precognistic escape from a casino. Afterwards we meet Irv--a completely throw away role that wastes the talents of actor Peter Falk. From there we enter into territory that feels closer to Phil Alden Robinson's THE SUM OF ALL FEARS or Tony Scott's DEJA VU than anything by Dick when NEXT becomes a by-the-numbers "vaguely European terrorists have a nuclear bomb and we have to stop them" plot with a futuristic twist.
All in all, I had a fun time watching NEXT until film abruptly resets itself at the end, leaving the audience hanging and hoping that everything works out. While the filmmakers undoubtedly thought this was a clever twist, it's a rather cheap anti-climax that fails to satisfy the need for closure. Sure to be a blip on the radar, this flick won't be in theaters for long.
Friday, April 27, 2007
We all know that this is a small world. I run in a few circles--the web community, the punk rawk community, and the Downriver community. I would like to say that I'm all up in the Detroit Film Community grill but that just isn't so. Anyway, this week I've had two odd crossovers that gave me pause.
Windy - I was an obnoxious kid (who turned into an obnoxious adult). I remember singing The Association's "Windy" when I learned that the cool punk chick that worked at Record Town at the Southland Mall shared that moniker. A few weeks back when I was met with Windy at Story Records in Dearborn when I was dropping off issues of Cashiers du Cinemart for Free Comic Book Day, I wondered, "Can there really be two punk gals named Windy working at record stores in the Metro Detroit area?" Apparently there can't. I've since sent an apology about the Association thing.
Chorkey - I don't know how I managed to not know my coworker John Schuchard before I started working at Organic. Not only is he pals with an old co-worker or two of mine but he was also a friend to my best friend in high school, Aimee Chorkey (now Aimee Watters).
Mow - This one happened a few months back but it's still odd. I have ePrize listed on my MySpace Profile since I worked there. Another ex-Prizer was searching out that company name to see who else she knew that worked there was on MySpace. She came across my profile and saw a picture of her best friend's boyfriend on my "top friends" section. How odd to find out that, even though we only worked together for about two weeks, she knows one of my college buddies, Paul Mow.
"It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it." - Stephen Wright
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
I used to watch this video at Aimee Chorkey's house far too often. It really sums up a lot of the late '80s -- a cornball soap actor covering a song from the '70s starring the Coreys. Some amazing dance moves at 2:15 into it but it's 2:39 where this all comes together.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Here's a potential itinerary for my upcoming trip to Baltimore for the Maryland Film Festival.
- 5/4 - 11:30 AM - 12:00 PM
- Screenwriting: Giving Birth
DESCRIPTION: Short and Long Movies from Conception to Final Edit
FILMMAKER GUEST: Yuri Makino, director of "Alma" and Mike White, publisher of Cashiers du Cinemart + Other Filmmakers
HOST: Kristen Anchor from Creative Alliance MovieMakers
LOCATION: The Panel Tent
- 5/4 - 02:00 PM
- Brand Upon The Brain! (dir. Guy Maddin)
Charles Theater 5
- 5/4 - 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
- Atomic Books Event
DESCRIPTION: I'll be hanging out at the Atomic Books table talking a lot of crap and signing issues of Cashiers du Cinemart.
LOCATION: Arts Tent Village
- 5/4 - 06:30 PM
- Sleeping Dogs Lie (host: John Waters; dir. Bob Goldthwait)
Charles Theater 1
- 5/4 - 09:00 PM
- Viva (dir. Anna Biller)
Charles Theater 1
- 5/5 - 12:00 PM
- Man In The Dark...in 3-D! (1953) (dir. Lew Landers)
Charles Theater 1
- 5/5 - 02:30 PM
- Syndromes and a Century (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Charles Theater 1
- 5/5 - 04:30 PM
- WTF?!? Shorts
Charles Theater 3
- 5/5 - 08:30 PM
- Murder Party (dir. Jeremy Saulnier)
Charles Theater 2
- 5/5 - 10:00 PM
- Blood Car (dir. Alex Orr)
Charles Theater 4
- 5/6 - 12:00 PM
- Zoo (dir. Robinson Devor)
Charles Theater 2
To buy at Atomic Books:
- Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States (P.S.)
- Batman: Year One
- Y: The Last Man Vol. 9: Motherland
- Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk
I finally may have wised up and booked my flight on Southwest Airlines since Northwest just can't seem to dislodge their heads from their asses.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Per my earlier post, I've managed to sign up for a Spanish class. I'm not sure how much of this will be a review and how much will be new. I've been listening to the Pimsleur language lessons and those have been more of a review for me with the exception that they're using the "usted" form rather than the "tu" form. Of course, that reminds me of a hilarious bit by Larry David.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Parodying buddy action movies should be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel but the pickings for such fare are pretty slim. Luckily, the world has been blessed with HOT FUZZ (Edgar Wright, 2007). Rather than being a one-note joke, HOT FUZZ is a two-handed chord with plenty of incidental notes.
When hot-handed supercop, Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), shows up everyone in his department with his ever-increasing arrest record and countless commendations. This big fish in a big pond gets shoehorned by his superiors into the hopelessly small pond of Sandford. This idyllic village has the lowest crime rate in England with the most serious incident for Angel to address being an escaped swan. He's partnered with Constable Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), a clumsy oaf with a penchant for the same cheesy cop movies that line the shelves next to my DVD player. His favorites are the homoerotic POINT BREAK (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991) and cheesy BAD BOYS II (Michael Bay, 2003).
More than just aping musical cues (LETHAL WEAPON), camera movements (BAD BOYS II), lines (CHINA TOWN), and actions (HARD BOILED), HOT FUZZ blends all of these elements together in a seamless pastiche akin to the work Wright, Pegg, Frost, and company did with SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004). References to other works aren't self-reflexive moments where the film comes to a screeching halt while there's a cinematic wink to the audience. Rather, if you don't catch the references the film is a hoot. If you catch them the film traverses into hysterically funny. Apart from the opening shot, there's no moment for an audience to catch their breath as the clever writing and wonderful match-cut editing keep HOT FUZZ moving at a fast and furious pace.
At times HOT FUZZ reminded me of SUPER TROOPERS (Jay Chandrasekhar, 2001) but that was probably just the two mustachioed, prickish detectives of Sanford. In that I was gasping for air due to laughing so hard, the way HOT FUZZ played with the action genre also recalled LETHAL FORCE (Alvin Ecarma, 2001). I'm only surprised that there was no "I need your gun and your badge" scene in Wright's film.
I'm already planning on seeing HOT FUZZ again and have the DVD on pre-order. Good stuff.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
There's a concurrent resurgence and backlash going on right now surrounding Quentin Tarantino, it seems. I've been getting hits like crazy on WHO DO YOU THINK YOU'RE FOOLING and YOU'RE STILL NOT FOOLING ANYBODY over on YouTube. And I've been seeing links to my site and mentions of my blog on a few other blogs. Seems that not everyone's entirely impressed with GRINDHOUSE.
I'm very surprised I haven't seen a big listing out of the films that influenced DEATH PROOF. I have to say that I didn't recognize as many influences in this as I saw in other Tarantino films. I can't really think of any overly talky, boring exploitation movies with two action sequences and little else. If they do exist -- and I'm sure they do -- they're definitely not top of mind when it comes to thinking of classic films.
Friday, April 20, 2007
This is one of my favorite short films. Never seems to get old, despite it being rescued from obscurity in the sixties. A Zombie JFK is paired with Mummy LBJ in a rock and roll battle royale. Zombies are bad, and they eat people.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Rejected from another distributor again. I'm finding that this whole "print magazine" thing is a lot harder in 2007 than it was in 1994. My quest for distributors is almost as bad as my search for advertisers. Today I got this rejection:
It isn't that anything is wrong with the magazine, but as a company we are trying to only do more with multiple title publishers. A lot of work goes into single titles and it was not cost effective for us to service them at this time.
The situation is getting so that I'm thinking Cashiers du Cinemart #15 might be my last issue. After that perhaps I'll try my hand at on-demand printing from places like iUniverse or Lulu. I'm trying to put on a happy face and make sure this next (last?) issue is as good as it can be.
If I can get this issue distributed maybe I'll finally do a "best of" issue and then one final hurrah in order to make sure all subscribers get their money's worth. I don't want to pull a Film Threat and not fulfill every issue that people have paid for.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
I seem to be running into some issues with some of my old distributors. Seems like "the majors" don't like that it's been about 36 months since my last issue.
"We had you listed as an annual, you need to send us a sample issue so we can see if we're interested in picking you up again." You mean, a sample as in the issue you already sold for me a few years ago? Oy. I'm pretty much starting from scratch.
Looks like one of my other biggest distributors, Desert Moon, is out of business now, too. At least all of their URLs are off line and it seems like the complaints about them online are all pretty old. I never had problems with DMoon but I know a lot of people did.
The rate this is going, I might only have to get a couple hundred issues printed up and just put 'em right out in my garage to eliminate that painful process of shipping out to distributors and not having people read what I write. Hell, maybe I'll just not worry about printing and just have a bonfire with the money that I'd spend otherwise on printing. If anything, that would help me not piss off or alienate even more people than I normally do.
Would you like some cheese with this whine?
Sunday, April 15, 2007
If you weren't already aware, May 5, 2007 is Free Comic Book Day. Read more about this annual event at http://www.freecomicbookday.com.
Speaking of bookstores, now is the time to start bugging your local bookstore to start carrying Cashiers du Cinemart if they don't already! Issues are available via most major distributors including Ingrams, Ubiquity, DeBoers, Desert Moon, and more. Hoping that Diamond Distribution or Last Gasp decide to pick us up some day... Now that Tower Records is out of business I've lost a good chunk of my global distribution network. Ouch!
In his unrelentingly fascinating novel, Flicker, author Theodore Roszak masterfully mixes conspiracy theory, mystery, romance, and film theory. Feeling like a detective novel by way of Christian Metz, Flicker blends fact and fiction with fantasy to tell the story of Max Castle, the oft overlooked director of such films as SHADOWS OVER SING-SING and FEAST OF THE UNDEAD. The reader learns about Castle and his unique filmmaking techniques via revered film critic Jonathan Gates. Readers are taken from Gates's youthful appreciation of foreign films as a font of earthy sexuality through his carnal tutelage by Clarissa Swan, all the while with the specter of Castle's work acting as guideposts along the way, leading him into an underworld as dark as the lines between film frames.
More than anything, Flicker is a romance novel. It captures the passion for cinema. I felt such a strong kinship to Rozak's protagonist that I bought a dozen copies of the book after I was done with it to share with my "filmy friends." If that isn’t a recommendation, I don’t know what is.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
A lovely homage from Rob Zombie to THE CABINET OF DOCTOR CALIGARI.
Milla Jovovich does Maya Deren's MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON.
I don't like the song, or the people in the band, at all, but this fits into this post too well to forget. Here's the SMASHING PUMPKINS doing Melies's A TRIP TO THE MOON.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
I've been invited to the Maryland Film Festival--okay, I asked if I could get in and was told that I had to work for my pass this year--where I'll be part of their Tent Village. I'm going to be on a panel on Friday, May 4, called "Screenwriting: Giving Birth." While I've read a lot of screenplays and always have an opinion on them, I've only ever written a handful of scenes and one terrible full-length script.
I'm also going to be part of some kind of signing/spotlight for Atomic Books. I hope to be bringing them a bunch of back issues so I can continue to point folks to them for ordering as well as to help clean out my garage.
I recently went to Toronto for work. It was a nice trip as I got to hang out with my coworkers up there as well as two of my film friends, Colin Geddes and Rita Su. The trip back was interesting. This is a picture taken as I was driving. Clear skies but, away in the distance, it's a solid wall of clouds and snow.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Okay, this is going to be a little messy. I may go back later and clean this up but I want to give some of my raw impressions of the GRINDHOUSE experience. This is the Rodriguez/Tarantino GRINDHOUSE I'm talking about, not the Tramontana movie (see earlier post).
We all remember the first time Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez made a movie together. The results weren't pretty. Even then everyone was comparing the two filmmakers. In FOUR ROOMS the Tarantino and Rodriguez chapters were the high points in this botched affair. Tarantino's entry was a simple rip-off, er, remake of the "Man from the South" episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." Rodriguez's was simple, solid storytelling. Luckily, their ventures since then--FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, SIN CITY, etc -- have been a marked improvement.
Two feature films plus a handful of trailers for a three-hour extravaganza of entertainment sounds like a great idea, and it is. I loved the overall experience; the bad splices, the damaged prints, the old school ratings animations. That all worked. So did Robert Rodriguez's film, PLANET TERROR. This gore-infested zombie film is a real hoot. It stars "Six Feet Under" undertaker Freddy Rodríguez as "El Wray," a man with a wrecker and a past. He encounters a luscious figure from his past at the local BBQ joint when he meets up with Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan), a Go-Go Dancer who once had a dream of being a doctor.
PLANET TERROR is brimming with interesting characters who are certainly archetypes but fun archetypes. Two of my favorites include a craggy Michael Biehn as the crusty small town sheriff who's been on the outs with this brother, Jeff Fahey, for years over his secret bar-b-que recipe. Along with this familial conflict, there's political intrigue, medical drama, crazy babysitters, and blazing gunfights. The whole thing is set to an all-too-familiar score reminiscent of John Carpenter. In fact, quite a bit of the film plays like a Carpenter/Romero lovechild. Think ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 meets DAY OF THE DEAD.
On the other end of the spectrum from this rip-roaring blast of action is the second feature of GRINDHOUSE, Quentin Tarantino's DEATH PROOF. Essentially, this film is comprised of dialog. It's one scene after another of two groups of girlfriends talking about a whole lot of nothing. It's basically a movie version "The View" with more pot, drinking, and swearing. Kurt Russell is also there as Stuntman Mike. He hangs out in the background for most of the film, only really having two scenes that count in this tedious and talky exercise that would make MY DINNER WITH ANDRE look like an actionfest.
The overlong set-up to the first action scene (buried somewhere after the half hour mark) of DEATH PROOF also proves out that watching people text-messaging--even if it's set to Pino Donaggio's score from BLOW OUT--is deathly dull. I like women's revenge flicks as much as the next FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL! KILL! fan but these girls are so talky and trite that I wanted to get up on screen and kill them myself. All of them, especially Jungle Julie (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) and Kim (Tracie Thoms). Stuntman Mike was doing the audience a favor. He was the personification of classic cinema and should have triumphed over the boring, chatty triumvirate of film geek chicks.
The script to DEATH PROOF explains far more than ended up on screen but neither version gives a whole lot of motivation for why Stuntman Mike terrorizes women with his tricked-out car. The movie of DEATH PROOF holds confusion here and even in its timeline. Knowing that director Tarantino likes to muck about with time (DEATH PROOF is set before PLANET TERROR even though it's shown first), some have proposed that the second half of DEATH PROOF comes before the first half chronologically. This is done in an attempt to explain Stuntman Mike's scar, cool attitude, plastic car cage, and bloodlust. Otherwise, audiences are denied any of these and can't identify with anyone in the film, even its psychotic killer main character. (Despite what some say, Stuntman Mike does have a scar in the second half of DEATH PROOF. See screengrab).
Every film fan knows what they can expect from a Quentin Tarantino film: pop culture-laden dialog, backgrounds festooned with movie posters, other films' soundtracks pilfered for his film's soundtrack, a horrible director cameo, and bare female feet. DEATH PROOF has these in spades. However, this time Tarantino just doesn't seem to have either the formula right or perhaps the spark that typically brings it all to life. One would think that having this ample opportunity to pilfer and emulate classic exploitation films would have provided Tarantino with inspiration to make his grindhouse tale an unstoppable homage. Instead, he seems to have been shackled to ceaseless scenes of girls chatting.
Sure, the girls chat about movies, too. They refer to VANISHING POINT, CANNONBALL RUN, DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY, GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS, and others (for more on these films see "The Chase Is On from Cashiers du Cinemart #11) but DEATH PROOF comes nowhere near the excitement of any of these films. With no offense meant to David Lynch's film but THE STRAIGHT STORY moves faster than DEATH PROOF. There may also be a reference to TWO LANE BLACKTOP in that Stuntman Mike seems to be cut of the same blowhard cloth as G.T.O. (Warren Oates) in the Hellman film.
Another odd thing about DEATH PROOF is the lack of "print damage" when compared to PLANET TERROR and the four fake previews. There's some minor mangling of the print near the beginning of the film (and a clever re-titling) but it quickly disappears, not to appear even around reel changes. There's one moment where the film utilizes a conceit that there's a reel missing from DEATH PROOF. This is done, apparently, only to avoid the awkward scene of Butterfly (Vanessa Ferlito) giving Stuntman Mike a lap dance. This same "Reels Missing" trick was used in PLANET TERROR as well, but used entirely differently. In Rodriguez's film the missing reel contains a wealth of action sequences that other characters elude to, effectively winking at the audience and counting on them to be smart enough to get the joke.
In short, if you haven't seen GRINDHOUSE yet do yourself a favor and leave after the preview for Eli Roth's THANKSGIVING. By that point you've gotten all of the entertainment you're going to get out of GRINDHOUSE.
Friday, April 06, 2007
I was recently emailed a URL for "The REAL Grindhouse," a low budget mess of a film that happens to share its name with the cinematic experiment out this weekend from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. On his website director Stephen Tramontana relays the tale of how he tried to suckle at Tarantino's teat like thousands of other fanboys.
I won't go into the dirty details of Tramontana's "damning evidence" that he knows Tarantino had to have seen his film, GRINDHOUSE, and has subsequently been ripped off by the sticky-fingered director. Tramontana writes, "Tarantino was setting the film up. I tried to stop them from using the title Grindhouse because I own it. I am the only person with the title Grindhouse registered with the copyright office."
I hate to break it to Tramontana but titles can't be copy written. Remember that film that won all those Oscars a few years ago, CRASH? No, not the one based on the J.G. Ballard novel, also called CRASH, but the other one. I wonder if Oerd Van Cuijlenborg is foaming at the mouth over David Fincher's ZODIAC since his 2001 film had the same name. Probably not.
Does this mean that Tramontana thinks he also has legal precedence over Eddie Muller and Daniel Faris's book, Grindhouse: The Forbidden World of "Adults Only" Cinema? Do Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford cut it too close by using the word "Grindhouse" in the subtitle of Sleazoid Express: A Mind-Twisting Tour Through the Grindhouse Cinema of Times Square? Watch out, the Tramontana train is coming for you!
The other thing that makes me absolutely laugh out loud is that Taramontana proudly boasts about his film's win at the New York International Film and Video Festival. For those who aren't familiar with it, that festival is renown for being a "pay to play" fest. Also know as the New York Film and Video Fest, one festival director describes their modus operandi as "You pay a HUGE entry fee that's refunded if they don't accept your film. Of course they accept it. Then you can pay for all kinds of promotion that's supposed to get your film noticed. Then you win an award, and you can pay for the trophy. Oh yeah, I've heard you also have to pay for the screening. There's one in L.A. too." So, boasting that your flick even played at the New York International Film and Video Festival is the cinematic equivalent of publicly acknowledging what a loser you are... even more than pitching a bitch on your cheesy website.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Driving through Detroit today on my way to Toronto I caught sight of a few billboards for Casino Windsor. Apparently they have a new program coming out called "Total Rewards" (sounds like Cendant hotels' rewards program to me) but CW can't figure out if "Total Rewards" is plural or singular (perhaps implying "program" at the end of it) as their billboards read:
- TOTAL REWARDS IS COMING
- TOTAL REWARDS AWAIT
So, which is it, Casino Windsor?