If you're a fan of my reviews -- and, hey, who isn't? -- then this is a good week for you. I managed to snag three reviews in Detroit's Metro Times as well as one for WildSideCinema.com:
If you're a fan of my reviews -- and, hey, who isn't? -- then this is a good week for you. I managed to snag three reviews in Detroit's Metro Times as well as one for WildSideCinema.com:
Shoot the Piano Player (François Truffaut, France, 1960)
Saturday, August 2, 2008 @ 6:30 p.m.
I hesitate to use such a trite phrase but Truffaut’s second film was truly ahead of it’s time. It shifts in tone from high comedy to heart wrenching sorrow as it transforms from one genre to another. This left a lot of critics puzzled to the point of being angry upon it initial release. Many claimed that this was Truffaut’s sophomore slump; that he was reaching far beyond his grasp.
That's from my notes for Saturday night when I'm introducing Shoot the Piano Player at the BAM/PFA screening. It's the second night of their stellar David Goodis film series. For more info click here. And, if you can, c'mon out!
For the last few years I've been buying and reading the Ultimate X-men books. But that's stopping, as of tonight, as of Ultimate X-Men 18: Apocalypse.
This issue is the culmination of a story arc that no one really knew was happening. It ties up a lot of loose ends into a hangmans's noose which it proceeds to snug around its neck before making an airborne leap in the final chapter (Ultimate X-Men Issue #93). It feels like this collection came about at a writer's meeting where someone secretly switched everyone to decaf.
"Okay, we need to come up with something for this issue and I'm tapped."
"We haven't seen that mutant serial killer in a while. The guy that's got to kill ten mutants and he's only killed four so far."
"Yeah, okay. That'll fill out an issue. But let's make it really easy for him to kill those other ten."
"Yeah, six. What happens when he gets to ten?"
The silent response is deafening. One writer taps out a popular song on his notebook while Harvey Tolibao adds more muscles to a character he's doodling.
"He gets real big?" One writer ventures.
"No, not just big. Huge. He's like, the ultimate mutant. He becomes... Doomsday!"
"Doomsday's been used. He killed Superman."
After security is called, the meeting resumes.
"Like I said... He becomes... Apocalypse! He can take anything the mutants dish out. In fact, he can control mutant DNA!"
"What does that mean? He can morph their powers? He can turn them normal?"
"No, dumbass. It means that he's like the puppetmaster. He'll make all the mutants attack each other and innocent people."
("You can do that with controlling DNA?" another writer asks under his breath.)
"That's cool. He can use the mutants as his own army and it's up to the other superheroes to battle it out. It's a good crossover opportunity. We can get The Ultimates in there and--"
"No! No Ultimates! We need Spiderman and The Fantastic Four."
"Can we at least get Thor?"
"No, no Thor. I told you. Fantastic Four and Spiderman."
"He's dead, dumbass. And, not even the Fantastic Four and Spiderman can stop this guy. He's that bad."
("This story's that bad," quips someone in the back of the room.)
("If Spidey and the FF can't stop this guy, why are they here?" asks someone else.)
"So, who's going to defeat this guy?"
More coffee cups are filled. Someone makes a three point shot into a waste basket. Harvey Tolibao keeps adding muscles upon muscles on his doodle. Someone finally raises their hand and says, "How about Magneto?"
"I like it, I like it. Magneto from the FUTURE! No, no... better yet! Charles Xavier, from the FUTURE! Dressed like Magneto!"
"But Xavier's dead, isn't he?"
"Of course not! He got transported into the future. Um... It was all... a plan! Yeah, it was a plan that Cable and Bishop came up with and they've been working this all along. They knew Apocalypse would show up... cause... they're from the FUTURE. So, Charles Xavier's been hanging out in the future and getting all buff and stuff and he can totally kick Apocalypse's ass."
Harvey Tolibao starts a new doodle of a buff Charles Xavier.
"But, I thought Apocalypse was unstoppable."
"Oh, fuck, I don't know. Okay. Bust out the Phoenix. She'll save everyone. Damn. I'm tired. I'm tired of all you guys. I'm sick of this whole fucking book. That's it. Phoenix comes back, defeats Apocalypse, and turns back time to before I was on this fucking book. Story over."
"Can we do anything to make this story even worse?"
The sarcasm is lost on Robert Kirkman who answers, "Yes, we can. Tobliano, you're doing the art for #93!"
That might not be an exact transcription of the events behind Ultimate X-Men 18: Apocalypse but that's definitely how the whole painful experience comes across. That said, I'm giving up after that knee to the groin.
And what's with Tolibao? Just look at the monstrosity below. It looks like a mural painted by the Hale School "special" class:
I just got back from seeing X-Files 2 (another one with a fuddy duddy title) and, well... It reminds me a lot of Star Trek IX: Insurrection in that "it's not really a movie... it's like seeing a two hour episode of the old show" way.
Yet, I think that the writing on the old "X-Files" TV show was a lot stronger than that of X-Files 2. The movie won't stand up for any post-film scrutiny and, really, it even falls apart while it's being viewed. For example, the B-Story has Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson, like you didn't know) pursuing various treatment options for a patient at the Catholic hospital where she now works. The kid's name? "Christian," of course. How's that for a metaphor about Scully working to save her faith? In a word, unsubtle. That the Catholic hospital allows her to pursue stem cell therapy on the kid seems a stretch. That she fucking Googled about the procedure a few hours before doing it herself is unnerving. "Dr. Scully, I didn't know that you were a brain surgeon!"
"I'm not, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night."
For the more literal minded in the audience, that quote wasn't actually in the movie but what I was saying to myself as I watched Scully perform this radical surgery. Did I mention that she was Googling about it just a few hours before? Of course, this helps break the case later in the film but we don't have to mention that, do we? That's just one of many coincidences that builds this house of cards.
Scully is away in the B-Story so much that the film reminds me of those episodes where Mulder and Scully were separated (like "Never Again") and only talk via phone. Yet, this time they don't talk via the phone much. Scully doesn't pick hers up (allowing Mulder to give some exposition) and Mulder loses his (allowing him to be put into peril).
As long as you don't think too much about this movie, it might be okay but it's definitely not the taut storyline to which fans of the show are used. There's no overarching tie to the show's major themes, only one appearance from another past cast member, and absolutely no characterization from the two other FBI agents that call Mulder and Scully back into action.
The only other thing I can say about X-Files 2 is that it really made me realize just how much I'd stopped watching the TV series. Looking back, I think I tuned out around the sixth or seventh season; perhaps prior to Mudler and Scully's "Moonlighting Moment" or maybe I just put that out of my head.
I'm still mulling over Batman 2: The Dark Knight. Yes, I know, that's not the name of the movie but I can't stand these sequels that take on their subtitles as their names (with the exception of the Star Wars films, perhaps.
I'm not as in love with The Dark Knight as everyone else, it seems. Most of my friends and coworkers are still catching their breath after seeing it opening weekend.
I found it to be a very mature comic book-based movie, perhaps one of the most adult comic film I've seen even topping R-rated fare; and I'm not talking butts, blood, and boobies when I mean "adult". It's definitely not a kiddie film and I appreciate that.
The thing I liked the most about the film is the building of character, namely Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). In any other comic book movie, Dent would be transformed to Two Face within the first twenty minutes (a la Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever). Likewise, I enjoyed how enigmatic The Joker (Heath Ledger) was. We were saved the "origin story" and given various lies instead. Director/co-writer Christopher Nolan realizes that not understanding this embodiment of anarchy is what gives him his true terror.
The Dark Knight is a refreshing sophomore superhero film. Too often they follow the formula:
You'll see many of those elements in The Dark Knight but not so many as, say, Spiderman 3. Oddly, you'll also see some of those in Spiderman 2 but that film really worked for me. Otto Octavius wasn't as dynamic a character as Harvey Dent but he was definitely far more than a cardboard cutout. As I write this I can't help but hold up Venom (Topher Grace), Sand Man (Thomas Hayden Church), The Riddler (Jim Carrey), Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones), Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), and Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) as just being some of the worst screen villains in memory.
And what didn't I like about The Dark Knight? Why am I not raving and foaming at the mouth about the film? Perhaps it's the lack of screentime for Batman (the movie really belonged to Harvey Dent and The Joker). I'm working on figuring it out.
Last year I complained about how bad NBC's "Last Comic Standing" had gotten in terms of show structure. I didn't expect anyone to read my blog and change the show accordingly but I didn't expect that the show would actually get worse either.
"Last Comic Standing" has a season broken up into roughly three parts: try-outs, challenges, and vote-off. The most enjoyable section of that (for me) is the challenge section wherein the audience is privy to the diverse personalities of the comedians living together, in-fighting, and being put to the test via improvisational exercises that, in years past, included acting as a tour guide on a bus tour of Los Angeles, speed "dating" with bizarre characters, a roast, et cetera.
All told this season boasted three episodes like that sandwiched between endless tryouts and the vote-off section of the show. In other words, this has been the lamest season of "Last Comic Standing" yet. I won't even go into the two hour episodes that switch from 9-11 to 8-10 without warning!
Oh, one more thing to show how dumb this show can get... As the tryout section was wrapping up there was a series of "The Ten Best Moments of Last Comic Standing" scattered throughout. You would think that these should include all of the comics who managed to win previous years. Think again! Several of the winners were missing but, sure enough, that annoying bastard (and Season 1 winner) Dat Phan was there!
I believe that this will be good news for fans of Richard Stark's Parker series; the hardboiled killer is getting the royal treatment in a new series of graphic novels by Darwyn Cooke. For more on this effort click here.
Thanks to Mike Thompson for the info!
Here's the lineup for the 2008 TIFF Midnight Madness series (always my favorite part of the festival):
It's that time again. It's time to simplify my life. Time to get rid of a lot of excess crap that's been cluttering up my life.
Though I'd never admit that I own the URL, there are some big changes coming to SuperHappyFun.com that will allow me to finally clean out my basement and unload scads of DVDs. This might allow me to clean up the excessive amount of books that I have -- perhaps I'll have a hipster garage sale.
Hey, nerds! There's more to ComicCon than seeing girls dressed up in inappropriate cosplay outfits...
Mitch Says:I'll be sitting at table FF-20 (next to pal Bill Reinhold) at the amazing San Diego Comic Convention Friday and Saturday. I hear there's plenty of fun stuff to do that might even come close (but not match) the thrill of seeing me : )!
You may remember that Andrea and I were out in Las Vegas back in February for Valentine's Day. We stayed at the Planet Hollywood Casino and had a blast. At one point we were walking across the casino floor when a bevy of lights and cameras caught our attention.
"That's Bobby Flay," I said, recognizing the cilantro-crazed chef standing outside of the Heart Bar. We figured he must have been shooting a promo for his restaurant, though it seemed odd that he'd be at Planet Hollywood for his Caesar's Palace place.
Five months later I found out what Bobby was up to when I caught tonight's episode of "The Next Food Network Star" only to watch him shooting a promo with contestant Aaron McCargo Jr. -- it had to be that same day that Andrea and I were there. I would have probably figured this out had not we been chased away by an overeager P.A.. Plus, we had things to do -- like getting our drinks on.
For years punk rock film fans have been clamoring for a Beta, VHS, Laserdisc, or DVD release of Lou Adler's Ladies & Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains. Many folks had hoped for a release of this back when late filmmaker Sarah Jacobson was taking the film around to various venues such as the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Instead, the film will be released to DVD on September 16, 2008!
So far it looks like the features include:
Sarah's enthusiasm for the film was infectious and well-justified. It's a tremendous film. She made a documentary in 2004 about the 1981 film. It's available on OtherDVD's release of Rainbow Man - click here for details.
Cashiers du Cinemart contributor Rich Osmond focused on the film for his series on Punk Rock Girls in issue #11. Click here to read it.
The clock's ticking down to my San Francisco/Berkeley trip. It's going to be quite a fast one -- I figured out today that I'll be in the "Citay by the bay-ey-ay" for approximately 55 hours. Yeah. I'm stone cold stupid for not taking a week and enjoying one of the most beautiful areas of the world but these mini-trips are adding up and I'm saving a good chunk of PTO for my September sojourn to Toronto for TIFF.
After hearing Eddie Muller's introduction to Blast of Silence in Philly and listening to Howard A. Rodman wax poetically about Bob Le Flambeur over the weekend (more on that in the next few weeks), I've given myself a pretty high bar that I want to reach -- I hope to be at least half as eloquent as these fine gentlemen when I give my quick talk before Shoot the Piano Player at the David Goodis Film Series.
Great news, film fans! The new issue of Shock Cinema is out. It's one of my favorite magazines and for good reason. Filled with reviews of obscure, wacky titles and scads of interviews with the madmen (and women) who make them happen, each issue is a treat. As the website says: "The newest issue of SHOCK CINEMA magazine (#35) is available at cooler bookstores across the U.S. and Canada. Or you can order a copy directly from the publisher: click here."
High & Low
Far above the sprawling urban squalor looms the palatial home of Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune), an executive in National Shoes. Working his way up from nothing, Gondo prides himself on being a self-made man and providing a good home to his family... READ MORE at MetroTimes.com
Classe Tous Risques
French crime films originate from a rather small gene pool. A handful of series noir writers provided its characters that were portrayed by a limited number of actors in films helmed by a select group of directors. Claude Sautet’s Classe Tous Risques exemplifies the cross pollination of talent... READ MORE at WildSideCinema.com
Last week the internet was flooded with copies of Quentin Tarantino's script for his remake of Inglorious Bastards or, as the title page has it, "Inglourious Basterds." All I can say is, I hope that this is a bogus script.
It's happened before. The Charley and the Chocolate Factory script reviewed in Cashiers du Cinemart #15 and two of the Indiana Jones 4 scripts in CdC #9 were phony. We should be so lucky if "Inglourious Basterds" is too. Otherwise, it's time to buckle up because this film is one bumpy ride.
The script has a group of Jewish soldiers going after Nazis with a vengeance during WWII. Lead by Aldo (a nod to Aldo Ray?) "The Apache"--named such for scalping his victims--the "Basterds" (it's never spelled correctly) are feared by German soldiers. There's no "getting the team together" sequence (which makes movies like The Dirty Dozen so great) or even a montage of why these guys are "Basterds" apart from one flashback to a member who likes to pummel his victims with a baseball bat. Instead, we join the team in progress as they tear ass through enemy territory and terrorize soldiers. Like Mickey and Mallory Knox, they always leave someone alive to tell the tale, though they're scarred with a swastika on their forehead as a mark of running awry of the "Basterds."
The screenplay meanders, dipping into Sergio Leone territory quite often with scenes amalgamating The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West which introduces our villain, Colonel Landa, "The Jew Hunter." It isn't until the third of five chapters that this story really gets underway.
The "Basterds" aren't the main crux of the story (another mistake), rather, they're unwitting foils in the plan of Shoshanna Dreyfus, the "one who got away" from Colonel Landa in the opening scene. She runs a Parisian cinema where a Nazi propaganda film makes its premiere. She utilizes the former cinema owner's extensive nitrate film collection to take out the Third Reich's high command, including none other than Adolf Hitler!
What leads me to believe that this truly is Tarantino's work includes the following: Female protagonist, a foot being placed in a guy's crotch, long-winded (165 pages!), pop culture references galore (two British officers are described as being different incarnations of George Sanders), rampant misspellings, and a scrawl across the cover page that looks identical to that found on the early drafts of Kill Bill. What leads me to not believe that this is legitimate include the cover date of July 2, 2008 -- meaning that it was leaked approximately eight days after completion -- and that it's not derivative enough.
This is the first time that Tarantino's actually gone so far as to call a project a "remake" rather than just ripping off another film, or films, and calling it his own. Moreover, the similarities between this work and Enzo Castellari's original stop at the title and WWII setting, at least from what I've seen. I've only recently gotten my hands on GI Bro (as it was released on VHS) and will be watching this soon. I won't be spending the cash for the three (or single) disc DVD release when it comes out on July 29, 2008. The other thing that I find suspect is the plot to kill Hitler. That means that 2009 may see two films about roughly the same thing if the trouble Tom Cruise production of Valkyrie ever makes it to theaters. But, hey, Hollywood's given us two movies about the same subject in the same season before, right?
In all likelihood Hillary Clinton isn’t going to be the first female vice-president of the United States. A combined effort between The White House Project and COSMOgirl, Project 2024 has been working to put a woman in the White House in 16 years. Amy Sewell and Susan Toffler’s documentary, What’s Your Point, Honey, looks at seven potential “candidates” while also attempting examination of gender roles and expectations of women in U.S. society.
Unfortunately, the film’s title is too appropriate. It portrays itself as being an important statement but is really a rambling, unfocused mess that misses the mark at every turn. While touching on potentially fascinating ideas such as the lack of female leadership in the country and the depiction of women in advertising (better examined in Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly series), homey scenes of the seven girls in their everyday life comprises the bulk of the film. None of the young women impresses viewers with their personality or drive. They come across as rather vapid, disillusioned youths who like to say, “I’m going to be President” but don’t know what it takes to get to Washington DC. Too often they come across like the three little girls in the film who make voting booths out of crepe paper and cardboard; they’re playing make-believe politics with little understanding of the real world.
Hillary Clinton and her demonization in the media remain unaddressed, making the elephant in the room the real star of the film. Rather than stamping their feet and saying, “things are unfair,” it’s up to Sewell and Toffler to prove it. A far better film would have illuminated the glass ceiling and shown that there are young women and girls destined to break through it.
My Winnipeg plays at the DIA this weekend (July 11-13)
A love poem to Canadian auteur Guy Maddin’s once-former home, My Winnipeg feels like a fever dream that brings together past, present, and future. Repeated words and phrases form a hypnotic cadence as Maddin’s cinematic stand-in (Darcy Fehr) chugs through the snowy darkness. “Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Winnipeg,” is the chant, rising and falling like the locomotive drone of the night train carrying its somnambulistic fares through Manitoba’s premiere city.
Winnipeg; heart of the heart of Canada, the place that raised Maddin. With a hockey arena for a father and a hair salon for a mother (for more hockey and hairdressing see Maddin’s earlier Coward Bends The Knee), Maddin explores the structural arteries of his home town and revisits the history of himself and his city. Narrated by the filmmaker, the prose of the film (courtesy of long-time crony George Toles) is an overwrought poem of maniacal hyperbole and enthusiastic linguistic gymnastics; a perfect pitch for the fractured visuals of Maddin’s multimedia pastiche. Looking like a daguerreotype picture postcard of this snowbound wonderland, My Winnipeg typifies Maddin’s mad genius and captures his sordid relationship with his home.
A couple's on the run. The woman orders a handbag via her Samsung Instinct Phone using Sprint. The cops find out where the couple is via her order delivery address.
What does this say about the security of the woman's order? How did the police connect her handbag order and their hideout location? Is that the Patriot Act in action? This commercial seems to be selling an insecure transaction rather than a cool phone.
I might get a chance to finally meet The Man. Greydon Clark, director of my favorite film, Black Shampoo. I just found out that Clark is going to be attending the B-Movie Celebration in September (per the updates I made to his site). Now I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to attend this event and meet the guy who helped bring so much joy into my life.
At least the drive down doesn't seem too bad.
Just got the new issue of Entertainment Weekly. Gotta say, I'm not a big fan at first blush. The mix and match of serif and sans-serif fonts reminds me of what I was doing back when I first got my hands on desktop publishing software. Likewise, wordcount seems down and leading appears up. It definitely feels like it's heading more into People territory. That's not a good thing.
Film Drunk is saying everything I've been thinking about Disaster Movie. Check it out.
From the press notes: "Taking aim at everything and everyone, from 'Indiana Jones' and 'Iron Man' to Amy Winehouse and 'High School Musical,' DISASTER MOVIE lampoons the blockbuster movie, pop culture icons and public figures along the way as Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer satirize everything as only they can.
In other words: "The unimaginative and uninspired team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer employ their all-too-familiar pop culture mashup of "everything and the kitchen sink" meets "shooting fish in a barrel" crossed with "lowest common denominator" to create yet another abysmal, excruciating exercise in "entertainment" that will keep the severely mentally retarded happy for an hour.
I'm embarrassed for everyone involved with this film, their parents, their friends, their high school teachers, and anyone who might have passing knowledge of their existence. For the love of all that's holy, Seltzer and Friedberg must be stopped.
I'm having trouble believing. I have been searching for information on these books and can't prove their existence other than through hearsay.
Rarely are the times when it's good to be a midwesterner. I mean, the area's so jacked, we're no where near the West. To be fair, we're really "middle easterners" but that term just isn't too popular. The cultural wasteland / flyover states don't get too many amazing events, especially in regard to film. But that may change September 26-28, 2008 with the Second Annual B Movie Celebration. Second annual? I didn't even know there was a first! But, there sho'nuff was. This year's festivities trot out the usual suspects -- Tom Savini, Conrad Brooks, etc (I'm sure Lloyd Kaufman will be there too). That doesn't thrill me so much as this amazing list of films of which, the press release says "many in glorious 35mm."
Lots of good crap, wretched crap, classic crap, and all around great films in that line-up.
All of this takes place in Franklin, Indiana -- a little south of Indianapolis. The timing may not be right for me to make it down (just scant weeks after the Toronto International Film Festival) but I'm going to try my darndest to be there and I hope that a lot of folks do, too as this kind of event is definitely a rarity!
For more info visit http://www.bmoviecelebration.com.
Think that the graphic designers on Wig and Voice shared similar inspiration? Sure looks that way.
I have to laugh about the description of Wig: "A young woman is struggling against cancer. She buys a wig for her so that she can go out without having to feel ashamed of herself what she doesn't know is that the wig is cursed." No, I'm not laughing about the cancer but about the "cursed wig" idea. This was used to great comedic effect in the "Hell Toupee" episode of Amazing Stories back in 1986. Yes, I know that the "cursed wig" idea goes back much farther but I can never think of it now without thinking the line, "Whaddya want me to do, throw out a hair net?"