Sunday, March 17, 2013

Scratching The Surface: BREAKING DAWN PART TWO

No idea who this character
is but she apparently
warrants her own poster.
Once more into the fray,
Into the last good fight I'll ever know.
Live and die on this day,
Live and die on this day.

The podcast version of this feature was a fun experiment but I'm going back to our previously scheduled format for the last TWILIGHT entry.

I've made an important decision that will have a great impact on my life's future happiness. This is the last time I'm ever going to watch a TWILIGHT movie. Because I just can't take it anymore and I realize now my quest to uncover the reason for this series' popularity is a fool's errand. Maybe it will all click with one final viewing of the last film. I doubt it. I am invalidating my earlier theories as simply too ugly to be true. Beyond them, I have nothing. To steal a phrase from Roger Ebert, I reach for TWILIGHT and my hand closes on air. Okay, enough preamble.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Forgotten Gems: UNTITLED

You may have never heard of UNTITLED but odds are you've already seen it, or at least a version of it. UNTITLED is actually the extended director's cut of ALMOST FAMOUS, Cameron Crowe's intensely personal autobiographical film about his time as a teenager touring with rock bands in the early '70s. The studio hated the title UNTITLED, for obvious reasons, so Crowe went with his second choice, ALMOST FAMOUS, for the theatrical cut. With the release of the extended edition, he finally got to use his preferred title. UNTITLED.

Director's cuts are tricky beasts. Sometimes they exist merely to sell a few more DVDs, adding in inconsequential scenes or a few snippets of nudity so it can be marketed as "Unrated" or too shocking for theaters or some nonsense. Sometimes they exist to right a grave wrong, correcting a compromised studio cut. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is probably the most improved director's cut you'll ever see, so superior that it's practically a different movie.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


There have been so many DIE HARD rip-offs over the years, I'm shocked it's taken Hollywood this long to make the White House version. I guess they're making up for lost time because we're getting not one but TWO "White House under attack" movies this year. First up is OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN and in June we'll get WHITE HOUSE DOWN. To be honest, I was looking forward to WHD more because it's being directed by Roland Emmerich and you just know that crazy fucker will throw in an earthquake or a Godzilla or something.

I'll say this for OLYMPUS though--it knows it's a DIE HARD clone and more importantly it knows you know and it doesn't give a shit. It wears its status as a badge of honor and takes itself seriously. While some suspension of disbelief is required, you're not going to pull a muscle or anything. It also has some unexpected DNA from another cinematic classic that I enjoyed (though maybe not in the way the filmmakers intended) that I'll discuss later.

Monday, March 11, 2013


BERNIE may be the sweetest comedy about a homicide I've ever seen. Some have described it as "black comedy" but there's actually an incredible amount of warmth on display. Can a movie about a middle-aged closeted homosexual who shoots an elderly woman in the back be life-affirming? BERNIE inspires me to keep an open mind.

The true story that informs the film sounds like something you'd typically see on the Investigation Discovery channel. A younger man becomes involved with a rich older lady. He shoots her and spends all her money. But of course, there's more to it than that and it begins with the man with his hand on the trigger. Bernie Tiede is a sweet, lovely human being, serving as assistant funeral director in the small town of Carthage in east Texas. As the movie opens, we see Bernie instructing a class of future morticians on all the best practices for presenting the recently deceased. Bernie takes great pride in his work and there is no hint of morbidity as he offers up tips to the students. This is what he does and he does it very well.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Scratching The Surface: BREAKING DAWN PART I

I decided to do a podcast version of "Scratching The Surface" for the first installment of BREAKING DAWN. I thought it would be easy. I was wrong. I was so wrong. It turns out I am not at all savvy with audio files and html code. Now that I've finally figured all this shit out, I realize I made it more difficult on myself than it needed to be. Isn't that always the way though?

Here I was thinking this would be so much simpler and easier than having to type out all my commentary while watching the movie. Live and learn. I don't know if I'll do another one of these, though the next one will be easier now that I've done it once. I also don't know if anyone will actually enjoy listening to me ramble on for two hours about all this movie's problems but I suppose stranger things have happened. I sound as though I'm coming down with a cold in the audio. As soon as I post this, I'm taking a shot of Nyquil and heading for bed.


I'd been meaning to catch up with AEON FLUX for a long time but for whatever reason never prioritized it. The general consensus seems to be that it's terrible. I've heard it described as "Charlize Theron's CATWOMAN". But I had a few friends in college who spoke highly of it, so I was intrigued. Yesterday, I finally got around to to watching the damn thing. While the filmmaking is overly derivative of THE MATRIX and the script contains a fair amount of stupidity, there's also some interesting story ideas and visuals that keep it from being a total bust. It's not an embarrassment and while it ultimately ends up a mild failure, at least it's an interesting one.

I'm not sure how Karyn Kusama came to be the director on a big (or at least decent sized) budget sci-fi dystopian thriller. At one point, I think Darren Aronofsky was attached to direct but dropped out (as he often does). The only movie she'd directed before this was GIRLFIGHT five years before. If I were to rank all the MATRIX rip-offs released in the 14 years since its release, AEON FLUX wouldn't be at the top but it wouldn't be near the bottom either. Kusama does a pretty good job of mimicking that style. Whether mimicking that style is a good idea is another question.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Scratching The Surface: ECLIPSE

The competition is fierce but if you put a gun to my head (please don't), I'd have to say that ECLIPSE is the worst of the TWILIGHT films. Let's consider its rivals for that honor. The first film at least has the task of setting up the story and there's some dramatic interest in Bella discovering Edward's secret. The second one has her cozying up to Jacob and learning his secrets. And the two final installments benefit from being directed by Bill Condon, easily the most talented of the four TWILIGHT directors. Also, the story is bat-shit insane with lots of goofiness that adds to the entertainment value.

But ECLIPSE? It commits the worst sin of any of these movies: it's incredibly boring. The definition of filler. Supposedly, the tension derives from the love triangle and whether Bella will choose Edward or Jacob. But there's never any doubt about who she's going to pick. So instead you just have a bunch of scenes with Jacob acting like a sexual predator and Bella rebuffing his advances. Meanwhile, the jilted Victoria raises an army of "newborn" vampires in order to get revenge on the Cullens for killing her lover in the first movie. All of that is boring. Occasionally silly but mostly boring. Nothing of any great import occurs.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Scratching The Surface: NEW MOON

In many ways, NEW MOON is the defining entry in "The Twilight Saga". The first film was made for about $12 and director Catherine Hardwicke brought a scrappy, indie vibe to it, while not exactly disguising the fact that she thought the story was silly. While the movie was a huge hit, I don't think the head honchos at Summit Entertainment cared for her approach to the material. So they fired her and brought in Chris Weitz as the new director. Weitz was a semi-respectable filmmaker with at least one classic on his resume (ABOUT A BOY) but was licking his wounds from his expensive misfire THE GOLDEN COMPASS. Armed with a directive to take the story more seriously and an increased budget (at least $50), Weitz delivered a much slicker, professional looking movie.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


My seat in first class FRA-ORD.
Working for an airline rules.
I've made it safely back to American soil after spending a few days in Frankfurt. Fun fact--according to Google Analytics, Germany comprises my biggest non-English speaking audience. So to any of my German friends out there, willkommen! You have a very lovely country and I look forward to my next visit. The only down side is that I will spend the next two weeks explaining to people that I visited Germany without drinking any beer. So it goes.

The plus-side of spending 18 hours in the air round-trip? I was able to catch up on some flicks I'd missed in theaters but haven't quite been released on video yet. I was able to watch four 2012 releases I was looking forward to (plus I put on LINCOLN again to help me finally get to sleep). Rather than post them separately, I thought I'd offer up my thoughts in one super-post. Here we go.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Vacation All I Ever Wanted

I'm headed out for a brief but much needed bit of R&R. I'll be back with my batteries fully recharged early next week.