Thursday, June 30, 2011
Extremely late on this...sorry about that...kinda busy in the real world lately...but that's no excuse. So without further ado here are my picks for this week.
Black Moon - Louis Malle
Like I said where would this column be without the Criterion Collection. Black Moon represents a bit of a departure for Louis Malle. This film veers far more into the surreal than Malle had previously done before. It tells the story of a young girl running away from some "war" finding a house in the woods and then well it begins Alice in Wonderland with a strong stance on gender roles. I haven't had the chance to check this out but Malle is a solid director, and I'm curious to see where the director of Au Revoir Les Enfants goes with such a reality bending film. He's got another film coming out this week that deserves your attention, Zazie Dans Le Metro...but I felt this was the more intriguing title.
Zathura - Jon Favreau
I've caught a lot of shit for liking this movie. Fine whatever you don't like this movie and I'm not sure why. Favreau is great at making movies with sincerity and heart. You can really tell how much Marvel was pushing him in how different Iron Man 2 was in tone from the first one. This is the "sequel" of sorts to Jumanji, but aside from that the connections stop there. This has nothing to do with Robin Williams and his horrible movie(see that one I didn't like). I really urge you all to check this out...or give it a second chance...Favreau uses a lot of practical effects to bring this world to life.
His robots feel like they come from the same time long gone from which the game comes. The Zorgons are not CGI and have some real menace to them. Aside from that he manages to pull off a great story about family and growing up. I'm sure you've already made up your mind, but I can't wait to show this movie(now on Blu-ray) to Riley when he's older. Practical effects done right are becoming a lost art, they help so much in transporting us to another world and giving us a sense of wonder. I don't see how you can look at that robot and not smile.
Lord of the Rings Extended Editions - Peter Jackson
Maybe I'll end up doing a Movie Night about the Lord of the Rings at some point, but as for now there's not a whole lot I can provide on these films that hasn't been said already. I recently rewatched The Two Towers and damn, the DVDs looked so crisp, I can only imagine how gorgeous these look. For those of you who heard rumors about their being problems with the transfer well..from what I've read they are just that...rumors. While I was watching The Towers I realized for the first time just how classic these films will become. Still not better than Star Wars, but a damn fine entry into the halls of fantasy filmmaking. The bad news...the extras are all in standard def AND they are simply the same extras that were on the DVDs. A little disappointing but really if you're double dipping it's because you want to get blown away by the beauty of these on your massive 85 inch screen.
That's it for now.
One last thought - Just for you boss....look now with NEW scenes...can they be enough to show Snyder's talent....I'm going to say .....absolutely not.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
So not in my Top Ten Summer Films I was looking forward to...but I thought I would provide my thoughts anyway...after all I was a 14 year old boy with dreams of robots and chicks somehow together in the perfect melange of destruction and objectification. Here goes.
As someone who enjoys a hearty discussion on film, one problem that comes up consistently is the idea that certain movies must be judged on their own merit....or "good for what it is". In an effort to preserve consistency, I go back and forth between this idea and the idea that all movies should be judged by the same principles. So for instance, how would you compare X-men First Class(which I loved) to There Will Be Blood(also loved). The answer is of course you can't. They both set out to accomplish two very different goals and in that sense they both achieve that, but then you get into problems of intention. Then you have something like The Dark Knight, or Aliens, or Blade Runner, films that transcend all genre trapfalls and extend into the realms of cinematic bliss. All three of those are or will be considered classic films, not classic sci fi or comic movies, but films, alongside The Godfather and Breathless. Long way to get around to the idea that I'm not sure how to write about this film without giving it a pass in some departments. Let's see what I can come up with.
First and foremost this is the best Transformers film out of the three. Depending on your thoughts of the previous two, that might not be saying much. Personally, the first was a nice bit of my childhood brought to life, I enjoyed it, but not enough fighting robots to balance out Bay's minimal storytelling ability. The second one was a big mess, with Bay trying to put way too many ideas into his film, I didn't hate it like others if only for Optimus in the forest tearing shit up. Sure he amped up the action, but the whole thing was just so confusing and nonsensical that there was little payoff. Also I wasn't happy with the fact that Bay seemed to think the racist twin robots were the greatest invention of all, as well as his consistent use of Sam's parents....and robot testicles do not belong in any film. So like I said this is the best of the three...but really is that praise?
Make no mistake I enjoyed the film, but I've been talking to Manny all day and I still can't come to the fact that I would call this a good film. It is an enjoyable film and one that I left completely satisfied, which brings me back to my first point. Does intention have a place in film critique? I don't know if I can give you the answer, but Bay set out to make a balls to the wall Robot action flick and he succeeded in spades. He seems to have actually listened to the fans and did away with MOST of what was wrong with the previous two. The parents have been toned down, there are still robots with accents(how does he think that's funny?) but they are barely around and at least given purpose here, there is no toilet humor in relation to the robots, and John Turturro never enters battle. Those problems still exist but they are not nearly as offensive as in the previous installments.
As for the story? Again Bay seems to have realized his limitations and keeps it much simpler than the ridiculous Revenge of the Fallen, soo yah...no Robot heaven...no pyramids, and definitely no Smithsonian robots that Optimus cannibalizes. Here it is rather simple, the war on Cybertron brought the Autobots to earth...before the war ended a ship was sent out with the technology to save the planet. The Autobots discover the ship is actually on the moon...and the Autobots and Decepticons race to retrieve it. Got it. Nimoy(who voiced Galvatron in the still far better animated movie from back in the day..."if you're gonna ride Daniel...RIDE IN STYLE") is the long lost Sentinel Prime who was transporting this technology that could save their race. He does an admirable job and has a great presence in the midst of Megatron and Optimus. His character arc is rather predictable, but it's not meant to be a huge surprise. Again the story is better, but it's not why you came to see the movie. It's not as clunky as before and Bay moves quickly from the "human stuff" to the robots, but still scenes constantly just happen. We understand the motivation, but everything is a little too easy. Alan Tudyk for instance, is apparently a man of many talents, including hacking, gun play, accents, styling, crying and some krav maga maybe as well. Bay loves the "just in time" scene and he plays them here over and over with the perfect bombastic music so you know something dramatic is happening. I could keep gong on, but truth is the story works better this time....again it's not saying much but it lets Bay flex his real talent.
Which is of course....giving your eyes a good sexing. Bay knocks the action out of the park. It is remarkable what he does with the robots, and finally we see some real danger, as the robots LITERALLY tear each other apart. The scenes in the trailer of soldiers wearing flight suits, so much cooler than I would have thought. Perhaps my favorite aspect of it all is that Bay finally showed humans taking down robots using intelligence. The solution he has makes sense within the film, aside from constantly shooting bullets at the Decepticons, he shows how the soldiers band together to take down these evil behemoths. Bay really let's Optimus loose in this one. Optimus is PISSED off he is ready to tear shit up, and he does over and over and it's glorious. Optimus shows just how badass he really is, and Cullen makes Optimus a real character. Can't really be said for the other robots, but hey they don't have Cullen voicing them. I would say the other autobot that gets much more playtime is Bumblebee. Bee has always been in the films but here, Bee is shown to be a strong warrior and not just Sam's savior. He constantly is transforming back and forth, often just transforming part of the car into a cannon to make some more shit go boom boom. I cannot stress enough, this is a teenage boys wetdream of robot mayhem. If you don't think you would enjoy that, there is no possible way you could enjoy this film.
What about the rest? Well the new girl is just as pointless as Fox. She is damn hot though, which seems to be all Bay cares about if her opening scene is any indication. I love how subdued Megatron is this, walking around with a shroud and a sword like some lone badass, he is really in the background for most of the film. Starscream is shown at his snivelling best. Soundwave's two seconds are awesome, but I did love how often Laserbeak was used. Shockwave....I don't remember him having a crazy robot snake of destruction but I guess he was cool.
I mentioned Alan Tudyk being a master at everything. The other actors in this film all seem to vying for "most batshit insane" character award. Which can go both ways, for me it worked this time. Malkovich, Turturro, Tudyk, and McDormand all look like they're having a blast, and all seem to know exactly what kind of movie they are in. Personally I loved every RIDICULOUS talent of Tudyk's, and Turturro's insane ex CIA man finally seems to have found a niche.
So like I said, this definitely falls into the "entertaining" movie category. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and at the end felt very satisfied. Michael Bay can blow some shit up really well, and he knows how to make entertaining movies. A master at story telling he is not, nor will he ever be. So is it a good film or not? Well ultimately no it is not. It is pure entertainment. If you're not ok with that then you probably won't enjoy it, and I ask you what happened to your childhood that you don't want to see robots go frakking insane every once in awhile...and are you really that excited for Reel Steel?
One last thought - I forgot to mention...Bay manages to create real tension this time around as the stakes seem definitely grim, there is a sense that anyone could perish(except Optimus and Sam) but everyone else really feels like fair game.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
As I look back to last year in film, I am shocked to see where I placed The King's Speech on my top ten list. Sure, 2010 had some great films released but honestly to rank this film so lowly is kind of a travesty on my part. At the very least, it was the highlight of my week long excursion to Tucson in January... That warrants being ranked higher than seven. Anyway, the desire to revisit this film has been in my mind since before the Oscars (we all know my enthusiasm for that particular awards show and I have long been curious to whether or not the film holds up on a second viewing.
For those who have not seen this film (after all, not everyone is a fan of richly crafted European cinema), the long and short of this film is that Prince Albert or "Bertie" has a debilitating stutter and has enlisted the help of Lionel Logue to assist him in overcoming it. I would go further in depth with the plot but I am going to approach this as a retrospective of this film. The question must be asked, on a second viewing how does The King's Speech fare? On the initial viewing, I left the theater excited and the feeling was there after the second time watching it.
There was the debate about whether or not this film was worthy of the Oscars bestowed upon it. The answer is a resounding yes and I know that many of you will be confused considering its placement at number seven on my illustrious list. Worthy yes but there were some difficult decisions. The Best Picture Oscar is the murkiest since their are ten choices and honestly, Inception and True Grit was stiff competition. Even now, I cannot seem to pick my favorite out of the three but to say that this film did not deserve it but films like Chicago or Shakespeare in Love did is doing it a disservice.
Colin Firth's performance definitely demanded an Oscar. Yet, I cannot shake the thought that it was mostly driven by the fact that he was stiffed by the Academy for The Single Man. Yes, this performance was leaps and bounds better than Jeff Bridges... Hate to break it to any detractors out there but Firth should have two statuettes. Best Original Screenplay presents another murky choice between it and Inception (number two on the list). It is kind of a travesty that Christopher Nolan does not have an Oscar on his mantle.
Continuing on that same thought, Christopher Nolan's absence from a nod for direction is why Tom Hooper won an academy award. Of course, that is not to say he did not deserve the award... It kind of goes hand in hand with the winner of best picture. Anyway, none of the directors wowed me like Nolan did but I would say that Hooper would be my second choice. I apologize Bence but Black Swan was good but not great and Aronofsky for the win would not sit right (Possibly for The Wrestler or The Fountain which were better all around films).
To bring this retrospective full circle, I would like to move The King's Speech up in the rankings and having seen Black Swan a second time (and leaving with a feeling of being underwhelmed), the latter would be moved down. From the perspective of accolades it was said that this film did not deserve Best Picture, with the prospect of picking from three home runs (The Kings Speech, Inception or True Grit), I would hate to have to choose my favorite. They were all beautifully shot, expertly written and the acting was the tops.
So, for those keeping score, The King's Speech was better on the second viewing. If you have not checked it out, make your way to the nearest retail establishment.
Adaptation - Spike Jonze/Charlie Kaufman
Barton Fink - Joel and Ethan Coen
Naked Lunch - David Cronenberg
Adaptation is the second collaboration between Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman. It tells the story of Charlie Kaufman, a screenwriter, fresh off of his first big success, trying to adapt The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. Well, if you've seen the movie you know that that description is a gross oversimplification. This is of course Spike and Charlie here working some amazing absurdist magic. I'll get to his identical twin later but let's see if I can start boiling this down for you. The movie shows Charlie struggling to write this adaptation, and as he's struggling to come to grips with how he's going to write a movie about flowers while not falling into Hollywood stereotypes like "making it about Orchid smuggling, or an Orchid love story," he begins to write himself into the movie, which is of course how the movie we are watching starts. So by the middle of the film we see him writing the movie we have just been watching for about 45 or so minutes. Still there? Well he has a parallel story which is the story of Susan Orlean and her Orchid Thief. I have never read her book, but I am going to assume that the movie starts off with her story being relatively accurate and then as Charlie struggles to pull his movie together her story gets wrapped up in his own crazy mind and becomes something completely fictional. Ok so we also have Charlie's twin brother(not real) who is also writing a screenplay that might as well be the definitive screenplay for every played out idea in the book, from serial killers, to split personalities, to songs being sung, to man vs. horse. Still there? good.
So what's going on? Well like the rest of the movies on this list this film is about the struggles of the writing process. Here Kauffman is specifically attacking his own insecurities with his talent. His "brother" Donald is a physical metaphor of everything he's afraid of becoming. He knows he has reached some sort of success and does not want to become a typical screenwriting writing heist flicks and murder mysteries, he just wants to write a film about flowers "nobody's ever written a film about flowers." Donald attends cheesy screenwriting courses, follows strict guidelines, including the third act denouement without even knowing what it means. Charlie spends the whole film trying to make sure he stays as far away from these pitfalls as possible, and we see his internal struggle as he can't seem to figure out how to get a screenplay out of these flowers. The moment he has a breakthrough and begins writing the film we've been watching is a moment of self-reflexive perfection. Spike Jonze is such an intelligent director, and his visual style can be so understated. He often utilizes a messy mise en scene, to mirror the pysche's of his characters. We see it a lot in Being John Malkovich, and it is used again here especially in the Kauffman household. Nothing is ever crisp and clean, rather a house that looks lived in. So when Kauffman has his breakthrough Jonze keeps the scene localized to his room. We see Kauffman and his imagination run wild with Jonze use of stock footage. Jonze presents the imagination of a writer with quick cuts and random images, in a way that shows how to properly evolve a music video aesthetic.
Now we see that Kauffman is playing with the strength of a writer and his/her relationship to reality. The writer is able to mold and shape the reality that the viewer sees. Here we see Kauffman paint a rather unattractive and overweight version of himself(I've met Kauffman the guy is deifnitely not overweight....nor is he as tall as Nick Cage....the hair is pretty spot on) because this is his own self deprecating view of himself. He creates a brother out of his imagination and has him represent everything he hates about Hollywood. By making him his identical twin we see that he fears he soon will have to succumb to the standard Hollywood stereotypes. By the end we see that he continually struggles to get his word on to the page and begins to turn to his brother for help. This is where the film just manages to ratchet up the genius(or perhaps he is giving in just like he is afraid of) So in the film Kauffman asks his brother for help with the screenplay, and thus begins the brothers on an adventure film. They become "detectives" of sorts searching out Orlean and stumbling upon Orlean and her Orchid Thief using the orchids as a drug. The two have fallen in love and now have become Orchid Smugglers. There is a chase and Donald gets killed as a result. The brilliance lies in Kauffman really bending reality as he brings these two stories together. Obviously Kauffman never stumbled upon Orlean and had this huge tragedy occur. This is Kauffman writing as his twin brother, using all of those stereotypes that Kauffman mentioned in the beginning of the film. So we see him ask his brother for help, then the movie we are watching begins to become the part of the movie that "Donald" wrote. Confused yet? Think I'm over examining it? well maybe, but I stand by my argument. Kauffman peppers his film with commentary on the Hollywood system, from his agent loving his brother's derivative script for its "amazing structure," to Brian Cox delivering an awesome speech on screenwriting and "god help you if you use voiceover," but I'll save in depth conversation of those for a later time. Kauffman has nothing to worry about. His films are anything but derivative, the last shot of the film whether written by Kauffman or created by Jonze shows just how powerful a screenwriter can be. In a big overwhelming city full of big buildings flowers can still grow. Hollywood or not, Kauffman can still create works of genius and he does time after time.
The next film is Barton Fink from the Coens. This film takes a similar theme "the struggles of a writer working in Hollywood" and goes a different way with it. Here we have a playwright who has been tapped by a Hollywood studio to come out to Los Angeles to write a wrestling picture...but the BARTON FINK way. So while Adaptation was much more about the writer's own insecurities about his talent, this film is much more about the writers struggle to work against outside forces. Barton Fink is a successful playwright who enjoys the "truth" and "honesty" of his work in New York and is constantly pushing against this job of his to write a Hollywood picture about wrestling. It is this conflict that creates the drama in the movie. This movie is about what it takes to be a writer. Here Barton Fink is in a Hotel that for all said purposes is Hell, complete with a bellhop that rises from the underground. The hotel is cavernous, dark and his room is without definition and gloomy save for a cheesy picture that you would find at Ross. This is an externalization of Fink's feelings about being a screenwriter. He feels trapped and forced to write what he considers to be low culture. He constantly says he is interested in the common man and wants to create a new theater, but in order to do so he needs to engage in some sort of success out in Hollywood. There is great juxtaposition between his hotel,dark and dreary, and that of the studio lot and the studio head's home, which is of course beautiful and light and full of energy. It is the plight of the writer to scrape the depths to find inspiration and bring it to those on high. We encounter a William Faulkneresque character who has "made it" but along the way has lost all sense of dignity, now little more than a stumbling drunk and emotional mess. If you go along with the Faustian themes in the story then the Faulkner character is a foreshadow of Fink's future. He could be successful, but at a high cost.
Anyone who has seen the film knows we cannot discuss the film without talking about John Goodman's Charlie. So is he Satan or not? Well I think that's essentially missing the point, although I suppose arguments can be made either way. Rather he represents the common man that Barton insists that he wants to write about. So while Barton struggles in one room trying to get his thoughts on paper his supposed inspiration is right next door. Charlie even makes a lot of racket and still Barton fails to notice that everything he "wants" to write about is right next door. Charlie's best line is "I could tell you some stories." FLAT OUT telling Barton I am what you want to write about and I could tell you what the common man is, yet still Barton in his pretentious personality fails to realize that and continues to bang his head against the wall in frustration as he searches out other muses. This of course leads to the final showdown where Goodman goes on a rampage of murder(I think) and burns the hallway yelling I WILL SHOW YOU THE LIFE OF THE MIND. Only now does he get Barton's attention and through suffering and loss Barton is able to write what he feels is his best work, which is of course rejected by the studio head.
This film is overloaded with symbolism, from muses dying, to Goodman's Charlie, to the Hotel itself, to boxes that may or may not have human heads in them. The Coen's are brilliant men and have created such a rich depiction of the hell that writers go through in order to push through the process and create something that they are proud of. Like any good piece of literature, you can pull something different each time you watch this film and interpret it how you see fit. Maybe Charlie really is Satan, maybe the last thirty minutes are a dream sequence, maybe Barton was killed too. Maybe Barton never made it to Los Angeles in the first place. You can argue all of this. This is writer's block on the screen, and the Coen's take it to an absurd extreme of what it takes to breakthrough. While Kauffman's film was about one man's insecurities about his own talent, this film is about one man's sense of confidence failing him when asked to rise to the occasion.
So while the previous two are different takes on working within Hollywood, this film deals with the near insanity one gets put through in order to create literary gold, and just how dangerous that line is to walk. Bill's friends, representations of Ginsberg and Kerouac, tell him he needs to get out of Interzone, but only after he finishes the book. So he needs to stay in his self induced hell in order to complete his masterpiece, but there is no need to stay in these delusions longer than necessary.
At the beginning of the film Bill tells his friends to exterminate all reality in order to write. That is exactly what happens over the course of the film. We see him fall more and more into drug use, and the crazier the drugs(by the end he is taking jizm out of phallic tentacles of giant insects that double as typewriters), the more intense his hallucinations and the better the work is.
The metaphor of Bill being a secret agent in a world of typewriter secret agents, and talking centipedes, is a statement on the dangers of the creative process. Typewriters morph into sexual beings, and humans become insects and rip apart others and we see just how powerful the writer can be. They need to be able to exist in this crazy world of interzone and navigate the fields of the mind in order to create literary perfection. Ian Holm is a man who has a great affinity for typewriters. Giving them personality and character traits insisting that one typewriter will yield more creative results than the other. This is a great statement on the relation between writer and tool. There needs to exist a symbiotic relationship between the two and Cronenberg in typical fashion brings his sexual obsession to this relationship. Holms dedication to typewriters is a nod to a writer of times past who insists they need a typewriter and refuse to use any new tool(such as a computer) I have definitely met professors like this at school and their undying devotion mirrors Holm's in eerie fashion, even calling them by their model number much like Holm does. I doubt any of my professors have dipped their hands in the typewriters vagina like Bill does here but hey you never know. Bill, of course, is willing to take whatver steps necessary to write, and moves on to the newest big thing which is the head of an insect that spews out heroin...more or less.
Cronenberg's film is as undefinable as Burroughs' book. He creates an absurdist fever dream on the mind of a writer in the middle of his writing process. Playing with reality and delusion as much as Burroughs does, we are left with an incredible puzzle that is perhaps unsolvable. He shows us the mental anguish that writing can have on someone, how one brings their life into the story, such as Bill's dead wife appearing in Interzone. So at the end of all of this what can we take away? Well like I said in the beginning....writing is hard....duh. But pushing through it will often lead to sublime pieces of written art.
One last thought - Bart and his friends go see Naked Lunch in the episode where Bart gets a fake ID. Nelson has perhaps a better description of the film than I could ever write. After walking out the theater Nelson looks up at the title and says "I can think of two things wrong with that title"....wise words my bullying friend.
Good day to you all. It's been six months since I applied for the position of film columnist here at PORTEmaus, I never knew it would result in such an amazing experience. Having climbed the ranks quickly I am happy in my post as Vice Chairman of the board, while continuing my duties as a contributing editor.
But you all know that's just silliness. I've been writing here for six months. That part is true. I love it. Also true. I've said it before but Manny has really giving me an opportunity to essentially live out my dream. Maybe not exactly as I had envisioned, but everyone starts somewhere. It should be no surprise that I love film. And for the longest time I've said my dream is to be a writer. Whether it be stories screenplays, whatever I just wanted to write. Manny has given me that opportunity. I have tried doing something similar to this, but never to the success that I have had here at the maus. So once again thank you for your readership, I appreciate everyone of you and I hope you enjoy reading the hard work we all put in here as much as we enjoy writing it. So today I wanted to take a look back at some of my personal highlights and discuss a few ideas that I have about the future of the maus.
I started here writing about my top ten of 2010, which was only meant to be a one time thing. I later approached Manny about making it a permanent thing where I could write about film maybe once or twice a month. For the first few months it was, I did a piece on the oscars, on serial killers, on vamps. All with about 2 to 3 weeks in between. Then something started happening. All of a sudden you started to show up, first 20 then 40 then hundreds. It was an exciting time, and one thing became perfectly clear. We needed more content.
Thus was born "Nerdlert" in which I look at a melange of subjects that get my geek juices flowing. This is my solution to a quick blog that I could write while still keeping it full of the same passion with which I wrote my film pieces. Nerdlert has had some varied success, with my Dark Knight Rises and Avengers pieces being by far the most successful. Personally my favorite is this piece about what we would need if the world really did end when the old dude said it would.
Still not enough I wanted to keep exploring different areas of film, and something that has always been a passion of mine is home video. So reviewing the weeks dvd and blu-ray releases became a natural progression. I will definitely continue to do these and hopefully get them to you on time every week. Although this week I'll probably be a bit late(I do have another job that actually pays the bills). Of course I will also continue to update you all on the films I actually get around to. Something I started with the Summer Preview and have been able to keep up with pretty easily, with the exception of I Saw The Devil which took me quite a few weeks to get to.
Perhaps the newest edition to my ouevre is the inclusion of Idiot Box. This is a television catch all which Manny has some big ideas for and I am excited to see him begin exploring this section more. For now the staff and I will be sifting the 20 plus years of Simpsons episodes and giving some brief commentary on each episode. A childhood favorite of mine and still the best tv show of all time, one I share with my son the way my dad shared it with me, some of my favorite times writing have been about this show. Here is my favorite piece i've written about so far.
I know I'm known for being long winded, but that's why I try to explore some different alternatives so that if you don't want to read through my novels of film theory you have a different alternative to get some film loving your way. Such as my single movie reviews when I am updating my summer list (fall list coming soon.) Or updating my weekly wish list. Also I have started Underrated and Underseen(yah I know it's not a word but it's my article), which I will take a look at movies that are well...underrated. This started with my views on The Nines, from John August, and coming soon should be my long in the rafters Watchmen piece, as well as some work from a Coppola.
Movie Night is easily my favorite article to write, where I am able to indulge in some awesome pretentious discussion on film, I hope that at least for some of you, you enjoy it as well. Or at the very least have some sort of reaction to my thoughts either negative or positive. The bread and butter of movie night are the pieces in which I look at movies with a loose theme and discuss them through that filter, be it vamps, or low budget sci fi, or meditations on serial killers. My favorite pieces though were my article about being in your twenties without direction, and also this piece about Never Let Me Go, a film I saw after a family tragedy shattered my life. Movie Night will continue to be my main focus and expect to see more directors series to join Gondry and Kelly, I'm thinking a piece on Refn will becoming as the release date for Drive nears
So what's up next for Bence and the Maus? Some collaboration pieces are in the works. There is an exciting piece that Hawk and myself have been trying to get off the ground taking a look at one of Hawk's heroes. Manny has already submitted a piece on The Simpsons and the rest of the PMaus crew have expressed interest in contributing to that as well. Lastly, we here at PORTEmaus have never intended to be a "news" site. Our business lies in opinion and theory and taste. So I struggle with trying to work out how I would incorporate film "news" pieces. You see the beginnings of that in my Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises pieces, but going forward I am going to continue to explore different ways I can write about film news while still keeping the same spirit that hopefully weaves through my other works.
And in case you haven't noticed we have been expanding into various social networks. So please follow us at www.facebook.com/PORTEmaus or on twitter @PORTEmaus. Also our new Director of Social Media, Twincess, has been placing us onto blog websites. So over there on the right you can follow us as well and get updated on PORTEmaus even faster.
THANKS AGAIN FOR READING I've had an amazing time writing for you all and I can't wait to continue my work here. Starting with what I feel is an appropriate movie night...about the plight of writers and the process they go through.
One last thought - PORTEmaus merch?....we shall see.....now who wouldn't the Maus on a t-shirt.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Now, That is What I Call Investigative Journalism... The Direct Link Between Monkey in Space and Doom.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is incorrigible. I am not speaking about his innate anti-Semitism, his support for Hezbollah or even his country's alleged pursuit of the atom bomb. While all of these aspects are right for condemnation (and one would be right to do so), I am speaking about the desire of President Ahmadinejad to send a monkey into space! The Rascal! To think he would aspire to send a monkey, chimpanzee or any other primate is not simply absurd but downright mad! What does he think this is... The nineteen fifties or even the sixties?
With the Iranians pursuing entry into the upper echelons of the atmosphere, this has caused many in the West to be alarmed. It seems that every other country is allowed aspirations into space but Iran's space program is inexorably linked to the previously mentioned nuclear ambitions. For those keeping track, space plus monkey equals nuclear annihilation. Satellites delivering nuclear warheads are the thing of Bond films or dime store science fiction. At the very least, the Iranians are placing reconnaissance satellites into orbit. There, does that not make you feel more at ease?
How about the fact that this was not the first foray of the Iranian Space Agency of sending living animals into space. It seems that previous payload included a rat, two turtles and a fistful of worms (I do not know if a can was involved) and yes, PETA... All of these animals made it back alive and kicking. Thankfully, their were no gamma rays involved or we might have the following on our hands:
These super beasts would be more powerful than any earth bound nuclear warhead and to imagine an army of these gamma fueled soldiers would strike fear the likes of which the world has not seen since this. It would be foolish of me to assert that I know anything about the true ambition of the Iranian Space Agency or the ultimate goal of Iran in space. It is completely irrational to assume that they simply seek to hurl nuclear missiles from space... After all, this would be running before walking, so to speak. I might have failed earlier to place your minds at ease but hopefully this little factoid will... Iran was one of the twenty-four founding members of "The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space" which was created back in 1958. Now, I can safely wipe the sweat from my brow.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
I will be first to admit that I am a literature elitist. Sure, I read comics but my heart still resides with fiction titles that are tried and true. Honestly, this predisposition made me unreceptive to recommendations for popular or modern fiction. Needless to say, I miss out on some great books because of this. It took hearing the virtues of the book from a colleague (from my internship) and also a student from the latest cohort that led me to read this book. This is surprising considering if it gets younger people to read it, I will give it a chance.
The Hunger Games is a novel that is a mixture of Shirley Jackson, George Orwell and Battle Royale set within post-apocalyptic America. Sure, this is not literature on the same level as those mentioned earlier but that is minor gripe considering this book is intended for teen audiences. With that said, even I was not disappointed with this novel.
The Hunger Games boiled to it's essence is a despotic capital that forces it subservient colonies (there are twelve of them in all and a thirteenth which is rubble) to sacrifice a boy and girl (24 in all) to fight to the death for the amusement of the Capital and all of Panem (America in the future). The reason for this policy or perverse "tradition" is because of a failed revolution involving all thirteen colonies.
Enter Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of our story, the willing participant within the Hunger Games in place of her sister. By her side is the male participant from her district (equivalent of state) 12... They are considered longshots in this competition but they have a secret. On a daily basis, Katniss violates the rules of her society by hunting outside the confines of her district.
Undoubtedly, this will make her a force to be reckoned with should her hands get wrapped around a bow and arrow. Killing will not be an issue for her, the fact that her partner (and the memories associated with him) must die by her hands is. Yet, Katniss is a survivor and as such she will do anything return to District 12 and her younger sister, Prim.
The Hunger Games is far from an original concept as it is reminiscent of other stories. Some of which are done better in the works they might have been derived from (Battle Royale). I am not sure where the concepts came from and honestly, I am not concerned. After all, I sat through a movie which was basically an unofficial remake of another film.
Overall, I enjoyed The Hunger Games and with good reason... It is an interesting story that while predictable keeps you turning the page. It is an easy but engaging read that I could not put down. It certainly made my stay in a dorm for a week bearable and gave me something to do other than watching movies. It was good enough to have me interested in the two sequels. So, give it a read... You almost certainly do worse... (Cough, Cough) Twilight.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Fast Five has been labeled a "transition" film in the franchise, long gone are the street races and lame deep cover subplots. One of the reviews that I read on the film was that the producers felt that by continuing in this vein, the film series would eventually hit the "ceiling." With that in mind, they decided to pursue the action course and robbery capers of years past. In fact, the latter part was emphasized so heavily that Fast Five is essentially a carbon copy of the Ocean's Eleven remake.
Fast Five begins exactly where the fourth one leaves off, Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) and Brian Connor (Paul Walker) busting Dominic from the prison transit bus. They then flee to Rio De Janeiro with the intent of pulling a simple job of stealing three cars from a train. Of course, nothing is simple in a heist film, as it turns out one of those cars is more than what it seems. It contains the information about the criminal empire of the film's antagonist, Herman Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). Coupled with the fact that three DEA were killed on the train, the Torettos and Connor are (in a word) screwed since this pits them against a crime lord and the top fugitive hunter in the United States, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson).
Both decide to raid the house of Toretto and Connor at the same time. This results in numerous casualties and a chase through a Brazilian shanty town or favela. The audacity of such a raid leads Toretto and Connor to get their friends (from the other films) to take the fight to Reyes. First, they send a message by raiding a safe house and burning the money contained within it. This leads Reyes to put all of his money in a single location, the municipal police headquarters. Of course, this means all of the Fast and Furious alumni will be stealing all that sweet dough.
As I mentioned earlier, Fast Five breaks no new ground, all of the plot and many of the character interactions are lifted from Ocean's Eleven. While I like Justin Lin, as a director, he is no Steven Soderbergh. While there are no qualms made about the content of the film or where the plot originates from, it does seek to differentiate itself from through action which the film has in spades. Not only were the sequences plentiful but they were well shot and actually relevant (They weren't put in to just satisfy the audience's desire for big explosions but they did that too) to the plot, especially the sequence where Hobbs' comrades are decimated or the end chase with the massive safe. Furthermore, the Rock has returned to looking like a beast and his interactions with Vin Diesel were probably the best part of the film.
Taken as a action-heist film, Fast Five is an enjoyable way to spend two hours even though it is not the most original film. I (for one) am glad they moved away from the whole car race/ culture angle. For someone who not only did not like the first one and avoided its sequels like the plague, it says a lot that I have liked the last two films. Also, it kind of has me interested in Fast Six, which is going to be released Memorial Day 2012. Details have not been released save for that it will feature more screen time between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson... After all, they are just giving the people more of what they want.
The story of Green Lantern (the film) is a simple one. Hotheaded test pilot who is haunted by the death of his father (also a pilot) who died testing an experimental aircraft. While hanging out at his nephew's "lame" birthday party, he is spirited away by Abin Sur who lay dying in his spacecraft. With his dying breath, the Green Lantern of Sector 2814 designates his successor.
Hal then flies to Oa, homeworld of the Green Lantern Corps and gets the Luke Skywalker training regime into how to use his ring. During this time, he meets Tomar-re, Kilowog and of course, Sinestro. Around this time, Hector Hammond performs the alien autopsy on Abin Sur and somehow contracts telepathy, effeminacy, fifty-eight pounds and a forehead that rivals the guy from the movie, Mask. You know, the film with Cher not Jim Carrey.
The main villain is Galactus... I mean the embodiment of fear, Parallax (the heart of which was the former Guardian, Krona) who is tearing about the universe consuming fear all off-screen. Sinestro leads a team of Lanterns to meet Parallax, they proceed to shoot spitballs at him and he swats them away like flies. This fight put the notion of the Corps adopting the tool of fear in Sinestro. Parallax then decides to take his tour of destruction to Earth, the corps refuses to help Hal Jordan and Hector Hammond begins the 7.5 minute screaming session which is three-fourths of his screen time. After accomplishing nothing and "failing" Parallax, Hammond is consumed by his lord, who in turn is sent crashing into the sun.
Much like Bence, I am a huge fan of Green Lantern. In fact, Sinestro is the front runner for the name of a future Funkowitz son... At least in my mind. Anyway, unlike Bence, I exercised caution approaching this film. Sure, I was excited but I did not want to over hype it and end the night with me crouched in the shower crying. Needless, to say the movie was "ok," it could have been great but it was it had some issues. Before going into all of that, I think I should discuss the positives of the film. Foremost, some of the roles were immaculately cast such as Geoffrey Rush as Tomar-Re, Michael Clarke Duncan as Kilowog and of course, Mark Strong was amazing as Sinestro. The special effects were solid and Oa rivaled how great Asgard looked in Thor.
Now, we come to the bad part of Green Lantern as a film. First was the screenplay and its FOUR screenwriters (two of which are horrible comic writers), a lot of the script bordered on sitcom writing. I was hoping to limit it just to Taika Waititi's character's lines but everyone in the cast had a line which left me thinking... "Are you kidding me that someone wrote this!" In particular, Hal Jordan asking the Guardians for permission to protect Earth. Seriously, is that not your job? I guess two hundred monkeys at two hundred typewriters will not result in Shakespeare. After all, it was the best of times, it was the blurst of times. Anyway, the film also had some issues of casting, we get it... Blake Lively is easy on the eyes, spoiler alert, she cannot act. Which brings me to Peter Sarsgaard, who outside of the screenplay is the worst part of this film. Most of the time he is either playing the worst paraplegic in cinematic history, screaming or being a "creepy uncle." Also, even Reynolds is not safe, he embodied Hal Jordan one moment and another he was just staring out into the distance breathing out of his mouth.
All in all, I think that the review were pretty harsh about Green Lantern, it was not as bad as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X3, Fantastic Four 2 or even Superman Returns. It could have been a great film had three of the writers not been involved. It kind of seemed rushed in the grand scheme of things (as did the plot). This made it something that seemed more in line with films based on Marvel properties than DC. At least, a sequel has been greenlit and hopefully, they will remedy the errors of this film.
Also, thanks for the end credits scene which did not set up why a certain lantern goes bad... After all, why tell the origin of Hal Jordan's nemesis and one of the all around great comic villains? It is only a great story... Seems apropos considering the rest of Green Lantern.