Archive for the 'Movies' Category

Dean Koontz’s Hideaway on film

A while back I mentioned that I read Dean Koontz’s “Hideaway.” This book is yet another entry in his pantheon of mediocre horror fiction. There is an interesting author’s comment at the end which noted that the book was made into a film starring Jeff Goldblum and Alicia Silverstone. Interestingly, and rather boldly, Koontz was quite open in his condemnation for the film and he openly cringed at the various details and characters that had been changed from his book.

Now, even though I found the book quite forgettable, I’ve, ever since reading it, had an interest in seeing the film. Last night I discovered that it could be found in a collection of free movies available from my cable company so I checked it out. And it was quite awful. Not only was the plot, dialogue and pacing of the film insipid, but the film was rather shoddily made. For instance, there’s a scene when a knife goes into the chest of a certain character. However, the viewer could clearly see that it it was some kind of rubber knife that folded upon being rammed into the characters flesh. At a later point, Jeff Goldblum’s character drives his car up to a certain spot, and as the car moves closer, you can see a shadow of the head of one of the film crew cast against the fender. I mean, we’re talking amateur fresh-out-of-film-school type mistakes.

So, if you’re like me and take pleasure in seeing others fail, you might enjoy this movie.

Whatever happened to Alicia Silverstone anyway?

Aelita

During me and my mom’s recent trip to Scandinavia we stopped off at the Moderna Museet (Modern Museum) in Stockholm. There I saw a few minutes of what is considered the first Soviet science fiction film, “Aelita.” It’s a strange tale that involves a trip to Mars, and is both entrancing and rather comic. I dug up part of it on YouTube and am enclosing it here for your viewing enjoyment. This version has a funky modern soundtrack.

Cruising… on a Sunday afternoon

So, the news of the hour is, of course, that Katie Holmes is divorcing Tom Cruise. And part of the reason for the breakup seems to be that Tom is a raving lunatic Scientologist.

Now, like all right-thinking people, I think Scientologists are nuts. As such, I should be happy to see Cruise’s marriage and career fail.

But, I gotta tell you, I saw the new hard rock comedy/musical “Rock of Ages” yesterday and thought Cruise’s performance was pure genius. He plays a misanthropic mega rock star who’s lost all grip on reality but he does it with a brilliant wink at the audience.

This reminded me of the other great Cruise performance of recent years, that of misanthropic media executive Les Grossman in “Tropic Thunder.” I went youtubing, looking for a good sample of his role in that movie. The best I could come up with was some guy filming his television while the movie was playing. Nonetheless, it’s not bad.

So, yeah, Cruise is okay in my book.

The return of Grindhouse

I’ve spent infinite hours talking about the coming demise of modern entertainment brought about by piracy and its devaluating effect on media products. I’ve noted that, while everyone else is concerned with music and mp3s, I think the coming Armageddon will be much worse, affecting movies, books and anything that can be digitized. The only thing that prevents massive piracy of movies right now is that it takes an hour to download a movie. Once bandwidth speeds get to the point that grabbing a movie takes a minute or so, I think movie piracy will become much more popular.

So let’s presume that eventually movies, music and books no longer return a profit. Maybe the only people making such products will be people who do it simply for the artform. Their budgets will be limited, of course, but they will have no concerns about satiating a marketplace. They’ll make the products they like. To my view, in the realm of movies, this sounds like a revival of the 70s grindhouse movement. Cheap fun movies with lots of sex and violence (both easily created onscreen) will become the norm. Scenes of exploding heads, ample bosoms and men devoured by alien acid will propagate themselves. “Meaningful” movies featuring good acting and sensitive dialogue will be cast into the abyss. HAWHAWHAWHAWHAWHAWHAWHAWHAWHAW. Suck on that losers!!!!!

Re-Animator – the musical!

This I have to see. They’ve taken Stuart Gordon’s great film version of the H.P. Lovecraft Re-Animator serial and turned it into a comedy musical!

Stuart Gordon turned his 1985 cult classic film “Re-Animator” into a musical horror comedy with the help of producer Dean Schramm and witty composer/lyricist Mark Nutter. Based on an H.P Lovecraft tale, the film and play both involve a gifted but mad student who has found a way to bring the dead back to life. Only problem is that when they re-animate, they are pretty pissed off and braindead.

Just recently the play took home an armload of awards (six L.A. Weekly Theater Awards, an Ovation Award and L.A. Drama Critics Circle Awards for everything from Best Musical to Best Blood Effects) and deservedly so. The play does everything bloody right.

Another day in the Bollywood horror/porn industry…

Just one of those crazy articles that caught my eye: Bollywood actress killed, beheaded in extortion plot by two fellow actors, report says

Bollywood actress Meenakshi Thapar was kidnapped by two fellow actors, who then beheaded her after extorting money from her family, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Thapar, 26, appeared in an Indian horror film in 2011, where she met her alleged killers, actors Amit Jaiswal and Preeti Surin, the report says.
The two lured her on a trip, abducted her, and then demanded almost $50,000 from her family while threatening to make Thapar star in pornography, the report says.

Okey-dokey…

I’d actually really like to see an Indian horror film.

Dance porn

A couple nights ago I watched one of those classic Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies. My take? Great dancing, pretty pointless plot. I mean, sure, you don’t expect a great story from these flicks but I’d at least like something to keep my interest in between the dance numbers.

These movies remind me of that kind of porn that actually sets up the sex scene with a story so you end up watching 10 minutes of something boring to get to the 5 minutes of interest. With the Astair/Rogers movies you’re thinking, “When are they going figure out that she really didn’t marry the Italian guy and celebrate with a big dance under the fake waterfall?” With porn you’re thinking, “When’s the floppy breasted Asian chick going to take her clothes off and get tag teamed by the body builder and the midget?”

Really… they’re a lot alike.

The Hunger Games reflects the primitive mindset of teenage girls

So I saw the new film, “The Hunger Games,” this weekend. If you’re not familiar with the general premise: in a dystopian future selected teenagers must fight to the death in an arena battle that is broadcast like a futuristic “Survivor.” Not particularly original — people have argued that the story is derivative of the Japanese teen warfare movie, “Battle Royale” — but workable.

However, for the most part the film fell flat with me. No real surprises, and it largely avoided putting any of the sympathetic characters in any really morally compromising situations (which I think might occur if you were, you know, fighting to death.)

The film was educational in one way. It’s obviously aimed at teenage girls and thus reflects their mindset. The main romance occurs between the lead female protagonist and a rather emasculated and often befuddled male character whom she needs to nursemaid half the time. I spent my teenage years presuming the girls around me wanted a real man. It turns out what they desire is sort of like a cabbage patch doll — a sexually nonthreatening “friend” they can take care of. This is further proof that women are evil.

Why no Mars, John Carter?

I saw the just released “John Carter” film this weekend. My take: nothing you wouldn’t expect but not without a certain charm (and a shockingly high, though somewhat bloodless, body count for a Disney film.)

Of course, after this weekend, the news came in that “John Carter” had bombed at the box office. It cost around 250 million to make and made about 36 million in its opening weekend. The odds of it turning a profit are slim.

So why did it fail? I’ve personally been perplexed at the decision to call the film “John Carter” as opposed to “John Carter of Mars” or even “A Princess From Mars” as the first book in the original Edgar Rice Burroughs series was called. So why was Mars dropped? This site has a few reasons.

The original title of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s first John Carter book was A Princess From Mars. Rumor has it that Disney didn’t want to use that title because they were afraid it would cause confusion with their very profitable Disney Princess franchise. That was part of the reason they decided to call the film John Carter of Mars in the first place. Besides, John Carter was already set to be the main character in Andrew Stanton’s adaptation.
This was followed by the insane decision last year to remove “Mars” from the title after Mars Needs Moms bombed badly at the box office. People understood that Disney was gun-shy, but you can’t just cut it down to John Carter. A name so plain and nondescript that no one even knew what to think of it. Heck, the Untitled Andrew Stanton Project would have been better than that. At least there would have been curiosity factor.

I read an interview with the director (I think) and he mentioned the concern that women would be turned off by the “of Mars” appendage because Mars is supposedly boy territory. So, in the name of appealing to everyone, they watered the title down to be meaningless. What does “John Carter” tell me? Is this another “Jerry McGuire?”

If I’d been directing the film I would have called it “John Carter from Mars (That’s right girls: Mars! Now go and see the film with your boyfriend like a good little whore)*.”

* Sorry ladies. I’m contractually obligated to run any jokes Rush Limbaugh sends me.

In closing, here’s a link to a website about the 1970′s John Carter Marvel Comics series. Some nice artwork.

Conversational Carnage

I saw the new Roman Polanski directed film “Carnage” this afternoon. I’m not quite sure how he directed the film since parts of it appear to have been shot in New York and everyone knows he is banned from the United Sates because he’s a perverted sicko who likes to fondle our young women.

Anyway, it’s an imperfect but interesting film and definitely generates some chuckles, though ones derived more from discomforting situations than jokes. (It’s the kind of humor director Todd Solondz specializes in.) It’s based on a play and has that “play feel” – the dialogue is a little too crafted for the mouths of real people. And everyone takes turns talking; there’s four characters and over the course of the film you see this character interact with that character, then this one with that one etc. There’s a flow to the conversation that you seldom find in real life which tends to be messier.

I found myself musing on this narrative devise – this idea of giving each of the characters a chance to converse with each of the others. It struck me that this could be an interesting structure for a musical piece. You get four instruments (characters) and have them perform melodies that weave in and out with the others. At times the instruments would be offering more of a supporting role; at other times they would be front and center (e.g. vocalizing like a actor would.)

You’re doubtless saying, “Wil, what you are describing is a four part fugue. (Here’s a nice example.) A single voice introduces a subject (melody), then a second voice appears and repeats the subject while the first voice offers a countersubject. A third voice then appears playing the subject, the second plays the countersubject and the first voice plays supportive free material. Repeat the pattern so all four voices are involved, and then the piece goes forward offering the different voices opportunities to converse musically with each other.”

Yeah, I guess it is a fugue. It actually makes sense that early musical forms would be based on conversation structure. Anyway, I think the idea of approaching music from this vantage point – that of theater, is interesting. If I mastered this technique I would be more powerful than a thousand gods.