Saturday, August 29, 2009
That has changed. In Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds we have been given our first exploitation film covering WW2. And it kicks ass.
The multi-pronged story should be familiar to most of you by now. A unit of Jewish-American soldiers, led by Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), are air-dropped into Occupied France to terrorize the Germans. They take scalps and bash in heads, the bashing courtesy of "The Bear Jew", Sergeant Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth) and his bat. They even have a German soldier who murdered Gestapo officers (Hugo Stiglitz, played by Til Schweiger) in their band. At the same time, a cinema owner in Paris who happens to be a Jew using a false identity is forced to host a German film premiere attended by the Nazi heirarchy, which is targeted by an Allied OSS operation. And tying all these different stories together is SS Colonel Hans Landa, "The Jew Hunter", played by Christoph Waltz.
The title may say "Inglourious Basterds", but the story is Landa's. He ties it all together. Nothing in the story would happen (except for one scene) without his involvement. And Waltz plays him to perfection. He is smooth, polite, intelligent and deadly. The opening scene where a Jewish family hiding under the floorboards in a French farmhouse are discovered and killed by Landa's unit is some of the best film-making you will ever see. Landa is exceedingly polite to the French farmer, but you know from the first how dangerous Landa is. From beginning to end, no other character grabs your attention on the screen like Landa. Waltz is all but assured a Best Supporting Actor nod and in a perfect world, he'll take that Oscar. Actually, in a perfect world (as noted by CHUD reviewer Devin Faraci), Waltz would get a Best Actor nod. That is how good Waltz is in Inglourious Basterds.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
1. The Incredibles
2. The Iron Giant
3. The Limey
4. Tae Guk Gi
5. Der Untergang (Downfall)
6. Ivan's Childhood
7. On the Beach
8. Time Bandits
9. Shawn of the Dead
10. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
11. Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
12. Mister Roberts
13. The Untouchables
14. Dark City
16. Witness for the Prosecution
18. The Last Command
19. The Blue Angel
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Michael Bay has made his last Transformers movie - the director is set to quit the action franchise because he has "had enough" of making big budget blockbusters.
Bay, who is known for his explosive action sequences, is sick of receiving negative reviews from critics who dislike his movie-making style and is determined to move away from the genre.
One film too late, Michael...one film too late.
But the most interesting part is the last line, a quote from Bay: "I need to do something totally divergent, something without any explosions."
When has Michael Bay ever done anything that didn't involve an explosion? Bay has directed eight movies between 1995 and 2009, all of which were explosion-laden. Even The Island gets its explosion freak on. The thing is, I hope he is serious. I hope he goes in a totally different direction, because I really think Bay could do some fun, non-explosion stuff.
Two of the funniest commercials I have seen involved Bay in some fashion. The obvious one was his Verizon ad where he calls everything "awesome" and pokes fun at himself while blowing crap up. The other one he directed; the "got milk?" ad where the history nut wants to call in and answer the trivia question with "Aaron Burr" but can't because he ate a cookie and has no milk. That is some funny stuff and Bay is responsible for it.
So here's a director, a talented director (and he is) who wants to get away from the mega-explosions and do something different. A Michael Bay comedy, perhaps? I have only one word to say to that.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
If you are a youngster who came of age in the 90s, then you likely knew Carradine through the "Kill Bill" films where he, of course, played Bill. If you are my age and grew up in the 70s and 80s, though, Carradine will always be Kwai Chang Caine first in your heart. His role as Caine in Kung Fu will always be the image of Carradine that I see first in my mind.
Carradine had an extensive career with over 200 roles played between television and films. His most notable role was playing Arlo Guthrie in Bound for Glory but he also was excellent in Walter Hill's The Long Riders as Cole Younger and as Shepard in Q. But he would star in most anything. Some of my cult favorites with Carradine are The Misfit Brigade, Kill Zone and the awfully-awesome Future Force. John Tucker f-ing rules!
There wasn't another actor quite like Carradine, on or off the screen. One of the last times I saw him mentioned in print was thanks to an absolutely insane screening of Bound for Glory in Los Angeles that had Carradine as part of the panel. To say it got bizarre, insane and completely nuts is an understatement. Read about it for yourself, but here's a taste:
Then the subject of unions arises... and everything goes gonzo, never to return. Carradine says that these are different times from the 1930s and unions no longer serve the purpose they once did, or words to that effect. Almost immediately, as if coiled and ready to spring, a woman in the back starts shrieking that nothing about unions' importance has changed. Carradine reiterates his position. Cox, who has barely said a word up until now, starts shaking his head and mutters, "That doesn't sound like Woody Guthrie to me!" The woman I'll call Union Lady starts marching down the aisle, and now Carradine is shouting back, which might be okay if he wasn't yelling right into the microphone, which does not sound pretty. For about two minutes both of them are going at it at once, and she's the more obnoxious one. But because Carradine's mike makes him five times as loud, he's coming off as the bully. Some audience members are telling Union Lady to shut up; some angrily holler "Let her speak!" Two guys in my vicinity start shouting "Let's hear from Haskell Wexler!" About a dozen people get up and walk out in the midst of this -- one of them, almost unnoticed, being Ronny Cox, who manages to effect the smoothest getaway of all time.
Trust me, the whole read is worth it.
We'll miss you, Carradine. Your death is a hole in the fabric of the country that will never be filled.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Sometimes I think Tom Rothman is just fucking with us. Like he's just the world's biggest griefer, successfully trolling millions of nerds. I mean, how else can you explain the fact that 20th Century Fox is looking to remake Alien?
That's if Bloody Disgusting's source is correct. According to their source Fox is moving ahead with a remake of one of the most classic horror films of all time, and Ridley Scott is on board as a producer. I have some sources I can check with about this in the morning - not because I want to debunk BD but because I just don't want this to be true.
Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK! Or, as Devin says later, "Fucking Fox."
How can they even consider something like this? Alien is in the National Film Registry. It is the pinnacle of horror/sci-fi. The only movie that equals it in that sub-genre is The Thing and, oh yeah, Universal is fucking around with that as well.
There is no way that a remake would ever equal the original. And what exactly would a remake bring to the table? Better ship effects? The Nostromo was a fucking space tow truck! There is nothing glitzy about it! It's supposed to be a dark, dirty film. And dark and dirty in 1979 is the same as dark and dirty today. And there is no one, no one who can hold a candle to Weaver as Ripley.
A pox on anyone who would star in this. And a double pox on Tom Rothman, who should be dangled by his ankles into a vat of steaming dog excrement at the earliest opportunity.
* Ladies, substitute your worst non-pregnancy pain here.
Friday, May 22, 2009
I saw the original Terminator when I was 13. I was too young to see in in the theater in 1984 when it was released (thanks, Mom...) but I begged my dad into letting me rent it on VHS the next year. It totally mesmerized me and is still one of my favorite movies of all time. T2 was a worthy successor, if a little more reliant on action than plot or writing. T3...the ending was really good. Other than that, I could have done without ever seeing it. And I would wager many people have had the same experience, which is why so much buzz has surrounded this movie.
What amazes me is the wide range of reviews for Terminator Salvation (TS), the fourth in the series and a reboot of sorts at the same time. Some people have loved it, some have hated it with a passion (see Harry Knowles' borderline hysterical rant at AICN). So I went into the theater last night not knowing exactly what to expect. Would it be a worth addition to the canon, or would I feel it crapped all over my childhood like The Phantom Menace?
Now, with some time to reflect, I think that TS is not a bad movie. In some ways, it's pretty damn good. But it also could have been a lot better and really missed the boat for how to go forward in the series.
Let's start with the good stuff. Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) is a great character. I don't think that his background and secret in this movie are exactly a secret anymore. Worthington plays the reveal about Wright's past (and what has happened to him) really well. He's a character you grow to like over the course of the film and root for. He has one moment when he is trying to enter Skynet Central that breaks his heart and all this emotion plays just across his eyes. It's a great beat that can easily be missed.
Then there is Anton Yelchin, who plays the young Kyle Reese. This was the performance of the film for me. If you think back to the original film and Michael Beihn's Reese, the similarities between the two is rather remarkable. Reese is the tragic figure throughout the entire series; he grows up in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, gets sent back in time to protect John Connor, gets laid once and creates John Connor, and then is killed by a Terminator. That, my friends, is the definition of a brutal life.
But Yelchin's Reese has only a bit of that grimness. He's had a tough life but still has a case of hero-worship for John Connor. He wants that jacket that proves he's part of the Resistance. He wants to earn his stripes. The scenes with Reese and Wright attempting to evade the various robotic hunters (more on that in a second) are great. If there was one giant drawback to his role, it's that McG put him (literally) in a box for the final third of the movie. Which is indicative of a larger problem I will address in a moment.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
It's no longer a pirate's life for Gore Verbinski.
After spending the better part of the last six years directing the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy, which grossed $2.6 billion worldwide, Verbinski has informed Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer that he will not helm a fourth installment that's expected to set sail in 2010 with Johnny Depp back as Captain Jack Sparrow.
Sequel is in development but not yet greenlit. It's unknown how Verbinski's ankling will affect the pic's schedule.
Verbinski will instead focus on other projects that include "Bioshock," a Universal Pictures adaptation of the bestselling vidgame that has a John Logan script and is likely to be Verbinski's next film as a director.
If you are not familiar with the game, Bioshock is, in many ways, a work of art in first-shooter form. It has a deep storyline that delves into Ayn Rand's pseudo-philosophy of Objectivism among other things. It's a fantastic game and begs to become a feature film. Verbinski and Logan would have to work at screwing up this film to not have it work.
And Pirates...after At World's End, didn't everyone feel the string was played out on this series? Where's the justification for a fourth film beyond greed? Films made for that reason tend to not work out too well. Nevertheless, although the quality will suck I am sure enough people will turn out to make it all worthwhile for Depp to revisit the role of Jack Sparrow one more time.