Monday, May 23, 2005

What ugly sights of death within mine eyes!

I saw The Whole Ten Yards on cable TV yesterday. It is possibly the worst Hollywood movie ever made. From Bruce Willis's hammy emoting over being a father, to Matt Perry's amateurish pratfalls, to the whole moral repugnance of hitmen discussing random acts of killing as fun and finally to the vague racist portrayal of the bad guys (they seem to be a mish-mash of Eastern Europeans, Mexicans and Corinthians), it's got everything a bad movie should have. It isn't even fun to watch because it's so bad (like, say, a Mystery Science 3k movie) and because B-movies at least have an excuse (low budgets, inexperienced directrors, etc.), I hereby nominate The Whole Ten Yards as the yardstick for all that is bad in Hollywood movies.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

so should I keep writing this blog?

I've given up on the whole quicktime movie clip thing - it's just too much of a hassle to do it - not to say I won't try it again in the future.

My current Netflix experience was marred yesterday when I received a damaged disk for the Lone Gunman, entire series, disk 1, ... but, on the flip side, they immediately sent me a new one out, no questions and I sent the damaged one back in. Should arrive soon and hopefully (since it was part of a TV show - Lone Gunemen) will come before or at the same time as part 2.

So what else is new in movieland.

Do you know that the last movie I went to go see in a theater was the South Park "America Fuck Yeah" movie (I can't remember the real name but it was the one with puppets). I guess I've just been listening to so much music - both live and recorded - I don't have time or money to go out to a movie theater.

I am guilty of ordering a movie while I'm on travel even though the price is horrendous. I'm really not a travelling type and I just like to stay in the hotel room at night. Usually, when I've had a long flight, I'm tired of reading. Anyway, at the last trip I ordered Attack on 14th Precint (I think that's what it was called). It was a cops and bad guys team up to best the real bad guys in a sort of Die Hard type dealio. The lead (Ethan Hawke) is just a bit too wimpy to be an action hero but they had guy from Shaft and Pulp Fiction - Sammy Jackson - to save the day. It was mostly brain-dead movie wise but kept me interested which is saying a lot for many of the mainstream movies these days.

At work today I found I had made a Deadwood convert and we spent a couple of minutes laughing about the Calamity Jane and discussing whether Swearingon was good or evil. He doesn't do HBO but he rented Season 1 and thinks its really great. I told him Season 2 is even better.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

My Current TV List of Lists

...I think the following are

Over-Rated But Everyone Else Seems to Think They Rock:
1. Desperate Housewives (who are these people and why should I care?)
2. The O.C. (ditto)
3. The Family Guy (should have stayed canceled)
Mitigating factor: Sex in the City is cancelled (I mean, retired)

Shows that I Build My Schedule Around:
1. Sealab 2021/Aqua Teen (the funniest shows on)
2. Deadwood (the smartest show on)
3. The Shield (best non-HBO crime drama)
Hon. Mention: Lost (seems to be losing it, though, a la Twin Peaks)

Shows That I Don't Turn Off But Probably Should Because They're Kinda Lame
1. Joan of Arcadia (if only highschoolers were this smart...)
2. Apprentice (love to hate Trump and watch people get broken by him at the same time)
3. CSI (The original natch; the others suck worse)
Saved Round: OK, OK, I watch Amazing Race, too

Old Favorites:
1. South Park (up and down)
2. The Simpsons (ditto)
3. Malcolm in the Middle (under-looked comic ensemble)

Anxiously Awaiting the Return of:
1. The Larry David show (what an asshole)
2. Sopranos
3. Arrested Development

what are yours?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Sin City Trailer Up

The trailer for Sin City is up and the movie looks, well, like the comic book come to life. I'm not sure how well it will work - but I'm wondering if they downgraded Mickey Roarke's character Marv. It was the center of the book but he doesn't even get any mention at the trailer site. Rosario Dawson rates higher! At any rate, it looks great and its got alot of interesting casting to say the least.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Jeepers Creepers II: "the grim lion fawneth o'er his prey"

Dir. by Victor Salva, 2003
The Creature in fully bloom
Perhaps the real-life story behind this film's director is creepier than the movie itself -- the fact that the movie is about a monster that preys on kids only makes it even creepier. The director/writer, Victor Salva, was convicted of child molestation in the '80s. If you remember, the discovery of this put Disney and Salva's supposed masterpiece, Powder, into a tailspin from which it never recovered. I'm not one of those folks that says you should boycott an artist because they are criminals (or ex-convicts) but it might temper how I view their work. I mean, Michael Jackson would suck whether or not he was a creepy predator but he could just as well be the best song-writer in the world.

Salva did the time for his crime and has shown remorse even if he hasn't been banned from his profession (like one would in many other professions that require a degree of trust). In fact, he's still allowed to work with kids, though I imagine Coppola (the producer) and his lawyers kept a close watch on things. That said, it's a bit strange that they would put him and all the people who played the teenagers in a room to do the director's comment track on the DVD (to be fair, almost all of the actors save one are in their 20s). From all accounts, he's since led a quiet life and I hope has kept his own demons at bay. America is the land of second chances even for assholes - that said, a coterie of Internet-based people still hound Salva (and Disney) for Powder and the fact that he still has a job in the industry.

And even if he still works, he had been relegated since Powder to making mostly B-movie horror road flicks -- one of which, Jeepers Creepers, was a minor hit. That movie, a sort of teenage horror version of Steven Spielberg's Duel (the great Dennis Weaver TV-movie from the '70s) posited a movie monster known as the Creeper, who basically pops up out of the shadows to scare two squabbling siblings and drives around the boondocks collecting bodies, some of which are still alive, to adorn his lair. Whenever the song "Jeepers Creepers" played in that movie, you could be sure something bad was going to happen and the movie, if memory serves, actually tied the song to his origins somehow.

Ray Wise watches his son go bye byeJeepers Creepers II re-imagines that film with a bigger budget (the Creeper now can fly - although I remember they did show he had wings in the first movie), some CGI and more teenagers to menace. The monster has a revamped mythology as well - no more "Jeepers Creepers" playing whenever he shows up. The great character actor Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) also stars as a grizzled farmer whose son is snatched by the Creeper in the opening scenes of the movie. Wise, who is most famous for playing the anguished father of Laara Palmer in Twin Peaks (and her murderer), owns every scene he is in portraying a man who has channeled his desire for revenge into an Ahab-like contraption for capturing the creature. His role in this film references not just Moby Dick but Robert Shaw in Spielberg's other big '70s movie: Jaws.

That said, the main portion of this movie is spent with a busload of terrified teenagers, who are being menaced by this mysterious creature. The creature has a few new tricks up his sleeve to surprise people who saw the first film. Besides flying, he now has a cache of odd weaponry made from the body parts of his victims and we also see him gruesomely regenerating himself with those body parts. The creature also plays into some disturbingly humorous scenes, hanging upside down over the bus leering at the teenage boys and supposedly picking out his favored victims. One can help but think that Salva is doing some (hopefully remorseful) self-referencing here.

The teenagers have their own issues - Scotty, the brooding leader of the pack, seems to have the most issues. Raging at the blacks on the team for supposedly getting favored treatment by the coach, picking on the apparent gay member of the team and generally treating his cheerleader girlfriend like dirt. There's also several other stereotypes - the hotshot braggart, the nerdy towel boy, the Buffy-like cheerleader who fights the demon and the aforementioned "suspected" gay. As is usual in these films, the divisions among the teenagers threaten to tear them apart at the time when they need each other most.

The music in this movie is by Bennett Salvay, who heretofore wrote TV series themes to some of the most awful shows in recent memory ("Family Matters", "Full House", "Perfect Strangers"). His score here, though, like John Williams in Jaws, is quite good and well orchestrated to the action on the film. While he never produces a memorable theme and only references "Jeepers Creepers" (the song) in the very final scene, Salvay's work here is comparable to Bernard Hermann. Fortunately, the DVD includes a film short that shows Salvay, the orchestrator and the orchestra in concert with scenes from the movie.

Clip 1: Scotty's Abduction (~11 Mb)
Scotty is first introduced as a brooding teenager sitting in the back of the bus. You might originally think he's going to be "good guy" as all too often the loner is the guy who becomes the hero. But instead, he's the most rotten kid on the bus, brooding because he feels he has been passed over during the game because of his race. He also is a virulent homophobe singling out Izzy, the gay character, for particular abuse. When push comes to shove, he's also a bit of a coward advancing the idea that the kids should push several of the others on the bus outside as sacrificial lambs for the beast. In short, like most horror films usually ask - is there more than one monster in this film? So when he himself is nailed to a tree by the Creeper, you have to cheer that the others come to help him. But it's all in vain, as you can see. Salvay's orchestration here accentuates the terror that Scotty and his friends are going through as they desperately try to free him. It's probably the most gripping "edge of your seat" moment in the film. Listen to weird instrument screeching in the moments right after Scotty's snatch. And how the music seemingly falls to the ground post-explosion as the camera cranes away from his classmates left alone on the night ground.

Clip 2: DVD Extra (~15 Mb)
This is a scene from the Extra on the DVD that shows the orchestration of the movie. Such "insider" extras are always enjoyable, at least to me although most seem to focus on the special effects rather than the music. This is from an early scene where the clairvoyant teenager (another teen movie stereotype) gets the scoop about the monster from some of his dead victims.

Fine print: Movies are in MPEG1 format and should be readable by Quicktime or RealPlayer. If you have problems let me know by leaving a comment. These links are valid for seven days from now (that is they will no longer work after 28 December). These clips and this posting is covered under Fair Use law.

Imdb site for Jeepers Creepers II
Soundtrack sampler from
Soundtrack Express review of the film's score

Sunday, December 19, 2004

I'm Not Scared

I'm Not Scared

Set in Southern Italy, 1978, I'm Not Scared was marketed to American movie goers as a thriller. It is anything but. However, I can imagine why Miramax felt they had to do so as this is more of a typical Italian (or foreign) art house film. I saw a similar story in Malena a few years ago although it was set in a different time and place. Fellini and others have done this as well. Heck - for an American version, watch Blue Velvet.

The movie is rife with cliches (some of which you will see in the clips) and even more so, saddled with an unbelievable main character. The story centers around a 10 year old boy discovering a deep secret in his small poor town. The adults in the town are collaborating on a famous kidnapping and another little boy is being held captive in a storm cellar beneath an old abandoned house. If the boy tries to save the kidnap victim, his parents will surely go to jail and there is no visible support system for him and his sister is this occurs. If he does nothing, the boy will either die or be returned to his own parents and his father may become richer. In normal circumstances, I found it hard to believe that this 10 year old would be able to make this decision. A more believable scenario is that he would withdraw from the world as he seems to almost do in several scenes where he makes up stories underneath his bedsheets to explain the adult's inexplicable behaviour. About the only explanation is that the movie shows multiple times where the boy, driven by who knows what, makes a decision to help those who are weaker. Maybe the director just believes in the innate goodness of some people. The movie hints that his mother and father are 'good' as in they mean well but intentions don't mask the evil of their conspiracy.

Despite these problems, the photography and music combine to make for some stunning scenes which I have clipped below.

Clip 1: Movie opening (~19 Mb)
A string quartet plays a moving theme as children race through lush wheat fields. A young boy turns to take care of his sister and in doing so is in danger of losing the race for which there are (as we find out later) consequences. A pattern is set for the boy that perhaps will explain his later actions -- that is, always looking out for those that are weaker. Several movie cliches such as dead animals and the crow presage death and misfortune.

Clip 2: Moment of Discovery (~29 mb)
Again we see the boy but now he is riding a bike alone through roads that run through the same wheatfields. Again, he comes across a dead animal, in this case a snake along the road. As he approaches the abandoned farmhouse and the storm cellar where he discovered something strange the previous day, the music stops and boy approaches the hole with trepidation. We then get the first (and only) genuine scare of the film and one jarring screen image as we see a ghostly boy at the bottom of the hole. The boy on the bike rides away in fear and the same music that opened the film accompanies his fleeing. The final moment of the clip shows him flying through the air with no support underneath as his discovery has surely upended his world.

Fine print: Movies are in MPEG1 format and should be readable by Quicktime or RealPlayer. If you have problems let me know by leaving a comment. These links are valid for seven days from now (that is they will no longer work after 26 December). These clips and this posting is covered under Fair Use law.

Links: Page
Official Site


Starting now... what I'd like to do is create a version of the Mp3 blog for movies. As I am intrigued by the use of music in movies I originally thought about a movie soundtrack MP3 blog but then I thought rather than just do that why not take cool movie clips showing music and pictures.

The problem exists though that I don't have the hosting capacity for these files. My current host won't allow more than 5 Mb clips. So I am going to use instead for the nonce.

At any rate, stay tuned for what I think might be the first Quicktime movie blog.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Tear Jerkin' Chick Flicks I Hated

1. Terms of Endearment
2. Steel Magnolias
3. An Officer and a Gentleman
4. Personal Velocity
5. Boys on the Side

You couldn't get me within a mile of any venue that is showing these flicks!

Tear-jerkin' Chick Flicks That I Love

1. My Life Without Me
2. Peggy Sue Got Married
3. Leaving Las Vegas
4. You Can Count On Me
5. Benny and Joon

Come on. Guys can like tear-jerkers, too!