Monthly Archives: September 2010

Tony Curtis, dead at 85

Matt

If you’re on the cover of The Beatle’s album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” then you’re bigger than Jesus.

Tony Curtis is nestled into the second row along with 19th century British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, Sigmund Freud, Marilyn Monroe, H. G. Wells and Karl Marx.

Curtis died Thursday at the age of 85, leaving behind a legendary career and personal life.

Famous for his thick Bronx accent and good looks, Tony Curtis’ career is the stuff of legend. He had more than 130 films on his resume, including classics like Stanley Kubrick’s “Spartacus,” his crossdressing role in “Some Like it Hot,” and his Oscar-nominated performance in 1958′s “The Defiant Ones.”

One of my favorite interviews with Tony Curtis was a very honest and candid look at the actor by Roger Ebert in 1985 at Cannes Film Festival, where even in his 50s he shouts to a girl below passing his hotel room on the street to come up, and she does.

Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in New York to poor Hungarian immigrants on June 3, 1925. He quit school to join the navy during World War II, serving on a submarine tender, and pursued acting after his discharge. He was a notorious lady’s man, and was married six times. His first wife was actress Janet Leigh, famous for the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic “Psycho.” They had two children, actors Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis.

He was an alcoholic and drug user, and had two stints at the Betty Ford Clinic. While fighting his various addictions throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Curtis still managed to work, mostly in television. He’s one of the few remaining from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and his films will live on. We’ll remember him more for his fantastic films that his wild life.

Blacula

Highly sophisticated African Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) gets bitten by Count Dracula, and his fate is sealed forevermore as a vampire. Two centuries later, Mamuwalde is unwittingly transported to modern-day Los Angeles, where his bloodletting soon brings new meaning the city’s nickname — City of Angels! This 1970s blaxploitation flick is something you can really, uh, sink your teeth into.

Victor
Rating: 7 out of 10

Waitress: Hi! What’ll you have?
Mamuwalde: Make it a Bloody Mary.

American International’s producer Samuel Z. Arkoff’s title character of Blacula gets an animated, funky, cool and pretty inventive Saul Bass-like title opening sequence. The opening comes after, just like the Bond films do, a sort of intro of how Blacula came to be. Played rather effectively by the deep voiced, classically trained thespian William Marshall,  Prince Mamuwalde is running an errand for his country to the racist pig Count Dracula to oppose the slave trade with his Princess wife, Luva. Offended by this proposal Dracula takes action and curses Mamuwalde to an eternity of hunger and desire for human blood by making him a funky-ass Vampire. Little did Drac know, though, that Mamuwalde would reawaken in the glory days of the 1970′s ready to party, suck some blood and get down!

All derision about the potential campiness of Blacula aside, this film is actually enjoyable on a couple levels. First and foremost is the dignified Marshall who plays the African Vampire Prince very straight. When he is angered or scared or even saddened by the events surrounding him you really feel it and he emotes very well. It is his voice that carries the entire performance and he commands every scene he is in. One scene in a loud club stands out when he is annoyed and bothered by extra dinner guests and having his picture taken he turns very animalistic and scares the pants off the viewer. This film, for a blaxplotation classic, does have enough creepiness and good scares for a mainstream horror audience and upon watching it again I became engrossed by the few tense moments and well done stunt work in the climax of the film which included a well staged vampire confrontation scene. I almost forgot I was watching a campy B movie.

Don’t get me wrong,though. There are so many social no-no’s and stereotypes here to cringe and just laugh at despite the attempt to set the story with an anti-slavery theme. There’s the jive-talking, hustling, club gigolo named Skillet, a scantily dressed nightclub photographer, a fast talking female cabbie who loves to run down strange caped men, a straight-laced white cop, two homosexual interior decorators and even a Gladys Knight and the Pips knock off funk band to please the club goers at Blacula’s fave drinking joint. So in the end Marshall glues together this camp classic with his charismatic performance and the rest is just cheesy, exploitative funky 70′s horror with some unintentionally comedic dialog to go with it. You can’t take just one bite.

Star Wars saga to be re-re-released… in 3D

Matt

There is now a terrible divide in me. One of my greatest loves, Star Wars, is meeting one of my greatest annoyances… 3D.

Star Wars creator George Lucas, never one to be shy from whoring his creation for a buck, will be releasing the entire Star Wars saga in 3D in 2012, according to a story by Hollywood Reporter. According to the report, the films would be released in order, starting with Episode I, “The Phantom Menace” working through “Return of the Jedi.”

I can understand how Lucas would want to release these, since he’s only worth $3 billion. Poor guy! However, I’m not sure how to feel about this. The last re-release in 1997 had some unneeded and corny scenes, like the Cantina musical number that felt forced.  I have to say, though, that it was thrilling to see them on the big screen. The only one I remember seeing in the theater is “Return of the Jedi.” The rest were made before I was born, so I never got the theater experience and I was very glad I did.

However, I hate 3D. There is nothing added by 3D’s very flawed technology and it’s clear Lucas is cashing in on the trend. We’re seeing a dearth of 3D films released, and none are good; for example, “Piranha 3-D” “Yogi Bear” “The Smurfs” and “Clash of the Titans.” The only decent 3D flick this past year was “Avatar.”

I can’t see how Star Wars in 3D will be that much improved — if at all. I have to imagine they will have to do some digital tinkering to add some lightsaber moments that weren’t in the original. When I see those familiar goldenrod words scrolling across a star-flecked sky in 3D, I may be 10 years old again, or I may just be pissed at myself that I spent ten more dollars to see Star Wars. I can tell you I’m definitely NOT going to see “The Phantom Menace” again.

Captain America set photos released

Matt

Who doesn’t love watching Nazis get beat up? It’s one of the classic themes of comic books and action movie, from Hellboy to Indiana Jones and way back to Captain America.

Click photo to enlarge

I’m a huge fan of the Iron Man movies, and I’m a comic book fan in general. I love the Hellboy movies and Christopher Nolan’s Batman films are excellent. Christopher Reeves in the original Superman still stands as one of the best of the genre.

Click photo to enlarge

Granted, there are far more bad comic book movies than good, like Daredevil, and Judge Dread. I’m like most movie goers when I approach comic book movies with a deep breath of skepticism. I’m not getting giddy over the Thor movie due out next year and I’m not overly excited about “Captain America: The First Avenger,” or The Avengers movie due out in 2012 — featuring Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, and Thor.

Not sure if this is Chris Evans. May be a flashback to an earlier Captain America or a stunt man. Click photo to enlarge

Some images leaked today from the set and I’m going to and be optimistic. It looks like director Joe Johnston (The Wolfman, Jumanji) is taking the story back to its roots and starting it in World War II. So far, the images show a retro Cap’, which I like the looks of. “Dick Tracy” was very successful in being a retro comic film. Chris Evans (Fantastic 4, Scott Pilgrim Verse the World) looks like he fits the part of Steve Rogers, the man who takes a super-soldier serum and becomes Captain America.

There’s a couple of corny Nazi motorcycles in these pictures, though, that look more like plastic toys than period WWII cycles and a weird submarine, so it’s a mixed bag. What do you expect from a guy who dresses in a masked red, white and blue outfit? Check out the photos and let me know what you think.


A Captain America submarine - Click photo to enlarge

You can watch the original 1979 Captain America made-for-TV trailer here. I recommend watching. It’s pretty hilarious.


Evans as Steve Rogers from the set of Captain America: The First Avenger - Click to enlarge

The White Ribbon

At a rural school in northern Germany in 1913, a form of ritual punishment has major consequences for students and faculty. But the practice may have bigger repercussions on the German school system — and maybe even on the growth of fascism. Celebrated Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke helms this Golden Globe-winning drama.

Matt
Rating: 3 out of 10

If there was some extra white ribbon, I’d use it to hang myself.

This is one of those typical German films — dark to the core, ambivalent in its story telling, and full of itself. I’d say there’s little redeeming value in “The White Ribbon” and I found it to be not only drab, but boring without point. In fact, I can barely tell you what it’s about in a nutshell, and didn’t even get it all when watching — and I speak German!

This film is made by celebrated director Michael Haneke, who won the coveted Golden Palm Award at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. In 2005, he won best director and his first Golden Palm at Cannes for “Hidden.” “The White Ribbon” got a slew of awards from film festivals around the globe. Roger Ebert is one of my heroes, but he’s one of the critics who got caught up in what this movie is to critics rather than the public. He gave this film 4 out of 4 stars.

I’ll try to sum it up like this: it’s a depressing movie where a lot of dark characters have a lot of bad things happen, there’s no conclusion, and nothing to keep you engaged as an audience member. This movie doesn’t even have color!

Darren Aronofsky rumored as director of next Superman

Matt

Darren Aronofsky has been tied to a remake of “Robocop,” the cult sci-fi movie of the 80s, but today news hit that the celebrated director is attached to a reboot of the Superman film franchise, according to the L.A. Times.

I’ve got a lot of faith in this film because Christopher Nolan, who directed Inception and Memento, is producing and will have his hand in writing the script. Before Superman, Nolan also resurrected the Batman franchise with “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” which was one of our favorite films of the decade.

There have been a few directors rumored to take the chair. Most recently Ben Affleck, who directed the recent hit “The Town,” was tabbed but Reuters is reporting he’s backed out of the project. I think Aronosfki would be a better choice than Affleck, who has only directed two films. Granted “The Town” and “Gone Baby Gone” were both excellent, but Affleck’s only comic book film was “Daredevil,” a complete and total failure.

Aronofski has some serious directing chops. Movies like “The Fountain” Requiem For a Dream” and “The Wrestler,” which is one of my favorite films ever. He also won best director at Sundance Film Festival for “Pi” and the grand jury prize for best picture. His latest film, “Black Swan,” is already getting critical acclaim.

I’m pretty stoked about a reboot, not just because Nolan is attached, but because I was a little disappointed by the last one, 2006′s “Superman Returns,” directed by Bryan Singer. It’s not that it was bad, it was fun and enjoyable. But it was like a cover song. You can try and make it as close to the original as possible, but it’s never as good as the original. I think Nolan and Aronofsky could take Superman to new places.

The Virginity Hit

The quest — losing one’s virginity — is an ancient one, but the tools used to document it are distinctly modern in this mockumentary about a young man’s endeavors to “close the deal,” as his buddies (and documentarians) so charmingly put it. When Matt’s untimely breakup with a girlfriend throws a monkey wrench into his plans, his friends urge him to continue the mission anyway — with them along to film the adventures. Directed by Huck Botko (Mail Order Wife).

Kyle
Rating: 8 out of 10

I went into this expecting to be a raunchy teen comedy – and that’s exactly what I got, and then some. I don’t mean for that statement to sound negative, I just knew after watching the preview this was going to be a different and very raunchy comedy. The film accurately depicts how teens view and joke around about sex nowadays. Hearing insults like “dick hole” and colorful comments like, “Tell her you want to fuck the taste out of her mouth,” it was like watching my friends and I when we were in high school.

Aside from the hilarious dialogue, I think the most entertainment I got from the film was what the main character, Matt, kept getting himself into while trying to lose his virginity. If I had to go on this sexually frustrating journey, I would’ve given up less than halfway. The situations, though a bit unbelievable when put altogether, definitely present some of what people in 2010 are dealing with in relationships, and not just virgins.

The only thing that didn’t sit well with me was the heavy and obvious use of product placement. I think I saw almost every Apple product on the market, not to mention the alcohol brands and Gatorade. I think doing so made it a little more apparent that this really wasn’t a documentary about a kid trying to lose his virginity. All in all, I thought it was executed very well and the hand-held style fit perfectly.

The Hobbit may hit scrap heap

Matt


My prediction: The Hobbit will blow

News broke today that Peter Jackson, director of the incredibly overrated “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, may scrap “The Hobbit” – a film based on the original book by fantasy writing legend and nerd demigod, J.R.R Tolkien.

This movie’s had more issues than my ex-girlfriend, from trouble getting the film greenlit by the studio because of a lawsuit with Jackson to original director Guillermo del Toro leaving the project.

Jackson is now facing union troubles, and is threatening to shut the film down in New Zealand and head for Eastern Europe, according to the New York Times.


We liked Peter Jackson better when he was a fat nerd rather than a skinny.... nerd?

There’s been debate about about when the film will begin shooting. The last we knew, Ian McKellen, who would reprise his Academy Award-nominated role as the wizard Gandalf, said filming would start in January. This labor debate is sure to slow things up.

I am not a fan, at all, of the LOTR films. I read all the books and enjoyed them. I went to all of the films in the theater and at the time enjoyed them. They looked incredible on the big screen and I got caught up in the excitement of the story unfolding and seeing the special effects and Jackson’s take on the story.

But when they came out on DVD, I couldn’t believe how boring, corny and lame they were. The dialogue was so cheesy. I had a little bit of faith when Del Toro was directing. The world’s he’s created in “Hellboy” and “Hellboy 2″ were amazing, as was “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Now that Jackson is behind the camera, someone pass me a pillow. I’m going to need a nap.

If these two films don’t get made, it won’t keep me awake at night. I’d rather see Ghostbusters 3 made.

Top 5 Worst Comic Book Movies

There are a ton of bad comic book movies. In fact, the ratio of bad far outweighs the good. Victor and Matt compare their choices for worst of the worst.

Victor

5. Superman 3: Poor Supes. This series of films was always thought to be the equivalent of a very cute baby that turned into a butt ugly adult. Chris Reeve and the iconic man of steel deserved much better. Richard (post “Oh shit I just caught on fire from freebasing cocaine!”) Pryor? Really? Why not Cheech and Chong? Or Abbott and Costello meet Superman? After the wretched slapstick opening when Clark is involved in “pie in the face” antics you just knew you were in for a crapbag of a sequel. Annette O’Toole was pretty hot, though, but the corny video game attack on Superman really made me cringe.

4. Superman 4: The Quest for Peace:
Gee, Superman 3 kinda sucked so let’s get it right this time…but Nooooo. When I saw that this movie was to be produced by those hairy hacks Golan/Globus of infamous Cannon films fame I wanted to yank my eyelids off. What the hell happened to this once great franchise? Did Warner Brothers just run out of money and hand over the reins to a bunch of pimply high school foreign exchange students? Why was Margot Kidder completely bombed through this film while looking like she fell asleep under a hot lamp? What’s with that “Quest for Peace” title? Is this about King Arthur and the knights of the round table? Let’s not mention the bad hairdo on Reeve and the very bad effect shots that were used over and over again like some a Japanese monster movie. Reeve did not deserve to end it this way. Oh and I just wanted to kick that Jon Cryer’s ass everytime he was onscreen.

3: Catwoman: Huh? Where the hell did Michelle Pfeiffer go? I thought she was Catwoman? I’m confused and scared because I saw Sharon Stone playing opposite what’s-her-name who is not Michelle Pfeiffer. The scene where she orders milk at the Nightclub…UGH. What is one most likely to find in a dirty box of kitty litter? A DVD copy of Catwoman.

2. The Punisher (1989): When you can’t even put Frank Castle AKA “The Punisher” in the right Punisher costume then your production is going into the proverbial comic book movie crapper. I couldn’t even understand Lundgren when he spoke much less believe he had the mental capacity to exact revenge on the people who killed his family. Sorry Dolph, I know that was harsh. Sorry.

1. Batman and Robin:
Now come on…how could this film NOT make the number one spot? The cancer that was Joel Schumacher continues to spread in the this Batman outing when we were introduced to homo-erotic statues inundating Gotham’s cityscape, shots of bat nipples and asses and every frame and shot being lit by neon. Joel keeps the crazy train rolling with this way, way over the top Dayglo Sissyfest. A nail in the coffin that was the Batman franchise. The lame Mr Freeze one-liner puns like “Ice to freeze you” are an insult to true Batman fans. The action pieces were like watching really bad off – Broadway shows about disco dancing. Are those ice skates in your bat boots??? Clooney was just dull and his annoying head wobbling make him look like he needed a heroin fix. I would have rather seen Adam West come back to do a film. Well, maybe not.

——————————————————————————————————————

Matt

5. Supergirl: Even Helen Slater’s hotness can’t save this film. While her long, golden locks and tight, complimenting Supergirl costume are titillating, the plot is horrible. She comes to Earth to save her home city on Krypton (which was blown up a long time ago, by the way) and dukes it out with a witch. Couldn’t we come up with a better enemy than a witch? Also, how did they convince Sir Peter O’Toole and Faye Dunaway to make this? The producers should have been given an Academy Award for that alone.

4. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The most unfortunate part of this film is that it was the swan song of the Oscar-winning great Shawn Connery. The brilliant career of Connery was punctuated by a film where Captain Nemo is Middle Eastern, complete with turban and pointed shoes. They really should have thrown in a flying carpet for good measure, but instead he had a submarine the size of Manhattan and he was a sword swinging ninja. Alan Moore is a brilliant comic book writer, but this movie was a piece of garbage. And why would Tom Sawyer be a sharp shooting cowboy-type? It makes no sense.

3. Judge Dredd: Sylvester Stalone stars in this futuristic film about a future where police are the judge, jury and executioner. Stop. You had me at Sylvester Stalone – the man who has to remake movies that were a success thirty years ago. The movie looks ridiculous with the silly outfits and bad acting and dialogue.

2. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace: This movie was a waste because it brought back the complete original cast of the first film, which was a triumph for comic book lovers. The dialogue in this film is so horrible, not even an Oscar-winner like Gene Hackman can rescue it. In fact, Gene Hackman had to do the voiceover for Nuclear Man, played by Mark Pillow (who never acted again) because his delivery was so bad. The dialogue killed this film even more than its plot, and Nuclear Man’s Lee Press-Nails didn’t help, either. What’s even harder to fathom, is that this could have been worse. Here are deleted scenes of the original Nuclear Man:

1. Batman and Robin: Iceman asks the question: “What killed the dinosaurs?” His answer: “The ICE AGE!” I ask the question, what killed Batman? The answer: Joel Schumacher.

This movie steps over the boundary of camp and well into the land of crap. Tim Burton’s memorable Batman from 1989 was campy but good. Lines from the Joker, like, “Where does he get those wonderful toys” stay with you, but at the same time are funny and fun.

This Batman, which includes Batgirl and Poison Ivy, wreaks of bad writing and gratuitous Batman butt shots. Schumacher has since publicly apologized for the film. The movie’s dialogue made me wriggle in my seat with discomfort. They couldn’t have crammed in any more ice puns if they tried. (see video below). Thank God for Chritopher Nolan.

Films that define us

All of us have particular movies we’ve seen, whether as an adult or child, that stay with us in a way others hadn’t before. They’re special experiences we hold onto, whether it was because you saw them with a close friend or the film connected with your life in a personal way. These are movies that define us, and we’re breaking down each by genre. Each week, one of our contributors will list the movies that defined them.

Kyle

Comedy: As I am back to school now, I can’t help but think about Real Genius. This is one of the movies I grew up watching and always laughed at Val Kilmer’s performance as the brilliant goofball Chris Knight. As I got older, though, I began to take away some of the philosophy presented by Chris. His character taught me that if you take some things in life like education or your career too seriously, it could consume you.

Action/Adventure: “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” Ahhhh man, such dialogue! Predator is the one movie I’m glad my dad made me watch over and over with him when I was little. I’m not a huge action movie lover but there is something about this film that tickles my fancy. I think it might be the idea of how a group of professionally trained and experienced soldiers react to being hunted, much less the fact that an alien is hunting them. I don’t think there’s anything more manly in a film than seeing a montage of a soldier using basic survival and defense skills to defeat an adversary.

Science Fiction: The Matrix came out when I was in the sixth grade; I thought it was my favorite science fiction film ever… until I saw Equilibrium. Personally, I thought the plot was more appealing, particularly how the society’s hand-to-hand and defense and shooting offense is all based on physics and statistics. Also, this film was the first taste of (grown-up) Christian Bale’s acting capabilities.  

Drama: Without a doubt, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is, and always will be, my favorite film from the drama genre. What digs down deep inside me is how realistic Jim Carrey’s and Kate Winslet’s relationship is portrayed; how we all start out giddy and very interested in your partner and how it can decay into just two people who live and bicker with one other constantly. The visuals were also very unique; using simple, yet effective techniques and some forced perspective shots. The climax is definitely a tearjerker for me.  

Horror: Since my dad introduced me to the action film that defines me, my mother definitely introduced me to this horror film that defines me. Halloween was the first horror film that I watched that scared me psychologically, but without using gore. Halloween has a blend of mystery, suspense, musical score and photography that fit so beautifully together to make a great horror film.

 

Family/Children: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was and is my absolute favorite children’s film when I was a child. I loved watching this movie and never got sick of it. I loved it so much that I would constantly make the infamous shrinking machine using my tinker toys and Legos. Aside from the idea a machine that could make things bigger or smaller, the idea of going on a dangerous adventure in my own backyard excited me. Sliding down a leaf of grass, eating a gigantic oatmeal cookie or riding on an ant didn’t seem impossible to do… when you’re five at least.