Archive for June, 2008



12
Jun
08

Top Five Movie Twists

WARNING: If you have not seen of the following movies, you might not wanna read any further. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

With the release of M. Night’s “The Happening,” most people are counting on his “one-trick pony” movie twist that is usually found at the end of the movie. In “Sixth Sense,” Bruce Willis was dead. “Untraceable” showed that Bruce Willis really was a superhero, and Samuel L. Jackson was his nemesis. And “Signs?” Well, apparently interstellar space travelers don’t hold up so well against Louisville Sluggers.

 

In honor more for the “movie twist” than Shamma-lamma-ding-dong (had to get that one in), here are five of my favorite movie twists:

 

“North by Northwest” (1959) – Cary Grant is Roger Thornhill, a New York ad exec who has a case of mistaken identity. It seems James Mason and Company think that he’s a spy named George Kaplan, which necessitates the need to kidnap, drug, and try to kill him. Throw in the mix a murder that Kaplan was credited with, the femme fatale Eva Marie Saint, and the fact that Grant goes from one side of the country to the other, eventually scaling down Mount Rushmore, and you’ve got one of the greatest spy (and Alfred Hitchcock) movies ever made. THE TWIST: George Kaplan is a fake CIA identity that does not exist.

 

“Session 9” (2001) – David Caruso plays Phil, a member of a HazMat clean-up crew. When the crew (led by Peter Mullan) get the contract to clean the abandoned Danvers State Mental Hospital, things are going okay. For about a day. When Hank (Josh Lucas) disappears one night, things go to hell quickly. When Hank returns with a knife stuck inside his eye socket and repeating words, “What are you doing here?” you know that it could only get worse. However, the major star of the movie was the hospital itself. It’s something you have to see to believe… THE TWIST: Gordon (Mullan) kills everyone, supposedly being “possessed” by Simon.

 

“Dark City” (1998) – Rufus Sewell wakes up and remembers… nothing. He doesn’t know his name and he receives a mysterious phone call from Dr. Schreber (Keifer Sutherland) saying that he’s in danger and has got to leave his apartment. Sewell eventually finds that his name is John and he’s on the run from cops who think he murdered some prostitutes, his girlfriend who cheated on him, and a group of alien beings that control the city by making everyone sleep while they make “adjustments,” led by Richard O’Brien. And it’s nighttime. All the time. THE TWIST: The entire city is floating out in space.

 

“The Usual Suspects” (1995) – Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) is the only criminal left after a boat heist that went wrong. Verbal was one of five criminals hired to payback their dues. As he narrates the tale to Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri), he mentions the name Keyser Soze. The tale weaves and wraps around this mysterious figure, who is all but a myth. “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist.” THE TWIST: Kevin Spacey IS Keyser Soze.

 

“Cube” (1997) – Independent sci-fi fare about a group of people who wake in a room. They’re trapped in a gigantic object that rotates around, opening new rooms and closing others, as well as opening to room that have wire that can cut through you, fire, poison gas, etc. No one knows who built it, no one knows who runs it, but everyone is trying to find a way out. One of the best mystery/sci-fi movies of the Nineties. THE TWIST: The only person to make it out is the person who can’t say anything (he’s mentally handicapped).

11
Jun
08

Movie News and Views June 11, 2008

 

The latest and greatest… Not a lot worth reporting, but here goes.

 

         “Iron Man 2” – Apparently, Marvel wants to start shooting next year and release the movie in 2010. Add to that the fact that the CEO doesn’t want to pay director Jon Favreau the regular director’s fare, which is great when the guy took a pay cut to make a movie for Marvel that has now grossed near $1 billion. According to other sources, Marvel thinks that “Iron Man” sequels will stand on their own, irregardless of the director. Yeah, right. Let’s not forget the fact that it took almost 3 years for this movie to come out. Why spend three years when you can do it in 1? Quality assurance I’m sure…

         A stuntman was killed on the set of John Woo’s new movie, “Red Cliff.”

         Sony/Columbia Pictures have now signed to do a movie based on “The Smurfs.” Insert your own “Smurfy” comment here.

         “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen” has commenced production.

         Will there be a “Spider-Man 4?” The studios are asking for it, and a script is being written. Closed-door talks are underway with the main subject being possible “re-casting.” Sam Raimi is quoted as saying that he would like to direct again…

         Pixar is gearing-up for “John Carpenter from Mars,” based on the character created by Edgar Burroughs.

         Leo DiCaprio is going to play Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. No word if yet if he has to do research by spending hours playing “Pong.”

         “Capricorn One” is the next to go through the Hollywood Remake Machine.

         F. Gary Gray will be directing the new Marvin Gaye biopic.

         Ben Kinglsey will play the main villain in the new “Prince of Persia” movie (based off the videogame).

         Adam Sandler has now created a horror division called Scary Madison so he can produce his new movie, “Shortcut.” It’s about two brothers who find the perfect shortcut in their congested town until they find out why it’s never been used before…

         Guy Ritchie (the patron saint of “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch”) will be re-booting the Sherlock Holmes franchise.

         Brian DePalma will be helming a movie about the “Boston Stranglers.”

         “Halloween 2” is looking for a new director.

10
Jun
08

Queen at the Movies (a Top 5 list)

The British rock band Queen, lead by late singer Freddie Mercury, contributed some of the most popular and memorable music to the world from the 1970’s to the 1990’s. Whether you were at a sports game and heard “We Will Rock You,” or “Another One Bites the Dust,” or sat through “Highlander” (which they soundtracked), Queen’s presence in pop culture has been widely acknowledged. Today, I list the Top Five Uses of Queen Music in the Movies:

 

“Blades of Glory” (2007) – Will Ferrell and Jon Heder are ice skaters who hatch a plan to resurrect their careers by joining up for a “couples” ice skating event. While you know this is a Will Ferrell movie (and that he’s gonna find a way to win) the actual surprise (or maybe not) was their choice for the music to skate to: Queen’s “Flash” theme (for the movie “Flash Gordon”). The bass drum and piano chord opening made the entire scene worth it.

 

“Shaun of the Dead” (2004) – When Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his friends are holed-up in the Winchester Bar, Shaun finds that not only does he have to fight off the undead outside, but the bar’s owners are undead and they’re inside. The jukebox kicks on and begins playing Queen’s, “Don’t Stop Me Now,” and Shaun and friends are beating the male owner of the Winchester on the head with sticks and shovels, while his girlfriend and mom sit on the side bopping along to the music. “Kill the Queen!” “What?!?” “The jukebox!” Good double-entendre there.

 

“Grosse Pointe Blank” (1997) – Martin Blank (John Cusack) returns to his hometown from a 10-year sojourn and is sent to kill the father of his love interest (Minnie Driver), as well as watching out for a hitman sent to kill him, Federal Agents, and rival hitman Dan Akyroyd. In one scene he attends his 10-year high school reunion and is talking with a former classmate who introduces him to her kid. Martin stares at the kid, possibly pondering the miracle of life. Enter Queen’s “Under Pressure.”

 

“Iron Eagle” (1986) – When Col. Ted Masters (Tim Thomerson) is caught and taken hostage in the Middle East, it’s up to his son Doug (Jason Gedrick) and friend Chappy Sinclair (Louis Gossett, Jr.) to hack into computers, scramble some jets, and complete a covert rescue mission. And when you’re blowing up bad guys and their equipment, you may find yourself kicking-on your cassette player and dispensing justice via Queen’s “One Vision.” Just maybe.

 

“Wayne’s World” (1992) – It’s just another day in the life of Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and pal Garth Algar (Dana Carvey). When they go to pick some friends of their up, what music is better to blast in the Mirthmobile than Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody?” A huge song in the UK upon its original release, the song did moderately okay in the United States. With its use in “Wayne’s World,” the song’s re-release shot it to #1 on the Billboard Charts. “Magnifi-co-oh-oh-oh…”

09
Jun
08

Five, Top Five: My Fave Bond Films

“Goldfinger” (1965) – Following “Dr. No,” “Goldfinger” was Sean Connery’s second outing as Bond in a film that, in my opinion, was far better. Bond deals with megalomaniac Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), who plans to contaminate the gold at Fort Knox, with the help of his assistant (with the razor Bowler hat) Oddjob (Harold Sakata) and private pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Besides becoming the measure of Bond films and inciting homages/clichés, this film has one of the most memorable cinematic scenes: Bond is strapped to a lead table with a laser cutting towards his genitals. He exclaims, “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger (walking away) stops and replies, “No Mister Bond, I expect you to die.” Classic.

Useless trivia: the replica of Fort Knox is currently house in the Patton Museum, located in Fort Knox. Also, Gert Frobe could not speak English. He mouthed/said the words to the best of his ability and someone else supplied the voice for Goldfinger.

 

“The Man with the Golden Gun” (1974) – Roger Moore was Bond this time around and like my previous selection, this was Moore’s second Bond film (“Live and Let Die” the first). Bond is sent to track down Scaramanga (my FAVORITE Bond Villain, played by Christopher Lee), an assassin who kills for a million bucks-a-pop with a single bullet made from gold with the target’s name on it. Although he has a third nipple, Scaramanga has done well for himself in keeping posh surroundings on a private island with midget security force of Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize). Bond travels to meet Scaramanga and their ensuing fight is in a surrealistic room.

Useless trivia: the room where Scaramanga killed his victims was designed by Surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

 

“The Living Daylights” (1987) – My favorite Bond movie of all time, “TLD” marked the beginning Bond movie for Timothy Dalton (whose Bond career would finish with “License to Kill”). When Russian agent Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe) wants to defect to the West, he enlists the help of British Intelligence to get him out, asking for Bond especially. Bond is sent to kill an “assassin” who turns out to be Koskov’s girlfriend (Maryam d’Abo). Taking her along for the ride they cross continents pursuing Koskov and finding out that he’s working with washed-up American arms dealer General Whittaker (Joe Don Baker). This was hands down one of the best Bond stories. Favorite quote: “We have nothing to declare.” “Except this cello!”

Useless trivia: Timothy Dalton was originally cast for the role. He was working on “Brenda Starr,” and pulled out. Producers then went to Pierce Brosnan who wanted to do it, but contractual obligations with “Remington Steele” forbade him from participating. The Producers went back to Dalton who was delayed in working on “Brenda Starr,” which allowed for him to be able to film.

 

“Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) – Another example of an actor’s second Bond outing being better than the first. This time Pierce Brosnan was able to helm the superspy as he went against megalomaniac media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) whose plan for world domination was by controlling the news, and by inciting a war between China and Britain. Helping Bond to save the world is Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese secret agent who can hold her own and whose gadgets can go against Q’s any day. Throw in better action sequences than “GoldenEye,” Terri Hatcher as a “Bond girl,” and one of the best Bond themes (done by Sheryl Crow) this is another of the Best Bond movies (with the exception of the villain).

Useless trivia: This was the first movie produced by Barbara Broccoli, wife of Albert Broccoli. Albert passed away after the release of “GoldenEye.”

 

“Casino Royale” (2006) – Not to be confused with the 1967 “Casino Royale” (taking the title and James Bond name) but more in line with the 1954 TV version, Bond went blonde with actor Daniel Craig. Needing to “re-boot” the franchise after the failures of “The World is not Enough,” and “Die Another Day,” “Casino Royale” was the blood-transfusion the cinema doctor ordered. Craig played the pre-Bond: no gadgets, no fancy one-lines, non-suave, and definitely rough around the edges. He teams up with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) to prevent Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker to world terrorist groups, from winning at the Casino Royale. With non-stop action sequences (I almost needed an oxygen tank to watch it in the theater) and a great theme by Chris Cornell (of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame) I can’t recommend this movie enough.

Useless trivia: Daniel Craig is the only actor to play James Bond who was not alive when “Dr. No” was released. In fact, being born in 1968, he missed the releases of “From Russia With Love,” Goldfinger,” “Thunderball,” and “You Only Live Twice.” It is possible that his parents took him to see “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (w/ George Lazenby.

08
Jun
08

Ode to Days of Video Rental Past

Watching everything change suddenly (although this stuff was coming) I wanted to take a moment and reflect on what it was like growing up with video stores for those who can remember, and those who will probably never know. Here we go:

 

I lived in a small town outside a larger city (that city being Louisville). It was more of a suburban town that some envisioned rural existence that we all allude to, but it was pretty close to that, too. I remember the small video store we had in a small strip mall. In the days when Blockbuster wasn’t in the small towns chains like Roadrunner Video existed and they were nothing more than white walls with scattered videos, and an occasional poster adding a sense of decoration to the place. A constant was the New Release wall, which was consistently rented out.

 

Once you went to rent something, the cashier/clerk pulled out a “card catalog” that had your name somewhere in it. You presented your laminated card, paid your money, and had the movie returned in the next day or two or late fees would accrue (part of the reason for your name on the index card I think). And the card was not digitized; basically, the name of the video store, your signature, and it was laminated.

 

As for getting new releases, good luck. I remember when “Back to the Future 3” came out on video. I had to wait a week before there was a copy available. For whatever reasons “new releases” were limited. Some people waited a month before even considering renting something new.

 

Another service of the video stores was the rental of VCRs. If you couldn’t afford a VCR, or you were going on a trip, you could always pop down to the video store and see if they had any VCRs to rent with the movies you wanted to watch.

 

Should you have lost or misplaced the movie you rented, you were pretty much screwed. Video stores charged at least $99 for a replacement of the movie you lost.

 

By the late Nineties, I worked as a CSR for Hollywood Video. DVD’s were just beginning, so there was still a gigantic amount of VHS tapes. People dropped off their tapes and we’d put three at a time into the videocassette rewinders. We refused to rent to someone whose late fees were enormous.

 

There used to be “screener” copies of movies. Basically, we would get the “screener” copy about a month or two before it came out on video and we rented them from management with the 1-2 day return policy. Any time you watched these, the words “Screener copy -not for sale etc.” appeared on the bottom about every few minutes while you were watching the movie. The Heads of the company did this so when someone came in asking how the movie was, we would be able to tell them. Now, I think they either lie or just say, “I don’t know.” Something HV instituted was the fact that employees could not rent New Releases during their first two weeks. Unless we saw the screener, we either lied or simply stated that we didn’t know.

 

And, people will rent anything. ANYTHING. If you had a movie of Pierce Brosnan sitting on a park bench next to a flaming bag of dog crap, people would watch it (now, they would put it on YouTube and forward it to their friends). Where else but the video market can you find a movie where Burt Reynolds and Ice-T starred together? If at any time you wondered where such-and-such actor went, go to the video store; they’re still working.

 

The first month or so working at the store was pretty cool. I would go to work at six and be home sometime around 1 or 2 in the morning. Waking up around noon I would pop in a movie then kill some time before going back to work; it was a great way to catch up on stuff I had never seen.

 

Speaking of watching stuff outside of work, while at work we had to put on G/PG fare. I can tell you that I’ve heard “Mulan” about a million times, but have never watched more than thirty seconds. True story. One night I put in a “Best of the Muppet Show,” and all of us died laughing when we watched Viking Muppets torch and pillage a village, all to the tune of “In the Navy.”

 

And yes, we had our share of theft. The worst occurred when the movie “Virus” came out. We had a lot of copies walk out. Our thought was: if you’re going to steal a movie, why not steal a GOOD one?

 

Just a trip down video lane,

-Chas

 

08
Jun
08

Move Review: Teeth

 

So, so so so horrible.

 

Starring Jess Weixler. John Hensley, Hale Appleman, and Ashley Springer. Directed by Michael Lichtenstein.

 

Where, oh where, do I start? Well, I never thought I would see this movie. And, whenever I ask myself, “Whatever happened to those low-budget movies so bad that they’re baaaddd?” I’ll know.

 

The story begins with Dawn (Weixler), a teenage girl who spends her free time preaching abstinence and The Promise (a take on Promise Keepers), which appears as a cult anti-sex group where members keep a red ring around their “ring finger” and quote Scripture when it comes to dealing or understanding sex. We find that her brother Brad (Hensley) is the “bad boy” stereotype (smoking, tattoos, drugs, piercings) with pictures of naked women tacked to blackened walls, a bulldog, and girlfriend whose constantly disappointed that they’re only sex is anal. Meanwhile, they’re mom is sick/ has cancer (probably due to the TWO nuclear reactors behind the suburbs).

 

Dawn falls in love with Toby (Appleman). Sexual repression soon leads them to the woods where they make out under a waterfall but Dawn keeps mentioning “Purity” (The Promise people’s call to abstinence) and eventually they’re sitting next to each other. Toby’s repression leads to him raping Dawn when something grabs a hold of of his penis and rips it off. Toby begins bleeding profusely before jumping into the water and disappearing.

 

Rushing away, Dawn makes it back to her place. She’s safe for the moment. What begins next is her discovery that she has “vagina dentata”: “shark teeth” in her vagina that ancient cultures have made myths about. Apparently, she can only be saved by a conquering hero. What follows are the dismemberings of fingers and more penises, as well as revenge.

 

What else can I say about this movie? On a technical stance, the lighting and audio were top notch for a lo/no-budget production. Everything else was complete garbage. Most of the scenes felt like the director threw the actors in front of the camera and told them to recite the lines. The script had to get money on the concept because no self-respecting person would have greenlit it if they had read the script.

 

Here’s hoping that Louisvillian native Weixler gets better parts.

 

My grade: F

06
Jun
08

Let There Be Rock: Top 5 Concert Films

“The Last Waltz” 1978  – The Band, known for hits such as “Up On Cripple Creek,” and, “The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down,” gives their farewell concert, and invite Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ringo Starr, Van Morrison, and others along for the denouement. If that wasn’t enough, it was directed by Martin Scorsese.

 

 

 

 

“Gimme Shelter” (1970) – Good idea: throw a free concert in Altamont, CA. Bad idea: hire the Hell’s Angels as security. Worse idea: pay them in free beer. And, that’s exactly what happened when the Rolling Stones put on this concert in 1969. While Ike and Tina Turner opened for them (as well as B.B. King, who was not filmed), other bands that took the stage included Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Santana, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The Grateful Dead opted out. During the Stones part of the concert Meredith Hunter was stabbed, which lead to extreme controversy and the fact that the Stones would not play “Sympathy for the Devil” in concert for another 6 years.

 

“The Song Remains the Same” (1976) – Filmed at Madison Square Gardens and mixed with documentary footage and “dream sequences,” this was, and is, THE Led Zeppelin Fan’s movie. Shot in 1973 but not released until ’76, this was the band at their height (before Plant’s Jeep crash and other factors). The movie has been remixed and remastered, including footage previously not shown.

 

 

 

“Festival Express” (2003) – What happens when you get The Grateful Dead, The Band, Janis Joplin and the Full Tilt Boogie Band, Sha Na Na, Marshmakhan, Ian and Sylvia and the Great Speckled Bird, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Buddy Guy Blues Band, and throw them all onto a train going from Toronto to Calgary, which makes stops for alcohol and to play an occasional concert? Yeah buddy. Filmed in 1970, it took until 2003 to clear most of the music rights for the film (Traffic and Ten Years After played, but musical clearance could not be obtained). It’s a fun-filled ride. Note: the DVD has the option to play all the musical sequences (there are performances not shown in the Main Movie).

 

“Let There Be Rock” (1980) – The first of AC/DC’s concert films would unknowingly be the last for then lead singer Bon Scott. Filmed in Paris, France in 1979, the band takes center stage and plays tracks from its first few albums. While they have achieved their place in the Halls of Rock with singer Brian Johnson, this concert is them at their best (#2: Live at Donnington). Note: the only film powered by AC/DC.

04
Jun
08

UPDATE on Universal Studios Backlot Fire

 

 

I just ran across this article today:

 

http://www.backstage.com/bso/news_reviews/film/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003811060

 

This is an update on the information on the fire at the Universal Studios Backlot.

 

Feel free to drop back by and comment.

 

Thanks,

-Chas

03
Jun
08

I Love the Smell of Spoofs in the Morning: Top 5 ‘Apocalypse Now’ Spoofs

“Mallrats” – “I love the smell of commerce in the morning,” Jay (Jayson Mewes) exclaims as him and his “hetero-lifemate” Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) enter the mall. Maybe not the best homage to the film, but wasn’t worse than any of the others.

 

“Small Soldiers” – “I love the smell of polyurethane in the morning…” With these words Chip Hazard (Tommy Lee Jones) of the Commando Elite wages war on the Gorgonites. Throw in the helicopter raids with “Ride of the Valkyrie,” playing in the background and even Lt. Col. Kilgore would have been proud.

 

“Hot Shots! Part Deux” – Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen) is on a boat, sent into Iraq to “bring back the men who were sent in to get the men who were sent in to get the men.” As he’s going up river he begins to narrate (“Somebody once wrote, “Hell is the impossibility of reason,”) when his narration his buried under the narration of Martin Sheen (“At first I thought they handed me the wrong dossier…”) who is on a boat heading the opposite direction. As they pass each other they stand and pointing, exclaim, “I loved you in ‘Wall Street.’” Great scene.

 

“Major Payne” – When Major Benson Payne (Damon Wayans) is sitting alone in an apartment, waiting for a new assignment as he grows “softer,” we’re clued-in that this comedy is going to have more than a passing nod to, “Apocalypse Now.” Throw in a few other quotes like, “You terminate his command?” or “Major Payne wiped out the enemy with extreme prejudice!” and it’s pretty well rounded-out.

 

“Porklips Now” – From Ernie Fosselius, the “everything” guy who did the spoof film, “Hardware Wars,” comes a complete spoof. Health inspector Will Dullard is sent to have a meeting with Mertz, the owner of a local meat processing shop, and “investigate with extreme prejudice.” From its opening of trees with smoke coming from a barbecue, to its music by “The Back Doors,” this is one you’ll have to catch.

02
Jun
08

Universal Studios Backlot Fire

 

Early Sunday morning a fire broke out on the Universal Studios Backlot, destroying set pieces and properties (such as the Hilldale townsquare from “Back to the Future”) and a video vault containing over 40,000 videos and reels.

For more information, check out Anna Thompson’s blog at:

http://weblogs.variety.com/thompsononhollywood/2008/06/universal-back.html

Thanks!

-Chas