Archive for October, 2009

30
Oct
09

November Movie Releases

“The Box” – James Marsden and Cameron Diaz are a couple with a kid living in dire circumstances when a mysterious stranger gives them a box that has a button on it. Pressing the button will reward them with $1 million however, it will also kill someone else in the world they do not know. Based on the Richard Matheson story, “Button, Button.” Decide if you will press it on November 6, 2009

“Disney’s A Christmas Carol” – Jim Carrey voices Ebeneezer Scrooge in this CG take on the Dickens classic. Also stars the voices of Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Tom Hanks, Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes and Robin Wright Penn. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Opens November 6, 2009

“The Fourth Kind” – Milla Jovovich in a thriller based on the real-life story of a town in Alaska where people have been disappearing and where they fear there’s a government coverup. Opens November 6, 2009

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” – Ewan McGregor stars as a down-on-his-luck reporter who gets the inside scoop on a secret psychic military unit. Also stars George Clooney and Kevin Spacey. Based on the 2004 book of the same name. Opens November 6, 2009

“Precious” – Based on the “Push” novel about a black girl who grows up being abused by her mother, raped by her father, and ends up poor, angry, illiterate, unloved, and unnoticed. Opens November 6, 2009

“2012” – It’s not the year 2525, but it’s just as disastrous… Roland Emmerich is behind this apocalyptic movie staring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, and Oliver Platt. Opens November 13, 2009

“Pirate Radio” – Set in the 60’s. A group of DJ’s give a new meaning to “the boat that rocked” by broadcasting rock music from a boat in the North Seas while most of the broadcasters in England are still clinging to jazz. Stars Bill Nighy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gemma Arterton, Emma Thompson, and David Frost. Opens November 13, 2009

“Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” – Remake/reboot of Harvey Keitel movie finds Nic Cage in the title role as a no-holds-barred cop as crooked as the crooks he takes down. This time it’s set in New Orleans. Opens November 20, 2009

“The Blind Side” – A young, African-American teenager from a broken home is taken in by a well-to-do white family. He must rise up against new challenges in his life and the family finds out more about themselves as well. Stars Sandra Bullock. Opens November 20, 2009

“New Moon” – Episode Two of the “Twilight Saga” based on the books. Opens November 20, 2009

“Planet 51” – When an astronaut lands on a planet that fears alien invasion, he has to avoid capture and reclaim his ship to return to Earth. With the voices of Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Jessica Biel, Gary Oldman, and John Cleese. Opens November 20, 2009

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” – Based on the Roald Dahl about a sly fox who lives in idyllic life that slips back into his thieving ways. This agitates the farmers and endangers the animal kingdom which must bond together in order to survive. Featuring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman. Opens November 25, 2009

“Ninja Assassin” – Asian pop star Rain is one of the world’s deadliest assassins, taken from birth and trained in a secret society. When his best friend dies he breaks free, vanishes, and waits to exact his revenge. Opens November 25, 2009

“Old Dogs” – John Travolta and Robin Williams are two business execs on the verge of the Biggest Business Deal of Their Lives and have to take care of 6-year-old twins. Uh, yeah. Opens November 25, 2009

“The Princess and the Frog” – Disney’s re-imagining of “The Princess and the Frog,” taking place this time in Louisiana. Opens November 25, 2009

“The Road” – Based on the Cormac McCarthy novel about a father and son walking the desolate earth of a post-apocalyptic future, armed with a single pistol. Stars Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, and Robert Duvall. Opens November 25, 2009

28
Oct
09

Remake Radar: Bad Lieutenant

bad_lieutenant_1992

 

Just in time for next month’s release…

Welcome to Remake Radar, where we take on Hollywood’s penchant for remaking films for better or worse (which is most of the time). This month’s movie:

“Bad Lieutenant” (1992)

Stars: Harvey Keitel, Victor Argo, and Frankie Thorn

Director: Abel Ferrara

Story: Harvey Keitel plays the main character, a guy who is as much a criminal as a cop. Buried under gambling debt and looking for the next score, he ends up helping out a nun (Thorn) and reflecting on his life, searching for forgiveness.

What do we know now?: Werner Herzog has taken the reins on this one, subbing in Nic Cage for Keitel and relocating from NYC to Bayou country. Cage is investigating the killing of five Senegalese immigrants. Eva Mendes (who was with cage in “Ghost Rider”) shows up in this one as well. Also starring is Val Kilmer, Fairuza Balk, and Brad Dourif.

The release date is set for November 20, 2009.

Original trailer:

Remake trailer:

 

 

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26
Oct
09

Movie News and Views Oct. 26, 2009 Trailer Edition

“The Spy Next Door” – Jackie Chan babysits some kids when one of them downloads a secret code. Suddenly he’s forced to fend off secret agents. Also stars George Lopez and Billy Ray Cyrus. Opens January 15, 2010

“The Tooth Fairy” – Dwayne Johnson is a hockey player that brutalizes on the field as well as off. One night he’s given a new charge: being a tooth fairy. Also stars Julie Andrews. Opens January 22, 2010

“Season of the Witch” – Witches and warlocks and demons, oh my! The latest horror/fantasy starring Nic Cage and Ron Perlman. Directed by Dominic Sena. Opens March 19, 2010

“Toy Story 3” – Woody, Buzz, and the gang are back and they’re headin’ out of Andy’s room and on the road. Opens June 10, 2010

“Collapse” – Documentary about the current economic collapse featuring Michael Ruppert, a cop turned investigative reporter. From the director of “American Movie.” Coming Soon!

“The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” – Long-awaited Terry Gilliam movie about a traveling magician who sells his daughter’s soul for magical powers and the person who is trying to get her soul back. Heath Ledger’s last performance on film. Coming soon!

“Motherhood” – Uma Thurman is a mother with a 6-year-old going through hoops for her daughter’s birthday. Also stars Anthony Edwards and Minnie Driver. Coming Soon!

“Precious” – Based on the novel “Push,” by Sapphire, it’s about an overweight, illiterate teen twice pregnant by her father and abused by her mother. Stars Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, and Mariah Carey. Coming soon!

“Women in Trouble” – They’re women. And they’re in trouble. Starring Carla Gugino. Coming Soon!

26
Oct
09

Movie Review: Capitalism: A Love Story

capitalism_a_love_story

 

Would Jesus be a capitalist?

 

Directed by Michael Moore.

 

After a “stock footage” disclaimer that the following film may be too shocking for viewers, we’re treated to closed circuit camera video of people robbing banks. Following that a British short film about life in Rome. Moore juxtaposes images from our current society into the short film with the narrator’s dialogue backing up the images of both old (Rome) and new (America). Yes, we are the “second” Roman Empire and yes, it’s all over…

 

The question above, “Would Jesus be a capitalist?” is one of many that Moore poses to us as he turns a gigantic mirror not just on Wall Street, but on Main Street (but he is more bias against Wall Street). Moore waxes nostalgic about growing up in the Fifties; his dad worked every day while his mom could stay at home, they bought a new car every three years, and the family went on trips to NYC every other summer. Now his hometown of Flint is on the list of the worst places to live in the U.S., millions of jobs have been lost, etc. What happened?

 

Toning down the humor and the “kid picking on the bully” that Moore can be known to exhibit, he instead chooses to investigate just exactly what placed us on this point of the economic map. One of those offering answers is William Black, the guy who exposed Charles Keating in the Eighties. Black talks about the de-regulation of the early 2000s which has led to the mortgage crises and current foreclosures affecting the nation.

 

Showing the effects on the underdog, Moore visits a family in Illinois whose home is being repossessed by the bank. The house has been in the family for over 40 years. The husband, a big, MidWesterner, was put on disability years ago after a workplace accident. His wife does part-time work. Having to pay for doctor bills he took out a home equity loan (“your home is a bank!”) and as the variable rates grew higher, he could no longer afford to pay them. He is forced to vacate and clean out all his belongings. For doing both, the lender gives his family a check for $1,000. The wife cries as a grand is pittance for having to fork over the home she’s been in for decades.

 

And the lenders aren’t the only ones “making out like bandits.” A group called Condo Vultures in South Florida capitalizes on the fact that people “overleveraged” themselves and are buying up property left and right for the eventual resale. Conversely, there is a family living in storage truck in South Florida who was evicted from their home. The neighbors gathered around, broke into their old home, and let them move back in. 9 police cars showed to try and evict the family again.

 

Moore delivers a soft blow on what should otherwise be a Mike Tyson TKO. I’m not mad at how he presented the information, because a lot of this needed to be said, but Moore could’ve gone deeper and harder-hitting; that’s something I find lacking in his last few documentaries. On this “go” Moore makes it more personal and more mature. Instead of running around with a camera crew and forcing people into answering questions he lets people tell their stories which are more effective. There are a few signature “Michael Moore moments,” like when he uses yellow Police Crime Scene tape and wraps it around Wall Street, or takes an armored truck to Goldman Sachs and AIG to get our money back, but they’re embedded later on in the movie.

 

Another ingredient of a Michael Moore film is presenting you with the information you didn’t have or realize. This comes in two points: a) The Corporation you work for may/probably has a Dead Peasants policy on you and b) the guy flying you to your destination is making less than the manager at the McDonald’s. An example of the first point comes in the form of a woman whose bank notifies her that the company her late husband worked for had an insurance policy on him for $1.5 million, none of which she will ever receive. Apparently corporations have monthly “mortality rate” projections and they’re not happy if it’s about 50%

 

The second is that yes, the people flying us from Boston to L.A., L.A. to New York, etc. make LESS than I do (which IS saying a lot). Several of these pilots have second jobs such as teaching, babysitting, working at a coffeeshop, etc. just to get by. Moore shows Captain Sully, the airline pilot who saved the lives of 150 passengers, testifying before Congress that the airlines have cut pay by 40%. Nobody listened or even if they did, they weren’t wanting to.

 

While this film may not have been as hard-hitting as I would like it to be, it’s still an important movie to watch. This isn’t about socialism, democracy, plutonomy, etc. It’s about straight-up greed. Moore does exhibit two instances where democracy works for companies, which is promising. My only other real complaint about the film is that it shuttles back and forth, not giving you the identity of certain individuals or why they should be important to the narrative until much later.

 

Should you see this movie? Yes. It’s important. Maybe you’ll find empathy or sympathy. Maybe you’ll wake up and see what’s really going on. Maybe you’ll start a discussion on complacency, collusion, and how much either side has to do with it. Just a thought.

 

One final note: there’s footage of FDR reading his proposed Second Bill of Rights. This bill guaranteed health care, education, a job, and a home to U.S. citizenry. After Word War II Japan, Germany, and Italy drew up new constitutions that included some of these provisions. Incidentally, these ideals have never been presented for inclusion in our own Constitution.

 

My grade: (adjusted for inflation) A

 

For information on whether the company you work for has a Dead Peasants policy on you, check out www.deadpeasants.biz

 

P.S. If you’re interested more in “how we got here,” check out the documentary “The Corporation.”

26
Oct
09

Movie Review: Zombieland

zombieland_ver2

 

Call it an American “Shaun of the Dead.”

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and Bill Murray. Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Sometimes going into a movie with low expectations is the best way to see it. I walked in hating the idea of the movie and walked out loving it.

Welcome to the United States of Zombieland; what’s left after a virus begins turning people into zombies (nothing new there). The narrator of this tale is “Columbus” (Eisenberg), an Austin college student from Ohio. He’s your standard post-Generation X nebbish, sensitive, shut-in “World of Warcraft”-playing collegiate that didn’t find out about the virus until his next door neighbor in 406 (Amber Heard) is bitten by a homeless guy and he offers a sympathetic shoulder. Unfortunately when he wakes she doesn’t want just his shoulder to cry on.

After the incident he ventures out into the world creating a list of rules as he goes along (up to 31 when the movie opens). The Rules for dealing with zombies include Cardio (being able to out run them), Double Tap (shooting the zombie twice, at least once in the head), Don’t Be a Hero, Check the Back Seat, Beware of Bathrooms, etc. It’s by these rules that Columbus survives.

On a highway with cars and trucks strewn everywhere (and a few burnt to a crisp) he meets Tallahassee (Harrelson), a shoot-from-the-hip zombie-killing badass. Tallahassee is 180 degrees different than Columbus: he’s brazen, redneck, macho, and says exactly what he thinks. His mission: killing zombies and the quixotic quest for Twinkies. His advice leads to Rule 32: Enjoy the little things.

This pair begin heading east and a stop at a grocery store leads to meeting sisters Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin). Columbus and Tallahassee soon find that Wichita and Little Rock are more than just sisters; they’re con artists. This is found out multiple times after being taken for their weapons and vehicles (which they lose twice). Wichita and Little Rock are on a mission: Pacific Playland, an amusement park which supposedly has no zombies.

Before going in I wasn’t a big fan of zombie movies. I’m as done with zombies as I am with vampires. Yes, I loved “Shaun of the Dead. Who, except my brother, didn’t? I thought “28 Days Later,” was great. That’s it. I don’t fawn over every zombie survival guide or movie that’s released. This movie is something different.

The movie keeps a consistency: cynical narration from Columbus. We see and hear his internal thoughts, fears, wants, and desires. He thinks tough but can’t always pull it off. Add to that creative CG titling that brings to mind David Fincher movie intros. The initial opening sequence that shows the progression of zombies in the world and feels more than inspired from the intro to “Watchmen.” In fact Fleischer does a great job in doing what he wants with the zombie genre without making you feel like “we’ve seen this all before.” The world of “Zombieland” becomes a backdrop for a road movie where the characters are looking for illusory security.

Paying homage to “Watchmen”/David Finch intros is the most direct homage the movie pays to any other film. There is a scene at Pacific Playland where Tallahassee fortifies himself inside one of the booths where you throw a ball in the futile attempt to win a giant plush animal prize. Wearing a snakeskin jacket he blasts away at the oncoming zombies with a pair of gold-plated 9mms (“Face/Off” anyone?) He ejects the empty clips and reloads by slamming the cartridges standing on the table into the them (“Tomb Raider”-ish?) Speaking of video games the coup de grace scene where all parties involved have to defend themselves against the gigantic group of zombies reminded me of the days when I played “Doom,” while blasting hard rock music in the background. I’m just saying…

Is it gory? Yes. It’s also funny, witty, cynical, brazen, redneck, and a little romantic. Harrelson definitely carries the movie, but the cast looks like they were having film filming it. Eisenberg is good, but Michael Cera could’ve done just as well. Emma Stone works, and I’m becoming really impressed with Abigail Breslin; she’s more than just the kid you remember from “Little Miss Sunshine.”

So I’ve been saving Bill Murray for last. The group make it into Hollywood and after stealing a Map of the Stars they head to the home of the actor Tallahassee considers the top of the A-list: Bill Murray. Murray’s huge, lavish mansion is a little more than self-indulgent with various paintings of Murray. They almost mistake Murray for a zombie because he wears makeup to look like one (“It’s easier to blend in as a zombie.”) After an altercation Little Rock asks if he has any regrets to which he responds: “’Garfield,’ maybe.”

That’s as much as I’ll say about that. If this review can’t convince you to go see it, I don’t know what will.

My grade: A

23
Oct
09

Horror Movies on DVD Review: Burnt Offerings

burnt_offerings

 

Thank God it’s ‘only a movie, only a movie, only a movie…’

Starring Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davis, and Burgess Meredith. Directed by Dan Curtis. Based on the novel by Robert Marasco.

The DVD should be a ‘burnt offering.’

The Rolf Residence (Ben, Marian, and Davey) are looking for a place to hang out for the summer. Answering a classified ad they happen upon a large mansion in the countryside watched over by an old woman (Eileen Heckart) and her wheelchair-bound brother (Burgess Meredith). The propose renting the house for the summer for $900 (price not adjusted for inflation since 1976). The Rolfs take a day to think it over and –what the heck- they return. The sister tells Marian (Black) that an older sister lives upstairs and needs to be fed three times a day. This older sister mainly sleeps all day, doesn’t want to be disturbed, and she can leave the tray of food out for her. Those are the only conditions.

The Bro and Sis leave and the Rolfs move in, quickly finding out that while the interior does have its antiques and a large photo collection, the fridge and icebox are fully stocked. A bargain if they ever knew one. Along with them is Aunt Elizabeth (Davis), a happy old woman wanting to kick back, do some painting, and smoke. None of them know or realize the terror that ploddingly awaits them.

The unknown, unspeakable terror residing in the house (where most terrors of the kind do) begins affecting Ben (Reed). He begins having dreams about a creepy chauffeur (Anthony James) at a funeral he attended as a boy. When his son Davey (Lee Montgomery) decides to go for a swim in the pool, he begins playing around with him only to constantly dunk him to the point of drowning. This drives him to smoke, keep his distance, and begin questioning staying at the house.

Marian begins acting strange as well. She spends more time caring for an old woman that no one gets to see (not even the audience) than about what’s going on with her family. Ben tries to get romantic in the pool with her and she pushes away. When they try to “do the do” on the front lawn she sees a light coming from the old woman’s room and freaks out. As the song says, “no sugar tonight.”

Aunt Elizabeth isn’t holding up too well, either. A tiff develops between her and Marian. She goes from “smoking and carefree” to “tired and lethargic” finally settling on “back broken and rendered immobile by an unseen force.” Ben has decided that the family’s gotta get gone.

Which is easier thought than done. While they did make a trip away from the house for Aunt Elizabeth’s funeral, Marian isn’t 100% sure that the house is the malevolent force behind everything. Then again, dressing as a turn-of-the-century woman, Marian isn’t 100% there to begin with. Ben wants to leave, Davey wants to make sure mom’s coming along, and Marian wants to stay. What follows isn’t so much terror as just a long way to go to wrap up a story.

In my version of Hell, I’m pretty sure this is playing and I have to be locked-down like Alex in “Clockwork Orange,” forced to watch. As far as the “evil spirits in house” movies go, there are a lot better ones (as of this writing, “Paranormal Activities”). The movie is slow, plodding, and severely uneven. Davey can’t decide which parent he’s for or against in any one scene. Marian, at the end of the movie, looks and acts like Marian at the beginning of the movie. The circa-Seventies cream-colored filters don’t help anything out. Did I already mention it was slow?

My grade: D

Hor-O-Meter Level: -2 (there is no obligatory quote for negative numbers)

23
Oct
09

Movie News and Views Oct. 23, 2009 Poster Edition

Daybreakers

 

If ONLY I could make this up…

 

– In an effort to further humiliation, Sylvester Stallone is working on “Rocky 7.”

– Remember the “nuclear fridge” scene from “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?” It is now available as an “action figure” set in a limited edition of 600.

– For those who haven’t heard of it, the documentary “The Cove,” is about dolphin hunting in the small fishing town of Taiji, Japan. The fisheries in the area, which are strongly for dolphin hunting, threaten to sue the filmmakers if they watch the movies and find any errors.

– Watch for the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to return to TV (Nickelodeon) and the silver screen in 2012.

– NBC recently purchased the Weather Channel for $3.5 billion and in the spirit of edu-tainment, will begin offering movies such as “The Perfect Storm,” “Misery,” and “Deep Blue Sea.”

– New Line is planning to remake “What Women Want,” only this time they want to do it about a teenage girl who acquires the ability to hear what men are thinking. Really? I’m serious, now. Really??

– The “Scary Movie” franchise is planned for reboot because, thank God, it’s so much of a better idea than another sequel.

– Marge Simpson posed for Playboy. No telling how many people will be drawn to her centerfold…

– Set the Wayback Machine for 1984: the proposed “Beverly Hills Cop 4” is supposed to occur after the original, ignoring “2” and “3.” Why ignore “2?” I kinda liked that one…

– Even from jail, Roman Polanski is working on his film, “The Ghost.”

– Chris Pine is set to play the character Jack Ryan. For those who don’t know who he is, the Tom Clancy character was portrayed by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck.

– At the age of 20, Al Pacino lived in Sicily trading sex with older women for food and housing.

– Watch for “Freaky Monday,” a sequel to the oft-remade Disney flick, “Freaky Friday.”

– “Resident Evil 4” plot details: In a world ravaged by a virus infection, turning its victims into the Undead, Alice (Jovovich), continues on her journey to find survivors and lead them to safety. Her deadly battle with the Umbrella Corporation reaches new heights, but Alice gets some unexpected help from an old friend. A new lead that promises a safe haven from the Undead leads them to Los Angeles, but when they arrive the city is overrun by thousands of Undead and Alice and her comrades are about to step into a deadly trap.

– Alice Braga, Adrien Brody, and Topher Grace are locked for Robert Rodriguez’s “Predators” reboot.

– Kevin Smith credits marijuana for helping to “save” his career.

– Nic Cage blames his manager for his tax problems.

– “Thomas the Tank Engine,” “Barney,” and “Bob the Builder” are goin’ from PBS to the big screen.

– Jessica Alba will be in the next “Meet the Parents” movie.

– In other Stallone news, he’s trying to remake “Death Wish.”

– Not content with cameos in Marvel movies, Stan Lee is asking to be in the DC Comics movies as well.

– MGM’s bankruptcy has possibly put “James Bond” and “The Hobbit” in jeopardy.

– Werner Herzog’s film school teached lock-picking and bullet-dodging. I can’t tell ya how many times I wanted public school to teach that to me…

 

 

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