Tuesday, October 28, 2008

forgive me, reader(s), for i have sinned... it has been over a month since my last blog entry

And, yes, I have been watching copious episodes of Mythbusters rather than fulfilling my duty as an amateur/fake movie critic by watching and offering commentary about every film ever released. Hopefully this unplanned hiatus is nearing its end, and I will soon be back with my self-beloved insights.

In the meantime, readers in the Windsor area may be interested in checking out this week's episode of The Comic Book Syndicate (airing on Cogeco channel 11, Friday and Saturday at 11:00 pm). Look for a handsome mustachioed fellow impersonating Commissioner Gordon.

Everyone else, please Google search and/or Facebook search The Comic Book Syndicate and demand that the show extend its viewing area.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Who is The Batman?

So, as far as lame disguises go, it's probably fair to say that Superman's ranks pretty high on the "really?!?" scale. I mean, Clark Kent takes off his glasses, puts his underpants on the outside, and he's suddenly unrecognizable? It seems as if wearing some sort of mask would be considerably more effective as a means of hiding one's identity.

Then again, if you think about this issue far more seriously than it warrants, you might, like me, come to the conclusion that Batman's cowl is only marginally superior. Say that your uncle or, like, your barber or somebody was Batman. Don't you think you would be able to identify his jawline? Even if a real-life billionaire-- Donald Trump or Bill Gates-- decided to fight crime, chances are you've seen enough photographs and/or television footage of these guys that their chins would ring some bells, even if you didn't know Don or Bee-Gee personally.

Well, lets put it to the test... How many of the following Hollywood jaws can you identify? If one of these actors was, indeed, The Batman, would you know?

Monday, September 08, 2008

mondays with buster
from The Scarecrow (1920)

Friday, August 29, 2008

the rest-of-summer round-up

Some brief thoughts about the movies I have seen during the latter half of the summer.


Great premise, poor execution. The film doesn't want to alienate viewers who think Will Smith's ears are cute (read "the general public"), so it avoids confronting superhero conventions or the psychology of its main character with the depth it would require to be satisfying. It's kind of a shame that
Hancock missed the mark because now that the 2008 summer season, with its deluge of comic book movies, is over, the moment for Hancock's timely themes has passed.


I'm struggling to recall whether I liked this film or not, which suggests that it was not particularly memorable. Honestly, though, I had the same response to
Hellboy numero uno. Both installments pass the time without making me wish I was elsewhere, knitting or something, and offer minor delights, mostly visual. Every review of the Golden Army that I have read speculates that director Guillermo del Toro either had leftover creatures from his previous film, Pan's Labyrinth, and/or had recently spent some time in the Mos Eisley Cantina. Had I bothered to review Hellboy II at the time, I would have likely blurted out similar quips. The creature designs, though, remain quite faithful to the style of Hellboy artist Mike Mignola, too. So, yes, there's optical splendor that probably works best on the big screen, but my overall indifference towards the film makes it difficult to recommend.


You know what
The Dark Knight needs? More buzz. Really, though, what am I going to add to a discussion of the film that hasn't already been said? I belong to the camp that thinks The Dark Knight is not quite as wonderful as it has been raved to be, but most of my quibbles are minor. The first time I saw the movie, I spent the initial forty minutes wondering what was so great about the film, but then it kicked into gear and wowed me like it did so many other viewers. I left the theater with the same kind of buzz I felt after seeing The Empire Strikes Back so many years ago. I saw The Dark Knight again in IMAX, and was not as bored during the opening scenes, but I recognized that there are a number of sequences that seem to be over before they're finished. What happens at Bruce Wayne's dinner party after the Batman jumps out the window, for instance? Heath Ledger: very good. Christian Bale: deserves more recognition for how good he is, also.


For better or worse, Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, and their cadre of regulars have set the bar for contemporary comedy with their series of successful R-rated flicks (in which nothing is sacred, except maybe pot). In comparison to movies like
Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Tropic Thunder has an air of gentility that belies its attempts to skewer its targets with significant audacity. The film opens with some clever gags, including the parody advertisements and trailers that introduce the main characters. In general, though, the jokes are kind of lame.

The semi-controversial retard material is less shocking than protesters made it out to be, and whatever shock-value was intended in the casting of Tom Cruise to play studio exec, Les Grossman-- oh my god, he's
so playing against type-- is undermined by the fact that Tom Cruise really stinks. If the humor was as outrageous as it needed to be, it might be easier to accept the ridiculous plot: actors who think that they're filming in the jungle, guerrilla style, end up doing battle with an Asian drug cartel. As it stands, however, this movie offers no incentive for me to suspend any degree of disbelief.

Tropic Thunder is valuable in one regard, it would be its contribution towards catapulting Robert Downey, Jr. to A-List fame. Along with his recognition for Iron Man, Downey's performance in this film has been appropriately lauded as one of this summer's highlights. I think we can look forward to seeing him in future projects that are not as easily summed up as:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dennis Cozzalio keeps me occupied for fifteen hours with his latest quiz for hard core cinephiles at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Here are my answers to:


1) Your favorite musical moment in a movie

Whenever someone asks me what my "favorite"
anything in a movie category is, I immediately come up with a list of at least 25 answers. I am willing to commit to a favorite movie musical, as I am inordinately fond of An American in Paris, but a musical moment? Here's a smattering of moments that immediately jumped into my head: Movin' Right Along from The Muppet Movie; the last supper scene (Suicide is Painless) in M*A*S*H; Deadfall's symphonic heist; the Hooray for Captain Spalding number in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You; Rick's customers rallying behind Le Marseillaise in Casablanca; the Flying Trapeze song from It Happened One Night; and oh-so-many more... (I haven't even addressed musical scores)

2) Ray Milland or Dana Andrews

Gotta say, neither actor is particularly compelling to me. Looking over their filmographies at imdb, I can confess to only having seen one of each performer's movies (The Lost Weekend and Laura, respectively). My response to both was ho-hum. I like the
name Ray Milland, though. It rolls off the tongue nicely: Ray Milland. I'm gonna go with Ray Milland (born Reginald Alfred Truscott-Jones).

3) Favorite Sidney Lumet movie

I'm going to go ahead and classify Network as a Paddy Chayefsky movie so that I can throw this bone to The Verdict. Lumet, Newman, Rampling, Warden, Mamet, Mandel, and a sophisticated plot that puts most legal dramas to shame. The world needs more movies about alcoholic ambulance chasers, too.

4) Biggest surprise of the just-past summer movie season

Nicky Katt is in The Dark Knight.

5) Gene Tierney or Rita Hayworth

Rita Hayworth, but I have a poster of Tim Robbins hanging on my cell wall.

6) What’s the last movie you saw on DVD? In theaters?

The last movie I saw on DVD was Prom Night (2008), because internet piracy makes movie watching so affordable that I no longer have to be discerning about what I choose to see.

The last movie I saw in the theater was Tropic Thunder. It was retarded.

7) Irwin Allen’s finest hour?

The Poseidon Adventure.

8) What were the films where you would rather see the movie promised by the poster than the one that was actually made?

'nuff said

9) Chow Yun-Fat or Tony Leung

I really enjoy watching Chow Yun-Fat shoot people in the early John Woo films, but Tony Leung blows me away as an actor. At his best, so far, I think in Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love. The man has a face that can make your soul cry.

10) Most pretentious movie ever

adjective 1 making an excessive claim to great merit, importance, fashionableness, etc. esp. without cause. 2 ostentatious, showy. (Canadian Oxford Dictionary)

You would think that some artsy foreign film would jump to mind, but a couple of mainstream movies tie at the top of my list:

Gladiator: a picture that wants you to believe that it is an historical epic in the vein of Braveheart or Lawrence of Arabia, but is actually just a sports film. In fact, it's not even Rocky... It's like ancient WWF.

Forrest Gump: a picture that wants you to believe that it is an insightful human drama that examines ideological perseverance in the face of political and personal adversity, but is actually emotionally manipulative, sentimental pap.

11) Favorite Russ Meyer movie

I'm not much of a Meyer fan, so I'll resort to the the title I like best, which is Wild Gals of the Naked West. I watched this flick on TV a few months ago, begging the question, what was I doing awake at 3:30 in the morning?

12) Name the movie that you feel best reflects yourself, a movie you would recommend to an acquaintance that most accurately says, “This is me.”

Cabin Boy. No, wait! That was an answer from your previous quiz... different question... I am uncomfortable with the idea of trying to describe my personality in relation to the content of a single movie, let alone someone else's art. It's a reductive and arrogant task. So I called my ex-girlfriend to ask which movie reflects me most accurately, and she said "Deconstructing Harry."

13) Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo

Wow. Both icons, both incredibly talented, both strikingly beautiful in such interesting ways. This question is more fascinating than the mundane case of Milland v. Andrews, but much more difficult to answer because the two actresses are so great. Because I hate to be uncommitted, I will give a slight edge to Greta, whose performance in the famous "Garbo Laughs" scene in Ninotchka had such an impact on me when I studied the films of Ernst Lubitsch. But I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without reason or accountability.

14) Best movie snack? Most vile movie snack?

Who decided that popcorn was the movie snack of choice. Yeah, I just love to hear those kernels squeaking between your teeth while I'm trying to watch a picture. Throw in those crackly candy packages and
nachos?!? You might as well leave your cell phone on, 'cause the theater is beginning to sound like a STOMP! production. My vote is that we allow only pudding.

15) Current movie star who would be most comfortable in the classic Hollywood studio system

Jeremy Northam. While watching the film Cypher, I was struck with the thought that he could easily slip into a number of Cary Grant's roles.

Fitzcarraldo—yes or no?

Yes, but not without having first seen Herzog's 1999 documentary, My Best Friend.

17) Your assignment is to book the ultimate triple bill to inaugurate your own revival theater. What three movies will we see on opening night?

Steamboat Bill, Jr.

The 400 Blows

The Muppet Movie

18) What’s the name of your theater?
(The all-time greatest answer to this question was once provided by Larry Aydlette, whose repertory cinema, the Demarest, is, I hope, still packing them in…)

Hmmm... The all-time greatest answer beats anything I could come up with. Is Aydlette looking to franchise?

19) Favorite Leo McCarey movie

The Awful Truth... no, Duck Soup. Or maybe The Awful Truth? (Stop, I'm both right!)

20) Most impressive debut performance by an actor/actress.

I don't know because I haven't seen them all, but recently I'd have to say that those kids in The Kite Runner were really quite good.

21) Biggest disappointment of the just-past summer movie season

Learning that Bill Maher's Religulous would not be released until the fall.

22) Michelle Yeoh or Maggie Cheung

Maggie Cheung. Every bit as good as Tony Leung in In the Mood for Love.

23) 2008 inductee into the Academy of the Overrated

Iron Man

24) 2008 inductee into the Academy of the Underrated

In Bruges (more underexposed than underrated)

25) Fritz the Cat—yes or no?

No to Ralph Bakshi in general. But yes to Robert Crumb.

26) Trevor Howard or Richard Todd

Too arcane. I wouldn't be able to pick either one out of a lineup.

27) Antonioni once said, “I began taking liberties a long time ago; now it is standard practice for most directors to ignore the rules.” What filmmaker working today most fruitfully ignores the rules? What does ignoring the rules of cinema mean in 2008?

If one adopts the attitude that everything has been done, then breaking the rules simply means chiding the unions, in which case Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are our most prominent rebels.

I still believe, however, that there are narrative and stylistic frontiers yet to be explored. A fruitful rule breaker in 2008 is someone who proves that you can work against expectations and still connect with the audience on an emotional and/or cerebral level.

Some contemporary rule breakers:
Michael Haneke
Charlie Kaufman/Spike Jonze
Michel Gondry
Steven Soderbergh
Julian Schnabel
the Coen brothers
Thomas McCarthy

28) Favorite William Castle movie

I'm going with House on Haunted Hill because I have seen it.

29) Favorite ethnographically oriented movie

The Gods Must be Crazy (I am so not as racist as this answer would suggest).

30) What’s the movie coming up in 2008 you’re most looking forward to? Why?

Religulous. The world is in desperate need of perspective when it comes to religion, and Bill Maher has perspective in spades. Real Time doesn't air here, so I've been jonesing for a hit of Maher since Politically Incorrect was canceled.

Also, Bangkok Dangerous because I'm a sucker for hit-man movies.

31) What deceased director would you want to resurrect in order that she/he might make one more film?

Oooh. Toughie. I would love to see a modern day political thriller from Alan Pakula, but comedy has been on the decline for nearly two decades now, so I think I would have to resurrect either Ernst Lubitsch or Preston Sturges.

32) What director would you like to see, if not literally entombed, then at least go silent creatively?

Ron Howard. Lets cremate his lousy films while we're at it.

33) Your first movie star crush

Yes. I have admitted to this before: the very first poster I hung on my wall for reasons of crushiness was of Brooke Shields. I have no idea where it came from; in fact, I'm fairly certain I had never seen her in a movie previous to decorating my room with her visage. To be honest, though, I still kind of dig her.

Monday, August 25, 2008

mondays with buster

Thursday, August 21, 2008

review: death at a funeral

dir. Frank Oz, 2007

In real life, it is difficult to get laughs at a funeral; in the movies, it's somewhat easy. Chaos set against the backdrop of a typically somber event is a fairly common base for a comedy writer's recipe. Consider, though, that onions, carrots, and celery are common to many soups. It is the additional ingredients, both familiar and unfamiliar, that determine how tasty the final dish will be.

Death at a Funeral has an air of predictability because it works within the comic formula of presenting its audience with a number of "uh-oh" moments. We know that trouble is ahead when a character, on his way to the funeral, takes a pill that he thinks is Valium but is, in fact, a narcotic hallucinogen: "Uh-oh!!!" What takes us by surprise, if a film's ingredients are fresh, is the manner in which these "uh-oh" scenarios play out. Alan Tudyk, for instance, gives a rather broad performance as the LSD-dosed character, but his elastic physicality and priceless facial expressions elicit more hysterics than one might expect from a somewhat conventional series of gags.

Even more outrageous is the thread involving actor Peter Dinklage , whose character work is always compelling enough to ensure that his diminutive stature is never exploited for cheap laughs. Dinklage is quickly establishing himself both as one of cinema's greatest treasures and as one of my all-time favourite performers. He doesn't disappoint in this role as a stranger to the family whose relationship with the deceased threatens to disrupt the solemn funeral proceedings if divulged.

Save for the two aforementioned actors, the cast of Death at a Funeral is predominantly British, and the script was inked by two English blokes, as well. Some of the dark humour reflects the film's place of origin, but it is not so steeped in the UK sensibility as to seem foreign to some North American viewers (a la Monty Python, for instance). Director Frank Oz is, of course USA born, and has a fair amount of experience in the field of making quirky but accessible comedies. While some of his movies (Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels, What About Bob?) are certainly better than others (HouseSitter, and blech The Stepford Wives), he has successfully flavoured this little picture with all the right spices.

what you might like: The film opens with a great gag that really sets the tone of the picture. After that, it seems for a while as if everything is a bit too familiar. Stick with it, though. As Death at a Funeral approaches its climax, it provides some of the most laugh-out-loud material you are likely to have encountered in some time. (I suggest watching it with others... The laughter is contagious).

what you might not like: There's no accounting for taste. I know that a small contingent of viewers will find the content and language offensive. If you tend to err conservatively, you may want to avoid this picture (although, I imagine one would have to be pretty uptight to not succumb to its offbeat charms).

what you might consider: Now that it is widely available on DVD, Death at a Funeral is easy to find and worthy of your rental dollars. It deserves some word-of-mouth recommendations, and I think you will find yourself eager to share the guffaws.

links to imdb:
Death at a Funeral
Frank Oz
Peter Dinklage