Mr. Cellophane

In a location adjacent to a place in a city of some significance, what comes out of my head is plastered on the walls of this blog.

Monday, June 30, 2008

From the writer of 'Lowered Expectations?!'.

One of the finest films I've seen this year (that no one went to see, for some reason) is Charlie Bartlett, which recently hit DVD. You’d never know it from seeing any ads on TV; if possible, this film is getting even less promotion than it did when it was released in theaters.

I’ve seen the DVD in stores and…well, I can’t help but notice a sticker on the packaging: 'with Iron Man’s Robert Downey, Jr.'. God forbid the studio (in this instance MGM, which has been shooting itself in the foot a lot lately) try to sell the film on its own merits. After all, you can just tell the audience, ‘hey, our movie’s pretty small, but it does feature the star of one of the biggest movies of the decade!’. Not a new thing, I know; check out (plucked off the top of my head) the DVD cover of Action Jackson and notice, in spite of her rather small role, how much space Sharon Stone takes up. Still, it’s somewhat annoying.

Still, this isn’t quite as annoying as a trend I’m seeing more and more of when it comes to film. Some people hate movie titles that read 'adverb Proper name' (e.g. Serving Sara, Finding Amanda). Some people detest scenes in romantic comedies where the characters lip-sync to some old song. And still others loathe the cliché of a character going through some trial to be a better parent to their children. All of these are annoying to a certain degree, but I’m talking about when posters and trailers use the old 'from the people/makers/studio/director of'.

Again, this comes down to studios taking the quick fix when it comes to selling their product. The DVD cover and poster of Jumper list it as coming 'from the director of The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith'. The film, while fitfully entertaining, is certainly less than the sum of its parts, and this, in my view, doesn’t so much say, 'hey, you loved those films, so you’ll certainly love this one' as it does, 'why the hell are you watching this when you could be watching these movies which - trust us - are better.'.

And then there’s the Ryan Reynolds romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe, which apparently comes 'from the makers of Bridget Jones' Diary and Love Actually'. Wow, Richard Curtis is doing this movie? Weird that he’d be making a rom-com stateside...and with Van Wilder, of all people. Way to branch out, Rico! Oh, wait, no. Mr. Curtis has nothing to do with this film. The common link, as it turns out, is Working Title Films. I guess 'from the incredibly prolific* production company that brought you Bridget Jones’ Diary and Love Actually' wouldn’t fit on a poster with the pictures of the stars. Truth in advertising is important.

And how come other collaborators get short shrift? I’m sure that someone thinking about seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would’ve loved to know that it came 'from the production designer of The Terminal'. And who wouldn’t have loved to have heard 'from the cinematographer of Halloween' in the trailer of Back to the Future? How about 'from the composer of The Incredibles' in the trailer of Speed Racer? I guarantee you that that movie would’ve made more money than God. (In a very rare case, the cult-hit-waiting-to-happen Black Sheep mentioned its effects studio in the trailer, Weta Digital, as well as the fact that they did the Lord of the Rings trilogy.)

Sometimes, this does work; the underrated Street Kings pushed itself as being 'directed by the writer of Training Day'...and, really, with its story of corrupt cops in Los Angeles, it seems appropriate. Also appropriate (albeit for the wrong reasons) was the trailer for The Lizzie McGuire Movie. It came 'from the studio that brought you The Princess Diaries' (as per the trailer) which featured the eponymous heroine falling down, much like the royal to be in the trailer of the earlier box-office hit.

Maybe if studios made films that could stand on their own, you know, like they ought to be doing, they could avoid this trend.

* - These guys have also done Fargo, Smokin’ Aces and both of Edgar Wright’s films. Wow!

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Monday, June 23, 2008

I wonder if he got his two-minute warning.

George Carlin: 1937-2008

What a horrible way to start the day.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

An Open Letter to Warner Bros.

(...specifically the department in charge of DVD releases)

Dear Sir or Madam (s):

I went to see Speed Racer back in May. I enjoyed it quite greatly; it was an exciting work of cinema that held me in its thrall. However, I was shocked to see that the reviews and box-office receipts did not reflect this opinion. It is now in a second-run theater where I am and, within a week or two, it will likely be gone. If ever there was a movie that demanded to be seen on a big screen (or in IMAX, as I did), it is this one. (This fails at the box office, but Transformers cleans up. Rape-bortion of justice? My sentiments exactly.)

I only recently learned of the film's DVD release in September. I guess the main point I'm trying to bring up is simply this: Just because you took a bath on this film does not give you the right to skimp on the extras! I want an audio commentary touching on all of the aspects of the production, as well as interviews with the cast and a featurette on Michael Giacchino's fantastic score.

I hope that you will do the right thing.

Tor Y. Harbin

P.S. It was even outgrossed by What Happens in Vegas. How the hell does that happen?!


Friday, June 13, 2008

And the winners are...

A day late with the traditional 'finding out who the MTV Movie Award winners are' (the ceremony typically held on the second Thursday in June until a couple years ago), but it's here.

Best On-Screen Duo...Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Hot Fuzz! (To be honest, it was tough choosing between them and the Cera/Hill power combo from Superbad, but the two make for a great team.)
[Real winner...none. The category was discontinued. It's bad enough when it was changed a few years ago to best on-screen team, but this is just lame-ass.]

Best Action Sequence...the tunnel fight, Live Free or Die Hard! (Never underestimate the power of flying cars and explosions.)
[Real winner...none. You'd think this would've been a natural.]

Best Comedic Performance...James Marsden, Enchanted! (All the nominees performed admirably, especially Epps, but Marsden...oh, just watch the movie! You'll see what I mean.)
[Real winner...Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. I'll admit that the scenes of Jack Sparrow in Davy Jones' locker were a hoot, but come on! A better comic performance than the one I picked? Yeah, right!]

Best Villain...Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men! (He is just creepy in this movie, starting with the look on his face at the beginning when he strangles the cop and it just builds from there.)
[Real winner...Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd. I wasn't aware that anti-heroes were being considered villains these days (another nominee in the real category: Denzel Washington in American Gangster). If anything, Judge Turpin (the ever-terrific Alan Rickman) was far more vile than Sweeney...and shame on me for forgetting to include him in my category.]

Best Breakthrough Performance - Male...Shia LaBeouf, Disturbia! (What can I say? The boys of Superbad cancelled each other out. I still hold that this, while no masterpiece, was the superior LaBeouf film of '07.)

Best Breakthrough Performance - Female...Nikki Blonsky, Hairspray! (As much as I enjoyed Kat Dennings in the criminally underappreciated Charlie Bartlett, I must say that Miss Blonsky charmed me immensely. Her work was one of the most vital elements of the entertaining musical.)
[Real winner - in the combined (oy!) category...Zac Efron, Hairspray. Having never watched "High School Musical", I can only really judge him here...and he was a good choice.]

Best Dance Sequence..."That's How You Know", Enchanted! (A catchy song and some fantastic choreography...though I did also like "Good Morning Baltimore".)
[Real winner...none. I don't know what to say.]

Best Female Performance...Amy Adams, Enchanted! (She makes you believe that she is an animated character come to life. While an Oscar nomination was a bit much to hope for, an award like this is not hard to imagine.)
[Real winner...I'll give you three guesses and the first two weren't pregnant.]

Best Male Performance...Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd! (Now that's more like it. I was surprised when he was Oscar-nominated, and though I was sure he wouldn't win, I still loved this performance.)
[Real winner...Will Smith in I Am Legend. Haven't seen it, so I can't really comment.]

Best Fight...Clive Owen vs. assassins, Shoot 'em Up! (You'd think a film like this would be right up the alley of MTV watchers. Go figure. Michael Davis deserves some kind of award for dreaming up those insane gun battles.)
[Real winner...Sean Faris vs. Cam Gigandet in Never Back Down. I can only assume that the people who nominated and voted for this fight were being ironic...but then, do those people even know what 'ironic' means? Moot point, anyway: the credulity of the category went out the window last year when some fight from 300 triumphed over Sacha Baron Cohen vs. Ken Davitan in Borat (and disturbing though it may have been, it was forking hilarious).]

Best Kiss...Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End! (If only to stick a banana in the tailpipe of all those Jack/Elizabeth shippers who fawned over Dead Man's Chest, this was worthy.)
[Real winner...none. Seriously, what the hell?]

Best Movie...Enchanted! (Though fundamentally a children's movie and a romantic comedy, it is still a fine piece of entertainment.)
[Real winner...Transformers. In other words, a golden shower for those who think that the children of today will make fine leaders of tomorrow.]

Let's do this again next year.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

'Nuke the fridge'.

In my online curiosity today, I visited Urban Dictionary today. Added to the site was an expression, birthed at Ain't It Cool News, considered as a cinematic corollary to 'jump the shark'. In this instance, 'nuke the fridge' is another way of saying that a movie franchise has passed a particular point of no return.

In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indy escapes capture by the Russians and happens upon a small suburb, hoping to get help. It turns out to be completely deserted...and is also about to be wiped out by an atomic bomb for nuclear testing. It's impossible to get away in time on foot, so he crawls inside a lead-lined refrigerator for safety. The blast decimates everything, but blasts the fridge to safety. In the desert, Indy gets out of the fridge, no worse for the wear.

This is but one of several peculiar instances in the new Indiana Jones movie. I liked it, even with the multitude of 'WTF?!' moments in David Koepp's script (though nothing quite matched the 'I'm not familiar with the type of thing I'm seeing' feeling I got from Peter's dancing in Spider-Man 3).

As ever, it's amusing to read the bitching in the Ain't It Cool News talkbacks, even if I can't quite agree with it. Even with the absurdities, Crystal Skull is still a more entertaining movie than Transformers.

Other things I noticed:

- One of the government agents accusing Indy of being in league with the Russians was Neil Flynn (now the janitor on "Scrubs"). After all these years, he's still up in Harrison Ford's grill.

- I can't be the only person who thought of Hot Fuzz when Indy was told to drop the gun...

- ...and then, along comes Jim Broadbent (Frank Butterman) to deepen the connection.

Interesting note: the "South Park" episode "Free Hat" is concluding as I type this.