Friday, February 29, 2008


I'm not so sour on the idea of remakes. Sure, when it gets to the point where studios are cranking out Prom Night and Last House On The Left all over again, we've reached the saturation point. But in deft hands, an old idea can ride a fresh wave into an all new decade (see Rio Bravo into John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13).

But Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho is a whole other beast. The cult director wanted to go beyond basic homage to create a straight-up color duplicate of the Hitchcock original. Psycho (1998) is touted as a shot-for-shot remake, but it's not... scene-for-scene is more accurate. I was prepared to see identical camera movements, framing, and set design, but nope. If Van Sant would have gone to these lengths, his Psycho-remix could've truly been the obsessive, crazed, labor of love that it claims to be.

The effort isn't without merit, though. Psycho '98 looks great, and the first 20 minutes glow with an adorable and brilliant love of movies. Plus, the intentional green screening and retro costuming don't come off as misguided attempts at authenticity (see the overrated Far From Heaven for that...), but as elements that Van Sant, and cinematographer Christopher Doyle, simply think look good.

But, in total, Psycho '98 is a failure. Van Sant seems to become bored with the experiment as the film wears on. A sense of laziness settles in amongst the bland acting (to be fair, I can't imagine it's easy filling Anthony Perkin's shoes). You know things have gone off the rails when Norman (Vince Vaughn) starts audibly masturbating while eyeing Marion Crane (Anne Heche) through the peep hole. In the original, a close-up of Norman's eye was devious enough. Here, seeing Vince Vaughn's eyes get lazy as he blows one is just too much... but, as my wife said, "well, it is a Gus Van Sant movie".

Wednesday, February 27, 2008



Another week, another sadist horror film poster.

This one is especially representative of the genre: there's the equation notebook pencil scratches (a la Se7en), the cold steel bloodletting (a la Saw), and the urine tinted coloring of the title letters (a la TCM remake, The Hills Have Eyes remake, eh, pretty much the whole lot...).


Bodies are beginning to be found in the dark city streets yet there is something horribly wrong with them. Some are mutilated while others have an equation wΔz = Cov (w,z) = ßwzVz carved into their flesh. As Detective Eddie Argo and his new partner begin to unearth the meaning of the odd equation, they soon realize that each victim is being offered a gruesome choice: kill your loved ones or be killed yourself. Before long it becomes clear that the perpetrator has suffered just such a similar now is coping by seeking a way to solve this philosophical enigma. All the while, rape victim Jean Lerner struggles enduring the aftermath of a family tragedy; could she have some certain insight into the motivations behind these deaths?

Ohhhhh... "kill your loved ones, or be killed" Dicey! Sadist horror gets existential!

Somewhere, Selma Blair is praying this goes straight-to-video.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


The Academy responds:
"Unfortunately we cannot include everyone," said Leslie Unger, spokeswoman for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. "Our goal is to honor individuals who worked in the many professions and trades of the motion picture industry, not just actors."


Unger shook off the suggestion that Renfro wasn't included because of his history with drugs. "I can't speak to what other people are going to think," Unger said. "We can't include everybody."

Monday, February 25, 2008


What's revolutionary about Be Kind Rewind is that, when bringing to life the kitchen sink cinema remakes of Mike, Jerry, and Alma (Mos Def, Jack Black, and a very good Melonie Diaz), Michel Gondry enriches movie screens more than most of 2007's cinematic standard fare. His imagination is akin to Samuel Fuller's declaration that there is nothing that cannot be filmed. Be Kind Rewind's dizzying midpoint sequence where the crew cranks out titles - as varied as Last Tango In Paris to Alone In The Dark - is reason enough to see the film.

Gondry's refusal to mock titles such as Rush Hour 2 and Air Force One is a welcome, and timely, celebration of non-exclusionary film love. It was fitting that Be Kind Rewind got it's release on the weekend of the Oscars (the apex of movie exclusivity), where host Jon Stewart felt the need to insult the Oscar nominated makeup crew, of the already critically beaten-up, Norbit (would a jab at There Will Be Blood or Atonement have been as widely accepted?) Like Hot Fuzz, BKR's references and lifts aren't there for ironic comedy fodder, but as lovable nostalgia meant to tickle your memory and tweak that smile.

An after hours diner discussion about The Lion King is the film's most touching moment. Mos Def, Black, and Diaz play it straight, reaching childlike giddiness without tumbling over-the-top. The scene, placed in between days of chaotic shooting, is a quiet moment that gives pause to the cartoon mayhem and lets the characters touch reality for a second. Theirs is a conversation we can relate too, and when the chef, and the woman in an adjacent booth, chime in, the circle of friends immediately widens.

Be kind, rewind" eventually transcends the name of a video store, or a slogan across clerk's t-shirts, and becomes a mantra for the community of Passaic, NJ. Near films end, neighbors come together and create a film from the mythical tales of Fats Waller that Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) told Mike as a child. It's Gondry's final, uniting call to slow down, hold on, and, yes, move forward, but be sure to remember the past ... even if it gets exaggerated a bit along the way.


Sunday, February 24, 2008


Did I miss it, or did the Academy not acknowledge the death of Brad Renfro during their obituary montage tonight?

Friday, February 22, 2008


Channing Tatum as DUKE:

Sienna Miller as THE BARONESS:

Dennis Quaid as HAWK:


"I really am the real-life Rambo. Generally people think twice about what they say to me. Nobody messes with me. Sometimes people don't believe I'm serious at first. They just think it's quite amusing. Then they realise the truth." -

--------->MORE HERE

Thursday, February 21, 2008


With "See You Again", Miley Cyrus is making her push for music industry respectability a la post-American Idol Kelly Clarkson.

The crossover single has gotta be the most loved song that people over the age of 13 (and really, males of ALL AGES) won't admit to liking. It took some time for hipsters to come out of the closet about Kelly Clarkson, but Miley Cyrus is a whole other beast...
* She has a tween Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines split personality thing going on

* She wears wigs

* She has a successful show on Disney

* She rivals only Dora The Explorer for the amount product tie-ins.
But who cares! ... cuz right under Alicia Keys' "Like You'll Never See Me Again", "See You Again" is the best song on the radio right now. (Is it coincidence that these two song titles have a call-and-response relationship???? I THINK NOT!)

The verse has a Nancy Sinatra channeling "Sunglasses At Night" swaying confidence to it, and the chorus outdoes The Killers' "Somebody Told Me" with it's pogo synth backed "a-whoa-whoa"s. It's just a matter of time before Spoon, or one of those jokers, ironically (with feigning earnestness) covers this.

Give in.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


After watching Joseph Losey's The Assassination of Trotsky, last night, I tried to find writings on the film - in books and online - but the pickings were slim. The film's not prototypical Losey, I guess, but after a clunky first half hour the film settles in nicely as a little whacked-out perfomance piece for Richard Burton to play around in (English accent and all, while portraying a Ukrainian...).

The assassination scene itself is a piece of sweet freakness. It creeped me out the way Bully does when Brad Renfro runs up and clumsily jabs a knife into the back of Nick Stahl.

This is after the first - and only - blow onto Trotsky's (Burton's) head with a pickax.... his eyes beginning to bug out, giving Alain Delon (the assassin) an Et Tu Brute? icy glare.

Ew... but it's the scream that sells it. It's a yelp right there in between anger and anguish, and I had to rewind it because it didn't sound human.

I realized that the scream is actually a combination of both Burton and Delon's yelling. Delon, as studly as the guy is, possesses a pretty feminine scream.

I think what extended the creep factor for me is that Burton keeps walking around even though he has a huge puncture wound in his head. And again... that look! If you could videotape someone's life flashing before their eyes, then that is what their expression would look like.

This final shot is reminiscent of the massacre scene in The Battleship Potemkin. I'm betting this was on purpose since Losey was a student of Eisenstein. Maybe it was an homage, or maybe it's just influence seeping through.

Monday, February 18, 2008


While I am glad that Li-Lo is back on her feet, and putting on some weight, she's jumped ahead of herself again by thinking she's ... eh hum ... Marilyn FREAKIN' Monroe!!!

Decide for yourself....

And here's one more for ya if you still aren't convinced....


"Dyke to head British Film Institute"

Sheesh... you'd think Variety could show a little courtesy with their choice of words, but, hey... freedom of the press, right?

I haven't actually read the article yet to see if it's gonna be Judi Dench, Tilda Swinton, or Kristin Scott Thomas, so if you're interested CLICK HERE.


Over at WorstPreviews, they got a video of what could or could not be a Where The Wild Things Are Clip. I'll let them explain:

"I've had a video of what seems to be a clip from Where the Wild Things Are for about two days now and held off from posting it. The reason is because everything about it seems fake. The kid looks nothing like the actor we have seen in the official stills from the movie, the Wild Thing's mouth movements seem to be off and the voice sounds like it was recorded with a cheap microphone.

There have been talks that this might be some test footage, but it could also be a very elaborate prank. Either way, it is very cute, so I'll let you enjoy it and decide for yourself.

And here it is ----------> If you believe this is real, it can be!

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Eytan Fox's The Bubble might be the best movie, so far, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Documentaries on the subject can't resist taking one side over the other, while narrative films tend to simultaneously explain the complicated history and carry on a fictional story. Eytan Fox tries a new approach. By now, he expects the audience has grasped a basic history of the struggle, so he simply let's it float around his characters. Fox favors emotion and relationships over propaganda and rhetoric.

The Bubble centers in on a love affair between Ashraf (a Palestinian) and Noam (an Israeli). Fox uses the attraction between the two men to diffuse common anxieties that exist between the divided cultures. At a checkpoint, Israeli soldiers line up Palestinians and ask them to lift their shirts for a security check. When Ashraf lifts his tank top, Noam eyes him, and the tension of the moment moves from severe to sexual. Later in the film, after sex, Noam tells Ashraf that they were "explosive" together. Ashraf finds this an odd choice of words since he associates it with suicide bombing and air strikes. Noam tells him, "here we use it to describe something good, great, wonderful...".

The two men agree not to waste precious time together debating politics. It's a reality they don't ignore, but with the effort it takes just to see each other - passing through the checkpoints, dealing with Ashraf's brother-in-law (a member of Hamas) - they know their hearts are ticking time clocks at the mercy of the forces around them.

The ending of the The Bubble is disappointing because it betrays some of what the movie accomplishes in the first 100 minutes. But Eytan Fox stills holds to the message at hand. He doesn't pretend that the Israeli and Palestinian governments can resolve things solely through handshakes and hugs, but, in the meantime, if two victims from opposite sides can get in bed together - the old fashioned way! - it can only help things along.

Friday, February 15, 2008


One of my favorite voyeuristic pleasures is watching good dancers dance. It's similar to the joy of watching athletes... unique humans balancing and contorting their bodies into and out of extraordinary positions. If the dancing is choreographed, synced to music, and let alone to breathe (away from the of ax of a nervous film editor), I swoon.

Step Up 2 The Streets - aware of it's average script - front loads the screen with two of its best moments. A hinted at train robbery turns into a guerilla-style dance massacre, and a bet is settled with a freestyle dance floor showdown. Director Jon Chu still gets at the malaise and anger of underprivileged youth, but he reaches it through dance, not John Singleton-style shoot ups. (Chu plays with this: In one scene, a girl is hoisted up, spun on her partner's shoulders, knocking down a line of people like she's using a tommy gun.)

Coincidentally, along with last year's re-release of Charles Burnett's stereotype defying Killer of Sheep, there's been a recent run of movies rooted in middle to lower class urban life that refuses to rely on ugly truths in order to entertain: Stomp the Yard, Daddy's Little Girls, Pride, How She Move. You can add Step Up 2 The Streets to that list. While it's less class probing than the others, SU2TS shares in those film's desire to move beyond ghetto cliche in order to portray struggle.

On the just passed 2007 year-end lists, critics cooed over the technical know-how-and-wow of Zodiac, There Will Be Blood, and Syndromes and a Century, but these movies simply tease the viewer. Their director's messy intentions fog up your eyes, and the visual titillation, felt at the onset, fades. SU2TS works in the opposite way. It spreads out its strengths, swallows its loses, and hits you with the best of what's left. If Fincher, P.T. Anderson et. al. would do the same, and quit pre-programming themselves as the heirs to 1970's cinema, they'd join Jon Chu and - maybe - come alive in the age of the 00's.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Cupid has a sense of humor... or, at least, Justice Thomas Reavley does, because the day before Valentine's Day he overturned the ban on the sale of sex toys in Texas.

A federal appeals court has struck down a Texas law that makes it a crime to promote or sell sex toys.

"Whatever one might think or believe about the use of these devices," said an opinion written by Justice Thomas M. Reavley of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, "government interference with their personal and private use violates the Constitution."

Under Texas law it is illegal to sell, advertise, give or lend obscene devices, defined as a device used primarily for sexual stimulation. Anyone in possession of six or more sexual devices is considered to be promoting them. (Statesman)

Although the law was seldom enforced, and many of us... er, you... already have a shoebox or dresser drawer full of them, go ahead and use this special day of love to celebrate the tearing down of this pervert oppression law!!!

So rise up and arm yourselves like toy soldiers! Just be careful. Don't get overzealous and use too many contraptions at once. But, hey, what the heck... since it's Valentine's Day, melt some chocolate and have a super-freaky fondue party! Dip it, drip it, lick it! ... IT'S ON!


Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Richard Burton and Edward Dmytryk made a weird little movie in 1972 called Bluebeard.

Burton plays Baron Von Sepper, a former WWI pilot that has joined a European fascist party, and is irresistible to women....REALLY HOT WOMEN! Thing is, Von Sepper can't get an erection, and because of this humiliation, he winds up killing each woman before the relationship is consummated.

It's suggested that Von Sepper may either be a homosexual, or that he is incestuously fixated on his dead mother (Dmytryk, at the end of his career may have thought he was cashing in on some post-Psycho boxoffice pull... he was wrong), thus explaining why he can't get an erection when confronted by - quite literally - the sexiest, nakedest, randiest, women in the world.

Me? I think he was just suffering from an early case of erectile dysfunction without a Viagra, Levitra, or pen*s pump in sight (did they even have arab straps back then?) I mean, think about this: you have, in their prime!!, Nathalie Delon, Raquel Welch, Marilu Tolo, and Agostina Belli aching for your touch, yet you can't get the blood flowing down there.

Murder? I think that's pretty justifiable...

Monday, February 11, 2008



Getting branded by the guy that allegedly snorted the ashes of his father, and the guy that penned the heroin lovin' lyrics to Sticky Fingers is a little bizarre, but HEY, anything goes these days!

In an appearance at the Berlin Film Festival, guitarist Keith Richards, referring to Amy Winehouse, said, “She should get her act together.”

The Stones’ frontman, Mick Jagger, in speaking about Ms. Winehouse and Pete Doherty, said times were different. Mr. Jagger said: “When we were experimenting with drugs, little was known about the effects. In our time there were no rehab centers like today. Anyway, I did not know about them.” Now 64, a grandfather and a fitness fanatic, Mr. Jagger said he couldn’t understand how the younger generation, knowing the dangers of drugs, could still be users.

Little was known about the effects?!?! So in those "olden days" of the 60's and 70's, physicians were just in the dark about the negative effects of shooting up? OK. Man, these guys are freaks.

Jagger and Richards are lucky that YouTube, camera phones, and US Magazine weren't around in their heyday, or they'd have looked as bad in public as Amy Winehouse is being protrayed. I know that many people are like "whatever, she brings it on herself", and I get that, but I feel bad for the girl. She just looks really sad.

But... at least she doesn't look like Cher:


Another former drug addict, Natalie Cole, gets in on the Amy Winehouse bashing.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


I drove to Dallas this weekend to visit my friends Mandy and Victor. They suggested we go to the Dallas Museum of Art to see a project by English video artist Phil Collins. Usually when I hear the word "museum" I think of "church" ... quiet, slow, dull, being surrounded by things I don't believe in ... but this time was an exception!

The project was called The World Won't Listen. Collins went to Colombia, Turkey, and Indonesia, set up a karaoke machine and a camera, posted fliers for a The Smiths karaoke night, and hit record when the well-versed volunteers arrived. The singers chose their favorite songs from The Smiths compilation The World Won't Listen. The result is a three screen projection of a song being sung in each country at the same time.

The experience is immediately intoxicating. You hustle from one screen to another, seeing how well a Colombian sings "The Boy With A Thorn In His Side" versus an Indonesian (for the record, the Colombian's struggled the most, bless their hearts...). A blue-eyed Turkish man fights back tears during "Asleep" ... a Colombian woman and her BFF go back-to-back, and transform into teens again, singing "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" ... and an Indonesian girl nearly swallows the lyrics to "Rubber Ring", her chest-heaving way past the music stopping.

Most of all, The World Won't Listen is heartwarming. You see pop music idolatry (something we all identify with...) on sleeves and on screen. And, by being in the dark, the audience lets their guard down: singing, dancing, and laughing along with the subjects on screen, creating a totally interactive atmosphere. Even the security guard - on first glance, not your most typical looking Smiths fan - was getting into it. I can only think that Collins' would get all giddy witnessing what he'd created: bringing together museum patrons the way he brought together citizens of the world.

I don't know if the The World Won't Listen is touring the United States, but if it comes to your town, please go. I've never had so much fun at a museum before (for me, that's an oxymoron...). I felt like I was being allowed to play tag at the library.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Two of the worst posters, so far, this year are....

Both are influenced by the "tool" posters that Saw & Hostel made so popular.

But why is wishbaby's pacifier bloody? IMDB says the plot to wishbaby is : "A troubled young black teenager Maxine rescues an eccentric old lady Eve from an unhappy slap by a mixed-race gang of teens and is rewarded for her act of kindness with the gift of a terrible secret: how to make and operate a wishbaby." My guess is that the wishbaby is some kind of voodoo zombie doll that feeds on bloody run-on sentences.

With the Donkey Punch poster, the motor is framed to look like a flopped over, open-mouthed skull, while the bottom/propeller is all bloody. Everyone knows what a donkey punch is, right? Well the poster does it's best to emulate it. And yes, one of those occurs in the movie. And yes, she dies from it. And yes, the movie takes off from there... But no, I haven't seen it yet. Until I do, I'm keeping Teeth as my frontrunner for worst sexified horror film of 2008.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


One week after watching There Will Be Blood, I was still feeling a little sick to my stomach, so I slipped in the Minnelli/Kelly/Lerner mini-epic, Brigadoon, to cleanse the palate. Both films give mythically historic takes on their country of choice: America and Scotland. Yet, shot on sets and sound stages, Brigadoon visually outdoes the former by remembering to leave passion up on the screen instead of TWBB's pathetic pathos.
While There Will Be Blood is obsessed with the outward destruction of community and landscape at the expense of bogarting natural resources, Brigadoon celebrates the inward development of a village living off the land, living with each other, and living through disaster. And the more I think about it, the more the similarities between the two films pop up... yet bouncing away in very disparate directions.

Daniel Plainview stabs the earth for his black gold (it's P.T. Anderson's own nasty, artsy attempt at gore), while Tommy (Kelly) dances up dirt and taps rhythms out on boulders and brush. Anytime discovery is made in There Will Be Blood, tragedy is it's partner: worker deaths, fire, broken limbs, loss of hearing. Anderson is unable to unleash one Eureka! moment without instantaneously taking you out at the knees. Tommy dances through his discoveries and conflicts. What he works for ends up in kisses, flowers, and fresh milk.

"Sentimental poppycock!", you might think. But the richer for it. In fact, watching Brigadoon, and fully buying in with its whacked-out whiff of a premise, does makes you wish P.T. Anderson would have let loose with the entirety of There Will Be Blood like he does in its final 20 minutes. Here, the film feels alive, vigorous, original. It's the type of whip-smart instinctual film making Anderson had last left us with in Punch Drunk Love. Somewhere between then and now, he lost the juice.

Ay, what could've been.... There Will Be Blood : The Musical


Al Qaida must have ripped through their stock of mentally retarded women, b/c now they are recruiting 10 year olds to do their dirty work...
Al Qaeda is training boys as young as 10 to carry out kidnappings, assassinations and suicide bombings against civilians in Iraq, the US military has claimed.

Officials in Baghdad released a video seized during a raid on a suspected Al Qaeda safe-house which showed the children apparently undergoing training.

Check out the whole story ----------> Daily Mail

Monday, February 04, 2008


Over at Edward Copeland on Film, a survey was taken of the Best Best Actor winners, and the Worst Best Actor winners.
A variety of opinions were dispersed, and it leaves for an interesting list with entertaining commentary quips attached. GO CHECK IT OUT! It'll makes for both a good Monday morning post-sloppy Super Bowl distraction, and a pre-Oscar primer.

The list of the WORST is currently up ----> HERE. The list of the BEST will follow...

Sunday, February 03, 2008


"Videotape" sounds like Thom Yorke balladeering at a piano bar in purgatory. "This is one for the good ol' days", he sings, laying into a slow chord shuffle while video of his past sins play above his head. Will he make it to heaven or hell? Don't know. But it's fun (Radiohead fun!?!) to hear him plead his case. It's like "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" for the melancholic set.

It seems many people favor "All I Need" as In Rainbows' best track - and it is a great one -, but "Videotape" touches me the most (followed closely by the surprisingly sexual "House Of Cards" where Yorke reveals his infidelity fantasy).

It's cinematic, but in a different way. Usually Radiohead draw that compliment for their atmospheric sound, but "Videotape" makes me think of a filmic moment because of Yorke's lyrics... especially the final verse (accompanied by that image of the purgatory bar, of course):

"This is my way of saying goodbye/Because I can't do it face to face/So I'm talking to you before it's too late/No matter what happens now/I shouldn't be afraid/Because I know today has been the most perfect day I've ever seen"

Yet, in the end, I don't think God or The Devil gets his soul. I think he'll forever be the resident piano man at the bar bewteen heaven and hell... kinda like Warren Oats at the beginning of Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia, or, better yet, Hoagy Carmichael in To Have and Have Not.


After the Berkeley city council voted last week to tell the Marines they were "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" in an effort to have the local recruitment center shut down, Sen. Jim DeMint countered with proposed legislation to remove some Berkeley earmarks off the passed appropriations bill ("The First Amendment gives the City of Berkeley the right to be idiotic, but from now on they should do it with their own money," DeMint said in a statement.)

So then the typical scum bags knew it was their cue to shine - with their orange jumpsuits and hoods - outside the recruitment center. The SF Chronicle said it was a "peaceful" gathering, but I disagree:

Heated words were exchanged whenever people tried to enter or leave the office, but the protest was peaceful.

"You guys are just cannon fodder!"
the chained protesters shouted at three teenage boys who walked past the office and said they wanted to go inside. "They want to train you to kill babies!"

The teenagers turned around and left. (SFChronicle)

Yeah, that sounds real "peaceful"...

... it looked really "peaceful" too!

(Below are images of Marines, and regular people, trying to get into the center. But the scum used force - "peaceful" force, of course - to keep them out.)

And here is some "peaceful" graffiti: