Monday, December 31, 2007

Last Post of 2007


I just wanted to thank everyone who comes around here and reads this drivel.

This is my last post of 2007 and I don't even really have time for it. We have a number of festival submissions going out, not just for Killer At Large, too. Jitterbug (a short film we're producers on) is going out as well.

As soon as I can say more about that, I'll be sure to.

So....

Happy New Year.

Look for big things in the year to come.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

AvP: Requiem


On Christmas night, the inner nerd in me decided I just had to see Alien Versus Predator: Requiem.

Sometimes, I feel like I want to strangle my inner-nerd.

This film was so bad I couldn't believe it. I knew the first one was terrible. The first one was beyond terrible, but I figured how could this one be any worse? Well, it might not be worse, but it certainly isn't any better.

The film opens where the first left off, ending with Aliens and face-huggers getting let loose in Colorado and then cuts to a Predator living room, where he watches everything we just saw, but with a different filter. And, for some inexplicable reason, he decides that he has to go to Earth and singlehandedly clean up this mess.

Why? I don't know. He only speaks in purrs and clicks.

Interspersed with this interstellar janitor are scenes of personal strife in a small Colorado town. None of these characters are believable, likable or even acted with any naturalism. The writing and pacing felt like they were going for a ham-fisted, teenage version of Robert Altman's masterpiece "Short Cuts". It just comes off as stupid.

It's startling to me how Fox seems to be trying to abort these franchises as quickly as they can. They hired people who didn't know about, care for or love either franchise. They had as little understanding as Paul W.S. Anderson had for the first AvP movie. At least, though, you could tell that they'd watched the other films in the franchises. But that served as a detriment since they aped most of the cool shots they could think of without any of the context, build up or suspense. The Brothers Strause should probably be drawn and quartered for this abortion.

For instance, remember the moment in Alien 3 when the Aliens are sniffing out Ripley and her head is turned and they won't do anything to her because they know the Queen is in her? The moment had a tensity and drama to it that is unrivaled. They redid the series of shots in AvP:R for no apparent reason with a waitress whom we don't know or care about. Why? Because it looked cool. And that handful of shots in Alien 3 had more drama, fear and depth to it than five AvP movies combined could ever hope to have.

That example fairly sums up the entire AvP world. It's all the flashy visuals and NONE of the substance of the original materials.

I wish someone would pay Elias and I to write an AvP movie. We could remind people why Aliens and Predator movies are great. At the same time we can remind everyone that the Aliens movies happen hundreds of years in the future and not fashion our movie like a shitty zombie-picture, but with Aliens and Predators instead of zombies. It wasn't even an ape of a good zombie movie. None of the events made any sense or had any relevance and they fill you with such an ambivalence toward the characters, you're simply counting the minutes until the movie ends so you can just go home and forget what you've seen.

And to add insult to injury, they named one of the main characters Dallas. Who the hell do these assholes think they are? What makes them think they could take Tom Skerrits name from the first film as an homage? Were they even aware of the similarity? Who knows...

Overall, I would rate this movie a chilly <-10> out of 10. It's pretty fucking bad.

Benazir Bhutto Assasinated....


I wrote a piece that was featured on the front page of Huffington Post about it.

In it, I ask whether or not our political candidates would have the fortitude to run for office in the sort of conditions she was brave enough to face.

Read it and then come back here and let we'll discuss it....

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays

I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday, however they choose to celebrate it.

And I hope that not everyone is driven up the wall by having to see family members they'd rather not.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sweeney Todd


I've seen this film twice now and I have to say that this is an incredibly entertaining film. It's also, quite possibly, the most romantic, bloody slasher film to ever be filmed on screen. It's so much like a distorted, gruesome Romeo and Juliet tale than I would have ever guessed or imagined.

I wasn't familiar with the play beyond the one scene in Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl and so the intricate ins, outs and what-have-yous of the film left me feeling quite satisfied. In fact, upon my second viewing, it's quite satisfying to see how carefully each scene leads so logically and perfectly into the next.

It was odd, while watching the film, you realize how perfectly suited to this project Tim Burton's sense of style, camera and direction fit. And the cast is perfect in every case (including Sacha Baron Cohen in a well-sung turn as Adolfo Pirelli).

And the Sondheim music is so rich and evokes as much an opera feel as Bernard Herrman's score for Psycho and blends them with a skill for lyrics the world doesn't often see.

I'm really marveling at just how God-damned entertaining this film was, despite it's absolute bloodiness.

And despite the bloodiness, I'm wondering why it's rated R. I think it should be a PG-13. 13 year old kids are more than capable of handling this movie. My 26 year old sister took our 12 year old sister and her friend to see the film (and they're generally wusses about things like this) and they loved the film and won't cease their endless singing of the soundtrack. (The soundtrack is, however, that infectious.... I caught myself singing Pirelli's shaving song this morning while I was shaving... I couldn't help it, it just started coming out....)

I'm curious about why critics are saying it's Burton's best film since Ed Wood, too. I think they're forgetting about Big Fish (which was as good as this, in my opinion.)

For a slasher picture, it was just terribly charming and I would recommend it to anybody who is a fan of musicals, Tim Burton, Johnny Depp or just plain old good movies. I'll be surprised if this film doesn't make a whole pile of money. (In fact, I'm actually shocked that this film only opened at #5 at the Box Office this weekend and it deserved to break at least 10 million.... Honestly.....)

And I'm glad that musicals are facing a resurgence in film. Granted, I don't like most of those that come out, but it's good to see audiences able to take Musicals seriously in this day and age.

So, go see this movie. And then you'll probably end up buying the soundtrack. I know Amberley insisted on buying it first thing yesterday morning after the first time we saw the film.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Margot at the Wedding


Last night we went out and hit a double header last night and started with Noah Baumbach's follow-up to "The Squid and the Whale".

As I left the film, I felt that it was pretty good, though not as great as "The Squid and the Whale".

"Margot at the Wedding" focuses on a specific familial breakdown in a mildly comedic way in much the same manner as Woody Allen's chamber pieces like "September", "Another Woman" and "Interiors". The more I discuss this film, the more I feel like it really stacks up against these Allen pictures. I've, for a long time, felt that Baumbach is the heir apparent in that genre of Allen picture, and I think this solidifies that theory.

I don't think he's as good as Woody Allen at it yet, but, who knows? he could get there.

The familial breakdown examined in this film revolves around Pauline's (Jennifer Jason Leigh) small wedding at the family house to lovable goof-ball Malcolm (Jack Black). Problems arise when her truly terribly sister, Margot arrives. Not only has she left her husband (played wonderfully by John Turturro as the most sympathetic least flawed character in the film) she works her hardest to disrupt everyones lives as much as possible. Really, that's the setup for the film.

And it works. The only problem with Noah Baumbach's film is that the humor and character interaction is so subtle it works on you on an almost timed delay. After we'd watched the second film of the night (Sweeney Todd, look for a review later today) and discussed it for a full twenty minutes, the conversation came back to Margot for the rest of the night. It provided such a subtle, interesting window into these characters that it gnawed on me for a while and I find myself still thinking about it.

Which is odd since my initial reaction to the film was that it was merely "pretty good." Maybe I'll have to watch it again to really sink my teeth into it one way or the other.

And it had the exact same ending as Darjeeling Limited, which was a little weird (literally dropping her baggage and running onto a moving mass transit vehicle...)

But, overall, this movie was entertaining and pretty good and the more you think about it, the better it gets.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

JUNO

I saw "Juno" tonight and it was a 10 out of 10 film.

It was masterful in both writing and performance.

It's one of the best film's I've seen this year.

The End.

Juno


I got tickets to an advanced screening of Juno and so I went and saw it.

This movie wasn't bad. I don't think it's a masterpiece (or even worth my time to watch a second time) but it was okay. It was mildly funny, had a modest amount of heart and was populated by generally attractive or funny people.

I'm fairly lukewarm about it.

Like I said, I don't really ever need to see it again, now that I've seen it once. It's competently put together, the script is fine (if not a bit cookie-cutter in places) and the acting is all good.

Generally, this was a good movie. I don't have really anything negative to say about it other than it just didn't float my boat as well as others. And I don't think it was laugh out loud funny either. One or two jokes maybe got me, but the rest of it just seemed too clever to laugh at.

I guess, you'd do worse than seeing this movie, but with the batch of films coming out this week, I'm not sure why you'd want to. (You've got Sweeney Todd and Margot at the Wedding on Friday... I'm told Charlie Wilson's War, too.)

So... There you have it... Juno wasn't terrible and probably worth watching once, but not a masterpiece. And as far as Jason Reitman goes, I'd have to say that I thought Thank You For Smoking was a much funnier film (I think Juno is more well rounded, but Smoking was certainly funnier.)

I'm not sure if any of this made sense, but I'm out of here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Must See TV

I'm not one for watching a lot of TV shows, on DVD or otherwise. There's a few I've wanted to watch but haven't had a chance to (Entourage, Sopranos), some I've watched and really want to buy (Extras, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Twilight Zone) and some I can't live without (Futurama, Simpsons, Robotech, Twin Peaks).

But there are two that I've been addicted to in recent weeks.


The first is the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles...

I've been watching a couple of episodes a week with my kids and it has been great fun. And it's not just a fun show to watch, but the documentaries they put together for the DVDs are top notch.

I'm also struck by the painstaking level of detail and research that went into to fashioning these adventures. And it's fun to see Indy run into notable historical figures episode after episode. Highlights so far include Max Von Sydow as Sigmund Freud and James Gammon as Teddy Roosevelt. (I'm more excited for other guest stars who seem now to be a veritable who's who of kick-ass talent: Daniel Craig, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Christopher Lee, Jeffrey Wright, Keith David, Lukas Haas and Ian McDiarmid.)

Add to that the stable of writers and directors that include Frank Darabont, Monty Python's Terry Jones, Mike "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" Newell, Jonathan Hales and others and you've got a dynamite team working on your series.

And above all, it's fun.

So, I would recommend the hell out of these for people. Particularly if you like Indiana Jones, but especially if you fancy yourself as any sort of person interested in history.


The other show I've been watching (after the kids go to bed) has been Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

I've just finished watching the first season and it's like a breath of fresh air. Each compact 25 minute episode is an interesting and often times nerve-wracking experience. And the guest stars on this show complement it to no end. Episodes I particularly enjoyed featured Vera Miles, Joseph Cotten, Claude Rains, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Charles Bronson, Cloris Leachman and Darin McGavin. This is the precursor to shows like "The Twilight Zone" and "Tales From the Crypt" and it might even be superior. And the fact that Hitchcock supervised all the episodes and personally directed 17 of them makes it all the more special.

TV shows nowadays are all about all the different things we do to catch murderers, but why can't shows be like this? Like every day, average ordinary people planning murders? It's so much more entertaining. Like, for instance, the first episode is about a guy who wants to kill a traveling salesman who raped his wife. And the episode where John Williams kills his wife just before they go on an extended trip to America. Another great episode had Cedric Hardwicke trying to cover up a murder on behalf of his daughter because she beat a man with a croquet mallet and the family name couldn't bear to handle any shame. But things always unravel on them in the end....

TV should take a turn back to that route. Orwell wrote of the decline of the English murder and tt seems like we've had our own decline in the states and it's just too bad....

I suppose my point is that these shows are at the very least 100% better than 99.9% of the crap on television right now and you need to check them out.

Like, right now....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Am Legend and *gulp* Alvin and the Chipmunks

I had an interesting couple of days of film watching this weekend and I can't think of two more different films to be talking about in the same post. But, let's take things chronologically and start with I Am Legend.


I had little interest in seeing I Am Legend opening weekend. It was something that looked like it could have been kind of cool, but something to see opening weekend? I didn't think so. What drove me to the theatre was the six minutes of Dark Knight prelude footage in IMAX. I've never seen a film in IMAX before and I decided what better time to try it out.

The problem with IMAX theatres is that they're invariably located in the most obnoxious multiplexes on Earth. They should set a cap of four screens to any single movie theatre location and one screen if it's an IMAX. Perhaps movie theatres would once again have personality. And perhaps they wouldn't make one feel as though he's in a goddamned circus.

I thought the footage from The Dark Knight was breathtaking. If this was nothing more than a pitch to go see the film in IMAX, it worked. There was a shot of two Jokers rappelling onto the roof of a fifteen story bank and my heart literally jumped as I thought I was falling. It really did blow my mind. The Dark Knight is in capable hands and I think Heath Ledger is going to pull of the Joker well.

Now, to I Am Legend. A lot of people are going to talk about the special effects in this film. The task of depopulating Manhattan for three years and actually filming it is nothing short of breathtaking. These are the sorts of special effects that you take for granted and almost don't notice and only later do you think about it and say, "How the shit did they pull that off?"

But pull it off, they did.

But the real special effect in this picture is Will Smith. I can't believe how well he knocked this out of the park. He carried this movie single-handedly on his shoulders and actually injected it with so much emotion that I was getting choked up during parts of it. There's a scene of him in the video store talking to a female mannequin that almost makes you want to cry. Seriously, he's that good in this picture.

The film has some problems, but it's too short to dwell on them. It comes to a logical conclusion very quickly and then ends within three minutes of that. I respect and admire that. The film comes in, tells you it's story in a tight 95 some odd minutes and then gets the hell out.

**SPOILER WARNING**
I also love the fact that they had the balls to actually kill Will Smith at the end. Hollywood movies don't dare enough to kill their heroes anymore and this was refreshing.
**SPOILERS OVER**

But, since the time investment for this movie isn't that much and it has genuine, scary and thrilling moments in a tight, competently put together style of filmmaking, it's worth your money to go see. I would also recommend the IMAX experience for it. I've never seen a clearer, bigger picture on a big screen. 70mm film is better than digital at this point, I would have to say.

And now to the second film of the weekend:

Alvin and the Chipmunks.

I was dragged to see this because my kids were begging me to take them and I figured why the hell not? I used to like the Chipmunks as a kid (in fact, The Chipmunk Adventure was on my heavy rotation list as a kid for a very long time) and I figured it couldn't be worse than Garfield.

Indeed it was not. It's not a good movie, but if you have to see something with your kids, this won't get on your nerves too bad and you'll actually chuckle quite a bit. And my kids and nephew were literally on the floor laughing through most of the film.

And the human actors in it (Jason Lee and David Cross) are two of the most entertaining actors in the business, so they were certainly at least mildly entertaining to watch in this fairly standard kids movie.

It had all the beats you'd expect with no real surprises. David Seville (Lee) is a struggling musician who finds the Chipmunks and the songs he writes for them (classic Chipmunks tunes) propel them quickly into stardom. David Cross is the evil manager who overworks them and cuts David out of the picture and they all have to learn what being a family is all about. It did seem to borrow from old Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons though, I don't know if that's good or not. But I don't know how many Chip and Dale cartoons started with someone uprooting their tree and making them fish out of water. And who could forget the WB frog being unable to perform in front of anyone but the guy who wanted to get rich of him, which are both pretty big plot points in the film. But it was fine, I guess...

The only thing I couldn't figure out is why they paid people like Justin Long to voice the Chipmunks. With the processing of the voices, it seems like they could have saved money to have just about anyone do it.

With the box office for the opening weekend, we should all expect to see a sequel to this movie and it could be entertaining to see it more along the lines of the Chipmunk Adventure.

Bottom Line: If your kids are going to drag you to a kids movie, you could do lots worse.

Friday, December 14, 2007

East Bay Express mention

The East Bay Express ran a piece about the links between obesity and global warming and how it all relates to our film Killer at Large.

The Headline?

Are Your Love Handles Contributing to Global Warming?

Read it here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

McDonalds Fries


We had to do some B-roll product shots of some super-sized McDonalds meals for "Killer At Large" today. I haven't had any French Fries to speak of in just under a year and so I decided I'd give 'em a shot before we threw them away.

Honest to God, I still feel queasy. And my tongue feels like it's been coated in a plastic/grease lacquer.

Then I found out what little I had was over 500 calories.

Jesus.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Summer '08


I just wanted to let everyone know how much better this crop of summer movies is going to be than last year.

You've got Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Wall-E to start with. Those are the major tentpoles.

But there's a whole slew of other stuff that's probably going to be rad: Prince Caspian (check out the trailer here, it looks great), The Incredible Hulk, Valkyrie, Hellboy 2 and X-Files 2 (for Steve).

Then there's a whole batch of stuff that might be okay, like Pineapple Express, Horton Hears a Who, Kung Fu Panda and Drillbit Taylor.

It just looks like the summer movie season will the best we've had since 2005. And I don't need to remind everyone what came out in May of '05, which by itself made the entire summer awesome...

I just wanted to give everyone a heads up of what we're in store for.

Monday, December 10, 2007


'nuff said.

Solo Con Tu Pareja and Across the Universe

I watched two drastically different movies today, it being my one day off and all. And when I mean drastically different films, I mean I watched two films as different as about anything you can imagine.

Both were based on recommendations by people at the office.


The first was Alfonso Cuaron's first feature length effort, Solo con tu pareja. Patrick loaned it to me with his highest recommendation. You don't need much higher a recommendation for than the fact that Cuaron directed it, but I'd never even heard of this film.

This was an incredibly charming comedy with the most outlandish dramatic premise that I can think of. The film revolves around Tomas Tomas, a veritable Don Juan who simultaneously falls deeply in love with his one true soul mate and learns that he is HIV positive. Sounds like a comedy, doesn't it?

The climax revolves around them both vowing to commit suicide, her because her fiancee is cheating on her, him because his swaggering days are numbered.

The problem is that he doesn't really have HIV. The nurse in charge of his paperwork played a cruel prank on him for sleeping with her and another woman on the same night and morning.

It reminded me of the screwball sorts of Howard Hawks kind of comedies that I'm quite fond of but in the hands of a director like Cuaron.

So, I would offer this film quite a high recommendation for anyone who enjoys Alfonso Cuaron (which should be all of you.)


This film was recommended to me by Matt the intern and I'd had a passing interest in seeing it anyway.

Julie Taymor. Okay. Beatles songs. Cool. Love Story. Sure. It seemed like all the pieces would be there. You'd like to think all the pieces would be there, wouldn't you?

Let me describe the movie to you: Take Moulin Rouge minus the heart add it to Rent (with all of it's shittiness) and throw in Buzby Berkeley numbers without any heart, imagination or soul. Now you might start getting an idea as of to what this picture looks like. If I had to sum it up in one word it would be "catastrophe."

My brother described it thusly, "It's like you're trying to play tether ball, but the ball is attached to Alf and you're trying to hit the ball with a cat. It just doesn't work."

I wanted to like it. I like sappy love stories as much as the next guy, but this one was totally devoid of heart or emotion. It felt like Taymor relied on any personal feelings you'd bring to the table with the music already set in place and made a conscious effort to leave anything else out.

The story was all over the place, what little emotion was there was scattered like a roller coaster, but not the good kind of roller coaster that rises to a point and lets you go, this was one of those little kid roller coaster that's just three or four little peaks and valleys on a continuous loop. The script was just truly bad. It's almost as though a studio executive sat down with a script and said, "Well, we've got a terrible script, what do we do to fix it?"

Then his yes-man responds, "You who what isn't terrible? The Beatles."

And the studio executive replies, "Perfect. We'll put 'em together and see what happens. Get me Julie Taymor."

And then, for some reason, they decided to do away with subtlety for the purpose of the motion picture. There's a lesbian girl who literally won't come out of the closet. A group of drafted soldiers storm a model of Vietnam with the Statue of Liberty as a battering ram and all end up as wounded veterans. Just before breaking out into "Strawberry Fields Forever," we cut to a shot of....you guessed it...strawberries... And Bono.... Jesus... Bono....

It was just not good. And at 133 minutes, I can't imagine it being worth anyone's time. And I'm a fan of the Beatles and I don't feel like it was worth my time even for that. Sorry Matt the intern, I just really didn't like it.

At all.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Wayne Foundation Charity Auction

Anybody know what the hell these are about? I took these downtown today.

Air America San Francisco

Steve was on "Progressive News" with John Scott yesterday.

They spoke about the film and No Child Left Behinds impact on the childhood obesity epidemic.

Click here to listen to it.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

KSL News Coverage


KSL News Radio did a piece about the film.

You can listen to it here.


That's seriously the picture of us they used on their site.

We've been doing more and more press as of late and another sizable batch of press releases have gone out in the last couple of days, so I would check back here more frequently for updates about the film.

Front Paged

The Deseret Morning News ran a front page piece about the film and our conclusions about how the "No Child Left Behind Policy" is contributing to obesity.

You can read the full piece here.


I love how people accuse us of being propagandists without having seen the film. The reporter saw quite a bit of it and seem convinced enough to write the article. And her editors were convinced enough to put it on the front page.

And let's be honest, it's not like the Deseret Morning News is some liberal cheer rag....

Also we put up our new press kit for the film.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007



Just an FYI... Image's Popgun Anthology (of which contains a story Elias and I worked on and Derek drew) was released last week.

You can get it from any reliable comic book store. Barnes and Noble and Borders haven't stocked them yet and Amazon isn't filling orders yet so there's still time to get the pre-order price.

So...

Yeah.

I've been reading the stories inside the book and I have to say that I'm glad I bought it. It's got a lot of really great material in there and the art for a lot of it is simply stunning. It's like the editors have brought back the short story (which has been seemingly dead for some time) and resurrected it in the graphic form.

Even if I had nothing to do with this book, I'd still highly recommend it to all of you.

(Also, if you look real hard, you'll find Gamma Rae on the cover there, rendered by Mike Allred himself.)

Website Updates

Our website is in dire need of an overhaul, but in the meantime we still need to put some vital info up there.

We've added a production interview.

Check it out.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Larry Craig's Sweet Tooth


Everyone knows that Larry Craig is having problems right now with more gay men stepping forward with accounts of having had sex with the embattled Republican, family-values Senator. And although it's disgusting that a man with homosexual tendencies like Craig would vote in ways inconsistent with his sexual deviancy, there's an issue even more troublesome from his past that we've uncovered documents for and will appear in "Killer at Large".

This story was reported in the Washington Post back in April 2003 but it seems as though the story has been all but forgotten. It does, however, highlight the need for meaningful campaign finance reform laws and the need to oust corporate shills and hypocrites like Craig from office.

In 2003, the World Health Organization had drafted a report entitled "WHO Technical Report Series 916 Diet, Nutrition and The Prevention of Chronic Diseases." In this innocuous report, WHO scientists agreed that a suggested limit of 10% of your daily caloric intake from sugar in order to help keep your weight down and your body healthy. The Sugar Association (one of the largest agricultural lobbying entities in Washington) went into overdrive, doing everything they could think of to suppress what should have been a fairly routine recommendation.

First, they began drafting letters to the head of the WHO that demanded they cease working on the report and that if the report went any further forward, they would lobby their friends in the Congress to shut down any funding from the United States.

Things quickly escalated and they called the co-chair of the US Senate Sweetener Caucus, our very own airport-bathroom-prowling Larry Craig. (Can you believe they actually have a Sweetener Caucus?!) Very quickly he (and fellow co-chair John Breaux (D-LA)) drafted a letter on behalf of the Sugar Association to HHS head Tommy Thompson and USDA head Ann Veneman that called in to question the scientific preponderance of the recommendation that you should eat less sugar.

Although anyone with half a brain can tell you that you shouldn't eat too much sugar, Craig and his cohorts at the Sugar Association insisted that there was no scientific evidence to support claims that eating less sugar would be healthy.

More threats to cut off funding to the WHO were made.

Soon, the pressure mounted and the WHO ended up jettisoning the report in fear that their efforts to contain the SARS epidemic might be hampered by a loss of funding.

So, we have Larry Craig partially to blame for that.

I, for one, don't think that the 10% recommendation would have been all that effective at anything except as a symbolic first step toward conquering the obesity epidemic and the role sugar plays in the problem. But seeing this whole report discarded because of lobbyist and congressional pressure in the face of an epidemic as serious as SARS is quite disappointing to me.

We could add this to the list of reasons we need Larry Craig out of the Senate.

In the meantime, want to see the letter he signed to Tommy Thompson and Ann Veneman?

Farm Bill 2007: Get Your Hands Dirty

Due to the stalling tactics of Senate Republicans, the 2007 Senate Farm Bill is languishing on the Senate floor. The Democrats have offered a bi-partisan version of the bill that has large agri-business firms and Republicans worried. It makes some limits (by no means enough limits, but some) on the amount of subsidies available for crops like corn, soybeans and wheat.

The fact of the matter is that it doesn't make sense for the government to be subsidizing crops we already make too much of. We have far too much corn, for example, and since we have so much it is processed into foods that make us both sick and fat. "Why is that twinkie cheaper than a root you pull out of the ground like a carrot?" Michael Pollan asked us when we interviewed him for our film.

The simple answer is subsidies from the farm bill. Why aren't we subsidizing the production of fruits and vegetables that don't require massive amounts of processing? An easy way to find the answer to that is to find out who profits and who uses those profits to buy elected officials. Companies like Kraft, General Mills, Pepsi and McDonalds can be found regularly in the halls of the House and Senate. (In fact, we even did a hidden camera interview with a Corporate Vice President of McDonalds…)

The Farm Bill doesn't just inform how much of which crops (or wrong crops) are grown for the purpose of junk food processing. It also informs what food our children eat at school.

Why is it, do you think, that the school lunch menus are filled with pizza, corn dogs and nachos? It's obviously not because these foods are nutritionally sound for our children. It's because there are such places as the National Frozen Pizza Institute or the Grocery Manufacturers Association who ensure that the nutritional standards for our children are so low that frosted pink cookies and ice cream ala carte qualify as part of a balanced lunch in our school cafeterias. And not only do taxpayers subsidize the production of the crops that make up the components of the pizza, taxpayers subsidize the manufacturing of it and then buy it and give it to our nations children.

The Farm Bill also sets the standard in nutrition for social welfare programs like WIC and Food Stamps. The way that the program is set up, it offers little to no incentive for healthy eating. It merely offers a meager dollar amount and tells those in need to figure out what to eat. Unfortunately, because of the subsidies of the Farm Bill the unhealthiest calories are the cheapest.

In their stalling, though, Senate Republicans have given us an opportunity to call and write our elected officials on both sides of the aisle and let them know that we want the Farm Bill to address these problems and that the needs of the people are, in fact, more important than the needs of industries and large farming conglomerates.

Subsidies should be going to local, organic farmers who need a hand through harsh winters, not giant farming conglomerates.

Nutrition standards in schools need to be established in a vacuum away from agricultural interests.

Food Stamps should be reorganized to offer more money for fresh fruits and vegetables and less on frozen or processed foods.

I don't have all the answers, but we should view this stalling as an opportunity to offer our input to fix a seriously flawed and broken system for the next five years when the Farm Bill is once more up for renewal.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Huffington Post

They ran the below editorial.

Click to read Feeding School Kids Sugar Coated Irony on Huffington Post.

It's featured on the "Living" page.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Feeding School Children Sugar Coated Irony

I wrote this for Huffington Post, but it was too good not to post here as well. As soon as they post it there, I'll post the link up.

I have a younger sister almost twenty years my junior that is currently enrolled in the public education system. She called me recently, asking for help on a persuasive essay she'd been assigned for homework.

"We have to talk about why or why not vending machines should be in schools," she explained. She knows that I've spent the last year working on a documentary about the American obesity epidemic ( Killer At Large) and so I was the first person she thought to ask. "I know you don't think there should be vending machines in schools, but why?"

I gave her the three points I believed most, "Well, first off, obesity. Kids are more overweight and obese now than they've ever been. Secondly, type 2 diabetes is running rampant among kids your age. The last big thing is that sugar and junk food makes kids hyper and makes it harder for them to concentrate."

"Hmmm," she replied.

"Don't take my word for it. Use those points as a jumping off point for research and then let me take a look at your paper."

"Okay," she said and the next time I spoke to her about it was a couple of days later when she had her rough draft. She showed me a fairly well-written five paragraph essay (for a sixth-grader) about why she felt vending machines should be removed from schools.

"Vending machines," her essay concluded, "help promote an unhealthy lifestyle causing more children to be obese. Without vending machines, obesity would not be as common as it has become. Vending machines contribute to higher diagnoses among children for type 2 diabetes because children can not regulate their junk food intake. Vending machines restrict learning because of hyperactivity. If you're too bouncy on sugar, you're not going to sit in class and learn anything."

After they talked about it in class, my sister told me that three-quarters of her classmates agreed with her when their teacher asked if they should take vending machines out of schools. Quite encouraging.

Then they turned in their papers for grading.

A few weeks went by and my sister wanted to show me her graded essay. She'd gotten 50 points out of a possible 50. "Great ideas," her teacher wrote, "I love how much research you did, these are great points."

"Great job," I told her.

It would seem as though the tide is turning in the battle against obesity in schools.

You'd hope, but it shocked me to find that the teacher had stapled to the front of this anti-junk food essay a coupon worth a free order of Cinna Stix at Domino's Pizza. On the front of the coupon was written, "In recognition of a professional, persuasive essay."


An order of Cinna Stix is almost 1,200 calories (plus an extra 250 for the dipping sauce). My sister is 11 years old and is recommended to eat about 1,600 calories each day total. Hardly an appropriate reward.

I suppose her essay wasn't persuasive enough.

(Bryan Young blogs daily at This Divided State)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bender's Big Score

I just wanted to remind everyone that Bender's Big Score came out today.

I also wanted to remind everyone that Futurama is better than any TV show that you watch. By a lot.

I just finished watching this and it was pretty much hilarious.

If you don't believe me, ask the Hypnotoad...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead


I think Sidney Lumet is a fantastic director. Frequent readers of this space will recognize that. (Network is one of my favorite films and I've written about it ad nauseum. Here, here and here.)

I've been on a Lumet binge in the last year, I've picked up copies of Murder on the Orient Express, Power, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Family Business, The Verdict, Find Me Guilty and a couple of others I'm probably forgetting. And this is in addition to my frequent viewings of Network. (I'm not sure why I haven't grabbed a copy of 12 Angry Men, yet. That movie still knocks my socks off.) Anyway, I've been watching a lot of Sidney Lumet films in the recent past and although I've enjoyed his works in the late 80's, the 90s and beyond, I've felt like they've sort of slipped in quality. Lumet had always been a bit hit or miss but there's no denying that in the 70s the man was on fire. I've learned a lot from him. I've read his books and his screenplays.

When I first heard about his latest film though, I was both excited and worried. Like I said, his films have been enjoyable since the 80s (minus The Wiz of course) but they haven't been masterpieces. Lumet is now 83 years old. Would he still be able to pull off a masterful crime drama of days gone by?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a melodramatic crime drama that can stand side by side with Serpico or Dog Day Afternoon as a classic of the genre. Lumet tells a story about a crime that goes horribly, horribly wrong. With most robbery-gone-bad stories though, the film focuses on the execution of the crime and then watches it unravel. This film starts on the crime and then spends time moving backwards to reveal why the crime went so bad and then overlaps with each character and their fallout from the robbery. Normally, I wouldn't care about robbers and the fallout of a robbery gone wrong, but this is about a family. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke are brothers with very real problems. Money problems.

They're convinced that this robbery will solve all of their problems and, since the place is insured, it will be a victimless crime.

Unfortunately guns go off and the problems with the law and other crooks start.

But they still need money and the problems they had before are only getting worse.

Overall, I was wrapped up and engaged in the film in a way I haven't felt watching movies about robberies in a very long time.

And the ending was pitch perfect.

I don't want to give too much away because I really do want all of you who read this to go see it. It truly is a tight, taut melodrama that will punch you in the gut. And I haven't even said word one about the performances. Phil Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei all offer stunning performances in what would seem as the most accurate portrayal I could imagine of a family truly and finally coming apart at the seams. They each inject their familial relationships with an unspoken history that makes you truly believe that they are a family.

It's quite a thing to see.

So. I'm just going to stop now and chide you once more to just go see the movie. If you regret, you can make fun of me in this space like everyone does to Steve. Or something...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

No Country For Old Men


I've seen the Coen Brother's latest film No Country For Old Men twice now.

The more I think about it, the more I like it. The more I think about it, the more uneasy the suspense in the film makes me. The more I think about it, the more Javier Bardem seems like Darth Vader or Norman Bates or something.

This film is engrossing, sad, sweet and, above-all, filled with nerve-wracking suspense.

There's some type of drug deal gone wrong and some money that is at stake, but that's really not at all what the film is about. I mean, to a degree it is. Obviously, the money motivates Josh Brolin's character and on some level it motivates Javier Bardem, but it's ancillary to the tale being told. But the film is really about how people deal with each other when they don't understand each other.

I don't think Tommy Lee Jones' character can comprehend Javier Bardem's character at all. So in order to try to stop him, he has to try to figure out Josh Brolin's character whom he understands only slightly better than Javier Bardem. It's an amazing thing to watch a police officer flounder trying to end a string of crimes but since there's no rhyme or reason to deal with it's simply impossible. It seems incomprehensible to Tommy Lee Jones that a person like Javier Bardem could even exist.

I really, really, really loved this movie. This is a return to form for the Coens. Well.... I don't know if it's a return to form, exactly. They've been fairly consistent. Only one of their films has been at worst half-a-misfire (The Ladykillers) and one was a genuine attempt at a more mainstream audience (Intolerable Cruelty).

I can see that John Q. Filmgoer might leave this film unsatisfied by the climax and the ending, but the more I process what I'd seen, heard and felt watching it, it's a shame that more people won't see the film because of it.

I really don't feel comfortable talking about what the meaning of this film was. It's something you just need to see for yourself. That would be like me trying to tell you what 2001 means to me, or something. It just needs to be a personal sort of thing. I will say that the ideas of things getting worse as generations go by and the last generations trying to set a beacon of light for the next combined with the title really, really hit me hard.

This film is truly a cut above and you really just need to see it.

(Aside from the perfection of the story, acting and directing, kudos must be given to Roger Deakins was phenomonal. Half the film was shot in beatiful vistas and silhouettes and it was quite a sight to see.)

Good show, Brothers Coen. Good show.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Oscars lose even more credibility


So, King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters which his hands down one of the best films of the year (not just best documentary, but one of the best films of the year) was left OFF the Academy's short list of 15 documentary features they're considering for the top prize.

I wonder if they even watch documentaries anymore.

Lousy bastards.

Scott McClellan admits to lying for Bush


This story is just too much.

If George Bush didn't already have enough problems with his credibility, his former press secratary is publishing a book an in it he admits that he lied on behalf of the administration.

Jesus.

Here's an excerpt.

The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

There was one problem. It was not true.

I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the president himself.

What is it going to take to throw these clowns completely out of the political process? Not just Bush but those swine vying for his position.

We need a goddamned apolitical farmer from middle America that believes in strong unions, good wages and universal health care in office, not another politician.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

BYU Police Beat

There were quite a few laughs this week, but this one takes the cake:

Suspicious event

Nov. 10: A suspicious man approached a lady at the bookstore and started touching and kissing her baby's feet. She told him to leave them alone and reported the incident to her husband. Her husband said that he had a similar situation in the bookstore. They described the man as a 6' 2", 290 pound African American man in his mid-twenties.

Beowulf


I was fortunate enough this evening to catch a show of Beowulf in 3D and I must say the look of the film was remarkable. The CG work in the film was truly breathtaking and it was designed preposterously well around the fact that it was going to be a 3D film.

I really liked the film overall. I was really into it.

The story was interesting and well written. The voice talent was beyond comparison. The directing was fantastic.

But this motion-capture technology leaves... something to be desired.

There are some that say that this is the future of film, but I think that would be a sad day. I think that Robert Zemeckis could have made this film a blockbuster the size of which hasn't been seen since the release of Return of the King if he'd made it live-action but, as is, I don't think this will break away into the stratosphere. Maybe it will, perhaps I'm wrong. It just seems to me that the movie can stand on it's own (it is really good) but all they want to sell is the gimmick.

I know Zemeckis can handle complicated physical effects films. He directed one of the best and most complicated personally (That's the shining masterpiece Who Framed Roger Rabbit? for those of you slow on the uptake). Why didn't he take up that mantle once again for this film?

I just think this motion capture animation stuff is going to end up the same way the original 3D did in the first place. It was a short-lived gimmick. That's not to say that 3D films won't survive. The 3D system they have now is second-to-none in my opinion and I'd pay lots of money to finally see Star Wars movies in that process. Or other more traditionally animated films in 3D. It's just that this motion capture stuff is getting old.

Almost as old as the goddamn advertisements at the beginning of the movie. And I wish I could punch the guy who's idea it was for the 3 Doors Down National Guard video right in the balls.

(Despite my complaints about the motion capture animation, I just wanted to let everyone know that I really did like the movie quite a bit, more than I thought I was going to.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Film Festivals

We've been busy submitting to film festivals and working hard finishing our commercial work, but I wanted to let you guys know that our recent push in the press has yielded invitations to a few festivals.

So, keep coming back and checking for announcements.

We're also going to be writing more editorials on the topic and doing more radio appearances.

So, keep checking back.

Also, we've been updating the ShineBox website quite regularly with pieces about the film.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Public Radio

They've posted the audio from today's interview.

The whole piece is interesting, but if you want to skip ahead I won't blame you. The section about Killer at Large starts at minute 27 or so.

It's in real player format, but don't let that scare you. We'll do our best to get a more convenient streaming format on the blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wisconsin Public Radio Tomorrow


I've been asked to appear on Wisconsin Public Radio's Conversations with Kathleen Dunn
tomorrow morning at 10:30am central time (9:30am MST).

I'll be on discussing the links between obesity and climate change and the film, Killer at Large.

Be sure to go to WPR and tune into the whole show starting at 10:00am central time to hear the whole discussion about obesity and climate change.

So, be sure to check it out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Worried About Climate Change? Fix Obesity.

I wrote a new editorial for Huffington Post about the connections between climate change and obesity.

Click here to read it there. A highlight:
New York Times bestselling author of The Omnivores Dilemma, Michael Pollan, explained to us and our cameras, "We don't often think about climate change in relation to food, but indeed it's one of the easier ways to address the problem." He went on to explain to us that our food system consumes almost 20% of the fossil fuels consumed by our country (almost as much as personal transportation) when you account for all the chemical fertilizers, food processing, packaging and shipping the food across the country. "A strawberry is four calories. It takes ten calories of fossil fuel energy to get it to you."
Be sure to pass it along.

BYU Fiasco Mini Update: They Talk the Talk

Seems like Brigham Young University has had quite a few politically charged dealings in the past couple years (arresting pro-gay demonstrators who held a very silent protest on campus, firing multiple professors for, I don't know, breathing, inviting Dick Cheney to speak at graduation, canceling the Social Work major while still dumping money into football, denying students, who want to help out the poor, permission to protest, etc, etc.)

But, at the end of the day, they just talk the talk. Not many at BYU walk the walk. Even if that only means walking a few blocks to the voting booths.

BYU had the lowest voter turnout for Utah County elections.
That means, in a county with two HUGE cities and two HUGE colleges, the loudest, most ambitious entity simply phoned it in.

Bravo, BYUites, the Lord is truly your shepard. And you are truly his sheep.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut


I just wanted to offer another remembrance to Kurt Vonnegut on what should have been his 85th birthday.

He shared a birthday with the 4th anniversary of the Armistice ending World War I. I wish that the end of a war was something we still celebrated. Honoring veterans is good, but doesn't it seem as though we should honor the end of war more? To prevent making more veterans?

Here are my posts about him from the time of his death. (Huffington Post, This Divided State)

It still chokes me up a little bit.

So it goes.

10 Movies That Need DVD Releases

Not much on Earth annoys me more than finding out about a movie and not being able to get my hands on it. I wanted to put together a list of films that deserve a DVD release (a lot of them deserve Criterion releases, some of them not so much). This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. As soon as you see it, you'll say, "Jeez, how could he have forgotten X?!"

Let us know in the comments. So, without further ado and in no particular order:


1. Our Man in Havana is Carol Reed and Graham Greene's third and final collaboration. The first two, The Fallen Idol and The Third Man are widely regarded as classics and rightly so. I would assume that this film is no different, but I can't get my bloody hands on it. Alec Guinness heads up the cast which includes Burl Ives, Maureen O'Hara and Ernie Kovacs. It was also filmed in Havana during that narrow window prior to the complete closure of the country. Guinness plays Wormold, an expatriate vacuum salesman living in Havana with his young daughter. As his daughter gets older she's gotten more expensive, so when the offer comes from the British secret service comes in for him to become a spy he jumps at the chance. He begins to file fanciful and false reports but things get hairy for Wormold when his preposterous reports (vacuum blueprints) turn out to be true (military blueprints) and other foreign agents and local military descend on poor Wormold.

The book was fantastic and you'd be hard pressed to find a better cast for the film. The writer/director team produced to classics, I can't imagine how this film could be a misfire and I can't find any reason whatsoever why it isn't available on DVD. Criterion should get on top of this one ASAP.


2. Freud - John Huston directed this bio-pic that covers five years in the life of Sigmund Freud played wonderfully, I imagine, by Montgomery Clift. It was nominated for two Academy Awards in 1962 (score and screenplay) and has been largely unavailable on DVD or VHS. The film compresses most of Freuds major breakthroughs into one patient and is hailed as the best film about Freud. Turner Classic Movies plays it from time to time, but there doesn't seem to be any plans for a DVD release that I can find. I can't imagine a more compelling reason to release it than the pairing of Montgomery Clift and John Huston. (For brilliant examples of their other work, check out I Confess and The Man Who Would be King, respectively.)


3. Brighton Rock (AKA Young Scarface) is yet another Graham Greene adaptation that wallows without a release in the United States, but our friends in the UK have one. Again, the book is a nail-biter that you can't put down about a seventeen-year old kid named Pinkie who's taken over a gang in Brighton and murders a man and has to murder more and more people to cover it up. He even marries a young waitress who could blow his lid so that she can't give evidence against him. This film is notable because of the actor who plays the furious Pinkie: it's a twenty-something Sir Richard Attenborough. It's been called one of the great British thrillers but I'd never know because no one has put out a DVD in the US.


4. Drunken Angel. I'm a giant Kurosawa nerd. Not one of those pretentious film-school Kurosawa snobs, but a genuine nerd, in love with Kurosawa on every level. I was able to catch a 16mm print of Drunken Angel a few years back and I swear, aside from Seven Samurai, it's easily my favorite Kurosawa film. The story is about Takashi Shimura, a drunken doctor in a clinic in post-war Japan. He's a drunk but he's still a doctor interested in helping people. (In fact, now that I think about it, it sounds a lot like a Graham Greene novel minus a love affair.) The two patients that he deals with in the film are a small girl with tuberculosis and Toshiro Mifune, a youthful, drunken gangster with tuberculosis and a death wish. The film is equally bitter and sweet and is truly one of the greatest films ever made. Mifune, Shimura and Kurosawa are as essential and influential a team in film as Scorsese, Pesci and DeNiro or Leone and Eastwood or Ford and Wayne. I would even argue that Mifune and Shimura belong in the hallowed halls of all the acting greats like Brando and Newman.

But why isn't this film on DVD? Criterion has put out most of Kurosawa's other films (sometimes twice). I know because I've bought them all, but why not this one? Is it a rights issue or something? Wake up Criterion, get this done and in my hands. I haven't even been able to land my hands on a quality bootleg of this one.

UPDATE: (It turns out, Criterion has a release date of 11/27/2007 for this one, but Criterion has repeatedly pulled DVDs on the date of their release, most notably Kurosawa's Dodesukaden.)


5. Erik the Viking was written and directed by Monty Python alum Terry Jones. It stars Tim Robbins, among others and is a truly hilarious film. When I was a kid, I would rent this film at least twice a month and it would never cease to entertain me. It was also my gateway drug into other Monty Python films. Tim Robbins plays Erik, a Viking who has a conscious. He's just downright sick of all the raping and pillaging. In one of the funniest scenes of the film, he tries to rape a girl but can't bring himself to do it because no love is involved, then his Viking buddies come in and try to do likewise to the poor girl, but he ends up rescuing her and she becomes the love interest in the rest of the film. I don't know about any of you, but a Viking questioning the inherent moral value of rape is hilarious.

This film got an extra special sweet DVD release in the UK and there is no sign of a release in the US. Well, there was a release set. And a date. But it got pulled. Why? I've no idea. All I know is that I want a copy of this film to show my kids. Also, I want to buy it as presents for a couple of people...

UPDATE: It seems as though there's a new US release date of this for next month, but it's had three other US release dates at least, so I'll believe it when I see it.


6. Happy Birthday, Wanda June was written by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and was filmed in 1971 starring Rod Steiger. I've had mostly bad experiences with Vonnegut adaptations (I recently wangled a copy of Slapstick on DVD and was pretty much ready to kill myself) but this seems fairly hard to screw up. The story is about a man who embodies everything about guys like Steinbeck and Hemingway that Vonnegut hated, the big-game hunting, macho, womanizing ass-hole side of them. This is Harold Ryan (played by Rod Steiger) and he's been lost in the woods for eight years and his wife and child have made an attempt to move on, his wife is dating other, more sensitive men. This is about when he comes back into their lives. The play, as written, is funny and poignant and if they filmed exactly what was on the page I can't imagine how they could deviate so far from Vonnegut to ruin it.


7. Dr. Fischer of Geneva was the first Graham Greene novel I ever read and it hit me right between the eyes. It's about greed and love and desperation and horrible families and it's all quite tragic, as Greene is apt to write. Alec Guinness tried for a few years to get the film done with himself in the title role, but it fell through for whatever reason. A short while later, it was made for television with James Mason in the Dr. Fischer role. This film is notable enough for a DVD release if for no better reason than this was James Mason's last film. Graham Greene's Dr. Fischer was the last part he ever played. Dr. Fischer is an old rich man whose hobby it is to expose human greed. He has a number of "friends" who he humiliates as far as they can take and then gives them money and gifts. Soon, his son-in-law gets involved and the prize is more money than anyone can imagine, but the final humiliation is death for one of the participants. The novel is tight and hard to put down, I can't imagine the film being any less so.


8. High School (1968). Frederick Wiseman's documentary film inside of life for teachers, administrators and students inside a Philadelphia high school is so important a film that it was selected in 1991 for inclusion in the National Film registry. So why can't I get a copy on DVD? This film looks to be the high school equivalent to the Maysles' stunning film Salesman. I'd pay money to see a verite film about life and interaction inside of a high school in 1968. This seems like a shoo in for a Criterion disc, so what's the hold up?


9. Beyond the Limit (AKA The Honorary Consul). I read Roger Ebert's review of this film and, to be honest, he said it wasn't that good. But he wrote his review when the film came out and there was a backlash of dislike for Richard Gere. I'm terribly interested to see the film now. This is another adaptation of a Graham Greene novel (big surprise, right?) that stars Michael Caine, Richard Gere and Bob Hoskins. The novel centers around a young, drunk doctor (see, Drunken Angel, but with a love affair) played by Richard Gere who is having an affair with the wife of the Honorary British Consul played by Michael Caine. She also happens to be a former prostitute. But the Consul is abducted by mistake and the only one who cares enough to try to deal with the well-meaning terrorists is the good Doctor.

The novel was intriguing and surprising and Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins could surely move enough units of this film with their names alone to warrant a release. So, if any one is paying attention, put out this film.


10. Remember the Night seems like the best Christmas-film that no one has ever heard of or seen. This film, written by Preston Sturges, pairs Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck (who melted the screen in the perfect Double Indemnity) during Christmas time. What sounds so great and interesting about that you ask? Well, Barbara Stanwyck plays a beautiful, young ne'er-do-well caught for shoplifting just before Christmas. Fred MacMurray plays the prosecutor assigned to her case and gets the trial postponed until after Christmas because it's impossible to get a good conviction during the holiday season. She'll have to spend her Christmas in jail so he feels sorry for her and arranges her bail. Well, he ends up taking her home for the holidays to meet his mother and slowly they fall in love. Now, all of a sudden that looming trial seems like a much larger problem now that he has to prosecute a loved one. This film sounds like it could be every bit as holiday classic as Capra's It's a Wonderful Life but I've only heard of it playing on TV once, last year for the first time in decades.

Granted, Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck have a much smaller amount of name recognition than Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, but that's no reason to leave this one in the vaults.

So, there you have it. Give me your complaints in the comments and I'll be sure to do a part II with all of your suggestions. And I hope that I've done you as much as a disservice as I've done myself insofar as I've made you want to watch all of these presumably wonderful films that you can't see as much as I want to see them.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Another BYU Fiasco

Brigham Young University students wanting to utilize their lives to better humanity just got fucked in the ass by the school administration. The Social Work bachelor's degree was canceled. Maybe helping out the poor and needy conflicts with BYU's honor code?

What makes it even worse, is that BYU canceled the major after students were already signed up and scheduled for it.

Anyways, students who actually have a bit of sanity decided to lodge a protest against BYU's mind-boggling act of douchery.

They wanted to try and reverse the decision because they wanted to continue their studies in social work and eventually help out less fortunate brothers and sisters worldwide.

Their "application" to protest was flatly denied.

David Magleby, dean of the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences, found a loop hole in the rules and was quickly able to shut down these raging, liberal students from speaking up about helping the poor and needy.

Having not gotten laid for over 20 years, David Magleby takes his aggression out on poor folks around the world.

For those of you saying, "Are you fucking serious?", please watch this video...
NOTE: For those of you dumb enough to ask, this video is from April 2007 when Dick Cheney was invited to BYU.




My suggestion to these students is to take this story to the press week after week with the statement, "We would like to help out humanity through social work and we would like BYU to allow us to do so."

"Please, BYU, will you let us help the poor and needy? Pleeeaaasssseeeeeee???"

American Gangster



Someone (Patrick) told me that American Gangster was Ridley Scott's best film since Blade Runner. "Really?" I asked.

"Yes."

"I don't know..."

"Seriously," I was told again.

And so I looked it up and IMDb and, lo and behold, it seems as though American Gangster probably is the best film that Ridley Scott has directed since Blade Runner. I mean really? Gladiator is pretty much the only one that might stack up and it was pretty good, but it wasn't a masterpiece. Was American Gangster a masterpiece? I don't know, but it was pretty damn good.

It felt very much to me like a very clever mix of Sidney Lumet's Serpico and The Godfather, had Martin Scorsese directed it. I think that's about the best I can sum up the style, tone and story of the film. Perhaps the fact that it shared a time period with all the great cop movies of the seventies helped me along with enjoying the film. I seem to have a stigma about films set in the immediate here and now, but that's my personal problem.

Anyhow, I think the film still has a couple of problems. And the problem with the problems is that they aren't easily fixed. The story is large. Very large. Incredibly ambitious, even. And to tell it right from both perspectives that Scott does, you simply have to fracture the narrative in order to accomodate the story but then the film seems really choppy. Now it seems as though a way to fix that problem would be to pick a character to tell the story from and tell it from their perspective solely. But the problem with that is that if you just do Russell Crowe, you just get a cheap Serpico knock off, you do Denzel Washington and you get the Godfather set in Harlem about thirty years later. It doesn't work without both stories.

The other major problem that I'm not sure how it could be fixed right off the bat is that none of the side characters had an real meaningful personality or screentime. That's the great thing about, say, a Scorsese movie, all of the side characters are as colorful (or more) than all of the main characters and so, even if your movie sucked, you were treated to a wonderful assortment of characters.

This film really had too much in it to delve into them, which makes me a little sad.

Overall, this is a terribly solid film. It's nothing I would buy on DVD or anything, but I would agree with the assessment that it's Ridley Scott's best film since Blade Runner. Don't beleive me? Seriously, check out his IMDb profile.

On a sidenote, I'd like to bitch about a couple of things that are really starting to piss me off at the movies:

1) Don't put fucking TV commercials or National Guard music videos on the beginning of movies. It just pisses people off. I paid money for my seat, I don't want to see commercials. If I wanted commercials I'd watch TV. I don't watch TV and I'll start passing on movie theatres that keep running Coke and Vault and Fandango commercials.

It's just obnoxious.

2) Turn off your fucking phone during films. Some jackass in front of me was text messaging half the movie. Seriously, the world can do without you for a couple of hours. (If you're the sort who text messages through a movie, the world can probably just do without you altogether, but that's neither here nor there.)

But yeah, that's obnoxious, too.

To sum up: American Gangster: Pretty Good, I really liked it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Intern?

We're looking for an intern for our office.

Email Patrick for details.

Patrick (at) shineboxmp.com

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Vote!


I took the time before work to vote today and I want to encourage all of you out there who read this to do the same.

I live in Utah and the largest issue on the ballot is the school vouchers referendum which is being closely watched around the country.

Why?

Because a vote for school vouchers, in my opinion, will cripple the public school system further than things like No Child Left Behind already have.

We need to invest more in public schools instead of running out on them when the going gets rough.

During Killer at Large, we interviewed Douglas Rushkoff about a things relating to our documentary, but we strayed off topic a bit and we began to speak about the public school system and parents spending thousands and thousands of dollars a year (a month in some cases) to toss your kids into public schools. And he said something that I can say I wholeheartedly agree with: If we invested the amount of time into public schools as it would take to earn the money to pay for private school, not only would we enhance the learning experience of our own children, but it would enrich the entire public school system.

Vouchers, to me, seems like a step in the opposite direction.

And it's very telling to see who is on what side of the issue with all of the ads and yard signs out there. You'd think that vouchers was the most popular piece of legislation ever waved in front of the voters. But then you think about where the money comes from: those against it are underpaid teachers and parents who aren't affluent enough to afford a private or charter school in the first place. Those for it are the weasely corporations that think they can turn a buck with this with the very same charter and private schools and parents who can afford to send their kids to these schools already but seem to think they need to raid the public school funds to do it.

It's pretty loathsome when I think about it.

So, if you live in the US, vote. If you live in Utah, I would urge you to vote against school vouchers. (Which, in most cases here, is the only referendum on the ballot.)

(on a sidenote, I published like four short stories last night. Read them here.)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Too Fat for A 'Small World'

I've got a new piece up on Huffington Post.

It's called "Too Fat for A 'Small World'"

Check it out and let me know what you thought.

UPDATE: It go syndicated on Yahoo.

Project Deseret


Ashley Sanders, one of the BYU 25, sent me an email informing me of her new position with Sunstone Magazine to do podcasts and blogs for them.

Ashley is incredibly smart and her writing is always worth reading.

So, without further ado, I would recommend you check out her new blog: Project Deseret. I'll be adding the link to the sidebar, too.

And now that we've got most of the commercial we were working on done, you might see more of me blogging.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Daily Herald

Ran a piece about the film based on the press release.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blade Runner: The Final Cut


I heard Blade Runner: The Final Cut was playing in Salt Lake City yesterday and so my natural response was to go see it immediately.

My response was well rewarded since I'd almost forgotten how bloody perfect Blade Runner is. I've been hyped for the new version of the film since I caught Ridley Scott's panel at comic-con over the summer and I had naturally assumed that I wouldn't see it until I picked up the giant box-set-attache-case-dealie. But no. Not today.

The first thing I'd like to mention is that this film was projected with one of those fantastic 5K Christie projectors on a giant screen. It was quite possibly one of the most gorgeous Hi-def transfers of an older film I think I've ever seen. Not only that, but the special effects still held up to the point where I felt like I could have been watching a contemporary film.

Now that that's out of the way, I must now say that I hadn't seen Blade Runner in quite a while. Perhaps five years or more. And in all that time, my memory of the film faded and I felt like I was watching it for the first time and it was a wonderful experience. I had remembered quite a few details wrong and I had very little recollection of the last half of the film outside of Roy howling.

This film is what science-fiction should be about. Science-fiction filmmakers (with very few exceptions) seem to have lost their way and science-fiction filmmakers from days gone by seem to have abandoned films like this. I wish Ridley Scott would direct more stuff like this than crap like A Good Year.

But everything about this film worked. From the mind-boggling production design of the not-too-distant future and the cinematography to the script and the acting it all worked together to provide a tapestry of a world that offered the chance to weigh a philosophical debate that we wouldn't ordinarily be able to have. In fact, as we get closer and closer to scientists cloning humans we get closer and closer to the designer genetics of the Nexus-6 and the closer we get to that, the closer we get to the moral conundrums for people like Deckard.

I don't want to get too much into the philosophical issues raised in the film for a couple of reasons. One) It's pretty pretentious in a forum such as this and Two) We did it for like three or four hours after we left the film.

I want to point out two more things before I advise that you go see it before it leaves theatres: First is the attention to detail and the ambiguity that Ridley Scott imbued into the film. There are a number of visual clues and story points that lead one to believe that Deckard is himself, in fact, a Replicant. Visually, it was the orange balls of light in the eyes that informed you, as an audience member, that a character was a Replicant. It was a really fascinating touch and I don't know if it was something that was added to the Final Cut or in the original. Either way, it was bloody wonderful.

The second thing I wanted to point out was my eternal disgust for today's modern film-going audience. Saw IV sold out at the theatre I saw Blade Runner at last night and there were literally less than 10 of us inside Blade Runner. It's enough to drive you to drink.

Anyhow, go see Blade Runner while you still have the chance. And if you have the misfortune of missing it, revisit it on video as soon as the DVD's come out and you will not be disappointed.