Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Every other night or so for the last month, I've been watching a James Bond movie with my son before bedtime. We've hit the halfway point, and I wanted to share a few sentences about each of them with you.
We've been watching them in order, so that's how I'll do it.
Dr. No (1962) - The first film in the franchise was probably the most grounded in reality of all the Connery Bond films (which isn't saying much, but it's true). Overall, this sets the tone of fun for the rest of the franchise and establishes all the hallmarks (the shooting through the gun barrel, the music, the opening credits sequence, etc.) Also, Ursula Andress is quite fun to look at.
From Russia With Love (1963) - This film has a plot unlike most of the rest of the Bond films. There isn't anyone trying to take over the whole world, it's about SPECTREs plan to steal a Russian decoding machine and James Bond's attempts to get it. The film also features a young, fit Robert Shaw as a maniacal assassin, hot on James' trail. This is one of the best in the series.
Goldfinger (1964) - Hands down the best Bond film ever made. This has everything you'd ever want in a Bond film (escapes, chases, explosions, a great villain, a great plan by the villain, Pussy Galore, etc.) This film also boasts the best Felix Leiter (with the possible exception of the current Felix, Jeffrey Wright.) If you were only going to watch one James Bond picture, I would have to insist this would be it.
Thunderball (1965) - Thunderball is pretty standard fare but has some of the coolest sequences of any of the Bond pictures. (SPECTRE's #2 has stolen a nuclear-armed plane and hidden it underwater). It's also interesting to see how they one-up the ending of Goldfinger. In Goldfinger, the film ends with a great firefight between the US Army and Goldfingers private Army. In Thunderball, it's pretty much the same thing, private army vs. government army, except it's underwater. But it's rad. Also, the Felix Leiter in this picture is a lame goofball.
You Only Live Twice (1967) - This is certainly the most unusual of the Connery Bonds. This film has him in Japanese makeup and it's all quite odd. It's a fun movie and the plot is interesting, but there's just something a little off about it. And the writers couldn't figure out how to top the ending fight to Thunderball, so instead of underwater fights, this one is in a volcano. And the combatants are SPECTRE's army vs. ninjas. Seriously. Donald Pleasance was also great as Blofeld.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) - Honest to god this is at least tied for 2nd or 3rd best Bond film ever. This was also George Lazenby's only outing as Bond. I've written a review of this one before (you can read that here). I honestly wish that Lazenby had been able to do more films. Telly Savalas surprised me with the quality of his Blofeld, too.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971) - It's obvious watching this film why they felt the need to replace Connery in 1969. He's a bit too old for the part here. He's good and the film is fun as hell (cheesy in places, but fun.) I don't know why the hell they hard such a hard time holding on to Blofelds, but this one is the least awesome so far.
Live and Let Die (1973) - This was Roger Moore's first Bond picture and I have to say that Yaphet Kotto stole the show. This is a solid addition to the Bond franchise and the boat chases across the Louisiana Bayou were fantastic.
The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) - I haven't seen all of Roger Moore's films but I would argue that either this or The Spy Who Loved me is the best of his films. Christopher Lee plays the kick-ass assassin Scaramanga and he seems to have a score to settle with Bond. The fate of the world isn't at stake in this one as much as the others and that serves it well.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) - This has a great ski-chase in it, a great love story and it introduced one of the most iconic James Bond villains in the series: Jaws. It also has one of the best endings of any of the films. (James is caught by M and the minister sleeping with the Russian Agent Triple-X. "What are you doing, 007?" To which he looks a bit confused and then replies coyly, "Keeping the British end up, sir.")
Moonraker (1979) - If I had to pick my least favorite Bond film in the first half of them, this would probably be it. It was slapped together to include an outer-space sequence because of the popularity of Star Wars and it's just pretty funny. It's amazing to me that Roger Moore still had three Bond pictures left in him, because it's obvious that they've taken a turn downward. And what the hell is up with Jaws and his girlfriend in this one?
So, I'll be back in a few weeks when I finish the other half of the Bond series.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
I saw Rambo tonight.
There's not much to say about it.
It's a Rambo movie. Rambo doesn't want to kill people anymore, but he's pushed. Then he kills a whole hell of a lot of people.
The effects and gore were fantastic, the film was well-acted, the violence was shuddering.
It was pretty much what you'd expect from a Rambo movie. It was like every other bad action movie but extremely well made. And the ending worked well. It was pretty much the same shot and pose and tone as John Wayne at the end of "The Searchers", when he realizes that even though he saved the day, he's still an outsider and then heads back to the one place he knows as home.
This movie will obviously be successful, but the question is, which Stallone character gets the sequel treatment next? Cobra? Tango and Cash? Snaps Provolone? Lincoln Hawk?
I wouldn't mind seeing Stallone helmed sequels to any of those pictures. (Particularly Oscar, I don't care what anyone says, it's a really good movie.)
Bottom Line? I enjoyed the hell out of this picture. It's worth the money for a ticket. But you know, in advance, you're not paying for anything but a by the numbers Rambo picture.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
I scored tickets to Towelhead and knew absolutely nothing about it. Consulting the IMDb on the way in, I found that it was written and directed by the guy who wrote American Beauty. So, I instantly expected it to be a film that told me exactly how to feel.
I would argue that this film is exactly the opposite and a lot better than American Beauty. (I didn't much like American Beauty, so that's not as high praise as it would be coming from others.)
But Towelhead follows a 13 year-old Lebanese girl who comes to her sexual awakening in a hypocritical culture. She's bombarded by media messages of sexuality (advertising, Married With Children, porno mags, etc.) but lives in an environment where no one discusses sexuality at all. It's the worst kind of abstinence only education.
Overall, I think the film was pretty good. I don't think I liked it as much as the people I was with, but I did like it. My problems with it stem mainly from the length and pacing, I thought the pacing and editing of the first half hour of the film were paced well, but the cutting didn't match the tone the film needed. It was just out of place. And the film was just over two hours and was at least 10 minutes too long.
Having said that, I think the best thing about the film is the relationship between the girl, Summer Bishil, and her much, much older neighbor, played by Aaron Eckhart. He's completely in love with her and her age doesn't seem to enter into his mind. At all. He's not a pedophile in the normal regard, he's actually interested in her.
In fact, the best moment in the film is when he apologizes to her and tells her that it isn't her fault, and then turns and runs back into the house.
But the film never tells you how you should feel about any of the sexuality going on in the film. Even when Aaron Eckhart and Summer Bishil have sex, there is no moral judging done on behalf of the filmmakers. It really just opens a window and shows it to you, but that's it. The only thing you're forced to do, is empathize with everyone, no matter how despicable they are. It's like Todd Solondz Happiness, but you actually like all of the characters.
I don't think this film will fly very well at the boxoffice, but I don't think it's because of a lack of quality. Between the title and the content, though, I can't see it being able to go wider than an arthouse release at best. Which is a shame, since crap like "In the Name of King: A Dungeon Siege Tale" can come out on like 2,500 screens.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Steve went home deathly ill and Elias and I kept up on our meetings. On Main Street we practically walked right into Brad Bird, which was awesome, and we saw Morgan Spurlock walking down the street by himself, craving attention.
Then we went to the premiere of Towelhead, which was pretty good. I'll probably write about it at the same time I write about Where in the World is Osama?...
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
We met with some more people about the film today, but Elias and I were introduced to "The Dude."
No, not Jeff Bridges. Jeff Dowd, the guy "The Dude" was based on.
"Well, man," he told us in a very dude-like voice, "Joel knew me in '79 and used me as a satirical jumping off point."
Yes, The Dude abides.
So that was pretty cool.
Jason and Matt the Intern put up some more posters, too....
And there's some cool stuff going on in the press soon I can't wait to tell you all about.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Today, we're going to a Mushman show and have some meetings.
And then we're going to John's movie, Blood, Boobs and Beast, at Tromadance tonight. It's at the library at 6 and it's free. The movie is fantastic and I would recommend that you all go see it.
Hopefully we'll have some pictures later.
And I saw "Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?" and I have to say it was 50-50 at best. If we were using baseball metaphors I think it would be a foul-ball. Not completely a strike, I mean, the bat hit the ball. It probably even made it into the stands, but it was on the wrong side of the line and no bases were taken.
So, I'll see if I can put some thoughts down about it later.
Monday, January 21, 2008
It was good times.
Check it out here.
Here's an excerpt:
(On a sidenote, a Sundance update from tonight: Steve, Patrick and I went to the Kimball Art Center and saw a really cool, small, intimate performance by Michel Gondry and Mos Def and then Patti Smith. No doubt, Steve will post pictures and possibly even video. Mos Def and Gondry were great, they did a set of really great old-timey jazz from Be Kind Rewind.)
What's even more interesting about this film, too, is that it's really hard to peg. There is no narrator and none of the filmmakers are in it. It's the kind of journalistic kind of infotainment that's been lost to time in recent years.
This is definitely one to watch out for.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
I just got back to my room from attending the world premiere of Be Kind Rewind at the Eccles up here at the festival and I have to say I was surprised by this picture. The film is fairly straightforward and the marketing material genuflects the thrust of the picture. Danny Glover owns a video store (a VHS video store) that's going under and decides he needs to take a trip to find out what makes a successful video store (he notes "less selection, more copies, lack of general knowledge by employees", etc.) He leaves the store in the care of Mos Def with only one instruction: keep Jerry out. Jack Black is Jerry. And he's a loon. He thinks the power plant is microwaving everyone's brains and hatches a scheme to sabotage it.
In turn, he ends up becoming magnetized and waltzing into the video store, insulting customers and erasing every tape in the store.
Soon, he and Mos Def are caught with their pants down and need to remake Ghostbusters and fast, otherwise Danny Glover will find out somethings wrong and be dissapointed. As the film progresses (just like the trailer) people find the "Sweded" videos better than the originals and with more heart. Soon, they've earned enough money to save the video store, but the movie studios (Sigourney Weaver) find out about the sweded pictures and runs them all over with a bulldozer. The community who's made the videos popular reacts with one last grand gesture: to make their own movie about the history of a figure in their neighborhood.
The film has a surprising amount of heart.
So surprising that I was shocked to find myself tearing up at the end of the picture. Here I am, watching a group of people just watching a movie and it's got me almost crying. The heart this film supplied was so subtle and brilliant, I didn't even realize it until it crept up on me.
I can see this film playing much better to a crowd of filmmakers though, than the general public. The sweded pictures they make look like all the films every kid interested in film made in jr. high, but with much more cleverness and creativity. It was, as the guy who introduced the film and Jack Black reiterated, lyrical.
And it was also ironic that this picture sort of embodied the themes of what Sundance wishes it still was. Small people, away from (or in spite of) the studios, making films that mean something, whether they're good or not. Sundance is now premiering U2 concert videos and the new Chuck Palahnuick picture. Which is fine, but they just can't say they're independent anymore.
All in all, this film is solid and I would hope that it sees a release larger than the arthouse release Science of Sleep saw.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Okay. I have five seconds to collect my thoughts on this forum about P.T. Anderson's film, "There Will Be Blood".
Even though I've had a few days to digest the film, I'm still having trouble forming coherent sentences around what I've seen. The film is a sprawling epic of the early days of oil culture in our country. The film begins silently but still tells a story that offers a window into the life and gritty nature of both the country and Daniel Plainview. It felt very much like a silent John Ford picture without any of the chases.
In fact, the closest I feel like I can relate the tone, look and feel of the film is a John Ford epic of some kind. It explores a lot of themes John Ford did with John Wayne, with the anti-social outcast and his relationship to a kid. (Albeit in a different way, but it felt inspired by that.) And I have to say, all of the scenes with H.W. are dynamite. In fact, I would argue that the best, most moving scene in the film, is the one where H.W. comes back after being sent away and in a long shot, Daniel embraces him and says something like, "Yes. This is what I need." And he tells the boy he loves him and the like. After the crazed build-up from before, after he sent him away, it was just the right scene at the right time and that's the beauty of P.T. Anderson's handcrafted filmmaking.
But, then the film descends into Billy Wilder-like insanity. The last few scenes of the film truly reminded me of Sunset Boulevard.
Which is what was so great about the ending. I'm offering a spoiler warning, get out now if you haven't seen the film. But the thing I like most about the end of the film is that if I were to tell someone who hasn't seen it that it ends in a bowling alley where Daniel Plainview bashes a preachers brains out with a wooden bowling pin, they wouldn't believe me. Watching the trailers and seeing all the material available on the film, you would never conceive and ending like that being possible.
But as you watch the film, not only is it possible, it's as cold and logical as any ending can ever be.
Everyone has been saying that P.T. Anderson has "matured as a filmmaker" and broken away from his style, but I would argue that assembling a film this masterfully is his style. It's rare that directors nowadays respect and learn both their craft and the history of cinema as it relates to their projects and it's refreshing to see filmmakers try new things in that context. Because everything else we see in theatres is based more on pop-culture than the history of film. And no one knows their craft anymore. It's frustrating to me to see bad screenplays get produced.
And it's refreshing to me to see masterpieces like this get made.
I doubt this film will make a lot of money, but it will forever be in the lexicon of American Cinematic Masterpieces. I don't think it's as good as Citizen Kane, but I do think it deserves to be listed among it as a major achievement in American Cinema.
And this probably would have bumped one of the films off of my top 5 of 2007 list....
This is our first transmission from the festival.
Jason and Matt the Intern went out and put some posters up for us. I've been able to do some partying and what not, no postering for me.....
But... This is the story Jason wrote to recap their madcap adventures:
Matt the intern and I, got on a bus headed to Park City main street. Our mission: to put as many "Killer At Large" posters up as we could carry.
We found our seats in the back, the bus set off, no sooner did we see Quentin Tarantino walking by himself, five feet from my window.
What a good omen. It took about 10 minutes on the bus before we got to our destination. We decided to walk up main street first and find some good poster spots. We found a poster wall after a short walk and put some posters up.
Two NPR reporters saw us postering and asked us what the story was behind ours. The poster is an image of Osama Bin Laden presenting Americans hamburgers on a pallet that says weapons of mass destruction. I told them that it was a documentary about obesity, and that the idea behind the poster is that obesity is a bigger threat then terrorism. I lost my voice after the first sentence and kept repeating killeratlarge.com. They asked us our names and then, let us on our way.
We put some more posters up until we got to the top of the hill that is main street, then crossed the street and put posters up on the other side. We passed by the mall and got them to put our postcards on there table, and then we put posters up in the front windows. Then we got to the main street deli and got a bite to eat, we asked for permission to put some posters in there window before we left, they said we could, and so we did.
We set out again and while we were walking a lady noticed the posters in my hand, and because the image was so cool she asked for me to give her one. We walked back to the side of the street we started on, to check on the first posters that we put up. There were a few left, but we noticed that Morgan Spurlock's people were targeting our posters and hanging up there posters directly over the Osama parts of ours, and in one case we found that someone ripped down and tore one of our posters.
It would seem to be the Spurlock poster people, but I can't say for sure. We re-posted a few of the posters and then went back to the bus stop.
The first bus that came that could have taken us back to our hotel was ravaged by hundreds of people that were afraid of the cold, the bus filled up to the point that we couldn't possibly get on. A guy that was behind us was being cynical and said that we should form some sort of union to get on the next bus. I didn't know how to reply to that so I said "Geez, I was on one of those teams that fit fifteen people into a phone wbooth, and I wouldn't get in that bus." then he said, "don't you have to put people on top of people to all fit in?"
The fish took the bait and so I said "hell yeah."
"I always wondered, how do you get out of there after you're in?"
I felt bad about lying to a complete stranger and said "I was lying."
"Really? You were not on one of those teams?" There was no sarcasm in his voice, his world was shattered.
We stuffed into the next bus, and I couldn't help but notice that he was not talking to anyone else, I murdered the last bit of trust he had in strangers.
I avoided eye contact the rest of the trip back to the hotel.
And, so there you have it.
I'll post pictures up later. Jason took pictures of the torn posters as well as the well placed ones. And Steve and I took some pictures at the parties we went to.
Look for those.
In the meantime, tell everyone about Killer at Large.
UPDATE: Now with pictures!
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Also, hopefully, later, I'll have time to write down my thoughts about There Will Be Blood, which I saw last night.
In the meantime, I should get back to work on the film. We're showing it to industry people at the festival and it's getting better and better (and shorter and shorter)...
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
I just found this quote of his from 2002, right when the war in Iraq was brewing.
“I know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors. … I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that” “invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale” “without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.“
Vote for the guy who had it right since the beginning.
Oprah used a clip from Killer at Large on her show today. Those of you who say the trailer will recognize the clip of Surgeon General Richard Carmona talking about obesity being the terror within.
That's a pretty big deal.
We're going to try to get video of the clip up soon.
Big news today. We've launched our official "Killer At Large" website and teaser trailer.
Click here for the website.
The trailer can be found there in glorious Quicktime and here, on youtube.
We've also got some print-ads coming out in some publications coming out during the festival. So as soon as those hit, we'll reveal the ad.
So, feel free to pass it along.
Friday, January 11, 2008
El Orfanato was on the agenda this evening.
I didn't expect much out of this film. Yes, yes, I know, Guillermo Del Toro produced it, but it's a horror picture. 9 times out of 10 those suck.
(Shut up, Steve, they do, too.)
But this film pleasantly surprised me. So much so, in fact, that I think it should be a rule that only foreign directors are allowed to direct horror pictures. This film plays out in Spanish and could take place literally anywhere.
The World Juan Antonio Bayona creates in the film is rich and deep and never feels fake. There are a few of the hallmarks of a first time director here (like the second, superfluous ending) but overall the film works completely. So completely that it actually startled me in a few moments and got me feeling genuinely creeped out with other moments. And I almost felt like crying a couple of times, too.
El Orfanato feels like an early Guillermo del Toro film, perhaps if he made a Spanish-language film between Chronos and The Devils Backbone. It's solid. But it also has a taste of a different fairy-tale world and seems to hearken to Peter Pan in a much more overt way than Pan's Labyrinth hearkened to Alice in Wonderland. (I was also stricken by a few similarities between this and the horrible Dark Water. The director of that picture could take lessons from Bayona, that movie blew.)
The marketing campaign (like the poster) made it look like it would be a shitty knock-off of a shitty movie like Saw, but it handled all of the creepy elements (including Tomas, the kid on the poster) very, very well. Also, Geraldine Chaplin's cameo... That was one of the creepiest things I've seen on film in a long time that didn't make me laugh.
Overall, this is a top-shelf supernatural thriller and Guillermo del Toro has every right to be proud of it. I would tell you all to go see it.
And I'm serious. American directors and American studios should never make another horror film again. We should just relegate that job to Guillermo del Toro and let him produce all of them.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
But here goes:
1) No Country For Old Men
2) There Will Be Blood
6) King of Kong
8) Knocked Up
9) The Host
10) Rescue Dawn
In case you're wondering which two movies they are, it's Cassandra's Dream and There Will Be Blood.
It's also important to note that as soon as I post this list, I'll be sure to have forgotten something.
As far as honorable mentions that were good and I enjoyed, but didn't make the list: Blade Runner: The Final Cut (it would have been number one, but I didn't feel comfortable putting it on the list proper), Hot Fuzz, Sweeney Todd, Margot at the Wedding. I think that's about it. This is the category I'll be kicking myself for forgetting something from.
Anyways, let's start at the bottom and work our way up: (Note: Links head to the review I wrote when I saw the film.)
5. Sunshine - Danny Boyle's Sci-fi masterpiece about a dying sun is gleaming proof that science fiction can, indeed, still be done right. I had a couple of minor problems with it (that I outlined in my review), but by and large I thought this film was a 9 or a 10 and it made me want to watch it repeatedly. Danny Boyle improves his batting average every year he's been making movies. In fact, I can only think of one misfire.... (A Life Less Ordinary...)
4. Ratatouille - This film was pretty much great all around and it makes me want to see much, much more from Brad Bird. The moment I knew this was one of my favorite films of the year was the moment that Peter O'Tooles character took his first bite of Remy's Ratatouille. That seemingly innocuous moment was so well crafted that it almost made me cry.
3. Before the Devil Know's You're Dead - This movie is Sidney Lumet, Albert Finney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Marissa Tomei all in top form. Of all the reviews I read of this, Roger Ebert said the best thing about it, "It's wonderful when a director like Lumet wins a Lifetime Achievement Oscar at 80, and three years later makes one of his greatest achievements."
2. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. This film is Rocky for the stand-up arcade generation. It was just really fun, cool and compelling and I can't imagine a soul on Earth that couldn't like this movie. And if they get a feature off the ground and rumours of Johnny Depp playing Billy Mitchell are true, this story will be a staple of modern myth.
1. No Country For Old Men. I really can't say enough great things about this movie. So I'm not going to start here, otherwise I'll never finish.
Monday, January 07, 2008
We're getting a lot of good notes and it's helping the process along.
We've also been swarmed by media requests, so handling that has become a much larger job. (Hopefully we'll be able to make some announcements soon.)
I've got my claws into a book project that I might have some announcements on soon, too.
So, things are going well and they're getting even better.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Friday, January 04, 2008
Thursday, January 03, 2008
I remember watching Barack Obama's speech during the 2004 DNC and being blown away. I remember saying to a friend who was there with me... "that guy should run for president".
Well, now, of course, he is running for president. And I feel pretty confident in him.
3 months ago, I gave the Obama campaign $100 of my hard earned money.
Since then, I've been too damn busy to even lift a finger of activism towards the cause and so I've become a bit apathetic to it all.
But, tonight Obama won the Iowa caucus. As you should know, Iowa plays a big part in deciding who gets the eventual nomination for president.
So, I'm excited again.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
I've held off talking about the primaries since I really don't know what to feel about them. Well, the candidates I know what to feel about, it's the process of the primaries itself that makes me feel uneasy.
Part of the reason that I haven't commented much on the primaries is the fact that unless I live in Iowa, New Hampshire or a half a dozen other randomly arbitrary states, what I have to say about it doesn't make a difference.
This two party system thing really makes me sort of uneasy.
What we need are four major contenders for the presidency. One each from the Republicans and Democrats, and then someone each from the further left and further right. Then, we do away with running mates. So the most popular is President, second-most is Vice-President and then three and four are anointed some cabinet positions.
It would truly be a bi-partisan way of governing.
In other, more important news, Vanity Fair did a kick ass spread on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (including a picture of Cate Blanchett in costume!).
Go here to read that.