Sunday, August 14, 2005

Broken Flowers & The Great Raid

I saw Broken Flowers last night. I was really looking forward to it. It's not hard for me, as an Emerson student, to get excited about a Bill Murray movie. Somehow, Bill Murray has mastered the middle-age depressed character, and this movie was no exception. So the premise is that Bill Murray gets an anonymous letter from a former flame saying that he has a son who is looking for him. He goes around the country, visiting some interesting characters (including an 'animal communicator,' and the daughter of a fling who likes to walk around naked and is named Lolita).

No one tells him about any son, and he goes home. This is pretty much how it ends. Seriously. I got so excited about it, and I was waiting for him to find out whether or not he actually had a son and then... credits. The movie did not have an ending. I'm gonna explain more about it in white text (just highlight the following text to read): He goes home, and scares off a kid he thinks may be his son, but he never introduces himself! He offers to buy the kid a sandwich, and tries to figure out what he's doing, but never asks "What are you doing here?" or "I'm Bill Murray, could you be my son?" This is the logical way to approach this. So after that kid runs away, he sees another guy in a VW Bug who just kinda looks at him. Then credits. You know, all this movie needs is a ten second shot of him walking up to his door and there's some kid sitting on the doorstep. That's all it needed! That's it!! In any case, I am firm in the belief that movies should have a beginning, a middle and an end. This one only got two of those three parts in.

What surprised me most was how many product placements there were. The movie was made by Focus Features which, incidentally, is the movie studio I want to work for most. Here are the placements:
+ MSN Hotmail
+ Mercedes
+ Volkswagen
+ Mapquest (prominent)
+ Northwest Airlines
+ Calvin Klein (verbal)
+ Budget Rental Cars
+ Ford Taurus (prominent, verbal)
+ Porsche (verbal)
+ Nokia

Mapquest was heavily used for the road trip portions, and Bill Murray drove a Ford Taurus every time he rented a car. Another strange thing was how Jim Jarmusch shot the driving around scenes. There was a lot of weird POV from the driver's seat, and a lot of shots out the side window and with a reflection onto the side mirror.

Anyhow, there's a lot of pseudo-intellectual crap on IMDB board about how "existential" the ending is, about how life isn't really satisfying, that kind of pretentious movie talk. The fact of it is, Jim Jarmusch made a movie that didn't end. It didn't. And it left me so completely disappointed, that I promptly went out and bought a ticket to go see The Great Raid, just to make up for it.

So I went to go see The Great Raid. And it was awesome! According to IMDB, this production has been in hell for the last two years - made but not distributed due to the Miramax / Disney split. The plot outline, courtesy of IMDB, reads: Set in the Philippines in 1945, THE GREAT RAID tells the true story of the 6th Ranger Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt) who undertake a daring rescue mission against all odds. Traveling thirty miles behind enemy lines, the 6th Ranger Battalion aims to liberate over 500 American prisoners-of-war from the notorious Cabanatuan Japanese POW camp in the most audacious rescue ever.

Anyhow, the movie was wonderful. It startles me that I never learned about this incredibly successful raid in history class or anything. It seems like such a wonderful story to tell, and I'm glad that it was finally told. My dad told me that he had just read the book it was based on. When he was in the army, he was a Ranger. Even though he never saw action (I love saying that phrase... 'saw action'), I told him that I like to pretend that's the kinda stuff he would do. In any case, I loved the movie. One of the biggest complaints I've read about is that the treatment of the POWs by the Japanese was significantly worse. The movie was pretty graphic in its depiction of the torture, which I won't go into detail about here, but still. So... in closing... go see The Great Raid.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Oh, Wal-Mart. You scoundrel!

Wal-Mart tries to get hip

For 43 years, Wal-Mart has been obsessed with individual bargains -the $24 DVD player, the $12.90 twill jacket - regardless of how they fit in with the rest of the store's merchandise, or even whether they are in style. That singular focus on best sellers has left the chain without the storewide design aesthetic that has turned rival Target into Tar-zhay, crammed with bold, contemporary patterns and designs that evoke a lifestyle.

You know, every time I think of Wal-Mart, I want to vomit a little bit. Every time I see a Wal-Mart commercial, it goes like this:
Middle age, yet reasonably attractive mom talks about how with a family as big (insert eighteen small, annoying children), Wal-Mart is a great deal! The whole family goes and they can get everything there, from food, to appliances to clothes!

Of course, she also has to talk in a slight Southern drawl. Because every Wal-Mart commercial I see goes that way. And with a mom with a hick-tastic Southern drawl. Now, maybe it's just my upper-middle class white upbringing... but the only people with hick-tastic Southern drawls are white trashy.

Let's compare with Target ads: they're trendy, they're hip, they appeal to everyone's inner desire to be better, to be cool. They seem fun, alive, and they show you the exclusive products available from hip designers.

Personally, I've always liked that Target has an overwhelming sense of style. Something that ties all the individual pieces together. Target has a definitive style that says "This is Target, this is mass chic." I don't think that Wal-Mart will ever reclaim that with my generation. All they've shown me is that they appear to the lowest of the lowest.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Trailers for Exciting Movies

Everything is Illuminated. Liev Schreiber's directorial debut looks so incredibly promising. This is one of the most beautiful trailers for what looks like one of the most beautifully shot movies I may ever see. In it, Elijah Wood plays a man who is searching for the woman who saved his grandfather during World War II. This sounds great. I'm so sick of remakes and sequels and crappy movies, this sounds like a story that actually deserves to be told, and hasn't already been told. And did I mention it looks beautiful?

Pretty Persuasion. Evan Rachel Wood is one of the most promising young talents. Pretty Persuasion is a sort of modern-day Crucible. Over-sexed and underage, she accuses the high school drama teacher of sexual assault, just for kicks. For anyone who's seen Thirteen, you know just how well Evan Rachel Wood can do this, and it looks like she will. I can't wait till it comes to theaters.

Broken Flowers. I'll admit it. I'll see anything in which Bill Murray looks angsty and depressed. Somehow, he's mastered that niche. The upshot is that Bill Murray receives a letter informing him of a son who's looking for him. In return, he goes around the country revisiting old relationships. Oh, Bill Murray. When did you become the indie movie poster-boy?

Thumbsucker. IMDB lists a rather simple plot -- world around him goes nuts when he tries to stop sucking his thumb. The IMDB comments also call this "the next Napoleon Dynamite." Personally, I'm not sure that's a good sign. However, the trailer looks so interesting, in part because of the drawings incorporated. If it does turn out to be the next Napoleon Dynamite, I'll be a bit disappointed.

Green Street Hooligans. Elijah Wood goes from Harvard student to soccer hooligan in London. This sounds like an actual story to me. In addition, the deep, deep thoughts in the trailer also make it appear as tho there's a deeper meaning. He learns about true brotherhood and loyalty and such. Yay! Plus, I think Claire Forlani's great.

Rumor Has It. Another real story! Okay, well, it's based on The Graduate, but in a clever way. Jennifer Aniston learns that her family was the inspiration for The Graduate. While I'm sure I could probably figure out how this movie ends (I bet she and Mark Ruffalo end up together!), it's still an original idea. Well, more original than most movies these days.

The Chumscrubber. Okay, okay. This movie is either gonna be really good, or really bad. This seems like it's gonna be a major hit with my fellow Emerson students, since we all gobble up depressing movies about evil suburbia. My guess? It'll develop a college cult following like Donnie Darko, Napoleon Dynamite and Garden State. I'll still see it, of course, since it looks interesting. But it just may send me over the edge...

MirrorMask. The more I think about the actual plot of this movie, the more it sounds like Labyrinth, but without a baby and David Bowie. Either way, I don't think anyone much cares about the plot of this movie. It just looks so cool. Trippy, but cool. I forsee a lot of stoned moviegoers when this opens. Man.... trippy-looking.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Well, okay fine. You caught me.

I haven't updated in a very long time. That's true. Most of my recent time was spent in Washington DC for a family reunion of sorts, and then to Maine for work on Hansel & Gretel. After I got home for that, I promptly got myself addicted to Veronica Mars.

The show is about a 17 year old girl named (woah!) Veronica Mars. Her father is a private detective after being run out of the Sheriff's office when he accused Jake Kane, father of the murdered Lilly Kane, who just happened to be Veronica's best friend. Over the course of the year between Lilly's murder and now, Veronica has gone from being relatively popular, dating Duncan Kane, to being an outcast, gossiped about, and becoming calloused and cynical. This, of course, results in hysterical mystery solving.

I just finished the season finale, and damn, was it good. I had heard a lot of people call it "the new Buffy," which was hard to swallow (cuz I love Buffy). But I watched the first episode in reruns, and then didn't download the rest. Anyhow, it's been wonderful, and I've loved it.

This means that I've added Veronica Mars to my list of totally obsessed television shows:
+ Buffy the Vampire Slayer
+ Angel
+ Firefly
+ House
+ Lost
+ The L Word
+ The OC
+ Veronica Mars

And now, I promise to return to my regularly scheduled program of frequent blog updates. Promise!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Captain Outraged! Edmonton, fall in!

Now this is fandom. Posted earlier today was the following rant from Nathan Fillion, who plays Captain Malcom Reynolds in the wonderful TV show "Firefly" and upcoming movie "Serenity." Here is the rant that Nathan Fillion posted on the "Serenity" message board:

It is times like these that I feel like Malcolm Reynolds. This is something that would surely get you kicked into an engine. I just went to a comic store to purchase the Serenity comic for my mom. The sweetheart that she is, gave her issues (with her favorite character on the front) to relatives who were having trouble tracking one down. Please bear in mind that Canada is a wondrous place where the service industry is polite and helpful, and that this experience is not the norm. The store I chose, which shall remain nameless (Warp 1 Comics), at an undisclosed location (just off Whyte Ave), has the singlemost sanctimonious, condescending, dishonest a$$hole I've had the misfortune of meeting. My brother and I called ahead to find out they had one issue left, but upon arriving, found out they are gouging people $20 bucks for the damned thing! "That's what they're worth." he sneered at me. I asked him to show me a listing of some sort to back it up. "Well, I just know what I paid Dark Horse for it." He wouldn't show me that, either. I am aware that Dark Horse wasn't expecting these books to sell as well as they are, and that they are going into a second printing, but I just picked up three of them two days ago at cover price at another store. My brother piped up with a, "What an interesting attitude you have." Let me tell you folks, this fella had an attitude, and a smirk that you wanted to knock off his face with a baseball bat dipped in dog poop. Of course, my brother couldn't help letting this guy know who he was trying to hose by holding the issue next to my face. "This guy look familliar? This isn't some JoJo off the street! He knows what he's talking about!" Check this out- the reply of this crap-catcher, who shall remain nameless (Darryl) was, (and imagine a dullards voice- how we make people we don't like sound in a story) "Well, then you can call Joss Whedon and ask him." I had to tell this purplebelly that I was being sarcastic when I thanked him for his excellent service, and I don't think he knew what sanctimonious meant!

Wouldn't a smart business man ask me to sign an issue and sell me one at a fair price? Wouldn't that fetch a prettier penny than ripping me off for one issue? Congratulations, dude! You are now on the Browncoat $hitlist.

Never have I tried to wield power in this way, but if being Malcolm Reynolds has taught me anything, it's to follow my over-developed sense of vengeance. BOYCOTT WARP ONE COMICS! If you are in the neighborhood, drop by to tell "the Buttress" that Browncoats don't take $hit from anyone. Tell your friends not to shop there, and lock 'em in the airlock if they do. Copy this post and e-mail it to fellow Edmontonians. Bump it to keep it alive.

Thank you. Thank you for letting me rant. If you feel I'm overboard, please feel free to, as Joss would say, contemplate silently.

The Captain

Edited to be less cruel, and to mention how wonderfully my dear mom was treated at HAPPY HARBOR. Thank you, staff and owners at Happy Harbor. You made my mom's day. Turns out, Warp One tried to hose her, too, by telling her that the Jayne covered issue was a rarity. Love you, Adam B. You ARE a rarity. Nothin' agin you. But will these butt-tards stoop so low as to steal from a woman? For shame, Warp One, for shame.

At the time of publishing this, there are 278 replies and 8383 views of the post. I bet that comic book guy feels awful - especially because it only took ten or so replies to find the store's website and email address. I wonder how their business will fare... This is what happens when you upset the star of a TV series/brilliant motion picture with a rabid cult following. People say that they wish they could move to Edmonton just to boycott the store. Hilarious.

Mostly, it's just so damned impressive that this kind of following exists. This is good old fashioned stuff - you make an excellent product, let FOX mess it up enough, provide it for the teeming masses via DVD and a cult following ensues. No tricks, nothing. Just good old fashioned word of mouth.

And if Nathan Fillion has proved anything today, it's that word of mouth is the best kind.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Harry Potter

To review:

(1) I got one of the last three un-reserved books at a Borders last night
(2) I have just finished the book - counting all the time since it was purchased, it took me a little over 20 hours to finish (and I was sleeping part of the time)
(3) I know who the Half-Blood Prince is
(4) I know who dies in the end


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Wedding Crashers

Much in the same vein as Willy Wonka, the Wedding Crashers website has some great stuff.

You can get free ringtones - I suspect that the clip of Owen Wilson saying "I'm ready to get druuunk" will be popular. This also includes wallpapers of "your very favorite" bridesmaids. And when I say "your very favorite bridesmaids," I mean "drunk or half naked women."

Their website offers up the standard wallpapers, AIM icons, screensavers and e-cards. But you can also download pictures for your iPod Photo. These are the same pictures as the cell phone wallpapers. But still. You can put them on your iPod. That's just weird.