Monday, December 7, 2009

Cameron's Posters

Titanic: Let's start with the behemoth. The ship is portrayed in an interesting way where someone unfamilar with the movie (I'm sure they'll exist in fifty years or so) would have to really examine the imagery to get what they're looking at. For being the world's biggest romance film, the poster isn't as melodramatic than one might think (hope). No bare-chested stowaways, crashing waves, lusty embraces. Overall, the poster works and doesn't make me gag upon sight. That being said, I don't love the floating heads. The title font's pretty cool though.
Poster Rating: B

The Abyss: This movie didn't get much love from the art department. Apart from the awesome SE DVD cover art, every piece of marketing material makes The Abyss look seemingly eerie without the faintest insinuation of excitement. The glowing orb at the bottom is pretty cool and the tagline "When you get there, you will understand" is one of my favorites. Overall, there were a lot of way to take this poster, but three random stills at the top and an orb at the bottom was not the way to go.
Poster Rating: C

The Abyss: You thought that first one was bad. This is one of the worst posters I've ever witnessed. You keep trying to focus on the negative space but it doesn't amount to anything. And that tagline... "There's everything you ever knew about adventure...and then there's The Abyss." Yeah, I'll bet. Looks more like "Take everything you ever knew about adventure and be disappointed when this movie doesn't deliever any of it."
Poster Rating: F

True Lies: I'm going to argue that Arnie's movies both preceding and following True Lies had better posters. But I get it, Arnie's face and a gun, what else do you really need to sell True Lies? As much as I love his supporting cast (Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, etc.) they aren't all exactly poster material. Their floating heads wouldn't really help sell this action thriller. But maybe they could have covered up that tagline.
Poster Rating: C-

The Terminator: Now THERE'S a poster with Arnie's face and a gun that works! Plus, you've got the fingerless gloves, the open leather jacket, those glasses, and of course the sunglasses. Add those up with hair that's just had a balloon rubbed on it and random laser lines and you've got a hit poster. One thing I can't figure out, and maybe this is my Terminator ignorance speaking here but is that a big scope on top of his gun or a reflection of the gun itself?

Poster Rating: B+

Terminator 2: Judgment Day: This iconic poster would still fit on any dorm room wall right next to the Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, and Scarface posters. The special effects weren't the only thing dramatically improved from the first to the second. The lighting and coloring scream cool. The gun propped up on the motorcycle. The shirt underneath the jacket. All marked improvements. This one will still hold up twenty years from now.

Poster Rating: A+

Piranha II: The Spawning: I was lucky enough to see this on the big screen as part of Midnites for Maniacs' "Animals Attacking Humans" Five-Film Marathon. It was the last movie of the night and even after seven straight hours, we were excited to start another flick. Part of that excitement came from this poster. Tell me this doesn't have everything you'd want from a movie called "Pirhana II: The Spawning." First, it's a painting, which I always love. Second, bikini babe. Third, those grimmacing fish-faces. I would have shadowed the "Spawning" text and changed the tagline color, but other than that, it's just great.
Poster Rating: A-

Avatar: Can anyone say "Young Adult Fantasy Novel?" When this was revealed, the entire Cameron fanboy community gasped (and not in a good way). Same thing happened when the trailer was screened. Without having seen the film, it's difficult to determine how the artwork captures its essence. Separating my initial disappointment of the trailer from the actual quality of the poster, I'm still going to have to give this one a pretty low marks.
Poster Rating: B-

Aliens: Dynamic image that captures the suspense of the film. Whether or not you know what those opening pods hold, Weaver lets you know that danger is all around. Her face also says that while she's surrounded by danger, there's something even bigger to worry about right in front of her. She's worried even with that gigantic firepower. Another interesting element, while she's definitely at the forefront of the poster, she's not the biggest image on screen. Something's towering over her that makes her look as small as the child she's holding. Great composition, eye-catching font, and overall, a great poster.
Poster Rating: A

Aliens: It's simple. Excellent font. The glowing "I" completely works. The only thing I don't love is the double taglines. The top one isn't needed at all. Other than that, it's a great teaser trailer.

Poster Rating: B+

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Couple of Bad Lieutenants

Known for his on-set feuds with Klaus Kinski, some of which involved gun brandishing, Werner Herzog has plenty of experience capturing craziness on-screen. Herzog and insanity go hand-in-hand with one another, have for years. When news broke that there was to be a Bad Lieutenant remake, rumors swirled around the interwebs, speculating on whether or not a project like this could hope to hold any sort of quality. When Herzog came on as the director, those rumors slowed down considerably. What resulted from those rumors, over a year later, was a recommendable film with a great style and impressive performances from everyone on-screen. Just so everyone knows, I really enjoyed the remake/revisioning/whatever that Herzog produced but the original, in my opinion, is the heftier of the two.

Numerous reviewers have claimed that Abel Ferrera's Bad Lieutenant and Herzog's share little in common other than their title and I find myself wondering if they saw the same two films as myself. Both films follow a cocaine-addicted police officer who owes a lot of money to his bookie and throws his authority around to get what he wants (sex, drugs, and money) while investigating a gruesome, violent crime. The original had a nun being raped. The newer one had a family murdered by a gunman. Aside from the location and the ending (depending on how you choose to read these endings), very little differs between the two narratives. Stylistically, that's definitely not true, but narratively, they're very similar.

There are difference, however, between the performances. Harvey Keitel's performance is gut-punchingly dark while Nicholas Cage's is over the top and borderline comedic. Don't get me wrong, Cage knocks it out of the park (especially considering Cage performances as of late) but for a film called Bad Lieutenant, his character isn't much worse than other crooked cops in other crooked cop movies. Keitel's character...he's the worst. In fact, let's play the "Baddest Lieutenant" game, shall we?

Each film contains a scene so similar to one another that they trump those "nothing but the title" reviews. In these scenes, the main characters use the power of their badges to force women into performing sexual acts. Each scene is pretty vile but the first film's is much worse. Cage has public sex with a willing woman while Keitel forces one girl to expose herself and the other girl to simulate oral sex while he has a fun time on their car door. One scene is relatively short while the other seems to go on for days. One scene features an overtly sexually agressive female while the other features two women on the brink of tears as the molestation takes place. Now, I ask you, who's the worst lieutenant?

And while it shouldn't be a competition between these two films and each film should be judged by its own merit, I'm just trying to make the point that Herzog's film, while entertaining and captivating, didn't carry the weight of Ferrera's film. The similarities are obvious and abundant but the original holds more weight. Herzog claims not to have seen the original and to have no idea who Abel Ferrera is. Well, first of all, I'm calling bullshit on that. But even if he really had never seen the first Bad Lieutenant, his screenwriter, producers, actors, and key grips had. If Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, had been released as just Port of Call New Orleans, the critic world would have exploded from all of the simultaneously written "what a rip-off!" reviews.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Soderbergh's Posters

Blogger makes relatively simple posts take hours. I'm sick of it.
Anyone else having problems with Blogger?

The LAMB is hosting a Soderbergh-specific event and this is my entry.

These are the posters for Steven Soderbergh's films.
They range from fantastically awesome to bottom of the barrel.
And I'm going to tell you why.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape: Anyone who can put Peter Gallagher on a poster three times and not make me want to throw up gets my respect. The spliced images come across as film frames which plays into both the title and premise of the film but they also show how the relationships between Ann and John and Cynthia and Graham differ.
Poster Rating: C+

Ocean's Eleven: Having trouble desinging your movie poster? Just line up your main actors in some sort of Rat Pack congo line. They don't have to be doing anything, just blur the background behind them to make it look like they're moving really fast.
Poster Rating: D

Ocean's Twelve: A marked improvement on the original poster, the Twelve poster looks like at least a little thought went into it before it was sent to the printers. The color composition is intriguing, makes you want to figure out what's going on.
Poster Rating: C

Sex, Lies, and Videotape: Nothing says "An edgy, intense comedy"
like three pictures of people having aboslultely no fun whatsoever.
Have you ever seen a more bored group of individuals?
Poster Rating: D

Schizopolis: This is the cover art from the Criterion DVD release.
It matches how bizzare the film is and all of its elements piece
together well. The dotted background, various boxes, and the
Max Headroom-looking guy all work.
Poster Rating: B-

Che: This poster screams HBO Pictures biopic.
Poster Rating: C+

The Good German: A take on early war-time posters; Casablana
obviously had something to do with how this poster came out. Too bad
Casablanca didn't have any effect on how The Good German came out.
A painted poster would have been more authentic.
Poster Rating: B-

Out of Sight: This really is one of the worst posters I've never seen.
That being said, it doesn't crack the Top 5 for Bad Soderbergh posters.
Why is the gun pointed towards Clooney's head like that? Bleh. Lazy.
Poster Rating: D

King of the Hill: The font's design and colorization is pleasing
to look at. The character hanging upside down looks great.
The only downside is that awful tagline calling attention to him.
Poster Rating: B+

Traffic: FLOATING HEADS! And don't their positions make it
look like they should be funger puppets? Don Cheadle would
go on the thumb.
Poster Rating: C

Ocean's Twelve: By far the best poster this series ever had.
If you subtract the title and text, you're left with a pretty
cool piece of pop art. Try doing that with Erin Brockovich.
Poster Rating: B+

Erin Brockovich: The left side is all blurred out, her
transvestiteface doesn't help things, and the poster doesn't
tell you much about anything. Is this a Pretty Woman II
poster? Imagine what that movie would be like.
Poster Rating: C-

The Limey: Quite a few of Soderbergh's posters fall on
borderless white background. In some cases (Bubble
and King of the Hill) it works, in others (Full Frontal),
it does not. If you've got a white background, make sure
what you're putting on top of it is pleasing to look at.
Make it something interesting. Whoever designed The
Limey's poster definitely did that. Those black bars
are so much more appealing than horizontal, black
rectangles with the title inside (*cough*Full Frontal*cough).
Poster Rating: A-

Ocean's Thirteen: You've got to be kidding me. We get it.
You have thirteen big-name actors in your movie. Congratulations.
It might help if you placed the camera a little closer to them
so that we can tell who's who. Making people squint to see
Brad Pitt's face is counter-productive. One again, the Ocean's
franchise falls very short and looks even lazier.
Poster Rating: F

Kafka: I'd never heard of Kafka before starting this post.
But this poster art has moved Kafka to "must-see" status.
The light and shadows are breathtaking and it captures
a very specific moment of time that I can't wait to see how
it plays into the film.
Poster Rating: B+

Sex, Lies, and Videotape: I don't know which country this
poster was constructed for but they apparently have awful
taste. Look at that ugly, fat font! Was that supposed to make
anyone want to see this? It certainly wasn't made to stand the
test of time.
Poster Rating: C

Solaris: The poster doesn't tell scream "LEAST ENTERTAINING
SCIENCE FICTION FILM EVER MADE" which is what Solaris is.
The poster, as a marketing tool, goes for a bait-and-switch tactic
but doesn't straight-up lie to you. The imagery represents the
themes of the film and, in context, does tell you a lot about the plot.
Great poster, terrible movie.
Poster Rating: A-

Gray's Anatomy: No, thank you.
Poster Rating: F

Bubble: Not only did Bubble have an original concept for its art
design but it also was distributed uniquely. During its theatrical
run, filmgoers could buy DVD copies of the film they just watched.
I was attending a different film but almost bought Bubble based
on the cover art alone. It's creepy, it's eye-catching, and it fits
the film well.
Poster Rating: B+

Full Frontal: The only thing worse than this Full Frontal poster
is the other Full Frontal poster.
Poster Rating: D-

The Informant: This is hands-down the best poster ever created
for a Soderbergh film but also it's the best poster of the year.
The colors and the fonts coupled together with that amazing picture
of Matt Damon have edged out past that amazing Precious
poster that everyone's been talking about. This movie owes at least
half of its earnings to this poster.
Poster Rating: A+

Full Frontal: This poster is shamefully lazy. Insert Photoshopped
pictures of each actor (don't worry if they're high quality pictures)
and slap a title on. Oh yeah, don't forget to display the stupidest
generic quotes possible. What about this poster is supposed to be
inticing? Cathleen Keener looking like a crack fiend? David Hyde
Pierce looking more attractive than Julia Roberts? Duchovny's
pajamas? Okay, maybe the pajamas are alright.
Poster Rating: F

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day

Troy Duffy's much talked about sequel has finally seen the light of day--one decade after the original. The first Boondock Saints had a release date soon after Colombine which led to limited distribution. Some movies, like Collateral Damage, tanked because of situations like this but Saints found a devoted following on DVD. Colombine wasn't the only thing holding Boondock Saints back. The writer/director is well-known for his downright "assholishness." Watch Overnight if you don't believe me. While making the first film, Duffy burned every bridge he crossed and all but guaranteed that a sequel would never be made.

Two factors played into getting the sequel made. First, an undying demand from people like you and me. Second, Duffy's knowlege that no one would give him money for anything other than a Boondocks sequel. All interested parties took their places and eventually produced something I could pay to watch. But did they make something worth paying for?

Yeah, they did.

If you're planning on watching the new one, watch the first one the night before. That way, you can watch your favorite characters age ten years overnight. The crew is a little haggard but the principal players slip back into character with ease. As far the the new characters, Julie Benz holds her own as Eunice Bloom, the FBI Special Agent working on the Saints case. She winks at the camera a little too often but as a Dafoe replacement, she doesn't leave the viewer craving the old days. Clifton Collins Jr., who has proven, time and time again, that he's a force to be reckoned with, plays Romeo, a wild-eyed fighter who joins the Irish twins through their hi-jinks. A couple cameos towards the end of the picture won't disappoint. Trust me.

Let's talk about action. Yes, the sequel's funny. It's well-acted. The plot makes a decent amount of sense. But the action is, as they say in the fishing community, "off the hook." Shootouts, stand-offs, and FIREFIGHTS! The son of the executed Yakavetta mob boss has a priest killed in an attempt to bring the Saints back. It works. But when they do come back so do their executions. This time, the boys take on the entire crime family and place a lot of pennies on a lot of eyes. The body count is WAY up from the original. All in all, I still like the first one more but this was worth watching and definitely worth watching again. If you like it when (in movies) people shoot other people--this is the movie for you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Best Movie of the Decade

There's no question mark after that title. And that's on purpose too. Forget everything I wrote about Precious, Mary and Max, and The Hurt Locker. Those "movies" don't come close to the miraculous ninety-nine minutes of celluloid projected in front of my eyes this very evening. The piece of artwork that I bore witness to changed my life. The very way that I look at cinema has been altered. No longer will I judge movies on the stories they tell, the quality of the acting performances, or even the cinematography. No more. I'm past all that now. From this day forward, movies will be judged solely by the amount of "thew thew thew" sound effects.

The importance of "thew thew thew" sound effects can not be understated. Without analyzing both the frequency and the properness of their use, one can't be sure if they movie they've just watched is actually any good. Take The Lady Eve, for example. It's been listed on Top 10 Lists, Top 5 Lists, and even the less popular yet undeniably pointless "Top 14 Lists" that were all the rage in the mid-1950s.

Some have argued that Eve is an important telling of one woman's struggle to win the heart of a snakeman. But how can these critics and scholars know this when NONE of their writings contain any form of structual evaluation of the "thew thew thews." Do you know how many "thew thew thews" can be found in The Lady Eve. Zero. Sorry to be a heartbreaker/soulshaker but the time for change is now.

For some (albeit, weak) examples of the "thew thew thew" sound effects I'm talking about, click these links:


Now click this link to watch the trailer to the decade's best film. Pay close attention to its use of TTT (or Thew Thew Thew) sound effects.

As you can hear, TTTs can be used in a variety of ways. The Throwing Stars of a Ninja (pictured above) are a popular choice. The quick swinging of chain-knife is also an appropriate use for a TTT.

Moving outside of the martial arts relm, TTTs have markedly improved films such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine when Gambit throws his exploding cards and Saving Private Ryan as the bullets whizz past the soldiers' heads. So, as you can see, TTTs have a vast array of uses and when applied in the proper ways, they have the power to make bad films mediocre.

There have been no arguments made that TTTs are "wooshes" but I feel this should be cleared up regardless. A woosh falls into one of three categories. First, bo staffs. It is appropriate to use a woosh when a scene involves a bo staff. Second, fast cars. That's the sound a car makes when it drives past you fast. Third, baseball thrown by a kid who broke his arm, had his muscles over-tighten, and just landed a spot in the majors. None of these scenarios call for a TTT. Implementing a TTT in one of these scenarios would be a huge mistake.

The next time you're at your local movie theater or art house, make sure to be aware of the TTTs (or lack thereof) going on around you. It's only then when you'll realize that Ninja Assassin is better than Precious.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Top 10 Pictures I've Ever Posted

This is what Guy Pearce looks like to me.

Why Remake When You Can Combine:

Why Remake When You Can Combine: Walk the Coraline

A Reader Graph

Why Remake When You Can Combine:

Before he was a noteworthy actor, Jeff Goldbum made his living off of
hooliganizing and Old Lady Sleeper Holds.
This was from my fourth post ever.

Watching movies on Netflix Instant Watch makes screen captures difficult.
That's why I had to draw this depiction of the very skippable Gut Pile.

When casting "The Office" movie, it became clear that
the ghost of 79-year-old
Lucille Ball was a perfect choice for Meredith.

This collage was made to represent the wide array of
Anna Faris' acting skills.

According to Dennis Schwartz of Ozus' World Movie Reviews,
the fact that Kids "could easily pass for a kiddie porn film" is FRESH!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Precious (2009)

I'm sure you've heard all the praise you can handle when it comes to Precious. It was all the rage at Sundance. Tyler Perry and Oprah both back it. This year's Oscars are all but spoken for. Everyone and their mother is talking about this movie. And you know what? It's a film that that deserves its praise. Along with Mary and Max and The Hurt Locker, Lee Daniel's melodramiatic gut-puncher sits confidently in my Top Three of '09. For those fearing that their viewings will be tainted by "overhype," a cinematic disease that hurt movies like Fight Club for me and Paranormal Activity for others, then stop reading here. This post is gettin' gushy.

Flipping through the Sundance schedule book, I came across the commanding picture to the right. Immediately, I picked out Push (as it was named back then) as the Must-See film of the festival. My hunches aren't often right when it comes to which movies film juries are going to choose (Kidman/The Hours over Lane/Unfaithful? Are you kidding me?) but as screenings of Push began to return wholly positive feedback, it looked like my pick was on its way.

As you may or may not know, it went on to win both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, only the third film in Sundance history to do so. As Oscar murmurs begin to circulate, the word Precious keeps getting placed next to "Best Actress," "Best Supporting Actress," "Best Director," "Best Picture," among others. I wouldn't be surprised if those pairings are still being made come gametime.

Gabourey Sidibe is a force to be reckoned with. Rumors started circulating, attacking her acting abilities, saying that she was simply playing herself (to a more extreme version, of course). But these were bullshit and as Sidibe started hitting the campaign trail, this became crystal clear. Donning the face of a warrior, the bubbily and humorous Sidibe, transforms into this character so full of hurt and pain that she involuntarily trusts no one. She holds the presence and the talent to carry a film like Precious on her shoulders but luckily for the viewer, she didn't have to.

Lee Daniels (Shadowboxer) did the unthinkable when he cast the film’s supporting roles. First, he brought on a comedian, Mo’Nique, to play the wretched villain. Then he cast two singers (one, a Worst Actress Razzie "winner") to play substantial characters. Lenny Kravitz plays a nurse who bonds with Precious after she delivers her baby and Mariah Carey plays a social worker who swears to help the standoffish teenager.

As unprobable as successful results seemed, all of the pieces come together and really deliver one hell of a film. Carey is almost unrecognizable in her role and ends every doubt about her acting chops that Glitter set in place. Mo’Nique’s performance as the abusive mother is untouchable. Thankfully, she got the praise she deserved when she won Sundance's Special Jury Prize for Acting.

A second viewing today enforced what I've been saying since January: Push/Precious is one of the best movies of the year and while it may not be for everyone, it certainly was for the hundreds of people who packed that screenings that I've attended.

The Sequel Was Better: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Take a good look at that name. Someone pitched that idea to network executives who all agreed that it was a good idea. Makes you wonder if was their first idea like this or if Middle Aged Mutant Military Monkeys almost saw the light of day. For the Turtles, their origins date back to a comic book, which led to a toy line, which then led to the CBS Saturday morning cartoon. That's where I jumped on board.

Along with C.O.P.S., Pro Stars, and Ghostbusters, TMNT was a childhood staple. When my family bought VHS copies of the Ninja Turtle movies, they remained on constant Watch. Rewind. Repeat. mode for years. They were my favorites! But that being said, I always had a favorite favorite. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze was and is the best TMNT movie. And I'm going to prove it.

Riding skateboards down sewer tunnels. Eating pizza off weaponry. Creating new and exciting catchphrases. These are things that Ninja Turtles do. Ninja Turtles do not receive beatings so violent that their unconcious bodies must be stored in bathtubs for days at a time. Turtles don't cry. Turtles don't sink into depression. This leads us into my second point.

In a pinch, linked sausage may be substituted for nunchucks. When trying to confuse burglars, pretend to be an inflatable, novelty punching bag. All important lessons we can learn from TMNT II. If this opening scene doesn't make you laugh then you're probably one of those people who love Biff's Hill Valley more than regular Hill Valley. You bastard.

No explaination needed.