Evening. I'm back after a month long tour through Europe with the punk square dance outfit Ma Bilical and The Chords. Each and every night was an alcohol-fueled rager that hit my skin like an A-Bomb. You wouldn't know it to look at them, but senior citizens are starting to get pretty funky. I think I saw one too many grandmas with a nose piercing and extensive body art. What a bunch of radicals. And Vietnam War Vets. I learned to shotgun Everclear off a half naked stripper, and that kept me from learning how to Do Paso and Grand Square. I hope ol' fat and bones Spooker Washington kept you entertained in my absence. But never fear; I'm back with a whole nickel bag full of Whoop-Doo! In my back left pocket. Promenade!
A couple of things first: I left for my month's long vacation with a missive on bloggers lingering about the outer reaches of the Ethernet. It sure did stir up a shit pot of controversy. Though, only amongst those jaghole bloggers that are causing the most problems. They don't want to be called a dirty (Potsie) any more than you do. Hours before I boarded my plane to the U.K., Paulington James Christensen III and I were invited to participate in an online debate about bloggers and their cemented place in the world of instant media. It was meant to be a roundtable discussion and debate directly involving those bloggers mentioned in the piece (however unfunny you thought it might be). Sadly, the most reviled of these Potsies declined to appear on the Podcast. They refused to return multiple phone calls. Which only drove our point home a little harder. Frickin' scaredy cats. In their defense, they were probably stuck at home, getting fuck blasted by the new Hell Ride [Blu-ray] disc. Anyway, you can hear our unintentionally one-sided argument here at Cinemablend. Thanks to Rafe Telsch for having us on. Again, those certain certifiable bloggers that urged the original piece to be written were indeed invited to be a part of this audio show. And they declined with their silence. So please don't yell "unfair practices" after you listen.
I'd also like to note Roger Ebert's follow-up to our Boos! And Whoop-doos! report on the brand spanking new At the Movies featuring Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz. In a recent Answer Man column, Ebert gave his thoughts on Ben Lyons' urge to incredulously text throughout the duration of the film Towelhead before giving it a "Don't See" recommendation on his show (Roger was careful not to mention the E! correspondent's name in the piece). That eventually led Ebert to write this great journal entry entitled: Ebert's Little Rule Book. A handy how-to for the critic that has forgotten how to behave within the confines of his chosen profession. Which I have now printed and thumb tacked to my wall as a reminder of why its bad to eat all that free buffet food laid out at any given junket. Though, this article of Roger's really steamed from what has become my first Boo! of November: Minutegate!
The controversy over Minutegate? Boo! I know, this business is a week or two old, but I've been out of the loop. And when I first read about Minutegate, it intrigued me on many different levels. For those of you that don't know the story: Roger Ebert wrote a full-length review of a film after watching only eight minutes of it. The film was called Tru Loved, and it revolved around a group of gay high schoolers. From the sounds of it, I don't blame Ebert for shutting it off, or writing what he did (you can read the original review and the follow-up review that saw him sitting through the entire mess here. Ebert didn't shut the film off because it was full of gay stereotypes. He shut it off because it was an atrocious piece of schlock house art posing as a message movie. Basically, it sucked. Pure and simple. And he didn't want to watch more than eight minutes of it. But he still went ahead and wrote his review based on the miniscule amount of screen time that he saw. A disservice to both his readers and the filmmaker? Maybe. This has posed the great question of 2008: Did he break the rules of proper film criticism? Ebert's original argument stated that he came with full disclosure. He told his audience that he only watched the first eight minutes. But other's argued that he fucked up by waiting until the last sentence of his review to reveal he hadn't watch the film much passed opening credits. This set off a whole barrage of opinions. All of which you can read in the comments posted after Ebert's two journal entries on this sorted tale of ethics: Don't Read Me First and Definitely Read Me Second. This whole-heartedly proves my dad's favorite saying: One "Ah, shit!" can wipe out a million "Atta Boy!"s. First of all, give the guy a break. It's hard to yell at a TV screen with your hands and inside your head without going crazy. When you are sent a movie screener to watch in the comforts of your home, its way to easy to fast forward through the slows parts, and then shut it off altogether when you hit that point of no return. Following Ebert's Rules of Full Disclosure, I have never reviewed a film that I hit the FF button on, or shut the power off of midway through. If my AOD (attention overcompensation disorder) doesn't allow me to sit through something in its entirety, I don't usually comment on it in full form. But, I have been known to toss DVD screeners out my window and use them like freebies in the hopes of decapitating the bums that shit on my back stoop. Simply because that was all they were good for. Whether you like it or not, Ebert does have the right to write a dismissive after watching only eight minutes. Whether he tells us right up front or at the end. The simple fact is, he told us he didn't watch the whole thing. And the review was entertaining. In the grand scheme of things, it served some sort of purpose. The truth of the matter, and I'm not the only one that has said this, Ebert's review made me actually want to see the film. It worked in favor of the filmmakers, whether those opposing this critical tactic believe it or not. Ebert's been in this business for a millennium now. When he says he turned off a film, I want to know why. And I will probably seek this shitty Z grade pooper out when it hits DVD. Who knows, I might even like it. I think Minutegate only goes to prove that true film criticism can be an art form, as it forces out many different emotions. Some people say they have lost respect for Ebert. I think I respect him even more now. I can't wait until someone starts up the 8 Minute Review blog. They won't even have to attend screenings, as most major movies offer their first eight minutes for free online. (And in an interesting side note, according to our DVD page, Ebert got a quote on the cover box of Perfect Holiday [WS]. But according to an advert in this week's EW, our own Paulington James Christensen III got his quote on that box cover. Weird. Is there a controversy brewing here? Are we heading towards Covergate? And why are they both pimping such a dog shit movie? Someday, these questions may get answered. But don't hold your breath.)
Remaking the Dragon? Boo!
Barry Gordy's The Last Dragon gets a redo? Boo! Sure, you're outraged over Ebert's inability to sit through a high school PSA about homosexuality, but where's your anger over this? It's an absolute shame and pure blasphemy. You can't remake The Last Dragon! It's a film built on style and era alone. It's a visceral experience that can't be recreated in this age. It's about visual aesthetics, and the actors certainly play into that. The original has an absolutely amazing cast that is built as much from the time period as it is from each of their own individual personalities. Its exactly like 1979's The Warriors in that regard. Up until five minutes ago, I was in defense of Samuel L. Jackson and his recent lousy attempt to throw himself into every current film being made. The motherfucker's got money. Why is he even attempting to crawl in Julius J. Carry III's judogi? The arrogant ass can only cop to a pale imitation. There won't be any truth in his performance. He'll just go about the screen, hamming it up like he always does. You know it's going to wax off any respect you might have still been harboring for the once awesome actor. Nobody can touch the intense electromagnetic field surrounding Carry, so why even try. That kicker had the glow, for real. RZA is producing, and he claims to be a huge fan. If that is true, why can't he just create something original in the same vein? Huh? The first one isn't exactly sitting on a unique story. Why not just call it a sequel, and get Taimak involved on some level. Vanity probably wouldn't return, but so what? I'm sure RZA could convince Ernie Reyes Jr. to return in some capacity. It would be a step up from playing Cemetery Warrior #2 in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I know it's become blase to scream about remakes. The real thing will always be around to watch. And Hollywood will never stop returning to the dry well it's created for itself. But ever so often, a talented group of individuals will come together to recreate something that doesn't need repeating, and you have to wonder why. Seriously. Take the money and create something new with it. Or is that an impossibility? I seriously hate the idea of a The Last Dragon remake. But you know what? The horrible truth is, I'll still watch it. And that's why Hollywood doesn't care. It knows it has its genre fans by the balls.
Free Donuts? Whoop-doo!
Voting incentives? Whoop-doo! By the time you read this, we will know who the next President of the United States is. Remember when it was supposed to be Sir Mix-A-Lot? Sadly, that awesome album never came to fruition. I don't like to preach, and I'm certainly not one to tell you what do to. But, damn! You certainly should have voted: 2008! Not because the guy you hate with every fiber of your being is now sitting on the roof of the white house with an Ak-47 in his/her hand, ready to bring on the apocalypse face first. But because you, fellow American, could have gotten a free cup of coffee. My gay little "I Voted" sticker has brought me a wealth of good tidings this fine November afternoon. I feel like my grandma's best friend, Star Davis. She was a portly woman, and as my grandma always used to tell me and my brother, J. David Orange, "That woman would travel forty miles just for a free donut!" And I did just that. How could I pass up a delicious Krispy Kreme? Sprinkled like the star spangled banner. That warm dough doth wave in the inner recesses of my stomach. And at the shift change, I got another one for good measure. Star Bucks was there too, handing out Vinte Lattes. And Dreamgirls? They were giving out free dildos. Wow! What a country. No on 8? Heck yes on the shit shank! Whoop-doo! (Oops! Prop 8 passed. Dreamgirls wants its wiggle sticks back.)
King Julian? Boo!
King Julien? Boo! I don't have an opinion about Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. It is a happy-go-lucky jumbled up mess of incoherent jokes. There are far too many storylines swirling about its innards, and it would drive an ADD addled kid straight up the wall. At the same time, it has a toss-away charm that is infectiously watchable like a lukewarm Saturday morning cartoon. There are some funny bits. There are some slow bits. And its CGI animation hurts both eyes in equal measure. I had to suffer the pain and indignity of this truly tedious sequel for junketing reasons. It is one of the 10 most mediocre films of the year thus far. And I don't say that lightly. As fate would have it, I was spared induction into the hallowed halls of Part 1. I didn't indulge in its plasticine like waves of conformity for one soul reason: The character King Julian bugged the shit out of me. Sometimes, when I'm off the clock and at the Mission: Tiki, I will embark on a family film outing. I enjoy an occasional Pixar pick-me-up, and DreamWorks swings a solid hit in the right direction with most of their liberalized kiddy propaganda. But every time I saw that damn ring-tailed Lemur, I wanted to shoot my TV, or dig my nails into the theater screen showing the trailer, and rip it from its hinges. I don't think any cartoon animal has had quite this effect on me. The fey bastard makes my brain itch. Trust me, I like Sacha Baron Cohen as much as the next bandwagon jumper. But even the voice has me wanting to wring the juice out of this imaginary shit stain. "Move It! Move It!" is what you'd call an ear termite. It gets in there and chews and chews until you are left with nothing but a bloody coconut shell of nothingness. I thought, perhaps, I was imagining my own disdain for the imaginary creature. But nope, I realized that this horrible caricature of slick spit crampage was indeed constructed from pure evil. I'd rather shove my kids in front of an eight-hour Saw marathon than make them watch Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. You might be able to ask for your money back at the box office, but you can never ask for your own sanity back. This thing kicked me into my own private Cuckoo's Nest.
JCVD? Whoop-doo! Color me surprised when I recently walked out of a critic screening for Jean-Claude Van Damme's latest self-reinvention project, and heard the other so-called shit talkers complaining about it. "What?" I thought. "Are you crazy? That is single handedly the best movie Van Damme has ever been a part of." I loved the film. I though the photography by Pierre-Yves Bastard (that's his real name, look it up) was exquisite, and it worked in giving the film a more stately, real life atmosphere. JCVD is filmed in these greasy green-grey tones that suck any youthful optimism out of its contextual structuring. It isn't fantastical, or played down and dumb in the mud. I think a lot of people didn't like it because it does sway towards the serious and the glum. The premise sounds goofy. Maybe you'll set yourself up into thinking this is a light comedy. But its not. It's played for real, and gets its laughs from your initial reaction to Van Damme's own predicament, and his own cemented place in the hallowed halls of Hollywood. Some fun jabs are poked at John Woo, but I don't want to ruin that joke. There is even one teary eyed scene that levitates Jean-Claude's persona into the rafters and lets him painfully pontificate on his own extorted hubris. The actor is shockingly proficient at playing himself, and when he speaks in his home tongue of Brussels, he is an electrifying performer. Not this mumble mouthed king of flying sidekicks we all know and loathe. If you didn't feel sorry for him before seeing JCVD, you will when you hear his daughter in the middle of a custody battle tell the judge that she doesn't want to live with her dad because everyone makes fun of him. Its weighty stuff, and quite effecting. Right now, it stands as one of my favorites of the year. But I don't have time to recount the entire slate of whoop-dooable films this far in, so its anyone's guess as to where it actually lands on my "Best Of 2008" list. Or if it even does. Just know that if given the chance, you should definitely seek this out in the theater. It was originally supposed to be a comedy starring both Van Damme and Steven Seagal. Seagal still gets a couple of mentions, but I think it would have worsened the film had he actually shown up to help spoil this botched bank robbery. I can't wait to watch this as a double feature with My Name Is Bruce.
Darren's Dream Project? Whoop-doo!
Repo! the Genetic Opera? Whoop-doo! For a minute or two, I was torn between Darren Lynn Bousman's proficiency as a true auteur and his leaning ability to make schlocky sequels. In one hand, we have Saw III, the best entry in the entire gruesome series and one of the best looking horror films to come out of 2006. Then, in the other hand, we have Saw IV, one of the most disappointing films of 2007. Repo! the Genetic Opera proves that he was just bidding his time, waiting to work this sucker up into full swing glory. As a purely visual experience, this is an exquisite buffet of grotesqueries that never fails to impress. Sure, it cribs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Phantom of the Paradise. But once you look deep into its socio-political metaphors and its deeply contextualized story, you will see a wholly original beast of sing-songy burden that will surely pummel you about the neck. In my review of the film, I claimed that Repo! gave me amnesia, and I am convinced it did. This Gothic take on R. Kelly: Trapped in the Closet hits like rain on a tin roof. Every single lasting bit of dialogue is strung through the shavings of a song, and it is brilliant at its ability to torment the mind. This is the type of odd, off putting project that most won't know how to react to upon first viewing. But there are people that are going to love it like an ugly puppy dog. From that love, a solid fan base will grow like weeds on the basement door of a drive-in movie theater. I have a feeling that many bad reviews will surface in light of Repo! the Genetic Opera initial release. But give it a couple of years, and it will suddenly be fondly remembered as a fan favorite. This isn't a fly by night stab at midnight cinema. This is something that will be around for a long time, whether you like it or not. It is a true original, and I believe that Bousman, his cast, and his crew must be applauded for a job well done. Even if this cosmic explosion does leave black marks on your tongue that first ride through. It'll punch-fuck your box. And that ain't a lie.
Sheew! That's it for now. One last thought: Is it just me, or does the back end of The Owl Ship look just like WALL-E? Maybe it's just me. Eat Grandma! Kill Food! Bold|Whoop-doo!