Archive for the 'Movies' Category

Prepare to get some more cinematic Tolkein on.

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

‘Cuz P.Jacks and crew are bringin’ some Hobbit.

(Thanks to Scalzi for the tip.)

Local business plug: Vulcan Video.

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

Mostly we rent from Netflix, because the convenience is extraordinary. But sometimes you want a particular movie and you want it now. Today, Austin’s own Vulcan Video saved the day on that score.

The funny thing is, I tried finding the movie — not something obscure, mind you, but Raiders of the Lost Ark — at three different Blockbusters closer to my house. One of them doesn’t own a copy, the other two didn’t have any on hand.


So I called Vulcan Video near the campus. They had the video and promised to set it aside for me. Since I haven’t lived very close to a Vulcan in years, I wasn’t a member, but that took only a few minutes to rectify. The folks at the store were friendly and helpful, and my kids liked going into the store because it was so different from the hunky-dory chain-store layout of Blockbuster. My son even ran into one of his classmates — confirming to me that Austin can still be a small town sometimes.

Vulcan Video confirmed to me that, sooooo very often, local is best. If you’re in Austin and haven’t already, check ’em out.

When they shoot that biopic of Christopher Hitchens . . .

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

. . . they must cast Roger Allam . . .

. . . in the lead role.

Besides the resemblance, Allam’s got chops, too — plus the perfect accent.

Is Steven Spielberg the greatest filmmaker ever?

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

My wife and I were discussing this last night at dinner. I’m not asking whether Spielberg‘s the best director ever, mind you, because I don’t (necessarily) want to get into a discussion of Spielberg vs. Ford vs. Hitchcock vs. Bergman etc.

I’m asking whether, if you look at Spielberg’s body of work — directed, produced, action, fantasy, drama, whatever — you conclude that he’s achieved the most of any filmmaker in the history of the medium. (Define “the most” any way you wish.)


Monster links pile-up.

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Talkin’ ’bout catching up from vacation, with minimal commentary:

–Dig this from my buddy Austin. In particular, follow up on the comment thread to find out more about how French cartoonist Lewis Trondheim used a 500-page debut cartoon book as a way of teaching himself how to draw. More thoughts on this anon, but for now I’ll say I love the chutzpah on display. If you’re an artist (writer, filmmaker, chef, whatever) . . . sin boldly! Sin in public! Ask forgiveness (much) later, if ever!

–Excellent 4th of July quotes here. A favorite:

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.”

—Frederick Douglass

–[Via Hugh Macleod:] I avoided a lot of this hype because I was on vacation on an minimum-news diet, but this is sadly all too true: “I Read the News Today, Oh Boy”.

–Fred Wilson finds the same utility in social networking tools that I do: catching up with old friends.

–For no particular reason (or maybe because Disney’s been trying to force it so hard down our throats), I hadn’t planned on seeing Ratatouille, but now Austin and David have weighed in, and Dave’s recommendation in particular is leading me to rethink: “Ratatouille is the best Pixar ever. Maybe the best animated film since Snow White. And it made me very hungry.” I should know to always trust Brad Bird.

–Recovering from adversity: Yes, it’s doable — but only if you start by thinking so.

–This Fast Company item on Atul Gawande’s approach to “positive deviance” is well worth reading. I particularly like Gawande’s advice about not complaining: “. . . Resist it. It’s boring, it doesn’t solve anything, and it will get you down. You don’t have to be sunny about everything. Just be prepared with something else to discuss . . .”

–[Via Good Morning Silicon Valley:] One of the greatest obituaries you’ll ever read — not for its subject, but for the panache with which it is written. The first sentence of the piece is this: “Count Gottfried von Bismarck, who was found dead on Monday aged 44, was a louche German aristocrat with a multi-faceted history as a pleasure-seeking heroin addict, hell-raising alcoholic, flamboyant waster and a reckless and extravagant host of homosexual orgies.”

–[Same source:] That Shakespeare guy, he was somethin’.

–Tom Peters thinks we’re focused on the wrong debate in health care: “My rant: Let’s spend as much time and energy fixing the fixable enumerated above, 99% independent of the insurance debate, and seeing if we can tease out longer lives as a result of our investment. If our life expectancy is so damn low compared to those spending much less, aren’t we at some level getting screwed? I know that’s crude and bizarrely oversimplistic—but there’s also a big kernel of truth to the intemperate statement, isn’t there?”

–Tom also wants us to try things. A lot. Try as a point of fundamental belief. He’s right.

–Because we can’t ever have enough reminders about this: simple things you can do to help the earth.

–Jamais Cascio (who I got to meet at SXSW this year) is smart: An Insufficient Present.

–If you do a lot of air travel, this should be useful: SeatGuru.

That would seem to be enough for now.  Enjoy.

More on “lines” movies.

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

On my vacation I had plenty of time to think about this topic, upon which you all commented so ably. Among other favorites, commenters mentioned The Big Lebowski, Johnny Dangerously (?), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (??), and Nacho Libre. While I was away, it hit me that I had left out the great sleeper “lines” movies of the 1990s — not the glitzy star like Pulp Fiction, but way up in the pantheon for the cognoscenti.

I refer, of course, to So I Married an Ax Murderer. Printed quotes here, audio files of choice cuts here. Thinking of this makes me wonder whether Mike Myers is the king of this genre — the funny-to-hilarious quotable line. Just ponder, for a moment, his oeuvre as it stretches from Saturday Night Live through the Austin Powers movies:

“Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance.”

“Schwing!” . . . “She’d give a dog a bone!” . . .

“Head! Pants! Now!”

“If it’s not Scottish it’s crap!”

“Yeah, Baby!”

“Throw me a bone here, people!”

Thoughts? Who’s better at writing (or delivering) lines like these?

What’s the greatest “lines” movie ever?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

My wife and I were talking about this the other day, in connection with the Alamo Drafthouse’s Princess Bride quote-along. That film is, of course, loaded with quotable lines, including:


“You keep using that word . . .”

and, of course

“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya . . .”

We also recently watched Ghostbusters with our kids, which reminded me of its many quotable lines:

“He slimed me.”

“We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!”

“Dogs and cats, living together . . .”

My all-time favorite film is Raising Arizona, which has at least two dozen memorable lines. A few off the top of my head:

“There’s what’s right, and there’s what’s right, and never the twain shall meet.”

“You go back in there and get me a toddler!”

“. . . or my name ain’t Nathan Arizona!”

“I’ll be takin’ these Huggies, and any cash you got.”

And then there’s the film that I consider the heavyweight champion of the world in this category: Pulp Fiction.

“Royale with cheese.”

“How did I get on brain detail?!”

“If he goes to Indochina . . .”

“You’ve lost your L.A. privileges.”

Et cetera et cetera.

So, what’s your favorite “lines” movie — the one you can quote endlessly with your friends?

Read this about American health care.

Monday, June 25th, 2007

My friend Redneck Mother has some strong words after watching the new film Sicko:

We’ve been told our system has to be the way it is. It doesn’t. And by the measures that matter — overall quality of health, infant mortality and longevity — it shouldn’t be the way it is.

Amen, sister.

Confession: I’m eager to see the new “Die Hard” picture.

Monday, June 25th, 2007

‘Cuz sometimes you want something choice from the “Blowin’ S**t Up in the Name of Justice” genre.

The New York Times has a story today on a YouTube mashup music video in which a band called Guyz Nite reprises the “Die Hard” tetralogy in a song.

A Spurned Parody of ‘Die Hard’ Returns to YouTube, Approved

[…] Last August, a New York-based “comic-rock” group named Guyz Nite created an online video for their song “Die Hard,” a rather worshipful three-minute guide to 20th Century Fox’s action-movie franchise starring Bruce Willis. (The song’s refrain says, “We’re gonna die, die, die as hard as we can!”) The video used clips from the first three “Die Hard” movies, and within days Fox’s legal department requested that the video be removed from YouTube.

But in February, with a fourth “Die Hard” movie on the horizon, Fox’s marketing department contacted the band and offered to pay it to repost the video, using additional video clips to promote the new film, “Live Free or Die Hard,” which opens on Wednesday. […]

The NYT has a tradition of artful euphemisms (think back to the Dick Cheney “cussin’ in the Senate” incident), but they may have taken the cake with this one:

The Guyz Nite song features an explicit line that Mr. Willis’s character in the movies uses “when he’s about to do something awesome,” as Mr. Marsh put it. (The line begins with “Yippee-ki-yay” and ends with an expletive favored by Samuel L. Jackson, among others.)

Wow — just wow. That in itself is just awesome.

The Guyz Nite music video is here. Do I need to tell you it has explicit lyrics? It has explicit lyrics.

File under: Outrage at bad movie adaptations of good books, notes on.

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

The other day I posted a positive review — more of a short reaction — to Michael Chabon’s new book, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. In the comment section, franQ raised his objections to Chabon on the grounds that Chabon has allowed his earlier novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, to go through the Hollywood meat-grinder as it has been adapted for the screen. Here’s a quote from franQ:

But I can no longer support the work of an author who has no regard for the story and characters that put him on the literary map.

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a film version of MOP coming out later this year… Written and directed by the guy who brought us DODGEBALL, in which he’s CHANGED 85% of Chabon’s original story.

And the sad part is… Michael Chabon himself APPROVED of the script! WHY would he do this? I can only think of one possible answer: $$

And here’s part of what I said:

I can’t agree with you about protesting Chabon’s decisions vis-a-vis the M.O.P. film, much less about protesting his work overall. I’m too greedy for the good stories he brings to me *in print*. Now, I might see the M.O.P. film or I might not. But the fact that it diverges notably from the book? Not an issue, in my eyes — and it CERTAINLY won’t keep me from reading M.O.P. or Summerland.

It’s altogether routine for novels to be reworked substantially for the screen — just think of Ray Bradbury’s adaptation of Moby-Dick, or of Anthony Minghella’s version of The English Patient. [. . .] The screen has different requirements than the page, especially when you’re dealing with work as boisterous and diffuse as Chabon’s can be.

And as for the reek of filthy lucre . . . well, most folks have no trouble putting up with imperfect jobs — because of the money. Chabon happens to be dealing with larger sums of money, but the principle is the same. Maybe he’s just happy to see his story on screen — and yes, to collect a hefty check — and that means more to him than preserving his entire vision, possibly at the cost of not having the film made at all. It’s his book, so I figure he can do whatever he wants with it.

Apropos of this, last night I was reading John Scalzi’s compilation book, You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop, when I came across a 2004 essay-post, “I, Hollywood,” on the same topic of good books being warped into unrecognizable adaptations on the silver screen. As it turns out, that post is still available online at Scalzi’s blog. Here’s the relevant quote from “I, Hollywood”:

However, as a longtime professional observer of the film industry, I also went into the theater unburdened the illusion that the film would have anything at all to do with Issac Asimov’s robot stories. This is a Hollywood motion picture, after all; nothing is sacred, least of all original texts, and least of all this particular case, since to my understanding the project initially started as an unrelated science fiction story about robots, onto which the I, Robot brand name was grafted as the rights to the property became available. In other words, this was a vaguely cynical exercise on the part of the filmmakers, at least as regards Asimov’s work.

And, of course, this is SOP for Hollywood. Allow me to put on my pontificating hat here and tell you an obvious truth: Hollywood doesn’t care about source material. When a major movie studio buys a novel (or in this case, a collection of stories) to adapt into a film, it stops being material of a fixed nature; it becomes suddenly fluid, and you’ll find vast chunks of the book sliding out, getting rearranged or simply being ignored for the expediencies of the filmmakers and the studio. Let me make it even more clear: It is a rare book that makes it through the film adaptation process without great violence being done to it.

Scalzi knows whereof he speaks, since (a) he’s published several novels and (b) he was a film critic for many years. But he wouldn’t need either of these pools of expertise to make this point, since it ought to be obvious to just about anyone who’s ever watched more than, say, two film adaptations of novels — anyone’s novels.

I appreciate franQ’s obvious passion about The Mysteries of Pittsburghcheck out his MySpace page dedicated to boycotting the film — but I think his stance is naive. The MySpace page says that it’s intended for

Anyone who’s read MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH and is opposed to the desecration Rawson Marshall Thurber has done to this story in the name of “dramatic license.”

“Desecration”? Geez. This isn’t the Torah we’re talking about. Maybe Thurber, despite having perpetrated Dodgeball on the world, is looking to step it up as a director — to do something that will give him some serious chops as a thoughtful auteur who can do work beyond summer popcorn movies. Maybe he was pressured by his studio to simplify the script so he could keep the movie to a reasonable length. Who knows? And even if he just took out a cleaver and butchered the film outright, what’s new or special about that?

I’ll quote the final paragraph from Scalzi’s essay, which nicely captures my own view on the role of film adaptations:

I readily grant that it’s very likely a movie version that was more faithful to Asimov’s ideas could have been made (Shunn directs folks to an unproduced screenplay, written by Harlan Ellison and Asimov himself), and possibly should be made. But it wasn’t and hasn’t, for whatever reasons. C’est la Hollywood. I’m not necessarily going to take it out on this version because of it, especially if this version has the imprimatur of the Asimov estate. And in any event, I, Robot the book remains in its unmolested state, and as of this writing is #40 on the sales list, a height I doubt it, now over a half-century old, would have achieved without Hollywood’s unsubtle violations. If a new generation of readers use this movie as an entry point to access Asimov the writer and other science fiction writers, well, speaking as a science fiction writer, I can live with that.

My guess is that the film version of M.O.P. will be what it will be. It could be crap. It could be a thoughtful, but very different, reworking of the book’s story, a la The English Patient. It could be a brilliant adaptation, a la A Room with a View. My curiosity about which it turns out to be probably will not overwhelm me, and I likely won’t see the movie until it hits the Netflix catalog, if then. But the appearance of the film is almost certain to introduce many new readers to the novel upon which it is (however loosely) based, which means that some group of readers will get hooked on Chabon.

Which is a good thing, period.