Friday, January 29, 2010

Fantastic Short Film Friday - La Maison en Petites Cubes (animated)

It's time for another installment of Fantastic Short Film Friday. With a new Oscar season upon us, I wanted to take a step back and look at past nominations and winners. This week I want to highlight an animated short film that's been criminally under-seen called, La Maison en Petites Cubes (The House of Small Cubes), the 2009 Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Short Film from Japanese director Kunio Kato. This goes to show you that even the prestige of winning an Oscar award won't drive large amounts of people to watch short films. This may be due to the fact that it's at times hard to find many short films available to watch, even if they are winners. Here's the synopsis of the animated short:

As his town is flooded by water, an aged widower is forced to add additional levels onto his home with bricks (cubes) in order to stay dry. But when he accidentally drops his favorite smoking pipe into the lower submerged levels of his home, his search for the pipe eventually makes him relive scenes from his eventful life.

A group of dvds called, A Collection of Academy Award: Nominated Short Films were released for the years 2005-2007. Sadly, it appears that they weren't particularly profitable, because there hasn't been a new dvd released for 2008 and 2009. Still regardless of the fact that most people seemingly don't care about the short form of filmmaking, I love them. So I hope this small blog can bring some new eyeballs to these sorely overlooked gems. Here's the animated short film La Maison en Petites Cubes in two parts. It's interesting, fun and painfully touching.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dedication to J.D. Salinger (1919-2010)

This post is dedicated to Jerome David "J.D." Salinger. He passed away today at the age of 91. Most notable work by Salinger is Catcher in the Rye and to be honest, that is the only work that I have read of his. He also wrote such work like a collection of short stories Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey; both works that I always see at the bookstore and fail to pick up.

What was also most interesting and perhaps disturbing about Salinger was his reclusive nature in the middle of nowhere New Hampshire. And I recall rumors of him "hanging out" with local high school students. An interesting life of a Mr. Salinger.

I also remember reading Catcher in the Rye in high school and I think I may not have been mature or literary-savvy enough to appreciate his writing especially for the time it was written in. I think my main issue with the novel was the one-sided-ness of the story telling from Holden Caulfield's perspective and it was difficult to understand what was real and what HE perceived as being real. As a student reading this I did not understand why someone, roughly my age, was so selfish, delusional, and in short, bratty. Perhaps now if I read it, I would be able to look deeper. Maybe not. But I cannot deny the effects of this book, and the influence of J.D. Salinger. He will be missed.


Disclaimer: Penny Lam is speaking on her own and NOT behalf of Joshua Lew as we have differing views on Mr. Salinger.

Update: J. D. Salinger was the voice of the youth generation of the mid-50's to late 70's. While I didn't grow up in any of those decades, Salinger's Cather in the Rye deeply influenced/eschewed my literary habits even into adulthood. It was through his works that I initially decided to take a step back and look at the world around me, view with reflective/rebellious eyes anew. Now as I grow older, I still see Salinger's Holden Caulfield for what he is/was, but I still consider Cather in the Rye and to a lesser extent, Salinger's Nine Stories, must reads for any adolescent looking for their place in the world. May you be arguing and shunning all the "phonies" you hate so much where ever you may be. Godspeed Mr. Salinger.

- Joshua

Movie Review: Give 'Em Hell Malone

I absolutely love the poster for this film, which is sadly the most entertaining aspect of the film. Give 'em Hell Malone is a direct-to-dvd crime noir where Thomas Jane plays a tough as nails PI (are there any other kind) who must dodge bullets and help save a damsel in distress (Elsa Pataky) who may be more trouble than she's worth.

Directed by Russell Mulcahy, who after directing 1986's Highlander, ruining 1991's Highlander sequel, Highlander 2: The Quickening and nearly ending the Resident Evil film franchise with 2007's Resident Evil: Extinction, now appears to be in the direct-to-dvd directing wasteland after coming out with this film and 2008's Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior. Poor, poor Russell Mulcahy, we hardly knew ye, but perhaps it's for the best.

I love crime noirs, which are probably my favorite types of films, along with early 20th century screwball comedies. So when I heard about this kind of comicbook homage to the old crime films with Thomas Jane in the lead role, I eagerly rushed out to see it. Sadly this is more parody/spoof than homage. It's not an overt spoof since it doesn't try to make fun of the genre conventions its mimicking, but it's cheesy dialogue, cardboard cutout characters, and lack of any real budget make it feel more a spoof than an homage. It's like the filmmakers took all the great stuff that make hardboiled crime noir's awesome (the beautiful femme fatale, the gun action and violence, the "hero" that walks in a gray world, rather than black and white) and strips them of all the fun, leaving the bare bones scraps behind that kinda have enough meat on it to make some soup (it tries even to enter the world of camp with a burn-victim henchman who keeps getting set on fire and a Japanese school girl who loves cutting things without theKill Bill cool).

Give 'em Hell Malone had some potential. Beautiful cast, a lot of great gore and violence, and a bluish-tinted cgi world reminiscent of Frank Miller's Sin City, but the screenwriters made a cardinal sin when writing the film, they made the characters boring and empty, and when playing around in a genre that's all about the characters since it's all about the hidden truths of humanity, then yeah, you got a very uninteresting movie. The screenwriters failed to realize that what makes a good crime noir is not the action, not the violence or even the world, but rather the people who inhabit the shadows.

It hurts me to say this since we genre lovers don't get enough crime noir films anymore, but don't bother renting Give 'em Hell Malone or even watching it for free on late night tv. There was potential here, potential for a film franchise even, but this is one world that's not worth visiting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Leftovers - Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis

As we bid adieu to the Late Night With Conan O'brien show and of course the departure of one of my favorite comedians who just can't catch a break, Andy Richter (seriously people, please watch the 2002 television show Andy Richter Controls the Universe ), I wanted to pay my homage to my favorite Late Night show.

One of my favorite Funny or Die skits is the "Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis", a sort of public access type talk show where Zach interviews celebrities in a boring obtuse matter that causes wonderful awkward moments. It's all scripted, but it's wonderful nonetheless. The last one Zach did was with Conan O'brien and Andy Richter two months ago, and I thought I'd post it because seriously, more people need to watch the Two Ferns series by Zach. If you want to see more, you can always check out the Funny or Die website. Enjoy the clip and thanks for the memories Coco!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Trailer Talk - MacGruber

Penny and I may be one of the few people who still watch Saturday Night Live every week and one of our favorite skits on the show is the MacGyver parody, MacGruber, 20-second skits where the MacGyver wannabe tries to disarm bombs with paper clips and chewing gum but ultimately always fails due to some personal issues and seemingly dies. The sketch is ridiculous because there's been about 26 of them, and while MacGruber always fails, he continues to called on to stop weapons of mass destruction.

Anyway, so when I heard that SNL was making a MacGruber movie I wondered how if it was possible to take a 20-second skit where a guy always fails his mission and dies and make it into a fully realized 90 minute movie. Well the first trailer has hit the internet waves (it's a red-band!!) and I have to say, it looks pretty damn funny. It's taken the 80's camp of the character and kicked it up 10 notches. I am now officially on board and cannot wait to see the new movie. Check out the trailer below. I'm curious to hear from people who have never seen the SNL sketch on what their thoughts are of the trailer and the upcoming movie.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Episode 55: Youth in Revolt and The Book of Eli

Hello there and welcome to the 55th episode of the Cinema Cafe Podcast, the bi-weekly, twice monthly film podcast by the fans, for the fans. Join us each week as we review new movies releases, look at some dvd's, talk some film news and share our general love for all things cinema. The main goal is to have some fun and hopefully provide the listener with some helpful insight. We are back and the podcasting world is alight once again.

This week we have a treat: it's our 55th episode, which means we've been bringing you "bi-weekly" content for over a year now. This week we take a look at 4 movies that have been recently released or are on dvd. With that said here's a look at what we discuss on this weeks podcast:

* Youth in Revolt
* The Book of Eli
* Where the Wild Things Are
* The Hurt Locker
* Upcoming movie releases for the weekend of 1.29.10 and 2.05.10

Also, film news and more, only on the Cinema Cafe Podcast. We hope you enjoy and happy movie watching.

Thanks as always to all our loyal listeners for sharing the ride with us as we've reached this milestone for the show. It's all due to your support that we have kept things going and we hope you continue to share the ride with us in the coming months.

We're now on Itunes so head there and subscribe to the Cinema Cafe Podcast. Thanks!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What I Think of: Youth In Revolt (2010)

This 2010 film adaptation by C.D. Payne by the same is directed by Miguel Arteta. The story follows Nick Twisp, played by lovable loser Michael Cera, in his teenage rebellion adventures. Nick is in love with Sheeni (Portia Doubleday) while on a family "vacation". He soon has to leave but concocts a plan with Sheeni to move into town so they can be together. Nick needs to conquer zany obstacles to prove his love to Sheeni and here we meet his alter ego, Fran├žois Dillinger.

This movie definitely has its funny points and his alter ego, Fran├žois is so ridiculous, you can't help but laugh. But overall, it fell a bit short for me. There weren't (m)any stand out moments and Cera still keeps playing Cera. I know it must be hard for him to not play himself but I'm a bit over it.

There also were cameos by Ray Liota, Steve Buscemi, Justin Long, and everyone's 'right now' funny guy, Zach Galifianakis. The director probably could have utilized Galifianakis and Buscemi more to his advantage. It may have helped.

This was a semi-funny, passable teen flick. Superbad, it is not.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Fantastic Short Film Friday - Signs

It's time for another installment of our new weekly feature on this blog, Fantastic Short Film Friday, where each week I try to shine the light and spotlight a type of filmmaking that I feel is sorely overlooked, short films.

This week I want to spotlight a truly fantastic short film called, Signs. From Australian commercial director Patrick Hughes comes a nearly silent look at missed chances and communications when faced with the possibilities of finding love in this hectic, somewhat cold world. I can't really find much information about the short or it's director although the film was a winner at the 2009 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival and has been entered in the Schweppes Online Film Festival.

So sit back and enjoy Signs. It's wonderfully cute and really expresses a refreshing lovestory all in 12 minutes!! I absolutely love this film!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What I Think Of: Universial Soldier Regeneration (2010)

I know this may sound insane, but this is the 5th movie in the Universal Soldier series of films, which started back in 1992 with Universal Solider. You heard me right - the 5th movie!! The first 2 Universal Soldier sequels were direct-to-dvd crapfests followed by the theatrical release of Universal Soldier: The Return in 1999. Now roughly 10 years later, I can't believe any one's been clamoring for another sequel, but here we are with Universal Soldier: Regeneration.

This film, while getting a theatrical release in Asia (because frankly they aren't too discerning) gets the straight-to-dvd release here in the States. Proving that I'll watch anything, I rushed out to see this. However the key for me was that this film stars one of my favorite MMA superstars Andrei "The Pitball" Arlovski, and re-unites Jean-Cluade Van Damme (who I'll see in anything) and Dolph Lundgren (who I'll almost see in anything) together again from the first Universal film.

So is this film worthy, if worthy is the right word for a film series that's been mostly terrible, to continue the Universal Soldier legacy? Frankly, this film is pretty damn good. From the heart pumping opening 8-minutes that feel right out of John Frankenheimer film, to the action packed martial arts/MMA beat-down ending, to all the bodies and dismemberment in the middle, Universal Soldier: Regeneration is a whole lot of dumb fun. I mean the story makes no sense, sure some of the effects and set locations look decidedly low-budget, and yes, there're so many plot threads that are forgotten or thrown away that you'll be scratching your head going "what the hell's going on" more often than not, but you're not watching a straight-to-dvd movie starring Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren for the plot right?

I will say this, if you're watching this film only to see 90 minutes of Van Damme and Lundgren fighting like in the first movie, you'll be sadly disappointed like I initially was. Van Damme is undoubtably the star of this film, but he's more in a supporting role being in the film for only like 37 minutes. And Lundgren's appearance is more like a cameo being in it for only about 10 minutes. However, once you get past the initial disappointment, you'll find an entertaining action flick with a high body count. Besides, when Van Damme and Lundgren finally do share screen time together, you'll be smiling from ear to ear like I was. It's just classic Van Damme action.

I'm sure the only reason this film ever got made was due to the resurgence of Van Damme's career after 2008's JCVD, but yeah, while not a great film, (I can't even say it's one I've been waiting for - who even remembers the Universal Soldier series?), it's a lot of Van Damme fun. The best recommendation I can give this straight-to-dvd movie is that if I saw this in the theater I would have still been happy. The joining of two 80's action juggernauts with Van Damme and Lundgren. What more could any one man ask for?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Movie Talkback - Joe Johnston Talks Upcoming Captain Amerca Movie

I've said this numerous times, but Captain America is my favorite comicbook character of all-time. I don't know if it's the cheesy overly heart-felt patriotism of the character or the fact that he just loves beating up Nazi's, but I can never get enough, never am more pumped up than when I'm reading a Captain America comic.

Anyway, the directer of the upcoming The Wolfman picture, Joe Johnston, is also directing the upcoming Captain America movie. When the picture was first announced I was a tad fearful because it's very easy for a Captain America movie to devolve into pure American cheese, but after reading a recent interview from Johnston himself, I have to admit, I'm pretty damn pumped. Here's a man that get's the character. Here's what Johnston had to say about his upcoming picture:

"It is influenced by the comic book, but it goes off in a completely different direction. It's the origin story of Captain America. It's mostly period—there are modern, present-day bookends on it—but it's basically the story of how Steve Rogers becomes Captain America. The great thing about Captain America is he's a super hero without any super powers. Which is why this story, among the hundreds of super hero stories, appealed to me the most. He can't fly, he can't see through walls, he can't do any of that stuff. He's an every man who's been given this amazing gift of transformation into the perfect specimen—the pinnacle of human perfection. How does that affect him? What does that mean for him emotionally and psychologically?"

"He was this 98-pound weakling, he was this wimp, and he's transformed instantly into this Adonis. You'd think he got everything he wanted. Well, he didn't get everything he wanted. The rules change at that point and his life gets even more complicated and dire. For me, that's the interesting part of the story. It's got some great action sequences in it and some incredible stuff that we've never seen before. But at the heart of it, it's a story about this kid who all he wants to do is fit in. This thing happens and he still doesn't fit in. And he has to prove himself a hero—essentially go AWOL to save a friend. Eventually at the very end, I don't want to give away to much, but he does fit in. But it's the journey of getting him there that's interesting. And it's a lot of fun."

So yeah, here's a man who clearly gets what Captain America is all about, a character who has never belonged to any time, either when he was fighting Nazi's in WW2 and was the icon of the nation, to waking up in our modern day, where his past ideals and beliefs have become outdated. Captain America has always been the story of a man who fights for the world even when he feels detached, alone, left behind by it. I for one can not wait for the movie. However, even a great story can be bogged down by casting and costume. It really all depends on who they choose to done the red, white and blue. Look for the film to hit theaters 2011.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Leftovers - John Travolta Still Sings!! Covers "Every Little Step"

Remember when John Travolta used to sing, crooning into Olivia Newton-John's eyes? Just good old-fashioned family fun. Well, looks like Travolta is no longer content with having duets with women his own age. First there was the weirdly creepy (I don't know, maybe it's his goatee) almost love song between Travolta and Miley Cyrus for the Bolt soundtrack called,"I Thought I Lost You." Now comes a new duet with his 9-year old daughter Ella Bleu as they cover Bobby Brown's 1988 hit "Every Little Step" making a music video for his newest movie Old Dogs.

I have to admit, the man still has his moves, and his cover isn't terrible, it's just a tad creepy as Travolta dances around with this Chris Hanson type smile with his daughter... I guess the best word to describe the music video is awkward. Still I don't know what's worst about the video, the fact that Travolta dances around his daughter as the camera gets crotch shots of him and his daughter looks longingly into his eyes asking him to come away to her world, or the fact that the video contains clips of the movie Old Dogs. You be the judge.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Trailer Talk - Sex and the City 2

So I stumbled onto the Sex and the City 2 trailer yesterday on one of my fashion sites and I was stunned I hadn't see it yet. I love the opening with Jay-Z / Alicia Keyes' "Empire State of Mind" playing in the background. Seeing Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda brought so back so much joy. Sex and the City (SATC) was just one of those shows that you remember every episode and detail. And if you listen to the show, you know I'm not the overly girly type but when it comes to SATC, my knees buckle. The fashion, the girl power, and the humor were all reasons why I was attracted to the show. And the occasional man candy. I loved the characters no matter how flawed they were, that's what made them real in an unreal world. I saw the SATC movie last year, and I'll be seeing the new one this year. My only concern is, what will this movie be about?

I think the fashion and the characters are enough to get me there but I really hope there is some semblance of a story line. There's lots of clips of clothes, vacation(?) scenes but no story but then again, that always seems to be top secret. Enjoy the trailer.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fantastic Short Film Friday - Tarboy (animation)

Hi everyone!! Since I started to update this blog regularly with film news, reviews and whatever else catches my fancy, I wanted to dedicate at least one post each week to a type of filmmaking that I feel is sorrily overlooked: the short film.

I've always enjoyed watching short films, but it's always been hard to see many of them since they generally only play at small film festivals. Thankfully with the advent of such things as Youtube, it's been much easier to find short films. However, there's so many to sift through that I'm often asked which one's are good because I can honestly say this, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart, "a bad short film is the most brutal of tortures. Even though they may appear short, some make it feel like you've been sitting there for hours begging to get away."

So each Friday I will be shedding light on a short film that I feel is worth a look, or as it'll be known as, Fantastic Short Film Friday. Last Fridays short, Sebastian's Voodoo was the first spotlight of the Cinema Cafe's Podcast new feature.

This week I want to spotlight an animated short film called Tarboy. I've been unable to find out much information about the short, but I do believe it's directed and animated by James Lee with music by Hania Lee. It's a fun short about discarded robot souls found form and the revenge they take on their evil oppressors. I love the almost cut-out, black paper, deeply shadowed art deco minimalistic animation of this feature and I absolutely love the soundtrack. So just sit back and enjoy. If you want more information on Tarboy you can check out: here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What I Think Of - Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009)

You're not reading this for a true movie review right? I mean we all know what we're getting into when we sit down to watch a sequel about a bunch of chipmunks dancing and singing that has the audacity to call itself "the Squeakquel." So I'm just going to post up some of the thoughts I had while watching this film.
  • why the hell is Jason Lee in this film? I mean I know you aren't a "real" actor but you have to be getter than this right?
  • why do any of the Chipmunks or Chipettes bother to wear any clothes or shoes? I ask this because when we are first introduced to the Chipettes, they have no closthes on, and then when they start to wear clothes, you begin to realize that this is a kids movie and you saw a bunch of "human-like" animals naked.
  • how can Alvin catch a dodgeball and hold up a football? I mean I know this isn't reality, but at least the cartoon was smart enough to have some discretion, some regards for the immutable laws of physics.
  • why are there so many Asians in this movie?
  • why do the Chipmunks sleep in full-size beds? I mean isn't that just a waste of space? Can't they sleep in shoeboxes? Wouldn't that be more practical and conformable for them?
  • honestly, this movie isn't that bad. The songs are hip and catchy, the Chipettes look stylish and cute, but why was this movie ever made and why does this franchise continue to make so much money? I mean do kids even know the cartoon exists?
  • on that note, cgi chipmunks look dead behind the eyes and quite frightening.
  • how come nobody is every worried they may step on the Chipmunks? I mean when the Chipmunks go to highschool they run around while people walk the crowded halls. One: isn't that a safety hazard and 2: having rodents run around, isn't that a health code violation?
  • and lastly, no seriously Jason Lee, why are you in this film? "Ohh look, your unconscious in a hospital bed while it goes out of control and cgi chipmunks run around you, you poor bastard."
So those are just some of the thoughts I had while watching Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squequel, and yes, every time I write the movies full title I die a little inside. Like I said before, it's not bad, a 4/10 for adults, maybe a 7/10 for kids. It has everything an enjoyable all-ages film needs, except of course the timeless quality that made the original cartoon so great.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Leftovers - Nic Cage As Everyone

Because the world can never have enough of Nic Cage, here's a website after my own heart, a website dedicated to photoshopping Nic Cage's face onto every actor and star alive!! - because as the founder says on the blog on why it was created:

Founded on the belief that everything in life would be better with a little more Nic Cage, the most unique and versatile actor of his generation.

Bravo my friend. Bravo!!!

So head over to: and check out some divine goodness.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Movie Talkback - Spiderman To Be Rebooted?!!

Here's some pretty stunning and potentially frustrating news. Nikki Finke and former Variety’s chief newshound Mike Fleming, have just found out a massive story. Appears that the upcoming Spiderman 4 movie directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and John Malkovich (as the Vulture) is dead, and not just Spidey 4, but Rami's and the rest of the casts involvement!!! Appears that studio execs want to move into a new direction with the Spiderman franchise and are looking to reboot the whole series sending Peter Parker back to highschool.

Here's some choice quotes from the recent studio press release:

Peter Parker is going back to high school when the next Spider-Man hits theaters in the summer of 2012.

Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios announced today they are moving forward with a film based on a script by James Vanderbilt that focuses on a teenager grappling with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises.

The new chapter in the Spider-Man franchise produced by Columbia, Marvel Studios and Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin, will have a new cast and filmmaking team. Spider-Man 4 was to have been released in 2011, but had not yet gone into production.

And lastly from Raimi himself...

“Working on the Spider-Man movies was the experience of a lifetime for me. While we were looking forward to doing a fourth one together, the studio and Marvel have a unique opportunity to take the franchise in a new direction, and I know they will do a terrific job,” said Sam Raimi.

So yeah, there you have it. Frankly I am floored. While I do understand Sony Pictures position on things, the best days of Spidey are when he's single and younger (even Marvel just totally did away with 30 years of continuity in their comics by making Peter single and young again), I'm scared of the whole "reboot" tag. I mean if I have to sit through another hour long origin story about how Peter's nerd is picked on then gets bit by a radioactive spider, I just may cry. And if I have to sit through another 3 movies where the main badguy is the Green Goblin, then well, I may have to stay away from the new movies. However, there is just such a wealth of material Sony can draw from that would be perfect for the movie (the Sinister Six, Kraven's Last Hunt, Rhino, the death of Gwen Stacy) that a fresh look at things may just be what the movie franchise needed. Also, if Sony does what Universal Pictures did wth their The Incredible Hulk reboot where the events took place after Bruce Banner became the Hulk and there were brief flashes on how he became the monster, then it would be perfect.

I would just like to say, thanks for the memories Sam Raimi. The film, the universe you crafted showed that comicbook movies could be done right, done interestingly, and be profitable, foreberring the wealth fo comicbook movies we have now. It's all because of you and your Spiderman vision. Comic fans everywhere thank you for that, thank Maguire and Dunst for that, and I can't wait to see what projects you do next.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Episode 54: Up in the Air and Sherlock Holmes

Hello there and welcome to the 54th episode of the Cinema Cafe Podcast, the bi-weekly, twice monthly film podcast by the fans, for the fans. Join us each week as we review new movies releases, look at some dvd's, talk some film news and share our general love for all things cinema. The main goal is to have some fun and hopefully provide the listener with some helpful insight. We are back and the podcasting world is alight once again.

This week we have a treat: it's our 54th episode, which means we've been bringing you "bi-weekly" content for over a year now. This week we take a look at 2 movies that have been recently released or are on dvd. With that said here's a look at what we discuss on this weeks podcast:

* Up in the Air
* Sherlock Holmes
* Top 10 List: Best Movies of 2009
* Upcoming movie releases for the weekend of 1.15.10 and 1.22.10

Also, film news and more, only on the Cinema Cafe Podcast. We hope you enjoy and happy movie watching.

Thanks as always to all our loyal listeners for sharing the ride with us as we've reached this milestone for the show. It's all due to your support that we have kept things going and we hope you continue to share the ride with us in the coming months.

We're now on Itunes so head there and subscribe to the Cinema Cafe Podcast. Thanks!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Movie Talkback - Sebastian's Voodoo (animated short)

Who would have thought, a touching anmation about Voodoo Dolls. Here's a 4-minute animated short called Sebastian's Voodoo from director Joaquin Baldwin about "a voodoo doll who must find the courage to save his friends from being pinned to death." I had never heard of Joaquin until this animated short, but evidently he's an award winning animator and director from Paraguay.

Sebastian's Voodoo was shown at last years National Film Board of Canada competition. No idea how it fared, but after watching this short, I feel it reasonable to say that we can expect great things from Mr. Joaquin Baldwin in the future. Also of note: he's not one of the Baldwin brothers.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Leftovers - Michael Cera Plays the Peanuts Theme

While evidently a bore of an interview, Michael Cera can be quite funny when called upon and I'm a big fan of his. Hell, I went to see Year One (at the theater!! And I payed for it!!) and I can tell you it wasn't because of Jack Black. And yes I know he plays the same damn character in every movie. I evidently love Nic Cage too and well, he just screams a lot.

Anyway, the Cartoon Network interviewed Cera for his new movie Youth in Revolt, and rather than ask him the generic questions I'm sure he's heard a million times during the press junkets, the fine folks at CN asked him to play the Peanuts theme song. It's great, it's fun, it's Michael Cera, so sit back and enjoy the 30 second clip.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Movie Talkback - New Dune Adaptation Finds Director

Looks like the upcoming Dune film has found itself a director in the guise of Pierre Morel, the fantastic director of the off the wall minimalistic action films, Taken and Banlieue 13 (District 13).

I've been a lifelong fan of the original 1965 novel by Frank Herbert (worshipping at the alter that is the Muad'Dib) and have always thought that the novel was unfilmable as a movie. You need look no further than the 1984 David Lynch adaptation that is over 3 hours in length and nearly unwatchable. Honestly, I enjoy the movie quite a bit, but it's slow, prodding, confusing, pretentious and has Sting as one of the major bad guys... like I said nearly unwatchable unless you're a huge fan of the series.

Still, I do have some hope for the upcoming film adaptation by Morel even if many fans may not. Sure an action director may seem an odd choice to direct a film which is basically an allegory on our over dependence as a culture on religion and commodities, but I welcome a more updated and non-literal translation of a work I so dearly hold close to my heart. Like I said before, I think that the Dune series is unfulfillable as a movie, and one that tries to be to faithful will end up like Lynch's Dune. Anyway, look for Morel's Dune hopefully in 2011.

Also, if you want to see a good adaptation of Dune, check out sci-fi channels original Dune and Children of Dune miniseries. These two mini-series are very faithful and entertaining adaptations of the original source materiel.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Movie Talkback - Avatar continues to soar!!

Well here's something that I can honestly say I was a bit surprised to read about. When Avatar was first announced I thought, "man that movie costs a lot of money. I wonder if they'll make at least their production costs back." Then when I heard that Twentieth Century Fox had found a way to distribute costs across the board in case the movie flopped I wondered aloud even more. Well looks like we were all fools, well everyone except James Cameron.

Avatar has officially made 1 billion worldwide in 17 days, surpassing Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight to become the 4th highest grossing film of all time. That's right, 1 billion with a 'b' in 17 days. Looks like it will soon pass Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King to become the #2 worldwide release of all time. The only man who's film James Cameron may not be able to surpass with Avatar is himself, as Titanic sits alone on it's thrown. People can bemoan that the gross is inflated due to the fact that the movie cost more money to see since it was in 3D. None of that detracts from how much ungodly money it made in such a short time. Is it deserving of such lofty aspirations? To that I say, is Titanic or Dead Man's Chest any worthier?

However the films destruction of the box office and the mind doesn't just stop there. James Cameron is now the only director to have two films that have earned 1 billion dollars. Also, Avatar has grossed an estimated 68.3 million in it's third week of release, destroying the previous record of 45 million set by Spiderman 3. Man, just seeing which movies make so much money makes me sad. The love doesn't stop there. The 68.3 million made is 30 million dollars more than any January opening release ever, and the film is in it's third week of release!

Lastly, this past year's highest grossing film was Transformers 2: Revenge of Michael Bay which took in 402 million in 114 days domestically. Avatar will pass that domestic mark in an estimated 20 days.

What do all these facts and numbers mean? Besides the fact that Avatar is truly setting out to do what Cameron always wanted (to revolutionize films), not a whole lot. However it's such an incredible feat in cinematic history that I felt it was worth mentioning. Now if only I could buy James Cameron stock on the NY Stock Exchange.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Movie Review - Love Happens (2009)

This 2009 romantic drama is written and directed by Brandon Camp (of tv show John Doe fame) and stars Aaron Eckhart as Burke Ryan, a successful self-help book author who tours speaking at sold out venues, doling out advice on coping with the loss of loved ones a la Tony Robbins style. Still coping with the loss of his own wife, Burke travels to Seattle and meets Eloise (Jennifer Aniston), a free spirit who works as a flourist. However, Burke, never having taken his own advice is unable to fully open up to Eloise even though she may be the one person who can save him.

So yeah, Love Happens is a by-the-numbers romantic drama, with twists and turns that the viewer will see coming from every corner. There's no new ground explored, or perceptions challenged. However, what you will find with this movie is an engaging look at a man who once lost everything, and now successful, can't move on or be happy. Burke and Eloise feel like real breathing people, real adults with real sets of problems that everyone can relate to. Sure the movie can be bit of a downer since it deals with coping and loss, and sure the payoff may want you to call for a refund, but Love Happens deserved to have done better than it did at the Box Office (Universal gave this movie with big stars a small indie release, or as many in the industry know it as "dumping").

However I will say this, if it was not for the standout performances and charm of the two leads (Eckhart and Aniston) there would be no reason to see this movie and it would have been a total mess. However because Eckhart and Aniston work so well together, you become invested in their charcater's lives and root for them to finally find happiness. The best recommendation I can say for this move is, "if you go in with low expectations you might be midly surprised", which is something I wish I could say for a lot of movies. Can a world exist where Two-Face finds happiness? Well in the world of Love Happens, hell, you root for heads all the way.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What I Think of: Up in the Air (2009)

This 2009 dramedy starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, and Jason Bateman is about a man named Ryan Bingham (Clooney), who travels around the U.S. to various companies to lay people off on behalf of said companies. Bingham is good at his job, he is business-like in his delivery but provides sensitivity and advice fit for each individual (though real or fake, you can never quite decide).

Along the way, he trains a new college graduate, Natalie (Kendrick) who lacks the understanding of what his job entitles, meets a woman named Alex (Farmiga) who he has a "casual" relationship with, and gets ready for his sister's wedding. You soon learn that Bingham loves to travel and has mastered it to an art form, travels over 300 days out of 365 days of the year, and is out of touch with life at home (his physical home and his metaphorical home known as family). He lives a lonely life surrounded by strangers and slowly he learns the type of things he's missing out in life. At first you think Bingham is a jerk and a bit too egotistical for his own good but then you start having a soft spot for him. This truly shows the transition in the film, and in Bingham's life.

This is a smart comedy that also takes a deeper look into someone's psyche. After leaving the movie theater, the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that it was a perfect film. The story had a good message, it was not predictable; great acting; good pacing and direction. I highly recommend this film so bring your lunch from home because you do not want to miss this. This is an "advanced" review but please check out next week's podcast for our full review. Yes, I did say next week, I don't think we'll be able to record this week. Hope everyone had a great new year's and enjoy the Up in the Air trailer.