Sunday, July 30, 2006

Blast From The Past

Michael Mann's new iteration of Miami Vice is not your dad's Miami Vice (or yours, depending on your age). He's completely reinvented it for the new millennium. Gone are the pastel shirts and sockless topsiders; they're replaced with a cool palette of stylish clothes. Also gone are Crockett and Tubb's witty banter and playfulness; these new guys are as serious as fucking cancer, and always on the job. And that's exactly how this movie is: After the Universal Pictures logo, you hear the opening strains of "Numb/Encore," and the movie's rolling. No credits, no introductory exposition; just move, move, move for the next two and a half hours. (The only holdover from the TV version is the Jan Hammer-esque music, and a cover of "In the Air Tonight" over the end credits.)

Honestly, Mann's the only one who could have directed this movie. I think he's one of the most underrated action directors of our times, and he's made yet another movie that's intelligent and action-packed, as well as absolutely beautiful. There is no one working today who makes HD DV look so good. And there's no one (maybe ever) who makes scenes at night look better. His cinematographer, Dion Beebe, makes the work of Kaminski and Doyle look like that of film students. You will not see a cooler-looking movie this year.

And speaking of cool, remember how Mann's Heat made you want to be a bank robber, he made it look so cool? This movie will totally make you want to be a vice cop. If driving to work in F430s and M6s, and taking impromptu jaunts to Cuba in a go-fast boat are SOP for Miami vice cops, sign me up. It must be the best life ever.

But, for all this coolness, the movie does have some problems. The plot is completely incomprehensible; not quite Mission:Impossible-incomprehensible, but it's pretty close. And, I'm not sure, but I don't think that English is Gong Li's first language (or second, for that matter); kinda makes all of her lines impossible to understand. But, other than that, a great flick. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Oh My Sweet, Titty-Fucking Christ

In the third ever post to this blog, I tore into M. Night Shyamalan for his perfectly awful The Village. I'm not sure about this, but it may be the reason I started this blog to begin with: to tear on Shyamalan's repertoire of terrible films. So, it should come as no surprise that, a year and a half later, I'd be ripping into him for his stupefyingly shitty Lady in the Water.

There are so many things wrong with this fucking movie that to not chronicle them all would be doing a disservice to you, the reader. First off, this movie has the stupidest plot EVER. Worse yet, there is a character that knows the plot, and is able to recite it whenever the other characters need some direction. I've heard of and seen movies in which you can "see" the screenplay at work, but this is the first one in which it's actually read during the movie. Even worse than that, there is a movie critic in the film, who doles out standard movie cliches that give the characters hints as to what might happen next. That's some shitty screenwriting.

The Law of Character Economy is in full effect as well. Every character essential to the outcome of the movie is introduced in the first two minutes. Every character not shown in these first two minutes is so unnecessary that they may as well not even be in the movie. They're merely filler, because having a massive apartment complex with only seven tenants would be unbelievable. (Not that anything else in this movie is.)

The worst thing about the movie is looking back at the whole thing once it's done. There's two ways this movie could have worked. You could have had Story (clever name, huh) be an escaped mental patient, who believes she's part of a fairy tale, and she and the Paul Giamatti character convince everyone she is who she says she is, only to have it all be made-up in the end. Or, you could have Story come along with her story, and have no one believe her, only to have it all be true in the end. Those stories would work; what Shyamalan has come up with does not. Having all of the characters believe Story's ridiculous tale right from the get-go stretches the realms of believability. It's fine if you want to tell a fairy tale (albeit, a lame one); it worked for The Princess Bride. But to shoehorn a fairy tale intact into a conventional plot, and then have everyone in the plot know it's a fairy tale is the dumbest fucking idea for a movie in history.

And this is where the screenplay shows through the cracks, because the only reason that anyone in the movie does what they do is because It's In The Screenplay. No one else in the world would behave as these people do, because their will is not being controlled by the stupidest screenplay EVER.

Obviously, I can't recommend this movie, not even as a morbid curiosity piece. There's just absolutely nothing in this movie to like: poorly written, poorly directed (which surprised me, because M. Night is usually a good director), poorly acted. Avoid it like poison, and maybe we can put this cocksucker out of business forever.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Return Of Clerks

Something's been missing from Kevin Smith's movies for the past 10 years, made even more apparent by his last film, Jersey Girl. And that missing something would be the presence of Dante Hicks and Randal Graves.

If it were up to me (and, obviously, it's not), all of Smith's films would be nothing but Dante and Randal. There is nothing better than these two guys riffing off of each other. There guys are to Smith what William H. Macy and Joe Montegna are to David Mamet: there's no one better suited to spew their dialogue. Smith's first movie was nothing but these two, and it's still his best movie. So, needless to say, I was pretty stoked when Clerks II came out, which, once again, is nothing but Dante and Randal.

I won't lie to you and say that Smith has come up with anything original here, as he's essentially just remade Clerks, but in color. (For a fresh take on Dante and Randal, check out Clerks: The Animated Series. James Woods uttering the line, "Way to go, you beautiful, gay bastard!", is worth the purchase price alone.) But, it's Dante and Randal have the stupidest arguments any one has ever heard. And that is what we in the biz call "pure gold."

Great stuff; check it out. And remember: In the heat of passion, ass-to-mouth is acceptable.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Batman Next (Or Not)

What if I told you that Christopher Nolan, the writer and director of Batman Returns, has a new movie coming out, that stars Christian Bale and Michael Caine (also from Batman Returns), as well as X-Man Hugh Jackman? You'd probably say it was the sequel to Batman Returns, right? I'd say the same thing. And we'd be wrong.

No, Nolan's upcoming movie is something called The Prestige, about two competing magicians. One would think that, coming off the huge success of the Batman movie, if you got the cast and crew back together, you would just go ahead and make the sequel. It's like Gore Verbinski getting the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean back together to make Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. But, I guess Nolan wants to wait for the iron to get nice and cold before he strikes with another Batman movie. (And if the rumored casting of Heath Ledger as the Joker proves to be true, it may be a good thing that this sequel is years away. What's next: Jake Gyllenhaal as Penguin? Orlando Bloom as the Riddler? This can only get worse.)

Oh well. Maybe The Prestige will be decent enough to tide us over until Batman returns. Check out the trailer (or don't, if you're spoiler wary, since it gives away the apparent plot twist) if you're interested. I know I'm not.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Best Thing About Superman Returns

Watched the original Superman the other night. I still stand by the fact that it's only the 2nd best of the original four movies, although it's still better than Superman Returns for the fact that there is actually some interplay between Lois and Superman.

But it did make me realize something else about Superman Returns. Bryan Singer, the writer and director, did something very smart that most superhero movies (that aren't sequels) fail to do: he assumes we know who Superman is.

When you start a series of superhero movies, invariably, the first movie in the series is basically the setup for the sequels. This is the "origin" movie, where the history of the superhero is given. They all start this way. They have to, because most people don't know anything about the characters, and you have to tell them what the deal is. (Comic book fans usually hate this first movie, because this is where the screenwriters tend to fuck up their beloved characters.)

But Superman Returns is different. It doesn't start out on Krypton with Jor-El sending Kal-El to Earth, or young Clark growing up in Smallville, or any of the classic Superman origin bits. Here, Superman is already an established character, Clark already works at the Daily Planet, and Superman already has a relationship with Lois Lane (in more ways than one). And because of this, there's no need to waste screen time telling the story of Superman, because the movie already assumes we know everything about Superman.

This setup also circumvents the problems of "retconning," where writers rewrite history by changing the details of an established character's origins. Batman Begins had Bruce Wayne meeting Ra's Al Ghul first thing, while, in the comics, he didn't show up until much, much later. The Hulk gave Bruce Banner a Hulk-like father. Fantastic Four gave Dr. Doom some ridiculous powers and mutations, and Spiderman was actually able to generate webbing, something he did through artificial means in the comics. It drives long-time fans of the characters nuts.

(The comics make these same mistakes as well. At one time, there were two Supermen, Superboy, Supergirl, Superdog, and the inhabitants of the miniature Kryptonian city of Kandor. They were all "disappeared" 20 years ago, in order to make Superman the sole survivor from Krypton, only to reappear a month or so ago. This shit actually happens all the time.)

But Superman Returns foregoes all of that character exposition, and gives us a good, old-fashioned Superman story. It's the ultimate fanboy movie. Too bad it was mostly not very good.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Comedy Central Makes Good

It's been a good two weeks for South Park. First, the "Trapped in the Closet" episode was nominated for an Emmy, which, in and of itself, may be the greatest thing the TV Academy has ever done. And now, Comedy Central has announced that they will air, for only the second time ever, that same episode this Wednesday.

This is a great time to do this, as it gives Emmy voters another chance to see this brilliant episode, and it throws a big "Fuck You" in the face of Tom Cruise and his "religion." (Yeah, sure he had a child. Sure.)

Tune in. You'll have a great time.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Leaving Las Vegas

A couple of things I learned during my most recent trip to Las Vegas:

-Treasure Island (and I refuse to call it T.I.) has totally lost all of its charm since it ditched all of the skulls and bones to become more upscale. And that's bullshit.

-And, speaking of which, while most of the resorts in Vegas are now attempting to abandon their once-ridiculous ways in order to become more "refined," Caesar's Palace just gets more preposterous. Here's the new foyer to their shopping mall:

Here's the Victoria's Secret in that same mall:

It's good to see that someone thinks that "flashy" is still good.

-I thought Anne Ramsey was dead, but, sure as shit, there she was, working in the box office at Harrah's. No signs of Sloth, Chunk, or the rest of the Goonies Gang.

-Las Vegas now has more nightclubs than every other city combined. "That was a bathroom last time we were here. Now it's a club." The ratio of clubs to Starbucks is now 2:1.

-Taking your style cues from any of the Gotti kids is a bad, bad, bad idea.

-Fernando Vargas is short.

-"I hate this airport. What kind of respectable airport doesn't have a McDonald's?" Apparently, Vegas' McCarran Airport, which makes due with two Wolfgang Puck restaurants. What a shithole.

-The pigeons in Vegas are black. No shit:

-Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill is very un-country and western. It's more Chateaubriand than country-fried steak.

-The bottle-flipping bartenders at Harrah's make Tom Cruise look like the fag he is.

-I'm not sure what Steve Wynn paid to build Wynn Las Vegas, but I'm pretty sure you could have paid off at least half of the national debt with that same money.

-If you want to stay at the Hard Rock Hotel, be prepared to be isolated from anything resembling civilization.

-"Greg" is not as common of a name as I thought.

-The Hooters Hotel and Casino contains more orange and laminated hardwood than I thought it would, if that's possible.

-Louis Vuitton is expensive.

-The Boardwalk, the one of the last "crap"sinos on The Strip, is gone:

It will almost assuredly be replaced by some anonymous mega-resort, which are now a dime a dozen.

-The new Cirque du Soleil show, The Beatles LOVE, is outstanding. It doesn't have as much of the spectacular acrobatics as the other shows, but they don't feature two hours worth of Beatles music. Worth every penny.

-Surprisingly, the waitresses at Gilley's wear the skimpiest outfits on The Strip. If Gilley's had the bartenders from Harrah's, it would be the Greatest Bar in the World.

-The Beyonce mannequin at Madame Tussauds is good times. I'm thinking of getting one for the house.

-The billboards outside the new Trump Tower claim 64 floors. I counted about 15.

-Sephora is a great place to freshen up after a long day's walk. I know, technically, it's stealing, but they wouldn't leave the testers out if they didn't want you to use them.

-I won $5.50 on the stupidest sports bet in history.

-And if one more person tries to sell me a fucking timeshare, I'm going to kill someone.

Great time; can't wait to go back

Friday, July 07, 2006

And The Nominees Are...

The 2006 Emmy nominations are out. Some random thoughts:

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
This year, the Television Academy has gone to a new voting system. Instead of tabulating the ballots and giving the award to whomever has the most votes, now the Academy asks for a dozen or so nominees from every voter, and then the top 10 or so nominees receiving the most votes are judged by a separate committee that decides the winner based on actual performance. While this seems like a good thing, as it keeps the thing from becoming a popularity contest, it has apparently ruined the process, as it's the only reason I can explain how Charlie Sheen and Kevin James got nominated for their shitastic performances on their respective shows.

Malcom in the Middle has choreography? Who knew?

Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special
Isn't it a little redundant that the Academy Awards got nominated for an Emmy?

Outstanding Comedy Series
I suppose it's too much to ask that none of the shows that aren't Arrested Development win this.

Outstanding Guest Actor/Actress in a Comedy Series
I'm glad to see they opened this category up to more than just those who had guested on Will & Grace. That being said, anyone who guested on Extras would be a suitable winner.

Outstanding Drama Series
Uhh, where's Lost? And why, in its place, is The Sopranos, which fielded 12 of the worst episodes of TV I've ever seen? (That show has been steadily going downhill since Livia died.)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
This should be a slamdunk for Denis Leary, which is code for "Chris Meloni will win." And who knew Six Feet Under was still on?

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Yet again, we've got someone from Arrested Development (Will Arnett this time) and Jeremy Piven, both of whom equally deserve to win. That being said, the super-gay guy from Will & Grace will win.

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Uhh, Rescue Me? Anyone?

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
In the three years it was on the air, Arrested Development was nominated for this five times. It's two for two on wins. Yet Fox didn't think that was good enough to keep it on the air. Let's give it to them a third time, and show Fox that, yes, they did cancel the funniest show on TV and should be killed.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

In The News

It was a fairly busy news day, so I thought I'd comment on some of the stories I saw on CNN while eating lunch today.

-Kenneth Lay, the former Chairman and chief architect of the collapse of Enron, died today at 64 from an apparent heart attack, just a month after being found guilty of defrauding thousands of people of millions of dollars.

Honestly, this is the Best Case scenario for Lay. Let's see: spend the next 20-30 years in jail, or drop dead. Hmmmm. I wouldn't be surprised if they found about five gallons of Drano in Lay during the autopsy. Oh, and fuck you, Skilling; you just got this whole rap dumped on your head.

-North Korea conducted seven long-range missile tests, much to the chagrin of the rest of the planet.

N. Korea is funny. Here's a country where, like, 90% of the population lives in poverty with no electricity, yet here their government is, conducting billions of dollars worth of ICBM tests. And, to think: their neighbors to the south chose to develop their economy rather than their military. Stupid South Koreans!

-Atlantic City, due to a New Jersey budgetary crisis, which has caused the state to lay off all of their gambling inspectors, closed all of its casinos. Apparently, the casinos aren't allowed to operate if there are no inspectors available.

I don't know about you, but, if I'm the governor of New Jersey, I'm pulling out my personal checkbook and writing out whatever check it takes to balance this budget, because, quite honestly, there is no reason to be in New Jersey, other than to gamble in Atlantic City. I suspect people will begin moving out of the state very shortly.

-Bertelsmann Music Group, co-owner of Sony BMG, the world's second largest record company, is in talks with Sony to sell its 50% stake in the company to its co-owner.

With all of the shit that Sony has gone through in recent months, this is the last thing they need. "Yeah, we know you're hemorrhaging money trying to get the PS3 into the market, but we think we'd like to sell this record company to you. You can afford it, right?" If I'm Sir Howard Stringer, Sony's CEO, I'm putting a gun in my mouth.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Super-Bland Returns

I was pretty excited to see the new Superman movie, the first in almost two decades. And, being a fan of the previous Superman movies (well, the first two, at least), I hoped this one would be great. And, it kinda sorta is. (BTW, this entire thing is going to be spoilers, so stop reading if you don't want to know.)

The plot is irrelevant (and stupid to boot). What everyone wants to know is: Is it any good? Well, there's a lot of extremely cool shit to look at, like Superman catching an airplane before it crashes into a baseball game, or Superman flying right through a building to catch the globe falling from the top of the Daily Planet building. But, whenever Superman isn't doing anything super, the movie is just dead in the water. There's nothing going on to get us excited. Unlike the previous films (well, at least the first two), which built on a romance between Lois and Superman, this one keeps them apart, which doesn't do anything to keep us interested at all. (I found it somewhat funny and ironic that Lois is dating Cyclops from X-Men.) And the gripping conclusion has Superman in a coma. Wow. Exciting.

I also didn't care for the new Superman this movie introduced: Deadbeat Dad Superman. Previously, we've had Plainclothes Superman, who destroyed a hillbilly bar while disguised as Clark Kent, as well as Drunk-and-Horny Superman, who was mean and had a three-day old beard. Those iterations were humorous; Deadbeat Dad Superman isn't funny at all.

What is funny is Lex Luther's plot to create a new continent. I'm not the supergenius that Luther is, but this really didn't seem like a good or profitable idea to me, even though I'm only slightly less evil than Lex.

And I'm pretty sure that Brandon Rousch is a clone of Christopher Reeve, because, not only do they look the same, they sound the same too.

Sorry to say, but Superman Returns is not the return we had been hoping for. Maybe the inevitable sequel will be better.