The Phantom City

Notes from our travels across a mysterious world.

Category: Movies (page 1 of 4)

Rest in Peace, Christopher Lee and Dusty Rhodes

These two men had more of an effect on my life than you’d think.

Thoughts upon seeing Crank (2006)

What…What was…I don’t…Who’s that…What happened?

Now, for post-Crank thoughts, here are my reasons why Crank should have been nominated in several Oscar categories.

Best Screenplay: I didn’t understand half of the words Jason Statham was saying, and there were so many characters I had no idea what most of them were doing in the movie. This is similar to my past experiences with Shakespeare.

Best Actor: Chev Chelios needs to keep moving and keep his adrenaline pumping to survive. Bringing this character to life is an impressive achievement, largely due to the fact that actor Jason Statham normally never seems to get more excited than, say, Clint Eastwood. One assumes, given the fast pace of the movie and what people would normally call “dialogue,” that Statham actually took some sort of drug to speed up his metabolism and risk his life, and one has to admire that sort of commitment to the craft.

Best Supporting Actor: Dwight Yoakam creates a character by literally phoning in his lines. I’ve never seen anyone do that before. Now, in this category there could be competition from some of his own Crank castmates. After all, you can’t completely discount the performances of The Guy Who Played Pedro In Napoleon Dynamite (Efren Ramirez) and The Guy Who Played Weevil In Veronica Mars (Francis Capra). But I’d give it to Dwight.

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Smart is so natural in the role of Eve it’s almost like she didn’t realize she was in a movie. I don’t think she did. I think, during the take, Jason Statham just showed up at her apartment and she improvised as well.

Best Cinematography: One take, ninety minutes of following an adrenaline-fueled Jason Statham around while he’s improvising. ‘Nuff said.

Best Director: True, it might seem easy to take that screenplay and those actors and turn out the best movie of the year, but directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor took it all one step farther: They were brave enough to have a word appear, most of the way through the movie, for one second, floating by itself on Statham’s forehead, with no real context or precedent. How often do you see that? Martin Scorsese didn’t do it. Neveldine and Taylor did.

Best Foreign Language Film: There were smatterings of English, but that shouldn’t disqualify it. This movie’s native tongue was the whole-body sign language called Action!

Best Picture: Not Crank. Apocalypto. Apocalypto is like historic Crank, and history always makes films better.

Did you miss one of the great films of our generation in theaters? Not to worry. April, 2009…CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE!

Magical Raccoon Testicles

No, those three words are not from a spam promoting the way to greater girth…no, that would make too much sense. They are, however, the main plot device from movie #1 on the Cracked.com list The 10 Best Animated Movies for (Traumatizing) Kids.

And here I was thinking Watership Down, which still bothers me, would be the freakiest movie on the list.

(A commenter on the article points out the characters are not Raccoons, but Tanuki, otherwise known as Raccoon Dogs. I’m thinking adding the word Dog does not improve the idea.)

Link courtesy of Too Many Topics, Too Little Time, which points out that the words are not magic. Probably just the actual testicles. 🙂

Jonah Hex, Movie Star

Looks like Warner Bros. wants another $8.50 from me. Jonah Hex — hard to explain if you don’t already know — may get his own movie soon. I wonder if it will end with him running across his own stuffed body?

While growing up, I was always a big costumed hero fan, reading a lot of Superman, Batman, and the Legion of Super-Heroes. However, I also really liked the “real-world” comics DC was putting out at the time, usually dealing with various modern wars or the American West. Jonah Hex was one of my favorite characters, along with Hans von Hammer (Enemy Ace), largely due to the moral complexity of the stories.

Of course, then he got pushed into the post-apocalyptic future in Hex. Not quite as good, but he did get to see himself dead. 🙂

Jonah Hex 34

Link courtesy of Bureau 42. Image courtesy of the Grand Comic Books Database.

A Brief Snippet of Our Experience Watching Knocked Up

We went to see Knocked Up the other day. I didn’t think it was the instant classic A. O. Scott called it, but it was funny. (I liked The 40 Year Old Virgin a bit more, partially because the lead was a lot more charming and the story had more focus, but in both cases I kind of like Judd Apatow’s approach to romantic comedy: If two flawed people get together, romance isn’t going to suddenly make them better. As a result, in both films don’t end with “Happily Ever After”…more like “We’ll Give It A Good Try!”)

Anyway, this was supposed to be about the experience watching the movie, not a review, and nothing stands out more than watching any movie sitting near The Really High Woman Who Talks REALLY LOUD (hereinafter referred to as RHW).

RHW and her male friend walked into the theater as the trailers were playing, and he somehow got her up to our row as she weaved alarmingly. I thought perhaps she was just having some balancing the gigantic hair someone had placed on her head. (She seemed unfamiliar with it.)

They sat down, and RHW asked some loud questions of her paramour about the trailers that weren’t entirely intelligible. She then announced she was hungry, to no one in particular.

Then the movie came on. Knocked Up features an alarming amount of pot smoking through the first half of the movie. (Seriously. I really like Harold & Kumar, and this movie made that one seem like one of those talking, anti-drug dog commercials. In Knocked Up, you just hope they’re not in an enclosed area so they can get oxygen.) This fact seems to have touched a nerve in RHW, who proceeded to yell at various points during the first 15 minutes:

“THEY’RE SO HIIIIIGH! HAHAHAHAHA!”

“LOOK AT THEM!”

“I WISH I HAD SOME OF THAT!”

“I’M SOOOOOO JEALOUS!”

“HAHAHAHAHA…LOOK AT THAT BONG!”

“OOOH, I WANT THAT…HAHAHAHAHA!”

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I find that kind of running commentary more entertaining than any movie, but what really amused me was what happened next:

“I WANT To…mumble…mumble…LET’S GO! HAHAHAHAHAHaHaHahahahahaha….” And they left. Less than 20 minutes into the movie. We were wondering if they went to get food and got distracted. We just hoped she wasn’t driving.

So, kids, think of it this way: If you’re overly enthusiastic about marijuana, our anecdotal research indicates you will waste $17.00 on movie tickets on most modern comedies.

In the meantime, I’m kind of hoping she comes to see the sequel to Superman Returns. “HEY, THAT GUY’S FLYING! I WANT TO FLY! WOOOOOOOSH!” 🙂

Box Office Almighty

So far, I’ve seen one news outlet after another talk about the disappointing opening weekend for Evan Almighty: $32.1 million. That return might not be so bad for a comedy, except this one cost anywhere between $175 million and $220 million to make, according to the same outlets.

Now, personally, I have almost as little interest in seeing Evan Almighty as I did Bruce Almighty. The only difference? I’ll see most things with Steve Carell in them, but I avoid movies with Jim Carrey in them. So, for me, spending that much money on the movie doesn’t seem like a good decision. However, maybe that’s just me?

Oh, wait…Hollywood has this great little tool they can use for decision-making. It’s called revenue, and it comes in numeric form. You know what Bruce Almighty made in the U.S. in box office receipts? $242 million. Worldwide it made $484 million. It was made for $80 million.

Did the studios — the project was dropped by one and picked up by another — really think spending over twice as much money would get them a similar increase in return? Or are they just satisfied pulling profit from foreign markets and DVDs, so the budget for any sequel can be equal to the estimated domestic revenue? (And if that’s the case, why the emphasis on first-weekend returns?)

Oh, by the way, the Wikipedia link just recounts the entire plot of Evan Almighty, so you might want to avoid it if you’re planning to see the movie. Or, like me, you can read it and realize you apparently aren’t missing anything exciting. 😐

Go See Nancy Drew

We went to see Nancy Drew last weekend, partly because we were curious what Hollywood might do with the character, and partially because we weren’t quite in the mood for seeing another comedy or comic-book action blockbuster on opening weekend in a crowded theater. You know what? It was good. Not one of the best movies of the year — well, I shouldn’t say that, the year’s been moving a little slow so far — but a good story that conveyed what’s appealing about the novels. It also would have been a good movie for parents to take their kids…as opposed to Ocean’s Thirteen, where we saw several children getting dragged.

Looking around, it seems that critics panned it as mediocre. The common theme was that it didn’t live up to their expectation of a fish-out-of-water comedy or a sophisticated, modern take on a classic character. From what I saw, the primary points where the movie fell flat were the fish-out-of-water parts, which just seemed jarring, and as for a sophisticated take on the character…well, I have a feeling that was wishful thinking based on an optimistic view of how complex the character actually was. I read a lot more Hardy Boys than Nancy Drew when I was younger, and I’m thinking complexity in any adaptation of the Hardy franchise would definitely end up fundamentally changing the source material.

In ND, they decided to stick with the source material. Not a bad option, but it only ended up garnishing $6.8 million of your hard-earned wages. That likely means it will be out of the theaters soon, which is a shame. Considering some of the other movies we’ll see this summer, it’s worth the money they’re going to get. So, go see it, while you still can. The Fantastic Four and Steve Carell will be waiting for you until next weekend. 🙂

Hot 5

Hmm, looks like Maxim came out with its Hot 100 (supposedly straight), and AfterEllen.com responded with a lesbian version. Let’s see how they match up with a…uh…“random” list of five women.

List Maxim rank AfterEllen rank
Alyson Hannigan n/a 74
Jenna Fischer n/a n/a
Kristen Bell 46 56
Sarah McLachlan n/a n/a
Shakira 38 n/a

Yep, looks like my interests aren’t well-represented on either list, but more closely on the Maxim side based on the numbers. However, I was surprised at how much easier it would be to pick a second five from the AfterEllen list. C’mon, Maxim, you seriously listed Lindsay Lohan (#1, no less), Fergie (#10), and Shanna Moakler (I’m not going to bother looking that up) in your top 100? Combine that with Second Life avatars, and it’s just wasted space.

Buck Rogers in the 20th Century, Eighth Decade

The Buck Rogers pilot was released in theaters before its TV debut, and X-Ray Spex has the movie’s far different take on the opening credits.

While it would be hard to complain about Erin Gray in a silver suit, I wonder why Buck appears to be making out with Tootsie? (Those are some huge glasses/goggles/whatever.) 🙂

15 Geek Movies

The Houston Chronicle‘s TechBlog covers Fifteen Geek Movies to See Before You Die. Not sure if I agree entirely with the list, but let’s see how I’ve done so far:

Brazil – Terry Gilliam movie that I always intend to see, but never do.

The Matrix – Overrated as science fiction, but a revelation as an action movie. It’s Predator-like, as far as its must-see-ness.

The Fifth Element – Made me a Luc Besson fan. Filled with the joy of Silver Age comics, without the pain of Silver Age exposition. Oddly subtle performances in a completely over-the-top movie.

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan – The standard by which movie space battles should be measured. The tension near the end makes up for all the family drama.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – Funny, but is able to cut corners because of the iconic nature of the characters. I’m not sure how well it would hold up on it’s own, but a nice addition to the series.

Serenity – A lot better than I was expecting. I really liked the Firefly series on which it was based, but wasn’t particularly obsessed with it. This movie made me want to see more of the show. But come on, Joss, do you have to kill off good characters in every finale?

Dark City – Creepy, and largely made by Rufus Sewell’s performance. The resolution unfortunately depends on a sudden discovery — “I can control everything with my mind!” — but everything leading up to that is an excellent slow reveal.

12 Monkeys – Never seen it. Don’t like monkeys. 😉

Shaun of the Dead – I’ve seen large parts of it, but I really need to sit through the whole thing.

Darkman – Liam Neeson plays Liam Neeson, in a mask. Sam Raimi’s original superhero movie. That’s enough for any movie.

Army of Darkness – I like Bruce Campbell, but meh. I have more fun watching some of the original stop-motion movies this is a homage to.

WarGames – Talking supercomputers? Hacking via acoustic modem? Ally Sheedy? Global Thermonuclear War? I had to get a computer when I saw this movie, and I’ve loved them ever since. Still one of my favorite movies.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail – Eminently quotable, and genuinely funny.

Office Space – Eminently quotable, but the quotes are better than the narrative. As a movie, I ended up liking Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle better.

Repo Man – Another movie I always intended to see, but never have.

These would have to be on my list: Dune (1984 David Lynch version), Star Wars (the original trilogy), Revenge of the Nerds, and Clash of the Titans.

Link courtesy of Bureau 42.

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