Decisions, Decisions

still from The UnbornThe Uninvited, or The Unborn… It’s just so hard to choose between them.

You know why it’s hard to choose? Because they’re the same film with two different titles, that’s why.

They’re both about sexy teen thangs in danger, right? I bet they’ve both got a scary dog with an upside down head. A movie’s just not scary nowadays without a dog with an upside down head, you know.

Those goons in Hollywood probably figure they can get away with this because in this economy, nobody’s going to spend the big bucks to see two sexy teen thang in danger flicks in the same month, and the few who do are probably stupid enough that they won’t notice that they’ve paid to see the same crap twice.

‘Fess up, you evil-doers.

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An Open Letter to Nicolas Cage

Dear Nic,

Nicolas CageI recently caught your performance in Ghost Rider. Actually, I think I may have dozed off for fifteen or twenty minutes, shortly after the goth kid is interviewed on the eye of hell after you save her from the mugger, but I definitely got the gist of the film. Kind of cute casting Peter Fonda as a motorcycle Satan, by the way.

Anyway, here’s what I wanted to let you know:

You’ve convinced us. You’re Elvis reincarnated. Never mind that you were about thirteen years old when he died. We’ll just say that his spirit went from that toilet at Graceland straight into little Nic Coppola.

I understand now that you married Lisa Marie just to protect your little girl. I totally get why you’ve chosen the roles you’ve chosen. You’re the King. I believe you.

I guess that means you can stop now. You’ve got nothing more to prove.

No more swaggering across the screen. Enough with that lip curl. You can proudly wear your black belt and chow down on those banana and peanut butter sandwiches. Nobody’s going to question your authenticity.

Feel free to send me a scarf soaked in your sweat if you like. TCB, baby. Thank you very much.

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So Good You Can’t Even Tell

Warner Bros logoI finally got around to watching The Dark Knight on DVD last night. Fairly impressive, but I’m not here to write about the film itself.

I was struck by a promotional video that ran before the feature, right after the god-awful reworking of Casablanca into a warning not to pirate movies (Shame on you, Ilsa).

The promo featured big, impressive, immersive shots from some big Warner Bros. movies, including A Clockwork Orange, Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Goodfellas, V for Vendetta, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Batman Begins. For the most part, these were shots intended to make the audience go “oooh,” like Neo stopping a barrage of bullets (ooh), or the Houses of Parliament exploding (ooh).

The voice-over that went with these big visuals went as follows:

Something has come along that changes our movies.

It changes the way you see them, hear them, feel them.

It changes the experience.

It opens our eyes to something new.

We invite you to dig deeper, to find things that you’ve never experienced before.

This is the difference between watching our movies and living them.

Experience our movies on Blu-ray.

This is how our movies are meant to be… lived

Blu-ray logoOK. It was a promo for the glory, the splendor and the majesty that is Blu-ray. Fine. But it raised a few questions for me.

As I’ve already mentioned, these were big, impressive images. I was watching on a standard DVD, on an eye of hell that’s neither HD, plasma, giant, or even flat, with the sound running through a stereo that’s about 30 years old — well, the speakers are only about 10, but there are only two of them. And I got the message that I was supposed to be impressed by these images.

So if I’m impressed, how are they supposed to sell me on ditching all of my equipment and getting a Blu-ray setup? Obviously, they can’t show me how a Blu-ray image is better than what I’ve got if they’re showing it to me via what I’ve got. Maybe they should have lowered the quality of the images they showed me, like I was watching on a pitiful portable picnic player, as little Alex might point out. Then they could have told me that if I wanted to experience the true gorgeousness and gorgeosity of the pictures and properly hear the angel trumpets and devil trombones, I’d best upgrade.

Or I suppose they might have added a few lines to the voice-over (I think it might have been Kiefer Sutherland, using his “this is America” Bank of America voice rather than his “tell me now or you’re dead” 24 voice, by the way), like

Do these scenes look good to you? Then you’re an idiot. This stuff is pure crap. You can’t see how good these scenes really are, because your hardware is shit.

There needs to be some comparison if I’m to be convinced that what I don’t have is better than what I have. Remember the theme song to WKRP in Cincinnati? The first few bars were engineered to sound like AM radio, and then it opened up to something fuller, so even though you were listening to the whole thing through a tiny, tinny monaural speaker, you could hear the difference. You got the message that AM radio sounds like KRaP.

And there’s that last line in the promo: This is how our movies are meant to be… lived.

Is it really? Have they forgotten about movie theatres, many of which still have bigger screens and better sound systems than the average living room? Are they suggesting that this is what the filmmakers had in mind?

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What Is Netflix Thinking?

Netflix logoA friend of mine wrote to me today asking if I was familiar with Guy Maddin‘s film My Winnipeg. He’d seen it on an Air Canada flight, and as he put it, “Just the fact that Air Canada would put such a weird film on their movie list makes me want to immigrate there.” And he’s an immigration attorney. I think I’ve seen three of Maddin’s films — Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary, Cowards Bend the Knee (or The Blue Hands) and The Saddest Music in the World, and it would be fair to say I’m a fan.

My friend told me that the film is available at Netflix, so I popped over there. While I still consider myself a cinephile (cineaste, movie buff, whatever you want to call it), the fact is that I don’t see nearly as many films as I used to. Consequently, I don’t log in to Netflix that often. Before I checked on the Maddin film, I figured I’d look over some of their suggestions for me, based on my ratings — the famed “Movies You’ll ” page. I had thought that the recommendations were based on ratings from friends in addition to my own ratings, but apparently it’s all me.

Some of the recommendations and the reasons behind them seemed sensible enough. Samurai Rebellion was recommended because I liked Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and The Hidden Fortress. No problem there.

Ace in the Hole (also known as The Big Carnival) was recommended because of my positive ratings for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Annie Hall and Blue Velvet. I’ve seen Ace in the Hole, and I recall liking it, but it was a long time ago. It was one of the films we studied in my very first film studies class. The class was an English department elective in my high school, and basically involved memorizing the glossary at the back of Louis Giannetti‘s Masters of the American Cinema (a book I ended up buying for a film class in grad school some six years later), and watching films while the teacher, the inimitable Miss Lily Achille, would shout out in her Eleanor Roosevelt/Margaret Dumont voice, “The framing! Look at the framing!”

Where was I? Oh, yes — Ace in the Hole. I appreciated being reminded of it, and may in fact add it to my queue. But I have no idea what it has to do with those three other films.

At the bottom of the recommendation page was a big surprise, with a few surprises attached. Under the heading Sports and Fitness Suggestions were the following three titles:

Netflix recommendations

Now, just for starters, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to recommend anything to me from the Sports and Fitness category, unless you happen to be my doctor. I am, after all, a fat, lazy slob. This just isn’t my thing. But look at the films I liked, which led Netflix, in its infinite wisdom, to offer up these suggestions.

Lost in Transition is recommended because I enjoyed Lost in Translation

What do these two films have in common, apart from the similarity in their titles? Well, here’s the blurb for the recommended film:

Take an unforgettable journey in this action-packed film shot in multiple locations around the world, documenting snowboarding’s top athletes at the peak of performance. Facing off on some of the planet’s steepest slopes, featured boarders include Mark Landvik, Frederik Kalbermatten, Dave Downing, Eero Ettala, John and Eric Jackson, Markku Koski, Jeremy Jones, Mads Jonsson, Dave Downing, Benji Ritchie and more.

It’s just the similarity in the titles.

Crunch: Candlelight Yoga is recommended because I enjoyed Lilya 4-Ever

If you’ve never seen Lilya 4-Ever, you really should, but only if you think you can handle it. It’s very, very unpleasant. For someone in my condition, yoga (by candlelight or not) would also be very, very unpleasant, but I don’t think that’s the connection. I recall that there was a yoga show on PBS when I was a kid, called Lilias! Yoga and You, and the show’s host, Lilias Folan, is still at it. Maybe she’s on the disc, and Netflix made a Lilias/Lilya connection… Nope, that’s not it. The host of the yoga video is one Sara Ivanhoe (yeah, right). Lilya does find herself in a number of uncomfortable positions over the course of the film, but that just couldn’t be the connection. I’m at a loss on this one.

Finally, the most confusing recommendation of them all:

Billy Blanks: Bootcamp: Ultimate Bootcamp is recommended because I enjoyed The Short Films of David Lynch

What? Does Lynch do Tae Bo? Do the Ultimate Bootcamp workouts somehow involve running sores, or fear of sexuality and biology? Maybe during breaks they bring on a couple who bark like dogs while abusing their tuxedo t-shirted child.

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