Wednesday, August 31, 2011

1980s video game version of Zardoz

Back in April of 2007 I wrote a review of the Sean Connery psych
freak-out known as Zardoz. It is one strange movie with Connery
running around in a red loin cloth [waxing be damned!] whilst
all kinds of weird stuff happens. Go here to read the review and
check out some images.

It seems someone has done an Atari 2600 style faux video game
for the film. This is awesome. I wish I could have played this on my
old 1980s era systems like the Atari 2600 or even my beloved
Colecovision. Zardoz! Zardoz!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

CineRobot:::Los Angeles

If I were to make a master list of all the cities that I would possibly move to anytime soon, Los Angeles would not have made the top ten. Or twenty. Or maybe even the top 30! But, here I sit, writing a post about how I will be moving to Los Angeles in early October with Sarah and Mozi. You can never forget about Mozi as she will be leaving the state of Oklahoma for the first time and moving west. We asked her about it and she's fairly calm about the move, but that's her regular disposition.

My first reaction when the possibility to move: a strange cocktail of fascination and revulsion. I don't know what the actual split was between the two, but it was in the neighborhood of 60/40 and I'm not sure which of the two was the 60%. Eight years ago I spent four days in Los Angeles and had a fun time. I was surprised just how much I liked that brief visit as it was happening as I had a lot of built-up preconceptions about the city. Visiting and living in a city such as LA are completely different animals. I don't particularly care for the sun and I love seasons, rain and other unpredictable weather. Tornados and thunderstorms I love, earthquakes and never ending sun? Not so much. I am not sure how I'm going to respond to 330 days of sunlight each year. I literally might explode.

Of course, this move will definitely be a boon to the diversity of my film watching. Los Angeles obliterates Tulsa in that regard and this is one of the most exciting things about the move for me. Not only will I have the chance to see obscure, indie, foreign films at the first opportunity, I'm probably more excited about repertory cinema and seeing older films via prints on the screen. New Beverly Cinema here I come! How could I not be excited about something like this? Click on the theatres after the jump to see the palaces that are showing movies. I get goosebumps over this kind of stuff. Seriously.

Another reason I'm really excited: food. But, this isn't a food blog, so I'll stick to cinema on here. Expect lots of Los Angeles creeping into the movie talk once those posts start coming.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Friends With Benefits poster

While in London recently, I was bombarded with the poster for Friends with Benefits at virtually every subway station. I somehow missed this poster when the film came out in the USA, but was immediately struck at just how ridiculous, crass and absurd it is. With their individual hand gestures, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis tell you the entire plot of the film: they are going to be doing it! Yes, fornication between these two attractive people will be a major point of the plot. I loathe this poster.

Side rant. Why is Timberlake getting to be in all these films? I gritted my teeth all through The Social Network and then was flabbergasted by all the positive attention he received. Really? He semi-whispered the entire performance in faux intensity. Now he's a leading man in films with this and multiple others on the docket. Am I missing something with him other than he's a popular singer who has been around since the halcyon days of the boy band? Every time I see him act I cringe a little, but here he is, making rude hand gestures on a movie poster [in case you forgot the plot of Friends with Benefits--they are gettin' it on!] for comedies or starring in upcoming thrillers [In Time]. Can we just find actors to act, singers to sing...this craze to be a "hyphenated" star doesn't make for better entertainment, it just means the same yahoo like Timberlake gets to make crappy music or movies with plots that require naughty hand gestures.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Help

Film: The Help [2011, usa]
Where I saw it: Tulsa/theatre
Who with: Sarah J. 
Rating: Joshua ***1/2; SJ ??

The Help is one of those films that takes an historical event that was painful, frightening or fraught with danger for the real-life individuals who experienced it. Then the story gets the "Hollywood treatment" where everything is glossed in the feel-good qualities that will warm the corners of the viewer's heart. The Help is set amongst the backdrop of the early civil rights movement in Jackson, Mississippi as a young white reporter attempts to capture the stories of the city's female African-American maids as they battle race division in various houses they work at. It's perilous for these women to voice their opinions in their stories, yet many do, to empower or free themselves from the decades of weight the racism of their daily lives has built up.

The Help could have just as easily been called "The Whites" as it has more time devoted to the lives of the white characters as it does the black ones. Typical for Hollywood. It might be a movie about the struggle for equality amongst poor African-American women, but you have to get a whole section of the film devoted to the spunky white recent college graduate "Skeeter" [Emma Stone] and her dating troubles. This is always the way with mainstream films that attempt to tell this kind of story and I could see why some people might be irritated or frustrated by the amount of attention given to Skeeter's curly hair versus the bigger issues that could be shown on screen.

But, that's Hollywood for you and Hollywood has to sell as many tickets as they can. Loading the film with as many opportunities to laugh or cry [Skeeter's mom has cancer! A maid's son died young!] gives the creators to check as many boxes as they can to give the audience. These obvious qualities are less annoying  due to the fact that The Help is such a wonderfully crafted film for what it is--a manipulative piece of entertainment that will make you sad, happy, angry and uplifted by its end. The cast is terrific, from Stone to Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer as maids, to Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain as a couple of employers.

The Help pulled my strings as if I were a marionette and at the mercy of a professional puppeteer. I laughed, cried a few tears, I felt all the feelings I was supposed to feel despite my attempts to resist. You can't really hold it against The Help that it is so utterly manipulative as all films try to manipulate the audience, whether it is to quicken the pulse or let loose the waterworks. Part of the experience of the movies is to go emotionally where a well-done movie takes you, regardless if you want to go there or not. The Help is no different as it tells the story of this southern community's facing the racial divide that exists not only in the city's boundaries, but the walls of every house.

The Help trailer

Friday, August 19, 2011

Greta Gerwig on the set of Lola Versus

Back in June I was in New York City for a few days. As we were wondering down Houston street on our way to a couple of favorite places of mine [Russ & Daughters, Katz's Delicatessen] we came across a film set right on the sidewalk. Lo and behold we saw it was Greta Gerwig sitting on a bench in front of Russ & Daughters, surrounded by cameras, crew, extras, other assorted film-related people and gawkers like me trying to get to my pastrami sandwich at Katz's. My guess after consulting IMDB is that we watched Gerwig on the set of Lola Versus [go here for IMDB information]. We watched her film a few takes and I snapped a couple of photos with my non-paparazzi Minolta Hi-Matic G and have included one here for your pleasure. Greta on right in turquoise top.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Movie tickets #23

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Infidel

Film: The Infidel [england, 2010]
Where I saw it: home/streamer
Who with: Loner style
Rating: **

Last year one of my favorite films was the scathing black comedy Four Lions. It's an English film from director Christopher Morris and it was a relentless slice of subversive comedy based around a small group of bumbling jihadists who want to strike a blow against the oppressors. You know, blow up stuff and kill people. Four Lions is a brave film in this day and age. I don't know why in the world I thought The Infidel would be the same kind of edgy film [the poster is awful by the way], but I got sucked in by the plot: Muslim finds out he's adopted and horror of all horrors--he's Jewish! His family, friends, fellow Muslims and himself are all horrified at the turn of events and the film follows the struggle to come to acceptance of his strange Muslim/Jewish identity.

The Infidel tackles its subject matter with the lowest common denominator styled broad comedy. It's just not funny. It sticks in every stripe of religious stereotype about these two groups. If you want cardboard cutouts and characters with little depth, The Infidel has you covered. The lead character is played by Omid Djalili [who is also a popular stand-up comic] and I've never seen him in anything, but his performance [and the film in general] reminded me of something the low-bar setting Kevin James might attempt. James has perfected the comedy stylings where everything is exaggerated and everyone is trying so hard that it saps the film of life, laughs and charm. Or, that might be reading too much into it. Maybe it's just not funny and that is why it is a failure? That's probably it.

The Infidel trailer

Thursday, August 11, 2011

30 Minutes or Less

  • Film: 30 Minutes or Less [2011, usa]
  • Date: August 3
  • Where: Tulsa/theatre/press screening
  • Who with: Loner style
  • Rating: ***
  • Rating for how similar Danny McBride is in every single role he does: ****1/2
  • Rating for how similar Jesse Eisenberg is in every single role he does: ****1/2

Note the date--I saw this at a press screening last week, but didn't want to post anything about it too early as the studios don't really like that. Not that any studios are ever perusing this lil' ol' blog in Tulsa, but just want to be a gentleman since I got to see the film for free. Plus, I'm about to say some negative things about it, which they definitely don't want to read about nine days before it gets released to the masses.

I knew absolutely nothing about 30 Minutes or Less other than its three lead characters, but realized very quickly into it that it is based on a real life event that I read about in a New Yorker, Wired or some other magazine awhile back. The story was pretty wild and concerned a pizza delivery guy who delivers a pizza only to be taken hostage, tied up and forced to rob a bank against his will. Oh, did I mention the kidnappers attach a bomb to his chest and will trigger it if he goes to the cops, attempts to take it off or fails to get them their cash. 30 Minutes or Less is the comedic version of that dark slice of true Americana crime.

The early portions of the film are just too manic as most of the characters act as if they'd just ingested a couple of Red Bulls right before their scenes started. The frenetic energy begins to work as the film progresses and the clock ticks down closer to when the bomb is supposed to go off, but the uneven, erratic elements never truly go away. There'll be some humorous moments, then some flat-out duds and this repeats for the entire movie.

I hate to say it, but Danny McBride's schtick is starting to wear thin for me. With every role he takes it's obvious how limited he is crafting a character as he plays pretty much the same foul-mouthed a-hole he revels in. It can still elicit laughs, he just doesn't have the same humor batting average as he once did. The same thing can be said for Jesse Eisenberg. I was openly critical of his Oscar nomination for The Social Network as I didn't see him do anything in that film he hasn't already done. Yes, the movie was more serious, but how different was Eisenberg's performance? So many performers just play variations of the same note and both Eisenberg and McBride are two of them. I did love seeing the awesome Fred Ward chewing up some dialogue as an ex-Marine though. Dang, I love Fred Ward!

Wildly erratic, uneven and forced, 30 Minutes or Less provides boundless energy and some laughs, but when it ends it just feels underwhelming.

30 Minutes or Less promo

Monday, August 08, 2011

Slumber Party 3 video blog

Check out this video blog that attendee Hunter did before, during and after the
recent Slumber Party 3: Payback. Best part of the video is near the end when he
tries to remember all five films in the order they played and can't get the memory
recall of what just played. That should tell you the kind of mental state that you
are in when Slumber Party ends, ha. 

Friday, August 05, 2011

High Ballin'

  • Film: High Ballin' [1978, usa]
  • Date: August 2
  • Where: Tulsa/at home/streamer
  • Who with: David
  • Ratings: Joshua **; David **
  • Rating for Jerry Reed's repeated use of the word "son" while talking to other characters: *****!

I kind of like the format of the short reviews I did in July with the who and where and when I'm going to keep doing them while even adding some sweet bullet points, ha. Don't even try to tell me that the poster for High Ballin' doesn't make this look like a fun time full of truckers, hi-jinks, action and even Jerry Reed. Pure 1970s! I've been mentioning the 1970s a lot lately on CineRobot if you haven't noticed. I'm going to try to use the films title as much as I can in this short review as it pretty much is the perfect name for this sort of movie. High Ballin'. What else could High Ballin' be about if not semi-truckers? Although, it might make for a good title for a bit of pornography now that I think about it.

If there was one actor born to play a truck-driver it has got to be Jerry Reed. High Ballin' came about likely due to the fact that Reed played "Cledus" in the smash-hit 1977 comedy Smokey and the Bandit. Producers must have been scrambling to get Reed into another trucker film as quick as they could. Unfortunately, the great poster, trailer and Reed's presence can't really save High Ballin' from being a disappointment.

It's big problems are not enough action and a woeful script. It could have used much more of the one thing it promotes itself as being--a movie about truckers. While there are truckers in High Ballin', some of the best bits are the scenes where CB handles and slang are thrown back and forth with reckless abandon. Zingers like "I'll be crossin' those hills and poppin' those pills" is pure gold, but sadly a rare treat in High Ballin'. More CB talk and more action scenes involving semis would have done wonders for this. About 45 minutes in, the pace drags to a near stand-still as Reed disappears from the action and Peter Fonda takes over. I'd rather had Reed and his endless use of the word "son" as he talked to the other truckers. I wish I'd counted how many times Reed says "son" in High Ballin', but I'm guessing it was at least fifteen times and it got better every single time he said it.

High Ballin' trailer

Too bad the actual movie wasn't as entertaining as this trailer makes it
appear. Terrific Jerry Reed narration, although he didn't say "son" a single

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

July movies

Any month where 29 movies are watched including two viewings of the definitive monster truck revenge saga Rolling Vengeance has to be considered a successful month of movie watching. Although I lapsed a bit on my goal to watch a single film every single day of the month, I think I made up for it with the all-night, five movie revenge festival known as Slumber Party 3: Payback. Saw other things in July that I enjoyed a lot--Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, Meek's Cutoff, Beginners to name a few. But, July was all about the end of the month Slumber Party 3: Payback for me. Photo of David and myself as we are about to begin the five film binge that we co-programmed. 65 people [out of 100 ticket buyers stayed the entire night for the $5 refund] and the five movies were Rolling Thunder, Death Wish 3, Rolling Vengeance [on VHS!], Savage Streets and Eye of the Tiger [VHS movie #2!].

Aryan Brotherhood---2007---usa   ***
The Lincoln Lawyer---2011---usa   ***
Prizzi's Honor---1985---usa   ***1/2
Larry Crowne---2011---usa   **1/2
Behind the Burly Q---2010---usa   **1/2
Buck---2011---usa   ****
Couples Retreat---2010---usa   **
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop---2011---usa   ****
Meek's Cutoff---2011---usa   ****
Double Dare---2005---usa   ***
Horrible Bosses---2011---usa   ***
Lemmy---2010---usa   ***1/2
I'm Reed Fish---2007---usa   *1/2
The Bank Shot---1974---usa   ***1/2
Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye---2003---france   ***
Beginners---2011---usa   ****
Rolling Vengeance---1987---canada   ***1/2
Lynch---2007---usa   ***1/2
Duck Season---2006---mexico   ***
Heartlands---2002---england   ***
Page One---2011---usa   ***1/2
Switchblade Sisters---1975---usa   ***1/2
Welcome to MacIntosh---2008---usa   **1/2
Stupid, Crazy, Love---2011---usa   ***1/2
Rolling Thunder---1977---usa   ****
Death Wish 3---1985---usa   ***1/2
Rolling Vengeance---1987---canada   ***1/2
Savage Streets---1984---usa    ***1/2
Eye of the Tiger---1986---usa   ***