Wednesday, January 15, 2014

top ten best and worst pictures of 2013

i did not see every movie in 2013. but i did see some of them, so here are some i liked and some i did not like.

oh and if you're wondering why the ten best list actually has twelve, it's because i saw two good movies between the time i made the list and the time i posted it, and i didn't feel like kicking anyone off.

best:

12. IRON MAN 3
i didn't fall in love with this one too hard and actually have a handful of grievances with it, but robert downey jr. performing shane black dialogue goes a long way with me.

11. FURIOUS 6
this franchise has come so far from point break with cars.

10. CARRIE
a nice complement to the '76 original (and its '99 sequel). all three are very quaintly of their time.

9. THE GREAT GATSBY
vintage baz.

8. RIDDICK
the only riddick movie i've ever seen, but no way the first two were this incredible.

7. THE WORLD'S END
when i first made this list, i had world war z on here because i really liked world war z, but then i remembered the world's end. i didn't love the world's end as much as shaun of the dead, but that's true of almost every movie ever made.

6. NEBRASKA
not my favorite alexander payne, but alexander payne nevertheless.

5. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
scorsese was born to make running times this obscene. i would gladly have sat through three more hours.

4. HER
so funny and smart and weird that it's probably gonna take me one or two more viewings.

3. JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA
flawless.

2. BLUE JASMINE
cate blanchett performing woody allen is all i really need.

1. GRAVITY
maybe not the best picture of 2013, but i will never not be in the mood to watch it.

worst:

10. MAN OF STEEL
not superman.

9. SAVING MR. BANKS
not wrong, but not right either.

8. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
i love the greengrass bournes. like, deeply. but these bone dry docudramas he makes are just not for me.

7. OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL
unrewarding.

6. WHITE HOUSE DOWN
not a terrible movie, but commits the unforgivable sin of ripping off die hard to the point of blatant plagiarism.

5. BATTLE OF THE YEAR
the storytelling was inept, the b-boy dancing was forgettable, and it featured piece of shit chris brown. and make no mistake, i've always believed in appreciating every worthwhile artistic talent that makes a positive cultural contribution regardless of whatever personal problems that artist may have-- but you have to make a deposit before you can make a withdrawal, and i think chris brown is overdrawn.

4. JOBS
seemed like the lamest possible account of steve jobs's life, omitting the parts i was most interested in seeing (his time with next and his second go with apple).

3. MOVIE 43
i only got through two or three sketches (in as many sittings) on netflix before abandoning it. liev schreiber and naomi watts were fantastic as usual, but still.

2. THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE
few things are more upsetting to me in a movie than bad comedy, and this was some of the worst i've seen. considered walking out, but stayed for jim carrey.

1. A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
a shitty, joyless action movie is not a terribly egregious abuse of resources, but when you put it in the context of one of the most iconic action franchises of all time, you're pissing on the mona lisa.

here's to another year with lots of movies, good and bad.

Monday, September 9, 2013

dressed for sex

i wear hanes no-show socks. i don't necessarily feel a brand loyalty to them, but i try to always get the same kind so i can mix and match after laundry days without thinking about it.

however, i'm a size 13. and it seems to have been agreed upon in the 20th century+ that normal human feet are sized 6-12, so that's the size hanes no-show socks come in. i look for bigger sizes, but they're not there. i even went to two different targets.

what they do have in my size, and what i ended up buying, is hanes ankle socks. socks that cover my once bared ankles. these socks are extra thick too, as if hanes decided that no one who buys a sock this big would be using it for a foot, but rather a makeshift puppet or sack. now my shoes are tight and my ankles are hidden.

i'm a young person in the prime of my sexuality. if i want to show a little flesh, i expect local retailers to support that choice and provide me with the low cut no-show articles i need. i don't know what bullshit family values crusaders have got their talons into target this time, but they're not gonna take away my right to be and feel sexy.

maybe i'm just a depraved exhibitionist, but i think the human body is beautiful and i want to share mine with the world. to see the looks on the faces of both men and women as their gaze falls on my naked ankles and lingers, hungrily, for a moment or two, as they dream of the tantric delights that might await their eager touch.

so if anyone sees hanes no-show socks bigger than 12 at their store, let me know. oh, and white only, please. last time i checked, i wasn't a gross 100-year-old man.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

pixar sequel wish list

dumb movie news websites have been squeezing click bait articles out of a quote from disney ceo bob iger last week during a shareholder conference call. he apparently referred to "sequels" that pixar has on the way in the next five years. the only upcoming sequel pixar has announced is finding dory in 2015, so the articles want to speculate on what the other sequel(s) could be. this is presuming that he was not referring to this june's monsters university (a monsters inc prequel) or this august's planes (a cars spinoff not even being made by pixar).

everyone has been asking me, what are the pixar sequels you would want to see? so in response, i've compiled my top 5. exempt from this wish list is the obvious answer-- a sequel to the incredibles. a sequel to the incredibles is so clearly the thing pixar needs to do that its very invocation is a redundancy. obviously every day that passes in which brad bird is not working on incredibles 2 is kind of a waste of his time and ours. but aside from that, what sequels should pixar be making? here's what i think.

5. a sequel to brave
2012's brave is perhaps pixar's biggest misstep. all the elements were there for an inventive classic-- a spunky female lead against a lush, magical backdrop. but the story is trash stew. a flavorless blend of refried clich├ęs. the moral of the tale being inspired by a bear transformation is right out of disney's brother bear, not that it was all that original a concept even in 2003. and the lesson itself, about how you shouldn't force a princess to marry someone she doesn't love (real timely and relevant stuff, by the way) was something i seem to recall disney brushing over in 1992's aladdin. but brave wasn't a total waste. the characters themselves were cool. a badass king. a plucky princess with archery skills. a demon bear. a fucked up witch. you could take these great characters and create a much more interesting story for them. there's a moment in brave 1 where merida, feeling uneasy about the three boys from the other kingdoms who've come to compete for her hand in marriage, announces that she herself will also be competing for her own hand. that was clever! give me a sequel where merida is older, now a blossoming woman, embarking on adventures worthy of her talents. and grant her the identity that the first movie was too chicken shit to spell out-- a strong, proud lesbian.

4. a crossover teamup
with the success of the marvel superhero movies, the latest hip thing is for movie characters who share a parent company to have crossovers. you can do that with almost all the characters from the pixar movies. but you'd have to follow the rules of what i call the pixar multiverse-- only characters from pixar earth 1 (the human earth) may interact. meaning the toys from toy story, the bugs from a bug's life, the fish from finding nemo, the rats from ratatouille, the dogs from up, and the monsters from monsters inc (who inhabit a pocket monster dimension that does connect to earth 1 via wormhole portals). the characters who couldn't participate would be the incredibles of earth 2 (the superheroes earth), the cars of earth 3 (the sentient vehicles earth), wall-e of earth 4 (the weird hybrid live action but also animated humans earth) and the brave characters of earth 5 (the earth that has magic). anyway, they would all team up for an adventure and then at the end there would be a couple of credit cookies.

3. a cars reboot
i quite enjoy the first cars. i found cars 2 an unfocused mess that tried to play with genre a little bit, to mostly boring results. and they didn't even bring back my favorite character, chick hicks.  but the cars brand is very strong, due to the otherworldly juggernaut sales of the little toy cars in all the toy stores. by rebooting the franchise, pixar could revitalize the saga of pixar earth 3 before they've run it completely into the ground with their current overdependence on the mater character, and they would double those toy sales overnight.  ka-chow!

2. a pizza planet dude spinoff
we never got a look at the dude who drives the shit out of that pizza planet delivery truck in toy story. but we know two things about him: he drives like a psycho and he's the coolest dude in the pixar multiverse. the pizza planet truck has cameoed in almost all the pixar films. it's a mystical icon, and the tale of its driver must finally be told. i want the ultimate dude brought to life. i want to see what his nights are like. pizza. beer. video games. comic books. sex. trucks. aliens? you tell me, pixar. let's do this.

1. a sequel to newt
newt is the cancelled pixar movie that was originally supposed to come out in 2012. it was about newt and brooke, the world's two last remaining blue-footed newts, forced together by scientists to breed and save the species. only they apparently can't stand each other. i also remember hearing something about how newt didn't know how to mate because from his vantage point in the science lab, the poster showing the newt mating procedure was partially obscured. i was really excited for this movie, but pixar pulled the plug on it. they never disclosed the official reason, but john lasseter seemed to suggest that it was because of the plot's distinct similarity to fox's 2011 animated release, rio. which sucks, because that's just about the single worst possible reason for someone to not make something amazing. pixar released some newt art back around 2010 or so, and it looked fucking awesome. so if they don't want to make it, then fine. just go on and make the sequel then. what happens to newt after the thing that was too similar to a shitty parrot movie? i don't care what it is; just make it so i can see the second chapter of the newt epic. i love newt and i want to see his adventures. oh, and hurry the fuck up. lest universal or dreamworks put out another piece of shit that reminds you too much of poor newt.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

the lost jack ryan film.

everyone remembers the five jack ryan films.

what's that? you say there's only four jack ryan films? john mctiernan's the hunt for red october (1990), starring alec baldwin; phillip noyce's patriot games (1992) and clear and present danger (1994), both starring harrison ford; and phil alden robinson's the sum of all fears (2002), starring ben affleck? and that the fifth film, kenneth branagh's jack ryan (2013), starring chris pine, comes out this christmas? well, yes, that's true. and i'd expect you'd think that's all the jack ryan films that were ever made.

this is because the real fifth jack ryan film was never released to the public.

in 2008, paramount pictures shot a jack ryan film entitled by any means necessary. it was not based on any tom clancy book, but was rather an original story adapted from an unrelated spec script. the film was directed by sam raimi and starred ryan gosling as jack ryan. the script was a little unconventional for a franchise of political thrillers, but it had been previously greenlit during the wga writers' strike of 2007-2008, when the studios were moving forward with just about anything that resembled a complete story, and they were banking on raimi's recent mainstream success with the spider-man franchise to shepherd the questionable material into a crowd-pleaser.

but everything changed at a fateful private screening of the film that took place in early 2009. in attendance were raimi and a handful of paramount executives. what they saw was a rough assembly of undoctored film with temp sound, missing only bits and pieces of incidental second-unit photography and effects shots. and they knew going in that this would not exactly be traditional popcorn summer fare. but skimming script pages and poster mockups over lunch at jerry's is one thing, and seeing an idea birthed as reality through the magic portal of cinema is quite another. by the time the temp credits rolled on that screening, in one of those haunted rooms on the paramount lot on a dark monday morning, the only emotion gripping those men was panic.

in the room, the decision was made to immediately halt production and kill the project, regardless of how close it was to completion. the cast and crew would receive payment in full for services rendered and be made to sign non-disclosure agreements prohibiting any discussion of the film. exact details are difficult to pin down, but it can be confirmed that chairman and ceo of paramount brad grey was heard to remark "this fucking shit can never see the light of day."

so what was wrong with this movie? what could those executives have possibly seen at that screening that would justify a nearly $60 million loss?

apparently, the film's content was so offensive, paramount feared that it would be banned from entire theatre chains, that tom clancy would straight up sue them into oblivion, and that audiences would demand no less than the resignation of every paper pusher involved, starting with grey himself. it was also a foregone conclusion that the careers of raimi, gosling, et al. would be crippled forever. the objectionable material was so ingrained in the film that no amount of reshoots could save it. grey refused to let anyone out of the screening room unless they looked him in the eye and vowed never to speak of the film again.

in the film, the character of jack ryan is a young ex-marine, collecting disability checks from the government after a botched back surgery left him with chronic pain following a helicopter crash. he's working as a stockbroker with merrill lynch in new york when he learns that a local mobster may have inside information about a pending terrorist attack.

without the involvement of a single government or lawkeeping entity, ryan privately decides to befriend the mobster in an effort to acquire intel that may prevent the attack. the mobster turns out to be a collector of nazi antiques, and in an effort to gain his trust, ryan submits himself to the world of underground nazi culture. he starts out small, building a private collection of nazi paraphernalia that he can use as a way of bonding with the socialist mob figurehead. but as he becomes addicted to his back pain medication, the parameters of his reality start to blur and he begins to question his own beliefs in the teachings of adolf hitler.

by the third act, ryan has grown a hitler mustache, tattooed himself with nazi symbology, and is just working out all the time, practically doubling in size. he finally snaps and tortures the possible terrorist info out of the neo-nazi mobster, whom he then executes for being "unworthy of the cause." what follows is a corpse desecration sequence that horrified all in attendance and defied all basic narrative justification.

this undercover nazi plotline engulfs the film, and stopping the terrorist attack is almost an afterthought, filling 15 minutes of screentime max.

the borderline nazi propaganda of the film's main character arc was hardly its only problem, as certain plot points also made it impossible for the film to serve as the franchise reboot paramount wanted, such as ryan's violent breakup with future wife caroline muller, and the child he sires with the mobster's teenage daughter nikki, whom he simultaneously corrupts with drugs and hate rhetoric. to say nothing of the fact that the film downright challenges non-racist audiences to find a single redeeming quality in jack ryan, now basically a drug-addicted nazi-sympathizing bisexual necrophiliac statutory rapist psychotic vigilante murderer.

raimi was understandably disappointed in the film's annulment. in his private moments, he would lament that audiences would never see his sincere effort to explore the psychological strain of a man living a double life, but that perhaps he should not have explored such weighty issues in the sandbox of a prominent studio's beloved blockbuster franchise. if the character's name had not been jack ryan, he might have been putting his autograph on movie posters instead of legal documents.

all that exists of the film today is that rough assembly and an aborted press package, deep within a vault at paramount pictures where they keep all their other unseen skeletons, such as the lost bing crosby/bob hope road comedy about the trail of tears, the unauthorized shot-for-shot remake of warner bros.'s casablanca, and the fleischer studios cartoon where betty boop sleeps with popeye.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

valentine's day exchange rate.

on valentine's day, you are allowed to exchange gifts with someone, but it has to be a romantic interest. the exchange rate is as follows:

two viewings of romantic videos = half a dozen of roses = one greeting card with gift card inside = two boxes of chocolate = one quarter of a jewelry = one thing of sensual massage or sex.

Friday, February 8, 2013

katharine.

the following story is true.

when martin scorsese's the aviator was released on christmas day of 2004, to say that it was well received would be a gross understatement. hailed as one of the best films of the year, it received many accolades, including four baftas, three golden globes, and five oscars. two trophies out of that dozen were awarded to cate blanchett, whose performance as katharine hepburn stole a pretty theft-proof show. her turn as the beloved american legend of stage and screen captured the hearts of film lovers everywhere. it was almost like having the old independent female icon herself back in the flesh.

and her audience didn't want to let her go.

a spinoff film was quickly greenlit. cate blanchett would reprise her role for what a press release described as a "cradle to grave" biopic of the legendary star. scorsese remained on the project as a producer, and directing duties were handed off to david fincher, who at the time was in preproduction for zodiac. immediately, all the biggest stars in hollywood wanted in.  first to sign on was george clooney as cary grant.

warner bros. commissioned a script from aviator screenwriter john logan, but in the meantime, they didn't want to lose what pop culture analysts at the time called "katharine fever." they wanted the character to maintain visible momentum, so that she would still be "in the public conversation" by the film's projected 2008 release date. so they put blanchett to work.

in the spring of 2005, katharine hepburn became the unofficial mascot for the wb network. select shows on the channel's primetime schedule were "hosted" by blanchett, in character as hepburn, in a series of interstitial skits that threw audiences into and out of commercial breaks. she introduced new episodes of network favorites 7th heaven, gilmore girls, and smallville, as well as troubled freshman drama jack & bobby. she would also present the wb's thursday night movie and friday night blue collar sitcom block, an enterprise which generally involved playfully derisive commentary on what she considered "lowbrow frivolity" in her distinctive patrician manner. a typical intro might go something like this: "tonight, reba enters a pageant for grandmothers... rehhhhhlly."

for warner bros., the next step was clear-- integrate the character into the shows themselves. unfortunately, cate blanchett's busy film schedule precluded her from participating, although she did film a special guest appearance on charmed, as the halliwell sisters' visiting aunt pamela on the show's final season, a role blanchett played in character as katharine hepburn.

development began on a pilot for a wb sitcom built around the character of katharine hepburn. cate blanchett declined any involvement and the role was handed off to judy greer. the show, entitled the katharine project, featured a stylized version of katharine hepburn, as portrayed by greer, living with a modern day nuclear family in san diego. the cast also included garrett dillahunt, tiffani thiessen, and brie larson. after a troubled early screening, the show retooled in anticipation of its midseason premiere.

while this was happening, a script was submitted for hepburn, the aviator spinoff katharine hepburn biopic. by this time, blanchett and fincher had both left the project to work instead on the curious case of benjamin button, at the suggestion of blanchett's babel co-star brad pitt. other actors also walked, although anne hathaway remained attached as audrey hepburn, and even expressed interest in moving forward with an audrey hepburn biopic spinoff of the unfilmed katharine hepburn biopic spinoff of the aviator.

in early spring 2006, the katharine project premiered to lackluster reviews. critics panned it for its stale gags and characterization of katharine hepburn as a "foul-mouthed granny," despite judy greer being only 30 at the time. people were also confused as to why katharine hepburn was arbitrarily living with a fictional sitcom family, a premise the show never bothered to address. instead of portraying events from hepburn's real life, the show focused on plotlines like katharine hepburn helping adoptive family patriarch dillahunt get a promotion from his boss, or coaching moody teen larson on her student council campaign speech. the show was pulled and cancelled after only eight episodes. the series was subsequently released on dvd, with five bonus episodes from the single season's unaired back half.

at this point, warner bros. was forced to rethink their plans. the katharine project had left a bad taste in people's mouths. many felt the show had tainted a once-beloved character that had, to be honest, already started to feel a little overexposed. warner bros. quietly removed hepburn from their upcoming film slate and the script was put into turnaround.

it seemed that the project would very likely never find new life, until marvel's the avengers shattered box office records in 2012. warner bros. took notice, and is said to be considering a similar team-up approach to some of their properties. in addition to a justice league movie that would team up superman, batman, wonder woman, green lantern, and the flash, there is word that warner bros. may be interested in bringing back cate blanchett katharine hepburn in a team-up movie with tom hanks walt disney, anthony hopkins alfred hitchcock, michelle williams marilyn monroe, and frank langella richard nixon. no word on how they might attract the interest of all the other studios that own the rights to those characters, or what the story might be that would unite them in a common adventure, but sources within warner bros. say they're not too worried about it.

Friday, February 1, 2013

man of steal?

the ads for zack snyder's upcoming "man of steel" depict superman in handcuffs, suggesting there comes a point in the story where superman lets the united states government arrest him, presumably to show respect for humans as the rightful authorities of their own planet. it's a good idea that well represents superman's unparalleled virtue and strength of character. and it was already done beautifully in a 1996 episode of "gargoyles: the goliath chronicles."

the ep, entitled "and justice for all," features goliath being arrested after foiling a robbery. this was shortly after the gargoyles' existence was revealed to the public, and people didn't know what to think about these apparent monsters. and although goliath is strong enough to easily break handcuffs and smash prison walls, he allows himself to be incarcerated and tried in a court of law, where he is defended by a human lawyer, to show the people of manhattan that gargoyles respect their world and wish only to co-exist and help protect their new home.

i loved the nolan batman films, but i was always conflicted by their tendency to blatantly cherry-pick elements from past batman stories, rather than commit to a more original vision. this incarcerated superhero thing is a little different because "gargoyles" was in no way affiliated with superman, but it's symptomatic of this typical method of storytelling by frankensteining old ideas into a new product. is there virtue in recycling stories? and what if the original was in a saturday morning cartoon that no one remembers?

i think it's execution-dependent. the worst sin a piece of art can commit is retreading without purpose. will this $225 million feature film execute an idea any better than the children's cartoon that so enchanted me when i was 14? i guess we'll find out come june.